Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Red Riding Hood

A lot of reviews have billed this as a 'Twilight' twihard, due to the fact that werewolves are involved and it's directed by Catherine Hardwick. The Twilight series is much better, and more entertaining. Now that's a sentence I never thought I'd type. Oh, where to begin? This film is set in medieval times, in a highly stylised fairy tale type setting, chocolate box houses, vivid outfits, dirty dancing oh yes, and rap music, which they had a lot of in those days. Valerie (Amanda Seyfried) is a beautiful young lady, with a naughty side, who is in love with Peter (Shiloh Fernandez, who looks a lot like my friend Bob), a bit of a wild card and not her family's choice. She is betrothed to Henry (Max Irons)who is richer but not for her. The village gives regular sacrifices (Babe), to a werewolf to keep him from their door. Valerie's Mum (Virginia Madsden) and scary Grandma (Julie Christie, still beautiful, not much visible work done) have darks pasts but let on little. The werewolf starts a spate of killings, and Gary Oldman as Father Solomon is brought in to help. He brings his two daughters, who we promptly never see again, and a wardrobe of delightful purple robes to the scenario. The werewolf then talks to Valerie it reveals that they know each other, what are the odds? Val is left in a dilemma whether to go with her true love Peter, or to stay and help the village. Then there's the issue of finding out the identity of the hungry wolf, all during a blood moon, so there's the risk if you're bitten that you yourself will turn into one. Sounds convoluted and contrived? Well it is. A dismal film it has to be said. I like fantasy, but it has to be well written. The plot and atmosphere is reminiscent of the vastly superior 'The Village', even down to a suspicious village idiot, although in 'The Village' that idiot was the elegant Adrian Brody, in this film I think he's played by Ron Weasly's little brother. The cast are sound, but so underused it's the script writer that should be sacrifised. It's refreshing to see Gary Oldman, and he does his best to hamm it up, but given his terrible lines, he didn't have much to work with. Although I do love a man in majestic purple and he wears it exceptionally well. Amanda Seyfried is very pretty. The problem is that she looks too angelic to have a devil sitting on her shoulder and though she's not a bad actress, at this stage doesn't have the acting experience to make you believe otherwise. The younger cast are obviously there to showcase attractive young guns. Max Irons incidentally, is the son of Jeremy Irons and Sinead Cusack, he looks more like his Mum. But instead of projecting moody and mysterious, they all deliver stilted, wooden lines and look gormless. The film is produced by 'Appian Way' which is Leonardo DiCaprio's production company. One of the greatest actors of our generation, this man has such a great sense of judgement when it comes to his own film roles, it's suprising that he chose to produce this. Maybe it was a full moon when he read the script. A couple of points of interest, the part of Father Auguste, a pointless character it has to be said, is played by Lukas Haas, the little boy in Witness. I think Witness may have been his finest hour judging by the acting here. The fact that he is Leonardo's mate wouldn't have anything to do with it would it? Nothing wrong with giving a mate a break. Valerie's father is played by Billy Burke who is the father in the Twilight series as well. Badly edited to boot, there is not much to like about this movie, apart from the poor old wolf. RED RIDING HOOD: Oh Grandma, what a big yawn you have. Someone put a silver bullet in me! 3/10

Saturday, March 26, 2011


What if there was a drug that could enhance your brain power? Make you so much more productive, smart and clear thinking? Would you take it? This is the question posed to Eddie Morra (Bradley Cooper), a talented writer who is an uninspired, unmotivated loser. We know this because his hair looks like a bird's nest and you can smell him from your seat in the third row. Eddie doesn't take long to decide that yes, he'll take the drug please. Immediately life becomes clear. We know this because the scene takes on a yellow glowing hue, and his eyes become a turquoise irridescant pool of light. He finishes his book, he gets his girl back (underused Abbie Cornish) and he makes an awful lot of money with the help of Trump like business man, Carl Van Loon (yes, really) played by the legend that is Robert De Niro. The problem with having such a miracle drug is that there are plenty of people after it. There are also the ethical and medical dilemmas to dodge and his life is in danger as he is chased by an ammoral Eastern European money lender. It's a really interesting premise. I'm not sure quite what the message is, but it's a fun film. Somewhere along the line it doesn't quite hit the mark. Whilst it's largely well acted, I'm not convinced of Mr Cooper's star power. Yes, he's lush and yes, his eyes are a tantalising shade of blue, but can he carry a film? Based on this I'd suggest he's great at ensembles, not so great as lead actor, a bit like Brad Pitt really, don't ask me why I just don't see them as leading men. Still, it's a good film, and nice to see that there are some interesting scripts still knocking around. LIMITLESS:There is no limit to the depth of those baby blues.6/10.

The Reef

Loosely based on real life events, this pants wetter is set in the oceans of my sunburnt country; Australia. It's the story of a salty sea dog, Luke (Damien Walshe-Howling) and Kate (Zoe Naylor) who were once and item, and would be again if it wasnt' for that meddling great white. Kate and Luke are on a boat with Kate's brother Matt (Gyton Grantley) and Suzie (Adrienne Pickering) his girlfriend, for a scuba diving trip. After we see some magnificent shots of the beautiful creatures the sea has to offer, things soon turn to less than perfect. The boat capsizes and the four people, along with Captain Warren (Kieran Darcy-Smith) are left with an agonizing decision. Do they swim approximately twenty kilometres to where Luke is fairly certain there is an island, or do they stay atop the boat and drift further out to sea? What an horrific dilemma. Three of them decide to trust Luke's navigational skills and swim for land. Warren, a fisherman, knows the waters and what lurks beneath, and chooses to take his chances on the boat. So the four set off, but will they make it? This is no surprise to anyone, but there are sharks involved. Not model sharks, but real footage and CGI generated images. There is plenty of suspense, and the director uses just enough footage to shock, but not too much, based on the safe knowledge that what you fear is worse than what you see, although in this case, both are pretty awful. The tension of the four swimmers, desperately trying to keep it together, whilst living in fear of getting picked off by fishy predators is heart stopping, and heart breaking. The acting and photography is very good, so what stops this movie from being a really enjoyable blockbuster? Jaws is one of my all time favourite movies. The story, the setting, the script (which my sister and I know backwards, sadly) are peerless, time cannot taint it, nor can more sophisticated graphics or special effects beat the great mechanical one as he leaps out of the water to get a mouthful of Brody's chum. It's fun and we all love it when Quint gets his by being chomped in half by his nemesis, because, lets face it, he was a bit of a know it all wasn't he? And a show off. Even knowing that shark attacks happen regularly we loved it, because it wasn't real. This movie, however well crafted, simply feels as if we are voyeurs watching the slow and torturous demise of some very unlucky people. How on earth can I enjoy jumping out of my skin when I know that these people really went through it? I enjoy watching films based on fact. The difference when I watch something like the mighty 'Schindler's List' is that I am being educated. It is horrendous to watch, but there is humanity, and we need to see it, lest we forget. I don't need to see four people in terror of their lives to know that if I jump into a warm ocean, and swim for 20K, chances are I won't come out with all of my limbs intact. I think that's the difference. I even felt a bit guilty watching footage of the shark, because bizarrely it looked really quite cute, and well, a bit sharkey. My other objection is that at one point Kate states that she thinks it's the same shark that's been following them. After the shameful hounding and killing of thousands of sharks by people after Jaws was released (much to Peter Benchley's horror), I think the director was irresponsible to humanise the shark and make it possibly vengeful.
It's a good film, and doesn't run for too long, because, people's abject terror aside, watching four people swimming with floaties for longer than about forty minutes can become a bit tedious.I guess at the end of the day, when the tide goes out, it was all a bit pointless. THE REEF:A big barrier to me going to my local beach for a paddle. 6/10.

Elizabeth Taylor In Memorium

Born in England in February 1932, the movie star with the impossibly violet eyes died on March 23rd 2011. Lauded as one of the greatest beauties the world has known, Elizabeth Taylor began her illustrious career with the film, 'There's one born every minute', but it was as the feisty Velvet Brown in 'National Velvet' that people began to take notice of her acting talent. Known for her tempestuous love life, racking up an impressive eight marriages to seven men, it's her passionate relationship with Richard Burton that we will remember most. Due to her larger than life romantic shenanigans, her perfumes and her tireless campaigning for AIDS, her talents as an actress are sometimes overlooked. Taylor received 2 Oscars, for her role as call girl Gloria in 'BUTTERFIELD 8' and for Martha in 'Who's afraid of Virginia Woolf?' playing opposite Burton.This role in particular showed her acting skills, as she stripped herself bare of make-up, the film was shot in black and white and was hardly flattering to either of these screen legends. Taylor became the first actress to receive $1 million dollars, in the title role of Cleopatra, remembered more for it's overblown costumes and '60s stylings than for the film itself. She starred with some of the greatest and most gorgeous men in Hollywood, James Dean, Montgomery Clift, Rock Hudson and of course, as Maggie the Cat with the one and only Paul Newman in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. Suffering from ill health throughout her life, Elizabeth had four children, one of whom was adopted. Elizabeth Taylor truly lived the life of a Hollywood star and the world will be a little less glamorous without her in it.

Thursday, March 17, 2011


Starring Liam Neeson as Dr Martin Harris, and January Jones as his wife, this thriller is set in Berlin. It's about a man who is speaking at a global event, but is involved in a taxi accident and loses his memory. After a short stay in hospital, he returns to the hotel only to find that his wife doesn't recognise him, and there is another Dr Martin Harris (nice to see you again, Aidan Quinn) in his place. The only person he can rely on to help him find the truth is the very trusting illegal alien taxi driver Gina (luminous Diane Kruger) who's been through enough carnage in her life already thank you very much. There are some stellar supporting roles, the mighty Bruno Gantz (Downfall)as Ernst Jurgen, an ex cold war spy, and Karl Markovics (The Counterfeiters) as the Dr's Dr. Frank Langella, gloriously sinister as usual pops up toward the end as well. It's really refreshing to see a film set in a country other than the United States. I love the USA, don't get me wrong, but it adds another unfamiliar dimension to the film. Neeson is his usual likeable self, although he's supposed to be American, and it's impossible for him to lose that delightfully seductive Irish lilt. Diane Kruger just lights up the screen whenever she's in a scene. January Jones did a remarkable impression of a Stepford wife. Wooden and icy, her unemotional turn was enough to rival that of Nicole Kidman. She sticks out like a sore thumb in this cast of heavy weights. I also find it fascinating that a man of Neeson's age is cast in a very physical role as an action man, whilst it's said that women in their 50s find it hard to get any type of role in Hollywood. Not complaining, just observing. Although it's a formulaic thriller, it's great fun, with enough twists to keep you interested and wonder what the heck is going on, there are probably enough loose ends to make a nice warm jumper for a German Winter. UNKNOWN: The real unknown is the answer to the question, would Gina have been so trusting if the role of Martin was played by, say, Danny DeVito? 6/10.

Monday, March 14, 2011

The Girl who Kicked the Hornets' Nest

Lisbeth Salander, she shall be a heroine for all time. Lisbeth has been severely injured and is taken to hospital. On her recovery, she is to stand trial for the murder of three people and attempted murder of her Father. The journalist Mikael Blomkvist is the only person who has the information to save her. Will she allow her tragic and abusive past to be thrown open to the public to clear her name? This is the final film in the Millenium Trilogy. What a ride it's been. I didn't want to read the books, because they've been so popular. Call it a mid-life teenage rebellion if you like. Then I saw the first movie, 'The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo' and was so captivated that I read the books. They are well worth the read. The problem with adapting well loved novels like this is there is so much packed into them, what do you leave out? The first movie stood on it's own. That's not the case with the second or third film in my opinion. If you haven't read the books, it's very hard to follow. Naturally a lot has been left out, and with that, some of the depth and meaning has gone. Micke in the book is a real lady's man, part of his charm, but it doesn't translate to the film. Even when you have read the books, it's a little disjointed in places. The movie is shot in Sweden, with subtitles and Swedish actors. This gives it a really raw quality, as most of us are not familiar with the actors apart from Michael Nyqvist (As it is in Heaven) and now the excellent Noomi Rapace as Lisbeth. All of them are quite outstanding, and it's really refreshing that none of them seem to have been to the make-up unit, apart from Rapace, who went for everyone. It also paints a very different picture of the Sweden that most of us imagine. There is no beauty or social conscience here, but thankfully it appears that the kitchens are all Ikea still. Some of the scenes are incredibly confronting and violent. It's not often that a heroine is so well portrayed in a film. She is a surly character for sure, but Noomi Rapace forces you to like and admire her, through all of her gothic sulleness. Michael Nyqvist is also excellent. The only gripe I have, and this is not his fault, is that Mikael is described as drop dead gorgeous. Although Nyqvist undeniably grows on you and is attractive in his own way, I think Daniel Craig, (the man slated for the remake) may have been a better choice. It remains to be seen if Rooney Mara comes anywhere close to Noomi Rapace, I somehow doubt it. THE GIRL WHO KICKED THE HORNETS' NEST: Don't stir the Queen and get her angry, she's got a real sting in her tail. 7.5/10

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Gnomeo and Juliet

Is it wrong to fall in love with a computer generated gnome? I'm hoping not. We all know this most beautiful of stories, so I'm not going to give a synopsis. Except to say that this is predominantly a kid's film, so there are no vials of poison or daggers at the end. It is a wholly British movie, with a veritable who's who of famous voices, including, bizarrely but wonderfully, the very American Dolly Parton. I won't list them because it's fun to pick them out. Miss Montague and Mr Capulet live in their semi-detached houses and have an ongoing feud, which filters down to their garden, the gnomes and various accessories that dwell there. It is set in Stratford upon Avon, (where else?) and some very witty links to Shakespeare's other plays are interweaved which is great fun if you're familiar with his works (and if you're not, why not?). Gnomeo even ends up in conversation with The Bard himself, well his statue, which is great fun and was actually rather moving. Gnomeo is voiced by the multi layered, multi talented, multi gorgeous, James McAvoy. Juliet is voiced by the great Emily Blunt. There are lots of fun moments, lawn mower races and really sweet characters, without it being to 'pop culture' which lessens the risk of it becoming tired or old fashioned. The graphics are superb and the brilliantly executed sound effects really add to the feeling of the movie. Accompanying this delighful film is a toe tapping soundtrack from Elton John with some of his most beloved songs reworked to fit the storyline. It's a lovely movie that will be sure to delight lovers of Shakespeare and children alike. GNOMEO AND JULIET: It is the east, and McAvoy is the sun 7/10.

The Adjustment Bureau

"No of course not, what a ridiculous thing to ask", Sorry just answering the question "Can Matt Damon appear in too many movies this year?" I think maybe this film might suffer from misleading publicity. I wasn't too sure what it was about, from the promos it appeared to be a sci-fi, but it's a love story first and foremost. David Norris (Matt Damon) is running for Senate. He's young and ambitious, but always seems to fall at the last hurdle by disgracing himself slightly. It's whilst practising his loser's speech in the men's toilets that he meets Elise, a dancer (Emily Blunt). They are immediately attracted but there are higher forces, the adjustment bureau, who are trying to keep them apart. The adjustment bureau are well dressed men in hats, who try and keep everyone in the world path's on track. David is destined to become President, but being with Elise will confound all that. David stumbles upon this realisation, but with the help of Harry, a member of the bureau, manages to keep one step ahead, until they bring in the big guns, in the form of Thompson (Terence Stamp). Will their love overcome what a higher power has preordained? There is a lot to like about this film. Firstly, the chemistry between Damon and Blunt is nothing short of electrifying. I sincerely hope that someone picks up on this and offers them another chance to spar with each other. Their partnering is reminiscent of the old movies, which in fact were far more real and fun than modern day romances. The story and characters are really imaginative and give a modern twist on an old, if loved story. The Bureau have access to all areas by opening regular doors which gives short cuts to places, but only with their hats on. All the actors are great. It's the ending that lets this story down really. It just sort of fizzles out. David tries so hard to outrun The Bureau, and you expect a much more climactic ending, instead it's a sort of, 'blimey we've run out of time, better wrap it all up neatly' sort of ending. Never the less, it's a good film and worth a look, a little reminiscent of City of Angels/Wings of Desire. The Adjustment Bureau: You can leave your hat on, Matt. 7/10.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

No Strings Attached

Natalie Portman and Kevin Kline, hang your heads in shame, what were you thinking? No Strings Attached is a movie in the middle of an identity crisis. It doesn't know whether to be 'Zac and Miri make a porno' or 'When Harry Met Sally', it fails either way. Why is it so hard for Hollywood to produce a real and funny romantic comedy? The story is about Emma (Portman) and Adam (Ashton Kutcher) who first meet at Summer camp as young teens. Then again in their late teens. Then again in their early twenties. Then again in their late twenties. There was always a spark between them. We are led to assume this by the goofie smiles rather than their actual screen chemistry. Adam is a sweet dreamer who works as an assistant on a teen series based heavily on Glee, but who dreams of being a writer. Emma is a no nonsense student doctor, with a real issue with men and relationships. We don't ever know why, that would be far too deep, we just accept it after she invites Adam, when in their early twenties to a 'thing'. The 'thing' turns out to be her father's funeral. However, neither deny their physical attraction, so Emma decides that they should just have sex, no snuggling or dating, just sex. This works for a while, but sweet Adam can't leave it at that, and wants more. Will Emma succumb? what do you think? The point is, when it happens will you care? The editing is all over the place, the movie switches scenes and some parts appear to be tagged on, with no explanation and no tie to the story particularly. Some of the lines are truly crass. Don't get me wrong, that's not a problem for me, but with crassness has to come excellence of delivery and timing, and only Mr 'Buff at 50' Kline is up for the job. The characters are quite unbelievable and some of the scenes are ridiculous. Take for instance the one where Emma and her doctor roomates are lying around with hot water bottles, feeling sorry for themselves because they all have a period at the same time. Sadly, the only male doctor in the group is gay, and so the director thinks it ok for him to join in with this whine fest. Adam turns up with cupcakes, halleluja. He also makes Emma a 'period tape' quite funny but for goodness sake, here's the thing. Women have periods every. single. day. It's not a new phenomena, and guess what, we just get on with it. Only teenages would behave in this manner, or very high maintenance princesses. Either way I've got news for you Adam baby, what you see as endearing whimpering when flow comes to town with Emma at 28, will be annoying and horribly indulgent with Emma at 35, so don't feed the beast. Kevin Kline is great as Adam's egotistical tv star dad, although woefully underused. Natalie Portman looks uncomfortable and out of place, she's too classy for a film like this, but then so is Kevin. And Ashton, what to say about Ashton? He's cute, but thinks he's cuter, can only act one role, sweet but a bit of a child, and I just can't get past Demi Moore and him tweeting every part of their life. NO STRINGS ATTACHED: No comedy attached, No chemistry attached, no script attached. 5/10.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

And the Oscar doesn't go to................

Most of the nominations I picked. Never mind. I was a bit annoyed that True Grit didn't get anything though, it was a spectacular film. No real surprises apart from that Inception didn't get more, maybe the academy didn't understand it.
The ceremony itself was a great disappointment. Usually I am enthralled from start to finish, alas not this time. The opening was unoriginal, but promising and hilarious. The presenters I'm afraid to say just didn't work. I really like both of these actors, but there was no chemistry. Anne Hathaway was very coltish and a bit amateur. James Franco still had the smile, but didn't really appear to want to be there. What was he doing in that Marilyn dress? The crack about Charlie Sheen had been done before, but better, by the evil imp at the Golden Globes. The show didn't appear to be scripted. Or funny. Bring back Alec and Steve, or Robert Downey Jr and Jude Law, by far the best presenters of the night, although again, their whole schtick was done at the Globes. What were the organisers thinking first of all putting the owners of the two biggest heads in showbusiness, Javier Bardem and Josh Brolin together, and then wedging them into ill fitting cream suits making them look like overstuffed marionettes? I seem to remember it was a nod to the early days of Oscar, but the night was so disjointed it's difficult to tell. There were some highlights, all of the actual actors and presenters were great. Anne Hathaway has a stunning voice even if the lyrics about Hugh Jackman were slightly confusing. And what to say about King Colin and his regal speech, except pity he didn't show us his moves. Natalie Portman was graceful and despite her swirling hormones, didn't cry thank goodness. It seemed lethargic and unpolished. Harsh criticism maybe, but we've come to expect a level of glitz and professionalism from The Oscars, it's the night when us mere mortals can bathe in the pool of starry glamour. Here's an idea, why doesn't the academy ask Ricky Gervais to host it next year? Now that is one ride I would like front seats to.
THE OSCARS: I would like to reprimand the academy for disappointing me. 5/10

Blue Valentine

Boy meets girl, they fall in love, a fairy tale ending, that's the Hollywood way. Not this time baby. It's the story of Dean (Ryan Gosling) and Cindy (Michelle Williams), and begins in the present day. Dean and Cindy are a married couple with a young daughter. They've lost their dog and it's evident from the beginning that the marriage is in trouble. Dean instigates a night away from them, in a sleazy motel, booking 'The Future Room'. I love these motels, I've only ever seen them in the movies, but they're a hoot. Cindy reluctantly agrees. It is here that the marriage irrevicably breaks down. In between the scenes set in the present, the film is interspersed with flashbacks to the past, and how this dysfunctional couple came to be. Both of these two have come from broken homes. Dean failed to finish high school and drifts between any job where he can spend time with his family and start drinking at eight in the morning. Cindy was raised in a broken home where the parents didn't separate. Her father was aggressive and hostile, and their relationship isn't that much better now. Cindy had a difficult romance before Dean, but she did well in school and was studying to be a doctor, although it's not clear I don't think she did become a Dr, I think she only made it to nurse (I'm allowed to say that, being a nurse myself!) This is a very painful real film to watch. There is no blame assigned to either person particularly. They are both portrayed as fragile humans, with good and bad characteristics to bring to the marriage. It is quite heartbreaking that in the middle of this despair, it cuts to how wonderful it was when they first met, so full of hope as it always is. I loved the scene where he's playing the ukelele and singing a hauntingly appropriate song in the shop front and she's dancing. There are some really lovely attentions to detail. His absolute kindness to the old man he's helping to move into an old people's home. Her extremely dark choice of joke when they meet on the bus. The scenes where Dean tries to instigate love making are particularly hard to watch. Ryan Gosling is a gifted actor, who makes the character of Dean sympathetic and likeable whilst still making you want to shake this man-child. Michelle Williams is good. The only trouble I have is that she appears to be quite vacuous and her aspiring to be a doctor just didn't ring true. She doesn't portray intellingence well, put it like that. She reminds me of Scarlet Johannsson in this way, although at least she doesn't try and constantly look sexy for the camera. It's a sad and beautiful film, reminding us just how fragile love is. Most people who have ever been in a long term relationship that has ended will connect with this film to a larger or lesser extent. There will also be a very lucky few who will not be able to relate to it at all. But only a very few. BLUE VALENTINE: No amount of chocolates or flowers will bring this union back. 7/10