Wednesday, 30 May 2012


An acquired taste. Many directors fit into this category - Woody Allen, David Cronenberg - and Wes Anderson firmly sits alongside those individuals.

So far his cinematic efforts - The Royal Tenenbaums, The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou, Rushmore - have garnered critical praise but not a huge fanbase. A strong, but small cult collective following could be an apt description. But it looks like that could all be about to change.

The best way to describe Anderson's latest is as if The Cohen Brothers took a stab at doing their version of the recent British flick Submarine. Their quirky humour, the oddball characters, the delirious dialogue - the benchmarks of all of The Cohen Brothers outputs are present and correct here in Anderson's tale of young love that can't be contained by an island, Scout leaders, vengeful Scout troops or an impending storm. Yes, it's that kind of a movie!

From the get-go, Anderson has the camera move through, conveyor-belt style, a house that ends up looking and feeling like a full scale doll's house. The automated dolly shots introduces the viewer to one half of the young "lovers" family as they gather round and listen to a vinyl deconstruction of classical music on a portable record player whilst Mum (a restrained McDormand) and Dad (a spaced out Murray) sit in separate rooms. The introduction to the wayward other love interest, sees his escape, Shawshank Redemption style from his Scout tent, much to the shock and incredulous look of disbelief of Norton's brilliant Scout Master. That one of his charges would willingly resign from the Scouts is unthinkable to him.

Now, the first few Harry Potter's had the issue of a fantastic mature cast to dazzle the audience but they were still only the sideline characters - the story had to rest on the shoulders of the then under-performing youths (Radcliffe, Grint and Watson) which pulled back some of the suspension of disbelief and enjoyment of the films. Here, the mature cast is exceptional - already mentioned are Murray, McDormand, Norton. However there is Keitel in fine strong, superior cameo mode and once again Willis in the understated and quietly scene-stealing performance that woke everyone up to what he could do in The Sixth Sense. That said though, they are still secondary to the two young kids that experience the first blossoming of true love that find themselves drawn to each other partly due to their not-too-happy childhood lives - he an orphan that isn't liked by his peers and she the "mis-understood" child of the family. Gilman is easily believable as the boy who just doesn't fit in and Hayward is 'sit-up-and-take-notice" fantastic as the girl who would start off the islands biggest search and rescue mission involving Police, Scouts, worried parents and the epitome of evil - Social Services, played coldly by Swinton.

As all the threads start to come together to form a deliriously OTT finale, you still find yourself either laughing at a look or a line from any member of the cast or the mounting absurdity of the situation as each character gets to play their pivotal role in the proceedings. The effects are low-budget, but that only adds to the charm, and you can even forgive Anderson for doing a Benny Hill-esque sequence where Gilman is chased by a horde of angry Scouts in a field, all speeded up!

A charming delight from start to finish,and  just like Submarine, it's a representation of a childhood that part of you wishes you had experienced.

UK release date: 25.05.12
Certificate: 12A

Sunday, 27 May 2012


Sequels. They're made because either the multitude of fans demand it, the creators still have affection for their characters and a story to tell, or because the money-makers won't pass up the opportunity to milk the cash-cow dry.

Its been 10 years since MIB II - the sequel that fans wanted but most were sorely disappointed by - rolled into cinemas 5 long years after the first outing took the world by storm (and quite rightly so.) The doubling up on the time gap between that and this third outing has sadly not doubled up on the fun factor or the excitement levels.

So, MIB 3 feels like it definitely slots into the last category - especially when you add to the mix that filming started on it before they'd finished the script. That never bodes well for the final product, and the reunion of the first, last and only defence of the worst scum of the universe is no exception to the rule.

Now, people can say that sequels will always suffer from the laws of diminishing returns, but there are ones that do buck that trend, and it's those that remember where they came from whilst moving forward on their journey that make, if not better, then at least as good, viewing. Stories that link back to the initial appearance, or connect the dots, or make references or nods to the beginning of the franchise, help to not only make it worthwhile to follow, but acknowledge the fans who helped put the films into the record books. Here, there is little or no respect given to either of the other two adventures of Agents J and K. By this, I mean that there is precious little reference to any scenes or situations that viewers would want or expect to see - the MIB Headquarters was built in the 60's and Smith's J travelling back in time to 1969 should have invited commentary at least on the furniture and style of the building, or some jokes but here in MIB 3, although there is a J, an O and a K, there is a distinct lack of E to complete the picture and deliver one of the things that made MIB so great.

The banter and not always successful "learning on the job" between Smith and Jones gave to the screen a duo to match the likes of popular Riggs and Murtagh of Lethal Weapon where youthful exuberance clashed head on with worn-down experience. Here, the balance is absent because Jones is mainly absent, replaced by a greatly convincing Brolin. His K isn't jaded so the banter clashes are few and far between - and these are sorely missed. These, along with the unfortunate and mis-guided interactions of J and the hidden alien races throughout New York City have been sidelined in favour of a bland, by the numbers back in time travel plot that doesn't even have the courage to present the difficulties that Smith's black agent would have faced in America during the 60's.

Time travel, as depicted in The Terminator and the Back To The Future trilogies, can deliver scares, thrills and laughs in equal measures with a healthy dose "what? how? why?" as well. The biggest thought into the aspect of time travelling - or time jumping in this case - appears to be the method by which it is achieved. Visually, the process here is one of the best ever committed to celluloid but this brief flash of brilliance only goes to make the overall disappointment that much harder when you realise what could be accomplished if the film had been thought out from the very beginning.

It's not an awful film, but when you start to think back and remember exactly how good it all started off in 1997, the taste of this one becomes all the more bitter. You long for the "ticks and shuffling" of villain D'Onofrio with his anger management issues concerning cockroaches rather than the strangely cast Clement who tries to do the same but has to make do with losing it when people keep calling him Boris The Animal rather than Boris.

Fans of the franchise may well wish that the neuroliser actually existed so they could wipe the memory of this, and the second fiasco from their minds....

UK release date: 25.05.12
Certificate: PG

Sunday, 20 May 2012


Martial arts movies - once sneered at by critics and ignored by the masses, they have carried on bringing "oohs" and "ahhs" and "ouchs" to its fans throughout the years. Some have even tried to bring layers to the genre to open up its appeal - Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon broke the critic and box office barriers allowing the likes of crazy Kung Fu Hustle to reach a wider audience.

Now, it would seem that the art of kicking and punching seven bells out of people is about to be championed by the most unlikely source, but that could be exactly what's required... A guy from Wales!

Director/writer Evans has something that most of Hollywood has been trying to create/reproduce/bottle for years - the ability to deliver expected cliches and spectacle-driven scenes whilst making it feel like a whole new experience for the viewer. Hours after seeing it, you may reflect upon similarities between The Raid and other films, but believe me, you won't be doing that during its fingernail in palm-digging, wince-inducing, recoil-startling, breath-holding 101 minutes running time. Once it all kicks off (pun intended), you'll find yourself subconsciously waiting and needing for any moments of calm to to digest and get over the events that have just forced their way into, and onto, your nerve endings.

The mix of Welsh writing and Indonesian fighting has created the "why has it never been done before?" mix of Assault On Precinct 13 and Die Hard - two films that wowed and wooed both audiences and critics alike. This phenomenal combination will replicate the same success if there is any justice. Just like Willis' "wrong place, wrong time" cop that was hopelessly outnumbered, with little support and able to feel and show pain and fear, Uwais' rookie cop who's fighting to stay alive to return to his pregnant wife, shows human emotion when the adrenalin has left his body in between fights. These scenes of slight "normality" not only help you to connect to, and root even more so, for his outnumbered character, but really do give you the time to take a breath and process the fight sequences that you've just witnessed. This needs to be done as a small part of you realises that there was no CGI at play here - what you see upon the screen, it what was filmed. Every back-breaking, neck-snapping, leg-contorting move was choreographed and carried out - and it shows!

Evans has eschewed the norm camera techniques since Saving Private Ryan introduced it to directors and audiences alike - there's no fast editing or hand-held shaky camera work to add to the impression that you're in the thick of it. The camera is placed in new locations - up above at a neck-straining angle, upon the blood-soaked, body-littered floor - and the buy-in from the audience is achieved purely from the moves executed against one another, and not from quick cuts.

As said, there is elements of "done before" within The Raid, but not like this specific combination. You may have lines such as "we go in, we take him out" delivered all macho-like, but then you get "no guns....pulling the trigger is like ordering takeout," just before two experts square off for a behind-closed-doors, Mano-et-Mano fight to the death.  And these fights involve everything around - fridges, florescent lights, tables - not unlike Jackie Chan's style, but there's no comedic value here... just raw survival instincts.

A rarity where its open end has you demanding a sequel, this is a film like no other that has been released this year so far, nor will be. A perfect weekend evening flick with friends, even if you don't do subtitles, you should stop that nonsense and make a date to visit the worst building to be stuck in since John McClane "came to the coast, to have a few laughs..."


UK release date: 18.05.12
Certificate: 18

Friday, 18 May 2012


Comedy - still one of the hardest nuts to crack. An explosion is just an explosion, a kiss just a kiss, but a joke...... can fall flat on its face or have em rolling in the aisles.

Baron Cohen, internationally at least, is always going to be remembered for his "red rag to a bull" characters of Borat and, to a lesser degree, Bruno. These two played up and then milked dry his knack for creating nervous laughter by showing just how dumb and ignorant people (mostly Americans) can be when introduced to a character that has no sense of boundaries or understanding of what is "PC."

His latest invention still relies on this style but Baron Cohen has gone back to his cinematic roots for shots at the funny bone. Rather than a loose story to showcase the public at their worst, here we have a stab at a proper film just like his Ali D Indahouse where the character not only has a journey and a learning curve but there is a definite beginning, middle and end to the plot. Not that the plot to The Dictator is something to get excited about or clear space on the mantle piece for any awards though.

Essentially a twist on The Prince And The Pauper tale, it sees the self-obsessed leader of Wadiya visit America only to be thrown into the down-trodden populace of New York and learn humility, love and understanding. Not necessarily all of the above to a degree where you'd want him as your best friend - this is after all from the mind that in Borat was excited to meet a real life "chocolate face."

What does work in The Dictator's favour is the refreshing scenario concerning the trailer. What you see in the trailer is not what you see word-for-word in the finished cut of the film. There are variations of the jokes yes, but the ones that made it off of the cutting room floor and into the can means that you haven't already seen the best bits even before the lights go down and the projector starts. That and the fact that, surprisingly, his latest offensive invention, grows on you. Not from the obvious scene that shows he just wants to be loved and cuddled after another sex session with a celebrity - Megan Fox from the trailer is only the tip of the iceberg it would seem as a whole wall of Polaroids will confirm - but in the formulaic-but-never-the-less-funny journey he takes to enlightenment. The montage of his turning the store around so as to impress Faris (the female love interest he mistakes for a boy dwarf at the beginning) inexplicably works - you shouldn't like him but you can't help it.

Not as cutting to the bone as Baron Cohen's previous efforts, it still has moments of sharp intake of breath humour, mostly around the undefined Arabic character on American soil and his observations rather than the Americans reacting to his presence. The helicopter scene is still laugh-out-loud and cringe-worthy at the same time and one of the films highlights but it does make you wonder why they didn't play up on the paranoia aspect abit more - after all it's not as if they're shy or anything!

Better then Bruno and Ali G Indahouse but not as "OMG" as Borat, this is a good film for friends to see then laugh over afterwards over a few drinks. All hail Aladeen - or else you'll be executed!

UK release date: 18.05.12
Certificate: 15

Tuesday, 15 May 2012


With the medium of movies in existence for over 100 years now, it doesn't take a degree in rocket science to realise that an aspect of repetitiveness may occasionally creep in from time to time.

Your favourite actor or actress may have a certain catch-phrase, or a certain look that they pull off that traverses some of their films; a director may continuously have his camera move in the same way to add a certain sense of gravitas to the situation, but the actual act of "seen it before" goes way deeper than that!

As with some of the greatest - and dumbest - discoveries of the recent age, the combination of access to the internet AND what would appear to be an infinite amount of spare time on their hands, people have found the "glitches in the matrix" - or to non Matrix fans, all those moments where a tiny voice screams in your head that you've heard/seen it all before.

So, here for your perusal, are some of the situations that, dependant on your frame of mind, could be classed as either: homage, lazy writing/acting, classic-making cinema, or proof that film makers need to up-their-game if they truly want their pieces of art to be classed just as that - classic, cult art - and not on a shop shelf gathering dust...


My personal favourite, be it TV or cinema, is when the character looks directly at you - just you. This act cements the link between them, the do'er, and you, the viewer. It draws you in, letting you in on their joke, their pain, their love, their life. Known as "Breaking The Fourth Wall," here is a collection of your heroes, your villains, your stars, talking to you personally. How many do you recognise?


Growing up, things that were considered wrong, or naughty, have, over the years, become either more tolerable or acceptable. Some have even become non-existent! What was once a swear/curse word back in the 70's and 80's, are now commonplace - some have even changed into greetings or a way to express a moment of clarity or disguised adoration. "Son of a bitch" is just such a phrase! Look for yourself....


So, here's the one that should divide the people - is this a great way to propel the story along OR is it just damn lazy writing? At over 8 minutes long, I'm guessing that most people will come down on the side of "lazy writing" rather than fantastic screenplay motivation, after watching this montage. But then again, I could be wrong - maybe I just don't get it....


So, you're about to spend a huge amount of your budget on blowing up something infront of the camera and you just know (fingers crossed!) that it's gonna look cool. What do you do to let the audience know this so that they can be prepared for it and revel in its awesomeness?.... So that they don't miss a single second of what probably took months in planning and execution to pull off?.... Easy! Get one of the dumb characters to tell everyone!

Recognise any of the above? Did it put one of your fave films in a new light? Have you dug out that script you were writing - you know, the one that you've been working on for a few years now, the one where the protagonist learns a few valuable lessons along the way etc - and a full bottle of tippex and changed a few lines of dialogue perhaps?.... If so, then "happy trails Hans!"

Saturday, 12 May 2012


If you still weren't convinced that Tim Burton was The King Of Kooky with all his previous efforts, then be prepared for the latest slice of "weird" as he, along with long term partners Depp and Bonham Carter, show you how to do American 60's soap opera... replete with vampires and witches. Naturally!

From the get-go, unlike his recent Alice In Wonderland, you know you are in the hands (and God help you, mind) of Tim. Everything the camera glides past - which happens ALOT here - is distinctly Burton-esque. The towns - Liverpool, all "smelling of urine" and of course the home for the bulk of the film, Collinsport - scream out a mixture of his Sleepy Hollow and Edward Scissorhands. And of course, the stately home of the characters - Collingswood itself - has flashes of Beetlejuice and Corpse Bride splattered amongst its lamp-lit rooms and ornate decor.

However, a Burton film wouldn't be a Burton film on visual impact alone (take note Mr. Bruckheimer!) Quirky characters, idiotic individuals, delirious dialogue and Depp doing "devilishly delicious dude" are what audiences demand and expect from their time in the company of the two filmatic friends. Here, Depp, channels Oldman's Bram Stoker's Dracula with elongated hand gestures mixed with his own Captain Jack Sparrow with raised eyebrows and quizzical/bemused looks at such things as concrete roads and the knowledge that horses are not the preferred mode of transport anymore, but something called a "chevy." Alot of the humour is derived from the Back To The Future "fish out of water" scenario - Depp's Barnabus Collins mistaking the McDonald's logo as a sign of the devil; lava lamps as a vessel for pulsating blood; young girls sitting on a sofa late in the evening as a prostitute and of course The Carpenter's singing on the TV as a "tiny songstress." Some of these moments have made it to the trailer, but note, the actual film is not a full-on, laugh-out-loud fest that it looks to be be. This is more along the lines of bizarre and bemusing like his earlier works than what the trailer hints at with a change in style and direction for him - his studio-interfered Planet Of The Apes showed that Burton should stick to what he does best. And here with his Dark Shadows, he mostly does.

It is a surprise that the OTT scenarios that occur frequently in the land of soap operas hasn't drawn Burton in until now. He seems perfectly matched for the issues of unrequited love, pent-up desire and absurd left-of-field twists that they throw out on a weekly basis. Obviously, these are dressed up to match the big screen and heightened state of drama queen that is called for to keep the attention for 2 hours straight - the pent-up desire results in a much more aerobatic display of sex than the infamously hilarious The Tall Guy sequence and the battle of businesses between Green's witch and Depp's vampire is depicted in a movie montage backed by all the great songs from the 70's which then results in a stand-off finale which moves into Death Becomes Her territory rather than Dynasty cat-fight.

Beautiful touches are strewn throughout the film - the oldest cleaning lady in the history of cinema who will clean anything in her slow but methodical way, even Depp's face when it's covered in Green's bile; a 1700's vampire trying to find a comfortable place to sleep in a 1970's world (cardboard boxes, closets, the roof of a four-poster bed-frame); Barnabus referring to Alice Cooper as a "hideous female" time-and-time-again - these moments interspersed with Pfeiffer in fine Stardust meets The Witches Of Eastwick mode, Bonham Carter in true Bonham Carter mode and Green beating her sexy tour-de-force appearance role in Casino Royale, all add up to a fun mix of kooky and quirky that you would expect but not the giggle-fest that the trailer suggested. Upon leaving the cinema, you'll find yourself liking it alot more than when you were watching it - just like Depp himself, Dark Shadows grows on you the more you think about it/experience it. Groovy.

UK release date: 11.05.12
Certificate: 12A