Friday, 28 December 2012


The internet. For some it has broadened their horizons and opened up new worlds and new possibilities. For movie makers, it seems to have opened up more efficient ways of piracy and placed upon them the "power of the angry geek." Films have found themselves under attack even before the cameras have started to roll.

The first big screen outing of author Lee Childs' best selling anti-hero came under such fire when Cruise was announced as playing the part of drifting investigator Jack Reacher. His height, his looks, his frame - all were dragged into the mud-slinging arena. It was Interview With The Vampire all over again.

They were wrong then, and they're wrong now.

In the hands of first time big screen director McQuarrie, who is best known for his penmanship rather than his camerawork (writer of Valkyrie, The Usual Suspects, The Tourist and here on Jack Reacher) we clearly get to see that he  knows how to set up good characters with great introductions. After an unusually nail-biting opening sequence where a sniper opens fire on seemingly random members of the public  (unusual because not only are men targeted, but women and girls carrying children...yes, you read that right, children!) he smoothly moves onto the task of introducing our anti-hero. Not unlike the intro to Indiana Jones, the beginning shots of Cruise's Reacher  doesn't show his face, just his back of head and side shots. The only thing we get to see is the reactions by every female that interacts with him - something fun that runs throughout the entire film with women trying to contain their desire for him. This clearly is a man with presence despite not being 6"5" as described in the books.

The tone is then further set with a "you can see it coming but it's funny nonetheless" sequence where Oyelowo's cop and Jenkins DA brood over how impossible it is to find a man like Reacher let alone ask him for help after reviewing his file only to have him....well, you can guess the rest. These kind of smile-inducing moments are scattered throughout the films 130 minute running time but none are more so delightful than Reacher blending into his surroundings to avoid capture from Oyelowo's men after a slightly overlong but enjoyable car chase through the city.

The saving grace and the Achilles Heel for the film though lies squarely with its villains. Courtney is a believable match for Cruise in the shooting and hand-to-hand combat sequences (so maybe there IS hope for A Good Day To Die Hard after all then as he plays McClane's son in the fifth outing) but it is the big boss - an underused and very sketchily written Herzog - that feels flat. With a "hinted at" and hastily drawn out back story, Herzog's big bad boss no more elicits fear from the audience than what Reacher feels when he goes up against 5 paid thugs in a bar. There's no need to even break a sweat.

So, with 17 books out in the public domain concerning Jack Reacher, no doubt the studio is hoping that this could be their next new franchise. Of course, only time will tell whether Jack's reach can extend to a sequel but with Cruise seemingly making films left, right and centre and with an already block busting franchise up his sleeve (Mission: Impossible), a return to Reacher could be a hard thing to come by unless of course the ticket stubs go extra crazy for it.

Fun, witty and enjoyable to watch - both the film and it's female lead, Pike - it's worth a trip to check it out but do yourself a favour.... let the whole height thing go if you've read the book and just sit back and take it all in. You'll be pleasantly surprised!.

UK release date: 21.12.12
Certificate: 12A

Tuesday, 18 December 2012


For some out there, it's going to be an unlucky year. With 13 in its name/number, next year all of Hollywood and its worldwide cohorts, are hoping that there will be NO unluckiness with what they've chosen to release and ultimately entice your time and money away from you, the audience.

The film studios are already gearing up to release their big guns from next month onwards to dominate not only the lucrative Summer season but also the awards season with their releases slated from October, so, how about a flash forward for you to plan ahead each month and either book the baby-sitter, cancel the stag/hen do, re-arrange that reunion, record that football match rather than watch it live or.... insert the relevant scenario that matches your busy life here!

The following will pick each of the coming months and highlight some of the movies that hope to score big-time with your attention and your pocket money... so the list is there, all you have to do is choose what out of them gets your vote for your popcorn-consuming calender...



There's not much to say about this one... the trailer for it had been hitting screens since early November and the word on the inside track is that Oscar nods will abound for it. The trailer shows that the impressively well-known cast will soon be well-known for not just their acting ability but for their singing prowess as well. Wolverine VS Gladiator in a singing match?.... Bring it on!



Or, as some would call it, the next Twilight... With alot of teen literature being viewed as hot cinematic properties of late since the Twilight's and The Hunger Games scored big at the box office, it's no surprise that this ever-popular series of books has made it to be the big screen. Whether it can be big enough for any sequels however will remain to be seen...



Despite Bryan Singer's fab-looking Jack The Giant Slayer being released this month, I've gone for the simply put "totally bonkers looking and sounding" Cloud Atlas. With a time-spanning premise that seems reminiscent of the poorly-received The Fountain, it's gotta be worth a look...



Marvel's plan to rule the universe along with their partner Disney continues after the over-whelming success of Avengers Assemble last year. This month sees the charming rogue that is Downey Jr's Tony Stark have to deal with his problems without the aid of any of The Avengers. Brave move but everything they've done has been brave... and mostly its paid off!



The first J.J. Abrams Star Trek was one of my favourite films of that year. Having seen the 8 minute trailer of the sequel in IMAX format, I think it's safe to say that this will easily become one of my favourites of this year!



So far, the reaction to Zack Snyder's take on Superman has been...confused. The trailers for it have been more like that of an independent movie than a superhero flick. With The Dark Knight trilogies Christopher Nolan as producer, can the story of Superman cope with being made more "realistic / gritty"? Time will tell.



With a seemless blend of great visuals and a haunting song in the trailer, EPIC is looking just that - epic! Look for the original trailer which is light on plot but heavy on wonder and excitement.



After the endless delay in getting The Hobbit before the rolling cameras, Del Torro left Jackson to it so that he could deliver to us the tale of robots VS monsters! Hopefully this will bring to the screen the carnage that the Transformers sequels failed to do.



So it would seem that Depp and Verbinski haven't got each other out of their systems yet despite their Pirates Of The Caribbean run together! Welcome to The Lone Ranger, Tonto and Silver up in a tree! What do you expect?!? 



It's like 2001 all over again! Remember when Christmas meant a new trip to Middle Earth? Well, The Hobbit's sequel hits cinemas with the third and final instalment due May 2014. Start ticking the calendar now.... (There's no trailer for part two yet so in the meantime, enjoy reliving the An Unexpected Journey again.)

So, for the time being, just know that for each film I've listed above, it will be up against at least another ten minimum in that particular month. There's a host of other note-worthy flicks but rest assured, when I can they will be here for you to peruse.

What are you looking forward to then? And did you know any of them?


So, 3 years ago, a TV programme somehow managed to become a small phenomenon despite itself and everyone saying how "they didn't watch it!" A show that was basically a musical every week with a bunch of kids singing existing songs to explain their feelings? Go to the theatre if you want that then nerds!

But it continued to air and sold records aplenty. Now, we have what on the outside appears to be a "made-for-the-big-screen" version of Glee! replete with the battle for Regionals and a bucket full of attitude to match too.

As a fan of Glee! myself, I can none-the-less see how people could not cope with it and naturally want to avoid any cinematic version of it like the plague or worse - the "wannabe's" on X-Factor. For those of you who fall into that category - stop right now, thank you very much!

Every now and then, audiences are treated too, so long as they let themselves be, a film that breaks out of its pigeon-holing and not only appeals to, but can win over all demographics other than what its storyline and its trailer suggests. Films such as Clueless, Mean Girls and 10 Things I Hate About You were looked at as just "teen/coming of age" flicks but they had a maturity and cleverness about them that made them hugely successful and popular to anyone who saw them, no matter what their age was.

Pitch Perfect is able to put itself into that category. Yes, it is slightly predictable. Yes, it has at certain points more cheese than Cathedral City's warehouse. But then, so were all the other genre-breaking flicks previously mentioned that pulled in punters other than their target teen audience. Here, as in with the others, it's all about the dialogue and the cast that delivers them. With a great cast and cracking dialogue, cliches become relevant plot points rather than eye-roll inducing set pieces.

And the cast here is perfectly pitched (pun intended.) Kendrick shows that her Up In The Air performance wasn't just a fluke or great because she had Clooney to bounce off of. Here she plays the "leave me alone but at the same time acknowledge me" new girl to the campus that issues out rape whistles (but asks that you only use them if it's really happening!) with charm for you to instantly like her. That role could be grating or downright annoying but Kendrick avoids such reactions. Her fellow musicians who "make music, with their mouths" are all the stereotypes you would expect to be present and correct - the slut, the quiet one, the rich bitch and since the successful arrival of The Hangover's out-spoken Alan, the mouthy fat one.

Wilson who plays Fat Amy, gets the main slice of the laugh-out-loud comedy hits from the ensemble - vertical running, drive-by Burrito'd, bikini carwash demonstration - whilst the others have to be content with either reacting, singing and the occasional sight jokes - secret lesbian looks, The Goonies-style vomiting - whilst the boys get their own slice of male humour - the Star Wars dorm room gag is sheer genius.

The consistently best side characters however are the commentators during the various regional and national competitions. Think of Dodgeball's Jason Bateman, then take his essence and place it into Elizabeth Banks and John Michael Higgins and sit back and watch the sexist, ageist and racist comments just fly by! If you don't long for another competition just to hear the thinly veiled sarcasm and the politically incorrect comments from the two then it's time to put the microphone away and just walk away.

Of course, in the end, despite all the shenanigans, love interests and rivalries, Pitch Perfect is about music and to a degree, choreography and these are both delivered incredibly well. All songs are either toe-tappers, hum-alongers or, with the case of  No Diggity, just plain old sit -up-in-your-seat classics!

More than just another teen flick, this is a cleverly written, well performed delight that allows you to admit you do like some form of musicals. Go see, go sing, go enjoy!

UK release date: 21.12.12
Certificate: 12A

Sunday, 16 December 2012


Unfilmable. There are many books that are held dear to those who have read them and consider their favourite tomes as impossible works of art that would be unable to be committed to celluloid.  For anyone who has read it,Yann Martel's The Life Of Pi is one such book.

Then again, Ang Lee is not the kind of individual to be put off by such trivialities! The Taiwanese directer who has delivered outstanding works in both his native tongue - Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon - and in the West - Brokeback Mountain - has yet again turned his attention to literature. His Sense & Sensibility showed an understanding of remaining true to the source whilst making his own mark on the work and here, with some of the most beautiful 3D imagery committed to celluloid since Scorsese's Hugo, he has truly made this a sight to behold and cherish.

Even with the story of how someones faith in God is tested and eventually rewarded against all the odds, Magee's adapted screenplay and Lee's camerawork combine beautifully together to let you explore the possibility of "faith rewarded" and God on your own terms - it doesn't cram it down your throat forcing you to believe... you can read into it what you will and, like the reminiscing Pi says, "you can chose to believe or not."

The first third of the book dealt with Pi's multiple-conversion to every religion he came across whilst growing up in "one of the most beautiful places on Earth - India." Wisely, Magee's screenplay covers the religious aspect of the story humorously yet respectfully ("I want to be baptised" at the dinner table) in the first 20 minutes through the aid of flashbacks, and then delves head into the real reason why the audience, and Rafe Spall's inquisitive writer are there in the first place - the story of his younger self stranded in a lifeboat with a 3 year old Bengal tiger in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. You may not believe in God by the end of Pi's tale but you will want to have shared his experience, however fraught with danger it is.

Without giving away too much, Pi (delightfully played with initial wide-eyed earnest and then forced maturity through unfolding events by Surja Sharma) and Richard Parker (the Bengal tiger named that through a clerical error) are not alone on the lifeboat and the harsh realities of the circle of life are played out in the small floating arena against various backdrops - a raging storm and then the calmest, most astounding sea you could ever hope to see. It is these striking images that make their mark upon the viewer - an endless reflection of sky and sea with a bland white boat floating between the reflective  two holding the the beauty and majesty that is the tiger with his orange and black colouring sitting so out-of-place in these surroundings.

Before going any further, this is the time to emphasise exactly how stunning this film is. Normally, a lengthy description on the effects would lean towards the fact that the story, its depiction or the acting is below par as it seems all efforts were placed into the special effects alone. Here, simply put, is a truly beautiful film that could not have been made probably even a few years ago. Even for this trained eye, spotting the difference between the real tiger and the "had to have been used" CGI tiger is virtually impossible. This effect has the affect of not only drawing you in, but helps you to fall in love with a creature that you should fear and not care for. It is that good! The balance of power that continually shifts between Richard Parker and Pi both in and out of the lifeboat helps you to root for both at separate moments whilst still not wanting the other to suffer too much. Not many films can boast manipulating your allegiances and love between an animal and a human - and no, not even Turner & Hooch can pull off what Lee achieves here.

One way that the audience is so easily pulled along by its heart strings is through the films abundance of humour. Forget the absurdity of the premise of a boy and a tiger fighting for dominance on a lifeboat - the marking of the territory by urine is both clever and hysterical but shows the valuable lesson of never going up against a tiger in a pissing contest - it's the learning curve that Pi has to go through in order to survive that conjours up smiles and laughs. His diary of how to train a tiger at sea is delightful - "point 5. Ignore all the other points," after Richard Parker nearly has a meal made entirely out of Pi.

The use of flashback allows you to catch your breath and take on board not only the enormity of the situation and the various solutions that both work and don't - taking all the supplies of the lifeboat for safekeeping and storing them on the makeshift raft away from Richard Parker seems like a good idea at the time until the dazzling display of the luminous whale - but also the visual creativity and beauty that seeps from pretty much every frame of film.

A genuinely feel-good film, The Life Of Pi is one of the most beautiful 2 hours you could ever hope to spend in the cinema - both visually and spiritually. And if you don't want to go stroke a tiger afterwards or discover an island of meerkats that don't utter the phrase "simples" then there is no hope for you. Believe.

UK release date: 20.12.12


It's taken so long - even longer than Frodo's journey to Mount Doom it seems. But finally after what seemed like insurmountable odds, the first instalment of The Hobbit has arrived. Peter Jackson, the director, co-writer and all-round orchestrator of things that are cinematic Tolkien, once again took up the directoral reins after chosen director Del Torro was forced to bail after all the complications involving legal rights and the fall of MGM kept pushing back the shoots starting date. The Hobbit was facing a fate not unlike the one that befell Bond's Skyfall. That however, benefited from the delay with more time to prep the adventure.

Fate though, it seems, has given Jackson the chance to finish what he started back in 2001 with The Lord Of The Rings: The Fellowship Of The Ring. So, the question here is: has he pulled another success out of the bag or has his obvious love for Tolkien blinded him to the level of over-indulgence? Well my precious...

Sequels. Prequels. Audiences want more of the same but something different as well - all at the same time. Jackson's first of the now scheduled three forays into the story of Bilbo Baggins' adventure away from The Shire amazingly manages to pull off both of these polar opposites.

The "more of the same" aspect sees a remarkably similar structuring to Fellowship Of The Ring. We are given all the required back story via a prologue monologue - this time it's Ian Holms' older Bilbo rather than eternally beautiful Cate Blanchett's Galadriel imparting the relevant history. Nearly three hours later we then have the hero shot as the gallant band observe their destination from quite afar - both times a mountain in the distance with the distinct message to both them and the audience that there is still yet a long way to go... two films worth to be precise. Then, finally, a quick shot of an eye that will definitely cause the band of heroes much trouble when it sees them, despite their belief that "the worst is behind them."

Inbetween these two momentous bookends, there is much to see, and marvel at, along with breath-holding and laughter. Infact, there is quite alot of laughter to be had. The story of The Hobbit was one aimed more at the younger reader whilst the lengthy gap between that and it's sequel-of-sorts - The Lord Of The Rings - helped to create an overall more maturer and darker tone within its pages. These have been accurately reflected here with Jackson's body of work concerning Tolkien's works.. His Hobbit is an altogether more upbeat and jolly affair. Most of this comes from the larger-in-numbers  main cast and all their interactions with one another - after all, as Gandalf says, "they're quite a merry gathering." It's this lightness that gives those seasoned viewers the something "different" to make the time, effort and money that they have spent to view The Hobbit all the more worthwhile.

With this lighter, more smile-inducing tone, there are still sequences that feel like a distinct parallel to its "60 years" later continuation. Fellowship.. had the chase and escape through the mines of Moria whilst here there is a just as frantic run through the hordes of goblins deep underground in Goblin Town. The younger, more agile Gandalf has a more "hands on" approach here than he did in The Lord Of The Rings trilogy, with some nifty moves involving his wizards staff which could easily place him in a Star Wars prequel if they gave him a lightsaber to wield instead.

This, however is not Gandalf's tale - it belongs squarely with Bilbo and thusly with Freeman who was always first choice for the role. Some, and only a few, may find it hard to reconcile with Tim from The Office as the main man/hobbit in a full-on fantasy epic that cost and will make back millions of dollars, but the simple truth of the matter is that just as Gandalf did, Jackson and Del Torro chose wisely. Freeman's "down to (Middle) earthiness"- pun intended - and his slight self-depreciating manner make him to easy to connect with and then of course, root and care for. When he finally gets the chance to step up to the plate and prove to the doubting leader of the Dwarves that he does belong amongst them of their dangerous quest, you'd be forgiven for wanting to punch the air with delight and whoop for joy.

If Freeman carries the weight of the film upon his shoulders, it is Jackson's regular cohort Serkis, that helps deliver the films best sequence - the most satisfying, funny and creepy one possibly of all of the Middle Earth's stories so far. The battle of riddles between Serkis' Gollum and Freeman's Bilbo deep in the mountain is in turns laugh-out-loud funny then disturbingly chilling as Gollum decides that he's had enough of games and wants feeding as "we'ves never tried hobbits'."

There has been talk and backlash that the film suffers from excessive filling ever since the announcement that the two films would become three and that there is unnecessary information put in just to help them make us see a trilogy rather than a duo. Nonsense. All information here helps to bridge the gap that would make the linking of these films with the existing ones that much more fluid and understandable. Even if you disagree, here the time and the journey simply flies by leaving you once again on that in equal parts great but annoying cliffhanger.

Mr Baggins, we look forward to the rest of your journey, there and back again.

UK release date: 14.12.12
Certificate: 12A