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News Reel (W/e 28th Aug 2011)

A weekly round up of movie news:

Dan Aykroyd says that the plan is to film Ghostbusters 3 in Spring of 2012 with or without Bill Murray.

 

Fast Five director Justin Lin signs a two year deal with Universal Pictures.

 

The Last Exorcism sequel is in development.

 

The Last Samurai’s Ed Zwick is set to direct a movie about The Great Wall of China.

 

Ip Man’s Donnie Yen has been offered a role in The Expendables 2.

 

Christian Bale will star in Terrence Malick‘s next film.

 

Gladiator’s Djimon Hounsou has joined the cast of Paradise Lost.

 

Universal shuts down production on McG’s Ouija.

 

Jonah Hill joins the cast of Neighbourhood Watch.

 

Christian Bale is in talks to play the villain in Spike Lee’s Old Boy.

 

 

Rise of the Planet of the Apes: ****

Running time: 105 mins  Certificate: 12A

Synopsis: Scientist Will Rodman is researching a cure for Alzheimer’s. He takes home Caesar a baby chimpanzee after its test subject mother is destroyed. Will discovers that the chimp shows levels of high intelligence. But after attacking a neighbour, Caesar is placed into an ape facility where he learns the struggle of his own kind.

 

An odd choice of a franchise to resurrect from the dead, since Fox’s last attempt was a critical failure. But Tim Burton’s underrated re-imagining of the classic Planet of the Apes did make a fair chunk of change at the worldwide box office over 10 years ago.

 

Now it is British director Rupert Wyatt’s turn after his impressive debut with the prison drama The Escapist. As with most of these reboots the decision has been made to start from the beginning and how the apes became the superior race of the Earth. This works incredibly well as we have been given a little back-story from the original and the mediocre sequels, but we now know the full extent to how these animals became so intelligent.

 

The pace of the whole piece is relentless without hindering the overall plot. Within the opening scenes we are treated to an escaped chimp running amok throughout the facility. Then to Caesar’s overall frustration in trying to becoming human and after being turned over to the ape facility learns that he is a completely different creature. These scenes have genuinely touching moments that will move the audience.

 

This could have failed miserably if it were not for the astounding performances not only from the ape performers, but also from AndySerkis who has become a CGI character genius. The emotion and physical expressions that he gives to Caesar are bewildering in that the character feels and looks incredibly real. It will be very surprising if he is not on the nomination list for Best Supporting Actor at next year’s Oscars.

 

Weta have created absolutely breathtaking special effects, whether it is the character of Caesar or the amazing finale of a full ape uprising in downtown San Francisco.

 

The human characters are almost as good as their animal counterparts. Tom Felton proves that there is more to his career than Harry Potter with another nasty evil juvenile character. John Lithgow gives a heartbreaking subtlety to the role of the father. James Franco shows that he could be the next eccentric male character actor to hit the big time after Johnny Depp. Only Freida Pinto fails to impress, but this may be due to her fairly underwritten role of the love interest.

 

Not only is the surprise of the Summer, it is also one of the films of year and possibly the best of the franchise. Please Fox do not take another 10 years to make a follow up and while your at it give the job to Wyatt.


Reviewed by Paul Logan 

Cowboys & Aliens: ***

Running time: 118 mins  Certificate: 12A

Synopsis: In Arizona, 1873, Jake Lonergan (Craig) awakes up with no memory, a strange wound and a  manacle on one wrist. He discovers he’s a wanted criminal and was abducted by demons. The people of Absolution’s have been kidnapped by these creatures. Jake with town boss Woodrow Dolarhyde (Ford) will try and rescue the town’s folk.

 

The in thing with Hollywood at the moment is mashing up different genres to give a slightly different viewing experience to audiences instead of doing the usual remake or sequel. A stellar cast, capable director and some heavyweight producers give the film some clout, but is it entertaining enough?

 

When the film was announced it sounded like it was going to be extremely fun, but unfortunately this is not the case. The plot like the title is pretty silly and should have been an amusing take on the Western genre. What we have here is a far out concept that is taken way to seriously for it’s own good. The decision to make this a serious action film rather than something amusing in the way of Snakes on a Plane, almost singlehandedly destroys the tone of the film completely.

 

The first half has to be said is pretty good and sets the story up well with a mixture of impressive effects, exciting action and a few funny scenes along the way. But once we meet the Native American characters the film falls apart with so many questions asked and very few answered. Why Jake is given a weapon by the creatures that can destroy them seems very stupid and poorly conceived. While the less said about the terrible plot twist in the middle the better.

 

The cast copes well with the limited material given to them . Craig makes an interesting heroic loner, while Ford seems to be relishing his first bad guy role since What Lies Beneath.  But Olivia Wilde seemes wasted with very mundane role. While Favreau has engineered a technically impressive and visually stunning blockbuster. It is also a vast improvement to his previous movie the terrible Iron Man 2.

 

Many Screenwriters took over ten years to come up with a workable script and it shows. Poorly developed and underwritten with too many secondary characters. The tone should have been lighter and funnier. Entertaining, but just nothing unique or exciting to recommend it. The fact it has been outsmurfed by those blue midgets says it all.

 

Reviewed by Paul Logan 

News Reel (W/e 21st Aug 2011)

A weekly round up of movie news:

Ridley Scott has signed on to produce  and direct a new Blade Runner movie.

Disney stops production on The Lone Ranger in order to review budget costs.

Watchmen’s Patrick Wilson has joined the cast of Ridley Scott’s Prometheus.

Disney•Pixar announces two new films involving dinosaurs & the human mind.

Bruce Willis confirmed for G. I. Joe 2.

Mike Myers in talks to return for Austin Powers 4.

Kevin Smith to release his ice hockey comedy, Hit Somebody in two parts.

RED’s Mary-Louise Parker joins the cast of R.I.P.D.

Tony Scott may direct a remake of The Wild Bunch.

Bradley Cooper has dropped out of the reboot of The Crow due to a conflict in his schedule. Channing Tatum & Mark Wahlberg are both listed as possible replacements.

Gérard Depardieu is accused of urinating on a plane.

Driver’s Nicolas Winding Refn may get to direct his Wonder Woman movie, if Logan’s Run does well.

Rosamund Pike joins Tom Cruise for One Shot.

Warner Bros. & Robert Downey Jnr. are developing a U.S.S. Indianapolis movie.

A new Toy Story short will debut with The Muppets.

Super 8 ****

Running time: 111 mins  Certificate: 12A

Synopsis: In the summer of 1979, a group of young friends in a small Ohio town witness a catastrophic train crash while making a super 8 movie and soon suspect that it was not an accident. Soon after, unusual disappearances and inexplicable events begin to take place in town, and the local Deputy tries to uncover the truth.

 

Director J.J. Abrams pays homage to one of his childhood heroes Steven Spielberg, with this coming of age monster movie that harks back to a golden time for cinema during the late 70’s and early 80’s.

 

The key influence here is Spielberg’s early classics Close Encounters of the Third Kind and E.T., but there is also a hint of Stand By Me especially in many of the kids’ scenes. It is set in a small suburb, features central characters that have personal issues that are causing problems within the family, there is a chase sequence with bikes and of course the creature is an alien. Even the look of the film has the auteur’s vision, with images made up of brown and yellow hue colourings.

 

Abrams has done an excellent job with the casting, especially with the kid actors some of which have never acted before onscreen. They are just so natural and emphasis the sense of childhood innocence during this time. The child characters are very stereotypical, but this harks back to early Spielberg films. There are no star names only minor ones which is great because it gives more focus to the story.

 

The story itself is extremely well written and paced with an even mixture of action and drama. Characters are throughly developed from all sides.

 

It does suffer when the big reveal is exposed in the last half hour of the film. Abrams has made a pretty awful looking monster which appears to be a left over design from Cloverfield with a little of the spider  creature blended in for good measure.

 

Even although the creature is a disappointment, the movie is captivating purely due to the children’s stories and the young actors themselves. In a Summer full of disappointments it is a relief that finally an entertaining event film has finally reached our shores.


Reviewed by Paul Logan 


Cars 2 **

Running time: 112 mins  Certificate: U

Synopsis: Lightning McQueen (Wilson) and his tow truck buddy Mater (The Cable Guy) travel to Japan to compete in the World Grand Prix. But Mater is mistaken by British spies Finn McMissile (Caine) and Holley Shiftwell (Mortimer) as an American agent and helps them with their latest mission.


Many Pixar fans regard the original 2006 film to be the weakest in the company’s impressive collection of animated features. Can a sequel improve on the previous story ?

 

Unfortunately directors John Lasseter and Brad Lewis have created Pixar’s first cartoon bomb. The central problem is the story and in particular the overuse of annoying redneck character Mater, who was really irritating in the first film and even more so here.

 

The writers really do not know what the film is supposed to be is it a spy story or like the original is it a racing movie. By fusing the two together the overall concept simply does not work. This must be the first time that Pixar have come up with a really bad story.

 

Then there are the new voices from Michael Caine, Emily Mortimer and Eddie Izzard who seem rather flat and lifeless, almost like they are just doing an interview on a talk radio show. There is just no enthusiasm or expression in the tone of their sppech. Only John Turtturo makes an impression as a arrogant Italian race car.

 

The animation as anyone would expect from Pixar is pretty spectacular and probably their best to date. It is just unfortunate that they chose to revisit a animated movie that was not great in the first place. Hopefully with the upcoming Brave they can show that the visuals and the storytelling are a return to form.

 

Reviewed by Paul Logan 

Tree of Life *****


Running time: 139 mins  Certificate: 12A

 

Synopsis:  On the anniversary of his brother’s death, an architect Jack O’Brien (Penn) remembers memories of his troubled  childhood in 1950’s Waco, Texas, with his  relationship with his strict father (Pitt) and caring mother (Chastain).

 

In just under 40 years, auteur Terrence Malick has only made five features within that time. Each one of these films has to be said are all exceptional with some of the best looking shots ever exposed on film.

 

For his latest film, Malick takes a personal subject (his younger brother committed suicide) and takes a whole new approach to making something which is slightly semi-autobiographical. It starts off with a serious of flashbacks remembered by Sean Penn’s character showing his earliest memories of his mother and father and the birth of his younger brother.

 

Then twenty minutes into the piece it ultimately turns into something different with not only showing the creation of a new life, but the creation of the universe and the big bang. With this follows a serious of stunning, bizarre and strange mixture of locations from galaxies, deserts and  prehistoric jungles. There is even a sequence involving a wounded plesiosaur lying on a beach, while another dinosaur comes along puts it’s foot on the neck of the other one and then moves on.

 

What is Malick trying to say in this sequence is unclear. Is it about existence or evolution or creation. One thing is for certain is that everyone who sees this film will have their own interpretation. 

 

Then we are taken back to Jack’s childhood and the relationship between him, his mother and his father. The mother figure provides the narration throughout, which ties in with the whole mother nature idealogy within the story. She is a kind, sensitive quiet soul who has to live with and endure her complex, bitter, disciplinarian husband. The couple are very much in love, but as the father takes more of his problems out on the children the marriage becomes strained.

 

Brad Pitt gives an astonishingly mature performance to his role and should certainly be considered for an Oscar nomination. Even although we as an audience tend to feel for the other members of the family more, there is some sympathy to be had for the father. The man has become disenchanted with his own life. His dream seems to have been becoming a musician, but he has failed in living up to that ambition and instead has resulted in working a mundane blue collar job. While it is not right that he takes his frustration out on his family, it is easy to see how he is feeling inside. 

 

The film has taken three years and five editors in order to make the finished piece. Mallick blends his stunning imagery with a mixture of classical music, which blends together beautifully.

 

While it is possibly Malick’s weakest film, in that at times it does not flow as well as it should and the ending feels like an abandoned television commercial. Tree of Life is also one of the most striking, well acted visually exciting films of the year. The movie will certainly split audiences, but given a chance is a very rewarding experience.

 

Reviewed by Paul Logan 


Hobo With A Shotgun: *

Running time: 82 mins  Certificate: 18

Synopsis: Homeless stranger (Rutger Hauer) rides the freight train into a hellish town run by Drake (Brian Downey) and his vicious sons.  When the hobo prevents one of Drake’s sons from hurting a prostitute he makes a citizen’s arrest, only to find the local cops are on Drake’s payroll.  The hobo buys himself a shotgun and starts serving his own brand of justice. 

 

This promised so much.  It’s called ‘Hobo with a Shotgun’ for a start.  What’s not to love about the title?  It stars 80’s action hero Rutger Hauer, whose CV includes ‘Wanted: Dead or Alive’ (Gary Sherman 1986), ‘Blind Fury’ (Philip Noyce 1989), and ‘Salute of the Jugger (David Peoples 1989).  The villain is played by Brian Downey from the deranged sci-fi show ‘LEXX,’ and there is plenty of gratuitous nudity and violence. Hauer even delivers a monologue about grizzly bears that I suspect he wrote himself.  Yet director Jason Eisener blows it. 

 

‘Hobo with a Shotgun’ replicates the experience of watching a grindhouse movie, but not in the way the filmmakers intended.  Angela Carter once wrote ‘the virtue of low art is it can transcend itself’ and some of the 70’s exploitation films do.  There is a mad kind of beauty in the best of them and some even try to say something about the human condition.  Yet the truth is most of these films were rubbish.  Like ‘Hobo with a Shotgun’ their premises, or trailers, or titles, or posters, would promise much more than the filmmakers had actually put on screen.  The best moment here is a cameo appearance by a bottle of J & B Whisky, a brand that seemed to specialise in sponsoring Italian exploitation films of the 70’s and would often turn up in blatant examples of product placement in Dario Argento movies and the ‘Black Emanuelle’ franchise. 

 

In recent years there has been an increase in pastiches of a particular style of filmmaking belonging to the past.  The obvious attraction of these movies for filmmakers is they allow them to pass comment on the politically incorrect thrills of the past while simultaneously replicating them.  Eisener doesn’t have the talent to do either.  ‘Hobo with a Shotgun’ is trash rather than trashy and there is a huge difference between the two. 

by Kevin Sturton

Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows Part II ***

Running time: 130 mins  Certificate: 12A

Synopsis:  Harry (Radcliffe), Ron (Grint) and Hermione (Watson) are still searching for the hidden Horcrux, while Voldemort (Fiennes) plans to attack Hogwarts and finally kill the boy wizard.

 

After 10 years, the popular saga comes to the end and a lot has been riding on this moment for the fans of the films and books. The movie picks up from the first part which in itself was a rather drawn out, dull and lifeless entity .

 

Part 2 succeeds in correcting the mistakes of the previous installment, but is still a bitter disappointment on what should have been a really exciting finish to the finale. The problem for the most part is David Yates, who directed the previous three films. He can make a movie look great visually, but when it comes to pacing it is just all over the place with a lot of the comedic moments being badly timed. Not to mention the ending where even though it is several years later, it appears that none of them have aged at all and look like they should be going back to school.

 

The story also has problems with very little interaction between the characters, apart from Harry and Voldemort. There is also too much going on plot wise with many questions being raised and various  cast members having very little to do, especially Robbie Coltrane who appears briefly in a few scenes but serves no real purpose to drive the story forward.

 

The deaths of various characters also seems strange as we only know they have been killed once we see their bodies lying in Hogwarts, there are no scenes where it shows how they have died.  The showdown between Harry and Voldemort is also a huge letdown, which amounts to nothing more than over extended fireworks fight between two wizards.

 

That is not to say that there are not some great moments. The opening involving breaking into Gringott’s Bank is generally exciting, a flashback revolving aroung Snape is interesting and Potter’s frantic search for the Horcrux in Hogwarts is thrilling. The special effects and sets are as usual quite spectacular and believe it or not the acting is probably the best in the series.

 

The franchise has never really recovered from the bar raised by Alfonso Cuarón‘s brillant take on Prisoner of Azkaban. By keeping with TV director David Yates, the producers have turned a promising series into unexciting effects driven movies.

 

Another problem is splitting the final book into two films which is understandable from a fan’s point of view, but it clearly does not work as a piece of cinema. It could have been made as a 2 1/2  hour film by reducing the story of part one to the first hour. In doing this it would have been more intense and exciting conclusion, than just an average run of the mill blockbuster.

 

 

 

Reviewed by Paul Logan 

Transformers: Dark of the Moon **

Running time: 154 mins  Certificate: 12A

Synopsis:  The between the Autobots and the Decepticons continues on Earth. Both sides discover that Optimus Prime’s predecessor, Sentinel Prime (Nimoy), has been located buried in the Moon Can Sam Witwicky (LaBeouf) and his new girlfriend help the Autobots save the world yet again?

 

The franchise made a promising start when it began four years ago with an over the top, but enjoyable action film that was quite faithful to the original cartoon series. Then director Michael Bay made a sequel which was dull, overlong, stupid, racist and included a Decepticon with a swinging pair of balls. Surely the third film would be an improvement, it could not be any worse than Revenge of the Fallen.

 

The answer to the question is yes it is better, but only slightly. The big problem with the film yet again is the duration, it is simply far too long and relies on too much exposition. The story is confusing, complicated and does not make much sense.

 

The acting is pretty bad as everyone will have come to expect from Shia LaBeouf, but he is not the only one. Megan Fox who played the girlfriend in the previous films has been replaced with former Victoria’s Secret model Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, who is absolutely terrible. There are manniquins in department store windows with more acting range. While the cameos bring the most fun with John Malkovich and Ken Jeong chewing the scenery. Frances McDormind in particular seems to be taking her role far too seriously with a very dramatic performance for a basic popcorn flick.

 

What should be commended for this film is the use of 3-D, which is the best since Avatar hit screens sometime ago. Somehow it makes the action far easier to follow and is worth it alone for the spectacular skydiving sequence. ILM have done another fantastic job with the special effects.

If the film had been significantly shorter it would have been more coherent and entertaining, but while it is better than the last one it is still pretty dull and definitely not one that meets the eye.

 

 

Reviewed by Paul Logan