Monday, 24 October 2011


Adventure. Spectacle. Thrills. Those were words associated with one man in particular until he seemed to grow up a little and start delivering more thoughtful faire. They still entertained none-the-less, but a restrained eye seemed to be behind the camera.

Not anymore! The 'Berg you remember is back! And with just the right film as well!

Through out its seriously packed 106 minutes, you cannot escape the idea that the people behind and infront of the camera had as much fun making it as the you and the rest of the audience are having watching it. It's like Spielberg has become a child with a new toy - and the toy is the same tech that helped Cameron bring the entire world (box office-wise at least) to the planet of Pandora in Avatar.

With it, the realisation of Herge's well-known world of the boy reporter is so authentic that, for most of the time, you forget that you're watching a motion capture movie based on the comic books and just accept it effortlessly. Infact, the only times you're reminded that it's not live action is when the stunts and set pieces take all those memorable moments of the Indiana Jones films and then pumps them full of steroids and sugar, and goes off the deep end AND the chart! If there is one criticism that can be levied at his and producer Jackson's tale is that there is hardly anytime for the audience to catch it's breath between fantastical OTT set pieces. As soon as your eyes and heart have adjusted to the escape from Captain Haddock's ship, it's straight into a flight from hell which then leads into a flashback battle upon the high seas.

The imagery and cinematography on display here are some of the most awe-inspiring that either Spielberg or Jackson have created over their careers - a handshake dissolves into the shape of a sand dune; two battling ship masts tangle together to create a fiery theme park ride amongst the pirate carnage; Snowy the dog can be tracked through a herd of cows as his head hits their udders; the front wheel and handlebars of a motorbike becomes a makeshift repelling device - all these dive across the screen at break-neck speed to be replaced by another set of smile-inducing, eye-rubbing wonders!

The humour is constant throughout with the two slightly underused Thomspon and Thomson (Pegg and Frost) detectives providing slapstick for the kids and Haddock (Serkis) the laughter for the older viewers. The touches in the back and fore ground give equal pleasure as well - you'll never wonder again how hotels earn extra stars on their ratings after the bazooka'd dam sequence...yes, the film is that crazy.Not only does the feel and excitement of Indiana Jones soak its way through the core of the film, there are nods to the likes of Jaws and of course for the true Tintin fans out there, clues and subtle hints are to be spied all over the screen, from rockets on coffee mugs to a golden crab fountain and an Inca statue.

A true crowd pleaser, this is the most fun the two big directors have had in a long time and all that is transferred onto the screen and into the hearts and minds of the viewer. So much happens you'll need a second viewing just to try and remember half of it! Go see it, by blue blisterin' barnacles!

UK release date: 26.10.11
Certificate: PG

Saturday, 22 October 2011


Few directors have the confidence and ability to swing between genres and budgets but one of them is Soderbergh - for every Ocean's 11 that he's delivered, he has also given us The Girlfriend Experience.

Now it's the turn of his high profile, big star-filled movie once again. Not too dissimilar from the power punch of the Clooney/Pitt starring trilogy, what we have here is another "count em on both hands" recognisable actor-fest. However, this is more of a bare bones documentary that moves away from light hearted fun and high jinks and literally punches you instead in the gut whilst slapping you in the face with statistics and consequences that will float in your mind long after the end credits have stopped rolling.

Anyone who has seen the likes of Deep Blue Sea and Executive Decision will know their type of movie and the connection they share - the fact that no one, no matter how famous they are in their own cast list, is not safe from being killed off at the drop of a hat. Contagion now joins their ranks except here, it could be the touching of a hat or a door knob that you could send packing and leaving the rest of the cast to watch nervously for coughs or dizzy spells...

With the use of a documentary style and actors playing down their "star" quality, Soderbergh manages to pull off the unthinkable and makes you care for some of these characters, so much so that you when you are confronted with their deaths you have either shock or dismay at their demise - the first is a shock and one of the others is so unexpected as you are rooting for them from the get-go that the impact is tangible. Even more so when the fact is that they cannot be buried in a body bag as the death toll has outstripped the resources available to the government.

It's the little, simple facts like that the cause the uncomfortableness to seep in whilst watching it. There's no monkey to catch to find a cure, no chase to resolve the epidemic, just simply the truth that a contagion can spread so easily and people who should help could find themselves bound by either red tape, fear or greed. All this is intensified with the aid of lingering camera shots of human contact and freeze frames to indicate the possible spread of infection - all with alarming frequency.

The cast all present solid performances with Damon billed as the everyman that helps us to relate to the epidemic that is unfolded days at a time like a poisoned advent calender whilst Law is the inside man who appears to know exactly what the government doesn't want the public to know. However, the standout performance goes to Winslet who struggles to deal with both the infected and the bureaucrats who want to control everything but are unable to in reality. Thought provoking, and unnerving this is more nail biting than all the slasher horror movies of this year put together.

UK release date: 21.10.11
Certificate: 12A

Saturday, 15 October 2011


At the end of the year, you would normally see the award-winner-wannabes released in the cinema so that they will remain close enough in the memory of the voters' minds to score a mark come award ceremony time...

Cinema from the far East - Australia and New Zealand - has always been far-reaching and challenging (Once Were Warriors, Whale Rider, Mad Max) and it would seem that things aren't about to change at all. Except for releasing the film earlier than is the norm, but then again, Sleeping Beauty is anything but normal.

The premise of Leigh's film is a simple one that has has been a well trodden path throughout cinemas history - a young girls' awakening to sexual desire through a series of events. Most films will try to exploit the sexual desire and/or tension connected with the subject matter - so much so that the genre of "coming-of-age" movie was born and has since been saturated - that the marketing campaign would put it amongst the likes of American Pie and similar. However, this is no US teen-titillation movie.

From the outset, all is very much along the lines of methodical and clinical rather than seedy and sexy. The opening salvo sees the "heroine" make her way through college tuition by undergoing quite simply gag-reflexing experiments involving tubes inserted down the throat. This gives her money towards making the nights fly by, littered with older men out for sexual encounters but not enough for her best friend "land lord" and her money-grabbing boyfriends rent demands.

It's from this point the storyline that will divide audiences rears its, quite frankly, ugly head... Some will class it as arthouse whilst others will view it as an excuse for soft porn bordering on female degradation. Browning, last seen as victim-cum-warrior Baby Doll in Sucker Punch, ends up as a drugged fetish plaything for the wealthy to do with as they please but who must abide by the one rule - no penetration. What may sound erotic in words, is definitely not when in practise. Despite their back stories and their meandering speeches, the rich men are thinly written, vile characters whilst the women in the "service" are merely props with the odd bitchy remark.

What pushes the viewer away is the feel that all that is being done upon the screen is to have it considered as indie and arthouse. Lots of stunted conversations, glances into the distance, characters with no explanation as to their connection with Brownings drifting student, or plot progression lazily tumble over each other in sequences where, literally, nothing happens for ages. It's almost is if the definition of what's cool has tried to be explained to someone who doesn't get it but has tried to emulate it anyway. Neither engaging or erotic.

UK release date: 14.10.11
Certificate: 18

Friday, 14 October 2011


When a mediocre Disney ride became a hit film franchise, Hollywood seemed to look under every rock for a future money-making hit. After a deal involving a board game company and a large studio, we now have the likes of Battleships to look forward to, with the possibility of Monopoly as well. Until its their turn to role the dice then, anyone remember Rock Em Sock Em Robots? Hollywood certainly does...

There are films that become so iconic that they create their own wannabes - "Die Hard on a..." "Indiana Jones-esque adventure..." and of course, "Rocky-like..." Real Steel not only falls into that last category but conjours not one, but two of the long-running franchise entries. So long as the source is acknowledged and respected, that kind of homage can sometimes work.

Levy who delivered such fare as the Night At The Museum movies and Date Night has shown that he can do family feel-good films and people out-of-their-depth movies and here he doesn't have to try too hard to continue that trend. Despite its more mature-based foundations of Stallone's underdog story, he has an ace up his sleeve to help merge together the two types of genre that he has dabbled in - and that ace is Hugh Jackman.

Every bit the lead actor, some of the film gets by on his smile and charisma alone. Even in the more cornier elements of the story - the ex-partner's sister who hates him, the revenge-seeking bully/small time hood after blood and money - it's Jackman who keeps the interest up on the screen. The whole Rocky IV finale involving a Russian-owned Megatron look-a-likey champ vs the peoples underdog cross between WALL-E and C-3PO does stretch the believability line abit thin but by that time, you've already bought into the "cheer on the little guy" mentality that these types of films foster.

With another Stallone movie rifted on - Over The Top - the father learning to bond with the son he never had over a mutual sport interest, fills up most of the running time but luckily the child (Goyo) doesn't grate too much. His moments with the under-developed robot, Atom, are his best, especially the humouress dance sequences that become their trademark before they enter the ring.

The robots themselves are impressive looking but its their lack of personality that holds back the engagement from the audience. It's not until the final fight of small, no-chance Atom against the might Zeus, where you start to feel for him and want him to win. After all, these robots don't hurt or die so it's hard to connect with them as there's no real apparent danger. That changes when, with use of WALL-E esque sound effects and baby-blue glowing eyes, you start to think that Atom may not be an unfeeling machine.

A good fun family film where unusually the effects help the story rather than swamp it, Real Steel is a definite contender for your attention but not necessarily a undisputed champion.

UK release date:14.10.11
Certificate: 12A

Sunday, 2 October 2011


1994 saw the continued meteoric rise to the heights that "The House Of Mouse" had once achieved in its heyday. Disney's The Lion King roared into the cinemas and hearts of the world, gathering 2 Oscars and taking its place as one of only 3 animated movies in the top ten highest grossing films of all time.

Now, with the revival of 3D , companies and movie makers are reassessing their back catalogues and bringing them back to the screen in a way that should hopefully bring new levels to the experience, such as Cameron with Titanic and Lucas with Star Wars.

No matter how many times you may have watched it, either first time around or subsequently at home with the family, it is one of those timeless classics that, over the years, has had alot of competition through advances in technology that so could have easily tarnished its longevity. Traditional animation, when viewed up against the likes of Pixar and DreamWorks' CGI library, can all-too-quickly seem dated and weak, to the point where the story becomes less enchanting due to the eye concentrating on the method of delivery rather than the whole experience itself.

This is never an option here. From probably one of THE best opening sequences not only from Disney but in modern cinema, The Lion King earns the mantle of "classic." The presentation of Simba at Pride Rock was a glorious marriage of iconic imagery with a heart-stirring song in "The Circle Of Life" that now has 3D to bring it further to life. Moments such as the pelicans viewed from above as they make their way along with the other animals to the ceremony are awe-inspiring to behold.

Made for 2D, it never-the-less feels that it could have been designed with the addition of 3D at a later date. The wildebeest stampede, which with the aid of fledgling CG back then was a standout sequence along with Beauty & The Beast's ballroom scene, becomes that much more thrilling with the third dimension involved.But it has never been just about visuals. This is one of those prime examples where all ages are catered for. Jokes are stacked up and rolled out for the young and old equally, and even some at the expense of Disney themselves - when asked to stop his depressing song, Atkinson's hornbill starts to sing the often ridiculed "It's A Small World" to which Irons' evil Scar begs for "anything but that!"

Many people will remember the signature tune - "Hakuna Matata" - but there are so much more great tunes to be enjoyed. Irons' "Be Prepared" is arguably the best villain song ever recorded and the surreal imagery accompanying "Just Can't Wait To Be King" conjours up vague memories of Dumbo's "Pink Elephants On Parade."

A film to be proud to own or to have seen, this is something that all kids of any age - young and old - should see, especially since the 3D conversion is more like Avatar than Clash Of The Titans ... go on, treat yourself.

UK release date: 07.10.11
Certificate: U