31 March 2011

FASTER- Review

The tagline for Faster goes a little like this- "Justice is swift. Vengeance is faster." If anything, that serves to remind me of the episode of The Simpsons where Homer changes his name and duly informs his kids that there are three ways to do things- the right way, the wrong way, and the Max Power way", the latter being the same as the wrong way, "but faster."

The plot itself does little to dispel any expectations you might have going in. Dwayne Johnson plays Driver, a man who gets out of prison for good behaviour and promptly goes on a killing spree. Driver wants revenge on the men who ambushed and murdered his brother's gang a decade earlier, and he'll stop at nothing, not even the best efforts of the cop or the contract killer who have each separately been tasked with stopping him.

29 March 2011

WAKE WOOD- Review

It turns out that the third time is the charm for the reinvigorated Hammer studios. After the commercially disappointing Let Me In and all-around disappointment The Resident, the studio blasts back with the kind of film only they used to make, and it's a pretty gripping horror flick.

Wake Wood is the name of a rural township, and Patrick and Louise are a bereaved couple who relocate there after being struck by tragedy. Their young daughter was killed, and their marriage has suffered from their collective grief. But Rabbit Hole it ain't, because Wake Wood has a secret. Through a dark ritual, the town elects to help out Patrick and Louise, but it means meddling in forces that soon spiral out of their control.

28 March 2011

THE EAGLE- Review

It's coming up on a year since I saw Neil Marshall's Centurion, at a 10.55pm screening in the week after it was released. I vividly remember it had been a long day and I was tired, but also that Marshall's film kept me rapt for the entire time it was on, with its absolutely breathless forward thrust. I remember it especially vividly now, in the week that I fell asleep at a 3.25pm screening of The Eagle.

Covering the Ninth Legion once again, but picking up several years after the failed mission into Northern Britain, Marcus Aquila is a young and strong-willed Roman soldier whose father was the commander of the doomed Ninth Legion. After Marcus is injured in battle and discharged from the army, he decides to mount a mission to retrieve the bronze eagle standard that his father carried, the symbol of his family's pride and honour. With a slave called Esca at his side, he travels beyond Hadrian's Wall, or, as the Romans see it, the end of the world.

25 March 2011

LIMITLESS- Review

After the last few weeks of bombardment from Battle Los Angeles and No Strings Attached, a quick fix of intelligence sounds just as appealing to me as it does to Bradley Cooper's character in the new sci-fi thriller Limitless. Chuck in the fact that he's a struggling writer who quickly gets stressed out when more stuff comes into his life, and it could have been made for me.

Eddie is our hero's name, and it's purely by chance that he's fixed up with an experimental drug called NZT, by his scummy ex-brother-in-law. NZT is a transparent tablet, about the size of an aspirin, but its consumption stimulates the receptors of the human brain and boosts the body's access to its potential. Eddie begins quaffing pills right away, little realising the price of his newfound intelligence.

24 March 2011

NORWEGIAN WOOD- Review

The showing of Submarine I reviewed yesterday was immediately preceded by a much less warm and fuzzy sermon on teenage angst, Norwegian Wood. It wasn't my idea to go and see this, but Rob Simpson's, and seeing as how there were a few hours to kill before Submarine, I thought I'd go along. I didn't know it'd be quite so heavy-going, but typically, I eventually had more time for it than Rob did.

If you do copy this plan and see this in a double bill with Submarine, make sure the happy one goes after, because Norwegian Wood is based on Haruki Murakami's novel about teenage anguish and suicide. Watanabe is a college student at a time of tumultuous student protests against the establishment. After his best friend Kizuki kills himself, a chance meeting with Kizuki's ex-girlfriend leads to a volatile relationship, and ultimately towards impending tragedy.

23 March 2011

SUBMARINE- Review

Occasionally, a director makes a feature debut with astonishing hype and anticipation around it, and that's the case with Richard Ayoade's first film, Submarine. I've been no different, even though I was more trepidatious than most. I don't like mumblecore much, and while the trailer was amazing, it made the film look a little mumbly to me. So I approached it with anticipation and wariness together, like I was trying to have sex with a shark.

In the vein of recent film depictions of Mark Zuckerburg and Scott Pilgrim, Oliver Tate is a young man with no perspective of the world in any terms that do not involve himself. He elevates himself in his own estimation by imagining the film of his life in a small Welsh town, as a biopic of a prominent thinker. The Herculean tasks of his adolescence are twofold- to prevent his mother leaving his father for a self-help guru, and to woo Jordana, a tomboy who likes to set fire to things, into bed.

22 March 2011

The Cinema of Attraction

One of the pitfalls of reviewing movies is that even someone like Michael Bay or Allan Loeb can turn around and appear to dismiss any and all criticism of their awful shit by simply asking the reviewer if they've done any better. So Roger Ebert went and made Beyond the Valley of the Dolls, and more recently, Mark Cousins gave us the documentary The First Movie.

Those guys are proper film critics, and I am decidedly not. If anything, I want to be a screenwriter myself one day, and hopefully avoid doing any of the rubbish things I've criticised in the time I've been reviewing films on this here blog. But it's still with some trepidation that I give you my first short film as a director, The Cinema of Attraction, which you can see after the jump.

21 March 2011

THE LINCOLN LAWYER- Review

Most cineastes would probably confess to having a slightly troubled relationship with Matthew McConaughey and the films he makes. His filmography includes leading roles in such stinkers as Sahara, Fool's Gold and Failure to Launch. The Lincoln Lawyer marks the first time in living memory that I have enjoyed McConaughey in a movie.

He plays Mick Haller, a lawyer who has recently regained his licence and operates from his mobile office, a chauffeured Lincoln. He's used to representing guilty clients, and with his easy charisma and fast-spoken know-how, he has become very very good at getting them acquitted in court. He encounters something of a crisis when he is retained by Louis Roulet, a rich estate agent who is facing charges of attempting to murder a prostitute and insists upon his innocence even in spite of the privilege of lawyer-client confidentiality. Louis is not what he seems, and for once, Haller might be in over his head.

18 March 2011

BlogalongaBond- GOLDFINGER Review

In many ways, this is the biggie. The really, properly iconic film of the Bond series, which has garnered the most intertextual hat-tippings in popular culture and marks a pivotal turning point for the entire franchise. It's a move away from the political intrigue and relatively grounded approach of the previous films, and it's called Goldfinger.

Auric Goldfinger is an unscrupulous gold magnate obsessed with both the precious metal for which he's named, and winning in his every pursuit. Somehow, he has difficulty with killing James Bond, the most obstinate obstacle to his success, when our hero is assigned to observe him and eventually, to stop his audacious plans for Fort Knox, the home of the largest US gold supply in the world.

14 March 2011

BATTLE LOS ANGELES- Review

The makers of Battle Los Angeles have intimated that the Brothers Strause, the directors of Skyline, bailed out of their jobs as special effects artists on this one to make that one. It's an interesting story if true, but now that Battle Los Angeles has been released, it reveals that it is in fact on quite shaky litigious grounds. Skyline might be a little bit like Battle Los Angeles, but then Battle Los Angeles is a lot like many other films.

Aaron Eckhart plays Staff Sgt. Nantz, a Marine who's just handed in his resignation after 20 years of service and has a bad reputation after his last tour of Iraq went badly wrong. Before Nantz can say his goodbyes, however, a meteor shower in close proximity to the coast of Los Angeles prompts a military evacuation of the city, and he's drafted in to help out. But similar meteor showers have occurred all over the world, and it soon transpires that the meteors are cover for an invasion of Earth.

11 March 2011

RUBBER- Review

"In the Steven Spielberg movie E.T., why is the alien brown? No reason. In Love Story, why do the two characters fall madly in love with each other? No reason. In Oliver Stone's JFK, why is the President suddenly assassinated by some stranger? No reason. In the excellent Chain Saw Massacre by Tobe Hooper, why don't we ever see the characters go to the bathroom, or wash their hands, like people do in real life? Absolutely no reason. Worse, in The Pianist, by Polanski, how come this guy has to hide, and live like a bum, when he plays the piano so well? Once again, the answer is "no reason". I could go on for hours with more examples, the list is endless. You probably never gave it a thought, but all great films, without exception, contain an important element of no reason. And you know why? Because life itself is filled with no reason."

Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the weird world of Rubber.

9 March 2011

THE ADJUSTMENT BUREAU- Review

In the echelons of inaccurate pull-quotes, there shall be a special place for the Total Film assessment of the snappily titled sci-fi romance, The Adjustment Bureau, which appears on the poster and in many of the TV spots. Total Film called it "Bourne Meets Inception", when it's not really like either of those things, but hey, we're in a week where everything is "Bourne Meets" something or other.

So, what The Adjustment Bureau is really like is the Phillip K. Dick story from which it was inspired. David is a Congressman who looks set for a meteoric rise in the world of politics. He has a chance encounter with a dancer called Elise, and he's instantly smitten. However, when he meets her again a short while later, a powerful force interferes. A bureau of men in hats and suits posit that David and Elise were never meant to meet again, and they try their utmost to rectify the course of the plan that is rapidly unravelling as this couple fall deeper and deeper in love.

7 March 2011

RANGO- Review

After three Pirates of the Caribbean films, you could be forgiven for feeling all Gore Verbinski-ed out. It's the surreal tendences of At World's End, which were totally out of place in that film, that the director leans towards with much greater success in his new animated spaghetti Western, Rango. He reunites with Johnny Depp to do... well, something strange.

Our hero is a domesticated chameleon who spends most of his time acting out melodramas in his tank, and winds up lost in the Mojave desert. He then sets off across the desert and finds himself in a town full of critters, called Dirt, which is suffering from a water shortage. The chameleon then adopts the name Rango and ingratiates himself as the sheriff of Dirt, little realising that anyone calling himself sheriff in this town can't be long for this world...

4 March 2011

UNKNOWN- Review

It's been noted that our action stars today are largely Serious Actors. Although you do occasionally get a modern Schwarzenegger or a Van Damme, it's far more common to see a Matt Damon. Someone who nicely crosses between both now and, contrary to common misconceptions, ever since he started in this business, is Liam Neeson.

In Unknown, Neeson is Martin Harris, a professor of biotechnology. Or is he? While attending a summit in Berlin, he's involved in a painful car accident, which leaves him slightly less certain. His confusion is only exacerbated by the fact that his wife Liz doesn't recognise him, and there is another Martin Harris in his place. So it's off around Berlin for the absent-minded professor, with shootouts and fisticuffs aplenty through his quest to recover his identity.

3 March 2011

NO STRINGS ATTACHED- Review

Natalie Portman has Thor and Your Highness lined up this year, so it's a more promising slate than any Best Actress winner of recent years has had after picking up a little golden bloke. Charlize Theron was in Hancock, Halle Berry was in Catwoman, and Sandra Bullock appears to have disappeared off the face of the Earth. But in the same weekend as Portman won, we got No Strings Attached. Er, can you give that Oscar back, please?

Ashton Kutcher plays Adam, an all-round nice guy who's unfortunately discovered that his TV star dad is boning his ex-girlfriend. Portman serves as executive producer here, and also stars as Emma, an old friend who becomes Adam's friend with benefits after he goes on a self-destructive drunken bender to try and find himself a woman. The terms of their relationship are firmly set out- it's just about the sex and there should be no emotional attachment. But then...!

2 March 2011

THE RITE- Review

"Spinning heads and pea soup" sounds almost like a Dr. Seuss story about exorcism, but it's an SFX cliche made famous by The Exorcist, which is arguably the finest film ever made on the subject, and name-checked in The Rite, which is decidedly less memorable. However, it does boast a supporting turn from the venerable Sir Anthony Hopkins, even if it's actually a film about the continuing adventures of the world's worst priest.

The rubbish cleric in question is Michael, a young man who comes up with quite a flawed scheme to enrol in a seminary to study for the priesthood and gain a scholarship for a top-notch education. He plans to flout his commitment once his education is done, but doesn't realise that even the Catholic Church isn't that dumb. So with potentially crippling financial payback looming over his head, he's assigned to the eccentric Father Lucas Trevant, one of the church's veteran exorcists.

1 March 2011

I AM NUMBER FOUR- Review

Here's one that's real difficult to write about. It's not a case of hating it for producer and twatbag Michael Bay's involvement, because I recognise that Bay can be said to have a technical aptitude for filmmaking. What makes I Am Number Four such an unsavoury spectacle is that its genesis is entirely what I would previously have imagined the genesis of a Michael Bay project to be- the product of an assembly line.

As to the story, this Twi-lite fantasy flick follows Number Four, one of nine aliens who survived a planetary holocaust in another solar system and fled from the genocidal Mogadorians to Earth. Outright stealing the Doctor's alias, he styles himself as John Smith, a high school student in small-town America. With the Mogadorians on his tail, it emerges that they're killing off the aliens in order, and three have died already, leaving Number Four next in line.