23 February 2012

EXTREMELY LOUD & INCREDIBLY CLOSE- Review

Aside from the fact that Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close is basically this year's The Blind Side (a Best Picture nominee that doesn't really deserve to be, and also happens to star Sandra Bullock), it bears many similarities to its fellow nominees. It's unerringly sentimental, like War Horse. It features a character who refuses to talk, like The Artist. It's about the unknowable motivations of a lost loved one, like The Descendants, but also like Hugo, with which it even has the inheritance of a mysterious key in common.

Divorced from all of this Oscar hullabaloo, as this adaptation of Jonathan Safran-Foer's novel arguably should have been, the plot of the film follows Oskar Schell, an 11-year-old boy with an undiagnosed social disorder, whose father is killed during the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center. A year after this Worst Day, as Oskar calls it, he explores his dad's effects and finds an envelope marked "Black". Inside the envelope is a key, and the quest to discover what it unlocks, and to make sense of his father's final mystery, takes Oskar all over New York.

20 February 2012

BlogalongaBond- A VIEW TO A KILL Review

He looks knackered, doesn't he?
Last year, there was a lot of buzz to say that Jeremy Renner's character in Mission: Impossible- Ghost Protocol would be set up to replace Tom Cruise's Ethan Hunt as the franchise went forward, on account of Cruise's somewhat diminished box office pulling power. The film went on to be a big hit, and it appears that the 50-year-old Cruise might stick around in that franchise for a little longer.

But for fuck's sake, he's still one of the most charismatic action stars in the world, and he does all of his own stunts, neither of which can be said of Roger Moore in A View to a Kill. Grandpa Bond returns for one last gasp, taking on microchip industrialist Max Zorin. Zorin is behind a really, really boring racket in running performance-enhanced horses in races and reaping the profits, but his masterplan is to destroy Silicon Valley and secure a monopoly in the microchip market.

15 February 2012

THE WOMAN IN BLACK- Review

Is anyone else slightly surprised that Daniel Radcliffe did this right after Harry Potter? It's considerably darker than even the darkest of those films, but that whole series was soaked with Hammer-grade atmospheric horror, and certain scenes in The Woman In Black aren't a million miles removed from the magical menace that infused those school years. However, I do think that he shows more confidence by not striking out and doing something completely different, and running the risk of protesting too much.

Set at the turn of the century, the film stars Radcliffe as Arthur Kipps, a young lawyer and single father who is struggling to keep his job since the untimely death of his wife, during childbirth. Struggling to support their young son, Arthur agrees to settle the affairs of the late Alice Drablow, and travels to a small town in North East England in the hopes of selling her property, Eel Marsh House. He finds the town gripped by terror, as people's children keep dying in violent or unnatural circumstances, shepherded into death by the vengeful presence of a ghostly woman, veiled in black.

12 February 2012

THE MUPPETS- Review

Should you go and see The Muppets? Well, yes, clearly. It's impossible to over-value a film that puts a smile on your face for its entire running time, with characters you know and love, songs you're going to be humming for the next decade or so, and gags that are genuinely funny and never mean-spirited. Simultaneously, the film is not everything I hoped for, and weird, overly complicated studio notes seem to have taken a toll.

Still, Disney didn't do badly, in signing up Jason Segel to bring Jim Henson's creations back to the big screen. In addition to co-writing The Muppets, Segel stars as Gary, whose distinctly felt-y brother Walter is the world's biggest fan of the Muppets. The plot is completely straightforward- when Walter discovers that an evil oil baron is planning to tear down the historic Muppet theatre, he and Gary go on a road trip to round up Kermit, Miss Piggy, Fozzie and the gang, in the hope of doing one last show to raise the money to save the theatre.

8 February 2012

JOURNEY 2: THE MYSTERIOUS ISLAND- Review

In 2008, the Real-D 3D wave in cinemas was prefixed by Journey to the Centre of the Earth 3D, a functional and diverting family adventure based on Jules Verne's novel. In the age of the movie franchise, Warner Bros. hope to extrapolate this into a whole series of literary adventure movies, which pull in a number of Verne novels and, in the case of Journey 2: The Mysterious Island, even authors such as Jonathan Swift and Robert Louis Stevenson. It's just unfortunate that Brendan Fraser passed on this, really, isn't it?

Nevertheless, Josh Hutcherson returns as Fraser's character's intrepid nephew, Sean, who is that purely fictional teenage archetype- the academic rebel. Much to the despair of his mum, and his stepdad, Hank, Sean spends his time obsessing over literary works in search of the place described in Jules Verne's "The Mysterious Island", where he believes his grandfather is stranded. By cross-referencing with other literary islands (cue Swift and Stevenson), Sean finds the island and drags along Hank, a helicopter pilot, and the pilot's teenage daughter along on his adventure.

6 February 2012

YOUNG ADULT- Review

Oscar-winning screenwriter Diablo Cody has made her name writing scripts about smart-alecky adolescents, like Juno and Jennifer's Body, and, apparently frustrated with journalists asking if she fixates on younger characters, her latest script is Young Adult, about a woman who is really, completely, dangerously fixated upon adolescent fantasies. It's also nothing like either of her previous, more upbeat features- this film is as dour and cynical as the day is long.

Mavis Gary is an author of young adult fiction, more specifically a ghost writer, on a popular series that is coming to an end. Up against a deadline on the final book, she's suffering from writer's block. While procrastinating online, she discovers that her high school sweetheart, Buddy Slade, now married to someone else, has just welcomed a baby daughter. In a fit of delusion about the chance of rekindling with her old flame, Mavis ups sticks and returns to her hometown in Minnesota, and resolves to wreck Buddy's home life and "rescue" him.

3 February 2012

THE GREY- Review

There has to come a point where we stop judging films by the way the trailers sold us on seeing them. Too many people have come out of The Grey, a superb philosophical action movie that's simply the best man vs. nature exploitation flick since Jaws, complaining that they expected "Liam Neeson- Wolf Puncher" from the marketing. Joe Carnahan's film is demonstrably better than the studio marketing promised. Hell, if the studio had been smart enough to release the film a month or two earlier, it could have been ignored by the Oscars, which is always the mark of a true classic. You couldn't expect that of Taken or Unknown.

But this time around, Neeson plays Ottway, a character whose backstory has uncomfortable echoes of the actor's own personal life, who isolates himself from humanity by serving as security for a bunch of reprobates and ex-cons at an Alaskan oil-drilling station. While returning to civilisation, there's a horrific plane crash that kills all of them except for Ottway and six other survivors. If the cold and unforgiving climate doesn't kill them, the ravenous wolves, in whose territory they are stranded, definitely will.

1 February 2012

CHRONICLE- Review

Since the success of The Blair Witch Project, and certainly since the Paranormal Activity series became an annual fixture of the Halloween box office weekend, we've been inundated with found-footage films. Many of these have been sub-par, or just downright terrible, but Chronicle is the first found-footage feature in a while that is better for its use of the format than it might otherwise have been.

THE DESCENDANTS- Review

Last week, The Descendants scooped five Oscar nominations, so it's another of a number of films I've talked about this week, whose filmmakers are hoping to grab the gold next month. In a way, I've almost left this review too late, because on Monday night, I got to see The Grey, and it was so damn good that I barely want to talk about anything else for the rest of 2012. But like the other nominees in what is collectively the weakest selection of Best Picture contenders in years, it's not that it's bad- it's good, but perhaps not great.

From Alexander Payne, the writer-director who has earned admiration for making biting and witty dramas like Election and Sideways, The Descendants is altogether softer. But as land magnate Matt King protests at the beginning of the movie, about his living in Hawaii, there's no reason to assume that its characters' heartaches are any less pauinful as a result. Matt's wife, Elizabeth, is involved in a jet-skiing accident, to begin with, and a bump on the head leaves her in a coma. Matt is therefore left to try and reconnect with his two boisterous daughters, Alexandra and Scottie, and work through the difficult realisation that Elizabeth was planning to leave him, before her accident.