28 February 2013

SONG FOR MARION- Review

Up until recently, Paul Andrew Williams' films were largely of the crime and/or horror genres, but Song For Marion represents a big departure for the British writer-director. Positioned to follow "grey pound" box office hits like The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel and Quartet, here's a film that doesn't deal in geezers, or violence, or Jennifer Ellison wearing a tight top and howling swear-words, but in an altogether more gentle and intimate subject matter.

Arthur Harris is a crotchety old bastard who resembles nothing so much as Grumpy Cat's dad, in marked contrast to his vivacious wife, Marion. Nevertheless, Marion's health has been declining, and when her illness resurges, Arthur is all the more eager to protect her from such energetic pursuits as her local choir group. At his wife's insistence, Arthur reluctantly becomes more involved with the OAPz, led by perky music teacher, Elizabeth, and is forced to open up about himself a little more.

25 February 2013

CLOUD ATLAS- Review

Frankly, Cloud Atlas shouldn't exist. There's plenty to be glad about, though, and it only adds to the triumphal feel of the piece that it does exist, in a Hollywood system that chews up ambition and originality and regurgitates it for a mass audience. Released in the US in November, it's finally reached the UK during Oscar weekend, and it's a fitting reminder that Hollywood's biggest night doesn't always reward ambition, as much as safety and a sure hand.

Toppling another of the reputedly "unadaptable" novels, Cloud Atlas is based on the epic six-pronged novel by David Mitchell (not that one), set over different time periods and locations. In the 19th century, a young notary falls sick on a voyage home to America. In the 1930s, a bisexual composer tries to make his name. In 1973, a journalist investigates a safety scandal at a nuclear power plant. In 2012, a publisher winds up committing himself to an old folks' home by accident. In the 22nd century, a woman who was bred to serve becomes the figurehead of revolution. And in the distant future, a primitive struggles to survive in a post-apocalyptic land. All of these stories are linked, by either coincidence, recurrence or the endurance of the human spirit.

19 February 2013

A GOOD DAY TO DIE HARD- Review

This is just one stupid scene from A Good Day To Die Hard. There are many, many more.
Imagine somebody who has never seen any of the Die Hard movies. Perhaps their lack of knowledge is such that they even think the main character is called Die Hard. Imagine that person being put in charge of making a sequel, in which "Die Hard goes to Russia and makes loads of people die, hard." Now smear shit all over that imagined movie, and it'll almost look as good as A Good Day To Die Hard.

This staggeringly inept fifth entry into the much-loved action franchise finds John McClane heading for Russia, where his son, Jack, has got into trouble with the authorities. He hasn't spoken to his son for a long time, and assumes he's gotten himself mixed up with the wrong crowd. In reality, Jack is working for the CIA, trying to extract a political prisoner, for reasons that, much like everything else in the film, remain unclear. Thus the elder McClane is reduced to following him around and teaming up with him, like a version of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, but with our former hero as the funny dad character.

14 February 2013

WARM BODIES- Review

As I said in my review, if you're attached and wondering what to do this Valentine's Day, I Give It A Year might not be your bag this Valentine's Day. Still, it's possible for a romcom to be somehow less cynical and yet more bite-y, as Warm Bodies proves in earnest. Rather than a (literally) fatal over-extension of the popular supernatural romance genre, here's a film that gently ribs the tropes of Twilight-style romances.

The zombie apocalypse has been and gone, and the new status quo finds humans holed up behind massive concrete walls, while the undead roam through what remains of America. One zombie, who only remembers that his first name began with R, staggers around with a surprisingly neurotic inner monologue, longing for a connection to another person, alive or undead. It's love at first sight when he runs into Julie, the live, armed and dangerous daughter of the colonel who leads the survivors, and his new-found affection starts to bring him out of his deathly state.

11 February 2013

I GIVE IT A YEAR- Review

When Working Title releases a romantic comedy, the marketing still trumpets that it comes from the studio behind Bridget Jones' Diary and Love Actually. We're almost ten years on from the latter, but before that, it was the Oscar-nominated Four Weddings And A Funeral. Most pertinently, all three star Hugh Grant, so perhaps the noticeably revved up marketing campaign for I Give It A Year, which is a kind of post-modern take on their own niche, is an attempt to move on.

Inverting the usual romcom structure, the wedding that would normally be a happy ending actually takes place at the beginning, as Nat and Josh tie the knot after just seven months of courting. As the title suggests, few people see the besotted, but mainly incompatible couple as a lasting thing. Within the first year alone, Josh tries to deal with an ex-girlfriend, with whom he never officially broke up, Nat is encouraged to flirt with a hunky American businessman at work, in order to secure a marketing deal, and the once happy couple struggle through marriage counselling sessions in an effort to save their relationship.

8 February 2013

HITCHCOCK- Review

Alfred Hitchcock never won an Oscar, as we're pointedly reminded at the end of Hitchcock, a film which centres around the production of Psycho. Given the tone of the film, and the timing of its release, it doesn't take a cynic to speculate that the producers of this biopic hoped to rectify Hitchcock's lack of Oscars, by winning an Oscar for Hitchcock.

The movie begins with Hitchcock premièring North By Northwest, and coming down with a general sense of inertia. Frustrated by those who want him to make the same picture over again, he actively looks for a more shocking and nasty piece of work to shake things up. He settles upon Psycho, a book based on the true crimes of Ed Gein, and meets immediate opposition from the studio. With the support of his wife and writing partner Alma Reville, he sets about producing the film himself, while the couple's marriage hits some choppy waters.

4 February 2013

FLIGHT- Review

Flight's not a great movie to watch while hungover, or still drunk from the night before. On the other hand, it is the first live-action movie that Robert Zemeckis has made in a while now, after a term of experimenting with motion-capture animation, and it's also one of the only R-rated movies he's ever made. It's an altogether more adult-oriented film than we've come to expect from the director, for good and for ill.

Denzel Washington plays Captain Whip Whittaker, an alcoholic airline pilot who is shown consuming a heavy mix of beer, cocaine, coffee, aspirin and pure oxygen, right before taking the controls of a passenger jet. Despite his intoxicated state, it's actually a technical fault that causes difficulties while in the air. Miraculously, Whip pulls off an incredible crash landing in which only six lives are lost, and 96, including his own, are saved. However, someone has to take responsibility for the casualties, and Whip is forced to face up to his own dependency issues.