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Escape Plan (2013)
I wanted an Escape Plan out of the cinema!!
A distinct lack of action heroes in 2013 and the public's obsession with recreating nostalgic moments has meant that Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone are very much in demand, 30 years after the peaks of their respective film careers. After the massively adored yet not very good Expendables, the pair return for Escape Plan, which as the title overtly suggests, focuses centrally on an escape plan. Hopefully this is a no-nonsense film that doesn't take itself too seriously or run too long, or I'll probably hatch an escape plan from the cinema....
Ray Breslin (Stallone) possibly has the worst job I've ever heard of: he intentionally becomes an inmate at various prisons and duly escapes, revealing the safety flaws each prison has and then selling them security tips to make a profit. In essence, he gets paid to stay in prison for numerous months at a time. Stallone doesn't really have any facial expressions in this film so it's hard to tell whether his character enjoys his life or not, or whether he even knows how to string a coherent sentence together. Anyway, soon enough Breslin is offered 5 MILLION dollars to be sent to a new secret prison and try to escape, but once arriving their he realises it's all a setup and he actually can't get out. Thus, he gains the help of inmate Emilt Rottmayer (Arnie) to try and escape using sheer strength and occasional flickers of intellect. The evil guards patrolling the hi-tech prison are led by former footballer Vinnie Jones, so it clearly won't be hard to escape.
This was an average film to put it nicely: it took itself far too seriously, and so the ridiculous plot and acting felt like a drag rather than the ironic parody it should have disguised itself as. Arnie and Stallone have their share of one-liners and gun battles, and even team up with Muslim inmates in the prison, as if to show they are representing a new, inclusive America. Brings a tear to my eye. Not to say it's a horrendous film, some of it was enjoyable, and the story goes along at a nice pace, but it just lacked that bit of you know....logic. Overall, it's not a film you would watch again, or even watch to the end, but if you're a fan of basic action films with no depth I'd probably recommend it.
Kick-Ass 2 (2013)
Kick-Ass came out of nowhere in 2010 and turned out to be one the most refreshing films to be released this decade, a super-hero film that didn't hold back on language or violence, it was the antithesis to all the Marvel films being released and had a clear identity which separated it from any other film from the genre; it remains to this day the only film I've seen at the cinema that received a standing ovation from the audience afterwards. Well, three years on, the inevitable sequel hits the screens, with the added casting of Jim Carrey to the cast (who then promptly went on record to say the film was far too violent for him to promote): surely Kick-Ass 2 can't be a failure?
Beginning virtually from where the last film ended, Mindy aka ''Hit- Girl'' is still recovering from the death of her father and trying to fight crime in the city dressed as a now 15 year old super-hero, along with the help of Dave, aka Kick Ass himself. However, things begin to change when Mindy promises her new foster father (played by Morris Chestnut of Boyz N the Hood fame) she'll hang up her crime-fighting boots. This leaves Kick Ass deciding to join a superhero crew of crime- fighters dedicated to making the world a better place, but also a crew who suddenly find themselves being chased by Super Villain ''Red Mist'', now known by a different,more unusual name.
This film was very identical to the first instalment, but that's not a problem, it was still an excellent film, the over-the-top violence and humour consistently entertain and the plot is madcap enough to keep the audience guessing what each twist will hold. The only disappointment for me personally was that Jim Carrey was very subdued in his role and not as funny or crazy as I imagined he would be in a film of this nature. Overall, not a film for the easily offended, but a great film for the rest of us.
The Purge (2013)
The Purge, great concept....not so great film
Humans have a natural instinct as predators to kill, but society forces us to repress these feelings by living in a ''civilized'' way....according to new Ethan Hawke led film The Purge, a very interesting concept of a film, which explores a future society in which all crime is allowed for one night a year...
It's 2022 (not actually that far away), and unemployment in America is 1%, crime is at an all-time low, and generally, everybody seems happy, especially James Sandin (Hawke), a rich citizen who makes his fortune selling security systems for houses to use during the annual Purge. Basically the reason why unemployment and crime is so low is because, for one night a year, a Purge occurs, where all crime (murder, raper robbery, the whole lot) is made legal, and no police or emergency services are allowed to interfere. Mad. But also intriguing. James and his family happily avoid the Purge by using a security system outside their large house while the rest of society kills each other, but all that changes when their youngest son Charlie decides to let a stranger into the house......
This starts off as a really captivating film, the concept of legal crime kept me hooked, but soon enough, it descends into a stereotypical action film where Ethan Hawke fights off gangs from his house with a variety of handguns,and all originality gets lost in a haze of bullets (literally). The short running time (85mins) and variety of twists every 5 minutes makes sure that it doesn't get too boring, so overall a decent watch, but nothing that provokes any thinking afterwards.
6/10- A lesser version of Panic Room
Welcome to the Punch (2013)
Fails to land the knockout punch
When thinking about English Police dramas, The Bill usually comes to mind, episodes where two overweight police officers would run around estates trying to find out who robbed the local Sainsbury's. Thankfully, Welcome To The Punch, is a lot more sophisticated and glamorous than that, directed by Eran Creevy ,(who also made the fantastic Shifty), this film features quite possibly the most beautiful presentation of London as a modern city that I've ever seen on the big screen. But visuals are only part of a film, so how was the rest of it....
Dropping us right into the middle of a complicated heist, we see rugged cop Max (James McAvoy) ignore orders and get shot in the leg by one of the criminals (Mark Strong, bald bad guy from Sherlock Holmes). The film then zoom three years into the future and we're on board a plane, where a young Asian/Arab man reveals he's been shot and runs off the plane (it hadn't taken off yet, or that would have just been silly), whereby he calls his dad to come and help him.... his dad who happens to be the criminal we saw shoot the cop three years ago!!! Madness. This all leads to a broken down and now permanently injured cop Max realising that this is his big chance to get vengeance for what happened three years ago....but is everything as clear as it seems, who is he actually chasing?
This film is no classic, in fact, it's just about verging on being a good film, for all the spectacular scenes of explosions and shoot outs, there lacks an intensity to the film, James McAvoy does well in his scenes as a cop who's seemingly given up on life, but it's hard to really believe he is a tough and guilt-ridden cop when he still looks about 12 years old (even with a beard). To it's credit, the story does manage to change it's focus numerous times, and these twists initially kept me engaged with the plot, characters we hate manage to gain sympathy and vice-versa, but after a while, the plot just becomes too complicated, and verges on becoming a comedy. So overall, a decent film, one worth checking out on a Friday night if you're a fan of action, but in no ways a film that changes the genre.
Side Effects (2013)
The only side effect to watching this film is that it makes you think... a lot!
Erin Brockovich, Ocean's Eleven, Traffic, Che...all great and completely varied films directed by Steven Soderbergh, who has apparently announced Side Effects as the last film he will make before retiring. No pressure then...
The film's story focuses on the use of prescription drugs and the effects they can have on a person's mind....whilst I'm aware that this sounds like a pretty bland plot for an exciting film, the plot is deceiving, as the film is more focused on swerving the audience with various twists and turns, forcing us to play detective but ultimately tricking us at every corner. A psychological mammoth of a film. Emily Taylor (Rooney Mara of Dragon Tattoo fame) opens the film waiting for her husband Martin (Channing Tatum) to be released from prison. Emily and Martin endure a fractured relationship upon his release: she is depressed and tries to kill herself, whilst he wants to go back to his old ways of crime. Enter Jude Law as the calm-mannered psychologist Jonathan, who prescribes Emily drugs to help her with depression, using new drugs on the market, which have, as the title suggests, some sort of apparent side effects to them.....
To delve any more into the plot would ruin it, let's just say the story takes massive swerves and the ending of the film resembles nothing of the initial plot which I've described above. It's sophisticated, well- made, and has a slow pace to it which creates a sort of surreal nature to the events of the film. Jude Law stands out as the cool psychologist with everything at his feet, his character holds the film together with the gripping nature of his performance, whilst the presence of Catherine Zeta-Jones also ends up benefiting the film (for once, some may argue). It is a strange film, it has a style that a few people may not enjoy, but I really liked it, it was very similar to Shutter Island, and by the end of the film all the guesses I made about where the conclusion was going were completely wrong, and that's a credit to it's originality. Highly recommended.
Texas Chainsaw 3D (2013)
So appallingly bad it works as a great comedy
Horror movies just don't scare people these days. Today's society is so desensitised to violent images that a film like Texas Chainsaw Massacre, made in 1974 and banned for being so terrifying, just appears funny nowadays. So the logical thing to do is make horror films which are so bad they are comedies, hilarious comedies, which ironically mock horror films of the past. Well, at least I think that's what the makers of Texas Chainsaw 3D have done....
Continuing from the old 1974 version, the plot is really original and groundbreaking. I lie. The plot is based on the usual ''bunch of teenagers find themselves in abandoned house, where mad killer finds them and kills them one by one whilst each teenager is in state of nudity'' story, and includes R&B singer Trey Songz in the cast (his character spends most of the film listening to Trey Songz songs as if they were the greatest pieces of music ever created). The film then attempts to become slightly deep by having a link to family run through the film, and we find ourselves being encouraged to cheer for ''Leatherface'', (the psychotic chainsaw-wielding maniac who wears human faces as a mask), as he tries to protect his cousin from police officers who justifiably want her out the way (seeing as her family is full of psychotic killers). A ridiculous ending is made all the worse with a hint that there could be a sequel on the horizon. Oh yes, the 3D is virtually non-existent, it would probably be a better film if you took the glasses off and just watched a blurry film whilst making up your own, logical plot.
3/10- The 3 points come solely from the script, which unintentionally provides so many laughs, due to being so awfully bad.
Lo imposible (2012)
Emotional and Epic
With it being a New Year, I thought I'd go and see a comedy to kick off the 2013 film season. Unfortunately there wasn't any comedies showing at my Cinema so I ended up seeing this film about the 2004 South-East Asian Tsunami which killed over 250,000 people and displaced millions. Not what I had in mind as a cheery film, but oh well....
So basically we have a family that include married couple Henry and Maria Bennett (played Ewan McGregor and Naomi Watts), a classic middle- class couple, as suggested by the fact they spend most their time on the plane travelling to Thailand worrying if they set the alarm to their house back in Japan, and also their three sons all string sentences together without saying ''Bruv'' or ''Innit'', so they must be Middle- Class. Anyway the family arrive at their resort in Thailand, and all is going pleasantly when.....yes arriving in spectacular fashion, almost like the rise of Godzilla, the Tsunami arrives and decimates everything in site. The family is split in the wreckage of it all and the film then deals with them all trying ti locate each other, if they all managed to survive that is....
The film was actually very good, a simple search story made gargantuan by the amazing effects used to portray the actual Tsunami, it literally comes at such a speed and power that leaves you in bewilderment and gives you a better idea that news reports of what it was all like at the time. They also have the classic ''Titanic'' Hollywood orchestra as the soundtrack whilst this is happening just to add to the emotional intensity, alongside top notch acting from McGregor, Watts and Tom Holland as 12 year old son Lucas. The main complaint, and flaw of the film, however lies in the fact we hardly see any actual Asian people, in a film about an Asian tragedy. The main Asians in the film are tribesmen and doctors who seem unable to apply composure or logic to any of the hectic situations occurring, we don't see any Asian characters searching frantically for loved ones or showing pain at losing those they love, unlike our Western Heroes here.
So overall, aside from the debatable premise of casting for the film, which you'd expect from Hollywood, it remains a good, epic, emotional film if you watch it for what it is.
Midnight's Children (2012)
Satisfying adaptation of a grand story
Midnight's Children, that mammoth book written by Salman Rushdie which all English Literature Undergraduates are forced to read and marvel at, finally gets a long-awaited film adaptation. Having read the book many years ago, I never imagined anybody would be bold enough to actually film the text, with all it's magical realism and grand sweeps through the course of history, so let's see how this goes...
Telling the story of Saleem, born on the stroke of Midnight on August 15th 1947 i.e when India finally became an independent nation, whose life is altered from the minute he is born, as he is given to the wrong parents, rich parents, and thus afforded a life of luxury that he was not destined to have. On top of that, he has magical powers (that aren't that great to be honest), and finds that every child born at Midnight on August 15th also has magic powers, it's like the Power Rangers: India. What thus follows is a story narrated by Rushdie himself, as Saleem's life links and progresses with the historical and political turmoil taking part in India throughout the century, ( Partitions, Civil Wars, States of Emergency), and Saleem, much like India at the time, struggles and battles to find out his own identity.
The film does well in scaling down the content of the novel, it's more of a drama with bits of comedy, than a grand epic or fantasy, and parts do feel rushed as the viewer is transported from year to year without any sense of anything really linking together, despite the valiant attempts of Rushdie narrating the whole story. However, it is still a film that does manage to vividly depict a fascinating period in history with lots of very visual scenes that leave a lasting impression, and more importantly, it links it all together with individual plights, to add that emotional intensity. So overall I'd still recommend it.
The Man with the Iron Fists (2012)
Hip-Hop and Martial Arts....surely this must be good right?
Hip-Hop and Martial Arts, two of my favourite things, come together in The Man With Iron Fists, directed by RZA of rap group Wu-Tang Clan, a group that make no secret of their love for the old Kung Fu classics in nearly every track they make, and as a bonus the film is also ''presented'' by Quentin Tarantino, so surely this has to be good right? Wrong. The main negative being that this film is unsure whether it's trying to be a serious Martial Arts film or a cheesy homage to old 1970's films like Enter the Dragon or Drunken Master, and what we get is something that lies in the middle: a plot not good enough to be taken seriously and a film not funny or outrageous enough to work as a homage to past films (like Kill Bill done to perfection).
The story is the usual ''band of villagers unite to take on outside force of bad guys'', and this time our 19th Century villagers consist of a freed slave who finds himself in China working as Blacksmith (played by RZA), an English soldier (Russell Crowe) and a brothel owner (Lucy Liu). The plot is the central weakness of the film; there are nice fight scenes splattered with beautiful gore throughout the film, and there are moments where the cinema was laughing out loud, but overall, the film just feels flat, not helped by the simple fact that we know what's going to happen as it's been done a million times before. Stories like this only work when the script is full of intelligent and captivating dialogue or memorable characters, but sadly both Crowe and Liu fail to impress in their slightly minimal and withdrawn roles, whilst RZA shows literally no emotion in his role, he just seems like a civilian who got lost on a film set. Ironically the script lacks the sort of creativity a Tarantino film would have and the film just ends up seeming empty.
Bonus points for WWE fans like myself, as legend Dave Batista pops up as a villain who can turn into steel! Also the fight scenes with their creative ways of brutality must be applauded for sheer originality and the soundtrack is immense as expected coming from Wu-Tang alumni, but ultimately, a film that failed to live up to expectations.
On the Road (2012)
A film that makes you want to travel and partyyyyy
Based on Jack Kerouac's amazing and well-regarded novel of the same name, On the Road is a period drama set in the 1940's, detailing one man's journey to find inspiration in both his writing and in life. Our main character Sal lives in thriving New York but wants an adventure, which leads him to meet Dean, a wild and slightly psychotic young man with a penchant for weed and threesomes. There follows a journey across America filled with drugs, wild sex, and more drugs, with a flurry of characters all taking part in the antics, including Kirsten Dunst, Kristen Stewart, Amy Adams, Steve Buscemi and Terrence Howard amongst others (not the actual actors, but characters played by them of course).
This was actually a great film, the period of time was captured well, it felt like the bustling 1940s and it didn't hold back when it came to scenes, with a few people in the cinema even going so far as to leave at certain points in the film (losers). Nevertheless the variety of settings and different characters kept it entertaining, yet the overall sadness of the film combined with the great performances of the powerhouse actors listed above added a lot of depth to the film, it was a story that kept me interested, despite the last 30 or so minutes feeling rushed. Definitely recommended.
Taken 2 (2012)
Taken 2 couldn't live up to high expectations
A few years ago I got invited to a press screening of Taken, and all I was told about it was that it starred Liam Neeson. Expecting some sort of sophisticated drama about Politics or World War II, imagine my surprise when Taken turned out to be one of my favourite action films of all time, a no-nonsense film that was relentlessly violent and explosive, whilst also featuring the most hilarious one-liners since Arnie starred in Commando (Google it if you haven't seen it!).
Well now we have Taken 2, where retired CIA agent Bryan Mills (Neeson) finds himself on a break in Istanbul with his ex-wife and daughter, unaware that he's being watched by a gang of Albanians, led by the father of a nameless henchman killed in the first film (a weak but plausible basis for the film I guess). As you can guess by the title, somebody gets taken, only this time it's Mills and his wife who are kidnapped, leaving their young daughter Grace as the only one who can help them....
Well this film didn't live up to the expectations I had, for starters it has a lower age rating, meaning that the violence (and main attraction) of the first film is gone. Secondly, the plot felt tiresome, there was no originality to it, no memorable one-liners or moments of brilliance that made it stand out as a great action film, e.g the final, major fight features 6 foot plus Neeson taking on....an overweight Albanian man who can barely move around, which just sums up the laziness of the film. Yes, the film does feature some moments of tension, and the story moves swiftly enough to always keep your attention focused, as a stand alone film I would say it's decent, but as a comparison to it's great predecessor, it's a disappointment.
A fine addition to the sci-fi genre
What would you do if an older version of yourself appeared from the future one day and told you to follow his orders?! Well that's one scenario posed in Looper, a wonderful science fiction film about time- travel and gangsters, starring Bruce Willis, who clearly did not get enough of travelling through time in 12 Monkeys. Trying to summarise the plot into mere words is actually quite a challenge, but here goes:
Our main character Joseph Simmons (played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is a Looper, that is, somebody who kills people sent to him from the future by a gang, and disposes of the body in his present time, meaning they cannot be traced, as technically, they have not been born yet (kind of like the story in Terminator) . One thing leads to another and soon Joseph finds himself being told to execute himself, i.e an older version of himself from the future (Willis). Willis tries to convince his younger self to follow destiny and do what he says, but will his younger self listen or end up killing his older self? Confusion pretty much sums it up. Add in a few gangsters and mass gun fights, and you end up with a pretty good film.
Nevertheless, the film actually presents the time quantum physics plot in a clear manner, and after seeing some intelligent/absurd ideas being depicted (cut a message on yourself, and your older version will see the message on their subsequent body!), the film is ultimately about destiny and regret, would you change your own destiny if you had the chance? Would you kill somebody to make your own future better? A pretty deep film that slightly lost it's way in the second half of the film, when the action switches to a massive farm (featuring Emily Blunt) and loses its pace, but does actually feature the greatest acting performance by a 10 year old I have ever seen. Amazing.
Good, good film that you won't regret watching, or if you do, you can just travel back in time and avoid it. I think.
Disappointing,, but not dreadful
Another month, another remake, this time we see a remake of the terrible Sylvester Stallone 1995 flick Judge Dredd, now simply titled Dredd. The story sees super cop Judge Dredd stuck in a tower block fighting a drugs gang on each floor. Dredd must get to the top floor and fight ''Ma-Ma'', female gang leader who used to be a prostitute, but is now a psychopath willing to kill anybody in the name of business. The future looks bright.
The story isn't really important, we expect criminals to be killed, and that's what we get, in a blitz of furious action that features numerous heads exploding and people being skinned alive. Not a film for the family, unless you have a brave warrior family. Pretty much the only thing that sets this apart from every other action film made in the last 20 years is the use of slow-motion effects to painfully detail the brutal deaths of characters in a weirdly artistic way. However, the film lacked any sort of tension, our ''hero'' Dredd had no human qualities, I found myself not actually caring if he defeated the gang or not, and the ending lacked any sort of suspense or originality.
Overall, despite the film being the first film in a while that actually earned its 18 rating, it was a disappointing attempt at a remake, I would just go and watch The Raid instead.
The Dark Knight Rises (2012)
The Knight shall rise!
Long gone are the days when I would watch Channel 4 in the mornings as a child to see a strange superhero dressed in a leotard fight comical characters with the words BOOM or POW hiding all the punches. Gone are the days when I would see Arnold Schwarzenegger dressed as a camp ice man. No, director Christopher Nolan has taken our superhero Batman and created a serious and adult world where nothing is a joke. His last effort, The Dark Knight, is considered to be one of the greatest films of all time, and so with the much awaited arrival of this sequel, the question being asked is.....can he top it?
The Dark Knight Rises is set eight years after the last film, Gotham City has been cleaned of all it's crime and Batman is in exile, nothing could go wrong surely? Well the opening of the film ends that theory with an excellent teaser of our main villain in the film, Bane, a beast of a man with a voice that sounds hilariously like a mixture of Gandalf from Lord of the Rings, and Darth Vader (I kid you not). Bane is hell- bent on starting a ''people's revolution'' in Gotham and has acquired an army of followers. Bruce Wayne is now a recluse with nothing to live for, but will this Bane character tempt him to don the suit again? Added to the mix we have a sub-plot of Selina Kyle, a criminal with ''feline'' powers who inadvertently finds herself involved in the action and Blake, a young rookie cop who knows more than he lets on......
Whilst the film doesn't top it's classic predecessor, it certainly matches it. Whereas the last film was about chaos and anarchy, this film is more about pain and suffering, it has more emotion, characters from previous films, such as Bruce Wayne, Alfred the Butler, and Gordon the police commissioner, are given more depth and the film is all the better for it. Bane plays an excellent villain that manages to intrigue and captivate, I liked that his origin story also ties the trilogy together, it makes Gotham feel more like it's own universe. The acting performances are a masterclass, particularly from Inception alumni Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Tom Hardy.
The action scenes are spectacles to behold, they always manage to surprise, my favourite scene was an epic showdown between Police Officers and an army of youths lined up like it was 300, some true urban warfare. Overall, the whole film works as a perfect finale to the possibly the greatest trilogy of all time. Amazing.
Killer Joe (2011)
Is Killer Joe a good thriller?
I have been anticipating Killer Joe for a while now, it reminded me of No Country For Old Men, it looked like a gritty thriller, made even more interesting with the casting of Matthew McConaughey in the lead role, a man I associate with poor romantic comedies that usually star J-Lo.
The story is set in Texas and concerns a young man Chris (played by Emile Hersch), who, owing money to local gangsters, decides to hire a Hit-man aptly named ''Killer Joe'' (McConaughey) to kill his mother and claim life insurance. Yes. His own Mother. Chris is also, with the agreement of his father and step-mother, allowing his sister to be ''kept'' by Joe as a means of initial payment for the killing. Basically, the most dysfunctional family ever. But things turn even more sour soon, as we see all is not as it seems with the deal.......
Firstly, acting in this film is great, McConaughey is convincing as a killer with authority, as is Emile Hersch as the redneck son who will do anything for money, both actors seem to be optimistically intent on getting an Oscar. The pace of the film is very slow and tense, it engages the audience and blends the violence with a lot of dark comedy, which I liked. If anything, the major flaw is the story itself, which starts off well but soon becomes chaotic and confused, as if they cut out loads of scenes and randomly stuck the rest together to save time. However, for the most part it works as a good and enjoyable film. Only avoid if you are offended by graphic violence/nudity.
Fast Girls (2012)
Must be Olympic season, Fast Girls are approaching!
With the London Olympics fast approaching, what better way to cash in on the mood with a film about Female Athletics....that doesn't mention the Olympics at all or make any references to London. Nevertheless, the story is enjoyable, depicting a group of athletes trying to win relay success at the ''world championships'' despite having barely any practice, getting drunk before races and generally arguing with each other. Classic British spirit there.
Our main characters Shania and Lisa, come from different backgrounds, Shania is working-class (we know this, as she claims she's never even been on a plane before!) whilst Lily is posh and supported by her family. Ignoring the fact that this is basically Bend It Like Beckham 2, the story works like a soap, at times it felt like an Olympic special of Eastenders, even featuring the actress who played ''Chelsea'' in the soap. There's drama, affairs and fights, alongside the minor issue of the actual Athletics.
Written by Noel Clarke (Kidulthood/Adulthood creator), the film is very fast paced, and has that ''urban'' soundtrack to please teenagers. It essentially does what it says on the tin and you will find yourself caring about who wins the big race at the end!
Red Lights (2012)
Red Lights - poor story, good performances
Sigourney Weaver and Robert DeNiro, two Hollywood legends, team up in Red Lights, a thriller that questions the nature of supposed ''Paranormal Activity'' and asks the question, can people really have supernatural powers?
Anyway, the story focuses om two physicians (Weaver and Cilian Murphy) who spend their time exposing so-called psychics or magic healers as crooks, things are going well for them, until Simon Silver (DeNiro), a world famous psychic, returns after 30 years as a recluse. Our two physicians want to investigate him, but are scared of the fact that Silver's last critic died in mysterious circumstances 30 years ago......could Silver really have powers?!
Now, this film has a really good premise, it builds the story up nicely and has us wondering whether DeNiro's character is a super-human right until the very end......but the ending is appalling, the big reveal is so flat and illogical, i would say it's possibly the dumbest ending to a film I've ever seen. Nevertheless, Sigourney Weaver carries on her classic ''scientist with authority'' role from Avatar and DeNiro gives us his best performance in decades (not very hard to be honest), and despite a clumsy script, this is a good film for 100 minutes, but the final 10 minutes are horrendous and ruins it all. Overall, not one you'd go out of your way to watch at the Cinema.
Ill Manors (2012)
Plan B is clearly not content with just being a famous rapper/singer/actor, as he has now tried his hand at directing, with his debut film ill Manors being released in cinemas today. Set in East London, the film follows a series of characters from drug dealers to prostitutes to runaway single mothers as they all struggle to survive in their poverty stricken area. As you can guess, this is not a happy-go- lucky sort of film, but nevertheless it's a very good film.
The style taken is very much similar to Pulp Fiction (believe it or not), as each character gets their own little tale, and soon enough they begin to over-lap with one another, creating a sense of community, we see that everybody really does know each other, whether for good or bad. There is also a rapping narrator (played by Plan B himself) which really adds another dimension to the film, it sets itself apart from the usual ''urban drama'' with these little techniques. It's a very brutal film that doesn't hold back either, from violent murders to a woman being pimped out for £10 at a kebab shop, we see it all within 121 mins.
Whilst it is an ''urban'' drama at the end of the day, the film does what Kidulthood/Adulthood/Shank could not do and has a go at actually trying to explore the reasons behind why people join gangs or decide to riddle their body with heroin. None of the central characters have parents, and the film suggests this lack of love creates the violence, it's essentially a film encouraging us to hug a hoodie. Outstanding performance goes to Riz Ahmed, who plays a gangster with some moral fibre trying to get out the area. The only negative is that the film tries to tell us too much, there's so many characters and stories happening that it's hard to keep track and some character get lost in the shuffle. But overall, recommended.
Snow White and the Huntsman (2012)
Snow White: Good but not great
Based on the popular fairytale ''Snow White'' comes the originally titled ''Snow White....and The Huntsman'' ,an epic fantasy film starring teen favourites Kristen Stewart (of Twilight fame) and Chris Hemsworth (of Thor/Avengers fame). Now, detailing the plot shouldn't be too hard, as we all know the story from childhood- Evil Queen (Charlize Theron) with talking mirror is hell-bent on killing her 'pure' step-daughter (Stewart) and hires a Huntsman (Hemsworth) to do the job for her. The Huntsman takes pity on the girl when he finds her, and together they become fugitives, going on a journey that involves meeting Dwarfs. Seven of them to be precise. What follows is a major battle between good and evil to determine who will reign over the Kingdom, the evil Queen or our heroine Snow White?
Now, I enjoyed this film a lot more than I thought I would, it reminded me a lot of Lord of The Rings, from the grand music to the mountain scenery, and it does feature a few spectacular fight scenes. Visually, this is an impressive film, however, the film focuses too much on visuals and not enough on characters, the Dwarfs are glossed over and never really given any time to engage with the audience, which is a shame, as the group contains excellent actors (Ray Winstone and Bob Hoskins, amongst others ). Kristen Stewart as Snow White seems to think she's still playing Bella from Twilight, (i.e no range of emotions, just a blank stare for the whole film), especially when opposite to her is Charlize Theron giving an amazingly dramatic performance as the Queen. To sum up, a good re-telling of a classic, but by no means as good as the Disney Classic which most of us remember.
2 Days in New York (2012)
2 Days In New York
A good idea before watching a film sequel would be to check out the original, imagine watching Return of The Jedi without knowing that Darth Vader was Luke Skywalker's father (apologies if I've spoiled that for anybody). Well, I agreed to watch 2 Days in New York today without any idea that it was the follow-up to 2 Days In Paris, a French film about relationships, I found out. Horrified that I had been tricked into watching (what i assumed was) a Romance film, I was expecting the worst, but this was actually quite funny, not as funny as The Dictator, but certainly not a romance, more of a drama about mad families.
Chris Rock plays Mingus and Julie Delpy plays Marion, a couple in their late 30s who both have kids from previous relationships. They're a classic middle-class couple, living in a nice New York apartment and both with good jobs. However, Marion's family from France quickly arrives to visit her, and all sorts of madness ensues, from the younger sister who is constantly craving sex (with anyone), to the sister's boyfriend, who brings drug dealers back to the apartment. The film is like a sophisticated version of Meet The Parents, and without a doubt the only time I've seen Chris Rock in a serious role, playing a responsible guardian in the film rather than the comedian we all know and love, but it works. The film doesn't directly follow on from the original, (or so my friends told me, they could have just been lying), so you can watch it as a stand-alone film, I certainly enjoyed it. Surprisingly good.
Piranha 3DD (2012)
Piranha's are back!!!!
Winning the award of ''unnecessary sequel to average film'' comes Piranha 3DD (yes, double D's), a horror/black comedy about a group of teenagers working in a Water Park, who have to battle pre-historic Piranhas. Basically the same plot as the first film. Without Kelly Brook. One by one our heroic teens are subjected to brutal attacks by these violent Piranhas, and its up to Maddy, conveniently a marine biologist who's step-father owns the water park, to save the day somehow.
Whereas the first film worked as a spoof of 1970's B-Movie horror films, this film just feels lazy, the jokes are half-hearted and there's nothing original in terms of the gore, it plays out like a standard horror film (although there is one crazy castration scene which will both terrify and amuse you). What manages to slightly redeem the film are the celebrity cameos that come during the later stages of the film, we have Christopher Lloyd (Back to the Future man) return as a nutty scientist, and David Hasselhoff playing a parody of himself (is he bankrupt or something?).
The film begins with a 2 minute montage of 3d breasts and ends with a 20 minute gore-fest involving numerous naked women, so its clear this is a film for males aged 18-25 (probably), but i wouldn't rush to the cinema to see this, or buy the DVD, just wait for it on TV.
Shifty is a slow-burner that feels more like a play than an actual feature film. Made on a minute budge of £100,000, the film tells the story of Chris (Daniel Mays), a 20-something yr old who has returned to his old manor to see school mate ''Shifty'' (Riz Ahmed). Chris is now an adult with a responsible job, whereas Shifty has become a drug dealer, and still resents Chris for leaving the area in the first place. This film is remarkable for the chemistry formed between the two central characters, and the slow pace of the film adds a constant tension to proceedings, we know something ''shifty'' will happen, but where and when is anybody's guess. A brilliant and sophisticated drama, this added depth to the ''urban'' genre, also shout out to Masood from Eastenders, who gives an amazing performance in this as Shifty's older brother.
Bronenosets Potemkin (1925)
I'm never one to turn a film down, unless it's got Ben Affleck in it, then i'm always hesitant. But alas, i recently received an invite to a 1925 silent Russian film named Battle Potemkin, and once it was confirmed Ben Affleck was not in this film, i was good to go. Showing at London's Southbank, i was excited to see a silent film in the cinema, something i've never done before, and also excited to see a film called by many critics as one of the great films of the 20th century.
The film is a bit of revolutionary propaganda, dealing with the plight of a rebellious set of sailors, and from the minute it begins it is clear that these sailors are the heroes of the film. What follows is five brief episodes (the films is only 70 minutes long) which charts the mutiny led by the sailors against their heinous officers. Soon enough the whole of the City (Odessa for those keeping count) revolts and in a magnificent piece of film-making (especially considering this was made 86 years ago) there is a stampede which is brutally captured and wouldn't look out of a place in a low-budget film made today. The finale of the film is a triumph and strangely uplifiting, who woulda guessed a Russian mutiny would evoke such emotion??!
This film is a great way to introduce somebody to silent films, it is relatively short and moves at a great speed. One thing i loved about the lack of dialogue was the focus instead on the visual aspects of the film, as an audience member you also have more space to look at facial expressions and mannerisms without being held back by subtitles, and this is where the attachment to the film really comes alive. I would give this film an 8/10, it's different, and has certainly got me interested in silent films, now, where's that Charlie Chaplin DVD?
The Avengers (2012)
As a major Marvel comic book fan in my younger and more glamorous days, I am by no means exaggerating when i say i have been waiting for an Avengers film to be made for the last 15 or so years, at times the concept of having so many Superheroes contained in one film seemed an impossible challenge, but Joss Whedon (who also made Serenity, a fantastic sci-fi film if you haven't already seen it) has attempted the challenge and succeeded. With great results.
Focusing on a plan by Loki (younger brother of Thor) to destroy the world, we see Samuel L Jackson as Nick Fury finally put together his ''Avengers Initiative'' plan that has been referenced over the last few years throughout Marvel films (usually after the credits, forcing people like myself to sit in the cinema for 10 minutes after everyone has gone and look like a complete weirdo to Cinema Staff waiting to clean the screen). We thus see a crew of erratic and potentially volatile characters (Hulk, Iron Man, Black Widow, Thor, Captain America and ''Hawkeye'' doing his best Legolas impression) reluctantly join each other for this major operation and what ensues is both action and hilarity, and then more hilarity.
Yes, whilst being an ''action'' film, Avengers contains more slapstick humour and one-liners than the majority of comedies made in the last decade, notably from Robert Downey JR as Tony Stark, who just seems like a naturally funny guy in real life. The action set-pieces are great and don't drag on for too long *cough Transformers cough*, whilst the flurry of different personalities at disposal in the film means that there is enough variation to make the 143mins zoom by. Personally, The Hulk stole the show for me, a surprise considering the last two films about his character were so poor. The majority of people watching the film will know what to expect, so i'll keep this review short, but to sum up, great film, does what it says on the tin.
Good Saturday night flick
Jason Statham is not one to vary his roles, generally he plays the hero who beats people up, and then blows things up, then finally beating more people up. Well, his newest film Safe.....is pretty much the same thing, with an added Russian Mafia/Chinese Triad component to the mix, it actually works as a weird remake of Rush Hour, without the comedy of Chris Tucker (or as many people mistakenly call him, Chris Rock).
We start off in China, where a young girl who can memorise an obscene amount of numbers is kidnapped by a Chinese gang and sent to New York to make money for the gang, we learn this is an ''old school'' gang who don't like technology (despite later using Ipads to track people) and would rather hold their important codes in a human being who can't be traced, rather than a computer. At the same time Luke Wright (Statham) is working as a cage fighter and manages to annoy a Russian Gang by refusing to lose a fixed fight, well, more than annoys, as the gang goes on to kill his wife and leave Luke a broken man with nothing to live for. A chance encounter between the young Chinese girl and Luke at a train station leads to a game of pursuit, with both the Chinese Triads and Russian Mafia either trying to capture the girl or kill Luke. As if that wasn't enough, random corrupt police officers get thrown into the mix, giving the impression that everybody in the city is a criminal. Great tourism advert there.
If the above plot summary sounds intelligent, don't worry, it's not, characters come and go, hundreds of nameless gangsters die and Statham beats people up a lot. The fight scenes generally make this worth watching, as the makers try to make the violence as original as possible and throw in a great deal of one liners. It's not a terrible film by any means, as one friend told me afterwards ''it done the job'', fans of Crank or Transporter will enjoy it, it's silly fun that requires no thinking, and anybody who does feel disappointed that there wasn't enough of a plot clearly hasn't seen a Jason Statham film before.