Thursday, 16 October 2014

The Rewrite - review

For a movie about screenwriting and teaching its rules and conventions, The Rewrite is so cliched and conventional that it desperately needed a few rewrites of its own to help it break away and stand out from of the dozens of Hugh Grant starring rom-coms already out there.

Indeed it could be seen as a reflection of Grant's own career.

A man striving to recapture the highs of the beginning of his career (Four Weddings And Funeral) but finds that an unexpected career change (fighting the tabloids) brings him the peace and happiness he has been searching for.

Recently his film roles have been few and far between, seeming like Grant had almost given up and at the beginning of the film he appears to be sleepwalking through the first act as he reproduces his About A Boy-schtick; behaving like a petulant child, sleeping with young women and doing as little as possible to coast through life but once he has his Dead Poet's Society moment of inspiration, Grant threatens to look like he might be enjoying himself on screen again.

Grant's Keith Michaels at one point claims screenwriting can't be taught and its certainly true with The Rewrite as anyone who has ever watched a movie could write the ending to this movie after reading a 30 page draft which takes its star for Granted,

2 stars

'71 - review

'71 refers to the year when the film is set which follows a young soldier on duty in Belfast during the Troubles but it could also refer to the nerve-shredding 71 minutes that follow once Jack O'Connell's Pvt Hook finds himself abandoned, lost, alone and hunted as he tries to make it back to the barracks after a bungled raid.

O'Connell is excellent in a role that is surprisingly silent, as even a simple yes or no could give away his identity as many different parties search for "the Brit", but he is still able to generate that all-important empathy with the audience as they can feel his pain, anger and fear throughout the night.

And in the words of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, "Oh what a night". Once Hook is separated from his unit, Yann Demange inserts the screw and continues to turn and turn it to unbearably high levels of tension that caused several audiences members in my screening to let out audible gasps for a release, particularly at one specific incredible shot that I have no idea how they filmed it and the climax in a tower block (that in one of the film'sonly flaws is signposted from the beginning. Oh those flats are an IRA stronghold, wonder where he'll end up).

The plot and action move as fast as Hook does through the hostile territory but still provides room to explore the mood, emotions and politics of the time.

You'll have no trouble appreciating this Escape From Belfast and fall for it Hook, line and sinker.

4 stars

Monday, 13 October 2014

Annabelle - review

Annabelle is the full length horror movie based on the fictionalised version of the "true story" behind the demonic doll that featured briefly in the full length horror movie of the fictionalised version of the "true story" of Ed and Lorraine Warren's paranormal investigations in The Conjuring.

For as long as there have been horror movies, porcelain dolls have been creeping people out with their cold dead eyes and creepy stares and there was massive potential for some genuine scares here but when stretched over a 99 minute running time the result is an uninspiring Rosemary's Baby-esque tale of a woman becoming increasingly paranoid in her apartment but it becomes ridiculous as it is just a doll!

Despite an effectively creepy sequence in a lift that refuses to leave the basement, the film does fall down in a sequence where the doll turns around and stands up to face her targets becomes laughable.

2 stars

If this film is a success, we can expect to see tenuous prequels based on items based on successful horror movies.

Coming soon from the makers of Annabelle... The unhorrifying history of the television from Poltergeist before the Freeling family bought it.

Coming soon from the makers of Annabelle... Jigsaw! The gripping account of John Kramer completing various jigsaw puzzles before he became a serial killer.

Coming soon from the makers of Annabelle... "Shatner" - the terrifying true story behind the Captain Kirk Halloween mask that would be worn by killer Michael Myers.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles - review

Technically, all the pieces are here, and in the right order. There are four teenagers. They are mutants. They are ninjas. Oh and of course they are turtles named Leonardo, Donatello, Raphael and Michaelangelo.

However something about the whole thing feels off and not like the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles we all grew up with as kids.

Here the focus of the film is Megan Fox's Channel 6 reporter April O'Neill who (for some unknown reason) has become linked to the turtles past and was responsible for naming them and saving them from the lab where they were experimented on.

The turtles don't get a lot of screen time to showcase their brotherly bond and individual characteristics. Instead it is limited to Leonardo being the leader because everyone else calls him that. Donatello is the scientific, geeky one because he has glasses. Raphael is the angry one and Michaelangelo is the wise-cracking one who has a very weird and creepy interspecies crush on April. Eeeeewwwww.

Also shame on a movie that wastes talent like Will Arnett and William Fichtner, who has proved in the past that he can lift a bad movie like Drive Angry with his villainous performances.

The filmmakers have attempted to place this in a realistic New York City setting but for some reason, people seem far too willing to accept the appearance of 6ft talking mutant turtles. Perhaps they are normal compared to all the superheroes walking around the Big Apple.

Certainly the villain's evil plan of holding the city to ransom with a mutagen is straight out of a comic book movie (The Amazing Spider-Man in particular).

In the end it is a case of less T.U.R.T.L.E. Power and more "Awkward Turtle".

1 star

Saturday, 11 October 2014

Hans Zimmer Revealed - review

If I was asked to name my top three favourite film composers, very easily and quickly I would rattle off the name John Williams (mostly for sentimental reasons of the scores that meant so much to my childhood), Hans Zimmer and Clint Mansell.

This week I am lucky enough to get to see two of them live in concert. Clint Mansell at the Old Fruitmarket in Glasgow on Tuesday 14th but first it was the turn of Hans Zimmer at the Hammersmith Apollo in his first ever public performance of some of his most iconic pieces of work in Hans Zimmer Revealed... And Friends!.

We'll get onto who some of the friends were in a minute but suffice to say that the main reason 5000 people had packed the Apollo was to see the man in question and he did not disappoint as he took us through an epic two and a half hour journey through his incredible back catalogue.

Best known these days for his work with Christopher Nolan, Zimmer started the concert almost trolling the audience by beginning with a piece from Driving Miss Daisy it introduced Hans on the piano accompanied by his small band (consisting of a string quartet, guitar, clarinet and percussion).

It proved the perfect opener as they seamlessly moved onto Discombobulate from Sherlock with Hans picking up the bango followed by , all the while with curtain upon curtain rising up to reveal layer upon layer of orchestra to bring these pieces of music to life.

Between the music, Hans would tell amusing and self-deprecating anecdotes about his time in the business and the inspiration behind certain pieces were a fascinating look behind the process. Like for example how Barry Levinson's wife buying the soundtrack to A World Apart led to his first Hollywood score with Rain Man or trying to convince Don Simpson and Jerry Bruckheimer to let him use a choir on Crimson Tide.

Cue the Crouch End Festival Chorus choir to appear and perform that and an incredible number which gave me a whole new appreciation for the Angels And Demons score which simply astonishing heard live (complete with some crazy drum solos).

One of the biggest cheers of the first half came when Hans dropped the G word and played a suite from Gladiator. Sadly Lisa Gerrard couldn't be there but singer Miriam Blennerhassett did an admirable job in her place.

The best thing about The Da Vinci Code, Chevaliers de Sangreal, quickly followed along with The Lion King, amazingly the only Oscar win that Zimmer has had despite nine nominations but one he did specifically for his daughter Zoe.

The first half concluded with a barnstorming medley from Pirates Of The Caribbean that finished with a violin-off between Ann Marie Simpson and Aleksey Igudesman (who nearly stole the show by wearing a selection of silly hats and masks to compliment the film).

The second act began like the first, softly and slowly with the Badlands-inspired score for True Romance but was soon followed by Zimmer bringing out the big guns for a "Super" and heroic end to the show.

Man Of Steel must have been an incredibly daunting job to take on. To create something that would encapsulate Superman but also able to stand tall outside the shadow of John Williams' original theme.

Not only did Zimmer accomplish that but his score is the best thing about the film and further proved by the live performance.

I wonder if Zimmer has the balls to try and create a new sound for Batman in. Batman vs Superman: Dawn Of Justice given that he has spent the last ten years defining The Dark Knight?

The Dark Knight was still to rise but not before myself (and probably a few others I imagine) were reduced to tears when they played Journey To The Line from The Thin Red Line.

Oh yes, earlier I mentioned that the evening was called Hans Zimmer Revealed... And Friends and the second half brought out a special guest in the form of The Smiths guitarist Johnny Marr who played on several tracks to the delight of the crowd, including a different and punk rock Electro-fying track from The Amazing Spider-Man 2.

Zimmer then finished the show with a suite from The Dark Knight Trilogy which concluded with a moving tribute to Heath Ledger and the people of Aurora, Colorado with a piece called Aurora which is an alternate take on Rise from The Dark Knight Rises.

The curtain came down on Hans and his team receiving their second standing ovation (they got one at the interval as well) but eagle-eyed fans would have spotted that one film was rather conspicuous in its absence from the playlist.

Thankfully Zimmer returned for an encore of Inception that would bring the show full circle with Zimmer alone under the spotlight playing the final note of Time.

And alas our time with Hans was over but it was a night to remember as he brought so many of his memorable movie music moments to life on stage.

It is one thing to listen to a film score at home on CD or on the move on an iPod and enjoy it but this was like being transported back to the first time you heard it while watching the film and experiencing it all over again.

Hans down one of the best live performances I have ever seen.

5 stars

Monday, 6 October 2014

The Maze Runner - review

The Maze Runner begins with a confused and disorientated Thomas (Dylan O'Brien) finding himself in "The Glade" which is habituated by a group of teenage boys who have built a society reminiscent of Lord Of The Flies, even down to the chubby kid (but he doesn't get picked on because he's not ginger).

Since Dylan O'Brien is suffering from memory loss, it is natural to have many questions like "where", "how", "when", "why" and "who" and thankfully Thomas Brodie-Sangster is on hand to help fill the role of Basil Exposition and explain they are in the the middle of a giant maze and have been trying for years to find a way out. Something that O'Brien may be the key to unlocking.

So far, it feels like a combination of Cube and Lost but unlike Lost it doesn't hang about when answering the many questions it asks. Threatening to tie everything up in a neat little bundle before you remember that this is based on a Young Adult novel which is obviously part of a trilogy and therefore sets up a sequel.

However it does fail to answer one particular question about their society.

30 boys in a glade for three years? Before Kaya Scodelario showed up, who played the girl? Who was the fresh fish if you know what I mean...

Scha-maze-ing? A-Maze-Balls? Much like the boys in the glade the end result is slap bang in the middle.

3 stars

Dracula Untold - review

Bram Stoker's Dracula could always have been viewed by some as a tragic character, consumed by love and grief, but here Vlad The Impaler is repackaged as an anti-hero, a man who was driven down this path to out of duty to protect his people and family.

This movie looks at how a man became the legend in a slight but fun prequel that could easily have been called Batman Begins.

Luke Evans is solid as Vlad, showing the requisite charm, smoulder and aggression, however Charles Dances away with almost the entire movie in just one scene as the Vampire who turns the man into the monster.

It certainly doesn't suck as much as it could have but lacks the required bite to make this particular version of the story live in immortality.

3 stars