29 June 2011

DARK OF THE MOON- Transformers 3 Review

We're promised that this is Michael Bay's last Transformers outing, not that it's much of an ending in and of itself. But if you're braced for a massive rant, rest easy- this one isn't even in my bottom 10 films of the year so far. The time to be really angry about these films has passed, and Transformers: Dark of the Moon is actually a partial improvement upon Revenge of the Fallen. Then again, gonorrhea is preferable to that movie, so let's not assume a thumbs-up response this early in the review.

The plot, taking a cue from the alternative history antics of X-Men: First Class and Watchmen, concerns the space race of the 1960s, which transpires to have been a diplomatic hoo-hah over grabbing a crashed Cybertronian ship that landed on the dark side of the moon. The ship holds a technology of tremendous power, and its guardian, Sentinel Prime. The Transformers go to war once more over this crucial weapon, with Earth facing a greater peril than ever before.

27 June 2011

BRIDESMAIDS- Review

My biggest beef with Bridesmaids might just be with its marketing. The trailers and posters have thus far portrayed a female answer to this summer's bloke-iest of comedies, The Hangover Part II, which would only serve to prove that women are just as capable of making shit films as men. Besides, wasn't The Hangover Part II already a male answer to Sex and the City 2? Four cunts go on holiday, are horrible to everyone... you fill in the gaps.

I also have problems with the film itself, even though it's turned out to be a much more level-headed and realistic comedy than the marketing has depicted. As far as the story goes, Annie and Lillian are childhood best friends, and when Lillian gets engaged, Annie eagerly agrees to be the maid of honour at her wedding. However, this puts her in charge of corralling Lillian's other bridesmaid friends through the pre-wedding celebrations. But amongst them is Helen, a sophisticated snob who wants Annie's job of organising the wedding.

24 June 2011

SENNA- Review

Although I profess that I have no particular interest or investment in Formula 1, this year's most popular breakthrough documentary isn't the first I've heard of three-time world champion, Ayrton Senna. Up to a certain point, I was one of those hangers-on who watched BBC Two's Top Gear, and last year, I saw their much-lauded tribute segment. It's one of the best films I ever saw on the programme, at once exciting and informative, and I didn't forget it when the fuss began about Senna.

So what does this film have to offer in its 106 minutes that the Top Gear crew didn't cover in its 13 minutes? Well, the film covers Senna's 11-year career in Formula 1, during which he battled with the politicisation of the sport, held a long but basically good-natured rivalry with Alain Prost, and of course, won three world championship titles. All of that's covered comprehensively, and not only is it the best documentary I've seen in ages, but one of the best films of 2011, full stop.

23 June 2011

STAKE LAND- Review

Blah blah blah vampires. Blah blah blah popular. I really can't be bothered running through context for vampires with this film, partly because there's already another Twilight film coming in November, but mostly because it's barely a vampire film at all. Stake Land comes much closer to a zombie movie, specifically, to Zombieland.

Still, it's apparently vampires that have overrun the film's post-apocalyptic America, and a vampire hunter, known only as Mister, is amongst the survivors. As he travels around slaying as many monsters as he can find, he picks up several other survivors- an apprentice, in the form of newly-orphaned teen Martin, a young pregnant woman and a petrified nun. The vampires aren't the only threat to their survival though- the ragtag group spend just as much time avoiding the Brotherhood, a maniacal sect who believe the vampire infestation is God's work.

21 June 2011

BAD TEACHER- Review

Just as a little pre-amble to this review, director Jake Kasdan is the man who directed Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story, one of the best and most underappreciated comedies of the last ten years or so. Yep, I like it that much. I've mentioned it a number of times when I've reviewed the music biopics that the film so brilliantly lampoons, but really, go watch that movie- you won't regret it.

Anyhoo, Kasdan has since helmed Bad Teacher, a comedy vehicle for Cameron Diaz that arrived in cinemas on Friday. Diaz is Elizabeth Halsey, a gold-digging middle-school teacher whose plans for an extremely early retirement go awry when her rich fiancee gets wise to her shallow nature and dumps her. Forced into another year in a job for which she is patently unsuited, she resolves to scrimp, save and extort money to fund a boob job. This, she hopes, will attract another rich suitor, in the form of earnest substitute teacher Scott Delacorte.

20 June 2011

THE BEAVER- Review

The Beaver has one of those premises that is just so deliciously intriguing and off-kilter that it's the kind of movie you look forward to all year. Whether or not director and star Jodie Foster's film actually live up to the potential of its logline has turned out to be more of a moot point. At different points in production, this Black-Listed script was touted as a vehicle for Jim Carrey or Steve Carell, but it arrives on-screen with Mel Gibson in the starring role as Walter Black.

Walter is the CEO of a faltering toy company and a devoted family man, who happens to be suffering from a deeply debilitating depression. On the verge of suicide, he comes up with the demented idea of wearing a beaver hand puppet he discovered in a skip, and using it as his mouthpiece to the rest of the world. And against all expectations, his life improves exponentially.

17 June 2011

GREEN LANTERN- Review

Looks a bit like this, all the way through.
I have this distinct memory of reading something online, about nine months ago, that said Warner Bros. were hugely excited with how Green Lantern had turned out, specifically saying that it was really good. Dark Knight good. The final result doesn't bear that out, but it does show that the studio itself probably had something to do with that particular report. If there's one thing Green Lantern has succeeded in, it's in raising audience awareness.

As something of a poor cousin to last month's much superior Thor, this is another comic book movie that's a little Out There, even by usual superhero standards. Hal Jordan is a test pilot and titamaboob who happens across the crashed spacecraft of a dying alien. This alien represents the Green Lantern Corps, outer-space police who have tapped into the emerald energy of willpower, and use it to defend the galaxy. Hal is bequeathed with a power ring and becomes the first human Green Lantern, just as the Corps confront their most deadly enemy- fear itself.

16 June 2011

POINT BLANK- Review

As a counter-point to those English language European action flicks, which usually involve Liam Neeson going to the continent and killing everyone, there's a decent line of foreign language action dramas revolving around family men who are forced into violence, such as Anything for Her. Then again, these films present themselves to Hollywood as eminently remake-able- Anything for Her became The Next Three Days. Starring Liam Neeson. Never mind.

Still, Point Blank's premise is undeniably an interesting one, as trainee nurse Samuel Pierret collides with organised crime and corrupt cops following a night shift at the hospital. After saving sedated criminal Hugo Sartet from being whacked in his bed, Samuel's home is invaded and his pregnant wife is kidnapped. Samuel agrees to sneak Sartet out from under police guard in exchange for her safe return, but doesn't count on the large-scale manhunt that follows.

14 June 2011

BlogalongaBond- ON HER MAJESTY'S SECRET SERVICE Review

James Bond is a Time Lord. This could fit under "Things I Learned From BlogalongaBond" for this month, but it's apt enough to say that George Lazenby's turn as Bond is as markedly different from Connery as any of the successive Doctors are to their immediate predecessor in Doctor Who. I suppose that makes Lazenby the McGann of Bond then, (or Paul McGann the Lazenby of Who), seeing as how his only outing was On Her Majesty's Secret Service.

Bond has been hunting Ernst Stavro Blofeld for two years when he encounters the beguiling Contessa Teresa "Tracy" di Vicenzo, whose father might know Blofeld's whereabouts. MI6 relieves him from his mission at this crucial juncture, so he goes undercover as a genealogist, to a mountaintop base where Blofeld appears to be researching allergies. All the while, Bond falls more and more in love with Tracy, and more fixated on stopping SPECTRE once and for all.

13 June 2011

MOTHER'S DAY- Review

That bloke in the background will get off pretty lightly. Women suffering though? Phwoaaar.
People like Repo! The Genetic Opera, right? As I've said before, I found it to be a pretty transparent stab at making the torture porn generation's Rocky Horror, even though Anthony Head is all kinds of badass- never quite got why people like it that much. Anyway, Repo! is probably director Darren Lynn Bousman's most appreciated work, with its cult classic status and all. But this is a film "from the director of Saw II, III and IV." Oh dear.

Mother's Day is a remake of a 1989 film made by Troma, now with added delusions of dramatic heft. Three brothers return to their family home after a bank heist goes badly wrong, with possibly fatal consequences for the youngest. As he lies dying on the sofa, the other two brothers realise that their mother and sister have long since lost the house, and violently capture the new residents during their housewarming party. And matters only get worse once Mother herself arrives.

10 June 2011

The Zero Room #9- Gangers and Cliffhangers

As we're already through the first half of Series 6, we now have to wait until Autumn for the tantalisingly titled Let's Kill Hitler. First though, I'm reviewing Matthew Graham's old-timey two-parter The Rebel Flesh and The Almost People (to be referred to henceforth by the latter name to save time) and Steven Moffat's mid-series finale, A Good Man Goes To War.

Reviews will contain spoilers, so if you haven't seen the episode yet, toddle over to the iPlayer, or watch BBC Three at some point in the next century's worth of repeats.

9 June 2011

KUNG FU PANDA 2- Review

To some, it may appear that Pixar is leaving the field clear for Best Animated Feature at next year's Oscars by releasing this summer's Cars 2. And if it weren't for Rango, I'd argue that Kung Fu Panda 2 was Dreamworks' best shot at snatching mainstream animation's top prize since... well, How to Train Your Dragon. So bravo to Dreamworks Animation, who really suddenly seem to have gotten a lot better at what they do.

Picking up some time after the events of the surprisingly entertaining Kung Fu Panda, this sequel begins with big cuddly Dragon Warrior Po, and his comrades in kung fu, the Furious Five, watching over a long period of peace and harmony in their valley. Then a grave warning comes about the revenge of Lord Shen, a vain and arrogant peacock who has invented a weapon capable of ending kung fu. Shen has a grudge against all of China, and a fear of the black and white warrior prophesied to defeat him.

7 June 2011

LAST NIGHT- Review

Last Night is a drama about fidelity and temptation, written and directed by the gloriously named Massy Tadjedin, and it just so happens to star Keira Knightley and Sam Worthington. These are actors best known for Pirates of the Caribbean and Clash of the Titans, respectively, so it's nice to see them in a quieter film that touches down amid the frenzied summer blockbuster release schedule.

They play Joanna and Michael, a married couple who've been together since college. The night after the two row about Michael being attracted to one of his co-workers, he goes off on a residential business trip to Philadelphia with said co-worker, while she stays at home. However, Joanna unexpectedly bumps into an old flame, Alex, and the two go out for a night out on the town. The couple's stories run parallel over the course of the night, as their love for one another is put to the test.

6 June 2011

X-MEN: FIRST CLASS- Review

Last time we were here, it was for X-Men Origins: Wolverine, a cartoonish mess that I should have been less fair to when it was originally released. To pique my interest in X-Men after that catastrophe, it would take a total reboot of the series that went back to character-based storylines and had a level-headed director like Matthew Vaughn at the helm. Well, two out of three ain't bad.

In principle, X-Men: First Class is a prequel, covering the formation of Xavier's School for Gifted Youngsters. Charles Xavier is a telepathic Oxford professor who's roped in by the CIA to battle Sebastian Shaw, a Nazi war criminal and a powerful mutant in his own right, and prevent him and his Hellfire Club from inciting the Cuban Missile Crisis, and then World War III. This path brings Charles into contact with Erik Lensherr, a Holocaust survivor with powers of magnetism, who has his own score to settle with Shaw.