Sunday, 23 June 2013


Directed by Louis Leterrier. With Jesse Eisenberg, Mark Ruffalo, Woody Harrelson, Isla Fisher, Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman and Dave Franco.


'The Closer you look the less you'll see.' runs the ad for this magic trick and Morgan Freeman's voice over. Which is good advice, I'd advise viewing this film from well over 50 miles away, while watching and enjoying something else altogether.

For me the magic trick was wondering why Hollywood bank rolled this bland, generic, dull thunker of a movie in the first place. But since it's been a surprise smash hit it just goes to show I don't have the foggiest idea what I'm talking about. Actually there was a time when this sort of film would have been great, the 1970s before the advent of CGI, but that overused trick pony now makes these sort of films utterly unbelievable.

Four tricksters, con-men and magicians are recruited by a mysterious hooded figure for some nefarious reason that seems to have something to do with a dead magician and another, now ex-magician, who  makes his living debunking other magicians on TV, which might have something else to do with a big banker and a very angry FBI agent with a serious coffee addiction and his French, Interpol, sidekick. 

So, these four young (apart from Woody Harrelson) magicians  call themselves the Four Horse Men and ingratiate themselves with their audiences by giving away millions of dollars in huge Las Vegas staged arena shows.

Hmm, cue lots of 'magic' courteous of the fore amentioned, whinged-at CGI which, in these sorts of films just makes everything look less real and more artificial, but since the staged magic shows don't have a warm up act and seem to consist of one single trick they're already pretty unbelievable in the first place.

There are lots of things wrong with this, the major failings being Jesse Eisneberg, the CGI, the story, the effects, the idea, the utter lack of the ability to dispend your disbelief and the CGI which I don't think I've mentioned yet, but it's really jarring and does nothing to convince you that anything you're seeing is anything other than CGI.

Morgan Freeman,  Michael Caine and Woody Harrelson all phone in their performances and deserve far better than this. Jesse Eisenberg who I thoroughly enjoyed in Zombieland is just grating and irritating in this and I don't know if Mark Zuckerberg is as irritating as Eisenberg, but I bet when he watched the Social Network he said, 'My voice isn't that irritating, is it?'.

The most amazing trick this film pulls off is making 115 minutes feel like 230.

It's utterly unmemorable and pointless but it's not as bad as some of the shit I've seen this year, so who knows you might enjoy it.



Directed by Pierre Coffin, Chris Renaud. Voice talent led by Steve Carell and Kristen Wiig. 

Gru is recruited by the Anti-Villain League to find out who's nicked something important. Aided by Lucy Wilde (Kristen Wiig), Gru is forced to go undercover working in a cupcake parlor at a shopping mall in search of a new mysterious super villain.

Gru's a great character and his relationship with his three adopted daughters makes my heart, as a parent, ache. The first film was a refreshing, funny and exciting animated film enhanced by great character design and a French animation studio who gave the film a noticeably different edge than the usual America fare. The first film succeeded in the most part by being fresh and original. Sadly this second film, in an obvious ongoing franchise, never matches its predecessor in humour or inventiveness, but it does come close.

It starts out extremely funny but then sort of forgets the funny and settles down into a fairly generic story for the majority of the film while the plot sort of unnecessary unravels. Luckily the arrival of the final act sees the film re-find its funny bone.

Lovely animation, good music and a great character, there should be stuff for adults and the little ankle biters to like.

Good fun. 7/10

#51 WORLD WAR Z (21.6.13)

Directed by Marc Forster. With Brad Pitt, Mireille Enos, Daniella Kertesz, James Badge Dale.

116 minutes. 

Oh no, it's the apocalypse! The world's ending, it's zombies, a tsunami of them, swamping the world! Oh who can save us? Luckily it's Brad Pitt, sporting a fancy beard and foppish hair, he's a UN Johnny press-ganged back to save us all!

What follows is a whistle stop tour of the world's most exotic and dramatic locations,
Gyeonggi-do in South Korea,  Jerusalem, and er, Cardiff as Brad tracks the tidal wave of living dead back to their  source -Patient Z so to speak.

Based on a hugely popular book which means that the film was doomed to fail before a single second of footage had been shot, the film makers dropped the reportage structure of the novel and it's lack of a single heroic voice by creating one then sending him out to travel the world and save it. Because Brad Pitt is too big now, not to save the world.

It's a tense and dramatic movie which has some superb set pieces, particularly the escape from New York and Jerusalem, but which also features the world's most luckless hero who stumbles from one disaster to the next and seems to be a real harbinger of doom, wherever he goes death and the undead are sure to follow, very, very quickly on his heels. 

Forster, like far too many directors still believes that shaking the camera violently during action scenes will make them very exciting and draw the viewer in. He's wrong, and here not only does it not work, it also makes many of the action scenes unwatchable, particularly those that take place at night. There's one scene in particular which was so confusing that I literally had no idea what any of the shadowy figures were doing, or to whom, or even who they might be and so when it ended with Brad running to the edge of a building and almost jumping off I had no idea why.

This film starts dramatically, expanding rapidly like a balloon, to bursting point then it sort of slowly deflates gently until it ends with a soft wet fffftttppp. But I suppose after such a tense and dramatic opening there's nowhere else for it to go. 



Directed by Steven Soderbergh. Starring Michael Douglas and Matt Damon. 118 minutes.

Well made, beautifully shot and featuring a career best performance from Michael Douglas this is a warts and all bio pic of the
Liberace and his live-in lover, Scott Thorson (played by Matt Damon) and their 7-year long relationship. Although a superbly well made movie, you'd never guess it was produced for TV, it does feel very one note and I perhaps expected a bit more humour, certainly the trailer seemed to imply it would be funnier.

Because this is a serious film, I left wishing they had gone further and we could have explored Liberace's persona more, he's such an intriguing character and the more you see, the more you want to learn about him. You get glimpses, of a network behind the man behind the Candelabra, and it hints at a far darker and nastier world.

Soderbergh claims he's giving up cinema and this is supposedly the last film of his we'll see on the big screen. I hope not.


#49 MAN OF STEEL (18.6.13)

Directed by Zack Snyder. With Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Michael Shannon, Diane Lane.


When I first saw this film, I was swept away by the spectacle, it was huge it was big and it was epic and there were moments that grabbed me and made me love it. Kevin Costner's voice cracking when he talks to the young Clark Kent, the music, the moment when Clark saves the school bus, his first costume fitting and flight, his saving of the oil rig, meeting the military for the first time, many things. And up on the big screen I was swept along and felt it deserved a solid 8/10. The action was great, but

Now i think it's worthy of a 6/10. (7.4.14)

Can't remember the last time a film that's so divided fans and non fans alike. For every fan I've found who loved this film I've found someone else who hated it.

It's an over-wrought and bombastic film, a huge, shouty, big-is-best, super-duper epic and not just in running time. Sadly in the 21st Century, the maxim of bigger = better has never been more evident, nor more over used. And as special effects prove that there is literally nothing that cannot be expressed on the cinema screen it means that Directors, rather than try to make the story number one now just focus on how big they can make the threat how enormous the peril and how much spectacle, very much like the Romans did with the gladiator games. I suppose the theory goes, the bigger the hero the bigger the threat. And so we've got a film where the entire Earth is now threatened with destruction. In the good old days of Super Man it was just California. I used to complain that when Singer brought Supes back the best threat he could give him was Lex Luthor and wasn't it time that the Man of Steel actually fought someone who at the very least matched the Kyrptonian in terms of strength. Well, I've had my wish and I say, that in hindsight, I'd prefer something in-between.

There are many things this film gets wrong, among those failings, the most grievous is Superman's almost total disregard for ordinary people (the number of innocent people killed during that final fight is mind-boggling) as is the utterly bewildering collateral damage that he causes! Why couldn't he shift the fight to somewhere safer? In the comics and previous films Supes would often put himself at severe risk to rescue people, but this time round it seems Supes is fighting under a different maxim, one of 'Go fuck yourselves mankind, I'm busy dealing with the big stuff!' He just doesn't seem to care about anyone other than Lois and his mum. And don't get me started on the Super Man killing!!!!

Snyder, who I loved when he did Dawn of the Dead and Watchmen, but loathed when he vomited Sucker Punch over cranks this one. He uses too much shaky cam (it's not a film on the wall documentary it doesn't make us feel like we're there) particularly in the BIG fight at the end which becomes a shaky, dizzy blur of the best CGI Hollywood millions can produce, but I found myself remembering with fondness the fight in Superman 2.

So, this time round, lots of b/g stuff on Krypton, turns out Supe's dad is a ninja scientist which comes in handy when his Earth dad turns out to be such a wimp. Seriously  SPOILER ALERT! Commiting suicide to prove a point and shame your son seems a bit excessive, talk about passive aggressive! Particularly when your adopted son is clearly struggling with the whole, 'who am I, what am I? Who is my daddy and what did he do?' Talk.

Anyway, this is a huge spectacle and epic in scope. It's very far from perfect but it was enjoyable and had many lovely emotional moments and action.

8/10 (first viewing)

6/10 (repeat viewing)

Monday, 3 June 2013

#47 THE BIG WEDDING (3.6.13)

Directed and written by: Justin Zackham.

Starring: Robert De Niro, Katherine Heigl, Diane Keaton, Amanda Seyfried, Topher Grace, Ben Barnes, Susan Sarandon, and Robin Williams.

Two impossibly wealthy and dysfunctional families gather for a wedding and much hilarity ensues.

Who ordered the shit sandwich with the shit garnish on the side?

Boring, bland, dull and trite.

111 minutes of hackneyed, lazy writing, stupid actions and reactions. See if you can guess the cliches before they happen? I got them all but one tripped me up, I assumed the Colombian mom could secretly speak English, but she couldn't!

It looks nice and there was a bottom, side boob and nipple so this gets...