Saturday, 17 August 2013


Not so long ago, the film industry was awash with the likes of Joel Silver and Jerry Bruckheimer productions - films with big names, big action sequences and loud music.

The late 80's and early 90's were the height of these "big on budget and low on script' types of film but then, like all things, their time came and went.

Well it seems that director Baltasar Kormakur doesn't agree with this.

His first foray into major motion picture territory is one that feels, looks, sounds and registers with those who were around back then as a film that was made in the early 90's and has been, up until now, lost in a storeroom somewhere in Hollywood. Your love - or toleration - of this genre will greatly affect your viewing outcome of 2 Guns.

From the get-go, we are given an introduction to The Denzel & Mark Show as the do their mis-matched cop buddy routine - and it's good.  Very good. The two banter back-n-forth relentlessly and effortlessly over such trivial things as what to order for breakfast and how much a tip should be (very reminiscent of the opening salvo from Reservoir Dogs.) And that's all in the opening sequence before the old school "one month earlier" scrawl appears and the story set-up begins in earnest.

Now the story of 2 Guns is one of no surprises to avid cinema-go'ers - there are crosses, double crosses and even at times the beginnings of triple crosses pouring out of the woodwork as the plot thickens and Denzel and Mark grudgingly try to trust each other to get to the bottom of things. This is all the while an elusive $43.125 million dollars (as mentioned by Bill Paxton channelling his nasty brother Chet role from Weird Science everytime he appears on screen) is being hunted by several groups of people from the mob through to corrupt CIA and dodgy DEA Agents. This set up of people all converging on the money casts shadows of the grand finale from True Romance which only solidifies the feeling of 80/90's cinema.

Now with such a run-of-the-mill story full of 2 dimensional baddies what starts to happen is "good guy disappearance" syndrome. Whenever The Denzel & Mark Show is not up upon the screen, the proceedings start to feel somewhat flat and protracted without their genuinely pleasing chemistry creating more back-n-forth than a ping pong championship final.

Fun but none-the-less fleeting, 2 Guns is an enjoyable ride but one that makes you want to go back and put on the likes of The Last Boy Scout to see how buddy flicks with double crosses and shenanigans should be played out. Long live the 80's!

UK release date: 16.08.13
Certificate: 15

Thursday, 8 August 2013


Word of mouth can sometimes be very misleading. Across the pond, the critics have been quite vocal regarding their opinion on the latest stab at one of histories longest running entertainment icons.

There has been comparisons to the ill-fated Wild, Wild West and in general, murmurs of displeasure and dislike.

Were they watching the same film?!?

What we have here is yet more proof that, despite the odd hiccups, there are certain things we can rely on: director Gore Verbinski knows how to deliver some Summer spectacle; writers Ted Elliot & Terry Rossio can deliver outstanding origin stories; and the one Johnny Depp is still THE quintessential quirky character creator. End of. Full stop.

For those not in the know, the list of people above are the team that gave us Pirates Of The Caribbean - the film that no one wanted, based on an outdated ride at Disney World. This origin story that launched a further 3 films - thus turning it into a surprise franchise - showed that when creating an opening salvo, they knew how to deliver the goods. Now with this stab at the story of the masked man defending the people which the law cannot seem to do, they have all created a film that is as smile-inducing, lean-forward laughing and iconic-image forming as their first team-up. Yep, you read that right - The Lone Ranger is as much fun as Pirates Of The Caribbean!

From the get go, the mission here seems to be pure and simple - entertain the heck out of the audience and not pay too much attention to such trivialities as historical timing or location. If it ain't fun or funny, don't leave it in!

With a set up not too dissimilar from the classic The Princess Bride, the story of our hero is told to a young child who, most likely as some audience members will do, interrupts the proceedings to question the motives and the clarity of the storytelling from the old narrator - in this case a 100+ year old Depp claiming to be the original Tonto. At times he looks even more Keith Richards than Keith Richards did in the Pirates sequel - a strange nod to the inspiration of one Captain Jack Sparrow. The plot is mostly linear except for one or two events which help build up abit of mystery around The Masked Man and the Insane Indian until the grand finale.

Before the "OMG" finale though, there is just a heap of slapstick, banter, quirkiness, stunning vistas, stupendous set pieces and one of cinemas greatest real life horses (Tangled's Maximus doesn't count here as we was all CGI.) The White Spirit horse - he doesn't become Silver until the end where Depp yet again steals the show with a corker of a line!) - acts alongside Tonto fantastically, even when he isn't standing in trees wearing hats, walking and running on roofs or licking scorpions off our heroes faces.

It all may sound just a tad too silly but believe that despite how strange it all sounds, it never feels like it's slipping into ridiculous levels where complete suspension of everything is necessary in order for you to survive it.

All of the above is pulled off seamlessly with Depp the right side of fruit loop and Hammer the square-jawed-but-niavely-trusting all-american hero. Their banter harks back to the Laurel & Hardy days of entertainment where looks rather than words speak volumes and creates laughs.

Then you're hit with the train chase finale. Imagine the chase sequence from Wallace & Gromit's The Wrong Trousers on speed, with full size trains, a serious lack of sleep, a serious amount of cash spent on special effects, the best use of a ladder committed to celluloid and THAT tune from The Lone Ranger finally blaring out across the speakers which had been noticeably absent until then, and you're half way there! Logistically, it's a nightmare keeping up with as the two trains become more and more detached as they chase each other through the glorious-but-blurred landscape but then you don'y have to! That's the point! Just sit back, relax and accept the insanity of it all and the pleasure that comes with it.

Immense fun and deserving of a follow-up adventure, ignore the American antipathy towards it and go see it for yourself! Hi Ho... Whoops, can't spoil it for you!

UK release date: 09.08.13
Certificate: 12A

Saturday, 27 July 2013


Along time ago, a certain chemist chain ingrained into our minds that the age of the lady was upon us with their constant advertising campaign tune of "Here Come The Girls"....

That journey, film-wise at least, is still a work in-progress, but is none-the-less moving in the right direction. After the femalisation of the male-orientated The Hangover with the "funny-as but not as successful-as"  Bridesmaids; it is now the turn of that other male-dominated staple of the "cop buddy" flick to be estrogenated. Where once the likes of Gibson & Glover stood tall with Lethal Weapon, there are some new sheriffs in town - Bullock & McCarthy!

The premise of The Heat is a simple and very well-trodden one - mis-matched cops trying to work together to solve a case that either is, or becomes, very personal to the both of them for different reasons. At least it is to begin with. The two anomalies that this latest offering of the "good cop, bad cop" scenario has over the efforts that have gone before are: as already stated its women this time round and not men, and the standard set of locations used are not adhered to. Normally, the city of New York would host the action so that the newcomer has to try and fit into the sprawling metropolis that is The Big Apple with its laughable lowlife and seedy streets. Here, FBI Agent Bullock leaves New York - all nice, clean buildings and quiet suburban neighbourhoods - and heads to Detective McCarthy's Boston - all lower working class, seedy streets - following a lead about a pretty nasty individual that no one has ever seen, except for the trail of bodies he leaves behind. Here New York is not the bed of iniquity and vice as normally experienced in film lore, but the serene, learned Boston is.

Apart from those two changes, everything else is familiar territory here. The two cops do not see eye-to-eye on anything. The methods that they use are deplorable to each other - one follows the rules and knows the rulebook inside out whilst the other knows the street rules and doesn't read books. One takes pride in their appearance and the other does not whilst they both have an opinion on the other's wardrobe. One quotes the book whilst the other throws the book - literally at a non-talkative suspect. So, all present and correct then.

However, what it does have is the genuine chemistry between the once Queen (and still should be seen as royalty) of "mainstream, inoffensive" comedy, Bullock, and the newcomer of "in yer face, rude" comedy, McCarthy. Both deliver exactly what you've seen from them before - McCarthy's non-embarrassed, socially-unaware Bridesmaids character, and Bullock's slightly uptight, self conscious While You Were Sleeping, Two Weeks Notice, Miss Congeniality character. Both work well together although at times the ying and yang and back 'n' forth between them does feel over exposed. This may be because at times the banter feels like more improvised than scripted and the film doesn't seem to know when to cut those scenes and move onto the next part. You feel that there are possibly a lot of jokes and banter that have been left on the cutting room floor in order to keep the running time down to a manageable amount for a comedy.

That is never more evident than when the bond between the two agents of the law become suddenly best buds instead of sheer duds. The move is all-too-quick to feel believable and seems forced to help move the story along - especially after all the aggression between them previously. They do get to share one of cinema's most funniest drinking scenes in recent years with both showing perfect timing but that should have been the catalyst for their bonding and not further cementing it as the script shows us.

Director Paul Feig has pretty much previously cut his teeth on the small screen rather than its bigger sibling with Bridesmaids being his only silver screen project before this. This does answer maybe why The Heat feels like a TV show expanded for the big screen with everyone making use of the freedom to swear which would be denied it if it were on the box. His duties on The Office, Nurse Jackie, 30 Rock, Arrested Development and Parks And Recreation makes The Heat feel like it could have been one of those shows. There the relationship could have been developed over a period of time and not rushed, but then again you wouldn't have got the swearing or the violence!

A fun outing for all, The Heat is worthy of its enticing trailer BUT be warned! It is NOT what it pretends to be at its very beginning! With its retro music and slightly tinted old film stock look along with split screen visuals, you'd think that you're in for a treat of an 80's cop buddy movie with knowing references and the like, but it is a lie! That is only over the opening title sequence and does leave you feeling abit cheated throughout and wondering how better it could have been if they'd just stuck with that idea. And if they'd added bloopers at the end! I mean, come on! ALL comedies should do that!

UK release date: 31.07.13
Certificate: 15

Saturday, 20 July 2013


What can be said about a very British institution that has, over the years, seen it move from quiet cult through to justified placement upon the world's stage? (gettit?) Alot, it would seem.

After a glib comment during an interview, the now named "3 flavours Cornetto trilogy" comes to an end with, quite dramatically, The World's End! Literally!

Any viewing and reviewing of The World's End will be, rightly or wrongly, accompanied with a nostalgic look back at the previous works of the three main instigators of the trilogy - Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg and Nick Frost. All have gone on to do their own things but most viewers will be expecting, and more than likely demanding, to see more of what the three did together rather than something that may show how they've grown since those early days of collaboration.

Despite not being an actual sequel, The World's End will undoubtedly fall foul of the sequel curse - fans want more of the same but something different. A very difficult line to tread, the boys have never-the-less gone for this whole-heartedly and this could be where original fans my feel alienated (pun intended) by their attempt at the sci-fi genre. This is not like the affectionately-lampooned zombie genre Shaun Of The Dead, nor the mash-up of American all-action, cop buddy flicks in Hot Fuzz relocated to a quiet English village.

Those first two parts of the Cornetto trilogy had what translated up upon the screen as specific films being lovingly recrafted and having the piss taken out of them but with affection, respect and love. Shaun Of The Dead had its Day Of The Dead. Hot Fuzz had its Bad Boys. World's End... upon first viewing has.... nothing! At least nothing obvious despite the genre of sci-fi being a veritable smorgasbord of rich pickings to rip off or lovingly recreate. Some may, after having watched it, reflect upon the idea that Pegg and Frost's non-Wright project - Paul - feels more like a fitting end to the trilogy than the actual offering delivered here. Paul has specific references to sci-fi films that Shaun and Fuzz depicted that you are able to clock off on your fingers whilst watching whereas their World's End does not.

What you get to clock off instead is a cast list of who's who from all their past collaborations. People from their humble beginnings of TVs Spaced - Mark Heap, Julia Deakin, Michael Smiley - The League Of Gentlemen's Apocalypse - Reece Shearsmith -  Shaun Of The Dead - Martin Freeman, Bill Nighy - and Hot Fuzz - David Bradley, Paddy Considine - all make appearances here in this finale. Infact, the easier thing to do would be to clock up the noticeable absentees from the final affair - Jessica Stevenson and Bill Bailey are the two main no-shows that would have been hugely welcome, even if just drinking in one of the twelve pubs in the background. Such is the pre-programming in us from our previous experiences from the trio's back catalogue, that we expect to see all the familiar faces from the past efforts all present and correct. And if not an exact appearance then at least an acceptable variation - Hot Fuzz had a James Bond with Timothy Dalton and World's End gets its Bond in the form of Pierce Brosnan.

So, what does it actually do then you wonder? Well, it definitely goes out with a bang! Literally! The team have a lot more buck to play with here and they use it wisely and wonderfully up upon the silver screen. The films and genres that they have parodied - or homaged - before were not necessarily known for their huge use, or reliance on, of special effects. Sci-fi films demand it mostly and the "robots that aren't robots" and the other non-human entities roaming the streets of Newton Haven are up-to-scratch with any of the big league blockbusters that delve into the world of science fiction. And maybe that's where this instalment falters alittle.

This feels abit like it suffers from the all-too-common- curse of the blockbuster - style over substance. This is because we are not presented with the normal dynamic between Pegg and Frost. Pegg is unrecognisable as the leader of the Famous Five who are trying to conquer The Miracle Mile's pub crawl that they didn't finish 20 years earlier. Here is shades of Frost's Ed from Shaun.. - all self-orientated, self-obsessed and selfish to the extent that you wonder what the rest see in him and why they still follow him around. There is no likable quality in the normally centre flag-poled Pegg and surprisingly, none of that seems to have been transferred other to any of the other four characters. Frost is angry at Pegg throughout the film and it's not until the final third act that we get to find out why that is. By that time then there's not enough minutes left for the forgiveness and re-bonding to begin between them and to wrap things up plot-wise hence the feeling of a rushed friendship bridge-building and the final fight to save Earth. Freeman, Considine and Marsen are the tag-alongers (as explained in the Pegg voiceover at the beginning) and have characterisation to match that standing in the scheme of things

It's these bold steps to differentiate this from their previous works that shows how they've grown work-wise but maybe how we as fans and viewers are not really ready for them to do so. Separately we can accept them expanding their horizons but when together, it feels like that they should be true to what and who they were. It's like having a loved pet replaced - it still is what it is in basic animal terms but it doesn't feel completely right.

The in-jokes are there still - the now infamous different ways of trying to climb a fence in a hurry, the look out for the Cornetto reference - but the more obvious ones are excluded deliberately by the trio in order to have this stand out from the other two efforts. A "you've got blue on you" would have been so easy to do (Shaun's "you've got red on you") but they don't go for it. All before has been so tightly cross-referenced that when they don't do it here you feel a tad disappointed.

Now, this does not make it a bad film - not by a long shot. It does make it a different film and how willingly you are to embrace that fact will depend on how much you will enjoy it. There are some quotable lines to match all their other great moments - the "we'll always have the Disabled Toilet" if there is any justice should be quoted alongside "we'll always have Paris" in equally awed tones.

Who knows, maybe after a few years and reflection, The World's End could become like the Indiana Jones And The Temple Of Doom episode where opinions change and it isn't considered the runt of the litter anymore....

Fun, filmatic and Friday night-friendly, it's a good and brave ending but here's to the hope that they, like Lucas and Spielberg did, make another film in order to say sorry to the true die-hard fans.

UK release date: 19.07.13
Certificate: 15

Saturday, 13 July 2013


What, if anything, do you think would come out of your mind if you were to think back upon your childhood and make a film from what you found there? Trying to buy alcohol and cigarettes whilst underage perhaps?

Well, luckily for us, and Warner Bros., the mind and memory of writer / director Guillermo del Torro has conjured up alot more than an ill-fated attempt at a grab-n-go from Threshers. Mixing his childhood viewing habits of Mexican and Japanese TV, he has created what can only be described as a 10 year old's wet dream before they know what wet dreams are supposed to be about.

Giant robots trying to whack the seven levels of hell out of giant monsters. Yes, it's a fully loaded, Summer blockbuster, CGI version of Rock 'em, Sock 'em Robots - even more so than the Hugh Jackman starring Real Steel attempt back in 2011. And, as John Hammond would say,this time round there's "no expense spared!"

Firstly, let's deal with what for some will be the elephant in the room - the man who wrote and directed the crafty and cult likes of The Devil's Backbone, Pan's Labyrinth, Cronos and the two Hellboy movies has gone full "Hollywood" and done a complete Summer blockbuster. Yes, he co-wrote it and directed it. There's no getting away from it and no doubt there may be cries of "sell out" from true fans upon seeing his latest effort. This is not what you'd expect from del Torro to deliver after him moving on to other projects from the back then much-troubled and often delayed The Hobbit.

For those accustomed to his style and unusual imagery and charm, Pacific Rim will not feel like a del Torro film at all. There is nothing within its 132 minute running time to distinguish it from say, the latest Jerry Bruckheimer or Michael Bay movie - apart from the ever-constant presence of Ron Perlman of course. At times, it feels like an alternate universe version of Transformers with never-ending, OTT punch ups that destroy everything around the battlers within a 10 block radius. The camera swirls around the fighters as they face off against each other; dramatic slides and back flips are orchestrated; shouting is done alot (more on that later) - yep, we are definitely in Bay territory here and not in del Torro's. However, maybe that's not a bad thing? Spielberg showed the world a change of style with his Jurassic Park and Schindler's List releases in the same year, so can't del Torro have a go at not being del Torro?

The reply is: No. And yes.

Those who have never seen any of his previous output will have a ball at the "quote it before you know it" dialogue and the "see it coming sandwich with a side order of cliche" served up. Now, don't get me wrong, that does not mean that Pacific Rim is an awful film. Not by a long shot. It's a fun, full-on cheese-fest from beginning to end - one that takes nothing serious at all, not even its own science in the end! So, regarding Pacific Rim, ask yourself this question: do I like Independence Day? If the answer is "yes" and you don't mind rewatching it - telepathic links let both sides of the war know what's going on; a big, explosive payload has to be delivered whilst in disguise in order to save the day; male ego's clash at inappropriate times - then you will sit and grin throughout this. True, you don't get The White House being blown to bits, frozen up or drowned out and washed away. What you do get however though is a new and just-as-much-fun image of a super tanker being hefted like a baseball bat in readiness to beat the living crap out of a monster just like a caveman would do to a dinosaur in a Ray Harryhausen B-movie.

And that is exactly what Pacific Rim is - a very big budgeted B-movie with thrills, spills and wooden dialogue to match from a bunch of cloned beefcakes (he's the dead brother? No, he's the mouthy rival. But they look exactly the same!) and of course, Idris Elba. He is about the only character to stand out - not just because of his colour in a sea of a caucasian cast, but for his extra loud shoutiness, his coolness and his "This is OUR Independence Day!" speech - here it's "we are cancelling the Apocalypse!" Unlike Bill Pullman's Independence Day President, he doesn't need a megaphone to address the troops with a rallying cry to arms - Elba can just shout it to them. With that form of presence, you can feel his absence from the storyline when it switches to either the troubled robot pilots/fighters or the two geek techs trying to find another solution to the threat that Earth and its populace is facing. Only Perlman fills in the Elba gap but then his appearances are few and far between too.

So, fun with a capital "f" and better at delivering on the promise of its trailer than Godzilla was, it's a great film for those who haven't seen a del Torro film, or for those with a 10 year old child still dominent inside of them or for those who have enough alcohol in them that the rediscover their childhood and ignore the illogic of throwing a monster around in the ocean where the water will only cushion its fall and not hurt it...

UK release date: 12.07.13
Certificate: 12A

Saturday, 6 July 2013


Depressingly, trailers that excite, enthral and show some ingenuity are few and far between in an ever-increasing swirl of sequels, prequels and, to be frank, nonsense green-lit by money-hungry executives rather than memorable-making movie-makers. Of course, if such a trailer does appear, the finished product is never what you crossed your fingers for, hoping against hope for a new favourite film to add to your list.

Now You See Me delivers nearly all of this - which isn't bad considering what a tall order that has proven to be of late for other films. We're told to" watch closely" but warned that the "closer we are, the less we'll see" and to a degree, those words are spot on.

For, you see, if pay close attention and buy into the whole premise and execution of Now You See Me, you really will see less - a lesser great experience as plot holes and too-greater leaps of faith on behalf of the audience are revealed.

Maybe then, this is not a film to sit up and concentrate in then. Right from the beginning, you are not only thrown straight into the proceedings but then given a guided tour of it all for your enlightenment - and enjoyment. Part of the innate charm of the likes of Oceans 11 was its "big reveal." Within its last 20 minutes, you would sit agog as the whole plan and its complicated - and convoluted - execution were revealed through the aid of flashbacks and voice overs. This was after having sat through over an hour of mis-direction and subterfuge.

Here then, there is, in comparison to Clooney and Pitt's escapades, no waiting at all. The first 20 minutes of the film sees a fantastic illusion pulled off infront of a huge crowd which leaves all those watching it - the extras in the film pretending to be punters and the real punters in the cinema watching it alike - open-mouthed. The location, the set and the way the Four Horsemen - Eisenberg, Harrelson, Fisher and Franco - work all of the above is dazzling and, surprisingly, totally believable. It sets the tone for the whole film to come - which is both its strength and its Achilles Heel in the end.

We then are introduced to The Dark Knight reunion of Caine and Freeman who proceed to debunk the whole trick ala Oceans 11 finale and set in motion the whole "cat and mouse" scenario between the Four Horsemen and Ruffalo's strangely "constantly- angry" FBI Agent.

Although this is the backbone of the film, it's the "magic tricks" themselves that become the centre of attention and leave you guessing what the next one will be inbetween the reveals. Freeman tags along to each one, debunking them after each of them to a more-and-more angrier Ruffalo and a grumpier-and-grumpier Caine but its not them that hold your attention. Teaming up again after the excellent Zombieland, Eisenberg and Harrelson are the two stand-outs of the Four Horsemen. Eisenberg seems in trouble as being typecast as the cocky chap (think his The Social Network performance and you're there) but, once again, it's Harrelson who steals the show as the all-grinning, tongue-in-cheek mind-reader.  Fisher is left to be the eye-candy but refreshingly isn't dressed up or treated as such which is a rarity in a big budget, male-heavy film, and Franco comes off as the young wannabe apprentice who looks in awe at Eisenberg and the rest.

What then shows the "hidden card up the sleeve" trick is the films finale. Up until then, all is reasonably explained and, to an extent, reasonably plausible. Reasonably. The film has its rules and the plot and the characters follow them, helping the audience to do the same. However, it's the final "magic trick" and it's execution that asks too much of the audience to suspend disbelief and upon closer inspection, does not hold water. There are far too many variables for it to work and therefore it shouldn't, which, after the first two-thirds of believable excitement, comes as abit of a crushing blow. It ditches its only rules for the sake of spectacle and surprise which dampens both in the end.

A solid piece of entertainment that dazzles in its daring delivery, Now You See Me is a great film let down by its OTT ending and its insistence in asking us to believe in true magic rather than believing in the wonder of being deceived.

UK release date: 03.07.13
Certificate: 12A

Tuesday, 25 June 2013


Sequels. We want them but we dread them. For every The Empire Strikes Back there's Speed 2: Cruise Control, Miss Congeniality 2: Armed & Fabulous, and so on and so forth (sorry Miss Bullock!)

2010 saw the arrival of a new anti-hero to steal the hearts of both young and old alike - and also showed that Pixar could still be challenged now and again with a mixture of great characters, quotable dialogue, glorious animation and - what Pixar does best - a display of substance over style.

Enter Gru and his Minions and millions of smiling audience members and cuddly Minion toys! Now 3 years later, the original cast and crew, with some additions, have returned to challenge evil... and sing about bananas!

If you loved the first foray of Steve Carell's moon-stealing villain (and you should of!), then prepare to be once again entertained - with maybe just a pang of pondering plonked on your popcorn tasting of "what could have been."

The original saw Carell's Gru grow into a delightful father figure from a despicable budget-constrained baddie  by the 3 girls he adopts to beat a rival. Here, the journey taken sees Gru try to grow further still by finding that "someone special" to share the role of parent to the less troublesome girls. Maybe that's the pang mentioned earlier about this sequel - one aspect that made the original so charming has moved on, and for continuity and story-telling, that is correct, but it does leave a kind of scratch that can't be itched.

The struggle to deal with whilst keeping his identity secret from the 3 girls was ingenious and apart from the mighty Minions (more on them later) most of the laughs came from the clash of strong, stubborn, single super villain vs 3 strong, stubborn sisters. Their constant battle for supremacy gave us the legendary "It's soooo fluffy I'm gonna die!!!" line. Here, Gru seems to be battling against his own clumsy stupidity and then eventual awkwardness once he realises that he does indeed care for Agent Lucy Wilde (Kirsten Wiig) rather than any other form of comedic relief. Yes, this makes for some fine slapstick and adult recognition of those embarrassing "lovey dovey" moments driven by shy awkwardness from the man who was shunned by girls as a boy. However, it feels just abit tame compared to the original with its adult vs child comedy approach.The step-dad and his step daughters familiarity breeds our contempt perhaps?

Now this may sound like a blasting of Despicable Me 2, but it isn't. The fondness for the first means that the bar was set very high indeed. This bar is met albeit with the pole of Minion mayhem rather than full cast cooperation. The Minions get to take more of the centre stage and this confidence has been shown with them getting their own spin-off movie which is already in pre-production - Minions. Scene stealer's extraordinaire, whether they are hoovering up in a French maids outfit or clambering up the side of a tall building ala the World War Z zombie's terrifying horde, all that they do is perfectly pitched to have both children and adults alike laughing like loons at their antics. If you don't spill your cola or spit your popcorn out at the films finale of "I Swear" then you're either too young to remember the early 90's or you're in need of a defibrillator!

So, all in all, it's fun, frivolous, fine-looking and funny... and maybe a tad forgetful? The kids will love it still but maybe step-parents or those parents who remember the uphill struggles with their offspring may hanker for the comedic foundations of the first foray.

UK release date: 28.06.13
Certificate: PG

Saturday, 22 June 2013


And so it came to pass that the much talked about "troubled Brad Pitt movie" finally hit a waiting world. A world where zombies now are a well-worn common appearance due to in part of the success of the likes of The Walking Dead - both its TV and graphic novel existence.

With its well-publicised reshoot of its ending and delayed release date by nearly a year, could the unfilmable World War Z be worthy of attention from audiences in a packed Summer schedule?


Director Marc Forster on paper seems an unusual choice for a sprawling story about the end of humanity. His Monster's Ball, Finding Neverland and Stranger Than Fiction are small, intimate stories of struggle and it is exactly this approach that he has brought to this tale of a global struggle for survival. Not too fear though, he's also brought his experience of set pieces from Quantum Of Solace along so that it's not just talking and walking amongst the plague of the undead.

Like the zombies depicted in the film, Forster and the 6 ( yes, 6! ) writers move straight away at an incredible pace - shuffling around aimlessly groaning is definitely off the menu here. Within the first 10 minutes an entire city is overrun with only snippets of information dropped in by news reports played out in the background on radio and TV. You meet Pitt's ex UN guy - Gerry - and his family all living happily in Philadelphia, then, before you can learn their names (which turns out to be pointless but more on that later) suddenly the streets are amok with carnage, but not awash with blood ( again, more on that later.)

With the entire world facing this zombie holocaust, Gerry is forced to help seek out an answer in a bold and refreshingly frank ultimatum - help and we'll guarantee your families safety. Don't and we won't. This plot device of finding "patient zero" allows us to see other parts of the overrun world and also allows Forster to deliver his set pieces. South Korea, Iraq and Wales all get their time on the screen and each has their own very distinct set piece to shred the nerves and start the goosebumps. Korea gets its own Call Of Duty-esque night time manoeuvres with Pitt trying to get from and to his military plane amid a plague of zombies. Iraq gets the big budget sequence which features heavily in the trailer where you get to see exactly what a herd of fast-moving zombies can do. This part pushes the tension to new levels but it never veers into the horror territory because you never really see any consequences of the zombie attacks. Throughout the entire World War Z, you never see any blood or carnage to help you realise the brutal seriousness of what is happening all around. If they hadn't of maybe gone for the lower certificate rating, this could have been a rare thing indeed - a summer blockbuster that added "horror" to its genre listing along with "action" and "spectacle."

Instead what we have is a great thriller that wants to truly scare and unsettle but never gets the chance to fully deliver on that. The sequence involving the lab in Wales is the infamous reshot part of the film and armed with that knowledge you could be forgiven for wondering exactly what it was that they had already filmed. That's because the ending here is a very much quieter and smaller set of events when compared to the first two thirds of the film. For this reviewer however it is the most nerve wrecking of all the land-based attacks with another game called to mind - a very Resident Evil" creep around" feel to it. One that is very different to the shoot 'em up chaotic action of the Call Of Duty part at the beginning.

Those astute of you may have noted the phrase "land-based" attacks just then. There is one other sequence that beautifully captures the terror of being caught between a rock and a hard place - now known as being caught between an airline door and a zombie.  Pitt gets to show some acting chops in this part where he comes face-to-face with the epidemic and with no feasible way out that doesn't involve the death of himself and every other passenger aboard the unluckiest place since Samuel L. Jackson had some bother on his one some years ago. Pitt, as expected and as always, carries the film throughout with ease but that does mean that basically everyone else doesn't get a look in. To the extent that his own family that he's trying to indirectly save by helping find a weakness in the zombie affliction don't really register on the important radar. All that accompany Pitt on his whirlwind tour of "Zombie World" may as well be wearing the red uniforms from Star Trek as they have about the same life expectany of one of The Enterprise's security crew!

A great film that truly delivers on the tension and spectacle, it feels alittle bit short on the gore and the "World War" status - at times more like a World Skirmish In The School Playground type of thing. If the open ending and box office allows for the obvious sequel, here's hoping they go more 28 Days Later than 28 Weeks Later and really try and scare the crap out of the audience!

UK release date: 21.06.13
Certificate: 12A

Saturday, 15 June 2013


There are times when certain films generate a buzz from their "behind-the-scenes" info - how much it cost, how long it took, locations used etc. Only a few of those rise above such focus and have the spotlight turned upon their performances and overall experience.

The little film made by the guy who delivered the 3rd biggest box office hit of all time is one such example. And the focus is... bloody good!

Let us dispense with the "behind-the-scenes" part shall we? During the two weeks between the end of filming and beginning of editing Avengers Assemble, Joss Whedon made Much Ado About Nothing. In 12 days, using his own home as the only location and a cast littered from friends made up from his creator/writer/director history with basic cameras and avoiding such things as lighting, Whedon once again has shown that ensemble pictures are definitely his bag. Even if it is The Bard's work and for once not his own!

What Whedon has done here is make a Shakespeare film for people who don't do Shakespeare. By "Shakespeare" I mean the use of the original prose (such as seen in Baz Lurhmann's William Shakespeare's Romeo + Juliet) as opposed to dialogue "based on" the Bard's works (like 10 Things I Hate About You.) Now, that doesn't mean that you will be able to sit down and understand word for word the various monologues and back-and-forth's between the characters such as Beatrice and Benedict. What you will be able to do however, is get the gist of what is going on more than you may have done in previous adaptations.

This is down to Whedon's clever use of his chosen actors and the delivery that he gets out of them. Most of them "Whedonites"- they have worked with him through the likes of Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Angel, Firefly, Cabin In The Woods, Avengers Assemble - it is their obvious ease with the material that makes it so easy to accept for the audience and then go along with throughout the proceedings. Their speed, inflection, tone, interaction - it all seems just so natural. Bearing in mind that they used to meet at Whedon's home and do read through's of Shakespeare for fun during downtime on his previous projects, you would expect nothing less than seamless perfection from them at handling the often-thought-of "hard going" material. All this from the man who made vampires cool before Team Edward was even thought of and who made a Western in space before others tried to make sci-fi genre-mashing cool.

Admittedly, Much Ado About Nothing is one of the easier entries into Shakespeare's world - the comedy about love and its secrets and lies sits somewhat better on the untrained pallet than the tragedy and consequences of  a King - but it is still none-the-less a tall order to try and pull off successfully so that connoisseur's and freshman's alike are both suitably wooed and left satisfied.

With an emphasis on the two "L's" - laughter and lust - the tale of two would-be lovers is played out in a black-and-white dream-like state. Drinks are ALWAYS on hand (and indeed in hand) throughout as the players move around each other (both known/seen and unknown/unseen) as plots are hatched and hearts broken. Here, sex and sexy are evident and evidently abundant in this modern setting where news travels fast via smart phones and iPads rather than horse and parchment.

For those who have followed Whedon's work, his cast are superb. The sheer delight in watching the tom-foolery of Amy Acker's Beatrice as she overhears news of Benedict's love is grin-inducing, with a pratt fall to match any of that from Inspector Clouseau. Likewise, Alexis Densiof's cocky-and-then crumbling confidence when he overhears of Beatrice's love has some of the best peering-through-windows work since Rowan Atkinson was in his prime. Fran Kranz shows that his hyper-geek from both Dollhouse and Cabin In The Woods is not the only entry in his CV with the tortured soul of Claudio both believable and understandable whilst normally Mr Nice Guy Sean Maher as seen in Firefly does a lovely 180 and is deliciously evil as the havoc-wrecking Don John. As of course it should be, the best comedy comes from Captain Hammer / C'ptn Tightpants (Malcolm Reynolds) himself - Nathan Fillion. As Dogberry (along with Buffy's Tom Lenk) you will never see a better or more over-repeated use of the word "ass" as long as you live. And trust me, you will be a better person for it!

Delightful. Delicious. Devious. Do see it!

UK release date: 14.06.13
Certificate: 12A

Friday, 14 June 2013


Four words changed the face of modern cinema back in 2005 - Christopher Nolan's Batman Begins. With Nolan's take on the Caped Crusader, audiences and studios alike were shown that there could be another way to depict a "comic book character" upon the silver screen. Reality could be part of the foundation for a film of a larger-than-life superhero... and it could work with impressive results.

Jump 8 years ahead and the success of his Dark Knight trilogy has placed Nolan at the top, amongst the few who can pick and choose (and not be interfered with on) any film they wish to make. Passing on Warner Bros. invitation to helm the rebooting of their jewel in the crown, Nolan took on instead producer and co-writer duties, leaving the directing to the dismay of many fans - Zack Synder. With a back catalogue classed by many as a prime example of "style over substance" (300, Sucker Punch, Watchmen, Legend Of The Guardians: The Owls Of Ga'Hoole) Synder seemed a very leftfield choice to bring the all-American hero Superman back to the world.

So, does the mix of "style" Synder and "normal" Nolan work? Yes. And no.

Superman - the challenge has always seemed to be how to actually challenge him. He is, after all, invincible. Until they introduced the (still strangely unbelievable) reaction to parts of his homeworld - Kryptonite - nothing really ever put him in jeopardy. Apart from his natural urge to protect those mere mortals around him (which is often exploited by the villains), tension for the son of Jor-el has been problematic at best. So, the way around that particular thorny issue for the reboot? Give him the double whammy of both emotional AND physically obstacles to deal with.

Cavill, stepping into the iconic cape donned by Reeves (4 times) and Routh (just once), has the somewhat unenviable task of retreading the origins trail along with some additional development. The plot here spans what was originally taken up by the very first two Superman films - his arrival and "identity" discovery and then his "home compatriots" challenge. Throughout a big chunk of the 143 minute running time, Cavill is asked to perform various shades of reserved, quiet and awkward as the young Clark Kent tries to follow his Earth-fathers advice and keep his head down as "humans won't be able to cope with the knowledge of someone like himself walking amongst them." Kent Snr is given an almost Uncle Ben quality from the Spiderman franchise with every great speech given echoing the infamous "with great power comes great responsibility." Choosing Kevin Costner to be Kent Snr was a wise choice as he walks the fine line between "everyday man" and ""learned father to an alien" easily, making what could have either been a throw-away role or abit of a joke neither. His performance resonates more than Russell Crowe's Jor-el who for the most part has to play it very neutral as he is a hologramatic version of himself, guiding Cavill to make his choice of  whom to fight for.

Now, if all of the above seems a tad "serious" then you have read between the lines! This is played for drama and depth rather than adventure and fun. And therein lies the rub. With the likes of complicated and slightly unhinged Bruce Wayne/Batman, drama and depth can work. However, Clark Kent/Superman, by its very nature, demands a lighter touch - probably to help deal with the way-out-there plot of an alien fighting for justice and the American way. But Nolan and Goyer's script instead concentrates on the "serious" whilst Synder brings the "spectacle." None of them seem to have brought the "light touch" or the "fun" that the original two outings had or the likes of the Ironman franchise repeatedly delivers. Yes, this is a different film from those just mentioned and a different time, but then, out of nowhere, in the last 5 minutes of the Man Of Steel, we are suddenly given a full-on glimpse of just how entertainingly fun it can be! The interaction between Cavill's bespeckled Kent and Amy Adams's Lois Lane is cheek-achingly grin-inducing after all the spectacle, speeches, smashingof Smallville and strangely enough the avoidance of the actual word "Superman."

Up until those final fantastic five minutes of non-special effects fun, the plot sees alot of back story crammed in via a non-linear timeframe but strangely done at a very lesiurely pace. Just like Clark Kent himself, the film seems to meander, looking for a place to fit in. His movement from place-to-place and job-to-job sees him secretly saving people, then moving on before his true nature and identity is discovered. This backstory told through flashbacks is a novel approach to the life of Kent but it does make it slightly harder to feel sorry for the boy who has to keep himself to himself for fear of ruining both his and his Earth-parents lives. Just when you begin to connect with the young Clark, the scene swings to either a burning oil-rig or a bar and the connection between audience and protaganist is weakened somewhat. 

Overall, Man Of Steel is a good foundation to build upon, and no doubt the sequel will be on its way to us very soon, but its not a great stand alone experience. At times too serious and too long, the film suffers from Transformers Torrets where the action is too fast - a fact heightened by the use of camera shake presumably added for realism. When one of the many entanglements isn't taking place, it gives us a good insight into how hard it must be for the son of Jor-el to fit into our world but I just wish they'd have put some fun into it to ease both his and our souls... 

Also, sci-fi geeks, look out for the cast of BSG and Dollhouse and for the Wayne Enterprises and LEXCORP logos dotted around!

UK release date: 14.06.13
Certificate: 12A

Saturday, 11 May 2013


Since his vision was released upon the slightly sceptical world back in 2009, writer/director (saviour) J.J. Abrams has come a long way. His Star Trek gathered both old and new fans alike into the camp of "exhilarated" and made its sequel one of, if not the, most anticipated films of this year. So before he makes the "Force be with us" all over again with his Star Wars Ep VII, let us "boldly go" with him once again Into Darkness...

As is the way, this entry into the Star Trek cannon, will be compared to not only its predecessor but to the original outings of Kirk, Spock and the rest of the Enterprise's crew - and with a certain adventure specifically. More on that later.

Abrams first foray into Roddenberry's world saw him introduce the characters whilst using the new time line plot to show off their slightly altered personalities. Here, with the core characters already in place, the task is to further build upon the bond between them and accentuate their now different life stories. This focus is primarily aimed at the burgeoning friendship of Pine's Kirk and Quinto's Spock. As the film progresses, so to does their banter, bickering and bromance. Kirk has the journey of becoming a Captain worthy of the legacy left by his father and Spock meanwhile has the journey of acknowledging and embracing his human heritage given by his mother.... so it's more like Into Deepness than Darkness in a way.

Now, don't be fooled or alarmed by that last sentence. This is not really as the title suggests a "dark" affair. This is far from it. Like Joss Whedon, J.J. Abrams brings fun and excitement onto the menu along with the side dishes of tension and death. If someone needs to die to further the plot, then die they will. Like his idol Spielberg, Abrams knows how to put you through the emotional wringer and have you roller coastering from laughs to shocks to gladness and then back again through sadness. Here, laughs are shared more throughout the cast than the previous journey of the U.S.S. Enterprise. The bickering of Kirk and Spock remains one of the films comedic building blocks, but upon that the rest of the crew get to bring their gag reels with them - Pegg's Scotty sees the homage to the original performance of the Engineering Officer take it up a notch (but sadly still no "she can'ne take it C'apn. I doen't have the powwer!") Cho's Sulu gets a taste of the chair and likes it and Yelchin's Chekov (the character with the least to do this time round) gets to fake confidence to his superior in the face of danger. That leaves only two other central crew members. It is their spotlight moments that show the cleverness of the script which does something surprising and very, very well. Saldana's Uhura isn't confined to the comms desk with the blobby bit sticking out of her ear - she gets to go on away missions, fight baddies but best of all, gets to have relationship arguments with her boyfriend - Spock. The three-way argument in the shuttle between them and Kirk (the awkward 3rd wheel who's dragged into the discussion) is comedy gold and makes you unprepared for the action sequence that directly follows it - that roller coaster ride feeling again! So that keeps the newbies to Roddenberry's universe happy and glad that they've come back for seconds. It's Urban's McCoy that underlines the cleverness of the script.

He is the one that sticks out as the direct link to the original series - the Trekkie's lifeline and pacifier. His many variations of "I'm a physician, not a ...." callback to the 60's TV show but help with a shocking revelation - normal  cinema audiences are quietly being turned into Trekkie's. They might not realise it, but this journey of the Enterprise has so many references to the world of Star Trek gone by that it's hard to count them. Normal people are sitting there watching the events unfold whilst sitting around them Trekkie's are feeling them slowly being seduced and moving over to the darkside (mixing metaphors and Star Wars/Trek deliberately there!) There is one MASSIVE callback to the origins of Trek's world but to reveal that here, without warning, would be sacrilege. If you wish to know it, the spoiler review will be below the trailer.

Now, there are other callbacks and not all of them are to previous connected works. Not unlike James Bond, Into Darkness has an opening sequence that is a totally separate adventure from the main story. I say James Bond, but to be honest, it's Raiders Of The Lost Ark - Abrams' nod to Spielberg again. This sequence has the forest, the chase, the spears but instead of an idol we have a submerged Starship and an overactive volcano. And a fantastic opening sequence that raises the bar so high that you wonder how the rest of the film will live up to it.

But, it does. Spectacularly. And part of that success goes to Cumberbatch and the introduction of a classic baddie that isn't a baddie. But then is. And then isn't. And then...oh, you get the picture. His portrayal of agent-gone-rogue John Harrison is cold, calculating and at one point when he's behind a glass prison cell, quite Hannibal Lecter-ish. You even hang on every quietly-spoken word of his whilst he and Kirk do brains-battle to see if he's going to have his "liver with some fava beans and a nice Chianti." Of course, such an impression would not be part of Abrams style and it never goes beyond a quick moment of recognition, but Cumberbatch gets to create his own standout villain - a man who can take out a mass of foes (human and non-human) single handedly all whilst looking immaculate apart from his moppish hair. His presence and memory impact on the viewer is ten-fold of what Eric Bana was able to do with his Star Trek baddie Captain Nero which was the only slight niggle of the entire film so it would seem that Into Darkness has risen above its predecessor. And rightly so.

Now that he has Star Wars to do, there could be a chance that this is Abrams final foray into the final frontier. If so, which I mostly sincerely hope is NOT the case, then he leaves Star Trek in a place that many thought not possible - new and old fans alike, together in appreciation of a vision that has been reborn and yet still holds a torch and a mirror to its origins.

The Best Fun You Can Have In A Cinema With Your Clothes On This Year! Brilliant!

UK release date: 09.05.13
Certificate: 12A


You have been warned - do not read unless you've seen it or don't want your world rocked whist watching it!

What Abrams and writers Lindelof, Orci and Kurtzman have done is something wonderful, and to this reviewer, thought once impossible. They have taken one of the most respected and loved Trek films and literally rewritten it. The realisation of who the new characters are what their roles mean to the Trek legacy is gasp-inducing as the makers drip feed you clues then in Oz style, pull back the curtain for the "Ta Da!" moment. The second "new" Star Trek film is a rewrite of the second "old" Star Trek film. This is a new generations The Wrath Of Khan and it is bloody brilliant!

But of course you can't just replay the events of the mighty Khan - old Trekkie's won't stand for it. So, all the events that you know do happen, but, not in the order you remember OR to those you expect. Back To The Future II was one of the cleverest sequels penned with its revisiting the first films timeline and observing it but Into Darkness joins it on that podium, however for very different reasons. It's a sequel but also a kind of reimagining of its natural parent film and in that sense it does too revisit the timeline but alters it just like Marty McFly once did... Things will not be as you remember them but it seems that destiny does have a sense of irony. Like with Final Destination, you can try and cheat the outcome but it seems that some events are written in stone. The Enterprise will be crippled. Someone will die to save the many. And someone will realise the meaning of friendship all too late. And you will be hooked. End of.

Saturday, 27 April 2013


And so it came to pass that "Phase 2" of Marvel's plan to rule the world  via the medium of the box office began with the continuing story of the character who started "Phase 1" back in 2008.

Returning to the suit (rumoured for the last time now that his contract is up), Downey Jr this time is under the direction of a new helmer to the World Of Marvel. With original director Favreau now just in front of the camera as Stark's upgraded from-bodyguard-to-head-of-security sidekick, it's the turn of Shane Black to help shape the world of Tony Stark, billionaire playboy who "builds neat stuff and occasionally saves the world."

Black and Downey Jr who previously worked together on the underrated Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang, show all the spark, wit and downright questionable laughter that they delivered on their first project together  here on the more personal story of Iron Man in its third outing. For those who know Black's work, all the things that make him "him" are present and correct throughout his latest. Like his previous efforts (Lethal Weapon, The Last Boy Scout, The Long, Kiss Goodnight, Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang) the story takes place around Christmas; there is a voice over to help proceedings along and there are some cracking lines of dialogue for you to try and remember so that you can quote them back to others and feel cool whilst doing so.

Yep, Downey Jr's natural swagger and Stark's coolness have just been given an illegal dose of Black's cultdom and it's a match made in heaven. As Kingsley's The Mandarin states to the US President via one of his many Bin Laden-esque video messages, you, as an audience member "will never see them coming" with what they have in store for you during its 130 minutes running time. More on him in a moment though.

The challenge facing Iron Man 3 is more than just being better than its predecessors (although that's not too hard when the below par Iron Man 2 is considered) - it has the task of being the first film released after the exceptional Avengers Assemble showed that under Joss Whedon, a superheroes film could be, well, super. And with all the superheroes having interacted and now aware of each other, the challenge  here would be to find a story that would only involve Iron Man and not the likes of Thor, Hulk or Captain America. The way that Black and co-screen writer Drew Pearce have gotten around this is simple  - make it personal - "no politics here, just good old fashioned revenge." With this personal edge now in place story-wsie, we are able to see the cool swagger of Downey Jr/Stark get stripped away - along with his suit - and have him try to build things back up from scratch... his composure, his strength, his trust and love in others and a back-to-basics suit just like the first time we saw him held captive in a cave, have to be built up from scratch. It's Tony Stark's fall from grace and his rise from the ashes as the premise. He may have helped save Earth with his newfound superhero chums, but the dying in the process has weighed heavy upon his mind. This makes him feel more real to the viewer despite his Malibu pad, his millions and his suits - of which they are plenty!

Downey Jr as expected is a star and this time gets to play off a few people - notably Cheadle - "it's WarMachine rocks...with a Z" - and a smalltown boy that gets just as good as he's given in the banter stakes, but the real other main shining star who gives Downey Jr a run for his money is Kingsley. His performance of The Mandarin, once the plot has moved on to its big reveal, is brilliantly executed.

A confidence-boosting start to Marvel's "Phase 2" of its universe, Iron Man 3 sets the bar for Captain America 2 (Captain America: The Winter Soldier) and Thor 2 (Thor: The Dark World) and only adds to the already building anticipation that will be Avengers 2.

Cool. Neat. Go see.

UK release date: 26.04.13
Certificate: 12A

Saturday, 13 April 2013


Back in 2011, Ryan Gosling made the step from recognised bit actor to cool-as-hell leading man with his performance in Drive - a quiet man whose job as a stuntman allows him to use his "special skill set" to try and better the life of those he cares about.

Forward 2 years and Gosling returns to two things - the same type of character and to a director he has worked with before. This double date of destiny takes him to The Place Beyond The Pines. This time out those two points are somewhat different - subtle though they may be, they are enough to give you a whole different experience than that you may have been led to believe you would be undergoing. Here, Gosling's car expertise is replaced by that of a motorbike and the director he has reunited with is that of the small and intimate Blue Valentine - Derek Clanfrance and not Drive's Nicolas Winding Refn.

So, despite the trailer looking for all the world like a Drive sequel, this is definitely not. Not by a long shot. Here, Clanfrance has an epic tale to tell, but he chooses to do so in the small and intimate fashion that his Blue Valentine presented.

Here though the story is that of very different men at very different stages of their lives - in particular three certain individuals that will all be connected through a single action taken by one of them. What comes as a complete surprise - a welcome one but none-the-less distantly intriguing one - is that the film rather than the standard three acts (beginning, middle and end) feels like three separate movies. There's Gosling's carnival stunt rider story, Bradley Cooper's newbie cop story and then Dane Dehaan's loner school kid story.

Each of these has their own pace which only adds to the feeling of watching a trilogy edited together rather than just one film with a far-reaching story arc. Gosling, the first of the three, is all about movement - movement in the mental and physical sense. As the care-free stunt rider who learns of his fatherhood by accident, Gosling nails it as the loner who tries to do right by his new-found son and his "fling" from a year ago by resorting to bank robberies to provide for them. His momentum towards responsibility is matched with the speed of the bike sequences and the editing during the various bank jobs.

Cooper's "cop trying to do right despite corruption all around him" second storyline by comparison is a much slower and deeper experience. Especially after all the fast tension from before. Here, Cooper, along with the standard Ray Liotta "bad news/weasel" cop create a more basic tension - one that forever creeps up behind you, making you think that something will happen, but it never does.

The third story/act that belongs to Dehaan is both the harder one to explain and, quite frankly to swallow. Especially after what has gone before. This feels more like a soap opera than a movie but Clanfrance manages to avoid a total cheese-fest and keeps it out of the TV trash gutter and firmly in the "I'll go along for the ride" category.

At first cool enough to stand alongside the likes of Reservoir Dogs and Drive, it moves into Scorsese territory with bent cops and Liotta and with that switch, all it's cult status and hipness disappears. That doesn't mean that it falls flat or loses the viewer, no. It just asks you to take a very different journey from what you were expecting to take after watching the first 45 minutes of it.

UK release date: 12.04.13
Certificate: 15

Thursday, 11 April 2013


You may be forgiven for thinking that, of late, Tom Cruise seems to be on a one-man-mission to kick start possible franchises left, right and center. That, or either Hollywood producers and directors want him aboard to green light their films and hope that they'll get a franchise out of it!

So, along with his ongoing Mission: Impossible saga (the fifth instalment has been given the go ahead) and the not-so-certain to-be-continued Jack Reacher, Cruise has teamed up with a man who's no stranger to sci fi epics with possible sequel connections...

Despite the average reviews and fair box office receipts of his Tron: Legacy sequel, director/writer Joseph Kosinski is moving forward with the third instalment of the Tron universe, but not before he gets the chance to muck about with (and muck up) the real world instead of its cyber version. And this time, Cruise is along for the ride.

Oblivion's premise can be easily explained for those who need their plots basic and summarised - it's Tom Cruise as Pixar's Wall-E - a "Tom-E" if you will. The future Earth is all but uninhabitable. Stationed across it's desolate wastelands are teams of "clean up'ers" who ensure the maintenance of droid probes. Tom's "two weeks until his Earth shift finishes" character stands in for Wall-E - Jack, the mundane drone who has a heart. He even has a plant that he has nurtured from the wastelands. This he presents to his current love interest (Andrea Riseborough) who, like EVE, is clinical and work-obsessed. His life, and the way he sees it will forever change upon the arrival from the sky of Olga Kurylenko - the EVE of the movie that falls for and connects with Tom-E.

Now, this doesn't mean that Oblivion is a rehash of a Pixar great. It does have its own merits and is worthy of both time and money from audiences. Kosinski, who has a flare for visual story telling as shown in Tron: Legacy, shows that grand landscapes are his forte still, if not actual characterisation. His camera sweeps and soars along with the Harrier Jump Jet-esque craft that takes Jack across the desolate remains of New York or when following the super speedy drones on their seek-and-destroy missions. All looks impressive, even if the imagery of recognisable New York landmarks are constantly thrown in your face to hammer home the point that you're looking at Earth, and in particular, New York - The METS Stadium, The Empire State Building, The Statue Of Liberty, The NYC Library... these ALL make an appearance! To the point of near exasperation.

Which can nearly be said about the other cast. Apart from Cruise and Kurylenko, all the others are frankly wasted. This is never more evident than with Freeman who should be the equivalent of Fishburne's Morpheus from The Matrix (who even gets a "you have to see it to understand it" line of dialogue) but instead comes across more as a DeNiro from any of the Fockers sequels - just phoning it in for the pay cheque. Normally that wouldn't ruin a film too much but Freeman has the pivotal role as narrator for what has happened before. His one big speech that clues both Jack and the audience into the reason of what, why and where feels like an afterthought and is over in a rushed sentence. It's not his fault but that of the script which jogs along at a happy pace up until the reveal and then trips over it in its haste to move along to the next dazzling special effect-laden chase sequence.

A visual delight, Oblivion is a fun 2 hours that harks back to the big Summer Blockbusters of times gone by where A-list stars wowed the senses but not necessarily fed the brain during their antics upon the silver screen. Watch on as big a screen as you can find for the best experience.

UK release date: 10.04.13
Certificate: 12A

Sunday, 31 March 2013


Danny Boyle. Now officially a national treasure and icon. Before, he was just the man who made Ewan McGregor do things such as swim up through the worst toilet in the world... Now he's the bloke who made James Bond help the Queen to parachute out of a helicopter to open the Olympics.

Prepare to have yet another reason to worship at the alter of Danny.

His latest is one of those films where words are wholly inadequate to either describe what takes place or to convince you to take a seat and watch what unfolds without giving anything away. Trance is one of those manic movies - a "lean forwards in your seat and readily play 'guess the direction of the next plot twist' type of experience." Try and picture The Sixth Sense on steroids dating The Usual Suspects whilst fantasising about Inception and you will be ready to describe Danny Boyle's newest celluloid conundrum.

From the get-go, all seems to be familiar territory for those who have followed the films of Boyle. Flashes of his back catalogue are all present and correct - the stylised kinetics of The Beach, the catchy tunes of Trainspotting, the constant character reveals of Shallow Grave, the time-jumping framing of Slumdog Millionaire - all these previous sum parts make up a brand new whole to enjoy.

All seems straight forward with the opening salvo of McAvoy breaking the fourth wall and explaining directly to the viewer the challenges facing anyone thinking of trying to steal high-priced art. A quick flashback shows how easy it was to do a "snatch n grab" - all you needed was brawn and balls back in the day. As we, and he, find out, you still need those qualities but a whole lot more to pull off a heist nowadays. Here McAvoy emulates Boyle's original protege (McGregor) from Shallow Grave - all Scottish charm and smirks with an unhealthy dose of hysteria when the shit hits the fan. It's after this that things really do get intense, intriguing and immersive.

By saying that there's twists aplenty does ruin the possibility of the viewer letting it all just appear on their radar as the film makers intended. Knowing that there's a twist makes the audience purposely look out for it rather than have it unfold before their eyes but Trance constantly changes the ground under your feet so that even if you think that you're that clever, you will not be able to spot anywhere near half of them that present themselves during its 101 minute running time. Not unlike an Ocean's 11 plotline, the heist has several things going on simultaneously that only fall into place when all (well, mostly) is revealed just before the end credits roll. And just before that, all manner of clues and hints that were vaguely present before, become relevant and eye-opening as the secrets are viciously torn apart. Those "blink-an-you'll-miss-em" clues suddenly start to fall into place as the domino's, the cast and the walls of perception fall one-by-one.

Of course, plotline's alone do not a fantastic film make. Cassel and Dawson are superb in their roles as both victim and victor (depending on which part of the twist is being unveiled) and Boyle lets his eye and camera deliver angles and accents that only help add to the blissful confusion. Who else could make the M25 and other roads look like a red neon sign to the Devil from up above?

Brilliant and baffling in equal parts, this is Boyle back on form that anyone will love. Just like he has done on all of his efforts in the varied fields he's attempted, this is a top notch example of how a genre film can be. Go see, then see again. And then once more for the hell of it.

UK release date: 29.03.13
Certificate: 15

Monday, 18 March 2013


Type casting - a double edged sword. It keeps you in business and helps with the mortgage repayments but on the other hand it can propel you away from your fans and box office receipts as they see you again and again deliver the same ol' same ol'.

Since his cult raise to fame with TV's under-rated classic show Arrested Development, Jason Bateman seems to be stuck in the role of "put upon average Joe." This was perfectly shown in his Horrible Bosses role as out of the criss-cross would-be murderers, Bateman's was the most normal.

So, if it ain't broke...  Director Seth Gordon reunites with his 2011's  Horrible Bosses star to explore the all-too-real world of identity theft. Of course though, this being Gordon who's cut his teeth on the likes of Modern Family, The Office and Community, facts and seriousness aren't included here on the menu.

Instead, what we are given is what feels like a poor man's combination of Planes, Trains & Automobiles and Midnight Run. Now, on paper, that sounds like a match made in heaven - both being fantastic comedies of their generation that have stood up against the ravages of time. But here in practise, the result is less-than-impressive.

Mazin and Eeten's screenplay tries to recreate the mis-matched road travellers of Steve Martin vs John Candy (Planes, Trains and Automobiles) and Charles Grodin vs Robert DeNiro (Midnight Run). What doesn't help the wanna-be's Bateman vs McCarthy is the reason that they're thrown together in the first place on their cross-country road-trip. McCarthy's fraudster willingly goes with her mild-mannered mark from her Florida home where he has tracked her down, to his in Denver to help him keep his job that she's put in jeopardy. So we have to believe that the woman who has stolen his entire life wants to now save it.  This just doesn't sit right despite the obvious nods to McCarthy being a broken heart that does what she does for friendship, so the storyline becomes irrelevant and thus the jokes are left to fend for themselves. Which doesn't really help them. Or the audience that much.

There are some nice touches thrown in here and there, but that's Identity Thief's problem - it's too sporadic for what should have been a balls-to-the-walls all-out comedy. Even with some humorous cameos - Modern Family's Eric Stonestreet, The Office's Ellie Kemper and Robert Patrick as a Terminator 2-esque bounty hunter -  their appearances, and the laughs they add, are both fleeting and quickly forgotten.

Let's just hope the Horrible Bosses 2 sequel that Gordon and Bateman are in pre-production on doesn't hold back like this outing did.

UK release date: 22.03.13
Certificate: 15

Saturday, 2 March 2013


The genre of horror has dramatically changed over the years - originally  they were all about fear and suspense, whereas now it seems that the key factor is gore and how grizzly the deaths can be.

Recently, the likes of The Woman In Black has gone back to the "good old days" where mounting tension and off-camera scares are pushed to the fore to create the desired effect from the audience. This movement towards old school continues with an unlikely source - the director of the violent and kinda-gory vengeance trilogy (Oldboy, Lady Vengeance and Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance.)

Director Park Chan-wook brings to this Western tale of a family and its secrets a very Asian flavour, bringing to mind the creepier moments of the likes of the Ring, The Eye and The Grudge franchises. Just like those cult classics, every image seems to have been contemplated and dissected before it's inclusion in the final film. Nothing it seems has been left to chance in either those films or here too. Imagery is key. For story purposes and for fear-inducing purposes.

The point here is fear caused primarily by uncertainty - of what's happening and of what some of the characters will do next. Imagine the various family members of say The Munsters, Beetlejuice or The Addams Family - condense them into just a handful of characters, and then mix in a decidedly 18 certificate feel and you will be someway to realising the Stoker family. Chan-wook, along with his (alien-to-him) English-speaking cast has delivered some of the more weirder individuals to be placed upon the silver screen in recent memory. This, along with striking visual imagery and a book ending of the film with the same scene, helps the events that unfold take on a certain "troubling dream-like" quality. The opening credit sequence starts this off with its imaginative placing and removing of the names not unlike those of Night Watch where the images upon the screen - Mia Wasikowska standing by the roadside - affects the words and their visibility. This use of imaginative imagery also shows such striking dissolves as Nicole Kidman's brushed hair blending into a field of wind-swept grass, and Wasikowska's tiny frame walking along the middle of a highway followed by her just discovered Uncle Charlie in his open-top Jag, into her walking up her driveway still followed by the ever-increasingly strange Uncle Charlie in his open-top Jag.

Kidman, who is no stranger to sexually-charged but emotionally-fragile roles (think of Dead Calm,  The Others and To Die For) nails it as the recently widowed Evelyn who becomes more-and-more enamoured with Mathew Goode's Uncle Charlie. Goode delivers the perfect amount of smiles and uncomfortably long stares towards Wasikowska's just-turned-18 and greiving daughter - India - who seems to be channeling a mixture of young "angsty" Winona Ryder within the looks of a young Claire Danes. Running throughout the entire Stoker, as with these three characters, nothing is at all what it seems.

With its swings-and-roundabouts plotline of just exactly who Uncle Charlie is and his connection to the recently widowed Evelyn and emotionally-closed down India, the film boasts a not-too obvious story arc that has a great but disturbing flashback in it that breaks the mainstream cinema taboo of killing children which still doesn't fully shed light on events that will unfold afterwards.

Intriguing, interesting, inventive, imaginative and incestious, Stoker is a rare breed of film that mixes its horror with thriller and adds dysfunctional family as well just to create a more heightened emotion to it all. You'll never view distant family members in the same light again.

UK release date: 01.03.13
Certificate: 18

Sunday, 24 February 2013


So, with all the major players, award-wise, out of the way - BAFTA, Golden Globes, Screen Writers Guild etc - it's the 85 year old man himself left.

On 24th February, the world, and anyone who's interested, will be put out of their misery as host Seth MacFarlane leads the congratulatory back-slapping award show through what some people have already called "predictable" in the recipient category.

But Oscar is nothing but surprising in some awards so nothing can be taken for granted across the board. So, here is a breakdown of the hopeful "gong-getters" and who I think will win and, just for fun, who I think should win. Any bets placed because of my predictions are placed at your own risk - remember, guesses can go down as well as up...


Beasts Of The Southern Wild
Django Unchained
Les Miserables
Life Of Pi
Silver Linings Playbook
Zero Dark Thirty

Oscar Winner - Argo
Shoulda Won'er - Life Of Pi

ACTUAL WINNER - ARGO (score 1 point for nailing it!)

Daniel Day Lewis (Lincoln)
Bradley Cooper (Silver Linings Playbook)
Hugh Jackman (Les Miserables)
Jaoquin Phoenix (The Master)
Denzel Washington (Flight)

Oscar Winner - Daniel Day Lewis
Shoulda Won'er - Daniel Day Lewis

ACTUAL WINNER - DANIEL DAY LEWIS (score 1 point for nailing it!)

Christoph Waltz (Django Unchained)
Philip Seymour Hoffman (The Master)
Robert DeNiro (Silver Linings Playbook)
Tommy Lee Jones (Lincoln)
Alan Arkin (Argo)

Oscar Winner - Tommy Lee Jones
Shoulda Won'er - Christoph Waltz

ACTUAL WINNER - CHRISTOPH WALTZ (score 1/2 point for wanting it!)

Jessica Chastain (Zero Dark Thirty)
Jennifer Lawrence (Silver Linings Playbook)
Quvenzhane Wallis (Beasts Of The Southern Wild)
Naomi Watts (The Impossible)
Emmanuelle Riva (Amour)

Oscar Winner - Jessica Chastain
Shoulda Won'er - Jessica Chastain


Anne Hathaway (Les Miserables)
Amy Adams (The Master)
Sally Field (Lincoln)
Helen Hunt (The Sessions)
Jacki Weaver (Silver Linings Playbook)

Oscar Winner - Anne Hathaway
Shoulda Won'er - Anne Hathaway

ACTUAL WINNER - ANNE HATHAWAY (score 1 point for nailing it!)

The Pirates! An Adventure With Scientists
Wreck-It Ralph

Oscar Winner - Brave
Shoulda Won'er - The Pirates! An Adventure With Scientists

ACTUAL WINNER - BRAVE (score 1 point for nailing it!)

Life Of Pi - Ang Lee
Lincoln - Steven Spielberg
Amour - Michael Haneke
Silver Linings Playbook - David O. Russell
Beasts Of The Southern Wild - Benh Zeitlin

Oscar Winner - Ang Lee
Shoulda Won'er - Steven Spielberg

ACTUAL WINNER - ANG LEE (score 1 point for nailing it!)

MUSIC (Original Score)
Anna Karenina
Life Of Pi

Oscar Winner - Argo
Shoulda Won'er - Lincoln

ACTUAL WINNER - LIFE OF PI (score 0 point!)

MUSIC (Original Song)
Chasing Ice ("Before My Time")
Ted ("Everybody Needs A Best Friend")
Life Of Pi ("Pi's Lullaby")
Skyfall ("Skyfall")
Les Miserables ("Suddenly")

Oscar Winner - Skyfall
Shoulda Won'er - Skyfall

ACTUAL WINNER - SKYFALL (score 1 point for nailing it!)

WRITING (Adapted Screenplay)
Beasts Of The Southern Wild
Life Of Pi
Silver Linings Playbook

Oscar Winner - Life Of Pi
Shoulda Won'er - Silver Linings Playbook

ACTUAL WINNER - ARGO (score 0 points!)

WRITING (Original Screenplay)
Django Unchained
Moonrise Kingdom
Zero Dark Thirty

Oscar Winner - Zero Dark Thirty
Shoulda Won'er - Moonrise Kingdom


Care to challenge me or question why I've made the choices that I have? You've got until the end of the 24th to put your money where your mouth is... bring it!

So, out of a possible 11 points, I scored 6 1/2. You've gotta love the unpredictability of the Oscars, even when it seems like there are such things as certainties! 

Here's to next year!