20 February 2014

CUBAN FURY- Review

It's not too much of a stretch of the imagination to see Cuban Fury being conceived differently. It might as easily have been either a mirthless Kevin James vehicle where the humour never rises above a fat man injuring himself and becoming sort of competent as he goes along, or as the kind of earnest, disposable ITV comedy drama that has since been superseded by the channel's dedication to crime dramas and half-hour sitcoms.

Arriving in the form that it has, based on an idea by a drunken Nick Frost, it actually does a serviceable job of straddling those two extremes and comes out much sweeter. Frost plays Bruce Garrett, a former salsa-dancing prodigy who threw it all away after one traumatic incident. Approaching 40, he's shy and unfulfilled, but a crush on his dance-fan boss Julia puts the fire back in his heels, and he decides to take up the salsa again, in a bid to woo her away from a womanising colleague.

19 February 2014

HER- Review

Hold onto your hats, this could get analytical. Spike Jonze's new film, Her presents a highly unconventional romance through a digital, philosophical and existential prism, and it arrived in the UK right in time for Valentine's Day. To both update and paraphrase Voltaire, the thesis seems to be that if Scarlett Johansson did not exist as your girlfriend, she would have to be invented.

In the near-future, Theodore Twombly (what a name!) makes a living by composing the futuristic equivalent of greetings cards, for a company called BeautifullyHandwrittenLetters.com, a oxymoron-ic name that sets the tone nicely. In the process of a messy divorce from his wife, Theodore invests in a new operating system (OS) for his computer, which creates a personalised Siri-like artificial intelligence who christens herself Samantha. But as Theodore and Samantha get to know each other, a more unexpected connection develops between them.

18 February 2014

THE MONUMENTS MEN- Review

It's not often that you find yourself complaining about an absence of creative licence when a true story is adapted to the big screen. But when you have George Clooney directing Matt Damon, Bill Murray, Bob Balaban, John Goodman, Jean Dujardin, Hugh Bonneville and Cate Blanchett, it's a shame that The Monuments Men doesn't measure up to its highly anticipated collective star calibre.

Based on the true story, (as transcribed by historian Robert M. Edsel) this is about the covert mission to protect the world's most valuable cultural artefacts from destruction, during the final years of the Second World War. Dismayed by the thefts being perpetrated by the Nazis, and the accidental destruction of priceless artefacts by Allied forces, Lt. Frank Stokes assembles a motley crew of American scholars and historians and enlists them in the army. Together, these Monuments Men set out to rescue our cultural heritage from oblivion.

15 February 2014

THE LEGO MOVIE- Review

This review is SPOILER-FREE. You might not think you need that warning, but trust me, there's more to this than meets the eye...

In the wake of toy-movies like Transformers and Battleship, a move based on Lego might not sound especially appealing on paper. But people may well have said the same thing about making a film out of a 34-page children's book, or an implausible 1980s cop show, so having directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller on board here too should be more than enough to get you excited about The LEGO Movie.

Using CGI to mimic the stop-motion aesthetic of Lego home movies, the film starts out in the Lego district of Bricksburg, where construction worker Emmett pointlessly follows the same daily routine over and over again. When Bricksburg's leader, President Business, comes up with a plan to make the world even more rigid, Emmett's life more or less becomes a parody of The Matrix, with tough chick Wyldstyle taking him from one Lego world to another, and telling him that it is his destiny to change their universe forever.

12 February 2014

MR. PEABODY & SHERMAN- Review

There's a whole essay to be written about how animation studios have transitioned away from referring to folklore, mythology and fairy tales in the Disney mould, and are now contributing to the same wholesale nostalgia trading that has been indulged in mega-budget tentpole movies. But I'll save that for a lesser movie than DreamWorks' Mr. Peabody & Sherman, an action adventure which happens to be based on cartoon shorts that first appeared in the 1950s.

Mr. Peabody is a dog with a genius IQ, who has dedicated his intelligence to enriching everyday life, and become a captain of industry in the process. He also has a 7-year-old adoptive son, Sherman, with whom he goes on educational adventures through history. When Sherman starts school, his dad begins to worry that his unconventional upbringing means he won't fit in. However, an attempt to help him make friends leads to a massive crisis in the space-time continuum, and an adventure that takes them to Ancient Egypt, Renaissance-era Italy, and the siege of Troy.

11 February 2014

DALLAS BUYERS CLUB- Review

We're quickly approaching the point where the good movies in Matthew McConaughey's filmography are outweighing the bad, so there's not really as much need to mention his recent McConaisance at the start of every review. Well, maybe that one last time. Given the calibre of his performance in Dallas Buyers Club, which might represent his best work ever, it's only fair that we quit talking about Ghosts Of Girlfriends Past.

This is based on a true story, and the script was in circulation for almost two decades, unable to get financial backing. McConaughey has carried it through to the big screen, and the result is both poignant and powerful. He plays Ron Woodruff, a bigoted cowboy whose life is turned upside down when he's diagnosed with HIV. Amidst general misconceptions about the disease and how to treat it, he's inspired for entirely selfish reasons to research alternative medicines and help fellow sufferers to treat themselves.

10 February 2014

ROBOCOP- Review

Whether positive or negative, the short version of any review of this film is that it's not Paul Verhoeven's 1987 film. RoboCop is rightly lauded as an example of Verhoevens's brand of violent and witty media satire, and is therefore unsuitable as a stick with which to beat Jose Padilha's 2014 reboot, also called RoboCop, a film which makes for an action-packed and thoughtful (if not violent and witty) media satire, which definitely isn't aimed at 12 year olds.

In the updated version, Omni Consumer Products is responsible for manufacturing military-grade drones and robots that have kept the peace all around the world. They're the biggest, most successful corporation in America, but they're losing out on massive revenue by a law that bans law enforcement robots from being deployed on US soil. On a PR drive to try and stir public opinion and overturn the law, they put Detective Alex Murphy, recently the victim of an attempted murder, into a robotic prosthesis, little realising how Murphy will react to his resurrection.

7 February 2014

OUT OF THE FURNACE- Review

In 2009, Scott Cooper directed Jeff Bridges to a Best Actor Oscar, in Crazy Heart, a drama about a country-western singer. His second directorial effort, Out Of The Furnace is about as far from that film as you can get, though it's arguable that Best Actor nominee Christian Bale deserves more notice for this than for his turn in American Hustle.

Bale plays Russell Baze, a mill worker who lives and works in a depressed town in the Rust Belt, and tries to look after his brother Rodney, an Iraq war veteran who can't seem to stay out of trouble. When Russell is involved in a tragic accident, he goes to prison for five years, during which time Rodney becomes deeply involved in the underground fighting scene. When he falls in with the psychopathic Harlan DeGroat, he disappears in mysterious circumstances, and Russell is ultimately forced to take the hunt for his brother into his own hands.

5 February 2014

THAT AWKWARD MOMENT- Review

That Awkward Moment isn't the worst romantic comedy I've ever seen, and by the toilet-worthy standards of the commercial side of the genre, it's a reasonably solid entry. It is, however, quite misjudged on a number of levels, and it's another of those raunchy romcoms that plays at being bad while still coming out completely conservative.

Jason is a young, attractive 20-something player, living in New York, who strings along a roster (his word, not mine) of girls in casual relationships, up to, but no further than, the point where they ask the question "So, where is this going?"- a question that you'll never find yourself asking about this plot. He lives in blissful bromance with his friends, Daniel and Mikey, until the latter of them finds out his wife is cheating on him and they break up. The three friends enter a pact to stay single, in solidarity with Mikey, just as emotional maturity peeks its head around the corner.