Archive for July, 2013


UK Release Date: 15th November 2013

Stars: Ridley Scott (director), Michael Fassbender, Brad Pitt, Javier Bardem, Penelope Cruz, Cameron Diaz, John Leguizamo.

Plot: A lawyer finds himself in over his head when he gets involved in drug trafficking.

Brad Pitt seems to really be getting back on the horse and making some really good films after a quiet few years of his career. With 12 Years a Slave (also starring Michael Fassbender) out at the height of Oscar season, this all star cast hits cinemas later this year.

As this serves only as a teaser trailer there is not a lot of the plot released within the minute that we see, but what we do see is very intriguing: what is the motorbike murder about? what exactly does Michael Fassbender do? where does Brad Pitt fit into all of this? And what is going on with Javier Bardem’s hair?

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Yes, you read that right. After the enjoyable yet unremarkable Rocky Balboa it appears as though it is very likely that Sylvester Stallone is set to reprise the most famous role of his career and bring the underdog boxer Rocky back to the big screen for the seventh time. However, if it does happen, it won’t be in any kind of Rocky VII film, it will be in a spin-off form the franchise. Intrigued?

To date the Rocky franchise has grossed over $1.2billion worldwide

Die hard film fans will have heard of Fruitvale Station (no Rocky connection yet) which is released tomorrow (26th July) in the United States as it has been very well received at the Sundance Film Festival, winning the Grand Jury Prize and the Audience Award for American Dramatic Film, and Cannes Film Festival where it won the award for Best First Film. Fruitvale Station was written and directed by Ryan Coogler who is only 27 which is quite remarkable when you think about it.

Anyway, it’s Coogler who is planning to bring the next film to the big screen through his passion for the franchise. Coogler will be writing the script and directing the project which will be titled ‘Creed’ and will focus on the grandson of Rocky’s respected rival, Apollo Creed. The story will apparently revolve around Creed’s grandson and his dreams of fighting professionally despite his family’s concerns after Apollo died in the ring (Rocky IV). The young Creed will turn to Sylvester Stallone’s heavyweight champion Rocky to train him and help him become the best boxer he can be.

Left: Ryan Coogler; Right: Michael B. Jordan

The actor set to nab the lead role in the spin-off is Michael B. Jordan who stars in Fruitvale Station and, just in recent months, has been highly touted for some of the biggest films in production. Jordan is probably most famous for his excellent acting skills in The Wire and has also been seen on Friday Night Lights and starred in surprise hit, Chronicle. He has been linked with roles in The Amazing Spider-Man 2 and the Fantastic Four reboot (it seems like only a matter of time before he plays a superhero and getting this role isn’t going to hurt his chances). He certainly has the acting chops and the likeability about him to pull this role off, but would a spin-off work and is it even a possibility?

At the minute, reports suggest that Sylvester Stallone will come back on board as producer as well as star, meaning that his baby (the Rocky franchise) will still be in his own hands even if he hangs up his gloves after giving Creed its legs. The Rocky franchise is certainly a popular one and in the modern world of remakes, reboots and sequels it seems as though Hollywood would be daft to shoot the idea down without thinking about it. If Ryan Coogler and Michael B. Jordan want to make it then I say we let them; they are both getting praise right, left and centre and the franchise would be in safe hands. It would also be brilliant to see a new summer blockbuster (with potential to be a series of films in its own right) with a black character at the heart of its story, which is something significantly lacking from Hollywood films.

I highly doubt Sylvester Stallone would turn down the chance to play Rocky Balboa once more. Let round seven begin.

Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg and Nick Frost are back together again for the third in their “three flavours Cornetto” trilogy. After the massive success the trio have had with zombie flick Shaun of the Dead and cop film Hot Fuzz, expectations are set high for their attempt at science fiction; can The World’s End possibly be as good as the two films that preceded it?

Simon Pegg (who also shares writing duties along with Wright) plays Gary King, an alcoholic who is desperately trying to recapture his lost youth by returning to his childhood town of Newton Haven to complete “The Golden Mile”, a twelve bar pub crawl ending at The World’s End which the group never managed to finish first time round in 1990. To do this, Gary reunites his old friends, who just so happen to be some of the best actors in Britain which certainly does no harm to the film: Andrew Knightley (Frost), Steven Prince (Paddy Considine), Oliver Chamberlain (Martin Freeman) and Peter Page (Eddie Marsan). Against their better knowledge the group decide to rejoin Gary for this mission, but when they get to Newton Haven they realise that they may be Earth’s only hope against a mysterious enemy.

The World’s End begins with a quick round up of the backstory: we are given glimpses into the five friends’ school and social life and a brief roundup of their first crack at the Golden Mile and how unsuccessful it ended up. Whilst there are a few sniggers here and there it serves less as a tool for comedy and more just exposition. It is not until Simon Pegg appears on the screen that the big laughs arrive and, to be honest, with Pegg on screen the laughs never seem to stop. His performance is up there with the best comedy performances of all time, he lives within the character, his charisma is unmatched and everyone can empathise with him: this is a guy who (it seems like) never wants to grow up, he’s trying to relive his youth, be the free spirit that he longs to be and not fall into the organisation of civilisation. It’s a great character turned brilliant by Pegg’s performance, cementing him as Britain’s best comedy film export of the modern era.

While the laughs are big, the action is also blood pumping. The five central actors aren’t necassarily people you would associate with being action stars or even carrying out any form of major fight scene but they more than hold their own here. Pegg and particularly Nick Frost excel themselves in the action sequences which are handled every bit as well as the comedy moments. The two best fight scenes are the ones that take place in the toilets, which allow for great fights in such a confined area, and in The Beehive against Pierce Brosnan (what is Pierce Brosnan doing popping up here?) and the townspeople.

It’s impossible not to like The World’s End. A lesser film would have lost it’s way when taking the turn from straight out comedy to science fiction but this is something that Edgar Wright embraces. Breadcrumbs are left all over the place, foreshadowing the reveal and, what’s more, you’re made to really care about the characters and believe in these people which also helps you go along with their journey. Even before the science fiction element occurs and the five friends are sat around, catching up there’s a lot to enjoy just because of the realistic element to it. It does feel like you’re sat in the pub with them: they’re just five normal guys in a pub, easily recognisable and easy to enjoy.

The World’s End is very close to a perfect comedy: it has likeable characters, great charisma and flair, wonderful performances from great actors, jokes that never end, running jokes that continue throughout, references back to Hot Fuzz which is a particular enjoyment and it has Simon Pegg in the form of his life. However, the end (quite ironically) is where the film falls from perfection.

Once at The World’s End, the heroes are confronted with the leader of this invasion (voiced by Bill Nighy) and there is a lot, and we’re talking huge speeches here, of exposition to get through. It seems like Wright and Pegg have tried to create a well rounded villain with a real motive which doesn’t quite pay off (and this comes right after the reveal of Gary King’s motives for wanting to return which is surprisingly touching and not really given enough time). Instead of giving a 2D villain with some plan you’ve heard before you’re confronted with the leader of this invasion talking out all of his plans and reasons as to why this has taken place. Credit has to go to the pair for attempting this, for trying to be different but it just never really brings the punch that you’re anticipating throughout the rest of the film. Luckily, Pegg and Frost do provide enough laughs in this segment that you can sort of overlook it but that let down does tarnish the film slightly.

Saying that though, it seems almost impossible to deny that this is a comedy film very close to perfection and one of the best British comedies of all time.

My Rating: 9/10

12 Years a Slave Trailer

UK Release Date: 24th January 2014

Stars: Steve McQueen (director), Chiwetel Ejiofor, Brad Pitt, Benedict Cumberbatch, Paul Giamatti, Paul Dano, Michael Fassbender, Scoot McNairy

Plot: In the pre-Civil War United States, Solomon Northup, a free black man from upstate New York, is abducted and sold into slavery.

Films about slavery seem to be becoming the new Western. Every year there are now high profile stories of slavery being told on the big screen and 2014 will be no different with Steve McQueen gunning for Oscar glory. Perhaps the most noticeable thing about this trailer is in fact Brad Pitt’s beard, just for the sheer ridiculousness of how it looks… but that might just be me.

However, if you can look past Pitt’s beard what you’ll find is this really touching, almost unbelievable true story about one man’s descent into slavery and his fight against it. Chiwetel Ejiodor is not a name that everyone will be familiar with but he has starred in a huge number of films over the years and finally takes centre stage in a star studded cast.

Established stars Pitt and Fassbender, who looks like he’s playing an incredibly nasty piece of work and doing it so well, join rising star Paul Dano and the incredible Scoot McNairy who I am a big fan of!

The X-Men franchise is one of the biggest movie franchises in the world. With six movies released already, another one released in the next week or so and the latest, Days of Future Past, hitting a 2014 release, it should come as no surprise that the franchise has enjoyed the highs as well as suffered the lows. That is why, despite huge excitement from half of the fan base, the other half is looking at Days of Future Past with some skepticism.

The new and old of the X-Men franchise turn up for Comic Con.

When Matthew Vaughn was still attached he claimed that only one new mutant would be added to the cast and that the film would take place in the 70s, perhaps including the Kennedy assassination as a plot point. So not much would be changing, just a timeline shift. Then Vaughn left and Bryan Singer was brought back. A decision which itself split fans; yes, he made the critically loved X-Men and X2 but he also faced criticism for making Wolverine the centrepiece, banning comic books on set, ‘ruining’ characters and giving us two very poor superhero movies by leaving The Last Stand to make Superman Returns. As the man who first brought the X-Men to the big screen Singer immediately set out to bring back his old friends and subsequently brought back (deep breath) an older Professor X, older Magneto, Wolverine, Colossus, Rogue, Kitty Pryde, Iceman and Storm while also adding Bolivar Trask, Bishop, Blink, Thunderbird and Quiksilver. Basically, took everything Vaughn had said before and did the complete opposite.

So Days of Future Past contains both X-Men teams. The originals and the team from First Class (minus a few of the characters Singer wanted nothing to do with, surprise surprise) and it will involve Wolverine being sent back in time to the First Class team in order to prevent the devastating future which the present day team now finds themselves in. A world where Sentinels have been created to eradicate all known mutants.

Colossus, Bishop, Professor X and Magneto in the first promo shot from Days of Future Past.

After Days of Future Past, what will happen to the teams? Does the X-Men universe then break into two strands? One containing the present team and one from the past? And where does the recently announced X-Force film fit into all of this? Presumably, the past team are able to prevent the destructive future from happening. This would lead you to guess that the film series would carry on with the First Class team as the team of the future would no longer exist, right? However, the sad thing is, I can see Days of Future Past ending with First Class doing whatever they need to and then the film skipping forward to this new future with the old team (or new team depending on how you look at it) and then Singer carrying on from there.

With Singer back at the helm and his first decision being to bring back the majority of people he had worked with before it does seem like if he stays in charge there will be only one direction this franchise moves in: Bryan Singer’s. The old team have been brought back together and it seems likely that this will be the one to go on, leaving James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence and Nicholas Hoult behind (although Fassbender and Lawrence probably won’t mind being as though they’ve actually got brilliant careers going for themselves). There are rumours that the X-Men franchise will be brought to an end eventually with an Age of Apocalypse film and if those rumours are to be believed then surely that will involve the present team and not the past.

Behind (literally) the scenes shot of Wolverine

The X-Men universe and continuity is already a joke. Therefore, having two strands of the universe going at the same time with two different teams, two different Xaviers and Magnetos seems on the whole like a horrifically bad idea. Surely, only one team moves forward, but which one? My hope is First Class. While I am pleased to see the original cast members coming back to get the send off they deserve after their reputation was tarnished by The Last Stand, that team has already had it’s day and told its stories; I want to see the younger Xavier and Magneto continue to transform into the people they become.

UK Release Date: 22nd November 2013

Stars: Francis Lawrence (director), Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Elizabeth Banks, Woody Harrelson, Lenny Kravitz, Jena Malone, Sam Claflin, Donald Sutherland, Stanley Tucci, Philip Seymour Hoffman

Plot: Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Mellark become targets of the Capitol after their victory in the 74th Hunger Games sparks a rebellion in the Districts of Panem.

Arguably the most anticipated film of the rest of the year, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire trailer has just debuted at San Diego Comic Con and it looks fantastic! The original star studded cast has been improved and got even bigger than before for a film that is all but guaranteed to break a few records upon release later this year.

While The Hunger Games went down very well people have argued that the action moved at a pretty slow pace. As a follow up, this is unlikely to be the case again. Since Katniss and the incredibly annoying, never-going-to-be-good-enough-for-Katniss Everdeen, Peeta triumphed in the battle to the death, an uprising has begun around the Districts and the Capitol wish to put an end to any hope that might have stirred by making an example of the two heroes.

I’m sure that a reason will be established as to why all the previous victors don’t just kill the leaders of Capitol and really bring things home but despite that, there is a lot to be excited for and it won’t just be a rehash of the events of the first film (although a few parts seem familiar). There seems to be more drama, more action in the Districts, more Liam Hemsworth, and a lot more action. A real sense of human revolt can be felt and the trailer does an excellent job of exceeding all expectations.

UK Release Date: 6th December 2013

Stars: Spike Lee (director), Josh Brolin, Elizabeth Olsen, Samuel L. Jackson, Sharlto Copley, Lance Reddick, Michael Imperioli, Max Casella.

Plot: An advertising executive is kidnapped and held hostage for 20 years in solitary confinement. When he is inexplicably released, he embarks on an obsessive mission to discover who orchestrated his punishment, only to find he is still trapped in a web of conspiracy and torment.

Remakes happen. In the past few years of cinema it’s very hard to find a film that is not a remake or a sequel or an adaptation of something. But there are some things that should be left alone. And you can’t help but think that this Korean CLASSIC should have been left alone. But apparently it needed to be remade for an audience that can not be bothered with subtitles.

Saying that though, the material seems to be in very strong hands. The trailer looks fantastic, heightening expectations and building anticipation. The cast that has been brought together is pretty strong and Spike Lee clearly knows what he is doing. There are a lot of things in the trailer that fans of the original will be glad are still here: the hammer scene, the video-game-esque fight scene.

However, the most worrying thing for me is the content change. One of the best parts of the Korean Oldboy was the theme of incest. But of course that has to be dropped because an American audience couldn’t possible be confronted with such a taboo theme in the mainstream of pop culture. This means that elements do have to be shifted somewhat largely from the original and it does become more about the revenge rather than the relationships between characters. Hopefully Oldboy does not become just a generic action film (albeit a brilliant one) but I long for it to remain as a wonderful piece of cinema, like the Korean version.

Slated for an October release in the UK, Seventh Son becomes the latest book series to be adapted into a film. However, you will probably not recognise the name of Joseph Delaney or his series The Wardstone Chronicles. This series of books is not as famous as the Harry Potter series, Twilight or even Anthony Horowitz’s Alex Rider saga, so it may be a bit of a risk choosing to adapt these books (for more than just this one reason which I will go into later). Even with a best seller you’re not guaranteed success, the failure of Stormbreaker put to bed any ideas that Point Blanc or the other Alex Rider stories may get the big film treatment no matter how much I hope and pray for it to happen… anyway, tangent ended, back to Seventh Son. Here’s the trailer:

Set in the 18th Century, the story revolves around young Thomas (Ben Barnes of Prince Caspian fame), the seventh son of a seventh son which in this world grants Tom with the ability to see things that others can not: boggarts, ghosts and other fantasy beings. Tom finds himself apprenticed to the local Spook (Jeff Bridges) to learn to fight against the evil spirits. His first great challenge comes when the powerful Mother Malkin (Julianne Moore) escapes her confinement while the Spook is away.

As you can see, in the trailer you get the carefully worded “inspired by the acclaimed series” rather than “based on…” which suggests Seventh Son is not going to be a straight adaptation. Although this decision has already angered some fans (but you always get the few who can’t stand to see any change to source material), I believe this is actually a smart choice: The Wardstone Chronicles does not carry the same fan base other book series’ do so this is an attempt to appeal to a wider audience. The story of a boy being trained in his craft has been done (Harry Potter, The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, Percy Jackson) and to attempt to place another origin story into a saturated market would make no sense at all, therefore, taking elements from other books in the series as well will help speed along the story. Hopefully it won’t be a case of too many ingredients just thrown in with no time given to story or character development.

The Wardstone Chronicles

The other promising factor for Seventh Son is the acting talent attached to the project. Of course, Ben Barnes is relatively new but making steady progress in his career, however he is supported by Oscar winner Jeff Bridges, four time Oscar nominee Julianne Moore and two time Oscar nominee Djimon Hounsou just for good measure. The director is Sergei Bodrov who is a Russian filmmaker who has twice had his features nominated for Best Foreign Language Film (Prisoner of the Mountains, Mongol: The Rise to Power of Genghis Khan). At one time Jennifer Lawrence was also attached to star, meaning that the script must have some merit to it. Now this is not to say that I think Seventh Son is going to clean up at the Oscars, far from it, but I do believe that with this talent on board there is definitely potential and it has more chance of being a good film than a bad one.

So it’s based on an acclaimed book series, has huge talent starring and directing, the trailer is action packed and exciting. So why would it be a surprise hit? Well first of all: it’s fantasy. And unless you happen to be bringing out a new Harry Potter film or The Hobbit then fantasy is a no go genre, that’s been proven time and time again. The trailer brings back memories to me of Black Death and Solomon Kane, two films I actually very much enjoyed but both fared poorly at the box office and with critics; when making fantasy you have to KNOW you have a hit, otherwise it’s all been a waste of time.

Other problems involve the dreaded moving of the release date. While it doesn’t sound like much the moving of a release date can be a sure fire signifier of a flop. In this case Seventh Son has been pushed back all the way from February this year to January next in the USA, I’m still skeptic that we’ll even get it in October in the UK. This move has been due to post production needing finishing, the same reason that The Lone Ranger is currently flopping on it’s stomach in the States (one of MANY reasons if early reviews are to be believed). This is not always the case, The Great Gatsby became a hit despite the moving of that release date but that has Leonardo DiCaprio in the lead role, Seventh Son does not.

Problems continue when you look further below the surface and see that the script has gone through a couple of rewrites. Again, never a good thing as when a script gets re-written you can see that the film has been dragged in several different directions by people who come on board with a separate view for the story and no respect for the work done by their predecessor (the most recent example of this being World War Z where the ending was rehashed). Even worse, Rhythm and Hues Studios who provide the visual effects for Seventh Son actually went bankrupt while working on the film; Legendary Pictures agreed to give $5million to the company to help them finish their work so this may or may not have hindered the project.

As you can see, Seventh Son is not without it’s problems. But upon it’s release people won’t be looking behind the screen at the difficulties the film has had getting there; they will be looking at the quality that is being presented to them. Ever since I first heard about this film I have been silently excited; the story, the genre and the theme is right up my street and something of a geeky pleasure for myself. I have been excited by the trailer and think that there is clearly plenty of potential here. To release on a quieter week in summer may have been a risk but it is one that could have paid off. Now, however, I can only see this being a flop and it pains me so much to say that.

UK Release Date: 4th July 2013

Stars: Dean DeBlois (director), Jay Baruchel, Gerard Butler, Kristen Wiig, Jonah Hill, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Kit Harington, America Ferrera.

Plot: Five years after the events of the first film, the once land locked Vikings are now on the backs of dragons and their world has become bigger. As Hiccup’s curiosity grows the map expands and the Vikings come across new people and new dragons, discovering a larger conflict between mankind and dragonkind which Hiccup is inevitably at the centre of.

With sequels to animated films being all the rage these days with the likes of Monsters University and Despicable Me 2 it should come as no surprise that the universally adored How to Train Your Dragon is getting the sequel treatment (trilogy treatment really with a third installment slated for 2016 release). Out of the three original films (HTTYD, Monsters Inc. and Despicable Me) I felt that HTTYD was the weakest, but with the most potential for more stories to be told, leaving me with the feeling that this could be the best animated sequel since the Toy Story films.

However, the teaser trailer for How to Train Your Dragon 2 doesn’t give a lot away. As has become something of a trend recently, this is just one sequence from the film put into two minutes just to give the audience a peek at their old friends.

As we can see Toothless and Hiccup are still working together and Hiccup is clearly advancing Viking technology at a great pace. A glimpse at the new teenage Hiccup is something for fans to get excited about as the changed between when the original film took place and this one should be an interesting point. I look forward to seeing more beautiful footage and finding out more plot details.

Monsters University Review

With Monsters University, Pixar attempts to take back the crown as the best animation studio out there, a title that seems to be swaying towards Illumination Entertainment after the success of Despicable Me and its recent sequel. To prove they have not lost their magic touch, Pixar have brought back a winning pair, second only in animation to Pixar’s own Woody and Buzz, Mike and Sulley. University looks at the events that forced the two loveable monsters together and what made them the record breaking team that we first met in Monsters Inc more than ten years ago.

“I’m gonna be a scarer!”

Returning characters Mike Wazowski (Billy Crystal), Sulley (John Goodman) and Randy (Steve Buscemi) are all back, joined by a host of new talent. The primary new characters are mature student Don (Joel Murray), Squishy (Peter Sohn), two headed monster Terri and Terry (Sean Hayes, Dave Foley) and the unpredictable Art (Charlie Day). These new monsters make up the fraternity Oozma Kappa, the fraternity that Mike and Sulley are forced to join in order to compete in Dean Hardscrabble’s (Helen Mirren) Scare Games to prove they have what it takes to be the best scarers on campus and win their place back in the University as a scaring major. But with personal rivalries and an overall lack of scariness about their new friends, will Mike and Sulley have what it takes? The answer seems almost predictable what with this being a prequel, but what’s important is the journey.

 

While Monsters Inc was arguably Sulley’s moment in the spotlight, University is all about Mike Wazowski. We’re introduced to the adorable one eyed monster as a child on a field trip to Monsters Incorporated where he gets his first glimpse at the scare floor and realises his ambition in life is to be working there in the future. This short opening sequence opens up a whole load of strings to Mike’s bow; he has an ambition, he has a background, he has room to grow and learn right from the off, and by the end of the film Mike Wazowski comes out on top as one of Pixar’s considerably best characters to date.

“I can’t go back to jail”

Sulley, however, does not come off that well: arrogant, cocksure and generally that guy in class who seems really big headed who nobody really likes. Saying that, though, watching Sulley and Mike’s friendship blossom over the course of the (near two hour) movie is something very enjoyable, even though at times it feels like Sulley doesn’t really deserve Mike’s friendship. It is not until the final sequence that he really earns any respect or likeability, but more on that sequence later.

 

Monsters University isn’t really any different to any other college movies, using tropes and plot points to move the story along in the expected fashion. But then occassionaly it veers off the path into the realm of the unknown. It would have been very easy to head straight towards the beginning of Monsters Inc but that’s not what Pixar went with; it would have been even easier to end with Oozma Kappa winning the Scare Games and everything having a happy ending but that’s not where they went either and credit has to go to Pixar for their wonderful storytelling.

“I’m going to wipe the floor with that little know-it-all”

The animation is wonderful. Everything is turned up by ten on the colour scales and the creativity to come up with so many different monsters is really unparallelled. If nothing else, this is beautiful to watch. Things take a darker (both in tone and aesthetics) turn when Mike and Sulley risk their lives journeying to the human world. This wonderful sequence brings the two characters together in a really heartfelt exchange of words and shows great comradery between the two as they work so well with one another to get the better of the humans, playing to each other strengths: highlighting the ups and downs of friendship being worth all that hassle if at the end the two parties come out stronger as one than they were on their own.

 

There seems to be an unwritten rule that if you laugh out loud five or more times at a comedy then it’s definitely worth recommending to someone else. I can’t remember a moment when I stopped laughing while watching Monsters University; there was joke after joke, all aimed at a midway between child and adult so that everyone could share in the joy. There were fantastic set pieces, big laughs and really tru touching moments of a bond forming between lifelong friends.

“You’re just not scary”

It seems unlikely that we’ll get another Monsters prequel and it’s probably best if we don’t get a sequel. Monsters Univeristy never quite matches the original but it compliments it wonderfully.

 

My Rating: 8/10