Category Archives: Films – 2 stars

The Corpse Bride

Gorgous character design and animation, but the storytelling leaves a lot to be desired. Short though it may be (76 minutes), it drags out the simple gothic fairytale for far too long. The songs are lyrically awkward, musically unremarkable, and add nothing to the piece as a whole. The film is so much in love with itself that it simply forgets to entertain. I literally found myself dozing off in places.

Howl’s Moving Castle

Abi came up with the best summary of this film, and it’s taken from Teresa Nielsen Hayden’s introduction to the New Magics anthology: “In fantasy, you can do anything; and therefore, the one thing you must not do is ‘just anything.’

Howl’s Moving Castle does just anything. Its story is completely buried beneath themes and metaphors. It’s never clear who is fighting for whom (or what), and why. The film provides no background for the characters and their world–no rules about what can happen and what can’t–so when magical events happen, it’s like they are drawn from a hat. (Oh, the curse is broken. How did that happen?)

Without knowing what they have to achieve, the characters have no goals. Without goals, the plot has no momentum. It’s a very beautiful film, but extraordinarily dull.

Ocean’s Twelve

There are two main reasons I didn’t like Ocean’s Twelve. First of all, it’s entirely pointless. It has no heart, drifting instead between several plot lines that do tie together, but not in anything you’d call a climax. There is a “big” heist they have to execute, but is far from central to the film. Most sequels at least try to be bigger and better than their originals; this one lacks even that ambition.

Secondly, the use of cinematic shorthand to tell the story really bugged me. There are lots of knowing glances, and histories alluded to with a nod and a wink. It lends the illusion of depth to the characters, but when the credits roll, do you actually know anything about them? No. This shorthand extends to many key sequences in the film itself, which are not shown as part of the action, but instead revealed after the fact in flashbacks or conversations.

As an ensemble star vehicle, it is appropriately self-indulgent and deliberately harmless to each participant’s position on the Hollywood status ladder. But as a heist or a con movie, or even as a crime comedy caper, it is utterly flaccid.

Alien Vs. Predator

Sometimes you fancy a film that will challenge your assumptions, and sometimes you just want some raw comic book carnage. In the latter case, you could do worse than to flip on AvP. But you could do a whole lot better, too.

The Pacifier

I’m actually one of these people who think Kindergarten Cop was a pretty good movie. The Pacifier takes the same basic theme–tough guy (played by an actor known for his action hero roles) gets put in charge of a bunch of children, where his muscle and hard-nosed attitude count for little–but doesn’t do nearly as much with it. The plot is passable, but the humour is limp and the characterisation weak. It just doesn’t try to be anything more than just by-the-numbers, and thus succeeds at being mediocre.

The Last Shot

FBI agent Joe Devine (Alec Baldwin) hits on the idea of posing as a movie producer to mount a sting operation against a mafia racket. Under false pretenses, he recruits Hollywood hopeful writer Steven Schats (Matthew Broderick), and then gets so wrapped up in the process of actually making the film, that he almost fogets about catching the bad guys. It’s a great cast (Tony Shalhoub, Tim Blake Nelson, Toni Collette, Ray Liotta, and more) but they’re all wasted on a poor screenplay. It doesn’t really work as a comedy, because it’s not very funny. And as a touching film about hope and ambitious movie-loving spirit, it doesn’t have enough heart.


Young robot follows his dream of being an inventor to the big city, only to find that his hero Bigweld has fallen prey to corporate interests. With a ragtag group of friends, he then has to find a way to restore balance to the Force. (Oh hang on, wrong film. Anyway…)

For an animated feature with so much visual interest and promising storylines waiting to be told, it wastes its potential with movie in-jokes, robot puns, and a weak plot. Robin Williams replays the Genie from Aladdin, only with less screen time devoted to his character, which makes the tomfoolery seem forced and clinical. The rest of the robot cast are bland and undistinguished–even Rodney, the hero. It’s emotionally flat, and disappointingly by-the-numbers.

Gangs of New York

10 Oscar nominations? Bah. Daniel Day Lewis was excellent, but the rest of the film was thick and plodding. Is it a love story, a revenge story, a treatise on racism and gang warfare, and political corruption, a historical polemic? It tries to be everything, and succeeds only at being impenetrably dull and long-winded. A bit more focus would have done wonders, but then it might have had to drop its precious aspirations of being an “epic”.

Anger Management

In a cruel parody of paranoid justice, excessively mild-mannered Dave Buznik (Adam Sandler) is branded a violent felon, and sentenced to undergo anger management therapy at the hands of the unorthodox psychiatrist Buddy Rydell (Jack Nicholson).

Most of the film’s humour comes from Buddy placing Dave in situations specifically designed to frustrate him, and to taunt him into dealing with his repressed anger. This is also the film’s main drawback: the succession of annoyances itself quickly becomes annoying. When the final payoff comes, it turns out to be a bait-and-switch that undermines the sense of natural justice you’re supposed to feel at Dave eventually winning through. It’s a comedy that made me feel tense. Grrr.