When I first discovered the premise of Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa, which is the siege of the North Norfolk Digital building, I was concerned that, like many big screen adaptations, Alan Partridge was departing from its humble, unspectacular roots.
By half way into the film, my concerns had unfortunately been confirmed. There are gun shots, fire-extinguishers to the face, explosions, armed policeman; it is by no means an action film, but since when was there such commotion in Alan's life?
It was the desperate loneliness, alienation and banality of Alan's life in the original TV series that made audiences laugh and cringe while pitying and sometimes despising the pathetic central character. When I got home completely deflated after watching Alpha Papa, I reminded myself of just how good Alan could be by watching YouTube clips of the 1997 series.
A single five minute scene of Alan attending a funeral captured the essence of the character. The dialogue is so rich, almost every line provided a laugh and I was cringing at Alan's complete and utter social ineptitude. Throughout the series you learn Alan's behaviour, it doesn't take one long to know when Alan has an agenda; he is so self-centred, immature and incredibly tactless that the viewer can read him like a book. It's both amusing and toe-curlingly embarrassing to see Alan converse with people and deal with his many problems.
All of the subtlety and character study is missing in the film. Alan is no longer a sad-man, a complete liability. He's still cringe-worthy, particularly in scenes where he attempts to court a colleague, but none of the gags even scrape the surface of the programme's brilliance.
The gags are really quite tired. They're predictable and rehashed, particularly scenes that initially appear melodramatic but are then abruptly interrupted by an action or one-liner like a needle scratching across vinyl. There's also a genre-aware armed stand-off scene towards the end where the characters have 'humourous', flippant exchanges despite the immediate danger in an 'In Bruges' fashion, only not funny. More than once I found myself sighing with disappointment and embarrassment at just how off-the-mark and rehashed the comedy was.
Just like the film's premise, Coogan's performance is overblown, he needed to reel himself in. There would be flashes of classic Partridge, but generally both the dialogue and slapstick comedy just died. I commend Coogan's skill for miming perfectly to Roachford's 'Cuddly Toy'; however it just wasn't as funny as his air bass performance of Gary Numan's 'Music for Chameleons' in the second series.
The two principal characters of the programme, Lynn, Alan's devoted and criminally underpaid secretary, and Michael, Alan's good natured friend, seldom appear in the film. These characters were crucial in the series as they revealed many facets of Alan's personality, exposing just how self-absorbed and manipulative he is whilst also showing how utterly dependent he is on their attention.
We have the original team of Coogan and Iannucci, however it lacks almost every element that made the series so funny, eminently quotable and re-watchable. It shares very little in common with its televisual sibling, all Alpha Papa has is a caricature of a caricature and a thin, boring siege plot.
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 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 clichÃ (C)d stock characters. Gleeson is the foul-mouthed, maverick guard whilst Cheadle is the officious, straight-laced F.B.I agent â" 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 in a wholly unconvincing way, you don't believe in their relationship at all. The rest of the characters are also completely hollow, unremarkable and never even slightly funny.
I chuckled slightly 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 hard 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, helps strip '48-Hrs.' and 'Lethal Weapon' of their originality.
'Blow' is a horribly dull rehashing of classics such as 'Scarface', 'Goodfellas' and 'Boogie Nights'. The problems are abundant. Its plot is rambling, bloated and tediously predictable; so many plot points are crammed into it. This poorly constructed narrative results with sorely limited characterisation; some seemingly important characters coming and going within ten minutes, it's a total mess.
Much of the film is one long dreary drug deal, only the most immature viewer would be engaged or, even worse, allured by it. Most people will watch it thinking about how it lacks the energy, sophistication and talent of all the fantastic crime films it so crudely rips off. Few films are as annoyingly kitsch as this.
Johnny Depp again proves his lack of credibility in the crime genre, his first attempt being in the similarly dull 'Donnie Brasco'. I'm not sure why RT deems his performance 'excellent', his feminine features just don't work in the genre.
Ray Liotta plays Depp's father, the noble working class stock character that forms the film's rather flimsy anti-drug message. This fails because of the aforementioned narrative issues, the film is utterly devoid of any message that resonates with the viewer. Most people who like this film appear to foolishly do so because they find it 'cool'; much like the bonehead rappers who idolise Tony Montana in 'Scarface'.
To make matters worse, the film also has mawkish lashings of sentimentalism towards the end. The crew had to have known how inferior this film was during production, I can imagine it was exhausting for them to complete the project with any conviction.
'Peeping Tom' follows Mark Lewis, an introverted voyeur living in his father's large London property. To help make ends meet, Mark lets part of the house out, one of his tenants being Helen Stephens, a sweet young woman who befriends him out of pity. Throughout the film Mark struggles to conceal his voyeuristic, murderous habit.
Unfortunately, poor acting from almost the entire cast sorely date 'Peeping Tom', I didn't believe in any of the characters. Like many films of the era, the acting issue is pervasive; there are both wooden and overacted performances. However, thanks to Carl Boehm's generally competent performance, Mark Lewis is the only interesting, somewhat credible character, but even he is guilty of being badly stilted in places.
The film's premise does indeed concern mature themes, however the backlash it faced in 1960 seems rather amazing today. Clearly, the film is going to date, it's 52 years old, but so is 'Psycho', and that fares far, far better today. To think this film was given an '18' certificate as recently as 2001 is nothing short of baffling. The film doesn't even begin to disturb, to say it lacks a visceral edge is to understate, I have never seen a film lose its punch so completely. The BBFC have since given the film a '15' certificate, however I think a '12' rating is more appropriate.
The only thing that's noteworthy about this film is its historical audacity. This film was addressing themes that didn't become mainstream until the 70s, a time of rapidly changing opinions on sex and violence. If it had been released 15 years later and not championed by Martin Scorsese and various critics, it may well have faded in obscurity.
'Peeping Tom' is full of terrible acting, stripped of credibility and largely devoid of tension; the film has undeservedly become a critics' darling.
When watching films based on true events, my propensity for doubting what I see on screen is instantly heightened. The main thing that I found suspect was the extent to which Nixon was constructed as a villain. During the film he is shown to be deceptive, racist, lecherous and a man unashamedly motivated by money. The film does add favourable depth to the character in places, making the viewer pity him in some respects, but generally Nixon doesn't fare well at all. I don't know enough about the man to accurately comment on the film's portrayal of him, however I did find the characterisation somewhat dubious.
Furthermore, upon researching the interviews, I read that David Frost's experience was different to what's seen in the film. According to his partner Caroline Cushing, he didn't fret endlessly over his performances with Nixon, he was quite content with each of the interviews.
So, like many films 'inspired by true events', the film takes liberties with the facts. However this doesn't matter to the viewer, the artistic licence makes for a great piece of dramatisation. The film is quite a gruelling experience; the pressure in and out of the interviews is intense. For a film that concerns conversations, it is quite remarkable how compelling and uncomfortable it is. The wars of words and mind games are more engrossing than any boxing match in 'Raging Bull' or 'The Fighter'.
The film's chief merit lies in its performances. Martin Sheen sounds and even looks exactly like David Frost, it is quite uncanny. And whilst not meeting the likeliness achieved by Sheen, Frank Langella is equally as captivating as Nixon. Also, Kevin Bacon gives a good, typical Kevin Bacon performance as Jack Brennan, the officious aide to the President.
Frost/Nixon is a taut, entertaining dramatisation with strong performances and an accomplished period aura.
'Gummo' is a very strange little film. Its documentary realism is rather captivating, the bizarre people we see appear to be completely real.
There's no plot to speak of, its just an insight into underclass America. The filthy circumstances these people live in will make you cringe, as will their moronic forms of socialising, which includes cheered-on chair smashing.
The film is certainly laced with pretension, and there are pointless scenes that just reek of 'art-house'. I can understand why some people wouldn't like it; it's non-linear, quirky narrative is very likely to polarise audiences. However, I found the veritable aberrance of the film undeniably interesting.
While 'Gummo' isn't that good, its candid realism makes its uneventful narrative quite engrossing; it may well be the most peculiar film you ever see.
'Bug' concerns Agnes White (Ashley Judd), a lonely woman living in a motel room who meets Peter Evans (Michael Shannon), an unnerving but apparently good willed war veteran. However Peter soon has explosions of mania, claiming conspiracy and evil government corruption.
The film is a disturbing look at total madness and paranoia, a look at how the disillusioned reason with themselves until they are driven to total and utter insanity. The final thirty minutes of this film are truly captivating, I was so engrossed by the intensity that it had ended before I knew it. It's rare that a film set in such a confined environment can be so gripping. One problem I had with the film was the rate at which Agnes is indoctrinated by Peter; it's slightly implausible considering that she seems to be a rational, measured woman.
The performances are excellent. William Friedkin's trademark ease- inducing presence shows in the lead actors' total unhinged lunacy in the final act; it takes a special working environment to unwind so completely.
It's likely to polarise audiences, but I found it a powerful, taut film that compels and disgusts you.