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Monday, September 26, 2011

Roundup of New Films Released 23 September 2011

As is more and more becoming the case, I haven't seen a couple of notable releases from this week that weren't screened to the press but hopefully I will get to Trust and One Day at some point. In the meantime, here are three other films released over the weekend. And, yes, they are all better than Abduction...  

 First up is The First Grader, a Kenyan/ UK co-production, tells the true story of an 84 year-old former freedom fighter who, wanting to finally learn to read and write, fights for his right to join a class of first graders and get the education of which he was deprived for so many years. It's the sort of film that could easily have been unbearably mawkish but thanks to a balanced script, well-measured direction and some mighty impressive performances from a largely unknown African cast, ends up being far, far better than one could ever reasonably expect. Though it never quite makes the jump to being something truly remarkable,  it is a genuinely uplifting and engrossing feel-good drama whose sentiment is well-earned as the title character's triumphs and tragedies never feel forced or manipulative but are instead simply affecting. Naomie Harris, the one easily recognizable - and British - face does a perfectly solid job anchoring the film but it is Kenyan actor Oliver Litondo as the film's central hero who most impresses.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011


This was posted pretty early already at Channel24 so I might as well post it here early as well. Don't mistake this for excitement though...

What it's about

When a young man finds an old baby photo of his on a missing persons website, he soon finds his life unravelling as he tries to hunt down the truth behind who he really is.

What we thought

I like trashy thrillers. Indeed, I dare say that the less seriously a thriller takes itself, the more likely I am to get behind it. It's why I will always prefer the ludicrous nonsense of something like the Liam Neeson vehicle Unknown to the more dramatically daring but overly serious and tonally inconsistent The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (glorified Bond villains and brutal sexual violence make for very uncomfortable bed-fellows). I love bonkers plot twists, explosive set-pieces, camp villains, head-kicking action and, of course, that complete and utter suspension of disbelief that these one-man-against-the-world thrillers thrive on.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Roundup of New Films Released on 16 September 2011

Just a couple more films to talk about this week. 

Spy Kids 4D: All the Time in the World does, I suppose, get some point for acknowledging the fact that the fourth dimension does actually refer to time and, not as it seemed at first, the added "dimension" of "Smell-ovision". That's right, not only do you have to put up with some rather lame 3D, you are also presented with a scratch-and-sniff card that is supposed to correspond to various aromas that are on screen but, regardless of whether you're supposed to be smelling farts or sweets, it all lands up smelling like jelly powder.

Silly, gimmicks aside, there's absolutely nothing interesting about the film. On the one hand, little kids will probably get a kick out of the basic premise of pre-teen Super Spies with a bunch of rather cool (though, obviously, non-lethal) gadgets at their disposal but beyond that even the least discerning kid will probably be left scratching their heads at the thoroughly bonkers plot. As for the adults, the best I can offer is Jessica Alba in form-fitting leather and a sense that though the film might be total balderdash from beginning to end, at least it's innocuous balderdash. Frankly, I think everybody, kids and adults alike, would be better off sticking with Diary of a Wimpy Kid 2 if live-action kiddie fodder is what you're after.


Thursday, September 15, 2011


After a couple of very uneventful weeks at the cinema, we finally have a bunch of new major films to check out. Are they any good, though? Well, that's a whole other question...

Also up at Channel24

What it's about

After seeing both her parents gunned down before her as a young child, a young woman goes on a murderous rampage to enact revenge on those guilty for her parents' death.

What we thought

Following in the footsteps of Ripley, Buffy and, most recently, Hanna, Zoe Saldana's Cataleya is the latest in a line of female (anti-) heroes that are part “Grrrl Power” feminist figures, part ruthless ass-kickers and part fully-rounded, very human characters. She is also, unfortunately, the only truly noteworthy thing in what is otherwise a perfectly competent but dreadfully generic revenge thriller.

Director Olivier Megaton certainly doesn't shy away from playing up Ms. Saldana's obvious sexiness but she's far too compellingly convincing as both a take-no-prisoners action hero and as a deeply damaged young woman to ever descend into cheap, exploitative eye-candy. Zoe Saldana is simply very, very good in the role – so good, in fact, that she not only elevates the film but also shines a spotlight on the major flaws in the rest of the production.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Final Destination 5

This is the only film I've seen this week but the only other offerings are Afrikaans film, Saak van Geloof (no clue) and Australian thriller, Wasted On The Young, neither of which were press screened. Is there some massive sports event happening that I don't know about or something because it looks for all the world like the major film distributors have decided to do a class bunk this week? Weird.
Also posted at Channel24 

What it's about:

After experiencing a vision of the cataclysmic collapse of the bridge on which he and a bus full of fellow employees are travelling, Sam Lawton (Nicholas D'Agosto) manages to save a number of his fellow passengers from impending doom with mere seconds to spare – but did he truly circumvent death or did he simply prolong the inevitable?

What we thought:

If you have seen any of the four previous Final Destinations, you really should know what to expect this time around. This is not a series that is afraid to bow to formula, nor is it a series that is really about acting, storytelling or human emotion. It's not, for that matter, really all that much about horror either.

What the Final Destination franchise is really about is dependability. The basic plot is always exactly the same – a half dozen or so regular schmoes narrowly escape a huge disaster at the beginning of the film and death hunts them down for the next hour or so until there are at most a couple of survivors by the end – and even then, it's only really there to serve the grizzly and hilariously over the top deaths on which these films have made their name.       

Wednesday, September 7, 2011


I mentioned that I hadn't seen Chameleon when I wrote up last week's film roundup but I have since rectified this (and yet I still haven't seen the Conan remake - go figure) so here is a very quick review about this Hungarian thriller.

Originally released back in 2008 in its home country, Chameleon is a Hungarian film that plays with the very well worn Hollywood convention of a slick and charming conman wooing women into marriage only to run off with their money. Dirty Rotten Scoundrels anyone?

The biggest problem with the film is that is does spend so long adhering doggedly to the formula but,unless its simply a case of the jokes getting lost in translation, without any of the humour of something like Dirty Rotten Scoundrels. The early parts of the film are largely watchable but most unremarkable with only the performances of the two leads - most especially Gabriella Hamori - to really keep us going.


Ok, here's the thing: I was planning on just writing up a short little review of the recently released remaster of Paul McCartney's first solo album but apparently I haven't figured out how to do short reviews about my favourite albums. The next one will be shorter, I promise! Well, OK, if not promise then at least hope...

The History

For so unassuming an album, Paul McCartney's first proper solo work sure came with a lot of baggage. Rush released to hit stores to compete with Let It Be, The Beatles final album, the initial pressings of McCartney came with a press release in which McCartney effectively publicly announced the end of the band - apparently without the knowledge of his former bandmates. It was, in fact, John Lennon who ended the Beatles partnership months prior to the release of either McCartney or Let It Be but the group had decided to keep it on the down low until Let It Be and its accompanying film were released.

McCartney's seemingly careless spilling of the beans not only enraged Lennon but led to the world at large assuming that it was Paul who broke up the Beatles. Between this and the fact that the lo-fi, homegrown McCartney was such a tremendous departure from the meticulous perfection of Macca's work with The Beatles (though not, ironically enough, from the "back to basics" approach of Let It Be) that it was met with hostile reviews and, though it did well commercially, was seen for years as subpar work for someone of McCartney's stature and talent.

The years, however, have been kind to the album, especially as its uncommercial, stripped down sound struck a chord with countless indie artists whose music bares more than a passing resemblance to the DIY rock, funky instrumentals and ultra-melodic folk of McCartney. It landed up being far more influential than even its creator probably ever expected.

This newly remastered and expanded release of the album is, therefor, a perfect opportunity to once again evaluate the album - this time free of its historical baggage and free even of its later influence.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Roundup of New Films Released 2 September 2011

Very small and very underwhelming week this time around where I have all of two films to talk about. There is also How To Steal Two Million, whose screening I somehow never got an invitation for but it's a South African crime film - I know, right - that seems to be adequate at best. Also there's a Hungarian film called Chameleon that I know very little about and am reasonably sure was never press screened. It's apparently quite good so I might check it out and I'll be sure to post my thoughts about it if I do. Who knows, it may well be the best film of the week.

Bad Teacher has gotten some very rotten reviews overseas and, though, it's no where near as good as the similarly female-centric comedy stylings of Bridesmaids, it's a diverting enough bit of fluff. Yes, the fantastically sweary misanthropy of Cameron Diaz's character does get old some time before the end of the film but, for a while at least, it's easily the best comic performance from Ms Diaz to come along in a long long time. I also like that her character doesn't learn any lessons as the film goes along and that the film actually bothers to stick to its convictions. There are also a brace of very enjoyable supporting turns from Jason Segal, Justin Timberlake and Lucy Punch - all three of which hold the film up long after Diaz's schtick starts to wear out its welcome. It's not great, ultimately, but I can only assume that the critics who have so thoroughly savaged Bad Teacher have somehow missed out on the truly execrable comedies to have come our way this year and with at least one still to come. It ain't Bridesmaids but it sure as hell ain't Zookeeper either. (6/10)