22 October 2014

Review: THE JUDGE

This one has Robert Downey Jr in it as a fast-talking lawyer. Robert Duvall plays his father, the titular judge, and the supporting cast is rounded out by the likes of Billy Bob Thornton, Vera Farmiga and Vincent D'Onofrio. On the surface, it has everything going for it, so how on Earth did I manage to forget that I'd seen it just two days after? Sudden amnesia isn't the reason why we've had so few posts on here lately, but the forgettable quality and lack of buzz don't bode well for The Judge sticking around long enough to garner the Oscar recognition that it's openly courting.

Hank Palmer is an unscrupulous hotshot lawyer who revels in only defending rich, guilty clients. Estranged from his wife and about to enter into a custody battle for his young daughter, he is dealt another blow when he discovers his mother has died. He treks back to his home town in Indiana for the funeral for a flying visit, but when his father Joseph runs down and kills a man in his car, Hank becomes embroiled in the defence in a case where mounting evidence of malice aforethought and his own personal demons threaten total defeat.

21 October 2014

Review: TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES

It's never wise to deal in absolutes, because you never know when something will surprise you. However, I can't think of any good argument to let a misanthrope like Michael Bay near children's movies. Transformers: Age Of Extinction is still the worst movie of the year so far, (I'll review it when the DVD comes out, but I'm still too sad to talk about it) but Pain & Gain was actually decently indecent.

Similarly, when his production company, Platinum Dunes makes The Purge movies, his people-hating tendencies are well used, but when they make Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, it's no better than you would expect. As in his Transformers movies, a human supporting character takes the lead, with TV newsroom intern April O'Neil desperate to graduate from puff-pieces to serious journalism about the paramilitary Foot Clan soldiers who terrorise New York City. Her big break is within reach when she discovers four enormous amphibian dudes are fighting back against the clan and their mysterious leader, the Shredder.

20 October 2014

Review: THE MAZE RUNNER

It feels like dystopian future in sci-fi is increasingly becoming the province of movies for young adults. Whether it's the execrable Divergent or the more popular Hunger Games movies, the tropes of the genre are perfectly keyed to the niggling adolescent feeling that everyone in the world is against you, often to the effect of creating a world that doesn't feel lived-in or rational. Enter The Maze Runner, which has that in spades and yet beats the pitfalls of other, similar films.

The movie opens with a young man in a service elevator containing a month's supplies, being shoved into a glade in the middle of a vast labyrinth with no memory of how he got there. Eventually remembering his name is Thomas, he butts heads with some of the other amnesiac boys, who have built a ramshackle society and don't want to stray too far into the maze for fear of the monsters that roam its walls by night. The arrival of the Glade's first ever girl, apparently the last ever new arrival, spurs the Gladers into making a last ditch attempt at escape.

14 October 2014

Review: '71

Having brought a cinematic style to TV series such as Charlie Brooker's Dead Set and Criminal Justice for the last few years, it's surprising that it's taken so long for director Yann Demange to make the jump to feature films. '71, starring the seemingly unstoppable Jack O'Connell as a squaddie in the worst situation imaginable, is well worth the wait.

In 1971, Gary Hook is a private straight out of training in the British army. His platoon is dispatched to Belfast on "an emergency basis" to back up the local garda in raiding a suspected hiding place for weapons. When violence erupts between the army and the locals, Gary and another soldier are separated from the platoon and left behind. Gary soon finds himself alone and surrounded by republicans who want his blood, as he makes a desperate attempt to get back to the safety of his barracks.

9 October 2014

Review: DRACULA UNTOLD

When the title of a film already sounds like the name of its DVD extended edition, you know you're in for something of a treat. Sure enough, Universal (now) has designs on Dracula Untold being the Iron Man to a Marvel-esque cinematic universe based on the roster of monsters in the studio's classic 1940s horror flicks.

Following Disney's character rehabilitation Maleficent earlier this year, they've taken a similar tack with the prince of darkness, with a fictionalised version of the historical basis for Bram Stoker's novel, Vlad the Impaler. Having impaled his way to peace-time ever since he was abducted by Turks and trained up a child warrior, Vlad decides to settle down in his kingdom of Transylvania with his wife and son. But when Turkish invaders threaten a similar fate for his boy, Vlad turns to a Faustian pact with a powerful evil in order to protect his people, and soon falls under the shadow of the vampire himself.