Saturday, 26 November 2016

#79 ALLIED







Starring Brad Pitt, Marion Cotillard and Jared Harris. Written by Steven Knight. Directed by Robert Zemeckis. Budget $85 million. Running time 124 minutes. Cert 15.

Apparently when this script was circulated around Hollywood the film's working title was: Is She or Isn't She?

Set in WWII, Canadian super spy, Brad Pitt aka Max Vatan (cos he's a spy and spies need cool spy names), parachutes into the middle of the desert, walks out dressed like Lawrence of Arabia but in awesome sunglasses so he's far cooler. Then, in the middle of literally nowhere, he hops into a passing cab and arrives outside a glamorous nightclub in Casablanca where he exits in a white snazzy suit before walking in and snogging Marion Cotillard aka Marianne Beausejour (who's posing as his wife), then in the morning he kills a German SS officer with a lump of bread. Because you know, he's a super spy.

Then it's a slow build as these two staggering attractive spies pretend to be married, attend parties and succeed in gatecrashing the biggest social event of the year, an one-off gig by the German Ambassador. This they achieve by blagging a couple of invitations off an SS Nazi officer. Then it's a big shoot out and explosion before Max Vatan (super spy), whose face throughout this film never seems to move an inch, except when he's raising a single eyebrow, ala Roger Moore, asks Marianne to come back to England with him to be his wife. Then the film proper opens on a street scene in London as Brad, now in his RAF uniform walks into the home of Universal Exports and we finally get it. Rob Zem has only gone and remade On Her Majesty's Secret Service but set in WWII and without a bald bloke with a cat fetish. If only Robbie had done the bit where we, the audience, look down the barrel of a gun as Brad walks onto the screen dressed in a tux before spinning and shooting his gun. Because this feels as if we've just sat through the longest 'pre-credit' Bond sequence in history.

A montage and a caption that reads: 'One Year Later' quickly shunts things along and we find James and Tracy now raising Bond-edette in Hampstead and it's happy families. Or is it...

No, of course not. Because that wouldn't make a very exciting story would it? Two ex-spies now married, with a kid, trying to readjust to civie life in WWII London while an an army of irate German spies hunt them down for revenge. Actually that would make a pretty good movie.

Instead poor Max Vatan, super spy, is told his wife of a year isn't who she says she is - a French super spy with awesome skills but more than likely a German super spy with equally awesome skills pretending to be a French Super spy with awesome skills. Max is told he has 72 hours to prove his wife's innocence or to shot her in the face to prove his innocence. And after that, he's off to find out the truth.

To say anymore would probably ruin this film.

This is a good looking, well art-directed movie, the attention to detail is lovely (check out the paint work on the banisters), the use of CGI is great, the chemistry between Brad and Cotillard is okay, it's not as electric as Brad and Angelina was in Mr. And Mrs. Smith but it's okay and Jarred Harris is terrific, if only there was more of him. The first part of the film, the pre credit sequence in Casablanca is entertaining, it's certainly the most exciting but it's also frustrating, it all feels so surreal, other-worldly, not helped by the distinct lack of other people populating the world, it all feels strangely vacant. Also, the whole Casablanca sequence races at speed leaving some minor plot holes in its wake. Similarly, when the action moves to good old Blighty, there are scenes that sit uncomfortably and stretch credulity and also leave holes. Brad's character has a sister who is also in the spy biz who has an opening gay relationship which seems unrealistic given the era. Likewise the surprising sex and drug party that kicks off at the super spies' house feels strangely out of place too. And once again everywhere seems bizarrely empty, except for the hill top picnic scene, which in complete contrast seems to be hosting an outside party for the whole population of the London.

At its core is the question 'is she or isn't she' but we're just not given enough information to make our own mind up, sure there's one telegraphed nod, when someone is clearly not who they say they are, but apart from that the film just followed the emotionless Brad as he stumbles around looking for evidence to prove his wife's innocence or otherwise. Perhaps if more time had been spent on Brad's investigation we would feel more involved, but there just isn't time and so we don't. So the whole thing poots along at a vigorous pace until the ending when the truth is finally revealed.

This isn't a terrible film, however it's oddly un-engrossing and there's definitely a sense that something is missing, although what that is, isn't easy to say. On one hand it's very old fashioned, it feels like a British film for the 1940s, but then on the other hand it's trying too hard to be relevant for the 21st century. It throws red herrings at you that might not be red, nor even herrings and some plots points are heavily sign posted then discarded. Still, this wasn't a wasted evening. It most certainly has its moments and Brad is still an actor you can't help but watch, it's just overall it's just not that engaging.

7/10

 

#78 FANTASTIC BEASTS AND WHERE TO FIND THEM


Starring Eddie Redmayne, Katherine Waterston, Dan Fogler, Alison Sudol, Ezra Miller, Samantah Morton, Jon Voight, Carmen Ejogo, Ron Perlman and Colin Farrell. Written by J.K Rowling. Directed by David Yates. Budget $180 million. Running time 133 minutes. Cert 12a.

Newt Scamander, Eddie Redmayne, arrives in New York in the 1920s with a battered old suitcase and promptly collides with wannabe baker Jacob Kowalski, Dan Fogler and his own suitcase and before you can say, 'gosh, what are the odds of two men from different sides of the pond both having the same suitcase meeting on the same day in the same bank for completely different reasons?' the poor old Kowalski has unleashed a world of terrifying monsters on the, er world, like some sort of portly, male, Jewish Pandora. Meanwhile Samatha Morton's Mary Lou Barebone, who's the head of an anti-witchcraft cult and her adopted son, Ezra Miller are ranting about mysterious goings on in and around old New York and various members of the New York magical community including Colin Farrell's Percival Graves, Katherine Waterston's Tina Goldstein and others fill out the cast of thousands with their own agendas and missions.

After that, it's monsters, magic and muggles (here called No-Majs) all running round the city while Eddie, whispers and gurns through it all pointing his pointy stick at things and muttering oh so quietly.

This looks great, the special effects are superb and very well realised but I'm afraid i found the whole thing less than magical and a lot less enjoyable than the Harry Potter movies. And the main reason for this is the lack of wonder, or children and it makes you realise that what made the Potter films so enjoyable was the children battling against incredible odds in an adult world. Here in FBAWTFT all we have is wands that shot magic like bullets out of a machine guns and lots and lots of action. The magic community in NY like their European cousins strives to keep the real world from knowing about them for fear of war, however by the end of this epic half of NYC stands shattered and smouldering and with real human casualties strewn around including the son of a very extremely powerful man. But never mind, cos the non-no muggles, sorry Majs have a magic spell, that isn't shot out of gun, that can erase everyone's memories at the end so that the status quo is restored which only goes to negate what we've just watched. However what about the father for the forementioned dead son, what about him?

The cast, apart from the whispering Edgy Deadpanye, is great, particularly Dan Fogler who is the true heart of this film and Colin Farrell who reminds you how magnetic he is as a screen presence and not forgetting Ezra Miller who just devours the screen. But I'm sorry to say i found the whole thing rather dull and a little boring, the effects just became repetitive and the presence of Eggy Redsnapper just made it more and more tedious. Why doesn't he try a different sort of acting schtick? You know, something that isn't just tilting his head to one side, while his eyes glisten with pre-tears and he gurns with his huge, lop-sided, ear-to-ear, gaping maw. I found his physical performance utterly jarring and it actually made me want the bad guys to win.

This is the start of a new J.K Rowling franchise and I have to say, that I for one, probably won't be back for more, not if Edgar Breadbain is going to be the lead. That said, if Dan Fogler is brought back I might just come back.

Not that fantastic if I'm honest but not a disaster. Kids of a certain age will love it as will many adults, especially those who like the acting stylings of Freddy Beadbin.

7/10

Wednesday, 16 November 2016

TRAILER TIME #3: KING KONG

Oh squeak! Now this is a trailer. It looks like we've now arrived in the era of 'don't tease, show!', which for Kong makes utter sense. We want to see our hero and see him we do in this rather exciting trailer. I know I'm going out on a limb, but I can't help thinking 2017 might be quite a fun one.

https://www.facebook.com/KongSkullIsland/videos/374409676230787/

Sunday, 13 November 2016

TRAILER TIME 2: GHOST IN THE SHELL

Starring Scarlet Johannson and based on the acclaimed Japanese anime, this is the live action, high budget film which will probably end up being another case of style over content, but nevertheless, the trailer looks intriguing and glorious. Although how much of that is down to SJ wearing a skin tight costume is up for discussion. This sadly continues the current trend to make live action films out of classic animated films.




Anticipation level: High

Saturday, 12 November 2016

TRAILER TIME1: VALERIAN AND THE CITY OF A THOUSAND PLANETS

It's occurred to me that one of my favourite parts of going to the cinema is watching the trailers before the movie, this extends to the internet too. Indeed sometimes the trailers can often be far better than the finished film.

As such, I've decided to draw your attention to new trailers for future films and have decided to share them with you.

The first trailer I want to share with you is this:



Based on the extra-ordinary French Sci-fi comic book series Valérian and Laureline, written by Pierre Christin and drawn by Jean-Claude Mézières. The film stars Dane DeHaan as Valérian and Cara Delevingne as Laureline. They play a pair of temporal agents who guard the Earth from threats both intergalactic and time-based and judging from the trailer we can expect something which at the very least is visually breath-taking.

It's directed by Luc Besson, the genius behind 5th Element, Leon, The Last Battle, Nikita, Subway, and the Big Blue. I have high hopes that this is going to be wonderful and glorious!

The film is scheduled for release on 21 July 2017


#77 THE ARRIVAL


Starring Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, Forrest Whitaker and Michael Stuhlbarg. Written by Eric Heisserer and directed by Denis Villeneuve. $47 million dollar budget. 116 minutes long. Cert 12.

Typical. Just like buses, you wait ages for an Amy Adams movie and two turn up in the same week!

This is an extraordinary gripping, moving and thoughtful movie about first contact between mankind and an utterly alien life-form.

The film starts with cunning linguist Louise Banks, Amy Adams, thinking back about the birth, and all too short life and death of her daughter due to cancer before she's recruited by US Army Colonel Weber, Forest Whitaker, to work along side theoretical physicist Ian Donnelly, Jeremy Renner. They've been called in to decipher the language of a pair of alien cephalopods called Heptapods who've arrived in a giant shell-shaped space craft, that along with 11 other ships have taken up hovering positions above key locations across the world. But are these strange alien visitors your usual 'we come in peace' invaders, or are their intentions actually beneficial? It's up to Adams and Renner to find out before mankind gets itchy trigger fingers and blows them all to hell.

And that's all you really need to know about it, plot-wise. It's far better you go in knowing as little as possible about this exceptional film.

This is a truly satisfying and engrossing film that plays out subtly and slowly. With stunning cinematography, beautiful soundtrack and some fantastic performances, this was a joy to behold from beginning to end and just goes to show what a solid, adult science fiction film can achieve. Please sir, can I have some more?

Catch it on the big screen if you can, it's really worth it!

9/10

#76 THE ACCOUNTANT



Starring: Ben Affleck, Anna Kendrick, J.K. Simmons, Jon Benthal, Jeffrey Tambor, John Lithgow and Cynthia Addai-Robinson. Written by Bill Dubuque, directed by Gavin O'Connor. Budget $44 million. 128 minutes minutes long.

In a surprising twist, particularly since the poster and the trailer seemed to imply that Ben Affleck played an autistic accountant who was also an assassin. This film is actually the day in the life story of an  ordinary accountant, played by Ben Affleck, as he helps small businesses to file their taxes in time for the July 1st deadline. The highlight of the film arrives when Ben discovers that is red biro is out of ink and he has to go and find a shop with just 5 hours left before closing time.

Why the poster features a big gun is beyond me and while the trailer seems to suggest copious amounts of action is baffling too. Since Ben spends most of the movie neatly writing out columns of numbers and then studiously adding them up.

Nah, I'm just twisting yer melons.

This is the story of an high functioning autistic assassin who's also a forensic accountant who specialises in uncooking the books of organised crime syndicates in search of embezzlement who one day decides to take on a job in the real world for a bit of a change. He ends up investigating John Lithgow's tech company and unearthing a 60 million dollar fraud with the help of nerdish accountant, Anna Kendrick. After that a sinister private covert, black ops security firm lead by Jon Benthal is dispatched to clean house to hide the fraud before Lithgow's company goes public. Meanwhile, special investigator J.K Simmons and analyist Cynthia Addai-Robison are on a mission to discover who the mysterious accountant is. This all plays out in a very satisfying and entertaining way, as the film reveals the story of Affleck's past with his unusual father and lovingly loyal brother and his relationship with a criminally underused Jeffrey Tambor. It's also surprising to note at the end of the day that none of the characters in this film can be considered to be 'good guys'.

Jumping from his childhood, to adult-hood, via his father's unusual childrearing, this is an engrossing and ultimately silly action film that makes for a satisfying and entertaining thriller. The cast is strong, the plot is elaborate and enjoyable and the action meaty and solid. Sadly some of the action sequences are rendered almost unwatchable due to shaky cam and jarring editing.

Here's hoping this leads to a short series, if only to see Affleck and Jon Benthal's relationship develop further.

8/10

#75 NOCTURNAL ANIMALS


Starring: Lois Lane, Donny Darko, General Zod, Kickass and The Lone Ranger. Written and directed by Tom Ford. Budget $22.5 Million. 116 minutes long. 15 cert.

"Look mummy, the Emperor is naked!"

Yes, welcome to yet another Emperor's new clothing film, a film that critics are lauding as 'Superb', 'extraordinary', 'intoxicating', 'electrifying', 'exquisite' 'winner' and '5 star'. It's a film art directed to within an inch of it's, oh-so painfully exquisitely angst-ridden life.

Providing us, the audience with no explanation, the film throws us right in at the deep end, with Lois Lane having given up on the journalism in Metropolis to run an art gallery in LA. Her marriage to the Lone Ranger is failing, although what happened to Superman is never explained. It turns out that Lois used to be married to Donny Darko but she divorced him for the Ranger, because Donny's short stories were a bit boring. So he gets his revenge by spending the next 20 odd years writing a book called Nocturnal Animals and dedicating it to her. It's the story of how a loving husband and father deals with the brutal and savage abduction and murder of his wife and daughter and teams up with General Zod to exact a satisfying revenge on Kickass. Confused? You won't be.

What starts out as an exciting new comic book inspired movie about what comic book characters get up to when they're not fighting crime, this soon deteriorates into a turgid, topor inducing plod through the lives of utterly tedious 1st world people who seem to think their crushingly empty lives amount to more than a hill of beans.

Offering us three story arcs, one: the book played out, two: Lois and Donny's early life together and three: the Lois and the Lone Ranger's story. Of the three, the best part, which is also the part without Lois, sees Donny and General Zod fighting Kickass.

Everyone acts their little cotton socks off, and Tom, 'oh my god, he's amazing!' Ford directs the proceedings by picking out the best lamps and furnishing and framing every conversation piece as a head shot and reaction, over and over again. Never do we see the two characters talking in the same shot.

I've been told the film is beautifully shot and sure there are loads of scenic shots of the beautiful countryside of Texas, but in the same week when I also rewatched Ryan's Daughter, this just looked like a bloke given 22.5 million dollars and told to piss it up a wall.

Boring, tedious, self-indulgent and utterly pointless.

Stay at home and watch Ryan's Daughter instead. It's a David Lean film from 1970 starring Sir John Mills, Robert Mitchum, Trevor Howard and Sarah Miles. Now there's true art direction and cinematography wrapped up in a small personal story of genuine pathos and tragedy, not this sweaty old ball-bag of balls.

4/10