Monday, 31 January 2011


He's been either infront of or behind the camera for over the last 35 years, and recently he's done both. Does Clint Eastwood's latest deserve his normal award-flirtation?

In a word, no. Eastwood's name is associated with a body of work that slow burns but literally during that time, pulls you in, ties you down and without you realising, tugs at your heart-strings to the point of moist eyes and nose sniffles. If "Million Dollar Baby" or "Gran Turino" didn't emotionally hook you then you maybe the lucky one as you won't be crushed by Eastwood's mis-fire presented here.

For the fist time, he treads on new ground - instead of the spirit of the individual, it's the spiritual side; instead of a tight camera on compelling characters, it's a soft-focus ensemble piece; no straight lined story but a multi-stranded screenplay; and instead of a cast delivering heaven, it's a hell of a job of either under-used or mis-cast people.

Damon hands in a credible "Good Will Hunting" performance - all hurt, confusion and internal struggle - and does his best opposite the wondrous Dallas Howard who appears all-too-briefly during the first act. However the twin child from London that ties together the separate strands during the final act, drags almost any emotion that may have been forming from Damon's struggle and De France's coping with her tsunami survival, squarely out and kills it flat out. It makes you long for Haley Joel Osmet's return.

When a multi-strand plot delivers the pay-off and unites them for all to see, it should be illuminating, not laborious. The reveal where all 3 stories converge simply isn't strong nor compelling enough to justify Eastwood's slow-paced journey to it.

The film is not without it's moments however - the non-fussy, quietly confident handling of the tsunami hitting the beach resort at the outset shows the Roland Emmerich's and Michael Bay's that there are other ways to shoot disasters other than spinning camera's and fast edits, and Damon and Dallas Howard's blind-fold cookery class is up there with other great burgeoning romances but two scenes do not make a movie.

Mr Eastwood: thank you for your exploration of new ground but please go back to toying with our emotions as only you can do in the style that suits you... and us.

UK release date: 28/01/11
Certificate: 15

Sunday, 30 January 2011

Disney's TANGLED in 3D

John Lasseter and co. at Disney have a huge-ish task before them - to return the crown back in the House Of Mouse, at least where animation is concerned.

Their previous effort - "The Princess And The Frog" - went back to traditional animation but was shy from the levels of the likes of "The Lion King" and "Aladdin." Their latest, although CGI'd rather than hand drawn, is not a step in the right direction... but a huge bounding leap towards the heights that a mermaid and a beauty achieved during Disney's 2nd coming.

Yes, it's that good! You name anything that made the classics a classic and you'll see it represented up on the screen. Strong heroine: check. Non-human comedic character: check. Love interest that's more than a bland Prince Charming-type: check. Songs that actually stay with you after the film: present.

Now don't be fooled; when you list it like that it sounds a tad formulaic, but that magic set of ingredients have been lacking, unless of course the name Pixar was attached - but even they couldn't/wouldn't touch or attempt toe-tapping, smile-inducing songs. Menken who gave "The Little Mermaid" her voice and "Beauty & The Beast" their surprising falling-in-love, hits 2 home runs with "I have a dream" (comparable to Beauty's rabble-rousing "Gaston") and "Mother knows best."

And the humour is delivered in spades for all ages - TV's "Chuck" Zachary Levi does smarm for adults ("here comes the smoulder") and pratt-falls for kids (trying to be shoved into a closet whilst unconscious) but the honour must go to Max, the horse who thinks he's a bloodhound who dislikes Levi's thief to the point of obsession. When a horse sword fights a thief involving a frying pan, you know you're witnessing something bizarrely special!

A delight in all senses - animation, story, characterisation, song and humour - all that there is left to say is welcome back Mouse! Welcome back!

UK release date: 28/01/11
Certificate: PG

Saturday, 29 January 2011

John Carpenter's THE WARD

And so the return of the once-great director's continues ... Joe Dante came back with one of my faves last year - "The Hole in 3D" - and now the King Of The 80's returns.

Carpenter has alot to live up to, but equally alot to answer for. For every "Halloween" there's a "Vampires" and for every "Escape From New York" there's a "Escape From L.A." His return sees him on familiar ground - a thriller/horror rather than action/sci-fi. And maybe that's the problem for him and for us - it's too familiar. A plethora of ghost killer thrillers has audiences all-too prepared for shock tactics so to scare them an atmosphere of uneasiness and creepiness has to be delivered in spades.

And that's where Carpenter fails. All the elements line up waiting to work their magic - the creepy psychiatric hospital; the sour-faced head nurse; the creepy doctor; the inmates with a secret... but none of them match up to what has gone before. The hospital is no Overlook Hotel; the nurse is no Nurse Ratchet; the doc is no Lector... and the inmates are, well, there-in lies the problem!

Without trying to give anything away, "The Ward" tries a ploy that has been done before in movie history but with a twist like that, once you've seen it deployed, it can never surprise you again. The man who literally had you watching through fingers has those fingers clenched into a fist that supports your weary head. No shocks, no surprises, no script.

Carpenter has always worked on a budget that is probably equivalent to that of the catering budget on a Hollywood movie but he has always managed to make the best of it and make up for it with chills and thrills. But here with a "ghost" that seems like an after-thought and a well-trodden run through the halls of horror, it would be best to self medicate rather than take a dose from this hospital.

There is a film that you should see instead of this, which will be listed at the end if you wish to read it if you don't mind a spoiler.

UK release date: 21/01/11
Certificate: 15

*SPOILER ALERT* Watch "Identity" instead - it's a much better personality thriller.

Monday, 24 January 2011


So, another entry from the "Marmite" director - will you love or hate Darren Aronofosky's new experience of a ballerina trying to be the part of both the White Swan and the Black Swan?

If you think it sounds dainty or boring, then think again. What we actually have here is an intriguing portrayal of a woman slipping into uncertain madness as her work-obsessed, sheltered life is assaulted from all sides - including herself - as she tries to embody the passion and freedom of the Black Swan to secure the coveted role.

Throughout, you are hit with images of reflections - normal and altered - as mirrors feature in nearly every other shot. Infact, you may not realise how incredibly clever it all is as you become accustomed to them, but to have all these shots without one cameraman in frame (especially during Portman's first training session as the Swan Queen) is a truly astonishing feat indeed.

With the uncertainty from Portman as her mind plays ever increasing tricks on her, it's hard to decipher exactly what is real and what is imagined - even characters become questionable as to whether they are real or not. Kunis is the perfect ying to Portman's yang as the new seductress on the block her motives and even her actual existence is wonderfully (or annoyingly) never fully answered.

These two can be likened to Edward Norton and his extreme solution to achieving things he couldn't normally do by creating Brad Pitt's character in David Fincher's comparable descent into mental meltdown. How can be sure what we see is real or imagined by Portman? This level of psychological toying from the script and direction may not be for every ones taste - if you don't want to think about what you see or like slow turning tension building, then this is not for you.

So, the first rule about Black Swan is, don't talk about Fight Club. The second rule of Black Swan is do not talk about Fight Club....and beware of what you see in your reflection - you might not like what you see, or like what it's capable of!

UK release date: 21/01/11
Certificate: 15

Saturday, 15 January 2011


New Year, New Hero? Before the early Summer brings us more characters of The Avengers to add to "Iron Man" and "Hulk" - "Thor" "Captain America" - we have what for the older generation fondly remember as a great TV serial but many others may not have heard of.

After one of those "troubled journeys" to the screen where writers and directors have jumped ship due to the always worrying comment - creative differences - the final line up of director Michel Gondry and writer/star Seth Rogen deliver the familiar story of a billionaire-turned-vigilante/hero.

However, what could have been a quirky take on a hero from the guy that directed the likes of "Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind" is a mis-cast and badly-scripted one. It's almost as if Gondry wasn't present during the shoot apart from the odd moment - a Benny Hill-esque snog-athon where a speeded up couple work their way through some classic cars.

The biggest flaw is unfortunately is its center character - billionaire Bret Reid aka Green Hornet. Rogen brings his trademark "winging it" type of acting where its all hand waving and sentences that should appear as natural but come across as not knowing the lines. This, for a lay-about who gets a girl pregnant is fine, but for a man who is willing to face danger to protect citizens from evil, just doesn't wash it my friend. You need to believe in that guy, or at least like him and Rogen is just simply a dick who deserves neither your belief nor like. All he does is manage to push your feelings towards Chou's interpretation of Kato, immortalised by none-other-than Bruce Lee. And this is despite a cringe-inducing fight between them that reeks of a Clouseau vs Kato rehash.

It comes to something when the best things about a 2 hour movie is the car - a stunning vehicle indeed - and the opening sequence where an uncredited James Franco goes head-to-head with Christop Waltz's baddie... it's no "True Romance" but its still the movies highlight. A wasted opportunity even with their nice take on "The Matrix's" bullet time.

UK release date: 14/01/11
Certificate: 12A

Monday, 10 January 2011


Alot of people tend to be put off a film by any "Oscar buzz" that surrounds it - if it's up for a golden statue then it'll be hard-going or serious as hell. Time to change all those preconceptions then...

It is said that there are only 7 real stories in the world and everything is a variation of one of them. "The King's Speech" could well have you thinking that there is some familiar ground being trodden during its 2 hours running time - a main character has to overcome their fear of some large event/competition and with the help of someone wise, and of course themselves, they will step up and meet it head on. Yes, it's been done before, but rarely in such a bloody enjoyable and smile-inducing way!

At heart a strange-because-it's-true bro-mance, this is an utter delight from start to finish. Firth (whisper it, Best Actor nomination) nails the man who feels that he is just that - a man and not worthy nor able to be a King - and is the perfect chalk to Rush's cheese - an unqualified Australian who wants to treat the man and his problem and not the status or the baggage that comes with it.

The chemistry between the two is engaging to the point that their obligatory falling out is genuinely upsetting and not some Hollywood script writers plot point to create a low before the high. When Rush allows Firth to put some glue on a toy model airplane - something he was never allowed to do as a child Prince growing up - as a thank you disguised as a treat, the bond and affection is so tangible between the two polar opposites that you could almost taste it.

The men don't get it all their way however. Bonham Carter as the young Queen Mum to-be is quite the little scene-stealer, whether it's stating how fun it is to sit on her husbands chest during speech exercises to telling Rush's wife that its "Ma'am" as in ham, not Ma'am as in palm" upon their first meeting.

A beautifully crafted crowd-pleasing movie, don't be put off by your thoughts of stuffy period drama and such. If you miss this you'll definitely be shouting "F... F... Fornication!" to yourself.

UK release date: 07/01/11
Certificate: 12A

Sunday, 9 January 2011


So, what do you do after huge Oscar success for your last movie? Go big budget? Go star-studded? How about the true story of a man that gets trapped alone in the middle of nowhere and must contemplate the unthinkable in order to survive....

Director Danny Boyle's CV is nothing but varied - "Trainspotting" "28 Days Later" "Slumdog Millionaire" - and yet again he doesn't disappoint with his latest - different, demanding and dead good. After the success of last years "Buried" where it was proven that a solitary figure can hold a movie together, "127 hours" thankfully continues this rare form with a morbidly engrossing film.

What makes it work is a combination of Boyle's usual flair and tactics - a fantastic soundtrack (with probably the best ironic use ever of Bill Withers' "Lovely Day"); ingenious editing that at times overloads the senses from it's split screen opening sequence to the frequent "photo moments" as James Franco's Aron Ralston documents both the good and bad times; and of course frequently avoiding cliches and what you'd expect to happen next on the screen.

Franco's portrayal and Boyle's co-scripted screenplay never "hero" what is essentially a human coping with an extreme situation. He is somewhat arrogant in his skills and abilities but it is these that get him into his situation and ultimately out of it. Indeed, it is a fascinating look at the slope into despondency, despair, delirium and eventually determination of the human soul.

One last thing to add - the scene regarding the sacrifice that is made in order to live - with sound and editing, it's like the ear-cuting part of "Reservoir Dogs"... your mind will fill in the blanks to help the film makers achieve cinematic gold. 2011 is off to a great start!

UK release date: 07/01/11
Certificate: 15

Tuesday, 4 January 2011


Now with the clarity that can only come from people having to get ready to go back to work and having detoxed from alcohol after New Year's celebrations, it's the perfect time to look back upon the year that was 2010 (the year we should have made contact according to Arthur C. Clarke and the sorely missed Roy Schiender) and let the movie output be judged....

BEST FILMS OF 2010 - 10 thru to 6

10. THE HOLE in 3D
The man who gave us "Gremlins" and "Piranha" returned with an absolute joy of a film that felt like it had been made in the 80's but incorporated modern technology to bring to life the gateway to hell kept un-conveniently in the basement of a house that a new family have moved into.

With a perfect use of 3D - depth of field rather than objects flying into camera -
Joe Dante made shadows all-the-more unsettling and racked up the tension as The Hole starts to unleash its horrors upon the 3 kid heroes, who, for once, were all great and not annoying! A rare treat nowadays.

Even without 3D, "The Hole" will still deliver the goods, unsettling adults more than their younger wards with its watch-thru-fingers moments.

Based on a story that one of the fore-founders of comedy wrote and decided not to make as it was far too personal, Sylvian Chomet takes Jacques Tati's tale of a dying breed of entertainer trying to compete with boy bands and brings stunning visuals of Paris and Edinburgh to life like he did with his "Belleville Rendez-Vous."

Showing that animation is still necessary in the world of story telling and not just for children's movies, the eventual realisation that the old-school magician cannot live up to the rose-tinted glasses expectations of his young female fan is heart breaking as her wide eyes turn from him towards the excitement of first love.

Drenched in beauty and kooky characters, it speaks volumes without hardly saying a word - now that's magic!

Another French film shock where the country renowned for love hands in a flawless romantic comedy where such things as subtitles and language
barriers cannot hold back its charm offensive.

Telling the well-worn tale of the guy that falls in love with the girl that he shouldn't, the humour and delivery of it's quick witted dialogue takes it above previous efforts in the genre.

Even if you know how it's going to end, the journey that takes in the sights of Monte Carlo and Paris and the BEST "Dirty Dancing" sequence ever put to celluloid since the original, is a truly surprising delight that never fails to make you smirk, smile and, yes, even sigh. Try it, love it and have the time of your life!

The film that was, apparently, made for Clooney to play, tells the tale of a man who is very good at his job but lets it get in the way of his life and any
possible connections he could make - and not of the airport/flight variety.

Jason Reitman's follow-up to "Juno" is a wake-up call to a world that places far too much emphasis on what you do rather than who you are and touches on the fragility on those jobs that hold people down.

Don't get the wrong idea - this is a delight with faster-and sharper-than-bullets dialogue from the master Clooney who has a female match in Vera Farmiga with truly laugh-out-loud moments ALL the way through. If it don't speak to you, leave the!

Chris Morris, as the papers would have you believe, courted danger yet again, this time with his tale of four inept suicide bombers trying to attack the London marathon.

If they had watched it first before attacking it (like his TV's Brass Eye) then they would have seen him do, what would appear on paper, as the impossible - make you care about characters that you shouldn't.

As the story riotously makes it's way to the marathon via the training camps of Pakistan, Morris wisely doesn't dwell on why they would be driven to do such an act but focus on the fact that none of them haven't the faintest of how to do it. One of them believes that martyrdom is comparable to Rubber Dinghy Rapids at Alton Towers! Bloody funny from start to finish!

5 thru to 1 to follow.....


The countdown continues...

BEST FILMS OF 2010 - 5 thru to 1

2010 became the year of the small guy/slacker/average joe rising up from the masses for what he believes in.... which usually involves girls somewhere down the line!

Matthew Vaughn and Jane Goldman brought the graphic novel of a kid who believes he can be a superhero (with no powers, just an outfit and a belief!) crashing onto the screen with a violence and a dark humour that have been lacking from cinema of late.

Embracing its comic roots - Nic Cage is so Batman it's a lawsuit waiting - it makes the most of its independent roots pulling no punches or compromising to help shift fast food kids meals by going all out on language and blood! This is NOT Disney! And it definitely does what it says on the tin - it Kicks Ass.


I know! A film about facebook? Directed by the guy from Fight Club and Se7en? Who'd athought it would be one of the most riveting movies of the year with a wonderful insight into relationships and how the darker desires of people can break the strongest bonds of friendship?

From it's cringe-inducing opening sequence of THE worst break up committed to film, it never slows down its pace, its dialogue nor its mirror-holding towards uncomfortable truths asking you would you have acted the same way.

It never judges the characters - instead it leaves that up to you to decide on who you would side with and that is it's secret strength, ultimately keeping you glued to your seat till the credits roll.

Insert your own "name likes this!" comment here...


Going one step further than KICK-ASS, Edgar Wright's adaptation of the graphic novel literally looked like a comic blended with a video game upon the screen, to the point where you feared a sensory overload. From the insanely quick edits through to the in-jokes that even if you didn't get it didn't matter, everything came together to blow your mind as the annoyingly lovable geek Michael Cera fought off the weirdest foes in movie memory.

This final "average joe" flick stood up and dared you not to like it - and even if you didn't, it would beat you into submission anyway.

The support cast never feel that - Culkin as the gay best friend, Evans as the movie star ex-boyfriend and Routh as the reason why no one should ever trust vegans - they all delivered laughs aplenty! One of the best eye-popping flicks ever.

Still able to walk that tightrope between jokes for adults and for kids, the final story of Andy's toys brings it full circle an
d doesn't scrimp on the spectacle or the string-pulling of the heart.Tough call between the 2nd and top spot this! With this, the team at Pixar have achieved the rarest thing - a trilogy that has no weak link. At all! Ever!

From the runaway train opening sequence to the ultimate prison break with the creepiest monkey trying to defeat our heroes, it delivers what you demand from it and then crowbars even more into it.

You get the usual characters you've grown to love (and they still get their screentime) but then you also get the likes of Ken (wonderfully played by Keaton) to push your tears and laughter to the forefront. Fantastic!

What else could it be? The "small film" that Christopher Nolan wanted to do became THE film to see and have an opinion on. Was it a dream? Was it real? It didn't matter, because it was the watching of the impossible journey unfold that counted.

For once, the actual movie lived up to the promise of the trailer - the visuals, the premise, the execution - all were present and correct, and even more so in the IMAX format.

Nolan and his crew crafted a multi-layered plot that demanded its audience bring brains along with their popcorn (unusual for a block buster) and rewarded them with a mind bending, building moving experience unlike no other.

With humour peppered across its running time to match the seriousness of the 3 layered dreams, "Inception" showed that original ideas do exist in the movie world... or do they? Yes! They do! And the top never stops spinning!