Category Archives: Films – 2.5 stars

Fantastic Four

The trailer looked good, the reviews looked terrible. So what did I think? Well, it’s a film of moments. It has lots of decent, and even some quite good moments. But there is just no way to link them all together. The plot makes no sense, and I don’t say that lightly. There is literally no reason why anything should happen the way it does, or why the characters act the way they do. It’s as if the laws of cause and effect were suspended for the duration of its production.

That said, if you’re willing to sit back and enjoy the moments, you’ll find a lot to like in the Thing (Michael Chiklis) and the Human Torch (Chris Evans). Following their accident in space, they have the most extreme reactions to their new-found powers: the Thing struggling to cope with his loss of humanity, and the Torch determined to wring every last drop of fun out of his abilities. These roles give Chiklis and Evans the best material to play with, and they actually do quite well with it.

In comparison, Ioan Gruffudd as Mr Fantastic and Jessica Alba as the Invisible Girl take themselves way too seriously, and spend the whole film trying to one-up each other as to who can produce the best expression of earnest concern. Even Julian McMahon as the bad guy isn’t particularly memorable. Oh, you’re metal? How interesting.

I can’t see myself watching this a second time, even when it comes around on TV. It’s only really worth watching the first time if you like superhero movies, and have a couple of hours with nothing better to do.

Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith

Some parts of it are good, some parts are dreadful. Pretty much all of it is visually spectacular, but I wish Lucas had sacrificed some of the digital gimmickry for…well, a better screenwriter.

The dialogue was a step up from Episode II, but that’s not saying much. The action is astonishing, but the key thing that sank it for me was Anakin’s relationship with Padme. It is cool, and devoid of passion. Sure, they talk about love, but there are no scenes that elaborate on how deep this runs. And without this depth, Anakin’s journey to the Dark Side doesn’t ring true enough. I can see these characters acting out their inevitable destiny, but I don’t believe it.

The traditional rule of storytelling is “show, don’t tell.” Lucas falls foul of this rule too often in Sith for the film to work on an emotional level–unless you have so much personal dedication to the saga that you can supply it for yourself.

Ultimately, though, I’m not even sure if the story of Anakin’s fall from grace is a story that should have been shown at all. The story of Star Wars is Luke Skywalker’s battle with his father in Episodes IV – VI: a struggle between good and evil, with good ultimately triumphant. Episodes I-III are the back story for the main feature. There is a long, twisty tale there of love and betrayal, but with a legend that big, you can do two things: sum it up in a a few sentences, leaving the audience’s mind to fill in the details, or spin it out into somehing that is long enough to deal with the subtleties of the material.

Interestingly, it is Episode I that now stands out for me as the best of the first three films, because it is the least involved with Anakin’s tortuous journey. It can be seen as a stand-alone prologue, introducing the universe and the forces of light and darkness, and it has a nicely self-contained plot, with a satisfying climax. Episodes II and III rely far too much on their nudge-nudge, wink-wink hooks into subsequent episodes to be decent films in their own right.

So: points for wrapping the story up at last, so we can all get on with our lives. Points subtracted for it being–in anything other than its own context–a rather poor film.


Despite what you may have read, this is not going to be the worst film of the year. It’s not brilliant, but it’s far from awful.

Unlike most recent superhero/action movies, it doesn’t revel in its fight scenes, and it doesn’t linger over the heroine’s anguished antagonism towards the bad guys. It does spend a lot of time in broody contemplation of Elektra’s sense of isolation and loss, and this is perhaps where the perceived rot creeps in: the film simply doesn’t have a strong enough story to support this meditative aspect.

It’s an Eternal Battle of Good Versus Evil kind of thing, with a Mark IV Chosen-One Prophecy Module strapped on, and powered forward by a 1.6 litre Wayward-Heroine-Makes-Good engine. But it suffices. The villains tread a fine line between vaguely unpleasant and slightly crap, and most of the time end up dead, instead. The climactic fight scene is surprisingly poorly staged, given modern cinematic standards for the martial arts, and the whole final act that surrounds it feels like it was chopped up and mixed together by a committee who didn’t like Jennifer Garner all that much.

It lacks depth and richness of plot, the characters are ropy, the dialogue frequently stinks, it drops the ball (repeatedly) on back story, and it fails to properly activate any sequel hooks. It’s like the producers lost heart half-way through the film, and couldn’t be bothered giving it a thrilling end. And yet, despite all that, I just can’t bring myself to call it bad. The first hour is very watchable, but it should have been followed by another hour. Instead, it peters out with a mere half hour, and little promise of more to come. Pity.

How To Lose A Guy In 10 Days

Benjamin Barry (Matthew McConaughey) is an advertising executive. He bets his boss that he can make any woman fall in love with him in ten days. Andie Anderson (Kate Hudson) is the “How to” column writer for a women’s magazine. As background research for her next article, she has to start dating a guy, and then use every trick in the book to drive him away in ten days. Inevitably, they target each other–with hilarious consequences!

Actually, for a lightweight romantic comedy, this isn’t all that bad; but it doesn’t take enough risks to be particularly good, either. McConaughey has plenty of charm, and Hudson does a decent job as the seductive beauty pretending to have psycho tendencies. The humour is bland and inoffensive, but there are moments when McConaughey and Hudson truly sparkle as a couple. Unfortunately this makes the plot seem all the more contrived as it struggles to keep a wedge between them until the very end.

A Series of Unfortunate Events

Perhaps it’s because the film represents the first three books in a much longer series, but A Series Of Unfortunate Events comes across as just that: a series of events, each with their own structure and climax, but little in the way of an overall story arc or plot. The underlying mystery is only hinted at–X-Files style–but not explored in any depth; that will be the task of subsequent films. It will probably leave fans of the books hungry for more in the future, but I wanted more out of this one now.

For a film that desperately wants you to think of it as “dark”, there is too much surface spectacle, and not enough sense of the complexity and depth of the world in which the story takes place. It’s certainly very pretty, and Jim Carrey makes for a wonderful half sinister, half clownish, almost competent villain, but the fantasy never becomes real, if you see what I mean.

(If you do go to see it, make sure you stay for the fantastic, Tim Burton-eqsue end credits. It’s one of the best sequences I’ve seen in a long time.)