29 June 2012

FRIENDS WITH KIDS- Review

Here's the second film I've reviewed this week that has something of a connection to Bridesmaids- it's another romantic comedy, yes, but this one actually has a big chunk of that film's cast to its name. Kristen Wiig, Chris O'Dowd, Maya Rudolph and Jon Hamm all appear in Friends with Kids, in a supporting capacity, though it's more of an ensemble piece than a disjointed anthology, like New Year's Eve or What To Expect When You're Expecting.

The set-up is not unprecedented in the genre- Jason and Julie are both single, and despite being best mates for years, their relationship has never been anything more than platonic. They're each guilty of being a little judgemental towards their married friends, Leslie and Alex, and Ben and Missy, which has put them off taking the plunge with other partners. They decide, quite cynically, that the best thing to do would be to skip marriage, and falling in love, and just have a kid together, so that they can share parenting duties and go on looking for their real soulmates.

26 June 2012

THE FIVE-YEAR ENGAGEMENT- Review

Although she must now be on the verge of becoming a household name, it seems strange that Emily Blunt isn't yet a superstar. Sometimes, it's fun to imagine what would have happened if she hadn't dropped out of the role of Black Widow in the Marvel movie universe, but then we definitely wouldn't have had her recent succession of strong, extremely likeable performances in films like The Adjustment Bureau and, now, The Five-Year Engagement.

As with The Adjustment Bureau, the film hinges on her chemistry with a love interest- in this case, she's reteaming with Jason Segel, after the godawful Gulliver's Travels and a cameo in The Muppets. Segel and Blunt play Tom and Violet, a couple who get engaged after a blissful year of romance. Violet is less sure about marriage when she misses out on an academic post at the University of Berkeley, but gets a second chance when she's offered a similar job in Michigan. This means that the couple have to move away, just one obstacle on a road that turns out to be much longer than either of them had expected.

21 June 2012

ABRAHAM LINCOLN, VAMPIRE HUNTER- Review

Last summer, Cowboys & Aliens was met with critical disdain and underwhelming box-office returns, attributed largely to the fact that it wasn't a comedy, despite the ludicrous-sounding title. I don't know whether this is what prompted Fox to bump Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter from its October release date to this summer, but whatever changed during that period, they haven't fixed it.

Comfortably scooping whatever award there may be for the most ridiculously high-concept title of 2012, the film is based on the fictional secret journals of the 16th President of the United States. At a young age, his mother was a casualty in a feud between his family and a vampire, and he swears vengeance. In getting his own back, he attracts the ire of Adam, the original vampire, but finds an ally in Henry Sturges, who teaches him how to kill bloodsuckers by night, while uniting the nation by day.

19 June 2012

RED LIGHTS- Review

The worst kind of plot twist in a movie is the kind that makes no sense, following everything that you've seen so far. You don't see this kind of twist coming, but that's because it doesn't flow naturally from the preceding action. You wind up thinking about the movie afterwards, but only to figure out the inconsistencies in the plot, given where it all wound up. Handily, the hugely disappointing Red Lights belays all of that post-viewing analysis, by showing its workings, on screen, all the way through.

After Buried, a superbly mounted psychological horror film that was one of my ten favourite films of 2010, director Rodrigo Cort├ęs also writes and edits this film, in which doctors Tom Buckley and Margaret Matheson are professional sceptics who travel around debunking fraudulent paranormal activity. Buckley, the younger and more impulsive of the two, urges his mentor to investigate Simon Silver, a psychic who retired from public gigs and has now decided to return to the limelight. Matheson warns him to stay away, and apparently, not without reason.

15 June 2012

ROCK OF AGES- Review

Although I suspect that Rock of Ages won't be helped by word of mouth, once it starts to get around, it should work in its favour that it's essentially critic-proof- another celebrity karaoke session in the vein of Mamma Mia, and you've already decided if you want to see it or not. Nevertheless, here's my rebuttal.

From Hairspray director Adam Shankman, this one takes place in 1987, on LA's Sunset Strip. Oklahoma girl Sherrie arrives with stars in her eyes, and a whole bunch of hair rock songs in her heart. She's helped out by Drew, a barman at the infamous Bourbon Room. The club is on the ropes, and its future is staked on legendary rock star Stacee Jaxx, who's about to go solo, and Sherrie and Drew have to find their own way to fame and fortune.

13 June 2012

FAST GIRLS- Review

I remember first reading about Noel Clarke's London 2012 project on the actor/writer/director/Mickey Smith's Twitter page a couple of years ago now, and it puzzled me to no end that Fast Girls is now set during 2011's World Athletic Championship, despite being released in the perfect position to warm up its audience for the imminent Olympic games. As it turns out, the Olympics Committee didn't want the film to use the Olympics branding.

Truth be told, with whatever embarrassingly pro-forma display of Britishness that Mayor Flanimal has planned for the festivities, London 2012 could do a lot worse than to have a disarmingly entertaining, crowd-pleasing film attached to its brand. It's the story of Shania Andrews, a young runner who is delighted to qualify as a representative of Great Britain at the... World Athletics Championship. When she's asked to join Team GB's female relay squad, she immediately clashes with privileged golden girl, Lisa Temple, but has to learn to co-operate if the team has any chance of grabbing gold medals.

11 June 2012

RED TAILS- Review

It's handy, that Red Tails is absolutely unconcerned with delivering a history lecture, because the script has about as much insight into racism towards African American soldiers during the Second World War, as producer George Lucas' Phantom Menace had into taxation and whatnot. For better or worse, Lucas' intention was to create a Boys' Own adventure flick.

And so, while the film might be "inspired by real events", it centres around fictional characters in the historic 332nd Squadron, made up of Tuskegee airmen who were the first African Americans to serve in the US Air Force. Our heroes have nicknames like Easy, Lightning and Ray Gun, and they have the skills to match, but on account of their race, they are constantly underestimated and diminished by the higher-uppers. When the determined Colonel Bullard gets the squadron some proper missions against the Luftwaffe, it's time for them to prove that they're just as capable of defending their country as any other American.

9 June 2012

BlogalongaBond- TOMORROW NEVER DIES Review

Here's a story that I am sure will be referenced in plenty of this month's BlogalongaBond reviews- the 18th Bond film was originally titled Tomorrow Never Lies, a title which makes complete sense for the film's admittedly nonsensical plot. Tomorrow Never Dies was merely a script typo, that was adopted by the producers once they got wind of it. Using the same methods of mis-typing, I'm going to review this pile of wnak.

Forgetting that Diamonds Are Forever's Willard Whyte proved the series to be as satirically insightful as a Carry On film, this one pitches Bond against his most fearsome enemy yet- a mincing media mogul called Mupert Rurdoch. Sorry, he's called Elliot Carver, and he calls upon that most played-out of Bond villain plots, inciting a war between two nations in order to profit from the ensuing chaos, and tries to crack exclusive broadcasting rights in China. Ooh...

5 June 2012

SNOW WHITE AND THE HUNTSMAN- Review

Here's why I liked Mirror Mirror. Into a marketplace that is trying to squash traditional fairytales with the trappings of fantasy action movies and flat, adapted monomythic storytelling, here was a film that aspired to be more comedic, in the tradition of The Princess Bride and Shrek, with middling success. Of course, it wasn't anywhere near as good, or as sharp as those films, but I really didn't understand the venom that greeted its release back in March.

But that's why we can't have nice things, because three months down the line, here comes Snow White and the Huntsman. Apparently the first of a planned trilogy, the film begins with the beautiful and deadly Queen Ravenna imprisoning young Snow White, destined to be the fairest of them all, in order to protect her own kingdom-toppling reign. After a daring escape, a widowed huntsman is dispatched to slaughter her. Instead, he becomes her mentor and protector, as she sows the seeds of rebellion in the oppressed kingdom.

1 June 2012

PROMETHEUS- Spoiler Review

This review contains SPOILERS. If you haven't seen Prometheus yet, you'll want to wait before reading this.

I've found it difficult to convert my interest in the genuinely great marketing for Prometheus into excitement about the actual film for the last few months. I've been confronted with incredulous arguments about Ridley Scott returning to the well (by people who didn't see how bad Robin Hood turned out) and my favourite argument, "It's the most anticipated sci-fi movie since Phantom Menace!" Having now seen the film, I suspect they're about to find out how right they were.

Set in the same continuity as Alien, but about thirty years earlier, the film's heroine is Dr. Elizabeth Shaw, a scientist who discovers identical cave paintings in the ruins of several different civilisations. None of these societies had contact with one another, and each shows a man pointing to a constellation in the sky, which Shaw reads as an invitation to the stars. Together with a crew assembled by industrialist Peter Weyland, Elizabeth goes in search of mankind's creators. Of course, she finds more than she bargained for.