Monday, 29 September 2014

The Equalizer - review

Only in Hollywood can Edward Woodward turn into Denzel Washington.

And that's precisely what happens in this Hollywood big screen reboot of the Eighties TV series about a former Intelligence Agent who, like fellow Eighties heroes The A-Team, The Incredible Hulk and The Littlest Hobo, helping people with their troubles.

It is obvious from the slow build beginning that Washington's Robert McCall is not just a quiet, solitary man who works in a hardware store. There is the spotless apartment, his regimented and disciplined lifestyle and inability to sleep which results in late night reading and chats with young prostitute Teri in an all-night diner.

Their discussions are framed like a live action version of Edward Hopper's Nighthawks and it is an act of violence upon Moretz's Jodie Foster like hooker that ignites the fire within and causes McCall to go full Travis Bickle on her pimp and the Russian mobsters that follow.

And in one of the biggest signposting moments since Ripley demonstrated how she could use a power loader, Denzel spends several scenes working in Home Depot... Gee, I wonder where the big showdown will take place?

Denzel goes through the motions as the quiet hard man with a heart of gold who looks cool while walking away from explosions in slow mo but what is lacking here is Tony Scott's hyper-kinetic visuals and flair that would have made this more than equal to the likes of Man On Fire and Unstoppable.

Still, it looks like it will do well enough at the box office to merit a return from Robert McCall in The Sequelizer!

2 stars

Maps To The Stars - review

In 2001, David Lynch took his pilot for a failed TV series set in Hollywood and turned it into the five star masterpiece Mulholland Drive.

This year, another director called David visits Hollywood and the result is a nightmare worse than the one that befalls Diane Selwyn.

Maps To The Stars is a complete and utter mess that, unlike Mulholland Drive feels like a rambling TV pilot full of subplots which go nowhere, characters that disappear without any resolution and Julianne Moore doing her very best Lindsay Lohan impression.

And like Lohan, it is vapid, shallow and a complete waste of talent. This Map To a the Stars ends in a review that gets only one.

1 star

Sunday, 28 September 2014

The Warriors - review

Edgar Wright once remarked on Twitter that "it is never too late to see a film" and this week at the Belmont, 25 years after release, I finally saw The Warriors come out to play.

From the moment that Barry De Vorzon's electro-funk score kicks in during the opening scene which sees scores of New York City gangs assemble and make their way towards a big meet in the Bronx, I was completely on board this train and ready for the ride.

The plot is simple but effective. A gang called The Warriors are framed for the murder of a gang chief and must try to make it all the way from the Bronx back to their home in Coney Island in one piece.

Kickstarted by a DJ sounding out a call to arms with the song "Nowhere To Run", it sets the scene for a number of showdowns between the various "boppers" including the iconic looking Baseball Furies and a bathroom stall fight that must have served as inspiration for one of the battles in Wright's The World's End.

It might not have the same visceral impact when compared to modern day cinematic violence but what it does have in spades is a real sense of machismo, swagger, cool and James Remar spouting lines like "I'm gonna shove that bat up your ass and turn you into a Popsicle".

It took 25 years to see The Warriors but it won't be another 25 before I see it again as I'm already sourcing my leather waistcoat and moving to Coney Island.

4 stars

Saturday, 27 September 2014

20,000 Days On Earth - review

This is not your typical rockumentary. This is more like "a day in the life of a rock star" but specifically the 20,000th day in the life of Nick Cave.

Prior to viewing this film, my knowledge of Nick Cave amounted to a) He is Australian b) he lives in Brighton c) wrote the screenplay and score for The Proposition and d) duetted with Kylie Minogue (a fact that Cave admits brought him a lot of new attention that was short lived when people heard the rest of his stuff).

However you can go into 20,000 Days On Earth with zero knowledge or a PHD in Caveology and there is still so much to admire and enjoy as it paints a lyrical and poetic portrait of a musical icon and the man behind it.

It exposes his songwriting and recording process with a performance of "Higgs-Boson Blues" and also lays bare his soul in a series of confessionals with his psychiatrist, band member Warren Ellis, archivists plus Locke-style conversations with the "are-they or aren't they there" Kylie and the floating head of Ray Winstone.

This brief but brilliant glimpse into Nick Cave's mind culminates in an incredible performance of Jubilee Street at the Sydney Opera House which cuts together 20,000 days of performing into one show-stopping number.

Whether a lifelong fan or casual newcomer, 20,000 Days On Earth will plant the (bad) seed that will see Cave's music play a role in another 20,000 days for many people in the future.

5 stars

Thursday, 25 September 2014

Dark Bunny Tees - Moon T Shirt Review

Back in May 2012, I wrote an article for Clothes On Film called Moon: The Double Meaning of Sam Rockwell's Costume Design.

It looked at how certain elements of the character Sam Bell's costumes took on different meanings as the story unfolded.

Safe to say that the article goes into a lot of detail, much of which could be classified as *SPOILERS* so I won't repeat it here. However please do check out the full article here if you are interested.

One particular item of clothing came in for a lot of examination and that was the "Wake Me When It's Quitting Time" tee that Sam wears in the opening montage and makes a reappearance later on.

Safe to say I was over the Moon (get it?), when Dark Bunny Tees announced they were releasing the t-shirt as part of their new range following their recent website redesign (which also includes this fantastic Guardians Of The Galaxy baseball tee).

24 hours after ordering it online the tee arrived and upon opening the package, discovered in an incredibly nice touch that it had been vacuum-sealed in a "Dark Bunny Industries" logo envelope similar to Lunar Industries.

Out of the packaging, the attention to detail in recreating the design is spot-on and a terrific t-shirt perfect for any Moon or film fan.

It's already been included in my Sam Bell ensemble featuring a home made Sarang Mining Facility jacket complete with the patches from the film.

Hopefully one day Dark Bunny Tees will get to produce a Lunar Industries one to complete the outfit.

I can highly recommend Dark Bunny Tees to anyone looking for a cool, referential t -shirt of their favourite movie.

You have to admire Alex, the man behind the bunny, and his designs which are so much more than just the boring, studio-produced movie tees you find in HMV, etc.

They let you subtly display your love of movies, television (or even the odd Twitter craze #Ruffalomboand the enjoyment of exchanging that knowing nod and a wink when somebody recognises it or gets the reference.

Plus he gets infinite kudos points for producing a t-shirt based on my favourite film of the year Snowpiercer when it hasn't even been released in the UK yet and only seen by people who have imported the French blu ray.

So check out the website and get yourself a cool tee pronto. You'd be hopping mad not to... you know, because of the bunny reference... never mind.

The Riot Club - review

The Riot Club, as explained in a 16th Century prologue, is a club set up to celebrate the life of Lord Riot, a student at Oxford University, who lived life to such a success that it got him killed. Formed by his friends, and passed down through the generations, each year ten students take part in all sorts of bad behaviour and partying that culminates in an annual dinner where anything goes and normally does before they pay for the damage and waltz off into the sunset.

This particular year however, things take a particularly dark turn when events spiral out of control leaving the Club in a hold that their money, privilege and connections might not be able to dig them out of when they attack an innkeeper who wants to throw them out when they wreck the joint.

The performances are all first class and the really, really, really ridiculously good looking young Brits completely convince as a group of posh tossers.

Hmmmm, a group of posh, rich, self-entitled (probable Tory voting) Englishmen using their wealth, power and influence to beat a Scot into submission.

Sound like anything that happened recently?

Well without any further comment, let me just leave this picture of the Bullingdon Club which is apparently the inspiration for the film and play (called Posh) on which it is based.

However the most shocking thing about The Riot Club is not the money or the excessive drinking and partying. It is actually a conversation between new member Miles and his Fresher girlfriend Lauren.

He remarks that he was named after Miles Davis because his parents were listening to the music when he was conceived. Lauren replays that it is lucky her parents didn't do the same because she would have probably been named after Gary Barlow!

Initially dismissed as rubbish, the horrifying fact is that an 18 year-old Fresher would have actually been born in 1996 during the peak of Take That's success. It really makes you feel old.

The Riot Club, not helped by the trailer, starts off promising near Caligula-levels of debauchery but the end result is more akin to a season finale of Skins or Geordie Shore.

3 stars

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

A Walk Among The Tombstones - review

A Walk Among The Tombstones, a private detective story based on a novel hence the 1999 setting, spends a lot of time trying to develop Liam Neeson's character by having traits like "doesn't like modern technology", "hero cop turned retired P.I." and "recovering alcoholic" but thanks to a scene which feels shoehorned in, all it does in reinforce the idea that Neeson is at his best when threatening people over the phone.

It also tries to develop a plot line involving a young, homeless sidekick/partner which doesn't entirely convince given the character's loner status.

It starts off promisingly with a credit sequence that evolves from innocent to chilling but this is nothing more than an average thriller, which following The Guest could have benefitted from more Dan Stevens.

3 stars

Monday, 22 September 2014

What We Did On Our Holiday - review

A family featuring exasperated adults and smart mouth children conjugates on a Highlands residence for a patriarchal birthday celebration where all sorts of secrets come tumbling out of the closet.

That's right. Welcome to Outnumbered meets Festen!

The tone of this comedy-drama lurches too quickly between farce and melodrama meaning that many of the film's more emotional and dramatic beats are lost in favour of a cheap gag, resulting in a rather uneven mess.

That being said the performances are good (particularly Connelly) with a strong family dynamic existing between the actors and there are many gags which do hit the mark.

Plus there is the sight of David Tennant rushing down a beach in search of a potential crime scene that makes one imagine just for a second that this could become Broadchurch 2: Broaderchurch.

It feels more like a Sunday night BBC hour long special than a feature film but in all its just a harmless bit of fun revolving around secrets, lies and arguments. Which kind of sums up every family holiday doesn't it?

3 stars

Magic In The Moonlight - review

A magic trick instantly loses its appeal when you can work out how it's done but it should entrance you and dazzle you so much that you aren't paying attention enough to notice.

Unfortunately the central casting of Colin Firth, as an incredibly obnoxious and unlikeable magician, and Emma Stone, a vapid medium who has less character than the sprits she claims to speak with, fails to create that magic resulting in very little chemistry (not helped that he is old enough to be her father).

Any potential love for this new slice of Woody Allen fades quicker than a non-existent spirit returning to the other side.

2 stars

The Giver - review

The Giver is the story of a society that following a non-descriptive event known as "The Ruin" live in a Utopian community where there is no war, pain, suffering or choice due to them erasing the memories of the past and living by a series of rules which include "don't lie" and "use precise language" which presumably means no txt speak.

The eponymous Giver of the title is played by Elder Jeff Bridges who is The Keeper Of Memories, the only one in the community to have knowledge of the past, and is tasked to pass on the truth behind the society and his Dude-like wisdom to The Receiver via a series of unintelligible grumbles and vivid flashbacks.

The film might be based on a 1993 novel but suffers from a lack of originiality as it comes across as an amalgam of other science fiction stories and films like The Island, The Village and Logan's Run.

They say it is always better to give than to receive so it is recommended that you give this film a miss.

2 stars

A Most Wanted Man - review

"What is this Tinker Tailor Soldier C*nt?" as Malcolm Tucker would so eloquently ask.

Sadly not.

Despite being based on another John Le Carre novel and featuring one of Philip Seymour Hoffman's final on screen performances, this politically-charged espionage (I'm not going to call it a thriller as it is anything but) is painfully slow, unengaging and full of characters who only receive the very broadest of sketches.

Hoffman, who once again proves incapable of delivering a bad performance even if the film itself does not match his excellence, is the only reason to watch this tired and drab spy film which feels like A Most Unwanted Man.

2 stars

Thursday, 18 September 2014

The Boxtrolls - review

Coming off of a summer that had The Daily Telegraph's Robbie Collin asking "Has there been a worse year for kids films?", surely The Boxtrolls will go some way to redress the balance.

The latest film from Laika, the people behind Coraline and Paranorman, and has the same look, feel, charm and wit of its predecessors.

Starting with a cold open and a snatched child, we are launched into the world of Cheesebridge. Only the child has not been snatched by Snatcher (voiced with relish by SIR Ben Kingsley), a creepy figure who resembles the Child Catcher from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, but the evil vicious BoxTrolls who live under the streets of the city of Cheesebridge.

However all the stories about these monstrous, flesh eating trolls might be more fiction than fact and instead these "disgusting creatures" that many, including C-3PO, can't abide actually have more in common with Jawas.

They communicate in a similar language and are obsessed with junk and what they can create from it. All that's missing is a cry of "Utinni!".

Plus they actually raised the baby they took as one of their own and "Eggs", as he is known, will play a central role in a power struggle both above and below the surface.

The voice cast is very British and very good and helps to consolidate and bring out the best in its old-school fairy tale quality.

With so many companies opting to use CGI for their animated films, stop motion is sometimes seen as an old, tired medium that is too costly and time consuming, destined to end up on the scrap heap but as The Boxtrolls show, one person's junk is another's treasure.

4 stars< /b>

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

The Guest - review

I had never seen Dan Stevens in anything before. Not even his most famous role as a member of the Abbey which just shows that I am not Downton with the kids.

I imagine however that it will be difficult to avoid him over the next few years as his role (and pitch-perfect American accent) in The Guest is likely to propel him to stardom and certainly get offered all the roles that Ryan Gosling would get before his break from acting.

The Guest, with its plot of a soldier who returns from a mission to check on and help the family of a fallen comrade but might not be everything he seems has the makings of a modern take on the 80's genre movies but to say which genres would be spoiling the fun as the film veers off into completely unexpected (but entirely welcome) directions.

There are hints along the way (the opening title font, the synth score, the mention of a location that will ultimately serve as the host for its demented climax) but what sells it is Stevens' ice-cold but charming performance that puts the audience on his side and has it rooting for him all the way, even if he may not be exactly what he says he is.

It might not find its ideal audience at the cinema but this is a Grindhouse-classic in the making that will become a very welcome house Guest on DVD in years to come.

5 stars

Monday, 8 September 2014

Pride - review

Pride is based on the true story of a group called LGSM (Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners) who did exactly that during the 1984 strike by raising money for a Welsh mining town that was suffering at that time.

The film packs a lot into its 120 minute running time.

There is the main thread which looks at the similarities and differences between the two groups and their persecution at the hands of the government and media at that time and how they must overcome any feelings of prejudice to join together.

It also features several subplots for its large ensemble cast which include:

Closeted young man forced to come out to unapproving parents, a return to home in Wales for reconciliation with parent not seen in 15 years, dealing with a potential HIV/AIDS diagnosis, getting a close-knit small town to accept outsiders, a mother learning to make more of herself in terms of employment, etc, etc.

It is difficult for each individual story to get the screen time and closure it needs but most of them are given the appropriate weight due to fantastic ensemble acting from the Pride of Britain including Paddy Considine, Bill Nighy, Imelda Staunton, Andrew Scott, George Mackay and Ben Schnetzer.

There is not a weak link in the chain which is exactly what you need in a fight against enemies such as politicians, police, press and prejudice.

Not only is Pride suitable for Miners but it is suitable for anyone looking for a feel-good film this year.

4 stars

The Hundred-Foot Journey - review

Slum Hot Dog Millionaire? Slumdog Millionaire Shortbread?

Just two of the alternative titles I came up with to describe this culture-clash movie which sees an Indian family (including a cook with incredible skill and potential) open a restaurant in a small French town opposite a Michelin-star restaurant owned by Dame Helen Mirren's Madame Mallory.

As light and fluffy as a soufflé (or naan bread), the film works best when it is focuses on the rivalry between the two owners and restaurants as they battle to get the upper hand.

Careers, business and emotions rise quicker than freshly baked croissants but it rushes its final act, including an implication of a drinking problem by having a glass of red wine in every scene, and the end result is slightly undercooked and lacking the necessary spice.

3 stars

Sunday, 7 September 2014

Before I Go To Sleep - review

In Before I Go To Sleep, following a vicious attack Nicole Kidman's character suffers from amnesia that causes her to forget everything she has learned that day, thus starting from scratch again each morning.

Her only real source of help is a digital camera in which she records important information.

I bet that Memento's Leonard Shelby is really annoyed they didn't have them back in 2000 when he was stuck using post it notes and tattoos!

The story has a great hook of someone trying solve a crime like to piecing together a jigsaw puzzle when you don't know how many pieces are involved or what the final picture looks like.

However you yourself could be suffering from short term memory loss and still be able to work out the twists and turns that appear during the third act.

The irony is that while the movie is an enjoyable thriller, it is ultimately rather forgettable and will begin to fade from memory as soon as you leave the cinema.

3 stars

If I Stay - review

Like the EMTs that were attending to Mia Hall and her family following the crash that puts the events of If I Stay in motion, I didn't hold out much hope for this film based on yet another Young Adult novel.

Cut to 107 minutes later and I found myself surprisingly moved by this tale of a young girl dreaming of becoming a cello player at Juillard who experiences an out-of-body experience whilst in a coma and reflects on her life and relationships with her family and rocker boyfriend to decide whether or not to stay alive.

I know the exact moment any resistance to what could have been an incredibly mawkish and overly sentimental film faded away, and it was when Stacy Keach delivered a moving and emotional speech to Chloe Moretz's Mia by her bedside telling her it was ok to let go.

From that point on, I was completely on board with the story and furthered by strong performances from Moretz, Mirielle Enos and Joshua Leonard as her rocker parents and Jamie Blackley as her boyfriend Adam.

There is the odd minor bum note (like when Moretz's head is rather obviously CGI-d onto the body of someone else playing the cello) but otherwise this is worth staying to the end for.

3 stars

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

To Catch A Thief - review

Strange to think that Alfred Hitchcock is one of my all-time favourite directors yet I had never seen To Catch A Thief in all its Vistavision glory before but that glaring omission was rectified thanks to the recent re-release from Park Circus.

Hitchcock's tale of sun, sea, seduction and stolen jewels on the French Riviera is enough to banish every memory of the last time I saw "Grace Kelly" in France in the awful Grace Of Monaco.

Grace Kelly simply shines as the daughter and heiress of a target for the cat burglar that Cary Grant's smooth former thief is trying to catch in order to clear his name.

Hitchcock has always been more recognised for his darker films such as Psycho and Vertigo but they always had a sense of humour (however black) and this is "Hitch" at his most light and playful.

The chemistry between Grant and Kelly is simply delightful and their flirtatious wit and dialogue sparkles more than any diamond "the cat" might steal.

4 stars

Mystery Road - review

The Australian Outback certainly seems to be the destination hotspot for movies this year with The Inbetweeners and The Rover both making Tracks down that Mystery Road.

An aboriginal cop returns to his home town to find that drugs and racism are running rampant and his first case, investigating the death of a young girl, could set him on a collision course with his fellow cops in a tale of drugs, prostitution, corruption and murder that makes L.A. Confidential or Chinatown seem straightforward.

The cinematography is stunning at times, Aaron Pedersen gives a strong lead performance and is backed up with menacing support by Hugo Weaving who's motives are never clear.

It starts off very promisingly but threatens to collapse like an undercooked soufflé at the end, with more loose ends than The Big Sleep, and a shoot out with unintentionally silly deaths with sound effects that resemble a GTA game.

In the end Mystery Road is very similar to the Australian outback in which it is set. It's harsh, unforgiving, seems to go on forever and will leave you with a feeling of emptiness.

3 stars

Monday, 1 September 2014

Sex Tape - review

Yesterday this was just a feature length Apple product placement advertisement disguised as a bawdy comedy.

Today Sex Tape is a cautionary tale and horror movie.

Following the news that a hacker stole and "leaked" naked pictures of celebrities including Jennifer Lawrence, this has become the most unintentionally socially relevant film release of all-time.

No one comes out this film smelling of roses, whether it be Cameron Diaz or Jason Segel and their awkwardly airbrushed youthful faces in the opening segment but especially Apple with many people watching it as an instructional video of how to understand the "f*cking mystery" that is "The Cloud" rather than entertainment.

While it misses its intended mark as a comedy, it does have some valid points to make about the current trend for sex tapes and "leaked" footage and the damage it can cause. At one point Diaz's character correctly states "they won't even be looking at you (referring to Segel) they'll all be looking at me" in that despite it taking two to tango, it is sadly the woman who will predominately be "slut-shamed" over her involvement and receive the brunt of the abuse.

However, and this just proves what a pedantic film geek I actually am, the most frustrating thing about the film was when you finally get to see the sex tape in question, that was filmed on ONE iPad, it features and cuts between several different angles that is impossible to do!

Diaz, Segel and everyone else involved will probably end up viewing this film like an actual sex tape. Seemed like a fun idea at the time but turned out to be a horrible mistake that should be erased from existence.

1 star

The Keeper Of Lost Causes - review

A perfectly reasonable Scandi-crime thriller with its fair share of thrills, twists and turns but feels identikit to the likes of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo and The Killing

Based on the first of a series of books by Jussi Adler-Olsen about a homicide detective who is reassigned to Department Q, a dead-end job working through old cases with a new partner, it feels like the feature-length pilot episode of a new TV series rather than a cinematic effort.

Still, there is enough promise here to suggest more big screen outings for The Q Files.

3 stars