Tuesday, 14 June 2011

School Of Rock

"What kind of a sick school is this?"

Amazon Synopsis
Jack Black plays unemployed slob and hell-raising guitarist Dewey Finn, who needs to make a few fast bucks after being kicked out of his rock band. Posing as his reformed rocker-come-substitute teacher flatmate, he falls into teaching a class of prepubescent stiffs. After over hearing the kids practice in their school orchestra, Finn decides to teach the kids "the power of rock", and fulfil his life long dream of entering the Battle of the Bands competition.

Released in October 2003, School of Rock was the sleeper-hit that shot Jack Black into movie stardom, and it's really not hard to see how. Specifically written with Black in mind, this is the one film that can actually handle his absurd comedical stylings, and it's his obvious passion for anything 'Rock' related that makes his performance shine.

Screenwriter Mike White provides an incredibly sharp script, and although it sticks to all of the school-based musical comedy conventions (coming across as a sort of Twisted-Sister Act) it undermines them as much as it exploits them, especially in the pitch-perfect punchline to the Parent's Evening scene.

However, this film would have no chance of working were it not for the extraordinarily talented young cast that make up the School of Rock pupils. Each one of these brings a specific personality to the film (even if a few of these can be quite broad or stereotypical), with Zack Attack, Spazzy McGee, Mr Cool and Tuna Sub representing the true heart and soul of the film.

To summarise, School of Rock is the perfect feel-good film, and certainly not in the way that 'feel-good' is often used as a stand-in for 'rubbish'. With a witty script, great performances and an encylopedic knowledge of music, School of Rock stands among the best music-based comedies I've seen.

Acting: 8.0
Cinematography: 6.8
Script: 9.0
Soundtrack: 10

Overall: 8.5 (not an average)

Saturday, 11 June 2011

Star Trek (2009)

"Don't pander to me, kid"

Amazon Synopsis
Both a prequel and a reboot, Star Trek introduces us to James T. Kirk (Chris Pine of The Princess Diaries 2), a sharp but aimless young man who's prodded by a Starfleet captain, Christopher Pike (Bruce Greenwood), to enlist and make a difference. At the Academy, Kirk runs afoul of a Vulcan commander named Spock (Zachary Quinto of Heroes), but their conflict has to take a back seat when Starfleet, including its new ship, the Enterprise, has to answer an emergency call from Vulcan. What follows is a stirring tale of genocide and revenge launched by a Romulan (Eric Bana) with a particular interest in Spock, and we get to see the familiar crew come together, including McCoy (Karl Urban), Uhura (Zoe Saldana), Sulu (John Cho), Chekhov (Anton Yelchin), and Scottie (Simon Pegg).

Now this is how you make a prequel.

After the crippling disappointment of of the Star Wars prequel trilogy, few Star Wars geeks ever thought the salvation for their space-opera hunger would arrive in the form of a Star Trek film. And yet this epic retelling of the formation of the Enterprise crew owes more to the original Star Wars trilogy than it does to it's own 60's roots.

Par example:
Opening space battle between a small ship and a much, much larger one? Check.

Bar fights? Check.

Main character being called to adventures in space because of severe daddy issues? Check.

Planet Destruction? Check.

Two guys who originally clash becoming firm friends? Check.

Written by Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman, the sometimes convoluted plot is bolstered down by some stellar character work and J.J. Abrams provides some excellent pacing and visual flair. Not only does this film pay homage to a number of Star Wars themes, but for the first time in thirty years manages to capture the same magic.

All of the actors involved are simply superb, respecting the original characters without tying themselves down to an imitation of the original interpretations. Chris Pine as Kirk and Zachary Quinto as Spock are the obvious highlights of the film, whilst Karl Urban as Bones is an added bonus as the comic relief. However, where Star Trek stumbles slightly is in Eric Bana's Nero. Whilst the character's origins and motivations are interesting, Bana plays him as little more than a pantomime villain.

As per usual, Michael Giacchino's score is awesome, although subtlety goes out the window in preference to obviously heroic themes. As with the Bond reboot, the music gradually comes together over the course of the film until the original main theme for the franchise is unleashed in the final few seconds.

Overall, Star Trek is the perfect summer blockbuster film, providing lashings of fun adventure, whilst also providing new spins on familiar characters.

Now this is really how you make a prequel.

Acting: 9.0
Cinematography: 8.5
Script: 8.5
Soundtrack: 9.0
Overall: 9.0 (not an average)