Archive for May, 2013


Deciding what films to see this month is going to be one tough task. With big blockbusters being released as well as lower budget story heavy features. There’s something for everyone to go and see in June.
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The Stone Roses: Made of Stone – 5th June

Shane Meadows’ documentary about the Manchester rock band is a must see for any fan!
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After Earth – 7th June

I remain unconvinced by this but Will Smith guarantees box office success whether the film is good or not.
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The Iceman – 7th June

The first of two Michael Shannon films released this month; praise has already been high for his performance here as Richard Kuklinski.
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Man of Steel – 14th June

And Michael Shannon plays the villain in Warner Bros. latest attempt to reboot arguably the most boring superhero ever created. Guaranteed box office smash and looks to be the Superman film people have been crying out for.
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Much Ado About Nothing – 14th June

If like me, you are a fan of Marvel and Shakespeare (I appreciate that isn’t a cross section many people anticipate) then Joss Whedon’s take on the famous Shakespeare play is a must see. With Clark Gregg and Nathan Fillion this is the modern sci-fi fan’s biggest wet dream.
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World War Z – 21st June

All the hype so far has been about the poor CGI and uninteresting posters. It’ll be interesting to see if Brad Pitt still has box office appeal – I’m not so sure.
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Despicable Me 2 – 28th June

If you’ve been to the cinema a lot lately you’re probably sick of seeing the teasers for this film, but you have to admit, it does look pretty good. And everyone loves those little minions!
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This is the End – 28th June

James Franco. Seth Rogen. Emma Watson. Jonah Hill. That guy from Pineapple Express and Hot Tub Time Machine. The funny one from Parks and Recreation. Milky Way. I want to see this.

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With the success of Skyfall and Sam Mendes’ direction it appears that the James Bond franchise is now in an enviable position. For the first time in a few years, the director’s chair on the next Bond film is a coveted seat indeed and so far, only A-list directors are being linked to the role. So let’s take a look at the possible candidates…
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SAM MENDES

Bond 23, or Skyfall if you want to call it by it’s proper name, broke into the top ten highest grossing films of all time and was loved by audiences and critics alike. Part of that reason was the direction which was masterfully handed by Sam Mendes. Early reports suggested that Mendes had refused to return for Bond 24 but if you believe what you read, Mendes is right back in the frame and surely should be the first choice.

What to expect if Mendes directs? Brilliant character development and lots of Oscar buzz but no Oscars.
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CHRISTOPHER NOLAN

From Memento right through to The Dark Knight Rises, every one of Nolan’s films has been critically acclaimed. The Dark Knight, under Nolan’s supervision, is arguably the best film of recent years and one of the best of all time. A technically gifted director who puts a great deal of thought into everything he does, if he gets his usual team of Jonathan Nolan and Wally Pfister together again, it could be a masterpiece.

What to expect if Nolan directs? Bond will either be dreaming, a twin or… Michael Caine.
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ANG LEE

Ang Lee hasn’t had it all his own way since he began making films in Hollywood but he does hit more often than he misses. Sam Mendes became the first Oscar winning director to direct a Bond film, how do you top that? Employ a man who has two Oscars. Brokeback Mountain and Life of Pi both won Lee the Oscar for Best Director and would no doubt keep Bond at the elevated status Mendes has now given him.

What to expect if Lee directs? A touching love story between Bond and Q.
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NICOLAS WINDING REFN

Perhaps the least recognisable name on this list among mainstream audiences, Refn has had an extremely good few years. Since Pusher Refn has received critical acclaim and his 2011 film Drive became an instant classic and was loved for its character development and theme heavy plot. However, his most recent effort Only God Forgives has divided early audiences with its controversial content.

What to expect is Refn directs? Brutal fight scenes leaving Bond scarred for life on every limb.
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BEN AFFLECK

Affleck has not been linked with the director’s role… until now! Since shifting his focus from acting to directing Affleck has become hot property. Gone Baby Gone, The Town and the Oscar winning Argo have won Affleck a lot of fans, with his oversight for a nomination at the Oscars being one of the most controversial topics surrounding the ceremony this year.

What to expect is Affleck directs? Bond 24 to win Best Motion Picture but Affleck to not even be nominated.
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epic Review

Epic. Never has a summer blockbuster been so ambitiously named. After one of the most exciting and visually astounding trailers of the year so far, anticipations are set high for the latest Blue Sky outing. With a voicing cast including the likes of Amanda Seyfried, Jason Sudeikis, Josh Hutcherson, Christoph Waltz and Beyonce Knowles, could the one hour, forty minute journey into the forest live up to the hype of a two minute trailer?

On the one day in a hundred years where Tara (Knowles), Queen of the forest, is set to select her heir an evil group known as the Boggans, led by Mandrake (Waltz) intend to kill her and destroy the forest in order to take complete control. The Leafmen are the group charged with the order of stopping the Boggans but in particular the soldiers that have to carry that weight belong to the incredibly uncharismatic Ronin (Colin Farrell) and rookie Nod (Hutcherson) with the help of a human girl, M.K (Seyfried) who gets shrunk down to two inches tall Alice in Wonderland style in order to save the forest.

No time at all is wasted in introducing the miniature world of the forest and the ongoing battle as three birds tussle in the sky with Nod and the little bird that he rides. Then the real life sized world comes into play with M.K arriving to live with her mad scientist father (Sudeikis) and you get the feeling that there is going to be a strong father-daughter relationship at the centre of this animated war film but when it ends there seems to be a great gaping hole where the human emotion of the film should have been.

It’s a film that lacks any intensity at all. For a film where the whole of the forest seems to be at stake you would expect that there is at least going to be a huge battle at the end but alas, this is not the case. The one time you think you will get to see a huge fight it is cruelly ripped away from you and you are forced to travel with the more boring companions on the quest.

There is a little humour provided in the form of a slug and a snail voiced by Aziz Ansari and the wonderful Chris O’Dowd respectively. And there’s a nice little musical number about halfway through the film in an attempt to lift the film more upbeat from its second act which is certainly lacking any determination at all.

The only thing that comes remotely close to being epic are the brief action sequences. The animation during the fight scenes does stand out as some of the best animation in recent years and the action scenes are full of potential and wouldn’t look out of place in Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy (although the fact that its animated might make it stick out a little).

There are some laughs, good fight scenes and another great (if underused) turn by Christoph Waltz. You cannot doubt that Epic will find an audience as it is enjoyable at times, but it does feel someone’s followed a dot-to-dot for making a children’s animated film and decided to miss out the dots that contain heart and emotion.

My Rating: 6/10

With the introduction of Dwayne Johnson in Fast Five, this franchise cemented its place as a must see film among the summer blockbusters; something for die hard action fans. After the commercial and critical success of the fifth installment it left fans wondering just how Fast & Furious 6 would top it? The solution: add a tank, add an aeroplane, bring back Michelle Rodriguez and just generally up the stakes. So what of the result?

“Give them a reason to stay.”

Fast & Furious 6 struggles to find its feet for a while, it’s as if the franchise isn’t quite sure how to better itself or what direction to take. Is it supposed to up the ante with the action sequences or focus on the family side of things and Brian O’Conner’s (Paul Walker) newborn baby. As a result the two strands of action and emotion are ruthlessly combined and don’t quite pack the punch expected, leaving Vin Diesel, Michelle Rodriguez and, most surprising of all, Tyrese Gibson to help the film pull through and come out well on the other side.

Enter Owen Shaw (Luke Evans). As Hobbs (the retuning Johnson) reliably informs us, he has been chasing Shaw and his crew across 12 countries stretching over four continents. Right from the off these are set up as some big time criminals, meaning that Hobbs has to put a team together capable of catching criminals like these. And the only team good enough is led by Dom Turetto (Diesel). When Roman (Gibson), Tej (Ludacris), Han (Sung Kang) and Gisele (Gal Gadot) return there is no time for reacquaintance as they are introduced to their target and the real reason Dom has agreed to play for the law this time round: Letty (Rodriguez) is still alive.

“I can reach out and break you whenever I want”

Soon enough the slow emotional parts of the film are eased out and instead of being told “we’re a family”, “you’re a family” over and over again, the real action begins. The team find themselves in London, racing through the streets of the English capital (although how anyone manages to elicit an illegal street race through the center of London is anyone’s guess) and the fights fly. The pick of the bunch early on is seeing Rodriguez go toe to toe with new addition Gina Carano.

The cars get faster, the action gets better and the stunts get bigger throughout and appears to peak in the incredible tank sequence; taking out cars is one thing but when there’s a criminal mastermind manning a tank, firing a cannon down the motorway and not afraid to crush however many innocent people it takes, then it’s going to be difficult going. And just when you think the story is coming to an end it takes another turn…

“This is something we don’t do”

And you end up on what must be the longest runway in the world with Shaw attempting to flee via a plane and Toretto’s crew not having any other option than to bring it down! That’s right… taking out a flying plane with just a handful of cars and Dwayne Johnson’s muscles. The adrenaline pumping finale takes all the worries you had and politely tosses them out as you’re sucked into the exciting ending where the stakes are higher than ever!

The one thing the Fast & Furious franchise has lacked so far in its existence has been that a real defining villain has never really been seen. Shaw has all the makings of it: he’s emotionally cold, he’s as intelligent (if not more so) than our heroes and he’s physically able to hold par with anyone, as seen brilliantly in his brief fight with O’Conner. However, when you leave the screening not really knowing what the villain’s plan was all along, then something has clearly gone wrong. The potential was never reached with Shaw.

“Maybe the Letty we once knew is gone”

But if the post/mid/beginning credits teaser was anything to go by, Fast & Furious 7 will have the real villain it deserves.

My Rating: 7/10

Marvel’s Phase Two is now underway with Iron Man 3 becoming the first movie of the year to gross over one billion dollars. With Thor: The Dark World, Captain America: The First Avenger and Guardians of the Galaxy resulting in The Avengers 2 it looks to be another successful couple of years for Marvel. Then with Phase Three some new arrivals are set to touch down in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) with Ant-Man and Doctor Strange making it to the big screen, and rumours Black Panther will be there, Marvel are taking risks developing new properties. Runaways seems to be a comic book that would fit beautifully into the world that the MCU has taken on.

For anyone not familiar with Runaways, it is one of the most exciting and innovative Marvel comic books in recent years. A group of teenagers find out that their parents make up the super villain group known as The Pride. These teenagers decide to run away from home and set about making up for their parents’ wrongs by becoming superheroes in their own right. Along the way they make some startling discoveries (one of them is a mutant, another a witch, one an alien, one owns a pet dinosaur) but their group dynamic makes for some very interesting reading and would make a great story on the big screen.

Back when the MCU was first coming together Runaways was one of the films under consideration: a script was being written (Drew Pearce actually got the job of co-writing Iron Man 3 due to the strength of his Runaways script), casting calls were put out and actors and actresses were even being contacted about the film. However, Marvel decided (rightly judging by the huge amount of money they have made) to focus on bringing The Avengers to the big screen and as such the Runaways project was unfortunately shelved. Recently though, Marvel President of Production Kevin Feige stated that a Runaways film is being developed along with Ms. Marvel and Iron Fist among others.

So why is Runaways such a good choice? Well the comic book series is laden with references to the wider universe. The teenagers themselves are fans of superheroes like Spider-Man and Hulk, in fact it begins with them role playing as other Marvel superheroes. In a universe like the one Marvel has created with their films it is obvious that children will want to imitate these heroes and they will have an effect on ordinary people, which could be explored in Runaways.

Up to this point, the effect that these films has on the wider world has not been touched upon all that much. That may change with Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D television series but it can also be shown in Runaways. The way that Runaways could intertwine with other Marvel characters and franchises would be different to everything that has been done so far. With Thor, Iron Man, Captain America and Hulk the movies just focus on the primary characters with nothing else really being explored; Runaways opens up the door for a self referencing corner of their universe where other films can be discussed as well as allowing this new team to have their own stories.

More importantly, with the popularity of Runaways it would be guaranteed to be a financial hit (lets face it, anything with Marvel attached to it is going to make money right now) but it is not a safe choice. This would be their first film featuring adolescent protagonists and can discuss more social and personal issues than the science of Iron Man or magic of Thor allow for. It would take the MCU to a grittier corner where everything isn’t always fine and where fighting your parents or dealing with an ultimate betrayal is everyday life.
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Don Jon Trailer

UK Release Date: 15th November 2013

Stars: Joseph Gordon-Levitt (also directing), Scarlett Johansson, Julianne Moore, Tony Danza, Brie Larson.

Plot: A New Jersey guy dedicated to his family, friends, and church, develops unrealistic expectations from watching porn and works to find happiness and intimacy with his potential true love.

Don Jon (previously known as Don Jon’s Addiction) marks the feature length directorial and writing debut of Hollywood nice guy Joseph Gordon-Levitt, making it one of the most exciting movies yet to come (no disgusting pun intended) this year.

Reviews from films festivals have been positive with Don Jon being cited as making Gordon-Levitt one of the hottest new directors around. He’s already proven his versatility with all his work done through hitRECordJoe and he just looks amazing in this new trailer.

The trailer provides a great introduction to the life of Jon and his less than healthy addiction and provides some really good laughs, making it a must see for any fans of comedy films with heart and all fans of Joseph Gordon-Levitt. And if that’s not enough there are even cameo appearances from Anne Hathaway, Channing Tatum and Cuba Gooding Jr.

Seventeen years ago Baz Luhrmann achieved major success with his updated version of Romeo + Juliet, a film in which he combined the old language of Shakespeare with a modern setting. The film was also responsible for thrusting a young Leonardo DiCaprio into the limelight. Now, in 2013, Luhrmann and DiCaprio reunite for a new take on F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic American novel, The Great Gatsby, once more combining Fitzgerald’s classic literature with current hip-hop music by the likes of Jay-Z and Beyonce.

While Gatsby (DiCaprio) himself remains an unknown presence throughout the first act of the film it is down to Tobey Maguire, as Nick Carraway, to draw the audience into the story and hook their attention. Nick is introduced at the beginning of the film but at the end of his story; he is depressed alcoholic staying in a sanitarium to rid himself of his alcohol addiction and recounting the tale of one man who changed his life, Jay Gatsby.

After a slow start, primarily used to introduce the main characters of the story, Tom Buchanan (Joel Edgerton) and his wife Daisy (Carey Mulligan), who also happens to be Nick’s cousin. Once the introductions are over, however, Luhrmann takes his audience on a rip riding roller coaster full of sex and alcohol. Everything in the first act is pumped up to the max and overstated in a way that only Lurhmann could get away with. The parties are on a huge landscape, such large sets crowded with the entire population of New York City. Hearing all of the party goers talk about the mystery surrounding Gatsby just makes the character more compelling, a wonderful thing for a character not yet seen on screen.

The stories of being a German prince and mercenary are quickly put to rest when Gatsby is finally revealed. And DiCaprio keeps draws you in, forcing you to feel interested and even sympathetic at times for a man you know nothing about. His interest and sudden friendship with Nick Carraway stinks of suspicion and all of his private phone calls provoke you to ask more and more questions. Soon enough, Gatsby’s ulterior motive is revealed and the movie begins to take more twists and turns that an Argentine Tango.

Layers and layers are ripped away from Gatsby’s tragic character, wonderfully portrayed by Leonardo DiCaprio in a role that has to be seen. He begins at the level of very good and only continues to rise; the third act is a stand out piece of acting alone.

It may seem strange to lace a film set in the 1920s with modern hip-hop from some of music’s biggest stars but the contrast does not distract from the viewing experience at all. Lurhmann does not set out to accurately present a vision of the 1920s, this is a story for all time. A huge theme of The Great Gatsby is the idea of the boom that comes before a fall and in times of such austerity with the global financial crisis it seems the lesson is just as important now as it was back then.

This isn’t a Leonardo DiCaprio film nor is it a Tobey Maguire film, despite this being the best performance I have ever seen him put in. Gatsby, at it’s very core, is all about Baz Lurhmann, the technicalities of his directorship, the grand set designs, the striking colour pallet, everything screams Lurhmann. He brings Jay Gatsby to life in a way that only he could and he doesn’t disappoint.

My Rating: 8/10.

Later this year Ender’s Game is set to be released to an audience that is already planning to boycott the film. The threat comes due to Orson Scott Card’s (the author of the original novel) controversial, to put it nicely, views on homosexuality and same-sex marriage; the author is set to earn some royalties from the film and some fans are unwilling to line his pockets, quite understandably. Just how serious these threats are remains to be seen, but for now lets just focus on the film itself. Here’s the trailer:

If you can’t tell from that, which you really can’t, what the storyline is, it is thus: 70 years after a horrific alien war, an unusually gifted child is sent to an advanced military school in space to prepare for a future invasion. With this synopsis comes the promise of all out science fiction glory with special effects and battle scenes that will only be worth seeing on the big screen.

Now, obviously a brilliant cast does not always make a great film (Ocean’s Twelve, Alexander) but it doesn’t help to bring together many critically acclaimed actors, actresses and crew members, so who’s working on this?
Oscar winner Gavin Hood – 2006: Tsotsi won Best Foreign Language Film
Oscar winner Ben Kingsley – for his performance in Gandhi, seen in Ender’s Game sporting an interesting facial tattoo
Oscar nominee Harrison Ford – in my opinion over rated and very dull, but each to their own
Oscar nominee Abigail Breslin – Best Supporting Actress in Little Miss Sunshine
Oscar nominee Hailee Steinfeld – a young actress with a HUGE career ahead of her
Oscar nominee Viola Davis – Leading actress in The Help and Supporting Actress in Doubt
Basically, not a bad cast on paper!

But the film really hinges on the performance of Asa Butterfield in the lead role of Ender himself. He has previously appeared in Hugo and The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas and audiences do seem to have taken to him so far, now it is his time to carry a major franchise. Surrounding him with all of the talent mentioned above won’t damage his performance either and can only be a good thing.

The special effects from the trailer look pretty good, however the second half of the trailer does seem to tail off and become a little dull compared to the jumpy, action packed introduction. Ender’s Game does seem very similar to The Hunger Games which, based on its premise, should have been a lot darker in tone than it was; Ender’s Game seemingly takes a pretty darker approach than you would expect and could win many fans for that alone.

I am not entirely convinced by Ender’s Game just yet although I am interested in it. There just seems to be a certain spark missing. Hopefully, towards the release date promotion and marketing will be cranked up and the executives will be doing all they can to make Ender’s Game look as good as it can.

Gravity Trailer

UK Release Date: 18th October 2013

Stars: Alfonso Cuaron (director), George Clooney, Sandra Bullock.

Plot: Astronauts attempt to return to earth after debris crashes into their space shuttle, leaving them drifting alone in space.

So basically the trailer is just a scene from the film, presumable from the beginning of the film as we get to witness the debris crash and the trauma that ensues. Presumably the rest of the film is going to be just as dramatic, if not a little bit more.

Director Alfonso Cuaron has been nominated for three Oscars: none of them for his direction however. Two were for his writing and as he did write the script for Gravity as well then we could be looking at a good piece of drama. With the release date being October he could be looking to get into the minds of the Academy too with this one.

Call me cynical but, purely judging by the trailer, I can’t see this being very good. I love George Clooney and I want him to be brilliant but Sandra Bullock is too much of a hit and miss actress to pique any interest for me.

Star Trek Into Darkness Review

With J.J. Abrams set to direct the new Star Wars film it is as yet unknown whether he will return for the inevitable conclusion to his finely crafted trilogy that has successfully reinstated Star Trek as one of the most important science fiction franchises in the world. Has he left behind a good legacy with Into Darkness?

Star Trek Into Darkness picks up with Captain James Kirk (Chris Pine) and his new crew, at least new in this franchise, already on a mission on the pre-civilisation planet of Nibiru; it is clear right from the off that the crew of the USS Enterprise are not going to be without danger as Spock’s life is immediately put on the line. Luckily, he survives and manages to carry on with the rest of the film. Where eventually they run into John Harrison (Benedict Cumberbatch), who just so happens to be Star Trek’s arguably most famous villain, Kahn. Kahn is carrying out terrorist acts that turn this film into an emotional chess game between Kirk and Kahn as the two battle it out in a test of will, strength and heroics as they battle to save their respective crews: only one side can win.

“Let’s go get this sonofabitch”

The first thing you notice about Into Darkness (and one of the most significant things) is that it does not feel like a sequel: the film immediately places you at the heart of the action with little knowledge of the previous film (or even Star Trek in general) required to enjoy the film. The whole of the Enterprise crew is back including Kirk, Spock (Zachary Quinto), Sulu (John Cho), Scotty (Simon Pegg) and Captain Pike (Bruce Greenwood) and none of the characters come off badly with each one, even Chekov (Anton Yelchin) having their moment in the spotlight; it would have been nice to have seen Uhura (Zoe Saldana) do more, however as her character does feel less like an equal crew member and more like a pawn to try and evoke some emotion in Spock, something she doesn’t really do that well.

The old faces are joined by new additions such as the incredible Benedict Cumberbatch and the almost pointless Alice Eve. Cumberbatch’s portrayal of Kahn is really spectacular; this is the greatest villain that will hit the screens this summer and is the most memorable in modern blockbusters, as far as my memory serves me anyhow. He poses a serious threat to Kirk and his crew on a mental and physical scale. Right from the off he gives you the creeps and it is clear his plan is very well thought out.

“You should have let me sleep”

The action takes place at a quick pace, occasionally slowing down to give the audience some breathing space and for the characters, mainly Kirk and Spock, to talk their problems through which does sometimes border on the line of good or bad writing; but that can be forgiven as you can guarantee whenever something feels stale Into Darkness shakes things up (quite literally), the amount of times they get attacked off guard id pretty suspicious for a craft of such high technology. But the action scenes are spectacular, right off the bat from Nibiru, to the home of the Klingons on Kronos, right up to the final fight scene between Spock and Kahn.

With such a lot hanging in the balance for Kirk, Spock etc. it seems imperative that there is humour injected into the story and that comes in the, predictable, forms of Bones (Karl Urban) and Scotty. This story centres on Kirk and Kahn but the majority of my attention was on Bones, coming out with quality one liners and throwing around metaphors like they were going out of fashion: he’s a treat every time he comes on screen.

“Damn it man! I’m a doctor not a torpedo technician!”

Into Darkness closes with the USS Enterprise about to embark on a five year mission. Is this five years a hint at how long it will be until we see the third chapter of this Star Trek revival? If so, maybe Abrams will be back on board. Part of me doesn’t want to wait so long but part of me longs for the return of Abrams to finish what he started!

In my Iron Man 3 review I claimed that Iron Man 3 could be the best blockbuster of the summer. Well all that’s changed now: Star Trek Into Darkness will not be topped.

My Rating: 9/10.