Saturday, 31 December 2011


"The inevitable US remake..." a phrase that, over the years, has grown in notoriety and struck fear in the hearts of the off-the-beaten-track-popcorn-punters the world over. The likes of Nikita, Ring and The Grudge have all suffered at the hand of mainstream Americanisation and now the latest arrives!

This time however, there appears to be a light at the end of the normal car-wrecked tunnel - a well-known franchise that has appeared on the radar in both book and film form to many plus the fact that a director of note is behind the remake/re-imagining. These factors alone put the tale of the meeting of a disgraced journalist and a ward-of-state girl head and shoulders above other US remakes.

And Fincher's interpretation remains there, but doesn't go any higher. Rightly or wrongly, there is an anticipation for something visually and mentally outstanding from the man who delivered Se7en and Fight Club. Indeed, the opening title sequence smacks of Fight Club with disturbing visuals and a tune that assaults the eardrums but that is where the early Fincher stops. Everything else afterwards settles down into a solid, well presented experience but those who respect and adore his work may feel a tad disappointed that the flair is not there from him.

Wisely kept in the country of origin and not transported to New York state or New England, the cast all step up to the plate regarding performances and accents - except one. Craig, as the lead, strangely seems to have no accent of note whilst the rest (US, UK and Euro) of the cast all bring the Swede tweed to the fore. This doesn't detract from his delivery or the overall enjoyment but during interactions with others it does feel slightly odd.

The story is really about the two leads and, arguably the main one is that of the girl whose been fighting everyone, and everything, since 12 years old. Comparisons shouldn't be made but will be inevitable, especially since the gap between the original film and this is short and the first Lisbeth - Rapace - will be regarded as the ultimate interpretation. Mara, unrecognisable here, makes her own stamp on the photographic-memory hacker enough to not bring visions of Rapace to mind with flashes of humour and immature and misplaced feelings of love towards Craig's journalistic investigator. The somewhat graphic rape scene pain at the beginning pales into comparison with the heartbreak pain in her eyes in the final two minutes of the film for the heroine who dared to open up.

Apart from the change regarding the "whodunit/did it happen" aspect of the film, Fincher remains in the same lane as the original to the point where you may hear if you listen closely enough a voice saying "why bother?" However, his deft handling and editing of the sequence where in separate locations and following different clues both the leads make the break through in the case is an example of how multiple story strands should be handled.

A great introduction for those new to the Millennium series and not the travesty that those who love it thought it would be, this is another interesting addition to the cv of a director who continues to surprise with his choices and delivery.

UK release date: 26.12.11
Certificate: 18

Monday, 26 December 2011


And so the tradition of each Mission Impossible being helmed by a different director to stamp their own personality on the franchise continues, this time with an intriguing addition...

Brad Bird, who has been mainly progressed in the realms of CGI - The Incredibles, Ratatouille - seems to have made a determined effort to keep away from the use of computerised imagery to deliver his first live action film. That, plus the fact that his star, Tom Cruise, has wanted to keep it as real as possible for his audiences (every film boasting that he does his own stunts) have culminated in what could have been a realistic, but boring "adventure" for the viewer.

But then this is Mission: Impossible terrority and boring is not something that can be chosen to be accepted or not - bigger, louder, ballsier are what is called for, and what is served up in spades. Lessons have been learnt from the previous three outings and thankfully a fair chunk of them have been applied here. The "lone agent" flaw of the first and the "excessive double-cross twists" of the second were shed for the third (and still the best) mission and here, although not behind the actual camera, the presence of its director, J.J. Abrams, can still be felt.

Bird and Cruise move more to the team-play element which allows Pegg to step up to centre stage as secondary character to Cruise, bringing the main bulk of comedy to the proceedings. He's not able to shine as he has in his own set of films but despite a decidedly American blockbuster script and a leaning towards thrill-a-minute antics, there are still smiles and giggles frequently to behold. The addition of new hero/kid on the block Renner does feel like the unsubtle beginning of the torch passing from older Cruise to him to keep the franchise afloat in years to come, but it doesn't detract from the immense fun that the film is.

As you would expect, there are set pieces designed to make your jaw drop, and if viewed in the imax format, these should succeed. The crown rests squarely with the climbing antics in Dubai on the 130th floor (hence heavily used in the marketing campaign for the film) but Ghost Protocol is not just a one trick pony. The automated car park finale nods to another of Cruise's tech-centric movies - Minority Report - and the beginning prison break sequence has a corridor scene that can be seen as the first attempt to Americanise OldBoy before Will Smith tries it later on.

Good, solid entertainment, the only thing lacking here, which alot of Bond films have suffered from, is a down-and-out, right bad ass baddie. Having a older, academic guy go toe-to-toe with Ethan Hunt feels like too much suspension of disbelief and he's never given enough motive or dialogue for you to want to boo his appearances or cheer his inevitable failure. Apart from that, this is one mission you should chose to accept.

UK release date: 26.12.11
Certificate: 12A

Friday, 16 December 2011


2009 saw what would split purists and and new-found fans down the middle - Guy Ritchie's version of the greatest detective ever, Sherlock Holmes. His version of the super sleuth was more villain-killer than deer-stalker.

For those who visit the cinema a lot, this sequel may come as a breath of fresh air. There is no "all the rage" 3D. Nor is there any travelling down the road of "darker, grittier" as so many other follow-ups have done of late to try and please and keep their audiences. This is a true definition of it ain't broke, don't fix it.

Despite new writers, new locations and new villains, A Game Of Shadows feels, looks and rolls along just like its predecessor. All the touches that stood out back then have just been emphasised more, and it's this familiarity that definitely builds content. Ritchie has great fun in depicting Holmes' keen intellect once again with the Matrix-like ability to see things before they happen, in this case, just before one of the various fight sequences. All is mapped out in his mind and then come to fruition, except for scenario which brings a new slant to the definition of cock fighting.

The other, and much more welcome return, is the sheer grin-inducing bromance between Downey Jr's Holmes and Law's Watson. The banter is bigger, sharper, quicker and at times ruder between them - "you've been enjoying Mary's muffins." This keeps them squarely at the top of the pile of recent cinema buddy teamings and conjours up memories of the early Riggs and Murtaugh exchanges of Lethal Weapon. The repercussions of the stag night on Watson's wedding day are a delight to behold as you see Holmes still struggle to let his relationship/partnership with him move inevitably on.

The plot, as before, will become second fiddle to the set pieces, the banter and the action and you will find yourself feeling that you're just hanging on in there and being led through the locations of London, Paris, Germany and Switzerland, but it's done in such a way that you don't feel disgruntled or cheated. Instead, like Watson partly, you're along for the ride and you just have to sit back and follow Holmes's lead. If there is a disappointment, it's the fact that Dragon Tattoo's Rapace is never given anything much to allow her to shine like McAdams did in the first outing. Neither love interest or plot-essential, she is even upstaged by a lesser character - Stephen Fry's brother of Holmes is ridiculously posh and quirky and far more memorable.

Great fun and exciting to boot, this is a sequel that, unlike most, is worth seeing. It's elementary.

UK release date: 16.12.11
Certificate: 12A

Saturday, 3 December 2011


Every time you think that's there's a taboo subject that shouldn't be addressed, Hollywood, even if it's years much later, brings it to the fore with a movie. So, after Philadelphia confronted the topic of aids we finally have a film that carries on after where Terms Of Endearment started and brings the "big C" to the center stage once again...

Except this time round, the delivery is squarely aimed at the funny bone rather than the malignant bone as a theme and an anchor for the viewer. This means that ideally the experience should be a pleasant one but therein lies the rub - just when you think it's ok to laugh or smile at the situation or the interpretation of the events that are unfolding, that's when 50/50 hits you squarely in the gut with a sobering side.

Gordon-Levitt, if he's not careful, could end up being type cast as the go-to-guy for all off-kilter version of mainstream movies. His turn in (500) Days Of Summer helped it become one of the best romantic stories of the now and past generations and now he's put himself up for the role of a young, non-carefree individual who is struck down with a rare case of cancer without taking any obvious hang-ups such as smoking or drinking. This makes the degree of unfairness that more harder to swallow for those around him - especially his over-protective mother (Huston on fine form), his quickly over-whelmed girlfriend (Dallas Howard) and his best friend (Rogen doing what he does best.)

The rarer side of cancer in the story is what seems to allow the writer to take liberties with the audiences emotions and go for broke during the first half of the movies running time with the more up-beat reactions to the cancer news. The bulk of this relies on the bro-mance between Levitt and Rogen as the stoner best friend tries to dis-credit the cheating girlfriend and tries to use his friends cancer as a pulling tool with the ladies. Writer Will Reiser drew on his real-life fight with cancer for the screenplay and essentially Rogen is playing himself as he was Reiser's best friend during it making the reactions and friendship all that more poignant.

The second half where the illness takes hold and the operation that could go either way is offered (hence the 50/50 title) still raises smiles but this is where the reality sinks in. It is kept in check with the "see it a mile away" burgeoning romance between patient and newbie therapist (the delightful Kendrick on equal Up In The Air top form.)

An awkward subject matter handled deftly and surprisingly well where laughter and tears go hand-in-hand, this shows that, like (500) Days Of Summer, any story can be told, no matter how old (love) or sad (death) with a freshness that can make it worthwhile and memorable for the viewer.

UK release date: 25.11.12
Certificate: 15


There are two major shocks to get over before and during viewing one of this years planned biggest family films - it's directed by the man who gave the world Taxi Driver, Goodfellas and Raging Bull - and that he's filmed it in 3D (his first foray into the medium). Not too mention the likes of Cameron and Spielberg are stunned by his use of it is no mean feat!

Scorsese is a director with a true passion for cinema which can be seen in all his previous works. This love is poured into every frame of his 2 hour interpretation of the little-known children's book that tells the tale of an orphan who struggles to stay out of the clutches of a train station guard whilst trying to finish his late fathers last project. A short and simple story that in the hands of any other director would be full no doubt with product placement, tunes from the latest tween band and chases that would translate well into some form of console game.

Here though, within the first ten minutes you have two long (but not Goodfellas long) tracking shots that wondrously introduce the city of Paris in 1931 and the makeshift home of Hugo in amongst the pipes and clockwork mechanisms of the train station where he lives/hides. There are two stances regarding the use of 3D in modern cinema - the in-your-face tactics of the likes of the Final Destination franchise, and the subtle depth-of-field immersion from such films as Avatar. There is now a third - an effect where even though you accept the scenes shown in the third dimension as something to add to the story rather than drive or smother it, it never, and I mean never, ceases to stop making you catch your breath and continuously mouth the word "beautiful"at every well-crafted shot. For the first time in the recent rebirth of the format, Scorsese's Hugo shows how 3D should be used. It's quite simply put, that great. If you don't find yourself grinning at the imagery every now and then, please take off your 3D glasses and leave the cinema.

Now that doesn't mean that it is without its flaws. You see, this still a film from a man who normally deals with Cert 15 and above movies. This is not going to be an easy film for younger audiences to sit through. There's fun, and funny stuff for them but inbetween its long running time - 126 minutes is very long when compared to normal 90 minute family faire - its the gracefully camera moves tied in with the love-song to the birth of cinema itself that may cause severe fidgeting. This is a film that will find itself woven into the hearts and minds of those who can connect with their inner child or who can and want to educate the young of something other than music videos and games consoles. The first people who screamed over 100 years ago at the sight of a train pulling into a station upon a cinema screen are the target audience here it seems - trying to recreate the wonder of an art-form that has the power to bewitch its participants.

If this sounds all too heavy, then fear not - unrecognisable Baron Cohen and his made for 3D dog are great as Hugo's foil (their bath sequence is a genuine laugh-out-loud moment) with him delivering "mouth open" jokes that only the adults will truly understand whilst the secondary characters bring an Amelie-esque element to the proceedings with their stories playing out under the watchful eye of the little hero - De La Tour and Griffiths' slow-burning romance is surprisingly touching and funny.

Simply, this is THE most beautiful film of the year and the best use of 3D to date making it a movie to see in the cinema with people who still want to or who can believe in the power of wonder and imagination.

UK release date: 02.12.12
Certificate: U

Friday, 2 December 2011

THE THING (2011)

There are films that will always be with you which help you remember your growing up and how you began to define yourself; for some they had The Omen, some had The Excorist, some The Shining and others had The Thing. Now, 29 years after John Carpenter's original remake of the b-movie, his 1982 classic gets the prequel treatment.

Before this goes any further, you should know that the 1982 movie is in my Top Ten Of All Time so this rarely-wanted and much-anticipated prequel has a lot to live up to. And for a brief fantastic part of it, this modern "where it all began" origins story pulls it off to the same degree that Carpenter created with his claustrophobic tale of invasion of the smallest scale ever.

Straight out of the gate, you feel on familiar terrority with the much-plundered Spielberg 101 tale-telling-technique since his Jaws and Jurassic Park master classes - scary intro, followed by character introductions leading into build up to big crescendo finale. Now, if you have the skill to bring those characters into your audiences immediate memory enough for them to care about and root for, then this technique is a no-brainer, as when they begin to fall into immanent danger they want them to see it through to the end credits. First-time big screen director Heijningen Jr. unfortunately does not posses this particular skill and neither does the writer Heisserer (Final Destination 5, the recent remake of Nightmare On Elm Street... need we say anymore?). For each clever nod to the original produced, they fall foul of several predictable modern horror cliches that dissipate any pent-up suspense they may have conjured up.

Alot of this is the over-reliance of CGI to help push the story forward and create the scares. Although the original had great state-of-the-art-effects for the time, the small cast, the paranoia, the accusations, the human errors and the single claustrophobic location, all created to make an absorbing "who's next?" movie that on first viewing had you guessing right up to the "you've got to be f*cking kidding me!" ending. Here, it's pretty obvious who's been exposed to the thing so the emphasis switches onto the how rather than the who for the seasoned viewer.

It's strange then that the makers have addressed details that have been poured over to such an extent that fans will tick off their mental check list - axe in wall, block of ice extracted - that they have then had such a blatant disregard for THE major questions raised by the 1982 version - the huskie escape, the body with the razor cuts to the wrists and throat, the thing's intent or story - to the point where any geek points gained are nullified. Back to Spielberg, his Close Encounters.. Special Edition showed the inside of the alien craft to which he and audiences alike hung their head in despair afterwards and here the makers make the same mistake - along with taking the small scale environment which evokes paranoia and expanding it in the hope of increasing the thrills. This does not work sadly.

As said at the beginning, there is a 15 minute segment that literally sits along with the original for sheer nail-biting suspense that sees a fantastic twist on the originals "blood test" sequence, but that's not enough to make this a classic unfortunately - just another average-to-good night out at the flicks. For those of you who don't know the original, that just may be enough. For the rest of us, a wasted opportunity will sit in the back of the throat.

UK release date: 02.12.12
Certificate: 15

Monday, 28 November 2011


2006 saw the release of an unusual film that took all who viewed it by surprise. Happy Feet was a strange mix of Moulin Rouge meets Glee via David Attenborough. Nearly six years later it's time to don your thermals because Mumble's back!

Musicals that rely on previously published material have a very hard task before them when they try to embed themselves into your heart. You see, despite there being thousands of songs to choose from, it's not always easy to get enough of them to blend together perfectly to help tell a story convincingly. The wrong tunes won't help move the plot along or worse, can make the story itself seem like it's been hashed out to try and fit the songs in. Moulin Rouge, Mamma Mia! and the original Happy Feet were able to pull this stunt off where it felt like the songs were actually written for the movie rather than chosen for it.

Sadly, the follow up does not achieve this, and not by a long shot. Which is strange when you think that writer/director Miller didn't do too bad with his Mad Max sequels. However, this second penguin helping is more in line with his disastrous Babe: Pig In The City follow up - the charm, beauty and originality of the first outings have been lost or ignored for what feels like a poorly conceived cash-in. If it were a straight-to-DVD affair or had been rushed out to maximise on the popularity of the first flick then you could understand and maybe even forgive a little the lack-lustre feel to the whole thing.

With a plot thinner than the ice our heroes have to traverse at one point in the film, Happy Feet Two feels like a mesh of non-fitting ideas that only barely cling together from the cuteness of the penguins and the choice of next song that they've banked on melting your heart or getting your toes tapping. And that's where the confidence is mis-placed -regretably in the song selection. This time round you'll only enjoy what's on offer if you listen strictly to chart R&B. Don't expect a typical family to all join in at any stage throughout its running time where the variation of the first outing guaranteed, even if all of them didn't like the song, they had at least all heard of it. They've gone too trendy for their own good rather than stick with mainstream classics to appeal to a wider audience.

What should have been a welcome return to the world of Mumble and his fellow flightless fellows instead has become a chore that no choir can redeem. March off to see something else if you can.

UK release date: 02.12.12
Certificate: U

Wednesday, 16 November 2011


Along time ago, a cute secondary character in a family franchise became more loved than the actual films central figure. The then much-loved Donkey - annoying animal side-kick who can talk! - was replaced by a cat with eyes that were enough to make the strongest heart melt. Now it is Puss, and not Donkey, that has his own spin-off movie...

DreamWorks have been on abit of a roll of late with their animated features, especially if you remember way back to their Road To Eldorado and Prince Of Egypt entries, which, although good, never reached audiences enough financially or critically. Their origin story of Puss will not sit in the same league as those previous forgotten others, but it won't live in the hearts and memories alongside the original Shrek entry or their How To Train Your Dragon modern family masterpiece.

The thing that made Puss so cute was his ability to realise his "cuteness" and play upon it in a totally obvious way - his hat-clutching, eye-widening stare - to great effect. It was all about his kitty-ness rather than his Mexican-ness that was brought to the fore and, pardon the pun, milked to scene-stealing comic affect! Shrek was an ogre with a strange Scottish accent but that was never dwelled upon, just his expected characteristics - the same goes for Donkey. However, here the whole Spanish heritage plays a huge role in the story, so much so that Puss starts to become more of a Mexican freedom fighter - not unlike Banderas' famous Zorro - rather than a small cat who has a dangerous knack with a sword plus the disadvantage of being easily distracted by moving shiny things!

The Spanish-themed dance-offs and peasant villagers are pleasant enough distractions but they're not laugh-out-loud memorable comic moments that you'd expect from the fighting, frisky feline. Instead, those moments are left to the likes of Humpty Dumped and the villainous Jack & Jill to conjure up which isn't always consistent enough. The fairytale elements are present and correct but they lack the perverse twist that the Shrek series developed so well. This means that the jokes that the adults could and should enjoy are not as prominent as they might prefer but there's still enough for the little ones to think they've discovered their new favorite film...until the next one comes along!

A fun enough first outing but for sheer family frolics Arthur Christmas would be a better bet this festive season.

UK release date: 09.12.12
Certificate: PG

Saturday, 12 November 2011


At this time of year, there is already a danger of Christmas overload with music, adverts and shops going cheer-crazy. And then there's the obligatory festive film to contend with. However, this time it's in the more than capable hands of Aardman...

The folks at Aardman have long been people that, along with Pixar, have given delight to everyone who has watched any of their output - anything from them on a bad day is head and shoulders above others on top form. It now seems the small UK company has finally broken its bad spell with the big US cousins.

Straight out of the gate even before the opening credits, you know that they've cracked it - the letter to Santa from the little girl in Cornwall with all the questions concerning chimneys, timing and the exponential birth rate making all future present deliveries even harder - is the perfect mix of cute and crazy, laden with jokes for kids and adults alike. And that's before we've even seen exactly how all of the above is achieved through the aid of technology and an army of elves - think Monsters Inc. meets Mission: Impossible and you're halfway there.

Like their previous productions, there will be repeat viewing necessary if you wish to clock up all the nods and sight gags littered throughout the film - a The Wrong Trousers train track-laying homage, a Shaun The Sheep toy on the bedroom floor, a Stagecoach/Raiders Of The Lost Ark parody involving hanging off the back of a moving vehicle, to name but a few. And like past efforts, there are some sublimely strange moments to be had - the impromptu landing in Africa sees Arthur and co surrounded by lions and not even Attenborough would have thought to lullaby them with reindeer slippers to escape being eaten!

The British cast do a fine job with McAvoy the right side of youthful wonder and passion (but only just!) as Arthur and Broadbent and Nighy spot on as current Santa and GrandSanta. It does get a little "early Spielberg" with family issues (i.e. father and son problems) rising to the surface throughout the proceedings but then what family doesn't have the odd argument over the festive period? Even the Claus family does it seems.

With what feels like a genuine love of wanting to make a great movie and not just cash in on a Christmas film, Arthur Christmas is a magical rarity that, yet again, will be enjoyed (and loved) by all. More importantly, with its re-watch value, it's destined to become a modern classic along with The Muppet Christmas Carol for families and kids of all ages. Even if you don't do Xmas, this is a film you will enjoy, trust me on this. How could you not? The race is to get to Cornwall, not somewhere like New York! Fantastic!

UK release date: 11.11.11
Certificate: U


It would be nigh-on-impossible to remember a time before Depp could do no wrong. Over recent years, he has gone from strength to strength with only Pitt or Clooney matching him for diversity and memorable performances.

Now, take that and then hook him up with the director of Withnail & I and the lesser known but equally bonkers How To Get Ahead In Advertising and what do you get?....

What you don't get is Depp all Captain Jack shouting "where has all the rum gone?" for 119 minutes (which would so be worth the admission price!) but instead a less flamboyant but still mesmerising performance that induces smiles everytime he's upon the screen.

His journalist "out of depth and out of sorts" in 60's Puerto Rico is introduced in a wonderful blur of drinking that leaves him a day late for his new job and a trashed-but-unopened mini bar on his hotel room floor - this is a character that Depp could do in his sleep but there's no phoning it in here from him.

For those who yearn for, or prefer, structure to their viewing, you may find The Rum Diary hard to engage with. Like it's central character, the thin-on-the-ground plot moves its merry way across the land, bouncing off of and frequently drunkenly interacting with the locals with no real rhyme or reason. In that respect it's very similar to Withnail.. except the holiday plot device is replaced with a shady holiday destination deal that Depp's reporter is brought in on.

The rare meat on the bones story of shady deals introduces the other known actors of Eckhart (perfect body, fake smile) and Heard (even more perfect body and playfulness) but despite their solid performances, it's truly a case of "Here's Johnny!" Amongst the sharp wit and tangy one-liners, director/writer Robinson shows that despite his near 19 year absence from behind the camera, he still hasn't lost it. The car chase is absurdly sublime with one of the worst cars ever to be involved in a chase and an inventive use of alcohol thrown in for good measure to boot!

More coherent than its counterpart, Fear & Loathing In Las Vegas, The Rum Diary matches the lead character at that time of his life where there is much confusion but no hallucination as the trail of alcohol is the only path being walked upon and not that too excessively... yet. Crazy film, crazy fun with Depp delivering another crazy (if not truly classic) character.

UK release date: 11.11.11


You'd be forgiven for thinking that horror/thriller films all take place in the here and now and either in the US or Japan what with the slew of movies over the years...

Well writer/director Murphy making the step from small to big screen, has decided to go old school, literally!

Set in 1921, The Awakening tells of Hall's ghost debunker who wants to believe that there are such things as ghosts and the afterlife but instead comes across and exposes fraudsters out to prey upon the grieving. Starting off with a fake seance, Hall is quickly introduced as a no-nonsense, independent woman who hides a secret within her brash exterior.

Like The Orphanage and The Others, this is primarily a one woman show and a lot rests on the shoulders of its lead. Hall, who stood her ground up against Bale and Jackman in The Prestige, shows that she can move easily to centre stage and carry the weight of the film. She never lets it slip into the category of "damsel in distress" during her fall from certainty to near insanity as events unfold within the grounds of the creepy school.

As a chiller, there are some genuine jump-out-of-seat moments - the large dollhouse is an exceptional one - but the kettle is taken off of the boil far too many times during the running time. This means any tension that is built up is then thrown aside for, sometimes unnecessary, dialogue or red herrings. The nail biting atmosphere should be more continuously pushed towards the audience rather than letting them relax too many times. The beauty of the time setting means that reliable and bright torches aren't available and Hall has to rely on a genarator-run lightbulb to explore the things that go bump in the night and all those moments are then but a memory when the exploration stops and the exposition begins.

Overall, it's a solid haunted house tale that will have you tense yourself several times but will leave you feeling that there should have been more to make you feel more satisfied. It's over long epilogue means that you leave the cinema completely relieved of any nervous tension rather than the tingles from the films finale but it's still better than the modern gore-fests of late.

UK release date: 11.11.11
Certificate: 15

Wednesday, 2 November 2011


Since his debut in '97, writer/director Niccol has explored the realm of sci-fi without actually making what most people would call a "sci-fi flick."

From the genetically flawless (Gattaca) through to artificial people (S1m0ne) and reality TV gone extreme (The Truman Show), he has given, which in other hands could have been Summer Blockbusters, small, thoughtful movies that want to challenge rather than dazzle.

This latest "future ain't so bright" story from him doesn't buck the trend not one bit...

With no catch-up or back story for the audience to get their heads around, the future of non-ageing after 25 and working for time rather than money in order to stay alive, is quickly covered in the opening sequence. The most effective tool used is the role of Timberlake's mother, played by Wilde, who at first glance appears to be his girlfriend until it's mentioned it is her second time celebrating her 25th birthday. This distinctly Logan's Run-esque idea of youthful inhabitants only populating the planet has so much potential yet Niccol refuses to explore any of it. The closest he comes to this is when Timberlake meets Seyfried for the first time and is presented with the issue that he doesn't know if she is either the mother, wife or daughter of the uber-rich gent that he's just met.

Instead, he opts for a chase movie where the chase is so undramatic and pedestrian that you long for anything to happen upon the screen. Even with Murphy's Matrix rip-off (dresses like Neo but walks and talks like Agent Smith) magically prowling just one step behind our mis-understood hero, there's no urgency or worry for the fugitives on the run from the timekeepers. With no fleshing out of characterisation nor logical steps to their development, you don't end up worried enough to care about them. This tied up with dialogue so corny that even George Lucas would cringe - "you saved me the moment you walked into my life," - drives a formidable wedge between the audience and the cast with time reference puns hammering the nails into the coffin one-by-one.

Everything seems on a go-slow which baring in mind that this is all about time and how little people have of it, is the wrong pacing for the storyline. The wanted couple never seem in danger of being caught and then when the plot moves away from Logan's Run and The Island into Robin Hood and Bonnie & Clyde, you can't join them on their quest for justice for all, because, quite frankly, who could be bothered? There's just no time for In Time.

UK release date: 01.11.11
Certificate: 12A

Monday, 24 October 2011


Adventure. Spectacle. Thrills. Those were words associated with one man in particular until he seemed to grow up a little and start delivering more thoughtful faire. They still entertained none-the-less, but a restrained eye seemed to be behind the camera.

Not anymore! The 'Berg you remember is back! And with just the right film as well!

Through out its seriously packed 106 minutes, you cannot escape the idea that the people behind and infront of the camera had as much fun making it as the you and the rest of the audience are having watching it. It's like Spielberg has become a child with a new toy - and the toy is the same tech that helped Cameron bring the entire world (box office-wise at least) to the planet of Pandora in Avatar.

With it, the realisation of Herge's well-known world of the boy reporter is so authentic that, for most of the time, you forget that you're watching a motion capture movie based on the comic books and just accept it effortlessly. Infact, the only times you're reminded that it's not live action is when the stunts and set pieces take all those memorable moments of the Indiana Jones films and then pumps them full of steroids and sugar, and goes off the deep end AND the chart! If there is one criticism that can be levied at his and producer Jackson's tale is that there is hardly anytime for the audience to catch it's breath between fantastical OTT set pieces. As soon as your eyes and heart have adjusted to the escape from Captain Haddock's ship, it's straight into a flight from hell which then leads into a flashback battle upon the high seas.

The imagery and cinematography on display here are some of the most awe-inspiring that either Spielberg or Jackson have created over their careers - a handshake dissolves into the shape of a sand dune; two battling ship masts tangle together to create a fiery theme park ride amongst the pirate carnage; Snowy the dog can be tracked through a herd of cows as his head hits their udders; the front wheel and handlebars of a motorbike becomes a makeshift repelling device - all these dive across the screen at break-neck speed to be replaced by another set of smile-inducing, eye-rubbing wonders!

The humour is constant throughout with the two slightly underused Thomspon and Thomson (Pegg and Frost) detectives providing slapstick for the kids and Haddock (Serkis) the laughter for the older viewers. The touches in the back and fore ground give equal pleasure as well - you'll never wonder again how hotels earn extra stars on their ratings after the bazooka'd dam sequence...yes, the film is that crazy.Not only does the feel and excitement of Indiana Jones soak its way through the core of the film, there are nods to the likes of Jaws and of course for the true Tintin fans out there, clues and subtle hints are to be spied all over the screen, from rockets on coffee mugs to a golden crab fountain and an Inca statue.

A true crowd pleaser, this is the most fun the two big directors have had in a long time and all that is transferred onto the screen and into the hearts and minds of the viewer. So much happens you'll need a second viewing just to try and remember half of it! Go see it, by blue blisterin' barnacles!

UK release date: 26.10.11
Certificate: PG

Saturday, 22 October 2011


Few directors have the confidence and ability to swing between genres and budgets but one of them is Soderbergh - for every Ocean's 11 that he's delivered, he has also given us The Girlfriend Experience.

Now it's the turn of his high profile, big star-filled movie once again. Not too dissimilar from the power punch of the Clooney/Pitt starring trilogy, what we have here is another "count em on both hands" recognisable actor-fest. However, this is more of a bare bones documentary that moves away from light hearted fun and high jinks and literally punches you instead in the gut whilst slapping you in the face with statistics and consequences that will float in your mind long after the end credits have stopped rolling.

Anyone who has seen the likes of Deep Blue Sea and Executive Decision will know their type of movie and the connection they share - the fact that no one, no matter how famous they are in their own cast list, is not safe from being killed off at the drop of a hat. Contagion now joins their ranks except here, it could be the touching of a hat or a door knob that you could send packing and leaving the rest of the cast to watch nervously for coughs or dizzy spells...

With the use of a documentary style and actors playing down their "star" quality, Soderbergh manages to pull off the unthinkable and makes you care for some of these characters, so much so that you when you are confronted with their deaths you have either shock or dismay at their demise - the first is a shock and one of the others is so unexpected as you are rooting for them from the get-go that the impact is tangible. Even more so when the fact is that they cannot be buried in a body bag as the death toll has outstripped the resources available to the government.

It's the little, simple facts like that the cause the uncomfortableness to seep in whilst watching it. There's no monkey to catch to find a cure, no chase to resolve the epidemic, just simply the truth that a contagion can spread so easily and people who should help could find themselves bound by either red tape, fear or greed. All this is intensified with the aid of lingering camera shots of human contact and freeze frames to indicate the possible spread of infection - all with alarming frequency.

The cast all present solid performances with Damon billed as the everyman that helps us to relate to the epidemic that is unfolded days at a time like a poisoned advent calender whilst Law is the inside man who appears to know exactly what the government doesn't want the public to know. However, the standout performance goes to Winslet who struggles to deal with both the infected and the bureaucrats who want to control everything but are unable to in reality. Thought provoking, and unnerving this is more nail biting than all the slasher horror movies of this year put together.

UK release date: 21.10.11
Certificate: 12A

Saturday, 15 October 2011


At the end of the year, you would normally see the award-winner-wannabes released in the cinema so that they will remain close enough in the memory of the voters' minds to score a mark come award ceremony time...

Cinema from the far East - Australia and New Zealand - has always been far-reaching and challenging (Once Were Warriors, Whale Rider, Mad Max) and it would seem that things aren't about to change at all. Except for releasing the film earlier than is the norm, but then again, Sleeping Beauty is anything but normal.

The premise of Leigh's film is a simple one that has has been a well trodden path throughout cinemas history - a young girls' awakening to sexual desire through a series of events. Most films will try to exploit the sexual desire and/or tension connected with the subject matter - so much so that the genre of "coming-of-age" movie was born and has since been saturated - that the marketing campaign would put it amongst the likes of American Pie and similar. However, this is no US teen-titillation movie.

From the outset, all is very much along the lines of methodical and clinical rather than seedy and sexy. The opening salvo sees the "heroine" make her way through college tuition by undergoing quite simply gag-reflexing experiments involving tubes inserted down the throat. This gives her money towards making the nights fly by, littered with older men out for sexual encounters but not enough for her best friend "land lord" and her money-grabbing boyfriends rent demands.

It's from this point the storyline that will divide audiences rears its, quite frankly, ugly head... Some will class it as arthouse whilst others will view it as an excuse for soft porn bordering on female degradation. Browning, last seen as victim-cum-warrior Baby Doll in Sucker Punch, ends up as a drugged fetish plaything for the wealthy to do with as they please but who must abide by the one rule - no penetration. What may sound erotic in words, is definitely not when in practise. Despite their back stories and their meandering speeches, the rich men are thinly written, vile characters whilst the women in the "service" are merely props with the odd bitchy remark.

What pushes the viewer away is the feel that all that is being done upon the screen is to have it considered as indie and arthouse. Lots of stunted conversations, glances into the distance, characters with no explanation as to their connection with Brownings drifting student, or plot progression lazily tumble over each other in sequences where, literally, nothing happens for ages. It's almost is if the definition of what's cool has tried to be explained to someone who doesn't get it but has tried to emulate it anyway. Neither engaging or erotic.

UK release date: 14.10.11
Certificate: 18

Friday, 14 October 2011


When a mediocre Disney ride became a hit film franchise, Hollywood seemed to look under every rock for a future money-making hit. After a deal involving a board game company and a large studio, we now have the likes of Battleships to look forward to, with the possibility of Monopoly as well. Until its their turn to role the dice then, anyone remember Rock Em Sock Em Robots? Hollywood certainly does...

There are films that become so iconic that they create their own wannabes - "Die Hard on a..." "Indiana Jones-esque adventure..." and of course, "Rocky-like..." Real Steel not only falls into that last category but conjours not one, but two of the long-running franchise entries. So long as the source is acknowledged and respected, that kind of homage can sometimes work.

Levy who delivered such fare as the Night At The Museum movies and Date Night has shown that he can do family feel-good films and people out-of-their-depth movies and here he doesn't have to try too hard to continue that trend. Despite its more mature-based foundations of Stallone's underdog story, he has an ace up his sleeve to help merge together the two types of genre that he has dabbled in - and that ace is Hugh Jackman.

Every bit the lead actor, some of the film gets by on his smile and charisma alone. Even in the more cornier elements of the story - the ex-partner's sister who hates him, the revenge-seeking bully/small time hood after blood and money - it's Jackman who keeps the interest up on the screen. The whole Rocky IV finale involving a Russian-owned Megatron look-a-likey champ vs the peoples underdog cross between WALL-E and C-3PO does stretch the believability line abit thin but by that time, you've already bought into the "cheer on the little guy" mentality that these types of films foster.

With another Stallone movie rifted on - Over The Top - the father learning to bond with the son he never had over a mutual sport interest, fills up most of the running time but luckily the child (Goyo) doesn't grate too much. His moments with the under-developed robot, Atom, are his best, especially the humouress dance sequences that become their trademark before they enter the ring.

The robots themselves are impressive looking but its their lack of personality that holds back the engagement from the audience. It's not until the final fight of small, no-chance Atom against the might Zeus, where you start to feel for him and want him to win. After all, these robots don't hurt or die so it's hard to connect with them as there's no real apparent danger. That changes when, with use of WALL-E esque sound effects and baby-blue glowing eyes, you start to think that Atom may not be an unfeeling machine.

A good fun family film where unusually the effects help the story rather than swamp it, Real Steel is a definite contender for your attention but not necessarily a undisputed champion.

UK release date:14.10.11
Certificate: 12A

Sunday, 2 October 2011


1994 saw the continued meteoric rise to the heights that "The House Of Mouse" had once achieved in its heyday. Disney's The Lion King roared into the cinemas and hearts of the world, gathering 2 Oscars and taking its place as one of only 3 animated movies in the top ten highest grossing films of all time.

Now, with the revival of 3D , companies and movie makers are reassessing their back catalogues and bringing them back to the screen in a way that should hopefully bring new levels to the experience, such as Cameron with Titanic and Lucas with Star Wars.

No matter how many times you may have watched it, either first time around or subsequently at home with the family, it is one of those timeless classics that, over the years, has had alot of competition through advances in technology that so could have easily tarnished its longevity. Traditional animation, when viewed up against the likes of Pixar and DreamWorks' CGI library, can all-too-quickly seem dated and weak, to the point where the story becomes less enchanting due to the eye concentrating on the method of delivery rather than the whole experience itself.

This is never an option here. From probably one of THE best opening sequences not only from Disney but in modern cinema, The Lion King earns the mantle of "classic." The presentation of Simba at Pride Rock was a glorious marriage of iconic imagery with a heart-stirring song in "The Circle Of Life" that now has 3D to bring it further to life. Moments such as the pelicans viewed from above as they make their way along with the other animals to the ceremony are awe-inspiring to behold.

Made for 2D, it never-the-less feels that it could have been designed with the addition of 3D at a later date. The wildebeest stampede, which with the aid of fledgling CG back then was a standout sequence along with Beauty & The Beast's ballroom scene, becomes that much more thrilling with the third dimension involved.But it has never been just about visuals. This is one of those prime examples where all ages are catered for. Jokes are stacked up and rolled out for the young and old equally, and even some at the expense of Disney themselves - when asked to stop his depressing song, Atkinson's hornbill starts to sing the often ridiculed "It's A Small World" to which Irons' evil Scar begs for "anything but that!"

Many people will remember the signature tune - "Hakuna Matata" - but there are so much more great tunes to be enjoyed. Irons' "Be Prepared" is arguably the best villain song ever recorded and the surreal imagery accompanying "Just Can't Wait To Be King" conjours up vague memories of Dumbo's "Pink Elephants On Parade."

A film to be proud to own or to have seen, this is something that all kids of any age - young and old - should see, especially since the 3D conversion is more like Avatar than Clash Of The Titans ... go on, treat yourself.

UK release date: 07.10.11
Certificate: U

Monday, 26 September 2011


Bearing in mind the religious tones in Kevin Smith's latest, it's apt that the phrase "damned if you, damned if you don't" squarely applies to it.

Known for his "slacker" movies - Clerks, Jay & Silent Bob Strike Back, Mallrats - the response when it was believed he was moving into possible "slasher" terrority was mixed to say the least. And upon release, that response is still very mixed.

If this wasn't from him, there's no doubt that Red State wouldn't be poured over with such a fine tooth comb from fans and critics alike. We want something different but more of the same and when the different comes along, that can be confusing. Not unlike the genre meshing that this effort brings to the screen.

What starts off as a small-town teen coming-of-age flick with 3 boys arranging a "simultaneous" experience in a neighbouring area in the middle of nowhere, takes a turn for the worst and then squarely heads into the genre that the likes of Hostel and Saw have over saturated in recent years. The horror element comes into play as the over-faithful clergy try to clear the world of all that is sinful to their interpretation of the scriptures - from gay through to multiple partners.

It's here that Smith makes his boldest stand with a possibly overlong segment involving the (admittedly stunning powerhouse performance of Parks) preacher's sermon that tries to explain their rationale and actions that are graphically demonstrated upon the screen. Even TV's Dexter would squirm at their methods. Then, just when you're all geared up for a nerve-shredding continuation of which of the boys will escape and survive the bible-bashing bastions barrage, Smith throws in his cards and starts a whole new, different game.

Then the screen goes black opening up on Goodman's "screwed from the beginning" ATF agent who is given the task of investigating forcibly the compound of Parks and the sounds of gunfire within. The film then switches to an out-an-out gunfire battle that refuses to let-up. With the sound of bullets equalling those of Saving Private Ryan picking off unexpected characters left, right and center, the tension is only broken with welcome-but-dark humour as Goodman shouts down the phone to his boss as all hell breaks lose that "his word is not good enough" and that he requires a text or an email at least saying that he's been told to storm the compound so his back is covered when it all goes wrong!

The ending is so Smith - think Dogma - that it comes as a surprise as everything before it has been so unlike his previous efforts, but the sudden change of scenery, mood and tone is still none-the-less brave and interesting and I for one, applaud him for trying something different. Besides, a film that has a line such as "he's built a great wall of b*llshit around the property... Yes sir, like the one in China," cannot be all bad!

UK release date: 30.09.11
Certificate: 18

Friday, 23 September 2011


Ensemble casts have, of late, relied heavily on their star power rather than their plot or dialogue to get them by. The likes of Valentine's Day and He's Just Not That Into You left a lot to be desired regarding satisfaction.

With a back catalogue consisting only of the great-but-little-seen I Love You Philip Morris, you wouldn't be amiss at the pedigree of directors Requa and Ficarra to bring in a decent rom-com. But they have an ace up their sleeve in writer Fogelman who penned Tangled and Bolt amongst others.

Here then is a comedy that is romantic by the bucket load whilst also being a romance that has great comedy throughout. Literally, you can have the roller coaster experience that is so often quoted but rarely delivered in cinematic terms. Sadness, awkwardness, laughter, cringyness, hopefulness, elation... all get their chance to toy with your emotions.

These are deftly handled by the cast that play to their strengths. Carrell, who has tried the stuck-in-a-rut husband before in Date Night, makes a more believable appearance here with the aid of more individuals to play off against. Here he gets to bounce off of Moore who, as always, shines in her role as mid-life crisis Mom - "When I told you when I had to work late? I really to go see the new Twilight movie by myself, and it was so bad" - and Tomei, who plays his first encounter after the split that starts the events rolling - if you don't want her as either your teacher or your lover, then there's something drastically wrong with you my friend.

The delights also come from the younger cast, in particular Stone with her confidence-waning rambling speech aimed at Gosling's lothario after her rash certainty for "banging the bar guy" dissolves into fear and thinking things through in the cold light of day. Along with the wonderful Heartbreaker, this boasts the best Dirty Dancing nod ever committed to celluloid confirming to any guy worth his salt that he needs to study Swayze to succeed!

The film happily makes it's way along the tried-and-trusted course of "re-discovering yourself and what you want out of life" storyline until the final act where all the loose strands and separate sub plots are suddenly pulled together to make one of the funniest scenes in the last decade of films. All soap opera's should take note of how it should be done!

A beautiful look at love and all it's various stages - first love, unrequited love, false love, stale love, soulmate love - Crazy, Stupid, Love in the end doesn't challenge any taboos nor does it deliver any earth-shattering conclusion but what it does is make you smile, make you laugh, make you cry and make you feel... and after all, isn't that what love is supposed to do? Beautiful from start to finish.

UK release date: 23.09.11
Certificate: 15


It's hard to imagine, but try if you will, a time where CGI was a thing that was so new and under-developed that neither audiences or film makers could rely on it to help tell a story, let alone make it a standout experience.

1993 would change all that with the release of "King of Blockbuster" Spielberg's version of Michael Crichton's best-selling novel. In the same year, the 'Berg also released his Oscar-clearing Schindler's List - two opposite films you couldn't make even if you tried - but the dinosaurs amok movie would become then the biggest film of all time. And rightly so.

If you were never lucky enough to see it first time round, before it's High Def home release in October, the newly restored digital print roars its way into cinema screens and is a treat NOT to be missed. Even those who have been brought up on a diet of CG 'toons and two-a-penny computer-enhanced flicks will be, at minimum, entertained by a director who was (and still is) at the top of his game and a crew that delivered everything in top, memorable form. From John Williams' magical score through to the "can't tell em from the CG" animatronic dinosaurs by master Stan Winston, everything that the 'Berg brought to the screen that makes a Blockbuster with the likes of Jaws and Raiders Of The Lost Ark, is ticked here in bold, exciting marker pen!

With the same pacing as the iconic Jaws, you have an opening sequence that sets up the premise that man will not fare too well against nature - the "Jaws With Claws" label it was originally given nailed it squarely on the head. What Jurassic Park may have lacked in memorable characterisation - there's no Brody, Quint and Hooper's quotable chemistry on display - it made up for in breath-holding, heart-racing, eye-popping sequences that had never been seen before, nor rivalled since in just one movie. The rippling water shot has become a much mimicked scene along with rain-soaked attacks on the heroes ever since a select bunch of specialists were chosen to sign off on a park just the coast of Costa Rica.

18 years down the line and the effects still hold up, especially on the big screen. Films less than 5 years old can't even say that. The T-Rex attack in particular is a seamless blend of physical and computerised magic which still thrills as it crushes the two park vehicles under foot and in its jaw. Even if the familiarity leans towards you waiting for the next set piece to occur - the raptor attack; the dilophosaurus attack; the car/tree escape - it still excites and makes you by the hand pulling you through it all at break-neck speed rather than losing its grip on you and your attention.

A movie that turned a corner and one of those "classics" that, upon watching it, you can see why it was given that title. See it on the big screen before you have to wait for a 25th anniversary release. At least though when you see it, you can rest knowing that the version you're watching is the same as that was seen back in 1993 - with no alterations or fixes. Take note Mr Lucas.

Original UK release date: 16.07.93
Re-release UK date: 23.09.11
Certificate: 12A

Monday, 19 September 2011


Director Winding Refn seems to like the occasional outbreak of violence. His last two previous outputs - Valhalla Rising and Bronson - were no strangers to onscreen violence.

Nor has he been a stranger to plaudits either with his biopic that introduced the world to Tom Hardy garnering rave reviews and now his latest receiving critical acclaim that would normally be lavished upon a period drama.

This is essentially a tale of a loner who becomes embroiled in events that do not directly concern him but end up having him put his lifestyle and his life itself on the line for another. Think Jean Reno's Leon but, instead of a hitman with a gun, replace them with a stunt driver and a car and you start to get the picture.

From the outset, Drive looks, feels and sounds like a lost film from the 80's that's been discovered and brought out to show people what cool looked like back then. It feels like the younger, more dangerous brother of Risky Business with it's synth-pop soundtrack and it's dream-like, slo-mo sequences that show the city of L.A. in a love-tinted light.

Also, in it's beginning sequence, we see Gosling's character introduce himself via voice-over in dull, begrudging tones, not unlike Ford's one in the original Blade Runner. He's a man with a job to do that has rules that will be followed, or else. The first "job" witnessed by the audience may just be the first authentic display of evading the police after a robbery ever committed to screen - not so much a car chase as a methodical, calmly-executed game of cat-and-mouse using bridges and in plain view to hide from an over run police force.

Gosling may be behind the wheel and in control of the film, but many of his co-star/passengers that are along for the ride, prove their worth. Mulligan channels her recent Never Let Me Go vulnerability as the next door neighbour with child caught up in her criminal husbands life, making you want the loner to step in and step up to the challenge she inadvertently represents. Brooks and Pearlman as squabbling low-life partners create plausible menace for you to be uncertain of the drivers success in staying alive until the end and Hendricks, although still as wonderful as ever, is there then gone in a blink-and-you'll-miss-her role.

All the above makes it a good ol' thriller with not as many car chases as you would expect from the title and plot, but what you don't bargain for is the sometimes shocking violence that explodes upon the screen. From shotgun blasts to the head , through to a hammer and nail assault/threat to the forehead, Drive pulls no punches. The lift sequence involving a tender kiss suddenly goes all dark territory with a boot that crushes a skull into a bloody pulp as Mulligan, and the audience, watch dumb-foundedly.

A "ssen-it-somewhere-before" premise, shot with a nostalgic 80's feel and delivered by a cast that know how to draw you in, it's steady pace leaves you unready for the shocking act of violence that burst into your vision. You have been warned.

UK release date: 23.09.11
Certificate: 18

Thursday, 15 September 2011


Whilst re-watching the STAR WARS saga, I came across the thankfully forgotten clunky lines of romantic dialogue that Lucas had penned and whilst cringing, let my mind wander briefly to other examples where men and women try to express that allusive thing called love...

So, here are some of the more memorable lines throughout cinema's century - for all the right, and wrong, reasons. Which side do they come down for you?

Or, in the end, do you frankly give a damn?....


Film: As Good As It Gets
Line giver: Jack Nicholson

If you still wonder how ol' Jack seems to keep pulling in the ladies, maybe it's because he gets to say lines like this... all previous sins seem to be forgiven, just like that.

Film: Jerry Maguire
Line giver: Rennee Zellweger

Even though the big speech is done by Tom Cruise, the killer line is quietly delivered by Rennee with such emotion and truth that it knocks it clean outta the park!

Film: Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back
Line giver: Harrison Ford

Despite the story by George "what's romance?" Lucas, it's Ford who changed the original line to this borderline cocky response that all men would love the confidence to say.

Film: Notting Hill
Line giver: Julia Roberts

A personal fave of mine, again it's the thing that you always wish you could be on the receiving end of and Julia's smile and nervousness puts the final nail in the coffin.

Film: The Princess Bride
Line giver: Cary Elwes

3 words... just 3 words...that's all it takes and yet, they can be said too much and not enough. So, same sentiment but different phrasing! Sorted then! Clever Dread Pirate Roberts!


Film: Back To The Future
Line giver: Crispin Glover

Totally unprepared for conversations with the opposite sex, Marty McFly's future dad shows how over-preparing other people's lines isn't such a great idea.

Film: Four Weddings & A Funeral
Line giver: Andie MacDowell

A line of dialogue that is so truly unique that both men AND women groan inwardly and outwardly upon hearing its utterance! Now that's special!

Film: Star Wars Episode II: Attack Of The Clones
Line giver: Natalie Portman and Hayden Christian

The one that started this whole article off for me - this is so bad because it's supposed to be the reason why the worst villain in cinema is born; out of the love lost between them! How wrong.

Film: Dirty Dancing
Line giver: Jennifer Grey

That all-important first impression can be heightened by that also equally important first line of dialogue between the two of the possible lovers... Nice try but no cigar baby.

Film: Gigli
Line giver: Jennifer Lopez

I f you have to be explained why this particular example made it to the list then, honestly, there is no saving you... at all.

Now it's your turn to tell me, as I stand before you, in the pouring rain, what should I have/not said? What should have made it onto the list, or for that matter, shouldn't have?....

Tuesday, 13 September 2011


For anyone whose parents grew up in the late 70's / early 80's, there was a TV programme that had them all talking, and with the shrieks of "sacrilege" that normally accompanies fearful remakes, will undoubtedly again.

However, their calls of outrage should swiftly, upon viewing, become claps of appreciation. There are certain things that either demand another interpretation of it or are good enough to warrant another stab at it. If the right director and the right cast unite then there should be nothing to fear apart from a begrudging appreciation of the new version.

Alfredson, who hit the world squarely in the neck with the original Let The Right One In, trades places and becomes the hunter with an adaptation rather than the hunted where his unusual twist on the tale of vampires was remade with big bucks. And to his credit, he has pulled off a sublime piece of film.

Set in the 70's where The Cold War was everything, Alfredson's team have generated a look and feel that slowly saturates into the viewer from the get-go. Colours feel muted, conversations secret and stilted, even the film stock seems grey and grainy reflecting the world upon the screen of non black-and-white ethics and loyalty from all involved in the proceedings.

From the pre-title sequence, all you need to know about how to view the rest of the film is set up straight away - trust no one. The "event" that starts the ball rolling is so steeped in paranoia, with suspicious glances, overly-sweating waiters, window shutters being closed, that it packs in its 10 minutes more tension and nail-biting than a slew of recent Hollywood thrillers all out together.

Not one actor puts a step wrong. And not unlike the Harry Potter franchise, you will spend a lot of time multi-tasking by being surprised at who you recognise upon the screen - Trigger! Waynetia! - whilst trying to decipher what appears to be clues from meaningful glances and in-the-distance meetings. As much as they are all great - particularly Strong, Firth, Hurt, Hardy - this is all Oldman's concerto and he conducts all around him with a still, unnerving quietness that makes you draw in every detail possible to keep up with his engaged mind. So much so, that when he does have one slight outburst (as in a raised voice) it's like a slap to the face.

An example of the genre that hasn't been viewed by myself in ages, this is a true "slow-burner" where, in a double-edged sword attack, it feels like not much is happening whilst yet at the same time the characters, the locations and more importantly and impressively, the time frame are constantly in motion, taking you one step forward and two steps back.

There was a second outing on TV for the large rimmed glasses wearing spy - Smiley's People - and, after watching this, we can only but hope that they all feel like giving that one a go too. We deserve another trip to the circus! Utterly engrossing cinema.

UK release date: 16.09.11
Certificate: 15

Monday, 12 September 2011


Comedies involving the youth are all about "the first time" or alcohol/drug-related high jinx. 2009 saw a change to this trend with Zombieland - director Fleischer and actor Eisenberg's great take on the zombie genre. And now they're back again delivering a different slice of hot comedy...

From its opening Ferris Bueller's Day Off car flying-shot through to its The Italian Job-esque "did they win?" ending, 30 Minutes Or Less sets out to have fun with its simple premise and its even simpler characters. After his buttoned-down The Social Network performance, Eisenberg returns to his Adventureland and Zombieland roots with a put-upon slacker trying to cope with a curve ball that life has thrown him.

Here that curve ball is in the form of none-too-bright, wanna-be criminals McBride and Swardson. McBride makes up for the travesty that was Your Highness by being funnier in his co-staring role here than in the more leading part of that The Princess Bride rip off he helped create. This is due in part to having the excellent Swardson to bounce off of - his mentally getting into the whole "monkey mask disguise" in the background of some scenes is genuinely laugh-out-loud funny.

What makes it unusual is the complete lack of gross-out comedy or use of any "t&a" (nudity) to get laughs from the audience. Here it's dialogue and interactions that are served up to induce the desired effect from the viewer. There's knowing jokes referring to Eisenberg's lack of friends on facebook (The Social Network); saucy jokes with an offer of beer to "take away the taste of himself" after being kissed by the girl that has just performed an act on him; and the realisation that, when trying to pay for all their bank job related merchandise in a hardware store - tape, rope etc - they're only a pack of condoms away from a rape package...

It's the films little touches that keep the charm and laughs rolling along - during the bank heist, you witness the most politest bank robbery ever committed to celluloid and the little known fact that sometimes hostages are the most dangerous people in those situations! Even during a car chase, they discuss the perfect tune to be listening to whilst trying to avoid the pursuing lawmen and argue over it.

A delight, and a funny one at that, from start to finish, here's hoping that Fleischer and Eisenberg have at least another film up their sleeves to entertain us with. Bring on Zombieland 2!!!

UK release date: 16.09.11
Certificate: 15

Monday, 5 September 2011


This Is Spinal Tap! The Blair Witch Project. Cloverfield. All these have taken the form of documentary and imprinted it to a level where, regardless of whether you love them or loathe them, have influenced, or will inspire countless other film makers.

Now, that rank has a new challenger with the mix of documentary and lost footage combined to reveal to the world that our ideas of fairytales are not so fantastical after all...

After so many attempts to convince audiences about "found footage" films, The Troll Hunter's beginning scrawl will most likely be met with a weary sigh from some viewers as it explains the never-be-seen- before discovery and debates regarding its authenticity that have raged since its airing. It all feels like familiar stuff until about 25 minutes into it.

Then the unmistakable non-US humour kicks in with the off-beat slant that all you can remember about trolls is actually real. You'll be surprised at how much you know about them as the amateur film makers document the various encounters before the inevitable occurs.

What helps is that the trait of annoying "camera crew" has been largely abolished by creating a great focus for the lens and sound mike - the Troll Hunter himself. His matter-of-fact attitude and weary dry sense of humour keep your mind off the sometimes whiny students. His outfit for one troll encounter looks like a cross between Monty Python And The Holy Grail and The A-Team. That, combined with using 3 billy goat gruffs tied to a bridge to lure out a nasty troll are what gives it the edge of the other fake footage finding films - laughs over scares.

That's not to say that it's without tension. The effects are remarkable and hold up well on the big screen and the "smelling of a Christian" problem does help to draw out some shredded nerves whilst caught in a cave (but then also brings out the biggest laugh regarding instead a Muslim - "Will that be a problem?" "Don't know... we'll find out.") They even manage to show regret for the creatures that are being systematically driven to extinction by the government with its fake electricity pylons doubling up as huge electric fences and a callous slaughter involving female and children trolls.

Not what you're probably expecting and delivering exactly what is says in the title, it's another rare foreign film treat that should be seen before the Hollywood remake tramples all over its Norwegian charm and loses it a flurry of big budget CGI and Yank-isms. You may not believe in them but you'll want to by the end credits roll.

UK release date: 09.09.11
Certificate: 15

Sunday, 28 August 2011


Parodies, p*ss-takes, send-ups, fun-fuelled homages; the art of celluloid has inspired and created a great many reproductions of some of its finest moments throughout its 100+ years of existence.

Some have purely taken the actual footage and re-arranged it to deliver an entirely different product altogether. Others have tried to mimic their favourite scenes and replicate them by using many different props and methods, from animation through to animals.

In a salute to these people who appear to have a whole lot of time on their hands, and what would seem some spare change in their pockets to create these wonders, here is some of the best out there. See what others you can find and share the experience!

CATEGORY: Fake Trailer
Using one of my all-time best films ever, this is a wonderful example of how you can be fooled by the editing and use of music in a trailer to completely change what the final product is all about. Either way, I would want to watch both versions of three men and a shark...

Ever since it's release in 1992, Rob Reiner's film adaptation of the play has spawned countless versions of Cruise's verbal battle with Nicholson but none more so appealing than this one here that deserves bananas all round..

Lucky enough to see a charity screening in the cinema, this is the WHOLE original film remade pretty much shot-for-shot by 3 12 year old friends that took them 6 years to finish! Ingenuity and laughs abound - their answer to the Nazi monkey is sheer genius! Find it, see it, love it!

CATEGORY: Advertisement
Every year, the advertising industry goes all-out for America's Superbowl and 2011's selection saw the unveiling of an instant classic. Even if you've never seen any of the Star Wars films, there's just something about a 6 year old boy's dreams of ruling the galaxy that gets to you...

CATEGORY: Music video
If ever there were 2 things that shouldn't mix, trashy euro techno tunes and serious adventure Lord Of The Rings are perfect examples of "it's so wrong, it's right!"combination. Tell you what though, you'll want it as a ring tone or end up humming it for the rest of the day!

CATEGORY: Animation/Musical
The Simpsons have lampooned everything over it's 22 years of broadcasting so picking just one moment is tough, but let's face it, you'd pay to see this in the West End or Broadway wouldn't you! However, you'd be too embarrassed to stand up and applaude at the end perhaps...

There are so many more out on the horizon waiting to be discovered - the "monkey-ed movie" version of Jerry Maguire, "Family Guy's" Star Wars movies, "The Simpsons"' Raiders Of The Lost Ark boulder scene, "Weird Al Yankovic's" Dangerous Minds parody Amish Paradise...

So, what works for you, funny-wise? Any of these? What should have been added instead?