The Ward

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Written by Stephanie | Rated: 2 Stars - Tons O'Beef, Horror | Posted on 17-10-2011

How many ‘out’ lesbian Actors can you name in Hollywood? I can think of Sue Lynch and Portia De Rossi. That’s it. I Googled for some more and also got Sarah Gilbert (Darlene from Rosanne), Wanda Sykes (from Curb your Enthusiasm) and Lily Tomlin. Some mighty fine women, but none who could really sell a film on their own. The only other actress I can think of is Amber Heard, who bucks type (accepting Portia De Rossi, who would be phenomenal if she put on a few pounds) by being young and conventionally stunning. I’ve always had a bit of a soft spot for Amber Heard, I really liked her in All The Boys Love Mandy Lane. She also really managed to hold her own against one of Nicholas Cage’s batshitballsoutloonyinsane performances in Drive Angry. I respect that she came out, as so few in Hollywood are willing to do, in fear, I suppose, that it will colour how audiences see them and the roles they’ll be offered. Although perhaps she’s smart enough to realise the advantage she has, as a stunning actress with a stunning girlfriend, why not embrace the USP? Can’t hurt to have something that makes you stand out from the crowd… Wouldn’t be so much in the interests of someone like, say, Jodie Foster (ALLEGEDLY). I don’t imagine she sits quite so well in the Male studioboss/audience wankbank.

Aaaaanyway, The Ward was released in 2010 and was John Carpenters’ return to film directing after 2001’s truly brain-gnawingly awful Ghosts of Mars (seriously, I tried to watch that film when I was drunk. I can watch any old shit when I am drunk and I had to turn it off after 20 minutes. It’s painful). The film starts with a young girl (the aforementioned lesbian) setting fire to a house and being taken to a Psychiactric Ward. It’s the 1960’s, so the place is grim, with cruel staff and locked doors. It’s the perfect setting for a horror film: You’re locked in, nobody believes anything you say, you’re drugged, you can’t question anything. It’s a wonder all horror films aren’t set in this place.

Fortunately, there are four other patients in the, very sparsely populated, ward. Even more fortunately, they are all attractive, not a minger among them (except one has geek glasses and one dresses like a five year old). So, you know, that helps with prettifying the scenery.

There’s a really nice feeling of dread throughout the film, with some spooky shots and jump shocks (not one of which involves a shrieking cat leaping out of a cupboard, which is my number one pet hate. In films, rather than real life… Although I wouldn’t much like it to happen for reals either).  The threat is revealed very early on, but the mystery is retained, so it doesn’t lose any of its chill. Up until the last ten minutes or so, I was loving The Ward. For me, it was John Carpenter back on form, delivering the suspense and tension of The FogHalloween and The Thing. Then, something terrible happened.

Now, if you want to watch The Ward, stop reading now. Like I say, it’s a decent little chiller up until the last ten minutes, but I can’t recommend it because of what I am about to say. However, if you DO want to watch it, look awaaaaay….

 

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‘Kay. So, there is one stock film ending that I hatehatehatehatehate. They* used it in Haute Tension, they used it in Hide and Seek, they used it in Secret Window. They’ve used it in countless other films. It never works. For those who need exposition, all these films end with the main character realising that THEY THEMSELVES are the threat, as they have some sort of ‘split personality’. Dum dum duuuuuumb. It effectively means that lots of what we’ve seen never happened. It’s akin to ending a story ‘it was all a dream’. In fact, what The Ward does, as Identity did before it, is reveal that EVERYTHING that happened on screen went on somebodys head. None of it actually happened, It WAS all a dream. It’s just so cheap and lacking in any kind of love for the art of filmmaking (“so, what’s your film about?” “it’s basically someone crazy thinking, for 75 minutes, then some dum dum duuuuumb at the end” “Great! Let’s film THAT”). To be fair to The Ward, it didn’t offend me quite as much as Identity before it. Identity had the cheek to go back inside the nutters head, after the reveal, to tell us whodunnit, IN HIS IMAGINATION. At least The Ward attempts to give us some reasoning (albiet reasoning that goes against even the little I know about how the human mind works), and it IS nicely tense for the first 75 minutes… but really John Carpenter?! I’m starting to think you should go and enjoy your retirement on a nice beach somewhere, because, this, this isn’t worth the bother.

 

*They here meaning idiot filmmakers with no respect for their audience.

Horrible Bosses

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Written by Stephanie | Rated: 2 Stars - Tons O'Beef, Comedy | Posted on 17-10-2011

I love Charlie Kelly (as played by Charlie Day) from It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. I was introduced to it quite recently, and my boyfriend and I immediately set about watching all six series (a seventh just started). It’s unusual for me to like a show in which the central characters are so selfish and unpleasant, and I think Charlie Kelly is the character that helps to offset the meanness and trancends it to greatness. It’s not that he is much much nicer than any of the others, it’s more like he’s an innocent child…. Albiet one who screams, kills rats, salts people and stalks women, and may actually be a psychopath. I just can’t help but love him, I want to take him home, feed him soup and give him a wash.

I liked Charlie Day in Going the Distance too, he did the same manic schtick that he does so well, and I think it worked a treat. However, when I heard he was going to be sharing top billing in a film, I was concerned. I just don’t see him as a top billing kind of guy, and was worried that the things I love about him would be surpressed. No one does unhinged like Charlie Day, I don’t want to see him sane and speaking at a normal volume.  As it turns out, he’s actually ok… He’s still likeable (although whether this is my residual affection, I don’t know) but, for me, it was a massive shame for him to be playing the straightman to another (more on Miss. Aniston later).

I also love Jason Batemen. I loved him in Arrested Development (though not as much as Will Arnett, who does the same manic/psycho thing that seems to be my passion), and have found him likeable in the countless ok-ish films he’s done since. A friend of mine who worked with him also told me he’s the nicest guy he’s ever filmed with… So, you know, I have a lot of time for him.

I do not love Jason Sudeikis. I think he’s kind of smug looking and he just rubs something in me up the wrong way. I’m sure he’ll be devastated if he ever finds out about this.

Anyway, so let’s talk about Horrible Bosses, which stars the three aforementioned fellas, who all have a ‘horrible’ boss. Kevin Spacey steps up for Jason Bateman, basically playing the same role he did in 1994’s Swimming with Sharks. It’s no surprise that he is great at it. If Charlie Day and Will Arnett play the likeable, funny, unthreatening madmen, Kevin Spacey plays the one who will kill you, cook you up in a stew, and then feed you to your family with a pleasant smile. Of the three, this is the relationship I found the most convincing, and Batemen’s the situation which seemed most inescapable, and therefore the one that actually made some sense of the decision that serves as the driving force of the plot.

Jason Sudeikis initially has a perfect boss, but the wonderful Donald Sutherland (who looks so old and cuddly and grandfathery here that I found it hard to reconcile him as the same man who did rude things and killed midgets in Don’t Look Now) is soon replaced by a hilarious wig and belly sporting Colin Farrell, who is clearly having a great time here. Now, my issue here may be due to my lack of understanding over the ways companies are run… but wouldn’t someone as wonderful as Donald Sutherland’s character is supposed to be have some sort of Board of Directors, or a back up plan in case of his absence? I know that I get too caught up in semantics sometimes, but if a film is enjoyable and funny enough, these thoughts don’t even occur to me. The fact is, I found Horrible Bosses plain boring at times, so my little brain went into overdrive asking these sort of questions. I don’t need a film to be believable, in fact, I often don’t want them to be (Dude, Where’s My Car? is still in my top ten all time favourite films). All I ask is that they make sense within their own universe, and Horrible Bosses just doesn’t to me, I don’t understand why the characters do what they do… and to add insult to injury, it’s just not very funny a lot of the time.

All this brings me to my biggest issue with the film. I can handle mildly entertaining, forgettable comedies, but I found Jennifer Aniston’s inclusion ridiculous. I don’t doubt that there is an enormous market who want to see Rachel playing dirty, saying filthy things, and being sexually aggressive… but it just meant that the storyline was never anything more than cheap titillation, with not a hint of true darkness. As the other characters tell Charlie Day (I can’t remember the characters name, and don’t care enough to look it up), he is in a position most men would kill for. Had the filmmakers had real guts, they would have cast a woman who isn’t in most mens top 50 sexiest in the world list. THAT would have been truly subversive, to allow a woman who doesn’t fit into the standard male fantasy to speak lines like “I fingered myself so hard to that Penn Badgley guy, I broke a nail”. As it is, I not only didn’t care about the plight of this poor Dental Assistant, the whole thing just made me cross.

That kind of goes for the whole film really. I loves me a dark comedy, the blacker the better…. But Horrible Bosses is just shades of washed out grey. Only Kevin Spacey’s character ever plumbs the depths I was expecting but it wasn’t nearly enough. The ending is piss weak, I never suspended my disbelief and I was bored for at least 40% of the running time. So, yeah, not recommended by me, but give it a watch if you want to see Aniston being a filth monger. That’s clearly what the filmakers are banking on.

 

Green Lantern

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Written by Stephanie | Rated: 2 Stars - Tons O'Beef, Action, Superhero | Posted on 16-10-2011