Archive for June, 2012


Hanna is an American-European action thriller revolving around a 16-year-old who was raised by her father to be the perfect assassin after she is dispatched on a mission across Europe, tracked by a ruthless intelligence agent and her operatives.

Saoirse Ronan plays the sixteen year old girl at the centre of the movie and back in 2011 she was nominated for a number of awards, quite rightly, for her portrayal of the assassin. Right from the opening hunting scene you get a real sense of Ronan’s acting abilities and you know instantly that this is going to be a great performance from her. Hanna’s father, Erik Heller is played by Eric Bana and although he puts on a pretty convincing accent for his part in the film there is something very off putting about his on screen persona; this could be attributed to his character’s past but I think unfortunately it comes down to Bana himself (who I am not a fan of anyway after seeing him in The Hulk and being almost bored to tears watching The Time Traveler’s Wife). Cate Blanchett plays the villain pretty convincingly, she does seem like someone who you could really hate. And there’s a lovely moment where Jason Flemyng decides to pop up and inject a bit of humour into the film that is largely unexpected.

Hanna is quite a step away from what director Joe Wright is known for; he previously directed Pride & Prejudice and Atonement. His direction, however, is one of the most interesting aspects of the film. Every shot is clearly well thought through and the film just looks like a wonderful piece of artwork, the visuals are very very good. There is a sequence early on where Hanna, after thinking she has completed her mission, breaks out from where she is being held and her escape is so visually stimulating its incredible, the camera work, the effects: everything is detailed perfectly and it is a very fun sequence to watch. The film also has an underlying theme of fantasy and fairy tale (one of Hanna’s only forms of escapism comes in the form of a Grimm fairy tale book) and you really get a sense for that whilst watching. It’s not ‘in your face’ so much but when you notice it it really adds another layer to the film itself.

I would have liked to have seen more fight scenes and more action because at some times it did become quite dull and things seemed to take longer than perhaps they should have (Hanna’s friendship with the British girl she meets almost seems irrelevant) but when the action did take place and fights happened they were choreographed excellently. Eric Bana takes on four men in an underground car park type place and it is shot and fought really well. As for being a thriller it is good to see the seeds planted for the revelations at the end quite early on but I do think more back story would have been helpful to let the audience connect with the characters better.

Overall a very good film, the directing and the acting helps to overcome the sparse action sequences.

My Rating: 7/10.

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UK Release Date: 23rd November 2012.

Stars: David O. Russell (director), Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Robert De Niro, Julia Stiles, Chris Tucker.

Plot: After spending four years in a mental institution, a former teacher moves back in with his mother and tries to reconcile with his ex-wife.

This is the brilliant trailer for Silver Linings Playbook, a serio-comedy with a theme of mental illness. It must be one of the best looking films aesthetically to be advertised in a while as it is led by Bradley Cooper and the incredible Jennifer Lawrence. This is also the first film that Chris Tucker has appeared in for 15 years that isn’t a Rush Hour film which is good to see.

I think comedy films are possibly the most difficult films to advertise because you have to add in enough story for people to know what the film is about and you need to add enough good comedy to make people believe that they will be laughing from start to finish. The trailer for Silver Linings Playbook pretty much gets it spot on in my opinion; it seems obvious that a lot of the comedy is going to come from the social situations which the characters find themselves in but it could also be a touching story between Bradley Cooper’s character (Pat Solitano) and Jennifer Lawrence’s Tiffany.

Lots of films have trailers that make you laugh and then turn out to be pretty dull movies but I do think that we are yet to see the best of Silver Linings Playbook.

Some weeks go by when there is not a single thing happening in the movie world that I am bothered about and then all of a sudden three things come along at once:

 

First up, there is a new Van Helsing film in development! Before you question why this is good news, you first have to know that this will not be a sequel to the awful Hugh Jackman interpretation of the character back in 2004, this will be a complete reboot. The reboot is to be written by Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci, a writing pair that can boast hits such as Star Trek, Fringe, Alias, The Legend of Zorro, Mission: Impossible III, Transformers and, to a lesser extent, Cowboys and Aliens. Kurtzman has said that the reboot will be ‘grounded in reality’ and has high aims as he wants to ‘do for Van Helsing what [Christopher] Nolan has done for Batman’. The other piece of exciting news surrounding this project is who is attached to star as the title character: Tom Cruise. His career seems to have had its own little reboot in the last couple of years and he is being lined up to appear in everything, not that I’m complaining, I think he is a great person to watch and has a fantastic on screen persona. Van Helsing has no set release date yet with Cruise’s hectic schedule but a release of 2014/15 may be realistic.

 

Next up, Bourne! The Bourne trilogy is one of my favourites of all time, I think Matt Damon’s portrayal of super spy Jason Bourne is a character to rival any other and the storyline, the directing and the supporting cast are all fantastic. So when I heard that Damon and director Paul Greengrass would not be returning for fourth film The Bourne Legacy I was understandably disappointed. Then my disappointment faded with the announcement of Jeremy Renner becoming the lead role and playing Aaron Cross in what has been dubbed a ‘paraquel’ (the events take place simultaneously with the original Bourne trilogy). Frank Marshall, the producer of The Bourne Legacy has now said that it is his ‘dream’ to see Matt and Jeremy team up in the fifth installment. Of course, this is just a dream at the minute and Damon has fierce loyalty to director Greengrass and recently had a falling out with writer and new director Tony Gilroy but money talks and a huge payday for Damon could be in line if he was to return to the franchise which would be incredible!

Here is the incredible trailer for Renner’s The Bourne Legacy

And finally…

 

Marvel are riding high on the waves of success at the minute and a few months ago announced the line up for their next few films. among the regulars of Iron Man 3, Thor 2, Captain America 2 there were a couple of surprises with Marvel announcing two secret films. Immediately there was speculation that the 2014 secret movie would be a Black Panther origin story. Black Panther is one of my favourite characters in the Marvel universe and really does deserve a film and in the past week or so there has been no shortage of actors saying that they would love to be a part of the film. Anthony Mackie (The Hurt Locker, Abraham Lincoln:Vampire Hunter) said that he hoped to be a part of The Incredible Hulk but wasn’t and would sign on to Black Panther today; Brian J. White (Cabin in the Woods, Brick) has also said he would love to work with Marvel when he was linked with the role but I don’t think that he looks the part so I would count him out straight away; Aldis Hodge (Leverage) seems to be the current fan favourite out of people who have confirmed their interest in the role and just by looking at him you have to say that he does seem to be the perfect fit. I would still hope that Djimon Hounsou got the part but maybe Marvel will go for a lesser known and cheaper actor for the part.

(left to right) Fan favourite Aldis Hodge; Marvel superhero Black Panther; my pick Djimon Hounsou.

The Five-Year Engagement sees Jason Segel continuing to try and cement his place as one of Hollywood’s greatest comedy actors following The Muppets and Jeff Who Lives At Home with the help of writing partner Nicholas Stoller. Segel’s latest offering comes in the form of a romantic comedy when exactly a year after meeting Tom (Segel) proposes to his girlfriend Violet (Emily Blunt) but unexpected events keep on getting in their way as they attempt to tie the knot with one another.

With most films of this genre you get the same thing over and over again: boy meets girl, boy and girl fall in love, boy and girl split up, boy and girl get back together and live happily ever after. In The Five-Year Engagement what you get is an in depth look at the ins and outs of a stable relationship as it journeys through the ups and downs of life. I think that this is a great idea and shows that relationships don’t always run smoothly as plenty of other films would have you believe. I also believe that The Five-Year Engagement separates itself from other comedies aimed at an adult audience by being cleverer and, although we do get to see Jason Segel’s rear end on more than one occasion, a lot of the comedy is very well written and obviously well put together.

There is clear chemistry between the two leads of the film, Jason Segel and Emily Blunt which is obviously helped by their off screen friendship and the fact that the two of them have worked together previously. Segel puts in a great performance but I don’t think that we ever get to see the best of him like we have seen in The Muppets and television sitcom How I Met Your Mother. He is a very fine comedic actor though and brings out some good laughs here; I’m not a fan of Emily Blunt too much and at times her comedy efforts seemed a little forced. Also, her accent seems overly British even though it’s authentic, how weird is that?

The Five-Year Engagement starts off very well with some hilarious moments and really sets you up for what should be a laugh a minute film from start to finish. A lot of this is the emphasis put on the characters of Tom’s colleague and friend Alex (Chris Pratt) and Violet’s sister Suzie (Alison Brie). Whilst their relationship offers very little to the film as a whole their individual contribution to scenes are very well delivered. Chris Pratt is wonderfully funny in almost every scene in which he features and a particular scene featuring Pratt’s Alex delivering a presentation of Tom’s former girlfriends is my favourite part of the film and a brilliantly written and acted scene. Unfortunately, their characters seem to fizzle out and so does the film itself.

There is a reason that most romantic comedies are only an hour and a half long; the plot cannot sustain a two hour movie without lagging. The Five-Year Engagement does try and stretch over two hours and you would think that with five years of a relationship to tell then it would easily manage this without getting too boring. You would be wrong. It gets to a point where you think it could be coming to an end only to realise there is still about half an hour left and after a while the laughs become a sparse item. Don’t get me wrong, The Five-Year Engagement at times is hilarious and it is definitely a great romantic comedy with real stock in the lead characters but it tails off towards the end. It is still, though, definitely worth watching!

My Rating: 7/10.

Johnny Depp is not having the greatest time at the minute, both in the film world and in his personal life. He recently split from wife Vanessa Paradis and it has been reported by the Daily Mail that while the couple were still together Depp was getting close to ‘multiple women including his publicist’ and he has been romantically linked to The Rum Diary co star Amber Heard. He also looks set to have to pay Paradis a huge £100million in the divorce, but lets focus on his film career here.

Depp was once one of the most popular, consistent and versatile actors working in Hollywood and his back catalogue of films looks impressive: What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, Ed Wood, Edward Scissorhands, Sleepy Hollow, From Hell, Secret Window and Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl. It is a career that has seen Depp nominated for three Oscars in his time and despite not winning any just yet he has been praised as one of the best actors working today (a statement which I am in full support of). However, his career does seem to have taken a turn for the worse.

I think his decline started when he agreed to play Captain Jack Sparrow in more than one film because it is obvious to anyone who even has a passing interest in films that the Pirates franchise just keeps getting worse the longer it goes on and yet Depp continues to star in them. Despite that though, he still managed to churn out Public Enemies, Corpse Bride and Rango in between the doomed franchise. Yet these are just a few of his films, lets look at the rest.

Johnny Depp’s films used to be critically acclaimed every single time, it was one of the only certainties in life, along with the fact that Kristen Stewart will not smile and Russell Brand will never be a good actor. But in 2010, Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland, in which Johnny Depp starred as the Mad Hatter got very mixed reviews, a lot of them being negative. Despite this though, the film is the eleventh highest grossing film of all time! But then he teamed up with Angelina Jolie for The Tourist. The Tourist received negative reviews across the board. It was, however, nominated for Golden Globes for Best Comedy or Musical and Depp and Jolie received Best Actor and Actress nominations respectively. It was these nominations that saw the Golden Globes as a laughing stock that year because The Tourist is neither a comedy or a musical but is in fact a very bad film; when the nominees were announced to the press it is reported that the press room erupted with laughter at The Tourist‘s nominations.

The Rum Diary came in 2011 and was expected to be a hit with Depp at the centre of it. However, The Rum Diary also received negative reviews from critics and failed to make back even half of its relatively low budget $45million. It seemed that Depp’s box office draw was waning by now. Most recently Depp starred in Tim Burton’s Dark Shadows and even this film bombed at the box office, pulling in only a small profit. Depp’s next project is The Lone Ranger where he will be portraying Tonto but early reaction to the pictures of him in this role has not been overly positive and it could prove to be another flop.

And now, in the midst of all the trouble in his personal life, production on another future film of his The Thin Man, a noir remake of 1934 classic, has stalled. Apparently this delay is due to concerns with the budget, perhaps films are unwilling to finance Depp films as much as they once were. His box office draw does seem to be faltering slightly, there is no denying that and with Pirates of the Caribbean 5 set to be made with Depp still portraying Captain Jack Sparrow you do have to worry for the future of his career. Johnny Depp is often hailed as one of the best actors to never win an Oscar (not just by me) but he is in danger of going out with a rather large blemish on the end of his career. I, for one, hope that this proves to just be a blip and that he returns to golden form once again very very soon!

 

UK Release Date: 5th October 2012.

In 2008, Taken was a surprise hit and remains a very popular action film today; it saw Liam Neeson return to be among the most badass men on film and quite rightly so. However, what we have here in Taken 2 is a nominee for the most pointless sequel ever.

This time around the retired CIA agent Bryan Mills (Neeson) is on holiday with his ex-wife (Famke Janssen) and daughter (Maggie Grace). But both of these are kidnapped by the father of one of the thugs Liam Neeson killed in the original film.

The trailer for Taken 2 does what it needs to do; make it look exactly like the first film. Taken was a brilliant film so they just need to do the same thing again and they will have another hit on their hands and it looks like that is the route they have decided to go down. We are introduced to the story from both sides with a scene featuring the villains at the start and then Bryan Mills and his family arriving in Istanbul. It all goes wrong and his family are taken: cue Liam Neeson beating up loads of people.

I am pretty surprised that with the success of Taken this wasn’t released in summer as it does have the potential to have been a very good summer blockbuster. With the danger in making a sequel to a popular film though and the release of The Avengers, The Dark Knight, Prometheus, The Amazing Spider-Man perhaps the studio just didn’t want to compete with guaranteed money spinners.

If Taken 2 turns out to be anywhere near as good as the first film then it will be well worth a watch but please God do not let them make a Taken 3.

UK Release Date: 12th July 2013.

Monsters University is the upcoming prequel to the brilliant Pixar hit Monsters Inc. and while it may be over a year away from release, here is the first teaser trailer showing all your favourite monsters in their college days.

Monsters University is a look at the relationship between Mike (Billy Crystal) and Sulley (John Goodman) during their days at the University of Fear — when they weren’t necessarily the best of friends. Other characters are also set to return such as Randall (Steve Buscemi), Fungus (Frank Oz) and The Abominable Snowman (John Ratzenberger).

This is the first prequel that Pixar have ever done and they have chosen some very popular characters to do it with so they’d better get it right and let’s be honest, this is Pixar. About 95% of the time they get it spot on! The teaser does just that; it teases the audience with what to expect from their two heroes with a hilarious trailer and guarantees that things will be different to Monsters Inc. 

Pixar has Brave coming up later this year however anticipation for that film is not as high as some of Pixar’s previous releases and their previous offering of Cars 2 seemed to miss the spot with a lot of people but hopefully this is just a blip on their form and Monsters University will take Pixar back to being the undisputed kings of the animated film world.

Forbes has announced that the highest paid actress of the last year is Kristen Stewart; this is despite the fact that her acting abilities leave a lot to be desired and that she only has one facial expression. Perhaps, though, these reports will finally see Kristen Stewart being able to put a smile on that face of hers. This is no doubt going to cause some controversy with fans of actual actresses with talent like Angelina Jolie, Sandra Bullock or Julia Roberts (who also feature in the top ten) but if you look at the details, it makes sense.

Twilight, whether you like it or not (and for some daft reason a lot of people like seeing three non talented actors in lead roles of a Hollywood franchise), has become a huge worldwide success with Stewart in the lead role of Bella Swan. You can’t underestimate the importance of remaining consistent with actors and actresses in movies. Stewart is the main character in a huge Hollywood franchise and therefore is pretty much irreplaceable in many people’s eyes, meaning that a huge pay off is needed to keep her on board and stop other studios being able to tempt her away with a higher paycheck.

The list compiles the actress’ earnings between May 2011 and May 2012 and as well as having the Twilight series to promote Stewart has also proved that she can bring in the audiences without the help of Robert Pattinson or Taylor Lautner with Snow White and the Huntsman (although I do think that Chris Hemsworth and Charlize Theron were the main draw for the films success, not Stewart) and she was in the lead role yet again, taking a lot of the credit with the films strong success in the box offices.

Second place on the list might be even more surprising that first place: Cameron Diaz. Yes, she may be an experienced actress but what success has she had recently? Well Bad Teacher did surprisingly well at the box office (no doubt because Cameron was showing off her more raunchy side once more) and she took a pay cut on that in favour of a profit participation deal, a gamble that proved to pay off. She also collected a paycheck from What to Expect When You’re Expecting for which she was very highly paid reportedly so she is sitting pretty on top of a huge pile of cash right now I imagine.

The remainder of the top ten is as follows: Sandra Bullock, Angelina Jolie, Charlize Theron, Julia Roberts, Sarah Jessica Parker (seriously?!), Meryl Streep, Kristen Wiig and Jennifer Aniston. I was slightly surprised to see Jennifer Lawrence not on the list although I anticipate she will be featured very high up the rankings next year with her place in the new X-men franchise and The Hunger Games sequels likely to see her cashing in in the same way that Kristen Stewart has this year.

Kristen Stewart will be seen later this year in Twilight: Breaking Dawn – Part 2, the trailer for which is below:

Rock of Ages: Review.

Rock of Ages is the big screen adaptation of hugely successful stage musical of the same name featuring some of the biggest rock songs of the 1980s. Bringing musicals to the big screen isn’t anything new with Mamma Mia, Sweeney Todd: Demon Barber of Fleet Street and, later on this year, even Les Miserables all featuring in cinemas.

Rock of Ages is the story of a small town girl and a city boy who meet on the Sunset Strip whilst pursuing their dreams in Hollywood. Their love faces challenges with accusations of betrayal, self doubts and the threatened closure of famous rock club the Bourbon all playing a part in their relationship.

Tom Cruise is Stacee Jaxx; lead singer of huge rock band Arsenal and a stereotypical ‘sex, drugs and rock and roll’ rock star who has gone off the rails. Although, whilst the marketing of Rock of Ages will tell you this is a Tom Cruise film if you do go see it just for him then you will be disappointed. The main roles fall to professional dancer Julianne Hough and pretty boy Mexican actor Diego Boneta who are both actually really good to watch with a clear chemistry on screen and the two put in very enjoyable performances. Alec Baldwin, Bryan Cranston and Mary J. Blige all put in sustainable supporting performances whilst Catherine Zeta Jones puts in a performance that makes you question how you never found her annoying at all before this. Paul Giamatti is always reliable and does enough here as Stacee Jaxx’s agent. Russell Brand is awful; his accent constantly changing throughout the film, the delivery of his lines drier than the desert and his all round persona just stinking of desperation to be adored; whoever cast Brand in this film and keeps casting him in other films should really take a good hard look at themselves and ask them why they are doing this.

But it is the musical numbers that draw in fans of musicals and there are plenty of big songs featured in Rock of Ages: Journey’s Don’t Stop Believin,  Foreigner’s Jukebox Hero, Poison’s Every Rose Has It’s Thorn as well as We Built This City by Starship. And the musical numbers are executed very well, fantastic vocals, loud music that create a very real atmosphere and an enjoyable two or three minutes when the songs are on.

Unfortunately though, everything else that isn’t being sung is incredibly dull. A lot of the comedy is misplaced and falls flat and for a light hearted musical the laughs are a pretty important part to enjoyment. The characters are very two dimensional and the dialogue is poorly written and feels very forced at times. It’s a musical so you can look past how quickly people fall in love and form a relationship because that’s what musicals are all about; a sense of utopia. But poor dialogue, poor characters, poor storylines and an all round poor structure take away from the solid performances and good musical numbers because it’s just not enjoyable as a film.

Lots of video games and books that are turned into films are very criticised heavily leading to calls for books and video games to be left on their own platforms and I think the same needs to be said here. Big musicals do well because they include the audience, they make the audience feel like they are a part of the whole performance (something for which Rock of Ages, the stage musical, takes very seriously and is very well known for) and doing this is not possible with films, you do not get the full musical experience watching on a screen.

This is something that should have been left on the stage and, despite Tom Cruise’s involvement and a great soundtrack, all round fails as a film.

My Rating: 4/10.

3:10 to Yuma (2007) Review.

The western is the original genre of cinema. The first ever narrative film was The Great Train Robbery and was the western which began Hollywood’s long running obsession with cowboys and outlaws. However, with the uprising of science fiction and the superhero genre now becoming the leading money spinners in cinema modern westerns don’t usually do that well in the mainstream. 3:10 to Yuma, released in 2007, managed to make a small profit but didn’t pull up many trees, yet I think that this is a fantastic film that proves the western can still entertain.

3:10 to Yuma is the story of Dan Evans (Christian Bale), a war veteran who lost his leg and now struggles to keep his family on his ranch through drought and debt problems. When the infamous outlaw Ben Wade (Russell Crowe) finally gets captured and needs escorting to the 3:10 train to Yuma prison, Dan volunteers to take him for a price. Along the way Dan wins the respect of his son and finds a mutual respect and reluctant friendship with Ben Wade.

Directed by James Mangold, not a very famous director by any means, 3:10 to Yuma manages to capture the essence of the western very well; the visual direction of the film is very good. When people think of westerns they usually think of gunfight after gunfight but what you have here is a slow paced film but with a story and characters like these there is no danger of it ever becoming boring. Both Christian Bale and Russell Crowe put in fantastic performances and the character of Ben Wade is possibly one of the greatest antagonists I have ever seen; I think that his personality is a great one and rather than just being a badder than bad villain it becomes clear that he actually does have morals and he does have his own rules that he lives by, despite the fact that he runs one of the roughest gangs in the west. The conflict that arises between Evans and Wade is very interesting and watching the respect that these two men have for one another grow throughout their film and they confess secrets to one another is actually quite touching.

The supporting cast of Peter Fonda, Alan Tudyk and Gretchen Mol all do a good job with what they are given but Ben Foster who plays Ben Wade’s right hand man Charlie Prince is absolutely fantastic and brings a real sinister side to his character. Rising star Logan Lerman puts in a shift as Evans’ son and fan of Ben Wade and it is clear to see that he has real potential as an actor.

Throughout 3:10 to Yuma there isn’t that much action with the real emphasis based on the interactions between Dan Evans and Ben Wade as I mentioned earlier but when there is action it is very good. There is a scene at the mines where Evans’ group rescue Ben Wade from torture that goes down very well and the final shootout is brilliant. People are dropping like flies during the final gunfight when Evans races to get Wade onto the train and the ending is pretty much as perfect as it could be.

3:10 to Yuma is by no means the best film ever but since the first time I saw the western it has been on my list of favourite films.

My Rating: 8/10.