Saturday, 28 April 2012


And so the time has finally come for the beginning of Summer with its blockbusters and of course the 4+ year plan of Marvel to dominate the future of SuperHero films from here on in.

With the arrival of Iron Man back in 2008, and the subsequent additions of The Incredible Hulk, Thor and Captain America: The First Avenger to the Marvel universe, its all been leading up to this moment where all the eggs are in one basket and a lot of studio heads are holding their collective breaths....

They needn't have worried. The task of uniting already defined characters along with actors who are used to running their own show was given to one of the few men in the industry who has shown that ensemble pieces are his speciality - Whedon. His flair for giving a varied cast equal billing, airtime and each a slice of his delicious dialogue was apparent in the likes of Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Angel and Firefly! And the meeting of such large onscreen characters as Iron Man, Hulk, Thor, Captain America, Black Widow and Hawkeye is no exception - this is undoubtedly the most fun you can have in a cinema with your clothes on!

Whedon has managed to duplicate the under-seen and under-valued mix of action, adventure, complicated back story, and above all fun that made his Serenity a joy to watch. In a big buck, all singing and all dancing CGI-fest, you'll be so pleasantly surprised at how many times you not only smirk and smile at events upon the screen, but at how many times you actually will laugh-out-loud at pure comical genius that covers not only words but physical actions too. And it never deters from the action nor the spectacle that pushes its way to the fore frequently as the quarrelling Avengers try to learn to work together to save the Earth from the villain from Thor - Loki (Hidleton in fine vengeful "kneel before me!" mode.)

What could have been so easily the Iron Man and Friends film has an ace up it's spandex sleeve in the form of its S.H.I.E.L.D agents - Fury, Coulson and Smulders - who bring the human element to the earth-shattering proceedings. Whether its Agent Coulson all star-struck at his childhood hero Captain America, or Nick Fury disobeying direct orders with a loaded bazooka, we are reminded that flesh and blood heroes are in real danger and can be killed off - after all, this IS a Whedon film and that's something that the man doesn't shy away from, ever!

The humour is based at fans already in the know from the previous works and newcomers to the Marvel universe with surprisingly a lot of the big laughs based around Ruffalo's Hulk and not Downey Jr's Iron Man. Whether its the chilling but ill-timed rant from Loki that jaw-droppingly gets cut short by the big green man or when he lets off a little steam and frustration at the person next to him - Thor - during the big battle sequence (with shades of ID4, The Matrix Revolutions), Hulk becomes not only the ace up the Avengers sleeves, but Whedon's too.

With a lot being said about the humour, some may be concerned that the action is not up to scratch but rest assured that here, Hulk does smash along with the other Avengers' who definitely "bring the party" to us. Multiple story strands all weave together seemlessly with each of them allotted their specific task to carry out whilst learning to trust each other and work together... or else!

A great time for all, this shows that the foundation is not only sound and solid but it demands more trips and adventures, hopefully under the watchful eye of Whedon - the ONLY superman for the job.

UK release date: 27.04.12
Certificate: 12A

Saturday, 14 April 2012


And so, the race for the Summer blockbuster for 2012 has truly begun! First off of the blocks is the latest in possibly the weirdest merger in recent movie memory - that of Hasbro and Universal. One famous for games, the other for films.

Now, before you judge, remember this merger gave us Transformers back in 2007 - the less said about its sequels, the better. That, along with Pirates Of The Caribbean, has proven that unlikely sources can great movies make. But a film based on a two player game of hit-and-miss strategy?.......

Director Berg, who surprised many with his deft handling of effects and laughs in Hancock, has been given the megaphone duties. Although for most of its running time, you could be forgiven that Battleship was under the camera-swooping, heroic-posturing, big-explosion delivering and dialogue-more-cheesy than a four-cheese pizza with a side of Gorgonzola eye of Michael Transformers Bay himself. There is no sign of the man who delivered the excellent Friday Night Lights or the flawed-but-insightful The Kingdom. Instead, this feels like he's been told what to do in the hope of relpicating the success of Transformers rather than be allowed to put his mark on the film. There's the beautiful girl that gets caught up in the proceedings, the nerd who helps explain the techy parts for the more muscly-but-intellectually-challenged members of the cast, and the reluctant hero that must grow through the trials to become a victor and worthy of the girl and respect.

Now none of these are the fault of Berg but it is him that brings slow-motion shots of the hero - Kitsch in full-on square chin mode - stepping up to the plate and taking charge, and the old sea-dogs walking out on deck to once again help save the day. If its not that Bay-ism then it's aerial shots that swoop past the best of the best that the Navy has to offer. If young, red-blooded Americans don't want to enlist straight after seeing this then I don't know what could.

Now, if all this sounds like its tongue-in-cheek, it would have been more preferable if it were. Instead, this is serious, flag-waving patriotism and any laughs are lost after its opening sequence of a drunk Kitsch trying to get a burrito for female love-interest Decker. At least it has the decency for one of its cast to respond to a stiff-upper-lip "lets give the world another day" line by saying "who talks like that?!?" And if you're interested, you can sit through the end credits to see the weakest attempt at an open ending for a possible sequel. Let's pray it doesn't happen.

UK release date: 11.04.12
Certificate: 12A


For those "in the know," the the financial problems of MGM put back the latest James Bond entry (Skyfall) quite considerably. For a even smaller select group, those studio shenanigans caused the delay of an already made and highly anticipated film, but now, nearly 2 years later...

Whedon, who's about to unleash "Marvel magic" with The Avengers (Avengers Assemble in the UK) has proven time and time again that he, along with J.J. Abrams, has an ability to create works of genius in the medium of TV and cinema. Admittedly, they seem to be an acquired taste as many of their projects become cult rather than world-wide phenomena, but none-the-less, respected, fun and clever they are. Whedon, who co-wrote and produced, along with his long term co-writer Goddard who directs this time, show yet again that their slant on any subject will not be along the lines of how you expect it to be.

And there-in lies a problem. The Cabin In The Woods may suffer because of its cleverness. The best way to probably see it is to do so with no knowledge of it what-so-ever but in this day and age, that isn't a viable option. The trailer hints, or gives away (depending on your point of view) at the notion that this isn't just a normal teen slasher movie. For those who think it is due to the main bulk of the advertising campaign, they will sit there "WTF'ing" each other from the pre-title beginning sequence, right through to the "seriously?!? WTF???" ending. Audience members with a taste for irony, genre-dissecting and the knowledge that they "get it" as opposed to their fellow switched-off popcorn-punters, will definitely love it.

To explain any further or deeper would add to the ruination of the experience, just like when everyone knew that The Sixth Sense had a twist and therefore looked for it rather than let it come to them. This could be considered a possible Spoiler Alert! so read on if you must but you have been warned... just like the 5 teens that stop for gas and directions to The Cabin In The Woods and are met with the staple ingredient of ugly, scary Hill Billy guy who literally tells them not to go there. But go there they do - and it's all about choices, despite what you think will be the inevitable ending, from there on.

There are two distinct groups that seem as far apart as you could possibly get - the 5 teens and a group of tie and lab coat wearing adults that seem to have a banal job- but the conversations around the workplace coffee machine and at their control panels will later help you revel in the revelations as the tale unfolds. These should help you jump from disgust at the human race and its desensitising to pain and anguish, through to despair at how some members of it can either be that stupid or easily manipulated. Just like the classic genre-dissector Scream pointed out, there are rules and to know them and how to beat them means a chance at survival. Think Scream meets The Truman Show meets Shaun Of The Dead and you'll be slightly prepared - but none of them can say they have a board that boasts "Zombie Redneck Torture Family" "Merman" and "Sugarplum Fairy"...

So much fun even when it spirals into a category that is hard to define, it may need several viewings for you to fully appreciate just how clever, sick and gloriously funny it is. Whedon - genius again!

UK release date: 13.04.12
Certificate: 15

Friday, 6 April 2012


So, before he dons the famous red and blue tights and cape combo of Superman for the reboot, Cavill gets to flex his leading man duties with a European-based thriller.

Ever since Damon and Neeson showed that films can be successful based in territories other than America with the Bourne franchise and Taken, it's no surprise that any additions to the thriller genre would try to replicate their success. This time Spain, and in particular Madrid, play host to these latest cat-and-mouse antics that find an everyday man - Cavill - trying to save his kidnapped family. All of course whilst trying to stay alive, avoid CIA agents, stay one step ahead of possible terrorists and process the fact that he has been part of a life that he didn't know which is now exploding all around him, literally.

What is the most surprising thing about Cold Light Of Day is how relatively unknown director El Mechri and newbie writers Petro and Wiper attracted the likes of Willis and Weaver to their film. Especially when you think that they have both A-list stars been involved in classic tales of "right person caught up in events out of their control" that rewrote the genres they played out in - Die Hard and Alien.

Here, no such spark of ingenuity or mould-breaking-cultness appears during its overlong running time. Instead what you are presented with is a jumble of ideas and scenes thrown together from countless other average paint-by-number thrillers that have mostly landed on the direct-to-dvd shelf rather than pack them in at the multiplexes. Dialogue, what there is of it is either grunts, running induced panting or head-shakingly awful for the audience - especially when you know exactly what's coming up next yet no one in the film seems to despite them skirting around the issue for ages. Without giving anything away, when a character who seems emotionally distant then suddenly says that they "love" another character, you know you may as well wave them goodbye in a few minutes.

Cavill does himself no favours here with a role that requires little of him apart from be confused for the first two thirds of the film, then to suddenly become shouty and somehow in complete control of everything. Willis and Weaver should be ashamed of themselves and at times have the decency to portray just that - even Weaver gets to utter the line "I've had enough of this," and to be honest, most people would agree with her.

No one ever sets out to make a bad film, but surely someone could have taken a step back and realised in The Cold Light Of Day that they should have scrapped it all and started again? Or perhaps waited until another project came along to pay the bills... And no, it's not even that bad that it becomes good.

UK release date: 06.04.12
Certificate: 12A


Norway. Who'd a thought eh? Over time, we've had Japanese, Chinese, French and Spanish films all make into the spotlight long enough and big enough to not only cause a stir, but to have the often-feared words "American remake" tagged to them.

Now however, with the double pronged attack of the ignorance of some people geographically - isn't Sweden, Norway and Denmark all the same place? - and the recent hits such as Troll Hunter - it seems that Hollywood is casting its net further afield to look for its next hot hit and a re-imagining/remake based on Jo Nesbo's best selling book and this home turf movie is already under way.

And, it's not surprising to see why. Headhunters has all the ingredients for a great thriller. Infact, with its great cast of characters, its twisting plot and its MacGuffin that isn't a MacGuffin, this so could have easily been a production from the Cohen Brothers - yes, it's that good!

What seems to start off as a film about a conman, changes rapidly after a "brief and unscheduled" meet turns into a whole different kettle of art and subterfuge. The central character - who really can't be named as the hero as NO one here is clean-cut enough to be classed as one - narrates to us the way he has to keep his wife and life style intact - because of his diminished stature he has to make up for it with money and lots of it. Think of it as a more "down-to-earth Thomas Crown Affair" type of intro and you're starting to get the picture. Here it's art that's stolen but in a much simpler way with only two consequences - you'll either score big enough so that you never have to do it again, or, you'll get caught. Except this here is no Pierce Brosnan or Steve McQueen. Hennie may have the luxurious hair to match them (which will be his downfall) but here is a man who finds things quickly spiralling out of his control once the equally suave Coster-Waldau appears on the scene. He literally finds himself on the run for his life with only seconds to spare between each life-threatening encounter between himself and the other, more dangerous type of Headhunter.

For those of you familiar with TVs Game Of Thrones, you won't be surprised at how similar Coster-Waldau's character of the sexy but slimy, stab-you-in-the-back Jamie Lanister and his ex-CEO Clas Greve appear to be. What will be surprising will be his language - yes, this IS a sub-titled film, and YES, you should now not discount it for being so. Once the well-oiled life of Hennie's 1.68 meter art thief/headhunter falls remarkably off the rails, the action and thriller aspects ramp up and the dialogue becomes sparser allowing even those who hate reading sub-titles to still follow every twist and revelation as Hennie starts to put the pieces together.

Fast-paced, slick, darkly humouress and not completely predictable, Headhunters is a prime example of how a thriller should be - there's no need for A-lister's, car chases, explosions or OTT stunts (although there is a semi-chase between a tractor and a car and there is a dog being punched in the head so animal lovers be warned!)

However you do it, catch it before the US stamps all over its subtle, perverse humour and its taut characterisation - you'll be glad you did. Oh, and you'll never lie on a CV again!

UK release date: 06.04.12
Certificate: 15

Monday, 2 April 2012


As always, it seems that once an idea is floated around Hollywood, you can bet that several projects will inevitably race each other to be the first out across the multiplexes.

The winner release date-wise of the planned remakes of the story of Snow White - Mirror, Mirror - is the more traditional telling of the tale, leaving the more aggressive and darker Snow White And The Huntsman to hope for the teen/maturer audience to find it upon its release.

Here we have a squarely aimed-at-a-family-audience film that tries to replicate what Pixar and Disney have done recently, as in deliver laughs for both children and adults alike. What doesn't help achieve this much- sought-after mix is director Singh, whose first foray into the world of family fun slightly struggles with this balance. His previous films - The Cell and Immortals - have been more style than substance, and there are flashes of that same mentality here. Yes, the sets are at times beautiful to behold (especially the Queen's quarters, all mirrored walls and ornate doors and furniture) and the costumes are dazzling (again, alot of this is down to the Queen) but the emphasis on the telling of a well-worn classic seems to have been put to one side. It may be at odds with the Disney benchmark-setter - this Snow White can handle a sword and stands up to the Queen rather than let "her man" try and fulfill his heroic role instead - but a saccharine-coating covers the proceedings none-the-less.

What does save this from complete averageness is mainly Roberts as a hard-to-not-like evil Queen and Hammer as the equal-in-turns heroic and stupid Prince that both Snow White and the Queen fight over. These two get the lines and moments that allow them to sit in your memory whilst all the others, yes, even including the dwarfs, are banished into the background with uninspiring dialogue and the feel of an after thought around them. Only one dwarf gets to make a little impression (pun intended) and that's mainly because of his infatuation with Snow White and his continued mis-guided belief that she will end up with him rather than the Prince.

When Roberts is not upon the screen devouring the sets with her sharp words or Hammer's shirtless torso with her eyes (a very funny rolling gag), the story sags as Collins' Snow White, despite the modern makeover, cannot hold a candle, or broom, to the Queen and her vain ways.

Not a bad effort but neither enough meat-on-the-bones for the children or adults to keep them fully entertained throughout, it looks like the maturer Snow White And The Huntsman won't have that much to stand in its way - maybe it will be the fairest of them all after all...

UK release date: 02.04.12
Certificate: PG