Archive for April, 2016

I am going to graduate you to a fist****

Year Released : 2016hot_bot_uma_robocirc_em_minha_vida_2016
Director : Michael Polish
Cast : Zack Pearlman, Doug Haley, Cynthia Kirchner, David Shackelford, Danny Masterson, Anthony Anderson, Donald Faison and Larry Miller

They say that you can’t judge a book by it’s cover, but the same definitely can’t be said of films. You can just tell by looking at some posters just how poor the film is, and that was the case with “Hot Bot”. I noticed it instantly and thought to myself “wow, that looks like a tacky as fuck movie” and so I decided to watch the trailer. As expected, it looked tacky and immature, but I strangely still wanted to watch it.

In many ways the trailer basically strikes me as being a mash up between 80s classic “Weird Science” and gross-out comedy “Zack and Miri Make a Porno”. I like both of those films but I can’t imagine a mixture of the two being anywhere close to any good.

I could be entirely wrong and the average score of 3.4/10 on IMDB could be tremendously harsh….but yeah, I don’t think that’s going to be the case.

I would also like to take this opportunity to apologise for a lack of reviews recently. As mentioned in my last review I have left my full time role and currently only have a part time role. As well as spending most of my time applying for a lot of jobs, I am taking any hours I can at the part time role and have worked three 12+ hour shifts in just over a week, and I’ve had two shifts that total 21 hours in the last two days, with only a 7 hour gap in between. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining, but I just wanted to put into context why there haven’t been as many reviews as normal recently.

Anyway, onto the review.

Plot

Limus (Haley) and Leonard (Pearlman) are two sexually frustrated teenagers when one day they encounter a sex robot named Bardot (Kirchner). She actively tries to sexually arouse them and often succeeds, but she is constantly interrupted by schoolmates and family.

It turns out that the robot was actually meant to be delivered to Senator Biter (Miller), and he orders his two hence-men (Anderson and Masterton) to track Bardot down. Limus meanwhile is developing more than just an interest in Bardot and falls in love with her, although he struggles with the fact that he’s falling in love with a robot.

As time moves on, Bardot learns about further aspects of humanity, such as religion, and it isn’t long before she becomes frustrated with Limus and Leonard, abandoning them.

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So, as you would expect?

Had I seen this film when I was younger, i/e an early teenager, then chances are that I would have loved this film, but I’m not in my early teens, nor have I been in my teens for twelve years, and whilst there are certain aspects of the film that I did like and I do feel that 3.4/10 on IMDB is harsh, I would struggle to find an individual aspect to the film that I actually liked.

The humour is exactly what you would expect from a film that relates to a sex robot, and I believe that my earlier statement of being the lovechild of “Weird Science” and “Zack and Miri” is actually somewhat accurate. It’s not quite a gross out comedy, but there is definitely a LOT of immaturity to the plot.

You know, I really want to sit here and tear into this film because it’s really not a good film at all, but there are so many parts to it that I found myself liking that I thought I wouldn’t. Despite being incredibly one dimensional, I liked a lot of the characters, especially the two security personnel played by Anthony Anderson and Danny Masterton, both of whom are no strangers to the comedy genre after starring in TV comedies towards the end of the 90s/early 00s, but I think that’s also a big problem as well, the potential isn’t really tapped into.

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Every time there is a genuine chance for the film to be heartfelt, it ends up resulting in jokes about sex again, and it quickly wears very thin. Whilst the character of Limus does have a tiny bit of development, Leonard doesn’t change at all from minute one to minute ninety-one, it’s just the same tiresome act all of the way through, and it’s just so hard to get behind him. It’s strange because I really couldn’t imagine the two being friends in real life.

However, the main problem for me is that the film feels like it’s out of place. About 15/16 years ago there was a bit market for sexually-driven comedies aimed at teenagers, such as “American Pie” and “Road Trip”, amongst others, but “Hot Bot” not only missed the boat on that one, but it didn’t set off for the dock. The world has moved on from teen comedies like this, and there isn’t really a place for it these days. As I say, had this been released during that gross-out teen comedy phase then it might have stood a chance, but alas, the era is long gone.

I really want to come up with a big positive for “Hot Bot” but I can’t think of any reason to recommend that you watch the film. It’s not as bad as it would appear from the trailer and the IMDB score, but it’s certainly not much better.

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Summary

A film that I can neither praise for more than tiny parts, nor criticise too heavily and feel like I’m being fair, “Hot Bot” feels like a movie that has been specifically designed for adolescent boys to entertain themselves with. It’s like all of the teen comedies of the late 90s/early 2000s, but without the genuine humour.

Every chance to develop is quickly wasted by unfunny dialogue and a completely unrealistic situation. It is watchable, but not really enjoyable. That aren’t many likable bits, but even when there is promise of more, it quickly wastes that opportunity.

I won’t go as far as saying to avoid it, but I definitely won’t actively say it’s good.

And it’s a really hard life, because you have no… you have no life. You have no friends

Year Released : 2015Victoria_(2015_film)_POSTER
Director : Sebastian Schipper
Cast :Laia Costa , Frederick Lau, Franz Rogowski, Max Mauff, Burak Yigit and Andre Hennicke

So two weeks ago I left my full time job and I attended a job interview in Sheffield. The interview finished early because it turns out that the company lied in the job advert and over the phone, and I was no longer interested in the role, but I had a few hours to kill before heading back to Leeds so I looked on my phone and there was the usual mix of big blockbuster films and smaller, albeit relatively well known film…..but the Curzon Cinema was showing a film called “Victoria”.

It had incredible reviews on the Flixster app, and what appealed to me a lot was the relatively unique aspect of it apparently being shot in a single take, and not in a “Birdman” way in which it looks like it’s all one take when it isn’t. I can’t think of a single film, especially not one that’s over 2 hours, that is all done in one take and even just with that it’s an exceptional achievement by all concerned.

…..but is it actually any good?

 

Plot

Victoria (Costa) is enjoying a night out when she decides to go home. On her way out a group of friends approach her and be friendly, she joins them on a walk around the city. The group bonds before Victoria says that she has to leave to go to go home before work in the morning, she is joined in the walk by Sonne (Lau), but she soon realises that if she did go home then it’d be near enough time to go to work straight away, so she takes him to the cafe. The two bond before one of the other members of the group, Boxer (Rogowski), suddenly turns up and demands that Sonne go with him. The two leave with the rest of the group, leaving Victoria alone.

They soon return and Boxer demands that Victoria join the group for a task that she doesn’t know about. They all travel to a meeting with a former protector of Boxer from prison, Andi (Hennicke). He demands that they steal a large sum of money, and they threaten to take Victoria hostage if they refuse. The group are forced to take drugs to increase their awareness.

The group feels compelled to fulfill the demands an set out to rob the bank. Just how crazy can this night get?

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So, decent?

“Victoria” is one of the more interesting films that I’ve seen because of the one shot gimmick, although I discovered in my research into the film that it took 3 attempts to do it (I believe it was on IMDB), so technically the pride in the “one take” aspect isn’t necessarily true. I was closely looking throughout the film to notice jumps, or parts in which it is questionable whether it is all one shot, and I couldn’t find a single moment where it wasn’t. It is seamless as far as I can tell and because of this, I have the ultimate respect for all involved.

The conversations feel very natural due to most of the film being improvised. The actors were given the absolute basic description of the scenes and told to go with it, and this causes a very life-like feel to the conversations as there are a few occasions where no-one seems to know what to say, and characters talk over each other. If they weren’t told to make up their own lines then all concerned, especially Costa and Lau (due to their length of time on screen without a gap) is not only impressive, but brilliant.

I felt a genuine affection for the main characters, and I actually found myself really enjoying Laia Costa’s performance and much like her compatriot, Manuela Velasco from the [REC] franchise, she has that “girl next door” quality to her, and she is instantly likable, even if for some strange reason she decides to go out clubbing until the early hours of the morning when she is due in work at 7am.

Despite it being a relatively slow film in terms of pace, I wasn’t bored. Don’t go into “Victoria” expecting a fast-paced thriller because you’ll only end up disappointed. It does feel a little draggy in parts, but nothing that made me bored at any stage, although I did feel compelled to take a break every now and then.

It seems strange typing this but I don’t really have a lot to stay on “Victoria”. It’s good, without every really feeling like it’s going into a second gear. I will be giving it the approved stamp below but it has had virtually no impact on me. I started writing this review immediately after watching it and it’s now four days later. I’ve felt very little motivation to actually watch the film. Granted, I did spend nearly 22 hours of the weekend working at my cinema, but that’s besides the point.

Even though it is very long, it feels like an easy watch and you don’t have to think too hard about it. Don’t get me wrong, there is an big step between a good film becoming a great film, and this film is somewhere in the ether between the two.

And finally, as a bit of a warning, DO NOT WATCH THE OPENING FEW MINUTES IF YOU ARE EPILEPTIC. I have never suffered epilepsy, but the strobe lighting in the opening minutes gave me a big headache.

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Summary

A very unique idea that was completed relatively well. It’s highly competent and there are few bad words that I can say about it. It does drag a bit, but other than that this is one of my better films I’ve certainly reviewed for the site.

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The technique used to film this, i/e all in one take, is something that I’d be keen to see in a mainstream film, and I do actually mean as in a single take, not just edited to look like it’s all one seamless stretch.

“Victoria” is one of the more genuine films that I’ve ever seen, but there is a very big different between a good film and a great film, and despite giving it the approved stamp and being relatively praising of it, this falls closer to the former of the two.

So when someone holds a door open for you they’re treating you like a kid, but when they don’t they’re an asshole? Is that how it works? You claim that you want to be treated like everyone else, but what you fail to realise is that the longer you focus on trying to be normal, the longer it’s going to take for you to realise that no-one’s normal.

Year Released : 2016large_1454266848
Director : David Michael Conley
Cast :RJ Mitte, Ray William Johnson, Paloma Kwiatkowski and Daphne Zuniga

You know those trailers where that makes the film look remotely interesting and get you excited, but then turn out to be pure garbage? Well “Who’s Driving Doug” doesn’t reach that level of awfulness, it is certainly not even remotely as entertaining as the trailer makes me briefly look, and infact I would go as far as calling it one of the most pretentious movies that I have ever seen.

Now, you may gather from that that I’ve actually watched the film before writing this bit (something that I don’t normally do for those that haven’t read this site before), and I’ve struggled to motivate myself to write this review due to a combination of things going on in my personal life, and the film just not being that entertaining.

Whilst it’s not an awful film by any stretch, I am genuinely surprised that one reviewer on Rotten Tomatoes gave it a positive review, giving it a score (at the time of writing) or 20%.

Plot

Doug (Mitte) is a heavily disabled student at college and he requires a new driver after his current one quits. He posts an advert that is quickly taken down by Scott (Johnson), a slacker who has just been declined a place at the college. Scott soon approaches Doug and is hired.

On their first journey together, Scott reveals that he is from Las Vegas, and Doug takes an immediate interest as his dad wasn’t able to take him before his death. Scott gets a call that requires him to drive home and Doug agrees to go with him in exchange for using his car. They take Doug’s friend Stephanie (Kwiatkowski) along for the ride.

As the journey goes on the trio become good friends and they enjoy a gambling session when they eventually arrive in Vegas, however, things change when Scott hires a prostitute for Doug following an earlier conversation about if he was a virgin. Stephanie believes that Scott isn’t the best person for Doug before the two end up having sex, which causes a rift between the three and makes the rest of the trip very uncomfortable.

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So why is it pretentious?

Let’s start with the positives and there was a moment that made me audibly laugh. I don’t laugh out loud that often but this particular mini-scene was a gem. It comes as Scott and Doug are approached in the casino because the owners don’t believe the latter is over 21. Scott tricks the security guard into thinking that Doug’s ID is in his back pocket, but to get it out it would require picking him up and flipping him over. The security guard realises it isn’t worth the hassle and walks off.

There are moments of heartfelt honesty in the 95 minute run time, and they do capture how Doug reacts to being in Vegas very realistically. I’ve done that face many times before myself when going to places where I have waited to go for a long time, so I liked that.

And the final part of the film that I actually liked (yeah, there wasn’t a lot) is the scene in which Doug and Scott have their final fight. Doug is trying to apologise to Scott, but he wants no part of it, and the way the scene ends is so well acted by all concerned that it was hard not to get drawn in, even if everything beforehand made me feel very disconnected….which leads me neatly onto the negatives from the film.

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As I’ve mentioned a few times already, this film feels exceptionally pretentious because it seems to think that it can get by by being a movie that’s trying to force you to feel sorry for the characters. However, for that to be the case the characters actually have to be remotely interesting, and because of this the film gives off the impression that it thinks it is far more important and life-affirming than it actually is.

Despite there being genuinely heart-felt moments and other parts that you can genuinely enjoy, the film is otherwise largely dull and lifeless, with even the conflict later on in the film feeling completely forced. There are several reasons for this, including the pacing being off, the story itself just not being that engaging and probably most importantly, none of the characters are particularly likable.

Doug isn’t really a likable character. Whilst there are moments where he does show genuine concern for others, he is largely caught up in his own problems and he defines himself by his disability. He is just so incredibly self-centred that it’s hard to like him, especially when you realise he can’t see that his mother is still struggling following his father’s dead. Even right at the end Doug lambasts his mother for keeping his father’s ashes. He takes no consideration to the fact that maybe she isn’t ready.

Scott clearly points out that he’s a bit of a hypocrite in many ways and this continues to be highlighted long afterwards, especially when Doug turns against Scott because of his relationship with Stephanie. Doug’s seemingly one dimensional and self-centred personality means that when he makes his final speech during the film, about how he doesn’t care what other people think, it has lost a lot of the emotional impact that I feel the filmmakers were going for. The film tries to force down your throat that you should be the best you can be and not let your “weaknesses” stop you, but it’s just not written in a way that actually makes it a journey of self-growth that you’re interested in.

Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate that being disabled is a big part of anyone’s life, and my brother has spent most of the last twenty years in a wheelchair due to a progressive disease so I know first hand what it’s like and how hard it can be for someone to live with a disability, and for those around them to support them, but to present someone as being defined by their disability, rather than it being just a part of a larger whole, took me completely out of the film. There aren’t really any secondary characteristics to Doug and he’s not a good protagonist.

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There is also the issue of the slurry nature of Doug’s voice in the film. RJ Mitte is a fantastic actor and to be fair to him, he doesn’t do anything wrong in this role, but in this film his cerebral palsy is just played up so much that, in the nicest possible way, it’s hard to understand some of the lines of dialogue. Now don’t get me wrong, I appreciate that with the character it is going to be the case where the voice is going to be slurry, but it sometimes means you’re concentrating so hard to understand what he’s saying that it’s hard to notice other things going on.

It’s just one of several needless problems with the film, and it’s almost done as if no-one actually went through and checked it afterwards. For example, about ten minutes after a scene in which Doug says that it’s not possible for him to smile due to the muscles in his face, it shows a flashback to when he is rolling downhill on his wheelchair and the character (played by a child actor in the scene) is quite clearly smiling. There are quite a fair few scenes in which whilst it isn’t to the extent that most people would call a smile, it’s obvious that the character is happy based on the expression of the mouth alone.

And finally, the biggest problem for me is something that I rarely comment on in a negative sense and that is that the soundtrack doesn’t really seem appropriate to the film. All songs are by “Death Cab for Cutie”, but there are times when a song is playing in the background that neither fits what is going on, or indeed the pacing. As they ever Las Vegas there is an instrumental piece of music that just doesn’t fit in, and it’s the same when they’re gambling. It just doesn’t word, but it’s hard to put into words why it doesn’t work.

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Summary

A film that could have been better so easily, but it gets lost in its own self importance that it’s hard to really appreciate it on any level, and this isn’t helped by having no likable characters in the film.

Doug is one of the most one-dimensional disabled characters that I’ve ever seen in cinema and it is such a shame because RJ Mitte is just wasted in this completely lackluster film. He is joined by a cast of characters that just don’t really hit any emotions whatsoever other than boredom.

Don’t bother, there are far better “road trip” films out there.

Fuck you, I’m going to Guam!

Year Released : 2001HedwigandtheAngryInchMoviePoster
Director : Sean Byrne
Cast : John Cameron Mitchell, Micheal Pitt, Miriam Shore, Alberta Watson and Maurice Dean Wint

If you’re transgender, like me, then the chances you’ve heard of this as it is one of the most important LGBT films of the last 20 years. Infact, this is probably one of the better known films that I’ve ever reviewed on this site, mainly due to it becoming a successful broadway show (well, more successful after the release of the film) that starred Neil Patrick Harris. If however you’re not in the LGBT spectrum then there is a very good chance that the words “Hedwig and the Angry Inch” mean nothing to you, and this review is aimed at you.

Infact, “Hedwig and the Angry Inch” is a unique film on this site in the sense that it is a type of film that I’ve never reviewed before…..a musical. I’m not one for musicals at all, infact I have virtually no interest in them normally. This is the reason why I have no intention of ever seeing a Bollywood film, even though I work in a cinema that shows three or four every month.

Please note that I didn’t re-watch the film for the below review. This was done all from memory.

Plot

Hansel (Mitchell) grew up in a small town in the eastern half of Germany before the Berlin wall was knocked down. One day, he meets an American soldier called Luther (Wint) and he successful convinces Hansel, who was effeminate anyway, to have a sex change, become his wife and move to America. Hansel goes through with the operation, as planned, but the operation is not successful and the result is neither penis or vagina, instead just a lump of flesh between the legs that Hansel, now known as Hedwig, calls her “Angry Inch”.

Hedwig moves to America, as planned, but Luther soon leaves her for someone else and she is left completely on her own. Depressed, Hedwig forms a rock band consisting of Korean army wives. She soon meets Tommy Speck (Pitt), a devout Christian teen and the two write music together. Hedwig renames him after the Greek word to knowledge, Tommy Gnosis. Despite their bond, Gnosis soon leaves and steals Hedwig’s songs, becoming internationally famous in the process.

Bitter, Hedwig continues to tour with the same songs and consistently contacts various members of the media to badmouth Gnosis. Her life goes into a downward spiral as she tears up her boyfriend’s passport and is abandoned by her band. However, an unexpected meeting changes everything for both her and Tommy.

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So why is it a landmark film even though relatively few have heard of it?

Well I think there are quite a few reasons why “Hedwig and the Angry Inch” (I’m simply going to call it HAI for the rest of the review) is a landmark film because issues regarding transgenderism tend to only focus on one or two aspects, such as coming out and the eventual operation, whereas HAI actually takes place (for the most part) after Hedwig’s operation. It shows what life can be like for anyone who is transgendered after everything is over, and how other than the obvious, that the lives aren’t that different.

It tells the story of someone who feels hurt when she is betrayed by a friend (more on the relationship between Hedwig and Tommy in a moment) and how you’re trying to not let it affect your life, whilst simultaneously trying to make the other person’s life hell. It’s very true to life and shows that no matter how strong you think you are, the situation can easily get on top of you.

The hurt that Hedwig shows and feels is very real and genuine because they took great care in developing her relationship with Tommy. It’s a bit of an odd relationship, don’t get me wrong, but there are definitely a representation of a common theme in the film, a speech by Aristophanes in Plato’s Symposium, a myth that basically suggests that at one point humans were effectively two people that were joined together before the Gods tore them apart from anger. To summarise how quickly their relationship sours, if the film was shown in chronological order, one minute you’d have Hedwig giving Tommy a handjob in the bath, to them hating each other minutes later.

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That is exactly what the film is like in general. It is unlikely anything you have ever seen before and it is a gem. It is completely unique, with characters that are completely engaging. The very fact that I can write this review completely from memory, having not actually watched the film for about five years, just shows how unforgettable the story is.

The comedy contained within HAI is very different to most other comedy-musicals. As you can tell from the trailer at the bottom of the review, the humour will amuse some, whereas it will alienate many others. This is definitely not a film that anyone with any homophobic tendencies will enjoy because the jokes are very much geared towards the LGBT community, as is the sexuality of the character of Hedwig, who might I add is played to perfect by John Cameron Mitchell. He completely nailed it in the role and even having watched the videos of Neil Patrick Harris as the character on Broadway, you can’t picture anyone other than JCM as Hedwig.

He heads up a cast that is completely competent and pulls off everything that is thrown at them, and this is summed up very well by the fact that I didn’t realise until I was looking up the cast details that Yitzhak was played by a woman. She is fantastic as Hedwig’s boyfriend, and Michael Pitt absolutely kills it as Tommy. I’ve seen a few of his performances since, such as in “Funny Games” and the TV show “Broadwalk Empire”, but nothing compares to his character that you want to fail and succeed at the same time, and in many ways, the character of Tommy goes through more development than that of Hedwig.

Finally, like any musical, I have to talk about the music and whilst I don’t normally enjoy musicals at all, and some films including songs that they didn’t need to completely ruined them for me, but HAI’s music adds to an already enjoyable experience. The songs are very catchy and memorable, and what is especially unusual is that because Tommy has stolen Hedwig’s, several songs are repeated in the film but in completely different genres. Hedwig’s is usually more in the glam-rock style, whereas Tommy’s versions are often more hard-rock, and they reflect genuine attitudes of the characters, and quite possibly the cleverest use of this is right at the end when *spoilers* Hedwig reaches her lowest point and walks into a room where Tommy is covering Hedwig’s “Wicked Little Town” (my favourite song in the film) and although the words are slightly different, he changed nothing else, and this is a great symbolism of their reconciliation, despite their past.

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Summary

Emotionally engaging, well acted, lyrically unique and fun, “Hedwig and the Angry Inch” is unlike anything that you’ve ever seen before and I mean that in a good way. It’s one of the most memorable movies that I have ever seen and thatapproved is no more evident than the fact that I was able to do this whole review from memory. I didn’t have to rewatch the film.

“Hedwig and the Angry” is a film that unless you are homophobic, you’re probably going to enjoy. It’s very racy, very out there and very in your face, but that is a strength in this case. There are very few things about this film that most people won’t find some enjoyment in, even if you’re not into musicals. I wasn’t and I still loved it.

Give it a go, you won’t regret it.