Wednesday, 29 June 2011


It must be summer! Because the multiplexes are showing popcorn-munching, belief-suspending movies and one of the best deliverers of that is Michael Bay...

Transformers: the franchise has been subject to that all too common slope of diminishing returns, with the 2nd venture being universally panned. Word was that the team had taken on board the comments and purposefully set out to make a more satisfying outing this time round. And they nearly pull it off... nearly.

Everything is accounted for upon the screen - humour, guns, machines, sex, combat, transformations, double-crosses... so much so that it can feel like its an elaborate "colour-by-numbers" production when the final act comes clunking around.

The, ahem, plot and absence's from Revenge Of the Fallen, are quickly put aside in less than 2 lines of dialogue - Megan Fox dumped Shia's everyday hero so lets move on shall we? - and the much less convoluted plot rattles out at break-neck speed. Previous characters are shoe-horned into the proceedings (the parents are pointless, the army guys are superfluous, and Turturro, although fun, neither helps nor drives the story) whereas new additions - Malkovich and especially Tudyk - lighten up the screen with their presence.

The main problem with Dark Of The Moon is the feeling that it's 30 minutes too long. By the time the grand finale battle through the war-torn streets of Chicago (bloody impressive though it may be) arrives, you've got the seriousness of the predicament an hour ago but wonder why it can't it be solved that much quicker? After all the homages/rip-offs - Return Of The Jedi; Revenge Of The Sith; Secret Of My Success; War Of The Worlds; True Lies; MI:III; tv's The Event - you kinda wish for more Tudyk ("It's in Russian! It's like all the buttons you never push on a calculator!") and less of whiny Shia and Fox-wannabe Huntington-Whiteley.

The kids will love it, others may not.

UK release date: 29.06.11
Certificate: 12A

Tuesday, 28 June 2011


It's been pushed out there and touted as a female version of The Hangover - a comedy to show that girls can have as much fun as guys.

And to an extent, it does this. However, this is full of females and, therefore, the special bond between friends is more Beaches than Bachelor Party. Now, as the trailer contests, it has scenes of gross-out humour that are more than enough to make you put your hand over your mouth and gasp out loud at them. The food poisoning scene during the dress fitting is truly up there but not for the illegal use of the shop's bathroom sink ("don't look at me!") but for the simple yet beautiful delivery of "I sh*t in the middle of the street..."

If you go in expecting a slew of this kind of humour then you will be disappointed. Bridesmaids is more in the vein of the buddy movies where the two best friends have some event that threatens to tear them apart - Superbad, Harold & Kumar - that they must overcome, but only at the end of alot of shenanigans until the movies end credits roll.

What it does have going for it is its various types of laughter. Gross has already been mentioned but just as good, if not funnier, is its cringe type - engagement party speeches where the rival friends won't give up the mic to the other - and, since the success of The Hangover it would seem, the now obligatory "large" friend who's honesty causes embarrassed laughter. The female version of Alan gets all the sexual jokes, the best being during the end credits so don't leave your seat straight away.

More buddy-chick-flick than gross-out, it actually is all the better for it. The love aspect is sweet but eyebrow raising - Irish comedian O'Dowd is charming but him being a cop is never really explained nor mined enough for more laughs - and the ensemble, if slightly under developed in some cases, at least bring a range of different gags to the table.

A decent comedy that surprisingly doesn't have the lads in it. Roll on the revolution!

UK release date: 22.06.11
Certificate: 15

Friday, 17 June 2011


The war between rivals rages on; Marvel with their grand scheme culminating in The Avengers where all their recent heroes unite, and DC Comics who have fallen by the wayside of late...

But wait. Look up in the sky, is it a bird? Is it a plane? Nah, sorry, that's the wrong DC hero, it's Green Lantern. And he's leading the charge against the likes of Thor.

Green Lantern was always going to be a hard sell, not unlike the recent Thor. You see both have proper superheroes with alien races as a backdrop/history, as opposed to the more human-esque exploits/beginnings of Batman and Ironman. Thor got by on the charm of its lead and the humour of the fish out of water/God out of his realm scenario, and Green Lantern doesn't have both to the extent for it to fully surprise and land a home run with the audience.

What it does have, and in abundance I might add, is the mighty Ryan Reynolds, with his charm offensive cranked up all the way to 11. When on screen as everyday fighter pilot (?) Hal Jordan, he gets to show the talent that kept the likes of Blade Trinity watchable, and also when he's being put through his paces the hard way in the wielding of the ring. When he leaves the story and the likes of Robbins or Sarsgaard step up to drive the villain plot-line, that's when the film loses its main factor - fun.

Even though his character seems to learn a heck of alot without having many lessons and takes on a force that no Lantern has ever been able to defeat, let alone single-handedly, to save the day, it's his cocky delivery of lines mixed with the odd display of vulnerability that smooths over plot-holes and a planet-devouring threat that looks like a cross between The Mekon (younger kids, look it up) and The Elephant Man.

Overall, a solid entry into the superhero stable, it suffers from the bar being raised to such entertaining heights from other stabs at the genre, that the dips and lows during its short running time become that much more noticeable. If it gets a second outing, fingers crossed the baddie is worthy of the Green Lantern's light.

UK release date: 17.06.11
Certificate: 12A


So, the countdown to the end of one of history's biggest phenomenon begins in earnest... pretty soon the world will see what will happen to "the boy who lived," as he faces up to "he who must not be named."

Across the world, people will be rev
isiting the films that since 2001 have chronicled the exploits and dangerous adventures of one Harry Potter - the boy who turned o
ut to be not a muggle after all, but a wizard whose name is known by all in the wizarding world.

Whether it be in the comfort of their own homes, or in the exc
ited atmosphere of a packed cinema, audiences around the world will watch the 7 existing movies as they play back-to-back to pay tribute to a true cinematic marvel as it takes its final bow.

On Saturday 18th June, from 11:30 pm, I will be one of those people, as I sit down to watch the penultimate 3 Harry Potter films shown back-to-back at London's Waterloo IMAX cinema with all of them being shown in IMAX DMR format. The followin
g will be a blog of the night that is scheduled to finish at 9:00am the following morning... tiredness permitting!

It's 10:40pm and am walking through the rain towards Waterloo. Out of nowhere, a yawn attack has sprung itself upon me - this does not bode well...

11:00pm - arrive at the IMAX theatre to find people already there and a few surprising statistics as well... the audience consists of approx. 70% female, with most of them in groups of 4+ and between the ages of 14 to 30.

The auditorium itself is pretty much a
sell out with what looks like only a large handful of seats not filled.

FILM ONE: Harry Potter And The Order Of The Phoenix (2007)
Start time: 11:50pm on Saturday.
There's cheering and applause to welcome the fifth film of the franchise onto the screen from the audience as Harry, Hermione and Ron recruit pupils to their practical Defense Against The Dark Arts class to be ready against the returned Voldermort and the delightfully evil Delores Umbridge.
The IMAX print along with the stunning 3D finale battle that takes place in The Ministry Of Magic is more than enough to keep the audience alert and happy.
Finish time: 02:05am on Sunday.

FILM TWO: Harry Potter And The Half-Blood Prince (2009)
Start time: 02:45am on Sunday.
The surprisingly "one-of-the-better" films despite being the lesser-liked books, Prince comes across as an extended episode of HollyOaks with wands. All teenage angst and hormones make for a consistently funny film as Ron and Hermione step closer and closer to that inevitable kiss. The death of Dumbledore makes its mark with the staff and pupils all raising their wands to dispel the DeathEaters mark above the rooftops of Hogwarts.
Finish time: 05:15am on Sunday.

FILM THREE: Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows: Part 1 (2010)
Start time: 05:50am on Sunday.
The necessary one so that we can have the
visual treats of the battle of Hogwarts and the final confrontation between Harry and Voldermort in Hallows: Part 2. Not as slow-going as you might remember it first time round, it does take its time but this actually allows some welcome characterisation for the three main leads so that you can invest in them before all hell breaks lose.
Finish time: 08:15am on Sunday.

All-in-all, a great way to get ready for what really will be the end of an era when Deathly Hallows: Part 2 gets released very soon. Watching them back-to-back, especially in the IMAX format, reminds you of why this has become the biggest franchise in movie history, superseding the likes of James Bond. Watching them grow up over the last ten years has been a privilege, especially since, thank God, their acting improved by leaps-and-bounds for them to share the screen with all the best adult UK actors that took part over the years rather than embarrass themselves.

An example of the mainly female audience who Harry'd themselves up for the occasion.

Certificate: 12A
Available on Bluray and DVD now.

Tuesday, 7 June 2011


For those of you who remember Leslie Nielson and "that gag" in The Naked Gun, this is most definitely not that kind of movie. You may find yourself being stuffed, but not in that way...

If any actor is lucky (or not dependant on the circumstances), they may get the chance to play a role that seems destined for only them to play. Now it would seem that Gibson gets his chance, but it's not the socially acceptable role that Clooney had in Up In The Air.

Here, the once-guaranteed-box-office-cert, plays a man at the end of his tether and seemingly unable to get back on his feet no matter what he tries until the introduction of a puppet that puts a buffer between him and the rest of the world. The film itself may be that buffer as it brings back Gibson the actor rather than Gibson the tabloid head-liner.

Foster, who both stars and directs, takes a more serious approach on the subject matter than the trailer would imply upon viewing. What looks like, and indeed feels like in it's first half, as a light-hearted man's re-discovery and love story, takes you by the hand, leads you to a comedy chair, then pulls it away from you just as you try to sit in it.

You see, Foster never moves away from the fact that Gibson's character suffers from depression and lets the seriousness of that fact dictate the second half of the movie. The music, along with the absurdity of the situation - there's a threesome involving him, her and the puppet for instance - feels like something that would have come from the mind of Jean-Pierre Jeunet. It has a distinctly European quirky feel to it, only to sucker punch you then with an awkward shouldn't-be-laughing reality check.

Brave, and note-worthy, this could have been a vehicle for the likes of Jim Carrey back in the early 90's with slapstick aplenty, but here it's an interesting, if slightly melancholy, movie that reminds you of how good both stars, whether in the goods books or bad, are confidently capable in their day jobs.

UK release date: 17.06.11
Certificate: 12A

Friday, 3 June 2011


It seems, Summer = Sequels. Which can mean Summer = disappointment. Will the return of the panda that pulverises be a bland bowl of noodles or a fistful of chop soki?

Thankfully, the first outing was a force to rival the always excellent output from legendary Pixar and here, once again, DreamWorks seems to have "beared" (pun intended) this in mind and gone all out on breaking the rule of diminishing returns.

Visually, Panda 2 is an outstanding achievement, which, in a world where audiences now take CGI for granted, is saying something. Colours; motion; landscapes; set-pieces; all are delivered in a grand style where there is not a dud moment up on the screen. Even flashbacks are presented in their own unique way - Po's memories of his parents are stylised in traditional animation which beautifully co-exists with the modern CG work to heighten the relevance in the story arc and the villain's memory of his shameful outcasting is done like a traditional puppet play complete with characters on sticks. Add to that a chase sequence with a rickshaw that looks like it could have come from Temple Of Doom and you have it all!

Now, visuals alone do not make a movie and here we have two stories inter-woven and both are engaging. Oldman's peacock that wants to rule China with his "firework weapon" is the stronger, whilst the origins of why a panda was raised by a goose, feels slightly dragged out where only the youngest audience members won't immediately see the connection but everyone else will straight away.

The voice cast rise to the challenge and, even if some aren't given alot of spotlight this time round - Jackie Chan, David Cross - all have a great time and get some great moments. The hero shouting his speech to the villain and his army but mis-calculating the distance between them so he can't be heard, is genius and you'll wonder why no one has thought of it before.

The kids in the audience were laughing out loud throughout, and so was this big kid!

UK release date: 10/06/11
Certificate: U

Thursday, 2 June 2011


After alot of speculation and uncertainty from the loyal and large fanbase that graphic novel/comic books tend to generate, the Brit-influenced version of the cult X-Men mutates onto the silver screen...

Backed by the original first two films director, Bryan Singer,Vaughn, who gave us Stardust and Kick-Ass, returns to the franchise he was set to direct (the poor X-Men: Last Stand) for a beginnings story.

Along with his screen-writer once again (Jane Goldman), he delivers the "how and why" behind Professor X and Magneto in a flurry of locations, set-pieces and "aimed-at-diehard-fan" in-jokes.

This becomes the films double-edged sword that will either shine or slay for the individual watching it. Vaughn and Goldman's recent work has seen a rare commodity - a kind of improvised, human heart feel to the characters and their interaction with each other - that, without you realising it, grabs ahold of you and doesn't let go until the end credits roll. Here, with First Class, that feeling is fleeting rather than constant.

This may be because there is alot of history that they felt, or were pressured into, depicting upon the screen from the comics and the films that have been released. An origin story is a thankless task - ask George Lucas - but some can overcome - J.J. Abrahms' Star Trek - and First Class sits somewhere inbetween. Maybe the wondrous nature of the pairs' previous efforts leaves a tough act to follow, but this feels at times kind of clinical and somewhat detached from a warmth and a glow that would have helped no end.

Now, do not mis-understand - there is plenty of pulse-racing set pieces and anticipation as you watch who will side with who, but the laughs and tension-relieving sequences are somewhat few-and-far-between. When they do appear though, they are sublime and feel like what you would expect from the director and the writer - the 60's split-screen search for mutants montage; the young mutants shyly and boldly showing off their powers; and this years best cameo involving probably the best use of the "F***" word for 2011 - but they stick out whereas they should have blended in more. The massive location-hopping aspect of the movie and break-neck pace puts a clamp on audience engagement to a degree but, just like Burton's Batman, the most memorable, and deservedly so, character is the villain - Fassbender's Magneto/Eric. Deliciously wanna-be evil and sexy to boot, he leads the way in the sexy 60's vision of the film. If you don't end up wishing for the mini-skirt and long boots after seeing this, you're mutated beyond all hope.

Long live the next X-Men movie and may it be Brit-isied without compromise!

UK release date: 01.06.11
Certificate: 12A


Wednesday, 1 June 2011


UK Statham has carved out a niche for himself as an action hero to rival the likes of the US big boys that try and delight and daredevil audiences every Summer....

The question here is, without his sharp suits, fast cars and glamouress locations from the likes of his The Transporter franchise and The Expendables, can "the Stath" still stand up, be counted and deliver?

In a word, plain and simply, no. There are certain stars/actors that you know what you're getting when you go to see them, even if you haven't seen a trailer for their latest offering: Pacino shouting, DeNiro pouting, Willis balding and Statham doing a Jean Claude Van-Damme with a rough-as-nails British accent. But you have to have something else to take your mind off of the same performance otherwise you're interest will begin to wan, if not crumble mercilessly.

It's always great to see the country you're from up on the big screen - 28 Days Later, Notting Hill etc - especially when most movies nowadays will depict views of Americana. But here London is shown in the same light as the film's respect for it's storyline, characterisation and dialogue - scant regard for anything apart from the excuse for unnecessary violence and grunting instead of coherent and plot-driving dialogue.

Now before you start, I know that these sort of films aren't made for the awards season, but as viewers we none-the-less expect meat-with-our-potatoes and when you're served up limp lettuce only, things are never gonna be right no matter how much Statham grunts and one-lines his way through the seedy underbelly of London.

The idea of an English Se7en meets Lethal Weapon is a wonderful notion and one that hasn't been depicted upon the screen before but here they leave it out to dry in favour of re-enacting one of cinema's most stomach-churning scenes (American History X's pavement death) and forgetable one-liners from all the cast no matter how insignificant or recognisable.

The reason why American movies in this genre are better than home-grown talent, this should be blitzed from your schedule... immediately. And Paddy Considine... what were you thinking?!?!

UK release date: 26/05/11
Certificate: 18