Monday, 31 December 2012

232, Jack Reacher

In my mind - Tom Cruise will always be the best Bond actor that never was.  No matter how long he's been around or how much Hollywood power he commands - the man will NEVER mutter the immortal words of Flemming's now aged spy - so if you cant join 'em, beat 'em! which is what he seems to have tried in the past with done with his characters Ethan Hunt (M.I movies) & Roy Miller (Knight & Day) and I was almost sure that this movie would be yet another attempt at topple bond at its best, Cruise even brings ex-bond girl Rosamund Pike in this latest offering but to my absolute delight - Jack Reacher is something altogether a little different.

Yes, its got Cruise as the (ex) M.P investigator (Military Police) which opens doors for some quite expertly played out fight sequences and yes, its got a few of the chuckles that Bond commands and the  M.I movies lack but as an investigator - this one is a lot more script / plot based rather than an all out 'get the bad guy' in an apocalyptic mass of explosions and O.T.T stunts.

The movie opens with the tragic reality of a sniper shooting in America - five seemingly unassociated victims picked off by a river bank and for our benefit, we get to see the shooter from the off.  This is quickly followed by easily obtained prints, pointing the finger to a suspect who the audience will quickly identify as not being the guilty party and Reacher is called in (by the suspect) to try and prove his innocence. 

With an apparent open and shut case against him - its Reacher's job while working with a lawyer (Pike) who is also the daughter of the prosecuting D.A to seek the truth against a suspect who is ready to be lynched by the entire American public.  Sound interested?  Well - you should be. 

Even at its 2hr duration this movie is as fast paced as anything you would have seen Cruise in of recent times and although the stunts, explosions and glorious locations are not as apparent as Ghost Protocol the plot, story and character recognition of Reacher as an ex-army vet - almost reclusive from the known world whilst able to show the ability to pop up, solve a case and disappear whilst leaving a trail of slight destruction, sexual tension and unanswered questions in his wake was almost as pleasing to watch as the breathtaking abseil from the Burj Khalifa (Dubai) in his last outing. (skipping Rock of Ages, obviously.)

As for the supporting cast, Brits Rosamund Pike (Bond / Die Another Day) & David Oyelowo (Spooks / Planet of the Apes) both show off quite impressive American accents as the Lawyer and Cop assigned to both protect and take down the suspect in custody.  A few more familiar faces pop up too with Richard Jenkins (Stepbrothers / Eat Pray Love) & Robert Duvall (no C.V needed!) both turning in stellar performances.

What you get with this movie is a real crime thriller.  A process of a movie where you are always one step ahead of the characters based on the inside track revealed early on and watching Reacher and Rachel piece it together bit by bit is a pleasure to behold.  Mix that with a bit of humour, some impressive fight scenes & even a few twists and turns thrown in alongside the harsh reality of a horrific initial event that's as present in American history today as its ever been and in my mind - you've got one hell of a captivating movie.

With M.I 5 now announced for 2015 as well as a few more movies inbetween including the impressive looking Oblivion its yet again proof that at the tender age of 50, Mr Thomas Cruise Mapother IV (?) is still able to cut it with the big boys at the top of Hollywood's A-list and shows no sighs of slowing down - at least anytime soon!  

Thursday, 27 December 2012

231, Life of Pi

It wont be a shock to the regular readers that I'm not really a book person so please forgive me in advance if I miss the point of this movie - but here goes anyway!

All I have heard (from almost everyone) is that this book is amazing, the movie is epic, the 3D is stunningly beautiful and when we sat down on Christmas Eve as a family to watch this I was ready for an eagerly anticipated movie - however it sadly fell a little flat as far as we were all concerned and although this may be met with gasps from the crowd - let me explain. 

Life of Pi is the story of a young boy who's the only human survivor of a Shipwreck that happens whilst his family were transporting their Zoo and all their animals away from India.  Pi (the boy) ends up having to share a lifeboat with a Bengal Tiger, Orangutan and Zebra of which the latter animals very quickly meet their demise to the Tiger and this is the story of how Pi manages to survive, sharing only a 12 foot boat with a starving feline carnivore.

For me - this seemed to closely mirror Castaway where Tom Hanks spends weeks alone with only a Volleyball called Wilson for company and to its credit, the Tiger is a far more worthy companion that a ball - the scenes on the boat with the Tiger were well put together with some stunning effects but that for me was really all that was good about this film.

The story seemed to take forever and a day to get going, being narrated by Pi himself (as a Man) to a writer who's interested in telling the story, these flashback moments kept interrupting the pace of the movie and also for younger kids (mine was 9) felt a little lost as to what was going on.  Also - the 3D for me didn't really add any value to the experience - Yes - there is a single moment that will make you jump clear out of your seat but other than that - it all seemed very one dimensional.

Don't get me wrong though - the CGI and detail on the events between Pi and the Tiger are sometimes mind blowing and there is an odd section when Pi finds himself landing on a very strange island - inhabited by thousands or Meerkats and they are super sweet however the meaning of this is as confusing as can be and I still don't really get it. (Sorry!)

For me - the only endearing part of this movie is the Tiger - Pi's interaction with him / her / it is sometimes as scary as it was comical and luckily this takes up a large chunk of the movie which stars an almost unrecognisable cast except a brief appearance from Gerard Depardieu.

I am convinced that most of the people who actually go to see this would have already read the book, know what to expect and hopefully for them, Ang Lee will deliver a masterpiece that matches their expectations and answers all the visual questions left by their own imaginations after being captivated by the novel - for me though it was a bit drawn out & dull.  Not very articulate I know but if you like Tigers (which I do) then there may be a redeeming spark that will keep you entertained.

Maybe I missed the whole point of this movie (for which I cant really apologise) so as normal - don't let me put you off seeing this if you really fancy it but if you are like me and my words ring true for you in other reviews - take my word for it, I'm only being honest!


Update - So, after writing all of the above I had a conversation with some friends today where this movie was the hot topic - it appears I completely missed the plot! (as expected).

For mere mortals like myself I saw this as a movie about a boy stuck on a boat with a Tiger, really - it is much deeper than I ever comtemplated with metaphores all over the place, almost all of which managed to completely passed me by.  For me, I like the idea of the boy and the Tiger being stranded together so I'm happy to stay with that memory but for those who actually got the point of this movie - I'm sure you'll love it!

Saturday, 15 December 2012

230, Rise of the Guardians

Firstly - make no mistake, this is in no way related to the Legend of the Guardians (2010) where a band of warrior Owls battle against dark forces - this kids movie see's Santa (known in this as North), The Easter Bunny, The Tooth Fairy & Sandman face off against arch enemy - the Boogey Man (Pitch Black). 

Our intrepid four heroes lead the way in keeping the kids of the world safe through retaining belief in their existence - North and Bunny with their annual visits and more regular interactions with the Sandman who stops the little kiddiewinks getting nightmares and the Tooth Fairy who, along with her baby fairy's, collect the teeth of the kids which house their very own childhood memoreis - all very cute!  All of this is overseen by The Man in the Moon who's job it is to not only select Guardians - but also help them to find their own inner core's - their reason for being.

So, with the imminetent return of Pitch Black set to destory the kids of the worlds hopes and beliefs, resulting in the dissapearance of our aforementioned heroes its time to enlinst the help of a new Guardian - Jack Frost.  The jovial jester who's role in life is to cause mischief and mayhem when all he secretely wants is to be believed in. 

What a plot!  Definately a Christmas masterpiece in the making, only the problem is - its set at Easter? Which is a bit weird but nethertheless - its got Santa and Snow so its got my vote!

There are loads of quirky little moments in this to keep an eye out for - mainly the Elf's from North's workshop - normally perceived as the brains behind the whole operation of Christmas, in this they are depicted as basically - daft little jokers, no more help than the minions from Despicable Me and just as funny.  So, with that in mind - who is enlisted to help North with his annual miracle?  Well, its the Yeti's.  Big, cumbersome creatures whos 'walrus' style moustaches enlist more emotion and feeling than an entire Chipmunks movie and tell as much about their personality as Gromits eyebrows!  Tie all of that in that in with some slightly 'older' aimed jokes from Hugh Jackman as the Australian Easter Bunny and once more, there shold be something for almost everyone.

Then there is the cast itself - you'd easily be forgiven for not instantly recognising Alec Baldwin as the Russian Santa (its a brilliant accent) although in contrast Hugh Jackman (Bunny), Chris Pine (Frost), Isla fisher (Tooth) and Jude Law (Pitch) are all instantly recognisable.

Being a Christmas kids film its not going to take a rocket scientist to work out who's going to come out on top but whats nice about this is that it ticks off each of our childhood memories and dreams which is something not really covered on-mass before.  Yes, we've had Santa movies thrown at us since cinema began and recent incarnations of The Tooth Fairy & Hop have seen Easter also boxed away so having the Sandman and Jack Frost thrown in for good measure just ads even more depth to what is actually - a great kids movie.

I only saw this in 2D and I think its fair to say, the animation is mind-blowing but I've said this time and time again, with the technology out there - it needs to be!  However there are times when you just know the 3D element would have leapt out at you so if you've still not seen this yet - I would recommend the full blown version if you can.  Hopefully thats it now for me and Christmas movies - I dont think two is that bad? and with The Hobbit & Jack Reacher just around the corner its time to get back to some good old fashioned Blockbuster action - as quickly as possible.

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

229, Alex Cross

Prepare yourself for a few of these over the coming months - Movies merely titled after the leading role which will see Tom Cruise as Jack Reacher in Jack Reacher (2012) & Chris Pine as Jack Ryan in Jack Ryan (2013) (All about Jack it seems) and if you think the name Alex Cross is somehow strangely familiar to you but you cant put your finger quite on it - let me enlighten you. 

Alex Cross is the Morgan Freeman character from Along Came A Spider (2001) & Kiss the Girls (1997).  "Oh Yeah!" I hear you all cry.  Well, As Ben Affleck played a young Harrison Ford in The Sum of all Fears (2002), its relative new comer to the big screen Tyler Perry who has the fortune of landing the starring role in this prequel that sees Dr Cross take his last case as a Detroit Cop and newly qualified profiler before taking the FBI job in Washington where the pre mentioned 1997 & 2001 movies take place with Freeman at the helm.

As with Along Came A Spider - we are almost instantly introduced to our bad guy - a twisted psychotic serial killer, dubbed Picasso and played by the almost unrecognisable Matthew Fox (Dr Jack Shepherd from Lost) in what can only be described as a weight loss programme rivalled only by Christian Bale's awesome portrayal as Dicky Eklund in The Fighter.  What gets played out is a dangerous Cat and Mouse game between the two which leads to a devastating climax mid movie and an ending that sets hearts a pounding.

Have I built it up enough?  Well, I hope so as this move is actually really quite impressive.  The supporting case of Cross's partner Tommy (Edward Burns) and the brilliant John C. McGinley as Chief of Police Brookwell are well cast as is one of my favourite Frenchmen (albeit a few pounds heavier than normal) Jean Reno.

The story is really quite simple - 'Cops chase Killer' but there are a few twists and turns along the way including a very daring assassination attempt outside a courthouse in full sight of the whole of Detroit which definitely takes some sincere planning. 

If I did have any low points it would be the actual casting of Perry that if anything (for me) lets the side down ever so slightly.  Maybe I was comparing him too much to the smoothness and elegance shown by the seasoned Freeman however if I was asked to cast a replacement I can only think of maybe one or two possibles including a younger Chris Rock or even Chris Tucker but their comedic edges may spoil the performance. 

Perry just seems too bulky for the role but that is again, basing him on a younger Morgan Freeman, not a younger Alex Cross and maybe that's the point - showing a tougher side to the FBI profiler, a darker more sincere role and if that was the case - then maybe Quinton Jackson (The A-Team) would have been a better fit and certainly one with more credentials.

With all that said - during this time of festive joy its good to throw a few thrillers in among the mix of Kiddie movies and Blockbusters coming our way - for me, it was a welcome break between the great Nativity 2 and the Rise of the Guardians which although will both be good - split up the cute factor somewhat.  Alex Cross is in the mix with Seven Psychopaths and and Jack Reacher as a few must see's before the Hobbit takes over our lives and before you know it you're into January, Oscars are presented and the whole thing starts again!

Sunday, 2 December 2012

228, Nativity 2: Danger in the Manger

Although I saw this movie last week I could not bear to write anything 'Christmassy' until at least December, hence the delay in getting this blog out there - but now the silly season has well and truly began, my own decorations are up and I'm already counting down the doors on my advent calender what better way to kick of the festive season with what could possible be the best Christmas kids movie..................EVER!

Okay, so its a sequel - harping right back to Nativity! (Blog 9 - 2009) where Martin Freeman (Hobbit) planned on getting a Hollywood studio in on his annual School Nativity play with the fantastic Mr Poppy offering childlike support and capturing the total essence of Christmas, as well as every laugh in the script.  Well, Freeman has gone and in his place - replacement teacher Mr Peterson (David Tennant) who's sullen take on teaching is somewhat thwarted by the over eager antics of the still hilarious Mr Poppy (Mark Wootton) who's back (thankfully) and this time is eager to enter his class into A Song for Christmas

A Christmas Number 1 beckons as does potential fame and fortune and with quite a catchy little number up his sleeve, and against the permission of the Headmistress manages to make off to the Welsh countryside with a herd of excitable albeit kidnapped kiddies and a baby!

Pam Ferris returns as the Headmistress and Tennant's wife, played Joanna Page both add great elements of sanity to the script which is completely and brilliantly ruled by Mr Poppy.  I challenge the most straight laced of you to watch this without cracking a smile or indeed - full blown guffaw to his antics that see everything from a London Duck Tour Bus ride through the Welsh valleys to the most unbelievable abseiling scene ever captured on film!

The most heartwarming feature in this though is the kids.  With recognisable faces from TV adverts and a few returning (I think) from part 1 these natural comedic talents really make the movie.  From the sublime to the ridiculous you will laugh along to shoddy auditions, bad dancing and even feel terrible laughing at the slightly chubby kid who keeps doing back spins but none of that matters - together they are a collection of lovable rogues - specifically chosen to make the movie a real pleasure to watch.

As the film unravels we get to meet once again - competitive music teacher Gordon Shakespeare (Jason Watkins) who as in part 1, is intent on walking away with the prize in one of the most ambitious song sketches ever carried out by school kids but this time, as well as Poppy's ensemble of slightly less professional students (although the X-factor style auditions will have you belly laughing in the isles) he has Mr Peterson's over achieving twin brother Roderick to contend with (also played by Tennant of course!) and it becomes a three way battle, not only of the songs but of the brothers own prowess to see who walks away with the crown.

The Nativity plot comes spattered throughout with the pregnancy of Mr Peterson's wife and a resulting stable birth, complete with shining star and Donkey that is set up brilliantly throughout the entire movie and as it pieces itself together it doesn't take long to realise whats unfolding in front of you.

If I had one criticism its that the other songs, played out at the end as we await the arrival of Poppy's troop did seem to go on a bit too long with every perceivable genre of music being acted out and after 4 or 5, did become tedious but that aside - I loved every minute of it.

You cant really go wrong with this - in a world overtaken by kids animation its fun to see real actors in a kids film and being Christmas - this could possibly be the best one out in 2012.  Yes, there is the visually brilliant Rise of the Guardians and the kiddies favourite Tinkerbell movies alongside and for the rest of us, December is really all about the release of Peter Jackson's first part of The Hobbit but before then, make sure you don't miss out on this comedy masterpiece that's as inspiring as it is silly and I dare you now to walk away wishing Mr Poppy was YOUR teacher when you were 6!