Thursday, 31 July 2014

Exclusive Interview with Marvel's Guardians Of The Galaxy star

I was very lucky this week to get the chance to interview one of the stars of the latest Marvel film Guardians Of The Galaxy.

Who would it be? Man of the moment Chris Pratt? Wrestler turned Comic Book Hero Dave Bautista?

Nope. I got to spend time chatting with the larger-than-life character who steals the show and becomes the heart of the movie... Groot.

Dallas: So Groot, first of all, congratulations on the film, really enjoyed it.

Groot: I Am Groot

D: You're welcome. Now is it true that it was your appearance in The Evil Dead films that brought you to the attention of James Gunn?

G: I Am Groot

D: I imagine after the darkness of those movies it was nice to do something more family-friendly.

G: I Am Groot

D: So how familiar were you with the Guardians comics? Had you read them?

G: I Am Groot

D: Oh I am so sorry, I had no idea. Your cousin? How many copies did he end up becoming? Wait, none of my business, let's move on. One of the highlights of the film was the relationship between Rocket and yourself. How was it working with him on set?

G: I Am Groot

D: Really, you would have thought he'd be housebroken by now. How did you feel when you were told that they were going to dub you over in the final cut with a more well-known "Hollywood" star?

G: "I Am Groot"

D: Disappointed sure...

G: I Am Groot

D: Wait, you thought it was going to be The Rock doing your voice?

G: I Am Groot

D: Ah right, I guess "The big, tough bald guy from the Fast & Furious films" can be confusing. At least it wasn't The Stath though?

G: I Am Groot

D: Speaking of Statham, what do you make of the critics claiming that your performance in this film was a little wooden at times?


D: Woah, sorry. For the record, that's not my opinion. I had a look at your imdb page before the interview, and is it correct that you auditioned for Lord Of The Rings?

G: I Am Groot

D: I guess it would have been difficult uprooting yourself to New Zealand for all that time, especially with saplings to look after.

G: I Am Groot

D: So do you and Treebeard have a friendly rivalry when it comes to the business?

G: I Am Groot

D: I suppose there isn't a lot of demand for your specific set of skills in Hollywood.

G: I Am Groot

D: I wouldn't take it personally. Malick is always cutting people out of his movies. The Tree Of Life have been a much better film with you in it. Would have made a lot more sense than having Sean Penn walking around barefoot on the beach like some Calvin Klien advert.

G: I Am Groot

D: So do you see your future in acting or do you think you'll branch out into other areas?

G: I Am Groot

D: I know, sorry but I couldn't resist. Okay one final question before I make a like a tree and get out of here...

G: I Am Groot

D: Alright Biff! I see you are as down with your 80's pop culture as Starlord is. So final will we see mini dancing Groots in the toy stores this Christmas?

G: I AM Groot

D: Glad to hear it. I'll put it on my letter to Santa. Groot it has been a pleasure, thanks very much.

G: I Am Groot

The Purge: Anarchy - review

Last year saw the birth of a potential new franchise with The Purge, which had at its core a fantastic concept:

In 2022, across America crime and unemployment is at an all-time low. This is due to the New Founding Fathers of America introducing the annual Purge, where for once a year for twelve hours all crime (including theft, rape and murder) is completely legal. The idea being that people can unburden themselves of negative feelings and repressed urges.

The first Purge was a tiny, insular fare, with one family under siege in their home trying to survive those twelve hours.

Due its box office success, a sequel was greenlit along with a bigger budget, thus allowing writer-director James DeMarco to move out of one house in the suburbs and into the big bad city to see the full extent of The Purge at large.

It sees three separate groups out in the city (some willingly, some not) who begrudgingly team up to try and survive the night.

The socio-political context behind the idea gets explored more this time round, with it not only the annual event allowing for a purging of one's soul but also a purging of society with the majority of those killed being the poor and homeless as they can't afford to defend themselves.

There is a commentary on the whole 1% culture with it taking on a Running Man vibe towards the end as the lines between violence as sport or entertainment become blurred, along with a rebel group opposed to the Purge.

Frank Grillo is the one who gains the most from The Purge, not only getting revenge and redemption but cementing his place as a real action star. Not only can he do anger and rage but there is a real pathos and sadness behind him too which makes for a conflicted anti-hero.

The Internet is right and if he wasn't already playing Crossbones in the Marvel Universe he would be absolutely perfect for The Punisher if they redo it as a Netflix TV series.

It might not have the desired release you are looking for but if you have the urge to Purge, you will have quite a night's entertainment.

3 stars

Guardians Of The Galaxy - review

Ten films in and approaching the end of Phase 2, Marvel Studios are showing no signs of fatigue or the inevitable bursting of the comic book bubble because Guardians Of The Galaxy might be one of their very best films, perhaps for the very reason that it doesn't feel like a Marvel film.

In fact beyond the appearances of previously established characters Thanos and The Collector, and the obligatory Stan Lee cameo, there is nothing to link it to the Marvel Universe and refreshingly director James Gunn is left to create his own universe, albeit one that will eventually tie into the bigger picture come Phase 3 once Thanos gets his hand into that pesky Infinity Gauntlet.

It is strange not to see any involvement from Joss Whedon in this particular slice of Marvel as it is the one that is most similar to his previous work.

This feels like Marvel's very own Serenity/Firefly with a rag-tag group of misfits flying round the galaxy occasionally saving the world but mostly arguing with each other and getting into trouble.

With Whedon busy on Avenger detail, he probably hand a hand in bringing in James Gunn who has similar traits (writer-director, comfortable working with ensembles, has strong relationships with actors and uses them regularly e.g. Michael Rooker, Gregg Henry and Whedon's lucky charm Nathan Fillion all make appearances here).

Gunn very quickly and effectively sets up Peter Quill's backstory in a moving segment where he loses his mother to cancer before being transported off Earth in a spaceship a la Flight Of The Navigator, before bringing together this thief, two thugs, an assassin and a maniac through the MacGuffin of a mysterious Orb which Quill himself calls "An Ark Of The Covenant, Maltese Falcon kind of deal".

Yes, this movie features more 80's pop culture references than Marvel Universe references which leads to some inspired gags and hilarious moments including one that I will not spoil beyond the fact it revolves around the plot to a particular film from 1984.

It is certainly the funniest Marvel film with Chris Pratt channeling the perfect amount of Noughties funny man and Eighties Harrison Ford action star, Cooper and Diesel providing terrific vocal performances that generate a lot of laughs and Bautista showing some great comic timing to steal some scenes.
If Guardians falters slightly it is in the Marvel trend of CGI-heavy, world threatening third act battle led by an underdeveloped main bad guy.

Really, apart from Loki in Thor and Avengers and to a certain extent The Mandarin in Iron Man 3, the villains have not really generated the level of evil and danger that say The Joker provided in The Dark Knight.

Having said that the climax is a vast improvement on the space battles that featured in the Star Wars prequels and being our introduction to the Guardians simply our first step into a larger world and there is no doubt that now this particular Marvel universe is established that the recently announced Guardians Of The Galaxy 2 will follow in the footsteps of X2, Spider-Man 2 and Captain America: The Winter Soldier as a superior sequel.

How good is Guardians Of The Galaxy? It can be expressed in just three words. I Am Groot... Rocket knows what it means!

4 stars

P.S. Still amazed at the number of people who leave before the end of the credits. Come on guys, this is Marvel movie. There have been nine others so far, all with a scene at the end! So stay in your seats for a VERY unexpected cameo!

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

The House Of Magic - review

In one of the coldest film openings of recent years, a car pulls up by a house, a ball is tossed outside and a young cat chases after it only for the owners to quickly slam the door shut and drive off.

He wanders the streets, nervous and frightened and alone, nearly getting hit by cars and attacked by dogs but before you can say Abra-cat-dabra, he winds up in the house of an old illusionist who welcomes him with open arms.

His arrival doesn't sit to well with the two main stars of his act, a mouse and rabbit who are hopping mad.

But they must get past their differences if they are to save their home from the magician's evil real estate agent nephew as the film turns into an animated version of Home Alone, albeit one where Macaulay Culkin is played by a ginger tomcat and aided by a group of mechanical toys, which may or may not be magically powered (its never really gone into how they move and seem to have sentient life).

Although rated a U, it has some rather creepy moments which might unsettle the very young particularly through the 3D which is used to full effect.

There is nothing new or original here, like a tired old magic trick and if it had only been dressed up a little more it could have fooled audiences into appreciating its wonder.

2 stars

Monday, 28 July 2014

Joe - review

Much of the buzz around Joe was about this being a return to form for Nicolas Cage following years of dirge like other one word films Stolen, Next, Trepass and Justice.

With similarities to Mud extending beyond the casting of Tye Sheridan, Cage plays the mysterious stranger who can offer a young boy a possible escape from his current situation.

Joe is a man with a dark past, with hints of violence and anger bubbling under the surface, and this is where Cage should really excel however it feels like Nic has Caged the beast within and his performance is almost too restrained.

Where there should be the constant threat of danger of his temper boiling over, of a man fearful of losing control, it never really happens. There is only one real Cage moment when he goes off on one and calls a dog an asshole.

Sadly the result is just an Average Joe.

2 stars

Saturday, 26 July 2014

Hercules - review

In terms of casting decisions, there isn't more of a slam dunk than casting Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson as Hercules because he can walk on set and you believe that he is the son of Zeus... or is he?

In a fresh tale on the legend of Hercules, it is implied that his infamous twelve labours might in fact be nothing more than folk stories designed to strike fear into the hearts of his enemies.

The Rock has no problem doing the heavy lifting during the battle scenes (all whilst rocking a Lion head for a hat) and he is supported a host of British thespians such as John Hurt, Ian McShane, Peter Mullan and Rufus Sewell who are determined to chew through any scenery that is left standing in the wake of the most electrifying man in Greek mythology.

Back in March, I predicted that Dwayne could be confident that he would not be starring in the worst Hercules film of 2014 and that title still remains with The Legend Of Hercules because director Brett Ratner delivers humour, action and spectacle as The Rock lays the smack down on Ancient Greece.

3 stars

Friday, 25 July 2014

Earth To Echo - review

Earth To Echo is the film for anyone who has ever wondered what would happen if someone who grew up on the Steven Spielberg films of the Eighties decided to make a found footage film combining E.T. - The Extra Terrestrial and The Goonies.

Three friends, due to be separated as a company bulldozes the town to make way for a new freeway, go on one last adventure following a map on their phones which leads them to discover an alien life form which they must return to its spaceship before shadowy government agents get their hands on it.

A couple of years ago JJ Abrams produced his own Spielberg-homage with Super 8 and with the advances in modern technology this could have perhaps been called iPhone.

However the found footage style gets rather tiresome after a while, feeling rather gimmicky and leads to plot issues (would the government agents really not confiscate all electronic recording devices from the kids in order to analyse the footage?).

The child actors are good and there is a nice message about the importance of friendship.

Stand By Me said "I never had friends like the ones I had when I was twelve. Jesus, does anyone?". The same is true for movies. While Earth To Echo might capture the hearts of young viewers, the older generation may just end up reminiscing over the classics from their time.

3 stars

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

The Punk Singer - review

The Punk Singer is a look at the life of Kathleen Hanna, one of the leading figures in the Riot Grrrl movement.

Rather than a detailed look at the movement as a whole, the film is focused on the life and career of Hanna. It is gritty, grungy and has as much to say and presented with as much energy and passion as the former front woman of Bikini Kill and Le Tigre gave during every performance.

If critics were to use one word to complete the sentence "The Punk Singer is a complete...", I predict a Riot.

4 stars

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Fruitvale Station - review

Fruitvale Station begins with real-life camera footage of the incident on New Year's Day 2010 that claimed the life of 22 year-old Oscar Grant.

The footage is grainy, blurry but its impact is shocking and the result unbelievable.

Cut back to the start of New Year's Eve and the film proceeds to spend its time following the events in the last day of Oscar Grant's life, played by Michael B. Jordan.

This is certainly not a preaching to the choir portrayal of a martyred figure. The screenplay is careful to present a balanced (and presumably) truthful look at a flawed individual.

Oscar is no saint. He has been in jail, has dealt drugs and cheated on his girlfriend (who is also the mother of his child). Yet he shows the capacity for change, looking to use the New Year as the turning point in his life.

As his girlfriend tells him "it takes 30 days to form a habit, then it becomes second nature". Sadly Grant didn't even get 30 hours.

3 stars

Thursday, 17 July 2014

Pudsey: The Movie - review

2014 why do torture me so? Just when i think i have seen the worst film based on a character made famous on television in the form of Mrs Brown's Boys D'Movie, Pudsey: The Movie comes along to take a massive cinematic dump on my ocular cavities which no pooper scooper can ever clean up.

This was not the hard-hitting biopic of how Pudsey the Bear lost an eye and became an activist for children but instead a movie spawned from the devilish mind of Simon Cowell seeking to inflict even more damage on our eyes and ears, because Jedward wasn't enough, this is clearly nothing more than a BGT cash cow (or dog) thus accounting for David Walliams as Pudsey.

Pudsey the dog won Britain's Got Talent by walking on his hind legs and performing quirky and charming dance routines with his trainer Ashleigh. It was their bond that made the act special and how the British public know him.

So imagine my surprise to find that in the movie Pudsey is a stray dog and trainer Ashleigh is reduced to nothing more than a screen credit!

Instead of going down the Step Up route where Ashleigh and Pudsey try out for a dance school, they have gone for a Babe-style movie featuring talking animals with the dodgy CGI moving mouths, which incidentally do nothing to distract from the fact that Pudsey has a massive underbite which makes him look more like Cujo than Uggie (who is referenced in a opening sequence that "spoofs" The Artist which is the closest this film ever get to an Oscar winner).

The film exposes Pudsey the dog to be a one trick pony and the trick wears thin very fast.

Much to my chagrin, Pudsey survived the opening montage set to a horrendous dance/techno theme song in which he ran into a Chinese restaurant in Soho (clearly the rumours aren't true) and I was forced to endure 80 more minutes of an experience even more awkward and uncomfortable than having a dog humping your leg and not having the decency to call you afterwards.

The film revolves around Pudsey going to live on a farm. Now in my head "going to live on a farm" is a story that parents told their children when a sick pet died or had to be put down, and this is one canine offspring that needed to be out of its misery to ease the pain and suffering of all involved.

The mutt's nuts? More like a complete dog's dinner.

1 star

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes - review

You know the phrase give 1000 monkeys a 1000 typewriters and eventually you'll get Shakespeare?

Well in truth if the monkeys were writing a story, surely they would write something like Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes first right?

I asked Caesar that very question and he replied "Apes writing movie together Strong. And don't call me Shirley"

The Planet Of The Apes was a franchise built on the foundations of Oscar-winning make up and THAT twist ending, which can't even be called a twist anymore as it is featured on the DVD cover.

2011's Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes began to tell the story of how the apes took over the planet and its biggest twist was that turned out to be one of that year's best blockbusters, skilfully blending an intelligent screenplay with action and featured some of the greatest CGI effects ever seen, led by Andy Serkis's motion capture performance as Caesar.

Dawn picks up ten years after the simian flu outbreak has killed off the majority of the humans on the planet and the apes are living in a colony in the forests outside San Francisco but they certainly do not reside anywhere near the uncanny valley as the effects are absolutely impeccable and you really will forget you are watching a CG character, particularly the orangutan Maurice.

They hunt, gather, provide, have an education system and live together harmoniously until humans from a group of survivors visit the forest to try and repair a dam that will provide them with power.

Things start off all "Oobi Doo, I Wanna Be Like You" with an uneasy truce between the species but soon enough it turns into "I hate every ape I see from chimpan-aye to chimpanzee" thanks to the actions of distrustful parties on both sides (Gary Oldman's military man Dreyfus and Caesar's angry second-in-command Koba).

Make no mistake, these films are called Planet Of The Apes for a reason and just like the human race in the original, the humans in this film play second fiddle to the apes as this is Caesar's story and his rise from test subject to curiosity to liberator to leader is the main focus of the story.

This film really should have be called Rise as it is the one where they fight the humans and learn to use weapons. Dawn is a more appropriate title for the first film especially as despite the name there is very little female representation here with the only female ape restricted to giving birth and nearly dying afterwards. One wonders if there was more to Caesar's wife Cornelia in the original script and it ended up on the cutting room floor.

Dawn is one of the most intelligent blockbusters of the year with lots of social and political undercurrents to the action. After an incredible middle act that sees the apes down tools and execute their American right to bear arms (will there be a more iconic action image this year than a crazed ape firing two machine guns while riding a horse?), it is interesting that the final fight is not for the planet but comes down to the fight for control of each faction with human vs human and ape vs ape.

There is no monkeying around with this refreshing antidote to brainless dumb summer crap like Transformers: Age Of Extinction but it does feel like the middle act of a trilogy as it leaves you wanting to immediately continue the story.

In terms of 2014 movies about simians, this one is chimply the best.

4 stars

Monday, 14 July 2014

Begin Again - review

There is a moment in the trailer of Begin Again where the drunk, divorced A&R man Dan (Mark Ruffalo) is fired and screams that he is taking his client list with him only for his former partner to tell him "This isn't Jerry Maguire".

Only, it kind of is. Albeit a version set in the music industry rather than sports.

Just like Jerry, Dan hits rock bottom. Having lost his job, wife, etc he attempts to make it all the way back to the top with the help of one client and a beautiful woman (her all rolled into the form of Greta aka Keira Knightley).

Knightley's voice is a huge surprise as she has a sweet vulnerability but a tone that is reminiscent of Aimee Mann and this is most apparent on her solo version of the song Lost Stars.

They meet at an open mic night where they suffering from heartbreak and rejection. There is a lovely juxtaposition where we see the song 'A Step You Can't Take Back' from Knightley's nervous acoustic performance and then from Ruffalo's where he sees the potential in the song and adds in an imaginary band to bring it to life.

He persuades her to record an outdoor album that will help to mend his career and mend her broken heart at the hands of ex-boyfriend and now famous musician played by Adam Levine.

Many of the songs feature heavily in the film but rather than just being filler, they all have a purpose and sentiment which furthers the plot and it becomes a non-traditional musical, similar to the director's first film Once.

A song accidentally reveals an infidelity, a drunken song on voicemail sparks a potential reconciliation, etc but more than this they act as a love song but the object of its affection is in fact the city of New York.

Carney clearly has an affinity for the city that never sleeps. After all it is where the Guy in Once travels to at the end of the film to seek fame and fortune. Did he make it like Levine's Dave Kohl or did he go back to busking like Greta's best mate Steve (James Corden).

This love for the city shines through in a sequence where Dan and Greta wander through the city at night linked by a headphone splitter, sharing stories, memories and songs like Luck Be A Lady and For Once In My Life.

Similar to the way Greta criticises Dave for his over-production on Lost Stars, the song she wrote for him, Begin Again does seem more flashy and stylised than the low-budget immediacy and improvisational nature of Once but it has a charm of its own that really captures the heart of the audience, with much of it down to the chemistry between the two leads. Although like his first film, the director is not afraid to avoid typical Hollywood conventions in terms of how this relationship plays out.

Together they create their outdoor album and all their hopes and dreams come together in one perfect moment as they perform Tell Me If You Wanna Go Home on a rooftop in Manhattan. Dan's crazy idea is working and could prove his redemption, Greta will become a star and Dan's daughter surprises everyone by finding herself in guitar on the track.

The film was originally called "Can A Song Save Your Life?" and while it might do that for the main characters, it certainly provides several tunes that will be saved to my iPod as John Carney proves that he is not just a Once trick pony as lightning strikes twice with Begin Again.

4 stars

Sunday, 13 July 2014

Boyhood - review

Every now and then a film comes along that is hailed as "the film of our lifetime" but Boyhood could have a legitimate case to hold that title as it is literally the film of a lifetime.

With his Before Trilogy, Linklater has revisited characters nine and eighteen years after their original meeting but Boyhood is something else entirely.

It is a unique cinematic portrait which saw Richard Linklater film 7 year old Ellar Coltrane over a period of twelve years to chart the progression of the character Mason from a boy to a young man in the world's greatest and most detailed time lapse video ever made.

Just as Mason grows and develops into a confident young man, Coltrane improves the older he gets, delivering a very honest and naturalistic performance.

Linklater's own daughter Lorelei plays Mason's sister (and gets it straight away, really impressing in the early scenes) with Patricia Arquette and Ethan Hawke (who between this and the Before Trilogy must be the most patient and loyal actor in Hollywood) lending experience and stability as his estranged parents.

Just like life, the movie is more than the sum of its parts. Linklater purposefully avoids it being a check list of Mason's major milestones (first kiss, first fight, first car, first drink, first job, losing virginity, etc, etc). Instead it focuses on the quieter moments (a walk down a street chatting to a girl, discussing the possibility of a new Star Wars film during a late night camping trip with his dad, giggling over a Victoria's Secrets catalogue).

They might not be the moments that would play in a greatest hits package of your life but they all go towards making you what you are today.

Because Boyhood is not just about Mason's life. It is impossible to watch the film and not have some form of personal reflection during it.

Whether you are a parent, remembering things about your own kids, or if you grew up during that time period, reminiscing about the time you queued up at midnight to get the last Harry Potter book, spent hours debating future Star Wars plots or snuck out to go party with your friends.

"Life moves pretty fast. if you don't stop to look around once in a while, you might miss it" and Richard Linklater has perfectly captured this in 146 mins but they also say "life's too short" and I could have happily watch a few more hours of this incredible and unique piece of cinema.

5 stars

Thursday, 10 July 2014

Chinese Puzzle - review

Chinese Puzzle is the third part in a trilogy of films by Cedric Klapisch that follows the central character Xavier (Romain Duris) through his life and relationships that feature more pieces and are infinitely more complicated than a Magic Eye jigsaw.

Retaining the same cast that featured in Pot Luck aka L'Auberge Espagnole and Russian Dolls and spanning 14 years and numerous locations, it has a similar vibe to the Before Trilogy with their examination of love and gimmick of having the male character turn his romantic conquests into successful works of fiction.

I have not seen the first two films in the trilogy but the opening fifteen minutes or so are spent going over what has happened in the near ten year gap between the last two films which went some way to filling in the blanks and getting newbies up to speed.

Xavier is divorced and has moved to New York in order to be in his children's lives, is staying in the flat of his best friend, a lesbian who he donated sperm to so she could have a baby with her partner, marries a Chinese-American woman to gain citizenship whilst having casual sex with former girlfriend Martine (Tautou).

If that sounds like the set up for a good old-fashioned farce then you would be right as all the various plot threads come together in a funny climax.

It is truly an ensemble piece with excellent performances from the entire cast and the character of New York is given a fresh spin thanks to being viewed from an outsiders perspective.

Chinese Puzzle is an honest and sweet tale of love but having missed two pieces in Pot Luck and Russian Dolls it was impossible to truly appreciate the big picture.

3 stars

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Trip Advisor Review - The Grand Budapest Hotel

In need of a summer holiday? Scouring the Internet looking for a great last minute deal?

Looking for somewhere with old-school Hollywood glamour and charm, where you can relax and unwind but also offers excitement and fun?

Well I can highly recommend visiting The Grand Budapest Hotel in The Republic of Zubrowka, Hungary, which has received nothing but high praise from everyone who has reviewed it on Trip Advisor.

Comments include "A Retro Delight", "The Best In Zubrowka", "Quirky, Chilled and Über-Cool", "Like Something Out Of A Movie", and "Charming Staff - My Grandma Loved It".

My girlfriend and I booked ourselves in for a stay at The Grand Budapest Hotel on Sunday 2nd March and were among the first to visit the hotel now it was open to the public following its grand opening in Berlin and Glasgow.

The hotel was incredibly busy with guests but we were provided with an excellent room that gave us a wonderful view of the entire place.

While the initial areas felt slightly drab and reminiscent of the Overlook Hotel, they soon gave way to the beautiful and memorably bright pink decor that will become synonymous with this location which was made all the more stunning by the Academy ratio it was presented in.

The entire staff at the hotel were of a very high standard, from the silent owner down to the junior lobby boy. Even the hotel lawyer was excellent although he disappeared during our stay after some trouble with his cat. I hope he's ok.

If I were to single out a particular member of staff, I would like to praise the efforts of the concierge Gustave H. who was simply charming, hilarious and smelt divine and made our stay an absolute delight.

If you are staying here I highly recommend a trip down to the local town of Zubrowka to sample some of its many delights including skiing, a local monastery and Mendl's bakery which has some heavenly cakes.

Sadly our visit was over before we knew it but I have already booked us in for a return trip later this month and would highly recommend The Grand Budapest to anyone looking for a fun cinematic vacation this year.

P.S. Check out the beautiful painting behind the concierge desk called Boy With Apple.

5 stars

If you can't get across this summer or find that it is fully booked then you can get the full Grand Budapest experience in your own home here

The Grand Budapest Hotel is out now on Digital HD, DVD and Blu-ray from Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment

Monday, 7 July 2014

The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out The Window And Disappeared - review

The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out The Window And Disappeared about an old man who looks a hell of a lot like Stellan Skarsgard but isn't Stellan Skarsgard who reflects on his connections to major historical figures and events whilst on the run from a Swedish biker gang when he mistakenly steals €50 million, is exactly the type of story you would enjoy hearing from your granddad one afternoon when he was babysitting you.

Amusing, entertainingly told but you wouldn't believe a word of it and dismiss it as absolute nonsense and the ramblings of eccentric old man with a predilection for flights of fancy.

3 stars

Tammy - review

In the Batman graphic novel The Killing Joke, The Joker attempts to drive Commissioner Gordon insane just as he was by the effects of their life collapsing around them in just one day.

Melissa McCarthy's eponymous character of Tammy suffers a similar fate as she loses her job, car and husband in the space of the opening 10 minutes but instead of driving her insane it results in her driving her grandma on a soul-searching road trip that involves such "wacky" antics as crashing a jet-ski, causing a scene at a lesbian 4th of July party and robbing a drive-thru.

Directed by her husband Ben Falcone (Air Marshall John from Bridesmaids), this was probably designed to be a vehicle to showcase her talents and a different side to her but it starts off as more of the same McCarthy that has been seen already in the likes of Bridesmaids, The Heat and Identity Thief.

The character of Tammy is meant to be on a journey, literally and metaphorically, but there is no real change shown here and the result is the worst movie trip since Hunter S. Thompson experienced Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas.

I hear the cottonwoods whispering out back. Tammy, Tammy, Tammy is crap.

1 star

Transformers: Age Of Extinction - review

Transformers: Age Of Extinction is essentially a remake of Gremlins but instead of a creature, a struggling inventor Cade Yeager (yes Cade Yeager, a character played by Mark Wahlberg who sounds like he should be in The Expendables) gives his child the gift of a transforming alien robot.

Three, personally unwanted and unnecessary, sequels later, it really feels now like we are just watching the exact same film over and over again ad nauseum.

Someone finds Optimus Prime, they are chased by shadowy governments types and Decepticons while searching for a Macguffin of some type (an Allspark, a Seed, etc) before an all-out war between Autobots and Decepticons ends up levelling an entire city.

The Transformers movies really do specialise in urban destruction and a level of non-specified human collateral damage not seen since Superman and Zod flattened Metropolis in Man Of Steel.

Not even a complete change of cast and the addition of the Dinobots can distract from the overwhelming sense of overfamiliarity.

Yes the Dinobots are introduced just to prove that the franchise has finally jumped the transforming robot shark.

Thank goodness for the saving grace that is Stanley Tucci who is the only reason the film gets 2 stars instead of 1.

Transformers are robots in disguise but there is no disguising the fact that this is nothing more than a loud, ugly, lazy blockbuster.

2 stars

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

3 Days To Kill - review

Have assassins and government agents never watched any films about assassins and government agents?

If they had they would know that there is no such thing as "one last job", for just like Michael Corleone "just when I thought I was out they pull me in".

One of the frequent criticisms of modern movie trailers is that they give too much away but another, perhaps even greater, sin is when a film is completely mis-sold by its trailer, usually to its detriment.

This is one of those cases.

Watch the trailer and you be forgiven for thinking that this was a film where CIA operative Kevin Costner wants to quit to spend time with his family but is poisoned and is given 3 Days To Kill a list of people in order to secure the antidote.

Sounds like a reasonable description right? Wrong!

Succumbing to illness on a mission which leads to the escape of a target, Costner is diagnosed with terminal brain cancer, given 5 months to live and future endeavoured by the CIA.
Returning to Paris to reconnect with his family, he is recruited by a shadowy agent played by Amber Heard to kill the target he missed in exchange for an experimental drug that could help prolong his life.

That is quite different no?

At first glance this looks to be another case of Taken syndrome where an ageing actor decides that instead of cashing in his pension, he cashes a pay check in order to reinvent himself as an action hero.

Even though it is written and produced by Luc Besson, it never really captures that feeling, despite another strong father-daughter relationship.

The action scenes are few and far between (and all of them feature in the trailer) and actually the film is more akin to Besson's Leon.

There are nice touches in the movie, with Costner returning home to find a group of African squatters in his flat yet unable to evict them due to the law and a relationship develops between them.

There was potential for quite an interesting take on this type of story, especially due to strong performances from Costner and Steinfeld, however an inability to decide what kind of film it wants to be, unnecessarily long running time and bland, uninvolving direction by McG (I find it interesting his name was kept off all the publicity materials) resulting in a bit of a misfire.

Despite mentioning the title in the film (always deserving of a cheer), the urgency behind the 3 Days To Kill is never felt and therefore ends up being a film that few will be Taken with.

2 stars

Walking On Sunshine - review

Walking On Sunshine has the distinction of having by far and away the worst trailer I have seen this year. I was absolutely shocked and stunned into silence at the moment halfway through when they started singing.

It felt like a sketch from a bad British comedy show that was taking the piss out of the current trend of jukebox musicals and the majority of the film's runtime was spent trying to work out if this was the filmmakers intentions. *Spoiler - I don't think it was*

Clearly modelled on Mamma Mia, right down to the poster, the script must have taken less time to write than this review which sees Hannah Arterton return to Puglia, Italy (the site of her one big holiday romance) upon graduation to see her sister, only to find out (feigned shock and horror) that she is engaged to her ex!

After writing this brief outline on the back of some used toilet roll, the screenwriter then spent a further ten minutes flicking through a couple of Eighties compilations to flesh out the rest.

Hmm, my characters are getting married... White Wedding by Billy Idol, sorted. Girl on holiday... Holiday by Madonna, perfect. Girls just wanting to have fun on a hen night... Well you get the idea don't you.

The "singing", if it can even be called that, is so bad that you wish Simon Cowell would appear to put his hand up to stop the performance early amid a hail of criticism. Honestly, you have heard better vocal performances on a drunken night of karaoke.

The most depressing thing about it is that the cast actually has a very talented singer among them in the form of X Factor winner Leona Lewis but she is denied a solo number, instead being sidelined in ensemble numbers for the likes of Katy Brand and Greg Wise, a man whose singing talents make Pierce Brosnan look like Pavarotti.

You see holiday resorts like Kavos and Magaluf and the hell they must go through with the Club 18-30 groups but I imagine Puglia would have preferred scores of vomiting teenagers than spending the summer season being invaded by an army of musical theatre types going through poorly choreographed song and dance numbers.

A musical where the performances are as much an assault on the eyes and ears as the fashion was during the Eighties. It hits so many bum notes that you would be best to stick in some earplugs, get some sleep and ask someone to Wake You Up Before They Go Go.

1 star

Jersey Boys - review

When is a musical not a musical? When it's the film adaptation of Jersey Boys.

Disclaimer: I have not seen the stage musical Jersey Boys so am unaware of how it works on stage but in the movie version there is a distinct lack of traditional musical song and dance numbers but instead performances of their hit songs with occasionally band members talking directly to the audience.

The only time that it even approaches something like the energy and spectacle that a musical should deliver is during the end credit sequence where the entire cast perform the most famous song Oh What A Night.

Before that, Eastwood delivers a film that desperately wants to be Jersey Fellas, showcasing the group's history growing up in Jersey with their connections to mobsters played by Christopher Walken and the real life Joe Pesci.

Yes, I am poor on my music knowledge and genuinely had no idea that Joe Pesci knew the group and now realise where his name Tommy Devito in Goodfellas comes from. Also I was not aware that he was the first to record Can't Take My Eyes Off Of You.

With all the aspirations to Goodfellas; the to-camera narration, a "funny how?" reference, the further it goes with the Marty comparisons, the more the film cries out to have been directed by Scorsese.

Clint's delivery could be described Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons In One Day and boy does it feel like it. The film is so slow that it could have done with the energy and ferocity that Scorsese brought to The Wolf Of Wall Street, which felt like a 90 minute picture in comparison.

Next up for Clint and main star John Lloyd Young will surely be the Chris De Burgh story given the make up job at the end of the film.

If I had to describe the movie by using one of their songs? Oh What A Shite!

2 stars

P.S. Is it wrong that when hearing the song Big Girls Don't Cry I automatically think it will be going into Wipeout for the Dirty Dancing Megamix?

Cold In July - review

Ignorance is bliss and in the case of this excellent new-noir thriller, it is best enjoyed with as little prior knowledge as possible. So it is recommended you go into this film cold... in July!

Accidentally killing an intruder in his home is just the beginning of quiet family man and picture framer Michael C. Hall's troubles as he soon finds himself in Deep (South) sh*t.

It would do it a disservice to discuss any more of the plot of this 80's set film noir (complete with a fantastic synth score that continually ratchets up the tension) as it goes off the beaten track into unexpected places, drawing favourable comparisons with other genre pieces such as Cape Fear and A History Of Violence that also examine the darkness lurking within the heart of man.

Jim Mickle's assured direction creates a sense of unease and dread as thick as molasses and draws strong performances from his trio of leading men.

Dark, dirty and dangerous, this is neo-noir at its blackest and well worth seeking out because revenge is a dish best served Cold In July,

4 stars

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

Top 14 Films Of 2014... So Far

1. The LEGO Movie

This film is one of the greatest films ever assembled and suitable for ages 8-99 (that's just a suggestion) and anyone who has ever played with the sophisticated interlocking brick system, whether you went exactly by the instructions or let your imagination run wild just as Lord and Miller have here.

2. Snowpiercer

Hopefully this train won't face too many more delays before it gains a proper cinema release as this is first class entertainment that remains on track to be one of my favourite films of the year.

3. Her

Some will fall in love with it, others won't but those that do will find a film that starts life as science fiction but very soon could become science fact and a must-see romance for anyone looking for a Siri-ous relationship.

4. Under The Skin

Ultimately Under The Skin is undefinable, utterly unique and completely unforgettable. Like the title says, this film will get under the skin and stay with you forever.

5. The Wolf Of Wall Street

Wall Street said "Greed is good" but Wolf Of Wall Street would say that "Greed is Motherf*cking Great!". It's lewd, rude and crude, un-PC and offensive and I for one fell for Scorsese's sales pitch and enjoyed every minute of it. I'm investing all my cash in Marty and Leo's next project.

6. The Raid 2

With The Raid 2, director Gareth Evans has been able to deliver a sequel that not only expands the universe but also differentiates and improves upon the original. Take a bow Mr. Evans, you have made The Godfather Part 2 of action movies.

7. Only Lovers Left Alive

Shot with an ethereal beauty and a killer soundtrack, it can easily stake a claim as the best vampire film since Let The Right One In.

8. The Grand Budapest Hotel

"Wes Anderson's new hotel is very Grand"

***** on Trip Advisor

User: Dallas King

Already planning my next trip and would highly recommend The Grand Budapest Hotel looking for a fun cinematic vacation this year.

9. Chef

Chef is food porn at its finest, with shots of cuisine that look so good Gregg Wallace would be licking the screen in envy. Make your reservations now as this is one Michelin starred film that you won't want to miss. I'm already booked in for seconds and can't wait to see what Favreau cooks up next.

10. Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Captain America, F*CK YEAH!

11. Locke

From the off the film hits Top Gear and never lets up. This is one car journey you won't be asking "Are we there yet?".

12. The Double

A poster-friendly soundbite would be "It's Polanski's The Tenant meets Fight Club" and like the film's leading man (or men), The Double will stand up to multiple viewings.

13. 22 Jump Street

"Everything is awesome" in 2014 for Lord Miller because along with The LEGO Movie they have delivered the two funniest films of the year and proved that they are the most visually inventive and creative action comedy directors since Edgar Wright.

14. Oculus

Mirror Mirror on the wall, is Oculus the fairest horror movie of the year?
So much so that I can't wait for the sequel Oculus 2: Oculus Rift