Tuesday, 29 November 2011

160, Immortals

Movies like this one normally (& sadly) get slated.  Clash of the Titans got panned, Percy Jackson was never going to win any oscars (after saying that, apologies if it did!) and I think thats a shame.

As soon as "God's" get involved Hollywood feel that they need to throw huge budgets at them and build them up so much and eventually, what gets released are good movies but never really live up to the hype surrounding them.  I rememeber as a kid watchng Jason and then Argonauts and Clash of the Titans from '63 & '81 and loving their dated cheapness.  It was what made them stand out for me. 

It was visionary for its time and now with the level of special effects we have available I think the expectation is just too great, even with 3D now on its 3rd lap of honour I feel that no movie surrounding any level of introduction from Thor, Zeus, Psoiden etc will ever get any real credit.  That said,  I thought Immortals was worthy of quite a written accolade and here's why.

It covers a time relatively early on when the "Immortals" as they were known at the time discovered that they could actually kill each other.  A great War fell upon them and the winners declared themselves Gods (Zeus, Thor etc) and the losers were branded Titan's and sent to the underworld.  This is where most movies pick up from that focus on these events so it was a welcome break to get some of the back story.

some years pass (1200 BC) and one King, (Hyperion), played brilliantly by Mickey Rourke sets about to hunt down an ancient bow, able to open the titans cage and with them, rule the known world.  The Gods, forever watching are unable to assist the Humas as they get slaughtered village by village by Hyperion and his hoardes as it would invalidate a treaty set in history where Gods can only interviene if the Titans do and with them being in a current state of incapacity, have to sit idly by and hope Humans can stand together to defeat Hyperion.

Plot sorted.  So now onto the good bit.  Its a cert 15 and there is no denying this is a gory one.  The fight scebnes are epic and the if you saw Spartacus on Sky 1 recently then this will take you straight back to the blood spilling and vengeance that show displayed on a regular basis, without the nudity (sadly).

Made by the same team behind 300, this has all the traits of a good old blood fest as was with Gerard Butlers pre-mentioned adventure but be warned, it did take about 30 minutes to really get going. 

There are a few recognisable faces in some of the smaller roles.  Keep an eye out for Twilight's Emmet as one of the Gods and a gracefully aging John Hurt as the village mentor which also carries a nice little twist.  Other than that, Stephen Dorff makes a welcome return in his most noticable role since Public enemies in 2009 (although he has had 5 releases this year and 4 in the diary for 2012) and with the beautiful Freida Pinto (Planet of the Apes / Slumdog Millionare) as our leading lady the cast is all but complete.

There is blood, there is death.  There are great fight scenes deserved of a movie where gods are credited and its as brutal and brilliantly shot as any other movie you will see this year.  As for the 3D, well you can take it or leave it - nothing really jumped out for me so save your cash although its hard to find a 2D version circulating at the moment.

I loved it, but if I had one criticism it would be that it just took a little too long to ge going and for a movie that lasts 110 minutes it could have been easily done and dusted in 90.

To end on a high though, rourke is amazing.  His pure evilness shines through and although you hate the character by the end of it you have to admire the man behind him - again, Rourke proving that all it takes is a 2nd chance - well played Mickey.

Sunday, 20 November 2011

159, Arthur Christmas

I know, I know.  Its only November and the fist Christmas movie is among us.  Made by Aardman (The people behind Wallace & Grommit) this magical mystery movie takes us all the way to the North Pole and the military style operation that takes place on every Xmas Eve to ensure the safe delivery of about 2 billion presents in a window of about 6 hours.

There is no denying that the beginning of this movie is ace - We start on Christmas Eve with Santa en-route in a UFO style sleigh with the help of about 10,000 bungee jumping elf's who under Santa's lead manage to spectacularly deliver the worlds gifts in about 4hrs, overseen by a hoard of mission control elf's and their Tech Supervisor, Santa's oldest Son and heir, Steve.

Our Hero, Arthur (voiced by James McAvoy) manages the "Santa's Letters" department and apart from a few elf's, still sees Christmas as a magical time rather than a military op where numbers count and not the little kiddiwinkies!

Its pointless going on about the level and quality of the animation, obviously its amazing - very smooth and lifelike with great character effects and a epic layout of Santa's grotto but as with all animations its the script and voices that also make the movie and to say this has a few A-lister's is an understatement.

In addition to McAvoy in the title role keep your ears out for Hugh Laurie, Bill Nighy, Jim Broadbent, Imelda Staunton, Ashley Jensen, Laura Linney, Eva Longoria, Michael Palin, Sanjeev Bhaskar, Robbie Coltrane, Joan Cusack, Andy Serkis and Dominic West...........just to name a few!

See what I mean - its as much fun for the adults to spot the star as it is for the kids to watch the movie.

What does help is its also a sweet little story that will tug on the heartstrings especially in the run up too Christmas and its easy to see the subliminal messages throughout of Christmas becoming an "operation" rather than a time of family and magic and it wraps itself up very nicely at the end with smiles throughout.

As far as Christmas movies go this ones pretty good by me but make sure you have kids to take and if not, borrow some (with parents permission obviously!) as you will look out of place watching this without them.

Merry Christmas! xx (I know its November but where's your Christmas Spirit!) 

158, Twilight - Breaking Dawn, Part 1

It was all the way back in July 2010 that my 45th Blog was about Twilight Eclipse.  The Penultimate book in the Vampire Saga that made heartthrobs of then Ex Harry Potter Star R-Pats and my daughters favourite - Mr Taylor Lautner.

Well, not much has changed in the near on 18 months since our heroes last adorned our screen.  Firstly, My Daughter is still besotted with Lautner (I'm guessing she is not alone) and the story is still one of love and romance, not blood sucking horror - Shame!

So, Breaking Dawn Part 1.  The is where the story starts to wind itself up with the long coming marriage of Bella and Edward much to the anger of Jacob.  Dad is still none the wiser of her daughters life choices and the family of Vamps are as attractive as they have been previously.

However, if you thought Eclipse was slow then this one is even worse!  I know, I'll get lynched for slating this but the whole first hour is a ploddy, lovey dovey story line where everything is perfect, the marriage is beautiful, the honeymoon is awe inspiring, Werewolves and Vampires are getting on, The Voltori are no where to be seen and you really start to wonder if you are going to get any blood and teeth at all!

Well, in my mind it was all about the 2nd part of the movie where things stated to come to life.  The last 40 minutes really ramped up the action with some great special effects and a real teaser set up in to the final installment due out in another 12 months - Even Harry Potter did not make us wait that long between the final two movies.

Its tough  to say any more about it - I don't want to give the plot away but chances are if you are a fan then you have read the books and know the ending.  If not, then a brief heads up that hopefully wont spoil too much!  The "baby" is adorable - I don't think anyone will mind me saying that and the twist for the "non" literate of you (including me) who have not read ahead  comes between Jacob and the Baby but that all becomes clear as the story progresses.

There is definitely more flesh on show in this one than previous outings.  For starters, Taylor lasts all of about 32 seconds into the movie before whipping out the abs and even Bella bares far more shoulder and thigh than her quiet and normally reserved self would allow and the pretty side of Kristen finally starts to shine though towards the end of this movie and you know that in the next one it will be hard to find someone more glam than her on screen - you will see what I mean!

The last part of this really does capture you and take you along for a ride and even I was left wanting the final part to come along quicker than is planned but whats 12 months after all, it will be here before we know it!

By the way, don't get up and leave thinking its over after seeing Bella's eyes.  Hang around for the end credits and catch a little extra bit which re-introduces the Voltori and their "plans" for the Cullen's which is where the final installment takes you, and it looks good!

The Final Harry Potter movie was the far the best one they did and by the looks of the Twilight Saga, Breaking Dawn Part 2 is all geared up to be a non stop blood fest where I may finally get the all out action Vamp frenzy I have been waiting for.  Be under no illusions though, this move (as with the last) is a love story - Action fanatics stay away.  Let the Mrs go on her own!

Sunday, 13 November 2011

157, Tower Heist

Its been at least 2 years since Eddie appeared on our screen not disguised as a Donkey sand I was hoping it would be a great return to form of his old Beverley Hills Cop days and I was not disappointed.  Eddie controls each scene he is in with the famous Murphy chuckle making an appearance a few times throughout and his character of Slide, an ex-con bailed by Stiller to help them steal $20mil in change from the richest resident of the Tower, the most expensive real estate in New York where resident Mr Shaw (played by Alan Alda) has scammed all of the staff of their pension funds and is facing FBI federal charges.

The relationship between Stiller and Murphy reaches back to grade school albeit unbeknown to Murphy at the time and the mix of hotel employee's, bankrupt wall street investors and thief are a great mix-up for an unlikely band of Robin Hood's. 

Matthew Broderick (aging gracefully) is a shadow of his Ferris Beuller days but still manages to keep the momentum up alongside Casey Affleck and Michael Pena as the crooks with a great FBI supporting cast mostly headed up by the still lovely, Tea Leoni.

This movie is not as "laugh out loud" as I was hoping it would be and does manage to pull off a far more serious side with a heartwarming back up story of one mans plight to make good on some poor decisions and see the people who trusted him get back what they deserve, even is self sacrifice is on the cards.

Stiller plays a more down to earth role in this movie than normal and has to share the screen with Murphy far more than he normally would with any other leading roles but the two bounce off of each other really well with Murphy's hard case exterior and Stiller as the more personable of the pair making for a nice on-screen double act.

Alan Alda is deviously creepy as Mr Shaw but one of the maids, Gabourey Sidibe (from Precious, 2009) plays in to Murphy's and Stiller comedy excellence with simple ease as the maid / safe cracker.

The end is a little over the top when it comes to the Steve McQueen's Ferrari but you will have to go along and watch it for yourself as no spoilers in this one.

If you are a Murphy fan of old then this definitely does take you back to the old days, before the fat suits and the CGI and even though he would have made one of the best Oscar hosts of all time, sadly this is all you will now see him in this year and with one movie in the pipeline for 2012 and a yet announced release date for Hong Kong Phooey (another animation) he wont be around much in the future either.  Take this as an opportunity to see Murphy at his best and don't let it pass you by.   

Saturday, 12 November 2011

156, The Awakening

Ghost story time and in a Downton Abbey meets Paranormal Activity 3 stylie this rather dark and dusky movie [on opening night] made it into the cosy screen 9 which was a little disappointing but with Tin Tin, Immortals & The Rum Diary all hitting the screens as well as Johnny English, In Time, Para 3, Tower Heist and The Help still being banded about it was a wonder they gave this any screen time at all!

The setting for this movie is quite inspiring, a stately home turned boarding school in a time not long after WW1 sees an intrepid Ghost Hunter, or more specifically, a Hoax Exposer and Author of a best selling book being invited to seek the Ghost of a young boy who is believed responsible for the death of one of the students.  Rebecca Hall, Dominic West and Imelda Staunton are the three main leads in this and pretty much the only recognisable ones with a host of young boys holding their own as the student body.

This Ghost story does not have the immediate captivation or suspense of Paranormal Activity 3 or indeed the American Twang of Insidious but it does manage to draw upon the good old English love of  spooky houses, dodgy caretakers and atmospheric, albeit dreary backdrops to make what in essence is just another run of the mill Ghost story.

Nothing really made this a "one to watch" for me - there were a few jumpy bits and in a full cinema I'd have expected more people to let out a little yelp or scream other than a sole lady near the front but it was just not that jumpy to make people really sit up and pay attention.

I challenge anyone to work out the twist before its announced towards the end of the movie although in good movie tradition, once explained you get some little flashbacks stitching the whole plot line together but it just seemed to have all been done before. 

If anything, this movie is mixture of The Sixth Sense meets The Haunting with the scenery of any Period Drama you would care to mention.  Nothing really managed to stand out and the only redeeming feature was that I didn't work it out which is always a bonus and sometimes a nice surprise.

The performances matched the movie, everything and everyone just plodded along at a leisurely rate with a few bumps in the night but nothing to make those hairs stand up on end.

If you like any of the movies mentioned above then you may be able to take away something from this but recently I have had my eyes opened to a genre of spooks and frights that I never really adopted before and to put this in that category would be a great mis-justice.

Its kind of sweet and tender in places but if all out Ghostly screams are what you are after then this is not one for you.

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

155, In Time

Picture the scene - no one ages over 25 years old as far as looks are concerned but on your 25th birthday your clock starts ticking.  1yr to go until death and in a world without money you earn and spend time.  The rich live for seemingly ever with so much time they literally live their lives carefully with accidental death being their only possible demise and the poor, well they live minute to minute and fight everyday to stay alive where a 4 minute charge for a cup of coffee or a 90 minute bus fare could result in them not getting to work, ever again.  For the rich on the other hand, a new futuristic E-Type Jag will set you back a few hundred years so its all relative!

This is explained early on with J.T's mum (supposedly 50 years old) played by the beautiful Olivia Wilde (House, Tron Legacy) who looks no older than 25.  I know, slightly random when chatting up girls as your catch could be anything between 25 and 200 but never mind, all part of the fun. 

So, a world where no one ages over 25? sounds great doesn't it, but its all too much for one rich kid who in a bid for freedom bumps into Timberlake in a bar and after having his arse saved by our leading man gifts him his accumulated Century of time and J.T sets about making a break for the high life.

Just to put this all into perspective the below photo is a wife, daughter and mother-in-law, see what I mean - Tricky!

This is a unique look at a potential future and although highly improbable does make for a great watch.  Other characters including the Timekeeper (Cop) Cillian Murphy (Scarecrow in Batman) and Amanda Seyfried (Mamma Mia, Red Riding Hood) are both brilliant and more on these two later.

Firstly, Timberlake himself.  After hitting form with The Social Network and then laugh out loud comedy Friends with Benefit,s J.T seems to be a million miles away from his N-Sync and Mr Spears days and hopefully the dodgy pop past is now well and truly behind him as he continues to impress on the big screen. 

The on-screen relationship with him and Seyfried as the Bonnie and Clyde meets Robin Hood styled time thief's is mesmerising and really draws you into the plot line, in a way knowing what they are doing is bad but totally getting it and almost sitting alongside in the back seat as they dish out time to all who need it the most.

Murphy is the ethical Timekeeper and although hunting down J.T and Amanda, in effect making him our movie villain you have to admire the characters self disregard to milking the system and literally living on borrowed time, most of the time which could easily have been written the opposite way as a dirty cop but that would certainly not have had the same impact.

There is a great plot line between Seyfried and her father who basically runs the whole "time" thing and the contrast between New Greenwich and the Ghetto, even down to the poor running everywhere to "save time" is brilliantly explained and easily understood.

It could have had a bit more action for my liking, the trailer builds it up to be a non stop thrill ride but there is definitely more story and plot lines that you first imagine there could be but fear not, for those boys who's Mrs drag them along to see the "Trousersnake" in action Seyfried does not disappoint either with a cute bob an a very expensive bra, either that or she has had significant work done since Mamma Mia!

Really impressed with this one so if you get the chance, don't let time pass you buy (chortle!)

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

154, Monte Carlo

So Half Term has been and gone and I could myself lucky that I was only dragged to one kids movie but it was made easier by not being a cartoon or animation but an actual movie!

for those of you without daughters you may need an introduction into the movies main lead, Selina Gomez.  She stars in Disney channels Wizards of Waverly place which is made slightly bearable by the legendary Dom DeLuise's son,  playing the dad and is probably more famous for being the lady on the arm of a certain Justin Bieber.  Know who she is?  Probably not, but anyway its time to move on.

A few other TV stars appears as  Gomez's partners in crime with Emma & Meg also holding roles between them in Gossip girl, Melrose place, Shark & Entourage so definitely some TV credentials between them and in all honesty, all three of them were very good in this.

Its a likely tale of a down and out Texan waitress who dreams of visiting Paris.  After a disastrous first few days in the City of Love and the unfortunate tagging along of her older, slightly favoured step-sister they stumble onto a grand hotel currently occupied by British "It" girl Cordelia Winthrop Scott, who shares a remarkable resemblance to little Selina.  Cordelia bunks off to Majorca with her pals without telling anyone so Gomez and chums take up residence in her shadow, playing spoilt little rich girls until a devious Aunt (played by the one and only Catherine Tate) smells a rat sand threatens to blow the whole scam.

Wow! how exciting!

Okay, its definitely a kids movie but maybe one for the 8's and up, certainly not any younger than 5 as its got a real story, characters and a plot but manages to remain light hearted, funny, entertaining and actually, quite captivating.

The backdrops are beautiful and the three very different characters all get a chance to build there own persona's away from the star attraction of Gomez and its actually Meg, the Step-sister that goes through the biggest transformation while Selina herself get a chance to experience a life beyond her dreams and as for the third friend, Emma well for her there appears to be no place like home for that one.

For a kids movie this has been the best acted one in a while and as for story and script, just as impressive.  It did not just draw in the parent faction accompanying their off spring but a few couples and older viewers rocked up making me a little bit more impressed of the potential scope of this movie.

Note to Dads; For those of you who like me love a good Bond movie keep an eye our for the Eiffel Tower scene early on - the rush down the fire escape is extremely reminiscent of a View to a Kill with the camera positioned in exactly the same place as when Grace Jones is firing poisoned butterflies at Roger Moore - but that's just the geek in me wanting to get out!

This movie it is what it is and that's a kids movie for the holidays - but for me - it raised the barr ever so slightly and made it to the category of pretty good movie.  Nice one.

153, Paranormal Activity 3

I am not going to admit to being the toughest guy on the block, in fact Love Actually still brings a tear to my eye but hand on heart - I am not a horror movie fan.

Okay, so I've watched my share and over the past 12 months.  I've sucked it up and watched Insidious and Scream 4 so being a Paranormal virgin decided to suck it up and go and see what all the fuss was about. 

And I papped myself!

That's it, its out in the open - proper scared.  But why?

Well, its not creepy, spooky, gory or mental - it's fear comes from anticipation and tension.  A slow panning home movie camera switching between kitchen and lounge in night vision, not entirely sure whats going top jump out at you is slightly unnerving but what makes it worse is the big screen, the dark, the sound and most importantly, a cinema full of teenagers who start screaming at a pin dropping.

That's the trick - building the atmosphere.  I can vouch for this as I went back to good old Sky movies and watched Paranormal Activity 2, at home, lights on, middle of the day, 38" TV and too be honest, not at all scared but why would I? After all, its a silly movie.

And so is Number 3 but at the Big Screen you see it in a whole other light.

This is a prequel to the other two with our two sisters as young girls getting their first taste of the demons lurking under the stairs.  I'm not going to give anything away but there are a daft moments along with a few jumpy ones and even one or two laugh out loud ones but don't get me wrong, a majority will make you jump slightly out of your chair, even more so if the person behind you screams first!

The constant repetitiveness of the scrolling cameras does get tedious as more often than not, nothing actually happens but you continue to perch on the edge of your seat just waiting for the next bump in the night which when it eventually comes has the audience scream, then laugh at themselves screaming, then laugh at everyone else who screamed too!

Luckily, its just only 1hr 15min long so it does not keep you hanging around watching empty rooms for too long which is a blessing but my advise is don't wait for the DVD or TV release as it will have the same depreciation value as a Bentley and you would have missed the whole point of how the movie needs to be seen for it to work.

This is probably the jumpiest movie of the year so if this is your thing, don't let it skip you by.

152, Contagion

What do you get if you cross a Bird, a Bat and a Pig?  Well, in Hollywood it appears a strain of Swine Flu unrivalled in history and set to devastate the world as we know it!  But is a movie about a pandemic really enough to fill our cinemas in the lull between Summer and Christmas Blockbusters?

Well, not for me.  Its a shame though as great names such as Gwyneth Paltrow, Matt Damon, Laurence Fishburne, Kate Winslett, Jude Law and Elliott Gould have all signed up for it but for me I just did not get it.

Okay, we all were witness to a near global pandemic over the past few years which did result in the sad loss of life however this movie manages to go one step further and bring in the chemists and scientists tasked in producing a vaccine by using terminology lost on most cinema goers and sadly, my interest was dwindling quicker than the Greek Credit Rating.

To pad out the story of which is just basically an outbreak of Flu on a global scale as well as the scientists and the sick we meet the "immune".  Groups of people who are not effected by the virus but herded like criminals, all thought to be infected with Martial Law in effect and a big surge on borders and hospitals.

The individual performances each stand out though.  Jude is great as the conspiracy theorist and Laurence Fishburne as the Medical Honcho play blinders.  Gwyneth as the 1st infected plays "ill" beautifully even though all of the girls in this have a great excuse no to look their best"

This movie, Blog, No. 153 marks the 2nd Anniversary of my Movie Blog and it appears we are starting its third year with another turkey as I did with the 1st anniversary and Skyline.  Its not as bad as that one though to be fair but for me personally, a movie about bird / Swine Flu just made me itch and worry about the guy coughing next to me!  Thanks Hollywood, now I'm a damn hypocondriact.

But, a saving grace at the end is when we luckily get a short sneaky peak at how and where the outbreak all started and lets just say this, Remember to wash your hands!