Thursday, 14 April 2011

Love, Strings and Screams

I have now officially done a blog a day for a month, which i'm pretty pleased with simply because will power, perseverance and purpose are not characteristics i exhibit all too often. I decided to write on a daily basis for a range of reasons.

Firstly it's good practice, making myself write something every day, on a range of topics will hopefully help me improve my writing and encourage me to tackle some issues and ideas that maybe are a little outside of my comfort zone.

Secondly i simply wanted to see whether i could keep something up, stick to a schedule and reach a target i'd set for myself. There's a definite satisfaction in achieving that.

Finally because it guarantees that every day i do something at least vaguely productive, or at least more productive than i have tended to be over the past couple of years (and especially in the last 6 or so months while i've been suffering from serious writers block when it comes to the stories i try and write).

Today's post is going to be another of those collections of brief film reviews
i tend to do every so often. I'm having a week or two off before i go into serious revision
mode so i'll be watching quite a lot of films as it's up there with my favourite ways to relax.

First up is No Strings Attached (2011). Ivan Reitman's rom-com centres around that most wonderful of euphemisms, "friends with benefits". Natalie Portman's trainee nurse 'Emma' and Ashton Kutcher's aspiring TV writer 'Adam' think they've found the perfect relationship to suit their commitment light but sex heavy desires when they decide to have a purely phsyical relationship.

As you'd expect this works well for a while before running into an obstacle, the irony of this addition to the rom-com genre being that the obstacle the characters must overcome is actually falling for each other and the complications this causes to their supposedly 'simple' relationship.

There are some very funny moments and ideas; Adam's lothario dad (played well by Kevin Kline) gets some entertainingly awkward moments and the set up allows some entertaining subversions of the clichés. Too often though it strays into crude rather than clever comedy and the actors don't seem entirely comfortable with some of the lines they're given.

It also suffers from a final act that seems unable to decide what it wants, one which struggles to reconcile itself with the rest of the film and one which didn't sit all that comfortably with me.

A final criticism is that there is a line in this film, which even I, with my comparatively high tolerance for cheesiness, found almost sickening as well as being i felt out of character.

It's enjoyable enough but it's far too hit and miss to be regarded as a really good comedy.

As i'm in a generous mood i'll give it 3/5.

Next up is Love & Other Drugs (2010) which sees Jake Gyllenhaal as a cocky but charming young medical sales rep who meets Maggie, a confident 20-something suffering from early on set Parkinsons disease, played by Anne Hathaway.

Similar to No Strings Attached it's another film where the central relationship is initially one of limited emotional attachment but plenty of sex before inevitably, 'feelings' rear their ugly heads and make the whole thing more complicated.

The idea of having a romantic drama/comedy where the central lead has Parkinsons is refreshing, especially when Anne Hathaway's character is frequently shown to be the more self-assured and complex character. It's a dynamic which is comparatively fresh and works well for large chunks of the film; scenes where the full intensity of a relationship with someone with a degenerative disease are explored or hinted at lend sections of the film a depth which Hollywood romances often lack.

The problems for this film stem from the fact that the director, Edward Zwick, seems to lack the conviction to follow through on the strong central premise, throwing in too many different plot elements and see-sawing between producing a standard rom-com and something more challenging, without ever really settling on one or the other.

It's a decent effort and i'd almost say worth watching for the at times quite believable chemistry between Hathaway and Gyllenhaal, but for me it needed to be much more sure of what it was trying to be, rather than flitting between different ideas and genres.

3/5 then for this one as well.

The final film/s i want to cover is the Scream franchise. Wes Craven's original trilogy stand up as both 3 of the best horror films and 3 of the best parodies, a true achievement and now he is releasing a fourth film, promising to simultaneously make fun of and make use of the new horror clichés and expectations that have arisen in the last decade.

Now on occasion the films do annoy me as it feels a little like Craven wants the best of both worlds by mocking the genre and producing a genre piece.

(A little side note, i wanted to avoid using the cliché of 'have his cake and eat it too' so was looking on Wikipedia for alternatives and found this apparent Italian alternative which i frankly love and am going to try and use it quite often - "You want your bottle of wine full and your wife drunk".)

Back to Scream, like i said it only bothers me on occasion as for the most part i reckon as Craven is regularly mocking his own films, he's earned the right to send up and exploit the clichés of the horror genre.

I'm quite looking forward to Scream 4, hopefully it'll be Craven at his best and the plot will have just as many ridiculous twists as the previous ones.

Today's song is by Washed Out, it's a nicely chilled out song that i've been listening to quite a lot in the past few days. (it wouldn't let me embed it for some reason, but it's still only a click away.)

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