Saturday, 28 May 2011


It was once said by a director concerning sequels that "the audience want the same but something different" from their favourite movie follow-up.... This contradiction could explain why sequels are rarely a good thing.

Your enjoyment of the second bachelor night from hell will largely be dependant upon your love for the break-out 2009 comedy that introduced the world to "the wolf pack," tigers and jerking-off babies. If you loved it then this will be like having a second favourite child - you'll embrace it, you'll cheer it along but secretly you'll always have a special place in your heart for your first born.

The sequel plays out the original scenario literally scene for scene throughout and that should be a bad thing, or at least make it predictable and repetitive. Yet the strange thing is that, for the most part, it doesn't. It's like meeting an old friend you haven't seen in ages and finding out the subtle differences that have occurred. And warming to them.

The missing tooth is replaced by a tattoo; the prostitute is replaced by a kind-of prostitute (which gives one of the gross-out highlights of the movie) and the true ace card is the replacement of the baby with a drug-mule monkey. The lines of "I wish monkeys could Skype" and "they shot the monkey!" are comedy gold which makes up for the forced feeling of Ken Jeong's character being shoe-horned into the plot.

When they aren't playing out one of the "what we did but don't remember" gags, the set up for them does feel a tad tiring as you have sat and watched it before and it is those moments that make the sequel experience slightly jaded for the viewer - you're wanting the pay off for the next joke to arrive much sooner than before.

Overall, a good comedy and not the dud that you may have feared, it's a fun film that boasts one of the best entrances for a wedding ever.... speedboats rock!

UK release date: 27/05/11
Certificate: 15

Sunday, 22 May 2011


A new crew; a new course; the same Captain?

Like Indiana Jones, the character of Jack Sparrow ("there should be a Captain in there somewhere...") is a beloved thing, with the pulling power to get bums on seats no matter how good or bad the film is. Both experienced a negative response to their last outings, so for Jack at least, his return sees a new director at the helm in order to steer them away from the rocks that Dead Man's Chest and At World's End came a cropper on.

Unfortunately, the screenwriters weren't either replaced or clapped in irons until they saw the error of their ways and were made to take the pirate oath that they'd return to the excellence that was The Curse Of The Black Pearl.

Again, we are given the remarkable feat of taking a simple storyline - a race to the Fountain Of Youth - and over stuffing it with throwaway characters and superfluous scenes. The chase sees 4 groups engaged, with one of them - the Spanish - being totally irrelevant to the proceedings: they open the movie then disappear until the end where all they do is look un-menacing then disappear again. The other 3 - Depp's still delightful Sparrow who teeters on the verge of becoming a caricature now; Rush's Barbossa who has become increasingly underused; and McShane's Blackbeard who is never given time to be a good villain - meet with varying degrees of creating laughs, excitement and being relevant to the story.

One of the most unlikely shocks whilst watching it is that Knightley and Bloom are sorely missed. The dialogue was cheesy but their love was true and it was their grounded-ness that made the interactions with Depp's rum-soaked, girl-running hero all the more enjoyable. Their replacements - a Clergyman and a mermaid - are as entertaining and needed as a sober Sparrow.

It has spectacle - the London carriage chase; the mermaid attack - but to get to them you have to endure an over-stuffed screenplay that begins to suck the possible enjoyment out of the movie. When you walk away struggling to think of a good Jack Sparrow line, you know you're in dangerous waters. There is by the way ("Captain, I wish to report a mutiny. I can name fingers and point names.") but not enough to stop you thinking you've been made to walk the plank yet again.

UK release date: 20/05/11
Certificate: 12A

Sunday, 15 May 2011


Never let it be said that the UK is always second fiddle to the US... Just because Hollywood says that their cities are the only ones worth invading, doesn't mean that the invading alien hordes have heard of this or agree with them!

Admittedly, Cornish's debut appears to be a one trick pony - South London hoodies vs aliens in a turf war that only The News Of The World would bother to report on - but it turns out to be less shallow than that.

Here, the balance is eventually redressed of recent Brit/European flicks that have depicted "youths" as horror-inducing, terror-inflicting, bad-grammared individuals. Cornish introduces the anti-heroes as just that - a group that mug a defenseless single woman who unknown to them lives in their own block - but through the events of one night, they show solidarity, inventiveness and courage... albeit with a lot of cussing!

For those of you who are easily swayed by taglines such as "From the producers of..." it is you who will probably be more disappointed than anyone else. This is not another Shaun Of The Dead or Hot Fuzz so don't expect an out-and-out comedy. Although it is in the same league as them, Attack The Block is more an action adventure flick with great comedy rather than the other way round. It's more in the ilk of a film from the likes of John Carpenter than Edgar Wright.

Everything is kept simple which helps the movie to keep its one-trick pony premise charming - the effects of the aliens are simplistically effective, the characters aren't over-drawn and the touches that appeal to British audiences are littered everywhere: you'll want to dig out that Go-Go Pizza menu and ask them to deliver to you asap. Believe it.

UK release date: 11.05.11
Certificate: 15

Saturday, 7 May 2011


Stepping out of your comfort zone can reap rewards if you handle the new material - Spielberg's Schindler's List, Fincher's The Social Network, Kershner's The Empire Strikes Back...

So now Wright (Pride & Prejudice, Atonement) tries his hand at thriller/action/spy/coming of age... and boy does he get it right! Even with all those genre's in one movie!

Throughout its running time, Hanna shows its dedication to every aspect up on the screen: from the pacing (constantly moving but not at a speed that loses or confuses the audience), its cinematography (the barren snow-covered vistas at the beginning, the over-crowded, bright sights and sounds of Morocco) through to its characterisation and the subsequent performances that shine from that. The show obviously goes to Ronan who amazingly conjours up a cross between Leon, his protege Mathilda, Kick Ass's Hit Girl and Jason Bourne - all in the small-framed 16 year old girl, who, living in a forest all her life, knows everything but has never experienced or felt anything.

Her journey into the world to trace and kill Blanchett's CIA baddie allows the coming-of-age arc to evolve as Ronan's Hanna experiences such things as music, friendship and, humorously, a boys (unwise) advances... Whether it be amazed at electricity or fighting for her life against neo-Nazi cronies, Ronan nails it everytime. Her adult counterparts are not allowed to leave it all up to her however: Blanchett's delightful Texan drawl is just plain evil whilst Bana's (admittedly under-used) strong, silent type father gets am arm rest-clutching fight sequence in a Berlin subway that is done all in one magnificent camera shot.

And that's where the surprises that catch you off guard come from. Wright brings glimpses of arthouse to action - the confrontation in the storage container facility is one of the most exciting set pieces since Damon's Bourne showed how to run and fight with a rooftop and a towel - and then he delivers a touching "under the blanket" conversation full of off-kilter, unframed close-up's of Hanna trying to understand and nearly mis-reading friendship with an opinionated English girl. And then his choice for music literally seals the deal! Like Daft Punk's score for Tron: Legacy heightened the viewing experience, here, The Chemical Brothers set your pulse racing alongside Hanna's during the set pieces.

An exhilarating delight for the eye and the mind, Wright has truly stepped out of his comfort zone and delivered one of the most smartest and engaging films in recent memory - from the relentless escape from the CIA facility to the abandoned theme park finale, Hanna is a must see.

UK release date: 06.05.11
Certificate: 12A

Wednesday, 4 May 2011


In the entertainment industry, you're only as good as your last effort, be it album, game or movie. So, after the double-edged sword creation of Saw - great beginning, unnecessary franchise - its creators return with another stab at scaring audiences out of their seats.

And to cut to the chase, at certain points in its relatively short running time, they succeed. However, the team of director Wan and writer Whannell have painted themselves into a corner by, depending on your own view, either homaging or desecrating a known classic. So, if you're going to invite comparisons with Poltergeist then you had better make sure that you've upped your game in order to add to its near-perfect mix of scares created by both effects and suspense. They, unfortunately, don't.

A drawn-out beginning tries to help you connect with the family that will eventually be put through the wringer in order for you to care about them, but it's time not dedicated to characterisation. The result leaves them two dimensional and uncared for which, when the sh*t hits the fan, creates no emotional investment from the audience on whether they survive or not. This, linked with unmemorable dialogue and throw-away children lessens any possible feelings of anxiety or danger.

Having said that, there are a few good jumps to be had - all of them being simple "appears in shot out of nowhere" scares rather than the questionable "effects-created" ones. Those though, are few and far between.

Its biggest crime however is showing "the other side." Hooper and Spielberg knew to leave it to the imaginations of the audience to fill in the blanks in Poltergeist... if only the same could be said of Insidious. It just looks like Darth Maul on a good day visiting a set from Saw via a dream sequence from Nightmare On Elm Street - and trust me, it's not as interesting or great as it sounds!

UK release date: 29.04.11
Certificate: 15

Tuesday, 3 May 2011


We may mock Hollywood all we want for it's sometimes all-too-predictable output of bombastic noise, OTT set pieces and non-existent coherent plot-lined movies, but the US does produce those small under-the-radar type of movies where, like light at the end of a tunnel, hope shines through.

Cedar Rapids is almost one of those movies.

Ed Helms, will be for most people, instantly recognisable as the "guy who loses a tooth in The Hangover." This is a shame, especially for the ones who will always know him as Andy Bernard, the likable goof from the American version of The Office. It is there that Helms has honed the guy-to-root-for persona down to a tee. And it is with this low budget, warm hearted comedy that the "they could have been twins" character of Insurance salesman Tim Lippy takes his first flight in a plane and stays in his first hotel at an award-giving conference and ultimately broadens his horizons and becomes a man.... in many ways.

After the slew of brash, shock-jock comedies of late, Cedar Rapids, not unlike its hero, is an honest to goodness, sweet, simple comedy, where the jokes are pure: not forced, not rough, and in some cases, ridiculously funny. Watching Whitlock Jr do a faultless impression of TVs The Wire hard-nosed character will delight especially since Whitlock Jr IS the actor that plays said role in the programme!

The cast give it their all and bring home the bacon with their respective roles - Reilly as the loud-mouthed player gets to do drunk but doesn't have all the lines and laughs to himself. Heche as the runs-with-the-boys woman who has a secret is the perfect love interest, and indeed, it is her storyline that puts you in mind of a similar plot line, except though Up In The Air wasn't done purely for laughs.

With its unusual meshing of Jerry Maguire meets Up In The Air through the eyes of The Office, Cedar Rapids is a pleasant comedy that even has a tart with a heart of gold - yep, it's that kind of adorable movie.

UK release date: 29.04.11
Certificate: 15