31 January 2014

The Big Old January Review Shuffle

Catch-up time. I've had one of those months where real life and other writing work has kept me from updating the blog, and I'm permanently trying to do better with that. In the meantime, here's a selection of some stuff I saw in January and didn't get around to reviewing on here, including Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, Devil's Due, Nebraska and Inside Llewyn Davies.

29 January 2014

Movie Talk On Sunday- GHOSTBUSTERS

Once again, real life has dragged me away from blogging for the last week or so, but there's a catch-up review post coming before Friday, promise. (Edit, 02/02/14- well, that's that promise knackered.) Before that, though, a sort of exciting announcement. I'll be hosting this week's Movie Talk On Sunday, on the evening of February 2nd, over on my Twitter account (@mharrison90).

The subject? Ghostbusters, bitch!

20 January 2014

THE WOLF OF WALL STREET- Review

I've sometimes had trouble with liking Martin Scorsese's anti-hero movies. Taxi Driver, Raging Bull and Goodfellas are all undeniably great films, but they're not films I rewatch all the time because I find them more admirable than enjoyable. By contrast, The Wolf of Wall Street pulls off an incredible balancing act between a funny and shamelessly hedonistic biopic, and a scorching, subtly un-subtle indictment of the character it depicts.

That character is Jordan Belfort, a Wall Street stockbroker, white collar criminal and all-around shitbag. Having weathered Black Monday on his very first day as a broker, Belfort starts up his own business selling worthless stocks in huge quantities, keeping a 50% commission from his investors/marks. The company soon mutates into Stratton Oakmont, a brokerage firm which is built upon stock fraud, and funds its own drug addicts and depraved office parties on its victims' dime, and things only become more reprehensible from there.

16 January 2014

DELIVERY MAN- Review

In all fairness, Delivery Man is the least terrible Vince Vaughn film I have seen in years. You could put his recent filmography through a centrifuge to try and look for some combination of him and a toxic co-star, or him and a toxic script, but the only thing all of Vince Vaughn's recent flops actually have in common, is Vince Vaughn. With that in mind, this at least gets points for not starring Adam Sandler, who tends to drag bad scripts and bad co-stars with him.

Vaughn plays Dave Wozniak, a "very, very bad meat delivery guy" (his words, not mine) who finds himself 80 grand deep in debt to a bunch of properly bad people. He's recklessly irresponsible, flouting his job and responsibilities to his police officer girlfriend Emma, who has just told him that she's pregnant. The dad-shock multiplies by around five-hundred-fold, when he discovers that a clinic, to which he made several hundred sperm donations, has been quite liberally using his stock. Worse still, he is now the target of a class-action lawsuit to make him reveal his identity to hundreds of his biological children.

10 January 2014

12 YEARS A SLAVE- Review

Director Steve McQueen doesn't half pick his subjects. Following in the wake of acclaimed dramas about a hunger protest, and sex addiction, McQueen tackles slavery in pre-Civil War America, with all the cheeriness of his previous efforts, in 12 Years A Slave. Despite receiving a lower 15 certificate than Quentin Tarantino's slave revenge fantasy, Django Unchained, (cert. 18) this is so harrowing as to largely show up the earlier film as something of a cartoon.

Based on the memoir by free man Solomon Northup, the film opens with the violinist being beguiled by a promise of a gig, and then kidnapped and sold off into slavery. Over the course of over a decade, his debt of ownership is passed on between various owners, but is principally carried out under the yoke of the sadistic and santimonious Edwin Epps. Solomon tries beyond reasonable limits to keep his spirit, hoping all the while that he can find a patron, or get word of his plight to his friends and family, and most importantly of all, survive.

8 January 2014

LAST VEGAS- Review

If the Hangover sequels were half as clever and funny as Todd Phillips thought they were, they probably should have waited until Bradley Cooper and company were in their 60s before making a sequel. Last Vegas captures everything that The Hangover had, and everything which Part II and Part III lacked, in spades, by casting a bunch of acting legends as four childhood friends who go on a bachelor party in the autumn of their lives.

Billy, the leader of their gang, is getting married to a woman who's less than half his age, and buddies Archie and Sam insist that he joins them for their standard stag weekend in Las Vegas. He accepts, and even Paddy- who fell out with Billy some time ago, for entirely understandable reasons- comes along for the ride. As Archie makes the most of his time away from an overprotective son, and Sam finds his mojo revitalised when his wife gives him permission to go on the pull, Billy tries to bury the hatchet with Paddy, and all four of them find themselves addressing unresolved tensions in their lives.

7 January 2014

MANDELA: LONG WALK TO FREEDOM- Review

To make a short summation of a long walk, Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom is precisely the kind of film that would throw a title drop into its closing narration, because it does just that. It was always going to pale in comparison with the tributes and outpourings of affection that have followed the late South African president's death in December, but this is so distinctly average that it looks like a mere monument.

That you most of us already know about Mandela's life and accomplishments is no bar to the film walking through the motions of that story, apparently oblivious to the fact that this straight line is probably not the most interesting route. Moving quickly on from an opening image from his childhood, William Nicholson's script takes on the length and breadth of the leader's experience, from his decision to join the ANC, through his more radical period, his subsequent arrest and arduous imprisonment, to his ultimate election as South Africa's first elected black leader.

2 January 2014

The Mad Prophet's Top 20 Films of 2013

"All your favourites are belong to me."
There are really two running themes to the list- coming-of-age films, because there are loads of them here, and Tom Hanks, because every single film he was in this year is here, and two of them are in the top ten. I can't say I've noticed patterns in previous lists, so maybe this is a 2013 thing- it's been a damn good year for both of those things, and many other things aside.