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.