Thursday 16 December 2010

New Release - The King's Speech

The King’s speech is a heartwarming, inspirational and humorous tale that weaves between elements of serious drama and comedy with ease, thanks in large to excellent performances from the entire cast, with Colin Firth standing out as the stammering King George VI in one of his finest starring roles to date. Geoffrey rush is ever watchable as Lionel Logue, the speech therapist that comes to George’s aid in anticipation of his potential to take the throne, and their often troubled relationship provides much of the humour as George’s stubborn nature prevents pronunciation progress ( now I would like to see King George get his chops around that phrase), despite Logue’s best efforts to conquer his stammer.

Alongside the King and his speech therapist, Guy Pearce and Helena Bonham Carter are riveting to watch as his self-righteous younger brother and dedicated wife and although Timothy Spall has a limited amount of screen time, his humorous portrayal of Winston Churchill is an important presence, with his stoic nature and determination providing the King with some much needed confidence.

As the king’s speech is a character driven plot, it is imperative that we can empathise with the cast and Hooper has done an exceptional job at lightening the tone in key moments throughout the film – to ensure that we warm towards the king and his entourage – whilst still maintaining the importance of the fascinating historical events that unfold as the plot progresses. It is an impressive feat to bring so much drama and tension to a single moment in history and the build-up to the film’s climax is perfectly paced as our faith in the king’s ability to perform his speech begins to waiver, and at times it is easy to forget that this is a historical drama as the wit and audacity of certain characters appears very current without feeling out of place in 1930s Britain.

Basing the premise of an entire film on a speech impediment was a brave move from director Tom Hooper and one that has paid off fantastically with the film receiving a total of seven Golden Globe Nominations as well as being a hot contender for a number of Oscars. Awards discussions aside, The King’s Speech is a wonderful film that completely surprised me with its enormously enjoyable storyline and engaging insight into the impact that speech impediments can have on their hosts.

This is arguably British film making at its finest with top-notch performances from a fantastic ensemble cast, brilliant direction from Tom Hooper, and a storyline that inspires and amuses in equal measures all adding up to make the King’s Speech an unmissable film.

If you like this you will enjoy these:

The Madness Of King George
Quiz Show

Tuesday 9 November 2010

New Release - We Are What We Are

We are what we are is the rarest of beasts, a macabre tale that has the power to delight and disturb in equal measures with its unique take on a family under turmoil. Unlike the majority of horror films that focus on the victims and their struggles against evil, this unflinching portrayal of cannibalism follows a family of killers and their struggle to survive in the harsh and unforgiving environment of the Mexican suburbs.

After the head of the family meets a gruesome end, it falls upon his eldest son, Alfredo, to take responsibility for the surviving members; his younger siblings and his grieving mother. Each of them have their own agendas and it is not long before these conflicting issues result in horrifying consequences for both the family and the people they prey on for food. The less known about the storyline the better, which is why my description of the plot is suitably vague, as the majority of the films more unsettling moments come as a complete surprise for the unsuspecting viewer.

Apart from Antichrist, this is the only film I have viewed where audience members have left the cinema during the more graphic scenes, and this certainly confirms that We are what we are is a very powerful film, not for the faint hearted but very rewarding for those that persevere. With cinematography on par to that of the hauntingly beautiful shots seen throughout Let the Right One In and a subject matter as realistically brutal as the gruesome deaths of the unsuspecting victims in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, this is a perfect example of an atmospheric horror that chills you to the core by combining a stark yet realistic situation with unflinching scenes of violence.

The majority of modern horror films rely on cheap scares and shock tactics to batter the viewers senses and it is encouraging to see that there are still directors out there who clearly have a great respect for the genre and shift their focus towards creating a brooding atmosphere and a compelling storyline. This brave and accomplished attempt at reinvigorating a stale genre certainly marks Jorge Michel Grau as a promising director for the future and whilst We are what we are may not be the masterpiece that horror fans are hoping for, it certainly comes pretty damn close.


If you liked this you will enjoy these:

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1973)
Don't Look Now
Let The Right One In
The Devil's Backbone

Thursday 14 October 2010

New Release - The Social Network

At the end of the millennium David Fincher's visceral take on Chuck Palahniuk's novel 'Fight Club' defined a generation and, while it seems like only yesterday that it was released, eleven years have passed since Brad Pitt and Edward Norton contributed towards what is now regarded as a cult classic. Over a decade later the revered director has once more attempted to capture a moment in time, bravely deciding to focus his efforts on real events from very recent history, by filming a compelling drama based entirely on the creation of a single website that quickly became a worldwide phenomenon.

Jesse Eisenberg plays Marc Zuckerberg, the brains behind Facebook, and The Social Network opens with a snappy dialogue between Zuckerberg and a female companion that ends disastrously, allowing the audience to fully comprehend the social awkwardness surrounding the film's lead, and his motivation for the creation of his website. Assisted by a number of friends, most notably Andrew Garfield in a stunning performance that is reassuring to fans of Spiderman (Garfield is scheduled to play Peter Parker in the upcoming reboot), Zuckerberg utilises his computer skills to create an exclusive club for Harvard students that remains accessible to the less sporty members of the prestigious University. In doing so he unwittingly unleashes a social medium that begins to spread across America and  eventually over to Europe, as more and more students become obsessed with their online presence and the ability to check up on their friends, and more importantly their relationship statuses, wherever they are in the world.

There is no denying that The Social Network tells an incredible story, with Fincher's visual flair perfectly matched with the powerful soundtrack by Trent Reznor, especially in a standout rowing scene that is guaranteed to get your heartbeat racing, but the only downside is a lackluster ending which cannot really be levelled as a criticism, after all this is real life and the story will continue long after the credits are rolling. People familiar with Facebook will find a lot to love in this movie, the inspirational story is a great backbone to the character development as well as providing a very personal account of Zuckerberg's rise to fame. The humorous references to situations that most of the sites user's will have found themselves in are very effective and provide a perfect balance to the tension in some of the more dramatic scenes, as well as enabling the audience to connect with the film on a more personal level.

The Social Network is an engaging and provocative drama that may just make you think twice before you update your Facebook status in the future. I would recommend it to anyone who uses Facebook on a regular basis; you are guaranteed to give it the thumbs up.


If you like this film you will enjoy these:

Roger Dodger
The People Vs. Larry Flynt
12 Angry Men

Saturday 18 September 2010

New Release - The Hole 3D

My first encounter with the world of Joe Dante was almost twenty years ago when i caught a glimpse of Gremlins at the tender age of fourAt the time I was horrified, but as I grew up it soon became one of my favourite films, instantly capable of transporting me back to a time when horror films used to scare me. I was hoping that Dante would be able to recapture this magic, and The Hole left me wishing that I was a pre-teen with a wild imagination once again, heading into a horror film for the very first time. This made me very jealous of the younger crowd in the audience as they were clearly stuck fast in their seats, horrified by the visions that unfolded before them - their silence spoke louder than any screams - and desperate for the frightening film to end. 

The nightmare begins when a single sprightly mother, her angst-ridden adolescent son Dane and nervous pre-teen Lucas move into a new house in a strange neighbourhood, only to discover a seemingly bottomless pit locked away under a trapdoor in the basement. Curiosity gets the better of the boys and it is not long before they lower a camera into the mysterious hole in an attempt to film the unknown, but, as video footage shows in one of the films eeriest moments, some things are better left undisturbed. 

After exploring the darkness underneath the trapdoor, the boys begin to be haunted by strange events, with the hole seemingly preying on their individual fears. This provides the basis for a number of scary moments which are quite effective considering The hole is aimed at a younger audience, but it is unlikely to have any impact on those familiar with recent scary films such as [REC] and Paranormal Activity. The story still remains intriguing enough to keep older viewers entertained for the most part, and could well bring back long forgotten memories of their first encounters with the world of the supernatural films. 

Horror fans hoping for a repeat of Gremlins will be disappointed, but that's not to say that The Hole should be dismissed; its constant references to classic horror films cannot replace the darkwarped humour that made Gremlins so watchable, but certainly adds to the experience for fans of the genre. Numerous scenes invoke connections to Poltergeist and The Gate, with the icing on the cake being a homage to the Hands of Orlac - a very under-rated thriller from 1935 - that I imagine will pass by unnoticed by the majority of viewers due to unfamiliarity with the source material, and they all serve to remind us that Dante is  an ardent horror fan and is not afraid  to wear his influences on his sleeve.

As a children's horror film The Hole is excellent but unfortunately it fails to surpass the genre classics such as A nightmare before Christmas and Gremlins due to the lack of appeal to an older audience. The story is fairly entertaining and the references to cult classics are a great addition to the film but they are simply not enough to keep older viewers fully engrossed for the ninety minutes running time. I would definitely recommend this film to families with young teenagers and children eager to be scared, as The Hole is a perfect introduction to horror films for those easily scared, and one of Joe Dante's more accomplished directorial efforts.


If you like this you will enjoy these:

The Gate

Monday 6 September 2010

New Release - Going The Distance

After a recent resurge in successful and critically well received romantic comedies such as (500) days of summer and the brilliant 'Bromance', I Love you man, I was less sceptical about Going the distance than I would have been two years previously, hoping that Nanette Burstein's directorial debut would continue the trend with a fresh, original take on the genre that would be equally entertaining for both sexes.

Going the Distance is not quite as good as the aforementioned films but still remains fairly enjoyable, despite being overcrowded with cliches and featuring the obligatory story arc that fans of romantic comedies will find all too familiar. Soppy love scenes aside, there were a number of humorous moments that prompted howls of laughter from a number of audience members and even brought a wry smile to my face, which is an impressive feat for any Rom-com. 

Drew Barrymore is Erin, a lonely journalist who encounters Garret (Justin Long), a talent scout for a record company, on the night he is drowning his sorrows after splitting up with his girlfriend. A few drinks later, the singletons find themselves in bed together, with Erin unperturbed by the thin walls separating Garret from his room-mate, despite his attempts to find the perfect soundtrack to accompany their evening, in one of the films more inspired moments. Fast forward six weeks and Erin is due to head back to Los Angeles, putting their relationship in jeopardy, and testing their powers of resistance to the limit.

Whilst the storyline is far from original, the characters and situations feel fresh, with the actors making the most of their roles and breathing life to an otherwise run of the mill story. The pairing of Justin Long and Drew Barrymore was an inspired decision, their on screen chemistry transforms Going the distance into a believable romance, with a supporting cast that enhances their performances by providing the majority of the humour.

Although nowhere near as iconic as the famous scene in When Harry Met Sally, Going the Distance ups the ante with a number of risqué moments guaranteed to offend the more reserved members of the audience. Presumably, this is a clever ploy to make the film appeal to fans of comedies such as Superbad and The Hangover, which are both well known for their vulgar but hilarious comedy. The solid mix of romance and comedy proves that when combined with panache, the genres can be perfectly matched, enhancing a films appeal by providing interests for different crowds and broadening the target audience.

Going the Distance is far from groundbreaking but is still a welcome entry to a genre that often sells utterly dire films purely on the inclusion of crowd-drawing big name actors. It definitely surpassed my expectations and is worth a look if you get the chance, fans of romcoms would do well to check this out.


If you like this you will enjoy these:

Goodbye Lenin!
Garden State
(500) Days Of Summer

Tuesday 3 August 2010

New Release - Knight And Day

There are some films that you just know you're not going to enjoy before even walking into the cinema. Knight and Day was one such film for me; in the back of my mind I was hoping that I could be pleasantly surprised, but unfortunately it turned out to be as horrendous as I first suspected, with lacklustre performances from actors past the peak of their careers.

Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz star in this action comedy which fails miserably in both the action and comedy stakes. Cruise has no problems slipping back in to the role of a secret agent whilst Diaz is the stereotypical Blonde who becomes an unwilling partner in his daring exploits. Although they still have a great screen presence and a definite chemistry, Tom and Cameron have reached a new low with Knight and Day, its only appeal being the reunion of the two actors who must have a lack of good scripts being offered their way.

Billed as a summer blockbuster, Knight and Day can not even be compared to other recent successful blockbusters such as Toy Story 3 and Inception, and doesn't even come close to the duff remake of The Karate Kid. If any other actors were in the main roles, this would be a complete failure at the box office and a film destined for the bargain bin. The action scenes are predictable and grossly unrealistic, for those daft enough to pay the asking price, prepare yourself for a ridiculous bike chase amongst the running of the bulls.

Stay away from this awful film, even though it was a preview screening and my tickets were free, I am annoyed at losing two hours of my life. Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz need to realise that their days as respected celebrities will be numbered if their attempts to replicate the earlier successes of their careers continues. Knight and Day could possibly be the worst film of the year so far, although I do have tickets for Step Up 3-D and The Last Airbender so this could soon change...


If you like this you will enjoy these:

Mission Impossible
The A-Team
Date Night
Mr & Mrs Smith

Monday 19 July 2010

New Release - Toy Story 3

When it comes to kids films I'm usually the last in line but the prospect of a new Toy Story was a chance I couldn't miss, Pixar have mastered the difficult task of creating films that entertain all generations, and I had been eagerly anticipating a third film since the credits rolled on Toy Story 2 back in 1999. The first one hit the big screens when i was just eight years old and I have grown up with Andy, watching his toys run amok every time he closed his bedroom door, and becoming completely absorbed in the crazy situations they have encountered. 

We join Woody and Co. a few days before Andy packs up his belongings and heads off to college, misplacing his toys who end up donated to a children's daycentre instead of being packed away in the attic. It is down to Woody to convince the toys they haven't been abandoned and return them safely back home whilst avoiding crazy children, tyrannical toys and terrifying trash compactors along the way. 

Whilst the story remains fairly similar to the previous films, the introduction of a wealth of new characters (along with everyone's old favourites) adds to the enjoyment with comic characters such as an eccentric hedgehog, Mr Pricklepants, and the introduction of a hilarious romance between Barbie and Ken fleshing out the storyline with a healthy dose of humour. The eagle-eyed amongst you may even spot a character from one of Miyazaki's movies appearing in a young girls bedroom, a subtle nod to one of the greatest animators of all time.
One of the highlights of the film arrives after the credits have rolled with an alternative rendition of a memorable song from the first Toy Story, making it essential to stay in your seat right until the lights come up. It is also imperative that you arrive on time, as is usual with Pixar films you are treated to a short animation before the main feature and 'Night and Day' is definitely up there with the best of them, giving the audience a taster of the sheer brilliance they are about to behold. 

Toy Story 3 is an emotional ride; much like in Pixars recent releases Up and Wall-E, it is surprising how affecting a cartoon can be, with a number of poignant moments that will overwhelm even the most cynical of viewers.  Even though the human characters only have minor roles in the story, the few lines they do have will resound deeply with everyone, and the mixture of characters at different points in their lives means that there will be a part of the story that relates directly to you on a personal level. It's not just about throwing out the old toys anymore, its about the process of growing up and those that have followed the story from its first incarnation will be saddened by the reminder that their own childhood has passed.

Captivating from start to finish, Toy Story 3 is a triumphant reminder of Pixar's ability to blow all your expectations out of the water and in doing so they have delivered what could possibly be considered their greatest film to date. Essential viewing for everyone, Toy Story 3 is an unmissable extravaganza that is almost guaranteed a best picture nomination at next year's Oscars ceremony. Book your tickets right now, you would be a fool to pass up the chance to catch  the final part of the trilogy in its full cinematic glory.


If you like this you will enjoy these:

Mary And Max
Watership Down
Pom Poko

Friday 16 July 2010

New Release - Inception

Imagine if the brains behind Mensa gathered together one day and created their own version of the A-Team, it would probably end up being very similar to Inception. Basically, Cristopher Nolan is a genius; Inception's storyline is an incredible feat of imagination that will simultaneously amaze and disorientate you with each thrilling turn. The acting is impeccable, with an ensemble cast that is bound to provoke a number of Oscar nominations (as long as the Academy realise that at the core of this  science fiction epic there still lies an emotionally draining thriller ) in dramatic roles that will haunt your dreams for a long time to come.

The less said about the plot the better, not because its bad, in fact its awe-inspiring to see the lengths Nolan has gone to in order to make this work , but it would be unfair to spoil your enjoyment of the film and would be quite a difficult feat to summarise concisely the key ideas behind Inception. Despite being a complex beast, Inception remains watchable throughout thanks to the impressive visuals and mind-blowing special effects that despite being physically impossible are still incredibly realistic.
Its closet comparison would be The Matrix, another game-changing sci-fi that took special effects to the next level by providing the audience with one hell of a story and not relying purely on the futuristic visuals to create the films success. The action has definitely stepped up a notch in Inception, with events in interweaving dream worlds affecting the consequences in others. It sounds complicated but it is a sheer joy to behold as Dicaprio and his team invade people's dreams and simultaneously assault an arctic fortress, defy gravity in an insane hotel corridor brawl and swerve traffic in a deadly car chase. Anything is possible in a dream, and thankfully Nolan exploits this to its maximum potential; trust me on this, the action sequences will leave you stunned senseless.

The only thing that dwarfs the intense action is the labyrinthine plot, which requires a great deal of concentration to follow. Luckily, Nolan makes this easy for the viewers by creating a visceral plot that completely absorbs the audience's attention - prompting an almost dream like state of consciousness as the action unfolds before your very eyes.

As I left the cinema I was undecided on my opinion of the film, there was just far too much to take in after one viewing. Having said that though, I would definitely consider catching Inception for a second time, the more the film has invaded my dreams since watching it, the more I want to immerse myself in Nolan's incredible imagination once again. 


If you like this film you will enjoy these:

Waking Life
Dark City
Jacob's Ladder
The Matrix

Sunday 11 July 2010

New Release - The Karate Kid

Let's make it clear from the beginning, The Karate Kid is a blatant vehicle for Jaden Smith, with his all too famous father Will producing the movie in an attempt to bolster his son's acting career. Much like the criticism that Shane Meadow's Somers Town garnered for its association with Eurostar, it could be argued that the Karate Kid is a cleverly crafted two and a half hour long advert for Jaden Smith. That being said, it's a fairly well polished advert with Jaden putting in a solid performance, the only criticism that can be levelled at Smith is his age; the original Karate Kid was much older, broadening the films appeal to a wider audience, but as I watched pre-teens fighting I couldn't help feeling that this would alienate the teen audience as they will struggle to relate to the main character.

Don't get me wrong, the original is hardly a masterpiece, as is clear from its recent relegation to the library of channel five sunday afternoon family films that are usually only worth watching for the memories they rekindle, but in 1984 the influence it had over popular culture was widespread, with teens everywhere desperate to take up martial arts. There is no doubt that the new version will inspire a similar wave of interest and while this may indicate a certain amount of popularity, it is no indication of the film's quality, which doesn't come close to the sheer entertainment of the original.

Without comparing the two versions, The Karate Kid is a fairly entertaining movie, it has its flaws - most notably its length, but children oblivious to the original will love watching Dre Parker (Jaden Smith) start a new life in China while finding his feet with the local gang. Jackie Chan puts in a sterling performance as Mr Han, the caretaker and karate master who dedicates his time to training Dre and teaching him the true art of karate, that shows he can actually act. 

The story arc remains very similar to the original with the main alteration being the setting, which provides some fantastic backdrops for the street battles and a striking training scene on the great wall of China. Visually the film is impressive and the acting is okay, but remakes are never going to compare favourably to their predecessors and a change to one of the most memorable scenes in the film ("wax on, wax off") will be seen as blasphemous by fans of the original.

This is definitely a film for the younger generation, people familiar with the 1984 version should stay well away but those heading into the film without preconceptions formed from viewing the original will find a fairly enjoyable story that is very easy to watch. As i know most people reading this will have seen the original, save your money, and if you haven't seen the karate kid, you're missing out on an eighties classic - go and buy the dvd now and forget about the new version. Some things are just better left alone.


If you like this you will enjoy these:

The Karate Kid (1984)
Pump Up The Volume
Ferris Bueller's Day Off

Tuesday 6 July 2010

New Release - Get Him To The Greek

Forgetting Sarah Marshall was a dull, unfunny comedy, in fact I would go as far to say that it wasn't comedy but a boring drama. It pains me every time i hear someone mention how brilliant it was, and I really can't comprehend why anyone commissioned a spin-off, on second thoughts scrap that, Forgetting Sarah Marshall made money at the box office, so of course we are going to get a lacklustre follow-up, none other than Get him to the Greek.

The story follows Aaron Green (Jonah Hill) as he attempts to escort Aldous Snow (Russell Brand) to his long overdue comeback gig but struggles to keep the dishevelled rock star away from drink, drugs and desperate women. It sounds like the perfect recipe for a comedy but unfortunately it appears that the writers created a number of key scenes and then attempted to loosely tie them together with a script, and that will never work.

It's a shame that the majority of the jokes are clearly aimed at a teenage audience when references to The Mars Volta and Lars Ulrich clearly pay off, film-makers should realise that not everyone in the world is a hormonal teenage lad, desperate for a glimpse of nudity or endless toilet humour, but have faith that intelligent people are out there! Maybe they are just too on the ball and realise that anyone with half an ounce of intelligence will probably steer clear of this film. Admittedly, some of the jokes did bring a smile to my face, but this was not nearly enough to redeem the lack of structure and poor characterisation .

If you like your films without meaning, easy to follow and easy to forget, go and watch Get Him to the Greek, the perfect throwaway Summer comedy. Just don't say I didn't warn you!


If you like this you will enjoy these:

The Hangover
Super Troopers
This Is Spinal Tap
Grandma's Boy

Tuesday 11 May 2010

New Release - The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call - New Orleans

Whilst many hailed the original Bad Lieutenant as groundbreaking for its time, watching it now just doesn’t hold the same appeal, mindless violence and drug addled cops are no longer as controversial a topic as they were twenty years ago. Abel Ferrara is known for his gritty portrayal of urban life but even with the King of New York, his ventures appear dated and no longer as valid when compared to the back catalogue of auteurs such as the mighty Werner Herzog. Thank god then that it was Herzog who undertook the task of re-imagining one of Ferrara’s works and not the other way round, and by God, he did a bloody good job of it too.

Set in the decaying suburbs of New Orleans after the onslaught of hurricane Katrina, The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call - New Orleans follows the recently promoted police officer, Terence McDonagh, as he investigates the killing of five immigrants whilst struggling to battle his own ongoing problems with hard drugs and gambling. Loosely based on the original Bad Lieutenant released in 1992, Herzog’s version cannot be called a remake. Gone is the volatile and unpredictable Harvey Keitel who starred in the original, and in his place, but not treading on his shoes, is a darkly humorous Nicolas Cage - following on from his extraordinary performance in Kick-Ass with another exceptional turn.

The unconventional plot line may confuse fans of dross thrillers such as Edge of Darkness and Law Abiding Citizen, but is essential to the character development, as McDonagh meanders from one surreal situation to the next without any real progression for the first half hour. That being said, these encounters are exactly what you would expect from a Herzog film, and as the plot begins to unfold,  this warped humour becomes a perfect partner to the depravity of Cage’s character.

As McDonagh grapples with his drug problems, these fantastical occurrences increase, with the appearance of reptiles such as crocodiles and lizards strangely reminiscent of Jonny Depp’s drug fuelled hallucinations as Raoul Duke in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. The results of which culminate in a baffling break-dancing sequence that will remain in your mind a long time after leaving the cinema, especially considering the accompanying music is the same Herzog used at the end of his depressing character study Strozek - perhaps echoing the ill construed ideals of society portrayed in Herzog’s earlier film by hinting that Cage’s Bad Lieutenant could well be the antithesis of Strozek..

Although there are fine performances by supporting actors Eva Mendes and Brad Dourif, I cannot help but focus on Cage’s portrayal of Terence McDonagh, his domineering yet eerily charismatic approach to assaulting two old women is twisted humour at its best. This film is the perfect antidote to the mindless Summer blockbusters that are creeping into circulation around this time of year, complete with the drug-fuelled action and sickening violence that thrill seekers expect from your average blockbuster but far superior in terms of direction, Bad Lieutenant is a great example of an independent film-maker beating Hollywood at its own game.


If you like this you will enjoy these:

The Boondock Saints
Aguirre: The Wrath of God
Wild at Heart

Wednesday 5 May 2010

New Release - Hot Tub Time Machine

Hats off to the person who coined the phrase Hot Tub Time Machine, what a brilliant name for a film! Its just a shame that the concept failed to live up to expectations and left me feeling like I needed my own hot tub time machine so that I could travel back in time and avoid ever watching the movie.

When a disgruntled middle aged man attempts to commit suicide, it is down to  his old friends (through association rather than choice) Adam and Nick, played by John Cusack and Craig Robinson respectively, to restore his faith in humanity with a trip to a ski resort from their teenage years. Joined by Adam’s nephew Jacob, it is not long before the foursome take a ride in a time bending hot tub and wind up twenty years earlier when the ski slope was in its heyday - cue sexy young ladies in 80s gear and an endless stream of crude, unfunny jokes.

This is basically Back to the Future crossed with The Hangover -as the marketing team behind the film have kindly pointed out - but what they fail to mention is that while it may sound brilliant on paper, the amalgamation of the two ideas falls flat as both plot lines meander aimlessly from one dull situation to the next. There are a number of moments throughout where Hot Tub Time Machine goes beyond being a homage to its influences and becomes a blatant rip off, failing miserably to replicate the choicest moments from Back to the Future and instead just ruining the credibility of the film.

I sincerely hope that unlike most comedies the actors were not required to ad lib their own lines, as while this works well with comedians such as Steve Carrel and Will Ferrell, Cusack and co. could not cause a single smile with their laboured gags. If however, the actors stuck rigorously to their lines, then the scriptwriters would benefit enormously from a visit to their local comedy club to gain some fresh ideas, as the jokes could have easily been written by an immature teenager.

For me, the star of the whole film was Crispin Glover, whose mere inclusion is bound to incite comparisons to everyone’s favourite time travel movie involving a flux capacitor. While his screen time is limited, the running gag revolving around the loss of his limb is very amusing, a clear cut above the rest of the humour, but serves only to frustrate the audience as they realise that Hot Tub Time Machine had the potential to be something very special.

Hot Tub Time Machine is a missed opportunity, and while it is not the worst of comedies, the only reason it stands out from a crowded genre is its daft title and a handful of stolen ideas. By cleverly fooling the general public with a brilliant marketing campaign, Hot Tub Time Machine is bound to fair reasonably well at the box office but you would do well to spend your money on something far more enjoyable - go and buy Back To The Future, it's much cooler to travel through time in a Delorean.


If you liked this film you will enjoy these:

Back To The Future
The Hangover

Tuesday 20 April 2010

New Release - Date Night

Imagine if True Romance was a light-hearted Romantic Comedy where two lovers become entangled in a web of crime and you will not be far off the mark. Date Night is remarkably similar to True Romance in terms of plot but replaces the style and panache of Tarantino’s writing with slapstick humour and bumbling criminals. However, don’t let that get your hopes up, True Romance is a classic, Date night is mere popcorn fodder despite being surprisingly enjoyable.

Tina Fey and Steve Carell play the Fosters, a hapless couple whose marriage is on its last legs, and when their attempt to rekindle the flame goes awry they are mistaken for two thieves who have stolen from one of New York’s leading crime lords - and he is not a happy man. Throughout their eventful date night the Foster’s are thrown into one unbelievable situation after another and while most are amusing, some fall flat, but the excellent cameos are sure to keep you entertained when the humour dries up. In fact, Shawn Levy should be glad that he managed to recruit such an appealing cast; the performances improve on what would otherwise be a lacklustre comedy.
Steve Carell shines as Phil Foster, with his warped sense of humour and deadpan acting, and Mark Wahlberg is excellent as the ex colleague who comes to the aid of the Fosters. Most of the humour comes from Carell’s performance, he is on his usual top form, and fans of Anchorman and the 40 Year old Virgin will not be disappointed. As he gains confidence throughout the night, Phil Foster gradually regains the love and trust of his wife, it’s the usual cliché but here it actually works, and you can’t help but empathise with the endearing couple.

 If Date Night was any longer, it would have dragged but thankfully the snappy pacing coupled with a relatively short running time of 88 minutes was perfect for this style of comedy, and funnily enough would make it a perfect film to take a potential partner to see.

Let's say Date Night is a female friend;  I certainly enjoyed spending an evening with her, and it would have been even better with a few drinks. I might save her number, but only with the intention of seeing her again if nothing else was on the cards. In other words, check it out but don’t get your hopes up!


If you liked this film you will also enjoy these:

The 40 Year Old Virgin
True Romance
The Apartment
The Naked Gun Trilogy

Friday 2 April 2010

New Release - Whip It

Drew Barrymore’s directorial debut has all the makings of a cult classic, from the impeccable indie rock soundtrack to the impressive cast credentials, but unfortunately fails to deliver. Crude, unfunny jokes pepper a storyline chock full of clichés and corny dialogue, whilst the actresses struggle to bring life to the two-dimensional characters they are portraying.

The storyline focuses on a teenage misfit, Bliss Cavendar, coerced into performing at beauty pageants by her parents, whilst secretly yearning to explore the wilder side of life when she discovers a roller derby league not far from her home in Austin.  As usual in these coming of age stories, Bliss meets a guy, falls out with her parents and flourishes within a new group of friends after overcoming a number of obstacles. This is all very pleasant but far from original, making it very easy to predict the outcome of the movie.

The inclusion of Ellen Page as the story’s heroine is a wise move by Barrymore, fans of Juno desperate to see more of the star will certainly flock to the movie, if only to be disappointed. Despite this, Page puts in a fairly  impressive performance, proving that she is a talented actor, even when presented with an average script.

I am sure that the target audience of twelve year old girls will get a lot out of Whip It but I wouldn’t recommend this film to anyone else due to its lack of broad appeal. Whip it would definitely pass time during the April showers but I would prefer to get wet than suffer through this pre-teen chick flick once more.


If you liked this film you will also enjoy these:

Little Miss Sunshine
Me Without You
Bend It Like Beckham

Sunday 21 March 2010

New Release - Kick Ass

It has been a long time since I have left a screening with endorphins pumping through my body and the strong urge to learn a martial art but Kick-Ass did exactly that; I felt like I could take on the world! An explosive ride that covers insane action sequences, intelligent superhero parodies and intense dramatic turns, Kick-Ass is a welcome addition to the realm of the comic-book movie.

I was initially sceptical about the prospect of watching another superhero spoof movie, most recent attempts at the genre have been abysmal, but Kick-Ass completely transcends its predecessors through the use of intelligent pastiche which drives the story forward as well as providing laughs. The brilliantly choreographed action scenes would not feel out of place in a Spiderman film, or even a Tarantino script, in fact it feels like Spiderman and Kill Bill were put into a blender and Kick-Ass was the end result.

The story focuses on Dave Lizewski, your average teenage nerd, whose obsession with comic books inspires him to create his very own superhero, Kick-Ass, despite his discernible lack of superpowers. Dave’s attempts to become a vigilante crime fighter initially end in disaster but in the process of rescuing a cat his luck changes, propelling him into the public limelight and  establishing him as a figure to be reckoned with.

It is not long before other vigilantes surface, some desperate for the fame and attention, others out for revenge, and when Kick-Ass becomes embroiled in a crime lords devious plans, we are treated to a number of intense melees that gradually escalate in size and repercussions for those involved. There has been some controversy over the graphic violence depicted in these scenes, especially as the trailer is intended to appeal to a fairly young audience, and that comes as no surprise when a pre-teen girl decapitates villains on screen and uses the c*** word. Controversy aside, I cannot deny that this was very entertaining.

Chloe Moretz easily steals the show as Hit Girl - the incredibly volatile young superhero with a penchant for explicit language, which will surely propel her into the realms of stardom. Nicolas Cage is surprisingly effective as her doting father, and Christopher Mintz-Plasse is ever watchable as Red Mist. However it is Aaron Johnson who shows the most promise as Kick-Ass, with his convincing turn from a bumbling student to a brave and reckless crime fighter marking him as a talent to watch out for.

An essential part of the film is its eclectic soundtrack, with choice tracks taken from excellent films such as 28 Days Later and For a few dollars more. Usually I would be concerned at such a prospect but the Kick-Ass soundtrack adapts the tracks brilliantly, making them feel like its own, alongside great songs from The Prodigy and Sparks to name a few. The choice of music fits perfectly with the high-octane action sequences and even adds emotional depth to key scenes - not bad for a superhero comedy movie!

Kick-Ass is that rarest of films, a successful hybrid of two genres that delivers an almost perfect cinematic experience. My only criticism would be that some sequences near the end were slightly far-fetched but in a film where suspension of belief is required, maybe I'm being a little harsh. This is an essential film for all cinemagoers, catch it on the big screen and I guarantee you will be completely immersed in the explosive yet entertaining world of Kick-Ass


If you liked this film you will also enjoy these:

The Dark Knight

Sunday 14 March 2010

New Release - I Love You Phillip Morris

This is not a film I would go to see by choice but fortunately See film first (check out the link in useful links) came up roses again with free tickets to a preview screening. You can tell that I had low expectations of I love you Phillip Morris, and this was mainly due to the fact that Jim Carrey’s rubber face and daft noises have never been enough to get me excited about a film. Some of his previous roles in captivating dramas such as The Truman Show and Eternal Sunshine have been a key to the overall success of the movie but his appearances in low brow comedies tend to leave me disappointed.

Thankfully, I Love You Phillip Morris falls in the middle of Carrey’s previous performances, a healthy dose of comedy which is aided by an engaging storyline as the captivating conman struggles to escape the law and eventually meets the love of his life in prison. The relationship between Ewan Mcregor and Jim Carrey is completely convincing, despite the absurdities of the situation, which is actually based on a true story.

It is hard to describe the film without drawing on comparisons to another well known film in which Leonardo Dicaprio runs from the law; this is essentially Catch me if you can with a gay man. Although the film fails to live up to the success of its predecessor, it is an entertaining ride and a welcome escape from the teen comedies which tend to dominate the box office.

I have no doubt that audiences will flock to this film expecting another zany Carrey comedy but the humour does tend to take a back seat in some of the more poignant moments in the film. Fortunately the life story of Phillip Morris is a compelling one, although the dramatic turn near the end of the movie is not as effective as it could have been.

If you’re a fan of Jim Carrey, you are sure to enjoy this, I was pleasantly surprised by the film but this could be due to the low expectations I had. Definitely worth a look if you get a chance but I doubt I would go out of my way to watch it again.


If you liked this film you will also enjoy these:

Catch me If You Can
Priscilla, Queen Of The Desert
Man On The Moon

Friday 12 March 2010

New Release - The Blind Side

I’ll be honest, I’m not a fan of sports movies, however, the past couple of years has seen great films such as Invictus and The Wrestler, both showing how sports can be an integral part of a captivating story, and reigniting my passion for older classics such as Rocky and The Hustler. Unfortunately, The Blind Side fails to compete with any of these films, despite being based on true events and receiving two (undeserved) Oscar nominations. Following the journey of a neglected teenager who learns the true values of friendship and family, whilst playing some American Football on the way, this is a film riddled with clichés and fairly average performances - I cannot comprehend how Sandra Bullock won the Best Actress nomination - that somehow manages to entertain despite these problems.

We have all seen film like these before, and The Blind Side brings nothing new to the table. Michael Oher, the young boy in question, is a homeless teenager with a troubled past who is kindly taken in by the Touhy family, where he soon becomes one of the family. Although he shows no talent for football, his size means that Michael is soon singled out to be the team’s blocker, and eventually learns that his team are his family and he must care for them just like he cares for the Touhy family.

I can see many people enjoying this film; it’s an easy watch, suitable for all ages and delivers a message, but to me, this is its downfall. My favourite movies tend to be edgy, controversial films that offer something original whereas the only positive way I can describe The Blind Side is to say that it was pleasant.

I wasn’t bored, but I certainly wasn’t entertained either. No doubt the huge publicity surrounding the film since the Oscar winners were announced will guarantee its success but I still can’t imagine that it will inspire British children to grab an American football and hit the fields when its released on March 26th.


If you liked this film you will also enjoy these:

Dead Poet’s Society
The Pursuit Of Happyness
Stand And Deliver

Thursday 11 March 2010

New Release - Alice In Wonderland 3-D

I’ve eagerly anticipated Tim Burton’s latest releases from before I can remember, and with Alice in Wonderland marking his first foray into 3-D, this was no exception. Arriving early at the cinema, we were treated to a live satellite link-up from the world premiere hosted at London’s Leicester square. Watching Prince Charles shake hands with almost everyone involved in the film was not my idea of fun but it certainly made an interesting change to the cinema experience. After the formalities he was shown into the cinema and the film could eventually start for him at the world premiere, and me in the comfort of Cineworld Didsbury.

Unlike previous adaptations of Alice, Burton takes the viewer on a new journey, only loosely following aspects of Carrol’s classic stories ‘Alice in Wonderland’ and ‘Through the looking glass’ to create an entirely new experience. Although this may disappoint fans of the stories, there are still a lot of familiar characters to be seen as Alice is portrayed as a young woman returning to the world she first envisaged as a child - almost like an unofficial sequel to Carrol’s work.

Having only seen two films in 3-D prior to Alice in Wonderland; Coraline and Avatar, I was still unsure whether 3-D was more than just a gimmick, however, it certainly enhanced the visual aspect of the film, bringing life to Burton’s dark and mysterious world.

There is some fantastic casting within the film, especially Matt Lucas as Tweedledee and Tweedledum, and although the computer generated effects used to render the characters are impressive, I was left longing for the extravagant costumes that Burton fans are used to seeing in his earlier films - Beetlejuice and Edward Scissorhands come to mind. Despite this, we still see a glimpse of Burton’s once awe-inspiring creations with a number of weird creatures that inhabit Wonderland, as well as some suitably creepy decapitated heads that serve as stepping stones in a castle moat.

Putting aside a few moments that young children may find scary, this is definitely a family movie, with elements of humour clearly aimed at the younger audiences. One such moment comes near the end of the film when Johnny Depp displays his ‘funderwhacking’ abilities, and whilst that phrase may excite people who have yet to see the film, for me it merely conjures up a horrendous image that I would rather forget!

Most people will have high expectations of the film due to the calibre of actors and actresses involved but I have seen all of them in much better performances, apart from Barbara Windsor - it’s nice to not see her face for once, as Burton does not devote enough screen time to any one of the multitude of characters that inhabit Wonderland.

Although Alice is not a landmark film by any means, I cannot deny that I was soon absorbed in the story, despite its numerous flaws. If you do decide to head to the cinema, make sure you see it in 3-D, as this definitely played a big part in my enjoyment of the film. I doubt I would watch Alice in Wonderland again but would certainly recommend it for families and young children.


If you liked this film you will also enjoy these:

Laputa: Castle In The Sky
The Fall