31 December 2012

End of 2012 Round-Up

While the 2012 catch-up has been going well, I haven't had time to see absolutely everything, and give it the usual review treatment. Before we get into all of that end of the year review stuff, with 2013 just around the corner, I thought I'd do a post with a number of short reviews of films that I haven't covered yet, including Cosmopolis, DetentionJack Reacher, Safety Not Guaranteed and Sound Of My Voice.

28 December 2012

PITCH PERFECT- Review

While I'm playing catch-up, I might as well cover Pitch Perfect. I know I cover spurious marketing quite a lot in my reviews, but this one has been lumbered with a critical pull-quote that's almost as dumb as The Adjustment Bureau's "Bourne Meets Inception". Because Pitch Perfect isn't "Ted meets Bridesmaids", or at least no more than its tenuous connection of having gross-out humour and female characters- instead, it's a solid entry into the recent resurgence of the teen movie genre.

It's also a vehicle for the wonderful Anna Kendrick, who plays Beca, a young woman whose life's ambition is to go to LA and produce music. Her dad, a lecturer at Barden University, gets her enrolled cheaply, and offers to help with this ambition, on the proviso that she tries the college for a year to see if it changes her mind. By way of "getting involved", she's press-ganged into an all-female a capella singing group called the Bellas, who are locked in a fierce rivalry with mouth-music sensations, the Treble Makers.

27 December 2012

GRABBERS- Review

As 2012 draws to a close, the saturation releases in this last week of the year aren't much more impressive than another exercise for Tom Cruise's short man syndrome, and a movie that appears to have escaped from the 1990s. Still, there are a couple of interesting releases to close out the year- one of them is Safety Not Guaranteed (more on which soon), and the other is Grabbers, an Irish horror comedy that can most easily be compared to Attack The Block and Father Ted, which means those things will surely fill the requisite gaps in the "blank meets blank" poster pull-quotes.

Garda Lisa Nolan is deployed on Erin Island, a remote Irish idyll where not a lot happens, for a fortnight of police work. She doesn't expect a hard time, but she's first frustrated by an alcoholic partner, Ciarán, and then menaced by the entirely unexpected arrival of bloodsucking alien creatures. The Grabbers, christened by those few unimaginative locals who encounter the creatures and live to tell the tale, start to gain a tentacled strangehold on the island, when a marine ecologist discovers that the invaders are allergic to alcohol. Together, Ciarán and Lisa rally the locals in a united front against the Grabbers, which naturally involves getting absolutely shit-faced.

20 December 2012

LIFE OF PI- Review

Yann Martel's best-selling novel, Life of Pi, has flummoxed attempts at big-screen adaptation from directors as varied as Jean-Pierre Jeunet, M. Night Shyamalan and Alfonso Cuarón. But in the age of The Lord of the Rings, Watchmen and the upcoming Cloud Atlas, there's no longer any such thing as an "unfilmable" novel. Now, having patiently waited for the level of effects technology to catch up, director Ang Lee has brought the film to the screen.

Life of Pi centres around a man called Piscine Molitor Patel, (Pi, for short) who is seen telling the extraordinary story of his life to a writer who is struggling for inspiration. Once, Pi's family had a zoo, and decided to relocate from India to the United States. After a terrible shipwreck, the only survivors left were Pi and a handful of the zoo's animals. Before long, it comes down to just the boy and a Bengal tiger called Richard Parker, all alone on a raft in the middle of the Pacific ocean. The story of his survival, Pi promises, will make the writer believe in God.

18 December 2012

THE ANGELS' SHARE- Review

Next up, in my catch-up with 2012's unseen movies, is The Angels' Share, the latest film from director Ken Loach. Although Loach's films are usually worth seeing, they don't lose anything if you miss them in the cinema, so the benefits of not having reviewed this at the time is that I didn't have to travel miles out of my way to see it, and I've already heard all of the whisky puns, so I know to avoid them. Well, I'll try, anyway.

A group of Glaswegian young offenders befriend their kindly foreman while undertaking community service, and are introduced to an unexpected interest in whisky, and its production. One of them, Robbie, is particularly keen to reform, as his girlfriend has just had a baby boy, but sees no way out of the grudge match that keeps getting him in trouble. However, when a priceless cask of whisky is discovered, he and three of his fellow offenders launch a hare-brained scheme to liberate the rare single malt.

17 December 2012

A ROYAL AFFAIR- Review

It's close to the end of the year, and seeing as how most of the week's cinema-going will surely be given over to Bilbo Baggins and his mates, it seems as good a time as any to catch up with watching and reviewing new films that I missed in the cinema in 2012. I'll squeeze these in this week, around my review of Life Of Pi, (come back on Wednesday) and A Royal Affair is first up.

Based on both historical events and the novel A Visit From The Royal Physician, the film begins with Caroline Matilda of Great Britain, looking back on her arranged marriage with King Christian VII of Denmark. The king is mentally ill, and his immaturity and attention-seeking nature are deeply frustrating to both Caroline and, presumably, his impoverished people. As a lowly doctor and man of the Enlightenment, Johann Struensee gets a lucky break when he wangles the cushy job of royal physician, and becomes the king's most trusted friend, as well as Caroline's secret lover.

14 December 2012

THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY- Review

So, I saw The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey in good old-fashioned 24fps 2D. Not 3D, IMAX 3D, HFR 3D, WTF 3D, or OMGSTFU 3D. I'm not saying that this makes more qualified to talk about the film than others, and I'll certainly be checking out the HFR format, after I've written a review that discusses the relative qualities and demerits of Peter Jackson's first prequel to his Lord of the Rings trilogy.

Adapting J.R.R. Tolkien's earlier chronicle of Middle-Earth, the film begins with Ian Holm's Bilbo transcribing the story of his greatest adventure, on the day of his eleventy-first birthday party. From there, we flash back 60 years to a younger, more Martin Freeman-looking version of Bilbo, as he's press-ganged into that very quest by Gandalf the Grey and a motley crew of thirteen dwarves, led by ousted royal Thorin Oakenshield, in a bid to reclaim the dwarvish homeland of Erebor from a fearsome dragon. Elsewhere, a dark power has returned to Middle-Earth from an exile that has lasted centuries, and Bilbo's introduction to the wider world may only be the beginning of his problems.

10 December 2012

SIGHTSEERS- Review

Even though this one came out after Seven Psychopaths at the local multiplex, it remains that we've gotten two pitch black comedies, about writers in search of inspiration, which both feature cute little dogs in pivotal roles, within the space of a week. Sightseers has garnered the most praise thus far, with director Ben Wheatley, hot off of last year's Kill List (which I personally found overrated) collaborating with executive producer Edgar Wright to create something more agreeably fucked-up than his other recent film.

Tina lives with her manipulative mother, but at the beginning of the film, she's thoroughly smitten with Chris, a manful, ginger-faced journeyman, who's going to show her the world from his caravan. Through the course of their holiday, the Brummie couple are drawn to such wonders as the Crich Tramway Museum and the Keswick Pencil Museum, but things soon take an unexpected and homicidal turn. With Tina as his muse, Chris blazes a violent trail across the countryside in the name of bringing obnoxious knobheads down a notch, while unintentionally bringing out a new side of his girlfriend.

6 December 2012

SEVEN PSYCHOPATHS- Review

It's inevitable that reviewers will compare Martin McDonagh's latest film to In Bruges. That film was a masterpiece, and there's always going to be pressure for a filmmaker to top a masterpiece on the next feature, when their body of work really shouldn't be quantified in such terms. I've even seen some confused souls compare it to The Guard, which was actually made by his younger brother, John Michael McDonagh. The elder McDonagh has a recognisable style of writing and storytelling, between his two feature films thus far, and it's almost as if Seven Psychopaths was organically cultivated from the development of that style.

In a possible case of art reflecting life, the film centres around a screenwriter called Marty, who's suffering from writer's block. His current project, titled "Seven Psychopaths", isn't much more than a title, and he finds it difficult to work, due to his alcoholism and the constant distraction of his unhinged, dog-napping buddy, Billy. In a moment of desperation, he agrees to collaborate with Billy in generating stories about psychopaths, little realising that his friend's criminal enterprise has crossed into the territory of mobster Charles Costello, with the abduction of his beloved Shih-Tzu, Bonny.

5 December 2012

BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD- Review

The first time I saw Beasts of the Southern Wild, I was slightly bushed from the 40-mile round trip that took me to see Holy Motors earlier in the same day, and this film is just so delightful. What I'm saying is, I fell asleep while watching it, and not because I was bored. I've since watched it again, at Stockton's ARC cinema, but I'm reminded of another film that I comfortably fell asleep while watching- Where The Wild Things Are, which was a similarly wonderful little fantasy film.

In a part of Louisiana that appears to have been flooded, the Bathtub is a walled-off community that is mostly underwater. The community that lives there seems to be managing just fine- they might even be better off. Amongst them is Hushpuppy, a six-year-old girl who lives in her own house, opposite her dad, Wink. With Wink's health deteriorating, the "threat" of aid from the world outside the Bathtub, and the approach of giant mythical beasts called aurochs, Hushpuppy must build and safeguard her own independence.

4 December 2012

GREAT EXPECTATIONS- Review

Boring films tend to make for boring reviews. The latest version of Great Expectations, directed by Mike Newell, isn't boring, but it's uninteresting in one very important aspect- it doesn't take any risks with the material. The novel ranks among the most frequently adapted Charles Dickens tales, and so those in the know will, by now, be aware of all of the particulars.

For those who aren't in the know, Great Expectations is the story of Pip, a humble orphan who is brought up in the country by his sister and brother-in-law, and becomes something of a plaything for the eccentric and deranged Miss Havisham. While Pip falls for her ward, Estella, Miss Havisham herself seems eager to mould the children to her own design. Years later, Pip is propelled into high society, by the whims of a mysterious benefactor, and taught to be a gentleman, giving him some scant hope that he might win Estella's cold heart.

3 December 2012

RISE OF THE GUARDIANS- Review

Due to inexplicable scheduling foolishness, DreamWorks held back the release of Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted in the UK from summer until the October half-term holiday. Coincidentally, this means that Rise of the Guardians, which has arrived much sooner, is playing at the same time as the studio's other 2012 offering. While one of them seemed remarkably unfettered by the usual safe tactics, the other seems to have been made with producers watching over its shoulder. Still, if one of your producers is Guillermo del Toro, that doesn't mean it's a bad thing.

Based on William Joyce's popular series of children's books, Guardians of Childhood, the latter offering explores the idea that Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy and the Sandman are part of an elite group of mythological protectors, who are collectively responsible for safe-guarding the children of Earth. Jack Frost is the newest recruit, and although he initially refuses the call, he becomes instrumental to the battle against Pitch Black, an ancient boogeyman who is determined to make as much of a mark upon the world's children as the beloved Guardians.