Sunday, 31 July 2011


Yes, you guessed it, summer and the inevitable kid's holidays are here once again.

It's been over 14 years since Carrey has done a live action family comedy film (1997's Liar, Liar) and despite his success with his more serious roles, he has returned to the type of movie that made him a household name.

With the likes of March Of The Penguins and Happy Feet proving profitable (Happy Feet 2 is due out soon) it's not too hard to see why Carrey's issue to overcome this time round was chosen to be the flightless birds as opposed to playing God or unable to lie.

Essentially this is a rehash of the plot of Liar, Liar where Carrey plays a father who, due to his obsession with over-achieving at work, finds himself becoming more and more distanced from his children and his ex-wife. Here though it's the arrival of 6 penguins into his ordered life and swanky New York apartment that helps him to see the light and change his ways before it becomes too late.

What stops this from ending up as a throw-away flick is quite simply, the penguins. With a sometimes hard-to-tell-apart mix of real and CGI'd feathered friends, all six are given enough different character traits to appeal to the audience - the clumsy one and farting one for the kids and the "I have a dream of flying" one for the aspirational parents. Even if they don't get a whole lot of screen time, when the penguin plot is not being explored up on the screen, the film lags slightly.

If the Carrey of old from The Mask and Ace Ventura worried or annoyed you, then the man on display here will not upset you. Here he is more reserved with no outbursts, allowing the prattfalls to be supplied by one of the penguins. Surprisingly, this lack of absurdity is missed and you long for at least one "alllrightyy then!" to liven up the average human part of the story.

An easy-to-watch movie for a family outing, you'll find that there will be more "ahh's" than "haha's" but sweet fun none-the-less.

UK release date: 05.08.11
Certificate: PG

Saturday, 30 July 2011


With the wonders that computers have done to the field of animation, it's easy to forget that traditional animated films are still made. And nobody does it better than Studio Ghibli.

Based on the classic The Borrowers, Ghibli's version is as far removed from the last movie adaptation - 1997's action-adventure starring John Goodman - as you can get with the same source material.

Without large set-pieces, or frantic dashes to rescue loved ones from certain peril, Arrietty still takes a hold of you, and frame by frame, draws you head and heart into it's world of Borrowers and Human Beans.

For those who are not new to the world of Ghibli, subtle reminders of previous works will nudge you whilst watching it - the large-eyed nurse here looks like a character from Spirited Away - while first-timers will just drink in the wonders on display. As with all previous adaptations, the clever use of everyday objects by the Borrowers is there to be discovered by the audience - a safety pin on the wall used to hold kitchen utensils; double-sided tape on hands and feet to help scale such obstacles as table legs; nails and tacks in walls to create stairways; stamps as framed posters to decorate rooms - the cleverness is a sight to behold.

However, this cleverness is not its defining factor. As always it's the characterisation and their interactions that engages, putting it on the highly recommended list to watch. Here, Arrietty's confidence and curiosity that sparks the movies plot when she is seen by the new arrival of the sick boy, Sho, is the driving force of the beautifully realised, but ultimately doomed relationship between the two of them. Borrowers must not be seen by Human Beans and their initial awe and wonder at each other can never go any further but their meeting will always stay with them. If you don't feel moved or want to shed a tear at their goodbye scene (this year's best visual scene so far with Arrietty on a bamboo fence with Sho looking down at her) then book your heart transplant now my friend.

With two versions playing - the original Japanese language version with subtitles and the Disney-backed Hollywood dubbed version with the likes of Mark Strong and Saoirse Ronan - there is no excuse for you to not introduce any child, or yourself for that matter, to one of this years most delightfully beautiful cinematic experiences.

Here's hoping this will finally open up more Western eyes to the world of Studio Ghibli.

UK release date: 29.07.11
Certificate: U

Friday, 29 July 2011


And so the march to the biggest movie franchise since George Lucas or J K Rowling's efforts continues with the latest installment of Marvel Studio's claim to fame with the story of the original Avenger...

With the success of Iron Man and Thor, the goldmine that is The Avengers due next summer seems to be the deadline for Marvel to unleash all its key players with only two characters left to have their go in the limelight. So step up Captain America...

After the huge success of Nolan's Dark Knight series, superheroes plights are expected to be grittier but Marvel has moved away from this and director Johnston's "1940's origins" tale of Steve Rogers has swung squarely into the camp of fun and cheesy rather than dark and moody.

To help with this objective we have Evans who has brought his confident charm to other comic book roles such as Fantastic Four's The Torch. However here, his natural charm is stifled to allow the weak nerd character of Steve to project throughout his transformation from 7 stone weakling to 7 nation's saviour whilst retaining his meek and mild sensibility.

Although understandable, this means that the hero of the movie is, once the experiment kicks in and gives him muscles and abilities, is fairly bland, especially when compared to Tommy Lee Jones who comes across as the grandfather of his The Fugitive role, chewing up scenery and actors alike.

Now the villain would normally take centre stage over a under-developed hero, but Weaving's Red Skull doesn't get that opportunity - he only gets to do an Arnie-type vocal impression whilst occasionally appearing now and then to drive the well-worn plot along its predictable route. What it does bring though is a fun futuristic view 1940's life, giggly jokes involving "fondue" and Jones being grumpy all the time.

What is disappointing though is the obligatory end credits sequence that brings all the other heroes together for their first outing due next year. Here it feels like the original sequence was shoved to and tacked onto the normal ending of the film to allow them to put a hastily-edited trailer for Joss Whedon's The Avengers as the surprise ending. All this does is make Captain America feel like it's been rushed to get it out before the main deal next year. Any good work done during its running time is undone in those last few minutes which is sad, and also says alot about the whole movie in general. Fun but flawed.

UK release date: 29.07.11
Certificate: 12A

Sunday, 24 July 2011


Back in 1995, a company appeared on the world stage and blew everyone - audiences and other companies alike - away. Since then, that small company has consistently delivered box office-breaking and critic-pleasing movies to a point where no one can equal or top them.

Much has been spoken about how they, Pixar, will go back to the beginning and start again on a film if they don't feel that it's working - case in point being Toy Story 2 which up till now was the studios only sequel.

Both Pixar and Disney have etched themselves in history when they've hit the magical balance of fun and laughter for all ages. When there's jokes for the children and the accompanying adults, all enjoy the experience and most importantly, enables them to do repeat viewings. The reason I say all this is because all Pixar productions will have a massive uphill battle on their hands, created by their own success - expectations will always be high concerning their movies.

And, for once, it seems that expectation was too high. Cars 2 leaves you feeling like you've just watched what should have been a short film that you find on their DVD/Bluray releases that's been padded out to a full length animated feature's running time. Stories tend to be well-worn ones but the characters, their interaction and the multi-layered jokes excuse that. Here, the tale of a not-the-sharpest-tool-in-the-shed being mistaken for a super spy rattles along but it doesn't sit well with the race-rivalry between Wilson's still cocky NASCAR and Turturro's equally cocky F1 car plot. It should have been one or the other to allow the kind of quotable dialogue and laugh-out-loud moments that Pixar normally delivers.

With no zing for the older audience member and, for once, more attention to how the view looks (still beautiful as ever of course) rather than how the story progresses, it seems that Lasseter's pet project is just that - something that feels like it only appeals to him rather than a toy fighting for his right to be with his owner or a fishy father searching for his only son.

Obviously, Pixar firing on half cylinders is still streets ahead of most of the competition but it's hard not to feel abit let down by the team that always charmed the socks off you.

UK release date: 22.07.11
Certificate: U

Sunday, 17 July 2011


There's always that worry that a trailer is the best parts of a new movie shoved into a 3 minute sequence leaving a whole pile of steaming" waste-of-time" filling out the other 115-odd minutes for you to watch. This mostly happens with sci-fi epics and comedies.

But then most of the "funny" movies don't have a director who's cut his teeth on such noteworthy delights as TV's Modern Family, Community and the US version of The Office. Gordon it would seem, knows how to do laughs, big, small, childish and dangerous.

Essentially, what you have is an ensemble piece where 6 main actors get their fair share under the spotlight and not only each bring laughs with them, but they then bring a whole type of different giggles on the screen when their paths cross each others.

It's been long said that it's the villain that has the most fun in their role (especially since Nicholson's Joker back in 1989) and here the evidence is insurmountable! Spacey, Farrell and Aniston, all pretty much playing against type, are the bar that has to be beaten from now on when it comes to scumbags on screen. Each viewer will have their fave" hater" (mine is Spacey for his role of absolute "off-the-chart" office bastard) but whether it's Aniston's sexy sexual predator, Farrell's nearly unrecognisable cocaine-head lazy boss's son or Spacey's manipulative aggressive office boss, there's something for everybody.

Out of the 6 main characters only 1 slightly rubs (not bad odds) up the wrong way and that's Charlie Day's dental hygienist who has to put up with his Aniston. Out of the 3 "heroes" his high-pitched voice and over-exuberance at everything can wear thin. However, he does get one of the biggest laughs with his cocaine-fuelled rendition of The Ting Tings "That's Not My Name."

With jokes for all folks, Horrible Bosses is a rarity where you won't feel let down from the trailer - there's so much more to see ranging from cats (jump-out-of-your-seat), defiling toothbrushes (cringey), the use of Jamie Foxx's characters first name ("Mutha...."), middle-aged white guys thinking that they're down with it (dangerously foolish) and the ultimate satnav from India ("Gregory").

All bosses should pay for their staff to go see this to help remind them that, compared to the ones on screen, they're not that bad! Mostly! Hugely enjoyable.

UK release date: 22.07.11
Certificate: 15

Saturday, 9 July 2011


And so, after 8 months since the last Harry Potter film left audiences worldwide wondering the fate of Harry, Hermione and Ron vs Voldemort and his horcruxes, the journey that has encompassed 10 years and now 8 blockbusting films reaches it's final conclusion.

Indeed as the tagline says, it all ends here.

The question would, and quite rightly be, is it worth it, is it a fitting end? To all fans of the boy wizard who have watched him grow over the past decade, and indeed for those who have grown up alongside him, the answer is a plain and simple "yes."

Yates, who has directed the most Potter movies - 4 in total - has helped steer the franchise through some of the weaker novels and turned them into some of the more favoured and well-received adaptations. Here, he never lets the baton drop nor forget that this is a milestone for a great many fan out there. Admittedly, Deathly Hallows: Part 2 is a movie for people who have seen, and read, the previous adventures, as opposed to the casual viewer. This however should be overlooked as it was never intended and indeed never feels like a stand-alone event; if you haven't seen at least the last 3 films, don't watch this until you have done so.

Here you have literally action crammed into every other frame - if it's not the impossible bank heist of Gringotts, then it's the multi-layered battle of Hogwarts that jumps from sub characters valiantly defending the schools premises to the 3 main leads desperate search for the final horcruxes amidst the chaos. But Yates and his cast get to show emotion as well during the Lord Of The Rings-type spectacle, although some of the big-hitting moments feel a tad rushed and therefore lose some of their expected impact - Mrs Weasley's "Ellen Ripley" impression against Bellatrix should have brought the house down but appears then disaperates just as quickly from the screen. Whereas Snape's BIG reveal does pull at the heart strings in a sequence that puts the brakes on all the action and fighting but there's a rushing feel to it as each memory pushes it's way to the foreground to be seen.

The hardest decision to make is why the slight empty feeling you find when the end credits begin to roll: is it that you just don't want to say goodbye to these characters that you've invested 10 years in loving and following, or is it that after that length of time the finale could have had just a few more moments in it and run a bit longer? Being one of the shortest running times in the series, couldn't we have had a more lingering look on the sub characters and their heroic deeds as well as Harry's final fight?

Either way, it's a fitting ending to a saga that now totally deserves the phrase "epic." Mischief managed.

UK release date: 15.07.11
Certificate: 12A


There are "events" that occur occasionally throughout a lifetime; the passing of Haley's Comet, a presidential assassination, and a film from director/writer Terrance Malick.

Since 1973, he has only directed four films, and now his fifth - Tree Of Life starring Brad Pitt - is upon us. Before I go any further, I must make it clear to you that his previous work - The Thin Red Line - was one of the hardest films to review for me. I just couldn't click with it, or understand it. There's not much that's changed over the last six years.

To see if you could get to grips with it during it's 140 minutes, answer yourself this question: do you like the perfume adverts of the last 20 years?...

If the answer is yes, then book your seat now. The first 50 minutes of the film sees imagery upon imagery slowly rolling across the screen with no interactive dialogue what-so-ever. If that hasn't sunk in, take a moment to contemplate that - characters have no conversation with each other... at all for nearly an hour. There is breathless, whispered lines placed over images depicting life seen from a distance - the birth of life itself upon Earth - down to the microscope directed at Pitt and his family. But nothing to help you connect with them as they try and connect with each other.

The story seems to be simply of a brother looking back upon his early years, primarily dealing with one of the brothers he lost at 19, and his see-sawing relationship with his father. Penn, as the older version of the brother has the thankless task of what seems to be just wandering around in depressive reflection, leaving Pitt to dance between doting dad and frightful father during the middle part of the movie.

This simple premise is buried deep within images and choir music that threatens to distance the audience from any emotional connection during the first and final act. The middle part shows what could have been with beautiful moments catching the eye and heart - the child's reaction to his baby brother hitting his face, the mother waking her children using ice cubes - but what is built up by those moments is taken away with the rolling onslaught of what kind of feels like pretentious commentary of life, love and death.

Admittedly unlike anything else that turns up at the cinema, Tree Of Life is an unusual experience that, if you go in with the right frame of mind, it could have you leave feeling perplexed yet only slightly agitated at what it could have been.

Release date: 08.07.11
Certificate: 12A

Sunday, 3 July 2011


Over the last few decades, the divide between small screen and the silver screen has been become less defined and blurred. Major talents (from both behind and infront of the camera) have made the move to TV possibly in the hope of avoiding the restrictions that the average 2 hour running time of a movie has.

HBO, now considered the home of quality entertainment, have been branching out of late from their usual faire. Their historic efforts - Band Of Brothers, The Pacific, Boardwalk Empire - have now been joined by the fantasy genre with True Blood and now Game Of Thrones.

An easy, or lazy way of trying to describe it would be to say it's Lord Of The Rings with sex and blood. Yet, with its first season of 10 episodes lasting an hour each, it's so much more.

It has as much cast and sub plots as it does landscape. 7 families battle openly and secretly for the control of Westeros. Some long to sit upon the throne made from the swords of the vanquished. The others have a much more worrying problem with what lies beyond The Wall and the prospect that the horror stories of old from that area aren't stories.

Like the glorious The Walking Dead, ...Thrones has a "how many actors can you spot" cast - Sean Bean as reluctant hero family man Ned Stark; Lena Headey as queen bitch Cersei Lannister; Charles Dance as rich, cold-hearted war strategist Tywin Lannister; Mike Addy as over-weight, out-of-touch King Robert Baratheon. Each gets more than their fair share in the limelight with equal amounts of humour, drama and suspense piled moment-by-moment on top of each other.

Now, I do not wish to ruin the wondrous enjoyment that will be had if you take the journey to Kings Landing and The Wall, but realise this: if you do, will be rewarded with one of the finest surprise sequences of recent TV serial history in episode 9. See it coming you won't.

A delight straight from the start, Game Of Thrones takes far-away drama and lines it with believable back-stabbing politics, sexual intrigue and hints of fictional fantasy with long-forgotten dragons, to make this a piece of work that will appeal to even those who think that they don't do fantasy.

You win or you die.

Saturday, 2 July 2011


After seeing the chimp-based documentary Project NIM and Disney's Tangled (again) recently, I was reminded of exactly how great Maximus - the blood hound trapped in the body of a horse - is and could undoubtedly stand for, and win, Best Movie Animal Ever! But then some people could argue he would have an unfair advantage since he is an animated animal and therefore is allowed to do his own stunts...

So, here is the battle for Best Animal with "Real" vs. "Assisted" pitted against one another...


1) Name: Milo.
Species: Dog.
Movie: The Mask
Reason: You really need to ask?!? Awwrrigghty then! Without doubt, the best type of comedy dog is, and shall always be, the Jack Russell. If you have any doubts, ask anyone who's watched even one episode of TV's Frasier and they'll tell you.

It's not when Milo himself puts on the Mask in order to save the day, but his truly heroic efforts to break his master Jim Carrey out of prison that gets him a place in this chart.

2) Name: Virgil.
Species: Chimpanzee.
Movie: Project X.
Reason: Everyone loves a chimp (ask the PG Tips marketing team) but if that chimp could communicate with you... Just think how much extra tug it would then have on your heart strings eh?

Take a chimp that has his own stuffed animal toy, a desire to break out of captivity and take his fellow primates with him and a dream to fly, and I give you Virgil...

3) Name: Samantha.
Species: Dog
Film: I Am Legend
Reason: The phrase "man's best friend" is never more evident than here, where, man's (Will Smith) ONLY friend is a dog. And what a mutt.

Putting up with all of Smith's idiosyncrasies, Sam never-the-less helps with the food shopping, the exercising, oh, and the laying-down-the-life-to-protect-your-owner, which just breaks the heart.

4) Name: Babe
Species: Pig
Film: Babe
Reason: Well, first of all, they named the film after him! How's that for confidence in the little guy!?!

Not content with his pre-allocated lot in life, he shows that anyone, no matter what their species or age, can dare to dream and realise that dream. That'll do pig. That'll do.

5) Name: Clyde.
Species: Orangutan.
Film: Every Which Way But Loose
Reason: He acts Clint Eastwood, yes, you read that correctly, Eastwood, off the screen! He drinks, he drives, he washes, he fights, heck, he even has his own way of indicating for traffic manoeuvres!


1) Name: Bruce.
Species: Great White Shark.
Film: Jaws.
Reason: Really? It needs to be said?!? The film that created the phrase "blockbuster" and made generations, unnecessarily, afraid of the water, Bruce the shark is perfect evolution (although the mechanical version didn't always want to play.) For this, you Must Love Jaws...

2) Name: Kong
Species: Gorilla (the "massive" kind!)
Film: King Kong
Reason: It would seem through his many screen appearances, no one, but no one messes with Kong! Whether it's man with his selfish, money-grabbing ways or a few hungry T-Rex's with a grudge, Kong will always see you safe - so long as you're blond and female...

3) Name: Maximus.
Species: Horse.
Film: Tangled.
Reason: He's a horse! Yet he can track like a bloodhound, wield a sword like Zorro, and put all the soldiers to shame regarding making sure justice is served. Take note Black Beauty, that's how it's done!

4) Name: Gromit.
Species: Dog.
Film: Wallace & Gromit In The Curse Of The Were-Rabbit.
Reason: The most intelligent of the bunch, Gromit is the put-upon, hard-done-by voice of reason and brains behind every venture that he and Wallace have undertaken. Constantly saving the day, and Wallace, Gromit says what we are all thinking, without uttering a single sound... now that's genius!

5) Name: Donkey.
Species: Donkey.
Film: Shrek.
Reason: "...and in the morning, I'm making waffles!" A true friend till the end, Donkey will always try and help you see the silver lining on every cloud, whether you want to or not. What he lacks in brain matter he certainly makes up for with enthusiasm.

So now you have the contenders. Who wins? Who misses out? Who have I missed out? Start voting and we'll see which animal is allowed to stay indoors and which are left outside in the garden...

Friday, 1 July 2011


Do you remember the 80's and the 90's? When the studio's distributed films that weren't offensive, shocking, effects-driven or... awful?

Well, it would seem that Tom Hanks does. Which is not surprising since he starred in probably over 50% of them! For his second feature film outing as director, Hanks has gone right back to what made him a household name, and he cleverly brought THE other household name from the same genre of movie along for the scooter ride...

The outline is simple and has been dished out a thousand times before - person finds themselves after losing what they thought was important to them. This time round it's Hanks' job which has kept him going since his divorce. With his firing happening in the first 5 minutes of the film, the job of rediscovering himself through community college and being the new pet project of local care-free spirit girl Mbatha-Raw kicks into gear. Things move quickly throughout it's running time and sub-plots skipped over - Roberts' marriage is trashed easily to make way for the romance between her and Hanks to grow; Mbatha-Raw drops out of college to open a shop - but strangely enough, these matters are forgiven.

Most of this is down to two factors - the Hanks factor and, especially the Roberts factor. Her smile still knocks it out of the park, and her laugh when drunk on the back of the moped, infectiously reminds you of that jewellery case-snapping scene from Pretty Woman that cemented her into the public hearts.

It's, simply put, a warm, inoffensive tale designed to make you smile and feel good about life for two hours. Laughs are to be had, and even if not true belly ones from the likes of recent fare such as The Hangover, the jealous boyfriend of Mbatha-Raw's project on Hanks and Takei's mobile phone-grabbing Economics teacher keep the chuckles coming.

Sweet and a reminder of what Roberts and Hanks can do.

Release date: 01.07.11
Certificate: 12A