Yes they look innocent but wait until they do the ‘internal bleeding’ dance by jumping up and down on the dying bodies of their enemies.

An strange mixture of fairytale, realism, innocence and violence. This fantasy-drama tells the story of teenagers Violet (Alexia Kepel) and Daisy (Sairose Ronan) who work together for their boss as contract killers number 8 and 9 respectively. The lower the number the more people they have killed.

However their next job is an unusual one, they need the payment to be able to buy the new Barbie Sunday dresses (every girl wants one apparently) but the man they have been sent to kill (James Gandolfini) seems to want to be killed. It confuses them and they want to find out why.  Even more confusing he’s nice to them and bakes them cookies.

There are worse complications: killers from a rival crew have also been sent to kill him and will be arriving soon, and ominously the lethal killer No.1 is lurking nearby to make sure they get the job done.

An enjoyable film, well acted and different enough from the norm to be interesting and the naivety of the girls often sets up some unexpected events. I did feel there could have been a bit more to it though. There’s a lot of set-up and then it just ends. It also seems to be aching to tell you something more about Violet’s previous partner Rose, but never actually does, leaving you to guess. Having said that each of the main protagonists discovers something about themselves that they didn’t know before, and has changed in some way by the time the films ends.

6/10

Mickey (Amy Adams) and Gus (Clint Eastwood) keep a close eye on the action. The title of the film refers to how some otherwise great hitters in baseball can struggle with a curve ball.

Slow and predictable are good words to describe this relationship-drama. That said it’s also a very well made film with impressive acting and a focus on human relationships. It just falls down because there is a general lack of drama or any events that provoke a strong emotion.

Gus Lobel (Clint Eastwood) is a retired baseball player now working as a baseball scout. His eyesight is failing him and his position is under threat from a young whizzkid (Matthew Lillard) who uses a computer based scouting system. Concerned about this, his boss Pete (John Goodman) persuades Gus’s daughter Mickey (Amy Adams) to join him on his next scouting trip. They currently have a tempestuous relationship but as well as helping Gus (not that he wants her help but being his daughter she too is an expert on baseball) it’s a chance for them to get closer.

For Adams it’s also an opportunity to find a potential love interest in another scout, Johnny (Justin Timberlake). Sadly here in likeable but ineffectual mode. Credit to Timberlake though because realising it’s not possible to to shoehorn a song in (Southland Tales, Bad Teacher etc), he does get some dancing in. “Are you sure you haven’t done this before?” asks Adams. “Never” says Timberlake looking suspiciously competent.

5/10 The good is balanced out by bad for an average mark.

It says something about the Tube that no one takes much notice when you dress up as a dog.

The story of Tim (Domhnall Gleeson) who uses his special gift of being able to travel back in time to engineer the perfect relationship with his dream girl Mary (Rachel McAdams).

I started watching this with a sense of dread – worried it could be another Groundhog Day. Don’t get me wrong, that was a good film at the time but several films have since copied the concept and I don’t think I could have stomached another one.

Fortunately Tim can go back in time whenever he wants, cleverly sidestepping the dull repeating-the-whole-day-again thing. Also since his method of time travel – finding a dark place, clenching his fists, and picturing the event in his life that he wants to go back to – is clearly ridiculous, you never take it seriously enough to question it. However having said that, there was a beach walk that Tim takes with his father (Bill Nighy) towards the end of the film. This was clearly repeatable at any time. So why not any other meeting with his father? (you’ll know what I mean if you’ve seen the film).

It’s clever and funny, and being a Richard Curtis film, has a fairly safe warm feel to it. However there is an edgier side too, with the spectre of addiction, illness and the death of loved ones creeping in. There are flaws though : in the final section there was just too much cloying sentimentality between Tim and his father. Also after Tim and Mary have children much of the fun goes out of the film – although being cynical you could say this mirrors real life.

Not perfect but funny, warm, and intriguing. 7/10

Father Brendan (William H. Macy) listens intently as Mark (John Hawkes) makes yet another confession to him about his sexual activities.

After some of the films I’ve watched recently (not all reviewed here yet) it’s nice to have a change of pace and be able to sit down and watch a slower more adult film with nuance and proper dialogue. Based on the real-life story of Mark O’Brien (played here by John Hawkes), a poet and writer who has been paralysed by polio since childhood and is largely reliant on an iron lung to breathe. The film begins with him now in late thirties and yet to have a sexual experience.

Cheryl (Helen Hunt) is the married sex therapist who agrees to give him the six ‘sessions’, referred to in the title of the film. These start with simple foreplay and bodily sensations and will eventually progress to full penetrative sex and hopefully – simultaneous orgasm. However things are complicated, not just because of Mark’s disabilities but because like many of the females in Mark’s life, Cheryl begins to feel more emotionally attached to him that she would like…

Mark also has strong feelings for Cheryl and these, his internal conflicts and neuroses are cleverly expressed to us via a series of confessions/conversations with his priest friend Father Brendan (William H. Macy).

Thankfully given the sensitive subject matter everything is handled in a mature and adult way, with both humour and realism. Although considering it’s now 2014 there’s still a strange reticence to show male genitalia which can make the framing seem a bit odd at times.

Well told, with a good script and a high standard of acting this is ultimately a touching story of a disabled man who lives his life more fully than many able-bodied people do. Definitely worth watching.

7/10

A tank, classic sports cars, and flying men – are all standard fare in Fast & Furious 6.

A cringe-worthy beginning in which bland trophy wives and bimbo girlfriends strangely give their immediate blessing for their partners and boyfriends to put their lives on the line, thankfully quickly gives way to a series of trashy yet blistering set pieces – with cars.

This time round (I’m acting like I’ve seen the other films in the series which I haven’t) Brian (Paul Walker RIP), Dom (Vin Diesel) and the rest of team must work with US police detecive Hobbs (The Rock) in London to help him stop a gang of car driving villians. They do this in exchange for a pardon from the US government and the hope of getting Dom’s former girlfriend Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) back.

Since the film is set in “Jolly old” England, this predictably means now standard national-stereotyping such as the ex-special forces man with a ‘tache and English people who either speak in incredibly plummy posh accents or like cockneys during the last century :”al’right guv’nor”, “Spare me a penny mister?” etc.

However it’s all good fun, and gets extra points for having the most ridiculous over-the-top action sequence I have ever seen in a movie where Vin Diesel jumps from a car travelling at high speed and somehow catches Michelle Rodrigueuz midflight as she is thrown from a tank. This could only have been topped by Diesel gaining superpowers mid-fight and having him fly off with her to the top of a skyscraper in New York City. Fast and Furious 7 perhaps?

Predictable, exciting, flashy and lame, all at the same time. An entertaining 6/10

They’ve just been told that series 14 of Indonesian Big Brother is starting in the TV room…

A interesting collection of horror tales linked together by an unnecessary meta-tale involving a couple of investigators looking for a missing man. All the stories are in the form of found footage and predictably none (of the ones I saw at least) are actually scary. Relying instead upon the slightly cheap tools of shock and gore.

The first tale is about a man who after an accident has an eye-implant fitted. However as well as restoring his sight he gets slightly more than he bargained for – he can now see the dead. If you’re thinking the Sixth Sense – don’t. It fails to do anything interesting with this concept other than reduce it to a series of cheap scares with an unconvincing ending. The acting in this tale was also on the poor side.

I felt that the second story had artistic merit. It didn’t really hold my interest but the story of a cyclist who goes to the aid of a woman but ends up being bitten by a zombie and then turns into one himself was certainly interesting. After being bitten the his helmet-cam is still rolling and the story now continues with him as a zombie. You watch as he first tries to snack on his own arm and then on a couple of other cyclists who come to his aid, and then worse as he approaches a children’s party. Despite not being that involving at the story level it did manage provoke feelings of disgust, interest, amusement, and even boredom. So like I said, perfect as a piece of art.

The third tale was the most inventive, and the one that came closest to truly unsettling. That it offered something other than the standard ghosts and zombies was welcome too. It details what happens to a group of journalists and camera crew after they go to interview an Indonesian cult-leader. Halfway through the interview he decides that it’s time for him and his followers (and apparently the journalists too) to enter the “Gates of Paradise”. There is some impressive editing and your empathy for the camera-crew, and their helplessness against the huge numbers of the cult gives it the potential to be frightening but ultimately this story just ends in death for pretty much everyone and huge amounts of gore and violence. So it was more shocking than anything else.

I stopped watching at this point. It felt a bit sick watching as people get their heads blown off and as demons emerge in a bloody mess from pregnant women. Gore has it’s place in horror films but when it’s just person after person getting ripped apart or exploding into fleshy pieces…  if you are enjoying that then you have a problem.

Often inventive and from what I saw a mostly above-average collection of  found-footage horror films, but it is a little sick and exploitative.

6/10

 

“Here take the wheel, I’ll stand up and make myself more of a target”. Gabriel Shear (John Travolta) about to single-handedly take out six vans filled with assassins.

I’ve never eaten swordfish before but I have seen Swordfish before. How’s that for a terrible introduction? (Wait, there’s more) – unlike the start of Swordfish, which has a very good dramatic introduction. Here Travolta sits opposite 2 police detectives and complains about the bad guys in films who typically show mercy towards hostages – where in reality killing a few hostages would get them taken seriously and get them what they want. A few minutes later we realise Travolta is in the middle of a siege himself and it’s not long before one of his hostages explodes taking several policemen and cars with them…

Strangely considering I had seen it before, not much of the story came back to me while I was watching. I do remember at the time of release a big deal was made of the fact that you get to see Halle Berry’s breasts. Those were clearly lean breast times, and apparently she agonised over the decision. Ironic because since then she has been seen dipping one of them into a bowl of guacamole while being cheered on by a room of party goers (Movie 43).

Anyway I digress – Swordfish is a stylish crime thriller in which Hugh Jackman plays an unlikely super hacker : Stanley Jobson. He is hired by Gabriel Shear (John Travolta) to help him with a plan to siphon millions of dollars from a secret governement bank account. Berry is Shear’s henchwoman (or is she?), charged with getting Jobson onside. For the most part it’s exciting and tense, although it’s spoilt by some unrealistic sequences (especially disappointing since the opening sequence seems to indicate the the film will be grittily realtistic) such as where ‘master-strategist’ Shear makes himself a sitting-duck by standing up in an open top sports car spraying bullets from a gun held in each hand. Even though driving duties are swiftly passed on to Jobson – who claims he has never driven a stickshift before – Shear not only survives unhurt but takes out six vans filled with trained assassins in the process.

Aside from a few blips though it’s tense,exciting, and good fun. You do get the impression though that it had more impact in it’s time – I imagine it seemed super brutal back then, but even so it hasn’t dated too much. A solid and exciting 6/10

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