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Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Playing catch up: February 2014 edition

Loads and loads of films to catch up on so some of these mini reviews will be a paragraph or two, other merely a line or two. There are some decent flicks in here, though.

Best Man Holiday. This clearly should have been released around Christmas, not a month and a half later. Either way, it's OK when working as a tearjerker but is bloody awful when it tries to be a comedy. (3/10)

Romeo and Juliet. Another adaptation of Shakey's most archetypal story is a solid, if perfunctory retelling, with largely questionable performances (only Paul Giamatti and Lesley Manville are the only true standouts) made all the worse by the fact that they altered the original text. If you're going to do Shakespeare in the original text, don't randomly change lines to make it more "understandable", do it in the original text! (4/10)

Robocop. Talking about pointless remakes. Robocop could have been worse, as it is competently made and not unintelligent and it's hard to go wrong with Michael Keaton, Gary Oldman and Samuel L Jackson, but this is an utterly pointless and horribly neutered version of an 80s science fiction classic. If you want Robocop without the ultra violence, sharp satire and wonderfully trashy aesthetics then Robocop 2014 is for you. Otherwise, feel free to stay away. (4/10)

Cool poster though!

Labor Day. Strong performances from Winslet and Brolin elevate what is otherwise a fairly forgettable mess that can't decide whether it's a crime thriller, coming of age story or mature romance and ends up being neither. Jason Reitman is a very capable director and he's done some very good stuff in the past but Juno this ain't. (5/10)

Fire with Fire. A truly terrible revenge flick that somehow managed to be released in cinemas here after going straight to DVD a couple of years ago in America. Nasty, predictable and badly thought out, it boggles the mind how this is somehow deemed worthy of a cinematic release here when so many good, indie flicks are bypassed entirely. (1/10)

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2. Not as surprising or inventive as the original but this bright, colourful and wonderfully nuts sequel is still one of the better animated movies to come out over the last twelve months. (7/10)

The Book Thief. Even if you see the film as being more about totalitarian oppression, rather than about the Holocaust in particular, The Book Thief still suffers somewhat from holding back just a bit too much when it comes to depicting the horrors of such an existence. It is admittedly aimed at younger audiences but so is the Hunger Games, which has shown us - particularly in the second film - how it's possible to aim younger, while still packing the right kind of dystopian punch. Flaws aside though, The Book Thief is still a very solid and rather moving coming of age drama with strong performances, nicely chilly visuals and a well told story. I haven't read it yet but I assume the book handles the very literary narration by Death quite a bit more organically as well. (7/10).

Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit. Chris Pine once again proves to be the man for the job when it comes to major franchise reboots and though there is nothing exceptional about this by-the-number spy thriller, it's plenty of fun with a likable hero, a Cold War throwback plot and a great villain played by the film's director, Kenneth Branaugh. (7/10)

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. Admittedly, I far preferred the more biting early sections of the film where we follow our titular hero through the humdrums of his mundane life to his later, grander adventures but considering how sappy and annoying the film could have been, it's kind of amazing that it turned out to be as good as it is. We've seen this sort of live-life-to-the-fullest (or YOLO to younger, Twitterific audiences) movies before but it's handled particularly well here as it is every bit as willing to embrace the bizarre as it is the sentimental and is as funny as it is life-affirming. People may sneer, but Ben Stiller actually pulled off something quite impressive. Good stuff. (8/10)

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