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The Weather Man (2005)
It never rains but it pours for Cage
'The Weather Man' a film about the life and times of a Chicago news weather man, or the last decent film Nicholas Cage has made (to date). It's up to you to decide. Once upon a time Cage was Box Office dynamite. Nowadays, his star has shone on the 'direct-to-DVD' market and has become synonymous with over-acting and that awful remake of 'The Wicker Man.' However, back in the day he used to be pretty good. Here, his 'over-acting' is turned down a notch or two and he does what he does best give a decent performance. He plays a down-on-his-luck weather man for a (not particularly prestigious TV station. Just because he gets the occasional perk of being a minor celebrity, doesn't mean his life is going that well. His wife has left him and kept the kids and house, his dad (wonderfully played by Michael Caine sporting an unusual American accent) is pretty aloof, people keep throwing fast food at him on the street and the least said about his estranged kids the better. Therefore, despite his apparently privileged lifestyle, he still has plenty to complain about.
I really enjoyed this film, which Cage bears completely on his shoulders. I really do think it's his (last) best performance. If there is one criticism that might be levelled at the film it's that it's a little 'unfocused.' The story doesn't really go anywhere as it's mainly about following his life as he tries to well, just go about his day to day business. There's no real 'beginning, middle and end' as there is with most standard Hollywood films.
It's a 'bittersweet' drama that borders on black comedy. So, if you're a fan of Cage at his best, or just like dark family dramas which have a touch of social commentary and don't necessarily go anywhere, you should get something out of this one. Alas, poor Nick we remember him fondly.
Låt den rätte komma in (2008)
Nice take on the whole 'vampire myth'
Sometimes you may wonder if every different version of those infamous blood-suckers hasn't already been done to death. The big screen has had every incarnation from a planet run by vampires (Daybreakers) to vampires that came from space (Lifeforce) and twinkling vampires (that franchise that cannot be named). So, here we have a Swedish offering based on the book of the same name 'Let the Right One in.' It's set in the eighties if you're wondering where the 'bad' haircuts came from and we're introduced to a young lad who is being bullied at school (Oskar). Now, rather than tell a responsible adult about his troubles, he enlists the help of the 'new kid on the block' (Eli). And, it just so happens that the little girl who has moved into the flat next door is full of secrets mainly associated with the blood-thirsty deaths that have been happening in the community ever since the girl moved into the neighbourhood.
I can't compare the big screen adaptation to the book as I haven't read it, but it certainly is an 'earthy' take on vampires. By that I mean that if you can suspend your disbelief to appreciate immortal bloodsuckers living among us, then you will be able to believe that this is probably how it would go.
It's a pretty bleak film, not just in content (killer-child vampires are hardly happy-go-lucky types), but also in look and feel. The snowy setting is quiet and eerie and also used to perfection to create a look and feel for the film. There's plenty of great shots that are brilliantly-framed and even have a slight 'Kubrick-feel' to them (my opinion, anyway).
'Let the Right One in' won't be for everyone. It's hardly fast-paced and you'll have to put up with the subtitles (those foreign films, eh?). Plus there is a decent amount of gore and red stuff flying here and there. I noticed a couple of slightly cheap-looking CGI effects in there, but I'm guessing the film didn't have the budget to do any better and I can forgive those on account of the overall story and feel.
There is an American remake out there and it's not that bad either, however it's so similar that if you like the sound of this sort of deep, slow, arty vampire tale then you might as well just watch the original.
No Escape (2015)
Not the Ray Liotta version
Growing up in the nineties the film 'No Escape' always brought up images of Ray Liotta's (possibly only!) attempt at headlining a major motion picture. However, there are no gangs of cannibals here in a sci-fi prison island. Although, to be fair, Owen Wilson and his family doesn't have it that much easier! Wilson leaves America with his family and goes to work in a far eastern country. All sounds perfectly okay enough, until a major uprising happens and gangs of armed killers start roaming the street trying to put a bullet in the head of anyone with an American accent. Therefore, what follows is movie about Wilson trying to get the hell out of 'Dodge' before he ends up on the wrong side of an AK47.
'No Escape' is hardly 'story-driven' I've pretty much given you all you need to know as far as the plot goes. Some might say that Wilson is an unlikely choice for an 'action hero' but this isn't a film about a lone hero gunning down infinite waves of bad-guys. He's here to play the 'everyman' which he has already proved that he can do with his (fleeting) non comedic roles. 'No Escape' is hardly a 'feel-good' movie and paints a pretty bleak picture of a country in crisis, especially when it leans towards social commentary (mainly courtesy of Pierce Brosnan's character filling in some of the background as to the hows and whys of the situation they've found themselves in). However, it is well shot and equally well-acted. Wilson has two on-screen children and, as we all know, having kids in prominent roles can sometimes be a little tiring to watch if they can't live up to the film they've been cast in.
But it all works well. It's no mega classic, but if you're in the mood for something dark and depressing (plus a fun performance from the ever-reliable Brosnan) then give this one a go it's well-acted, tense and dramatic enough to warrant just over an hour and a half of your time.
The Final Girls (2015)
Finally a new take on a 'slasher' movie
Okay, so it's not THAT new after all, you still have a killer running around hacking up a selection of good-looking American teens, but hey it's still better than most of the recent offerings. The premise kind of reminded me of (the much underrated) 'Last Action Hero' in as much as people from our 'real' world end up getting stuck in a movie. However, instead of being the 'comedy relief' to a much-loved Austrian mega-star, our hapless teens find themselves in the traditional middle-of-nowhere setting where they're at the mercy of a fictional masked killer (who bears no small resemblance to one Jason Voorhees).
Therefore, like the 'Last Action Hero,' expect all the clichés and formulas from a horror/slasher movie to be pointed out along the way (not to mention the odd gruesome kill thrown in there).
There are no real stand-out performances here as, despite being a reasonably original take, the character types are pretty much what you'd expect, i.e. the good girl, the trampy girl, the best friend and so on. However, this time round it's all a little more 'knowing' and at least they're aware of their own stereotypes.
There are also a few touching moments in the script towards the end that you probably wouldn't expect from a film of this genre. These actually make a welcome break from the general quips and carnage.
I wouldn't have watched this film based on either the cover or the title. I should have mentioned that the 'film within a film' is set in the eighties, therefore the cover art is all pretty 'retro' and I thought it just looked like another run-of-the-mill slasher flick. Don't let this put you off. It is definitely worth a watch, but what you get out of this will depend on your existing knowledge of the genre. The more you know about masked killers the more fun you'll have here. Luckily, I seem to know a lot about them, hence I had a blast with this film.
Bastille Day (2016)
Take it or leave it
I was trying to work in a 'Taken' pun somewhere, but, try as I might, 'The Take' isn't that much like Liam Neeson's 'Taken' saga to warrant its inclusion. If you want to know what 'The Take' is like then I'd describe it as one of those oh-what-do-you-call-them type films. In other words, those films that fall into that middle-of-the-road category that you watch because you kind of like them, but probably won't remember them in X amount of days.
The only thing that makes it less forgettable than the rest is the ever-reliable Idris Elba who plays a CIA agent based in a European city (which I think was Paris, however it's been over a week since I watched the film, so details are already a little bit sketchy!). Anyway, a young thief (played by Richard Madden who was best-known for his 'Rob Stark' in 'Game of Thrones') accidentally steals a handbag containing a terrorist's bomb (see, kids? Crime doesn't pay!). So, when it goes off, all the authorities think it's him. Luckily Mr Elba can see the thief through the smoke and picks him up first, allowing the pair of them a little time to clear the thief's name, bring the real culprits to justice and also stop another attack on the capital. All in a day's work for Idris.
So, expect the shoot-outs, expect the car chases and expect a reasonable amount of banter between the straight-laced Idris and the anti-hero Madden. I know I'm being a little flippant when I'm describing it, but it's a decent enough affair. It has everything you'll want from a thriller, with the possible exception of originality. It's nothing you haven't seen before (sometimes better, sometimes worse). The two leads play off each other well enough to at least make this worth a watch. How many times you'll want to watch it afterwards may be another matter.
If you're a fan of either of the two main leads, or just can't get enough of those films that sort of feel a bit like the 'Bourne' franchise (i.e. chases across European cities pursued by rogue agents) then you may get more than most out of this flick. Otherwise, it's basically one of those 'rent-before-you-buy' type films. If it's on Netflix or Amazon Instant video it should fill a gap in your viewing schedule.
T2 Trainspotting (2017)
Lust for midlife crisis
There were few people more excited for a Trainspotting sequel than me. I was a mere eighteen-year-old film studies student when Renton first sprinted down the high street and was bundles over by security guards. It was no exaggeration to say that the film was part of my youth. But no sequel ever came. Rumours about spats between Ewan McGreggor and director Danny Boyle filled the internet and, despite a novel 'P*rno' having been written, it never materialised onto the big screen. Until now. It was excited in a way that was partly tinged with nerves after all, how many sequels really even come close to the original? I was so pleased to see that this one does.
Trainspotting 2 (or 'T2' as it's also called) is a true sequel. However, I can see that some people may not approve. It's the same and it's not. It follows the exploits of the main characters we saw the first time round, only (like me!) they're older, slower and not necessarily wiser. I've thought long and hard about how best to sum up Trainspotting 2 and I can only conclude that the first, starring youngsters as it did, was as with all the youth fast-paced, manic and hyper. Whereas, like us middle-aged Volvo drivers, Trainspotting 2 is a slower, more thoughtful affair, now not dealing with mad youthful exploits and, instead, concentrating on mid-life crisis and the regrets that come with looking back at your life.
Trainspotting 2 is not Trainspotting. If you're expecting a re-run then you will definitely leave the cinema disappointed. What you have here is a 'what happened next' story. If you imagine the first Trainspotting as something like a 'war movie' i.e. it was an action-packed event with explosions everywhere. Then, if you were to make a film about the stars of this fictional war movie twenty years later, we wouldn't see the war/battles again. Instead, we'd see what happened to the soldiers when they returned home, left the army and their life as civilians. This is what you have here.
Whether you love or loathe the sequel will depend on your expectations. I was ready for a new film and this is what I got. However, it also plays homage to its own source material and there are few sequels that have so many nods back to the original. Don't expect the same again, just expect awesome performances and slick direction from the surviving cast members. If I had to make one criticism, it would be about Ewan Bremner who played 'Spud' he does come across as a little cartoonish. However, he's still as endearing as ever and, despite his character's failings, he does serve a purpose and the story wouldn't be the same without him.
I haven't said much about what happens. That's because you shouldn't need to know how it all plays out to enjoy spending one last outing with these anti-heroes. This is the way sequels should be made. T2 is excellent (just like its Terminator sequel).
The 'Brentmeister' rides again
Ricky Gervais. Chances are you'll either love him or hate him. And, basically, your enjoyment of his latest film 'David Brent: Life on the Road' will largely depend on whether you're a fan, or find him excruciatingly annoying. Like most people, they 'found' Gervais during his award-winning BBC sitcom 'The Office' where he played the self-proclaimed 'chilled out entertainer' David Brent (or 'boss from hell' as the rest of the world referred to him as). So, if you're a fan of either the character, or the cringe-worthy humour he specialises in.
There's always that worry when a good show which is usually half an hour is suddenly dragged out for a feature length movie's runtime that it's going to dip in places and fall flat in others. I'm pleased to say that 'David Brent: Life on the Road' does not suffer from this (too much). Yes, I loved The Office and have followed Gervais' career ever since, so I was crossing my fingers for the best. This film does deliver. It serves as a 'sequel' to the part of The Office which was about Brent's life. If you watched the series then you'll know about his dreams and aspirations to become more than the manager of a paper merchant in Slough.
'The Office' was a 'mockumentary' about the life of the workers in Slough and now we have follow-up documentary about arguably the 'star' of the fictional show 'David Brent.' We meet him now after he's long since left Wernom Hogg and is now a much ridiculed sales rep who travels up and down the country peddling his less-than-necessary wares. However, he still dreams of becoming the next big thing in music and, rather than go on X-Factor as most people who share his ideals seem to, has sunk all his life savings into promoting his own musical band.
What we see is a depressing take on humanity's desire for fame without the talent to back it up. Gervais has already (majorly!) touched on these subjects in his other TV show 'Extras,' but we witness a man who is more ambition than talent. He won't accept that he'll never have the fame and fortune he craves and, even when it's staring him in the face, he will adjust his perception of reality to suit the situation. What we get out of it is the knowing that he'll never be what he wants and, despite probably not wanting to associate with a man like this, we can't quite bring ourselves to hate him because we know that he'll never achieve or 'win' the fame and adulation he craves.
'David Brent: Life on the Road' is a good little compendium piece to 'The Office.' I guess it is a little stretched and sometimes it feels like there should be one or two jokes more than there is, but, overall, it stands up on its own. Sometimes there are more heart-wrenching moments than laughs, but they add depth to the film and make it a little deeper than a straight-up comedy.
Many people have moaned that there are no other 'Office' characters in it from the British version, but the new characters we meet along the way should slightly make up for that. I'm sure we've met one or two of them in offices up and down the country from time to time.
Not as good as The Office, but, then again, what is? Still solid. Maybe a feature length Extras next?
A one trick flick
I was in two minds as to whether this film was for me. On the one hand, I've watched every zombie film ever made (even the really bad ones that most people hate!). On the other hand, I've never seen Jane Austin's 'Pride and Prejudice' and I'm guessing she wasn't made a producer on this filmic adaptation (see, that's how much I know about that side of the genre she is still alive, right?).
In case you're not aware from the kind of self-explanatory title 'Pride and Prejudice with Zombies' this is a kind of mash up based on the classic tale, only throwing the undead into the mix for er comedy's sake I guess. I saw a few reviews of the film and the general take was that (believe it or not) it was actually quite a faithful version of the original text. And, by that I'm saying that it keeps to the original story's structure even though I haven't reads it I'm pretty there weren't armies of flesh-eating ghouls rampaging through the Home Counties in Jane Austin's original vision. However, because I've never read the source material (or watched anything with Colin Firth in) I can't really comment on how accurate the story really is. All I know is that every once in a while, a load of zombies turn up and start trying to eat people, then the corset-wearing starlets all suddenly turn into Milla Jovovich from the 'resident Evil' franchise and start hacking the zombies to death with comparative ease (and stylish visual camera work).
And that's about it really. It's a period piece interspersed with bits of zombie-slaughter. Yes, it's quite funny that a classic work of literature has been 'reimagined' in this way and the genres mixed, but, once you get over the initial cleverness of it all, there really isn't enough left for anyone. My mum loves Pride and Prejudice, but I can't see her really wanting to sit through this film. I love zombie films, but once the passing novelty of a 'period zombie film' had faded (and it does quite quickly) there was nothing here that I hadn't really already seen before.
Basically, if you're looking for a period piece, watch a 'proper' adaptation of Pride and Prejudice. If you want a zombie film, watch 'The Walking Dead' or one of George R Romero's original trilogy. This is the sort of film that you could watch the trailer and see all the best bits included.
However, although I'm probably sounding like I totally hated the film, I didn't. It's not a bad film, just not as original as it wants to be (and I wished it was!). Plus you have Matt Smith. Now I never was that fussed for him as a Doctor Who, but I thought every line he delivered was done with great comic timing and he really did lighten the mood considerably. Not bad, just a bit forgettable.
It's entertainment either way
'Confessions of a Dangerous Mind' is an 'autobiographical' (and notice I put 'autobiographical' in quotes!) account of Chuck Barris the American entertainment guru of his day (and possibly a distant grandfather of our own Simon Cowell, in my opinion), best known for such televisual greats as 'The Gong Show' and the 'Newlyweds Show.' The reason this film's authenticity is called into question is because it's based on Chuck Barris' own autobiography and his account of things is sometimes a little open to interpretation.
The film definitely tells some true aspects of his life. It shows how he became the brains behind (and sometimes in front of) various primetime gameshows of yesteryear. However, his private life was apparently even crazier than his public life. He was also a hit-man for the CIA. Possibly. Anyway, however unlikely this little sideline was it still makes for a damn entertaining film.
George Clooney is the director (and extended cameo throughout the film) who brings this wild tale to life. And, if this is an example of his style behind the camera, I think he should do more. The film is deliciously artistic and almost every shot is lovely crafted, utilising some decent little camera tricks to propel the story. Sometimes it may try a little too hard, but, in all, it's a very impressive piece.
As mentioned, Clooney himself appears in front of the cameras well here and there, but it's Sam Rockwell who carries the film as Barris himself. Rockwell throws himself into every scene, doing everything he can to bring the complicated character to life. You may not like the character he portrays, but, even if the whole 'hired killer' side of the story his fake (in real life, as it's played as very real on screen) Barris must have been one hell of an interesting character to know, let alone try and get inside his head.
With Rockwell stealing every scene, it's sometimes difficult to notice all the other characters trying to catch up with him, but the main exception is Drew Barrymore. You could look at her as 'just the love interest' but, in her own way, she's almost as damaged as Barris himself. There's probably a film that could be made out of her life story too, but she's a tragic figure in her own right it's just a shame they don't give us more explanations as to her motivation.
Whereas some of Barris' tales we'll probably never know the validity for (the CIA does totally deny ever contacting him about anything!) some of the 'facts' are blatant lies check Wikipedia for examples of this! However, whether the whole story or just part of it is true, nearly true or completely false, it really doesn't matter. It's got fantastic performances, amazing direction and it's a deeply dark and enjoyable tale either way.
Also, it's not just Clooney himself who makes an appearance watch out for some of his mates silently popping up here and there.
Our Kind of Traitor (2016)
Probably should have been much better
'Our Kind of Traitor' should really have been my sort of movie. The acting talent utilised really is pretty impressive Ewan McGregor, Damian Lewis and Naomi Harris all well used to turning in great performances that can lift a film. I first became aware of this film as a 'new release' on Amazon and did wonder why I'd never heard of it before. I'm guessing it was either released straight to DVD, or had such a limited cinema release that no one really heard much about it. And for a good reason, it's pretty boring.
Despite the acting talent on offer, it never really gets going. A married couple (McGregor and Harris) are on a 'second honeymoon' kind of holiday where they're trying to rekindle their marriage after he had an affair with a younger woman. Once on their travels he stays out late and gets talking (and drinking) with a particularly dodgy-looking crowd of guys (who have the word 'criminal' stamped across their foreheads, in my opinion) and end up somehow being 'witnesses' for their good character during an upcoming deal for political asylum with MI6. No, seriously.
Apart from how generally ludicrous this sounds, I had two problems with the story firstly I felt there wasn't much motivation for Ewan McGregor's character to actually hook up with these dodgy guys an action that clearly went against his attempts to patch things up with his wife. And, secondly, the main 'villain' (I'll leave it up to you to decide if they're villains or not) keeps referring to McGregor as 'Professor.' Yes, Ewan plays a university lecturer and admits this early on. It's just the guy uses it almost as a put-down, making 'the professor's' compliance in his business even less likely.
Okay, so it's a little far-fetched, but Star Wars never won any points for its 'realism.' I can suspend my disbelief if what I'm seeing is vaguely interesting. And this isn't. It's not bad, it just should be more due to its actors, yet it comes across as a 'made-for-TV' movie that takes way too long to get going. It's not all bad Damien Lewis seems to be revelling in playing a slightly smarmy MI6 agent. If you're a fan of his then you'll get a little more out of this film, otherwise
there's better on offer.