Tuesday 30 June 2009

Movie Reviews

Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist
Peter Sollett
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist is one of those high-school comedy/romance films that you want to hate. It's all so sweet, all so sickly...and yet, there's some points in that make you laugh out loud. And not your normal laugh. I mean that loud braying laugh you do that, in the words of Billy Connolly "sounds likes the boy at school that you felt sorry for".

Nick (Michael Cera) frequents New York's indie rock scene with a broken heart and a bass guitar. Norah (Kat Dennings), the friend of Nick's ex-girlfriend is questioning pretty much all of her assumptions about the world. Though they have nothing in common except for their taste in music, their chance encounter leads to an all-night quest to find a legendary band's secret show and ends up becoming the first date in a romance that could change both their lives. You've seen movies like this before, right?

The first twenty minutes or so of the movie is really clumsy. The pacing is a little weird, and it contains what must be the least subtle foreshadowing this side of The Shining. By the time Nick and Norah have met, however, the movie has hit its stride, and the gags start coming. The awkward relationship between Nick and Norah is great. It's like every clumsy first date you've ever been on - brilliantly written and brilliantly acted. Nick's gay sidekicks also provide some fun comedy relief.

Of course, this film doesn't really do anything that we haven't seen a million times before in a million different romantic comedies. Echoes of Chasing Amy and High Fidelity (to name just two) abound. It's not pushing any ground, and by the time I was at the halfway mark, I knew where it was going, and could predict all of the twists and turns and revelations on the way there.

The mix of clumsy slap-stick humour and the gross out vomit gags tickle the teenage funny bone, but the part of you that's emotionally grown up will love all of the characters in it (even the ones you love to hate). It has a satisfying ending, and it's great fun.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating:
A couple of punches and headbutts, mostly for comic effect.
Sex/Nudity: Sex, but you don't see anything. This is why erotic audiobooks never caught on. Some bits of it are really gay. That's not a negative comment. If anything, they're fabulously gay.
Swearing: Approximately sixty usages according to IMDB. That's one every ninety seconds.
Summary: A good fun romantic comedy high school thing. You'll forget about it almost as soon as its over, but the ride is fun whilst it lasts. 7/10

Midnight Chronicles
Christian T. Petersen
Metrodome Distribution

This takes its first tumble at the box art (and it doesn't get much better after that) with the bold statement: "Based on the Legendary RPG Game". Firstly, Midnight, the D&D knock-off from the otherwise amazing publisher Fantasy Flight Games is far from legendary; and secondly, the "G" in "RPG" already stands for "game".

In the world of Midnight, it is a time of cliched darkness. Izrador (the big bad evil guy) has defeated the armies of the good guys. He rules the world with an iron fist. Enslaved, the race of men leads an oppressed existence, and the elves and dwarves have retreated to borderlands, where their resistance is slowly caving under the Shadow. Investigating the disappearance of a priest, the infamous Mag Kiln has been ordered by the church to travel to the small Erenlander town of Blackweir. There, he soon becomes entangled in an old mystery and begins to uncover not only the forbidden legacy of the town, but the malevolent, prophetic force that grows within him.

For the first three minutes I was really impressed with this film. What struck me was the colour palette of the movie. Everything was really desaturated, and it gave it worn out, lived in and distressed vibe. That, and the acting, which is pretty good when I was able to understand what the hell was supposed to be happening, was actually really good. Tragically, it was just about the only thing that Midnight Chronicles managed to do right.

The whole thing is nailed together so incompetently, that I actually managed to get through the entire film without ever being a hundred per cent certain who the main character was supposed to be. That's pretty much the only film I've ever seen that I can say this about.

Midnight Chronicles feels like a kind of "Greatest Hits" of fantasy. Orcs? Check. Swords? Check. Dark Lord of Somethingortheotherdor? Check. But, like musical "Greatest Hits", whilst all the pieces are there, it doesn't gel together like a real album does. All the trappings and decoration of a fantasy story, with none of the sense of narrative and character, which is the only reason anyone likes fantasy anyway. Yes, we know it's all basically Middle-Earth-Fan-Fiction-With-The-Exception-Of-A-Few-Bright-Sparks, but when you've got great characters and a fun narrative, that doesn't matter so much. Unfortunately, that's another initiative roll that Midnight Chronicles has failed.

Ultimately, role-playing game universes do not make great settings for more conventional forms of narrative. They're vacuous things, designed for players to make their own adventures in. When turned into a film, the characters just rattle around in this huge setting, unable to really showcase the depth, and fail to engage the audience.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating
Violence: Some pretty good combat sequences, and some pretty bad ones.

Sex/Nudity: None.

Swearing: None

Other points in favour:
Swords and orcs.

Summary: A mess of a film. Originally filmed as a TV pilot, it's easy to see why the series was never picked up. 2/10

1 comment:

  1. Gah... you've hit upon one of my bug-bears with the whole 'RPG game' thing. I've got to the point where I think I'm going to tear somebody's head off the next time I hear them say 'PIN number'. Can I please just use this forum to state for the record (and for the fuckwits who don't know): THE N IN PIN STANDS FOR NUMBER! YOU ARE SAYING 'CAN YOU PLEASE ENTER YOUR PERSONAL IDENTIFICATION NUMBER NUMBER'! IT MAKES YOU SOUND RETARDED!

    Phew... I actually feel a little better for that. Seriously, though, the next time somebody says PIN number, I'm going launch an ICBM missile at them (that's Inter-Continental Ballistic Missile missile, for those who don't know).