Sunday, 18 December 2011

The Artist - review

There's an old saying in Hollywood, that they "don't make 'em like that anymore".  Thankfully it seems that they do.  It's name is The Artist and it is absolutely glorious.

I was initially taken aback but upon reflection, in a year where audiences have been inundated with sequels, prequels and the diminishing returns of 3D, it turns out to be no surprise that the best film of 2011 is a black and white, silent film celebrating a bygone era of Hollywood.
Just like one of my other favourite films of this year, Midnight In Paris, it is a nostalgic look at the "Golden Age" of the twenties.  The Artist blends together elements of Singin' In The Rain, A Star Is Born and Sunset Boulevard to tell the story of George Valentin (Jean Dujardin), one of the biggest stars of silent movies who loses everything (wife, house, fortune) when he refuses to participate in the 'gimmicky fad' that is the talking picture, instead forced to watch the meteoric rise of his one-time protege and true love Peppy Miller (Berenice Bejo).
It has been filmed as a 1920's silent film (shot in 1:33 ratio, black and white, dialogue cards, iris fades and wipes) but where some directors might have gone for the old grainy celluloid look, it was wisely filmed in digital producing one of the best looking black and white movies ever, matched in beauty by a sumptuous musical score by Ludovic Bource which helps to narrate the story and strengthen the emotional beats (just as the live musical accompianment would have done in cinemas during the performance).
Michel Hazanvicius has crafted a loving tribute to the silent era but is not afraid of defying conventions resulting in one of the most startling and memorable scenes of the year.  It is an absolute delight and involves a glass and a table.  It doesn't sound like much but trust me, it is.
There is always a danger that this type of project could fall into the realms of spoof or pastiche but the performances of the central duo Dujardin and Bejo prevent that, providing the film with a generous abundance of heart.
Dujardin pitches his performance just right.  He never resorts to the "shameless mugging" that silent stars were accussed of, instead finding the right balance of old school movie star charisma that slowly crumbles away to reveal the sad, broken man inside, able to switch between comedy and tragedy with ease.  One of his most delightful moments is when he "gets into character" before filming.
Bejo I imagine, like her character Peppy in the film, is destined for great things in Hollywood.  She radiates star quality and lights up the screen whenever she appears.
Together they have a tangible winning chemistry that is in abundance during the scene where they are filming for the first time.  You can see the connection and attraction between them growing, take after take.
What I loved most about The Artist is that whilst it is an homage to the silent movie, it is also a celebration of the power of cinema and it took me on a nostalgic trip down memory lane as to why I fell in love with movies in the first place.
A tap dance reminds me of Gene Kelly, a staircase featured in Blade Runner, a breakfast montage reminiscent of Citizen Kane, Valentin's outfit during a swordfight reminds me of Inigo Montoya from The Princess Bride and the use of Bernard Herrmann's Scene D'Amour stirs up thoughts of Hitchcock and Vertigo.
Normally this kind of thing can be distracting.  I for one love a good Wilhelm Scream but when it pops up in a film, I am taken out of it for a moment and remember that I'm watching a film. 
But with The Artist it is a movie about the movies, a celebration of a medium that can captivate audiences, take them on an emotional rollercoaster, transport them from the dullness of their everyday lives and take them on a magical journey, albeit just for a couple of hours.
And if The Artist wants to wishes to take me on this journey many, many times over the next few years then all I can say is... "With Pleasure".

5 stars

Thursday, 8 December 2011

New Year's Eve - review

I didn't think it was possible for a franchise to be more cynical, jaded and unfunny than the spoof "insert genre" Movies e.g Scary Movie, Epic Movie, etc, but it seems that Garry Marshall is trying his hardest with the Love Actually-inspired ensemble film centred around a public holiday theme because after Valentine's Day, he is bringing us New Year's Eve.
Do you know what the problem with New Year's Eve is, or as us Scots call it Hogmanay? Everybody makes such a big deal about this one particular night, a lot of time and effort go into making these lavish plans and it gets hyped up to such a degree that it normally turns out to be something of a disappointment.
The same goes for this movie which easily grabs the top spot in my Worst Films of 2011 list. A film that is so unfunny and hard-going that it should have been called Slog-manay!
(that bad pun is officially funnier than anything in the film).
To try and sum up the "plot" of the movie, several A-List actors with clearly nothing better to do sign up for 20 minutes of screen time to solve some form of romantic problem whilst people sponsored by Nivea and a giant poster for Sherlock Holmes 2 (also distributed by Warner Bros and released on 16th Dec) worry about a malfunctioning ball in Times Square.
During two turgid hours we get to see the following:

  • Hilary Swank, in a plotline cut from Boys Don't Cry, spends time worrying about the fact that her balls won't drop.

  • Michelle Pfieffer get Zac Efron help her cross items off her New Year's Resolution list, the top of which should be to never make a film like this again.

  • Robert DeNiro plays a man whose career is slowly dying.

  • Ashton Kutcher, clearly depressed about his upcoming divorce, hates New Year's Eve (just like the audience) and spends the film trapped in a lift with that annoying girl from Glee. Why he hasn't commited suicide by the end of the film is anyone's guess.

This sentimental, schmalz-fest Richard Curtis type affair could really have benefitted from just a touch of his class. I'm not the biggest fan of Love Actually but it had moments of genuine warmth such as Andrew Lincoln silently declaring his love to Keira Knightley via cue cards, or as hilarious as Bill Nighy's ageing rocker Billy Mack. Unfortunately the script is completely bland, tired, cliched and devoid of laughs. I don't think I've ever sat in a screening of a romantic comedy where the entire auditorium sat in stoney silence for the entire duration before having to suffer through Ryan Seacrest telling us about the true meaning of New Year's Eve before the "hilarious" outakes during the end credits rub in the fact that the actors had more fun making the movie than we had watching it.
One can only hope that in the sadly inevitable fact that New Year's Eve makes enough money for yet another holiday related rom-com, it is mash-up with Eli Roth's Thanksgiving and all those responsible for this Christmas Turkey of a film are killed off in a variety of vicious, nasty ways so that we won't have to sit through the likes of this again.

1 star

Sunday, 27 November 2011

50/50 - review

50/50 is a comedy drama about cancer and just like the disease, the film was always going to be a tough "cell".  Thankfully however, it succeeds due to a delicate balancing act between comedy and tragedy plus a superb lead performance from Joseph Gordon Levitt.

Partly based on the real-life experiences of writer Will Reiser, the film follows 27 year old radio producer Adam Lerner (Levitt) as he struggles to cope with being diagnosed with a rare form of spinal cancer called Schwannoma Neurofibrosarcoma (or as one cancer patient puts it, "the more syllables, the worse it is").  He is helped/comforted, with varying levels of success by his best friend (Rogen), hysterical mother (Huston), bitchy girlfriend (Howard) and therapist (Kendrick).
Finding the comedy in a tragic situation is always going to be a tricky process, for examples the results could be like the Rent spoof 'Everyone Has AIDS' from Team America, but Reiser, like Chandler Bing, knows that humour can be a great defense mechanism and rather than forcing the characters into situations with "hilarious consequences", the majority of the jokes come from Adam's natural responses to coping with his failing health or his buddy Kyle's attempts to use the Big C to his advantage with the ladies, "Nobody wants to have sex with me, I look like Voldermort".
Reiser's script and calm direction from Jonathan Levine do a terrific job in not letting the comedic moments overshadow the seriousness of the story, so that when Adam's condition worsens, we are emotionally invested in whether he survives or not.
Much of this connection with Adam is the result of a terrific central performance by Joseph Gordon Levitt.  Fast becoming one of the best actors of his generation, Levitt makes Adam very down-to-earth and relatable which makes him easy to identify and empathise with.  Plus he is the first cinematic character I know of to bite his fingernails which is a habit that I have (and my friend Linny is constantly trying to break me of!).  It is a very understated performance, not prone to Oscar-worthy showboating scenes that other actors may have been tempted to do, instead opting to slowly draw you into his plight so that when he breaks down in front of his mother just as he is about to go into surgery, his tears are not the only ones flowing in the cinema.
There is fine support from Seth Rogen as Adam's best friend.  Some may complain he is recycling his "schlubbenly, profanity-laden goof" schtick but since he actually helped Reiser through his own cancer struggle, he is essentially playing himself and in my opinion it is the best he's ever been, bringing a warmth and sincerity to the film.
If you were to find fault with the film, the female characters suffer in that the screenplay tends to have them conform slightly to Hollywood stereotypes (bitchy girlfriend, neurotic mother, etc) and the potential romance with the therapist feels a little forced but wisely left largely unconsumated.  Also it is a shame that a potentially interesting family dynamic due to the father's alzheimers but nearly every film this year has already used it (by that I mean Friends With Benefits and Love And Other Drugs).
However these are minor quibbles with a moving film with a lot of heart that can deliver an emotional suckerpunch through all the laughs.  And that should be congratulated as the odds of finding a film that can successfully make you feel the full range of the emotional spectrum are certainly not as good as 50/50.

4 stars

Thursday, 10 November 2011

6 Reasons why The Muppets would rock as Oscar hosts.

Yesterday one muppet, in the form of Brett Ratner, stepped down as producer of the Academy Awards show following a series of PR disasters on a par with Frankie Cocozza on X Factor.  Following his departure, and that of Ratner's choice of host Eddie Murphy, it seems there is an online campaign to get another bunch of Muppets to host Oscar night.

It is a stroke of genius.  Everyone loves The Muppets (unlike with Ricky Gervais, celebrities would be happen to have the piss taken by the Muppets), they are current due to having a movie out in the US on Thanksgiving (us in the UK sadly have to wait until Feb), and from their recent hosting duties on WWE Raw showed (part 1 and part 2), they have what it takes to host... and most importantly for the Oscars, they are funny and entertaining.
You can follow its progress on Facebook and Twitter as it continues to gather momentum and popularity, here are my two cents worth on the subject and five reasons why it could be the greatest Oscar night ever.

1)  The National Anthem

At the beginning of the broadcast, the stuffy and pompous Sam Eagle could come out and demand the entire audience of A-List celebs stand up and join him in singing the National Anthem as is accustomed at all major sporting events.

2)  The Orchestra

Not only would we have Dr Teeth and the Electric Mayhem playing all the music for the evening but celebrities would be quaking in their boots that if they happen to start droning on about thanking their publicist in their acceptance speech, Animal would be quick to jump in and play them off with a mental drum solo!

3)  Interviews on the Green Carpet by Beaker

As if the Oscar ceremony isn't long enough, we have to put up with 1-2 hours of cringworthy interviews with celebrities on the red carpet as people we've never heard of ask Natalie Portman what designer she's wearing or how George Clooney feels to be nominated.
The eloquent Beaker would be the perfect person to ask those hard hitting questions we all want to know the answer to, "have you practiced your 'shit I lost, look happy for the other guy face'?" and chat up the attractive female nominees.
His partner in crime, Dr Bunsen Honeydew could also provide a firework and pyrotechnic display to kick things off.

4)  Statler and Waldorf

These two loveable curmudgeons would be ideally placed in one of the boxes at the Kodak theatre overlooking the stage to provide their unique brand of saracastic commentary to the proceedings.
"You know what the only thing worse than hosting last year's Oscars... watching it!"

5)  The catering backstage and at the after party...

6)  Let's face it, they tried to get Kermit and Miss Piggy to host last year!!!

So there you have it.  Undeniable proof that having The Muppets host the Oscars is the right thing to do... but if they do need a little human help, look no further than this man...

Meg Ryan was gutted to hear she'd been replaced for When Harry Met Sally Again...

Thursday, 27 October 2011

The Adventures Of Tintin - review

This is the first of several planned Tintin films by Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson and is an amalgamation of three of Herge's stories The Secret of the Unicorn, Red Rackham's Treasure and The Crab with the Golden Claws, but more appropriately it could have been called Tintin And His Attempt To Escape The Uncanny Valley.
There was a lot of debate amongst fans of the books when it was first announced that the film would be produced using motion capture rather than animation.  You can understand its purpose when it encorporates otherworldly or non-human characters into live action films (Na'vi, Gollum, Caesar, etc) but when the style is that close to animation, is there any real benefit?
The answer, unfortunately, is not really.
The main benefit of using mo-cap over voice work is that you can use the actor's whole performance and therefore choose actors whole will bring something to the part, but the likes of Simon Pegg, Nick Frost and Jamie Bell are fairly anonymous in their portrayals, adding little more than a star name on the poster.
I don't know if it was Bell's fault, the script or if the character is the same in the comics, but Tintin was almost a non-entity in the film.  He's one dimensional as the sketch he is given at the beginning of the film based on Herge's drawing.  If you aren't familiar with the comics then the only character development we get as an audience is that he's a reporter (of undetermined age) who has a dog called Snowy.   That's it, otherwise he is just there to move the plot from A to B.  As adventurer's go, Indiana Jones he is not.

Rather unsurprisingly, the only one to be as three dimensional as the impressive visuals is Captain Archibald Haddock, thanks to being played by the King of Motion Capture, Mr Andy Serkis.  Although I can't be the only one who thought Haddock shared more than a passing resemblance to producer Peter Jackson.  It may not be as impressive a performance as that of Caesar from ROTPOTA, but Serkis is clearly having a ball as the drunken, boorish Scottish seaman (snigger) who comes to learn that his destiny lies along a different course... but perhaps Serkis was just happy at not having to play Snowy the dog!
Spielberg first became aware of Tintin back in 1982 when film critics compared elements of Raiders of the Lost Ark to the boy reporter's series of adventures, and this film is more in keeping with the tone and feel of Raiders than Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.
Exotic locations, missing treasure and artefacts, non-stop action, and of course, a terrific John Williams score.  The film excels during some stunning action sequences but it's a shame the script doesn't masure in terms of the vision which is disappointing considering it was written by such talented guys as Moffat, Wright & Cornish.
Spielberg demonstrates why he is one of the best directors of all time with a chase sequence through the port of Bacchar that is done in one complete shot and rivals the truck chase in Raiders or the mine cart chase in Temple of Doom for sheer excitement.
With CGI and motion capture, what can be achieved on screen is only limited by imagination, and Spielberg shows how good he is with Haddock vividly recounting the tale of his grandfather and Pirate Red Rackham as it seamlessly switches between flashback and present day.
If the script and characterisation can match the imagination, passion and vision of messers Spielberg and Jackson, then I'm prepared to give Tintin another shot... as long as the sequel doesn't involve aliens!

3 stars

Sunday, 23 October 2011

The Ides Of March - review

Whilst hardly reinventing the wheel in terms of political thrillers, The Ides of March confirms that the US Presidential race is much more exciting and, well, sexy than our British equivalents.
Of course, it's not that difficult when People's Sexiest Man Alive (1997 and 2006) is directing and co-starring as a smooth, suave Democratic candidate.  The best us Brits get is Hugh Grant as Prime Minister in Love Actually.
Man of the moment Ryan Gosling plays Stephen Myers, a junior campaign manager and media guru, who is working with Paul Zara (Hoffman) to get Governor Mike Morris (Clooney) elected as the Democratic candidate in the next Presidential election.  He is smooth, slick, has experience on the campaign trail but his youthful cockiness and naiviety could prove his undoing with a beautful young intern (Wood) and rival campaign manager Tom Duffy (Giamatti).

Clooney continues to mature as a director and has delivered an incredibly slick, polished and entertaining thriller which at times feels effortless in its pacing and storytelling.  Clooney combines his old school movie star charisma with a movie that brings back echoes of seventies films like All The President's Men.  The film is based on Farregut North but one of the most impressive aspects of the production is that it never feels like a play which is a fate that has befallen many other stage adaptations (Closer, Doubt, Glengarry Glen Ross).  Clooney's task was made easier by assembling a fantastic ensemble cast including several Oscar winners and nominees Philip Seymour Hoffman, Marisa Tomei, the wonderful Paul Giamatti and Gosling who delivers his fourth fantastic (and different) performance of the year as the wide eyed media man whose belief in the right thing is shattered.
Ides has been accused of lacking depth but I felt the script had a lot of snap, crackle and pop, a surprising amount of humour and there is, what feels like, some thinly veiled criticism of Obama's performance so far as Clooney's Morris describes what kind of candidate he doesn't want to be and his stance on certain policies.
The Ides of March is not only a entertaining night out at the cinema but also perfect for anyone needing to fill the void that was left when The West Wing ended.

4 stars

Saturday, 22 October 2011

We Need To Talk About Kevin - review

We Need To Talk About Kevin is one of the most visually arresting films of the year but unlike films such as Tree of Life and Melancholia which I accused of being "pretentious and style over substance", Kevin is a deeply thought provoking study of the age old debate of "nature versus nurture" as a mother attempts to rebuild her life following a terrible crime perpetrated by her son, and forces herself to look back at her life and figure out if Kevin was born as bad as Damien from The Omen or if his behaviour was ultimately her fault.
Tilda and Kevin nervously waited backstage for their turn to audition for Britain's Got Talent
The film's structure differs from that of the novel, using flashbacks rather than Eva's letters to her ex-husband, but it works due to director Lynne Ramsay's total control over the medium and her use of visuals, sound and storytelling.  She allows the audience to put the missing pieces together and draw their own conclusions as who is to blame.  Although, and this might sound a tad harsh, I think that if I was raised by Tilda Swinton, I might have turned out a little odd too.
Swinton puts in a fantastic multi-layered performance as the mother of the devil.  She appears as a ghost in her own life following the tragedy, searching for an answer to the impossible question "WHY?", and during the flashbacks it is a role that draws similarities to Lee Remick in The Omen, where she is the only one who can see the evil growing inside her own spawn.
Oscar winner Swinton however more than meets her match in the form of the three boys who play Kevin at various stages throughout his adolescence.  Ezra Miller has rightly been receiving plaudits for his malevolent dead eyed enigma, but in my own humble opinion, Jaspar Newell who plays Kevin between the ages of 6-8 is just as good.  It is a very mature and sinister portrayal for someone so young.
Don't go in expecting any clear cut answers but there is enough going on in this film that when it's all over, you'll be guaranteed to be talking about Kevin.

4 stars

Contagion - review

Contagion might not strictly be a horror film by definition, but it could be argued that it is infinitely more frightening than the likes of Insidious and Paranormal Activity 3.
Warning, this is not a *spoiler*.  Within 15 minutes of Contagion, Gwyneth Paltrow is dead.  Dead as disco or Colonel Gaddafi.  Turns out she was more crudded up than the monkey from Outbreak and is Ground Zero for a disease that will be responsible for killing over 2.6 million people worldwide.  Goes to show what happens when you eat healthily, listen to Coldplay and call your children silly names like Apple!
Driven by another terrific electronic score by Cliff Martinez (also responsible for the Drive soundtrack), the first 30 minutes of this film are the worst nightmare for someone with OCD.  Soderbergh tracks the path of the virus as it travels across the world as those infected dip their hands into that bowl of communal nuts at the bar or touch elevator buttons or door handles before convulsing and foaming at the mouth like a tweenager at a Justin Bieber concert.
Just as Jude Law's ridiculously annoying, and possibly Australian (I couldn't really decide from his accent), blogger attempts to get rich by claiming a homeopathic remedy is the cure to the disease, I wouldn't be surprised if Soderbergh and the producers have shares in hand sanitizer, because sales are going to go through the roof following screenings of this film!
As the outbreak spreads, the Centre for Disease Control (CDC) and World Health Organisation try to deal with the pandemic, controlling the spread of the disease and finding a possible cure.  Cue lots of scenes like this...
The CDC and WHO are the good guys fighting an unseen enemy in this old school disaster movie that features a fantastic cast (Cotillard, Damon, Fishburne, Winslet), and as he proves with Oscar winner Paltrow kicking the bucket so soon, the disease does not care about awards or celebrity status when claiming victims.  The gloves are literally and preverbally off, but not for the protaginists... due to health and safety fears, it is best to keep the latex gloves on!
As the authorities begin to get a handle on how to deal with the MEN-1 virus, the focus shifts slightly to hint that our fellow man can be just as dangerous as society threatens to break down due to the pressures of trying to survive.  At one point Fishburne's head of CDC tells Law's blogger that his panic causing lies and misinformation are just as damaging as the virus.  Law is also told that "blogging is writing.  It's graffiti with punctuation" but I'm sure Elliot Gould was talking about this site when he said it.
By having a large ensemble cast with multiple plot threads, it is inevitable that like the virus, some strains of the film are stronger than others.  Winslet and Damon make the most out of their parts, Law is on screen too much for my liking and unfortunately the wonderful Marion Cotillard gets lost in the mix and misses out on a suitable payoff to her storyline.
Overall the film, like the virus, loses momentum once a vaccine has been found.  Perhaps there is a reason why most films of this nature end quickly after the virus is defeated, here we get some sense of the fallout and after effects, but it does answer the question of what happened to Jennifer Ehle after Pride & Prejudice all those years ago.  Turns out she was working at the CDC.
Soderbergh almost manages to end it on a nice moment with Damon, his daughter and a digital camera which provides a clue as to the cause of the outbreak, which is then ruined by showing exactly what happened, as if to bludgeon home the point to stupid viewers who can't work things out for themselves.
Hopefully this won't be indicitive of Soderbergh's career if the rumours of his retirement prove to be correct.
If he does retire, I'm sure he'll be happy sleeping on a bed made of money gained from the profits of rocketing sales of hand sanitizer.

3 stars

Paranormal Activity 3 - review

Having taking over from the Saw films to become the new annual Horror franchise, another October sees the release of another Paranormal Activity.
I was very high on the first installment, calling it one of the "scariest films of the decade", which I felt breathed a bit of new life into the tired "found footage" format thanks to its concept (a young couple Katie and Micha set up a video camera at night to capture evidence of strange goings ons in the night) and execution by being genuinely creepy and unsettling,
The sequel, which I only watched last week, was a prequel which focused on Katie's sister Kristy's family and the misfortunes that befall them.  It went for very similar scares and suffered by having Katie and Micah appear which created massive continuity problems such as why Katie & Micah never mention that the stuff happening to them is very similar to what was happening at her sisters!
Throughout both 1 & 2, Katie and Kristy refer to a spirit and events from their childhood, and the third film focuses on this time period (because very conveniently someone was around to document everything on video again).

Warning - sequence not in final film.  Something a Detroit woman would probably sue over!
After that introductory waffle, let's get straight to the point.  Paranormal Activity 3 is a film that you will probably start to pick Stay Puft Marshmallow Man-size holes in the moment you leave the cinema... but whilst you are in the cinema, the film is very effective and creating a sense of unease and delivers the requisite chills and scares necessary to thrill and satisfy the horror masses.
One of the characteristics of the "found footage" film like The Blair Witch Project, Troll Hunter and the original Paranormal Activity, is that someone has used video evidence to try and piece together what happened to the people involved.  Obviously it goes without saying that the majority of "found footage" films do not have a happy ending.  Yet this threequel starts and stops without any explanation to the context of the footage, apart from briefly recycling footage from the second film that indicates that several videotapes that Katie had were stolen from Kristy's house.  This creates the implausible scenario that if somebody stole them to prevent people seeing them, why has someone edited them together Blair Witch style?!
However I am digressing slightly.  Once you get past this issue, the fact that Katie and Kristy's mum just happens to be dating a videographer called Dennis who suffers from Cloverfield syndrome which involves continuously recording even in the face of certain danger, and the impressive picture and sound quality for a video camera manufactured in 1988, then there is much to appreciate here.
Catfish directors Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman are clearly at home in this particular environment, draw great performances from the two girls (particularly from young Jessica Tyler Brown who plays Kristy) and most importantly they understand one of the fundamental basics of horror, antici.............................................................................................................................. pation, as Frank-N-Furter would say. 
As evidenced in a packed auditiorium, they know when to hold back, to build the tension to almost unbearable levels and then deliver that sucker punch scare that comes as a welcome release.  Every time it came up with a title card reading "night #14" etc, you could feel the audience tense up, waiting for something terrible to happen.
None more so then Dennis sets up a camera on a mechanical room fan which allows it to catch 180 degrees of the house as it slowly rotates back and forth.  Everytime it leaves one side of the room, you could feel people grabbing onto their armrests or the person next to them as they expect a shadowy figure or evil entity to be in frame when the camera returns.  It provides several of the films best scares as well as a couple of great laughs too.
The ending perhaps strays too close in the territory of other films of this genre like Blair Witch or The Last Exorcism but it delivers enough shock factor that the average horror fan will still enjoy it.  I would just advise against trying out "Bloody Mary" when you get home from the cinema though!

3 stars

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

The Help - review

I'm sure I have heard and read about several actresses complaining that there are "no good roles for actresses these days", that is either the romantic lead or the frumpy best friend, and sometimes the two are not mutually exclusive.

But after seeing The Help, I can conclude that these actresses must not have read the script for it, auditioned for it, or seen the finished product, as there at least 8 well written and strong female characters in it.
It is the estrogenic counterpoint to Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, which was criticised in some quarters for not having many female characters in it (the same now goes for Tintin too), as The Help features only a handful of male roles in it.  Somewhat ironically then, you could argue that the biggest role, a love interest for Emma Stone's character, feels tacked on and unnecessary and if cut out, could have improved the film if not just the overlong running time.
Some people out there will be quick to label this tale of a young white woman interviewing black maids in the Deep South of the USA for a tell-all expose during the early sixties as "an issue movie" and move on.  Yes, it deals with the touchy subject of Civil Rights, but this is certainly not Crash.  That Oscar winning yet incredibly overrated film repeatedly used a sledgehammer to reinforce its point that "Everybody is a little bit racist" over the course of two hours when Avenue Q did it in less than four minutes.
The Help was not actually based on a true story, as I initially though, but it does have an authenticity to it and yet it is hard to believe the attitudes and behaviour of some people back then.  The ignorant racism that was rampant back then is still shocking (although due to the 12A rating it shies away from the more physical brutality that many face) and is given a face in the form of Hilly Holbrook (played with relish by Bryce Dallas Howard).  She is like a Stepford Wife programmed by the KKK.
The film is smart enough not to become too preachy and presents a balanced side to the argument, so we get supportive white characters like Skeeter Phelan, played by Emma Stone (my infatuation with Miss Stone continues to grow, almost to the point where I might make a YouTube video confessing my love for her) and white trash Celia Foote (the omnipotent Jessica Chest-ain, who has some excellent underwire work in this movie), and during the maids' testemonials they tell nice stories as well as bad.
Like TTSS, The Help features one of the best ensemble casts this year, full of excellent performances from the likes of Stone, Howard, Chastain, Allison Janney and Octavia Spencer but if you want to place a bet come Oscar season, I would say the smart money will be on Viola Davis to feature highly on many people's voting slips.  Her Oscar clip will undoubtably be the scene where she recounts the day her son died.  Very moving and is a pivotal moment in the story.
The tagline for the film is "Change begins with a whisper", but I'm shouting it loud so all can hear... get yourself some Help and get down to the cinema to see one of the best films of the year!

4 stars

Sunday, 16 October 2011

Tyrannosaur - review

It would be easy at this point to pull out phrases like "hard hitting" and "a film that pull no punches" but that would be in incredibly poor taste because Tyrannosaur is a film where one of the main themes is domestic violence, so I won't.
But make no mistake, this new film by actor-turned-director Paddy Considine, can be very hard to watch, and stomach, due to some unflinching violence, both physical and verbal.

Joseph (Peter Mullan) is not a nice guy, by his own admission.  He drinks, gambles, fights and alienates everyone around him.  One day he stumbles into a charity shop run by Hannah (Olivia Colman).  She offers to pray for his soul and he writes her off as a God-loving goodie-two-shoes but Hannah is hiding a secret.  She's the victim of horrific domestic abuse from husband James (Eddie Marsan, cornering the UK market on playing absolute creeps).

Much has been made of Olivia Colman and she deserves all the praise and accolades she gets.  Primarily known for comedic work as Sophie on Peep Show, she shows a completely different side to her and delivers a completely raw and devastating performance.  One scene in particular that stands out is when James is apologising for hitting her and she is telling him she forgives him but her face is telling a different story, a mixture of hate for him and herself for allowing it to happen.
Mullan is also terrific as Joseph, a simmering volcano of rage that could erupt at anytime and on anyone whether that be his dog, a neighbour or random down the pub, and pitches it just right that he doesn't alienate the audience completely and draws them into his plight, trying to turn his life around and keep his temper at bay and Hannah may be his solution.
It seems that British actors who turn to directing are drawn to the theme of domestic violence, see Gary Oldman's Nil By Mouth, and in addition to drawing terrific performances from his actors, Considine also wrote the script (which is good except for a slightly clumsy final segment which ties up one of the plot threads) and has crafted an affecting film from grim subject matter but has injected plenty of heart and even a dash of humour that helps to alleviate the risk of the film descending into pure misery porn.
Don't be surprised to hear someone call out Paddy Considine's name when announcing the winner of the Best First Feature at next year's BAFTAs.

4 stars

Footloose - review

Remakes are a tricky subject.  Their announcements are normally met with screams of "WHY?!" from the die hard fans and the results can range from surprisingly good (The Departed, Ocean's Eleven, Dawn Of The Dead, The Ring), perfectly adequate (Let Me In, The Karate Kid), unintentionally hilarious (The Wicker Man), to downright awful (Psycho).
In an attempt to capitalise on the Hollywood trend for remaking 80's movies and the dance movie craze, a remake of Footloose was greenlit, but its journey to the big screen was filled with more wrong steps than an Anne Widdecome routine on Strictly Come Dancing.  Various delays, the loss of first choice director Kenny Ortega and lead Zac Efron and uninspiring footage at Empire Big Screen that could have come from any Step Up film and I was more than ready to stick a size 7 cuban heel into the final product.
One of the first popular films in the modern dance genre was You Got Served, and it is fair to say that Footloose served me up a huge slice of humble pie because it is actually a surprisingly good and incredibly enjoyable film.  The troubled remake was "Holding Out For A Hero" and they got two in the form of director Craig Brewer and Kevin Bacon replacement Kenny Wormald, "Let's hear it for the boys!".
It is always a risk when remaking a film to stick so close to the original source material, but Brewer is skilled and respectful enough to know what works but put his own spin on it.

The film begins with a party where the partygoers (mainly just shots of their shoes a la the original) are dancing around to Kenny Loggins' classic song.  Immediately my foot is tapping away and a smile is creeping across my face.  A group of kids get in their car and are drive home whilst singing along, the song is approaching its climax when BAM, they are hit by a truck!
This accident sets up what still remains Footloose's ridiculous central concept, that a small town bans any form of public dancing by minors.  I still don't know what is more stupid; the ban or the fact that despite a ban on dancing, when they finally do get to dance everyone is seemingly at a world class standard that they can do all sorts of flips and spins, etc!
Cue the arrival of Ren McCormack (Wormald) who is viewed by the small town locals as a rebel, because he wears a tie and sunglasses, and will battle Reverend Moore (Quaid) over the dancing ban and his daughter Ariel.  Wormald might not have the depth of Bacon (even he couldn't make the punch dance scene seem serious), but he has the appropriate level of cockiness and swagger to pull off the role and is very competent at the dancing.
You can argue that statement can also be used to describe the entire film.  It is certainly not a deep, meaningful film but it never claims to be.  It just wants to have fun and has it in spades.  Backed up with solid performances (top marks to Miles Teller as the "can't dance, won't dance" Willard), loving references to the original (VW Beetle, burgundy tuxedo jacket, etc), and terrific, energetic dance routines, Footloose is a perfect film to kick off your Sunday shoes at.

3.5 stars

Real Steel - review

A lot of critics have described it as "Rocky meets Short Circuit", but I would say that Real Steel is closer to  "The Champ meets Robot Wars", as inbetween the scenes of giant robots laying the smackdown on each other, director Shawn Levy to graft in a heartwarming family drama about an absentee father gaining redemption in the eyes of his son.
Huh, I was just about to praise Levy for showing some ambition for doing something more than the family blockbuster fare like Night At The Museum, but thinking about it, both films do seem to have a similar plot thread.
If Real Steel was one of the robots featured in the film, it would be Noisy Boy.  It looks great on the outside but it is a bit long in the tooth and if you pick apart the insides, it is not as good as it claims to be.
The fight scenes are well designed, shot and choreographed, particularly the final showdown between the the undefeated Zeus and our underdog Atom.  And although their is a lesser degree of tension due to the fact that they are CGI robots doing the fighting, a lot of people will probably grow to care for Atom and want him to survive another round or deliver that knockout punch.
At 127 minutes running time, Real Steel feels like it goes the distance and 12 rounds, but not in a good way.  The film takes too long to really get going.  Do we really need to see Charlie (Jackman) to lose with two different robots in order to see that he is reckless, impulsive, a loser and a bit of a shit?  He sells custody of his son Max to get cash for a new bot for crying out loud. 
I have mixed opinions on the casting of Jackman in this role.  Yes, he plays it well and has the old school movie charisma to pull it off.  He does act like a dick at the beginning but softens at the end as required... but he's Hugh Jackman, seemingly one of the nicest guys in Hollywood and therefore will always have the audience on his side.  It would have been interesting to see someone with a darker edge playing Charlie, to give the audience some doubt as to whether he can win his son's affections.
By the time Charlie and Max begin to bond while training up Atom, we have already reached the hour mark... and in one of the biggest crimes you can commit during a boxing movie... there is no real training montage , and if Team America taught us anything, it's that you NEED a montage!  It would have certainly shaved a few minutes off the running time.
So concerned with trying to develop both sides of the film (robot fighting/family drama), the results are each plot thread feels undercooked.  It feels like that one of the editors realised how long the film was and cut a few fights because Atom has one fight in the Robot Boxing League and Max calls out the champ, then one week later, boom, we have our main event championship fight.
In the end, the spectacle wins out over the story with several potentially interesting plot threads discarded over an extra punch or two.  I for one would have liked more Evangeline Lilly, explored whether Atom was self aware or not, and the link to the Japanese robot designer (was Atom his design?).  All these things are hinted at yet not given the chance to be fully fleshed out, ironic use of words there because if the film went to the judges' scorecards, the robots take a point victory over the humans in this one!

3 stars

P.S. Who would like to see a deleted scene from X-Men where Rogue finds Wolverine in a bar fighting one of the Real Steel robots?  With his adamantium claws and skeleton he could do quite well I think.  Just one of those random thoughts I had during the screening!

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

The Three Musketeers - review

One Direction on the set of their new video
The Three Musketeers, or The Three-D Musketeers as I call it, is the latest film from Paul WS Anderson, the "visionary" director of such cinematic milestones (or should that be millstones) as AvP and Soldier.
Like Resident Evil: Afterlife before it and a fact Anderson likes to shout about in the trailers, Musketeers is "shot in glorious 3D" not post-converted.  It is surprisingly non-gimmicky with only a few shots of swords pointing out of the screen yet in spite of this, it still managed to give me a headache after it finished (it didn't help that the first 5 minutes were screened in bright flickering pink, causing me to go off searching for the most of elusive of characters - the multiplex projectionist).
I think it would be fair to say that the screenplay would qualify as being called "based on" Dumas's novel.  I don't think there were giant hot air balloon war ships in the Ollie Reid version.
Anderson has made changes/additions to the story because he thinks they look cool, like an overuse of slow-mo that could rival Zack Synder, but they make for some plot holes which are even more logic-defying and dumb than the other recent turkey Abduction.
For example, Mi'Lady de Winter breaks into the Queen's chambers to steal a necklace and finds her path blocked by a maze of invisible razor wire that she must dance her way through.  I can understand that it is a detterent to thieves but how is the Queen meant to get to her jewellry on a day to day basis?  Impossible!
Then there is the question of how the Musketeers are able to reverse their airship out of the other airship they have crashed into on the top of Notre Dame cathedral?
I would be slightly more forgiving of things like this if the film had been fun but the only comedy was supposed to come from James Corden's servant character Planchet and most of that fell flat.  The rest of the characters were too po-faced.  Out of the musketeers, only Matthew Macfayden's Athos gets anything close to a back story and character arc, and Logan Lerman's d'Artagnan is a really annoying and cocky little runt.  Only Orlando Bloom seemed to enjoying himself, camping it up as the Duke of Buckingham.
The only decent sword fight comes near the beginning where the four musketeers take on the Cardinal's guards, and nothing that follows can match this for entertainment which is an inexcusable crime in an action blockbuster (see also Superman Returns when Supes saves the plane).  The action was so tame I actually spent a lot of time wondering why the so-called musketeers spent so much time using swords and not muskets?
One last thing... was it just me or was Anderson trying to showhorn in references to The Princess Bride by having a horse called Buttercup and Athos riffing on the "anyone who tells you otherwise is selling something line"?  Just me?

1 star

Monday, 10 October 2011

Don't Be Afraid Of The Dark - review

"Guillermo Del Toro presents", a tag that has presided over such quality films as The Orphanage and Julia's Eyes, so Don't Be Afraid Of The Dark has a lot to live up to.
Somewhat ironically, I think it is far to say that I wasn't afraid of DBAOTD, but I was still reasonably entertained by it.
After an effectively creepy opening sequence (teeth + chisel + sound fx = squirm), the film follows your standard horror movie template.
8 year-old Sally (Bailee Madison) comes to live with her dad Alex (Guy Pearce), an architect who has sunk his life savings into renovating a creepy old house, with the help of his new girlfriend Kim (Katie Holmes), who Sally takes an instant dislike to.  One day Sally finds a secret basement in the house with a sealed up shaft, which of course she opens after being persuaded to by the voices inside who want to be her "friends".  She is then terrorised by creepy little imps but her father thinks it is all in her head until Kim does a bit of digging into the history of the house and its previous owners.
Whilst you can see Del Toro's fingerprints all over the film, the final product relies far too much on the tired, overused horror cliches (loud music to signify a big jump, poor decision making, "oh it's only the old groundskeeper", etc).  In fact the biggest shock for UK cinemagoers of a certain age will come near the end of the film when Mike and Jim from Neightbours share the screen together for the first time in 20+ years!
Sitting watching this in the cinema, I couldn't help but think that all of it could have been avoided if the protaganists simply followed the instructions laid out in Edgar Wright's terrific trailer for "Don't"...
3 stars

Sunday, 9 October 2011

The Lion King 3D - review

Normally I try to avoid going to the cinema when it is full of a) annoying teenagers and b) screaming kids, (hence why I like going to The Belmont!) but it was always going to be a near impossibility when going to watch a Disney film on a Saturday afternoon at the local multiplex!

Luckily when the film you are watching is as good as The Lion King, you can (nearly) put young children singing or kicking the back of your seat to the back of your mind for 90 minutes and enjoy an animated classic on the big screen.
Bamlet TM (Bambi meets Hamlet) was one of the last great classic animated films before the dawn of the Pixar age and Disney resorted to churning out straight to video sequels.
It has everything that makes Disney films such perfect family entertainment.  Compelling story, colourful and memorable characters, a few jokes for the adults and some classic songs.  Lion King would arguably have the best soundtrack of any Disney film and while the kids were singing along all the time, I could see a few adults (myself included) trying to stop themselves joining in to Circle Of Life or Hakuna Matata.  Personally though, my favourite song in the film is Be Prepared.  I love a good villain and Jeremy Irons does a snarlingly good job as Scar.
However since everyone is pretty much aware of how great the film is, the purpose of yesterdays visit was to evaluate the 3D conversion.  And the verdict?  If the opening Circle Of Life sequence is anything to go by, I wouldn't bang the final nail into the 3D coffin just yet.  It showed how 3D can be used effectively to create depth and gravitas without having to resort to cheap tricks and didn't cause the usual headaches that 3D can sometimes bring when done poorly.
Back to the age-old argument though.  Did having 3D improve the film?  No... but it certainly didn't spoil it either and that is a vast improvement on some of the conversions I have seen in the last couple of years.
I am interested in reading Charles Gant's weekly UK box office round-up on Tuesday to see how well the re-release does this weekend - it topped the US box office a couple of weeks ago.
It could lead to studios claiming that 3D isn't dead and rushing to convert their entire back catalogue into 3D.  Disney are already in the process of doing this in fact.
But I feel that it's success lies in a much simpler answer.  People just want to watch good films.  With Hollywood seemingly content on churning out an endless series of sequels, remakes, reboots, comic book movies, etc, is it any wonder that people are embracing the chance to see a really good film on the big screen, even if that film was made 15-20 years ago?
Last year Universal re-released new digital prints of Psycho and Back To The Future.  This year we get Jurassic Park, The Lion King, Ghostbusters and Amelie back on the big screen, and in 2012 Titanic is re-released in 3D.
Similar to the "golden age" thinking that the main character in Midnight In Paris suffers from (see my review), perhaps modern audiences are so disheartened with the current state of Hollywood that they are nostalgic for the past when cinema was great.
It is something to think about... but that doesn't mean that studios should look to re-release EVERYTHING they have ever made, that might be a spot of overkill!

4 stars

Saturday, 8 October 2011

Midnight In Paris - review

2011 has been a great year for cinema so far in terms of producing quality films and a full range of emotional responses in this film geek.  I've LOL'd (Bridesmaids), I've been brought to tears for the first time (Warrior), been shellshocked (Kill List, The Skin I Live In) and now Midnight In Paris has the honour of being the first film this year to leave me with a warm, fuzzy feeling inside.

Woody Allen is one of the most prolific filmmakers of all time.  He produces a film every film - take that Terrence Malick - but with such a high turnover rate, there is bound to be some quality issues from time to time.  Critics are always hoping to be able to tag each new Woody Allen film as "a return to form", like they are desperate for him to deliver another Manhattan. But Woody has left Manhattan behind and is in the middle of his Eurotrip that has included London (not successful), Barcelona (mildly successful), and now Paris (c'est tres bon!).
One of the criticisms thrown at Woody during his stay in London was that he shot a tourist's version of London, where everything seemed to be set at the Gherkin or other easily identifiable landmarks.  In Paris, he seems to be giving a nod and a wink to his critics by starting off the movie with a snapshot of a tourist's view of Paris (Louvre, Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, etc.  It's very accurate, I've been there and they were my immediate impressions of it), but once this is finished he quickly gets down to business and focuses on telling us an utterly charming and funny story.
Gil Pender (Owen Wilson), a Hollywood screenwriter who dreams of writing a "proper novel" who joins his fiancee Inez (Rachel McAdams) in tagging along with her condescending parents on a business trip to Paris.  Enamoured by the vibe and the culture, Gil decides to walk the streets of Paris at night alone instead of hanging around with Inez's insufferable know-it-all lecturer Paul (a wonderful Michael Sheen), and hitching a lift in a vintage car Gil ends up partying the night away with F. Scott Fitzgerald, Cole Porter and Ernest Hemingway... wait, that can't be right, can it?
Yes it can actually, because Midnight In Paris is Allen's love letter to the "Golden Age" of Paris and uses a fantastical time travel mechanism to transport Gil back to the roaring twenties where the creative and cultural elite descended upon Gay Paree.
Owen Wilson, once again doing an excellent job at portraying Owen Wilson, proves to be a natural fit for the Allen role and helps to sell the central concept with his charm and enthusiasm, so much that we don't care whether it is real or just in Gil's head.
This "Moveable Feast", as Hemingway called it, is filled with some delightful cameos; Adrien Brody is delightfully nutty as "Da-Lee", a relatively unknown (to me at least) Corey Stall is terrific as Hemingway and Marion Cotillard, the most beautiful creature to have ever graced the silver screen, is utterly beguiling as Picasso's lover and Gil's potential muse Adriana.  I myself would question returning to the present if it meant getting to stay with Marion.
However there is an underlying message to Allen's screenplay that works on a number of levels.
Gil's novel concerns a man who works in a Nostalgia shop, which Paul critiques as "Nostalgia is denial - denial of the painful present... the name for this denial is golden age thinking - the erroneous notion that a different time period is better than the one ones living in - its a flaw in the romantic imagination of those people who find it difficult to cope with the present."
Gil realises during one of his midnight jaunts Adriana reveals she wishes she could have lived in the era of Belle Epoque and the people there yearn for the Renaissance, and the reality that by living in the past, it will never be enough and Gil is missing out on the present and what possibilities lie in store for him there.
This notion is also true for fans and critics of Woody Allen.  They spend so much time going on and on about how great his films were during the late seventies and early eighties, that they could be blinding themselves to the fact that Allen can still produce some terrific films today, and Midnight In Paris is one that can rank up there with the best of his back catalogue.
Just like the opening sequence of Manhattan always makes me want to go to the Big Apple, by the end of Midnight I was ready to book a another trip to Paris and immediately digging out my copy of A Moveable Feast... now who's getting all nostalgic?

5 stars

Thursday, 6 October 2011

A Christmas Carol - The real books you should read this Christmas.

It was "Super Thursday" last week for the bookstores as publishers unveiled over 200 new books all aiming to be under the Christmas tree come December 25th.  With only 80 days left to do your Christmas shopping, I have selected six books that every film fan should put on their list to Santa this year.

by Drew Struzan
An absolutely gorgeous collection of art by one the true masters of poster design.  A perfect gift for anyone who grew up with the films of the Eighties or still has love for Indiana Jones and Star Wars.  For a more detailed look at why you should buy it, check out The Incredible Suit's blog.

Alien Vault
by Ian Nathan
One of the most in-depth studies of a film ever and an absolute must for Alien or science fiction fans.

Crazy 4 Cult Pop Art
Ultra cool collection of artistic takes on such films as Edward Scissorhands, The Shining and Eraserhead.

If Chins Could Kill: Confessions of a B-Movie Actor
by Bruce Campbell
An entertaining look at to nearly make it in Hollywood and being loved for making the greatest horror film of all time - Evil Dead 2.
Nerd Do Well
by Simon Pegg
A very funny autobiography by one of the UK's best loved geeks who rather eloquently explains why the prequels ruined Star Wars for my generation.

The Good, The Bad & The Multiplex
by Mark Kermode
Dr K. takes aim at everything that is wrong with the modern cinemagoing experience with a series of honest and hilarious full-on Kermodian rants.

All these books are of course available on Amazon but I would urge you to support your local bookstore (especially Waterstone Union Bridge in Aberdeen) and get them from there!

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Top Ten Films of 2011 - End of Third Quarter review

1.  Drive

2.  Warrior

3.  Black Swan

4.  Kill List

5.  The Skin I Live In

6.  Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

7.  Submarine

8.  Bridesmaids

9.  Crazy Stupid Love

10.  Rango

Monday, 3 October 2011

What's Your Number? - review

What's Your Number?  Unfortunately for Anna Faris it is worse than her scandalous score of 20, not even as fun as a 69 but instead her latest comedy vehicle is strictly "romantic comedy by numbers".
I saw the trailer for this film last week in front of Crazy, Stupid, Love (incidentally much more romantic and funnier than this movie) and when Faris and Chris Evans have their first angry exchange across the hall, I sarcastically said to my friend "What's the odds they get together?" and then proceeded to correctly predict the punchlines to three jokes.
What starts out as a female take on the High Fidelity storyline of revisiting your exes, quickly throws ambition away to follow the standard rom-com formula.  Also, by having yet another rom-com set around a wedding, it draws unfavourable comparisons with the superior Bridesmaids, even recycling a couple of the same jokes.
I'm sure that in other reviews, a lot has been made over the central crux of the story, that Anna Faris's character worries she won't find a husband cause she has slept with 20 men.  Cue cries of "Whore", "Slut", etc yet if it the gender was reversed, no big deal.  I'm not going to be drawn into debate on sexism in the movies on this blog, my main problem with the number was that by trying to track down so many men, it doesn't leave any of them time to make any kind of lasting impression.  Actors like Andy Samberg and Martn Freeman are wasted, and there is a huge build up to the reveal of "the one that got away", so much that I weas expecting a major movie star cameo... but got some actor I'd never seen before, therefore not once placing the final outcome of the film in any doubt.

Chris was devastated to find out The Avengers had already been leaked online.
The central pairing generate some good chemistry and try to wring as many laughs as they can out of the script.  Faris is a talented comedienne who can normally work wonders with sub-par material (see The House Bunny) and Evans's stock continues to rise on the back of versatile roles in Sunshine, Scott Pilgrim and Captain America.
It's just a shame that the final film wasn't as the sum of its parts.

2 stars 

Abduction - review

Abduction, or "Ab-duction" would be appropriate thanks to Taylor Lautner's growing McConaughey-esque obsession of taking his shirt off in every film, will undoubtably end up in my Top Ten worst films of the year.
I am coining a phrase in this review, called a "Lau-botomy" which is the cinematic experience of physically feeling your IQ dropping because you are a watching a film so stupid it is making you dumber for having seen it.
I'm all for the odd dumb action movie like Con Air or Fast & Furious 5 but this form of stupid, lazy filmmaking is the exact kind of thing that Empire argued against following audience criticism of their negative review of Transformers 3.
Teenager Nathan Harper (Lautner) feels like a stranger in his own life (and to the profession of acting) and when working on a school assignment with neighbourhood crush Karen, he comes across his picture on a missing person's website. In a flash his life is turned upside down. His "parents are killed" and he is being chased by the CIA and creepy European killers as he tries to uncover his true identity.
Abduction, how terrible are you? Let me count the ways...
Let's start with Taylor "Jac-Abs" Lautner. A young lad who appears to have spent time training at the Joey Tribbiani and Derek Zoolander schools for kids who can't act and do other stuff good.
The photographs below give you an idea of his dramatic range...

"What's my phone number again?"

"Did I leave the gas on?"

"Blue Steel"
"Le Tigre"

I can't wait for him to drop Magnum on us...

Then we have Lily Collins who seemed like a nice girl but I was constantly distracted by the two Very Hungry Caterpillars that had taken up residence above her eyes...

The supporting cast that includes Sigourney Weaver and Alfred Molina happily cash their paycheques whilst sleepwalking through the film. In fact, the ONLY entertaining moment of the film, probably unintentionally, was when Jason Isaacs was kicking Lautner's ass. Sad I know, but these talented thespians unfortunately have nothing to work with from a script that has plot holes so big that you could even fit R-Patz's forehead through, and incredulous gaps in logic from the main characters.
At one point Nathan is in his real father's safehouse and finds a stash of money and weapons, things that might be useful when being chased by dangerous criminals, but decides to leave all those and just take a car that can easily be tracked. Oh, and on that point, the CIA have intercepted every phone call you have made, even from public payphones, but you think it is safe for Karen to call her parents from the phone in your dad's safehouse?! Or what about when they are told that a guy called Paul "Macguffin" is one of only two people they can trust? "We have to find Paul" says Nathan... and then this plot thread is promptly dropped from the film, never to be mentioned again.
It is indicitive of lazy filmmaking that when so little effort is put into the script, it reverberates to every other aspect of the production; acting, cinematography, score (plinky, plonky keyboard to hit emotional keynotes), etc to produce such a dull, turgid mess as this.
"Jac-abs" - please stick to Twilight. Hollywood and the makers of Abduction - I'm not expecting every action film to be Inception or Die Hard, but please, pretty please with sugar on top, try harder in future.

1 star