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Monthly Archives: January 2013

Euro Trip has a long cameo-list which includes Vinnie Jones, Matt Damon, Lucy Lawless, David Hasselhoff and Joanna Lumley

It’s hard to work out why Matt Damon and Vinnie Jones agreed to appear in this? I was going to ask the same question about Kristin Kreuk, but then it’s likely her career hasn’t been stellar since leaving Smallville. This is a teen comedy and it’s name makes it sound like a sequel of sorts to Road Trip (2000) but unfortunately it’s not of the same quality. Scotty (Scott Mechlowicz) is feeling down after splitting up with his long term girlfriend Fiona (Kreuk) but then realises his German pen friend who he has been writing to for years is not a guy called Mike but is actually a hot girl called ‘Mieke’. Deciding she could be ‘The One’ he sets off with some friends on a trip across Europe to to find her.

This is a strange film in that the director seems smart enough not to try and out-gross other teen films, and also smart enough to understand that English football team Manchester Utd are more supported outside Manchester than within it. But is yet somehow not smart enough to know that no matter what  ‘crazy’ and ridiculous situations you put your characters in, they will not be funny if your characters do not seem real or believable in the first place. I actually wanted to stop watching this film after 15 minutes, it was that bad. However I stayed watching because the film keeps getting better the longer it goes on, although unfortunately not to the point where it actually gets good! I smiled a couple of times, but never laughed, and with a comedy that has a story you don’t care about. That’s a big problem.  3/10

Curiously Shakespeare himself (Rafe Spall) is portrayed as an oafish thug, sounding not unlike Russell Brand

This film assumes the theory that William Shakespeare’s plays were written by The Earl of Oxford, Edward De Vere (Rhys Ifans) is true. De Vere chooses the poet and playright Ben Johnson (Sebastian Armesto) to stage his plays but Johnson gets cold-feet and gives credit for the works to William Shakespeare (an actor in his company). The film is a little disorientating at first, with so many theatrical types, aesthetes, and people with titles to get to know. As well as being confusing it also initially comes across as an unfunny Monty Python film. Get into the meat of the film however and you’ll find it tells a good story, full of betrayal, intrigue and tragedy (much like one of Shakespeare’s plays). As a drama, the pay-off here, instead of action sequences, is seeing De Vere’s plays being performed and the rowsing audience-reaction to them.

De Vere uses his plays as political tools to manipulate the ‘mob’, and this does not go unnoticed by William Cecil (David Thewlis), Queen Elizabeth’s longtime adviser, who moves to put a stop to them. As a result, the film gets some action sequences of its own, and builds to an exciting conclusion. I thought Ifans was surprisingly good as De Vere, but then this might be because I am more used to seeing him portray idiots. A slighty negative point is that the film jumps betweens time periods almost at will and with no warning and there were times when this did catch me out. Overall a good film. 6/10

Black Swan is as much a psychological horror as a ballet film

I was expecting this to be some kind of pump art house ballet film, but I was very wrong. Natalie Portman is superb as ballet dancer Nina who is slowly descending into insanity under the pressure of her role in a production of Swan Lake. She is only able to play the white swan part well but is too inhibited and controlled to to fully let herself go and play the wilder black swan. This pressure is further increased with the arrival of Lily (Mila Kunis) who is wild and carefree and a perfect fit for the role. The dance sequences, far from being boring are truly impressive and full of drama, emotion and energy. Excellent characterisation, hallucinations, paranoia, self-harming, and a dark side always lurking beneath the surface makes this very interesting viewing. All this builds up to the performance of the production itself and a finale where Nina’s fragile psyche finally shatters into two. You certainly shouldn’t find this boring. A very good film 8/10

This time the Wolf-Pack includes a monkey

I enjoyed the first Hangover film – it made a nice change having adults in that kind of film instead of horny teenagers. It was fresh and funny. This film however is a real disappointment. It’s basically the same film but this time instead of Las Vegas, the ‘Wolf-Pack’ are on a stag night in Bangkok, and yes they lose one of the group again, and again they have forgotten the previous night’s events. Mike Tyson again makes a cameo – last time it was amusing, this time it is cringeworthy. Rather than making something fresh, the film-makers have played it safe and made an identikit sequel. None of the events in this film particularly stand out, although there are some funny moments. It seems familiarity really does breed contempt. 5/10 very average

Gollum is particularly well realised although some of the dwarves do look like they are wearing facial-prosthetics

The HFR 3D : This is one film I have seen the reviews for, and they were very mixed with a lot of the people complaining about it being over-long or stretched and also many more complaints about the new High Frequency (HFR) 3D making it look ‘too real’ and being headache-inducing. No headaches for me at all, but I agree that the film did look a little hyper-real at times, although this might have been more to do with the fantasy-setting than a problem with the 3D. Overall I found the new HFR 3D effect to be better than the standard 3D effect which could be a little unclear and often struggled to keep up during fast action sequences.

The Film : The film tells the story of Bilbo Baggins (The Hobbit) who is employed by a company of dwarves as their ‘burglar’, and along with Gandalf The Grey (again played by Ian Mckellen)  they  seek to reclaim the lost Dwarf Kingdom of Erebor from Smaug, a fearsome dragon. Martin Freeman plays the role of Bilbo very well, and the standout scene in the movie features him and Gollum (Andy Serkis) asking each other riddles in an underground cave. Gollum is a very fine piece of CGI, and the 3D works excellently here, managing to bring him to life as a real creature.

The main bad point for me is that this is a book adaptation – actually a quite a faithful one (so far as I can remember the book) but this does mean that too much is crammed into the almost 3 hour running-time (despite this being the first of three films). There is some emotional depth to the film but not enough – you don’t really care much about anyone beyond Bilbo and Gandalf. To be fair early on in the film director Peter Jackson does include quite a few sequences of the dwarves and Bilbo at rest or singing and conversing which does help you to get to know their characters but later in the film it can feel like there are just a lot of action sequences all strung together and not much else. These were enjoyable but at no time did I think ‘wow, that was amazing’! So a good film, quite close to the book, with lots of excitement but a little too long with just has too much crammed in 6/10

Underworld : Awakening was originally shown in 3D for it’s theatrical release

Vampire Selene (Kate Beckinsale) has woken up after 12 years to find her werewolf lover dead and that she now has a child.  It could almost be the next film in the Twilight series but no this is Underworld, it’s all serious with little emotion, and as if to emphasis this Kate Beckinsale walks everywhere *very* purposefully.  She must again battle with the Lycans and also this time, the humans who are now intent on wiping both races out. I wasn’t expecting this to be particularly good, and for the first 15 minutes it lived up to my expectations – not helped by the cheap-looking special effects. Then it got more interesting and I began to enjoy it as an action film. The acting is also of a fairly high standard. It has the feel of a Resident Evil film : you get the impression it was made for the fans rather than people new to the series, and like RE – the series shows no signs of dying. The fact that Selene now has a hybrid child Eve, indicates a reboot could be just around the corner with the young girl as the new hero. I’m giving this 6/10 –  enjoyable as an action film.

Having watched the third Batman film last year and considered it one of the best films of 2012 – I actually found this to be a little disappointing. As an origins story, it’s necessarily on a smaller scale and less spectacular, but apart from that it’s just not as good a film. You also have to sit though the section where Bruce Wayne becomes Batman, hoping it will speed up a little at times. I do like Christian Bale as Batman but here his performance as an early Bruce Wayne is a little up and down to the point where his accent even slips at one point. (where was the director?) Most of the Batman sequences are spot-on although I felt having a nerve toxin as an ‘enemy’ reduced the dramatic possibilities somewhat and I also found many of the fight sequences were spoilt by over enthusiastic camera-cutting. The 2nd and 3rd films feel like films you can enjoy as Batman films *and* on an emotional level but this is really is a Batman film only. Watching it now, it’s a 5/10 film but I do remember liking it when it was first released so it gets a reluctant 6/10.