Thursday, 25 July 2013

272, The Frozen Ground

In essence I was slightly bemused as to why this movie was quietly slipping under most peoples radar.  It received little to no media advertising, I never saw a trailer for it at other movies and the release (at my cinema at least) of a once nightly (late) showing should have sent the alarm bells ringing.

But then, you see the plot and cast.  Nicolas Cage and John Cusack playing Cop & Bad Guy, portraying the true events of Alaska's most notorious Serial Killer, Robert Hansen.

The story focuses on Cindy Paulson (Vanessa Hudgens) a lucky victim who although suffering the torture and horrific rape at the hands of Hansen (Cusack) manages to escape death by taking a chance dash for it while her captors back is turned. 

Trying to blend back into society and a world of strip clubs, prostitution and drugs, Halcombe (Cage) tries to get her to tell her story and identify Hansen as the aggressor, saving other girls lives.  Scared for her own safety, Paulson decides against getting involved until a chance meeting with Hansen sends her over the edge and with a few twists an turns along the way has to evade him all over again as he hunts her for a 2nd time but with more girls falling to the killers mercy, can Halcombe catch the bad guy in time?

Sounds good doesn't it?  If it only it was.  Firstly, being a true story your heart will go out to the people portrayed in this film - the sheer level of humiliation, torture and 'hunt' styled death in the wilderness the poor victims succumbed too will make you ensure you lock your doors at night and with a fantastic cast I really hoped the movie would honour the important tale it tells, but for me this wasn't the case.

It was shot quite dark, making it hard to make out most of what was going on and the introduction of Curtis '50 cent' Jackson as Paulsons pimp has to win the award for worst haircut ever and sadly, all it wanted to do for the first hour was make me want to fall asleep.

towards the end though as the trail closes in on Hansen it does get a little punchier but then its a simple arrest and capture with a confession that comes all too easily and then its over.

I cant fault the idea behind this movie, the cast that were chosen or indeed the overall story but for me, it just didn't transition over to the big screen.  A fantastic serial drama over 2 or 3 episodes definitely but not a movie. 

I may be wrong, this may be critically acclaimed and my negative response may be because it was late, I was tired and the air-cons wasn't on that made me sleepy but for now, until I see it either on TV or a non descriptive streaming app on my iPad, I'll have to go with my first thoughts. 

Sunday, 21 July 2013

271, The World's End

The Worlds End, starring Simon Pegg & Nick Frost (directed by Edgar Wright) makes up the third instalment of the affectionately titled 'Cornetto Trilogy' that sees this trio set out for the final time (?) after the previous two moves Shaun of the Dead & Hot Fuzz took audiences by storm. 

In this most recent and non-related outing, 5 lads from New Haven (after graduation) in the early 90's set out to complete the Golden Mile, a 12 stint pub crawl ending at The Worlds End.  Sadly, first time out they failed to reach then end and now 20 years on, Gary King (Pegg) sets out to rekindle the 'bro'mance of his former years, rally the troops and finally - finish what they couldn't all those years.

As for the story line its pretty solid and easily recognisable to anyone who grew up in leafy towns and villages.  As with the other two movies, the focal point of a pub(s) is all important so this just takes it to another level although in this one, the 4 other attendees aren't initially as keen as Gary as they've all moved on with new lives and its only King that has remained well and truly in the past.  There are deep back stories to each of the leading cast and their own reasons for deciding to tag along but on the whole - this movie mostly focuses on the relationship between King & Knightly and starts quite dark in comparison to other comedy roles they've completed.

Due to the nature of the other movies, I was hoping for side-splitting laughs almost from the outset but in all honest, for me - the laughs only started drip feeding through once the 5 of them were drunk and the sober part of the movie just looked like a cheap copy of a potentially good Simon Pegg movie.

For once, Nick Frost plays the straight guy (Andrew Knightley) in this movie in retrospect to PC Danny Butterman & Ed from the first two 'fall-guy' roles in the aforementioned trilogy and the remaining 3 pub crawlers are familiar faces Martin Freeman, Eddie Marsan & Paddy Considine with the lovely Rosamund Pike as Freeman's sister and object of most of the groups desires!

The supporting cast in this for me actually outshone Pegg, although you have to give him credit for returning to a low(er) budget home-grown comedy since he landed on his feet in Hollywood with Start Trek & the recent Mission Impossible movies. 

As I said, the laughs in this just didn't come as quickly as I hoped and I wasn't alone, the cinema barely chuckled along with the first 45 minutes of this until about pub number 5 and the beer was flowing freely and that coincided with the remaining plot of the movie - where they discover that the residents of New Haven have all (mostly) been taken over by Robots, comparable to Ken & Barbie dolls (detachable limbs) with blue blood.  One thing however that I was impressed with were the numerous fight scenes - our seemingly 5 soft-lads did mash it up with the best of them when it came to the destruction of aliens and Frost stands out as a bit of a bar room brawler, as does Pegg, Considine & Freeman but sadly Marsan spends most of the time cowering in the loo's.  Even Pike goes 2-on-1 against a pair of twins in the beer garden and comes out smiling. 

So far then, Comedy - 0, Fight Scenes - 1

(If you don't want to know how it ends, skip the next paragraph) !!!Warning - spoiler alert!!!

Sadly, I wasn't too enthralled with the ending - what starts out seeing Pegg & Frost square off one-on-one with the alien leader (voiced by Bill Nighy?) and then apparently win - results in the breakdown of a 'network' that is surprising holding the World as we know it together and with its destruction - wipes out the entire economic advancements we have ever made, effectively returning the planet to the dark ages............how's that a win?

Anyway - after the brilliant Shaun of the Dead & Hot fuzz this movie sadly didn't come close to being a worthy part of the Cornetto Trilogy and although die hard 'Spaced' fans would probably disagree with me, relishing everything that comes from the pen of Pegg I have to stand alone and say it just wasn't my kind of movie - drunken frolics in a pub, definitely but there just weren't the laughs I'd hoped for.

The next outing for Pegg & Frost together comes in the form of animated 2014 release The Boxtrolls, one for the kiddies so cant really judge but I hope the next movie that's 15+ from them gets me back on side with this legendary comedy duo.

Friday, 19 July 2013

270, Monsters University

It only took 12 years but the sequel / prequel to the much loved Monsters Inc. is finally here. 

One of Pixar's most successful movies takes a jump back in time to track how Mike Wazowski (Crystal) & James P. Sullivan / Sully (Goodman) hooked up in the first place before coming the record breaking scare team that we were introduced too in 2001.

This movie kicks off early doors, getting introduced to a high school Mike, getting picked on etc as the 'little'un' in class but after a field trip to the scare room at Monsters Inc. and a close encounter behind one of the many 'child' doors that could have ended his young life, his heart becomes set on the only thing he wants to do with the rest of his life - head to M.U, study and become a world class scarer!

Now grown up, Mike enrols in the scare program where he meets Sully, the last in a long line of Scaring legends, The Sullivan's.  Convinced he can 'get by' just showing up & confident that you cant 'teach' scary he mocks the nerdy, bookworm approach from Mike and the two soon become rivals in class until a mistake from them both sees them kicked out the class and the only way to graduate is to win the Scare Games - an annual event that separates the Men from the Monsters. 

Our duo enrol in a fraternity of miss-fits called the Oozma Kappa's to bulk out their team but sadly, this hopeless bunch of cuddly odd-balls have more chance winning baking competition than the scariest games of all - its going to take real cunning, planning and teamwork plus a little bit of luck to pull this one off.

The cast are as they were 12 years ago.  Crystal & Goodman reprise their roles with ease and new additions of Helen Mirren, Steve Buscemi Alfred Molina and a host of others pick up a number of lovable characters, all complimenting the main two really well.

For me, the laugh out loud moments didn't come that quickly (sadly) and the only bits I found funny were when I was laughing at the mishaps of the Oozma's, now that was some comedy gold.

I am confident that your youngest will love this movie, even though the first outing was released before they were born but shame on you if you haven't got the DVD stashed somewhere in the back of the cabinet. 

Even though in comparison - 12 years of technology has left things looking pretty similar and standard in today's competitive animated market to what they did in 2001, the nostalgia of the aforementioned movie is still there and as before - you'll fall in love (again) with Mike & Sully but this time - their team mates are even more likable.

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

269, Now You See Me

I was really looking forward to this one.  A fantastic cast including Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson, Isla fisher and relative newbie Dave Franco as a combination of illusionists, pick pocket, magician and mentalists and not only that, they've thrown in legends Morgan Freeman & Michael Caine just for show too!

The movie opens with a mysterious hooded figure scouting the 4 magicians in their own environments, leaving each a tarot card with a place, date and time.  On arrival - they all meet up for the first time and enter a deserted room where they set off an illusion that sets the pace and tone for the rest of the movie.

Jump 1 year forward and our 4 heroes, now funded by Multi Millionaire Tressler (Caine) are on the Vegas stage and now known as the 'Four Horseman'.  After a stunning visual masterpiece that see's them empty a bank of 3 Million Euros from the comfort of their own stage the FBI discover that although a seemingly impossibility - the robbery actually took place and they are soon wanted for the robbery, even though no one can explain how!

Enter Morgan Freeman - a onetime magician turned kill-joy who wants to see the Four Horseman exposed to the public and although initially hated by Caine as the man trying to spoil his investment - Caine soon turns to him for help when its his own bank balance that goes astray on trick number 2!

Then there are the FBI agent and Interpol colleague (Mark Ruffalo & Melanie Laurent) who are tasked with tracking down the criminals and the whole time, there is another figure, the one with the hood who's seemingly pulling all the strings but the twist - who is it?

Well, I'm going to keep this movie blog short and sweet as I don't want to give anything away - that would spoil the trick! But rest assured - right up until a second before the big reveal - I had no clue who it was and I haven't been in that position for a while.

This is a fantastically crafted and well thought out movie and luckily for the viewer, every trick is explained (eventually) leaving the audience without the annoying trait of not knowing how things are done - a similar release (albeit on a smaller scale) to the one you get at the end of a Jonathan Creek episode.

Its amazing!  No one dies (barely), there are hardly any curses AND when you get to the final scene, well................That's for you to find out.  Enjoy.

268, Pacific Rim

Anyone who knows anything about Blockbusters would agree that Pacific Rim looks the biggie for 2013.  For all intents and purposes, Man of Steel was one of the most anticipated but with a tag line that reads "Go Big or go Extinct" who wouldn't want to watch this Monster Movie. 

What's great about this is there is no delay in it getting started.  The opening scene sees the first attack taking place.  After a brief narrative explaining about alien life coming from beneath the earths crust via a portal to another galaxy rather than spaceships descending from space, we quickly get to know the 'Kaiju', the name given to this newest form of Monster. 

Luckily - the might of an air force manage to kill the beast but with more attacks happening as new creatures come through the portal, aptly located in the middle of the pacific ocean its time for the world to come together and develop like for like sized piloted robots, nicknamed 'Jaegers' with two human pilots, synced both physically and mentally to bring the smack down on these unwanted intruders.

And that's just where the movie starts!!!

A surprisingly unknown (to me) cast great make up a number of the top sports and although they have all been in other movies, they are not what I would consider 'A-list', albeit for Idris Elba & Ron Pearlman as the stand out recognisable ones.

This movie focuses around the theory that the monsters are getting more and more aggressive and larger in size, ranging from Category 1 up to Category 4 with the threat of an unthinkable Cat 5 monster still to come.  With the help of a few nutty scientists who actually manage to sync with the brain of one of the newly defeated Kaiju, they discover that as with Independence Day, their mission is to rid the world of all life and move onto the next.  Cat 1-4 monsters are just scouts - there are far bigger things to come!

This isn't the only Independence Day connection as there is a rousing Idris Elba speech before the final battle, easily comparable to that of Bill Pullman's in the aforementioned alien flick.

The special effects are fantastic and there is a fair share of heroism as well as heartache as its obvious that not everyone's going to survive - but as for who lives - well I'll leave that for you to find out yourselves.

The whole cast were really good and the early explanation of how things happen, followed by a quick 15 year jump in the story while the Jaegers are created really got you into the story quickly and efficiently. 

I loved it - I knew I would and with a story and idea that takes the Monster capacity of something like Godzilla or Cloverfield and mixes it with the team spirit of Independence Day along with the robots slightly comparable to 80's flick 'Robot Jox' (Google it) this ticked all of my Blockbuster boxes at once.

It would be easy to spill all the twists and turns and the back stories etc for each of the cast involved (and they all have them) but that would spoil all the fun.  This 'IS' the summer blockbuster movie you wont want to miss, so enjoy it!

267, The Internship

I couldn't wait to see this movie.  The idea of two 'dinosaur' salesman trying to cut it in the new on-line world of Google, pitted against freshman nerds opens so many possibilities.  Being of 'that age' myself where I finished college just before the whole Social Networking /Smart phone app lifestyle really took off meant that I missed the boat but if I was to try and get into that work now - in my mind, this is exactly how it would be and I would find myself in the same shoes as our leading duo, Vaughn & Wilson.

The movie starts with two confident and successful sales reps for a watch company.  Face-to-face rapport is their only tool and they are the best at what they do - sadly though, with smart phones in every pocket and their over enthusiastic boss (John Goodman) closing down the firm due to 'digital' competition they are left with no other options for two ageing sales reps.

Wilson takes a job in his brother-in-law's mattress / bed store (cue brilliant cameo from Will Ferrell) until Vaughn descends with the chance to interview for an internship that may lead to a job at Google. 

The rest of the movie plays out with a host of inept attempts from our double-act at being 'cool' to fit in with the genius level of IT nerds queueing up for the same job(s).  From a hilarious web-cast interviews & silly hats at day 1 to the free canteen and the sleep pods, this movie takes all the rumours and theories behind processes at Google, Facebook and such like and takes a look at what happens when two actual 'real' people have a go - eventually surprising everyone around them.

Their group - well, Vaughn & Wilson are matched up with a small group of misfits, all individually brilliant but just not part of the 'in' crowd.  That's led by the extremely arrogant Graham (Max Minghella) as the over cocky favourite to take the post on offer.  But, having all the gear and no idea doesn't get him very far when it comes to people skills and he soon comes undone.

This movie has got laughs, fights, fantastic acting, a bit of heartbreak and of course - a happy ending.  Mr Chetty is fantastic as the head of the intern programme and hot female Google exec, Dana (Rose Byrne) is perfectly cast as the love interest / unreachable object of desire for Wilson. 

There is a live Quidditch game, night out at a strip club and a proper 'old school' sales exercise that sees Billy & Nick really come into their own and young or old - this movie will have you either on one side, or the other.

From 'Flashdance' references lost on the youth of today to coding script that would make the rest of us yawn - this movie has something for everyone and for me, one of Vince Vaughn's finest, after all - he did (co)write it. 

266, Despicable Me 2

Lets face it, the only reason we are ALL going to see Despicable Me 2 is for the Minions.  I know, you can say it - even as an adult, the simple idea of yellow tic-tacs speaking French is too much for even the hardened of us to withstand and within minutes we are chuckling along at the antics of Kevin, Bob & Stuart (all French names?) and you could all easily be forgiven for not actually remembering much else!

There is a plot however, although to be honest its pretty standard.  Steve Carell returns as the one time villain come amazing foster-dad with three of the most adorable girls you could ever wish to meet.  As with the 1st movie - the girls are fab.  All cutesy and sweet, still sharing the same room in a massive house and each a little bit older but maintaining the childish humour so revered from the first outing.  Everyone has their favourite but for me (as with many others) its Agnes that Rocks it!

This time out, he's enlisted by the A.V.L (Anti Villain League) to help and assist in the capture of new baddie - El Nacho.  Paired up with female agent, Lucy (Kristen Wiig) Gru has to work with his new partner and a host of new gadgets and gizmo's to uncover El Nacho's evil plot that sees the Minion's turned into evil alter-Minions and Gru has to save the day - and all of his entrusted and devout followers.

Firstly - the story was so slow I actually dozed off towards the end but the Minions totally rocked it - as I knew they would.  There is a reason they are used for the numerous trailers released since the latter parts of 2012 and they bring a whole level of visible and physical comedy not seen since the slap-stick days.

One warning - in the showing I saw there were plenty of tiny kids who cheered along with the laughs but there wee also tears when the Minions turned bad, their sweet, yellow lovable appearance gets an evil purple makeover with sharp teeth and a shock of unkempt hair, the cutesy ramblings turn into growls and those few that survive (named above) have to stand-off again their former colleagues to happily, make it alright in the end and if you're 5 years old - total drama!

The story carried on perfectly from the 1st one but this time - the girls (Margo, Agnes & Edith) have love on their mind for Dad as they plot to set him up with Lucy and complete the family.

There's not much else to say, the animation and soundtrack is brilliant and Carell once again proves he's top of the voice overs with his brilliant accents and demeanour that really stand out in this movie and in all honesty - I could watch Gru and the

Minions over and over.  They make this movie and although the story line appeared a little lame - they more than make up for it.  

Final thing - don't rush out at the end, soon after the credits there are the Auditions for 'The Minion's Movie' - if it ever happens - I'll be there!