Friday, 25 March 2011


Zack Synder is nothing but relentless... he tackled the regarded unfilmable "Watchmen" and did more for men in skirts with "300" than Scott and Crowe ever did in "Gladiator."

Now there seems to be balance to his work. You could say that "300" was an ode to masochism and male bonding... well then, "Sucker Punch" is his love story to feminism and and strong-willed females everywhere.

It plays out as a most unusual mixture of "Inception" and "Moulin Rouge" - two films that shouldn't go together and although nearly, "Sucker Punch" doesn't quite pull it off. But by heck it gives it a darn good try!

From it's red curtain opening (suggesting all you will see will be very theatrical) through to it's burlesque surroundings, it further cements it's "Moulin Rouge" connections with a heavy reliability on music - something Snyder's films have only done in their trailers, and not the actual films themselves. Not unlike "teen TV shows" the audience is helpfully told what to feel by the carefully selected music track - pain, suffering, hope etc. - but at times it does jar with the insane visuals that fill the screen and try to damage your retina's.

Holding true to the "picture tells a thousand words" mantra, Synder lets the steam punk, alternate WWI, orc and dragon existing, giant samurai chapters of the plot impose over dialogue and characterisation to the point where, when Emily Browning's Baby Doll starts yet another "Inception" dream-within-a-dream sequence to gain another important item to help their escape, you want to push the pause button to catch your breath, rub your eyes and cover your ears.

Indeed a spectacle, it is a sight worth seeing but you may exit the cinema feeling that it wasn't wholly a journey worth taking. Whether it stays with you may depend on how you view females - young men and women will remember it longer than older audience members, but for totally different reasons...

UK release date: 01.04.11
Certificate: 12A


It's all there in the title - a concept that could either delve deep into the darkness of man's soul when boundaries and inhibitions are removed... or we could just watch them do a thriller to entertain the mass multiplex audiences so as to make some money.

With art imitating life, Cooper plays a man who leaps from off the radar to the man everyone, whether they want to or not, sees in a short space of time (lets face it, before "The Hangover" and "The A-Team" who'd heard of him?) His smile and cock-sure personality that helped with his "A-Team" role work wonders when he's jacked up on the pill that accesses all 100% of his brain rather than the quoted 20% we normally use, but at the beginning when he's the down-and-out writer that his long-suffering girlfriend has to leave, is less so convincing.

Director Burger decided to have fun with this project as opposed to Oscar-baiting and it shows hugely throughout the first half of its running time. You may start to think that he watched "Fight Club" several times or hours of MTV before calling "action" as not only does he give Cooper the role of narration (like Norton but not as good), but he tries every camera trick, real and CGI'd, in the book to heighten the plot and experience. Some are eye-catching - the ceiling that turns into a train-style departure board full of letters; multiple Cooper's working together to tidy up his apartment - but his excessive use of them means that when the camera is static and the characters are trying to explain plot points and move everything forward, the movie feels alittle slow and dull.

Undeniably entertaining, you will only feel let down if you prefer more meat-on-the-bone in your movies, or if you're a American TV show fan - it goes from being "Chuck" even to the extent of knowing how to engage an opponent successfully, to an ending that would have been not out of place on an "The X-Files" or "Fringe" episode.

UK release date: 25.03.11
Certificate: 12A

Thursday, 24 March 2011


Her message may have been "love never dies" with her directing the first "Twilight" movie, but after being passed over for the sequels, it seems that Catherine Hardwicke's mantra is "day jobs never die..."

Straight off from the start, there is a level of recognition on so many different levels that you could be distracted from the actual movie itself whilst you try and count them off in your mind.

The mist-shrouded mountains covered in broody weather and dangerous trees seem to have been left over from the filming sets of Forks and if that wasn't enough, Bella's Dad (Billy Burke) appears here in the role of, wait for it, Dad to the plucky heroine who ends up being caught between two men and something not human... You do begin to wonder just abit whether Hardwicke has deliberately done certain things as a kind of "two fingers up" to the "Twilight" franchise producers.

But it's not all comparisons to that particular movie - infact the strongest resemblance is that of M. Night Shyamalan's "The Village." From the dark and dreary wooden houses hiding many secrets, through to the clanging bell of doom when an attack is either immanent or has occurred, it feels like one of these dreaded "re-imagining" attempts when the studio wants to kick-start a franchise up. They even have a backward boy in the village that suspicion falls upon once Oldham's scenery-chewing werewolf-killing priest arrives to apparently save the day. Either that or inject the "who could it be, this werewolf beast?" idea into every one's heads so that it makes an Agatha Christie novel look like a quick game of Guess Who.
Now it may seem the above is all negative, however "Red Riding Hood" is an enjoyable little movie and one that is far superior to the angst-heavy stories that plagued the first "Twilight" outings - the only lingering looks here are of "where were you during the full moon?" A tad long with a protracted ending, it still works, even if Hardwicke can't let the camera stay still for more than a second - watch out Tony Scott and Michael Bay!
UK release date: 15.04.11
Certificate: TBC

Saturday, 19 March 2011


To think, not that long ago, we world never had the genre of "gross-out comedy..." Then along came The Farrelly Brothers and decency went the way of the dodo!

The first warning should have been that the posters only show two of the writing/directing brothers work, and those were amongst their first foray into the world of "spit your Coke outta your mouth" funny. It's been 13 years and several films since they told us that "There's Something About Mary" and their latest venture has a premise so high that only a savvy traveller in Amsterdam could begin to accept it, let alone make them laugh.

The idea that to stop making your husband look at other women in the street is to let him off the leash for a week and hopefully get it out of his system is so ludicrous that at least it has the decency to cover this plot point in a very quick and uncomfortable manner as "woman of the year" friend tries to sell it to the two "put upon" wives. And there's the sore point of "Hall Pass" - the whole thing would have undoubtedly been so much funnier if we had the story from the wives side and not the husbands.

Applegate and Fischer, both TV actresses that have delivered comedy effortlessly, are believable and touching in their miss-guided efforts to keep their marriages afloat, or more accurately, keep the boredom at bay. The actual leads - Wilson and Sudeikis - are frankly dull and don't deserve the wives they've got. Wilson's typical delivery of "winging it" dialogue and "surfer-dude" attitude jars with a character that sells real estate, has 3 kids and a wife. It worked for his single guy in "The Wedding Crashers" but not here. Sudeikis, a "Saturday Night Live" persona , fails to liven up the big screen and despite being given all the sight gags, he cannot elevate above the "as* hole best friend" role.

The only decent gag appears during the end credit sequence and it goes to none other than our own Stephen Merchant, who in 3 minutes steals the entire film, not unlike his cameo in "Cemetery Junction."

UK release date: 11/03/11
Certificate: 15


"Coming of age" movies: they're either one of two categories - sweet or smutty... But rarely quirky.

Much will be made about screen writer/director Richard Ayoade's film debut - the bloke of the telly in comedies such as "Garth Marenghi's Darkplace" and "The IT Crowd." And quite rightly so. At no point do you think of it as tentative first step either behind or infront of the camera. It's that quietly confident. That or either you're too busy laughing to notice or care.

With the spot-on casting, we have Roberts (the mannerism's of Ayoade's Moss and the stare of Martin Freeman) as a boy who gets through life by day dreaming of a nation mourning his death during lessons, and taking to a "brief hat phase" that didn't quite work during dinner times. These are the weird, but none-the-less grounded uncertainties of a 15 year old boy and not some 20 year old man doing a "Dawson's Creek" or "One Tree Hill." And there lies the hook that reels you in - it's quirky, grounded believability has you warmed and laughing straight off the bat.

The genre's cliches are happily avoided - instead of the awkward "losing the virginity" sequence, we have the cringingly funny preparation for the night from a nervous Roberts and Paige's girlfriend reaction to it - "you're a serial killer!" There's even the under-used ploy of looking directly into the camera and at one stage, describing how the camera crew should be filming the main character with a crane shot.

The young courting couple don't solely have center stage however - the adults with their tale of possible infidelity are picture perfect. Considine as the mystic Lothario who has Hawkin's Mum-stuck-in-a-routine in his sights is somehow laughable yet lovable. And if you don't see even a smidgen of your own Mum when Hawkin's uncertainly hugs her son Roberts, then what kind of a childhood did you have then?!?

Funny in both smile and cringe fashion, it's a delight to watch with moments of sheer laugh-out-loud sequences. Just wait to you find out what "happened in the van..."

UK release date: 18/03/11
Certificate: 15

Sunday, 13 March 2011


It seems that Hollywood still hasn't finished with L.A. Or should that be trying to finish L.A.?

The city, along with New York, is always ripe for the taking and here we see, well, exactly what we've seen before really. Director Jonathan Liebesman has taken what the "Skyline" and "Monsters" trailers promised and didn't deliver and tried to please everyone that he can. However, in trying to do so, he ends up pleasing no one.

His mesh of so many well-trodden cliches becomes unengaging and wearily familiar - the jaded Marine who's getting out for good then the call-to-arms is issued (should have learnt from Danny Glover's Murtough!), the wet-behind-the-ears commander who's never seen battle and freezes when required to lead... there's even a grunt who's about to be married (but not an RAF pilot who has "one more flight" before the big day this time round luckily!) Heck, they even get to squeeze in the obligatory "Disaster Movie Dog."

Eckhart genuinely seems embarrassed by his dialogue but at least he doesn't get the "maybe I can help? I'm a veterinarian," line when it comes to figuring out how to kill the nasty aliens. And that line is NOT delivered tongue-in-cheek, which is part of the problem. All up on the screen is straight-laced and "Private Ryan"-like hand-held camera work to make it feel real and fact-based. But when you're mimicking the likes of "Independence Day" you should respect and serve up the cheese.

Coming across as the story that would have been if they did "Cloverfield" from the perspective of the military rather than the civilians, "Battle: L.A." is a prime example of a join-the-dots movie where no surprises delight in this predictable, effects-driven film. So average it's disappointing.

UK release date: 11/03/11
Certificate: 12A

Sunday, 6 March 2011


Philip K. Dick has been a source for film ideas for sometime now, and not all that successful. For every interpretation of "Do Androids Dream Of Electronic Sheep" ("Blade Runner") there's been a "Paycheck" (same title) and "The Golden Man" ("Next.")

Now his short "Adjustment Team" arrives and thankfully it sits comfortably in the same league as "Total Recall" and "Minority Report" - as in worthy of your attention. It won't have the staying power of those, but it will not be a waste of time or money.

This is down to several factors - the most important being chemistry and pacing. Damon and Blunt don't have alot of meaningful scenes together before the running and chasing begins, but when they do, it's believable and plausible . Their second chance interaction on a bus gives a perfect example of what the tabloids normally start buzzing about - onscreen chemistry - along the lines of Jolie and Pitt's genuine type seen in "Mr & Mrs Smith." These two falling in love is utterly charming and compelling, so much so that it helps you root for the out-manned couple throughout their adjustment ordeal.

Having seemed to have learnt from his writing stint on "Bourne" first time director Nolfi keeps the pace up constantly yet still manages to ramp it up for the door-dodging-dizziness of the final 20 minutes. Alot is left unexplained but briefly touched on enough to let you draw your own conclusions as to who or what the men in hats are who have Damon and Blunt's lives mapped out in shocking detail. There's talk of "the plan" belonging to "The Chairman" who goes by many names and that the Bureau men have been called angels, but no definitive answers are given. We are very much in the dark along with the couple.

Not exactly sci-fi, more romance-with-unexplainable obstacles, "The Adjustment Bureau" is a rare beast where you want the couple to be together because they deserve it, no matter what "the man" says.

UK release date: 04/03/11
Certificate: 12A