Sunday, 26 September 2010

The Last Seven

London. The not so distant future. Population - 7 million... until today. 7 people find themselves in an empty London with no recollection of what's happened to them or the city. What's happened to them? Why have these 7 people been drawn together, why are they the only survivors? And what's that mysterious threat that lurks around every corner?

The Last Seven was premiered earlier this year and released straight to DVD in August of this year, which would normally exclude films from being reviewed here on the Gyre, being an up to the minute, cinema release only review blog. However, the good people of Portsmouth were treated to a very special 'south coast premiere' as part of the Portsmouth Film Festival at the excellent No.6 cinema. I just so happened to be a part of that crowd, and thus watched said film and I have to say... I was pleasantly surprised. For an hour and a half film, Danny Dyer didn't open his mouth once.

Other than that small delight, there really are no redeeming features in this film. The plot is a cross between 28 Days Later and The Da Vinci Code. They even replicated the famous Cillian Murphy deserted bridge shot, but they've made it so much cheaper and worse. The plot was very loosely tied together but some quasi-religious doctrine and flashbacks of what happened before they found themselves alone in deserted London, but it all just seems so forced and lucky. The dialogue was absolutely dreadful and wooden, this just really was an extremely poorly written film with recycled plot elements and ideas, and lines we all heard in bog standard horror thrillers 30 years ago.

Tamer Hassan plays the big, cockney Army guy with a gun. Not exactly a wide stretch of the imagination, but he still manages to mess it up. On this evidence, he's clearly not cut out for acting, but he could easily stand outside pubs, turning away 16 year olds. Highlights of his 'performance' included announcing he was going for a piss, shooting a decanter of Cognac out of an old man's hand, and falling to his knees and really trying to cry in front of a bloody schoolgirl. Then there's the lead (?) protagonist who seems to been chopping up too many onions as his eyes are constantly swelled up, red and on the verge of crying, which he does. A lot. He also shouts things about staying together as a team. Then, our young female teenager who, as the rebel she is, has to slip the word 'fuck' into every sentence whether it needs it or not. This seems to provoke Hassan into saying 'fuck' an awful lot, leading to them having am unspoken contest as to who can say it more, or to put it another way, a 'fuck off'. Then there's the Portugese woman who can speak English when she wants to, an old drunkard, a supposed Army captain and the mysterious middle aged man who constantly recites scripture who hides the darkest secret of them all. The message here is religion is bad, kids.

I won't spoil the twist ending or the explanation of the entire plot, but needless to say, by the time it gets to the reveal, you don't really care. Any explanation they could have possibly offered would not explain why you've just sat through a terrible film. I was mildly impressed they managed to film in an empty London in the middle of the day, not early morning like 28 Days Later, and was also mildly impressed Danny Dyer was in a film and didn't ruin it. Throughout the film, Dyer's role involves him wearing a blindfold and a hood and being covered in blood as he plays... the Angel of Death. Yep. He doesn't say a word, just snatches people and digs out their eyes with his thumbs. It sounds ridiculous but honestly, it really fits in with the sheer stupidity and ridiculousness that is The Last Seven.

Overall, this film is just simply bad. It's not even a good kind of bad, that kind of bad where you want to watch it to laugh at how bad it is. It's just plain bad. There are absolutely no redeeming features for this film, it's acted poorly, it's written poorly and it's been shot poorly. Psst, the shaky first person stalker camera from around a corner has been done a gazillion times. Stop it. I can't even bring myself to give this film a symbolic half a star, it honestly deserves a big fat zero. In a brief Q&A session after the film, producer Toby Meredith (who seems to be a lovely man, if a little misguided in his support for the script) informed us this film was shot on a budget of £150,000. I, for one, am glad that no more money than that was wasted on this atrocity of moving pictures.

Rating: 0

Friday, 3 September 2010

Dinner for Schmucks

Tim Conrad is looking to get ahead at his financial company, and so strikes up a potential deal with a wealthy Swiss businessman. As a result of his ingenuity, Tim's boss invites him to a special "dinner for winners" where he must bring a 'special' guest. However, Tim soon learns it is more of a "dinner for idiots" where the special guests will be mocked relentlessly. As he wonders who he could possibly bring, he literally runs into Barry Speck, an IRS employee and part-time mouse taxidermist. Chaos soon ensues as Tim tries to balance his relationship with a curator and the eccentric artist lusting after her, his stalker, his work colleagues and the special guest who's quickly entered his life...

Dinner for Schmucks. Certainly a less offensive title than the translation of the original French title, Le Dîner de cons (literally 'The Dinner of C***s' or 'The Dinner of Idiots') but definitely more marketable and poster friendly. I will not come here and say I've seen Le Dîner de cons and found it be a highly amusing charade. I will say that after seeing this, I'm more open to finding and watching the original French version because I can only hope that it contains more laughs than this version. There must have been a reason why they chose to remake this film, there must have been, because why on Earth would you choose to put millions of dollars into remaking a comedy with little to no laughs in it? I was, to say the least, disappointed. There may have been more laughs in this, but the extensive trailers and TV spots gave away some of the film's biggest laughs so there were only a handful of original laughs to be had.

In all honestly, I can only remember laughing twice. Admittedly, those two laughs were pretty hearty laughs, but in a film that's nearly two hours, that's wholly unacceptable. I didn't even laugh once for the first hour. When you spend 60 minutes not laughing at a supposed comedy film, you know you're in trouble. It's not physical enough to be a slapstick comedy. It's not stupid enough to be a screwball comedy. It's barely anything really, an hour and a half of relationship building and character intros to lead up to the aforementioned "dinner for winners". It's one of the best parts of the film, it's somewhat entertaining with a few laughs. I credit the dinner being funny due to the cameos: Jeff Dunham (Seen Achmed the Dead Terrorist? Him, the puppet guy!) appears as a man married to the ventriloquist's dummy attached to his arm and Chris O'Dowd (Seen The IT Crowd? Him, the Irish guy!) appears as a blind fencer. Dunham's good at what he does, as displayed in numerous YouTube videos, and O'Dowd plays a somewhat stupidly-premised role straight as an arrow.

Paul Rudd is in autopilot here, playing pretty much the same guy he played in I Love You, Man and Role Models. Steve Carell plays an alternative version of Brick Tamland, less 'retarded' and more 'idiotic'. Likeable but not a classic character. Jemaine Clement (from Flight of the Conchords) plays an eccentric artist who is every pretentious artist stereotype from every comedy film from the last 30 years, though that's not to say he doesn't play it well, we've just seen it before. David Walliams makes a, frankly, baffling appearance as a wealthy Swiss businessman with an accent as dodgy as the tan he sports. Ron Livingstone is horribly misplaced as Tim's competitor to win the dinner. Zach Galifianakis plays the Zach Galifianakis role only stupider. Above it all though, I was impressed by one person. Lucy Punch. Name means nothing? She was Eve Draper in Hot Fuzz, Holly Ellenbogen from The Class and, most recently, Kate Bishop in BBC Two's comedy-drama Vexed. This is a bright young actress who's getting attention on both sides of the Atlantic and can certainly make it, she can turn from extremely British in Vexed to convincingly American in Dinner for Schmucks, and she turns in probably the most memorable performance of the film as Tim's stalker Darla. Yeah, it's the same stalker cliche we've seen films for years and years (a testament to the film's adamant unoriginality) but she still carries it off damn well.

To be honest, I don't really want to dwell on this film more than I already have, so here it is. Overall, it's just not funny. It has all the right people in it, but a dire script and lack of jokes severely lets it down. This'll be in the bargain bin before too long, it certainly won't live long in the memory, or at least I hope not on behalf of all the people who have and will see it. The only laugh you'll get from this is how laughably unfunny it is for a supposed comedy. I can only guess that the laughs were lost in translation.

Rating: *