Fisheries boffin Fred Jones (Ewan McGregor) doesn’t suffer fools gladly, so when Harriet (Emily Blunt), a sheik’s UK adviser, asks him to head a project to bring salmon to the Yemen for sport fishing, he tells her to sling her hook. Then the PM’s fearsome press secretary (Kristin Scott Thomas) gets wind of this rare good-news story from the Middle East: Patricia’s tongue is so sharp and barbed, she could probably hook and fillet a salmon with no other equipment. Fred soon feels the rod on his back.
But Fred warms to the project, the sheik and, of course, Harriet. However, they’re both in relationships, and how they deal with these is one of the clunkier aspects of this rom-com, which is also a little lacking in stakes and thematic coherence. But it more than makes up for it with crackling dialogue and wit as dry as the Yemeni desert.
* * * 1/2
In the future, North America is a nuclear wasteland and everyone lives in Mega City One until they die of radiation sickness, gang-related crime or possibly 1980s flashbacks. Clint’s chin plays Dredd, one of the cop-judge-executioners trying to keep a lid on crime. He’s called to a tower block with a rookie psychic hottie sidekick to investigate a drug killing, but they’re soon locked in and, locked in combat with kingpin Ma-Ma.
This 3D film’s comic-book graphic violence and flashes of laconic humour don’t make up for unoriginal and flawed plotting and Dredd’s nil character development. Or facial expression, as he never takes off that helmet.
* * 1/2
We meet genetically enhanced assassin Aaron Cross (Jeremy Renner) as he survives the Alaskan wilderness. Meanwhile, CIA bigwigs shout across tables at Edward Norton, who runs the whole super-assassin program, which is so secret that the CIA doesn’t know about it, or even how he got in the building.
Jeremy survives the wilderness a bit more. Edward has more meetings. Because Jason Bourne has gone rogue, and he needs to shut the program down. By killing everyone involved in dramatic, public ways, as obviously this will draw less attention.
Geneticist Rachel Weisz is one of those targeted, but Aaron saves her and they’re soon on the run. At some point, off camera, they must get the Bourne trilogy out on DVD to see how he did it, because this film offers nothing new, and much less character development. Renner and Weisz are good, though.
* * 1/2
Well, I’m still not enamored of this gory Lucio Fulci shocker… even after watching it via the excellent new Special Edition released by Blue Underground. (My problems with the film are laid out in my review of the 2007 BU edition, which you can read here.) This doesn’t change the fact that City of the Living Dead (AKA The Gates of Hell) is revered by a sizable majority of Euro-Cult fandom and viewed by some as a bona fide horror classic. These folks will definitely want to get their hands on the 2010 remastered edition, which is absolutely worth the upgrade. Utilizing the original uncut camera negative for its anamorphic 1.85:1 transfer, Blue Underground’s 2010 Special Edition of City is truly a thing to behold — pristinely clean, the film looks fantastic in every respect. The heavy grain present in every other home video incarnation is significantly minimized, but without resorting to the kind of drastic digital manipulation that ultimately robs the image of detail (and for which some botched hi-def releases, such as the Blu-ray of Patton, are infamous). English-language audio tracks are offered in 5.1 Surround, 6.1 DTS and the original mono; the former two greatly enhance one’s enjoyment of Fabio Frizzi’s minimalist, stripped-down score and add tangible punch to the sound effects. Bonus features consist of both the American and (subtitled) Italian theatrical trailers, an image gallery accompanied by two U.S. radio spots, and a 32-minute featurette, The Making of City of the Living Dead. In the featurette actors Catriona MacColl and Michele Soavi plus a variety of behind-the-scenes craftspeople (cinematography, design, makeup and special effects) are interviewed about working on the project some 30 years later, interspersed with film clips and home movie footage shot during production. This should prove quite enjoyable to City’s legion of fans and anyone interested in just how some of its notorious gore set-pieces — such as the “Devil’s Spew” and the head-drilling scene — were achieved.
Merida is a spirited Scottish lass; she has a head full of red curly hair, loves to ride horses and is a wizard with a bow and arrow. Her dad – King Fergus – loves her spirit too, and she’s certainly got his courage – he lost a leg to a legendary wild bear when she was just a bairn.
Unfortunately, it’s Queen Elinor who runs the castle, and she takes her responsibilities very seriously. For this particular princess that means no weapons on the table, watching what she eats and and learning a million “ladylike” things – naturally, this means that the two of them argue like only a mother and her daughter can. So, when the other three Clans from the Kingdom arrive and present their number one sons – yes, as potential marriage material for Elinor – there’s a huge row.
Tearful and angry, Elinor follows some will o’the wisps through the forest to the strange house of a witch and persuades her to make a spell that will change her mother, and therefore change her destiny. Elinor presents this magic pie to her mother as a peace offering, and sure enough she changes – really changes.
It’s here where the story really changes in tone too, because Elinor transforms into a big black bear. She’s a funny bear though; still prissy and tidy, still chastising Elinor with theatrical gestures and exasperated grunts and roars. The second half of the movie now becomes a kind of buddy/mother and daughter affair as the pair search the forest to try and find the witch again.
Can they find the secret spell that will turn Elinor back into good old mum, or will time run out and she’ll be changed forever? By the end they’ve discovered that some of the old legends are true, and it looks like Merida is going to get what she wanted – but lose everything she now realizes she needs.
As the first movie from Pixar featuring a female protagonist, hopes were especially high for Brave. There were problems in production – original director Chapman was replaced by Andrews (and Purcell gets a co-directing credit; they all worked on the script as well) – but there’s no doubt that the animation is as flawless as we’ve come to expect. Merida’s voluminous hair looks especially amazing and real, and Scotland (real or not) looks absolutely gorgeous – as it indeed is.
Thompson pulls off a Scottish accent really well and Connolly is as enthusiastic as ever, but it has to be said that the high Pixar bar isn’t quite reached this time. Not only is Merida rather an ungrateful teen brat (and keeps insisting it’s “not her fault” to her mother when it really is!), but she rather fades away in that second half as opposed to the heroine she seemed to be.
There’s also that lack of wit and the sly wink/adult references – tricky to pull off, since half the movie is just a girl and a bear – but all that said, the three wee brothers of Merida are an amusing trio akin to The Three Stooges, Elinor/Bear is a real character without ever speaking, and there’s enough here to amuse kids – just not so much the adults.
* * 1/2
In Peter Berg’s water based invasion movie those pesky scientists have unwittingly beckoned some unbelievably badass, yet hostile aliens to Earth via a deep space signal. The interstellar ‘hello’ was intended to reach out to a newly discovered Earth-like ‘Goldilocks’ planet. “If aliens come here, it’ll be like Columbus discovering America, and we’re the Indians,” moans scientist Cal (Hamish Linklater) the film’s only character capable of delivering a bit of (intentional) wit and irony into proceedings.
The newly invited lizard-eyed semi-humanoid Halo fans land in the Hawaiian ocean, gate crashing an international naval exercise conducted by Japanand America in the process. The aliens erect an impenetrable shield around themselves and strand some of the naval fleet inside with them, whilst some of their number attempt to call in back up ‘using our own satellites against us!’ (Ok, so that line is from Independence Day). Then follows lots of horrendous dialogue, awesome CGI and cheesy heroics. There is also a subplot with an amputee soldier, the aforementioned wise-cracking scientist and the shampoo commercial love interest thrown in. The unlikely trio have to stop ‘ET from phoning home’ (yep that line is in there) by sabotaging the communication attempts of the aliens.
The audience around me laughed in all the wrong places and at some of the most incredulous set pieces ever committed to celluloid. Then I realised that maybe you are actually meant to laugh at the dialogue and acting by numbers, maybe there really is irony in there. In truth, I think it was only when I had stopped trying to analyse the daft moments, silly dialogue and even sillier action sequences, that I truly started to have fun with the film. Taylor Kitsch without his John Carter wig was surprisingly good as the redemption seeking hero Alex Hopper, Rihanna was delightfully unnecessary as ‘woman underdog with attitude – who does good’ and the live action Battleship board game nod was genius, although not as genius as the staggeringly hilarious Dad’s Army moment towards the end.
The alien tech is Transformers meets spacecraft on water; in fact the whole feel of the movie makes you think that Berg is a robot version of Michael Bay in disguise. The whole thing is like the guilty pleasure film equivalent of WWE, except the men in tights are replaced by war-ships and old men. If you like big, dumb, loud and visually impressive action nonsense, with gruff cameos from Liam Neeson, then this film is one for you; if you prefer subtlety and giving your mind a work out then you’re better off with a Sudoku puzzle and a few episodes of Sherlock.
* * 1/2
Evan (Stiller) lives in a perfect town in middle America. He works as a manager at bulk buy heaven CostCo, is a member of a running club, and things seem perfect – until he comes to work one day to learn that his night time Security Guard has been hideously murdered, and the only clue is some nasty green goo.
Determined to find the killer, he blankets the town with flyers to set up a neighborhood watch group, but only Bob (Vaughn), Franklin (Hill) and Jamarcus (Ayoade from “The IT Crowd” and “The Mighty Boosh”; he makes a decent Hollywood debut here) turn up to the meeting. They all thought it was just a cover idea to get drunk and hang out, but Evan perseveres with these idiots, but as they’re driving home from their first case – the “capture” of a skateboarder teen who egged them all – they hit something. Something big that leaves tentacles and green goo behind.„
Nearby they find a strange globe that blows shit up, but then later it gets even stranger when they’re called by Manfred (R. Lee Ermey – some of you remember him as the shouty Sergeant in “Full Metal Jacket”) and find something hiding in his back garden: a giant, toothy “Predator”-like alien who has just finished disemboweling and eating Manfred.
Evan saves the day though, hitting the beast with a flowerpot and causing it to fall and break its neck. They take it back to Bob’s wicked basement/man cave, swear eternal secrecy, and then party like the film and Hello! magazine rights have already been sold. But this bad boy isn’t dead yet, and he escapes; it seems like he’s getting ready to summon his friends and launch an invasion of earth – starting in our special town. And the boys of the Neighborhood Watch can’t allow that…
As you might be able to tell, this seems like a bit of an odd set-up. Comedy, comedy certainly – there’s plenty of bawdy humor, gross gags and endless improvisation (especially from Vaughn, who is always a laugh) – but too often you keep thinking: “Wait. Aren’t there aliens going round the town butchering people and taking their skin? Shouldn’t you be doing something about that?”
When the end turns into a full-on special effects alien rampage, the guys with their guns blazing as they try to stop the invasion, all the forced, out-of-place family drama and emotional stuff – and most of the schoolboy smut and “The Hangover”-style vibe – really seems at odds with what you’re seeing. Films with a story like this usually don’t need to go there, so overall this is neither blood nor goo, as if it couldn’t help itself (or didn’t know how to do just one thing well) – and the rather unpleasant racist overtone I seemed to detect a few times didn’t help either.
Also, this film was actually originally titled “Neighborhood Watch” and had issued posters and trailers called that, but then changed it/moved the release date after a young black kid was controversially shot by a Neighborhood Watch member in Florida.
Now that films are further under the spotlight (temporarily or not) in the light of the Colorado cinema shootings, to see these characters shooting the dead body of an alien over and over again for comedic effect does make for an uncomfortable moment or two.
* * 1/2
Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim are American cult comedy stars. Their television show, Tim and Eric’s Awesome Show, Great Job! has a huge underground cult following, so it seemed only natural for them to take the next step and make a movie. The idea of there television show is they make deliberately bad comedy sketches. Which is good, if that’s your type of thing. But unfortunately, that brand of comedy hasn’t translated to the big screen that well.
Heidecker and Weinheim play fictionalized versions of themselves who have been given a billion dollars to make a movie. This movie starts with the movie they’ve made. Predictably, it’s hopeless. It lasts for around 3 minutes and features a Johnny Depp impersonator. The thing I found unfunny about this opening scene was the impersonator actually looked a lot like Johnny Depp. After a few close up shots of his hands, eyes, and a few behind the shoulder shots, the reveal isn’t funny. You have to look twice before you realise it isn’t Johnny Depp. I don’t know whether this might be my sense of humour, but wouldn’t it of been funnier if the impersonator didn’t bare any resemblance to Johnny Depp?
After quite a bizarrely paced opening scene, we find out Tim and Eric have squandered a billion dollars. To pay the movie executives back, Tim and Eric take a job running a flailing mall that bares an uncanny resemblance to the mall in George A. Romero’s Dawn Of The Dead, except its ten times worse. The film picks up a little bit of momentum during the middle part, but ultimately the films biggest flaw is it isn’t very funny. With a supporting cast that reads like a who’s who of Hollywood comedy royalty, it’s a shame the script is lacking in strong comedic material for these A-Lister’s to shine. There is a scene in this film where a character is defecated on by several people at the same time. For me, that’s not comedy. It doesn’t take a great writer to write that. I didn’t enjoy it.
I understand Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim are cult comedy stars in America, and I appreciate that their style of comedy isn’t aimed at everyone. The idea of a cult is exclusion. If you aren’t in the cult, it means you don’t have a certain quality or in Tim and Eric’s case, you haven’t familiarised yourself with their brand of comedy or their television show. So, to join this particular cult, you have to get their brand of comedy. After watching Tim and Eric’s film, I realised there isn’t much point in trying to get there comedy because to get it, it surely has to be funny first.