Tuesday, 28 December 2010

80, The Way Back


Before I get started, lets state one thing.  If Action, Sex, Explosions, Comedy etc are your thing and you never deviate then this film is definitely not for you.

So whats left? What makes this film great?

Well, to be honest this is an extremely moving true story that really captures your imagination and the thought that it actually happened to a group of near strangers made it even harder to believe - but because it did, and it affected a group of WW2 prisoners in such a way that defies belief makes you sit back in awe of their achievement.

I loved this.

The Gulag, one of the worlds most severe prisons.  Deep in Siberia its the wilderness and desolate location that acts as the guards, not the guns, dogs and watchtowers. 

A group of Polish, American & Russian prisoners devise a way to escape, knowing that they would need to survive the 4000km trek to freedom.

Mark Strong is the brains behind the plan, although not venturing on the trek himself he makes a few inmates believe it can be done.  Its not until the arrival of Janusz, a young Polish guy accused of soviet spying who believes Strong's words and devises an escape. In tow are Colin Farrell, (a Russian career criminal) & Ed Harris (an American patriot), along with a few others who Janusz befriends inside.

Soon after they manage to escape, battling the severe Siberian winter(s) their trek takes them across Russia, Mongolia, into China and then via the Himalayas, onto India.  I checked it on Google Maps - that's a pretty epic journey!!

Along their way they meet a young girl, also on the run and decide to take her along.

Sadly, only 3 make it to India (No plot spoiler - it tells you at the start of the movie) but that does not necessarily mean the rest die - merely go separate ways? but there is some tragedy.  You will have to wait and see who makes it!!

I cant categorise this for you other than that it makes you really think about your own lives and what you would do in this situation.  Battle on for the thought of survival? Stay true to your moral beliefs leaving no man behind? realising that in the face of sincere danger you are stronger as a team?

It's epic.  Amazing scenery, beautiful acting and an truly amazing story.  If Historical or factual movies float your boat then buy a big bag of popcorn, settle down, leave the kids at home and revel in what is a definite future masterpiece.

On a Bank Holiday Tuesday, the cinema was full to capacity for this adventure and there was silence from start to finish.  Captivating, inspiring and beyond belief.

To those Gulag inmates of the 40's, I salute you.  Brave souls in the harshest conditions.

See this if...................................you believe cinema is more than guns and bombs!!

Monday, 27 December 2010

79, Meet the Parents: Little Fockers


When I first saw the trailers for this 3rd installment I thought it might have gone one movie too far.  It looked cheesy, over acted and a poor attempt to grasp the few remaining jokes that might of been missed previously with the over used one-liner of linking "Focker" to every imaginable everyday sentence. 

Growing very old!! 

However, I was pleased to find that the film makers managed to make me chuckle more to myself in this one than the other two combined.

Hopefully everyone knows the characters by now, Ben Stiller plays Gaylord Focker, a name much ridiculed by his wife's family and friends, mainly DeNiro.  A good few years has now passed from the the 2nd outing with young kids in tow and our hero, Gay (Greg) now heading up the nursing division of the local hospital.  Byrnes (DeNiro) suffers a minor heart attack and survives unbeknown to his wife and daughter. 
He relies on Greg not to spill the beans but asks him to take over running the "Family" to which Greg takes on will full Mafia gusto - highly amusing.

The star of this one though is Jessica Alba who plays the brilliantly named Andi Garcia, a medicinal drugs rep who is focused on bagging both Greg's endorsement on a new drug as well as the big guy himself.

As seems to be with the other two two movies all seems to start off fine, then Greg messes up and has to win back the affections of those he loves - in this one though his doting wife has his back the whole time and its Alba who is warned off as our loving husband and father stays true to his "Focker" roots. 

Streisand & Hoffman once again rock up as Greg's Parents with show stopping excellence and Owen Wilson excels himself as Kevin, the ex-boyfriend that every new boyfriend fears and is hilarious, even richer and more freaked out than the first one!!!

I think I was expecting too little in the way of new jokes and humour but it was the opposite, they managed to further develop the roles of the cast and if anything, made an improvement on the past two movies.

There are some great scenes but even though its aimed at "kids" there a few saucy bits and a lot of sex references that the younger viewer might not be accustomed too.  A lot will go over their heads but my youngest who is now 7, laughed along with the rest of us - albeit she didn't follow that much of it.

I laughed out loud and was pleasantly surprised at the outcome.

Well done Stiller & co.  I applaud you on not screwing it up!

See this if....................................You're bored of Turkey!!!  Merry Xmas xx.

Friday, 17 December 2010

78, Tron: Legacy

Right, Firstly it is very important that you clearly understand exactly what I am about to say because for me, this is a defining comment that I hope I never live to regret.............

This is the Best special Effects film I have Ever Seen!!!!

So, now you are on my level its time to examine that fact a little deeper.

1982.  Tron (1).  For its time, a visionary masterpiece.  However, watching  it back on Sky Movies Classics it looks dated, dull and cheap.  I did try, but sadly had to switch off.  Luckily the story is simple.

Flynn (Bridges) is a computer genius and founder of upstart company Encom, he manages to create "The Grid" and gets warped into it, living in his virtual universe.  The 2nd movie starts a few years after this and one night Flynn disappears after reading his son a bedtime story.

Leap forward about 20ish years and Sam, our "grown up" son is now the major shareholder of Encom although takes no part in the running of this now, global monster.  Always wondering what ever happened to his Dad, Sam stumbles across the office under his Flynn's arcade and very quickly also gets launched into the grid where he meets his Flynn's clone, Clu who has taken over the Grid, exiling Flynn to the outer reaches.  So - the plan, get back to the porthole with Dad and a very cute non-human / human isotope being (who is played by Thirteen from House M.D) and defeat Clu in the process.

Whats good about this is if you have not see the original there are a few flashback moments to keep you up to date in relation to who Tron actually is and if he is in this one?, which he is - although sadly, under shroud the whole time.

After about 15 minutes of being in the "real world" at the start and about 5 more at the end the whole movie takes place on the grid - The special effects are awesome - from the lightbikes to the outfits and most impressively, the CGI generated Clu - a 30 year younger version of Bridges that is seamless!! 

This is the most awe inspiring, beautiful movie I have ever seen - the "comedy" comes from Martin Sheen's character Zuse who is a mixture of Louis Spence meets Russell Brand with a touch of Chaplin thrown in and for the few short scenes he is really lightens the movie.

There is only one disappointing thing I can say about this, and I hate to have to say it but it's apparent from before the movie even starts. 

There is a disclaimer!!!

It states, (and I Quote) that most of the film is in 2D due to it being shot mostly in this format and there are only some 3D moments but to keep your glasses on the whole time.

The realistic truth is I could not spot any 3D whatsoever!!! except for one final shot at the very, very end.  This could have been the most breathtaking 3D movie ever conceived - but gratefully, it does not need it - the 2D is completely amazing on its own with the fluorescent space age graphics shimmering across the screen and the lighting of the projector scanning the audience in time with the visuals.

The bikes, jets, discs.even the Formula 1 style dune buggy are amazing and I WANT THEM ALL!!!

There is not a slow, pointless, unimagined or wasteful part of the entire process - from start to finish I was captivated, amused and enthralled.

I don't really want to say this but................Better effects than Avatar?

YES.

I loved it - you will too.

See this if..................................................you want to witness movie perfection.

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

77, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader

I love a good sequel.  Harry Potter & Twilight both conclude next year, Lord of the Rigs is getting "The Hobbit", Tron is going to be a Christmas Smash, Pirates 4 is going to be Awesome and to top it off, Fast & Furious 5 has just released its 1st trailers!!! So why did I not include Narnia in this...........Well this is why.

I just don't get it!!  That's a lie, I DO get it, but I just don't get it.  As a kid I read the first one, Lion Witch & Wardrobe done, but sadly I lost interest with Caspian, The Boat and the Chair. (2,3 & 4)  and that's a real shame because they are great stories but the movies just spoilt it for me.  I never really warmed to the Actors and that is so important. I know they are from the "proper" class and its World War time and they are Kings etc but they just come across as arrogant, snotty, posh wannabes that I just don't like.  So, should for any reason Georgie, Skandar (stupid name), Will, Anna & William read this, I am sorry but you're crap.  The guy who played Caspian however was pretty good, as was the Rat, the Dragon, the Bison and the Lion.  Hmmmm?, so the real people suck (Caspian excluded) and the animated creatures are great.

And with that the penny drops, the special effects are awesome it is just a real shame the cast don't come up to scratch.

So onto the story.  From about 5 minutes in our intrepid Muppet's land in Narnia and come across the Dawn Trader, Caspians ship as they trek across the land defeating evil and bringing peace to Narnia.  However, a spooky green mist is taking over and they need to collect the 7 Swords given to Aslan's 7 Lords and place them on his table to defeat the evil spell.  Plot sorted.

It came across as long and drawn out but to be fair the kids enjoyed it.  We saw it in 2D and there may have been a few moments where the 3D would have looked great but be slightly warned, if you take the under 8's to see this in 3D the Sea Serpent may be a little scary at the end, mine hid her eyes in 2D so beware!!

I am sure that some of you will find this great.  You certainly cant fault the special effects but for me, effects don't cut the mustard if the cast do not fit and in my eyes, this lot are wetter than a sponge at sea.

Sorry Narnia, bored now.  Hollywood listen up..............you should of spent the cash on actually making the sequels to "The Last Airbender" or "The Golden Compass", both sadly yet to be given the sign off for completion.  The good news is Bond 23 is now in pre-production for a 2012 release date.  Who said Sequels were dead?

See this if.........................................You actually care about making C.S Lewis's family more money.

Sunday, 12 December 2010

76, The Tourist

There is no denying that Johnny Depp is a bonifide legend.  From early doors as Edward Scissorhands to one of the best character creations of our time Captain Jack Sparrow, with every turn Depp continues to dazzle on screen.

But, Sadly there comes a time in every actors career when the good turns to bad and legendary status gets replaced with has been. 

Luckily for us though.........................This is not that time!!!

Depp is brilliant in this playing our mishap hero Frank,  a Math teacher turn tourist who heads off to Venice for some R&R after losing his wife in a car crash 4 years earlier.  A chance meeting with Angelina Jolie on the long distance train from Paris leads to a great identity thriller where Depp is set up as a gangsters accountant, on the run after stealing over £700 Million Dollars!!  Scotland Yard, The Gangster himself, Interpol and pretty much all of Venice's police force are on the hunt to track down our accountant and get back the stolen money.

But all is not as it appears to be...............

What makes a great thriller is suspense, anticipation, a little twist - or in fact........A massive one!

And this has all of the above.  The cast is fantastic.  Depp already mentioned but Jolie is her usual sexy, sultry self.  Paul Bettany (who happens to be one of my favourite British actors) is great as the Scotland Yard Detective as is his boss, played by Timothy Dalton.  The Gangster / bad guy is played by Steven Berkoff and there is a tiny bit-part from Rufus Sewell which sadly, is too small to count.  There are a few other familiar faces including the Russian bad guy from Indiana Jones 4 who.........surprise surprise, plays another Russian bad guy.

I am kicking myself to announce a plot spoiler on this one...............but I cant.  Even my clue would spill too many beans, but I cant help it.  All I will say is, check movies made in 1995 starring one of the Baldwins and the Artistic Director of the Old Vic and you are on the right line......cryptic enough? Well that's all you are getting.

This is 103 minutes of what is fair to say, not the fastest paced action movie you are ever going to see.  It actually includes one of the slowest movie chases ever captured on film, in boats through Venice at about 7 miles per hour - but even that is good.

And its funny!! Which was a little unexpected and this is mostly down to Depp himself.

After recent disappointments like Skyline & The American this was a refreshing break.  No 3D, No expensive animation, no massive explosions or OTT special effects.  Just a good old fashioned thriller with all the whistles and bows you would want.

See this if...........................................you remember Depp before the Pirate Days.

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

75, Megamind



Another Animation, Another Kids movie.  Its getting harder to judge these just on appearance as there is no denying that pretty much everything falling out of Hollywood right now looks great when it comes to modern animation so lets instead, take a look at the cast.

Ferrell, Fey, Pitt & Hill.  All 4 are absolutely fantastic in this.  The script is brilliant.  It's well written and beautifully delivered.  Hysterically funny with Ferrell taking all of the best one liners and Brad Pitt, albeit he could easily have done his lines in a single lunch break pretty much sends himself up here and is a great cameo.

The plot sees our super villain head out of his home galaxy as a baby after his and the neighbouring planet get sucked into a black hole.  At the same time, another family have the same idea, also launching their son into Earth's orbit and after years spent together in school, battle lines are drawn and our team favourite, Megamind ends up the villain to Pitt's over cheesy Metroman.  What then plays out is (unbeknown to us at the time) Metroman becomes tired of being the hero so works it in his favour to lose a battle, opening the way for Megamind to take over!!  With no Hero to defeat life soon becomes boring for our villain so he sets about creating his own one but this quickly backfires when "Titan" realises that good guys finish last and switches to the dark side, leaving Megmind no choice but to turn his attentions to saving the day, and the girl.

Right, that's the plot so I hope I did not give too much away.  This is a very funny movie and great for both kids and adults alike - I was quite impressed with the 3D effects in comparison to others seen recently but I am sure it would have been just as good without them.

Finally though, I have to just mention that as we all did with Jessica Rabbit, you have to admire how great Tina Fey's Character looks.  I don't care what you say.  She is proper cute!!!

Great Film, Great laughs.


See this if...........................................You have ever felt like the underdog should win (at least sometimes!)

Sunday, 5 December 2010

74, Monsters

Let's face it.  Times are changing.  Gone are the days when Aliens did not stand a chance against the might of the U.S.  All it took was a smart scientist and a renegade pilot to upload a virus into a Mother ship or a single white female to bring down a face hugging race of acid bleeding critters.  Without Arnie around to beat the crap out of Ruud Gullit looking acrobatic bounty hunters or in fact something as simple as a hockey stick to scare those Aliens in the Attic what chance do we have?

And that's the point.  Gone are the good old movie days where we actually WOULD stand a chance against an invasion.  Now its all about just how devastating an attack would be, and indeed, how brutal the aftermath would be.

So if you are planning on seeing this film, don't read on - I am about to spoil it for you.

Since "Skyline" my faith in a good Alien / Monster movie making it back on the big screen has disappeared faster than the chance of seeing Clooney star in "The American 2".  But whats most annoying about this one in particular is the title.  Monsters?  Where? to be honest - Jaws set the trend.  74 minutes until the title role actually made a proper appearance and the sad fact is that this one goes one step further.  I would say it takes pretty much 98% of the film until a fully fledged "actual" sighting happens, not just in background shots of CCTV & Camcorder footage and then its over without any form of battle - and it ends!!!

So disappointing.  So what is this film actually about? Well, its more the trek across the "infected zone" that this film focuses on rather than the actual encounters.  The film starts 6 years after the first Alien landings and most of Mexico & South America is cordoned off from residential population.  So, we have 2 individuals who after losing a passport (and that takes about half the film just to get to that bit) end up having to trek across land to get the America rather than taking the last £5k per ticket Ferry. 

The whole film is based on anticipation of Alien intervention, rather than actual intervention and when you are expecting monsters from start to finish it get a little tedious and quite boring very early on.

As far as the actors go, these two are quite good.  A Sarah Harding look alike and a nerdy photographer are well suited together, both in troubled relationships it again is a shame that it takes until the final scene to finally get it on, but as with the Aliens you could happily watch the last 10 minutes alone and understand the whole plot.

Slow, Unimpressed and Dull.

The one shining light in all of this was just as the credits roled I bumped into an old school mate who I have not seen in 15 years.  So Aaron, this one is for you.  See you on X-box / Facebook - very soon!!

And for all my readers on X-box live - I am "The Stig 1976"  See you on-line.

See this if..................you like your Monster movies, without Monsters!!!

73, Unstoppable


What makes a great movie?.  The suspense of not knowing whats around the corner? the nail biting action that has you sitting on the end of your seat? The sweaty palms that occur not even 20 minutes into a story?.............A Train?.

Well, Unstoppable has all of this and approximately 1000 tonnes more!!!

After the disappointing "American" I wanted my faith renewed in the cinema....and quickly! 

Feeling I had wasted two hours of my life watching Clooney plod aimlessly through an Italian village I was hoping that the legend that is Denzel would captivate me in a way, unheard of since...I don't know.......time began?

So what makes this movie so great.  After all, it is only about a runaway train.  Well, in my eyes its the way that it makes 30 miles an hour seem like 100!! and the logic and thought process into how do you actually stop a missile the size of the Chrysler building heading through rural America, uncontrollably on rails?

Based on true events (and honestly, most of the best suspense thrillers are..........just take Harry Potter!!) this story starts almost immediately when a slightly idle rail worker takes a quick shortcut with a safety protocol resulting in a 1/2 mile long freight train, carrying lethal toxic chemicals careering its way along about 80 miles of track which can only result in total devastation unless the combined forces of the local communities and train company employees can bring it to a halt.

Our two heroes, Washington & Pine are two unlikely matched rail workers, paired up on their first outing together when they end up on a collision course with the runaway train and between them have to settle their differences and stand together and bring down the locomotive, albeit initially without the support of the governing board of Directors.

The plot is simple, stop the train.  But there is just something about this movie that draws you in from the 1st five minutes and it does not let up throughout its entirety.  I don't know if its the brilliantly cast duo of Denzel Washington and Chris Pine as the old dog and rookie wannabe that make this movie so special but I can promise you that I had sweaty palms, baited breath and a sense of anxiety as I was thrown into this high speed action flick.  Take "Speed" with Sandra Bullock and ramp up the anticipation and thrills and you are getting close to what this film delivers.

It's Awesome, so much so that I am using this current wave of good vibes and heading off again tonight for an 2nd helping of movie magic with Monsters, and if it is half as good as this one, I wont be left disappointed!!

See this if............................You are happy gnawing off all of your fingernails!!!