31 December 2010

The Mad Prophet's Top 25 Films Of 2010- #25-11

In case videos and new-fangled technology drive you mad, I thought it prudent to reward people who like to read on this here blog. Or appease people who don't want to see my face at any given point. My face features copiously in the upcoming Top 10 video, and you'll have to watch it to find out which films made the cut, but this blog post has none. What this post does have is an extra 15 films. Don't think of them as runners-up so much as extra goodness that 2010 had to offer!

As I've explained in the past, this is based on movies released in the UK in 2010- I don't count The Princess and the Frog as a 2009 film, and Black Swan won't be released until 2011. More than that, this isn't an outright Best Of list as much as it is a Best Of list tempered by favouritism and how much I enjoyed them. My outright Best Of list would be something to discuss around Oscar time...

So out of the 150 new films I saw in 2010, here are my top 25, from the Worth Mentioning at #25 to the Missed It By That Much #11...

30 December 2010

Mini-Mad Prophecies- 2010 Wrap Up

It's still technically 2010 and there are a few films I haven't yet documented. Rather than do a load of longer posts today, I'm going to do what they do to Christmas presents on December 25th in Soviet Russia and wrap them all up. In just the one post. With the worst pun in the post already out of the way, let's get right into it.

27 December 2010

GULLIVER'S TRAVELS- Review

It's as bad as it looks. And worse.

Huh.

Sometimes I just...

Right, let's start with story, shall we? Theoretically, the story of Gulliver's Travels, created by Jonathan Swift to subtly satirise government and politics so as to avoid being executed for his views, is a travelogue by Lemuel Gulliver. Gulliver is shipwrecked in a country where the inhabitants are 1/12 of his height, and variously travels to several other weird and wonderful places as the narrative progresses and Swift's critiques of the established order are embellished.

In Gulliver's Travels, a film from the makers of Shrek and Monsters vs. Aliens, the tale is modernised to centre around Jack Black as the now more implausibly named Lemuel Gulliver, an dislikeable bumbag who is never going to get out of the rut of employment he's nestled into at the New York Tribune. After resorting to shameless measures with the travel editor to bag a writing assignment in the Bermuda Triangle, Gulliver winds up shipwrecked in Lilliput. And that's where any manner of faithfulness to the text ends.

22 December 2010

LITTLE FOCKERS- Review

In doing my reading around the film before I wrote this review of Little Fockers, I realised it's been six years since Meet the Fockers was released. I was much younger, and that film was quite funny, then. Now, it doesn't really hold up, and making me feel old just compounds the crimes of this worse sequel, in my view.

The Fockers of the title aren't that big a part of the plot, but they're Henry and Samantha Focker, the young twin children of Greg and Pam. With big plans for their upcoming fifth birthday celebration, Greg's father-in-law Jack Byrnes suffers a minor heart attack. His pride and legacy on the line, he begins training Greg to take over as the patriarch of the family in case Jack's heart condition should worsen. Does that sound funny? Hell, does it even sound like a narrative?

21 December 2010

CATFISH- Review

Yes, now more than ever, this review will be SPOILER FREE, so have no fear. Then again, it begs the question of why you'd be looking at a review of Catfish if you don't want to know anything about it.

If "the best Hitchcock film Hitchcock never directed" sounds like a ridiculous label to attach to Catfish, then you'd be right. Not because it's a bad film, but because it doesn't resemble a Hitchcock film in the slightest. It's essentially the second Facebook film of 2010, after The Social Network. Some think it's an actual documentary, some think it's fake, and people on both sides like or dislike it- some dislike and distrust it so much that they're suing the filmmakers for using their music without paying for clearance.

Basically, it's purported that filmmakers Ariel Schulman and Henry Joost started shooting Ariel's brother Nev's online relationship on camera after realising there could well be a story in it. Nev's a photographer who is in contact with a creative family, and he's grown particularly close to Megan, a young woman with whom he strikes up a romance on Facebook. Inconsistencies begin to appear with the whole Facebook family, and so the trio decide to travel across country to peek behind the veil.

17 December 2010

TRON: LEGACY- Review

There is actually a sequel to Tron. And it comes almost three decades after the release of the original. We are now in a realm where all things are possible, and there's nothing Grid-like about it. I saw Tron for the first time yesterday evening, right before catching a midnight screening of Tron: Legacy. I may profess myself disappointed by Tron, but believe me, it's got nothing on the sequel as a sheer letdown.

The sequel picks up with Kevin Flynn having taken his company Encom to its peak after the ending of the first film, but then he disappears, leaving his young son Sam behind, all alone. Flash forward two decades and Sam gets a message that suggests his father might still be around, living in the computerised world known as the Grid and working on a breakthrough that could change the course of human history. Sam ventures into the Grid, and finds his father in hiding from his own digital counterpart, Clu, who rules the state with a pixellated iron fist.

15 December 2010

Satan Claus- RARE EXPORTS Review

Has anybody noticed that Christmas films are now like the also-rans at the box office each December in the same way as a festive single will fall under the wheels of the X Factor winner's single in the race for Christmas number 1? Last year, the big draw was Avatar, leaving Robert Zemeckis' A Christmas Carol out in the cold. Then again, Zemeckis got the last bonafide Christmas hit at the cinema with The Polar Express at the end of 2004.

With Gulliver's Travels and Little Fockers looming hideously into sight in the next couple of weeks, I'm pleased to recommend the hidden festive gem of this year, Rare Exports, a Finnish horror thriller about a boy who still believes in Santa Claus. That is, the Santa Claus of Finnish folklore- an angry, naked old monster who prowls around punishing naughty children with death more than he rewards nice kids with presents. The boy's community of reindeer herders in Lapland manages to capture the monster when Santa's burial mound is unearthed by archaeologists, but Christmas is just around the corner...

13 December 2010

Go Somewhere Else- THE TOURIST Review

Writer-director Florian Henckel von Donnesmarck made his mark with 2007's The Lives of Others, which won the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film. That was an arresting thriller that utterly gripped me from start to finish and had me thinking about it for days afterwards. So fuck knows why he followed it up with a limp and forgettable beautiful people vehicle like The Tourist.

Our beautiful people are Angelina Jolie and Johnny Depp, and their characters become entwined in the midst of a stock romantic crime thriller plot. Jolie is Elise, the wife of a British tax fugitive who's wanted by both Scotland Yard and some pissed off gangsters. None of his pursuers know what he looks like after intelligence suggests he's had facial reconstruction surgery. To give them a false trail, Elise finds Frank, played by Depp, on a train to Venice, and pretends he is her wanted hubby.

10 December 2010

Voyage of the Dawn Treader- NARNIA 3 Review

Because sometimes, titles are just too damn long to name a film and do a clever pun as well. After being unceremoniously ditched by Disney, 20th Century Fox distributes Walden Media's third C.S. Lewis film, The Chronicles of Narnia- The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. With Peter and Susan all grown up, younger siblings Edmund and Lucy Pevensie take centre stage as they return to the magical world of Narnia.

Along with their odious cousin Eustace Scrubb, Edmund and Lucy are surprised to find they've been summoned to a peaceful Narnia. However, King Caspian soon has a mission for them, seeking out seven swords that must be laid at the mystical Jesus Lion Aslan's table in order to defeat a gathering evil. They travel the seas on the Dawn Treader, with each of our heroes being tested their enemies on the way.

9 December 2010

Mid-Class Crisis- ANOTHER YEAR Review

Looking through Mike Leigh's filmography, I haven't found a single thing I've seen. I've found a lot of films I want to see, like Topsy Turvy, Vera Drake and Happy-Go-Lucky, but I wouldn't think it unfair to say that Leigh doesn't reach a huge audience in terms of distribution. Not to dismiss anything just because I haven't seen any of his films, but because nobody has been telling me that I should have. Except for Another Year, which proves that Leigh can connect with audiences on a better level than mere cinema distribution.

Against the grain of most kitchen sink realist dramas, the central figures in Another Year are Tom and Gerri (geddit?), a perfectly happy middle-aged couple. He isn't cheating on her, she doesn't have any terminal disease- it's the people who surround the blissfully married pair that seem to have all the problems. The film takes place over four seasons, charting Tom and Gerri's interactions with their bachelor son Joe, alcoholic Ken and desperately lonely Mary.

8 December 2010

Ninjas. Damn! - THE WARRIOR'S WAY Review

We've been here before, last year with Blood: The Last Vampire, at the beginning of this year with Ninja Assassin, and now Hollywood once again takes a flying kick at integrating all that is awesome about martial arts cinema with The Warrior's Way. On the plus side, it's a Western!

Yang is our single Oriental protagonist this time around- a swordsman arriving in a derelict frontier town that used to be a successful circus. He carries a baby girl with him, the last survivor of an enemy clan that Yang otherwise slaughtered. Taking mercy on the child, he's hiding out in America, but his Sad Flute clan isn't best pleased that he has defied and deserted him. On top of everything else, the sadistic Colonel is coming back to the circus he destroyed several years prior, and a confrontation of epic proportions looks all but certain.

7 December 2010

Cold Snap- WINTER'S BONE Review

Winter's Bone is one of the Oscar darlings for this year, perhaps due to benefit from the Academy making up for lost ground, after their ignorance of The Road at the last ceremony. Both this and John Hillcoat's film are bleak, both films are acted very well, and yet one of them is somehow a lot more hopeful than the other.

It's about Ree, a headstrong young woman who lives in the Ozarks in Alabama, caring for her mentally ill mother and her two younger siblings in the absence of her delinquent father. Said daddy has jumped bail and put his only asset, the family home, up for his bond. This gives him a week to show up before his bondsman takes the house away. In the sparsely populated community, everyone is related by some way or another, and Ree begins a potentially deadly endeavour to find out which of her relatives knows the whereabouts of her father.

6 December 2010

There's Always One- MONSTERS Review

Remember how District 9 dazzled everybody last year to become the sleeper hit of the year? I also remember how inevitable it seemed that a weaker copycat film would shortly manifest itself. Monsters is not that film, despite what the deceptively similar marketing techniques might have you believe. Aside from not erring too close to Neill Blomkamp's film in content though, it's also not really anywhere near as good.

Writer-director Gareth Edwards paints the America of Monsters as a post-Cloverfield continent. Alien encounters have become a routine occurrence, six years after the destruction of a space probe brought tonnes of alien spores down to Earth in Central America. This led to everything in between the USA and Mexico being cordoned off as an infected zone, through which photojournalist Andrew must escort his boss' daughter Samantha.

3 December 2010

Never Mind- MEGAMIND Review

This year, Dreamworks has pumped out three animated films. Of Shrek Forever After, there's really nothing more to say than how samey it was, but the real triumph has been How To Train Your Dragon. The first outright excellent film to come from the company since Shrek, it probably would have won the Best Animated Picture Oscar away from Pixar if it had only come out in the year where they offered Cars 2 instead of the superb Toy Story 3. Somewhere in between Shrek and the dragons, falls Megamind.

The titular blue-bonced supervillain comes from the Superman origin story, jettisoned from an exploding galaxy to Earth by loving parents when he was just a baby. The same applies to his arch-nemesis Metroman, with whom he engages in elaborate battles. He never wins, except for the day that he accidentally does. With Metroman dead, Megamind reevaluates his career in evil and realises that something has to be done to restore the old status quo.

2 December 2010

Millennium Part 3- THE GIRL WHO KICKED THE HORNET'S NEST Review

The final part of the Millennium trilogy brought Lisbeth Salander's story to a close this week, in The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet's Nest. This review will be spoiler-free as far as this film is concerned, but it may contain minor spoilers for the first two instalments, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and The Girl Who Played With Fire.

Lisbeth is in hospital, there to go to police custody just as soon as she's recovered, to be tried for crimes she didn't commit. With the evidence he's gathered, Mikael Blomkvist sets about composing a shattering exposé of her treatment by the Swedish government. A dastardly covert group, the Section, is prepared to do anything to suppress the truth as the case heads for trial. This shit just got as real as it can get.

1 December 2010

Freeze In Hell, Batman- Why The Snow Leaves Me Cold

Oh, the weather outside is frightful, but the fire is so delightful. And since we've no place to go- fuck off, snow! Today is the day where snow becomes acceptable for 25 days, and just those 25 days, each year. If you've been following the Annual Snowpocalypse news coverage in the UK, you'll notice that the cold snap started in the dying days of November.

This, to me, constitutes Not Christmas Snow. It's not in December, so it's not acceptable. Moreover, it gets me thinking about snow scenes in films that aren't set at Christmas. Particularly this last Sunday, where I had to stay in and work all day, struggling to motivate myself to write as everybody else in the house drove me nuts. It's as close to being Jack Torrance as I ever want to get. Here are a few reasons why Not Christmas Snow leaves me cold...

30 November 2010

... and North of the Border- THE AMERICAN Review

It takes a special kind of actor to carry a film that's primarily a character study rather than a great story, and it seems from mainstream reviews that the jury's out on whether or not George Clooney manages it in The American. While most are highly complimentary of his performace, it's everything around him that seems more questionable.

Clooney plays Jack, an accomplished hitman who's about to retire because of a job that goes wrong in Sweden. Surprise surprise, his last assignment is not going to go exactly as planned. He holes up in the picturesque village of Castel del Monte and poses as a photographer as he gets on with the job- constructing a compact murder weapon for a fellow assassin. More prominently, Jack ends up having existential chats with the local priest and a passionate tryst with a prostitute. Told you it was more about him than about anything in particular...

29 November 2010

South of the Border... - MACHETE Review



Seen the above? That's as much fun as you can have with Machete. After the relative failure of the Planet Terror and Death Proof double bill grindhouse throwback, Robert Rodriguez returns to cod-exploitation with a feature length version of one of the fake trailers produced for the earlier films. Specifically, Machete- pronounced with a solid "ch" and not "sh". Ma-shete, Machete- let's call the whole thing off.

The plot is much as it appears in the trailer. They fuck with the wrong Mexican when They frame ex-federale Machete for an assassination attempt on a senator with a hard line on immigration. For the feature length version, Rodriguez contrives that They are on the senator's own staff, plotting to start a war between America and Mexican illegal immigrants. At what point in the trailer above did you find yourself looking forward to the social subtext to be had in a film called Machete?

26 November 2010

Dyer Circumstances- LONDON BOULEVARD Review

Off the back of such screenwriting successes as Kingdom of Heaven and The Departed, the latter of which won him an Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay, William Monahan makes his directorial debut with London Boulevard. To say it's a letdown is understating it- if it weren't for Monahan's name, and the cast that he attracted, this would be a Danny Dyer film.

Colin Farrell stars as Mitchell, a gangster who's just served time in Pentonville prison. Upon his release, he's determined to go straight. A veritable clusterfuck of complications get in the way of this, including the murder of his homeless best mate, a feud with a big-fish gangster called Gant and the various troubles of his alcoholic sister. All of this conflicts with his new job as security for Charlotte, a reclusive starlet who has the paparazzi after her.

24 November 2010

The Railway Bastard- UNSTOPPABLE Review

Last week, I likened the writers and director of The Tournament to action maestro Tony Scott. The comparison was meant as a compliment, given how they showed the same technical flair in their very first film, bolstered by hunger for the craft, that so often goes to waste now that Scott himself is at such an advanced stage of his directorial career. Right on time, Unstoppable rolls into the station to show once again how he's really just working on auto-pilot.

On his first day at work, conductor Will is paired with veteran engineer Frank and sent out onto the rails. Coincidentally, today is the day that an unmanned freight train carrying gallons upon gallons of molten phenol, (which might as well be labelled "Chemical X") pounds its way along at over 70mph into a population centre in Pennsylvania, where it will surely cause a terrible disaster. Frank has some ideas about how to stop this railed behemoth, and the two mismatched men must work together to avert railway-related catastrophe.

22 November 2010

Joaquin Away- I'M STILL HERE Review

You're all going to see Harry Potter this week, right? There's not a lot else out, so we're once again left to look back at 2010's other releases. One I've been meaning to catch up with for a while is I'm Still Here, the Casey Affleck mockumentary about his brother-in-law Joaquin Phoenix, who's had a funny old year.

As we find him at the beginning of the film, poor old Joaquin is frustrated with the acting profession, an unhappiness seemingly borne out of jealousy over more successful actors of his generation, as he frequently mentions Leonardo DiCaprio and Tobey Maguire. So he dons a pair of sunglasses, grows a beard and announces he's packing it all in to start a hip hop career. All of this really happened, but as we now know, none of it really happened.

19 November 2010

HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS PART 1- Review

This review is spoiler-free as far as Deathly Hallows goes, but may contain spoilers for the previous six films.

At the top, I'm going to say this. I disagree with the decision to break up Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows into two films. The major achievement of David Yates' contributions to the series is the sense of vitality in his films, making one of the better, shorter films out of the weakest and longest book, The Order of the Phoenix. However, I will also say that for a bad idea, this is the best film it could possibly be.

So in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows... sigh... Part 1, Harry, Ron and Hermione are left to their dangerous quest. Fragments of Lord Voldemort's soul are secreted within four Horcruxes, seemingly inconspicuous objects that must be located and destroyed. As his Death Eaters overtake the Ministry and impose a dictatorship, Voldemort pledges that he will kill Harry personally. Harry and his friends have never been more alone.

17 November 2010

Something Boro-ed- THE TOURNAMENT Review

It's taken me a while to get to this one, having first heard about it three years ago. As opinionated as I am on the subject of films, and as eager as I am to try and make films or watch people from the area make films, I was always going to get around to the Middlesbrough-set action thriller The Tournament.

As you might suspect, it's about a tournament. To wit, a tournament in which the world's greatest assassins compete to be the last man standing, earning the distinction of being the world's single greatest assassin and winning a $10 million prize. This contest descends on an out-of-the-way town or city, once every seven years, and now it's Middlesbrough's turn. The contestants include a nutty Texan killer, a vengeful former winner, a hit-lady with a secret, and quite unwittingly, an alcoholic priest who's never resorted to violence in his life.

15 November 2010

Attack of the 50ft Whatever- SKYLINE Review

A year ago this week, or close enough, we were treated to Roland Emmerich's rendition of the apocalypse in disaster movie 2012. In its place this year, we get another disaster movie that explores global catastrophe by more ostensible causes, a low-budget alien invasion flick called Skyline. It seems only fair in the aftermath of seeing the things to level people's expectations- those great ads and trailers you've seen don't mention that it's a film from the directors of AVPR- Aliens vs. Predator Requiem.

Letting bygones be bygones though, Skyline presents us with Jarrod, a man who flies out to LA with his pregnant girlfriend, to reunite with his rich best friend in his swanky apartment. But wouldn't you know it- aliens arrive on Earth that very night. Abduction seems to be the name of the game with countless humans being hoovered into collossal spaceships in a bright blue light that no one seems able to resist. The visitors scour the city for resistance, but for Jarrod, the survival of his family is paramount.

12 November 2010

Films Of The Weak Week!

Disclaimer- this post is not as much about Kat Dennings as it appears.
Ultra Culture makes a fine point. This week is really weak for new releases. Next week's three posts on this blog will look like this- Skyline, The Tournament, Harry Potter, and only one of those actually hits cinemas in wide release today. I also haven't had time for a trip to the always reliable Tyneside Cinema to see some of the limited releases I haven't got around to yet. What to do when I havent seen Another Year?

Never fear! Believe it or not, there are a couple of films from 2010 I haven't yet reviewed! Sifting through my LoveFilm rentals from the last couple of months, I've picked out a few films I either came to later than expected or simply neglected to review until now. They're still uber-exciting though. Sandra Bullock wins an Oscar! Demons stalk a Faustian surrogate in London! Kat Dennings is adorable! Read on for all of this and more...

10 November 2010

Plain Trains and Automobiles- DUE DATE Review

At what point does something shift from being a loving homage or a "thematic remake" to being an all-out rip-off? The answer is probably to be found somewhere to be found between the greenlighting of Due Date and its arrival in cinemas this week. In almost every respect, I preferred it when it was called Planes, Trains and Automobiles.

A hectored businessman is travelling home and ends up stuck with a loveable buffoon who gets him in and out of all kinds of scrapes. The basic skeleton is the same, and there's not a lot of meat on the bones- the businessman is Peter Highman, whose wife is giving birth to their first child at the end of the week. An altercation with Ethan Tremblay, the buffoon, gets him on the no-fly list, and the two of them cross America together before the arrival of Peter's first-born.

8 November 2010

A few thoughts on JACKASS 3D

Warning: this is categorically not a review. Whatever you and your dumb little buddies might have expected I would say about Jackass 3D is probably incorrect, because I thought it was brilliant. At the same time, it's a film that utterly defies criticism, even postive criticism.

The awful joke I was waiting to bust out for six months was related to how my mates haven't seen Jackass Number Two, and I was fretting over how they'd follow the storyline. Boom boom. The order of business is exactly the same, except this time, Johnny Knoxville, Steve-O and co. are pushing the boundaries with their cinematography, and ultimately making the best "Real-D" 3D experience to date.

5 November 2010

Sweded- LET ME IN Review

Took me a whole hour to come up with that pun! Awesome, isn't it? You see, on many levels, that's what Let Me In is. It's a Be Kind Rewind rendition of the much acclaimed Swedish vampire film, Let The Right One In, on a bigger budget. As remakes go, it's playing it safer than any of them in recent memory, perhaps since Gus Van Sant's Psycho, to which the only notable addition was a scene with Vince Vaughn masturbating. But I digress.

The story is the same, but with the characters' names changed to protect the identity of the original film. In New Mexico in the 1980s, Owen is a 12 year old boy who's being tormented by his classmates. Stuck in a state of inaction and terror, he's galvanised slightly by the arrival of Abby, a girl who moves in next door. Abby helps Owen to stand up for himself while at the same time revealing part of her terrible secret- ABBY'S A VAMPIRE! EVERYBODY COME AND SEE THIS VAMPIRE FILM!

3 November 2010

Inglorious Baster- THE KIDS ARE ALL RIGHT Review

As a new day dawns after Halloween night, we find ourselves firmly on the road to awards season. The Weinsteins are rubbing their palms together in anticipation and everyone and their mother is trying to look worthy of Oscar glory. In the running for the gold, there's always an indie darling that becomes a favourite before the nominations are announced, and this year's very own Little Miss Sunshine is arguably The Kids Are All Right.

The titular kids are the two children of happily married lesbian couple Jules and Nic. When their eldest reaches her 18th birthday, her younger brother asks that she use her newly grown-up status to put him in contact with the sperm donor who fathered both of them. Their search leads them to Paul, an organic produce restaurateur who comes into their lives at the same time as their parents are on the cusp of a rough patch.

1 November 2010

Halloween at Writers' Block North East

I'm in the unusual position of having reviewed all of last week's new releases last week, with the exception of The Kids Are All Right (come back on Wednesday or go over to Den of Geek around about... now), so it's as good a time as any to talk about the work of Writers' Block North East.

For Halloween last night, they held their monthly(ish) film discussion group, and in a makeshift and very off-hand kind of way, I programmed the double bill horror screening. I rave about films on here and how they need to be better, so it obviously had to be something from the paragon of great horror movies. Did I pair Onibaba and The Haunting? Or go for a John Carpenter twofer with The Thing and Halloween? Fuck no, I plumped for Trick 'r' Treat and Burning Bright.

29 October 2010

Game Over- SAW 3D Review

Yeah, it's Saw VII. I might charitably call it Saw VII 3D, but it's certainly not Saw 3D. Hey, after the week I've had over on Den of Geek, doing Saw week, I think I'm allowed to call it whatever I want. Assuming of course that this film is as inaccessible as any deeply story-driven gory soap opera that you enter at the seventh instance, you might want to catch up with my brief summations of the first six films in this blog post from last year, if you don't have time to read through my lengthier Den of Geek critiques.

Righto then, Saw VII. Jigsaw's long-suffering ex Jill Tuck is immediately seen forsaking all badassery she mustered at the end of the last film by running away like a wuss when she sees demented bumbler Hoffman survive the reverse bear trap she put him in. Aiming to broker a deal for her release to his vengeance, Hoffman wreaks citywide mayhem with the traps and games, encompassing the already under-resourced police as well as a self-help guru who claims to have survived one of the Jigsaw tests.

28 October 2010

Tossing The Macabre- BURKE & HARE Review

The sheer weight of talent involved in Burke & Hare should be enough to secure its status as one of the must-see films of the year. Starring Simon Pegg, Andy Serkis, Jessica Hynes, Isla Fisher, Tom Wilkinson and Ronnie Corbett, it's a horror comedy from An American Werewolf in London director John Landis. Trouble is, it's rooted in history.

It's basically a macabre spin on the West Port murders, perpetrated by William Burke and William Hare in the 1820s. As the film has it, Burke and Hare are confidence tricksters who get lucky when their elderly lodger expires. They lose the rent money he was paying them, but find a lucrative line of business in body-snatching on behalf of Edinburgh University's anatomy department. When demand exceeds supply, the pair turn to a life of crime to create stock...

27 October 2010

RED (Review= Easily Dismissed)

Every now and then, an otherwise "prestige" actor will do the kind of action flick they would never normally bother with, to help pay the bills. John Malkovich did Jonah Hex, Helen Mirren was in National Treasure 2 and Morgan Freeman had more success with Wanted. Now that Bruce Willis has suddenly become an old guy in the estimation of someone or other at the studio, he teams up with these three for another "team" action movie, RED.

These initials stand for "Retired and Extremely Dangerous", the CIA's tag for its old alumni. Frank Moses is one of these men, and when he entertains a squad of assassins in his home late one evening, he goes on the road to find out why his former employers want him dead. He recruits three R.E.D colleagues and a call centre worker who's also got a hit out on her due to her connection with Moses.

26 October 2010

To Good Hughes- EASY A Review

Emma Stone's star has been on the rise for a while now, and as with Andrew Garfield, it's almost a shame to see her get caught in the web of the Spider-Man reboot, from which less interesting career moves can invariably occur. Before she takes a run at Gwen Stacy however, we have Easy A, which is a transparent attempt to launch her as a big name. It works. It's also a very good film.

It's Olive's story, and she's largely unnoticed in high-school. That firmly places this film on a strange planet where looking as gorgeous as Emma Stone makes you dowdy and invisible. In a departure from high-school movie tropes, however, we get a study of gender inequality as Olive suddenly becomes the subject of a school-wide scandal after pretending to have lost her virginity. Rumours of her promiscuity become inflated beyond all recognition when she lends the really hopeless guys in her class some kudos by pretending to have slept with them too.

25 October 2010

The Stoner's Van- LEGEND OF THE GUARDIANS Review

Enough time spent watching a nature channel like Discovery or Animal Planet will show you that there's far more to owls than the plushy-friendly post carriers they're depicted as in Harry Potter. They're vicious flying bastards who rain death down on any number of smaller animals. Zack Snyder's reclaiming their fearsome image with Legend of the Guardians- The Owls of Ga'Hoole.

It seems to be set in a world where owls are the dominant species instead of humans, with dynamics reminiscent of Watership Down or The Secret of NIMH. Our hero is Soren, an earnest young owl who's grown up with bedtime stories about the Guardians, the bold owl warriors who protect the world. His belief is put to the ultimate test when he and his brother Kludd are abducted and forced into an owlish brand of child soldiery by the self-proclaimed Pure Ones. It's down to Soren to find and alert the Guardians to the plight of owlkind.

22 October 2010

PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 2- Spoiler Review

This review contains SPOILERS. These are my thoughts, post-viewing, to be read after seeing Paranormal Activity 2 in cinemas. My spoiler-free review can be found on Den of Geek.

The Paranormal Activity phenomenon passed me by last year, as you might have noticed. I caught the first film on DVD last weekend and was stubbornly refusing to see the sequel in the cinema for reasons that shall become apparent. The first film is fine, for what it is. The pacing is languid because it's posing as the relation of relevant events in a haunting/homicide, but it was engaging enough to keep me watching even though not much was happening.

As you'll have gathered, I have now seen Paranormal Activity 2.

21 October 2010

Being Of Unsound Mind- LIFE AS WE KNOW IT Review

"WAAAAAAH." (attribute needed)
Katherine Heigl hasn't done herself any favours with her acting career. After lambasting the writers who made her a star with Knocked Up, she's gone on to become typecast in romcoms as an anal, shrewish single woman who's dependent on finding a man for happiness. Guess what? Life as We Know It is another Heigl film about an anal, shrewish single woman, the dickhead with whom she's forced into an uneasy emotional entente, and her insane late friends.

We meet Holly and Masser on a disastrous first date- there's no way in a million years that they should ever be together, but they're in a romantic comedy, so I guess we'll see how that pans out. Their only real connection to one another is that they're mutually friends with blissful new parents Peter and Alison, who die in a car accident and orphan their one-year-old daughter Sophie. Funny, right? Well, the wacky part is this- they bequeathed the custody of Sophie to their two hateful buddies, together. Uh ohhhh!

20 October 2010

Never Say Nice Again- MR. NICE Review

One of the many ways in which The Social Network affected me was in re-evaluating my stance on biopics. Mark Zuckerburg has publicly (and understandably) protested about the way he's represented in the film, but it's clear that the filmmakers got the most drama out of adapting from a source that was at least a little spurious. The alternative is making a film like The Runaways or some other musician biopic that subsists on cliches rather than telling a satisfying story.

Somewhere in between lies Mr. Nice, a film based on the life of affable drug smuggler Howard Marks, whose extraordinary life story is translated here from Marks' own shaggy-dog autobiography. Arriving in Oxford from a tiny Welsh village where there are more coal mines than schools, Howard discovers the joys of hashish. When he realises that his job prospects aren't great even with the boon of a degree, he's drawn into smuggling drugs, and so begins a prolific criminal career that makes him into a celebrity.

18 October 2010

Deja Gru- DESPICABLE ME Review

The autumn half term is fast approaching, and as The Film Distributors Association points out before every film you see in the cinema, there are some family films incoming. One of the most promising is Despicable Me, despite how its plot is basically identical to Megamind. It's proven a big hit in the States, and it arrives in the UK with Universal trying to consolidate the foundations of their new animation studio.

It's all about Gru, a supervillain who has fallen behind as he's grown older, and younger, more eager rogues jump into the fray. With an army of genetically engineered chattering yellow Minions, Gru launches his greatest plan yet- to steal the Moon and hold it to ransom. To achieve this, he has to best his rival, Vector, and plans to do so by adopting three young orphaned girls to work undercover.

15 October 2010

Add, Poke, Like- THE SOCIAL NETWORK Review

I've seen 107 new films in 2010 so far. There's been good, there's been bad and there's been Vampires Suck, under which we shall now draw a line. There are more positive things to talk about, because watching The Social Network's neat two hour runtime, I was immediately considering where I would place it in my top ten favourite films of the year.

As you might have heard, it's "the Facebook movie", but crucially, it's not about Facebook. It's about Mark Zuckerburg, a devastatingly intelligent computing student at Harvard who tries to get around his social ineptitude by creating what develops into Facebook, putting the social experience in an arena where he's more comfortable. As Facebook becomes a phenomenon, Zuckerburg encounters the legal and personal implications of his masterwork.

14 October 2010

The Quickening- VAMPIRES SUCK

UPDATE: You can read my more discursive and rational review of this film on Den of Geek.

Masters of un-funny Aaron Seltzer and Jason Friedberg set their sights on Twilight with Vampires Suck, their latest so-called comedy. Becca Crane moves to the sleepy town of Sporks and finds herself torn between two men- sparkling vampire Edward, whose commitment issues stem from his bloodsucking family trying to eat his prospective girlfriends, and his dogged rival for her affections, Jacob. Hilarity ensues on a rollercoaster through pop-culture and teenage vampire relationships.

Oh, I should probably mention at this point in the review that Vampires Suck is utter dog shit. Surprise!

13 October 2010

The Eager Have Landed- JACKBOOTS ON WHITEHALL Review

The latest development in my ongoing mission to finally see all the films I wanted to see at this year's Edinburgh Film Festival took me to a Nazi-occupied Britain, and Jackboots on Whitehall. It's been quite dangerously compared to Team America- World Police, an action movie parody with puppets that was so on the nose that Michael Bay's face has never looked the same since.

In an alternate history where the Dunkirk landings were a colossal failure, the German invasion of Britain is imminent, led by the not-yet-exploded Hindenburg. A plucky farm boy called Chris leads the charge from a small village in Kent to Downing Street, where he helps rescue a belligerent Winston Churchill from the invaders. He and his rag-tag resistance decamp to Scotland, to fight against Hitler in the final battle for England.

12 October 2010

Insert Gag Here- TAKERS Review

Getting to number one at the US box office isn't always a badge of honour. Making the top spot in the dying days of August, heist flick Takers isn't likely to have left an impression on many. I'd forgive you for having seen it on release and forgotten about it already, cos I'm having to strain to remember it from yesterday.

As far as I can surmise, the film is about a crew of professional bank robbers whose meticulous planning and scheduling is thrown into the disarray by the return of an old member of the gang. Ghost has just been released from prison after being caught on the job and left behind by his friends, and he comes to the gang with a heist plan, but can they trust him? Well, what do you think?

11 October 2010

The Mad Prophet #100 (Kind Of)

This is as close to celebratory as I get.
I've been keeping count even after I axed the numbering in the titles, and by my reckoning, this is the 100th post since I stole adopted Howard Beale's moniker back in August last year. Some of you may not have been reading that long, but some may have been around since the very first post at this blog, my review of The Dark Knight over two years ago now... what do you want, a cookie?

Things have changed- I've found a rhythm and settled into it, kind of. Posting remains sporadic, opinions remain ranty and "Mark Kermode" is still the reason most of you found this site, according to my search stats. In the shadow of his flappy hands, I still stand, and so it's difficult to know how to commemorate 100 Mad Prophet posts. And then I realised a list would probably do it.

In 100 posts as the Mad Prophet, I've never actually told you what my favourite films of all time are. I've mentioned one or two here and there, but having not seen every single film ever made, I've been reluctant to share my own worthless ramblings about my personal favourites. But hey, you're here for the ramblings, so here are my top ten favourite films ever.

8 October 2010

The Gummy Shark- WALL STREET 2 Review

23 years later, with the market in an entirely different state to the market he lambasted with Wall Street, what else would Oliver Stone do but revisit one of his most acclaimed and memorable films with a terribly titled sequel. Yes, it's really called Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps, and there's really no relevance to that except for the obligatory Title Drop and a tenuous reference to a less memorable line from the first film. Moving on.

Jake Moore is an up and coming Wall Street broker who works for Keller Zabel Investments, a bank that goes down the tube in the onset of the recession. For complicated wibbly-wobbly financial reasons, Jake blames his boss and mentor's subsequent suicide on bastardly hedge fund manager Bretton James. Coincidentally, Jake's future father-in-law is none other than Gordon Gekko, who's back on his feet after a long stretch in jail for insider trading and wants to rebuild his relationship with his daughter in exchange for helping Jake exact revenge.

4 October 2010

Marx and Spencer- MADE IN DAGENHAM Review

There's a faint echo of Richard Curtis about the much acclaimed new British comedy drama Made in Dagenham, which tells the true story of 187 female machinists at the Ford production plant in Dagenham who went on strike in 1968. Graded as "unskilled" by the penny pinching higher-uppers, their dispute became a national petition for equal pay for women.

The girls in the Dagenham plant rally around Rita O'Grady, a housewife who's picked out by kindly union rep Alfred to lead her colleagues. On the troubled road to reform, Rita finds her capabilities stretched to the limit, or so we're meant to think. This, for me, was part of why I didn't quite like Made in Dagenham as much as the ardent fans it's already collecting- the crusade for equal pay was a momentous development in British social justice, but it really doesn't carry any heft here.

30 September 2010

Outside The Box- BURIED Review

Buried is one of those films that's basically sold as seen- it's about a bloke who gets buried alive. Specifically, the bloke is Paul Conroy, a contracted truck driver who wakes up six feet under in a coffin. At his disposal, he has a zippo lighter, a mobile phone and numerous other scant resources provided by his captor, but most pressingly, he has little hope of being found and rescued.

Oh, and at the very top, I'm going to say that it's an arthouse horror film that has been sold far too well. It attracted tonnes of patrons to the screening I saw- patrons who laughed at inappropriate moments, texted and browsed the internet on their phone and generally made total twats of themselves. I rarely get this kind of experience in cinemas in spite of how often I go, and I was absolutely livid when I came out of the screening. But is Buried a good film? Fuck yes.

27 September 2010

Jerk Offed- WORLD'S GREATEST DAD Review

In case you didn't spot it two weeks ago, I mentioned that I wouldn't review Cyrus because it was too slight to write about, and too much an attempt to take mumblecore into the mainstream, precisely the place where it doesn't belong, and not enough of an actual film. So it was pleasing to see World's Greatest Dad this week, the kind of thing Cyrus was striving to be all along.

The titular dad is Lance Clayton, a teacher and aspiring novelist whose 15-year-old son Kyle is an antagonistic and thoroughly hateful little shit. He spends all day masturbating in his room and treating his father and everyone else like crap. When he dies while experimenting with autoerotic asphyxiation, Lance works through his grief by retroactively rationalising his son's behaviour with a fake suicide note, which captures the imagination of his students and peers.

24 September 2010

Visit Boston! - THE TOWN Review

Hiding under the yoke of an entirely innocuous title, The Town is Ben Affleck's second directorial effort after the superb Gone Baby Gone. It's about a gang of highly skilled and meticulous thieves in Charlestown, Boston- an area that we're told has produced more bank robbers and car thieves than anywhere else on the planet.

When the clean-up of a bank robbery gets messy, Doug, the brains of the operation, forges a relationship with Claire, the bank manager they took hostage. Claire is unaware of their connection to each other, but dogged FBI agent Frawley is doing his utmost to find any evidence to incriminate the gang and send them to prison for life.

23 September 2010

And That's Funny, Right?!- THE OTHER GUYS Review

Did you lose your job during the recession? Has your credit rating plummeted? Then you know there has to be comedy in that, right? Right?! This is the pandering central conceit of The Other Guys, from the creative team behind Anchorman. After a blistering action-packed opening starring Samuel L. Jackson and Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, we're introduced to the titular other guys, played by Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg.

Pen-pusher Allen Gamble and disgraced detective Terry Hoitz get their big chance to go up in the world when they stumble upon evidence of a Ponzi scheme orchestrated by a devious CEO. Working around the fact that they're utterly incompetent and have to have their balls busted every other day by their long-suffering boss, they go on a journey of... oh, look, it's just a buddy cop comedy, right?

22 September 2010

You Know, For Kids! - THE HOLE 3D Review

Joe Dante, he of Gremlins and Small Soldiers fame, is pretty much the reigning king of this kind of movie, mostly because no one's made an effort to take his crown since he last made a family-oriented horror film. And in The Hole, we finally have someone using irksome technology in a really appealing way, to tell a really compelling story.

That story involves Lucas and Dane, two brothers who move into a new house with their mother, only to find a trapdoor in their basement that seemingly leads to a bottomless pit. Along with girl-next-door Julie, their natural first response is to goof around with it. But the abyss also gazes and puts the kids up against their worst fears as it tries to claim each of them.

21 September 2010

Millennium Part 2- THE GIRL WHO PLAYED WITH FIRE Review

I finally caught up with the second part of the Millennium trilogy in cinemas after a few near-misses on my trips to the Tyneside Cinema. It eventually came to the local Cineworld, which was a nice change. The Girl Who Played With Fire, for those who don't know, is the sequel to The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, which I reviewed here earlier this year.

A year on from the Vanger case, Lisbeth Salander returns to Stockholm from travelling the world, and is promptly framed for a triple murder. She becomes the subject of a national manhunt, and one of the few who believes in her innocence is Blomkvist. He also believes the murders to be connected to a sex trafficking ring Millennium was about to expose, and tries to re-establish contact with Lisbeth as he investigates.

20 September 2010

Going Down- DEVIL Review

Devil is the first of "The Night Chronicles", three stories conceived by the ever-disintegrating M. Night Shyamalan and then bequeathed to up and coming horror writers/directors. This one opens on a suicide, and according to religious lore, this is an event that gives the Devil a portal into human form, to hunt for the damned who have escaped him.

At some point or another, his host enters a skyscraper and hops into an elevator, which promptly breaks down and traps five people inside. A salesman, a security guard, an old lady, a socialite and a mechanic are stuck with each other- but while they all seem destined for Hell, which of them is the Devil in disguise?