Monday, 25 April 2011


Marvel Studios have been methodically making their way towards a "Every Summer Box Office Domination", especially since they got into bed with Disney.

Their juggernaut now faces another barrier with the release of what was considered one of their "harder sells" to a public that have recently lapped up the grounded-in-reality exploits of Christopher Nolan's Batman saga... a Norse God of Thunder. And directed by The Bard Man himself... What could possibly go wrong?

In a word, nothing! Literally, despite all the factors stacked up against it, THOR is a perfect Blockbuster and yet another solid foundation block for Marvel to build their inter-connected saga's upon. Just like the unlikely pairing of a washed-up actor (Downey Jr.) and a kids movie director (Favreau) created the deserved surprise hit of Iron Man, director Kenneth Branagh (best know for his Shakespeare affiliations such as Henry V, Much Ado About Nothing) tries his hand at action and adventure whilst tackling the subject of a mythological God when modern audiences are queuing up to see "more realistic" heroes.

By going all out for it, Branagh melds different worlds to a point where a cut between the humoures exploits taking place on Earth doesn't jar with the serious implications occurring on Asgard - which is no mean feat. He balances the "fish out of water" Thor banished to Earth - smashing coffee cups and demanding more as if he were in the halls of Valhalla drinking beer - with the Shakespearean quarrelling brothers fighting for their father's favour. And none of it feels forced or out of place.

Pine, Portman, Hopkins and Hiddleston play it straight, letting the written dialogue deliver the jokes (of which there are plenty) rather than hamming it up for laughs, and Branagh in turn tilts his camera as much as possible to subtly remind us of its comic-book origins (if it ain't between 30 to 45 degrees to evoke the idea of comic story boards, then the camera isn't placed correctly!) Whether it's an in-yer-face opening sequence where Thor and his buddies take on the Frost Giants (graphically gripping) or where Portman and her human buddies reflect upon Thor's quirks (smirk-inducing), it gives hope for the rest of the entries from the Marvel cannon to come before they launch The Avengers next year.

And this time, do NOT leave your seat until the end credits have finished, you'll thank me for it.

UK release date: 27.04.11
Certificate: 12A


Of late, director Luc Besson has been noticeably absent from camera duties, with his name instead appearing in a "screenplay by" or "story by" category.

Well, the man that gave us the likes of "Leon," "Nikta," and "The Big Blue" is back and it is right to give him thanks and praise...

Based on a graphic novel, Besson delivers a story that only European cinema can seem to tell to its audience - a young, head-strong female reporter travels the globe to find a cure for her comatose sister whilst Paris, and her search, are inexplicably linked to the appearance of a pterodactyl high above the early 1900's city. Try watching Hollywood do that kind of story (actually, hopefully they won't!)...

For those of you have loved his films, you may find yourself wondering where Besson has stamped his mark on the film because it feels nothing like his previous body of work. This wonderfully kooky, surreal and insanely funny film talks, walks and looks more like it came from Jean-Pierre Jeunet and Marc Caro - the two behind "The City Of Lost Children," "Amelie," and "Micmacs." Either way, you get to sit back and watch delights that swing between clever homages - Adele running through a corridor in a pyramid being chased by fire rather than a large rolling boulder takes Lara Croft's crown of female Indiana Jones away - to a sequence where the true nature of delegation is shown through the medium of phone calls from the President all the way down to the put-upon Inspector given the task of resolving the case. They even have their own version of "Raiders Of The Lost Ark's" Herr Flick!

Swinging from genre to genre, and high-brow to slap-stick, Besson and his cast go from a Peter Sellers-type attempt at a prison break straight to a botched execution I promise you you wouldn't have seen coming! You then get nods to Tintin's The Thompson Twins bumbling detectives and a sequence involving the best sheep disguises ever committed to celluloid - yep, this is an old-fashioned screwball comedy heavily laced with adventure and helped along with decent CGI to create a smile-inducing time. Even if you don't think you do subtitles, do it!

And don't leave your seat when the end credits start to roll - you'll be missing out if you do!

UK release date: 22.04.11
Certificate: 12A

Sunday, 17 April 2011


In a decade where remakes, re-imagining and re-hashes are the norm, isn't a pleasant change when homages, or, if done very badly, rip-offs, are presented to the popcorn pundits? Well, that isn't always strictly true...

As time invariably marches on, audiences tolerances towards such things as vulgarity, violence and nudity have become more casual and dare we say, more demanding. An imitation nowadays needs to up-the-ante to even compete in the multiplex's busy schedule to stand a chance and register on the cinema visitors radar.

This "modernising up" technically should work, unless you forget what made your inspiration so special in the first place that is... Regardless of the various films you can name during it's running time, "Your Highness" owes alot to the cult classic "The Princess Bride" - a charming, delightfully ridiculous and straight-laced but tongue-in-cheek fairy tale movie. Writer, producer and star McBride puts the modern elements into play - in-yer-face violence (stabbing in the heart is bloodily visible), degrees of nudity (Portman's - or her bum doubles - buttocks are engagingly visible), state of the art CGI and a slew of f*ck's, sh*t's and other words are peppered throughout but all these overpower the simplicity of the story and engulf it in a sea of OTT and a sense of over-forced humour. At times it feels like the kid you knew back at school who was OK but always tried too hard to be liked by everyone.*

At parts crude-ishly funny and just plain silly, "Your Highness" should have worked but invariably its sum parts do not add up to a good, let alone perfect, whole. A classic this won't be "as you wish" it would have been... Shame.

UK release date: 13.04.11
Certificate: 15

* Don't even think of saying me!

Friday, 15 April 2011


So the tagline says that it's a new decade and therefore it's new rules... does that mean that it will break with the rule of diminishing returns for sequels then?...

It was 15 years ago that one of the brightest-but-then-fading lights in the horror genre came back for one final "stab" (sorry, pun intended) at rejuvenating not only his career but the genre that had been done to death so much so that laughs were more on the menu for audiences than screams.

Now, original director Craven and scribe Williamson have reunited to breath life into the franchise that unfortunately opened the gates for the likes of "Saw." This time though, the patient hasn't made it to the ER in time - it's a flat-liner.

What doesn't help the film is that "Scream 2" did already what they've tried to do here - both knowingly say they are sequels and give a large nod to the rules and twists that every other horror sequel feels they have to adhere to. There's even a group of avid horror movie teens discussing the new rules in a classroom, but the ironic value and fresh feeling of this was all dished up back in the second installment, with alot more humour to boot. It feels kinda like you can't teach an old dog new tricks, so just give them new corpses instead.

Now don't go thinking that "Scre4m" is a total waste of time - it does have some genuine delightful moments thanks to Williamson's script - only gay people can survive horror films now as everyone from virgins to main characters are expendable - but the actual scares are few and far between. It's a worrying thing when the biggest audience jumper is a close-call car accident.

As Ghostface says to Campbell's character, "Sydney, you're only good at one thing...surviving," you do wonder whether, by the time the 3 false endings have finally given way to the end credits, that she wasn't so good at it. As they say in the ER, "time of death... 15 years ago."

UK release date: 15.04.11
Certificate: 15

Sunday, 10 April 2011

"WHAT ARE YOU?..." "I'M...."

"Life is like a box of chocolates..." "Quite frankly my dear, I don't give a damn." "Don't you just hate those uncomfortable silences?" "Get away from her you bitch!"

The art that is movie can either reflect, harmonise or too some, plagiarise their lives. Like a song at the right time during your life, the lyrics can speak volumes and feel like that they're aimed directly at you. And so with the wonder that is in the celluloid form. A film can either transport you away from the mundane or the situation that you feel incapable of dealing with in your life at that moment, or it can remind you of what you were and all that you thought you could be when you saw it.

So, as a fun challenge, what explains you? What film summarises you? What character or actor is best suited to match the legacy that is your life? What is the soundtrack to your "up's and down's?" And what is your favorite movie scene and....why??? If you feel like throwing out there, list the answers to the following questions and see what others make of it.

I will go first to get the ball rolling and let you all try and decipher what it all means and then read with a raised eyebrow the replies...

"Die Hard." I feel constantly like I'm the wrong guy in the wrong place at the right time. The odds are against me (12 -1) but I seem to be stupid enough to ignore those odds and carry on regardless.

John Cusack. The king of misunderstood. He tries to do his best but screws it up royally. See "Say Anything" "High Fidelity" and "The Sure Thing" as prime examples...

"The Promise" - Michael Nyman/The Piano, "The Raiders March" - John Williams/Raiders Of The Lost Ark.
It's a toss up between the two as Nyman's wonderful tune has always helped me to relax, clear my mind and focus on what needs to be done while evoking stirring images within and Williams' who never fails to nail it on the head - everytime anyone hears the Indiana Jones tune they just wanna step up and be the reluctant hero. That's me - everytime!

This is a hard one because can one movie scene explain yourself away? And what particular scene as it could depend on the mood you're in... So, it would have to be for me the scene that cemented my love for the beautiful mystery that is the Great White Shark... Roy Schiender stops shovelling the "shit" that is chump, lets his cigarette hang from his lips and informs Robert Shaw whilst backing away from the stern of the Orca, that he and all concerned aboard are "gonna need a bigger boat.." A genius understatement and a profound one at that!

Dare you think about your replies and post them? All interpretations on mine are welcome - kinda!

Thursday, 7 April 2011


So, yes, I know we're 4 months into the year already...

But, the various film studios are already gearing up to release their big guns from this month onwards to dominate not only the Summer season but also the awards season with their releases from October, so, how about a flash forward for you to plan ahead each month and either book the baby-sitter, cancel the stag/hen do, re-arrange that reunion, record that football match rather than watch it live or.... insert the relevant scenario here!

The following will pick each of the coming months and highlight some of the movies that hope to score big-time with your attention and your pocket money... so the list is there, all you have to do is choose what out of them gets your vote for your popcorn-consuming calender...


Our own Ken Brannagh drops "the bard" in favour for "brawn" as he directs the father of Captain Kirk in the role of the God Of Thunder in the latest addition of Marvel's cannon to take over the world of superhero movies. Will it work to fit into the upcoming "bring-it-all-together-for-the-ultimate-movie" Joss Whedon's "The Avengers".....


So, if you've ever needed proof that a studio will never ever let a franchise die if there's the hope of squeezing anymore money out of it - "The Godfather Part III" "Scream 4" all the "Saw" sequels... - then be upstanding for Jack Sparrow.... sorry, there should be a Captain in there somewhere!


"Stardust" and "Kick Ass" go extra geeky with director Matthew Vaughn and writer Jane Goldman setting their sights on the reasons why Prof. Xavier became bald and why Magneto became bitter... Just don't expect the "C" word here!


Seriously, do I need to say anything? The end of the world's biggest ever franchise bows its head with one of the ultimate "good vs evil" battles ever staged...But enough about ginger guys trying to score with intellectual babes, here we have Harry going up against Voldermort for the final time!


The man who "can do no wrong" J.J. Abrams, gets behind the camera inbetween his fantastic "Star Trek" rebooting and melds "Cloverfield" "Aliens" "E.T." and every great 80's movie that makes you wanna relive your childhood and be Steven Spielberg....


Yep, you read that right - they've remade the classic Alec Guinness TV series with Gary Oldman trying not to eat the scenery and any other actors nearby. And if that wasn't enough he's joined by Ralph Fiennes! No trailer yet so here's the original to wet your whistle-blower.... Scrap that, here's the trailer!


After far too long, one of the greatest sci-fi horror's of all time gets a prequel that lets us know exactly what happened before Outpost 31 got torn apart by a shape-shifting entity buried for eons in the ice... Big things (pun intended) are expected! Till the trailer arrives, watch the classic... Scrap that, here's the new trailer in all its glory!


Spielberg & Jackson: together! At last! With 3 movies planned and each taking turns at directing and producing (this time it's Spielberg behind the camera with Jackson producing) the world will be introduced again (except for the US who've never heard of the reporter) to Tintin and his heroic dog, Snowy. And all in stunning motion capture 3D!


And so the end of the year sees another film franchise entry appear - Tom Cruise's one man army continues to roll onwards. The saga has now gone the way that Harry Potter did with each new film have a new director. This time it's The Incredibles Brad Bird to accept the mission...

So, for the time being, just know that for each film I've listed above, it will be up against at least another ten minimum in that particular month. There's a host of other note-worthy flicks but rest assured, when I can they will be here for you to peruse.

What are you looking forward to then?

Friday, 1 April 2011


You can tell that Summer is now on its way as the action blockbusters start to rear their heads and make their appearances. Get ready for one of the more unusual ones....

Jones, whose first movie was the brilliant "Moon" has increased his cast, his pace and his budget and has delivered a movie that combines two of the most unlikely film premises of "The Terminator" and "Groundhog Day" into a short, sweet, tight and terrific action thriller.

Unafraid to demand more from his viewers, Jones throws the audience straight into the story of Gyllenhaal's soldier who is continuously transported back into the body of a passenger on a train that is due to be blown up by a bomb. Each time he has 8 minutes to discover the identity of the bomber before he is thrown back into a military "container" where he has to report back his progress - or lack of it - to Farmiga's human face of the military. As he tries to achieve his mission objective, Gyllenghaal begins to question what is happening to him and starts to warm to Monaghan's love interest passenger.

With a relatively short running time of 93 minutes, the jump back ala "Groundhog Day" doesn't run the risk of repetitiveness with only 9 very different and forward plot-moving jumps displayed on the screen. The "who dunnit" aspect of the story can be resolved quite easily during the first few jump backs if you keep keep your eyes open, but that doesn't stop them throwing as many red herrings as possible to help keep the suspense up throughout.

A well-thought out plot with action and thriller aspects expertly woven in, "Source Code" is a rare treat for those who see it - an engaging blockbuster that doesn't dumb down to it's audience and visually surprises you with each segment. See it. Then go and argue the ending with your friends just like you did with "The Terminator"!

UK release date: 01.04.11

Certificate: 12A