Saturday, 31 May 2014

A Million Ways To Die In The West - review

In A Million Ways To Die In The West, Seth McFarlane's character Albert Stack is constantly going on about how much he hates the West.

By the end of this 116 minute so-called "comedy", I could probably have listed a million reasons to hate this film.

The Old West is a barren, deserted place. Almost as barren as this screenplay is of jokes and punchlines.

Whereas an episode of Family Guy or American Dad can survive the odd humour-based misfire due the frequency of the gags over a short 20 minute runtime, here Seth McFarlane is as alone and exposed as he is during the shoot outs he frequently finds himself in... and his jokes hit as wide of the mark as his bullets, although often he's just firing blanks.

In between all the humour tumbleweeds blowing through the film there is some beautiful vista shots of the West in the opening credit sequence, some truly bizarre cameos (In particular The Cowboy At The Fair and one that raises a smile yet makes no sense whatsoever given the film it comes from) and a mildly catchy song about the benefits of having a moustache.

But even having a moustache won't save you from contemplating a million different ways to die in order to save yourself from watching another minute of this manure... and I hate manure!

1 star

Postman Pat - review

This is not the Postman Pat I know. For one thing, gone is the quaint stop motion animation, replaced with very cheap looking computer animation. Secondly, Postman Pat no longer works for the Royal Mail instead employed by a company called the Special Delivery Service... the perils of privatisation I guess.

The transfer from the small to silver screen requires something a little bigger than a misplaced parcel or lack of correct postage and so Pat doesn't receive his bonus he enters a talent competition run by Simon Cowbell (my sides) to win a holiday to Italy for his wife as a late honeymoon (but they have a young son... how bad is the pay at SDS?), meanwhile a devious young executive seeks to replace the entire workforce with robots to save money... and presumably take over the world.

At times it was hard to work out who this movie was aimed at. Parents taking their young kids to the cinema to see it would probably have been kids themselves when the first series came out in the Eighties but would they get all the random science fiction movie references from films such as Forbidden Planet, 2001 A Space Odyssey, Westworld and even Russ Meyer's Faster Pussycat Kill Kill.

Or the bit where the family enjoy reading The Postman Always Knocks Twice. Because that is an appropriate book to read to your young child?!

The most puzzling aspect of the film is that while Stephen Mangan provides the voice of Pat, his singing voice is that of Ronan Keating... Who appears as himself just ten minutes prior to Pat's singing performance. They're the same voice?! How does Simon not notice this?! I feel like I'm taking crazy pills!!!

If you want my advice, don't even bother waiting for this film on DVD as this is one Postman who certainly doesn't deliver.

1 star

Edge Of Tomorrow - review

By the end of the first act of Edge Of Tomorrow, it is clear that it isn't your typical Tom Cruise movie as it has him dying on the beach at Normandy with an alien's blood eating through his face.

Suddenly we snap back to earlier that day when Cruise wakes up again in Army custody being sent to the front line for the final battle against an alien invasion.

Stuck in a Groundhog D-Day-style time loop he is forced to relive the same day over and over again every time he dies.

It gives Cruise one of his best roles in recent years, with a character arc that sees him change from a weasely, Army PR man with a shit-eating grin to battle-hardened warrior.

After going through the five stages of grief/loss upon reliving the same situation again and again: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, Acceptance, he works towards a Phil Connors-style redemption and seeks to have the perfect day and defeat the enemy and break the cycle.

Surely this can't fit into the Tom Cruise plot device where he is a successful soldier who suffers from a crisis of confidence before the love of a beautiful women teaches him that he can be a great soldier again...

Well, sort of.

While he doesn't start off as a great warrior (he can't even turn the safety off on his exo-suit), he discovers that the Army's most decorated soldier Rita Vrataski aka "Full Metal Bitch" previously had the same alien power and she trains him up to become a "Full Metal Jack Reacher", part of which includes one of the best training montages since Team America which revolves around Blunt repeatedly shooting Cruise in the face.

Blunt is an forceful and intimidating presence. Cold and steely to begin with before opening up the more Cruise interacts with her character.

She will inspire a lot of women to Cosplay as The Angel of Verdun and was potentially a new strong female sci-fi icon in the mould of Ripley and Sarah Connor. Personally I would have just liked to see a bit more of her in action to provide evidence of her legendary fighting skills.

Edge Of Tomorrow is up there with Scott Pilgrim Vs The World as the best movie based on video games only they are not based on actual video games.

It unfolds like an incredibly difficult third person platform shooter that doesn't have the benefit of auto-save points. One mistake can cost you your life and you get zapped back to the start where you have to do it all over again from the very beginning.

Like a video game it can get frustrating and repetitive to begin with but it handles it with great pace and humour, particularly the interactions with Bill Paxton's gruff Sergeant Farell.

Soon advancing through the game becomes like muscle memory (Cruise and Blunt talk through the battle time and time again choreographing their movements) and you breeze through it in no time until you come up to a new section you need to master.

Each new section comes with its own challenges and the screenplay plays nicely with the audience and characters. Is this the first time they have been here or not?

Like Tom's previous venture into science fiction Oblivion, this films wears its influence on the sleeves of its exo-suits with echoes of Starship Troopers, Aliens and Source Code.

Yet unlike Oblivion, you are not constantly comparing it to the originals and it really works on its own merits right up until the end which doesn't really work with what has come before and threatens to collapse in on itself like a giant plot black hole.

If it wasn't for the misstep at the end, this really could have Edged it as the most enjoyable blockbuster of the summer. Best start over and try again!

4 stars

Thursday, 29 May 2014

Maleficent - review

"Don't believe the fairy tale" cries the poster for Maleficent and it is a case of something Wicked this way comes as Disney attempts to repackage one of their most iconic villains as a sympathetic anti-hero.

But where Wicked succeeded in weaving an alternate view of a character into the backdrop of a pre-existing story, there are many moments in Maleficent that openly contradict the events in Disney's version of Sleeping Beauty.

Angelina Jolie is very good in the role but I wish she had been able to really cut loose of the shackles of the overly-CGI's Alice In Wonderland landscape and embrace the dark side and relish the chance to be bad.

Instead she becomes a surrogate "fairy godmother" character to Aurora as she watches over her following the curse and begins to regret her decision, which is written off as her having her heart broken by a man.

As well as continuing the run of alternate fairy tales such as Oz The Great & Powerful and Snow White And The Hunstman, it also reinforces the new direction that Disney is going in.

Despite the motivation of Maleficent being the actions of a man, there has been a noticeable shift in the past year to changing the age-old perception that a girl's idea of love and relationships come from Disney films.

In the past, girls have been raised on the idea that they need a handsome prince to save them and love them epitomised by the song Someday my Prince will come", which is ironic considering Sleeping Beauty's curse is activated by a tiny prick, and this film continues the groundwork laid by Frozen where "true love's kiss" comes from a sister or maternal figure and not the prince... not difficult in this particular film when the love interest is unfortunately called Prince Philip!

Terrible Scottish accents, an over-use of narration, a CGI battle that felt like it was out of The Phantom Menace and bland performances from the supporting cast meant that if it wasn't for Jolie this is one fairy tale that would have sent me into an eternal sleep.

2 stars

Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Fading Gigolo - review

Watching Fading Gigolo in many ways was similar to the experience of being with a gigolo or escort.

Having decided to experience it, possibly read some online reviews to help you make up your mind, agree on a time and place, there is the exchange of money, you sit back in the dark nervously unsure of what to expect and when it's over you are left with that mixture of dissatisfaction and shame at what you've both done.

Three Six Mafia once said "It's hard out here for a Pimp" and Woody Allen finds that is is exactly that when he is brought in front of a court of Rabbis for potentially corrupting the widow of a Hassidic Jew in a weird scene that I was unsure if it was meant to be a Coen-esque comic oddity or deadly serious.

It is as if writer-director John Turturro's gigolo has been asked to act like a cross between a Woody Allen film and a Coen Brothers movie and he sadly suffers from performance issues and the result is a bit of a flop.

One of the main issues with the film is the lack of explanation and motivation in the two main characters.

Woody Allen (playing Woody Allen and the highlight of the film) is having to sell his antique bookstore and persuades his florist-plumber friend Fioravante (John Turturro) to become a male escort in order to make extra cash which they will split.

Allen lives with an African-American women and her large family of children but the nature of their relationship is never discussed. Likewise Fioravante is apparently strapped for cash but seems to live in a nice apartment, is constantly referred to as a plumber but never does any (unless it is a euphemism and the only pipes he cleans are lonely women's) and just seems to accept becoming a "ho" without any real fight or reason.

The only real honest characters are his clients, in particular Sharon Stone's unhappily married dermatologist and Vanessa Paradis's widow.

There is an obstacle to Fioravante's relationship with Avrigal that involves Liev Schreiber's Orthodox Security Cop which delivers the film's most implausible plot development.

And that is saying something when it is in a movie where we are supposed to believe that Sharon Stone and Sofia Vergara would have to pay someone to join in a threesome with them!

Sadly this is one gigolo that certainly isn't worth paying for.

2 stars

Monday, 26 May 2014

Blended - review

Nowadays the arrival of a new Adam Sandler film is about as welcome as a bout of dysentery and is usually less amusing and enjoyable.

Following the execrable Grown Ups 2 it was to be expected that another bout of cinematic diarrhoea was on the way, especially with all the groaning and uncomfortable shuffling going on in the auditorium, but there was a mild Imodium-like respite in the form of Drew Barrymore.

As predictable as a screenplay about two single parents who have a terrible blind date but both end up on the same family holiday resort can be it unfortunately it feels like it got stuck with the kids, saccharine and sentiment whilst another movie ran off with the jokes and the laughs.

It might be the team that brought you The Wedding Singer but this is about as far away from recapturing that magic as the distance the stars travelled for this free holiday, sorry I meant movie.

Blended certainly ain't splendid.

2 stars

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

X-Men: Days Of Future Past - review

If I were to try and sum up the plot for X-Men: Days Of Future Past in one paragraph, I might say that Wolverine is sent back in time to persuade Charles Xavier and Magneto to come together to stop Mystique killing Bolivar Trask which prompts the creation of the Sentinel program which ultimately wipes out mutant kind in the future.

Follow that? No? Doesn't matter. You could try watching all the X-Men films, including the Wolverine ones, and all the end credits stings to re-familiarise yourself with the storyline and characters but it might just end up creating more questions than answers.

An action-packed opening sequence in the future which introduces us to some new and familiar faces under attack from sentinels poses such nerdy questions like "How has Wolverine got his adamantium claws back?", "How the hell is Professor X alive and looking like himself?", "Kitty Pryde has always been able to walk through walls but how can she now send people back through time?".

But before we are given time to think too hard about these questions, Bryan Singer quickly sends Wolverine back through time and presents the audience with a shot of Hugh Jackman's naked arse in order to distract us.

As much as this is the X-Men version of The Terminator storyline where someone is sent back in them to prevent the creation of robotic creatures that will wipe out an entire race, it is also paralleled with Singer's return.

Having left the franchise after X2 in order to make Superman Returns, he returns to a storyline where he uses the characters developed in First Class to retcon the universe to alter events that he wasn't happy with in X3: The Last Stand which mishandled The Dark Phoenix saga among other things, effectively giving him a clean slate to work with in the future in The Age Of Apocalypse (which I can't help but sing to the tune of Age of Aquarius).

But you can't make people excited for the future unless they enjoy the current film (take note makers of Batman V Superman: Dawn Of Justice).

Luckily this instalment is the most enjoyable since X2 from the opening attack which highlights the future sentinels and new mutants including Blink whose power of creating temporary portals is used to terrific visual effect or the sequence where Quicksilver infiltrates the Pentagon to break out Magneto with the best use of bullet-time since The Matrix.

Despite switching between the two time frames and featuring as many characters as you would find in a tweet, the main focus of the plot is the younger versions of Charles and Eric, who are further at odds than when we last saw them in First Class.

James McAvoy really gets to stretch his acting legs (pun intended) with the biggest character arc, starting as a drunk, disillusioned man who has given up his powers in exchange for the use of his legs (again not fully explained), completely uninterested in Wolverine's "future-shite" but must grow into the man who eventually becomes Patrick Stewart's calm, noble Professor X (with whom he shares a geek-tastic time-bending head-to-head).

The all-action climax helps to start reassembling the jigsaw pieces together to head towards the world already established in X-Men and X2 and it will be interesting to see if the next instalments feature the younger or older X-Men as this almost feels like a passing of the torch between casts.

An X-Cellent ensemble that successfully mutates between post-apocalyptic Sci-Fi and funky seventies blockbuster with the overall result being a bright future for the franchise.

If it was sitting an X-am, this would get a Days Of Future Pass.

4 stars

The Trip To Italy - review

Normally when television shows make the decision to transfer to the big screen, the result is something that ends up unfavourably compared to (or even missing the entire point of) the original like Charlie's Angels, Bewitched, The Dukes of Hazzard for example.

There can be the odd exception to the rule (21 Jump Street and Serenity) but The Trip To Italy is a rather unique case.

Like the The Trip, which saw slightly fictionalised versions of Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon go on a tour of restaurants in the north of England to write a column for the Observer, it was released as a six part series in the UK but edited down to a feature-length film for all other territories including America.

The resulting film, viewed in the UK after watching the entire series, is somewhat of an oddity.

The running time of 100 minutes rather than 180 minutes means that a lot of material is cut out but there is still a clear narrative going through the story which this time follows Rob's character as his strained family relationship and burgeoning career become at odds with each other.

It might not feel complete as a story or character arc but still features lots of room for what you come to expect and enjoy from Steve and Rob's culinary adventures. Stunning cinematography of the beautiful countryside, Lots of "food porn" shots of mouth-watering Michelin starred dishes and the slightest, most tenuous links bringing forth the opportunity for the two to unleash their arsenal of impressions including Michael Caine, Parkinson, DeNiro, etc.

It only takes 5 minutes of them being in Italy driving around in a Mini to unleash "You're only supposed to blow the bloody doors off!" but while there is a risk that the jokes could become repetitive and stale, the jokes the impressions are built around (Christian Bale and Tom Hardy being unable to understand each other on the set of Batman, Brydon criticising Coogan's career as Parkinson and Coogan lamenting Brydon for being unable to audition for a Michael Mann film without doing a Pacino impression) generate enough laughs to keep the momentum going and advance the story and their relationship.

It would be nice to see the two take another trip together in a few years to see where the characters are then, rounding off their journey in a Before Midnight-style trilogy.

If I was to describe the film in terms of a restaurant review, it would be beautifully presented, a subtle blend of sweet and sharp with an underlying acidity that complements the occasionally light and frothy exterior and leaves you wishing there were a few more courses.

4 stars

Friday, 16 May 2014

The Love Punch - review

The Love Punch is the latest in an ever-growing series of films that are targeting the "Silver Screen" crowd. Over 50's who appreciate the work of, among others, the triumvirate of Dames Dench, Mirren and Smith.

Thompson is not as old as them but is laying the groundwork here in a film that continues Pierce Brosnan's impressive streak of only appearing in movies that offer him a free sunny holiday and like Le Weekend featuring people proving that there's life in the old dog yet.

Only problem is that this film is a complete dog's dinner.

Playing out like an Ocean's Twelve Minutes Past Bedtime it features Brosnan, Thompson, Timothy Spall and Celia Imrie more concerned with getting punch drunk in the sunshine than delivering a decent, enjoyable caper flick.

The tagline is "You can't pinch a diamond without stealing a few hearts" but you can still call a spade a spade cause there is no ace in the pack and this joins the club of 2014's 1 star movies.

Safe to say I'd rather be Donkey Punched than watch The Love Punch

1 star

The Two Faces Of January - review

The poster shouts "From the producers of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, the author of The Talented Mister Ripley and the writer of Drive" but what it doesn't shout is that the makers of these three five star films have combined to make a distinctly average movie.

Oscar Isaac, an American working in Greece as a tourist-fleecing guide, sets his sights on an American couple played by Viggo Mortensen and Kirsten Dunst when he spots them holidaying at the Parthenon.

Drawn to each of them for different reasons, in Viggo he sees a surrogate father figure and Dunst is an object of desire, and he charms his way into their company but it is unclear who is playing who.

Immaculately dressed in period costumes, Isaac oozes charm and Mortensen's character's menace drips off the screen however Dunst appears rather blank in comparison.

The Two Faces Of January, which coincidentally is at least one more than January Jones can do, sadly lacks the sense of danger, sexual tension and wit that featured in the adaptations of Highsmith's other novels like Ripley and Strangers On A Train.

2 stars

Thursday, 15 May 2014

Godzilla - review

It is very rare these days to be surprised by a film. Given the number of trailers, TV spots and social media posts in the lead up to a film's release, you can feel like you've seen the whole film before you've even got the cinema (*cough* The Amazing Spider-Man 2 *cough*) so it was a pleasure to be genuinely surprised by elements of Godzilla.

It's therefore a shame to read so many reviews that spoil them but rest assured I will do no such thing!

This is an entertainment less akin to the popcorn-munching, all-guns-blazing, Michael Bay-style spectacles of the Noughties but harks back to the original Summer blockbuster... Jaws.

Just like JJ Abrams did with Super 8, Gareth Edwards channels his inner Spielberg to craft a film that evokes feelings of Close Encounters Of The Third Kind and Jurassic Park; the slow build, discoveries in fossilised remains or missing ships, fractured family relations, scientists knowing more than the military.

He also believes in the old adage that less is more, with the first hour being spent offering glimpses and teases of Big G before the money shot that kickstarts the monster mash and he becomes a bigger wrecking ball than Miley Cyrus.

It would be fair to say that there are a number of money shots because there are sequences and compositions which are simply stunning and breathtaking, particularly one shot through the visor of a soldier skydiving into a city through he cloud to reveal Godzilla doing his thing.

But Spielberg knew that the secret to success for a monster movie to work, is that you need characters that you believe in, to care about and root for. Characters like Chief Brody, Alan Grant, Indiana Jones and Ian Malcolm.

Bryan Cranston (who one day will hopefully star in a film where he no longer has to wear a bad "I'm on a break from Breaking Bad" wig) manages to do a lot with rather little delivering paranoid barking speeches as a Roy Neary-esque crackpot investigating a cover up of an accident that had deep repercussions for his family.

But whenever Cranston is not on screen we are left with a group of talented actors (Ken Watanabe, Sally Hawkins, Elizabeth Olsen) who have nothing to do other than look scared of, look in awe of, or run away from a giant monster.

Honestly, how am I supposed to care about a family trying to being reunited amongst the destruction when they only share one minute of screen time at the beginning of the film?

In spite of a lack of 3D characters and effective 3D retrofitting, there is a decent monster movie here which does deliver on its promise of a smack down of seismic proportions. There is no cinematic cock-teasing a la The Grey here.

But Kaiju believe it? The overall result is a Godzilla where his bark is worse than his bite.

3 stars

Monday, 12 May 2014

The Wind Rises - review

Hayao Miyazaki's Studio Ghibli swan song is less of a flight of fancy than the likes of Spirited Away and Totoro but this is the great animator and storyteller at his most personal and it still soars to great heights.

Simultaneously a fictional tribute to aircraft designer Jiro Horikoshi, author Tatsuo Hori and drawing upon elements from his own life, Miyazaki has crafted a story that looks at the power of dreams and the importance of following them.

The Wind Rises, which I find impossible to say in anything other than a Bane voice, also features the most heartbreaking romance in an animated film since the first 10 minutes of Up.

In an early dream, a young Jiro meets Italian designer Caproni who tells him that "Airplanes are beautiful dreams, engineers turn dreams into reality".

Set prior to WWII, there is an internal battle to be fought because Jiro recognises that while the airplane may bring people together by connecting them, it also pulls them apart as they become the instruments of war.

However the quote can also be read as a call to all "engineers" whether they are designers, writers, filmmakers, animators, etc to turn dreams into reality and bring people together for "inspiration unlocks the future".

Miyazaki's work has certainly inspired countless artists, including Pixar's John Lasseter, and will continue to inspire generations.

Caproni also tells Jiro to make the most of his gift as "artists are only really creative for 10 years". We can be thankful that Hayao Miyazaki had over 40.

4 stars

Frank - review

Let's be frank. This is not the Frank Sidebottom story.

Based on Jon Ronson's time spent as the keyboard player for Frank Sidebottom, this is a scathing satirical look at the music industry as seen through the eyes of Jon Burroughs who joins the band Soronpfrbs with enigmatic frontman Frank and a keyboard player problem as big as Spinal Tap's drummer crisis.

It ask questions about creative integrity versus commercial popularity, the role that social media has to play in generating success, the point between genius and madness and, of course, about masks.

I know "everybody wears a mask" but that is more metaphorical. Frank literally wears a mask and never takes it off, not even in the shower.

Given the cult of celebrity these days and programs like X Factor where we know every single detail about the acts before they've even sung a note, is it important for a band to keep an air of mystique in this fickle business.

It is the mystery of the man behind the mask that draws Jon (Domhnall Gleeson) into his world, along with those who find out about the band through Jon's social media posts.

When the band get a high-profile gig at SXSW, the cracks begin to show as the struggle between remaining true to what they are and becoming "likeable" threatens to fracture the band and Frank's mental state.

Fassbender manages to create a character that will make you laugh and cry without ever seeing his face, although he occasionally informs us of his emotions e.g. "Non-threatening grin".

Much like the esoteric sound that the eponymous Frank and his band are trying to make, there will be some people who find something special within this film and there will be others, like me, where the music falls on deaf ears.

Frankly my dear, I didn't give a damn.

2 stars

Wednesday, 7 May 2014

Bad Neighbours - review

"Neighbours. Everybody needs good neighbours..."

Unfortunately for new parents Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne, the neighbours they get are the Delta Psi Beta fraternity which is led by seniors Zac Efron and Dave Franco.

After some initial pleasantries (and a few magic mushrooms), the constantly high decibel count and partying cause the battle lines to be drawn as they both try to win the fight for the street.

Rogen may once again be playing a schlub punching well above his weight with a beautiful partner but his chemistry with Byrne and sells the relationship.

On the other side of the fence, Zac Efron delivers his best performance to date as Teddy. Looking like "someone a gay man designed in a lab", Efron is charasmatic, displays a hint of danger and great comic timing. He could well be in line for a Channing Tatum-sized push into the comedy mainstream.

The laughs come as thick and fast as sambuca shots at a frat party as the pranks escalate from calling the cops to hiding airbags, and dividing and conquering by forcing the frat boys to "ho's before bro's".

These neighbours are a lot of fun but there is genuine heart underneath and you will be happy to move in and spend a couple of hours with.

3 stars

Sabotage - review

When Arnie left the Governorship of California in 2012 he announced "I'll be back!", referring to his cinematic career.

Since then it has amounted to The Expendables 2, The Last Stand and Escape Plan.

His role as DEA Agent Jack 'Breacher' Warton in Sabotage is the first one that feels worthy of being added to his back catalogue.

Arnie's team is arguably the most macho collection of individuals since Dutch went into the jungle in Predator and that includes Mireille Enos.

When the team siphon off $10 million from a drug bust and the money disappears, members of the team start turning up dead, which prompts an investigation from homicide detective Olivia Williams.

There is a niggling sense that a longer, improved cut of the film out there as it does jump around and scenes seem to be missing as it switches between brutal action movie and mystery thriller.

And it is the scenes between Schwarzenegger and Williams that have the most spark as it works better as a whodunit and mismatched buddy cop flick.

He can't stand it, who knows who planned it
They're gonna set it straight, this Cartel-gate
Don't know who's double crossing up in here
Because their crystal ball ain't so crystal clear
So while you sit back and figure out why
Arnie's got a f*cking thorn in his side
Not clear cut, it's a mirage
I'm tellin' y'all it's sabotage

3 stars

Monday, 5 May 2014

Visitors - review

Within 2 minutes it was clear that Visitors was not going to be my cup of tea.

Described as "revealing humanity's trance-like relationship with technology, which, when commandeered by extreme emotional states, produces massive effects far beyond the human species", in reality it is just 90 minutes of close-ups of people's faces interspersed with shots of abandoned amusement parks.

That might sound harsh and I'm sure that it trying to say something about the human condition, etc, etc but it went completely over my head.

If it was about visitors from another world looking at us then Under The Skin did a much better job of that earlier this year.

This felt like something that would be interesting if you spent 10-15 minutes watching it in an art installation as the cinematography and score by Philip Glass were excellent however a 90 minute long silent film was just too much to be endured at the cinema.

2 stars

Sunday, 4 May 2014

Tracks - review

Mia Wasikowska goes walkabout with a bunch of camels in this true story of Robyn Davidson who completed a 2000 mile trek across the deserts of Western Australia in the 1970's.

Inspired by the National Geographic article and photographs which documented Robyn's story, this film recreates the "how" of the journey but never really gets to grip with the "why", despite adding in some flashbacks to try and give reason to the character's motivations beyond "I want to be by myself".

A beautiful looking film that will work very well as a picture postcard for the Australian tourism industry but doesn't quite deliver on the promise that the journey is more important than the destination.

3 stars

Brick Mansions - review

We've all experienced that feeling of déjà vu when watching a movie in the cinema where you recognise something that has been copied, referenced or homaged to from another film.

However with the sheer number of remakes happening in Hollywood right now, it is impossible to keep track of them all.

It wasn't until around 30 minutes into Brick Mansions that the déjà vu feeling of "that's like that parkour bit from District B13" turned into "wait, this IS just a remake of District B13".

So around 10 years after the initial parkour craze crossed over into the cinematic mainstream with Casino Royale and the original District B13, that film's star, and one of the pioneers of parkour, David Belle plays the same role in this US version of the story albeit one that has been dubbed over by another actor (which IMDB claims to be Vin Diesel in some sort of weird final Fast & Furious link up).

This version is set in Detroit, who must be annoyed with films like this and Robocop constantly going on about how it is the most violent city in the USA, where Brick Mansions is a ghetto project that is walled up by the city to control crime and prevent it getting into the rest of the city.

Sent into the district to find and diffuse a nuclear device that has gone missing, Paul Walker displays the blue eyed charisma of the dogged undercover cop that became his forte in the Fast & Furious franchise but thankfully with the 7th film still to come next year, this film won't be his final cinematic appearance.

Unoriginal and uninspired writing, action sequences and bad CGI are the poor quality foundations on which Brick Mansions has been built and leave it in a bigger risk of collapse then Red Road.

1 star

Thursday, 1 May 2014

Pompeii 3D - review

The film begins with a quote from Pliny the Younger:

"You could hear women moaning, children howling and men shouting. They were crying out... Some were lamenting their own misfortune... A few in fear of death were praying for death..."

Was it about Pompeii on that fateful day or the experience of watching it on the big screen directed by Paul W.S. Anderson?

Because this film provokes an eruption of negativity that covers any potential audiences in a molten lava-esque sea of wooden acting, terrible dialogue, one-dimensional characters and two dimensional 3D.

Apparently it took three people to rewrite the screenplay for Titanic replacing the iceberg with a volcano and adding in some scenes from Gladiator for good measure.

So in the first half of the movie in which we are forced to sit through the "plot and character development" before the molten lava hits the fan, we see "you know nothing Jon Snow" Kit Harington's Milo; a poor, penniless Celt who saw his parents killed by Romans and forced to become a gladiator slave, go to Pompeii to fight for his freedom. Here he meets upper class girl Cassia, and they fall in love. The only problem is, besides the big f*ck off volcano, is that she is being forced into marriage with a rather slimy individual with an evil man servant. Sound familiar?

The slimy Senator Corvus (Kiefer Sutherland), who just happened to have killed Milo's parents (and not aged in 20 years), then turns up to watch the scene from Gladiator where they recreate a famous battle but the slaves forget to read the script.

Before Ridley Scott can sue for copyright infringement the volcano blows up and we get a replay of the second half of Dante's Peak... or should that be Dante's Inferno?

Go ahead Pompeii, magma day. What's that? oh, you can't. Why? Because this film is anything but tremor-endous. There is no cinder-ella story to be found here, no seismic shift in opinion and there Etna stopping the number of puns I can work into this final paragraph because ash much as you would like me to stop, jokes like this are just the Teutonic.

Is it possible to find anything in the film to help big up Pompeii?


1 star