Saturday, October 15, 2011

You don't want to be trapped inside with me sunshine. Inside, I'm somebody nobody wants to f**k with do you understand? I am Charlie Bronson, I am Britain's most violent prisoner.

Hello I am the movie encyclopedia and if no one else will see it, I will.

Nicolas Winding Refn is an amazing director. This was proven to me two years ago when I watched the Pusher films (good films if you ever get a chance to watch them) and it was again proven to me earlier this year with Drive (my pick for Best Film of 2011). But now having watched Bronson, a film I've rented through Netflix a few times but never actually watched but have been meaning to, I can easily say that Refn knows exactly what he's doing behind a camera and he is brilliant at that. His use of colors (which is especially interesting since he is colorblind), the way he sets up the camera and plays with different angles he makes any film better.  

Then again it helps when you have such an amazing cast, especially Tom Hardy whose career should have skyrocketed after this film was release. Granted most people know him now from his work in Inception and the Warrior (as well as the upcoming Batman film) but Hardy has been around for a while and this film, much like Hardy, flew under the radar with barely a least in America. I'm willing to bet there has been some definite controversy in Britain and other countries, or at least you'd think considering this is a film about "Britain's most violent prisoner." But what do I know? All I know is Bronson is one twistedly funny and dark film that could very well be called the Clockwork Orange of the 21st century. 

The film is the semi biographical story of Michael Peterson who has become better known by his fighting name "Charlie Bronson" which he got from the famous action star Charles Bronson. He had a fairly normal upbringing but liked to fight. He'd fight in school, he'd fight in the street and got in trouble with the law a few times. But fighting isn't really a bad thing from where he's from. So eventually he gets a job, settles down and has a kid. But as a man who loves to fight and loves the attention he gets from fighting, he decides to up his game and rob a post office. This lands him in jail and once there he decides he wants to become famous. But not famous for, he wants to be known as the most violent and dangerous prisoner Britain has ever seen. So every chance he gets he fights the guards. He fights and fights and fights. He's obviously bonkers but he's almost so bonkers he's sane. He's like Batman's Joker in a lot of ways: crazy but fascinatingly sane about the whole thing. 

The whole story is told from Bronson's perspective, with Bronson narrating the whole thing in two different settings. In one setting he is just standing in a dark room with a light and the other is a full on stage production. I was never sure if this was real or all in his mind but it was fascinating how it would switch back and forth between the different settings. The film keeps you on your toes. Just when you think you are going to get settled in, it turns on you and switches directions. In a way this could be bad for some because it does jump around a lot, but for me it kept things interesting and I was engaged from beginning to end. It also helps the film is as funny as it is serious so for every serious moment you get a funny moment and vice versa. Very clever writing there.

Besides the direction, probably the best thing about this film is Tom Hardy. He IS Bronson. Every nuance, every twitch, every mannerism, he has it in spades. One minute he is a violent lunatic, next he is a quiet reserved man and then boom he comes out and he is a clever, sarcastic dry witted man with plenty of jokes. Hardy's almost schizophrenic approach to Bronson only helps make the character more dynamic and you root for him, even though he is doing terrible things and is obviously out of his mind. Hardy's Bronson is never boring and if you remember one thing about this movie, you'll remember him. The rest of the acting is fine but is engulfed by Hardy. Even if the scene belongs to someone else he somehow steals the show without even having to blink an eye. His being there is enough to steal the show. That's REAL charisma. 

On a side note I have to point out that the soundtrack and score to the film is amazing. Almost as amazing as this guy's dancing:


Bronson is definitely a polarizing film and I can understand it may be a little too out there or extreme for some but I absolutely loved Bronson. Hardy is fantastic, Refn is an amazing director, the music is great, and I loved everything about this movie. Is it perfect? No but it's definitely one everyone should check out.


Friday, October 14, 2011

All for one and one for all!

Hello I am the movie encyclopedia and if no one else will see it, I will.

Alexandre Dumas probably had no idea when he was writing The Three Musketeers that it would ever be adapted into a film like this. Granted he had no idea what film was in general but you get the idea. Many Musketeer films in the past have tried to emulate the book to a tee, or at the very least stay within a reasonable continuity that could do the book some justice. Paul W.S Anderson saw the book, flipped through a few pages to find a female badass character (it can't be an Anderson film without his wife Milla Jovovich now can it) and then tossed the book behind his shoulder and said "F**k it I'll make it up as I go." Or at least that seems what is most likely considering the new Three Musketeers movie is one of the most ludicrous, stupid, over the top, confusing films that I've seen in a long time and defecates on Alexandre Dumas' grave. And while there is a lot of negative things to say about the film, honestly I didn't hate it. In fact for all it's stupidity it was at least entertaining and tongue in cheek enough that I could somewhat respect what Anderson was going for here.
The plot follows the three musketeers Athos (Matthew Macfadyen), Porthos (Ray Stevenson) and Aramis (Luke Evans). After a failed mission in which they are betrayed by a freelance assassin named Milady (Jovovich), they are put out of commission and spend most of their time drinking and getting into fights. They seem content with this until a brash, cocky, arrogant son of a musketeer D'Artagnan (Logan Lerman) shows up and causes a fuss, which gets their blood flowing again. Soon after D'Artagnan shows up and starts hanging around the Musketeers, they get knee deep in a conspiracy that is led by Milady and an evil Cardinal (Christoph Waltz) who want an all out war between France and Europe (led by Orlando Bloom) which will ultimately end with the Cardinal somehow becoming the leader of France. Now it's up to the Musketeers and D'Artagnan to stop this before it's too late.

It's actually a fairly straightforward plot and besides Anderson's knack for putting in irritable cliffhangers at the end of all his movies now, the film pretty much resolves itself in its little over 100 minute run time. There isn't too many scenes of pointless dialogue and for the most part the action is always moving. Anderson knows how to make an action movie, even if the movie itself isn't all that great. The writing is littered with one liners that, while cheesy, contain some chuckles and for the most part the film doesn't take itself too seriously. In a lot of ways I look at this film as a satire or an action comedy rather than a straightforward action film. Characters chew the scenery, face palm moments happen once a scene, and I swear some pieces of the film are lifted from other films of its type.   
The acting, for the most part is actually quite decent, although it's hammier than a Christmas dinner. You can tell all three of the Musketeers are enjoying themselves and when an actor is having fun, the audience tends to have fun too. You will probably groan a lot (I know I did), but Macfadyen especially knew how to win me over when it mattered. Lerman though is a bit of a weak link as his humor and attitude come off more arrogant and cocky rather than funny. I realize that is the kind of character he is supposed to be, but if I want to punch you repeatedly every time I see your face, you may want to pull it back a little. Also the females, sans Jovovich, are all criminally underwritten and D'Artagnan's love interest Constance comes off as wooden and stilted. Juno Temple tries to liven things up a little as the Queen of France, but doesn't have enough screen time to really accomplish anything.

The villains are a mixed bag of crazy ham but all have this over the top giddiness (at least Bloom and Waltz do) that makes them almost Bond villain esque in nature. Waltz definitely steals the show though with some great near fourth wall breaking moments ("Is this the part where I'm supposed to laugh maniacally and reveal some sort of evil plan to you?") and chews the scenery like its candy. Waltz can out-villain anyone it seems nowadays. Bloom, for the short time he's in the movie, does well but comes off more Ziggy Stardust meets 30s mustache twirling villain rather than actually evil. And Jovovich is Jovovich. Basically imagine Alice from Resident Evil but doing all her stunts in full collared Victorian garb. Silly, but impressive nevertheless.
The action is aplenty in this film with slo-mo fight scenes (a trademark of a Paul W.S. Anderson film), swordplay and explosions/destruction but to Anderson's credit he didn't abuse the slo-mo as much as he has in the past. In fact he has started incorporating a little fast motion too. It's all quite over the top and ludicrous (air ships, automatic cannon guns, flamethrowers) but it's fun and I was certainly entertained.  The 3D is impressive too for what it is (really adds to the big sword fights and the slo-mo scenes) but if you have a choice go 2D.

It's nothing like the book, full of ham and cheese, over the top, stupid and features some meh acting, but overall Three Musketeers should be looked at as a comedy, or a guilty pleasure at least. It has plenty of action, everyone is having fun, Waltz is Waltzing the s**t out of his role, and it's so stupid it treads into awesome territory. If you go in with an open mind you might enjoy it, just don't expect an Academy Award winning film.


Wednesday, October 12, 2011

I have an idea for a movie starring me as an action hero

Hello I am the movie encyclopedia and if no one else will see it, I will.

To my artsy film friends I will deny his very existence but if I'm going to be completely honest I just have to come right out and say it: I like Dax Shepard. I don't know why and really I probably shouldn't but to me he's just one of  the funniest people alive. I've seen every film he's in and even if I hate the film, I usually love him in it. So in theory Brother's Justice, a film that's basically an hour and a half of Dax Shepard playing himself trying to sell a film, should be amazing right? Well sadly no. While Brother's Justice is certainly funny in some parts, the overall film breaks the cardinal rule of documentaries, whether they be real or fake: you can't be boring. And for every great, hilarious moment in this film, it's rife with boring, awkward moments that almost made me press fast forward on my remote.
The film, like I briefly mentioned in the intro, is the documented account of Dax Shepard trying to sell a movie pitch called "Brother's Justice" to every major Hollywood studio or executive he happens to have contacts with. The pitch is never fully explained, and seems to change with every time he tells it (in fact at one point he asks for money BEFORE giving the pitch), but the basic idea is that Dax and (insert person here) play martial arts action heroes fighting crime. The people he visit seem interested at first, until Dax reveals he plans on playing the movie straight. For those who don't know that means he wants to do the movie seriously and NOT as a comedy. That doesn't bode well for the people since Dax has, up until that point, always did comedies and had no action movie experience whatsoever. Dax then spends the majority of the film trying to prove the people wrong by reinventing himself as an action hero.

On paper this film sounds funny. In reality, it's spotty. Dax has some great moments of his signature dry humor, especially when he's giving the newly modified pitch or going off on other actor friends, but the rest of the time his humor seems forced, flat or downright cruel. His buddy/producer is actually funnier than Dax most of the time because he isn't trying as hard to be funny. But where the film shines in it's humor is with it's celebrity guests like Tom Arnold, Bradley Cooper, Dave Koechner and Ashton Kutcher. Each play themselves, only totally exaggerated. You can tell they love to let loose like this and some of the improv between them, especially Tom Arnold and Dax, is fantastic. It almost makes up for a lot of the mistakes.
The film is fairly quick and only drags in some of the unfunny parts of the film. You can tell Dax was trying for the throw jokes against a wall and see what sticks method and the pacing of the film tends to lend itself to the humor more often than not. One thing I'll say though, if you don't like the film itself, the mock films that he does throughout the film are flat out hilarious and are worth watching if nothing else. Think Simple Jack from Tropic Thunder.

If you like Dax Shepard or any of the aforementioned buddies that show up in the film or if you like to see a little insight into how a film comes to be (or at least pitch to production) then this film is for you. It's not the best film and Dax does miss more than he hits, but it's a fast paced film and worth a watch if nothing else is on.