27 June 2014

CHEF- Review

To paraphrase The Simpsons' Ralph Wiggum, “the food truck symbolises obviousness” in Chef. Jon Favreau's first film since 2011's Cowboys & Aliens is a back-to-basics personal comedy film that probably cost about as much as the catering budget of that film or either of his Iron Man efforts. What a coincidence then, that it also stars Favreau as the lead character, who goes back to basics in a similar way.

Chef Carl Casper was once the next big thing in cuisine, but has since settled into a creative rut at a restaurant owned by Riva. He's been serving his boss' menu for five years, but finally loses his tether when he gets a very public critical drubbing from acerbic food writer Ramsey Michel. Courtesy of a less-than-ideal introduction to the world of social media, Carl's subsequent flame war and meltdown at Michel goes viral and Riva sacks him. Handily, his ex-wife calls in a favour to get him a taco truck, providing him with a blank canvas for his culinary art, as well as an opportunity to reconnect with his 10-year-old son Percy.

Read more on Den Of Geek »

Chef is now showing in cinemas nationwide.

24 June 2014

3 DAYS TO KILL- Review

Aside from their better but less lucrative output, the French production company EuropaCorp more or less single-handedly converted "Liam Neeson" and "Jason Statham" into genres in and of themselves with their franchise movies and now McG's 3 Days To Kill shows what happens when a script that neither of those actors would touch with a ten-foot bargepole somehow makes it to the screen anyway. We can only assume it was printed on flypaper so that poor Kevin Costner couldn't escape it.

He plays Ethan Renner, a career hitman for the CIA who is promptly let go when he discovers that he has terminal cancer in his brain and lungs. He decides to use his remaining time to reconcile with his family, promising his wife that he's done with killing and trying to connect with his oblivious teenage daughter. Alas, just when he thinks he's out, the pouting Vivi Delay pulls him back in, promising a major cash payout and access to an experimental drug that could prolong his life, if he's able to kill the major players in an international crime syndicate within just 72 hours.

23 June 2014

OCULUS- Review

It's not hard to get all blasé about modern horror, saturated by a studio system that churns out cheap, hit-and-miss ghost train rides which are more interested in getting a momentary jumpy rise out of an audience, than playing on their minds for any longer than it takes for them to leave the cinema. For instance, Oculus is only scary if you regularly have to be around mirrors, reflective surfaces, camera, dogs, offices, apples, bulbs, lights, darkness, you own house or anybody you love, especially your parents.

The story for writer-director-editor Mike Flanagan's primal psychological horror kicks off when 21-year-old Tim Russell is released from a mental institution after an 11 year incarceration following the death of his parents. He's ready to move on with his life but the other survivor of this ordeal, his older sister Kaylie, has other ideas. She believes that the Lasser Glass, a mirror in their father's office, drove their parents insane and she aims to prove it. Having acquired the supposedly haunted artefact at auction, she and Tim set up a series of elaborate tests for the malevolent force, with the objective of destroying it once and for all.

17 June 2014

THE FAULT IN OUR STARS- Review

There are few things that a young adult fantasy novel can say in two films that it can't say in one. Twilight, The Hunger Games and Divergent have all added an extra carriage to their respective gravy trains by splitting books into two movies and the young adult adaptation engine continues chugging away. It's nice then, when films like The Perks of Being a Wallflower or The Fault in Our Stars come along and remind us that it's not all franchisable.

Still, you can bet that author John Green will now be referenced in trailers for films "from the author of The Fault in Our Stars" from next year til around 2020. This one comes from his best-selling tearjerker that examines the life of a teenage cancer patient without dehumanising or patronising her. Hazel was diagnosed with terminal thyroid cancer when she was 13 and has pretty much given up on a regular teenage social life. At a support group, her eyes are opened by a recovering amputee called Augustus, and the two begin a tentative relationship in which neither of them wants to get hurt.

11 June 2014

PULP: A Film About Life, Death & Supermarkets

It's not often that I'll just forsake any allusions to reviewing something and simply do a blog, but Pulp: A Film About Life, Death & Supermarkets isn't the kind of film that invites that sort of scrutiny. It may well be the most endearingly cobbled-together bit of filmmaking I've ever seen in the cinema and I'm sure I'd personally be a bit less kind to it if I wasn't a huge fan of Pulp.

If you're somehow unfamiliar with the band, Pulp was a rock band from Sheffield fronted by Jarvis Cocker, which found belated overnight success in the 1990s at the vanguard of Britpop and broke apart somewhat unremarkably in 2002. Jarvis talks about his dissatisfaction with the first ending in this documentary, directed by Florian Habicht, which covers what he calls a process of "tidying up" ten years later and sending the band off properly with a farewell tour. Specifically, the film is about Pulp's fanbase in their hometown and their final concert in December 2012.

10 June 2014

CHEAP THRILLS- Review

You know when you go to the pub for a couple of quick drinks when you've got work the next morning and wind up going out until 4am? The beginning of Cheap Thrills opens with that same sense of foreboding that you get right before leaving the pub to go to a nightclub, but the final result of lead character Craig's crazy evening is exponentially worse.

The trailers for the film have given far too much away, but what follows is about as much as you need to know. Craig is a young father who's struggling to support his wife and son with a crappy job at a mechanic's garage. When he's unceremoniously let go, he decides to go and drown his sorrows and bumps into an old high school acquaintance, Vince. The two of them get hammered with Colin and Violet, a rich couple who are out celebrating her birthday. Both friends are financially strapped, but luckily, Colin has the neat idea of making them perform challenges for cash and the stakes only escalate from there.

9 June 2014

22 JUMP STREET- Review

You know how it is- you find yourself waiting ages for a sequel which can "grab the audience's expectations by the horns in quite the way Muppets Most Wanted did" and then two come along in the same year. It also feels like just yesterday that Phil Lord and Christopher Miller released The Lego Movie, yet another stealth attack masterpiece, but 22 Jump Street is here to bring a more adult version of the same silliness.

This is their first sequel, and in doing a sequel, it means undercover detectives Schmidt and Jenko are at it again, "it" initially being an undercover operation to try and dismantle a drugs syndicate. When that fails, for the given reason that they weren't doing the exact same thing as they were in 21 Jump Street, they're busted back to the junior undercover division and told to infiltrate the dealers and find the suppliers of a new drug doing the rounds at Metro City State College. It's the same case, on a different day, but it all starts to put a strain on the two partners' bromance.

6 June 2014

FRUITVALE STATION- Review

There are no two ways about it- there will be spoilers in this review. Writer-director Ryan Coogler puts the climactic event of Fruitvale Station in its opening shot, using real life camera-phone footage of the incident before ceding into his 24 hour biopic, so if you don't know the story when it comes to Oakland resident Oscar Grant III and New Year's Day 2009, then you'll either want to go and see the film first or proceed carefully from here to the end of the review.

Coogler's film takes place in the last 24 hours of Oscar's life, making a late start on his resolutions for 2008 on his mother's birthday, which happens to coincide with New Year's Eve. He's recently got back together with the mother of his child after a bout of infidelity and even in the face of being fired from his job at a butcher's counter, he has resolved to stop selling drugs to support his family. We know, but he doesn't, that he's headed for a fatal confrontation with the police at the titular train station, as we watch him try to turn his life around.

5 June 2014

POMPEII- Review

It's been and gone in cinemas, surpassed and supplanted by superhero movies and other tentpoles, but surprise surprise- Paul W.S. Anderson actually made one of the best films he's ever made. That may seem like a high bar, for the director of such classics as Mortal Kombat, Alien vs. Predator and three out of five Resident Evil movies, but he conquers the weight of anticipation nicely.

This is pretty much what the trailers made it look like, but it pulls it off considerably better than I expected. Set in the days before the historic eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79AD, Milo the vengeful Celt and Cassia the city ruler's daughter are caught up in a star-crossed romance. He's due to take on undefeated veteran gladiator Atticus in his final fight and she's unwittingly betrothed to Roman senator Corvus, who just happens to be the man who slaughtered Milo's people when he was a boy. Will these crazy kids make it, and can they get out of Pompeii alive if they do.

3 June 2014

EDGE OF TOMORROW- Review

You know how the recent X-Men: Days Of Future Past used timey wimey shenaniganizing to pull the same trick of killing off familiar (if not beloved) supporting characters more than once? Remember how boring that immediately became after we'd seen it the once? By contrast, part of what Edge of Tomorrow does so well can be seen in how it repeats the same feat more frequently, more creatively, and with Tom Cruise standing in for New Mutant Character #456.

The film takes place in one of those near futures where Earth is at war with aliens, but the humans find their every move somehow anticipated and mimicked by the invaders. A bitter conflict has ensued and it's at the turn of the tide that PR man and armchair hawk Major William Cage is press ganged into leading the big push against the Mimics. He is hilariously unprepared for combat, but upon the event of his undignified and unusual death, he awakens 24 hours in the past, given the chance to relive the fateful day over and over again.

2 June 2014

A MILLION WAYS TO DIE IN THE WEST- Review

I've been thinking about the decline of Westerns as a genre lately, so it's a bitter coincidence that A Million Ways To Die In The West turned out as it has. Ted is a film that has a lot going for it, even if the comedy doesn't quite stand up to repeat viewings, (with the exception of that astonishing party scene) so it doesn't bode well that Seth MacFarlane's second directorial effort doesn't really land on first viewing either.

MacFarlane also takes his first on-screen starring role in this one as Albert Stark, a sheep farmer who was born about a century before his time, in the middle of the darkest, dirtiest and most dangerous period in America's history. His mood isn't much improved when his girlfriend, fed up of his negativity and cowardice about the frontier, decides to dump him for someone else. Happily, he cheers up with the arrival of Anna, but his infatuation is slightly marred by the fact that her husband is the most vicious gunfighter in the territory.