Sunday, 19 August 2012

215, Brave

Parents, you know you cant go far wrong with the latest Disney Pixar offering.  Time after time they have set the benchmark for great kids animation while managing to keep the adults interest for the full 90 minutes.  While the kids are awe inspired by the cute and lovable characters on screen we get treated to the occasional witty banter that sometimes goes over our off springs head but is the nod from the studio that they want to make us interested as well and give us a reason go going other than just trying to entertain the kids during the holidays.

Well, once more they've gone the extra mile and Brave is a worthy string to their already impressive bow.  Don't forget - this studio is only really 17 years old as its first big movie Toy Story was released in 1995 although its original inception was in 1979 as the graphics arm of lucasfilm and it was Apple legend Steve Jobs who took it on as a separate entity and personally funded its early transformation in 1986. 

Its had an impressive 13 movie haul to date with a resume that includes Toy Story in 1995, followed by A Bug's Life (1998), Toy Story 2 (1999), Monsters, Inc. (2001), Finding Nemo (2003) and The Incredibles (2004).  Disney bought it in 2006 (becoming Disney Pixar) for about $7 Billion and since then it just went from strength to strength with Cars (2006), Ratatouille (2007), WALL-E (2008), Up (2009), Toy Story 3 (2010), Cars 2 (2011), and now, Brave (2012) and there are more to come!

You cant fault these movies - their secret being the  PhotoRealistic RenderMan, its own implementation of the industry-standard RenderMan image-rendering application programming interface used to generate high-quality images.  Geeky enough for you?  Well best get onto the movie itself.

Another impressive cast list this time include Billy Connolly,  Kelly MacDonald, Emma Thompson, Julie Walters, Robbie Coltrane and Kevin McKidd to name a few - Scottish Hollywood royalty represented (in part) to full effect.

Kelly plays Merida, a flame haired princess who is determined to lead her own life rather than the one of regal pomp bestowed upon her.  With the support of her boisterous father (Connolly) and to the dismay of her well to do mother (Thompson) she seeks out a wish from Witch (Walters) to change her fate - but in true Disney tradition, her plans of grandeur go to pot when whats best for her, may not be so enthralling for those close to her and its down to Merida to fix the bond between Mother & Daughter to break the curse and return to happy, normal life.

Its quirky, funny, adventurous and brilliantly animated.  The cast excel in their roles and with a total adoration of Trainspotting I'm always glad to see Macdonald and McKidd in the limelight.  I even saw Billy on his farewell tour so I feel closer to this cast than many with an obvious awareness of Brit legends Thompson and Walters, it would be hard to have a bad word against this one.

Compared to the other kids movies out there currently (and believe me, there are a fair few) this one ticks the most boxes. 

214, The Expendables 2

If there is one thing I love its an all out, guns blazing Action movie.  Since the 80's / 90's something has happened and it seems that scripts and actors have got a little more savvy to demand and plots have been intricate, complex and sometimes overworked (not always a bad thing mind) but sometimes, all the audience want to see is a total no-brainer, balls out blockbuster with little plot, big bangs and even bigger ego's.

Well, as with the first outing for Sly and his band of ageing Action Stars you get exactly what you pay for and this time they've gone Bigger & Better!

All the originals are back, Stallone, Li, Lundgren, Couture, Statham & Crews as the original merry men but sadly, and for no reason that he seems to have been busy elsewhere, Li removes himself from proceedings early on, leaving our sensational six as a now fabulous five with Willis still pulling the strings and Schwarzenegger back as the 'competition'.  But that's not all - The Hollywood 80's address book has been opened and lone wolf, Chuck Norris pops in for some solid sniper action and when the Muscles from Brussels himself steps up as the villain, still able to pull off flying spinning roundhouse kicks you know you're in for a treat - and Jean-Claude comes with none of the cheese sadly displayed in his recent 'Coors Light' ad campaigns!

The body count in this movie is impressive, as are the methods of destruction for minion after minion who get in our Expendables way.  There are decapitations, people blown up, people having tanks land on them and that's all before the opening credits roll, leaving most movies lagging in the death stakes way before the movie even gets going!  Those with the blood lust will be more than satisfied as its spurts out from every open vein in epic proportions.

We even get treated to a few new recruits.  Added into the mix are Thor's younger brother Liam Hemsworth as the new 'sniper' kid on the block, impressing Sly and his band of merry men at every turn.  Sadly, a short lived role as his demise makes way for the revenge side of the story to kick off & a girl! I know - madness.

As you would have guessed there are Terminator, Rambo & Rocky references dotted throughout and I was sure the on screen trio of Arnie, Sly & Willis would have given reason to a line similar to "We should open a restaurant after this is over" but they go with a "We belong in a Museum" piece instead which was slightly more fitting.  There are more "I'll be back" quotes as well (Yawn) but this time mocked by Willis and I have to say, Arnie is looking more than past it (sadly) but on the flip side, Van Damme is looking as ever hard in this as he used too - and just as agile!

Obviously, this wont appeal to everybody but if like me you love your action movies with OTT explosions and a completely impossible story-lines, paired with the unexpected comedy element of Lundgren (I was surprised at how funny he is in this) and every 80's action star you have ever dreamt of coming together for a jolly boys outing that Del boy would have been proud off then you wont do much worse than this in 2012.

Leave you intelligence at the door - this movie has got more cigar smoke than a Cuban tobacco factory and as many dodgy one liners as a Frank Carson gig but who cares,  its got Gun's, Explosions and Arnie - what else could you need?

Monday, 13 August 2012

213, Diary of a Wimpy Kid Dog Days

Oh Dear.

This blog wont take long and if you're between 6-10yrs old you'll probably love it but sadly for me, this movie came across as a meagre attempt to keep an aged franchise running that initially had one slightly amusing movie back in 2010 but has since bombed.

For those who actually care - Diary of a Wimpy Kid is a collection of 7 books all written by American author Jeff Kinney.  Dog Days is book 4 with books 1 & 2 already hitting the big screens.  For some reason book 3, 'The Last Straw' never made it so that should have set alarm bells ringing.

The first movie had charm, character and a few funny sequences and according to my kids, the books are great but in this instance it just didnt materlialise onto the screen.  The fact that I did find the first movie good tells me that I get it.  I'm not saying its not beneath me or anything like that, it just failed to impress on a few levels. 

Dog Days sees our wimpy kid starting his summer break and as usual, his cool 'wannabe' lifestyle is crushed by family, friends and dog, leaving him embarrased and having to deal with fixing his summer, rather than living it.

Our Wimpy Kid and the rest of the original cast remain - Zach Gordon is looking older but not too much wiser as Greg Heffley and the star of the show for me still (as it was in the first one) is his geeky B.F.F Rowley who is a little bit 'too' weird to be comfortable, but uses that to gets most of the laughs.

The adults are nothing special and elder brother Roderick is even more removed from reality as he is in the prequals.  The female bully Patty remains as do a few other faces but in general - no stand out performances.

I have to give the company behind this their due - the books will lure out innocent parents, coaxed into going by their offspring who adore the novels but it needs to stay there - please, No more!  If the books are anything to go by then the next installment would include dating & I would instantly feel sorry for whoever gets the sad task of dating Rowley!

There are so many kids movies out currently including Step Up 4, Brave, Ice Age 4 & The Lorax, all of which I'd rather watch than this one so with only a few weeks of Summer remaining, take your ankle biters to any of the above instead.  Avoid this one.

Sorry x

212, The Bourne Legacy

Time to engage your brains people and pay attention, this is not a movie of which you are allowed to leave your intelligence at home. 

Firstly - If you are reading this blog and are planning to see this movie without first watching the Bourne Ultimatum then stop what you are doing, switch off your computer and go and either rent, buy or use whatever digital TV provider you have to stream this movie then come back and we will start again.

Even though this is a 4th instalment for us - this movie doesnt follow on from the last but runs alongside the events of the last Bourne movie, Ultimatum so without knowledge of the story it'll be tricky to fully keep up to date with the sequence of events taking place.  While Bourne and Lundy are busy working to take down Treadstone another, far higher department have realised that after Bourne's almost superhuman events in Moscow (about 1/3 through Ultimatum) its time to cut all ties with the Treadstone / Black Friar program.  That means take out all other agents, scientists etc involved leaving no stone unturned.  This role falls to Edward Norton and his team of CIA geeks to act independently of Treadstone and minimalise risk, just in case Bourne succeeds in his mission.  That my friends, is where Legacy kicks off.

We are kept up to date with the time frame of Ultimatum as events unfurl with news bulletins and press releases staggered throughout Legacy and While Jason Bourne is doing his thing, Norton is successfully taking out operatives and scientists with undercover sleeper agents.  On each side we manage to have a survivor - from the Agent side its Jeremy Renner, Agent 5 of 9 who manages to luckily escape a drone attack while training in Alaska and for the scientists its Rachel Weisz who manages to hold off her assassin just long enough until security take him down.  Now both are hunted with the intention of permanently silencing the pair who meet up and work together to avoid capture, imminent death and try to make sense of everything going on.

Its a brilliant movie.  There is so much more involved in the plot than I've written above but most will need to be seen to be fully understood.  The action sequences are fast and furious, the parallel chain of events from Ultimatum are fed seamlessly into Legacy and the idea of having them play out this way in a new concept I've not seen before with prequel or sequel and I loved it. 

You need to have you game face on for most of it, especially the first 30 minutes or so when snippets of Ultimatum are regularly fed into Legacy e.g the death of the news reporter Ross (at Waterloo) who uncovers Treadstone as well as a few others and to the unknowing eye who's not seen the first trilogy you could easily get lost but for the rest of us - you should pick it up quite easily.

It does calm down eventually with the full plot of Legacy taking shape and less interaction with the last movie and thats when you feel you can lower the heart rate slightly but dont get too comfy because it then goes into overdrive!

Renner and Weisz are both fantastic in their roles.  Norton is smooth, slick and although after our heroes - you cant fault this guys determination & organisation to track, find and kill his targets. 

I've not got a bad word about it - there are Jason Bourne references throughout although Matt Damon is only seen in photographs however that's the Ultimatum side of the movie - the Legacy part is definitely all about Renner who I think could even kick Damon's ass if needed.

Watch the first three then add this to the list - its a definite MUST!

Sunday, 5 August 2012

211, Ted

Not since Who Framed Roger Rabbit can I think of a movie where animated characters lived alongside humans in blissful happiness and it was completely accepted as normal.  More recently there have been The Muppets where Walter was able to carry out day to day duties with no one batting an eyelid.  All good movies but all lacking something special - the adult element - sure, these movies are fine to take the kids too but sometimes we need something just for us.  Just like Wanted was an adaptation of a quite grown up comic, Ted takes us into a realm not yet seen on the big screen and I was unsure if it could actually work.  Luckily I was wrong.

Before you spend the entire movie trying to guess who the narrator is (as I did), its Patrick Stewart.  So moving on..........

Ted is a bear, bought for little John Bennett, a picked on kids who just wishes he had a best friend that he could have forever and ever - one Christmas - his wish came true and sure enough - Ted came to life, instantly to the horror of his parents but once accepted he became a bit of a celeb, starring on chat shows and adverts until the public got bored and both John (Wahlberg) and Ted (McFarlane) grew up and we have two drop out individuals hooked on drinking and getting high.  Somehow, John meets and falls in love with the stunning Lori (Kunis) and it becomes clear that three's a crowd and John has to make a decision between his lifelong buddy and the girl of his dreams.

This film goes to places you couldn't imagine - a Bear with a Bong on the couch paired with a slightly odd obsession with Flash Gordon (which plays out into a quite funny sub story line and impromptu cameo from Sam J Jones, Flash as himself) with other subtle appearances from Tom Skerritt and Norah Jones with a great speechless part from Ryan Reynolds who I'm sure only got involved due to his love of Family Guy.

Macfarlane is every bit as rude and crude as one can get away with nowadays on a movie and even manages to bag himself a hottie from the supermarket who he manages to satisfy with certain vegetable produce due to his 'lack' of required equipment, something he jokingly said he complained to Hasbro about - there are little one-liners ion this that make the movie what it is and although some may fly over your head - most are easily catchable.

Kunis & Wahlberg bounce brilliantly off of each other but the movie takes a dark turn of events towards the end with an appearance from Giovanni Ribisi and his very odd child who seek to capture Ted and keep him for themselves.

The story is pretty self explanatory - Bennett is torn between his life long friend and his future beloved and has some tough choices to make, not helped by Lori's seedy boss making moves on her at every turn and a group of work friends who think she could do so much better.  Wahlberg's character has to step up and prove he's a man with a plan rather than a boy with a bear and do whats right to satisfy everybody. 

There are plenty of 80's references throughout this and in my mind - Macfarlane nailed his role - the Bear is epic - I want one!  The effects are seamless and the fight scene really goes to town (just keep an eye out for the hotel room brawl)

It was a 'given' that Mila Kunis would star heavily in this due to her involvement with Macfarlane in place with her role as Meg from Family Guy but Wahlberg was an inspired choice but well played on his part also.

Its funny, rude & crude all at the same time with an actual tear jerker for an ending but don't let any of that out you off - its worth every penny.  Like Seth or loathe him he does do this type of comedy almost better than anyone else and believe - you've never seen anything like this before.

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

210, The Dark Knight Rises

The anticipation of this final Chris Nolan Batman movie, starring Christian Bale has been awe inspiring - never has a movie had so much expectation to deliver brilliance as this one. 

With Nolan's new, darker franchise making a mockery of previous outings starring Kilmer & Clooney this really bought a depth of feel to the character and I for one don't need to revisit the brilliance of the previous two movies that led up to this one. 

Nolan and Bale always knew this was a trilogy and it was clear to movie goers that this was a three-part deal - where it goes from here is unknown with the end of the movie definitively ending Bruce Wayne's involvement with the Bat - but leaving a door open for the next level and for whoever is brave enough to try and follow in Nolan's footsteps better not mess it up! 

So - The Dark knight Rises.  8 years have passed since Batman took the blame for the death of Gotham Hero Harvey Dent, the secret of his two-faced identity kept away from the Gotham residence to ensure faith in the system was maintained has merely paved the way for an underground movement to plan their uprising and with the now elusive Batman and reclusive Bruce Wayne nowhere to be seen its time (as tom Hardy puts it) for Gotham's Reckoning.

Bane was an unlikely choice for the baddie in my eyes, seen only previously in the other Batman movies as a sidekick to Poison Ivy, This rendition sees the awesome Tom Hardy come across as a terrorist, hell bent on the seclusion and destruction of Gotham city itself and hell bent on revealing the truth about Dent, the involvement of Gordon and the unmasking of Batman - something he manages to pull off, brilliantly.  Even though I initially though it was a poor choice of villian, Hardy's involvement had me very excited and I admint - I was wrong.  Bane's brilliant - Well played.

The special effects are jaw dropping, Bane himself has all the elements of psycho hard man you could ever wish for and with the complete 360 story bringing us back to the League of Shadows, featured heavily in part one, its a fitting end to what has been the best trilogy to EVER hit our screens.

But even Bale and his might machines isn't enough to stop Hardy alone and he enlists the help of Jewel thief, Selena (Cat woman) played by the ever gorgeous Anne Hathaway as an immediate adversary, turned assistant but without the cheese that Chris O'Donnels 'Robin' bought into the mix.

Gordon, Fox and Alfred all return as well as a brief appearance from Liam Neeson and the gangs pretty much all here for the final farewell.

There is so much going on in this  movie - the plot rips along at such a pace that the 2hrs 40m flies by before you know it and every question you ever wanted answered from the other movies has its turn to play out - including an Arkham breakout where baddie Number 1, Scarecrow (Cillian Murphy) gets a fabulous reprise as judge and executioner to the Gotham 'elite' when the legal tables are turned and the inmates get to play 'courtroom' for a while.

The end of the movie is brilliant - what you believe is a broken relationship gets a final awakening and although I'm not going to tell who or what it involves - lets just say is brings a tear to the well trained eye and definitely a sub plot that could not be left to lie. 

The end for Batman? - well, as I mentioned at the start, there is an opening for a fourth instalment but it wont include Bale which means it wont include Bruce Wayne as as our caped crusader but that doesnt mean that someone else couldn't take up the reigns and act as protector of the newly freed  Gotham city, but you'd be a brave director to try and make it work as well!.

209, Seeking A Friend for the end of the World

Not every movie needs a Hollywood ending where a last chance 'Hurrah!" saves the day and our cast live happily ever after - for those who have seen movies like Wicker Man or Skyline will know that the good guys don't always win and sometimes we need reminded of that - well, there is no grey area here, many times have Hollywood saved us from planetary devastation with bombs on meteors or giant life saving submarines but I think its pretty clear that 'should' a world ending asteroid actually make its way close enough to cause harm - the chance of survival is dim so finally - its time for a movie that actually goes through the motions of, what would you do?

I'm not spoiling anything here - the opening line of the movie confirms that the mission to save the earth failed and our leading man (Steve Carell) has 3 weeks along with the rest of the planet to make all his ends meet, bury any left over hatchets and maybe - find someone worthy of seeing out his final days with him.

Enter Kiera Knightley - a free spirited, hippy styled early twenty something ish flyaway who's missing her family, in a rubbish relationship, down on her luck and also just needs someone to put their arms around her and tell her every things going to be okay.

These two completely different people, with only weeks left until complete annihilation decided to help each other out, Knightley to help Carell get to the lady in his life that got away and Carell to help Knightly get to her family in time to say goodbye.

Being a Carell movie there are a few funny moments but only as certain scenarios get played out with the mentality of whats about to happen - there are those who go looting and destroying, those who drink and do drugs, those who decide to let sexual inhibitions fly out of the window but in all the chaos, our intrepid two remain focused on their goal and even though you're completely expecting a sad ending - when it comes there wont be a dry eye in the house!

The 'will they / wont they' story is short lived but it doesn't matter - both played lovely parts in this and I for one thoroughly enjoyed it.

Don't expect an Armageddon last minute success story here - its sad, brutal, endearing, tear producing and in some parts, an inspiring movie of self sacrifice.