Category: 40 – 49% Bad

Good Morning, Vietnam (1987)

good-morning-vietnam-robin-williams-25340599-2348-1599

A predictable, dull film that’s merely a vehicle for Williams’s tediously overbearing comedy.

There’s a great Family Guy cutaway gag in which Peter Griffin and Robin Williams are sitting on a sofa as Peter names topics such as religion and politics for Williams to comment on. Williams does so with his trademark brand of insufferable overbearing comedy, which is filling any amount of time with incessant, frenetic rambling. Peter responds simply with an exasperated sigh before leaving for a five minute break, which prompts Williams to start yet another barrage of supposedly funny noises.

I felt much like Peter Griffin whilst watching Good Morning Vietnam. It reaffirmed my opinion that Williams was not the ‘tragicomic genius’ that so many purported him to be. Williams was much better as a straight actor.

Read a short synopsis of Vietnam and you’ll know exactly what it’s all about: the loveable family favourite Robin Williams being kooky and charming the troops but clashing with straight-laced, humourless authority figures. It’s completely predictable and completely trite. They also throw in a love interest for good measure in the form of Trinh (Chintara Sukapatana), a wholly lifeless woman whom Williams refuses to stop pestering.

Williams is never funny during his radio broadcasts, but the film repeatedly tells us otherwise, showing us scores of characters struggling to hold back their tears of laughter. So many of the supporting actors, whether they’re random troops or studio operators, were just diegetic canned laughter rather than proper characters.

Make no mistake, Robin Williams isn’t playing Adrian Cronauer, he’s playing Robin Williams at his most loud and rambling. Williams is repeatedly characterised as the loveable clown who brings the people together, it’s rather nauseating. No matter how hard the film tries, it cannot convince me that he’s either funny or charming, it only succeeds in making him very irritating. Despite this, there are some moments that raised a smile, such as the language class scenes in which he focuses on New York City street talk rather than the artificial, staid sentences of the textbooks.

Williams’s flatly developed adversaries Lt. Steven Hauk (Bruno Kirby) and Sgt. Major Dickinson (J.T. Walsh) are the typical officious military men. They develop a resentment towards him that’s so instantaneous that it’s contrived and unbelievable; they’re just narrative functions that try and make you feel sorry for Williams, the sweet crazy cookie. Both characters aggressively impose their superior ranks on Williams and the other men, reminding me of the great Machiavelli quote – ‘It is not titles that make men illustrious, but men who make titles illustrious.’  Quite frankly, the quote is wasted on a trivial, tiresomely annoying film like this.

It sometimes attempts to be a drama or ‘dramedy’ with moments of perfunctory war moralising, but ultimately Good Morning Vietnam is preoccupied with indulging Robin Williams rather than achieving anything approaching credible commentary or pathos.

45%

Advertisements

Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues (2013)

1387300833-anchorman_2Just not funny.

After ‘Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy’ became a cult film following its release in 2004, a sequel to the largely unfunny film was bound to come to fruition. Some 9 years later, Burgundy and his much loved team are back, bringing their loud, hackneyed humour with them.

What I liked most was its satirical edge at the beginning of the film. The Australian boss of GNN, which produces the new 24-hour news programme that Burgundy works for, is a clear reference to Rupert Murdoch. This allusion to the controversial figure is part of the film’s indictment of the triviality, sensationalism and bias that permeates so many of the world’s news sources, which for GNN is fluffy stories on cute dogs (excuse the pun), sensationalist coverage of car chases full of sheer speculation and jingoistic patriotism that creates the best line of the film – ‘Don’t have a great night, have an American night’

This is an interesting satirical core, a condemnation of what gets the highest ratings, however it is soon lost amidst the noisy absurdity and tired race jokes that are flat almost to the point of exhaustion. Absurdity can be great, I actually find the ridiculous rather funny, however there’s a fine line between humour that’s ridiculous and humour that’s just plain silly and annoying.

Ron Burgundy is almost like an Alan Partridge figure, with his dodgy style, intolerance and social ineptitude. The problem is that Burgundy’s a caricature and then some, one cannot believe in his character as there’s no subtlety or credibility whatsoever. Partridge is also a caricature, particularly in the second series and the recent film ‘Alpha Papa’, however there is enough restraint and superb writing to make him a hilarious and cringe worthy character in equal measure.

Of course, comedy is probably the most subjective genre of them all; some people love ‘Anchorman’, but it just leaves me cold. ‘Freddy Got Fingered’ is an example of where the ridiculous tickles me, however it’s understandably a very polarising film (with one pole having a far greater population than the other!)

To watch Freddy Got Fingered’s full 90 minutes is overwhelming, perhaps even quite terrible, but the insane gross out humour, such as Tom Green’s misinterpretation leading to him cutting open a deer carcass and wearing its skin or Green completely bowled over by the sight of a horse’s penis and numerous other scenes are so extreme and surprising that it makes me laugh like a drain. Also, Tom Green is funnier than Ron Burgundy, he’s genuinely weird.

‘Anchorman’ unfortunately doesn’t have this extremity, instead it has characters that are dull caricatures in the extreme and gags that are witless and crude yet neutered compared to the truly gross out humour of ‘American Pie’ or ‘Freddy Got Fingered’. I don’t claim these two to be benchmarks of the genre, particularly not the latter. I make the comparison as they’re roughly in the same realm as the Anchorman series.

‘Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues’ has satire; however it’s clogged up with tired comedy and an absurdity that’s seldom funny.

47%

Only God Forgives (2013)

ONLY-GOD-FORGIVES-Image-04

While the cinematography and lighting regularly highlights Gosling’s beautiful blue eyes, it isn’t enough to engage you on any truly meaningful level.

This is a film that concentrates far too heavily on insubstantial metaphor rather than characters, narrative and things of true resonance.

In contrast with ‘Drive’, Refn and Gosling’s last collaboration, ‘Only God Forgives’ is very much an art film, a film that’s sheer metaphor. They’re completely different.

The film focuses on Julian (Ryan Gosling), an American drug dealer operating in Thailand who is laconic in the extreme (he speaks just 22 lines according to the IMDb trivia section.) When his sordid brother Billy (Tom Burke) is killed by the father of the girl Billy has murdered, Julian’s mother Crystal (Kristen Scott Thomas) arrives in Bangkok seeking revenge. Her wrath brings her, Julian and their associates into the path of Chang (Vithaya Pansringarm), an ex-cop who displays God-like abilities.

The characters are incredibly bland, as are their relationships and indeed the film itself. Its attempts at depth comprise blatant Oedipal elements that are both unoriginal and uninteresting. However seeing Kristin Scott Thomson remark about heartthrob Gosling’s inferior penis size at the dinner table is quite amusing.

The behaviour of the characters made me cringe; watching Julian and particularly Chang robotically saunter along while sporting their best moody poses became plain embarrassing after a while. Whenever a character strung a few sentences together I breathed a sigh of relief; although no line in Refn’s script is of any value, it was a welcomed development every time the suffocatingly absurd lack of dialogue was broken.

What’s even duller are its themes of religion and redemption. The irritating Chang is apparently the omnipotent moral arbiter of Bangkok, apparently he is ‘God’, whatever that means. I just thought he was a portentous prat.

Then there is the problem of the film’s violence. The violence in ‘Drive’ was explosive and shocking, it gave the film energy; it informed you of both the sheer danger of the situation and The Driver’s disconcerting readiness for extreme retaliation. In ‘Only God Forgives’ however, Refn’s violence is protracted, gratuitous and, like other areas of the film, ultimately embarrassing. Refn has admitted that he is a ‘pornographer’, and the film’s main moment of violence, a lengthy and vicious torture scene, is certainly testament to that.

‘Only God Forgives’ tries to be profound, however it doesn’t really mean anything. There is nothing real about it, it simply doesn’t resonate; the only modicum of empathy I began to experience during the film was for Julian and his complicated, broken relationships with women.

Apart from making you feel uncomfortable for all the wrong reasons, the film just does not affect. This is because the film is sheer metaphor. Symbolism and ambiguity can be very interesting and powerful, but this is usually when it is combined with good acting, strong narrative and credible, interesting characters. Unfortunately, ‘Only God Forgives’ lacks all of this.

40%

Vinyan (2008)

vinyan

Vapid, boring and bathetic.

‘Vinyan’ is a striking yet aimless film that fails to engage. The film charts Paul and Jeanne’s search for their missing son after witnessing footage that leads them, Jeanne particularly, to believe that he is alive somewhere in the Burmese wilderness. Their son had gone missing during the 2004 Asian tsunami; however the film doesn’t detail any of the event, which doesn’t help in making the viewer care at all about the whole premise. Jeanne is somehow adamant that her son is alive, based on brief, bad quality footage.

Unfortunately, Jeanne is one of those irrational, hysterical, self-centred women that make films of this ilk rather irritating to watch. She regularly begins to feel sorry for herself, so much so that in one scene the task of walking across a muddy landscape is just too much for her and she starts falling over on purpose to let her husband know just how discontented she is. Jeanne and her silicone injected lips lace the film with irritation. Paul, who is going through this traumatic experience just as much as her, is measured and sensible, but he is still not a character one feels inclined to empathise with at any moment – apart from when his wife is being a pain in the arse, perhaps.

I didn’t care for their cause at all; the whole thing was a lingering shot of rain, landscapes and tribal children. At times the film was slightly creepy, but that was the extent of its power; considering I watched this film as part of the ‘Fright Fest’ season on Film4, that’s quite a major flaw. Not only does this film not work as a horror, it doesn’t work on any other level either.

Due to its utter vacuity, there isn’t much to say apart from that it is Art House nonsense – all visuals, no substance and a bathetic ending.

40%

The Guard (2012)

guard-1

A clichéd, dull and unfunny effort from the elder McDonagh brother.

Like many others would have done, I bought this film after seeing Martin McDonagh’s ‘In Bruges’, meaning that naturally I would be comparing the two throughout. Unfortunately for writer/director John McDonagh, Martin’s elder brother, ‘The Guard’ didn’t fare well. In fact, it lacks everything that made ‘In Bruges’ so excellent; it lacks the pathos, the taut script, the characters and crucially, it completely lacks the humour.

Leading the cast are Brendan Gleeson and Don Cheadle as two very clichéd stock characters. Gleeson is the foul-mouthed, maverick guard whilst Cheadle is the officious, straight-laced F.B.I agent – yes I know, how very boring. However, not only is this construct completely trite, it’s also very poorly executed. It follows the usual buddy cop formula unconvincingly, the lack of developments means you don’t believe in their relationship at all. The rest of the characters are also hollow, unremarkable and never even slightly funny.

I chuckled briefly only a few times, however they were contrived chuckles of desperation rather than genuine outbursts of laughter. I like dark, politically incorrect humour; however it’s all rather unsophisticated and adolescent here. This is in stark contrast with ‘In Bruges’, which continues to make me laugh on every viewing.

The script is messy, dull and consequently rather labourious to follow. The film sets up its premise, then a bunch of stuff happens, and then there is a bloody, almost slapstick denouement full of bad sound effects and comedic injuries which are just silly rather than funny.

Not only is this film massively inferior to ‘In Bruges’, it’s also a sorry instalment in the buddy-cop genre which, along with a slew of other turds, is rapidly stripping ’48-Hrs.’ and ‘Lethal Weapon’ of their originality.

45%