30 April 2014

THE LOVE PUNCH- Review

I'm thinking about writing a script for Pierce Brosnan. While I am by no means the first to point out Bron-homme's fondness for scripts that take place overseas, irrespective of their merits outside of that, The Love Punch is what I imagine would happen if someone were given the unenviable task of creating a story for Wish You Were Here... The Movie.

It needn't have been so, either. With a timely plot in which an unscrupulous hedge fund manager leaves a few hundred employees without jobs or pensions, this should have been a bit more fun. Bron-homme plays Richard, a character who's divorced from Emma Thompson's Kate. When Richard's job is pulled out from underneath him, the two of them stop squabbling and decide to take what they're owed, with an elaborate, globe-trotting plot to rob the man who stole their retirement on his wedding day.

28 April 2014

LOCKE- Review

When screenwriter Steven Knight dipped his toe into directing with last year's Hummingbird, it felt more like a development for Jason Statham, who continues to incrementally expand his range as an actor while still making films that could broadly be described as the same. Locke feels more like the calling card film for Knight, getting more mileage out of a limited set-up than some more experienced directors could manage.

While all the raves you've heard about it are true, it's also true that the less you know about that set-up, the more you'll enjoy the film. With that in mind, it's probably safest to say that Ivan Locke is a foreman who's on the eve of the biggest day of his career- the biggest cement pour in UK history- but he's driving hundreds of miles in the opposite direction in his BMW. Unable to turn around or change destination, he tries to make the best of his situation, and a catastrophic mistake that has led him on this journey, through phone conversations with his colleagues and loved ones.

24 April 2014

THE OTHER WOMAN- Review

After what feels like a whole month of comic book intrigue, thumping macho action and... comic book intrigue, the multiplexes are probably ready for a little counter-programming. With the same level of character development and slack grasp on reality as Friday's Transcendence, The Other Woman only contrasts with the crowd as another romantic comedy that feels cobbled together by a (very male) committee, focus-grouped down to the lowest common denominator and embalmed in studio gloss.

Though clearly mounted with aspirations to the all-prevailing Judd Apatow comedy style, this would-be raunchy comedy averages out as a relatively tame studio effort. The story starts with high-flying lawyer Carly discovering that her new boyfriend Mark is married, and then reluctantly befriending Kate, his devastated wife. When they discover a second mistress, Amber, all three of them team up to wreak vengeance on the man who has messed them about.

23 April 2014

IN YOUR EYES- Review

There are worse ways to come down from the long Easter weekend than to discover that Joss Whedon has gone and released a new film. Moments after its world première at the Tribeca Film Festival, Whedon announced that his sci-fi romance In Your Eyes could be in your eyes right away, for a $5 rental fee on Vimeo.

The film centres around Dylan and Rebecca, two people who are inextricably connected by a shared psychic connection. Young Rebecca has a sledging accident, and Dylan is knocked out cold, thousands of miles away. Flash forward to their adulthood- he's an under-achieving ex-con in New Mexico, and she's a skittish housewife who lives with her condescending husband in New Hampshire. Once the connection between them becomes more obvious, they are able to converse with one another out loud, and see and feel whatever the other is experiencing.

22 April 2014

TRANSCENDENCE- Review

There's no real way around the feeling that Transcendence is disappointingly Christopher Nolan-lite. The director may have made a whole bunch of "gritty" reboots of established properties feel like the vogue, with his acclaimed Dark Knight films, but far fewer filmmakers have tried to ape the intellectual blockbuster antics of 2010's Inception. But while the first directorial effort from Nolan's long-time cinematographer Wally Pfister may look just like one of his films, it's nothing like as deep or rewarding.

Transcendence here describes the point at which artificial intelligence surpasses the capacity of human intelligence, and Dr. Will Caster and his team are working towards this very point in their research. When radical, anti-technology terrorists perform an effective, drawn-out and painful assassination attempt on Will, his wife and lab partner Evelyn decides that the only way to save his life is to upload his mind into a computer system, and by so doing, achieving their goal.

18 April 2014

THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2- Review

This review is spoiler-free, but will obviously talk about all of the other Spider-Man movies released up to now.
Ten years ago, Sam Raimi made Spider-Man 2, a film that stands up as one of the greatest comic book movies ever made, even after a decade in which Christopher Nolan and Marvel Studios came along and revolutionised the genre. The Amazing Spider-Man 2 has much more to live up to than its predecessor, a premature reboot that was roundly and deservedly lambasted as a washed-out, incoherent bash at Spider-Man Begins.

Having dreaded this one all year, it might actually be one of the most pleasant surprises of the year. While it's at least as over-stuffed with sub-plots as the interesting disaster that was Spider-Man 3, it's a much livelier and more colourful affair than the previous film. Peter Parker is still angsting over his doomed romance with Gwen Stacy, and the two of them can't seem to actually stay away from each other. Nevertheless, Spider-Man's notoriety has made him a hit with the people of New York, even as his enemies within Oscorp make plans against the webslinger.

16 April 2014

THE DOUBLE- Review

For better or worse, acclaimed first-time directors often seem to run as far in the opposite direction as they can when mounting their follow up film. Like the charming Submarine, Richard Ayoade's second directorial effort The Double seems to take place out-of-time, albeit with more retro-futuristic leanings this time around, and that's really just about the only similarity I can think of.

Jesse Eisenberg plays Simon James, an admin worker who files inconsequential reports about unspecified subjects, for employers who don't recognise him after seven years of working there. Just about the only thing that keeps him going through his daily purgatory is his attraction to fellow employee Hannah, a girl who works in reprographics and lives in the opposite apartment block. But things get markedly worse for Simon, with the arrival of a charismatic new colleague, James Simon, who is literally the equal and opposite of our bewildered hero.

11 April 2014

THE QUIET ONES- Review

Far from feeling impatient about the two-year wait between films, it should be an encouraging sign that Hammer Studios have taken so long between The Woman In Black, which was their first major box office success of the 21st century, and their latest feature, The Quiet Ones. Furthermore, it's very interesting that they've gone with the kind of premise that wouldn't have been out of place between their more recognisable, better remembered monster features, rather than straight into a Woman In Black sequel (which is actually due next February.)

This fits more squarely in the non-literary sub-genre of scientific follies, with Jared Harris standing in for the likes of Robert Powell as the science-y type- no Dr. Frankenstein here, thank you very much. Harris plays Professor Coupland, a university professor with some radical theories about paranormal activity. Set in the 1970s, the film follows his efforts to prove these theories by invoking a demonic spirit called Evey in a disturbed patient, and hoping to prove that there are no ghosts other than those we manifest by ourselves. This works about as well as you would expect, especially after Coupland takes his patient and a bunch of students out to a big house in the middle of nowhere.

9 April 2014

THE RAID 2- Review

Words like "breakthrough", "smash" and "hit" are bandied around quite a bit when it comes to surprisingly successful films, and particularly when those films happen to have been made in a language other than English. But seldom have such violent descriptors fit the bill quite so enjoyably as Gareth Evans' The Raid, a brutal nuts-and-bolts actioner that made art out of the simplest of plots.

The Raid 2 definitely feels some of the pressure that comes from following up such a well-received martial arts flick, and Evans has made a brave stab (along with a quick kick and punch while you're still flinching) at escalating the story. Starting shortly after the exhaustive tower block antics of the first film, SWAT cop Rama is extracted the wreckage by infernal affairs, and recruited to infiltrate Jakarta's ruling crime syndicate with a view to bringing it down. What follows involves a considerably greater amount of punching, kicking, stabbing, hammering and batting(!) than the whole premise of going undercover would initially suggest.

7 April 2014

NOAH- Review

If they gave out awards to filmmakers for their performance of press and publicity duties, Darren Aronofsky would certainly be in the running for the best of the year so far. Faced with backlash from Christians and the more secular member of his fanbase alike, he’s been dropping truth bombs left, right and centre, which goes to show that if nothing else, Noah comes from a thoughtful and open-minded filmmaker.

While I think that we can safely declare a moratorium on spoilers for the story of Noah’s ark, this remains a more radical and surprising biblical movie than anything we’ve seen since Scorsese’s The Last Temptation of Christ. Without ever paying lip-service to the G-man, Aronofsky casts Russell Crowe as a family man who is plagued by visions of an apocalyptic flood by “the Creator”. With this in mind, Noah accepts the duty of creating a stronghold to protect the innocent creatures of the world, and keep out the wicked.