Sunday, 26 December 2010

Gulliver's Travels: Movie Review

Gulliver's Travels: Movie Review

Gulliver's Travels
Rating: 5/10
Cast: Jack Black, Amanda Peet, Chris O' Dowd, Emily Blunt, Billy Connolly. Jason Segal
Director: Rob Letterman
There seems to have been numerous versions of this story - so does the world need another one? And one in 3D?
Jack Black stars as Lemuel Gulliver, a long term mailroom attendant at a New York travel magazine.
He's been there for years, with no real thoughts about promotion or advancement - a geek with a love of Guitar Hero and Star Wars - and a seriously long brewing crush on the travel editor Darcy (Amanda Peet).
One day after deciding to finally act on the crush and ask her out, he chickens out last minute and ends up offering to take on a travel assignment in the Bermuda Triangle.
However, that job finds him stranded in Lilliput - and a towering presence to those who live there.
And not everyone's impressed with Gulliver's arrival - least of all, General Edward (The IT Crowd's Chris O'Dowd) who feels threatened by the new face - and plots to get rid of him.
I'm not quite sure how I feel about Gulliver's Travels - firstly, the 3D adds nothing to the film (aside from the opening titles which are so cutely done, rendering a miniature world to life as they do) and secondly the plot is entirely predictable.
Sure, the story's been told many times before - and this one at times, appears to have its tongue firmly in its cheek with some of the acting. But it didn't feel to me like those involved in it really knew 100% what they wanted it to be - either a parody or satire or outright comedy.
Jack Black plays another variation on himself as the lovable schlub, who this time is "never going to be big" - and even busts out his dance moves at the end (which we've all seen before); the rest of the ensemble cast are fine - and Chris O'Dowd stands out from them with his predominantly lead role as the buffoonish bad guy.
However, there's a bit of charm thrown in here and there - and it may keep the very young end of the family amused.

Just one final thing - it's worth getting there early to make sure you don't miss the extremely hilarious new outing from Scrat The Ice Age critter who's always worried about his nut. It's head and shoulders above Gulliver for humour and packs more in in 4 minutes than the actual film itself.

The Kids Are All Right: Movie Review

The Kids Are All Right: Movie Review

The Kids Are All Right
Rating: 8/10
Cast: Annette Bening, Julianne Moore, Mark Ruffalo, Mia Wasikowska
Director: Lisa Cholodenko
Beloved of the festival scene, The Kids Are All Right finally arrives in New Zealand cinemas.
It's the tale of a pair of siblings Joni and Laser (Mia Wasikowska and Josh Hutcherson) who, despite living with their two moms Nic and Jules (Bening and Moore), decide they want to know who their father is.
On Joni's 18th birthday, Laser persuades her to contact the sperm bank to find their dad - and that's how they end up meeting the laid back and non committal Paul (a superb turn by Mark Ruffalo).
However, the uptight Nic's none too impressed with Paul and despite attempts to get to know him, she appears threatened by the whole situation. Matters - and tensions - get worse when Jules starts spending time with Paul...
The Kids Are All Right is going to be one of those films which is acclaimed by some but others may be at a loss to see what its appeal is.
But it's great performances from all involved which mean it's to be enjoyed in the cinema - there's a very real tenderness between Nic and Jules (despite their fighting and snippiness) and it's well portrayed by a spiky Annette Bening and a passive Julianne Moore.
However, it's Mark Ruffalo who truly impresses in this - as he negotiates the wedge driven between the two moms with a carefree attitude and an inappropriate smirk here and there. It's really one of the best performances I've seen from him - and yet another reason why he's one of Hollywood's most underappreciated talents.

The Kids Are All Right is quirky, a bit indie and very funny in places - director Cholodenko never sends the screen play into melodrama and keeps it all on the level.

The Girl Who Kicked The Hornets' Nest: Movie Review

The Girl Who Kicked The Hornets' Nest: Movie Review

The Girl Who Kicked The Hornets' Nest
Rating: 8/10
Cast: Noomi Rapace, Michael Nyqvist
Director: Daniel Alfredson
So, the final part of the Millennium Trilogy arrives on the big screen.
In the third film based on Stieg Larsson's books, the action takes up just moments after the close of the second film. Lisbeth Salander is being choppered to hospital, shot repeatedly and on the brink of death after tracking down her father Alexander Zalachenko and exacting her revenge.
Facing charges of attempted murder, Salander is trapped - with the police wanting to hurry her trial along and with the shadowy cabal The Section determined to get rid of her before their existence becomes known, her prospects don't look good.
But as ever, her faithful friend and journalist of the Millennium magazine Mikael Blomkvist (the ever stoic faced Nyqvist) is determined to clear her name.
However, his quest for justice this time could come at a very high personal cost as those planning the conspiracy are getting closer to achieving their aims....
I'll freely admit that I've never been blown away by these films - sure, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo was a good watch but the sequel The Girl Who Played With Fire was a bit of a disappointment with its penchant for car chases.
However, The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet's Nest is a triumphant end to the trilogy - and while some will be put off by the lack of action, the tension in this one is nail biting.

Sure, with most of it taking place in drab corridors, inside a hospital or a courtroom, there's a lot more expected of the actors - and the main duo Rapace and Nyqvist deliver in spades.
Their performances this time around are not showy - they're subtle, layered and peppered with looks and glances which tell you everything you need to know about the characters. Both throw in extremely watchable turns - with Nyqvist making his Blomkvist doggedly determined to clear his friend's name and Rapace saying so much by physically saying so little. It's credit to this pair - who once again, unfortunately spend so much time apart (as the story dictates) that you care so much how it ends.
Yet, it's the story which is more of the star this time (one character even remarks "It's like a classic Greek tragedy") as the various threads are drawn together in the web of decades old conspiracy, the drama is tautly pulled together; so much so that at the devastating end in the courtroom, the restrained directing and story telling works so much better because of it.

The best moment of this film though is the final scene - beautifully poignantly played and not at all what you'd expect given the journey these two share, it is a wonderful testament to the end of the trilogy - and one can only hope that the forthcoming Hollywood remake doesn't abandon it for something much more showy and crowd pleasing.

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Dr Who: Time and the Rani: DVD Review

Dr Who: Time and the Rani: DVD Review

Dr Who Time and the Rani
Released by BBC And Roadshow Ent
Rating: PG
Dear, oh dear.
Sometimes being a fan of something can be a cross to bear - and in Dr Who's case, this adventure from the mid 80s which welcomed Sylvester McCoy to the role as the Doctor still remains a horrifying watch some 20 years on.
Forced to regenerate after the TARDIS is attacked, the new Doc tries to work out who he is - at the same time, his nemesis the Rani (Shoulder pad wearing Kate O' Mara) unleashes her plan to take over the universe.
Time and The Rani remains a baffling piece of Dr Who history - the direction and story choice forces the new Doc into being some kind of buffoon who does little to immediately endear himself to a new audience. (Although this can hardly be Sylvester McCoy's fault.)
The story is nonsensical and is Who at its very worst - it's only balanced out by the fact that the extras explain so much of the reason why this just didn't fire from the beginning. A fascinating doco, The Last Chance Saloon, reveals the pressure on the team as BBC suits began to struggle to keep Who on air in the face of such sophisticated new American sci fi shows such as Star Trek The Next Generation.
While the main story is, at best, drivel, the extras give a depth to a turbulent time in the show - and do a little to raise the level of this very disappointing release.
Extras: Commentary, doco, FX docos (which are really interesting given the limitations of 1980s graphics) and Blue Peter and Breakfast time features - a reasonable bunch.

Rating: 4/10

Monday, 20 December 2010

Dr Who: Revisitations: DVD Review

Dr Who: Revisitations: DVD Review

Dr Who: Revisitations Set No 1
Released by BBC and Roadshow Entertainment
Rating: M
A seven disc retrospective on three classic old Who releases may seem a tad premature while there's a lot of good stuff waiting in the wings patiently for a release.
But this collection which pulls together Tom Baker's classic Talons of Weng Chiang, Peter Davison's superb The Caves of Androzani and Paul McGann's only TV Who outing, The TV Movie is a timely reminder of why these releases continue to be so important and informative.
While all three of these have had prior releases, they've been buffed up and remastered with a whole heap of new features. Sure McGann's TV Movie is still the weak link (and remains deeply divisive in Who fandom) but the features which go with it - docos on the making, production, the quest to get Who back on TV after its cancellation - more than make up for the generally patchy actual movie.
The Baker and Davison stories are equally lavished with some great extras, interviews and retrospectives which give hours of watching and will give fans even more love for these.
If you're probably not a Who fan, this set would be a good place to start - it showcases the best of what Who did on a limited budget and with more than a fistful of great extras, it's compulsive viewing.

Rating: 8/10

Saturday, 18 December 2010

Animal Kingdom: Blu Ray Review

Animal Kingdom: Blu Ray Review

Animal Kingdom

Released by Madman
Rating: M
One of the hits from the 2010 New Zealand International Film Festival, Animal Kingdom duly deserves its wider release.
An Aussie crime thriller Animal Kingdom by writer director David Michod, this is the Melbourne set story about a crime family falling apart amid police scrutiny - and how a teenager previously estranged from the underworld becomes involved.
It opens with Josh (newcomer James Frecheville) discovering his mum's heroin overdose - and calmly watching an episode of Deal Or No Deal as it all goes down.
With no family to turn to, he's taken into the bosom of the Cody family - a local crime gang who're in their twilight of their career thanks to continual police surveillance.
When one of the Cody family is brutally dispatched, tensions escalate - and soon Josh is in deeper than he expected - and with Guy Pearce's Detective Leckie using him as leverage to try and bring down the syndicate, Josh soon realizes he has to take a side - and that the wrong one could cost him his life.
Animal Kingdom is a tense enthralling affair which hooks you in when you least expect it.
Thanks to the wonderfully layered performance of newcomer James Frecheville,you're caught in the grip of this slick slow burning thriller as you're never quite sure when it's going to explode into violence; there's little of that throughout but thanks to welcome directorial restraint, when it does happen,you're shocked.
With a moody ominous OST, some scenes crackle with uncertainty as you wait for the inevitable to hit. Ben Mendelsohn deserves mention as the volatile uncle Pope whose actions drive so much of the film.
Animal Kingdom is the perfect intelligent and excellently plotted antidote to fast paced unsubstantial crime films- it's a savage must see.
Extras: A plethora of goodies including, commentaries with directors and cast; interview with crime writer Tom Noble; trailer and a feature length doco all make this an essential package.

Rating: 9/10

Friday, 17 December 2010

Predators: DVD Review

Predators: DVD Review

Predators
Rating: R16
Released by Roadshow Entertainment
The fifth film in the Predator franchise had a lot to live upto following the disappointments of the Aliens vs Predators entries.
Helmed by Robert Rodriguez, it sees Adrien Brody as one of a group of misfit mercenaries trapped on a foreign planet. As the group begins to investigate, they realise not only are they inside a game reserve, they're being hunted and suddenly it becomes a fight for survival.
Not exactly a mess, but this Predators film feels a little like harking back to its greatest hits rather than moving the franchise on.
Fans generally of the Predators series will see it as a return to form (and Adrien Brody is great in this all gruff and buffed up) but others may be scratching their heads as to what exactly is going on.
Extras: Over an hour of extras on Blu Ray - one of which is the motion comic picture starring Danny Trejo - it's a great entry and along with commentaries and doco looking at the rebirth of the Predators, it's a reasonable set.

Rating: 5/10

Thursday, 16 December 2010

Exit Through the Gift Shop: DVD Review

Exit Through the Gift Shop: DVD Review

Exit Through The Gift Shop

Released by Madman
Rating: M
Fresh from dominating the scene at the New Zealand International Film Festival, comes this marvellous doco about the pop art world and those who dwell within it.
It's about the birth of the street graffiti movement which swept up a generation and defined a movement.
Narrated with laconic ease by Rhys Ifans, its "star" is Thierry Guetta, a French filmmaker who somehow managed to find himself in the birth of the scene simply because he never put down a camera.
Guetta is a French immigrant in Los Angeles, who's obsessed with the street art scene and sets out to capture it for a documentary he's making - however, Guetta, a weaselly man in his forties simply manages to do this just by being in the right place at the right time.
Intoxicated with the art world around him, Guetta sets out to interview all of those involved under the idea of making a doco -even though he doesn't know what he's doing - and somehow manages to instill confidence in everyone around him.
However, Guetta finds he can't get an interview with the one man who's become synonymous with the street art scene, a character known only as Banksy, who never lets his face be seen in this film - and has his voice disguised throughout. Banksy became notorious for his pieces of art in the UK - and the more the mystery around him grows, the more desperate Guetta becomes to meet him.
One day, their paths cross - and Guetta decides he will follow into the art scene - with disastrous and hilarious results.
Exit Through The Gift Shop is laugh out loud funny in places, riotous in others - and will suck you in with its smart style but you may wonder if this is a prank initiated by Banksy who's famed for duping the world.
It's clever film making and could be the dawn of the prankumentary as it seems at times that this piece could be a mock doco with the wool being pulled firmly over the public's eyes - and the art world.
Extras: Doco about Banksy; deleted scenes and the lawyer's edit - all intriguing stuff adding to the feel of the film

Rating: 8/10

Going Long, Going Hard: DVD Review

Going Long, Going Hard: DVD Review

Going Long, Going Hard
Released by Stormy Dog Productions
Rating: G
As you get ready to batten down the hatches for the onslaught of the rellies over Christmas, believe it or not, there are actually some who are suffering worse conditions during the break.
They are the endurance athletes who take part in Epic Camp - a nationwide event which runs from the very top of Cape Reinga to the very tip of Bluff over 16 days of the Christmas period.
It's the idea of former world Ironman champion Scott Molina - and this independently shot and filmed doco follows some of the world's top Ironman athletes - and average punters as they pit their wits and skills against the wilds of Aotearoa.
We follow the group of some 22 athletes from all around the world - some are lawyers, some are professional athletes. But all of them are after something special offered by the camp experience; whether it's the camaraderie or the simple effort of completing the 2500 km journey, it's clearly something they'll never forget - or outsiders will fully understand.
The non-intrusive style of the doco, coupled with some beautifully shot New Zealand landscape panoramics, encapsulate why some travel from all over the world to take part.
The doco follows the athletes as they run, bike and swim the programme. With a pulsing wild drum soundtrack and the dulcet tones of former ONE Sport presenter Geoff Bryan, Going Long, Going Hard is an intriguing look at the psychology of why - and how they do it. With highs and inevitable lows (bikes breaking, support vehicles failing), the piece zips along as it negotiates the punishing nationwide route.
With snippets of interviews of those involved - including the support crew, you can get (almost) the full experience of being a part of this.
But one minor problem is that with 22 athletes, it's difficult (and nigh on impossible) to get to know every single one of them because of the doco's 50 minute running time.
And it's because of that, that you feel ever so slightly removed from the fully intimate nature of this. It's a shame that you maybe don't get to follow one athlete - amateur or pro - from beginning to end and get their reactions to really invest in the reasons and psychology of why people push themselves so hard.
There's also an intriguing part which shows the group of relatively tight athletes splintering and a pack mentality manifesting itself on one athlete- which to an outsider is interesting but is left a little dangling.
But those are minor niggles in the main doco; and one of them is more than made up for in the extra features - thanks to footage from the cameras given to the athletes during the camp. Those extra insights fully flesh out the characters and their motivations for doing it (and therefore provide you with an idea of what kind of person does this).
Noticeably accessible to all for a sports doco, and definitely watchable, Going Long, Going Hard may appeal a little more to the sports fans among you; but to the casual viewer, it's a tantalising peek into a world many of us may never feel we may excel in.

Rating: 7/10

Sex And The City 2: DVD Review

Sex And The City 2: DVD Review

Sex and The City 2
Rating: R16
Released by Roadshow Entertainment
Carrie and the girls return in the sequel to the first film and the eternally popular HBO series.
Sarah Jessica Parker's Carrie is now married to Chris Noth's Mr Big and struggling with the idea of faithfulness and what comes after I Do. Her ennui is compounded by the rest of the girls who're having issues of their own; Samantha's hitting menopause, Charlotte's jealous of her young nanny and Miranda is struggling with work.
They end up taking a trip to the Middle East and Carrie bumps into an old flame - and suddenly everything's changing for all the girls&.
It's fair to say that Sex and The City 2 is a mess - while it's aiming for the girls' night out crowd, it fails to engage anyone else and with a terrible script which isn't funny, original or entertaining, it's a real disappointment.
Extras: A second disc collects together 100 minutes of extras including an interview with SJP, doco on the men of SATC, and look back at the 80s.

Rating: 4/10

Somewhere: Movie Review

Somewhere: Movie Review

Somewhere
Rating: 6/10
Cast: Stephen Dorff, Elle Fanning, Michelle Monaghan
Director: Sofia Coppolla
After winning us over with the Virgin Suicides and Lost in Translation, Sofia Coppolla returns with this tale of a Hollywood bad boy spending his days in a hotel.
Stephen Dorff gives a brilliant turn as Johnny Marco, who's living a life of excess as he works through a press junket and life beyond. Disconnected from life and lacking any real emotional connection aside from the obligatory few sexual liaisons, Marco's life is changed when he receives an unexpected visit from his daughter, Cleo (played by another of the prodigious Fanning clan).
Marco takes Cleo in and out on the road to Italy with him as he does publicity for his new film and picks up an award - but when he returns to America, he starts to realise that he's lacking the emotional connection in his life&
Somewhere is trademark Coppolla all over - long, lingering shots peppered with silent moments run rampant through this film (which isn't going to be to everyone's taste). The director also wrote the story as well so it's very much an arthouse passion project.
But it's incredibly catchy, hypnotic and at times, ethereal- sort of like watching a cloud in motion; it kind of wafts past you and you appreciate its fragility but then move on.
Stephen Dorff commands the screen with a believable and strong performance as the washed out Hollywood bad boy who's lost. Dozing off while twins pole dance for him is just one of the character highlights and signs of the emotional state of the guy.
However, he's more than matched by Elle Fanning as his daughter - it's clear there's another Fanning talent on the way through as well.

The pair make a likeable duo and thanks to Copolla's direction which sees plenty of shots holding on people, places and events, it's a welcome relief from all the fast paced and frenetic film making these days. Be warned - It won't be to everyone's tastes though.

Tron: Legacy Movie Review

Tron: Legacy Movie Review

Tron Legacy
Rating: 6/10
Cast: Jeff Bridges, Garrett Hedlund, Olivia Wilde, Bruce Boxleitner, Michael Sheen
Director: Joseph Kosinski
It's the sequel that's been nearly 30 years in the making.
Garrett Hedlund stars as Sam Flynn, the son of former inventor and computer genius, Kevin (Jeff Bridges). Kevin disappeared nearly 30 years ago, leaving behind Sam, a major company Encom and a lot of questions.
Since that disappearance, Sam's now grown up and is somewhat restless, flitting between being the CEO of Encom and running into trouble with the law.
But when he receives word from family friend Alan (Boxleitner) that a page was sent from Flynn's arcade (run by Kevin in the 80s), he heads to see how that's possible and if his father is truly still alive.
And then, he's sucked into the world of the computer run Grid and into a fight for his life - as well as the fate of our universe hanging in his hands.
Tron Legacy is this year's Avatar.
That is to say, last year while everyone was raving about Avatar and its special effects (rightfully so I'll add), I wasn't blown away by the story and the characters within.
I think, unfortunately, the same is true of Tron.
Visually and aesthetically, I was gobsmacked by the digital world they've created for this - it looks stunning and is spectacular with its vibrant neon blues and oranges standing out in the Blade Runneresque computer world. Scenes of combat, reminiscent of the gladiator's arena from Roman times, are also sensationally shot.Coupled with an incredible electronic soundtrack of dizzyingly good synth from Daft Punk, the cyber-look of this film is, hands down, easily one of the best of the year.
If not, the best.
But the problem comes with the overall plot.
Let's start with the good though - Olivia Wilde is a brilliant naïf in this - she plays Quorra, someone born of the virtual world and provides some of the humour. Likewise, Michael Sheen's seriously OTT cameo brings some much needed relief.
While Tron Legacy is admirably and well acted by Jeff Bridges and Garrett Hedlund, it's a little disappointing in terms of the characters and slightly clunking dialogue. Bridges plays a sort of self appointed guru in this - as well as a digitally younger version of himself (again, impressively executed).
At times, when he's spouting philosophies and dialogue like "You're messing with my Zen thing", there's a danger of his head disappearing firmly up his virtual ass. Coupled with a distinct lack of real substance and emotional connection, the over riding feeling with Tron Legacy is that the script could have been so much more.

As simple cinematic spectacle, Tron Legacy is one of the best of the year without a shadow of a doubt; just don't expect to have your heart moved as much as perhaps you should.

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Avatar: Collector's Edition: Blu Ray Review

Avatar: Collector's Edition: Blu Ray Review

Avatar - Collector's Edition

Rating: M
Released by Roadshow Home Entertainment


One year after it hit the cinemas and shook the box office of all its cash, and on the heels of its own DVD release, comes this collector's extended edition of Avatar.

James Cameron's film's already been critiqued by many as the amazing effects/ shoddy plot so what's the point of this release?

Well, with an extended opening plus extra footage within the film, it serves to extend and enrich the visit to Pandora - with three versions of the film making up one disc and the other two devoted to extras (including docos and deleted scenes), there's certainly much to enjoy on the set (even if you're not blown away by the story of the film).

Avatar's collector's edition is essential viewing as it really does go a long way to build the experience of what went into the cinematic phenomenon - and with two other films on the way, it's clearly only just the beginning. Sure, it's not the most perfect film ever, but for spectacle (and in clear HD) it really is impressive.

Rating: 7/10

Monday, 13 December 2010

Knight and Day: Blu Ray Review

Knight and Day: Blu Ray Review

Knight and Day -

Released by Roadshow
Rating: M
It's rare these days to get a seasonal blockbuster film which takes a fresh look at the tired action genre.
Knight And Day is that film - Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz reteam in this action comedy. Diaz is a ditzyish June Havens who's on the way to her sister's for wedding duties; while at the airport, she literally bumps into Tom Cruise's enigmatic, beaming and slightly cocky Roy Miller.
There's an instant attraction and spark between them - and soon June finds she's on the same flight as Roy as the plane takes off.
But then things get a bit weird. As June freshens up in the bathroom, Miller becomes an action hero and despatches all of those on the plane who're trying to kill him.
After the plane's set down, Miller explains to June that the FBI (in the form of Peter Sarsgaard) will come looking for her and she's not to trust anyone.
So, June finds herself thrust into Miller's world and sent on a globetrotting quest&.in more ways than she could have expected.
Part of the joy of Knight and Day is how the plot unfolds (hence very little spoilers here) because it doesn't conform initially to your expectations. The mystery remains well until half way through the film - Mangold and the writers seem to have subverted the expectations of the traditional winter time blockbuster - while there's an action sequence at the start on the plane, a lot of it's broken up by the quick dialogue and interaction between the beaming Cruise and wide grin Diaz.
It's their sparky relationship which powers the majority of the film (although it lapses into a few stock action scenes later on) and peppered with some great one liners and funny moments, it makes for an entertaining mix and a refreshing piece of cinema.
Once the full extent of the plot is revealed, there is a bit of a lull, but thanks to good solid supporting performances of Paul Dano as a boy genius and Peter Sarsgaard as an FBI agent, it's no drag to get to the end.
Knight and Day is a welcome entrant into the sometimes tired comedy action thriller genre - and a welcome distraction from the school holiday movie fodder.
Extras: The release comes in a specially extended cut and includes featurettes, music videos and the viral videos which were shot for the film. A solid if unspectacular bunch for the film.

Rating: 7/10

Thursday, 9 December 2010

Megamind: Movie Review

Megamind: Movie Review

.Megamind
Rating: 7/10
Cast: Will Ferrell, Brad Pitt, Tina Fey, David Cross, Jonah Hill
Director: Tom McGrath
So with the endless, long summer holidays just around the corner, there's a push to keep the kids entertained.
Enter the latest animated outing, this time from Dreamworks and starring Will Ferrell in Megamind.
Ferrell is big blue headed supervillain Megamind, a kind of cross between the Mars Attacks creatures and the Mekon. Dispatched from his dying planet by his parents, he begins a rivalry with Metroman (voiced by Brad Pitt), who was also sent from a dying world by family.
But unlike Metroman who landed in an estate with well to do parents, Megamind crashed into the penitentiary and was brought up as a villain.
After years of rivalry "where Metroman would win some battles, but I (Megamind) would almost win others," Megamind finally gains the upper hand and kills Metroman off.
However, after the initial thrill of dispatching his lifelong rival, ole Bluey realizes that his life is quite empty without someone to thwart his dastardly plans - and so conceives to give superpowers to a regular schlub to give him purpose in life.
Those powers go accidentally to Hal (played by Jonah Hill) who's in love with reporter Roxanne (Tina Fey). But when Hal's rejected, the world has a new villain to fight&.and it's upto Megamind to save the day.
Thematically similar in many ways to this year's Despicable Me, Megamind is still good quality family fare with a spark of originality about it.
But it takes a little while to settle in - the initial 3D with things being thrown in the air is lazy and unoriginal (and seems to be only there to showcase the fact the film is in 3D).
Once the film's settled down, there's much to enjoy though - with unexpected humour and great one liners through out (some of which will require a second viewing to really pick up on.)
There's also plenty of riffing on the Superman myth; right from the opening sequence to Megamind becoming a Brandoesque mentor to Hal when he gives him new powers. There's also some great visual gags peppering the film throughout - the best of which is an Obama inspired poster which amuses greatly.
While Ferrell brings his patented lunatic schtick and absurd banter to the role and the rest of the cast do well, yet it's Arrested Development's David Cross who really shines in this.
As Megamind's minion, a sort of fish in a goldfish bowl atop a robot, Cross is just brilliant with some of the best lines.
It's inevitable there'll be a sequel to this given how well it's already done in the states and to be honest, you can't do worse than this family entertainment piece to kill off a little time during the Christmas holidays.

The Chronicles of Narnia: Voyage of the Dawn Treader; Movie Review

The Chronicles of Narnia: Voyage of the Dawn Treader; Movie Review

The Chronicles of Narnia - The Voyage of the Dawn Treader
Rating: 5/10
Cast: Ben Barnes, Skandar Keynes, Georgie Henley, Will Poulter
Director: Michael Apted
In this latest Narnia film, which has taken a while to arrive on the big screen following Disney's decision to leave the franchise behind, it's back to the land of Narnia for the Pevensie siblings, Edmund and Lucy (Skandar Keynes and Georgie Henley).
Via a portrait of a ship on the sea, the duo - along with pesky cousin Eustace (Son of Rambow's Will Poulter) - are pulled back into the world and straight onto the ship, the Dawn Treader - and its quest.
Under the helmship of King Caspian (Ben Barnes), the gang are trying to locate the seven Lords and their seven swords to try and banish evil from Narnia.
But as all of them fall deeper into the quest, their faith and resolve are tested by the dark forces at play in Narnia.
The Voyage of the Dawn Treader is a film which feels like it's from another time in many ways.
It's a very traditional family piece which will appeal to the younger end of the market - and certainly the kids in the audience with whom I saw the film were entranced by certain parts and the antics of animated, swash buckling mouse Reepicheep (voiced by Simon Pegg) as well as by Will Poulter's terribly annoying Eustace.
There's swashbuckling aplenty at any given moment in this - any excuse to take out swords and have a bit of a fight; unfortunately that leads to the film feeling a tad repetitive throughout as it negotiates "the fight, get captured, escape plot" running through.
Complete with comments such as "Evil has the upper hand", the film misfires a little and doesn't fully engage a wider audience. The kids do a reasonable job of giving their characters some life - and the majority of the laughs go to stuck up Eustace and Reepicheep, but there's little to keep the older section of the audience feeling like they're watching something new here.
That said, there are some pretty impressive effects; the scene where the water comes gushing out of the picture and brings the kids back to Narnia is well done - and the evil green mist floating around adds a layer of much needed menace.

Sure, there's messages in there about faith, being true to yourself and dealing with temptations (which some will understand more than others) but the unspectacular Voyage of the Dawn Treader treads dangerously into the territory of Voyage of the Yawn Treader.

Thursday, 2 December 2010

Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale: Movie Review

Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale: Movie Review

Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale

Rating: 6/10

Cast: Tommi Korpela, Per Christian Ellefsen, Ville Virtanen, Jorma Tommila, Onni Tommila

Director: Jalmari Helander
A Finnish fantasy tale, Rare Exports is an odd beast.
It's set in the Finnish Korvatunturi mountains; it's there a series of miners on an archaeological dig believe they've unearthed one of the biggest secrets of the festive season: Santa Claus.
But while the digging goes on, a pack of hunters in a nearby village is beset by strange goings on; their reindeer are slaughtered and children begin to go missing. However, while the hunters are at a loss to what's going on, one child Pietari (Onni Tommila) seems to be fully aware of the danger they face....
Rare Exports is a twisted slice of Christmas fare; from its Gothic opening titles where the horror of a folklore Santa Claus is revealed, it's clear this isn't a tale of "ho, ho, ho" more like "ho, ho, holy heck what was that?"
There's some beautiful scenery though; the white crisp snow and the mountains look absolutely stunning on the screen; and images such as the slaughtered reindeer look at odds with that. However, that's what the director's gone for with this - it subtly pulls the carpet from under you when you least expect it.
There's a slow atmospheric build up to the big reveal about what's hunting the hunters and what the miners have uncovered; but when the jolts come, they're fairly effective and you won't look at Santa again without seeing a ghoulish emaciated figure with a glint of pure evil in its eyes looking back. It's also odd seeing zombie style imagery being associated with the festive season - but it's that kind of film.

Rare Exports is aiming for cult glory and is bound to be embraced by those who love it; it doesn't quite live up to the initial idea despite the dry dark humour on display. It's a slightly odd maqcabre take on the Christmas story - with its dalliances of the potential evil nature of Santas past, it shows a devilish glint in its eye. It's for that very reason some will love it, and others will wonder why they do.

Easy A : Movie Review

Easy A : Movie Review

Easy A
Rating: 8/10
Cast: Emma Stone, Lisa Kudrow, Amanda Bynes, Stanley Tucci, Patricia Clarkson, Thomas Haden Church, Malcolm McDowell
Director: Will Glack
The teen comedy genre gets a welcome shot with this new film, loosely based on the infamous book The Scarlet Letter.
Emma Stone, so wonderful in Zombieland with The Social Network's Jesse Eisenberg, stars as Olive Penderghast, who finds her world changed when she's caught up in a lie.
After avoiding a friend's camping trip for a weekend, Olive's badgered into confessing that she slept with a college guy over that 48 hour period; something which is patently untrue but one which is given life despite her protestations to the contrary.
Within hours, the school campus is full of the rumour that Olive's become a harlot - and so much so, that one gay friend, Brandon, comes to her asking for help to get bullies off his back.
So Olive pretends to sleep with him at a public party and a reputation is cemented.
However, Olive soon finds that this faux harlot life is more of a curse than a blessing - and sets about trying to tell the truth - before everything around her falls apart.
Easy A is a success because of its sharp and funny script - but more importantly because of its star in the making turn by Emma Stone. I'm going to avoid any references or comparisons to other teen redheads who may have fallen off the rails in Hollywood, because I do believe this girl will be around for a long time to come. Self effacing, amusing and incredibly watchable, Stone carries the film and gives a performance which is pitch perfect.
But the script is also the star of this film - it sparkles with deadpan humour and sarcasm (mainly from Olive's liberal parents, brilliantly portrayed by Stanley Tucci and Patricia Clarkson) which will see many enjoy it. Throw in some 1980s references to teen films which have preceded this and you have a film which constantly tips a nod to what's gone before it and acknowledges its debt to influential teen genius John Hughes.
Yet this film is clearly Emma Stone's vehicle - she shows she's got a bright future ahead and can deliver wry and sparky material complete with unexpectedly humourous moments in a way which demonstrates she'll be around for a long, long time.

Friday, 26 November 2010

The American: Movie Review

The American: Movie Review

The American
Rating: 8/10
Cast: George Clooney, Violante Placido
Director: Anton Corbijn
With U2 in town it seems a good time to release a film from the band's visual director of their output. (Although I'm sure that's just a coincidence.)
Oh, and it has swooney George Clooney too.
Clooney stars as Jack, an assassin, who's been ordered to lie low in Italy after his cover in Sweden is blown, resulting in a bloodbath.
While there he befriends an elderly priest, falls for a prostitute Clara (Violante Placido) and takes on one last job.
However, the demons of the past are catching up with him...
The American is deceptive.
With a restrained performance from Clooney, it's hard to root for this assassin as we learn very little about him - many shots are of him constructing a gun or merely going about his day to day business while waiting for the storm to blow over.
But it's a good solid turn from Clooney which sees you sucked in very early on.
The film itself is typical Anton Corbijn; beautifully shot (the Italian locations are stunning and mesmerising), there's little action throughout. Yet it's that hypnotic touch and slow burning pace which sees you gripped - right from the initial opening which delivers a sucker punch to your gut right from the get go.
There's tension as you wait for the inevitable explosion as the mistrust, betrayal and fear spills over - but Corbijn masterfully delays all that and confounds your expectation if you're expecting a film chock full of action and explosion.

And that's why it's such a success; it's a gradually building, well acted and restrained drama which has you in its vice like grip as the final moments play out.

Thursday, 25 November 2010

Let Me In: Movie Review

Let Me In: Movie Review

Let Me In
Rating: 8/10
Cast: Chloe Moretz, Richard Jenkin, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Elias Koteas
Director: Matt Reeves
From the director of Cloverfield comes a shot-for-shot remake of the perfect Swedish vampire/horror film, Let The Right One In.
It's 1980s New Mexico: Smit-McPhee, fresh from surviving the apocalypse in The Road , plays 12-year-old Owen. His parents are on the verge of divorcing and his school life is hell, thanks to daily bullying. He's pretty much your archetypal loner kid who just can't seem to connect with anyone (through no fault of his own).
At the same time as Owen's trying to make his way through a miserable existence, police are hunting an apparent ritualistic murderer who drains victims of their blood. They're at a loss to work out why the victims are targeted and what the motive is.
One day in a snowy courtyard, Owen meets Abby ( Kickass's Chloe Moretz), an apparent kindred soul who, despite initially bonding with Owen, warns him they can't be friends.
But against the grain, the two become friends - Owen drawing strength from Abby, and Abby benefiting from the daily contact with someone her same age.
However, their two worlds are threatened when Abby's truth is revealed ... and what's inside her threatens to boil over.
Let Me In is a superior horror and, quite frankly, given the source material it was taken from, there really is nothing else it could be.
Purists who've seen the Swedish masterpiece will notice how 95 per cent of the film is just reshot from the original and it's simply the location which has been changed.
Yet, that's unfair to simply dismiss Matt Reeves' version. Let Me In works brilliantly because of the three main characters, all of whom put in textured, layered and tender performances. Richard Jenkin proves once again he can't put a foot wrong - his role as Abby's protector is filled with sadness at the horror of the situation he lives in - and his final scenes with Abby are haunting and emotionally charged.
Moretz and Smit-McPhee are also brilliant in their roles; these are clearly young talents with bright, varied futures ahead of them. Their director's got the best out of them with subtle performances that reek of tenderness, desperation and humanity.
Plus, when Abby attacks, the feral snarling speed and ferocity with which she does so, is shocking. These are vampires as creatures of necessity and with a parasitic nature, as opposed to the twinkling love-moping vamps of the Twilight Saga. (Don't forget all your latest Twilight Saga news is right here for you)
Sure, film snobs will claim the original is best (and maybe they have a point) but this Americanised version is to be commended for ensuring more people see the story - and it's worth seeing for the scene with the car chase. While that wasn't in the source material, the moment when the car flips is perhaps one of the most original and well shot scenes I've seen in a long time.

Director Reeves also deserves credit - while he's not exactly done anything to improve the original, he should be applauded for remaking a film which is respectful to the original and faithful as well. The atmosphere is haunting, melancholy and sobre (complemented by Michael Giacchino's evocative score, which seems lifted from TV series Lost at times) and the overall result - an intelligent and expertly crafted film - is bound to stay with you long after you've left the cinema.

Due Date: Movie Review

Due Date: Movie Review

Due Date
Rating: 7/10
Cast: Robert Downey Jr, Zach Galifianakis, Michelle Monaghan, Jamie Foxx, Danny McBride, Juliette Lewis, Sunny the Dog
Director: Todd Phillips
From the director of The Hangover comes this new road trip film.
Robert Downey Jr is Peter Highman, an uptight businessman and father to be who just wants to get home to his wife who's about to give birth to their first child.
But his chances of doing so are ruined when he bumps into Zach Galifianakis' aspiring actor Ethan Tremblay. Within minutes of meeting, Peter's been arrested at the airport on suspicion of drug-smuggling - and then thrown on the no-fly list after a misunderstanding leads him to be considered a terrorist.
In each case, Ethan's nearby; so, when Peter finds he has no wallet, no passport and no hope of getting home in time for the birth, he has no choice but to accept Ethan's offer to road trip across America.
But the real problem is that every time Ethan opens his mouth, Peter's blood pressure rises and he edges ever closer to a breakdown - and his life falling apart.
So the road trip flick is rolled out once again and, this time, with some extremely funny moments.
The pair have an abrasive relationship that works well on the big screen - Downey Jr continues his star career by managing to imbue his uptight daddy-to-be with a few tender moments; and Zach Galifianakis continues to rock the deadpan humour he's becoming so well know for.
Everyone else in the film is pretty much reduced to cameos as the unconventional duo head out on the road - the best of them is Danny McBride (but to say much about that would spoil it).
There are plenty of comic situations which are mined for the best effect possible - and the audience will love them because of their unexpected nature. The script is also snappy and smart, with some frankly ludicrous moments that work because they don't feel out of place or shoehorned in.

Due Date is going to work best for you if it's an end-of-night treat with a few of the lads - the two leads are engaging, there's some hilariously unexpected dialogue (which you'll be quoting for days afterwards) and it's one of those popcorn good night out kind of films. It's also like a road trip in many ways - there are some good moments and there's also the moments where you wonder: "Are we there yet?"

Machete: Movie Review

Machete: Movie Review

Machete
Rating: 7/10
Cast: Danny Trejo, Jessica Alba, Michelle Rodriguez, Jeff Fahey, Lindsay Lohan, Don Johnson, Steven Seagal, Cheech Marin, Robert deNiro

Director: Robert Rodriguez
Spun off from a fake trailer housed inside the Grindhouse films from a couple of years back, Machete is a bloody, gory, violent, funny exploitation pic.
The rugged craggy, scar-faced Trejo plays Machete, a Federal agent who's betrayed at the start of the film by Torrez (Seagal), because Machete won't do the honourable thing and take a bribe.
But that's not enough for Torrez - he slaughters Machete's family in front of him.
Vowing revenge, Machete (somehow - and unsurprisingly) escapes and is seen three years later working at a the US border with Mexico, doing whatever he can to get by.
However, Jeff Fahey's bearded Booth one day offers him $150,000 to shoot Senator McLaughlin (De Niro), who's campaigning on the re-election trail under the ticket of shutting down the Mexican border and getting rid of the illegal immigrants.
Things get worse for Machete when he's betrayed by Booth and finds himself on the run from the would-be assassins and Jessica Alba's Agent Sartana - can he clear his name and save the day?
Ok, you're not going to go to Machete for indepth dialogue, devastating discussion about immigration and deep characterisation - on the contrary, this is a film developed from a fake trailer in the Grindhouse films from the likes of Tarantino and Rodriguez.
It's sleazy, it's violent, it's exploitative - and above all, it's just a good night out for the lads.
The pulpy feel of the film is set before the opening credits have even begun: with a sneering Trejo, Machete is a killing machine, using a 360-degree spin to massacre and behead a room full of bad guys; the opening says it all.
But it's also funny - it's clearly from a team who understand and deeply love the genre. There's no sign of parody and Trejo gives it a deep intensity and his all to a character who says little, apart from lines such as "Machete don't text".
All of the supporting cast are good and are clearly relishing their roles, and Rodriguez has done a frenetic job of editing the whole thing together within the confines of the genre, and with some great sound effects, it's a bloody mess (in the best possible way.) Add in a blistering soundtrack and you've got the makings of a good time out.

Don't expect much out of Machete - head to it after a few drinks and with some of the lads; that way you'll have a blast.

The Disappearance of Alice Creed: Movie Review

The Disappearance of Alice Creed: Movie Review

The Disappearance of Alice Creed

Rating: 6/10

Cast: Gemma Arterton, Martin Compston, Eddie Marsan

Director: J Blakeson
A kidnap drama, British flick The Disappearance of Alice Creed is a tautly told tale.
As the film opens, two nondescript men (Compston and Marsan) are stealing a van, visiting a DIY shop and soundproofing a dingy apartment.
Hardly a word is spoken between them; but moments later, the reason for their endeavour is apparent when the screaming of a woman's heard.
That woman is Alice Creed (Arterton); her father is rich and the two believe that kidnapping her will garner them the cash they need to live the life of Riley.
But once Creed is locked in the apartment and the ransom demand is made, cracks start to develop all round - and it's not clear that the kidnappers' plans will go how they want.
It's difficult to fully explain Alice Creed without revealing some of the surprises that pepper it throughout and help steer it away from simply being another run of the mill drama.
With betrayals, surprises, tension and shocks, the whole thing though is a piece of twisty (and at times, twisted) film making. However, it is also a breath of fresh air as it simply involves a trio of actors and very little else. That leads to a feeling you're watching a play unfolding - but that does nothing to detract from the drama within.
It's a well-acted taut piece which keeps you guessing to the end; but it's Arterton and Marsan who really impress by bringing their A game to the piece and keep the whole thing moving along with pace and tension.
Sadly though, after about an hour, there's a dramatic lull and with most of the surprises and shock twists revealed, it makes the final thirty minutes seem a little leaden as it lurches toward its conclusion.

If you want to see stripped back film-making where the script is the star, delivered by power performances, then The Disappearance of Alice Creed is for you; it's just a shame that the story runs a little foul of itself towards the end.

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Dr Who - The Complete Specials: DVD Review

Dr Who - The Complete Specials: DVD Review

Doctor Who - The Complete Specials
Released by BBC and Roadshow
Rating: PG
So it's farewell to the best Doctor Who of recent years - 10th Doctor David Tennant.
Sure, we're into the Matt Smith years now but this collection of the special feature length episodes from Tennant's final days in the TARDIS is a welcome reminder of how iconic this man made the role.
Collecting together all five specials (The Next Doctor, Planet of The Dead, The Waters of Mars and The End of Time) this set is really for the collectors as the casual fan probably already has all of these separate releases.
While the first two specials are a little varying in quality, the final three episodes really ramp up the quality and the dramatic stakes as the end nears, not only for the Doctor but for the production team which brought the series back in 2005.
Packed with extras (the majority of which have already been released on the previous releases) this set is a nice collection - but the piece de resistance is the intro to the booklet which accompanies the set.
It's written by life long Dr Who fan David Tennant to his younger self and is sweet, touching and demonstrates why the fans of this series love it so much - it really shows that the series lost a true star.
Extras: Commentaries, behind the scenes docos, Dr Who At the proms - there's plenty here but sadly nothing which hasn't already been released.

Rating: 8/10

Dr Who: The Cybermen Set: DVD Review

Dr Who: The Cybermen Set: DVD Review

Dr Who - The Cybermen Set
Released by BBC and Roadshow Entertainment
Rating: PG
This set collects together two outings for the Cybermen - one from the 70s where they face off against the eternally popular Tom Baker's Doctor Who and one from the 80s where they face Sylvester McCoy's Doctor Who.
They're opposing serials in terms of engagement; the Tom Baker's Revenge of the Cybermen serial shows a production team trying to make the best of location and script (and largely succeeding) whereas Sylvester McCoy's Silver Nemesis is from a series which was struggling with a lack of money and faith from the BBC. It makes them different watching experiences but they're still watchable fare.
However, the best part of this double release set are the extras; specifically the doco Cheques, Lies and Videotapes. This fascinating piece looks at the lengths fans would go to to get their hands on episodes of the series in the days pre-monthly DVD releases - it shows how fans would pay extortionate amounts for anything repeated fare from the Doctor. As well as the usual commentaries and docos, this is once again a superlative release on the extras front.

Rating: 7/10

Monday, 15 November 2010

Modern Family: Series One: DVD Review

Modern Family: Series One: DVD Review

Modern Family Season One
Rating: PG
Released by Roadshow Entertainment
It's rare for a comedy to show up these days which amuses on a consistent scale.
However, Emmy award winning Modern Family is that comedy series - it appeared last year and became a firm favourite with critics as well as punters.
A faux documentary style show, it centres on three portions of the modern family - a father (Married With Children's Ed O'Neill) and his younger Colombian wife (Sofia Vergara) and her son Manny; his daughter (Julie Bowen) and her family of 2 girls and one boy - she's married to the ineptly loveable Phil - and the final generation is his gay son Mitchell and partner, the ever flamboyant Cam.
It sounds as if it would be terrible but the tone's set with an excellent first episode which brilliantly introduces all the characters and sets the high level for the funny script - for example Dad Phil is trying to show how in touch he is with his kids' slang and misunderstands WTF, believing it stands for Why The Face.
Modern Family is blessed by a great ensemble cast, fantastically funny scripts and heart and humour throughout - it's difficult to pick out a stand out moment when there's so many to pick from. Trust me, this show won't disappoint - and for once it's a family comedy which has universal appeal.
Extras: Extended, deleted scenes, gag reels, family interviews which were cut from the show - a good solid bunch for a great series which will entertain time and time again.

Rating: 9/10

Thursday, 11 November 2010

OSS117: Lost In Rio: DVD Review

OSS117: Lost In Rio: DVD Review

OSS 117 Lost In Rio

Rating: M
Released by Madman Entertainment

Sure the spy spoof genre's been done to death but OSS117, the latest entry-sacre bleu, a Frenchie- is pretty damn good.

Actor Jean Dujardin is Hubert de la Bath, a post war spy, who's part racist, part sexist and all funny - he even resembles a French version of Sean Connery- it's 1967 and despatched to Brazil to retrieve a microfilm, de la Bath ends up in a series of (mis)adventures which appear to channel Clouseau at times and which show he's a relic of a world gone by. However, whereas this could lapse so far into parody, it consciously stays away from that and lets the sheer nincompoopery of its agent showcase the comedy.

It's a bucketload of fun, complete with Brazilian bikini babes, a blistering Bossanova soundtrack, devilish Chinamen (as he calls them) Saul Bass style film-making and a stellar performance from dujardin.

I hope pretty soon we get to spend more time with Hubert Bonisseur de la Bath - because the whole film is a joyous spoofy romp -and far superior to Austin Powers

Extras: Outtakes, Deleted scenes, Making of, Trailer

Rating: 7/10

Donnie Darko: Blu Ray Review

Donnie Darko: Blu Ray Review

Donnie Darko Ultimate 2 Disc Blu Ray collection
Rating: M
Released by Madman

So another release for the excellent Donnie Darko - this time on Blu Ray Disc and with a heap of extras.
One disc has the original cut of the film and the second has the director's cut - for those who've not seen the film which had a breakthrough performance from Jake Gyllenhaal and a career best from Patrick Swayze, you really need to take a look.
Gyllenhaal is Donnie Darko, a troubled teen who becomes delusional and paranoid that the world will end in 28 days. But that's not the half of it - when he starts seeing a large rabbit his actions become more irrational as the end of the world nears.
Donnie Darko was director Richard Kelly's debut and what a scorching film to have graced celluloid - dark, moody and magnificent mixing scifi, horror and time travel, it still remains one of the best films ever. The transfer to Blu Ray gives it a superior look and really, you should take the time to view it - if only to see what the fuss is all about.
Extras: Commentaries, two cuts of the film, galleries, additional scenes - there's a lot to get your teeth into here.

Rating: 8/10

The Social Network: Movie Review

The Social Network: Movie Review

The Social Network
Rating: 9/10
Cast: Jesse Eisenberg, Andrew Garfield, Justin Timberlake, Rooney Mara
Director: David Fincher
Facebook - Like or dislike, it's part of our daily lives now on a massive scale.
So perhaps it was inevitable that Hollywood would turn its attention to this phenom, and now here it is.
The great Jesse Eisenberg plays Mark Zuckerberg as we dive back to the heady days of the 2003 Harvard scene - as the film opens the obnoxious and arrogant Zuckerberg is being dumped by his girlfriend (Rooney Mara - soon to be seen in the Millennium Trilogy remakes as Lisbeth Salander).
Angered by his treatment, he heads back to his college room and starts to use the internet to vent his spleen, before deciding on hacking into the Harvard mainframe so that he can set up a Harvard college-based 'Hot or Not' website to get back at the campus women.
Pretty soon, his site goes viral and causes the campus to crash - and this brings him to the attention of not only security and the admin board on campus, but also to the attention of a pair of Harvard twins, the Winkelvosses, who are working on a site idea called The Harvard Connection.
While Zuckerberg initially seems keen on the idea, he soon apparently uses the basis of that proposal to found a site, thefacebook, with business partner and long-term friend Eduardo Saverin (Spiderman's new webslinger Andrew Garfield).
However, when thefacebook gets bigger and the co-founder of Napster Sean Parker (a great turn by Justin Timberlake) gets on board to try and help spread the word, it all begins to go wrong for Zuckerberg, as blind ambition clouds his judgement.
The Social Network is written by the West Wing scribe Aaron Sorkin - and you know it from the moment the film opens.
With a sensationally wordy and intelligent opening, every character flaw of Zuckerberg is laid bare - his snobbishness, his petulance, his arrogance (as his ex tells him, "People will hate you but it's not because you're a nerd, it's because you're an asshole") are there for all to witness.
The whole film's framed around two legal cases - one brought by Saverin and the other brought by the Winklevoss Twins - and the narrative zips back and forth to both cases and the founding of Facebook.
Director David Fincher does a great job of pulling the various threads together and a blistering soundtrack from Trent Reznor keeps the whole thing pumping.

Sure, there are a couple of lulls in energy here and there (after some two hours you'd expect some kind of dip), but with a excellently written and tautly pulled together (and occasionally witty) script combined with an absolutely mesmerising turn from Jesse Eisenberg, The Social Network is simply unmissable and the film for the web generation.

Monday, 8 November 2010

Show Me Shorts: Film Festival Review

Show Me Shorts: Film Festival Review

Show Me Shorts Festival
Back for another year and as the tag line this year goes : Back for a good time, not a long time, the Show Me Shorts Festival is in rude health once again.
With a plethora of shorts and genres to choose from, there's something for everyone again this year.
Here's a handful of reviews of what's on offer at the nationwide festival:
Oscar's First Kiss - a sweet short tale of mistaken identity on an Aussie bus. Flighty and flirtatious, this piece is all about the close ups and the problem of dodging someone you don't want to know on a bus-even if they claim they know you. Stolen coy glances are mixed up with someone channeling their inner Mick Jagger.
Double Happy - a tale of innocence lost and shocking moments, Double Happy is the story of Rory and how hanging out with friends and a potential love interest changes his life forever. With some affecting dialogue and some nice touches (and a novel use for a Polaroid camera) this mini drama easily shocks by the end.
The North Pole Deception sees the workshop conditions of the elves at the North Pole blown apart. Filmed in a doco and interview style, the crude plasticine animation may lack aesthetically but a clever script certainly brings the cruelty into the yuletide season. And the final shot and use of candy canes is perhaps one of the cleverest I've seen in a while.
This Is Her - quite simply, this tale from writer Kate McDermott is one of the best short films I've seen for a long, long time. Beginning with our protagonist Evie giving birth, the voiceover wrong foots you from the moment it starts. Clever, witty and genius in scope, this intriguing film catches you right from the get go. Simply brilliant - and without wanting to be mean, I wouldn't want to tell you anything about it so you can marvel at the surprise that smacks you straight across the face within seconds. Highly recommended.

Show Me Shorts Film Festival continues nationwide.


Sunday, 7 November 2010

Nightmare on Elm Street: DVD Review

Nightmare on Elm Street: DVD Review

Nightmare on Elm Street

Rating: R16
Released by Warner Home Video

Freddy's back for a new generation.

In this reimagining of the once popular Elm Street series, the teens of a small American town are dozing off - and being plagued by visions of a man in a red and black striped jumper and with a burned face.

After a series of deaths, one of them, Nancy (Rooney Mara) along with her friend Quentin (Kyle Gallner) try to work out why they're being tormented - and how to stop Freddy (Watchmen's Jackie Earle Haley) from killing them all.

It's always going to be difficult to redo the iconic 1984 film A Nightmare on Elm Street - that was always one which defined a generation of horrors and had a major impact on the genre.

So it's not that the team behind this one doesn't try - they do and the successful updating finds Freddy Krueger given more of a sinister backstory which is more relevant and shocking to our times and sensitivities.

The cast do okay with their roles; they're all fairly disposable and the relative lack of big names (outside of genre TV shows) means you're not quite sure who's going to make it to the end.

I'm not sure though that this Freddy has power to sustain a series of sequels which the original did.

Extras: Go behind the scenes of how the team reinvented Freddy Krueger for a new generation

Rating: 5/10

Saturday, 6 November 2010

Micmacs: DVD Review

Micmacs: DVD Review

Micmacs

Released by Roadshow Home Entertainment
Rating: M


For those who know their French films will be familiar with director Jean Pierre Jeunet; he brought us the wonderful Delicatessen and the nightmarish City of Lost Children.

In French film, Micmacs, Danny Boon plays Bazil, who, as a boy lost his father to a landmine explosion - and who in later life, is shot in the head while witnessing a robbery and minding his own business.

After recovering, Bazil finds himself homeless and (understandably) bearing somewhat of a grudge against the weapons manufacturers who had a hand in these key moments of his life

So when he's taken in by a bunch of homeless people, and galvanised into action, Bazil sets about manufacturing the downfall of those who've wronged him.

MicMacs is a slight premise strung together by some wonderfully whimsical moments - but it's a seriously loveable surreal collection of cinematic images. Jeunet's always had the eye towards a What The? moment and this latest film doesn't disappoint.

Rating: 7/10 

I Love You Too: DVD Review

I Love You Too: DVD Review

I Love You Too
Rating: M
Released by Roadshow Home Entertainment

Rove sidekick Peter Helliar heads to the big screen with this rom com about Brendan Cowell's Jim who after three and a half years is unable to tell his girlfriend Alice (Chuck's Yvonne Strahovski) that he loves her.
You see Jim's a manchild - he lives in a granny flat at the back of his sister's place and works as a driver at a miniature railway. He's not exactly adult material.
But when Alice decides enough's enough and that it's time to head back to the UK, Jim's dumped - and it's at that point he realizes he has to do something.
And here's where his path crosses with Peter Dinklage's Charlie who tries to help him get her back.
I Love You Too is a fairly amiable buddy movie - it's not wildly original in terms of story (in fact the manchild act's been mined a fair bit this year) but it's actually quite touching and funny in places.
A lot of that is down to Peter Helliar's larrikin ways and deadpan humour - as writer and coproducer he's given his character Blake some of the best lines and moments in the film.
Mind you the whole ensemble work well together and while the plot's not original, this is the kind of film you can put on and find some unexpected laughs.
Extras: commentaries with all the teams - both directing and acting talent, deleted scenes and a behind the scenes doco. Not a bad bunch overall.

Rating: 7/10

Thursday, 4 November 2010

Leap Year: DVD Review

Leap Year: DVD Review

Leap Year
Rating: PG
Released by Roadshow Home Entertainment

Amy Adams stars in this rom com about a girl Anna who's been with her boyfriend for some four years but still doesn't have the commitment she needs in the form of marriage.
So when she hears that he's off to Ireland for work and buoyed by the tale that on the leap year in Ireland women can propose to men, she decides to take the bull by the horns and seal the deal.
However, after a disastrous storm hits, she's diverted to the small Irish village of Dingle on the other side of the Emerald Isle - and enlisting the help of surly innkeeper Declan (Matthew Goode) she sets about achieving her dream.
Except wouldn't you know it, there's a spark between the two - which begins initially as antagonism and well, you can guess the rest.
Leap Year has been slammed by the Irish for its awful stereotyping of the island's villagers - here they're played as bumbling fools and surly characters so it's easy to see why the film got up their nose.
Also, it's not terribly funny - you can see the jokes (such as they are) coming a mile off and while it's not an original one, sometimes it's about the journey to the denouement.
And this one is about as much fun as pulling teeth. Goode mumbles a lot and Amy Adams just about rises out of the mire - but all in all, it's a real contender for the stinker of the year.
Extras: Trailer and deleted scenes.

Rating: 3/10

After The Waterfall: Movie Review

After The Waterfall: Movie Review

After The Waterfall
Rating: 7/10
Cast: Antony Starr, Sally Stockwell, Peter McCauley, Cohen Holloway
Director: Simone Horrocks
Written and directed by Horrocks and shot entirely around Piha, After the Waterfall stars Outrageous Fortune's Antony Starr as John, a forest ranger.
John's life is one of always being there for his job and his mates, and in his wife's eyes that means he puts home life at the bottom of the rung. That's not to say he doesn't love them, however.
Things fall apart dramatically for the family when one day, under John's watchful eye out in the bush, his four-year-old daughter, Pearl, disappears.
As the search intensifies for Pearl, the cracks form in John's life; his wife leaves him and he inadvertently burns down the family home.
Cue three years later and John's still wallowing and stuck in the past - can he escape and start to live again?
This is a good film, excellently crafted by Simone Horrocks and with a great central performance of Outrageous Fortune's Antony Starr (soon to be seen on TV ONE's Sunday Theatre production Spies and Lies) - his John is completely lost and in need of redemption. It's a character that so easily could be lost to simple moping, but Starr imbues the screen with a plausible presence.
Piha makes a great backdrop to the mental state of mind of Starr - and Horrocks mines the best of the landscape to set a good vibe for the film.
However, it's slightly let down by the portrayal of the best friend who betrays John - while his character's vulnerable, Cohen Holloway's not quite as strong as he should be and it detracts from the emotional impact. The film's also a little slow in terms of pacing - but the bubbling, underlying tension helps you delve deep into the characters' psyche and, if you're patient, you are rewarded.

After the Waterfall largely succeeds because of Starr's performance and the restraint shown by Horrocks - with a soundtrack that's so sparse it's all about the acting and atmosphere; but with a tremendous performance from Starr as the damaged man, it's something a little different in the cinema.

Jackass 3D: Movie Review

Jackass 3D: Movie Review

Jackass 3D
Rating: 6/10
Cast: Johnny Knoxville, Bam Margera, Steve O, Wee Man, Chris Pontius
Director: Jeff Tremaine
There's a moment in Jackass 3D where one of the unlucky so and sos who subject themselves to all kinds of painful madness turns to the camera and says : "What are we doing here?" before the answer returns "Making a hit movie."
And that sort of sums up Jackass 3D - it's the same format as before; Johnny Knoxville and his gang of malicious miscreants inflict various forms of torture on each other for no other reason than it seemed a good idea at the time.
But, my goodness, in places, it's extremely funny.
There's no plot here - a series of skits, dares and moments are pushed together over the course of a 90 minute film. This time around the guys have gone for using a bit of 3D which serves only to demonstrate the pain level inflicted - and also to show facial contortions and how people's faces distort and jiggle when they're smacked about.
There's plenty of gross uses for the 3D in the film - and this isn't the forum to discuss various bodily functions and objects being used (not that I'm a prude I'll have you know) - but the best use of it comes right at the end when the gang is gathered together and a series of explosions ends the film. It's at this point the 3D really sings out and looks digitally stunning - rather than just stuff exploding and coming at you from the screen, the whole sequence springs vividly to life with depth and insanity sharing the celluloid brilliantly.
This film is frequently gross - think bums and air darts, portaloos and bungee ropes and you're starting to form an idea of how it'll all sit together. But yet, as I say in places, I just couldn't help laughing at the cojones (sometimes literally) on display and the minds that would come up with the various situations involved. From victims running a gauntlet of cattle prods and tasers to one annoying a ram with a horn and then running as the poor animal exacts its ramming revenge, there's all manner of bone crunching slow-mo replays and moments to enjoy. There's also plenty of dry retching involved when various parties are outgrossed by their own activities.
But the moment which works best for me is when one of the group finds the tables turned - however, I won't spoil that for you.
I guess what it comes down to with Jackass is how much you already like the format - and how much further you're willing to be grossed out.

This film's been a massive success in America - for certain sections of the audience, and with a few beers and a few of the lads, I reckon it's the perfect mixture of grossness, chutzpah from the team and impressive pranks which you're urged time and time again, not to try at home.

The Killer Inside Me: Movie Review

The Killer Inside Me: Movie Review

The Killer Inside Me
Rating: 6/10
Cast: Casey Affleck, Jessica Alba, Kate Hudson, Simon Baker
Director: Michael Winterbottom

A difficult watch to say the least, The Killer Inside Me (from acclaimed director Michael Winterbottom) is an adaptation of a Jim Thompson book about a sociopathic sheriff in 1950s Texas.

Casey Affleck plays said Sheriff Ford, who finds himself entangled in blackmail and extortion - as well as a torrid affair with prostitute Joyce (Jessica Alba) - and when things come to a head, boy, oh boy do they explode, as Ford discovers he's heading in deeper and deeper.

Things get worse for Sheriff Ford when The Mentalist's Simon Baker's character Howard Hendricks starts to investigate him (using very similar techniques to Patrick Jane as well) - and Ford finds he's in a real predicament.

This film, despite its slick 50s look and polished performances, is going to be steeped in controversy because of its violence- well, specifically its violence against the two women in Ford's life (both played wonderfully by Jessica Alba and Kate Hudson), which is shocking in the extreme.

While Affleck's performance is chilling and spot-on for a complete psychopath, it's a hard ask to watch a man who's meted out such violence as he has - audiences may find themselves split down the middle on this flick which has echoes of American Psycho (but none of the humour).

It's a shame because the film noir look works wonderfully and is evocative of '50s America and its seedy underbelly that breaks out from under the quiet veneer.

But The Killer Inside Me will polarise people because of its shocking violence, which actually leaves you numb and has led to accusations of the director being a misogynist, as the only violence towards men happens off screen, as opposed to the full glare of the women's demise.

It's gritty, dark, visceral, uncompromising and divisive cinema - so you have been warned.

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Grand Designs: S7: DVD Review

Grand Designs: S7: DVD Review

Grand Designs Series Seven

Rating: PG
Released by Roadshow Home Entertainment


Seven years on, Kevin McCloud continues to mine the series which has proved so popular with the masses.

The formula's simple - McCloud follows couples and families as they build their own home. It's usually a culmination of years of dreaming and planning - but is fraught with problems and cases of ambition getting ahead of reality.

This latest series collects seven planned builds - including a contemporary mansion, a Victorian folly and a home made from tyres.

With Kevin's easy charm and simplistic form of presenting, it continues to inform, entertain and inspire.

At the same time, Grand Designs Trade Secrets is released - a companion piece which gives tips and hints behind the scenes of the builds. It's a chance to go deeper into the builds and maybe indulge
your fantasies. This series has been released as a companion to Series Seven and will be a welcome release to fans of the genre, with a fascinatng look at the builds and some expert advice on hand, it'll further fuel the desire to get out and renovate.

Rating: 7/10

The A Team: Blu Ray Review

The A Team: Blu Ray Review

The A Team

Rating: M
Released by Roadshow Home Entertainment


In this latest version we're treated to the rebirth of the series (a kind of origin film) and we see how the A Team came together.

The team first forms in Mexico - with "Hannibal" Smith (Liam Neeson) enlisting the help of Face (Bradley Cooper), BA Baracus (Quinton Jackson) and Murdoch (Sharlto Copley) to escape. The quartet form a close bond and become a clandestine unit for some successful 80 odd missions together.

But the one mission which changes their lives sees them as soldiers in Iraq and assigned by the CIA and their lackey (Patrick Wilson) to take back a US dollar bill printing press snatched by the remnants of Saddam's Iraqi guards.

However, the A Team finds themselves framed (as the infamous TV series opening goes) and they set out to clear their names and catch the bad guys.

The A Team remains faithful to fans of the show and yet manages to reinvent it for a new generation. A wonderfully action packed opener sees the gang thrown together and introduced in a clever piece of plotting - and from there on, you're charmed by all four main performances.

For an action film, there's just the right amount of action too - it doesn't dominate the story - and even offers up some new takes on the stock action sequences.

But it's the chemistry between Cooper, Neeson, Copley and Jackson which really make this work

Extras: Theme mash up montage - slightly odd and a little disappointing. The Blu Ray release is a better buy as it comes in an extended cut with behind the scenes content, inside the action doco, character chronicles, gag reel and deleted scenes (definitely worth the extra cash.)

Rating: 8/10

The Last Station: DVD Review

The Last Station: DVD Review

The Last Station
Rating: M
Released by Vendetta Films


The Last Station is about Leo Tolstoy and the final year of his life.

As time begins to take its toll on Tolstoy (Christopher Plummer), his fervent disciples, lead by Paul Giamatti's Vladimir Chertkov are trying desperately to get him to change his will to leave them everything.

That way, they can be guaranteed that his work survives.

However, one thing standing in their way - and with a fair degree of reason on her side - is his wife, Sofya (Helen Mirren).

Thrust into this stand off is a brand new secretary (James McAvoy) - even though he's a dedicated Tolstoyian, the secretary comes to question what's going on.

There's plenty to enjoy in The Last Station - thanks to a rich script and a beautifully shot story, you'll find yourself captivated by it all.

But it's the two lead actors who really take your breath away; it's clear to see why these two were lavished with Oscar nominations this year - and it's also a shame that they lost out. It's a marvellous towering performance from Christopher Plummer as Tolstoy himself and an even better performance from Helen Mirren as his wife Sofya.

Sadly the last half hour of the film feels a little drawn out - which is a shame as this is the emotional crux of the film and the pacing feels a bit off; perhaps that's because we're so spoilt early on with the mix of melodrama, politics, greed and wit.

Extras: Tribute to Christopher Plummer, Cast Interviews

Rating: 8/10

Winter's Bone: Movie Review

Winter's Bone: Movie Review

Winter's Bone
Rating: 7/10
Cast: Jennifer Lawrence, John Hawkes, Garrett Dillahunt
Director: Debra Granik
It's being touted for Oscar success next year - and now Kiwi audiences get the chance to see Winter's Bone after its time with the New Zealand International Film Festival.
17 year old Ree (a career defining turn by Jennifer Lawrence) is the sole carer for her family; with a mentally ill mother and two kids, she's the rock of the family in the hillbilly mid-America homestead.
One day when the local sheriff (Terminator: Sarah Connor Chronicles' star Dillahunt) tells them their errant dad put their home up as bail and then skipped, Ree realizes he has to be found before they lose everything.
So in spite of massive opposition locally and from her father's brother, she's forced to begin a journey to find her pa and ensure the family doesn't get evicted.
However, little does she realize the path which she's embarked on.
Winter's Bone is one of those films which you'll sink into - or hate intensely. It's got a slow burning feel to it and is a piece of slow cinema.
Yet because of that Granik's crafted an absorbing film which is unflinching and, at times, harrowing - but somehow still manages to offer hope at its conclusion.
But the central performance by Jennifer Lawrence should be the sole reason to see this - her subtle and unshowy acting marks a star in the ascent. Her performance has already garnered acclaim on the festival circuit and is seeing her touted as a potential statue winner (or at the very least nominee) come the 2011 Academy Award season.

The film won't be for everyone - for some the pace will be offputting; but for those who like a mystery film with engrossing characters set in mid-America, Winter's Bone is worth seeking out.

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

The Losers: DVD Review

The Losers: DVD Review

The Losers
Rating: M
Released by Warner Home Video

It's the adaptation of a DC Comics series.

A CIA black ops team led by Jeffrey Dean Morgan's Clay is left for dead during an operation in Bolivia.

But this team of five guys with names like Roque, Pooch, Jensen, Clay and Cougar are determined to fight back - and get Max the man who set up the team.

However, Max has bigger plans for world domination (when don't they?) and soon Clay and the gang are trapped, desperately trying to clear their names.

Along the way, they join forces with the mysterious Aisha (Zoe Saldana) who appears to have a grudge against Max too - but who's playing whom?

If The Losers sounds familiar, then that's probably because it is.

It's a similar plot to most other action thrillers and to be honest, there's nothing fabulously new to see here.

Trademark slow-mo action shots, things exploding, a hammy villain (yes Jason Patric I'm looking at you) and gratuitous long camera shots on the lead actress are all present and correct.

Also present is the continual cliché of what I like to term The A Team syndrome - which is where the good guys are seriously outnumbered by the bad guys, but it seems the villain's hired the worst shooters in the world as none of them can hit anything, regardless of how well stacked the odds are against the goodies.

But if you don't take the Losers too seriously, it's fairly good disposable fun.

Extras: Zoe Saldana talks about holding her own with the predominantly all male cast

Rating: 6/10

Monday, 1 November 2010

Winter In Wartime: DVD Review

Winter In Wartime: DVD Review

Winter In Wartime
Rating: M
Released by Vendetta Films

Set in the last winter of World War II, Nazi occupied Holland is under siege - both from the Germans and a blanket of snow.

15 year old Michiel (Martikn Lakemeier) is one of those who is appalled by the Nazis and wants to join the Resistance in some form of other. Despite being inspired by his Uncle Ben and warned off by his father who's the mayor of the town, Michiel ends up helping a crashed pilot (Twilight's Jamie Campbell Bower).
It's this act of defiance which sets in motion a series of events which will end Michiel's teenage years in ways he could never imagine as he finds his innocence shattered forever.
Beautifully shot Winter In Wartime captures the atmosphere of the time excellently, The story's well told and is captivating from beginning to end - there's an ease to the central performance from Lakemeier which makes it easy to watch. He captures the petulance of the teenage years, the conflict with his mayor father who wants to protect him from the troubles and the desire to grow up and be treated like a man very well.
There's a twist at the end which you can see coming a mile off - but Winter In Wartime succeeds as a tale of lost innocence and thanks to the universal story, you may find yourself dragged more into this world than you would expect.

Rating: 6/10

The Prince of Persia: Blu Ray Review

The Prince of Persia: Blu Ray Review

The Prince of Persia

Rating: M
Released by Disney DVD

Jake Gyllenhaal stars as Dastan, a young street urchin orphan boy who's taken into the Persian royal court at an early age and who comes to love the ruler as if he were his dad.

However, later on as the Persians are laying siege to a city they believe is hiding weapons which have helped their enemies (spot the parallel here), Dastan finds himself cast out from the royal court after he's believed to have assassinated the king.

Forced into hiding and into an uneasy alliance with Princess Tamina (a dusky sultry Gemma Arterton) Dastan tries to unravel the plot.

From the opening chase scene through to the FX laden final scenes, the problem is this film is relying a little too much on its source material - and the medium it came from. That is, it feels like it's a computer game on the big screen.

Scenes are held together by one of three plot devices - either a fight scene, a chase scene or plot exposition. There's also some humour thrown in in the form of Alfred Molina's comedy relief Sheik (and his brilliant ostrich racing - when was the last time you saw that on screen?) but it feels like less than the sum of its parts.

It's reasonable family fare but nothing as thrilling as it could be.

Extras: A chance to take control of the dagger and go behind the scenes is a nice touch on the Blu Ray release.

Rating: 6/10

Thursday, 28 October 2010

Cyrus: Movie Review

Cyrus: Movie Review

Cyrus
Rating: 8/10
Cast: John C Reilly, Jonah Hill, Catherine Keener, Marisa Tomei

Director: Jay Duplass, Mark Duplass

Pitched as an odd comedy in its trailer (which you can watch here),Cyrus stars John C Reilly, Jonah Hill and Marisa Tomei as a mismatched trio.

Reilly is John a divorcee who meets Marisa's Molly at a party and they hit it off; so much so that after 7 years' estrangement from his ex Catherine Keener,he thinks she could be the one.

And Molly is the same - so the pair begin an easy relationship.

There's only one problem - her 21 year old son Cyrus (Hill) who initially welcomes John to their home but soon starts to act up in order to get him out.

So the battle lines are drawn and the two begin to clash openly when Molly's not around - and make nice when she is.

Cyrus is a polished little gem of a dramedy of a film, delightfully quirky and confounds every expectation - while still delivering plenty of laughs and a good dose of heart.

The style is interesting as well - as it appears to have been shot on handheld cameras so they swoop in and out capturing every awkwardly odd moment.

The reason it works though is because of the leads - it's played very straight by the cast and Hill delivers a knockout performance of comic menace via Cyrus. Reilly's equally as good at the deadpan too- and Tomei is great as the mom who can see nothing wrong with the relationship.

Cyrus is an unexpected treat in more ways than one and it shows that both Hill and Reilly can really reign it in when they need to on the performing front - and the end result is a real novel success.

Made In Dagenham: Movie Review

Made In Dagenham: Movie Review

Made In Dagenham
Rating: 6/10
Cast: Sally Hawkins, Daniel Mays, Bob Hoskins, Richard Schiff, Jaime Winstone, Geraldine James, Rosamund Pike, Miranda Richardson
Director: Nigel Cole
From the director of Calendar Girls comes a new UK film with a cast that reads like a Who's Who of Brit talent.
It's 1960s Britain, where Ford (sorry Holden lovers) is at the height of its power - pumping out thousands of cars daily to the world.
But in the town of Dagenham, where one of the company's major plants is housed, trouble's a-brewing.
Well specifically in the machinist section of the plant populated by some 187 women.
Downgraded to a lower unskilled band, the women are not happy - and in one of them, shy and quiet Rita O'Grady (a wonderful Sally Hawkins) they find the voice to complain to the management at Head Office.
Spurred on by Bob Hoskins' shop steward, Albert, soon she's declaring an all out walk out for the staff and the cause begins to spread.
Initially it's about being upgraded to skilled - but soon it becomes about equal pay for women - and as the struggle to get their cause noticed increases, the tensions for all of the women (Rita's family too) escalate.
It's fair to say that Made in Dagenham is crowd pleasing in the extreme; with the usual kind of humour that pioneered the mold with The Full Monty, this Brit flick sings in terms of soundtrack, dry humorous moments and some great performances.
Every actor turns in solid performances - but it's Sally Hawkins who really impresses in this role of the mousey, put upon Rita whose voice rises up when it's most needed. She's the emotional centre of the film and she succeeds because she's never showy and immensely watchable.
The whole film's steeped in a UK nostalgia of the 1960s which is weaved in throughout - talk of colour TVs, puppet Sooty and vintage UK roadside diners will resonate more with some than others.
Sure, it's predictable in places - and you can see where the cracks will come dramatically (which may irritate the purists who feel that it's UK film making by numbers in terms of script, jokes and direction) but if the formula ain't broke, then I guess you don't need to fix it. There's nothing inherently wrong with the film and audiences will lap it up but in places, it does feel like a feel-good-film-by-numbers style flick.
The only disappointment in this empowerment flick is the end credits where you actually see the women who were the inspiration for the film - but any emotional resonance over who they are is lost due to a lack of pointing out who's who.

Chalk Made In Dagenham up to another of those barnstorming, crowd pleasing, publically adored feel good UK films which the motherland continues to churn out.

RED: Movie Review

RED: Movie Review

RED
Rating: 6/10
Cast: Bruce Willis, Mary Louise Parker, Helen Mirren, John Malkovich, Karl Urban, Morgan Freeman, Brian Cox, Ernest Borgnine
Director: Robert Schwentke
Call it The Grey Team.
Bruce Willis stars as retired former Black Ops CIA agent Frank Moses, who's spending his retirement days in a big house and phone flirting with pension worker Sarah (Mary Louise Parker).
One day and without warning, a hit squad breaks into his house and attempts to assassinate him - after thwarting their attempts on his life, Frank heads to Kansas to snatch Sarah from potential harm and to try and work out who's trying to kill him; and perhaps more importantly, why.
As the conspiracy begins to unwind, Moses ends up meeting up with former colleagues Joe (Freeman), Marvin (a deadpan Malkovich) and Victoria (Mirren) to try and establish what's going on.
But time's running out - and ruthless CIA Agent Cooper (a brilliant Karl Urban) edges ever closer to tracking them down.
What can you say about RED?
Adapted from a DC Comics series, the film wears its colours on its sleeve within the first 10 minutes as the hit squad goes through countless bullets and destroys Moses' house in perhaps the most explosive and destructive sequence committed to celluloid this year.
And that's where the problem arises for this film - there's nothing inherently wrong with it; Bruce Willis once again smirks his way through a film and does his action man schtick and the plot's somewhat similar to the likes of The Losers and The A Team from earlier in the year. You can't help but feel that in some form or another, you've seen this before.
Yet, there's some things to really love about RED - principally, the wonderful performance of Karl Urban, who has grit, determination, steely cool and effortless screen presence; Mary Louise Parker who is long overdue a lead; Helen Mirren with a really big gun (finally putting to bed her image as an English stage dame) and John Malkovich for just out-performing most on the screen. There's also a very cool scene where Bruce jumps out of a spiralling cop car with all guns blazing which is true to the comic book world the film inhabits.
But these are some highs which are balanced by some lows - the plot sags after a while and you may struggle to be as emotionally invested in it as perhaps you should be. However, if you love guns, explosions and a slightly off-the-wall tongue in cheek kind of action film, you'll be happy.

It's just I couldn't help but feel a sense of déjà vu from what's already been up on the big screen this year.