30 September 2011

ABDUCTION- Review

Now that the Harry Potter series is over, how do we think its young stars will do in the wide world of film? Daniel Radcliffe seems to be doing fine, Emma Watson has a great career in modelling to fall back on, and I'm still lobbying hard for Rupert Grint to be the first ginger Doctor somewhere down the line. Tom Felton, who showed so much promise in Half-Blood Prince, already seems to have defaulted to making terrible music.

Elsewhere, the cast of Twilight won't find themselves at such a loose end until next November's Breaking Dawn- Part 2, which is just as well for Taylor Lautner, whose first not-Twilight vehicle turned out to be Abduction. Lautner is Nathan Harper, a fun-loving high-schooler who's subjected to martial arts training and pop-quiz beatings by his parents. When assigned a school project on missing children, Nathan discovers his own picture has been put on the Internet, and that his parents are not his own. It's not long before an assassin busts down his door, and chase Nathan across America for some crucial information about the CIA.

27 September 2011

CRAZY, STUPID, LOVE- Review

Remember Blue Valentine, earlier this year? When Ryan Gosling played a husband so hopelessly depressed and love-sick that his hair was falling out? Like Tom Hardy, he's an actor whose recent films have exercised his considerable range as an actor, and the second of his two roles released last week are just as different from one another as they are from Blue Valentine. Good for him. Right, now let's talk about the other stuff in Crazy, Stupid, Love.

The main plot in this tangled ensemble flick finds poor, cuckolded Cal Weaver bemoaning the fact that his wife of 25 years, Emily, wants a divorce, after cheating on him with a co-worker. Wallowing in his own misery at a bar that's far too trendy for him, he encounters Jacob, a womaniser who vows to re-masculate Cal, by sprucing up his appearance and self-image. But Jacob's own game is changed when he falls for a young lawyer, Hannah. Meanwhile, Cal tries to recapture the affections of his wife and family.

26 September 2011

DRIVE- Review

Drive is a film so close to the pinnacle of cool, cinemas should really impose a height restriction on the door. The 18 certificate should rule out some of the popcorn-gobbling mouth-breathers, but I still had the misfortune to be sat in the row in front of a couple of idiotholes who snorted and chuckled through most of the film's quieter moments. The film is generally a quiet one, so they were pretty much laughing at nothing- no wonder Kevin James has a career.

On a generic level, it's an existential, neo-noirish crime thriller, with an obvious affection for similar pulp films of the 1980s. And yet it also won Nicolas Winding Refn a prize for Best Director in Cannes, so there's something else going on behind the eyes there. Ryan Gosling stars as a prodigiously talented Hollywood stunt driver, who moonlights as the best getaway driver in town. But his precise driving and organisation can't get him out of trouble when he grows close to his neighbour Irene, and her young son, and takes on the one wrong job going in LA.

23 September 2011

WARRIOR- Review

If you've seen the trailer for Warrior, then this reviews holds no spoilers whatsoever. If you're completely unaware of this film, proceed with caution.

As this is the week when the whole UK has seemingly gone Gay For Gosling, it's entirely incidental that I'm talking about Warrior, as it previewed on Wednesday. I've yet to see Drive or Crazy, Stupid, Love, but I feel it's just as important, if not more so, to talk about a film whose central sport has been getting far more flak in the course of the national conversation than the film itself would want or deserve.

It's also an mixed martial arts film that takes place in the context of a worthy and awards-friendly film, which draws natural comparisons to The Fighter, a sports drama from earlier this year. Like David O. Russell's film, Warrior centres around the family dynamic of two estranged brothers, Brendan and Tommy, who wind up competing in the same MMA world championship tournament through a series of fortuitous but separate coincidences. The Conlons are on a collision course in the cage, but is their relationship beyond repair?

21 September 2011

THE CHANGE-UP- Review

This is even creepier than it looks once you have the context of having seen the film. But don't see the film.
The other big comedy release of the week is 30 Minutes Or Less, which I've covered over at Movie Reviews. It came in at number 10 in the UK box office chart this week, which is OK, because I think it's going to have a better life on DVD anyway. The fact that I'm covering The Change-Up on here and not that does not signal that 30 Minutes Or Less is less worthy of your time.

In fact, if I weren't super-conditioned for shitty movies by now, 30 Minutes Or Less is how long into The Change-Up I would have lasted before walking the fuck out. This is the Jason Bateman and Ryan Reynolds body-swap comedy you've been seeing on bus stops around the country. Bateman is Dave, family man and hardworking lawyer, and Reynolds is Mitch, a layabout manchild who's still inordinately privileged. And then, courtesy of a toilet trip in a magic fountain, it's vice versa.

19 September 2011

TINKER TAILOR SOLDIER SPY- Review

After watching The Man With The Golden Gun for BlogalongaBond, I was happy to receive something that puts itself a million miles from the frippery of the James Bond franchise. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is based on the novel by John le Carré, and as an espionage thriller, it's much less cool than it is cold.

It centres around the upper echelons of MI6, or, as it's called in-house, "the Circus". After a botched operation in Hungary, it's discovered that there is a Soviet mole within the Circus leadership. Retired agent George Smiley is tasked with rooting out the mole, although he is one of the five suspects himself. He must carry out his investigation without the knowledge of his former colleagues- Alleline, Bland, Esterhase and Haydon- all of whom are hiding one thing or another.

16 September 2011

BlogalongaBond- THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN GUN Review

"He has a powerful weapon", Lulu warbles, at the beginning of The Man With The Golden Gun, and what follows is another three minutes of misfiring double entendres. The lyrics are shit, the melody is unmemorable, and it's probably amongst the worst theme songs the series ever had, barring Madonna's atrocity. It's not a good start, but it's an accurate omen of what's to come.

M pulls Bond off of a mission involving the current energy crisis, because he's been marked for death by the eponymous Francisco Scaramanga. Scaramanga is so good, he charges a million dollars per kill, and appears to have sent a warning to 007. M implicitly authorises Bond to hunt down and assassinate him, in order to restore his suitability as a field agent. Scaramanga appears to be more than a match for Bond, and a game of cat and mouse ensues, as the assassin searches for the means to power his solar cannon.

14 September 2011

The Zero Room #10- Springtime for Hitler

"You've had all summer. Have you found Melody yet?" As Amy says in the opening moments of Doctor Who series 6.5, the summer's gone comparatively quickly, and the Doctor's back on our screens. Steven Moffat answered some long-standing questions in the beguiling Let's Kill Hitler, Mark Gatiss plays it RTD in the council-estate chiller Night Terrors, and Tom Macrae spins a surprisingly touching tale in The Girl Who Waited.

Reviews will contain spoilers, so if you haven't seen the episodes yet, toddle over to the iPlayer, or watch BBC Three at some point in the next century's worth of repeats.

12 September 2011

TROLL HUNTER- Review

The found-footage trend shows no sign of decline, with Paranormal Activity seemingly becoming the heir apparent to Saw as a multiplex fixture around Halloween time, and two new releases in the sub-genre in the last two weeks. While Apollo 18 disappointed, Troll Hunter arrives in the UK with so much positive, it's practically a fan favourite already.

As is the manner of found-footage films, our heroes are student filmmakers from the University of Vorda. They're making a documentary in rural Norway, with all of the country's licenced bear hunters mystified by the sudden spate of illegal bear-killings. They suspect a poacher, and the mysterious Hans seems to fit the bill. Following him into the woods at the middle of the night, they catch him in the act of hunting trolls, whose existence is covered up by the Norwegian government.

9 September 2011

FRIENDS WITH BENEFITS- Review

Remember that rivalry between Natalie Portman and Mila Kunis in Black Swan? And that feeling that anything Nina could do, Lily could do better, and dirtier? That shit just got real, but it also became quite tepid in the process. After Portman came out with No Strings Attached in February, Kunis stars alongside Justin Timberlake in Friends with Benefits, and the two films are predictably interchangeable.

Timberlake plays Dylan, who is head-hunted by Kunis' character, Jamie, and moves to New York to work at GQ. Both have recently broken up with their respective partners, and the two become firm friends as Dylan acclimatises himself to the Big Apple. The status quo is altered when they decide to have casual sex with one another. The terms of their relationship are firmly set out- it's just about the sex and there should be no emotional attachment. But then-- hey, this sounds familiar...

8 September 2011

THE SKIN I LIVE IN- Review

On Tuesday, I went along to the Tyneside Cinema for a double bill of films in limited UK distribution. One of them was Kill List, and as it's the hot topic of the moment, let me quickly explain why I'm not reviewing it yet. I found it overrated, but that's not why- I'm going to give it a second viewing before I write about it, and even in that case, there's nothing I can say about it that won't spoil it. Worth a look, because it's one of the most interesting British films of the year, although not one of the best.

The other film I saw, the Spanish melodrama The Skin I Live In, is similarly at spoiler risk, but it's considerably easier to talk about without giving too much away. As it begins, we find ourselves in the home of Robert Ledgard, a widowed plastic surgeon who lives a reclusive life in his mansion in Toledo. Upstairs, he keeps a young woman called Vera under lock and key, secluded from the outside world, as Robert experiments with synthetic skin. Only from their dreams do we begin to realise the full extent of their unusual relationship.

6 September 2011

FRIGHT NIGHT- Review

It's almost inevitable that Fright Night has that trendy moment of disparaging Twilight, which has unfortunately been exaggerated in some of the marketing I've seen to the point where it has alienated part of its target audience. It's also bombed at the box office accordingly. Happily though, this remake still puts its money where its mouth is, and delivers hugely enjoyable vampire action.

It starts inauspiciously enough, in the suburbs near Las Vegas, where Charley Brewster is enjoying the tenets of his new-found popularity, and his unspeakably gorgeous girlfriend, Amy. Left behind, his nerdy best mate Ed begins to investigate a series of disappearances, and links them back to Charley's neighbour, Jerry Dandridge, who is actually a vampire. With the reluctant help of Vegas showman Peter Vincent, Charley fights to protect the women in his life from an ancient and seemingly unstoppable predator.

5 September 2011

APOLLO 18- Review

As I espoused over on Den of Geek last week, the movies give mankind little reason to visit the Moon. Nothing nice ever happens there. And so, in what should have been an innovative and sensible development in the popular trend of found-footage horror films, Apollo 18 purports to show the bad shit that really happened there. Well, it's no Apollo 13.

Comprised from hours upon hours of classified footage uploaded to the website lunartruth.com, we're presented with 88 minutes of a fateful Apollo mission, manned by Commander Nathan Walker and Captain Ben Anderson. Officially, there were only 17 Apollo missions, and so the events that occur upon Walker and Anderson's arrival on the Moon reveal the stunning truth about "why we never went back."

2 September 2011

Looking back at Summer 2011

In the movie calendar, the transition from August to September marks a definitive end to blockbuster season, and so last Friday was the last gasp for the summer's successive run of sequels and remakes. On balance, I would say that it's been a better season than we've been led to expect in previous years. We haven't really had an Inception this year, but the quality has been pretty consistent.

Inevitably, there were a couple of massive disappointments, but elsewhere, the really terrible films could be counted amongst the usual suspects. At the very least, no lasting damage was inflicted upon my already very broken and cynical sense of hype. Hey, we even got a few films that I would count amongst my favourites of the year. So let's run through the hits, the shits, and everything in between.