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Slow paced Pacino in twilight years,
David Gordon Green gave us 'Pineapple Express' but he also graced us with 'Prince Avalanche' and let's not forget he got Cage back to his best in 'Joe'. So can he do the same for Al Pacino, in a role specifically written for him, well yes and no. For anyone who has winced at Pacino's career of late I will say that this is one of his better roles but he essentially playing himself, a locksmith called Manglehorn who can't escape his past which won't allow him to live in the present. He spends his days with keys and his night with his cat Fanny and a whole heap of unhealthy memories. Friday he religiously goes to the bank where he meets Dawn (played brilliantly by Holly Hunter)and they start a strange friendship but will it be enough to pull Manglehorn into the now? The story is simple enough and has some truly great moments but there are also a few weird dream sequences that I'm not sure worked as well as they could. The cinematography is great and along with the soundtrack, acting and direction the story of Manglehorn is watchable if not a little long and quite slow paced. Expect a few laughs but it's really a more sombre affair about ageing, memories and living and one that will make you think about life, love and mortality. So 'Pineapple Express' it isn't you have been warned.
As Above, So Below (2014)
Went in with low expectations and still disappointed.
As Above, So Below has the premise to be a great horror film on paper but sadly on the screen just signals the death of a genre made popular by 'The Blair Witch Project' some 15 years ago. Do you want to make a film but can't be arsed? Then make a shaky-cam film as there is little or no skill required to produce an hour and a half of headache inducing wobbly action. Starting in Iran before moving to the catacombs of Paris the camera work is so frenetic that I couldn't make out what the hell I was looking at most of the time it certainly didn't deliver on the promise of the great setting as this could have been any old cave by the time they finally get round to going there, and that's the films main problem it's just dull and drawn out. I've been to the catacombs (one of the reasons I went to see this film) and it is a quite scary place, the person I was with had a panic attack and yet none of this comes across in the film and this is before it spirals down into a mess of supernatural mumbo jumbo which just makes the last portion of the movie laughable. Plucky brit Lara wannabe Scarlett leads her team in to the caves like a poor man's Descent, two of her party are clearly only there to be killed off and may as well of worn a red Star Trek top each from the outset. Once inside they quest for a magic stone that has the ability to heal you if you get hurt therefore removing any suspense that might have been left in this vacuous borefest. All it took to make this film is any old cave, a group of models and a handful of Go-Pros and a way of reducing the majesty and history of the Paris catacombs into nothing more than a gimmicky footnote to get people in to the cinema.
God Bless America (2011)
Goldthwait does it again.
'What's the point in civilisation if we can't be civilised?' asks Frank (Murray) quite early on in Bobcat Goldthwait's latest indie feature 'God Bless America' a darkly comic melodrama that aims to lampoon everything that is wrong with media, society, advertising and modern cultivated culture. After the brilliantly twisted 'Sleeping Dogs' and the underrated 'World's Greatest Dad' Goldthwait is carving himself out as an interesting writer/director to watch and this is no exception. While not always hitting its intended targets it is none the less a great little road movie with brilliant central performances from Joel Murray as Frank and Tara Lynne Barr as Roxy a kind of watered down Natural Born Killers meets Bonnie and Clyde but with elements of 'Falling Down' and to a certain extent 'Leon'. The script is sharp and the cinematography, for its low budget, is commendable so even when the film misses a beat it can really be forgiven and with a good use of music and humour to carry it along there is a lot to like about this movie. Some may not like how heavy-handed it can be with its message at times and at 100 minutes a feels a little long in places but Goldthwait always seems to bring it back round. While not as clever as say Palahniuk or as satirically accurate as Chris Morris it none the less has something to say and doesn't come over as too preachy at the expense of the entertainment on offer. Film fans will love the cinema scene at the halfway mark and the visceral opening monologue would be shocking if it wasn't so hilarious. Sadly certain nods to popular culture may date the film in time but for now enjoy what is another quirky but powerful film full of dark comedy and social commentary from one of America's leading indie directors.
Hard going but beautiful.
Artist turned director Steve McQueen first collaborated with Michael Fassbender on 'Hunger' the harrowing story of Irish republican Bobby Sands leading the inmates of a Northern Irish prison in a hunger strike. It was brave, bold and despite the subject matter, beautiful and now reunited they tread similar ground with 'Shame'. Here Fassbender plays Brandon a New York City resident with a crippling sex addiction and when his sister drops in for an unannounced visit it threatens his perverse routine to a point that will test them both and their relationship. Artfully shot in a style that McQueen seems to be developing it can at times be very intrusive, if you are easily offended by graphic sex then you should probably avoid this, its unflinching in it raw depiction and pulls no punches in stripping the actors bare both physically and mentally. The music is orchestral and sweeps up and down with the emotions of the viewer and as a whole package it is certainly a cinematic tour de force. Some people will no doubt be annoyed by the fact that the film asks more questions than it answers and being a snapshot of a time doesn't delve into why these characters are damaged or even how it will can resolved. But as with 'Hunger' the film is beautiful and striking in so many ways and if McQueen continues this career path then the art worlds loss is most certainly cinemas gain.
The Artist (2011)
I can honestly say that I haven't enjoyed a film as much as I did 'The Artist' in a long time; from start to finish this movie is absolutely superb. From the attention to detail in recreating the era of silent movies (it's black and white and even presented in 1.33:1 aspect ratio) to the mesmerising acting, it is a loving homage that can't fail to entertain and charm. Dujardin, in a surely Oscar winning performance, is George Valentin a silent movie actor, who along with his dog (another scene stealing performance) is a big star, so what could possibly go wrong? Well the invention of the talkies and its rising starlet Peppy Miller (Bejo). Not only does George have a hand in the discovery of Peppy but he also falls madly in love with her. As her ascension continues Georges fame wanes and after a failed attempt to hold onto the old ways he admits defeat and becomes washed up, an outdated relic in a medium that's embracing the future. With amazing cinematography from Guillaume Schiffman it's a joy to watch as it recreates perfectly the films and feel of the time and while cleverly presenting a traditional love story it is both gripping and fascinating to watch. The music also goes a long way to help give it the desired effect as, apart from two scenes with sound, that is all you hear. In an age where we talk about the death of cinema and gimmicks like 3D are trying to woo audiences it's just so refreshing to see something that not only has a story but lacks the CGI that Hollywood so readily relies on. It was apparently the directors dream project and it shows but it was also clearly a labour of love for everyone involved making 'The Artist' simply one of the best films you'll see all year.
You know those great little indie films from the states like 'Junebug', 'Thumbsucker' and 'World's Greatest Dad' to name but a few, well now you can add to that list 'Cherry' a charming coming of age human nature piece that each and every one can in some way relate to. It's a simple enough story, Aaron leaves home to embark on his freshman year and falls for an older student Linda, Linda a recovering alcoholic has a wise cracking, old before her years, daughter called Beth, Beth falls for Aaron and a bizarre unrequited love triangle opens up learning curves, home truths and life experience for all three. The great thing about this movie is the quality of the script, the acting and the use of music, no CGI or special effects are needed to convey the very real story contained. It has ups and downs, laughs and gasps and at an hour and a half is perfectly paced. Without sounding twee or patronising if something like Transformers is a beer then this is a nice cup of tea and a sit down, which is no bad thing, some blockbusters feel like being repeated hit in the face with laptop but sometimes you just need to be told a good solid entertaining story, Cherry is just that. I just hope lots of people get to see this film because it deserves it.
The Guard (2011)
Not so great.
The poster describes 'The Guard' as Father Ted meets Bad Lieutenant, what because he's Irish and a corrupt policeman, lazy journalism. It neither has the intelligence and wit of Father Ted or the balls to wall nastiness of said Lieutenant. The reason I like 'In Bruges' (another film it has been miss-compared to) and 'In the Loop' was the imaginative use of swearing, unlike here where just putting the f**k bomb every other word is neither big nor clever. Judging from the font of the titles and the use of Calexico on the soundtrack the director clearly wants to be Irelands answer to Tarantino but the script and the direction fall way short of touching the heights of (early) QT. The other thing that bothered me was the mild racism with Sergeant Gerry Boyle often spouting about things that black people can't do (swim, ski) and why were they looking for white drug smugglers when they are all clearly black, his constant get out excuse being that he was Irish therefore its o.k., once would have been funny maybe but to revisit the joke several times was just tedious. Brendan Gleeson was great as Gerry but I can't help that think he would have been better with a stronger film around him, at times it couldn't decide if it wanted to be an offensive comedy or a gritty drama. The supporting cast has some big names Cheadle, Strong, Cunningham but all are underused really. Being part funded by the UK film council before its demise I would have expected more, I'm glad this film was made and is doing very well, sadly I just didn't enjoy it.
Monkey see, Monkey don't.
So what can be said of the latest reboot in the Planet of the Apes saga? Well in a nutshell 'Rise
' is pretty poor, while trying to find a cure for Alzheimer's Will Rodman accidentally increases brain power in his pet monkey who goes mad and has to be locked up, monkey doesn't like being locked up and so starts to get the other monkeys to rise up with him in order to go and do some damage to the city. In a world where only the monkeys age and harry potters nemesis is a monkey tormentor we get everything from homo-erotic monkey love to a snakes on a plane style line 'oh you monkeys' delivered seemingly without irony. With self-sacrificing silver-backs to an orangutan that is fluent in sign language the primates are OK when they finally go on the rampage but it takes so long to get there that by the time they were beating up the police I'd already long lost interest. Lots of reviews I read also praised the set piece on the golden gate bridge saying how brilliant it was! What the hell, they roadblock the bridge to stop the monkeys getting past, but guess what they monkeys still get past! But how I hear you cry? How is that possible? Well by swinging underneath, oh my god that is just brilliant, monkeys swinging who would have thought! It's so breathtakingly amazing, not. I'm pretty sure that 98% of this film is CGI including James Franco who had to wear a motion capture suit for all his scenes then was painstakingly animated back in by a team of fifty computer experts to get him to look just like James Franco; you can see where the money was spent. One of the most bizarre things about the whole movie was the end because well it just stops dead in its tracks. I couldn't believe it when the credits started to roll; it was Jurassic Park 3 all over again, is that it? Seriously? Where's the end? So if you want me to save you some money/time it goes like this: over an hour of boring stuff about chemicals and experiments with the odd monkey, being locked up dreaming of the outside more monkeys, one gorilla, loads of mad monkey action, a few gorillas and an orangutan and stop.
Cowboys & Aliens (2011)
Less of a review and more of a question really, how do you make a film called 'Cowboys & Aliens' boring? Because believe you me this film is like watching paint dry, brown paint. I think the worst thing, apart from the acting of the three leads (Ford should quit, Wilde does no more than pout about the desert like a constipated cat and Craig spends the whole film trying to out pout her)is that the film is credited with nine writers, nine! My as yet not fully formed and yet highly imaginative six year old brain could do better than that with an assortment of broken toys and a lighter. I would much rather go back and spend an hour and a half in my young prepubescent brain than I would watching this higgledy piggledy abortion of a movie, come back 'Wild Wild West' all is forgiven.
Celda 211 (2009)
Tense Spanish drama.
Cell 211 is a tense prison drama from Spain. It tells the story of Juan Oliver who while visiting the prison he will start work in the next day as a guard gets trapped inside during a full scale riot and must take on the role of an inmate to survive. He assumes the role to convince everyone that he is a new intake for murder and thus one of them but in doing so he will have to make tough choices and perform even tougher actions. There are a few flashbacks to show us Juan's home life and apart from a couple of bits from outside the whole film is claustrophobically shot inside the prison walls, the inmates so convincing that you won't believe they are not real prisoners. The gang leader Malamadre played by Luis Tosar, who is a muscle bound tattooed powder keg, is particularly good and it is in his performance and relationship with Juan that the films best tension can be found. Based on a book the story is powerful and there are a few surprises in where it goes and despite the grey settings and undercurrent of lawless violence it can actually be very moving at times. Beautifully shot it reminds me a little of the Prophet and Hunger and that coupled with strong acting and the ethical and moral dilemmas makes Cell 211 a great, but challenging, watch.
Super 8 (2011)
Not so super 8.
Teaser campaigns, viral marketing and the meeting of two great minds all meant that 'Super 8' had a lot to live up to and sadly it just couldn't. The trouble with J J Abrams meeting his hero in Spielberg and then trying to emulate his style from his peak period in the eighties (he has achieved it, 'borrowing' bits from so many of Spielberg's films that had he not been involved he probably would have sued) is that the film never really finds its own identity. What made films like E.T., Jaws, Goonies and Stand By Me great was they were so original and different and so amazingly iconic, classic movie moments that stood out and set them apart. Most modern films I see I can't remember what happened in them just hours after I've seen them but who can forget the boulder scene from Indiana Jones or the bike flight from E.T.. All the classic kids films that 'Super 8' wants so badly to be had one thing in common and that is a solid story, it doesn't matter how far-fetched it was, as long as you cared and it took you on a fantastic journey and provided an escape from the real world for an hour and a half. These films didn't have the technology or budgets of today's blockbusters but they did have charm and genuine moments that movie memories are made of, the wow factor. So what of 'Super 8' well it is basically The Goonies meets Cloverfield, a group of kids verses a monster/alien (that drastically changes size depending on the scene), its filmmaking by numbers as every box is ticked to create the most formulaic template imaginable, kid who lost his mum, fat kid who likes eating, kid who likes explosives, pretty girl with daddy issues etc. all bound together by the common goal of saving the town from the mysterious train cargo from outer space. You probably wouldn't mind so many unrealistic acts and plot holes if the story was strong enough to carry it through but at no point does the film surprise or shock, from the moment it starts you can tell exactly where it's going. What starts of quite promising quickly descends into clichés and cheesiness and finishes with an ending so flat it makes you wonder if they just gave up half way through. With the best bits of what's been before 'Super 8' could have been great but just like taking ingredients from a variety of other meals and mixing them together in the hope of creating a new exciting dish, sometimes you have to concede that it just doesn't work and the sum of the parts actually leaves a bitter taste in your mouth.
Stake Land (2010)
More than i expected.
I didn't know what to expect form 'StakeLand' as I've had my fill of vampires recently but I can honestly say I really enjoyed it. Atmospheric, bleak and well paced the film is like 'The Road' meets 'Zombieland' although there are no jokes here. Martin is the narrator of the story as he travels with vampire hunter 'Mister' across America, after his family is killed, searching for sanctuary in 'New Eden'. It's nothing new but the way its done is, some will find it to slow, there is action but it is limited and it's more about the struggle of the characters in a world where desperate men are as much to be feared as the vampires. The films trump card is 'Mister' a brilliant creation, brought to life by Nick Damici, part Paul Kersey (Bronson in Death wish) part Billy (Predator) but all bad-ass. This understated but moody performance underpins the whole film and will guarantee that you will want to keep watching. Another thing the film does really well is create characters you actually care about, something rare in a low budget American horror, but it works and so the demise of some of them is genuinely moving. Overall 'StakeLand' is well executed, actually has a story and is handled well by all involved. Don't let the fact that it is a vampire movie put you off, or like me you might just miss a treat.
Hobo with a Shotgun (2011)
Should have stayed as an idea.
Hobo with a Shotgun started its life as one of the fake trailers between the grindhouse Tarantino/Rodriguez double bill Death Proof and Planet Terror and just like Machete should probably have stayed there. Quite good as a short pastiche of old school b-movie schlock; here it is drawn out to painful lengths. Badly acted and poorly executed it is destined to be, like the films it copies, bargain bin fodder. Sadly it is also a reminder of the screen presence of Rutger Hauer, not since his early days have we seen him command this much attention, he is the best thing in it by a country mile. Apart from an interesting use of colour/film stock that gives it an aged feel, a technique achieved by Rodriguez with fake scratches and burnouts, there really is nothing else redeeming this movie. Bad effects, worse script and generally not funny where it was trying to be, some will band around the word 'cult' but actually we can just use the word 'rubbish'.
Barney's Version (2010)
Another great Giamatti performance.
If you're like me you can watch anything with Paul Giamatti in it and enjoy it even if it isn't that good (don't worry this is), he just tends to bring something to every role and Barney's Version is no exception. His performance throughout is remarkable to the point that by the end of the film you generally feel for the character even though he is outspoken, cigar chomping, drunk with questionable morals. The story is told over a thirty year period and across various countries as Barney reflects on a life lived. We see Barney through three marriages and plenty of ups and downs, some not his doing, but most are. He gets advice from his retired cop dad played brilliantly by Dustin Hoffman and ends up fathering two children with his third wife Miriam played again brilliantly by Rosamund Pike. Part drama, part murder mystery it is based on a novel by Mordecai Richler so the script is tight but even the dashes of comedy can't prepare you for the moving final act. Great cinematography, supporting cast and pacing all add to the central performances to make this one of the best indie drama films to come out of American in 2010.
Great little movie.
Set at an undisclosed time in the eighties 'Submarine' is a Welsh coming of age comedy/drama. Directed by Richard Ayoade (Moss from the I.T. Crowd among others) you can tell, as with other directors such as Joe Cornish (Adam & Joe show to Attack the Block), Edgar Wright (Spaced to Shaun of the Dead) and Paul King (The Mighty Boosh to Bunny and the Bull), that cutting his teeth on the small screen certainly helped with the leap to the big. Using some interesting techniques that never snap you out of the idyllic setting the warmth of the story and the characters (particularly Paddy as guru Graham Purvis who is clearly just having fun with the role and Noah Taylor who managers to portray so much with so little as Oliver's dad Lloyd) propel the film along with expert pacing. The music by Arctic Monkeys front man Alex Turner fits really well and is some of the best he's done. Like 'The Squid and the Whale' meets an episode of much loved sitcom 'The Secret diary of Adrian Mole' it should see, not only the unknown cast, but the director go on to bigger and better things. A film that everyone involved in can rightfully be proud of.
Jack Goes Boating (2010)
The Doors famously sang 'People are strange' and in Philip Seymour Hoffman's directorial debut they certainly are. Hoffman plays Jack a New York limo driver who is talked into a blind date by his friends Clyde and Lucy with Connie, a seemingly sweet but slightly mental work colleague. We see the four experience everything from the pain of sexual assault to the joys of learning to swim while all the time trying to not unravel their friendship and get overwhelmed by the pressures of life. Hoffman is superb as usual in the lead but also proves himself a dab hand behind the camera, often directing like a play, as most of the action takes place in the one flat. Part drama, part tragedy but also comedy this is a human character study in the vein of Mike Leigh mixed with Todd Solondz (maybe Hoffman was taking notes when they did 'Happiness') and despite its underlying darkness this film has a great heart.
quite good fun
Based on a graphic novel, as everything is these days, Red (retired extremely dangerous) tells the story of Frank a retired black ops agent who must put his team back together when he realises they are all in grave danger. Frank, played by Bruce Willis is bored; the highlight of his retirement is destroying his pension checks just so he can ring Sarah at the pension company to chat. His idyllic existence is one day broken when a team of heavily armed men turn his house into dust in an attempt to kill him, it's up to him then and a few old friends to try and get to the bottom of the mysterious kill squad. Now I've not read the graphic novel so I've no idea how closely this relates, the premise is OK and it's well executed but ultimately it just falls flat, there doesn't seem to be enough substance and it ends up just being a waste of an excellent cast. Sure seeing Helen Mirren wielding heavy arms is fun but she doesn't even enter the film until the end, Willis is smirky, Malkovich is goofy, Urban is stern, Freeman should know better and Parker is well Parker. Add them all together and you should have an explosive mix but it never quite delivers on the promise. It's nice to see Richard Dreyfuss and Ernest Borgnine pop up and there are a couple of great set pieces but I couldn't shake the feeling that it should have been better than it was. Fun for a couple of hours if there's nothing else to do and you want to see Mirren kick some butt.
I'm Still Here (2010)
car crash Embarrassment
Is it real? Is it a hoax? Is it any good? 'I'm Still Here' follows Joaquin Phoenix in the years that he announced he was quitting acting and starting out a career in hip-hop. Filmed documentary style by his bother-in-law Casey Affleck it shows JP seeming unraveling into the mouth of madness and slowly having less and less grip on reality. Disheveled and making erratic public appearances he rejects his millionaire lifestyle for one of drugs, prostitutes and bad hip-hop, he shows himself up in front of colleagues, on live television and frequently rips apart his assistants, at times he mumbles so much subtitles have to be employed to be able to understand. So what were they trying to achieve with this 'stunt'? Is it a scathing attack on celebrity culture? Does it turn the mirror on the audience? Does it fuel our desire to see people fail? Well after seeing the film I'm still not sure, it wasn't really that funny so it can't be classed in the same category as say Borat/Bruno and if it was a serious piece of acting, it's commendable as JP had to stay in character for two years and potentially ruin his career, but I still don't get it. The film seems to inhabit a space between an expletive filled episode of Fawlty Towers and the most cringe worthy reality show you can think off, its car crash TV on a big screen. If everyone was in on the joke (and let's hope Edward James Olmos was or he is clearly an absolute fruit loop!) then at some point wouldn't someone have pointed out that it just wasn't that good a joke? (And it clearly was as Affleck took a break from filming to make 'The Killer Inside Me' so he'd be able to finish funding the film) or maybe I'm just missing the point, as the film alludes to, that we are just so used to seeing celebrities rise up only to come spiraling back down that we find a very public breakdown not shocking anymore. The question must be asked would it have been more shocking had it been real. But then if it was why in gods name was his brother filming it and not starting an intervention? I understand the fickleness of human nature all wanting a piece of JP and wanting to see how this played out but his family? Whatever it means and whatever the film is trying to say I can't help but wonder if there was another way to do it, one which didn't have to go to the lengths this film did or maybe there wasn't and in the end that's the point.
When you just can't get enough films about alien races coming to earth to destroy us then when you see a trailer like the one for 'Skyline' you may, like me, get a little excited. Sadly then that this fleeting feeling only lasts until the crushing blow of actually having the misfortune to watch the film itself occurs. The aliens in question on day release from the 'Matrix' have clearly come to earth to use their shiny blue tempting lights to steal everyone's acting ability, sadly they soon find they've come to the wrong place. Of course I'm joking, about the alien's motives, not the acting. So as if it wasn't bad enough that not a single person in this film can act for toffee you then have to factor in the awful direction. What I think is most painful is the overuse of slow motion and in a totally serious way (although its pretty laughable) using the slow motion to show people witnessing something bad and then going 'Noooooooooooooo' for several minutes, oh dear. As for the story well I would go so far as to say what story but I will just sum it up for you real quick. Aliens come to earth suck people up, some really annoying people try to escape but cant, they think its game over but wait here's the army who clearly save the day or do they? Well no they don't, annoying people still cant get away, preposterous use of a breezeblock, that didn't work, resort to fisticuffs, pointless slow motion, annoying people still cant seem to get away, god the army is useless, aliens win (I think, it all got a bit confusing at the end and I'd started to drift off a bit to be honest). Skyline is a film that has not a single ounce of originality in its shabby body, it ambles around ideas like a fat kid at a buffet table of food stuffs its not sure if it likes or not, every so often taking a nibble of something but eventually popping it back and hoping no one will notice. It jumps from one cliché to another piecing together parts stolen from other films like a shiny blue cinema magpie making a really ugly celluloid nest and it ultimately turns out making something like 'Independence Day' look like 'Citizen Kane'.
Loong Boonmee raleuk chat (2010)
Something very different
Uncle Boonmee is more than a film, it's a visual poem, it's a celluloid meditation and more importantly it's a Palme d'Or winning film that has split the audiences right down the middle. After its win the Cannes panel headed by Tim Burton had to explain/justify why they had chosen the film, the first time this has ever happened. The thing is the film isn't a straightforward story, you won't be spoon fed the plot and it's easy to see why people won't get along with it. It's a stunning collection of breathtaking set pieces interlaced with mythical stories, transcendental characters and Buddhist philosophies. From Uncle Boonmee himself to the ghost monkeys and with the constant sound of the countryside ringing around the auditorium the film creates an atmosphere that immerses the viewer, from the story of the queen to the stunning last resting cave, you travel on a journey through the movie finding as you go more hidden depths. Uncle Boonmee is one of those films that people will either love or hate and it will for years to come provoke discussion and debate. Almost Malick like in its poetic direction but with Thai sensibilities it is also not afraid to use humour and be light-hearted when dealing with deep and meaningful subjects such as love, loss, death and karma. But whatever is on the screen it will draw you in if you let it and it will stay with you long after.
All show no fun.
In an emperors new clothes style the latest trick from Disney was waiting so long between the first Tron film and Legacy that everyone actually believed that a new Tron film was exactly what they needed, turns out with hindsight that we really didn't need it at all. For all the whistles and bells, cool French dance duo soundtrack, old Jeff Bridges, young Jeff Bridges, light cycles, architecture, colour coded costumes and of course three whole dimensions, Tron's biggest crime is that it's just boring. It's over long and has no story and within that two of the most gaping plot holes in recent film memory. Firstly how the character Tron spends the majority of the film as a bad guy before doing a complete flip and suddenly becoming good with absolutely no reason whatsoever and secondly how old Jeff becomes a supreme being in the computer world at the end and sorts everything out, if only he'd done that two hours earlier we could of saved ourselves a lot of time and we wouldn't have had to sit through the bizarrely embarrassing scenes with Michael Sheen as a dandy Bowie figure who dances round seemingly unaware that he's staring in a bit stolen from the Matrix (not to mention the bits borrowed from Star Wars and Bladerunner). The heir to Sam 'The Blank' Worthington's acting throne is Garrett Hedlund as Sam, a central character that at no point is phased by being in a computer game except to exclaim 'whoa' every now and then like a Bill and Ted in a glowing leotard. Olivia Wilde as Quorra provides some much needed eye candy but her preposterous storyline of leaving the computer and entering the real world has set Disney up for a 'Splash' type sequel where she struggles to cope with everyday shenanigans. I actually went into Tron with low expectations and after I'd recovered from the sheer boredom I was still pretty disappointed, I guess that I just expect more from estimated $300 million films these days, silly me.
Black Swan (2010)
In just a few short films Darren Aronofsky has risen to the top of his game as a director to watch. After 'Pi' he woke everyone up with the amazingly twisted 'Requiem for a Dream', minor blipped with the ambitious but mental 'Fountain' and returned to form with 'The Wrestler' garnering praise and awards for its star Rourke and the director himself. Now he returns with the companion piece to this in the form of 'Black Swan' a film set in the cutthroat world of professional ballet and like its predecessor it is sure to gain even more praise for Aronofsky and lead Portman. This film is simply stunning, from the attention to detail to the acting, the choreography to the claustrophobic camera work the film grabs you and pulls you into the world that's been created around this performance of 'Swan Lake'. I am not a ballet fan but I found myself on the edge of my seat as the passion, rivalry and madness fuel the ever decreasing spiral to the films conclusion. Every performance adds to the tense, uneasy feel that is superbly juxtaposed with the grace and grandeur of the ballet pieces, from Kunis as Portman's rival dancer to Barbara Hershey as her overbearing and slightly disturbing mother, each fractured piece adds up to make the beautiful whole. But this being Aronofsky you know you don't get off lightly and every deep dark aspect of this world is explored in all its g(l)ory. I don't want to give too much away but if you like gritty realism, gripping drama and stunning cinematography then you should see this film, definitely one of my films of next year already, a masterstroke in filmmaking.
good animation, fun story
Famous for bringing us the uber-homoerotic '300' and perhaps the greatest superhero film ever made 'Watchmen', Zack Snyder here tries his hand at a children's film based on a series of popular books. Legend tells the story of Soren, a young owl obsessed with the stories of the Guardians, who after a series of events will not only meet his heroes but fight alongside them. Filled with great characters and animated beautifully this is a visual feast for young and old alike and although its a familiar story it is given a fresh twist, add to that Snyder's flare and technique and you have a film that gets quickly into the action and holds your attention throughout. There's also plenty of laughs and a great voice cast and my only criticism is the use of a sappy song in the middle while they do a montage, but I guess it is a kids film so that's really a minor quibble. In a time where everything is 3D and animated films are big business it's nice to see one that, while technically and graphically superb, doesn't neglect the need for strong central characters, even if they are owls!
Not what you'd expect.
There is an old saying 'Here be monsters' but unfortunately that doesn't apply to the new film 'Monsters'. But the question is would I have gone to see this film had it been called simply 'Humans' the answer probably not, so before I review the movie a warning, this is not really a monster movie it's a romance that happens to have a background that involves aliens/monsters, don't be mislead by the posters/hype. So to the film itself, shot for next to no money the style and look could easily stand up against the best Hollywood has to offer and that in itself is a great achievement. It is well shot, has a great score and has solid acting from the two main leads Whitney Able and Scoot McNairy the story is simple enough the odd couple have to get from Mexico to America through the 'infected zone', which is where the monsters would be if there were any, except there aren't, well there are a bit but not much. Made with off the shelf kit Gareth Edwards has created and achieved the seemingly impossible because when you actually do see the creatures they are quite impressive, a cross between the ones from the 'Mist' and a giant octopus, all tentacles and light. Obvious comparisons are being made with 'District 9' but to be honest it's more like 'Before Sunrise' and it's the central characters relationship that drives the narrative. All in all for what it is it's an enjoyable tale just don't go in expecting an action movie because you will be disappointed, but go expecting to see a film paced not unlike 'Old Joy' and you may just come out pleasantly surprised.
A joke too far
So picture the scene, Tarantino and Rodriguez are sat around having a few beers and Robert in his drunken state has a brainwave, 'Quentin' he says 'remember that fake trailer I did between 'Death Proof' and 'Planet Terror' Machete?' 'Of course' chirps Quentin 'well I'm going to make it into a full film!' smiles Robert. Instantly QT's eyes light up and he switches his brain to random hoping to chip in some crazy ideas. 'What you got so far?' Robert pours another drink and smiles 'well it's going to have Danny Trejo init of course and I'm thinking loads of guns and over the top action'. 'Maybe you could get a few other names' QT necks a shot 'what about that guy who used to be in Miami Vice? Don Johnson and get Steven Seagal too that would be ace'. More beers flow and Roberts vision becomes more abstract 'you know QT I'm gonna get that guy who used to be in all those films about smoking spliff and Lindsay Lohan!' Laughing QT suggests that it should also have nuns with guns, Robert De Niro and even Roberts's wife, Robert couldn't agree more, it's starting to take shape now he thinks. A few more rounds and a few dozen more clichés and the two immature b-movie addled drunkards are ready to put the Machete abortion on to the big screen, oh dear. I can only assume that this is how this movie was formed because if any actual thought went into it then god help us. With such classic moments as Machete refusing to text message 'Machete don't text' he exclaims and then later when feeling an urge to send a text for the first time, and being offered help, declines with the line 'Machete improvise'. Do you remember the film 'Commando' starring Arnie? Well this is basically it with a dash of 'Once upon a Time in Mexico' and then rammed full of bad lines and even worse acting. I have no idea how they got this bank rolled and I'm afraid it's a case of when something was much better as an idea rather than a fully formed waste of everyone's time.