25 April 2013

EVIL DEAD- Review

Does this scream "Read me", to you?
Well, it goes to show you never can tell. By all rights, any remake or reimagining of Sam Raimi's Evil Dead series should be absolutely terrible, and it's a concept that's been making me shudder with dread since it was announced. It's also coming out in the shadow of last year's The Cabin in the Woods, itself a subversive horror flick that lovingly put a stake through the heart of the "five teens go into the woods" movie.

It's surprising then, that although Evil Dead still doesn't quite hit the spot, it still turned out to be quite enjoyable. First and foremost, it's a straight rehash of the original. They don't even try to recast or reboot Ash Williams, and instead introduce five new characters and a new story. Mia is a drug addict, who is taken out into the woods by her three friends, and her older brother David, after she nearly dies from an overdose. While staying at their family cabin, one of their number disturbs the ancient Book of the Dead, inadvertently inviting demons to terrorise and possess them, and setting an apocalyptic ritual in motion.

23 April 2013

THE PLACE BEYOND THE PINES- Review

Ryan Gosling has a couple of fledgling actor-director partnerships on the go, having done two films on the trot with Nicolas Winding-Refn (2011's Drive, and the upcoming Only God Forgives) and Derek Cianfrance. Following their Worst Date Movie Ever, Blue Valentine, his latest collaboration with Cianfrance is The Place Beyond The Pines, a drama that does something rather different, with what could be dismissed as a three-act structure.

Gosling plays Luke Glanton, a tattooed stunt rider who discovers that he conceived a son in a one night stand with a waitress. Unable to get an honest job, he turns his motorcycling skills to the lucrative business of robbing banks, in order to try and support his son. Elsewhere, New York beat cop Avery Cross becomes entangled with Luke and his family in the course of duty, with dramatic consequences for both men, and even for their sons.

19 April 2013

IRON MAN 3- Review

This is a spoiler-free review- I'll be posting a more in-depth look at Iron Man 3 after it's released in the UK next week, but if you still don't want to know anything, proceed with caution...


Robert Downey Jr was put on this planet for two reasons- to play Tony Stark, and to deliver dialogue written by Shane Black. Iron Man 3 has him doing both of these things. The writer-director already collaborated with Downey on Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, and was recently revealed as one of the consultants on the tumultuous production of Iron Man, but has fully taken the reins on the latest instalment.

But the film has the unenviable task of following The Avengers, which ended with a near-death experience for Iron Man. One year after saving New York from both alien invaders and the shady SHIELD higher-uppers, Tony Stark is still rattled by the events. Obsessively creating new Iron Man suits, Tony is plagued by post-traumatic stress disorder, insomnia and even anxiety attacks. He foolishly has a go at a powerful terrorist known as the Mandarin, resulting in a cataclysmic attack on his personal life that leaves him alone, lacking his usual resources, and determined to find retribution.

18 April 2013

OLYMPUS HAS FALLEN- Review

While Olympus Has Fallen is an unabashed throwback to 90s action thrillers, it's all the more sweet for coming out just a short while after A Good Day To Die Hard. That sequel was truly abysmal, dragging its leading man behind it as it hobbled between noisy, implausible setpieces and haemorraged every attempt at humour. This one is hardly more intelligent, but Olympus Has Fallen is the best Die Hard film of the year, by a wide margin.

Borrowing from a familiar action movie structure, the film begins 18 months before the action, as US Secret Service agent Mike Banning saves President Ben Asher from a car accident, but fails to rescue the First Lady from an untimely death. Removed from the President's security detail, Banning is working a desk job when the White House is attacked, first from the air, and then from the ground. As a Korean terrorist, Kang, takes control and holds the President and several other key officials as hostages, Banning winds up being the Pentagon's eyes and ears inside the White House, as the terrorists' audacious attack gives way to a devastating plan to change the world.

16 April 2013

ROBOT & FRANK- Review

I've been wanting to see Robot & Frank ever since the first trailer appeared online, last summer. To all intents and purposes, its quirky premise looked a bit like a Pixar movie that had somehow escaped from their studios in Emeryville and became a live-action version instead. The trailer alone ran the gamut from comedy to heist movie, through both dramatic moments and adorableness- having finally got to see it, did it stand up to my anticipation?

When we first meet Frank, he's absent-mindedly robbing his own house in the middle of the night. He lives alone in the woods, though his grown-up children check in on him every now and again. His son, Hunter, has even gone out of his way to visit every week, and it's over the course of these visits that he's noticed his father's condition depreciating. With that in mind, he brings him a robot butler, programmed with the goal of looking after Frank and improving his mental and physical health, to take the strain off himself and his own young family. Little does he realise that Frank's boredom will soon give way to a more ingenious use for the robot.

11 April 2013

OBLIVION- Review

There's less of this than you'd think. Good gun-face though.
It's been said before that the difference between a homage and a rip-off, in the eyes of a film reviewer, depends solely on how much the reviewer in question liked the more recent film in comparison to its forerunners. If you want to get all post-modern and cynical about it, there is no more entirely new art to be had.

In the case of Oblivion, a film in which Tom Cruise's drone repairman is haunted by vague feelings of deja vu and half-remembered experiences, the question of where it all comes from is more relevant than you might think. In the aftermath of a nuclear war with alien invaders, Jack Harper does his WALL·E thing by day, and enjoys the company of his partner and colleague, Victoria, by night. It's repetitive work, but the couple are soon to be relieved of their duties, and sent off to humanity's outer space sanctuary. But matters are complicated when a shuttle crashes to Earth, and Jack meets Julia, a woman who he believed only existed in his dreams.

9 April 2013

JACK THE GIANT SLAYER- Review

Long-time collaborators Bryan Singer and Christopher McQuarrie have come to this project, which started out as a remake of the stop-motion-tastic 1962 film Jack The Giant Killer, and put their own spin on it, and so like so many recent films in its sub-genre, Jack The Giant Slayer seems like a film that is stricken by seriousness. While the so-called new seriousness has stretched as far as Batman and Bond, it seldom feels less at home than in a fairytale film, and we're all left flabbergasted at how over-explaining something can be just as bad as under-thinking it.

In this version, a whole bunch of giant beings live a resentful existence, imprisoned in a land between heaven and Earth by a mystical curse. Meanwhile, down below, well-meaning farm boy Jack winds up exchanging a horse for a pouch of magic beans. During an unlikely encounter with the errant princess Isabelle, a massive beanstalk erupts from below Jack's house, carrying both it and Isabelle off to the airborne land of the giants. Jack bravely volunteers to help rescue the princess, but there's a traitor amongst the King's allies, and the giants now have a passage to Albion.

8 April 2013

SPRING BREAKERS- Review

During its unexpected run in multiplexes, Spring Breakers is being prefaced by trailers for upcoming features like 21 And Over and The Hangover Part III. This might lend to the misconception that the film is another in the line of apparently outrageous (actually just offensive) teen party movies, but with bikini-clad girls standing in for moronic male lifeforms. It'd be a bit more interesting if the film was preceded by this clip from director Harmony Korine's previous film, Trash Humpers.

In that event, it'd be more a case of locking the door behind the unsuspecting mainstream crowd, who are about to be quite spectacularly trolled. Spring Breakers stars Disney TV alumni Vanessa Hudgens, Selina Gomez and Ashley Benson, along with the director's wife, Rachel Korine, as a bunch of college students looking forward to spring break. However, with low funds and a staggering sense of entitlement, they violently rob a chicken restaurant to finance their celebrations. Upon their arrival in Florida, the debauchery begins, and only intensifies with the arrival of gangster/awful rapper Alien.

2 April 2013

G.I. JOE: RETALIATION- Review

Arriving some time after the brains-off silliness of G.I. Joe: The Rise of COBRA, this revamped sequel feels somewhat out of place in March. It's properly silly summer blockbuster stuff, but back in June 2012, around three weeks before the film was due to be released, Paramount decided to delay it by a whole nine months. This was ostensibly to convert it into 3D and shoot more scenes with newly-minted A-lister Channing Tatum, but it has been suggested that brand confidence was low after the much deserved flop of Battleship.

They needn't have worried, because director Jon M. Chu already had a sweet opportunity lined up for him, thanks to the quite tantalising sequel hook that The Rise of COBRA left on the table. The President of the United States has been replaced by Zartan, a master of disguise who works for the global criminal network, COBRA. As G.I. Joe: Retaliation begins, our Joes, led by Dwayne Johnson's Roadblock, are unaware of this. However, a violent abolition of their organisation puts them on the warpath, alone but determined to unstick their enemies' most audacious conspiracy to date.