Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Green Lantern.

Green Lantern poster.

"In brightest day, in blackest night. No evil shall escape my sight. Let those who worship evil's might. Beware my power... Green Lantern's light!" That bit in the advert used to get me so excited and I can't even explain why. I just got stupidly excited. The only problem is that, in reality, Green Lantern's light doesn't shine too brightly in this film.

This is another origin story of a comic book superhero. With this, Thor, X-Men: First Class and Captain America, you'd be forgiven for being fed up of the whole origin plot. This follows Hal Jordan and his rise to Green Lantern hood from cocky layabout pilot who isn't ever really serious. Or, as it's known, the Ryan Reynolds character. His classic character from Two Guys and a Girl (and a Pizza Place - for a bit) is pretty much resurrected here. Hugely talented, too connected but very aware of these so chooses to not take life too seriously.

Plot: A test pilot is granted a mystical green ring that bestows him with otherworldly powers, as well as membership into an intergalactic squadron tasked with keeping peace within the universe.

Hal Jordan ( Ryan Reynolds) is a test pilot for a firm which creates AI jets and helicopters and other stuff. It stays quite loyal to its source by making it modern with the same outline. Hal Jordan is given the ring by Abin Sur ("a dying purple alien") and becomes the Green Lantern and defender of Sector 2814 (of 3600). He is given a ring and a lantern which acts like a battery for the ring. The ring uses the power of will. It can create anything, the only limitation is your imagination.

Enter a space training montage on the planet Oa where he tries to have more will power and more control over his powers but he gets his ass kicked but soon recovers and impresses. Well, he impresses Tomar-Re (Geoffrey Rush) and Kilowog (Michael Clarke Duncan) but he fails to impress Mark Strong's Sinestro. He claims that Hal'll never live up to Abin Sur and that he was twice the protector he'll ever be. I don't like the whole "humans are a young race" idea in most sci-fi things and the only people to pull it off have been BioWare who made Mass Effect. In this though, it seems uninspired and predictable to call us a young race who are weak and feeble but save the day. It just seems like an ego thing about our race.

Cast: Ryan Reynolds, Blake Lively, Peter Sarsgaard, Mark Strong, Tim Robbins, Michael Clarke Duncan and Geoffrey Rush. Directed by Martin Campbell.

After a brief training montage, Hal claims to quit which brings up obvious conversations about him always being a quitter and never seeing things through to the end. This is being told by his love interest, Carol Ferris (Blake Lively). But he has competition. Pretty weak competition in the form of scientist, Hector Hammond (Peter Sarsgaard) who contracts Parallax's abilities after performing an autopsy on Abin Sur who has Parallax's energy left behind and infects and inhabits Hector. This leads to him having super powers in the form of telekinesis and telepathy but it does come with a draw back of a massive head which makes the elephant man look like a bit of all right.

There we go, we have a set up of a villain. He does nothing though. He hurts Hal a little, screams a lot and gets mad at his father whilst having a receding hairline and a forehead which could be a superpower in itself. The only thing is that his character seems like filler and is not actually used because it's all about Parallax who is on course for Earth before Oa. This brings monologues about the power of fear (which is the power Parallax uses instead of will) and the word fear is used so much it's hard to understand how the writers ever got jobs. At one point, they change it up a little by using afraid instead then insinuate that they're afraid of being afraid until there's some sort of looping paradox of being scared of being afraid of being afraid of fear. Not really, but it seems like the most used word in the entire film.

The film is jumpy and it seems to just blunder to one scene or another. There would be character developments without you even knowing because it jumped ahead. The ring would blink and you wouldn't know where for or why but he'd just get there knowing what was up. It just seemed rush. The writers seemed uninterested if the word fear wasn't mentioned so they rushed the scene along until they could use fear to their hearts content.

The CGI is as poor as I saw from the adverts and they did have a lot to create but it's more Neverending Story than Thor's gleaming Asgard. I wouldn't have thought otherwise about it if I hadn't seen Thor masterfully create a space-scape so realistically with the same $150m budget. The first meetings with the Guardians is particularly hilarious. In fact, everyone in the screen (a pretty empty screen at that) laughed. If this is the first in the Justice League series then they need to hire better or more workers for the visual effects. Also, why did they CGI the suit? It didn't make any sense. They may as well have just used body paint on Ryan Reynolds and then used CGI to make him glow as it would have looked much better. If Ryan Reynolds's body needs CGI then all men are doomed.

In the comics, there have been six people who held (and still hold) the title of the Green Lantern: Alan Scott (1940), Hal Jordan (1959), Guy Gardner (1968), John Stewart (1971), Kyle Rayner (1994) and Jennifer-Lynn Hayden (AKA "Jade," Alan Scott's daughter, 1983). Scott and Jade are the only ones who are different because their powers come from a magical source, and though they have been Green Lanterns in name, they are actually not part of the Green Lantern Corps, though Jade did serve in it briefly at one point.

The only thing that really stood out for me was the acting. Ryan Reynolds is a brilliant actor and you can disagree all you like - and it's not an opinion or preference - but he is amazing. All you need to do is watch Smokin' Aces and Buried to truly understand his talent. Hopefully, his future films like R.I.P.D., Safe House and The Croods will get him accepted by all. He can turn his hand to comedy (where he started) or drama and he's successful in both. Then there was Mark Strong's successful, if not underplayed, Sinestro. Peter Sarsgaard was great as Hector Hammond but screamed too much but that's not the actor's fault. Tim Robbins is notably good but without a major role as Hammond. Even Blake Lively wasn't bad and she's only been good in one thing which was The Town. If actors can still shine with such a terrible script then that must really attribute to their abilities.

IF there is a sequel - which conflicting statements have confused me about - then they've got a good base storyline and they've got a lot of constructive criticism to work on. They've got a perfect villain lined up and a storyline which may involve the word fear or synonyms alike being thrown around but good writing can stop that from being a problem. The main problem is the writing and then the CGI. Tweak these and you've got a brilliant film. Just look at the other blockbusters this summer. They tinkered on the brink of excellence and stupidity and came out on the right side. This came out on the tiring and insultingly stupid side. I feel like I've been too harsh. I want to give it three because I was still entertained but I didn't feel immersed or any real love to the film. I hope there's a sequel and I hope they correct everything and make it truly amazing. I don't see there being a sequel since they spent something like $400m overall including advertising and they're not even close to breaking even - ever. Let's just hope the Justice League film they're going to start after a Batman reboot is actually good and rekindles any interest in Green Lantern.

★★

Note: Click here for a funny recap of every scene on IMDb. It does contain spoilers.

Saturday, 25 June 2011

The war on drugs and legalisation.

The idea of legalising weed has two sides and a fence separates them. Where people usually sit on the fence and ponder people usually have their mind set on this idea. They both stand there bickering with each other and it's usually opposite generations. Young liberals versus old conservatives. It seems like they both have strong view points but both are misinformed or biased. I'm the sitting on that fence watching both argue restlessly with "facts" and experiences. Both are biased and stubborn but which one is right?

Technically both are right but more wrong than right. They both are ill-informed and pick and choose their beliefs when it comes to statistics. They both use their experiences in an act to win their argument over but who trusts someone who hasn't done them and who trusts a person who could potentially be an addict?

Let's put some weed myths to bed. They do not increase brain power and create brain cells. I have no idea where that idea came from, it's just wrong though. Weed doesn't cure cancer. In fact, it might even cause cancer but then again, what doesn't these days? The whole idea that weed is natural therefore good for you is also wrong. There are plenty of natural things which aren't good for you so why use that moot point? Now for people who claim weed has no side effects is just delusional. Weed has plenty of side effects which are mostly linked to stuff like mental illness but it doesn't really cause it but more brings what lies dormant to the surface.

For example, I know a man who ended up being committed three times to a mental institution and was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia and was because of prolonged drug use. One of the things he did was post rocks through peoples' letterboxes and he took the inside of audio tapes and wrapped his room in them. Then, when let back home, he walked three miles to the same place and back about six times a day; even if it was raining.

That doesn't mean that'll happen to everyone though. The idea that everyone will become addicted is just more propaganda (dude, like, totally). Not everyone will become addicted, heartless and distant from reality. Those are the extreme views when you picture an addict but that's not for all drug users. Usually just heroin because it's physically addicting because the come down is so horrible.

The idea of drug prohibition doesn't work. It just puts money in the hands of criminals instead of possibly maximising profits for the government. Outlawing things won't stop them but switch mouths. Instead of us getting a load of money from taxing, we lose money on health care and free methadone for the people who claim they want to quit. We also lose lives which is a negative thing - even if the human life has now become a commodity. There are drug wars in Mexico, South America and even places in the middle-east. Afghanistan actually manufacture something like 95% - possibly more - of the world's heroin. Which they use to fund terrorist organisations like al Qaeda. In fact, Viktor Ivanov, head of Russia's Federal Service for Narcotics Control, claims that the heroin production in Afghanistan has grown 40 times since NATO agreed to intervene with military force to stop the production.

Let's look like back to the 1920-1933 in the United States of America. The first thing I think of are black and white dark streets, suits and the Mafia. This is because the prohibition laws were enforced then. Nothing really changed though. In fact, it is believed that it was probably easier to find a drink and peoples' alcohol consumption increased. All that really happened was now the government weren't making money but losing money. When you think of no money coming in from it yet it still costing you, that's a big loss. They continued for thirteen years though while people were murdered over control of territories.

The famous rise of one of the most infamous crime lords, Al Capone. Also, a massive chase between Al Capone and Eliot Ness and his team of The Untouchables. They chased down Al Capone to bring down his empire. An empire which amassed to $3.6bn in 1926. No, that's not a conversion to what it would be worth now. He earned $3.6bn in 1926. When comparing that to now it would equal roughly $544bn using the relative share of GDP on the website http://www.measuringworth.com/uscompare/. Why are we doing that with more than one product? We're handing over money and lives.

I know people only really think about legalising cannabis because it's the most used drug and one of the most safe ones. What's the point in making all drugs illegal? So far, the tax that isn't gained from legalising drugs pays medical bills, methadone bills, vandalism bills, prison bills and pays people to "clean up the streets". You'll never clean up the streets. Especially when the majority of the people who are trying to clean up the streets are corrupt and are gaining money from drugs.

If we allowed drugs we could apply the same amount of tax that we do to alcohol, cigarettes and fuel. Imagine a new 70% profit coming from cannabis alone. We'd earn a load so we could give more money to the NHS and the education system meaning that the university wouldn't need a £9000 tuition fee. Then we'd spend less on our overcrowded prisons. That's just the profit idea. The fact that it won't be illegal means there'll be no criminals supplying people. There'll be shops and cafés opening meaning a slight economic boom and possibly more jobs. That's just cannabis.

We could legalise it all. Although, I think heroin is a bad idea but at least the government will be profiting from the stupidity of people who are willing to die for a cheap fix. The tax on their drugs would pay for their healthcare and more so what's not to like? It's not only about the profit but it's more about the negative things that prohibition creates. I don't understand why the government are anti-choice because, effectively, they chose to not let us to have our own choices. They withhold information from us and don't give evidence out over such pointless things. Why create ignorance? I'm not thinking it's an entire conspiracy but what I mean is that it's true that they withhold things which shouldn't. Classified military stuff such as weapons development and tactics are understandable but they never clear anything up with hard evidence.

Therefore it boils down to something so simple. There's misleading information being thrown around, people losing their mind over addiction because of dealers putting harmful chemicals in and people dying over the supplying of these drugs. It should come down to something simpler. Choice. They should give us a the choice to potentially wreck our own lives because if we don't even control the stuff that we knowingly put into our own body then what control do we really have? It'll stop criminals, it'll stop deaths of innocent people who are slain during drug war shoot-outs and it'll give us money. So tell me again, why are they illegal?

Friday, 24 June 2011

Bridesmaids.

Bridesmaids.

Judd Apatow has been criticised in the past for being a misogynistic pig. In fact, that description came from the leading lady, Katherine Heigl, in his 2007 comedy Knocked Up. So here comes him producing a film with an all female cast. He's never been misogynistic in my eyes. Either way, Judd Apatow has produced, written and directed some of the greatest films. The favourite of mine that he's directed is The 40 Year Old Virgin which is hysterical from start to finish. The best thing he's produced so far has been Anchorman so there's a lot of pressure on Bridesmaids to measure up to those.

Plot: Picked as her best friend's maid of honour, lovelorn and broke Annie looks to bluff her way through the expensive and bizarre rituals with an oddball group of bridesmaids.

Luckily - and fantastically - it does. It perhaps surpasses some of the others like Knocked Up. Which Paul Feig also directed. Paul Feig has ventured into a female version of The Hangover. Not in the "oh, we're so drunk" aspect but more in the pressures on women and a wedding. For example, men just have a bachelor party which is usually strippers, alcohol, gambling and being sick. For women, it's a distressing ordeal organising bridal showers, fittings and bachelorette parties which don't defer.

This is unexplored territory. Thankfully, the expedition goes off without a real problem. There's laughs from the off with a risqué beginning with an awkward fuck-buddy encounter of Kristen Wiig's self-loathing Annie Walker who is a self-saboteur and Jon Hamm's Ted who wants no strings at all and blowjobs. Annie is then selected to be Lillian's (Maya Rudolph) maid of honour. She agrees thinking nothing of it without realising that there's a mountain of work - expensive work.

Cast: Kristen Wiig, Maya Rudolph, Jon Hamm, Melissa McCarthy, Chris O'Dowd and Rose Byrne. Directed by Paul Feig.

It's only expensive because of two reasons. Annie is a failed cake maker who is struggling to pay bills and because Lillian's other friend, Helen (Rose Byrne) - who says Lillian's HER best friend, is trying to make it outlandish and extravagant and steal the honour of being the maid of honour. The film is a rivalry between poor fuck-up Annie and bitchy yet meticulous Helen.

Enter gleaming Chris O'Dowd who's an Irish charming yet awkward policeman who is just what Annie Walker needs. How convenient. I think that is truly the only let down of the film. The obvious and weak romance between Kristen Wiig and Chris O'Dowd. It tried to stay away from chick flick clichés early on but in Chris O'Dowd's scenes, that's all there seems to be. I'm a fan of Chris O'Dowd as I find The IT Crowd hilarious but he disappointed in this. There are scenes with him which are still funny.

Colossally crude which is refreshing to see that in a comedy with an all-female cast. I mean, if I wanted to see a poor chick-flick comedy I'd watch one of the many £3 DVDs from Tesco which prominently feature Katherine Heigl, Kate Hudson, Hillary Swank and Jennifer Aniston (but Horrible Bosses with Jenni does look really funny). I mean, the cunt-bomb is dropped in such a startling way that your face is almost locked and paralysed into laughing and jaw dropping. Melissa McCarthy's Megan is outrageous, cringe-worthy but she really makes the film - especially when she steals nine things from a bridal shower and genuinely suggests a fight club between the girls for Lillian's shower.

The cast spent about 2 weeks improvising with each other, some of which was incorporated into the movie.

It's hilarious from the off and just gets funnier with a dress fitting which is horrendous and horrific, a bachelorette party that kicks off before it does and a bridal shower that probably won't be beaten. It's early success as already possibly linked a sequel to production. It's only been out in the UK for less than a week and a few weeks in America and has already grossed over $100m. If only the painfully unromantic scenes were romantic or at least funny then it would improve tenfold. Maybe something to focus on in the potential sequel.

★★★★

Saturday, 4 June 2011

X-Men: First Class.

X-Men: First Class poster.

The first X-Men films have been nothing but a disappointment. They had massive budgets, an all-star cast of top class actors (bar a few) and they were underused and wrongly directed so that their talents were wasted. They couldn't save what was a hugely boring trilogy. The story lines seemed to disappear, film by film and by X-Men: The Last Stand I'd had enough of the series. I still can't escape these atrocities now. They're constantly on TV which speaks for itself. They clearly bring in a lot of viewers. That doesn't make them good though. For example, About a Boy is always on TV and that's one of the worst films in the world.

Plot: In 1963, Charles Xavier starts up a school and later a team, for humans with superhuman abilities. Among them is Erik Lensherr, his best friend... and future arch-enemy.

Matthew Vaughn was asked to direct The Last Stand but turned it down to make Stardust. A so-so move. Vaughn claimed that it wouldn't be him directing as it already had a cast, a story line and needed no real direction. He said that if he ever wanted to do an X-Men film that he would reinvent the series. He stuck to his guns and got the backing to create yet another origin story. He didn't rewrite the origin to fit modern times, he delved back into the '60s to truly recreate the series. Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) a walking man with long hair and Erik Lehnsherr (Michael Fassbender) as Xavier's partner in good. Before their famous aliases as Professor X and Magneto. Before the X-Men academy and before Magneto's attempt at exterminating the human race.

The X-Men have always taken the risk of not truly developing their characters by doing team films, with the exception of Wolverine's origin (terrible). The character development in this is staggering but sometimes a little rushed. It's great to see some unusual and unfamiliar characters in this one. For example, the only real characters (bar the main two) from the quadrilogy are Mystique and Beast. This gives some freedom of selection with mutants like the kick-ass devil-esque Azazel; the uncontrolled powerful teen of Havoc; the geeky screamer, Banshee and others.

Vaughn was vocal about his time-constraints and how he was rushing and had no time to "tweak" his creation to perfection, like he had hoped. He spoke about how he wanted to reshoot some scenes and I think I know which scenes. Michael Fassbender is a brilliant actor but in this, his Irish accent slipped out - one more than one occasion. In fact, it seems like it spills out during the bar scene when he's speaking German. This isn't the only thing that suffers from the tight time constraints.

Cast: James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Kevin Bacon, Rose Byrne, January Jones and Jennifer Lawrence. Directed by Matthew Vaughn.

You can see that some of the CGI is poor. There were errors where it could have done with some more post-production treatment and truly polished and fine tuned. As CGI goes - against a blockbuster counterpart - it looks much less impressive than Thor. Although, from the Green Lantern adverts, it looks a little more impressive than that but I'll hold off judgement on that.

What is very impressive with this creation is the fact that is set in the '60s and it is very believable as this - even the landscapes and architecture. The main story line is set in 1963 and deals with a fictional twist on the Cuban missile crisis. An interesting choice but it works. Sebastian Shaw is the villain (Kevin Bacon) and he is being hunted for revenge by an enraged Erik Lehnsherr. Sebastian Shaw is a mutant Nazi who murdered Erik's mother and then experimented on him and strengthened his innate power.

The story begins with a flashback to 1944 where it shows Shaw and Lehnsherr's first encounter in a concentration camp. It then travels to the home of a twelve year-old Charles Xavier who is startled by a noise in the kitchen. This is the first encounter with Raven (Mystique) who is later played by Jennifer Lawrence. He accepts her for who she is as he is a mutant too and with his outlandish optimism and general glee (that TV programme as forever tainted that word for me) invites her to stay as he knew he "wasn't the only one".

There's a blatant cameo but unfortunately - unlike the others and other Marvel films - there is no post-credit scene.

Back to 1963 and Sebastian Shaw is manipulating the American government and Soviet Union into doing what he wants to cause a global crisis and a possible self-annihilation of the human race. Charles and Erik are both adults now and are a paradox in their principles yet they unite via sexy CIA agent Moira MacTaggert (Rose Byrne) who witnesses mutants toying with Colonel Hendry (Glenn Morshower) in some sexy lingerie. This is to bring down a common enemy: Shaw. There's more to it though. It shows the beginning of a great friendship which ends with their opposing views becoming enemies. It's the classic friend-turned-enemy concept. They are hired as sort-of mutant division of the CIA using Hank McCoy's technology to find other mutants and recruit them (a funny cameo ensues ushering the first "fuck" of an X-Men film) to create a mutant army (more of a gathering) to take out Shaw's mutant army (more a crowd).

Director Matthew Vaughn cited the first two X-Films, Star Trek (2009) and the 1960s Bond films as major influences on this film.

It's blatant that this is a more brutal film but I say it's not brutal enough! It's been whittled down to a 12A and it would stand better as a 15 (down with censorship!) as Azazel could truly show off how he'd love to attack people. The character development is brilliant. Well, the characters that actually get developed. Unfortunately there are some who barely even get a line, never mind a development or a back-story. For example, I'm not sure if Riptide actually has a real line in the film? I know Azazel barely speaks but who needs to speak as a teleporting devil? He's clearly too busy kicking ass. January Jones's telepathic, diamond shapeshifter Emma Frost doesn't even communicate that much.

A telepathic battle between Professor X and Emma Frost was going to be in the film, but upon the release of Inception (2010) the concept was scrapped.

Who needs them to talk when you have an excellent Kevin Bacon playing a truly scary villain. Not only is he scary because of his apathy towards all who aren't mutants but his actual mutant superpower is something that is truly frightening. He's like a cockroach. He can survive anything. A truly terrifying concept.

It's emotional and humorous with great action scenes. Unfortunately, they make Hank McCoy's Beast look like a Disney creation with an especially poorly animated mouth. It doesn't matter anyway as Hoult is completely useless as the nerdy intelligent scientist and even worse as an angry Beast. He truly is the biggest downfall of the film. James McAvoy's acting is outstanding although he does revert to random screaming at times like his terrible performance in crap-fest "Wanted". Michael Fassbender's performance is to be beaten bar his Northen Irish twang. The cast as a whole (bar Nicholas Hoult - can't stand him) is excellent which is the same as the prior X-Men films. The only difference is that this one actually stands up with a good story, believable performances and true friendship which is shattered. It is a great film but it is rushed. I would have preferred a delay to the film so we could see polished CGI and a lengthier film (it is lengthy at two hours and twelve minutes). It is a great film but it is held back from what could have been a true masterpiece. Bring on the rest of the Vaughn's X-Men films.

★★★★