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Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Transformers: Dark of the Moon

Man, was the turnaround on this one quick! I saw this yesterday afternoon, reviewed it as quickly as I could straight away and the review is already ready for posting. The film is crap, of course, but can you really expect any different from Michael Bay at this point? My review here is, as is often the case, very slightly different from the Channel24 one.

From (Originally posted 29 June 2011)

What it's about

Following on from the first two films, Transformers: Dark of the Moon picks up with The Autobots living a peaceful existence with their human hosts but that peace is soon shattered when the Decepticons launch their most devastating attack yet, involving an old Autobot ship that crash-landed on our moon decades ago.

What we thought

Never having been what you might call a fan of director Michael Bay, I gave his first two Transformers films a very wide berth – avoiding them even as they replayed endlessly on DSTV. That is, I did until a few days ago when I realized I needed to review Bay's latest entry into the franchise for this here site and it would certainly not do to take on the third instalment of a beloved-by-many franchise without at least giving the first two a fair chance. Unsurprisingly, two atrocious films and five never-ending hours later, I emerged from my Bay-induced stupor, dreading the third film more than ever.

I may be damning it with faint praise by calling it the best film by far in the series but it does stand heads and shoulders above the first two films. Actually, I am damning it with faint praise: even if it Bay's best film since the first half of The Island, it was still a mind-and-bum-numbing experience that became more and more insufferable as it went on.

Monday, June 27, 2011

New Movie Releases Roundup for 24 June 2011

Even putting aside Green Lantern, it's a pretty interesting week for films with a couple of comedies being particularly pleasant surprises.

I Am Slave is this week's harrowing art film. This time the laugh-a-minute subject is modern day human slavery - specifically an 18 year old North African enslaved by an Arab family in London. That, in a nutshell, is the plot. And therein kind of lies the problem. The film's greatest strength by far is just how emotionally draining it is and if its sole intention was to really put the audience through the grinder as it educates them about the reality of slavery in modern England, then it is nothing less than an unequivocal success.
As a piece of storytelling, though, it is rather less impressive. It it somewhat heavy handed and the characterization is fairly shallow but, more than anything, its greatest failing in my eyes is the fact that I started to lose patience with it fairly quickly. While the acting and production values are perfectly fine, the film effectively made its point within its first half hour so, with the exception of the final, redemptive final few minutes, the last hour felt very repetitive - which is especially problematic when it comes to a film that is this grueling. I Am Slave deals with a worthy subject, to be sure, but I can't really recommend this one.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Green Lantern

This one is up early on Channel24 so I thought I would post it here today as well. The review has been edited quite a bit on the site so, seeing as how this is my blog, I thought I would post the original here.  Oh, and if you're wondering, the reason why I don't mention the 3d effects, it's because I was fortunate to see a screening of the film that didn't require those annoying bloody glasses.

From Channel24 (Originally posted 22 June 2011)

What it's about

Hal Jordan (Ryan Reynolds), a cocky test pilot, suddenly finds himself selected to be a member of the Green Lantern Corps, an elite group of “space cops” who, equipped with willpower-based power rings that can create anything they can imagine, are charged with protecting all of the known universe.

What we thought

Comic book fans have had an embarrassment of riches lately with a string of really impressive films based on their (or, to be honest, our) favourite comics properties. Last year we had a pair of truly excellent cult gems in the forms of Kick Ass and Scott Pilgrim vs The World, while Marvel have struck back this year with two of their best massive superhero blockbusters to date: Thor and X-Men: First Class. Unfortunately, with Warner/DC's Green Lantern, that train of goodness has come to, if not quite a crashing halt, then at least a definite bump in the road as we ramp up towards the superhero mega blockbusters of 2012.

Now, to most mainstream audiences not familiar with the comics or animated series/ movies, Green Lantern is, I'm sure, a relatively unknown property. As someone, though, who has been reading Green Lantern comics on and off for two decades now, I had a lot invested in a film adaptation that, until a mere handful of years ago, I was absolutely certain I would never ever get to see. As such, it would be easy to dismiss my crushing disappointment with the film as nothing more than your typically ridiculous fanboy expectations but, honestly, Green Lantern is a film that is as likely to alienate non-fans, as it is to underwhelm the faithful.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

New Movie Releases Roundup For 16 June 2011

With this week's films being released a day early this week because of a public holiday and my total lack of reviews for other sites, I thought I would get this up early. 

Source Code is the second film from director Duncan Jones and it proves once again that there is a whole lot more to the man than simply being  David Bowie's son. Before you know it, I'll even be able to write a review of one of his films without mentioning this undoubtedly cool fact. A few years ago, Jones gave us Moon, a low budget science fiction film that showed that it's still possible to use the medium of cinema to tell good, old fashioned science fiction stories that are, in the end, as much about humanity as they are about aliens, advanced technology and space travel.

Since then we have had a very impressive resurgence of smart sci-fi in the forms of Inception, Never Let Me Go and - sorry haters, I'm going to say it - The Adjustment Bureau. Source Code may have a much larger budget and more of an action-thriller plot than Jones' first film but it proudly continues and builds upon this trend.

Like those films, it is also one that you should know as little about its plot going in as is humanly possible. It combines elements of Inception and Groundhog Day, while exploring the very tried and true science fiction idea of a multiverse - and endless chain of parallel universes - and how our actions may or may not shape our destiny. As for the film's many revelations and twists and turns, I'll leave that for the film itself to reveal as it unfolds breathlessly over its tightly controlled 90 minute running time.      

Sunday, June 12, 2011

New Movie Releases Roundup 10 June 2011

A bit of a mixed bag for the rest of this week's releases. Also, there's something called Nice Guy Johnny that looks pretty good but I am pretty sure there wasn't a press screening for it so I may - or may not - get round to reviewing it at a later date. As for the rest though...

Starting way, way, way at the bottom, we have a Nigerian film called Between Kings and Queens. Essentially a pseudo-remake of the 1988 Eddie Murphy movie Coming to America, in which an American girl falls for an African prince, Between Kings and Queens is the first US-set film for Nigerian director Joy Dickson. The best thing I can really say about it is that it does seem well-intentioned and maybe one day she will make a film truly worthy of your time. This isn't it.

I really hate to rag on a film by an inexperienced, African indie-director because, lets be honest, she probably put her heart and soul into it and, in its intent, it's about as far from the worst of Hollywood's commercially driven dreck as it is possible to be. There's no getting past it, though, it's simply a bad movie. The lead actor, DaJuan Johnson is a fairly likeable lead but most of the acting - especially by the film's bit characters - is seriously below par; the lighting gives everything a weird yellow tinge; the editing and directing is notably amateurish; the dialogue is cringe-worthy and the plot itself is just a rehash of a perfectly funny Eddie Murphy comedy. Sorry Ms Dickson but better luck next time.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

The Adjustment Bureau

Starting off the weekend with a film whose mixture of science fiction, theology, chase-thriller and romance totally won me over. I should say, though, that at least in comparison to most other critics, I have responded better to it than most. As such, more than ever, take that 9 star rating as a very subjective rating of a film whose very definite flaws did little to lessen my enjoyment of the overall package. You might be less charitable.

From Channel24 (Originally posted 8 June 2011)

What it's about:

A young politician (Matt Damon) stumbles across a conspiracy that changes everything he knew about the world. But when that conspiracy does everything it can to keep him apart from a woman  with whom he has an obvious and immediate connection (Emily Blunt), he sees no choice but to fight back.

What we thought:

For a science fiction author whose work is as challenging as Philip K Dick's is, it's amazing how many films have been made of his work. From Blade Runner to Total Recall, Minority Report to A Scanner Darkly - Dick may not have lived to enjoy the success of these adaptations of his work but they have almost all been commercially and critically well received. Amazingly, while nothing beats the sheer Dickishness (heh) of A Scanner Darkly, one could seldom ask for a better and more accessible introduction to his vision than The Adjustment Bureau.  

Monday, June 6, 2011

New Movies Release Roundup 2 June 2011

X-Men aside, there are two other worthwhile films that were released this week. And one that's not all that worthwhile but was much less gruesome than it really should have been. On with the show...

Matthew McConaughey? A seemingly generic courtroom drama? Come on, did this have any chance of being any good? As it turns out, yes, yes it did. For a start, McConaughey was actually really good as the smarmy lawyer with the heart of gold and his supporting cast - including Marisa Tomei, Bryan Cranston and William H Macy - was top notch too. There is little about the characters or the plot that we haven't seen before but, once you accept that that The Lincoln Lawyer is very much by-the-numbers, there is really a lot to like.

The basic plot involves a very successful lawyer being hired to represent an immensely rich young man who has been charged with raping a prostitute but, as he soon find out, there is far more to the case that meets the eye. Like I said, it is very generic. To its great credit, though, it understands its pot-boiler roots and while some scenes are quite grizzly, it has a likeable pop sensibility with its multiple twists and turns and shamelessly exploiting thriller tropes to keep its audience on the edge of their seats. It ain't great but it's a good, unpretentiously generic little film that will, I'm sure, delight fans of the legal drama/ thriller to no end. And there's more than enough there for the rest of us too. 

Friday, June 3, 2011

X-Men: First Class

After some less than stellar weeks, this is a pretty good week for films. We not only have an excellent but harrowing art film, we even get a genuinely good courtroom drama starring Matthew McConaughey! Best of all, though, is this week's big blockbuster, X-Men: First Class. Honestly, between this, Stardust and Kick Ass can we please get Matthew Vaughn to direct the new Superman. It's not too late is it?

Also posted at Artlink

When you consider just how many BIG superhero movies will be/ have been coming out over 2011 and 2012, it's not that hard to understand why X-Men: First Class has fallen somewhat between the cracks. Certainly in terms of fan expectations.

This year we have Marvel's Thor and Captain America as the build up to next year's Avengers reaches its climax, while DC offers its first film to be based on a major superhero that's not Superman or Batman with Green Lantern. Next year is even more exciting as we have reboots of Superman and Spider-man going head to head, which is nothing in comparison to the anticipation of seeing Chris Nolan's Batman trilogy come to a close and having Joss Whedon's Avengers finally hitting our screens.