31 January 2013

MOVIE 43- Review

In the middle of Movie 43, there's a short, celebrity-free skit that takes the form of a faux charity advert, raising awareness of the small children who live inside vending machines, printers and cash machines. They do the best they can to operate these utilities, and bear the brunt of frustrated users and customers. This skit pushed my final laugh tally for the film up to one higher than Keith Lemon: The Film.

Movie 43 is not, as the hastily re-shot framing device would have it, a film that's sought out by a bunch of stupid kids, for being the most controversial and offensive movie on the internet. It's neither as controversial, nor as offensive as any of the talents involved believe that it is, as a spin on the sketch format that was formerly used in films such as Kentucky Fried Movie or Amazon Women On The Moon. I was most of the way through a list called "43 Reasons To Avoid Movie 43", but decided against it. This movie doesn't deserve it.

29 January 2013

THE LAST STAND- Review

In the midst of all the in-jokes and macho camaraderie that glued The Expendables 2 together, and specifically in the midst of a climactic firefight, there's an exchange between Bruce Willis and Arnold Schwarzenegger. When Arnie throws out his most famous catchphrase, Willis cuts him off and says "You've been back enough. I'll be back." It's not hard to imagine how The Last Stand would have been less interesting if it had been Willis starring, rather than Schwarzenegger.

But I'll get back to why that has any relevance at all in due time. Schwarzenegger makes his big action hero comeback as Sheriff Ray Owens, a giant, slightly wearied Austrian-American who enjoys the simple pleasures of looking after Sommerton Junction, a small town located on the border between the US and Mexico. Elsewhere, the FBI loses track of Cortez, an international drug lord who immediately hightails it towards the border. Ultimately, only Ray and his deputies will stand between Cortez and freedom.

28 January 2013

LINCOLN- Review

Steven Spielberg recently said that he's never made a movie so performance-led as Lincoln, and it's also true that he's never made a film that was quite so talky as this one. The film is notably lacking in his signature moves, or even the usual presence of at least one visually astonishing sequence. Even more notably, however, it's doubtful that any of the audience will mind.

The film is titled Lincoln, and revolves around the President of the United States' efforts in the passage of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution, abolishing slavery and ending the Civil War. But in the scheme of things, that succession of events was based upon meticulous planning, and the participation (willing or not) of over two thirds of the House of Representatives. In this pursuit, he enlists lobbyists to talk around members of the opposition, and Rep. Thaddeus Stevens, who has campaigned for racial equality all his life. With this in mind, is it really about Abraham Lincoln, or is he merely the still centre around all of this revolved?

23 January 2013

WRECK-IT RALPH- Review

Before we get cracking on Disney's latest animated film, a word or two on the studio's current franchise monopoly- they now own Pixar, Marvel and LucasFilm, so it's safe to say that Toy Story/Avengers/Star Wars will replenish their Scrooge McDuck-style vaults of treasure for the foreseeable future. It makes you wonder what they'll acquire next, and in Wreck-It Ralph, you'll almost be convinced that the house that Mario built is in Disney's sights.

Still, it's not the licenced Sega and Nintendo characters who are the main focus of Wreck-It Ralph, but the eponymous Ralph, an original character who serves as the bad guy in a Donkey Kong-style 8-bit game, continually foiled by Fix-It Felix for just as long as kids continue to spend their pocket money at the run-down arcade where the characters "live". After hours, Ralph is really more of a good-natured oaf, leading to something of an existential crisis about his job. Deciding that he'd quite like some of the adulation afforded to Felix, he goes exploring in other game worlds, putting his own home in danger.

21 January 2013

DJANGO UNCHAINED- Review

Is Quentin Tarantino really so controversial, when the usually uber-safe Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences continues to nominate his films for multiple Oscars, including Best Picture? After Inglourious Basterds was one of the first films to benefit from the broader field of Best Picture nominations, QT's follow-up, Django Unchained, seems to have answered with a resounding "Fuck yeah, I'm still controversial."

Still, this is Tarantino delving into Westerns, a genre that tends to be increasingly favoured by the Academy in modern times, while inevitably putting his own spin on it. Most will see it as a Southern, taking place across several American states, pre-civil war. German bounty hunter Dr. King Schultz liberates the eponymous Django from slavery, and enlists him in the collection of a bounty. In return for his service, Schultz pledges his support in unchaining Django's wife, Broomhilda, who has been sold to a sadistic plantation owner by the name of Calvin J. Candie.

14 January 2013

LES MISÉRABLES- Review

After grabbing the 2011 Academy Award for Best Director from under David Fincher's nose, Tom Hooper hasn't simply decided to rest on his laurels. His new project, following the Oscar-winning success of The King's Speech is Les Misérables, a hugely ambitious adaptation of Cameron Mackintosh's stage musical of Victor Hugo's novel. Sure enough, it's been nominated for several more Oscars, but that's as much as we need to say about awards bunkum.

The film's hero is Jean Valjean, a convict who is released on parole after almost two decades in servitude, into a world that will never forgive or forget his minor crime. Not least amongst his troubles is Inspector Javert, a dogged lawman who vows to pursue Valjean for as long as he lives. After a priest offers him unexpected kindness, Valjean resolves to become a new man, pledging to help and protect the impoverished Fantine and her daughter Cosette, and in turn, putting himself on a collision course with Javert.

11 January 2013

GANGSTER SQUAD- Review

Director Ruben Fleischer burst onto the scene in 2009 with Zombieland, a zom-com that easily surpassed any number of Shaun of the Dead knock-offs with its wicked sense of humour and distinctive aesthetic. His follow-up feature, 30 Minutes Or Less, wasn't so highly regarded, but his visual style comes back in a big way for Gangster Squad, a fictionalised re-telling of LAPD's war against East Coast mobster Mickey Cohen in the late 1940s.

Homicide cop and WW2 veteran John O'Mara is waging an insubordinate crusade against Cohen, who has most of the LAPD in his pocket, and he's constantly getting into trouble for it. Moral authoritarian Chief Parker sees potential in O'Mara's dedication to fighting crime in the city of angels, and puts him in charge of a secret squad of officers whose mission is to take the mob's empire apart by fair means or foul. This Gangster Squad wages a private war against Cohen, aware that they will never receive credit if they succeed, and that there is no one to turn to, if they should fail.

9 January 2013

TEXAS CHAINSAW 3D- Review

I haven't seen any of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre films. I actually held off reviewing Texas Chainsaw (3D), a direct sequel to the 1974 original, because I planned to watch that film first. By the time you're reading this, I will have seen that film, but ultimately, I decided that this review would be most useful from the perspective of a young, happening dude who hasn't yet seen the original, because that's who this film is for. And I still think it's a bit pants.

Beginning with a potted, very post-converted 3D rendition of Tobe Hooper's horror classic, this sequel shows the direct aftermath of Leatherface's initial chainsaw jamboree, as a principled sheriff fails to prevent an angry mob from burning down the Sawyer family's farmhouse. Cut to the present day, and young Heather's inheritance of a mansion from an estranged grandmother reveals that she was adopted, and she's actually a cousin to the Sawyers. When she and her eminently killable buddies stop off at the house during a road trip, her cousin resurfaces once again.

7 January 2013

THE IMPOSSIBLE- Review

The Impossible is the first new movie I've seen in 2013, and, as with The King's Speech and Slumdog Millionaire in previous years, it feels like we've started on an absurdly strong note. It bears saying in advance that I cried on three separate occasions while watching this thing, and while I've been known to cry in the cinema, it doesn't come easily. This is capital-H Harrowing stuff.

Based on the true story of one family's ordeal, the film takes place before, during and principally after the devastating tsunami that hit countries around the Indian ocean on Boxing Day in 2004. The Belons are holidaying in Thailand when the disaster strikes, and Maria and her eldest son, Lucas, are separated from her husband, Henry, and her other sons, Thomas and Simon. Separated by both distance and the astronomical odds against reuniting, amidst the chaos and grief that came with this tragedy, members of the family attempt to find one another.

1 January 2013

The Mad Prophet's Best and Worst of 2012

Happy New Year from Liam Neeson, who charts in both my best and worst lists for 2012...
2012 was a pretty good year in cinema. After a slightly slow start, the second half of the year was consistently amazing. Maybe it's just that I was smart enough to swerve the likes of This Means War, That's My Boy and Here Comes The Boom, but even my worst-of list is a little more sparse this time around, (although my pick for the very worst film is truly one of the worst of all time) and it was tough to narrow my best-of list down to just ten films.

Given the smaller worst-of list, I thought it would make sense to do both reviews of the year in one post for a change. All inclusions are based on UK release dates, so while The Artist would be eligible, Robot And Frank would not. Not that I've seen Robot And Frank yet- really looking forward to it though. Secondly, all opinions are my own, and although more of the "best films of the year" made it into this top ten than ever before, it's still more like a list of favourites than a qualitative assessment. If you wanna snark, snark when you've watched 120 of last year's films.

After the jump, we'll dig right in with my choices for worst of 2012.