Mini Film Review: 30 Minutes or Less (Sadly Not the Length of Time it Takes to Watch the Film)

June 27, 2012

If I was to tell you about a movie where a man is knocked out, has a bomb strapped to his chest and is forced to rob a bank under the threat of death, the chances are you’d think I was talking about a gritty action movie starring Keifer Sutherland or Liam Neeson.

But 30 Minutes or Less is a comedy. Well…it’s supposed to be a comedy.

In truth, I didn’t really laugh at any point, despite it starring Aziz Ansari, who is very funny as Tom Haverford in Parks & Recreation.

The problem with is was that the writing wasn’t up to much, the plot was ridiculous and half of the main cast were terrible.

While I would give pass marks to Ansari and lead actor Jesse Eisenberg (despite him doing a Michael Cera and playing exactly the same part in every film he’s in), Nick Swardson (Travis) and Danny McBride (Dwayne) were dreadful.

And I know that some people will instantly jump to McBride’s defence because he’s supposed to be good in Eastbound & Down (although I have to admit I gave up on that show after three episodes), but he’s not good in this.

The level of acting – and writing to be fair – that went into the characters of Dwayne & Travis were akin to the sort of thing you’d expect from a mid 90s TV movie starring David Spade. Unrealistic, stupid characters making ‘comedy dumb’ mistakes throughout.

The plot was paper-thin too and is very easily analysed as being ridiculous. I don’t want to be ‘that guy’ who looks too deeply into a film that was intended to be light-hearted and amusing, but if you plant a bomb vest on someone and tell them not to go to the police or else you’d blow it up, surely you’d be concerned when that person makes unscheduled stops to pick up his mate from his work, visit his girlfriend and to his own work to quit his job? Personally I’d assume he had told someone to tell the police. But no, it neither occurs to Dwayne & Travis that he might be doing it, or to Eisenberg’s character to do it.

And despite it being played for laughs all the way through, the death/body count is ridiculous. Serious car crashes, a man burned alive with a flamethrower, another guy blown up in a van, and all without any hint of seriousness.

So the problem as I see it is that they try to make an unfunny and grim situation into a light-hearted romp and yet keep a certain level of seriousness in the fallout from it, and it just doesn’t work.

Having said that, it did at least keep my attention, which – come to think of it – is remarkable.

Should You Watch 30 Minutes or Less?

I watched it because there was nothing on TV late last night, and it was a film I hadn’t seen on Sky Anytime. There were better uses for my time.

If I was define a situation where this sort of film would be bearable, it’d be on a long haul flight where there is nothing else to do but kill time.

Poor.


Film Review: Sorry, Wrong Number (A Great Ending Doesn’t Save This One)

June 23, 2012

Not every review I do has to be long I suppose. I just watched a film – Sorry, Wrong Number from 1948 – and I really don’t have too much to say about it. However, that shouldn’t preclude it from being added to the reviews I do on this site.

So here it is, for what it’s worth.

And there will be spoilers…

What’s This Film About?

Barbara Stanwyck plays a bed-ridden woman who – while trying to call her husband’s office – accidentally overhears a conversation between two men talking about a murder that would take place later that night.

Initially she just wants to report it, but as she tries to ascertain the whereabouts of her husband by having phonecalls with a variety of people, it dawns upon her that the murder she heard being planned could be her own.

Surely not?

Thoughts

As a concept this seemed quite interesting, which is why I recorded it. Unfortunately it didn’t really live up to my expectations.

The problems were two-fold…

First, Stanwyck – in trying to convey the desperation of a bed-ridden invalid – badly overacted. Her performance was the sorte that people who don’t like old films use to justify themselves. She was very annoying.

The second problem was the amount of flashbacks told from the perspective of the people she was on the phone to. They were too long, convoluted and quite frankly, dull. My mind began to wander around half way through, and to be honest it never really stopped until the very end.

Oh, and a third thing actually; the old-fashioned music was relentless and grating.

The only saving grace was the end. There are spoilers below, so if you want to read it you’ll have to highlight the text…

What was good about the end was that they seemed to be building up to everything being in Stanwyck’s mind in the same way as the Hitchcock film – Suspicion. The husband probably hadn’t planned on having her murdered, and despite what she said, she wasn’t really that ill and so if someone did come in to get her, she could at least try to defend herself.

But that’s not what happened. The husband did call, but he admitted that he had arranged for her murder but he’d changed his mind and was phoning to warn her.

But it was too late. The murderer was already in the house, and killed her without her putting up any sort of fight.

And that was the end of the film. Brilliant, eh?

A genuinely refreshing end to a film that I thought would end in a dull and predictable manner.

Should You Watch It?

Ultimately though, despite the ending being fantastic, the overall viewing experience was a poor one.

Despite imdb rating it at 7.5, I’d only give this 4/10, and that’s adding on a point for the ending.

Avoid.


Things That Annoy Me in TV & Film: Part 3

June 15, 2012

With the Euros on, slim pickings at the cinema and the American TV Season finished, I’ve had less to talk about lately on this blog, but one thing I need to get back to is my article on Things That Annoy Me in TV and Film.

So let’s dive straight back in!

Bad Exposition

We’ll start off with quite a big one.

Exposition is the author’s way of providing some background information to the audience about the plot, characters’ histories, setting, and theme.

Good exposition is something that should fly under the radar without you noticing; bad exposition (or Info Dumping) is quite simply

Here’s a Picture from The Great Exposition Scene from the Space Museum

the sign of a bad writer.

Bad exposition is when the writer creates lines for his characters that they would never say in reality. Former Doctor Who producer Russell T. Davies described a show that started off with the line ‘Happy Wedding Day, Sis’. That’s obviously a bad line because it’s so clumsy. The writer has written the line to try to set the scene of it being one character’s wedding day, and that the girl speaking is her sister. Nobody would ever say ‘Happy Wedding Day, Sis’.

There are loads of examples of bad exposition in all sorts of TV shows; you’ll know them when you hear them.

My favourite though is and forever will be the opening scene of the second episode of the 1965 Dr Who story, The Space Museum. It’s absolutely incredible, and is so bad it actually becomes good.

In a scene with the Governor of the planet and two of his guards, there are ten pieces of exposition in one scene. In their dialogue, they manage to exposit that…

  • The Space Museum is old and nobody visits it
  • How many ‘milliums’ until he can go home
  • How many days are in a millium
  • That while he volunteered for the job, the guards are not there by choice
  • The reason he voltunteered
  • That he is the Governor of the planet
  • The name of their home planet
  • That there is a rebel force fighting against them on the planet
  • That those rebels are children
  • That those children are becoming more of a concern to them

How is it possible that all that info dumping could possibly happen in one conversation? Well because of how ridiculous the whole thing is, I actually wrote out the dialogue when I did my review of the Space Museum. You can read it here

Believe me, it’s worth reading.

Nobody Ever Admits To Being Ill

We can maybe exclude medical dramas in this, but generally in TV and Film, nobody ever admits to being ill, whether it’s serious or trivial. Instead, no matter what it wrong with them, they’ll let that ‘secret’ out by walking round a corner from the people they are hiding their illness from and doubling over in pain.

No matter what the illness is, the symptoms always manifest themselves in the form of a stomach cramp.

And in almost every case, if the person had come out and said ‘I wasn’t feeling too well’ earlier in the story, everything would have been fine. Unfortunately, because they didn’t speak up, they either die as a result or put whatever storyline they were involved in in jeopardy.

Nobody Owns a PC

Have you ever noticed that nobody on TV ever seems to own a PC? Everyone owns an Apple product.

Usually my criticism is aimed at the writers of TV shows, but I assume the reason for this is because of an aggressive marketing strategy by Apple to ensure their products are represented in TV land.

And while it annoys me, I have to give them a sort of begrudging praise.

The Use of The Internet

There’s this myth in TV and Film that you can find anything on the internet. A myth that everything is there if you look for it, even highly classified documents that could bring down the government, or paper trails that lead back to the root of some global conspiracy.

What a load of crap.

Have you ever tried searching for something on google? By half way down page 2 of your search you are into crap that has nothing to do with what you searched for in the first place.

It’s not just that though; it’s the way whenever you see someone use the internet, they appear to be using some kind of custom made search engine and operating system that looks more like DOS than Windows 7 or OS X.

The Way People Play Video Games on TV

On a somewhat related note, have you ever noticed the way people play video games on TV?

No matter the game, people seem to play them by frantically mashing the buttons while also elbowing and cajoling the person they are sitting beside and playing against.

And they also hold the control stick between their thumb and forefinger.

Have you ever seen anyone play a game like that in your life?

Also, in almost every case (and Neighbours is a massive culprit for this), gaming sessions just seem to end by someone putting the TV off. No, they haven’t paused the game, nor have they finished what they are playing, saved their progress or even shut down their console; they’ve just put the TV off.

And beyond all of that, people talk about games in such massively out of date terms.

“I got the high score” or “Oh, I can’t believe I made it to level 32”.

What are they playing? The Atari ST?

Everyone is to blame for this one. The writers, the directors and the actors. It annoys me because it’s 2012 for crying out loud. Surely people are aware of what video games are and how they are used?

Next Time

We’re not done yet. I’ll have more things that annoy me soon.

But if there are any examples of things that annoy you about TV or examples of bad exposition, let me know.