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Jennifer Hudson saves this movie!
What a pity. I was really looking forward to seeing this movie since it was advertised last Christmas. To say that i was disappointed was an understatement.
Okay, let me say first that I didn't think it was terrible. The production values are extremely high and the performances are fine although there isn't much for the main leads to do except occasionally sing. Jamie Foxx plays it cool throughout and isn't stretched at all, while Beyonce, who is, without doubt a stunning lady, is left with virtually nothing to do except wear a variety of costumes and is even only given one solo song, Listen.
So it is left to Eddie Murphy, who is perfect as the cocky, arrogant showman who believes that he invented everything in the music industry. He gets to sing, he gets to strut and he finally gets to act. For so long now he has been left in the wilderness with crappy family comedies that are not funny, so it's nice to see him getting another chance. Just don't blow it this time.
The film, however, belongs to Jennifer Hudson. This newcomer, who came fifth in American Idol, puts everybody around her to shame. She is polished, alive and lights up the screen every time she appears. And when she sings the show stopping I Am Telling You I'm Not Going, I was reduced to tears. That girl can sing.
And that's where the problem lies. Once you have been engulfed by that musical masterpiece, there's nowhere else for the film to go. So instead it drags its feet, and we have another 40 minutes to bare where, frankly, nothing much happens.
We have seen these bands rise to stardom movies so often that it doesn't introduce anything new. We know that it will all end up okay. We know that Jamie Foxx's character will end up being the loser. We've been here so many times before. The other problem is there are far too many songs. This isn't suppose to be a rock opera, this is a musical, and yet we get snippets of songs that have do nothing to help progress the slim plot. Songs are suppose to help the plot along, not place in there for the sake of it, which some of the numbers feel like.
The final act reads like a by-the-book soap opera, with various personal problems arising that will eventually end with a feel-good finale and the come-uppance of the Foxx character (not giving anything away there).
If you do decide to see this, go for Jennifer Hudson and that amazing song. Otherwise, my advice is wait for the DVD or TV screenings. You won't feel as cheated then.
Casino Royale (2006)
Bond is back and he is human!
The lights went down on the early 10am screening this morning. One advert advising viewers to switch off their phones (bring back the stars trying to sell dodgy scripts) and we were off. A black and white MGM and Columbia logo and I held my breath. But where was the Bond theme? The walking into shot, turn and shoot? The one thing that signals a brand new adventure of the world's greatest action hero. But this is a very different Bond altogether. This is definitely Bond Begins. And I'm happy to say it works.
So it does miss that sense of familiarity. Instead we get a black and white sequence in which Daniel Craig shows that this isn't the cool, sophisticated Bond we have all grown up and loved for so long. This is a more ruthless, clumsy creature. Once we get to see his two kills allowing him to become a double-O, we start entering a more familiar area. An impressive title sequence (with an air of sixties kitch and a not-too-memorable theme tune) and we get to see Bond running, jumping and fighting in a building site in Africa. And what a sequence. Just what any Bond fan wants. A heart-stopping sequence that goes on forever and yet keeps the tension going throughout. And we see that Craig is a very athletic Bond indeed (apart from the odd moment when you can see the join between him and stuntman), we are no longer in CGI territory here. We have real men risking their necks in the cause of spectacle. This is the start of the complex plot.
Within the first hour we have action sequence number two, set in an airport. Again, breathtaking stuff (I won't spoil it), and then the plot really kicks in as hour two begins. This is what really makes this a newly defined Bond movie. There is very little action at all. The occasional flash of violent fight scenes but a lot of dialogue. We finally get to know more about the man. What makes him tick. How he feels. And how emotions towards another could put him in peril. Bond has finally become a human being. He bleeds like we all do. He hurts like we all do, both physically and emotionally. This is a man who still has all the elements that us men want: he's tough, rough and cool as ice, but he also has a heart that could be his downfall.
We then head towards the home straight. A fairly cringing torture scene (with cuts!) and an amazing ending, with the final bow including what we have longed for throughout. That music and that line.
When Craig was announced as the replacement of Mr Brosnan, I have to admit I was a little unsure, but I can forget those early days. He is terrific. He has made Bond a person, no longer an entity. He acts the role, and doesn't just walk through it. His feelings towards Vesper (the stunningly beautiful Eva Green) is very reminiscent of On Her Majesty's Secret Service and Bond relationship with Tanya (the only difference is that Craig can act, whereas Lazenby...) Sure it has the girls, the locations, the car (and a lack of gadgets, but that's not such a bad thing). But what it does have is heart. It's violent, but no longer in a comic book way. The one liners are there, but not thrown into every situation. And they have managed to make a game of Texas Hold 'Em Poker seem exciting and glamorous.
It may not be every Bond fans cup of tea, and it might be accused of being too deep (probably from the Roger Moore fans) but I loved every minute of it. Bond has been re-invented and Daniel Craig is the new King. Long Live The King!
This film should come with a health warning. I have now got the worse headache in ages from laughing at this movie.
Sure it's crude, rude and offensively funny.(The wrestling scene was so painfully funny, I thought Iwas going to explode) but I haven't laughed so hard and so much at a movie since, I guess, Airplane!
Having not been a great fan of Ali G, I guess I wasn't expecting much from this, but it delivers in huge amounts, from the embarrassing subway scenes, where Baron Cohen must have been playing with death, to the dinner party scene (which was brilliantly handled). Relentlessly funny from start to finish, if you are easily offended, or shallow-minded, then avoid. If not, run to see it. A better time you will not find anywhere else.
And now I am going to have to lie down in a darken room. Sheer genius!
Snakes on a Plane (2006)
The best summer movie this year...by far
After months of anticipation and internet build-up, Snakes On A Plane has finally arrived, and I am glad to say that it has not disappointed. In fact, in my general opinion, it has to be the most entertaining piece of movie making in a very long while.
Without giving too much away, and believe me, I could go on about the inventive way in which these creatures attack, the most surprising thing about SoaP is that it is extremely funny. Sure, it has moments of tension and some quite nasty, gory scenes, but this is a roller-coaster ride of genuine laughs. After the first few minutes in which the story is set up, in which a man witnesses a violent murder and becomes a target for a gang leader, and is put into protection by FBI agent Samuel L, the introduction of the characters on board South Pacific Flight 121 gives it the feel of an old Airport disaster movie. But once those snakes are released, director David Ellis and his team crank up the laughs and away you go.
As for Sam, and the rest of the cast, you can tell that no one is taking this seriously, and that makes it even more enjoyable. David Koechner, Champ Kind from Anchorman, pops up as a leachy co-pilot, although I was expecting him to shout WHAMMY! But this is Sam's movie, and don't you forget it. Cool to the extreme (even if he does lose that coolness for a split second at one point) every line he utters is said with an air of cynicism. He knows how ridiculous the situation is, so there's only one way to go the comedy way.
So those who expected SoaP to flop like a 747 losing altitude, its time to eat your words. This is the film of the summer and a definite cult classic in years to come. So rush to see it. You will be pleasantly surprised.
The Producers (2005)
The best fun you could have in the cinema with your clothes on.
I've just come back from a preview of The Producers and I have to say that I haven't had that much fun in a movie since The Mask Of Zorro.
I'm very familiar with the original movie as well as seeing the show when it opened in London (with Nathan Lane and Lee Evans). My friend who i took tonight didn't know a thing about it, so she was the perfect person to judge the film. And she loved it.
Thefilm is a real hoot from start to finish. The musical numbers are impressively staged and all the performances are first rate. But this is Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick's film. They are dazzling. The comic timing from these two put most comedians to shame. They make you love them so much that you just don't want it to end. Lane in particular is a comic genius. His mugging to camera and slapstick pratfalls are hilarious, and his singing is perfection, giving such energy that you feel exhausted after watching him. Uma Thurman is a revelation. Boy can that girl sing, and Will Farrell once again proves he is one of the best comic performers around.
It's the first musical movie I have been to when I've wanted to applaud after each number. A terrific movie and a great night out. A pure, silly, magical joy. If you are tired of fantasy movies like Harry Potter or King Kong, and you want to be entertained, then run to see this masterpiece.
True Confessions (1981)
Slow, slow, slow
True Confessions was one of those movies that has always been on the top of my "Must See" list. What could possibly go wrong with a film that has Robert De Niro and Robert Duvall? Now I have witnessed it, I can say that loads can go wrong.
Although the pair give very understated performances, it maybe because they are not given a great deal to do. This is not saying that they don't give good performances, just that there is nothing for them to grab onto.
The plot is all over the place. And all the while I was asking myself...what is this film trying to do? Is it a murder thriller? A conspiracy drama? A redemption of brothers? A religious statement? Or is it just a mish-mash of The Godfather meets Chinatown?
I ended up struggling to get through it without falling asleep. It's that slow. Disappointing.
Gentle comedy that we Brits do so well
Ok, so this isn't going to be hailed the new The Full Monty, and doesn't have the romantic edge of Four Weddings And A Funeral, and it may not even have the charm of Bend It Like Beckham, but Blackball is an amusing, sometimes laugh-out-loud tale of the underdog winning through in the end.
Paul Kaye (more famous for his role of Dennis Pennis) plays Cliff, a guy living on a run-down estate but who has a talent for Crown Green Bowls, a sport more recognised for the older generation. But when a team from Australia are storming in the bowls arena, Cliff decides that his only way of getting to play them, is to win a bowls contest for the County Championship, a competition won 23 times in a row by Roy (James Cromwell). Of course he wins, but loses the championship and the chance to bowl for 15 years in professional competition due to a rule that Cliff broke.
The rise to fame is helped by a sleazy sports agent (Vince Vaughn) and Cliff becomes the bad boy of bowls. He also falls for Roy's daughter (Alice Evan s) and in his rise to the big time, almost loses everything that he holds dear to him, from his Grandad (Bernard Cribbins), his best friend (Johnny Vegas) and his girl.
This isn't going to win any major awards and may be forgotten about six months down the road, but it's an undemanding piece of comedy cinema that will have you chuckling all the way through. Nice performances from all involved, and a great soundtrack too.
Monsters, Inc. (2001)
Great animation but where were the laughs?
I am a big fan of Pixar's previous creations (Toy Story 1 & 2; A Bug's Life) but I was a little disappointed with this particular movie.
Pixar have always managed to mix great animation with a strong line of humour, not only for the kids but for the adults to enjoy as well. But I found myself getting slightly bored with this adventure of monsters trying to return a stray kid to their home.
There was nothing wrong with the voices. John Goodman and Billy Crystal make a likeable pair and some of their banter was very funny indeed, particularly in the early section of the film, but it seemed that the writers lost their way and forgot to include the adults in the last section.
And even the usual out-take section at the end was a bit of a let-down, with not the originality that came with Pixar's previous work. Let's hope that Finding Nemo will deliver.
Jerry Maguire (1996)
The feel good movie that just feels great!
The first time I saw Jerry Maguire in the cinema back in 1996, I thought it was a good film, with some nice performances. But having just watched it again on DVD, I have come to the conclusion that this is a great film.
It manages to be funny, touching, and thought-provoking without once entering into the realm of sugary sentimentality. The praise for this must be Cameron Crowe, who has written an excellent script full of nice ideas and great lines. The film is loaded with quotable material (from the "Show Me The Money" scene to the beautifully poetic "You complete me" speech).
Tom Cruise gives what is possibly his best performance, without really trying, while it is easy to see why Jerry falls for Renee Zellweger's Dorothy. Not only stunningly beautiful, but with the sort of personality that any man would fall for. Cuba Gooding Jr is excellent with his larger-than-life Rod, but the one person who seems to be left out throughout the reviews is Bonnie Hunt as Renee's sister. A brilliantly funny performance with a fine line of sarcasm.
I don't want to sound too gushing, but this is without a doubt a great chick flick that the guys can appreciate too. Terrific stuff.
Mean Machine (2001)
Carbon Copy Can't Be Bad
The Longest Yard is a classic Robert Aldrich movie of the 70s. A brutal, funny American Football movie that I have enjoyed everytime I viewed it. So a remake set in England and swopping to football (British style) was more of a curiosity. And a pleasant surprise.
Although an almost carbon copy of the original, the film seems more like a homage than a remake, and it makes a change for the Brits to remake a Hollywood classic, and not the other way around.
Vinnie Jones, in his first lead role, proves that he's more than an ex football star himself, and actually can act. But once again Jason Statham walks away with the movie, as madman Monk.
Very funny in places, quite violent, but it passes the time and is very entertaining. And it makes a change to see football being filmed in an interesting way. Could have been worse...it could have been Escape To Victory 2.