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.