Sunday, 29 April 2012

194, Salmon Fishing in the Yemen

A movie about a rich sheik bringing the sport of fly-fishing to Yemen is not exactly up there with Iron Man, Thor and the boys (and girl) from the Avengers as far as 'action attraction' goes but its a timely reminder that smaller films do actually exist when blockbusters hit the scene and to keep you humbled and grounded I would strongly recommend taking the time to catch this little gem before its pushed out to make way for the Summer fest of epics we are expecting.

Emily Blunt's firm represents a rich eastern Sheik, with money to burn and a passion to re-invent the Yemen River as a fly-fishers paradise which not only requires the right water but climate as well and not to gorget the Salmon themselves before anyone can actually take his plan seriously.  Fisheries expert and slight 'asbergers' scientist Ewan McGregor is the go-to guy to act as project manager who initially laughs the idea right out of the office but when Downing Street gets wind of it as a way to increase Anglo / Arab relations it becomes a steamroller of discovery that takes McGregor, Blunt and a comical Kristin Scott Thomas all the way to Yemen and with the luxury of a 'money no object' philosophy, everyone is free to realise the most important lessons in life are worth the pursuit, regardless of barriers.

The movie itself does seem to take a little longer to actually get going with McGregor taking a longer than needed time frame to actually fully get on board but nether less he is really good in this, as is co-star Emily Blunt who again, oozes cuteness on every level.  There are also some worthy secondary stories with Blunt & McGregor both in relationships and each with their own troubles in the background but the obvious "will they, wont they" does last right up until the final scenes, although to be honest - I'm sure you've already guessed it!

Billed as a romantic comedy I was struggling to see where the humour would come from.  An Asset Management Consultant and Fish Scientist do not immediately scream 'Anchorman' but its the part of Scott Thomas as the PM's press secretary who is responsible for all of the laughs.  Her far removed attitude from her role is well received and although the comedy all appears unintentional, its scripted brilliantly with the relationship between her, the PM and the foreign Secretary is all very tongue in cheek.

As for the Sheik himself, well his character is well educated and shows clarity in his mission, understanding the Western ways but at the same time not pushing his beliefs a onto our leading twosome.  Its only a matter of time until McGregor is completely in it for the long haul with 'Faith & Fish' taking on a resounding philosophy throughout.

It's not all sweetness and light though like The Blindside or Exotic Marigold Hotel - there's some heartache, trauma and sabotage thrown in for good measure that make it far more realistic as the building of a dam, transportation of 10,000 salmon & ecological impact would be totally unbelievable without a single hitch taking place.  Throw in a few love triangles and an assassination attempt and in my mind - you've got most of the boxes ticked.

There's not much more to say about this movie.  Its a small, British movie from three companies including The 'BBC' and manages to get across quite a simple message.  How you perceive that message is up to you and where some of you may find it ploddy and in places, slow - I felt it heartwarming and uplifting.  Maybe I'm going soft in my old age?  


Friday, 27 April 2012

193, Lockout

Guy Pierce, Remember him? Well he was Mike in Neighbours and if your 30+ you'll remember - don't you dare say you don't!  A normal soap star turned movie ledge is among us as Guy (after departing Ramsey Street & Home and Aways Summer Bay) graced our presence on the big screen with classics such as LA Confidential, Rules of Engagement, The Time Machine, The Hurt Locker & The Kings Speech before landing this master piece on us which to my knowledge could essentially define a generation? (or not!)

Well, Pierce plays Snow (Informer.......sorry!) a wreck of a special Ops CIA agent who's called into take down a space based prison that falls foul to the control of its inmates whilst having the (fit) first daughter on board although un-be known to them at the time (as they've been cryogenically frozen for a wee while) and it is down to one man to get on board, get the Presidents 1st born and escape unharmed from a group of complete nut jobs and if possible, take out the entire space station in the process - There's nothing like reality in the big screen these days!

So - lets get cracking with the SFX, there shockingly bad.  Sorry - but they are. 

Its set way way way way in the future and the only way you can tell this (prior to the space stuff) is with a dreadful 'Tron' style bike rip-off chase through some unknown major US city but it plays out like a dodgy PlayStation 2 game with OTT graphics and a sense of sheer frustration to get through it and get to the 'spacey stuff' - which luckily it does remarkably promptly.

Guy Pierce is a wise cracking fruit loop with a few one liners that will make you proper chuckle along as he bowls through sarcastic comment after sarcastic comment with the pinnacle 'B.J' gag added just for the hell of it but rather than infuriate the viewer it actually comes across quite well.

The first daughter (played by Maggie Grace, Irena for all the Twi-hards out there) is well played but annoyingly & expectantly 'cutesey' and the lead baddie, Vincent Regan (Ghost Rider & some major UK TV roles) is marginally average but for me there is only one winner here, and he's not been mentioned yet...........

May I officially take my hat off to my new favourite baddie (and this is only due to the sad departure of Heath Ledger - Heath, your Joker was unbeatable!) JOSEPH GILGUN.

I don't know who you are or where you come from but by crikey to made this movie come alive! 

After some research it appears that wee Joseph is not such a N.K.O.T.B with Uk roles in Corrie and Shameless (Legend?) but until now - you were unknown to me!  He's without doubt the best bad guy, nut job, one eyed phyco freak Irish weirdo on your silver screen this side of The Dark Knight and I urge EVERYONE to take the time to put up with snivelling Snow and prissy Emilie just to witness this guy in action. For those who doubt, the last photo is of him in this and it makes your skin crawl that someone can be so good in a single role. 

Yes the space prison stuff is impressive and the plot is very debatable but for me - its all about the Gilgun.  You Rock!

192, Gone

Amanda Seyfried has been noted in a few blogs of recent years, I can say that now as I approach blog 200 but in each one she seems to 'Man-up' just a little but more and I wont be surprised if by 2020 she's the 'Angelina Jolie' of the new decade but after her meagre beginnings in  Mama Mia & Dear John and then the brilliant In Time and Red Riding Hood this one time Hollywood sweetheart is toughening up for a new generation and quickly leaving behind the defenceless girlfriend persona and making waves of her own which is nothing to be ashamed off.

'Gone' focuses on Seyfrieds character Jill who sadly is burdened with the 'Cry Wolf' tag as no one believes she was abducted and almost killed by a local psycho until her sister suffers the same demise and Seyfried sets out with cops a plenty in tow to prove her case, find her sister and catch the bad guy responsible before the night is out.
As far as action movies go this doesn't have the clout of the big boys but there is an element of suspense with the 'Is he? Isn't he?' the bad guy cropping up every now and again.  The supporting cast of Daniel Sunjata (One for the Money), Jennifer Carpenter (Faster), Sebastian Stan (Captain America) & Wes Bently (Hunger Games) all play second fiddle to Seyfried's lead role and in a way that's not a bad thing as she really stands on her own in this one, covering most of the emotions most of us only experience in an entire lifetime but in the same breath, remaining innocently cute and cuddly to the point where you just want to pick her up, take her home and tell everythings going to be alright.
This isn't turning into a gush fest for Seyfried (bar the fact all the photos are of her?) but don't get me wrong, I'm not a 'Mama Mia' fan in the slightest but the potential here is significant for future productions.  As the actual movie is not groundbreaking in any way it does seem to draw even more focus to Amanda, a kind of CV for the next 12 months which sees our Hollywood starlet appear in no less than four new releases, all unknown to me except the movie adaptation of Les' Miserables but as with the rest of you, I'm sure the appeal of A.S will lure me in and I'll gush some more.

So, before my wife gets too jealous I'll sign off - My final thought on the movie?  Well, its a disappointing end.  As usual, no spoilers here but lets just say I feel they missed a trick which was a bit of a let down and it ended as abruptly as a fart in a lift but whats not to (secretly) love about those bad boys!

Friday, 20 April 2012

191, Battleship

Not many Boardgames get made into movie blockbusters.  Hasbro (the company also behind Transformers) developed battleships for the common game playing audience by asking each player to position their ships strategically on a board, blind to their opponent and it was taken in turns to call out grid references (D1, A7 etc) until the much appreciated "hit!" resounded from the other side of the screen - then after a few successive strikes the all familiar words of "you sunk my battleship" could be heard and it was game over - so turning this basic 1 on 1 classic into a multi million $ blockbuster was always going to be a toughie as well as keeping to the origins of the game - well against all belief, they seem to have managed it.

Firstly, lets start on the basics - a cleverly thought out 'old school' game of cat and mouse takes place mid way through the movie pitting the wits of the weapons team on a battleship, blinded by alien technology against a far superior race of Aliens.  Restricted use of satellite due to the alien involvement means the US Navy have to rely on a tsunami wave alert system, used to grid out the ocean using basic radar technology with the ship central on their ZX Spectrum style display, plotting grid references as the alien ship surfaces on the screen to fire missiles at it as it hones in on their location - basic game play but key to the title and allowing the movie remaining core to its origins.  Something I greatly enjoyed.
So with the Battleship element explained, onto the cast - Taylor Kitch, fresh from the disastrous 'John Carter' really proves himself in this as the lead and regains (hopefully) a whole heap of respect from movie goers as he blends comedy, stupidity and navy style heroism at every turn, even including a rip-off 'You Tube' sketch of a botched shop robbery but for those who are familiar with the original will chuckle along. 

Liam Neeson is brilliant, albeit it to sparsely used as he is stuck for most of the movie outside the alien barrier but true to American form - manages to arrive just in the nick of time.  Then there's Rhianna, not there as I initially though as the "Erika Eleniak" character so cheekily portrayed in 'Under Siege' but an actual gun toting action babe, who although doesn't have much to say manages to avoid barring flesh for kicks and actually acts, using actual acting talent and on merit alone, deserves her role among the great cast. 

There are plenty of other actors as well who pitch in and to be honest - none really let the side down and there are mini sub-plots bouncing throughout to keep the story alive and not making it just about a board game.

Now the Aliens.  Well as humanoid (ish) organic life forms, requiring heavy duty sunglasses to deal with our Sun's light they are actually well though out - the special effects of the ships are on parr with that of Michael Bay's Transformers although it still is a bit off the pace and action levels that Optimus and Bumblebee manage to display but nevertheless I felt they were well perceived. 

The action not only takes place on the Battleship, but Kitche's Mrs (and daughter to Admiral Neeson) unknowingly manage to leads a ground attack as they try to stop the Alien involvement on Hawaii, with the bad guys using our tracking satellites against us and signalling to their planet to come and help out with the invasion.  By enrolling the help of a techno nerd and an ex-Marine with replacement legs after losing them in Afghanistan (I think) our unlikely trio manage to stage a full scale defence with great success! 

Sadly though - there is also a downside and if you are a stickler for realism (forgetting the aliens etc) then you will be disappointed in the way they manage to chuck these full scale warships around (including the retired SS Missouri).  Ever though of reversing a ship of that size from stationary to the point is almost wheel spins out of the way of a torpedo or even using the anchor to complete handbrake turns?  Well, whats not to love in a Hollywood American blockbuster as Kitch manages to pull both off as if its as simple as a walk in the park and he manages to enrol a group of ageing retired Navy men (and I believe original crew of the Missouri) to help out as the mechanics of the ship are too dated for our current band of brothers to operate.  Its basically Space Cowboys on water.  Very O.T.T, but comical just the same.

For action and robot buffs then this is actually really good - not to realistic on the alien & Battleship front but manages to stay true to its origins (in part) and as far as movie versions of board games goes - well it did its job.  Lets just hope Downfall, Connect 4 & Ker plunk get the same treatment - now that will be Dull!

Sunday, 8 April 2012

190, The Cold Light of Day

Its been a quiet few years at the Box Office for Bruce Willis with 'Red' in 2010 being his last notable performance but this is soon to change as The Cold Light of Day sees him kick start a run of 8 movies in the next 18 months with titles including G.I Joe 2, Expendables 2, Kane & Lynch and (yet) another Die Hard movie so is this movie a welcome back to the action roles of old that Willis is so known for?  Well, lets just say that Willis brings to this the same as Seagal bought to Executive Decision - so with that in mind, lets movie swiftly onto the rest of the cast.

I say rest of the cast, predominantly this means Henry Cavill who fresh from playing Theseus in Immortals and a previous 4 year stint in TVs, The Tudors is relatively unknown on such a grand scale so make the most of him as you wont see him on our screen again until the Superman re-make, 'Man of Steel' set for 2013. 

Cavill plays a business consultant - on a trip to begrudgingly see his parents in Spain for a small family reunion.  After a quick pop to the shops, Cavill returns to the family yacht to find it ram sacked and his family missing.  Very soon we discover 'daddy' Willis is not all he appears to be and comes clean as a CIA operative.  Before long its Cavill who has to step up from Consultant to Action Man to secure a briefcase and return it to the Mossad captors in order to secure the release of his family.

As for Cavill himself, well he's pretty good in this and well matched against his worthy adversary in the form of the icy Sigourney Weaver who also plays dodgy spook with immense ease.  Cavill finds solace in a few locals one of whom turns out to be family (which is nice) and what plays out is quite a fast paced thrill ride throughout Madrid with moped chases, bar fights and a few close shaves for Cavill, his helpers and dear old Dad.

Its hard to sum up a movie like this one.  It wont be the best action / spy movie you have ever seen and it just feels like a little stop gap between Summer blockbusters, a 'something for the weekend' but nothing to really write home about.  That doesn't mean its poor, I enjoyed the presence of Willis and Weaver back on the big screen and my official introduction to Cavill as a potential new action hero was definitely well received but something just made me hold back on a full blown gush fest.

Madrid look great shot at a 'thrill ride' pace and the local 'help' compliment the location with superb ease.  As with all great spy movies, you never get to find out whats actually in the sought after briefcase but surely that's half the fun.  its not the longest review but its hopefully got the message across - If all those Easter Eggs are playing on your waist-line then put them down, get in the car and head off to see this for a welcome rest byte.  You could do a lot worse.

Saturday, 7 April 2012

189, Mirror Mirror

Easter Movie #2 and this time its off to see the most recent incarnation of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.  A timeless classic re-invented on the big screen with non other than screen legend Julia Robers heading up the cast as the Wicked Stepmother / Queen.  There are a few tweaks this time around but a majority of the story remains the same.

Snow's mum dies at birth, King re-marries, he then mysteriously disappears and our heiress ends up banished to her room until on her 18th birthday she ventures into the village to discover its amass of poverty and hunger, not the singing and dancing fairyland she once remembered. 

A jealous Queen orders her death in the woods but now skint, aims to bag herself a handsome new prince and Snow is lovingly saved thanks to a 'caring' butler (not woodsman) and runs across seven adorable dwarf thieves who re-style her into a 'Pirates of the Caribbean' style heroine determined to marry the prince herself, take back her fathers kingdom and put an end to the evil queens reign.

So, no real drama.  Just as Disney 'originally' wrote it albeit with a few differences.  Firstly, the full 'working' title is "Mirror Mirror: The Untold Adventures of Snow White" so they are looking at a definite new angle - more of a swashbuckling adventure rather than a ploddy fairytale.  Then there's the Queen herself, Roberts plays a blinder and managed to pull off evil and comical with a single breath.  Snow herself is gorgeous, Lily Collins (Phil's daughter) stepping out in her fourth movie to date and making a name for herself as in my eyes, not a duff movie on the resume with The Blind Side, Priest & Abduction already tucked safely under her belt.

Now the stars of the show - The Dwarfs.  Forget Sleepy, Happy and Dopey - let me introduce you too Napoleon, Half Pint, Grub, Grimm, Wolf, Butcher & Chuckles.  The new clan of lost souls, living wild in the woods, thieving from the queen at every opportunity and crying out for a female touch around the hollowed out log they reside in. 

These guys manage to add humour & action to our proceedings and along with Snow, make a devilish army of little rascals and not to be taken lightly.

Other notable performances from Sean Bean and Nathan Lane are well received as is most of the household staff who remember the castle as it should be from times gone by and luckily, all remain firmly on Snow's side.

The only character left is the Prince, played by Armie Hammer (Social Network, Gossip Girl) who is every inch as suave and sophisticated as any great Prince should be but with the added flair of managing to bounce of Julia Roberts with sincere ease, making their scenes together laughable and enjoyable, especially the 'Puppy Love' bit. 

What else is there to say about a tried and tested classic.  No-one is going to be brave enough to remake Snow White and royally mess it up - unless Tim Burton has a pop at it but luckily, Burton and his muse, Johnny Depp are back with their own 'spooky' marvel later this year [Dark Shadows] which from the outset - looks like a re-invention of the Addams Family - but way funnier.

So, Collins is adorable, Roberts is brilliant, Hammer is dapper and the dwarfs are sublime.  Parents and kids alike - you should all enjoy this one.

188, StreetDance 2

You can tell its half term as being dragged along to this was definitely not one of my 'to-do's' for the few days off I have over the Easter Break but although my daughter has spoken of nothing but this movie for the past 6 months it was only fair to saddle up and head down to the multiplex to make all her dreams come true.

Secretly, I have to admit I was kind of looking forward to it myself (a little bit), there is no denying that the quality of top end dance acts on our TV screens nowadays in shows such as America's & Britain's got Talent etc have raised the barr and with a pumping soundtrack and supposedly the worlds elite dance crews on the big screen whats not to enjoy?

This blog will be broken down into three sections.  firstly the Dancing, then the acting and to end, the finale.  Each worthy of its own little piece of 'page time' but all for very different reasons.  If I could sum this movie up in three words it would be Dreadful, Awesome and Disappointing.  But what matches with what.
Well lets start with the Dreadful.  Sorry, but the acting and script in this was truly shocking.  I know its going to be almost impossible to train some of the Hollywood elite to dance to this standard overnight which is why the cast are mainly made up of epic street dancers (barring Tom Conti) which sadly left a majority of the characters empty, wooden and down right boring to watch and listen too when they weren't 'busing a move'.  George Sampson just doesn't cut it on the big screen and the plank that played the lead role 'Ash' has less emotion than a chicken drumstick. 

The rest of the 'Crew' were just there for looks and moves although to be fair to them, they each play their 'stereotypical' dance roles to perfection.  Luckily though there is somebody who actually can act and reprising a role that only really can be compared to a previous performance in Shirley Valentine, Tom Conti ads a refreshing breath of thespian air to proceedings and manages to salvage a movie out of this rather than it just playing out like an elongated dance-off.

Moving swiftly onto the Awesome.  Well, no surprise here but its the dancing.  You will be hard pushed to find a better choreographed 90 minutes of screen time, ever.  Individually each have their own styles and stories and the idea of bringing together a crew of individuals and making it work as a tight team means we have some pretty huge ego's all battling for the spotlight but in each its cool headed Ash and to the latter of the movie, Eva who bring it all together in a seamless combination of Street & Latin that throughout the movie is truly inspiring.  The Music helps with some brilliant remixes of a culmination of recent chart hits and it wont be long before you are toe-tapping your way through practise session & dance battles which luckily happen frequent and often which is a good things due to acting being so terrible.

Sadly, I have to end of the disappointing.  The climax battle in Paris where our crew of individual misfits square off against the "Champs" just seems to lack any form of quality.  Don't get me wrong, its good but it just seems to be way off par compared to the practises and underground comps completed to get them to that stage.  I'm no dance champ but even I was well prepared for something breathtaking towards the end and it just never came - it actually made me wish I'd paid more attention at the frequent interludes throughout the movie as they definitely captured the class you'd hope for when watching a movie about street dancers.

If you have kiddie Cheerleaders or budding Street Dancers in your brood there is no denying they will love it.  In fact, most kids under 13 will think it could be the best movie ever but look a little deeper and it misses a fair few boxes.