At one point in the Coen Brothers’ No Country For Old Men, Tommy Lee Jones’ Sheriff, lamenting the violence of the modern world, opines: ‘I laugh myself sometimes… Ain’t a whole lot else you can do’. The same sentiment applied here -it was fascinating to see how Dr Strangelove’s dark humour both went against and complemented the gloomy message of Walker’s documentary.
The brainchild of Justin Heasman, Sketchwork TV is an offshoot of his production company, Sketchwork Productions. A collaboration between Heasman and acting partner Dean Nolan, Sketchwork TV is comprised of witty short films featuring remarkably accomplished special effects. Both Heasman and Nolan act out the episodes, which owe a charming debt to genre cinema and the more innocent kids movies that were around in the 1980s. And it doesn’t stop there.
Zombies are all the rage at the moment (forgive the 28 Days Later style pun), from TV’s The Walking Dead to the upcoming adaptation of Max Brooks’ World War Z (reported to be filming in Cornwall in August). And following its premiere at the Apollo Cinema in Paignton, Deadmoor now takes a bite out of the local filmmaking scene.
Bridesmaids has attracted a lot of attention because it’s positioned as a woman’s take on the crude, mainstream bromance comedy, the genre which recently brought us such ‘gems’ as The Hangover Part II. But mere gender reversal does not a good film make. Luckily, Bridesmaids also comes up trumps in the script stakes -this is a film that walks leagues over a certain other feature starring a group of idiots who wake up in Bangkok.
By mainstream comedy standards, Bad Teacher barely scrapes a D. This is a real shame as it has talented comic actors working hard to breathe quirky life into a promising concept. The central conceit -let’s have a group of adult actors playing teachers in the manner of immature children -is potentially very funny, but the conventional trajectory of the plot, plus the lack of witty flourishes behind the camera, means the film lacks bite. It’s as if director Jake Kasdan was unsure how to fully exploit the material for maximum satirical effect.
In Spiderman, the lesson went thus: ‘With great power, comes great responsibility’. Well, you know what; with great movies comes greater expectation. Or to put it another way: after the recent glut of excellent superhero flicks like Iron Man, The Dark Knight and Thor, there was bound to be a stage where the genre reached saturation point. The weird thing is, both of the movies indicating this sea-change have appeared in 2011, and both have had the word ‘green’ in the title.
Let’s face it, trying to find an eclectic film programme at your local cinema in Torbay is a bit of challenge.
Isn’t it frustrating when a movie sets up a fascinating premise and then bottles it in the closing stages? Well, 13 Assassins, the latest from prolific, controversy-courting Japanese director, Takashi Miike, does no such thing. In fact it does the opposite.
So, it’s the summer season… and we all know what that means: sweet or salted to go with your blockbuster fodder? Now is the oft lambasted time in the cinematic year where it’s argued that creativity is tossed in favour of humongous tent pole releases, ones which help the studios prop up smaller releases elsewhere throughout the year, but which are often…well, crap.
Every year, people from all over the world walk the fabled Camino de Santiago from the French Pyrennes to Compostela in Spain. And now, it is the subject of Emilio Estevez’s new film, The Way, a poignant, inspiring, low-key drama starring his father, Martin Sheen in a quietly powerful performance. The former Brat Pack member shows a gentle sensitivity as helmer, and mercifully steers away from the sort of faux spiritualism that would drag it into tv-movie-of-the-week territory.
Way back in 1981, maestro composer John Williams created yet another one of his timeless film themes. Steven Spielberg’s Raiders of the Lost Ark was intended as a throwback to the 1930s film serials he and co-creator George Lucas had enjoyed growing up, and Williams’ score follows suit. Having made the Golden Age, Korngold sound fashionable again with Star Wars, Williams let rip with Raiders, composing a central theme (the Raiders March) that would define adventure in the years that followed. It’s impossible to envisage Harrison Ford’s weather-beaten hero Indiana Jones without also humming along to the theme.
Life, Above All accomplishes the difficult feat of communicating much information without ever being explicit. Director Oliver Schmitz fuses location, performance and telling dialogue together to tell us about the AIDS crisis in South Africa -a remarkable achievement when one considers that the word ‘AIDS’ isn’t even mentioned until 40 minutes in.
Soul Surfer is based on the inspiring true story of Bethany Hamilton, a young surfer in Hawaii who lost her arm in a shark attack but who, against all odds, managed to get out in the water again. Sean McNamara’s film stars AnnaSophia Robb (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory) as Bethany, with support from Helen Hunt and Dennis Quaid as her parents. The film is also blessed with an outstanding musical score from Marco Beltrami, who offers up a beautiful celebration of Hawaiian culture, Bethany’s Christian faith and surfing itself.
How I Ended This Summer, the latest feature from director Aleksei Popogrebsky, features probably the most fascinating location in any movie this year: an isolated weather station in the remote regions of the Arctic (actually the Valkarkai polar station in Chukotka, Russia). This is the setting for a minimalist chamber piece filled with escalating tension.
Spanish production Julia’s Eyes/Los Ojos de Julia starts as it means to go on: overwrought and overcooked, but there’s no denying it’s a slickly crafted piece of potboiler nonsense. It certainly doesn’t feature the slow-burning terror of the terrific The Orphanage from 2007, although it does share a genetic connection (both were produced under the watchful gaze of Guillermo Del Toro, and both star Belen Rueda). Instead, Julia’s Eyes cranks the hysteria up to 11 and runs with it, rather than biding its time.
Those who failed to rate the first Hangover back in 2009 will find little to disappoint them in this rote, lazy sequel. All the sleaziness and creepiness of this follow-up was present in the original; except now it takes a more imperialist slant, smacking of Yanks finding little of worth in Bangkok other than drugs, gangsters and ladyboys.
The Pirates of the Caribbean franchise continues its frustrating plunge into the abyss with this fourth entry, On Stranger Tides. Was the terrific 2003 franchise starter a mere fluke, lightning a bottle? On the evidence of the shoddy sequels that have steered the choppy waters in its wake, it would very much appear so.
Insidious is three quarters of a legitimately scary horror and one quarter fun fair ride but very entertaining for all that. The film’s collapse in the final act prevents it from achieving masterpiece chiller status, but you’d be hard pressed to shake off certain images, especially if you find yourself at home alone after viewing…
Action thriller They’re Coming, the latest project from filmmaker John Tomkins, shoots in Devon this summer. And it’s still looking for a leading man!
Spanning several worlds and aeon’s of time with wit, verve and appropriately theatrical grandeur, Kenneth Branagh’s superhero blockbuster Thor is enormously entertaining, the best film of its type since Iron Man.
Why did anyone feel it necessary to remake Arthur in the first place? Steve Gordon wrote and directed the original in 1981, and the title role went to Dudley Moore, who essentially seemed to be playing himself. It’s no masterpiece but there are some very sharp lines and observations about the rich/poor divide. Weirdly enough, when we fast forward 30 years later, star Russell Brand appears even more one-note in the central role than Moore did back in the 80s. Both films are little more than indulgent vehicles for their leading men, but the original wins out by virtue of some intelligence and pathos. This new version is both redundant and yet more tiresome.
It’s Beastly in name and nature, unfortunately, for this misguided ‘update’ of the classic fairy tale. Relocating the story to modern day New York (although filmed in Canada), and populating it with attractive young things means it’s less Disney than Beastly Hills 90210.
There’s something really satisfying about a pared-to-the-bone thriller involving a load of noisy, throaty American muscle cars. Unfortunately, Fast Five, the latest in the Fast and the Furious franchise, isn’t it. If you want car chases, look to the classics of the 60s and 70s, like Bullitt or The Driver. Because Fast Five, amazingly, spends so much time on looking glossy and cool that admittedly impressive stunts are robbed of any dramatic tension. There’s nothing wrong with a brainless modern-day action flick -the original Fast and the Furious was perfectly fine -but to make one that’s as dull as this is a serious crime.
Eccentric German auteur Werner Herzog plunges into the depths of France’s Chauvet Cave in his latest documentary Cave of Forgotten Dreams.
So, after 11 years, the Ghostface killer slashes his/her way back onto our screens in Scream 4. But despite all the knife-waving and stabbing, the film itself struggles to make any deep gouges. Could it be (whisper it) that the world has moved on? Certainly Scream 4 is possessed of an aggressively self-referential quality that smacks of two filmmakers (director Wes Craven and screenwriter Kevin Williamson) attempting to recapture the essence of their mid-90s selves.