Saturday, June 23, 2012

Five things I'm looking forward to

1. Monsters University

Well liked, but still under-praised, Monsters Inc. is one of Pixar's very best - for me, only behind the Toy Story films. Sully and Mike at college? Yes please. (But not until next year, unfortunately.)

2. Veep

Like everyone, really. Armando Iannucci and Simon Blackwell rarely put a foot wrong, and word is this HBO sitcom warms up to continue their fine contribution to comedy. Bigger budgets but, I'd imagine, the same Thick Of It sensibility. Starts on Sky Atlantic on Monday.

3. Danny Baker and The Muppets

It's all a bit sketchy at the moment, but do we *really* need any more details? It's Danny Baker working with the Jim Henson Workshop. Insane.

4. The Michael Grandage season

Having seen lots of his productions during an astonishingly strong tenure at the Sheffield Crucible, I am very much #teamgrandage. His season of five starry productions should be brilliant.

5. It's Kevin with Kevin Eldon

Well it's about ruddy time, eh? The comedian's comedian (along with Stewart Lee. And Tony Law. Oh, and Daniel Kitson - but that's good company) gets his own BBC show. Huzzah!

Handball and Basketball at the Olympics...

...have *definitely* always been my favourite sports. Did I not mention that before?

(Can't wait!)

Monday, June 11, 2012

...and thoughts on Moonrise Kingdom

So praised for so long, there's actually been a bit of a Wes Anderson backlash of late - with 'detached' starting to be considered 'cold', and his last film, the stop-motion Fantastic Mr Fox, seen as too clever by half; of more interest to adults than kids.

But Moonrise Kingdom has actually melted a few critics' frosty hearts - I know, a Wes Anderson movie - and having watched it in a pleasingly packed screening this Sunday, I can see why. It's just gorgeous. 

On a New England island about to be battered by shoreline-shifting storms, two misfit kids run away together to have a swallows and amazons adventure far away from bullying Scouts and disinterested parents. Good start.

It looks, as you'd expect, beautiful - the attention to detail in everything from the rugged landscape, to the dolls-house style buildings and Scout Master Ward's (Edward Norton) pristine uniform is just a joy to pore over. But this movie has heart too, and more than that, it even goes a bit Goonies, a bit Addams Family Values summer camp by the time we get to the final third; the formerly warring kids uniting against the adults to evade re-capture. 

Most the warmth comes from the two young leads - Kara Haywood and Jared Gilman - both newcomers, and both really lovely, really watchable actors. There's certainly shades of Son of Rambow about their commitment to independence and imagination (a very good thing indeed) and the way their relationship is portrayed is sweet but never patronising. 

It's testament to Bruce Willis and Ed Norton too, that in a film that also stars Bill Murray and Tilda Swinton, it's very much the former pair that you're hoping to see more of.

I probably don't need to put it in so many words, but I ruddy loved it. Stunning to look at, genuinely funny, genuinely odd and full of great performances.  

Saturday, June 09, 2012

Thoughts on Prometheus

(No plot spoilers, but if you're really excited about the film, maybe give this a miss 'til you've seen it.)

Having seen bits of the Alien movies but none of them the whole way through (in fact, the one I've seen most of is Alien vs Predator, which I don't *believe* is the fans' favourite) I think it's fair to say I'm not really the best person to discuss where Prometheus sits in the Alien canon. I didn't even see the Michael Fassbender viral until five minutes ago (though I knew it existed, I am on Twitter after all...)

But I love my sci-fi, and perhaps my crushing lack of knowledge did mean that I came to the film with lower expectations than most - and was perfectly willing (indeed only equipped) to view it as a standalone project. Seems a shame, then, that even my rather modest expectations weren't, for the most part, met.

To start with the positives, though, the visuals are pretty stunning. The opening, sweeping sequence which takes us whizzing across a Scandanavian-style (but deeply alien-with-a-lower-case-a) landscape is a majestic start, and the white, angular interiors of the titular spaceship are wonderfully retro. And while the 3D is forgettable, it's not, at least, actively distracting - the only major flaw in an otherwise massively enjoyable Avengers Assemble.

Plus, Fassbender is as impressive as ever - he's a charismatic cyborg, and while you might think it a tough ask to ham it up as a robot, he certainly manages it - and Charlize Theron and Idris Alba, while not given a whole lot to do, certainly give the Prometheus crew a bit of class.

But when we get down to the elements that transform a film from a spectacle into an experience - engaging plot, likable characters, quotable script - they're disappointingly flawed, or lacking altogether. The dialogue, in particular, is pedestrian, and Noomi Rapace's character Elizabeth Shaw is such a bland presence that I genuinely didn't realise that she was the lead character until the third reel.

There are a couple of plotty questions left unanswered for a decent post-cinema chat - the issue is whether you'll still be thinking about the film by the time you get to the pub. It may look great, but ultimately my main problem with Prometheus is simply... it's not a whole lot of fun.