Greenberg: What I Thought

Ben Stiller is back, in sleeper hit ‘Greenberg’. To tell you the truth, I hadn’t heard of it since yesterday. It came up during a Skype conversation with one of my cousins from LA, and he wholeheartedly recommended it. You know, because they get everything about four months before we do in the UK. So, reluctantly, I put my money down then and there, and journeyed to my local cinema this afternoon, for a very enjoyable couple of hours.

Roger Greenberg is a carpenter, former would-be-rockstar, and general oddball, played by Ben Stiller. He comes to stay in LA and to watch over his brother’s house after many years of residing in New York, while his brother and family are on holiday. While there, he meets up with his old band members, says hello to ex-acquaintances, and meets Florence, his brother’s ‘assistant’, whose job seems to mainly consist of grocery shopping and caring for the family dog, Mahler. That’s essentially all you need to know about the film’s narrative.

It’s a very quaint film, with the majority of the duration spent exploring Roger’s past, through his return to LA, and his exposure to various elements (people and behaviours) which were once commonplace to him. That’s very much the draw of it. Greenberg is an intriguing character, who seems to be on some sort of medication, as well as possessing a penchant for applying lip balm. You could say that as a character, he’s fascinating, drawing you in further to try and unravel this erratic chap. To what extent is he ill, if at all? His mood swings throughout the film only exacerbate this interest. You very slowly uncover facts about his past, and the film does a great job of slowly revealing Roger’s character. By the end of it, you’ll have quite a good understanding of who Roger is, while not knowing much about him at all. I know that doesn’t make much sense, but it’s a wonderfully strange feeling.

I haven’t really paid much attention to Florence, yet, which is a shame, because she’s definitely on equal footing with Stiller, in terms of major parts. Florence, played by Greta Gerwig, is a bit of an enigma herself, and her seemingly irresponsible behaviour, and her resulting seemingly irresponsible interactions with Roger lead to some hard-hitting conclusions that really make you bond with the pair.

This film is filled with uncertainty, which again, sounds rather odd. It’s a very different Ben Stiller film, where he shows that he’s matured as an actor. After getting over the fact that he isn’t going to snap back into his Zoolander role, and shout “ooga booga booga” at the screen, you really get drawn in, and the film really takes off, while the uncertainty kicks in. Roger Greenberg is a very confused man, who is committed to ‘doing nothing’, which some might describe as him battling with a midlife crisis. All the while, you’re left uncertain, thanks in no small part to his erratic behaviour, what he’s going to do next, and where the film will take you.

What’s the rating on the Epic ‘Would You Watch It Again?’ scale? I’d definitely watch it again. In fact, I might even go so far as to say I’d buy it on DVD when it comes out. Stick with this film. It will mesmerise you, and take you to wonderful places.


How to Destroy Angels EP – Review

I hate writing reviews. Regular readers will know this. However, every now and then, something special comes along that warrants such treatment. One example of that is the newly-released, self-titled ‘How to Destroy Angels’ EP. For those of you not in the know, Trent Reznor (Nine Inch Nails) married former West Indian Girl frontwoman Mariqueen Maandig. They went on honeymoon for a couple of months, came back, and then immediately started making music.

Anything that Reznor puts his hand in will inevitably draw parallels to his Nine Inch Nails work. This is something he responded to on the the Q&A thread on the group’s Facebook page:

“This EP is a very early phase of this project. Yes, it sounds more NIN-ish than I believe it will as we progress. To me, HTDA frees me from some of the constraints I’ve begun to feel (primarily emotionally) in NIN.”

You can definitely hear bits of Nine Inch Nails on the EP, which is hardly a bad thing. The thumping bass, and hard-hitting synth loops that NIN fans have come to appreciate all make appearances. One thing I’m certainly glad has transferred across is the sheer dancability that is traditionally attributed to Trent’s electro roots. This is something that manifests itself most heavily in ‘Fur Lined’, but is something that can even be felt in the up-tempo, yet subdued beat of the EP’s closing track, ‘A Drowning’. This EP will make you want to jump up and down, bop your head, and sway in your chair, all in the space of the its six tracks, three of which have been previously released.

The EP is structured very well, which for me at least, gives it extra points. The songs flow into each other seamlessly, and the album really does take you on a journey of aural delights. It’s very mellow, for the most part, with a slightly more aggressive middle section, which soothes you into a dreamlike state as the EP draws to a close. It’s an experience of which I definitely suggest partaking in.

You can download the EP for free at the How to Destroy Angels site, and can upgrade to a ‘hi-def’ edition for a couple of dollars, which I wholly recommend. It comes with a 720p video of ‘The Space In Between’ (1080p pending) which is just lovely. Also note that you get an HD upgrade with any store purchases, as well.

My verdict? If you do one thing today, download this EP.

Iron Man 2: What I Thought

So, Paramount and Marvel have come at us with a sequel to their original ‘Iron Man’ film. Was it any good?

Robert Downey Jr. returns as Tony Stark. He wears sunglasses some of the time.

Tony Stark is definitely back, which is great, as he quite literally makes the Iron Man series. He’s still unable to keep his mouth shut, and suppress his own suave brand of arrogance, but it all adds to the endearment of his character. He’s still a relative jackanape, but it’ll certainly appeal to you. He swaggers his way throughout the film, really without any regard for anyone around him, which makes for some fantastic destructive set-pieces, in some cases.

This time around, he’s up against Sam Rockwell, who plays Justin Hammer, head of a munitions company hoping to steal Iron Man’s secrets and exploit them for monetary gain. There are also a couple of Russian fellows involved, who happen to be gifted physicists, and are also determined to see Iron Man obliterated. A strong word, but it’s quite apt. There are a lot of explosions in this film, and a great deal of special effects, and it’s quite fantastic. The merry bunch also are joined by Don Cheadle, who assumes the role of Rhody, to those who were paying close attention during the first film. Without spoiling too much, there are some quite spectacular mech fights, which are all very shiny, and on occasion make you want to punch the air with childish glee. I did feel that the final battle was over too soon, but I guess that’s what you get for going up against a superhero.

The film explores Stark’s relationship with Pepper in more detail, and also delves right into his history. The character of Howard Stark (Tony’s father) is fleshed out to a far greater degree than in the first film, as the plot is mostly driven by his history. I’ll leave it with that ambiguous nugget. Suffice to say, by the end of the film, you’ll have a greater appreciation for Stark, and the lore of the Iron Man series, if that appeals.

So, as we’ve discussed, there’s lots of history, much conspiracy, some amazing fights (mech fights especially, I cannot stress this enough) and an ass-kicking Scarlett Johansson, who I need not comment on. That’s pretty self-explanatory, and speaks for itself. Need I say more?

What’s the score on the Epic ‘Would You Watch It Again’ meter? I’d definitely watch it again in cinemas, given the chance. This is the type of film that you could very easily satisfy yourself in killing a couple of hours with. I’m not sure it’d warrant a DVD purchase, however, but the film is definitely awesome. Shiny, too.

The Blind Side: What I Thought

My dear mother, a great fan of the works of Sandra Bullock, suggested we see this film on a family outing. As such, my hopes for it weren’t that high. To be honest, I entered the cinema with the notion that this would be ‘just another chick flick’, but you know, I actually enjoyed it. I’m not saying it’s brilliant, or that it should be nominated for an Oscar, or any other politically-contrived award, but it’s bearable. It also made me smile, which I guess, is what I paid for.

‘The Blind Side’ tells the (true) story of Michael Oher, a down-and-out teen from the projects in Tennessee, who eventually becomes a star (American) football player. At the start of the film, he’s homeless, before he’s taken in by Leigh Anne Tuohy, played by Sandra Bullock, who plays a very wealthy wife of a former athlete turned fast-food tycoon. Michael, or ‘Big Mike’, is soon accepted by the whole family, eventually starts playing American football, and the rest is history, I suppose; other than the fact that it’s a true story, so it’s not.

It sounds just like any old feel-good film, doesn’t it? I suppose that it is, just as I mentioned at the start. However, what really drew me in was watching Michael change from someone who is clearly troubled, keeps to himself, and can “barely” spell his own name, into a bright young lad who has a promising future. You’re never told the whole story of why he was separated from his mother at a young age, but you can tell by Michael’s initial stilted demeanour that it was something big. I found myself fall under the spell of the film, and became fascinated by Michael’s character, and as such, in watching him grow. His successes became mine, as too with the perils he encountered. Call me soft.

On top of all of this, you’ve also got social themes running amok, what with a wealthy Republican family harbouring a teenager from a completely different world from theirs. Michael even writes, in one of his early scholastic creations, “All I see is white.” The Tuohy family have to deal with social stigma, racist uncles, racist sports fans, racist rednecks, racist fellow-Republicans; this goes on. I don’t want to mislead you into thinking this is a film about tackling racism. It isn’t. The film is about Michael. There are only a few scenes which discuss racism, but really, it’s only fun seeing justice and common sense prevail over stupidity and race-hate, which it quite often does.

So, yes. In response to the title, I thought this film was actually pretty good, considering what I thought it would be. It was certainly a nice way to spend my final evening in London, before I return to university. My mother seemed to enjoy it, too, which is the most important thing. If you’re going for a family outing, and aren’t sure what to see, I’d opt for this. It’s two hours of (mostly) happy viewing, which will leave you smiling.

As far as ratings go, then, I wouldn’t go and see ‘The Blind Side’ again in cinemas, but since my mother made clear in the car her intentions to buy it on DVD as soon as it’s released, I’d happily join her in watching it. That’s not to say I’d willingly fork out the money for it myself, however.

Well, I hope you’ve enjoyed this edition of ‘What I Thought’. Please, please leave a comment on what you think of ‘Aris’ Epic ‘Would You Watch It Again?’ Rating System (TM)’. I’m very eager to know what you all think.

Kick-Ass: What I thought

I saw Kick-Ass last night. As it’s a new, much talked about film, I feel inclined to blog about it. I don’t really feel qualified to give an opinion on it; not because I doubt my abilities in reviewing films, but because it didn’t really do anything for me.

You’ve probably heard about Kick-Ass. If not, it’s based on a comic by Mark Millar and John Romita Jr. about a guy (Dave Lizewski) who, fed up with being a mild-mannered super-geek, and blinded by heroic visions, buys himself a ski suit and becomes ‘Kick-Ass’, the ass-kicker. Lizewski has no superpowers, which he openly admits at the beginning of the film. He’s just a guy who wants to make a difference. Dave, as Kick-Ass, one day accosts some muggers, the ordeal gets captured via phone camera, and through the wonder of YouTube, Kick-Ass becomes an overnight phenomenon. Kick-Ass then sets up a MySpace account, and becomes the talk of the town. Kick-Ass’ ass-kicking ventures also happen to inspire others to fashion their own costumes, and become super heroes, for better or worse. These others are Damon Macready (or Big Daddy, played by Nicholas Cage), Mindy Macready (Hit-Girl, played by Chloe Moretz), and Chris D’Amico (Red Mist, who is Christopher Mintz-Plasse). Without spoiling the plot, which I actually quite enjoyed, having never encountered the comics before, there’s a lot of fighting, a lot of funny moments, and an awful lot of blood. The film is mainly taken up establishing the creation of Kick-Ass, and his other would-be superheroes. Then, a narrative that has been subtly weaved from the beginning of the film manifests itself properly, paving the way to the final showdown, with the plot creating just enough anger for the showdown to feel satisfying and well-deserved.

As I mentioned before, there’s a lot of blood in the film. You also get to see an eleven year old (Hit-Girl) wielding various knife-based weapons like a pro, shooting people, like a pro, and exclaiming profanities you’d never expect to hear from the mouth of any woman, let alone a pre-teen. It’s pretty shocking stuff, which is quite hilarious at the same time. You can’t blame Hit-Girl for the way she is, being raised by her slightly unhinged and very overprotective father. Cage plays an excellent oddball. I did laugh. There are also some great fight scenes, and a very funny episode with a certain anti-tank weapon. This is traditional old-school superhero faire, presented through a non-conventional narrative. The bad guys are typical, and you can’t help but laugh as their ranks are decimated by out unlikely heroes. The story is also typical. There is a love interest, and Dave constantly assesses and reassesses his feelings on being a superhero. It never interferes with the action, however, and only adds to the narrative This isn’t only a story about superheroes. It’s a story about living out your teenage fantasies, whatever they may be. Yeah, I guess I did enjoy the film, after all.

May I add, as a somewhat geekish side note, I was rather giddy at the inclusion of social media in the film, and the fact that it played such a pivotal part in the film’s plot. That being said, I think part of what spoiled my enjoyment is the amount of time I spent researching the film before I actually went to see it. Don’t watch the trailers. They spoil some of the funniest parts of the film. Also, don’t go anywhere the Daily Mail fiasco about the film supposedly being immoral. That spoiled much for me. Cheers, Daily Mail.

Kick-Ass is a feel-good film that will make you smile, and will make you laugh. If you’re in the mood to do either of those things, Kick-Ass will surely deliver.

How To Train Your Dragon (3D): What I Thought

I love animated films. They never fail in returning me to a state of childhood innocence and awe, and ‘How To Train Your Dragon’ pulled out all the stops to ensure that by the end of the film, I was grinning from ear to ear. I’ve never wanted to own a dragon more so than I do now.

‘How To Train Your Dragon’ is about Hiccup, miniature Viking in the making, and his efforts to gain the recognition of his clan, and rise from the role of weaponsmith apprentice to, well, something that’s not a weaponsmith’s apprentice. Hiccup isn’t the burliest candidate to potentially become a hammer-swinging, axe-brandishing, dragon-slaying Norse warrior, which is much to his detriment. He’s a quirky chap who is picked on and belittled by the others in his clan, until he one day manages to track down an almost mythical Night Fury breed of dragon, and injure it with a catapult. When he confronts it, he finds that he cannot kill it, as is expected of him by his Viking brethren, and so begins a fantastical, magnificent journey to nurse this dragon back to health, train it, and uncover a vicious plot that has the power to redefine human-dragon relations. It sounds somewhat complex, but it really isn’t. I just can’t bear to spoil a second of this brilliant film, and want you to enjoy every fact and detail first-hand.

The film is brilliantly paced, with just the right amount of action, coupled with the right amount of comic relief and humour. It does a brilliant job of interspersing one with the other, always leaving you wanting more, but never so that it becomes an annoyance. The balance is just perfect, granting the film with the power to deliver both laugh-out-loud moments, but to also emotionally move you, and return you to that wonderful state of childlike innocence.

The animation is also fantastic. Specifically, mention must be made of the dragons themselves. It’s clear that a lot of thought has gone into creating a whole host of these unique beasts. Each individual breed has its own differing abilities, strengths, weaknesses, and most importantly, lends the dragons their own unique personalities. Never will you have felt more attached to a collection of characters who remain effectively mute for the duration of the film, with the exception of grunts and body language. There is also an awful lot of expression in each of their eyes, which becomes a key component of how Hiccup and his dragon communicate.

I assure you it is no exaggeration when I say that it’s been a long time since I’ve been so thoroughly entertained in 90 minutes. This film made a kid of me again, genuinely. I laughed, I grinned, and I was brought close to tears. This is a truly fantastic film. See it.

‘How To Train Your Dragon’ is PG rated, and currently on general release. It can be seen in cinemas across the country in either 2D or 3D, but go and see it in 3D. Honestly, it’s worth the extra money.