29 September 2014

Review: THE EQUALIZER

As remakes go, The Equalizer bears about as much resemblance to the Edward Woodward TV series The Equalizer, as the Nicolas Cage version of The Wicker Man did to the Edward Woodward film The Wicker Man. Like that remake, this one takes the most basic premise of its source and transplants it to a new story in a modern setting. Namely, Richard McCall is a retired operative with a mysterious past who decides to use his particular set of skills to right wrongs and help out ordinary people.

As played by Denzel Washington, he's a popular employee at a DIY store by day, but by night, he struggles with insomnia and can't help saving the day when he sees bad guys picking on the little people. One such good deed arises from his friendship with a young escort called Teri and culminates in a massacre of the Russian mob's key players on the east coast of America, pitting McCall against the forces of that same powerful international crime syndicate.

26 September 2014

Review: WHAT WE DID ON OUR HOLIDAY

As the child stars of BBC One's Outnumbered grow older and thus less deserving of our attention, series creators Andy Hamilton and Guy Jenkin have come up with an elegant and surprising solution to what surely must be a high demand at BBC Films for their show to follow Mrs Brown and The Inbetweeners from small screen acclaim to big box office returns.

While we bade farewell to the Brockmans at the end of the 2014 series, Hamilton and Jenkin's début feature, What We Did On Our Holiday, looks for all the world to be re-fitting their dysfunctional family shtick for the big screen. That it actually turns out to be something more unexpected might be worth the price of admission alone.

Read my full review on Den of Geek »

What We Did On Our Holiday is now showing at cinemas nationwide.

23 September 2014

Review: MAGIC IN THE MOONLIGHT

If you're keeping up at home, Woody Allen has made around 46 films for cinema. Most of those have come on a more or less annual basis since Annie Hall and since 2000, if you're to believe the popular consensus, a couple of those have been brilliant and the rest have been rubs. And so, like clockwork, after the acclaimed Blue Jasmine broke out and landed Cate Blanchett an Oscar, here comes the unreasonably drubbed Magic In The Moonlight.

While most sharpen their pens until they can crown the prolific writer-director's next "return to form", this is actually a perfectly charming entry in his canon, which immediately benefits from the casting of Colin Firth and Emma Stone. Firth plays Stanley, a misanthrope and a sceptic by day and a world-class magician by night. His friend and fellow magician Howard drafts him in to debunk the psychic abilities of Stone's beguiling American, Sophie Baker, who is holding seances for the well-to-do of 1920s England. The experience confronts Stanley with the possibility that there really might be such a thing as unexplainable and irrational magic.

18 September 2014

Review: A MOST WANTED MAN

It doesn't feel like so long ago that Tomas Alfredson's take on Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy was garnering huge acclaim for its measured and deliberate pace. Anton Corbijn brings another, more contemporary John Le Carré spy novel to the screen in A Most Wanted Man, a film which is both like and unlike Alfredson's take.

The film is set not in the 1960s, but within the last decade or so, following a catastrophic oversight in catching the ringleader behind the September 11th attacks while he was planning from Hamburg. German intelligence is fraught with in-fighting and back-stabbery, and spymaster Gunther Bachmann is fed up with it. When a Chechen Muslim enters Germany to stake his claim on an enormous fortune, Bachmann must investigate the possibility that the money will be used to fund terrorist organisations, without succumbing to pressure from other departments, both in his own organisation and abroad.

13 September 2014

Review: PRIDE

There's something undeniably uplifting about Pride. Universal critical praise and comparisons to The Full Monty and Brassed Off have seemed to pre-empt the film's box office success even before it's out on general release, but it's not merely the fact that it's a working class underdog story. This is the kind of film that makes you go away wanting to tell other people to see it, because for the most part, it's a bloody riot.

Stephen Beresford's script takes place in 1984 and follows the true story of the formation of Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners, (LGSM) a group of young activists who notice that the striking miners are now enduring a similar kind of police brutality to which they've become accustomed. Led by the irrepressible Mark, the group treks to the Welsh mining village of Onllwyn to throw their support behind the locals and help them through the bleak midwinter inflicted by Margaret Thatcher's government.

12 September 2014

Review: THE BOXTROLLS

The national treasure that is Aardman generally takes quite a while between making films- their first film since 2012's The Pirates! In An Adventure With Scientists will be next year's Shaun the Sheep. In meantime, American studio Laika Animation has been flying the flag for stop-motion animation, as well as making some pretty impressive technical advances with the goal of being able to produce features annually. Even more impressive is that they've turned out three cracking family films in the process.

Their latest is The Boxtrolls, based in part on the novel Here Be Monsters! Beneath the town of Cheesebridge, whose council consists of four white-hatted cheese-munching toffs, there dwells a race of Womble-like trolls who scavenge what they need to survive from the folk who live above. Ruthless social climber Archibald Snatcher will do anything to upgrade from red hat to white hat and having turned the town against the Boxtrolls, he vows to exterminate every last one of them to cement his position.

10 September 2014

Review: BEFORE I GO TO SLEEP


In lieu of a proper introduction, that video says everything that annoys me about knowing there's a plot twist before you see a movie. It's not hard to catch me out with a really good one, because that's the one part of my brain I tend to switch off during cinema visits, but Before I Go To Sleep is really built to disorient ahead of its one big reveal, which leaves you with little to do except guess.

This is based on an acclaimed debut novel by British author S.J. Watson, about Christine Lucas, a woman who wakes up each and every day with no memory of her life. She forms new memories during the day with the aid of her doting husband Ben and a neurologist called Dr Nasch, but forgets it all while she's asleep. When Nasch suggests recording a video diary to help her recover, she realises that certain things are being hidden from her and starts to record as much of the truth as she can manage.

7 September 2014

Review: THE GUEST

Delivered straight-up and without compromise, The Guest may be the best genre movie of the year. The only trouble in declaring it so, is in telling you which genre it actually is. However Netflix ends up classifying it in the future, writer-director Adam Wingard (You're Next) manages it all masterfully, delivering another subversive and unpredictable exploitation flick that makes an instant movie star of Dan Stevens.

Read my full review on Den of Geek »

The Guest is now showing in cinemas nationwide.

6 September 2014

The Zero Room #15- Wheatley Wipe

"I'm Scottish. I am Scottish. I can complain about things. I can really complain about things now."

In retrospect, the wait doesn't seem that long, but bah, it was interminable between Christmas and last bank holiday weekend. Nevertheless, Peter Capaldi's Doctor has landed in a double bill of episodes directed by Ben Wheatley, (A Field In England, Sightseers, Kill List) titled Deep Breath and Into The Dalek. The movie connection is as good an excuse as any to pick up the reviews again, but by this point, you already know how I do when it comes to Who.

Reviews will contain spoilers, so if you haven't seen the episode yet, toddle over to the iPlayer, or watch BBC Three at some point in the next century's worth of repeats.

5 September 2014

Review: SEX TAPE

You know how we were talking about Let's Be Cops' shitty timing in cinemas, with the recent fiasco involving the Ferguson PD? Well, one week later, we have a comedy in which Cameron Diaz is mortified to discover that explicit images of her have been uploaded to Apple's iCloud for the viewing pleasure of the world. It's a good thing that nothing like that has happened in real life, right?

Luckily, Sex Tape isn't nearly as offensively bad as Let's Be Cops, though that's not to say it's any good either. It's about Jay and Annie, who married young and had two kids. They're both disappointed that their remarkably high sex drives have diminished over time and they can't even find their rhythm when they have a rare opportunity to shag. Out of desperation and drunkenness, Annie suggests they film their own entirely faithful adaptation of The Joy of Sex on Jay's iPad. The hangover hits hard the next day, once they realise that the video has been synced to a number of other devices belonging to their friends, family and colleagues.

3 September 2014

Review: MILLION DOLLAR ARM

It's tough to shake the feeling that if the script for Million Dollar Arm had been around at Disney in the 1990s, or if Jon Hamm hadn't attached himself to it at the peak of Mad Men's popularity, then Tim Allen would have taken the lead role. The story itself could have been picked up at any studio, but the fact that it comes from the House of Mouse's live-action division means that it also shakes dust off the old character trope of the Disney dad.

It's no mean feat, considering that sports agent JB Bernstein isn't a father in this story. Based on real events, this is the story of the titular talent competition, dreamt up by JB to save his flagging agency from closure. Inspired by an unlikely combination of cricket and Susan Boyle, his pitch is to find an Indian bowler who can pitch fastballs and tap a billion new international baseball fans. In fairly short order, (montages always help) he finds a couple of likely candidates and brings them back to the States to train up.

1 September 2014

Review: DELIVER US FROM EVIL

Over the last decade or so, writer and director Scott Derrickson has gradually become one of the main movers in horror cinema. Part of what makes him so interesting is that he's open about the fact that he makes horror films to get to grips with fears of the immaterial and supernatural which arise from his own Christian faith. This informs the viewing experience of Deliver Us From Evil substantially.

Based on the memoirs of NYPD sergeant Ralph Sarchie, it plays up the police procedural aspect more than the supernatural thrills. The story starts when a deranged woman throws her infant child into a ravine and Sarchie and his partner manage to find a connection between the episode and other crimes they have attended on the same night. At first, only shonky decorating and a recital of The Doors' music are their only clues, but the interjection of a demon-fighting priest sheds light on a supernatural influence in New York.