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…
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.
I have not seen that many silent films, I’ll admit, but with the original Nosferatu, you almost forget there’s no sound. The silent era was an era where the set-piece would often be the only real reason to watch a film: the Odessa Steps sequence in Sergei Eisenstein’s The Battleship Potemkin springs to mind.
It lacks the sophistication seen recently in the likes of Toy Story 3 and How to Train Your Dragon, but Rio nevertheless wins over an audience with an abundance of visual gags and a sheer collision of colour and energy.
Breakdown has that one asset vital to any great suspense thriller: a tremendous hook. Right from the opening frames the film builds a queasy tension and never lets up over the remaining 90 minutes.
Source Code is as frustrating as Sucker Punch. The thing is Sucker Punch is frustrating because it’s a piece of juvenile trash. Source Code, by contrast, is intelligent, and frustrates in a positive way, challenging the audience to keep up with the time-shifting shenanigans that see Jake Gyllenhaal transplanted into the body of another man on a doomed Chicago commuter train.
The most insulting thing about Sucker Punch, even more-so than the juvenile sexual politics, is that director Zack Snyder goes to enormous lengths to portray an alternate world with visual pizazz -and then fails to do anything with it.
From its wannabe gangster title to its pathetic lack of laughs, Anuvahood represents a new low in British comedy. Just when hopes are raised by Richard Ayoade’s Submarine, they’re quashed again by the revelation that people are being given money to fund dreadful films like this.
Picture the characters in The Godfather. Francis Ford Coppola’s landmark epic was situated at the top of the mobster ladder. Come 1990, we took a step down and looked at low-level enforcers in Martin Scorsese’s seminal Goodfellas.
Jared Hess’s Napoleon Dynamite, released in 2004, is funny. Really, really funny. It is a character-based independent film detailing the adventures of the socially inept, bullied, eponymous hero, Napoleon, played by Jon Heder. The plot could be mistaken for a kitchen-sink drama directed by Mike Leigh. There were even rumours that it started life as a serious film, but looking at Napoleon himself, such a sublime comic creation, it would have been mocked. That the filmmakers saw what comedy gold they had on their hands is merely good judgement.
Sometimes, the art of great poetry lies in its oblique qualities. This is something that biopic/art house flick/historical expose Howl struggles to come to terms with over a brief 80 minute running time -after all, who wants Howl, one of the seminal poems of the 1950s, explained objectively?
Submarine manages a kind of miraculous balancing act: it’s cynical without being nasty; wistful without being sickly; and funny without being juvenile. As much a product of director Richard Ayoade as it is an adaptation of Joe Dunthorne’s novel, the film’s vibrant, cine-literate, fourth-wall-breaking verve brilliantly captures the sense of how we as people valiantly attempt to impose a cinematic outlook on our day-to-day lives, before unveiling the poignant moment that comes when we realise our lives don’t march to the whir of a Super Eight camera.
‘I once had a girl … Or should I say, she once had me…’ The Beatles hit Norwegian Wood remains as powerfully ambiguous as ever, and now the Japanese film of the same name, taken from a novel which uses the song as a dramatic device, takes on its own cryptic essence. Recommended to all those who desire to be challenged by enticing, baffling world cinema, what Norwegian Wood loses in warmth and compassion it makes up for in complexity. Consistently interesting, unusual and unpredictable, those who are averse to atmospheric subtext over clearly delineated emotional logic are advised to steer clear.
Felicity Jones, star of snow-boarding romantic comedy, Chalet Girl, is anything but a chilly presence. In fact she’s an absolute delight, holding a predictably fluffy, though perfectly enjoyable, project together with sheer verve and star-making pizazz. Even if the film is little more than a spring-board project designed to launch Jones onto bigger and better things, the filmmakers deserve plaudits for taking the plunge and casting her in the lead -a gamble that more than pays off. She carries the pressure of the film on her shoulders beautifully, and come the end, there’s nowhere else we’d rather be than firmly on her side.
She plays former skateboarding champion Kim, who lost her confidence in a road accident that killed her mother. Grabbing the opportunity to work for some posh toffs at a chalet in the Austrian Alps, she leaves ill-domesticated dad Bill Bailey (a nicely sympathetic role) at home and hits the slopes. And that’s not the only thing she hits on when she eyes up the son of her moneyed client, Ed Westwick. Throw in the obligatory battle with the inner demons (will Kim make a success of herself in the snowboarding championships?), and you have the classic Cinderella tale.
It’s never less than perfectly watchable though, and is given a lease of life by some nice sparky chemistry between Jones and Westwick, not to mention some well-observed supporting turns (as the dad on the other side of the financial ladder, Bill Nighy is refreshingly non-snooty). Tamsin Egerton as the upper crust chalet girl who’s the ying to Jones’ yang is fine in a stereotypical role; Brooke Shields on the other hand barely registers as the mother disapproving of the cliched fairy-tale union.
But it’s hard to quibble with such a meringue, especially given Jones’ immensely likeable performance (lovely to see a sympathetic central role for a change), not to mention luscious Alpine lensing that makes you want to get out in the mountain air. Credit to director Phil Traill and editor Robin Sales too for actually making the snow-boarding sequences entertaining too -in other words, watchable without stooping to the dreaded jittery editing. It may fade from memory as quickly as last year’s snow-melt but Chalet Girl proves there’s something to be said for charming, unpretentious, uncynical viewing.
Drive Angry is the very definition of a guilty pleasure and benefits from an enjoyably oddball streak of gallows humour. As oddball as star Nicholas Cage’s hair. In fact, Cage’s very casting -that strange, droning, monolithic presence catastrophic to some productions and invaluable to others -seems itself to be a tongue in cheek move, but one wishes the limelight was taken by co-star William Fichtner, stealing scenes right to the very end.
Rango is a sheer joy from start to finish and allows director Gore Verbinski to put the bloated monstrosities that were the Pirates of the Caribbean sequels behind him. It actually hearkens back to his more innocent work on Mouse Hunt, although, as with many animated films of late, it may only be a kids movie on the surface. Dig deeper beneath the child-friendly, madcap visuals and one finds that John Logan’s sharp script is possessed of a rare literacy and intelligence. And that intelligence extends to more than just a few pot-shots at Sergio Leone’s Spaghetti Westerns (brilliant though they are).
The King’s Speech, Tom Hooper’s dramatization of King George VI’s battle with a stammer, and the Australian speech therapist who helped cure him of it, has garnered universal acclaim -and deservedly so. Now crowned with four Oscars, it boasts terrific, pitch-perfect performances from Colin Firth as the King, Geoffery Rush as Lionel Logue and Helena Bonham Carter as Queen Elizabeth.
This film is artificial. Cheap and tacky like the magazines and images sold from behind the counter at the news agent where our anti-hero Mark (Karlheinz BÃ¶hm) has a second job taking erotic pictures. There is nothing here that is real. From the characters cobbled together psychology, to the technicolor palette, to the supposedly real footage filmed from Mark’s psychotic camera. Even the setting seems strange. It is geographically London, but beyond that it is nowhere, a false imagining of an unreal world. If this is the world that my parents inhabited then District 9 will happen tomorrow.