Monday, 26 September 2011


Bearing in mind the religious tones in Kevin Smith's latest, it's apt that the phrase "damned if you, damned if you don't" squarely applies to it.

Known for his "slacker" movies - Clerks, Jay & Silent Bob Strike Back, Mallrats - the response when it was believed he was moving into possible "slasher" terrority was mixed to say the least. And upon release, that response is still very mixed.

If this wasn't from him, there's no doubt that Red State wouldn't be poured over with such a fine tooth comb from fans and critics alike. We want something different but more of the same and when the different comes along, that can be confusing. Not unlike the genre meshing that this effort brings to the screen.

What starts off as a small-town teen coming-of-age flick with 3 boys arranging a "simultaneous" experience in a neighbouring area in the middle of nowhere, takes a turn for the worst and then squarely heads into the genre that the likes of Hostel and Saw have over saturated in recent years. The horror element comes into play as the over-faithful clergy try to clear the world of all that is sinful to their interpretation of the scriptures - from gay through to multiple partners.

It's here that Smith makes his boldest stand with a possibly overlong segment involving the (admittedly stunning powerhouse performance of Parks) preacher's sermon that tries to explain their rationale and actions that are graphically demonstrated upon the screen. Even TV's Dexter would squirm at their methods. Then, just when you're all geared up for a nerve-shredding continuation of which of the boys will escape and survive the bible-bashing bastions barrage, Smith throws in his cards and starts a whole new, different game.

Then the screen goes black opening up on Goodman's "screwed from the beginning" ATF agent who is given the task of investigating forcibly the compound of Parks and the sounds of gunfire within. The film then switches to an out-an-out gunfire battle that refuses to let-up. With the sound of bullets equalling those of Saving Private Ryan picking off unexpected characters left, right and center, the tension is only broken with welcome-but-dark humour as Goodman shouts down the phone to his boss as all hell breaks lose that "his word is not good enough" and that he requires a text or an email at least saying that he's been told to storm the compound so his back is covered when it all goes wrong!

The ending is so Smith - think Dogma - that it comes as a surprise as everything before it has been so unlike his previous efforts, but the sudden change of scenery, mood and tone is still none-the-less brave and interesting and I for one, applaud him for trying something different. Besides, a film that has a line such as "he's built a great wall of b*llshit around the property... Yes sir, like the one in China," cannot be all bad!

UK release date: 30.09.11
Certificate: 18

Friday, 23 September 2011


Ensemble casts have, of late, relied heavily on their star power rather than their plot or dialogue to get them by. The likes of Valentine's Day and He's Just Not That Into You left a lot to be desired regarding satisfaction.

With a back catalogue consisting only of the great-but-little-seen I Love You Philip Morris, you wouldn't be amiss at the pedigree of directors Requa and Ficarra to bring in a decent rom-com. But they have an ace up their sleeve in writer Fogelman who penned Tangled and Bolt amongst others.

Here then is a comedy that is romantic by the bucket load whilst also being a romance that has great comedy throughout. Literally, you can have the roller coaster experience that is so often quoted but rarely delivered in cinematic terms. Sadness, awkwardness, laughter, cringyness, hopefulness, elation... all get their chance to toy with your emotions.

These are deftly handled by the cast that play to their strengths. Carrell, who has tried the stuck-in-a-rut husband before in Date Night, makes a more believable appearance here with the aid of more individuals to play off against. Here he gets to bounce off of Moore who, as always, shines in her role as mid-life crisis Mom - "When I told you when I had to work late? I really to go see the new Twilight movie by myself, and it was so bad" - and Tomei, who plays his first encounter after the split that starts the events rolling - if you don't want her as either your teacher or your lover, then there's something drastically wrong with you my friend.

The delights also come from the younger cast, in particular Stone with her confidence-waning rambling speech aimed at Gosling's lothario after her rash certainty for "banging the bar guy" dissolves into fear and thinking things through in the cold light of day. Along with the wonderful Heartbreaker, this boasts the best Dirty Dancing nod ever committed to celluloid confirming to any guy worth his salt that he needs to study Swayze to succeed!

The film happily makes it's way along the tried-and-trusted course of "re-discovering yourself and what you want out of life" storyline until the final act where all the loose strands and separate sub plots are suddenly pulled together to make one of the funniest scenes in the last decade of films. All soap opera's should take note of how it should be done!

A beautiful look at love and all it's various stages - first love, unrequited love, false love, stale love, soulmate love - Crazy, Stupid, Love in the end doesn't challenge any taboos nor does it deliver any earth-shattering conclusion but what it does is make you smile, make you laugh, make you cry and make you feel... and after all, isn't that what love is supposed to do? Beautiful from start to finish.

UK release date: 23.09.11
Certificate: 15


It's hard to imagine, but try if you will, a time where CGI was a thing that was so new and under-developed that neither audiences or film makers could rely on it to help tell a story, let alone make it a standout experience.

1993 would change all that with the release of "King of Blockbuster" Spielberg's version of Michael Crichton's best-selling novel. In the same year, the 'Berg also released his Oscar-clearing Schindler's List - two opposite films you couldn't make even if you tried - but the dinosaurs amok movie would become then the biggest film of all time. And rightly so.

If you were never lucky enough to see it first time round, before it's High Def home release in October, the newly restored digital print roars its way into cinema screens and is a treat NOT to be missed. Even those who have been brought up on a diet of CG 'toons and two-a-penny computer-enhanced flicks will be, at minimum, entertained by a director who was (and still is) at the top of his game and a crew that delivered everything in top, memorable form. From John Williams' magical score through to the "can't tell em from the CG" animatronic dinosaurs by master Stan Winston, everything that the 'Berg brought to the screen that makes a Blockbuster with the likes of Jaws and Raiders Of The Lost Ark, is ticked here in bold, exciting marker pen!

With the same pacing as the iconic Jaws, you have an opening sequence that sets up the premise that man will not fare too well against nature - the "Jaws With Claws" label it was originally given nailed it squarely on the head. What Jurassic Park may have lacked in memorable characterisation - there's no Brody, Quint and Hooper's quotable chemistry on display - it made up for in breath-holding, heart-racing, eye-popping sequences that had never been seen before, nor rivalled since in just one movie. The rippling water shot has become a much mimicked scene along with rain-soaked attacks on the heroes ever since a select bunch of specialists were chosen to sign off on a park just the coast of Costa Rica.

18 years down the line and the effects still hold up, especially on the big screen. Films less than 5 years old can't even say that. The T-Rex attack in particular is a seamless blend of physical and computerised magic which still thrills as it crushes the two park vehicles under foot and in its jaw. Even if the familiarity leans towards you waiting for the next set piece to occur - the raptor attack; the dilophosaurus attack; the car/tree escape - it still excites and makes you by the hand pulling you through it all at break-neck speed rather than losing its grip on you and your attention.

A movie that turned a corner and one of those "classics" that, upon watching it, you can see why it was given that title. See it on the big screen before you have to wait for a 25th anniversary release. At least though when you see it, you can rest knowing that the version you're watching is the same as that was seen back in 1993 - with no alterations or fixes. Take note Mr Lucas.

Original UK release date: 16.07.93
Re-release UK date: 23.09.11
Certificate: 12A

Monday, 19 September 2011


Director Winding Refn seems to like the occasional outbreak of violence. His last two previous outputs - Valhalla Rising and Bronson - were no strangers to onscreen violence.

Nor has he been a stranger to plaudits either with his biopic that introduced the world to Tom Hardy garnering rave reviews and now his latest receiving critical acclaim that would normally be lavished upon a period drama.

This is essentially a tale of a loner who becomes embroiled in events that do not directly concern him but end up having him put his lifestyle and his life itself on the line for another. Think Jean Reno's Leon but, instead of a hitman with a gun, replace them with a stunt driver and a car and you start to get the picture.

From the outset, Drive looks, feels and sounds like a lost film from the 80's that's been discovered and brought out to show people what cool looked like back then. It feels like the younger, more dangerous brother of Risky Business with it's synth-pop soundtrack and it's dream-like, slo-mo sequences that show the city of L.A. in a love-tinted light.

Also, in it's beginning sequence, we see Gosling's character introduce himself via voice-over in dull, begrudging tones, not unlike Ford's one in the original Blade Runner. He's a man with a job to do that has rules that will be followed, or else. The first "job" witnessed by the audience may just be the first authentic display of evading the police after a robbery ever committed to screen - not so much a car chase as a methodical, calmly-executed game of cat-and-mouse using bridges and in plain view to hide from an over run police force.

Gosling may be behind the wheel and in control of the film, but many of his co-star/passengers that are along for the ride, prove their worth. Mulligan channels her recent Never Let Me Go vulnerability as the next door neighbour with child caught up in her criminal husbands life, making you want the loner to step in and step up to the challenge she inadvertently represents. Brooks and Pearlman as squabbling low-life partners create plausible menace for you to be uncertain of the drivers success in staying alive until the end and Hendricks, although still as wonderful as ever, is there then gone in a blink-and-you'll-miss-her role.

All the above makes it a good ol' thriller with not as many car chases as you would expect from the title and plot, but what you don't bargain for is the sometimes shocking violence that explodes upon the screen. From shotgun blasts to the head , through to a hammer and nail assault/threat to the forehead, Drive pulls no punches. The lift sequence involving a tender kiss suddenly goes all dark territory with a boot that crushes a skull into a bloody pulp as Mulligan, and the audience, watch dumb-foundedly.

A "ssen-it-somewhere-before" premise, shot with a nostalgic 80's feel and delivered by a cast that know how to draw you in, it's steady pace leaves you unready for the shocking act of violence that burst into your vision. You have been warned.

UK release date: 23.09.11
Certificate: 18

Thursday, 15 September 2011


Whilst re-watching the STAR WARS saga, I came across the thankfully forgotten clunky lines of romantic dialogue that Lucas had penned and whilst cringing, let my mind wander briefly to other examples where men and women try to express that allusive thing called love...

So, here are some of the more memorable lines throughout cinema's century - for all the right, and wrong, reasons. Which side do they come down for you?

Or, in the end, do you frankly give a damn?....


Film: As Good As It Gets
Line giver: Jack Nicholson

If you still wonder how ol' Jack seems to keep pulling in the ladies, maybe it's because he gets to say lines like this... all previous sins seem to be forgiven, just like that.

Film: Jerry Maguire
Line giver: Rennee Zellweger

Even though the big speech is done by Tom Cruise, the killer line is quietly delivered by Rennee with such emotion and truth that it knocks it clean outta the park!

Film: Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back
Line giver: Harrison Ford

Despite the story by George "what's romance?" Lucas, it's Ford who changed the original line to this borderline cocky response that all men would love the confidence to say.

Film: Notting Hill
Line giver: Julia Roberts

A personal fave of mine, again it's the thing that you always wish you could be on the receiving end of and Julia's smile and nervousness puts the final nail in the coffin.

Film: The Princess Bride
Line giver: Cary Elwes

3 words... just 3 words...that's all it takes and yet, they can be said too much and not enough. So, same sentiment but different phrasing! Sorted then! Clever Dread Pirate Roberts!


Film: Back To The Future
Line giver: Crispin Glover

Totally unprepared for conversations with the opposite sex, Marty McFly's future dad shows how over-preparing other people's lines isn't such a great idea.

Film: Four Weddings & A Funeral
Line giver: Andie MacDowell

A line of dialogue that is so truly unique that both men AND women groan inwardly and outwardly upon hearing its utterance! Now that's special!

Film: Star Wars Episode II: Attack Of The Clones
Line giver: Natalie Portman and Hayden Christian

The one that started this whole article off for me - this is so bad because it's supposed to be the reason why the worst villain in cinema is born; out of the love lost between them! How wrong.

Film: Dirty Dancing
Line giver: Jennifer Grey

That all-important first impression can be heightened by that also equally important first line of dialogue between the two of the possible lovers... Nice try but no cigar baby.

Film: Gigli
Line giver: Jennifer Lopez

I f you have to be explained why this particular example made it to the list then, honestly, there is no saving you... at all.

Now it's your turn to tell me, as I stand before you, in the pouring rain, what should I have/not said? What should have made it onto the list, or for that matter, shouldn't have?....

Tuesday, 13 September 2011


For anyone whose parents grew up in the late 70's / early 80's, there was a TV programme that had them all talking, and with the shrieks of "sacrilege" that normally accompanies fearful remakes, will undoubtedly again.

However, their calls of outrage should swiftly, upon viewing, become claps of appreciation. There are certain things that either demand another interpretation of it or are good enough to warrant another stab at it. If the right director and the right cast unite then there should be nothing to fear apart from a begrudging appreciation of the new version.

Alfredson, who hit the world squarely in the neck with the original Let The Right One In, trades places and becomes the hunter with an adaptation rather than the hunted where his unusual twist on the tale of vampires was remade with big bucks. And to his credit, he has pulled off a sublime piece of film.

Set in the 70's where The Cold War was everything, Alfredson's team have generated a look and feel that slowly saturates into the viewer from the get-go. Colours feel muted, conversations secret and stilted, even the film stock seems grey and grainy reflecting the world upon the screen of non black-and-white ethics and loyalty from all involved in the proceedings.

From the pre-title sequence, all you need to know about how to view the rest of the film is set up straight away - trust no one. The "event" that starts the ball rolling is so steeped in paranoia, with suspicious glances, overly-sweating waiters, window shutters being closed, that it packs in its 10 minutes more tension and nail-biting than a slew of recent Hollywood thrillers all out together.

Not one actor puts a step wrong. And not unlike the Harry Potter franchise, you will spend a lot of time multi-tasking by being surprised at who you recognise upon the screen - Trigger! Waynetia! - whilst trying to decipher what appears to be clues from meaningful glances and in-the-distance meetings. As much as they are all great - particularly Strong, Firth, Hurt, Hardy - this is all Oldman's concerto and he conducts all around him with a still, unnerving quietness that makes you draw in every detail possible to keep up with his engaged mind. So much so, that when he does have one slight outburst (as in a raised voice) it's like a slap to the face.

An example of the genre that hasn't been viewed by myself in ages, this is a true "slow-burner" where, in a double-edged sword attack, it feels like not much is happening whilst yet at the same time the characters, the locations and more importantly and impressively, the time frame are constantly in motion, taking you one step forward and two steps back.

There was a second outing on TV for the large rimmed glasses wearing spy - Smiley's People - and, after watching this, we can only but hope that they all feel like giving that one a go too. We deserve another trip to the circus! Utterly engrossing cinema.

UK release date: 16.09.11
Certificate: 15

Monday, 12 September 2011


Comedies involving the youth are all about "the first time" or alcohol/drug-related high jinx. 2009 saw a change to this trend with Zombieland - director Fleischer and actor Eisenberg's great take on the zombie genre. And now they're back again delivering a different slice of hot comedy...

From its opening Ferris Bueller's Day Off car flying-shot through to its The Italian Job-esque "did they win?" ending, 30 Minutes Or Less sets out to have fun with its simple premise and its even simpler characters. After his buttoned-down The Social Network performance, Eisenberg returns to his Adventureland and Zombieland roots with a put-upon slacker trying to cope with a curve ball that life has thrown him.

Here that curve ball is in the form of none-too-bright, wanna-be criminals McBride and Swardson. McBride makes up for the travesty that was Your Highness by being funnier in his co-staring role here than in the more leading part of that The Princess Bride rip off he helped create. This is due in part to having the excellent Swardson to bounce off of - his mentally getting into the whole "monkey mask disguise" in the background of some scenes is genuinely laugh-out-loud funny.

What makes it unusual is the complete lack of gross-out comedy or use of any "t&a" (nudity) to get laughs from the audience. Here it's dialogue and interactions that are served up to induce the desired effect from the viewer. There's knowing jokes referring to Eisenberg's lack of friends on facebook (The Social Network); saucy jokes with an offer of beer to "take away the taste of himself" after being kissed by the girl that has just performed an act on him; and the realisation that, when trying to pay for all their bank job related merchandise in a hardware store - tape, rope etc - they're only a pack of condoms away from a rape package...

It's the films little touches that keep the charm and laughs rolling along - during the bank heist, you witness the most politest bank robbery ever committed to celluloid and the little known fact that sometimes hostages are the most dangerous people in those situations! Even during a car chase, they discuss the perfect tune to be listening to whilst trying to avoid the pursuing lawmen and argue over it.

A delight, and a funny one at that, from start to finish, here's hoping that Fleischer and Eisenberg have at least another film up their sleeves to entertain us with. Bring on Zombieland 2!!!

UK release date: 16.09.11
Certificate: 15

Monday, 5 September 2011


This Is Spinal Tap! The Blair Witch Project. Cloverfield. All these have taken the form of documentary and imprinted it to a level where, regardless of whether you love them or loathe them, have influenced, or will inspire countless other film makers.

Now, that rank has a new challenger with the mix of documentary and lost footage combined to reveal to the world that our ideas of fairytales are not so fantastical after all...

After so many attempts to convince audiences about "found footage" films, The Troll Hunter's beginning scrawl will most likely be met with a weary sigh from some viewers as it explains the never-be-seen- before discovery and debates regarding its authenticity that have raged since its airing. It all feels like familiar stuff until about 25 minutes into it.

Then the unmistakable non-US humour kicks in with the off-beat slant that all you can remember about trolls is actually real. You'll be surprised at how much you know about them as the amateur film makers document the various encounters before the inevitable occurs.

What helps is that the trait of annoying "camera crew" has been largely abolished by creating a great focus for the lens and sound mike - the Troll Hunter himself. His matter-of-fact attitude and weary dry sense of humour keep your mind off the sometimes whiny students. His outfit for one troll encounter looks like a cross between Monty Python And The Holy Grail and The A-Team. That, combined with using 3 billy goat gruffs tied to a bridge to lure out a nasty troll are what gives it the edge of the other fake footage finding films - laughs over scares.

That's not to say that it's without tension. The effects are remarkable and hold up well on the big screen and the "smelling of a Christian" problem does help to draw out some shredded nerves whilst caught in a cave (but then also brings out the biggest laugh regarding instead a Muslim - "Will that be a problem?" "Don't know... we'll find out.") They even manage to show regret for the creatures that are being systematically driven to extinction by the government with its fake electricity pylons doubling up as huge electric fences and a callous slaughter involving female and children trolls.

Not what you're probably expecting and delivering exactly what is says in the title, it's another rare foreign film treat that should be seen before the Hollywood remake tramples all over its Norwegian charm and loses it a flurry of big budget CGI and Yank-isms. You may not believe in them but you'll want to by the end credits roll.

UK release date: 09.09.11
Certificate: 15