30 August 2012

SHADOW DANCER- Review

Right, enough of all that comedy bunkum for one week- it's time for something a bit more worthy. And indeed, after a summer of bangs, crashes, wallops and frankly inferior reboots, it's definitely not unwelcome. Shadow Dancer is set in Northern Ireland during the 1990s, and comes from screenwriter Tom Bradby's own 1998 novel, itself based on his experience as ITN's Ireland correspondent during that time.

But principally, it centres around one character- Colette McVeigh, a single mother who lives at home with her own mum, raising her son with her family's help. She's also a volunteer for the IRA, whose squeamishness about committing terrorist acts gets her caught by Mac, an MI5 operative who's hoping to recruit an informant. The McVeighs are amongst the key players in the IRA, and when faced with jail, Colette agrees to cooperate with Mac, putting herself in even greater danger.

29 August 2012

THE THREE STOOGES- Review

After one or two comedic disasters this week, I hope it's time for me to possibly make a change. While I believe that if you'd already decided to see those movies before I reviewed them, nothing I said could have changed your mind, here's one that you might have dismissed out of hand, and yet turned out a damn sight better than the more popular choices.

Bobby and Peter Farrelly are behind this revamp of the vaudeville comedy short films, but retain many of the same sensibilities in the transfer to the 21st century. So, The Three Stooges are Moe, Larry and Curly, now played by Chris Diamontopoulos, Sean Hayes and Will Sasso, respectively, and they still live in the orphanage where they were abandoned as babies. With all the injuries and accidents they cause with their hijinks, the orphanage has ran up an insurance bill of $830,000, and faces imminent closure. The Stooges go into the city to try and save their home and get into further misadventures.

28 August 2012

THE WATCH- Review

Putting aside the whole neighbourhood watch controversy, it seemed the biggest, most unlikely development in this film's journey to the screen was the fact that it involved aliens. Was I the only one who didn't realise aliens were involved at all, until I saw a trailer around a month ago? I'd seen trailers before that, but until late in the campaign, it almost seemed like aliens had simply been parachuted into another raunchy comedy. Unfortunately, that's much the same effect as you get when you watch the whole film.

The Watch starts out in Glenview, Ohio, where local busybody Evan Trautwig is an outstanding member of the community. When a security guard is murdered at the supermarket of which Evan is the manager, he starts up a neighbourhood watch group to try and track down the killer. His motley crew, comprising an over-protective father, a sociopathic high school dropout and Moss from The IT Crowd, instead stumble upon an alien plot to destroy Earth, starting in their small town and spreading all over the planet.

27 August 2012

KEITH LEMON: THE FILM- Review

Idiocracy is a fun movie, and one which often comes up in my reviews of bad or dumb movies, and other people's reviews of those movies, which sometimes make it seem like we're hurtling towards a bleak and unenlightened future, obsessed with celebrity and scornful towards intelligence and hard work. In that future, the fact that shows like The X Factor and The Only Way Is Essex don't lend themselves to home entertainment releases should hopefully mean that there'll be little to consecrate the celebrity culture at its current level of vapidness, outside of archive footage.

But the archaeologists of the future are destined to tremble at the horrors offered by Keith Lemon: The Film, in which the host of ITV2's flagship show, Celebrity Juice, is re-characterised as a businessman from Leeds. Idiotic as he is, he over-estimates the demand for a home security gizmo that he's trying to hock to the world, but happens upon a new smartphone prototype that is bequeathed to him by an un-savvy inventor. Marketing his Lemon Phone makes him a billionaire overnight, and he sets about fulfilling his wildest fantasies with his newfound wealth.

24 August 2012

THE WEDDING VIDEO- Review

Just as The Expendables 2 only adequately catered to the testosterone-fuelled action junkies in the cinema, last Friday also held a couple of moderately satisfying films with a more romantic bent- one was TakeThis Waltz, and its funnier alternative was The Wedding Video, in which a bunch of British comedic actors come together under the direction of Nigel Cole, trying his hand at found footage for the first time.

The cameraman character is (initially) Raif Moyle, a dreamer who has spent the last few years travelling the world. He's back in the UK on best man duties for his brother, Tim. Raif exacerbates matters from the moment he finds out that Tim's blushing bride-to-be is Saskia Dutton, a wild child schoolmate of his, who has since acquired some airs and graces. As a wedding present, Raif decides to chronicle the run-up to the wedding on his video camera, and that's how the story unfolds.

21 August 2012

TAKE THIS WALTZ- Review

Though it may not be a comparison that casts it in the best light, I was reminded of Blue Valentine while watching Take This Waltz. I'd like to think it was down to more than the presence of Michelle Williams, who is once again playing one half of a couple whose marriage is on the verge of disintegrating. Given how her screen spouse is Seth Rogen, rather than a balding Ryan Gosling, it seems like a strangely more amiable film, but just as heartbreaking in the right light.

Williams and Rogen are Margot and Lou, a freelance journalist and the budding author of a cookbook dealing exclusively in chicken dishes. Upping the quirk-o-meter is the arrival of Daniel, an artist who Margot sits next to on a plane for one unforgettable afternoon. Little does she know that in addition to his infuriating propensity for inventing words and hauling a rickshaw around, he happens to live across the street. While she is determined to be faithful to Lou, the excitement of Daniel may prove to be too much of a temptation for Margot.

17 August 2012

THE EXPENDABLES 2- Review

If you'd told me at this point in 2010, that I would enjoy the sequel to The Expendables more than the next Bourne movie, you'd have sounded crazy to me. It's been one of those weeks, folks, but make no mistake, The Expendables 2 is no masterpiece either. This time around, Sylvester Stallone gives the director's seat over to Con Air director Simon West, but he still co-wrote the script, so while some of it is better, some of it is the same again.

The cast of action stars returns as the same ludicrously monikered characters from part one, with a couple of new recruits into the mix too. After screwing him over on principle in the first film, shady CIA guy Mr. Church wants the Expendables to repay their debt to him, by retrieving an all-important computer. The computer is lost in an encounter with international terrorist Vilain (no, seriously) that makes the affair much more personal for the gang, and they seek to prevent Vilain from getting control of an absurd amount of ex-Soviet weapons grade plutonium.

14 August 2012

THE BOURNE LEGACY- Review

How many franchises are there nowadays, that have staggered on by contriving sequels that pretend there was always some other story going on before or during the events of the original? Saw was a series that took that beyond all logical limitations, to the tune of seven instalments, but there are far too many sequels out there that move forward only on a box office spreadsheet, and inversely, take a backward-arse narrative approach.

After 2007's The Bourne Ultimatum, director Paul Greengrass and Matt Damon moved on from the amnesiac adventures of Jason Bourne, meaning that this week's The Bourne Legacy comes under the direction of the original trilogy's screenwriter, Tony Gilroy, and utterly devoid of Bourne himself. Taking place concurrently with the previous film, we learn that the CIA set up not one, or even two super-secret soldier enhancement programmes, but five or so, all with varying success. Aaron Cross is a product of one such programme, and when he's jonesing for his super-soldier medicine, he attracts the wrath of the CIA's self-proclaimed sin eaters.

10 August 2012

BRAVE- Review

For a studio that has dealt in toys coming to life, monsters in the cupboard and robots in love, it's interesting to see that Pixar Animation Studios have never produced a movie as overtly about magic as Brave. Their 13th feature film is their first fairytale, and also the most reminiscent of classic Disney animation. It also demonstrates that even a Pixar film that admittedly had numerous major upheavals throughout its production can still turn out to be as charming and compelling as their best work.

Merida is a headstrong teenage princess, who takes after her father, King Fergus, in her pursuit of adventure across the Scottish Highlands. This is much to the dismay of her mother, Queen Elinor, who is much more prim and proper, and feels utterly at odds with her daughter's boisterous nature. An attempt to marry her off, to rubbish suitors from the Dingwall, Macintosh and MacGuffin clans, brings their relationship to breaking point. After a massive falling-out, Merida makes a rash decision that awakens an ancient curse, and threatens to tip the clans into all-out war.

6 August 2012

BlogalongaBond- DIE ANOTHER DAY Review

I wish I could make this film vanish.
Back in 2001, around the time I was first getting interested in reading news about movies online and following productions that interested me, largely due to the release of the first Harry Potter movie, I remember hearing about Final Assignment, which would apparently be the 20th James Bond movie. The fan-written script conned various media outlets, including newspapers, and posited that Sean Connery would star as Bond's father, who has been missing-presumed-dead for some time.

That's fan fiction for you, and there was never really a chance of that happening, but I'm still trying to figure out how something as insular, ineptly-written and poorly executed as Die Another Day made it to the screen. The film starts strong, with Bond being sold out to North Korea by an unknown Western mole, resulting in 14 months of torture in captivity. Fearful that he's cracked under interrogation, MI6 trades Zao, the war criminal that he apprehended, to set him free, and Bond immediately follows him to the shady workings of a British entrepreneur known as Gustav Graves.

2 August 2012

TED- Review

"From the creator of Family Guy", say the posters for Ted, a strapline that is sure to bring in more viewers than it alienates. Seth MacFarlane's popular animated series has come up a lot in the marketing, and will be mentioned frequently in this review. It goes without saying that if you love it, you'll love the film, and if you hate it, it's not for you, but in my view, if you're ambivalent about the humour in that show, you actually will find something to enjoy about it.

Patrick Stewart narrates the ingenious opening flashback of Ted, in which we see a friendless 8-year-old boy called John Bennett, wishing that his Christmas present, a teddy bear, would come to life and be his best friend. His Christmas wish somehow comes true, and 27 years later, Ted is still hanging around. John exists in arrested development, despite a potentially promising career and a gorgeous girlfriend called Lori, because he still hangs around with his abusive, pot-smoking plushy. Something's got to give, and John and Ted agree to start the long and painful process of growing up.