27 June 2013

DESPICABLE ME 2- Review

Despicable Me hit cinemas in 2010, and was fortunate enough to just squeak past the later release of the less-remembered Megamind. Aside from its plot about a lonely supervillain trying to pilfer the Moon, it had shades of Lemony Snicket in its adoption plot, a bunch of memorable little gonks called Minions, and a side of sweetness that kept it afloat. The film was a huge hit at the box office, so Despicable Me 2 feels all but inevitable.

After the first film's happy ending, Gru is acting as a single dad to his young charges, Margo, Edith and Agnes, while his old evil pal, Dr. Nefario, and his hordes of hyperactive Minions toil away on a legitimate, non-evil business selling jams and jellies. He's given something to occupy himself when he's press-ganged into an investigation by the Anti-Villain League. With the help of some new gadgets and the excitable Agent Lucy Wilde, Gru must now uncover and foil the dastardly plans of another supervillain.

24 June 2013

WORLD WAR Z- Review

Although Max Brooks' bestselling novel is on my reading list for the summer, I haven't yet read the book from which World War Z takes its name. As I understand it, it hasn't taken much else, and it's as if Paramount felt more comfortable making a $200 million zombie movie if it had the title of a known property attached. On that basis, if you've read the book, you'll have already made up your mind about whether to see the film or not.

The book takes the form of a series of eyewitness reports, connected by having survived the initial outbreak that led to the zombie apocalypse. The film, to give things a more active element, centres around former UN investigator Gerry Lane, who is able to escape a chaotic outbreak that goes down in America by calling in a favour from his old colleagues. In return, he's asked to travel the world to investigate the global pandemic, and attempts to find a cure.

18 June 2013

MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING- Review

There may be SPOILERS in this one, but come on, the story is over 400 years old...

William Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing has been adapted and staged variously throughout the years, earning critical appreciation as a precursor to the romantic comedy genre. The play focuses on the Slap-Slap-Kiss dynamic between Benedick, a confirmed bachelor, and Beatrice, a witty and cynical lady, and the short courtship of two other young lovers. This latest adaptation was Joss Whedon's pet project, shot at his house, in black and white, during his fortnight off from directing The Avengers.

Still, it's not necessarily the bickering of Beatrice and Benedick that drives the narrative forward. Their friends and comrades act as matchmakers, tricking them into falling in love by convincing them that they're already in love. But all of this occurs during the courtship and betrothal of Claudio, Benedick's best mate, and Hero, Beatrice's cousin- the two are very much in love, until the bastard brother of a prince decides to throw a spanner in the works, and misunderstandings abound.

15 June 2013

MAN OF STEEL- Review

In 2006, Superman Returns copped a lot of unfair flak for dutifully ignoring the twin embarrassments of Superman III and Superman IV: The Quest For Peace, and acting as a direct sequel to Superman and Superman II. Bryan Singer's nostalgic and romanticised continuation of the most iconic screen version of the character, as played by Christopher Reeve, has both strengths and its weaknesses. But it's not a good idea to slave yourself to earlier, better movies- isn't it far better to try and do something new?

Seven years later, we have Man Of Steel, from producer Christopher Nolan and, more importantly, director Zack Snyder. Part of their new approach to Superman's origin story finds Kal-El being the first naturally conceived child to be born on his dying planet of Krypton for centuries. From there, we remember that his parents give him a passage to Earth, where he is found and raised by a farmer and his wife, and rechristened as Clark Kent. But as Clark comes to terms with his heritage, and the phenomenal power that he possesses within Earth's atmosphere, he is pursued by General Zod, who will stop at nothing to protect the future of Krypton.

12 June 2013

BYZANTIUM- Review

Director Neil Jordan has a long line of supernaturally inclined movies to his name- High Spirits, The Company of Wolves, Interview With The Vampire and, more recently, Ondine. While this filmography assures that Byzantium has a steady hand at the helm, it's more surprising to find that the film is such a fresh and interesting take on vampires, after such a long spell of their mythology being mined at the box office.

As adapted from screenwriter Moira Buffini's stage play, vampires are conceived as an exclusive brotherhood, made up almost entirely of upper-class gents who are let in on the secret to immortality. The only exceptions are Clara and her daughter Eleanor, who have lived for two centuries on the run. Their latest hideout is a run-down seaside guesthouse called Byzantium, which Clara soon turns into a brothel. While her mother preys on the powerful, Eleanor befriends the elderly at the end of their lives, and strives to break out of her isolated existence.

11 June 2013

AFTER EARTH- Review

The last on-screen collaboration between Will Smith and his son Jaden was 2006's The Pursuit of Happyness, an uplifting family drama that served to introduce Jaden to the world, while giving the elder Smith an outlet for his more dramatic impulses as an actor. Smith Sr picked up an Oscar nomination, while Jaden starred in the remake of The Karate Kid. Apparently the only way to make Jaden a bigger star was to make After Earth.

Thousands of years in the future, Kitai Raige bristles in the shadow of his famous dad, a fearless general who leads a human colony's fight against alien predators. In the name of bonding, the general takes his son on what should be a routine training mission, that ends with a devastating crash landing on the uninhabited Earth. Our home planet is now the most dangerous environment imaginable, and Kitai is forced to undertake a deadly mission for a crucial homing beacon, in order to save his own life, and that of his injured father.

7 June 2013

BEHIND THE CANDELABRA- Review

How many more times can I mention the whole thing about Steven Soderbergh's retirement? It comes up every time he has a film out, and even as he reaches the self-imposed twilight of his cinematic career, we've never had long to wait before he's releasing another one. Contagion, Haywire, Magic Mike and Side Effects would be a pretty solid run in anyone's book, and it's criminal that Beyond The Candelabra isn't getting a cinema release worldwide.

The HBO film, adapted from Scott Thorson's memoir of his secret relationship with flamboyant master pianist Liberace, is getting a limited release in UK cinemas from today, and it's well worth checking out. Scott is introduced to Liberace, or Lee, in 1977, and soon becomes employed as his live-in companion. Despite his protestations of bisexuality, he's soon seduced by the older man, and becomes comfortable in the lifestyle afforded by mega-stardom. The film focuses on their relationship over the course of almost ten years, as Scott strays into substance abuse, and Lee constantly struggles to preserve his youth.

6 June 2013

THE PURGE- Review

The Purge could almost be a study of suggestibility. When a message appears on television telling America that all crimes, INCLUDING MURDER, are legal for the next 12 hours, murder seems to be the only major crime that anybody goes out and commits. The trouble is that the film isn't that kind of study- it just hasn't been entirely well-thought out.

In the year 2022, there has been a major upheaval in the United States, with its "New Founding Fathers" having instituted an annual Purge for the darker impulses of its people. Once a year, for 12 hours, all emergency services and law enforcement is suspended, leading to relative prosperity for the rest of the year. James Sandin sells security systems to those who can afford to protect themselves during the Purge, but finds his own house under attack when his young son shows an act of kindness towards a homeless man.