Wednesday, 30 March 2011

'You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger' Review

'You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger' (dir: Woody Allen, 2010/2011), Cert: 12A

Most people, and certainly film fans will have a favourite person within the film industry, particularly an actor or director. Well my favourite is the multi-talented Woody Allen who is still churning out pictures which he has written and directed annually. His latest offering, ‘You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger’ is certainly splitting audiences and critics alike, so I was hoping to be on the supportive side. The film stars Anthony Hopkins, Naomi Watts, Josh Brolin and many more. It’s also another film Allen has made here in the United Kingdom.

 The film follows two couples; Alfie (Hopkins) and Helena (Gemma Jones) Shebritch, and Sally (Watts) and Roy (Brolin) Channing. The couples are faced with the typical ups and downs of married life, work life and personal ambitions which cause friction in their relationships and force them to look out for whom and what surround them. Roy begins to fall for Dia (Freida Pinto); a beauty draped in red, whilst Sally becomes close to her new boss Greg (Antonio Banderas). Alfie becomes smitten with Charmaine (Lucy Punch); a feisty younger woman who’s happy to drain his bank account and Helena finds her comfort in soothsaying when she becomes obsessed with visiting a fortune teller called Cristal (Pauline Collins).
 Now from the synopsis it’s fair to say this has ‘typecast’ Woody Allen written all over it; he’s the master of character studies and his pictures about relationships present a charming and satisfying, but often realistic and moralistic depiction of what it means to be with or without someone. It’s clear that his previous works have shaped this film because in a certain respect, ‘You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger’ is just a fluffier and lighter version of ‘Match Point’ (2005) or ‘Husbands and Wives’ (1992), and if this is all that some are seeing then I understand why people haven’t particularly warmed to this movie. However, I think there is more to it than that and yes, I might be bias but I thought ‘YWMATDS’ was a perfectly good and enjoyable picture.
 It’s certainly not astonishing, nor is it up there with any of his best, but it’s far better than some of the other rubbish that’s out there at the moment and it makes me happy to know that there’s still a market for this type of filmmaking out there. ‘YWMATDS’ isn’t anything you haven’t seen before or will see, but its characters are well-rounded and believable, it’s often funny and witty, and it keeps its pace up and forces the story along nicely. It’s obvious the film’s main selling point was its ensemble cast which is impressive and thankfully not a problem because quite often the larger the cast, the poorer the movie; there’s just too much talent bouncing off each other trying to absorb the most limelight and it usually results in a dull movie. This film avoids that by splitting its characters and not making them constantly interlock; they are given their own space and screen time which works nicely and keeps the themes and storylines simple.
Still from 'You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger' (dir: Woody Allen, 2010/2011)
 At points the film does trip up a little, but it regains it’s footing efficiently and doesn’t allow the time to dwell on past events. Allen is one of the few filmmakers who actually like to make shorter films so timing and processing is essential in order to make a snappy and effective motion picture. This film runs at 98 minutes which is actually quite long for an Allen movie but the time rolls on by quite happily.
 The cast is very good overall and its members play each character with conviction and believability. Watts and Brolin are great as Sally and Roy, Hopkins and Jones are a lot of fun as Alfie and Helena, Pinto is interesting as Dia and plays her character with great skill, Banderas is perfectly fine, but the star of the show is Punch’s character Charmaine who provides the majority of laughs, and indeed squirms with her cringe-worthy attitude and dress sense. Punch is a great comedic actress and this film has shown her potential.
 I think all the negativity regarding this film is because of just how much of a comfort zone Allen is with this film, I suppose it’s fair to think that he does not have to try, that he’s just putting this out into cinemas because he can. Again, I disagree and I think his directing and scriptwriting skills are massively apparent in all his works, even in the bad pictures, but repetition can become frustrating so if you’re not much of a Woody fan, I’d leave this one alone. However, if you are a fan I think there’s plenty to please and entertain here and I’m sure it’ll leave a smile on your face. I enjoyed it very much.

Not essential Allen by any means, but well worth a watch and certainly one of the better romantic comedy/dramas of the year so far.
By Chris Haydon

Sunday, 27 March 2011

Picture Problems!

Certainly Not 'Picture Perfect'!

The site is suffering from some problems at the moment I'm afraid guys! Images aren't loading properly and 'blog edits' are currently unavailable! Hopefully it'll be sorted soon enough so fingers crossed!
Anyway, to pass a little bit of time, here's the new official prequel to the first episode of series 6 of 'Doctor Who', which is called 'The Impossible Astronaut'! Enjoy :)

Saturday, 26 March 2011

'Limitless' Review

'Limitless' (dir: Neil Burger, 2011), Cert: 15

That good looking guy from ‘The Hangover’ (2009) has finally got his leading role in the new Action Thriller ‘Limitless’. I’ve been looking forward to this film for some time; it had a promising trailer, great promotion and stars actors I’m very fond of; Robert De Niro, Abbie Cornish and of course the leading man, Bradley Cooper.

Eddie Morra (Cooper) is a struggling writer who’s desperate to get a book published. He’s been battling with writer’s block for some time and it’s starting to take a hold on his life. After a surprise meeting with an old ‘friend’, Eddie is given a clear experimental pill called MDT which enables him to access 100% of his brain’s functions causing Eddie to become a ‘super’ version of himself. His whole life changes; he completes his book in 4 days, he begins to make mega money in a matter of minutes and soon he’s tackling the giants of Wall Street. Soon people begin to take notice of Eddie’s change including Carl Van Loon (De Niro); a multi-millionaire businessman, who knows he could use Eddie to make billions, but it’s not long before the drugs starts to take hold of Eddie and his world seems to be unable to keep up with him.
 As I mentioned earlier I was excited for this film and I went into the cinema with high expectations, probably too high in all honestly. ‘Limitless’ is kind of like a concept car; it looks great, it has ferocious speed and has tons of imagination, but you never really see it outside of the showroom. I suppose what I’m trying to say is that ‘Limitless’  has a lot to admire and is certainly a fun movie, but it’s just not as good as it should have been. The trailer made it look quite humorous as well as being edgy, but actually this was a little too serious for it’s subject matter, and I think that’s a huge error. Plus the film doesn’t really have much in the way of a narrative; Eddie is rubbish, he takes a drug, Eddie is awesome, a few things happen, he makes a lot of money and then a scary Russian guy pursues him. That’s about it. There’s no real conclusion or moral which isn’t essential to every film but when you’re dealing with drugs, it’s pretty much a given. Hollywood still do not like their films to end on a negative note, but people who take loads of drugs and cheat their way to the top usually have a comeuppance, Eddie doesn’t really. I’d be lying if I said I was bored during the picture because I wasn’t at all, but I’d also be lying if I said I was thrilled by it too.
Still from 'Limitless' (dir: Neil Burger, 2011)
 It’s not all bad though; Neil Burger’s direction is fast-paced and pin-pointed, it sports some lovely editing with letters falling from the sky and numbers appearing on ceilings, it has a great soundtrack and it’s an entertaining picture for a Friday night, but I can’t help but feel a little disappointed by it. Maybe it’s my fault for expecting a lot but after reading numerous gleaming reviews for it, I couldn’t help but think it was fairly average overall.
 I can understand why many people have praised this film because it is an interesting and genuine piece of filmmaking, but I’m surprised by the amounts of clichés and tropes that are stuck in, and I’m more surprised that critics haven’t really commented on them. If you had the power to do absolutely anything in the entire world, why would you become a banker? I just couldn’t get my head around it.
 The performances are good however; Cooper was an excellent casting choice for Eddie and it’s nice to see him leave the comedy behind for a brief moment. Cornish was very good as Lindy; Morra’s partner and De Niro was fun enough as Van Loon but I feel he was only there just so the poster and promotion could boast ‘and ROBERT DE NIRO’.
I’m sure this reviews seems like I’m tearing it to shreds which I don’t mean to do nor did I intend on doing; as I previous said I thought ‘Limitless’ was entertaining enough and I would recommend it, just don’t enter the cinema with particularly high hopes because they might get diminished.  

Well worth watching, but beware the fact that it’s actually rather limited.
By Chris Haydon

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

'Battle: Los Angeles' Review

'Battle: Los Angeles' (dir: Jonathan Liebesman, 2011), Cert: 12A

To say genre pieces get a battering from critics is an understatement, and the next picture in the firing line is Jonathan Liebesman’s ‘Battle: Los Angeles’ or ‘Battle: LA’ for short. Critics around the globe have torn this picture to shreds and with each review come new problems. After being blown away by the picture’s dramatic and breathtaking trailer, I was deeply excited for this film, so I ignored the critics and went to see if it really was that ‘bad’ or if like usual, they have just gone to town on a blockbuster.
 Marine Staff Sergeant Michael Nantz (Aaron Eckhart) has worked for the US Marines for the majority of his life. After being given the approval for retirement, he looks forward to an easier and more relaxed life. When reports of sudden meteor showers start appearing across the media, emergency evacuation is placed and the military are sent out into the field to help civilians to safety. However, these are no meteors; they are actually a breed of alien soldiers who have come to take over Los Angeles. Nantz is brought back into the field and with the help of 2nd Lieutenant William Martinez (Ramon Rodriguez), he must lead his men into a gigantic battle between man and machine.
 There is absolutely no doubt that this is a genre film. It’s a Sci-Fi Action picture; nothing more, nothing less. Yes it’s completely ridden with clichés, yes it’s hardly original or different, and yes it is a CGI mega-fest, but actually, ‘Battle: LA’ is a really gripping, immensely powerful and eye-bursting cinematic spectacle that sinks it’s robotic hooks into your flesh straight from the start and fails to let you go. I might be bias because I love Sci-FI and Action films, but this really is one of the most extraordinary visual experiences I’ve seen for ages. Liebesman’s direction is flawless, its action is marvellous and its cinematography was outstanding.
 I can understand why people have had problems with this movie; it’s pretty long, standing at 116 minutes and it has more explosions, pyrotechnics and shaky camera movements than a fireworks party with the ‘Transformers’, but those looking for a stupidly exciting, over-the-top and jaw-dropping optical feast, go grab your ticket for this film now. My problem with ‘respected’ critics is their inability to switch off the academic function in their brains and actually watch a film for it’s audio-visual appeal, to watch a film based only on it’s entertainment factor, because we all know that’s the main thing film and cinema is supposed to be. ‘Battle: LA’ is not trying to be a Shakespearian tragedy or a psycho-analytical study of modern American politics and society, it’s supposed to be about a group of Marines with mountains of ammo shooting the living daylights out of robotic alien invaders for nearly two hours. This film doesn’t try to breach out to the ‘upper-class’ viewer whose idea of entertainment is a trip to the Louvre or a visit to the Royal Opera House, ‘Battle: LA’ wants to entertain regular popcorn audiences who like a bit of mindless escapism, and I think I speak for the majority when I say we all enjoy that. I adore world cinema, I adore art-house and independent film productions; I love all the films that broadsheet critics pine for, but I also love movies like this; films that are made for one sole purpose; to entertain, and ‘Battle: LA’ didn’t just entertain me, it blew me away.
Still from 'Battle: Los Angeles' (dir: Jonathan Liebesman, 2011)
 However to say this film only works because of its visuals is unfair, if you look past all the flying debris and rifle shells, there is actually a pretty decent narrative that runs throughout and contains two particular moments which are incredibly moving. Its cast works very well with the script content they are given and handle the dialogue with the mental action with ease. Eckhart is great as Nantz; his chiselled features make a nice contrast between his appearance and character. This was a great role choice for him. Michelle Rodriguez, the face of modern female action is also great as Sergeant Elena Santos, and even though she’s completely in her comfort zone here, she’s always great fun to watch. The rest of the supporting cast also give solid performances.
 ‘Battle: LA’ has certainly split audiences, and it seems that some clearly favour towards certain film critics, but as a critic myself, I think it’s fair to say there is an obvious bias towards genre pictures in the film criticism world.  I’m certain many writers turn their noses up at films like these and pre-judge them hugely before seeing them, thus making the experience of watching them seem dull and uninteresting which supports their argument. I think this is wrong and unjust; you should critique a film on all its merits, not on your personal feelings and opinions towards certain types of cinema. I originally had high hopes for this film and I’m glad I kept them because when I came out of the screening, not only were those hopes met, they had totally raised the bar. This is how you make a Sci-Fi Action film. I absolutely, completely and utterly adored it; I’m pretty sure it’ll turn up on my top 10 films of the year and if when reading this it seems like I’m sticking two fingers up to certain critics, then maybe I am. Regardless of your interests and your ideas about this film, forget them and go see it now.

White knuckle, high octane cinematic madness. A film that you won’t forget you’ve seen and will want to see again. The quote “Always outnumbered, never outgunned” should have been the tagline.
By Chris Haydon

Sunday, 20 March 2011

'The Lincoln Lawyer' Review

'The Lincoln Lawyer' (dir: Brad Furman, 2011), Cert 15

I think it’s fair to say that I’m not the only one who approaches a Matthew McConaughey film with caution. His filmography has taught audiences that is name is quite often attached to terrible movies so it’s natural to feel  bit suspect, especially with his latest picture, ‘The Lincoln Lawyer’ which sees him return to the courtroom and to a serious role which is something he hasn’t done in an awfully long time. The film also stars Marisa Tomei, Ryan Phillippe and William H. Macy.
Mick Haller (McConaughey) is a lawyer working in Beverly Hills. He works from the back of his Lincoln town car and deals with the ‘scum’ and ‘low-lives’ that no other lawyers want to represent. Haller dances on the line of the law; he makes deals with the wrong people and his happy to play Devil’s Advocate with his clients and with the justice system. Haller is approached by Louis Roulet (Phillippe); a young Hollywood playboy whose been arrested on suspicion of a vicious assault and the attempted rape of a young woman. Roulet is desperate to clear his name and he knows Haller is the man for the job, but as the case begins to unfold, it’s seems that foul play has taken place and not everything is as it seems.
 Law and courtroom dramas are a hard thing to pull off; they have to be engaging enough to keep the audience wrapped up in the narrative, but have to steer clear of using too much ‘jargon’ so everybody can enjoy and understand the picture. ‘The Lincoln Lawyer’ succeeds on both of these accounts. It’s a perfectly simple drama that doesn’t ask too much of it’s viewers, but also doesn’t treat them like idiots. This doesn’t have the same emotional or dramatic impact as ‘A Time to Kill’ (1996 – McConaughey’s other courtroom picture and his finest hour) but it never really tries to. In fact this film has scatters of comedy across its reasonable gritty subject matter and McConaughey’s lawyer is more of a cheesy smooth guy than a liberal and full-frontal man of law. This film never takes itself too seriously and it works in its favour because overall this is a pretty decent picture.
Still from 'The Lincoln Lawyer' (dir: Brad Furman, 2011)
 The movie has many good attributes; it’s pacing is nicely timed and précised, nothing ever really dwells or gets dragged out. The courtroom sequences are very good and the dialogue is crisp and effective, the soundtrack is nostalgic with a mix of 90s Hip-Hop and Rock, and the film sports one of the best opening titles sequences of 2011 so far. The film has a couple of problems too though; at points it’s very clear that it was adapted from a novel which can be a little distracting and some of the film’s supporting cast are massively underused; I would have loved to have seen a bit more of Marisa Tomei whose always great and more from John Leguizamo and Bryan Cranston, but these are fairly minor issues for what was a surprising enjoyable and exciting film.
 The casting and performances are very good and equally solid; McConaughey is the perfect casting for Haller and thankfully he’s not annoying to watch. It’s nice to see that he can drop the whole ‘Surfing Super-Abs’ rubbish and actually perform; I just wish he did this more often. As I previously mentioned, Tomei is fantastic and plays her role of Maggie (Haller’s ex-wife) extremely competently. She and McConaughey have charming and gentle chemistry together which was refreshing. It’s nice to see a screen divorced couple who are actually civilized. Phillippe is good as Roulet but he didn’t have to try too hard with this role. It’s pretty basic territory for him and he knows how to play rather ‘nasty’ people well, and H. Macy is great as Frank Levin; Haller’s right-hand man and detective.
 ‘The Lincoln Lawyer’ is not a groundbreaking law feature, but it’s an intelligent and intriguing picture with great performances and sure-footed direction, and it’s certainly worthy of your time.

Quick-fire pacing, excellent performances and snappy dialogue blended with a courtroom make this film exciting, interesting and above all, entertaining.
By Chris Haydon

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

New Bits and Bobs!

There's been some decent new content uploaded online recently so I thought I'd grab hold of it and whack it on Haydon's Movie House for all to see!

First up, Summit Entertainment have released the first 5 minutes of 'Source Code' for their Facebook group fans but of course it's made it's way onto YouTube so I've ripped it onto the site. I'm so excited for this movie and this only adds to that emotion!

Secondly, there's a really cool new animated short out for the release of 'Sucker Punch'. It's called 'The Trenches' and it acts as almost a brief prequel to the movie. It's beautiful and sinister so check it out here:

Thirdly, if you're a 'Harry Potter' fan like myself, you should check out a new website called 'Harry Potter: The Quest' which allows fans to gain online points by playing games and downloading items and then unlock special content such as behind-the-scenes videos and more. It's good fun and has loads to do on it! Click the image below to enter the site:

And finally, I've recently started a Facebook group and a petition to get the cinema back in Whitstable, Kent. I will be talking to local MPs and the council about this matter and over the Easter I will be collecting signatures. If everyone who's interested could join the Facebook group and get their friends and family to do too that would be a great help!

Here's the link:
Many thanks and enjoy! :)

Sunday, 13 March 2011

5 Reasons to Love...

Still from 'Taken' (dir: Pierre Morel, 2008)

1.      His age – Even at 58, Neeson is still churning out numerous pictures annually which puts other actors half his age to shame.
2.      He used to drive fork-lift trucks for Guinness – That’s pretty cool in my books. A Northern Irishman working with Guinness? Well I never...
3.      Everyone can enjoy him, even you’re Mum – With such a lengthy career that spans virtually every film genre, everybody can have a bit of Neeson. There’s ‘Taken’ (dir: Pierre Morel, 2008) for the boys, ‘Love, Actually’ (dir: Richard Curtis, 2003) for the girls and ‘The Chronicles of Narnia’ franchise (2005 - present) for the children, and these are just some of the more recent pictures.
4.      He has a cameo in ‘The Hangover Part 2’He will be popping up as a tattoo artist who apparently is smothered with cheesy Irish-based ink. Sounds awesome.
5.      He is an absolute BAD-ASS – No further comment necessary.

'Unknown' is in cinemas now - Cert: 12A

Excitement Level: 11 out of 10!

It's looking like we're going to have a pretty decent Easter in terms of film releases, but here are the trailers for two films that hit our screens just before the holiday commences, and they both look brilliant!

Saturday, 12 March 2011

'Unknown' Review

'Unknown' (dir: Jaume Collet-Serra, 2011), Cert: 12A

From the poster, Liam Neeson’s latest looks like a sequel to his ultra-brutal 2008 sleeper hit ‘Taken’ but actually it’s quite the opposite. Director Jaume Collet-Serra (‘Orphan’ (2009)) brings us ‘Unknown’; a psychological thriller set in the hauntingly beautiful Berlin. Also starring alongside Neeson is January Jones (‘Mad Men’) and Diane Kruger (‘Inglourious Basterds’ (2009)).
 Dr. Martin Harris (Neeson) and his wife Liz (Jones) arrive in Berlin. Harris is a bio-scientist and has come to Germany to read a paper at an international biotechnology conference. After forgetting a suitcase at the airport, Harris jumps into a taxi to collect it. During the journey an accident ensues causing the taxi to fall off a bridge and leave Harris in a brief coma. Once awake, Harris desperately searches for his wife but what he finds out is more shocking than he can believe. She doesn’t know who he is and a mysterious stranger has seemed to of taken his identity. He finds Gina (Kruger); the taxi driver who crashed and they team up to discover the truth. Now Harris must fight for his identity, his wife and defy all the odds that are against him.
 ‘Unknown’ is another picture to suffer from its trailer which pretty much gives you the entire plot. I’m sure most viewers could work out the majority of the movie just from those 2 minutes. The plot is also pretty common nowadays so not much is really in this film’s favour prior to watching.
 Visually, it’s impressive; the harsh snow-washed streets of Berlin provide a dank and claustrophobic exterior, its dark shadowing, deprived buildings and graffiti-smothered subways give this film a really European feel in tone, not just location. It has the credentials of a French or German arthouse film. Collet-Serra also uses meticulous direction to wrap the audience up in the drama and tension which works well and rubs off on the viewer.
Still from 'Unknown' (dir: Jaume Collet-Serra, 2011)
 For the first 70 minutes, this is a really solid thriller that’s engaging, progressive and atmospheric; the action is exciting, the dialogue is well-paced and Neeson’s gravel-toned voice compliments his estranged character perfectly, but after that it seems to lose its bearings. Rather than allowing the final act to be explosive and nerve-shredding, its jumps way out of line and goes from being smart to overly-ambitious and sadly it loses the plot. Rather than wrapping things up, it leaves more questions unanswered and creates unnecessary plot holes.
 There is no denying that ‘Unknown’ is a good picture; it has plenty to keep you immersed and its performances are very good, but it’s a real shame about its last 25 minutes. This film was adapted from a novel so maybe the book ends this way, and if so I can’t fault the screenplay, but it just didn’t translate to screen very well. Identity films are a tricky one; some succeed and when they do, they are brilliant like the ‘Bourne’ trilogy, but some fall flat at the last hurdle. I wouldn’t say ‘Unknown’ falls like a ton of bricks; it’s more like a trip when stepping up onto a curb.
 As I said earlier, the cast work their roles well. Neeson is perfect as Harris; he’s completely in his comfort zone here and plays the down-trodden and lonely man like a natural. Kruger and Jones provide impressive support and it’s nice to see their careers blossoming. Also Frank Langella makes a brief appearance which doesn’t do that much but never mind.
 If you’re looking for a thriller that will have you on the edge of your seat then ‘Unknown’ is a good choice, but I can’t help but worry that some people will be a bit disappointed overall.

Tough, exciting and interesting, but its trailing narrative causes the final act to be rather silly.
By Chris Haydon

'Hall Pass' Review

'Hall Pass' (dir/s: The Farrelly Brothers, 2011), Cert: 15

We are all familiar with the male comedy thematic and what it portrays. Whether it’s losing your virginity (‘American Pie’, ‘Superbad’ et al), causing chaos wherever you go, or acting like an idiot during a mid-life crisis (‘The Hangover’, ‘Wedding Crashers’ and Grown Ups’), we as viewers have become accustom to these tropes. Now we have ‘Hall Pass’, a sex comedy starring Owen Wilson and Jason Sudeikis and directed by the Farrelly Brothers who are known for there risqué comedies such as ‘There’s Something About Mary’ (1998).

Rick (Wilson) and Fred (Sudeikis) are best friends. They are both middle-aged and married. After their wives get fed up with the pair drooling over other women and being ‘obsessed’ with sex, they are each granted a ‘Hall Pass’; a ticket that allows them one week off marriage to go out and do anything they desire in the hope that it will get all the childish behaviour out of their systems. The boys along with a group of friends hit the town in the hope of having lots of sex, tons of drinking and enough partying to last a life time, but not everything goes according to plan, and whilst all this is happening, their wives are taking part in some extramarital activities too.  
This film almost plays out like a recipe; add a bunch of beautiful women, mix it with some nerdy older guys, then throw in some overused and tired penis jokes and you have ‘Hall Pass’. It’s pretty much that simple, and unfortunately this is turning into a common occurrence with modern American comedy. Occasionally something breaks the mould; a film that wants to be different, to be fresh and new, ‘Hall Pass’ isn’t that film. Rather than originality we have to settle for second, maybe even third best. I only laughed twice during the 105 minute picture and to say these were belly laughs would be an overstatement.
 This is disappointing from the Farrelly’s because they understand the comedy genre and how everything in the picture is important, not just mindless gags. Films like ‘There’s Something About Mary’ or ‘Me, Myself and Irene’ (2000) work brilliantly because they have that perfect balance of narrative and focused characters, and then heaps of rude jokes on top. This formula is far more successful because it keeps the film in line rather than running off on a tangent and just having a group of guys drinking and talking trash.
 In the film’s defence, it’s not terrible. It’s watchable and there have been worse comedy pictures recently than this. It’s also not as vile towards females as some features, it’s still misogynistic but not to the extent of something like ‘Grown Ups’ (2010), which is still one of the most vulgar, ugly and disgusting films I’ve seen in the last few years.
Still from 'Hall Pass' (dir/s: The Farrelly Brothers, 2011)
 The cast work well enough with what they are given. Wilson is likeable and a good casting choice but it’s a shame the script is so poor because he isn’t funny. Sudeikis is basically the same scenario; he has one of the two laughs but ultimately he fails at the hands of the screenplay too. Stephan Merchant also stars which doesn’t make any sense at all. He sticks out like a sore thumb and looks like he’s only there so Americans can laugh at his ‘silly’ English accent. Christina Applegate and Jenna Fischer play the wives and they are fine but once again are not funny.
 I don’t think ‘Hall Pass’ will be the worst comedy of 2011 – we’re only in March, but I doubt it will be remembered as one of the best by viewers either. With ‘The Hangover Part 2’ to come plus others, I think this film will get swept under the rug and left there until the DVD arrives.
 If the film was better scripted and properly thought out, this could have been a funny movie. I would have watched it like I watched ‘The Hangover’ (2009); initially expected nothing but afterwards thought it was utterly hilarious. Unfortunately it’s not and once again I had to sit through an obvious and recycled picture.

Nothing new and nothing special. ‘Hall Pass’ is another comedy that’s ‘passed’ its expiry date.
By Chris Haydon

Thursday, 10 March 2011

'The Adjustment Bureau' Review

'The Adjustment Bureau' (dir: George Nolfi, 2011), Cert: 12A

If there’s one Science-Fiction author that’s truly helped define its cinematic genre, it’s Philip K. Dick. His tales have brought movie-goers some of the most important and inspirational pictures of the modern era, most notably ‘Blade Runner’ (1982), which was adapted from his book ‘Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?’ Now in 2011, we are presented with ‘The Adjustment Bureau’, which is adapted from a short story. The picture stars Matt Damon and Emily Blunt, plus tons of men wearing ridiculous Trilby hats.
 David Norris (Damon) is an eager politician campaigning for the state senate seat for New York City. If elected, he will be the youngest senator in the state’s history. After a batch of embarrassing old stories re-surfaces, Norris’ votes drop dramatically. He is down on his luck until he has a surprise meeting with Elise Sellas (Blunt); a beautiful ballerina who takes his breath away. The pair’s chemistry is immediate, as if they were made for each other. Has fate brought them together, should there paths have ever crossed? Not according to the men of The Adjustment Bureau; a secret organization who are able to control one’s mind in order to keep them on their ‘correct’ life path. The group forbid David to see Elise again but he’s not giving up that easily. The pair knows they have the right of free-will, so they fight for it.
 One of the picture’s posters boldly sports a critic’s quote saying “Its ‘Bourne’ meets ‘Inception’!” Personally I think this gives off the wrong signal about the film. Yes, it certainly has elements of the ‘Bourne’ pictures; the ideas of identity crisis and so forth, but ‘The Adjustment Bureau’s life lives in the fact that it’s an absolute riot and an incredibly fun watch. It doesn’t have the intellectual basis of ‘Inception’ or the gritty exterior of the ‘Bourne’ trilogy; it has playful undertones of Sci-Fi and Action that blossom through an immensely likeable couple and a gripping yet sensitive conspiracy story.
 The film is dotted with humour that provokes more than a handful of laughs, plus in certain dramatic points, it still has its tongue in its cheek. Even during a high-octane chase scene, there’s still time for somebody to lose their hat. The comedy moulds well with the subject matter allowing the picture to flow fluently. Director George Nolfi clearly believed in this project as he also produced and wrote the screenplay, and his passion shows. ‘The Adjustment Bureau’ has a clinical screen presence; everything is placed and portrayed for a reason and its visuals greatly succeed. It also sports marvellous editing that’s so sure-footed and précised; it’s difficult to notice the transitions have even taken place. The cinematography and set design is also very good; the presidential scenes look so natural and the TV spots and appearances from Jon Stewart only add to the film’s sense of realism which is a bizarre thing to say when writing about a picture that couldn’t be further from reality.
Still from 'The Adjustment Bureau' (dir: George Nolfi, 2011)
 The thing that really binds the movie however is Damon and Blunt; their individual performances are fantastic but as a pair they have believable and beautiful chemistry that isn’t sickening or cheesy or any other word which is associated with modern Hollywood romance. They seem more like good friends who happen to be in love rather than soppy and whining lovers who moan about the hurdles that are thrown in front of them. It was really refreshing to see this representation of romance which was portrayed with great skill, engaging emotion and most importantly, authenticity. Have that ‘Twilight’.
 Apart from Damon and Blunt’s stellar performances, other cast members give them too. Anthony Mackie is great as Harry; a member of The Adjustment Bureau who has a softer side than his fellow members, plus Terence Stamp stars as Thompson, one of the organization’s top men and it was great to see him back on the big screen in a well suited role.
 Overall ‘The Adjustment Bureau’ succeeds and then some. I’m sure some will pick holes in it, but realistically, this is the best new release out at the moment and I’m sure the majority will be as thrilled, entertained and excited by it, just like I was. This is definitely one of my favourite films of the year so far for multiple reasons, but the main one being how much fun it was and how much fun I had watching it.

Utterly joyous and wonderful cinema. Its no ‘Inception’ but it never intended or tried to be. Great performances, brilliant storytelling and above all, tons of fun.
By Chris Haydon

Monday, 7 March 2011

'Rango' Review

'Rango' (dir: Gore Verbinski, 2011), Cert: PG

Mega box-office blitzer Gore Verbinski has left behind Captain Jack Sparrow but has clung onto Johnny Depp for his first animated feature, ‘Rango’. Now as many know I am obsessed with animated cinema and after heaps of praising reviews, I was certainly excited for this picture, but did it succeed?
 Rango (voiced by Depp) is an ordinary chameleon who, after a driving incident is flung from the back of a vehicle and left alone out on the open road. A short while later he reaches the town of Dirt which is currently in a state of crisis. The town’s water supply is dramatically fading causing local industry to collapse and leaving dozens thirsty and weak. The town is also in desperate need of a sheriff to restore order and hope amongst the locals. Rango becomes that sheriff and promises to discover the reasoning behind the drought. Joined by locals including the quick-witted and tough girl, Beans (voiced by Isla Fisher), Rango sets out on an epic wild-west adventure that will change the fate of Dirt forever.
 ‘Rango’ is certainly an interesting picture; it’s subject matter is relevant to our current financial and sociological climate, it’s characters are developed and contain multiple traits of many politicians currently under the public eye, and as a piece of animated cinema, it’s an outstanding triumph, and yet there’s still something missing; excitement.
 For me this film was exactly like the experience I had watching ‘Fantastic Mr. Fox’ (2009); visually it’s impeccable but it lacks any real interest or intrigue. ‘Rango’ is a stunning spectacle that rivals the works of Pixar and DreamWorks, it’s action sequences are mind-blowing and it’s 2D viewing was a pleasure rather than wearing those silly glasses and paying more, but it’s narrative is so clunky and slow that it made it a rather dull picture overall, plus it had the same ridiculously adult dialogue like ‘Mr. Fox’; in-depth conversations about philosophy and financial equity are hardly what are needed in a family picture. I’m pretty sure children will be bored for the majority of this too. In my screening, a child was so bored that he decided to fake burp for 5 minutes out loud and not one audience member told him to be quiet, they just laughed at him; doesn’t make the film sound particularly fun does it?
Still from 'Rango' (dir: Gore Verbinski, 2011)
 Another thing I found troubling about the film was a dream sequence in which Rango meets ‘The Spirit of the West’ which is actually an animated version of Clint Eastwood as ‘The Man with No Name’ from the ‘Dollars’ trilogy. The animated Clint looks so much like him it’s disturbing and the joke seems so wasted because the majority of children won’t understand the character, and if the adults are like me, they will probably be more puzzled by it than pleased.
 It’s not all bad though; apart from the tremendous animation, ‘Rango’ sports a great and varied voice cast including Bill Nighy, Ned Beatty, Alfred Molina, and Abigail Breslin, plus it has a group of owls who play guitar and sing throughout the picture which is refreshing and fun.
 This is an utter ‘Marmite’ film for me, much like ‘Mr. Fox’ was; there’s enough to make me appreciate it and I’m thankful for that, but ultimately, I’d be lying if I said I had a great time watching ‘Rango’ because I didn’t, I had an average time. This is certainly not a bad animated film, in fact it’s one of the best looking films I’ve seen for a while, but as a narrative film it fails by getting too wrapped up in its adult thematic and forgetting that it’s supposed to be a fun and light-hearted piece of entertainment.

It’s visual heaven and narrative hell, and I’m in cinematic purgatory. Stick to pirates Gore.
By Chris Haydon

'Drive Angry 3D' Review

'Drive Angry 3D' (dir: Patrick Lussier, 2011), Cert: 18

What a better way to come down from the heavy awards season than this? Nicolas Cage is back in this latest 3D romp that boasts stunning visuals, absurd pyrotechnics and a bizarre take on satanic worship. Director Patrick Lussier brings us ‘Drive Angry’ which sees Cage leave his ‘performance year’ behind him and jump straight back into the driving seat of a carnage-filled festival, so let’s see the result.
Milton (Cage) escapes from hell to hunt down the man who murdered his daughter and kidnapped his granddaughter. As he prowls the streets of Southern America, he discovers Piper (Amber Heard); a beautiful young woman with a fiery attitude and a passion for muscle cars. The pair team up and head out to discover the truth behind these horrific events and see the culprit brought to justice.
 This is why we have 3D cinema; we all know it’s just a gimmick and a great money-making tool, but films like this actually use it’s ‘benefits’ to an advantage. At every opportunity something flies out of the screen, or is aimed at the screen and makes ‘Drive Angry’ a hilariously over-the-top view. The best films I’ve seen in 3D have actually been the ‘worst’ overall. ‘Piranha’ (2010) and ‘My Bloody Valentine’ (2009, also directed by Lussier) both had tremendous 3D visuals and this film is now part of that list.
 ‘Drive Angry’ blends two things I love dearly; exploitation cinema and road movies. The film has that painfully cool 70s feel where everything seems tough and edgy; it’s all just metal on metal which makes the picture visually entertaining. Now as you can probably tell, the script is a little light but that was fully intended, this isn’t a film that requires an engaging narrative, it just needs the audience to say “Ooohhh” and “Aaahhh” in the right places.
Still from 'Drive Angry 3D' (dir: Patrick Lussier, 2011)
 Having said that though, there is no denying that this film is mind-numbingly stupid, but I wouldn’t call this a criticism. It’s classic trashy dumb-fun that will leave you smiling throughout and have you in stitches at its appalling dialogue and ridiculous action. This film is clearly made for a male audience but I imagine women would find it enjoyable too if you can put up with your man drooling over Amber Heard for 104 minutes and giggling like a child at the tremendous stupidity of it all.
 The performances aren’t particularly relevant but they are all watchable. Cage was a perfect casting choice for this film and he’s clearly in his comfort zone here. Milton just has to kill people, breath heavily and have sex with the odd woman so it’s hard to imagine him struggling with this performance. Heard is enjoyable too but she’s clearly there as eye-candy. William Fichtner is great as The Accountant; a man also from hell perusing Milton, and Billy Burke (Charlie Swan from the ‘Twilight’ saga) is hysterical as satanic soothsayer Jonah King. I think many ‘Twilight’ fans that see this will be surprised to see Burke slitting throats, drinking blood and raising the Dark Lord rather than telling Bella that Edward looks a bit dodgy.
Overall, ‘Drive Angry 3D’ succeeds as a popcorn roller-coaster flick that blends genre cinema and gallons of bloodshed brilliantly. It’s not a patch on the ‘Grindhouse’ movies but it’s a perfectly enjoyable piece of escapism with a great soundtrack, brilliant visuals and it's tongue firmly in it's cheek.

Pure dumb fun that will have you bouncing and grinning in your seat. Don’t expect greatness, expect stupidity.
By Chris Haydon