30 November 2011

50/50- Review

I've been doing enough comparisons of new movies to slightly less new movies in recent weeks, that I hope that such comparisons are lending context to a review. Why rely on my opinion? Isn't it better to tell you what it's kind of like, thus help you decide if you're going to enjoy it, without resorting to the almost always misjudged "See this if you liked..." pieces that populate cinema listings?

Where does this relate to 50/50? Basically, I found the film's humour and pathos to land somewhere between the previous works of its two stars, and not at all like Love And Other Drugs. (500) Days of Summer's Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Knocked Up's Seth Rogen are the stars of this movie, which finds a nice balance between each of those films' separate approaches, on a much more serious topic than either- cancer. During a supposedly routine doctor's visit, Levitt's character, Adam, is diagnosed with schwannoma, but it seems that the more imminent problem is how his disease changes the way that his loved ones treat him.

28 November 2011

MY WEEK WITH MARILYN- Review

The most instant and obvious comparison to make, after viewing My Week With Marilyn, is with Richard Linklater's underviewed 2009 film, Me And Orson Welles. Like Welles, Simon Curtis' film uses a memoir as its starting point, setting up the protagonist as a plucky accomplice to a screen icon and taking the opportunity to wax cinematic about an institution. Linklater's film is an ode to the theatre, and this is a film that is in love with Marilyn Monroe.

Colin Clark is a young aspiring filmmaker who doggedly pursues a job working for Sir Lawrence Olivier on his new film, The Prince and the Showgirl. Colin becomes the third assistant director, and gains a unique insight into Olivier's leading lady, Marilyn Monroe. At the height of her popularity, Marilyn's arrival in England to film The Sleeping Prince, as it was then known, makes her adoring public ecstatic. But beneath the star's sultry exterior lies much greater vulnerability, as Colin discovers when he begins a dalliance with the world's most famous actress.

25 November 2011

TYRANNOSAUR- Review

Depending on your point of view, I've either talked about two really depressing films this week, or just one. How better to round out the week, as we hurtle towards the general jollity of the nationally anointed Christmas movie month, than with a less-than-cheerful slice of British social realism, and the directorial debut from Paddy Considine, Tyrannosaur. To paraphrase the rear-view mirror from Jurassic Park, the film may contain less dinosaurs that it would appear.

While the metaphorical pre-historic beasty of the title is revealed in the dialogue, one could argue that it represents Joseph, a self-destructive grouch who lives alone and is constantly given to misdirected acts of rage and violence. After one such act, he meets Hannah, a kind but downtrodden Christian woman, while hiding behind a clothes rack in her charity shop. The expected clash of personalities is largely more of a meeting of hearts and minds, as Hannah tries to escape the realities of her abusive marriage.

23 November 2011

WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT KEVIN- Review

You have to hate any film title that gives people a legitimate excuse to use the most obvious pun that comes to mind, especially when discussion of We Need To Talk About Kevin is, by the nature of the film itself, a serious business. Still, as the film makes its way around the country, having somehow dodged wide distribution despite sold-out screenings in my local arthouse cinema, it's time for me to throw in my twopenn'orth as well.

The script, by Rory Kinnear and director Lynne Ramsey, takes great pains to work from the first-person focus of Lionel Shriver's novel, and so the film largely takes place around, and from the point-of-view of Eva Khatchadourian. She's stigmatised by society for the actions of her sociopath son, Kevin, and through seeing the various points in her life, it is clear that she has failed to connect with him, if not for lack of trying. Though her husband, Franklin, adores their son, the antagonism between Eva and Kevin can only come to a devastating conclusion.

21 November 2011

BREAKING DAWN PART 1- Spoiler Review

This review contains spoilers for all of the Twilight films. You can read my spoiler-free review of Breaking Dawn Part 1 on Movie Reviews.

It's quite annoying that the myth of the ongoing Twilight saga being utterly eventless and worthless has gathered so much steam, or so much hot air, as the case may be. It's annoying because I find myself pushing extra hard in the opposite direction for what is only the difference between a one-star film and a two-star film. But when the former is Transformers- Dark of the Moon, and the latter is Breaking Dawn- Part 1, it's only fair to discuss the relative merits of a fangirls' franchise.

Having languorously adapted the first three books in painstaking detail, with not an awful lot of character development along the way, Summit have gone the way of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows with Stephanie Meyer's final novel in the series, and split it into two parts, with the second due in cinemas this time next year. In the first instalment, Bella and Edward finally consummate their dopey, mopey romance, by getting married. An explosive deflowering on their honeymoon leaves Bella with an inordinately powerful bun in the oven, and her pregnancy could pose as much of a danger to the world as it does to her own health.

18 November 2011

IMMORTALS- Review

With a new Twilight movie in cinemas today (my review is coming on Monday), it's surprising to see that the studios keep trying to make mythological fantasy films into the correspondingly popular brand of erotic wish-fulfilment with young men. Ever since Zack Snyder orchestrated the campy action extravaganza of 300, we've had a number of varying attempts to capitalise on Greek mythology for different audiences, with varying success.

And now comes Immortals, another action movie in which grunty, shirtless men do battle for liberty, and the production design is just fabulous. Ahem. This latest contortion of Greek mythology is based around Theseus, who, in this version, is some sort of plucky lumberjack, living in a cliff-side village. His village is destroyed by Hyperion, a murderous tyrant who is looking for a bow that will allow him to unleash the titans and dethrone the gods. The gods, forbidden to interfere in the affairs of mortals, trust in Theseus to deliver mankind from destruction, relying on only his courage, the companionship of a hot prophet and... oh yeah, the magic bow.

17 November 2011

THE RUM DIARY- Review

Even in the process of actively trying to avoid comparisons of The Rum Diary to Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, it feels like my feelings about the movie can only be articulated in relation to my similar disaffection with Terry Gilliam's film. It still seems like a reasonable comparison to make, as this film and Fear and Loathing would make a serviceable double bill, with each film featuring Johnny Depp performing as an alias of Hunter S. Thompson.

The Rum Diary, based on one of Thompson's early, originally unpublished books, essentially serves as Hunter S. Thompson Begins, in the parlance of the mainstream cinema with which it is more obviously trying to blend in. Depp plays Paul Kemp, a novelist who's struggling to find his voice at the height of Eisenhower's America. Puerto Rico is a big enough change of scene, and the local rag, The San Juan Star, signs him up as a reporter. But the assignments don't exactly grab him, and his increasing dependency on alcohol gets him into trouble, especially when the beguiling Chenault enters the equation.

15 November 2011

THE AWAKENING- Review

While I hasten to join in with those reviewers that hope the BBC will pick up The Awakening and make six more episodes, post-haste, it's not to say that Nick Murphy's boarding school chiller is ever less than cinematic. The line has been blurred for some time, what with Sherlock comprising three feature-length episodes and the general production value of certain American shows putting Hollywood equivalents to shame.

The fact remains that Florence Cathcart, a no-nonsense paranormal investigator who exposes ghostly hoaxes, and her adventures in 1921 would be a fantastic springboard for a spooky BBC drama series. As it stands, it's also a very good film, which inevitably finds Florence confronted with evidence of real ghosts, in a creepy-looking rural boarding school. A boy appears to have died of fright, at the sight of the school's visitor, and a sceptical Florence is brought in to investigate.

14 November 2011

ARTHUR CHRISTMAS- Review

Christmas movies peak and trough like most other sub-genres, and Arthur Christmas proves to be the most instantly rewatchable festive family fare since Elf. After voyages to the uncanny valley with Robert Zemeckis, in The Polar Express and A Christmas Carol, this one comes from Aardman Animation, the geniuses behind Wallace & Gromit, and it probably arrives so early in cinemas in order to avoid the glut of markedly un-festive animated sequels and spin-offs next month.

Putting yet another spin on the question of how Santa Claus gets presents to all the houses around the world in just one night, we see the North Pole as the hub for a militarised gift-delivering operation on Christmas Eve. Santa has two sons who oversee the operation- heir apparent Steve, the lieutenant who runs Christmas from ground control, and Arthur, whose boundless enthusiasm for the festive season sees him relegated to answering chidren's letters. However, the high-tech operation suffers an infinitesimal margin of error when one child in Cornwall doesn't receive a present, and Arthur is determined to make things right.

12 November 2011

BlogalongaBond- MOONRAKER Review

As you might imagine, there's no shortage of contenders for the dumbest moment in Moonraker. However, it's actually quite impressive to see that so many of them are actually dumber than "James Bond goes to space." As ridiculous as the final credits' insistence that the movie was shot on location in "OUTER SPACE!" really is, let's not forget the animal reaction shots, the platoon of space rangers, and Jaws' flipping girlfriend.

And so, Fleming's novel, in which the villainous Hugo Drax is a Nazi pretending to be an English gent, somehow transmorphs into Moonraker, with sci-fi, lasers and a metric fuckton of camp. It's also a pretty straight structural remake of You Only Live Twice, which was already rehashed in the previous, much superior adventure, The Spy Who Loved Me. Basically, Drax is an industrialist who provokes a diplomatic incident when he steals back one of his own Moonraker shuttles, while it's supposed to be under British control. Bond is dispatched to find out where the missing Moonraker got to, but instead finds a plot to create a new master race.

11 November 2011

Four Of My Favourite Things About TRESPASS

If you want a thought-out and reasoned analysis of Joel Schumacher's Trespass, starring Nicolas Cage and Nicole Kidman, you can read my review over at Movie Reviews now. If you're of the "tl;dr" browsing clan, then who am I to act contrary to the demand for easily digestible and visually friendly movie critiques, especially for a movie as awfully good as Trespass? I mean, it's shit, but there are a host of fun moments.

The plot, as far as it goes, finds a wealthy estate agent and his family under siege at their swanky and fortified mansion. Kyle Miller has recently signed for a million dollars' worth of diamonds, and armed men bust through his security to take him and his wife Sarah hostage. His daughter, Avery, becomes swept up in the hostage situation too, as secrets and lies are revealed, and the whole thing becomes terribly convoluted. Here are my four favourite things about the movie.

10 November 2011

MACHINE GUN PREACHER- Review

Despite my prejudice against screen biopics, I found a fair bit to admire in this adaptation of Sam Childers' memoirs, Another Man's War. Of course, it's amped up to the extent that Childers is played by Gerard Butler, who doesn't so much throw his arms around the world, as exercise his right to bear arms around the world. Most importantly though, its tone is dramatic first, and action-packed afterwards.

So, with the slightly less serviceable title of Machine Gun Preacher, Another Man's War is brought to the screen, beginning with Sam being released from prison. He's an alcoholic criminal who rides around on his motorbike, robbing places and neglecting his family. However, his wife Lynn has found Jesus while he was behind bars, and a pivotal event leads him to convert too. Sam's new-found conscience is prickled, when he learns of how civil war in the Sudan is affecting children, and he ships over there to join in with aid workers, and eventually winds up having a go in the war, too.

7 November 2011

TOWER HEIST- Review

Brett Ratner is one of those directors who is widely considered to be a hack filmmaker. If the studio likes someone that much, he must be bad, right? Aside from driving the X-Men franchise into the first of two successive brick walls when he took over from director Matthew Vaughn at the last minute, he's the mastermind behind the increasingly crap Rush Hour trilogy. In fact, he dropped out of remaking Ocean's Eleven back at the beginning of the Noughties, in order to make Rush Hour 2.

In Tower Heist, Ratner seems to have found a channel through which he can expend any Ocean's-related energy that may still be troubling him. Set in and around a high-rise apartment complex in New York City, Josh Kovacs is a building manager who is stung when the tower's wealthiest resident, Arthur Shaw, is implicated in a Ponzi scheme. Shaw was responsible for the staff's pension fund, which now seems to have disappeared without a trace. When they discover that Shaw keeps an as-yet unseized $20 million emergency fund in his apartment, Kovacs and his motley crew of outraged victims plot to get their own back.

1 November 2011

ANONYMOUS- Review

It's funny for a film about dubious authorship, that Anonymous so little resembles a film by disaster-movie hackmeister Roland Emmerich. It's almost suspicious, as if the act of watching the film invites you to wonder how it could possibly have come from Emmerich. Silly, isn't it? But not nearly as silly as this well-made academic pantomime, which adapts the Oxfordian theory of Shakespearean authorship into a bombastic period drama.

Anonymous is basically a hypothetical biopic of Edward de Vere, the Earl of Oxford, as he seeks to have his plays performed by proxy. Noted playwright Ben Jonson refuses to become his pseudonym, but he leaves the Earl's manuscripts lying around to be claimed by an illiterate actor, Will Shakespeare. It is Edward's hope that the inflammatory satire in his works will allow him to influence the masses without being outwardly treasonous. In particular, he aims to unseat Queen Elizabeth's sinister advisers, William and Robert Cecil, with whom he has been in a pitched battle of wills for decades.