Thursday, 30 September 2010

The Other Guys: Movie Review

The Other Guys: Movie Review

The Other Guys
Rating: 6/10
Cast: Will Ferrell, Mark Wahlberg, Samuel L Jackson, Dwayne Johnson, Eva Mendes, Michael Keaton, Steve Coogan
Director: Adam McKay
Will Ferrell reteams with director Adam McKay (who made Ferrell famous in Anchorman, Talladega nights and Step Brothers) for this buddy cop comedy.
Ferrell plays Detective Allen Gamble, a mild mannered desk bound cop whose partner Terry Hoitz (Wahlberg) is an uptight ready for action, desperate to impress cop.
The pair suddenly find themselves thrust into the limelight and into a major job when their department hot shots (excellently played by Samuel L Jackson and Dwayne Johnson) are taken off an investigation (to say why would spoil one of the film's best gags).
But when these "other guys" are given the chance to step up and impress the department captain (played with great comic chops by Michael Keaton) by looking into the case of billionaire David Ershon (Coogan), not everything goes to plan&
It's another case of check your brain at the door and get ready for some silly chuckles with The Other Guys. If you do that, you'll be guaranteed a great time in the company of the hilariously deadpan Will Ferrell.
His at times caustic partnership with Wahlberg works well - even if Wahlberg spends most of the time shouting, it's a nice contrast with Ferrell's more laid back and annoying cop.
Where The Other Guys succeeds brilliantly is in its opening minutes - Jackson and Johnson have a great time deftly parodying every violent crime cop flick and the start of the film is guaranteed to leave you in stitches.
Some of that momentum is carried on - and once again Ferrell and Wahlberg's comments are destined for catchphrase status (eg "I'm going to climb over your anger wall one day - and it'll be glorious" and "Cap'n, I'm a peacock - you've got to let me fly" are just a selection of the many quotable lines) but sadly the plot just can't sustain itself to the end.
Thankfully though a smart ensemble cast - including a star turn by Michael Keaton as a TLC line quoting department head - manage to keep this film on the right side of hilarious parody.

If you want to just laugh stupidly for reasons that you don't always know why, then The Other Guys is another good solid addition to Ferrell's comic contribution - but he's yet to match his turn as Ron Burgundy in Anchorman.

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Gordonia: Movie Review

Gordonia: Movie Review

Gordonia
Rating: 7/10
Cast: Graham Gordon
Director: Tom Reilly
A doco about one man's fight to keep a little part of West Auckland free from the red tape of district councils.
Shot over a seven year period, Gordonia focuses on Graham Gordon and his fight against the Waitakere District Council and their push to try and get him to clean up what's called in TV archive reporting, a hippy haven.
Graham's land is littered with cars and transients and offers a respite to those who can't find the peace they need elsewhere.
But, perhaps inevitably with that kind of description, you can see how that may cause clashes - and Gordon's accused of breaching environment court acts as well as various district council pushes.
So it all comes to a head - with council members and the police moving onto his land to clear it up - and clashes are on the cards.
Gordonia is an intriguing look at bureaucracy and how it's affected one life - and indirectly many more.
Tom Reilly's film making's non-intrusive and documents the human face of legislation very well - it's a sly eye onto how lives are irrevocably changed by people sat behind desks.
But it's also maddening at times because with continual no-shows from the district council for interview, he's left only to onscreen captions to give their point of view - and that's frustrating because there's never a 100% rational debate (which maybe there never will be.)
However, it's Reilly's access to his subject and the people who live on the land (whom Gordon wryly notes "most of them are a bit different" before Reilly cuts to a guy with a mullet smashing a car with a hammer) which gives this doco a human face and an easy accessibility.
Yet it's Gordon who's the hero of this - a man so apparently baffled by the council's refusal to grant permits or to submit to reasonable requests that he's probably likely to be cheered on by many who've suffered at the hands of a faceless office worker and the brutality of bureaucracy.
He's got an overt humanity and ease of character - he's the kind of guy who when the pressure's on in court turns to his friend and remarks on the tie he's wearing rather than the possibility of facing jail.

Gordonia is a real slice of West Auckland and equally an insight into office life and district plan politics - whether any of it changes when we become the Super city remains to be seen.

Saturday, 25 September 2010

Boy: DVD Review

Boy: DVD Review

Boy

Released by Universal Home Entertainment
Rating: M

Officially the biggest ever film ever to hit the New Zealand cinema, Taika Waititi's Boy finally hits the DVD market.

Set in 1984, and on the rural East Coast of New Zealand, it's the tale of Boy (a wonderful James Rolleston) who lives with his brother Rocky (a heartbreakingly human turn by Te Aho Eketone-Whitu) and their nan.

The pair have been abandoned by their Dad - Boy believes his dad Alamein (Waititi) is a deep sea diver, war hero or anything else rather than the reality - an inept criminal who's doing time for a bungled robbery.

One day, Alamein comes out of jail and heads home - and Boy realizes the reality of his father is nothing like the fantasy he's created.

Boy - what can you say about it that's not already been said? I loved it when it was released in the cinema and I love it still when it's out on DVD.

There's a sadness to the story too - Rocky believes his super powers killed their mum when she gave birth to him as he's unable to cope with the reality of death during child birth.

Both the leads are brilliant in this - each imbues their characters with such warmth and humanity that it's impossible not to love them. Waititi is also great as well - he brings a degree of inspired directing to the film as well as various fantasy scenes come to life on the screen. (I hate to use the word quirky but they're genius moments)

Boy is a national treasure - and should be seen and loved by everyone.

Extras: Trailer and commentary from Waititi - a little disappointing.

Rating: 9/10

A Single Man: DVD Review

A Single Man: DVD Review

A Single Man
A Single Man, based on the book of the same name, is the directorial debut of Tom Ford and the film which saw plaudits rained down upon its leading actor, Colin Firth.

Firth stars as Professor George Falconer, a gay English professor who lives in 1960s Southern California. As the film begins - and via viewers' flashback, he's told by a phone call that his long term partner Jim (Goode) has been killed in a car crash.

When he can't find a reason to go on, he decides to put his affairs in order and end his own life.

A Single Man is a stylistically heavy film - it won't surprise you to learn that it's from the same production design team who make TV's Mad Men; in fact a lot of the stylish recreations of the time are perfectly encapsulated on the screen.

A Single Man is Colin Firth's film, I really am going to have to re-evaluate him because he's sensational and sears on the screen in this - particularly in the scene where he's told of his partner's death - just sensational.

Extras: Making of, and audio commentary by Tom Ford.

Rating: 8/10

Friday, 24 September 2010

Charlie St Cloud: Movie Review

Charlie St Cloud: Movie Review

Charlie St Cloud
Rating: 5/10
Cast: Zac Efron, Charlie Tahan, Amanda Crew, Kim Basinger, Ray Liotta

Director: Burr Steers
Having done so well in Me and Orson Welles, Zac Efron tries ever harder to leave the High School Musical genre behind in this romantic weepy.
He's Charlie St Cloud, who lives in a small American coastal town - a guy with everything going for him; a chance to get a sailing scholarship at Stanford, and a brother Sam (Tahan) who idolizes him but fears he's leaving much like their absent father did to his mum (Kim Basinger).
On the night of graduation, Charlie's saddled with baby sitting Sam rather than joining his mates for one last blast - and so deciding to head out with them, he grabs Sam and they take the car out.
But an accident sees Charlie's life changed forever when a driver kills Sam - suddenly five years has gone and Charlie's still in the same town, tending the graveyard and every night keeping a promise to practise baseball with his dead brother.
Unable to move on, Charlie finds his life changed again when Tess (Crew) a fellow high school graduate heads back to town on the eve of a solo round the world sailing trip.
Can Charlie learn to love - and live again?
Charlie St Cloud shows once again that Zac Efron can actually act - sure he's saddled with horrendous good looks, but he really does hold his own in this flick - and the anguish he conveys when his brother's killed is gut wrenching to say the least.
The whole film is a revelation in many ways - it's an unconventional romantic drama which doesn't do exactly what you'd expect.
Both Tahan and Efron's on screen time is well done and there's an ease between the pair which keeps the whole "I'm playing baseball with my dead brother because I'm a bit damaged" schtick out of the completely weird and kooky and just the right side of charming. Zac impresses throughout - and is clearly the best graduate of the High School musical phenom.

But it's just a shame that the film loses it completely in the final reel as it inevitably moves into the purely cheesy and schmaltz - anything that solicits a major groan from most in the audience is never a good sign. Sure you could probably see it coming, but given the film's confounded your expectations early on, it's just a shame they bottled it at the end.

Thursday, 23 September 2010

The Box: DVD Review

The Box: DVD Review

The Box

Released by Warner Home Video
Rating: M

Following on from Donnie Darko and the flop that was Southland Tales, Richard Kelly heads to Twilight Zone territory with this new film based on a short episode.

Based on an episode of the show called "Button, Button" Diaz and Marsden star as a couple just getting by in 1970s Conneticut. One day the doorbell rings early in the morning and the pair find a box on their doorstep along with the message that Mr Steward will visit at 5pm.

When the time comes, Mr Steward (Langella) shows up on their door - and with the offer that if they press the button, they will get one million dollars.

However, if they do take the offer, someone unconnected to them will die&.

The Box is frustrating, infuriating and to be honest, brilliant in places. There's a Twin Peaks/ David Lynch style running throughout which gives the whole story an edge of insanity and a foreboding tone which sees it work.

Langella and Diaz are very good in their roles; Marsden is not quite upto par - but it's Kelly who sees a return to form after the critical drivel that was Southland Tales. Complete with trademark water effects, nosebleeds and Arthur C Clarke, the whole film has a haunting and eerie feel which will guarantee it cult hit status.

Extras: Commentary from Kelly, doco about The Box

Rating: 7/10

Brothers: DVD Review

Brothers: DVD Review

Brothers

Released by Roadshow Entertainment
Rating: M

Tobey Maguire, Jake Gyllenhaal and Natalie Portman star in this war drama about the bonds of a family and the horror of war.

Maguire is Captain Sam Cahill who's embarking on a fourth tour of duty in Afghanistan, leaving his wife (Portman) and daughters behind. Just before he heads off, Gyllenhaal's Tommy comes out of jail and attempts an uneasy return to the family.

However, Sam asks Tommy to look after the family while he's away - unfortunately Sam's shot down in Afghanistan and the family is ripped asunder.

Based on a Danish film of the same name, Brothers is quite a traditional melodrama which is a little slow to get going but thanks to the captivating and gripping performances of the main trio involved, it becomes a movie which you can't tear your eyes from towards the end.

While Gyllenhaal and Portman have an easy chemistry - it's Tobey Maguire who really layers on the textured performance and easily captures the horror of war and the psychological effects of the trauma long after leaving the conflict.

Extras: A doco about the director Jim Sheridan, how the film was made for America, and a trailer

Rating: 7/10

The Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Movie Review

The Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Movie Review

The Diary of A Wimpy Kid
Rating: 4/10
Cast: Zachary Gordon, Robert Capron, Steve Zahn
Director: Thor Freudenthal
From a popular cartoon pencil drawn book comes Diary of A Wimpy Kid.
Gordon plays Greg Heffley, an American kid who's about to go to middle school - and he's convinced he's a big fish in a small pond and that he'll be okay.
You see Heffley's got the world sussed out - and reckons his place in it is fairly safe and assured.
Not so much for his best friend since like forever the portly Rowley Jeffesron (Capron) who's likely to pull Greg's social standing all the way down.
Soon, wise-cracking Greg's facing choices he never thought he'd have to make - and consequences for friendships and his personal life.
Diary of A Wimpy Kid is one for the younger end of the audience - complete with jokes about urinating and cooties, it's clearly pitched at the under 10s - and that's fine.
But anyone older or adult in the audience may find it somewhat difficult to sit through - despite some nice moments which see some of the original drawings the film's based on coming to life.
Sure, there's plenty for kids to get their heads around here - be it social standing in school, morals, messages about never turning your back on your friends just to be the cool kid.
Thankfully the child actors acquit themselves well - Zachary Gordon does well with the cocky kid approach and Capron's stand out as the long term buddy Rowley who stands to miss out when his friend loses touch with reality.

But The Diary of A Wimpy Kid is simply too narrow a film to appeal to a broad family audience at a time of year when school holidays are here - and plenty of movies are clamouring for the family dollar.

The Last Airbender: Movie Review

The Last Airbender: Movie Review

The Last Airbender
Rating: See below
Cast: Noah Ringer, Nicola Peltz, Dev Patel, Jackson Rathbone, Cliff Curtis
Director: M Night Shyamalan
Based on the phenomenally popular cartoon series of the (relatively) same name, The Last Airbender is the tale of Aang (Ringer), a mystical spiritual child who, in a far off land, holds the magical ability to use the elements and keep the balance of the world together.
But Aang has been missing for years and consequently the Fire Lord nation (who use Fire to subjugate all) has taken over the world - and driven out those who could use the elements such as air, water and earth against them.
However, Aang is found by Katara (Peltz) a teen who has water bending abilities - and when her grandmother tells her that Aang holds the key to the safety of the entire world, she pledges to protect him against the wrath of the Fire Lords who would destroy him and disgraced Fire Lord Prince Zuko (Patel) who has to return to his kingdom with the last airbender to restore his honour and regain his rightful place in the nation and his father's (Cliff Curtis) heart.
I'm not particularly au fait with the source material here - so I grabbed a couple of rabid fans of the series (and their long-suffering mum) to get their take on it.
Jackson, who's 11 gave it 8/10 but said it was "nowhere near as good at the series but still really good". He felt there was "too much mucking around when the air and fire bending is going on" - there are copious scenes of the main characters doing Tai Chi to help bend the elements and use their powers. Overall, he felt it was "worth seeing and the acting was good - even if it went through the episodes (of the Avatar series) too fast."
Connor, who's 17, gave it 5/10, because he felt the "film tried to condense an entire season into one single movie and it wasn't a very good fit. It also included dozens of plot points into the one movie and people who hadn't seen Avatar may be confused about that." He also found the film a little dry and stuffy, saying "It had none of the humour of the series, and some of the acting was not particularly good. The Aang character is way more fun in the cartoon, he's more of a boy with a wayward personality. Because Avatar is in cartoon form the characters are able to be more fluid and the film missed that with the moves." However, he felt "it did pick up around the end."
To this critic's eye, there's some awful dialogue and wooden acting here and there - but genre fans will know this kind of thing comes with these films (Star Wars clunkers anyone?). There's some stunning scenery, but the 3D element of this film adds very little to it, and is wasted in some places. I'm inclined to agree with Connor that some of the main performances are a little off-key - coupled with some clunking dialogue - eg "It is in the heart that all wars are won" particularly from Noah Ringer. The lead isn't quite strong enough to pull it off - maybe he'll improve as, and indeed if, the series continues.
The bottom line here is that with school holidays bashing on the door, this will be a firm crowd favourite to the multitude of fans of the series - but it's questionable whether it'll have the wider appeal it needs to be a major success.

Final rating - based on the kids - 6/10

Wall Street Money Never Sleeps: Movie Review

Wall Street Money Never Sleeps: Movie Review

Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps
Rating: 5/10
Cast: Michael Douglas, Shia LaBeouf, Carey Mulligan, Susan Sarandon, James Brolin, Frank Langella
Director: Oliver Stone
It's 23 years since Gordon Gekko headed to prison at the end of Wall Street - and since then, the real financial world has seen major changes.
The sequel to Wall Street begins with Gekko heading out of prison, collecting his belongings (including that trademark chunky mobile phone) and trying to rediscover his place in the world.
At the same time, Shia LaBeouf's Jacob Moore, an investment banker whose dream is in the energy sector and who's part of successful bank Keller Zabel, run by his mentor Lewis Zabel (Langella).
Moore's also dating Gekko's estranged daughter Winnie (Mulligan) - after watching Gekko speak, Moore turns to Gekko for advice.
However, when things financially hit the skids as the global recession begins to bite, Zabel commits suicide and Moore begins to suspect Josh Brolin's Bretton James may have been involved - and he vows revenge.
And Gekko sees - and seizes - the opportunity to exert his power...
Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps is a curious film - there's splashes of the usual Oliver Stone extravagance on the directing front but there's also flashes of genius too. One particular trick sees Stone outlining the skylines of New York and London with the share market ups and downs; it's a clever visual touch which stands out.
Also standing out is Michael Douglas who once again burns everyone else off the screen as Gekko - his manipulating, scheming presence may have slightly softened this time round but with that steely twinkle in his eye, Douglas manages to imbue the post recession Gekko with a harshness which is welcome.
Shia LaBeouf gives his character a punky and slightly cocky feel but he manages to keep up with Douglas; it's good to see him maturing as an actor rather than simply fighting robots all the time.
Sadly Carey Mulligan's Winnie is perhaps the weak link in all of this - she spends a lot of time moping and looking forlorn as Gekko's daughter - it's a shame as the character feels underwritten and underused.

That said Oliver Stone's woven an intelligent film together which takes an insider look at the financial wheelings and dealings which brought the world to the brink - it shows that a financial expert's had a hand on the script. The problem is that it goes a little too far into financial speak and despite the drama's being there, it's as if Stone's unveiling yet another conspiracy (though this time it's factual) and the film suffers a little because of it.
But it's the treatment of Gekko which is the most disappointing - the character changes so much in the final reel that you almost feel cheated at the end.

Oh and yes there is a cameo from someone in the original film too - a nice touch which will appeal to fans.

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Date Night: DVD Review

Date Night: DVD Review

Date Night

Rating: M
Released by Roadshow Entertainment
It comics Steve Carell and Tina Fey team up in this comedy about mistaken identity.

They're Phil and Claire Foster - a NY husband and wife whose suburban lives have been besieged by the mundanities of two point four children; for whom each day is a series of routines - including their Date Night which sees them ordering the same dishes week in, week out.

So, shocked by the news one of their favourite couples is about to divorce, Phil decides to shake things up to prevent their marriage from being the next casualty.

On the spur of the moment, he takes Claire to a swanky Manhattan restaurant and refusing to give in because he doesn't have a reservation, takes someone else's.

However, that's when the problems start and they become embroiled in the world of Manhattan's gangsters.
Date Night has a great cast and there's something about Steve Carell and his deadpan delivery which can leave me in tears; equally Tina Fey goes a long way to convincing me that she's actually funny.
But unfortunately this caper doesn't quite work as a story and I don't know exactly what went wrong with it; it's not a bad film, it's just a bit lacking that 5% magic that needs to make it gel.
That said Date Night remains a fairly disposable piece of fun film for a relatively entertaining date night in.

Rating: 6/10 

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Dr Who S5 Vol 3: DVD Review

Dr Who S5 Vol 3: DVD Review

Doctor Who Series Five Volume Three

Released by Roadshow/ BBC
Rating: PG

So the latest season of the eleventh continues with the release of another three stories from the most recent TV series.

Comprising one story and a two part story, these latest tales see Matt Smith's Doctor and Karen Gillan's feisty Amy Pond joined in the TARDIS by her boyfriend Rory (Arthur Darvill) which brings a new dynamic to the team.

In the first adventure, the Doc and the gang are tortured by the Dream Lord and visions of the future - and in the second, a two parter, an old enemy of the Doctor's The Silurians make a reappearance.

So the mid season minor slump hits the TV series - there's nothing inherently wrong with these adventures and Matt Smith continues to shine as the Doctor but the pacing of these stories feel a little off and not as magical as they could be.

But it's the performances which help the average scripts rise - from Toby Jones' brilliant Dream Lord, Matt Smith's superlative take on the Doc to Karen Gillan and Arthur Darvill's companions, each moment with their characters is one to savour.

Here's hoping the slump doesn't continue.

Extras: Monster Files take a look at the new enemies.

Rating: 6/10

Monday, 20 September 2010

Misfits Series One: DVD Review

Misfits Series One: DVD Review

Misfits Series One
Released by Roadshow Entertainment
Rating: R18
Made for the digital arm of Channel 4 in the UK, Misfits is a terrific series about a group of five criminal misfits who are out carrying out community service when their worlds change.
Hit by a freak storm, the gang gradually find out they've got superpowers - and that the death of their community service minder is being investigated by social services...and they've all had a hand in the death.
It sounds like a rip off of Heroes in many ways - but what sets Misfits apart and gives it its fantastically fresh feel is that none of these guys get a cool superpower merely one which accentuates their insecurities.
I don't remember the last time I was so hooked on a TV mini series so quickly - within 10 minutes into episode one, these characters are so well written and rounded that they're believable, funny and realistic. It's also in the script and acting of the relative newcomers that make this such an easy watch - and despite being only six episodes long, you're left wanting more immediately.

Extras: Behind The Scenes, Simon's Films and the Making of Misfits will get you ready for series two coming soon.

Rating: 8/10

The Blind Side: DVD Review

The Blind Side: DVD Review

The Blind Side

Released by Warner Home Video
Rating: PG

The film that netted Sandra Bullock an Oscar on the same weekend as she scored a Razzie finally hits DVD.

Based on a 2006 book, The Blind Side is the story of Michael Oher (Quinton Aaron), a towering gentle giant who's from the wrong side of Memphis. Homeless, apparent family-less and with no prospects at all, Michael's life is changed when his path one day accidentally crosses with Sandra Bullock's brassy, Southern sassy Leigh Anne Tuohy.

The Tuohys are from the right side of town; Leigh Anne's husband owns a heap of Taco Bells and with their Christian way of life and ethics, they never want for anything.

So in the true spirit of altruism, the Tuohys take in Michael and begin to offer him some hope - and some of that hope gives him the belief he needs to play American football.

I know exactly what The Blind Side is aiming for - it has aspirations to be inspirational and is clearly pitching purely and simply at uplifting.

But sadly, personally it didn't strike the chord with me.

Sandra Bullock is good as Leigh Anne but I couldn't shake the feeling having seen other Oscar nominated performances that she didn't quite deserve to walk off with the statuette - she does ballsy and headstrong with a heart well but is it Oscar winning? Well that's for debate I guess.

Extras: A very light Additional Scenes

Rating: 5/10

From Paris With Love: DVD Review

From Paris With Love: DVD Review

From Paris With Love
Released by Sony Home Pictures
Rating: R16

From a story by Luc Besson and from the director who made Liam Neeson an action man in Taken comes From Paris With Love.

Jonathan Rhys Meyers stars as James Reece, a young employee of the US ambassador in France. With his 1920s style spiv like moustache and slightly uptight attitude, Reece is a model employee, deeply in love with his girlfriend Caroline and when his country calls him, he's a bit of a rookie spy.

He yearns to play a bigger role in the espionage world.

He's given that chance - enter John Travolta's dome headed slightly unhinged Charlie Wax who's an operative with the CIA and in France to try and stop a terrorist attack.

But given these two are polar ends of the spectrum when it comes to attitudes and Reece finds himself in a world he never imagined he'd be part of.

What do you say about From Paris With Love? With its tagline, Two agents, One City, no Merci, explosions, gunfights and beatings set to heavy metal, let's be clear this isn't rocket science - or a film you particularly need to concentrate on the plot of (although you do have to keep up).

However, it is more entertaining than you'd expect.

And it's worth it for just one moment - to see John Travolta finally get that burger he talked about in Pulp Fiction all those years ago....

Extras: Making of, deleted and extended scenes and a music video

Rating: 6/10

Thursday, 16 September 2010

Animal Kingdom: Movie Review

Animal Kingdom: Movie Review

Animal Kingdom
Rating: 9/10
Cast: James Frecheville, Joel Edgerton, Ben Mendelsohn, Guy Pearce
Director: David Michod
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 by the cops, 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.
But the real star of this film is relatively new director David Michod - he's clearly now a presence to watch over the coming years with this essential feature film debut.

Animal Kingdom is the perfect intelligent and excellently plotted antidote to fast paced unsubstantial crime films- it's a savage must see.

Despicable Me: Movie Review

Despicable Me: Movie Review

Despicable Me
Rating: 8/10
Vocal talent:Steve Carell, Russell Brand, Jason Segel, Julie Andrews, Kristen Wiig, Jemaine Clement
Director: Pierre Coffin
Gru (Steve Carell) is the world's number one baddie.
Built like Dr Frankenstein's helper Igor, and with a giant hook for a nose, he's an imposing sour faced figure. The kind of guy who will see a child crying in the street, will make them a balloon animal to help them smile and then pop it in front of them.
However, one day Gru finds his position atop the league table of bad guys is being usurped by a newcomer, Vector (Jason Segel) to the world stage who's stolen the Pyramids and replaced them with inflatable ones.
So aided by a fleet of diminutive yellow minions, Gru decides to unleash an audacious plan to steal the moon and bring the world to its knees.
But once again, he finds his plans threatened by Vector. And to make matters worse, Gru's forced to adopt a trio of orphans (Margo, Edith and Agnes) to help him achieve his despicable plan.
Yet, things don't quite go as planned - and soon Gru finds his life and view of the world changed by this clutch of kids.
Despicable Me has a wicked sense of humour - and an inspired lunacy about it (thanks largely to the behaviour of the yellow minions). The story will amuse both young and old - and it's all thanks to Carell's at times wearied Russian style vocal performance, there's a lot of humour throughout.
There's also a nice amount of sadness and dark tragedy running concurrently through Despicable Me - Gru's a kid who had all his dreams quashed by his dismissive mum's acerbic putdowns. For example, as a child when he tells his mum he's going to go to the moon, his mum simply states that she doesn't know how given that NASA's stopped sending the monkeys. That, coupled with villain envy and some genuinely fun moments, finds Gru given as much of a 3D treatment as the animation around him.

Despicable Me is a delightful treat which will perfectly amuse the entire family.

The Sorcerer's Apprentice: Movie Review

The Sorcerer's Apprentice: Movie Review

The Sorcerer's Apprentice
Rating: 7/10
Cast: Jay Baruchel, Nicolas Cage, Alfred Molina, Monica Bellucci
Director: Jon Turteltaub
So it's a new generation of wizardry ways.
In the latest from Disney, Nicolas Cage stars as Balthazar Blake, a sorcerer who's fought his arch nemesis, Maxim Horvath (Alfred Molina complete with requisite English bad guy accent and goatee beard) throughout time - and since the time of Arthur and Merlin.
But Blake needs to find the Prime Merlinian, a sorcerer who has so much power that they can wield the power of Merlin and help vanquish Horvath.
Enter Jay Baruchel's Dave, a nerdy physics major who ten years ago met Blake, was told of his destiny and then watched Blake disappear into thin air. So obviously he has a few issues with self esteem, doubts and of course, women.
However, when Blake reappears, Dave finds he is slap bang in the middle of Maxim's plans to use an ancient power to raise an army of the dead and take over the world&can Dave help Blake save the day?
The Sorcerer's Apprentice is a fresh, fun take on the world of sorcery and magic; it's fantastical family fun complete with its everyman central character played with humour and likeability by Jay Baruchel (How To Train Your Dragon).
Nicolas Cage gives his usual laconic slightly dry take on his character - complete with shaggy hair and trenchcoat, he looks like a cross between the Matrix and the homeless.
Yet, with some eye popping special effects (some of which hark back to the Mummy) and a script which is smart enough to throw cinematic nods to the older end of the audience (Star Wars and Indy are just two of them), the team behind this know how to keep all sections of the audience engaged. Also it's well worth seeing for the clever tongue in cheek reference to Fantasia - it seems like a corny idea but the homage is a wonderful piece to those in the know.

Sure, Cage rolls out some awful babble at the start and the film threatens to plunge into a pit of its own po-faced making, but with an engaging Baruchel, some excellent set pieces and effects, the whole thing hangs together nicely for some good family fun.

Monday, 13 September 2010

A Prophet: Movie Review

A Prophet: Movie Review

A Prophet
Rating: 9/10
Cast: Tahar Rahim, Niels Alstrup
Director: Jacques Adiard
Winner of the Grand Jury prize in 2009 at Cannes,A Prophet clearly deserves its accolades.
This is the tale of Malik, (Tahar Rahim) a 19 year old French Arab sentenced to 6 years in jail.
Finding himself in over his head initially, Malik is ordered to kill a Mafia informant by the Mob inside the prison - or forfeit his own life.
With no choice, Malik carries out the crime and subsequently finds he rises through thr ranks of the Mafia inside the jail. Pretty soon, Malik is a pivotal part of life behind bars - but soon realizes that there will come a time when he's leaving jail to embark on the next stage of his life.
A Prophet is a sophisticated, restrained and sensitive drama with a wonderful central performance from Tahar Rahim.
It's deeply compelling, richly rewarding and gripping from beginning to end.
Don't be put off by 155 mins running time; every single minute continues to build a richly layered and subtle film which is nothing like you've come to expect from the prison genre. There's little cliché here and with such a well paced story, there's much to lose yourself in as you invest the time in Malik's life.
Sensitive direction from Adiard capture the reality of life in jail - seasons come and go as life continues - coupled with great performances A Prophet soars.

This is a film to be treasured-this is cinema at its most searing; a film which you can't tear your eyes from and one which will live on with you after you leave the theatre.

Exit Through The Gift Shop: Movie Review

Exit Through The Gift Shop: Movie Review

Exit Through The Gift Shop
Rating: 8/10
Cast: Banksy, The Art World, Thierry Guetta
Director: Banksy
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.
It's a smart twist which makes you wonder how real this film actually is and gets you talking and thinking as you leave the cinema - isn't art about provoking discussion?

This film is easily the lead contender for doco of the year - see it now and see if you can work out exactly what's going on.

Thursday, 9 September 2010

The Runaways: Movie Review

The Runaways: Movie Review

The Runaways
Rating: 7/10
Cast: Kristen Stewart, Dakota Fanning, Michael Shannon

Director: Floria Sigismondi

Kristen Stewart and Dakota Fanning leave their Twilight images behind in this tale of hedonism, hard rocking and harmonies.

Set in the 70s it's the true life coming of age tale of Joan Jett and Cherie Currie, how their rock and roll lives collided and they blazed the trail for women in rawk music.

But while Jett was always determined to be a rock star, Currie was more saddled with the problems of family life which seem to cause conflict within her - and unleash her inner demons.

Most will come to see Kristen who manages a strong but sullen Joan Jett - but this film belongs to Fanning as drug addled Currie and Michael Shannon as the maestro Kim Fowley who sees the potential of the female band-it's their relationship with everyone else which eclipses most of the film itself.

Thanks to great performances and a hit of humour here and there, it fizzles as it evokes the times. But along with the great recreation of how a band evolves (The Runaways spend their time rehearsing in a caravan) this is a real insight into the reality of setting the trend - Jett herself was widely mocked for wanting to be a woman in rock in a time when men were the predominantly the music industry.

Stewart is good as Jett; all raw intensity and brooding explosiveness but there's more humanity on display by Fanning as her rock'n'roll dreams come to a head and she starts to lose her way.

Sure, parts of it will be an uneasy watch as it's a little bit jailbait, but the fact it's all true steers the film away from sleaze. And a great soundtrack helps set the vibe.

Punky and spunky, The Runaways is a hedonistic trip, fizzing with energy and humanity.

Thursday, 2 September 2010

Going The Distance: Movie Review

Going The Distance: Movie Review

Going The Dsitance
Rating: 8/10
Cast: Justin Long, Drew Barrymore, Christina Applegate
Director: Nanette Burstein
So here it is - another rom com tale of boy meets girl, boy and girl fall in love and obstacle in their way.
In Going The Distance, Long is Garrett, who's just split up with his girlfriend on her birthday - heading out with his mates Box and Dan (a very funny duo who bring the comedy), Garrett meets up with Drew Barrymore's Erin, an intern who's only in town for six weeks.
Despite that, the pair start seeing each other and fall in love - however, when it comes time for Erin to move back to the other side of the States, they decide they'll continue the relationship in spite of the distance.
And that's where the reality of the situation starts to hit our two lovers...will they make it through?
Fresh, funny and grounded in reality, Going The Distance is a welcome addition to the rom com genre, one which has become synonymous with light fluff which is mawkish and sentimental.
With a witty script delivered by two very amiable leads who have great chemistry, all of the characters in this - including Erin's uptight and anally retentive sister (played by Christina Applegate) feel real and grounded in truth. Sure there's a hint of more adult material in the script but it's that kind of banter and humour which gives the script its sparkle and helps it retain its sense of reality.
From the moment the pair meet, there's a real sense that they're destined to be together - and with the bumps and issues they face - along with the humour (some of it smutty and a little lewd - but funny nonetheless) throughout, Going The Distance is a contender for one of the best rom coms I've seen for a while.

But it's Barrymore and Long who steer this away from mawkish schmaltz and give it real plausibility - for a good night out with a loved one, this is a rom com that couples will adore.

Tomorrow When The War Began: Movie Review

Tomorrow When The War Began: Movie Review

Tomorrow, When The War Began
Rating: 6/10
Cast: Caitlin Stasey, Rachel Hurd-Wood, Lincoln Lewis, Deniz Akdeniz
Director: Stuart Beattie
Based on the very popular books by John Marsden comes the film adapation of Tomorrow, When The War Began.
Former Neighbours actress Caitlin Stasey stars as Ellie Linton, the beloved heroine of many a reader, living out in the Aussie town of Wirrawee.
On the eve of her birthday, Ellie decides to gather a group of friends together and head out on a camping trip for one last blast - there's the long time friend Corrie and her new boyfriend Kevin; neighbour and boofhead Homer, potential love interest Lee, untouchable townie beauty Fiona and young religious friend Robyn.
The seven of them head into the far reaches of the countryside for the weekend - but as they revel in a world away from a world, they're unaware of how everything's changing back in Wirrawee and Australia.
Overnight, an invasion force arrives - and with all the population rounded up, suddenly Ellie and her friends are the only hope to strike back&
Tomorrow When The War Began is the kind of film you can gather the family together on a Sunday afternoon and sit down and watch. I have to profess to never having heard of the books prior to this - so perhaps I'm not the best to comment on whether the adaptation is 100% faithful to the start of the saga. And I dare say given the fervour of some of the fans of the book that I've spoken to, not everyone will be happy with this. (As is usual when anything beloved transitions from the page to the screen - a fact even the characters remark on in one scene).
But what I can say is that Caitlin Stasey makes a good Ellie; from initial shots of her as a farm girl who has touches of girly girl, her journey from innocent to conscience wracked freedom fighter and teen who's confused is plausible. Whether she'll satiate the fans is another matter - Ellie means so much to so many; however, her can do attitude and awareness make her an admirable heroine.
Equally the rest of the seven make a good job of their camaraderie - sure, there's some bad lines here and there and at times, you can see exactly where the story is going. It's on these kids that the rest of the saga rests and thanks to a well rounded set of performances, you're never in doubt that these are teens who've had the responsibility of the world thrust on their shoulders - and they're not about to shirk it.
However, director Stuart Beattie seems to have gone a little overboard at times with some of the action sequences - Wirrawee is a world where explosions are really explosions and even an exploding quad bike can wield the most destructive force as it wreaks havoc. While it seems churlish to pick faults because of this, it sort of detracts from the at times underplayed appeal of the rest of the film's more intimate scenes which work well.

Overall, Tomorrow, When The War Began is a promising start to the saga - whether that promise carries onto the rest of the series remains to be seen.

The Expendables: Movie Review

The Expendables: Movie Review

The Expendables
Rating: 5/10
Cast: Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Dolph Lundgren, Jet Li, Mickey Rourke, Eric Roberts, Stone Cold Austin, Bruce Willis, Arnold Schwarzenegger
Director: Sylvester Stallone
With a powerhouse line up like the Expendables packs, you would expect something either a) pretty spectacular or b) vaguely nostalgic.
Sylvester Stallone writes, directs and stars in this tale - here he's Barney Ross the head of a mercenary unit who we first see in action taking down Somali pirates who're holding a group of people hostage.
Needless to say they're all crack action heroes and as a unit are available for hire.
Which is what happens when Ross meets with shadowy Mr Church (Bruce Willis) in a brief cameo who asks the unit to try and free the small island of Vilena from the vice like grip of a dictator General Garza (David Zayas of Dexter fame). But it turns out Garza is not just the power behind the coup but there's a bad to the bone American financier Munroe (Roberts) lurking around too.
So armed with guns, explosives and the ability to kick ass, the Expendables head to Vilena to fight for freedom. But what they don't know is that someone's double crossing them&
Well, The Expendables is an odd piece - if you like the names of the cast and have been excitable at the idea of them all being together in one film and a lot of stuff blowing up, then this is the film for you. It's the kind of action packed film where people don't get shot once because that's not good enough - they need maybe 5 or 6 bullets to finish them off or if they're really lucky, they can explode in half when shot.
Personally the whole thing left me a little cold - it was almost as if I'd gone back to the 1980s and was watching an action film from then - complete with bad dialogue and a relative lack of decent plot. Sure I get that that is half of the idea (before anyone tells me).
Don't get me wrong - the line up is an incredibly impressive one and it's clear that this is trying to set up a new generation of films using the old generation of actors. And yes, it's very impressive seeing them still strut their stuff (some of the fight scenes have clearly been made and directed by a veteran of the genre) - but there is hardly anything new on show here - except for some extremely big and impressive explosions.
There's also a lack of humour running throughout - and the one scene where it does appear is a reunion of the Planet Hollywood guys Bruce, Sly and Arnie. In that one single scene alone, the whole film starts to come alive.
Yet there is something to admire in The Expendables - once again Mickey Rourke shows himself to be a brilliant character actor with a lot of gravitas during a scene when he talks about being in Bosnia. It's the one moment in the film which shines out. There's a good relationship between Stallone's character and Jason Statham's character - they work well as buddies.
That said, each of the main actors gets some time to shine; Statham's character Christmas is given a girlfriend who grounds him and gives him heart; Jet Li gets to bust out some impressive moves and Eric Roberts gets to chew up the scenery around him.
There's nothing massively wrong with the Expendables - it's just the whole experience is once again, one of those which you leave your brain at the door and just settle in for the ride.

I appreciate there's a place in the multiplexes for films like this - and judging by the mammoth US Box office take, this is likely to do well - but I caution you unless you're a fan of films with a lack of real plot, glowering and sneering bad guys, hardly any strong female roles, plenty of things being shot and blown up, then you're not going to get a lot from the Expendables experience.