Stuff To Look At

Plenty of cinematic treats for Good Friday, including Gone Girl, Jersey Boys, and X-Men: Days of Future Past

Jersey Boys

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The most surprising thing about the upcoming screen adaptation of Jersey Boys is that Clint Eastwood directs it. Not an entirely new genre for Eastwood, nevertheless it is an interesting choice. Jersey Boys is set for release on 20th June 2014.

X-Men: Days of Future Past

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The third X-Men: Days of Future Past reveals a bit more about the plot of the film. What it does not explain is young Charles Xavier’s hair. Maybe Wolverine reveals what is in his future, follicle-wise, so Xavier decides to grow luscious locks while he can. X-Men: Days of Future Past hits UK screens on 22nd May 2014.

The Fault in Our Stars

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Here is the trailer for the upcoming adaptation of John Green’s best-selling novel The Fault in Our Stars. Starring Shailene Woodley as a teenage cancer patient who is forced to attend a support group by her parents, The Fault in Our Stars is out in UK cinemas on 20th June 2014.

Gone Girl

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In case you missed it: the trailer for the hotly anticipated Gone Girl was released this week. David Fincher’s team sure do know how to cut a trailer. Starring Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike, the cinematic adaptation of the best-selling novel Gone Girl is set for release on 3rd October 2014.

The Equaliser

The Equalizer

Denzel Washington stars as a former black ops commander who fakes his own death in The Equaliser. I am guessing that this film will be more action thriller than The Rise and Fall of Reginald Perrin. The Equaliser is due to hit UK screens on 10th October 2014.

Annie

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The first trailer for musical remake Annie was released earlier this week. I only saw the original for the first time recently, and my lasting impression was that Miss Hannigan was everything. So Cameron Diaz has big shoes to fill. Annie will be released on 6th February 2015.

Sabotage

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Arnold Schwarzenegger leads strong cast in action thriller Sabotage. With Arnie getting back into the swing of things, it is funny to think that the action star was Governor of California not too long ago. Sabotage bursts on to UK screens on 7th May 2014.

Film Review: Locke

Locke

Writer-director Steven Knight’s interesting concept Locke translates into a thoroughly absorbing film.

Ivan Locke is a successful construction manager. His life changes in a series of phone calls while he drives…

Steven Knight’s film is a fantastic product, given the constraints of filming time and budget. Locke is not completely original, and yet is is innovative with what it does. Given the premise, it is difficult to imagine a film such as this would grab the viewer’s attention. It does this incredibly effectively however, thanks to its fine execution.

The first third of Locke is preoccupied with the mystery of where the central character is going and why he needs to make these calls. The significance of the conversations is felt in the middle third. The final section is the most reflective.

The monologues Ivan has are what reveals the most about his character. He is a blank slate at the beginning of Locke, and by the end of the film the audience has a very clear idea of his life and personality simply on the basis of a car journey.

The script in the film is essential to the film’s success. Exposition is cleverly masked, with characters appearing natural from the conversations. One of the film’s strengths is the way it builds those who are not on screen into believable characters.

Music in Locke works well, functioning as a good accompaniment. Within the confines of the space, Knight retains the focus on his lead, generating a sense of tension.

Tom Hardy needs to deliver a strong performance to carry the film, and he does this ably. He receives good support from the vocal talents of Ruth Wilson, Olivia Colman and Andrew Scott.

Locke is a fine example of an engrossing film with the simplest of set ups. Fresh and impressive viewing.

Film Review: The Amazing Spider-Man 2

The Amazing Spider-Man 2

When The Amazing Spider-Man 2 works, it works well. When it doesn’t, however, the film disappoints.

Peter Parker is enjoying his role as Spider-Man, although the impact this has on his relationship with girlfriend Gwen Stacey is taking its toll. As Peter hopes to find out more about his parents, he has new antagonists to contend with…

With The Amazing Spider-Man 2, director Marc Webb attempts to blend a journey of discovery with a cartoonish comic book romp. There are parts of both aspects that are effective, but as an overall product the film is a letdown.

The narrative and pacing are a bit of a mess. The main focus of the plot appears to be Peter’s desire to discover more about his father, yet this is picked up and dropped without much thought throughout the film. The forward and back relationship with Gwen is highly reminiscent of the first franchise’s dynamic with Mary Jane. Nevertheless, there are some lovely scenes between Peter and Gwen.

Antagonists in The Amazing Spider-Man 2 are less well developed. The motivations attributed to these characters are dubious at best. There seems to be no genuine reason for a lot of what happens in the film. Given the genre, viewers will expect to suspend disbelief for the more fantastic elements of the movie. However, the antagonists here are given the flimsiest reason to carry out their actions.

This is what makes the film cartoonish. This is further compounded with the heavy use of CGI. Although the effects are good, it is inescapable that the images are computer-generated rather than live action. Camera work in the aerial shots are great, but a showdown between Spider-Man and Electro is pretty much all CGI.

Visuals are strong overall, and the soundtrack is superb. Chemistry between Andrew Garfield’s Peter Parker and Emma Stone’s Gwen Stacey is a highlight of the film. Elsewhere, Dane DeHaan is not used effectively as Harry Osborn, while Jamie Foxx exhibits a limited range.

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 has some strong points, but the issues with its narrative are insurmountable. Hopefully the third instalment will be stronger in this respect.

Film Review: G.B.F.

G.B.F.

Director Darren Stein’s satire G.B.F. is certainly entertaining viewing. Nevertheless, sharper wit and more subtlety in the messaging would have made G.B.F. a more satisfying film.

Quiet and unassuming student Tanner is unwittingly outed at his high school. To his surprise, he is suddenly sought after by the three queens of the high school cliques. But his new-found popularity has an impact on old friendships…

Darren Stein effectively satirises the concept of the gay best friend as a must-have accessory to females. G.B.F. combines the frivolity of a high school comedy with a slightly more important message. There are amusing lines throughout, and a moral that appears genuine.

G.B.F. does falter however, in spite of its merits. A sharper wit would have been welcome in this satire. Furthermore, the admirable message that is pushed by the film is delivered in a brash manner. A degree of subtlety here would have worked wonders.

There are plenty of pop culture references here that will amuse tuned-in viewers. The influence of iconic teen movies is abundantly clear, although G.B.F. is a better film for acknowledging these in its own way.  The film presents stereotypical characters of this genre and subverts some of them, in-keeping with the nature of the satire. G.B.F. delivers a narrative that is rather predictable. Thankfully, this does not diminish overall enjoyment.

Art direction in G.B.F. exhibits good attention to detail. Likewise, costumes are an important feature. Michael J. Willett and Sasha Pieterse are decent as Tanner and Fawcett. Paul Iacono shows good comedy chops as Brent, delivering most of the films best lines. Megan Mullally amuses in a small role, although there are distinct elements of her most famous character.

G.B.F. is frivolous teen movie fun. Although it is unlikely to be considered a classic, the film does a good job of entertaining its viewers.

G.B.F. is out from Peccadillo Pictures on UK exclusive Blu-ray and DVD. It can be ordered from Amazon and Play.

Film Review: Half of a Yellow Sun

Half of a Yellow Sun

Based on the best-selling novel, Biyi Bandele’s Half of a Yellow Sun is set against a rich historical background. The events of the narrative, however, do not quite match the seriousness of the setting.

Twin sisters Olanna and Kainene are the daughters of  a high ranking Nigerian government official. On the eve of independence, the pair decide to forge their own paths away from the comfort of their parents’ home. The tensions in Nigeria, however, greatly impact their choices…

Bandele’s adaptation of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Half of a Yellow Sun is a curious piece. From the very beginning, the film is situation within a genuine historical context. The archive footage is effective at setting the scene. However, the tone of the action and the plot twists mark a departure from this meaty setting.

Simply put, Half of a Yellow Sun is a melodrama. Some of the incidents that occur would not seem out of place in a television soap opera. As a result, the plot is farcical at times. In the second half of the film, the story takes a more serious turn as the political instability comes further into play. This feels at odds with some of the relationship developments that occur; having a jarring effect of attempting to set a sombre tone when what has come before is rather vacuous. Writer-director Bandele does not marry these distinct aspects smoothly enough.

Frequently during Half of a Yellow Sun, the protagonists are embroiled in real events that occurred in Nigeria in the 1960s. The use of archive news reels and maps of the region emphasise unrest at this time. It is a little strange, however, how the film appears to suggest that its protagonists were real with the end titles.

Thandie Newton is almost applaudingly over the top as Olanna. Newton really buys into the melodrama of the plot. Chiwetel Ejiofor is more restrained as the politically active professor.

Half of a Yellow Sun is mostly certainly watchable, yet does not satisfy in a way that audiences may want.

Film Review: Pioneer

Pioneer

Erik Skjoldbjærg’s mystery thriller Pioneer has a strong start, but falters in the second half of the film. Pioneer certainly stretches the ‘based on true events’ inscription.

With Norway keen to capitalise on the oil beneath their waters, the help of the Americans is enlisted to excavate the precious resource. A small team is sent on a deep sea dive, but when tragedy strikes it is up to one of the divers to uncover the truth…

Pioneer is based around real events that occurred in the 1980s when oil was discovered in the North Sea. Viewers will realise, however, to take this tag of realism with a healthy dose of skepticism as the film twists and turns.

There is a level of intrigue to the plot that keeps viewers engaged. The effects of decompression and the conditions of the divers is emphasised effectively in order for the audience to question the events following the accident, for a certain time at least.

Pioneer‘s story is plausible enough to begin with. The action unfolds in a way which does not contradict the film’s true events credentials. As the narrative progresses, incidents increasingly surprise with their implausibility. The lack of authority involvement, for example, when things take a dangerous turn is never explained.

The ending of the film feels protracted. A natural and more climactic ending should have occurred about twenty minutes earlier than the actual ending. When the climax arrives, theatrics appear over blown. Whilst the titles before the end credits fill in some of detail of what happened next on a wider scale, this once again reinforces the true events tag. In which case, the lack of repercussions for such a notable incident seems bizarre.

Cinematography in Pioneer is good. The camera work effectively conveys the claustrophobia of the unusual setting. Colour and composition work well in the diving sequences. Performances in the film are decent, with Aksel Hennie offering a solid portrayal as Petter.

Pioneer is disappointing for the fact that the initial set up could have delivered a compelling thriller, instead of one that makes viewers question its plausibility.

Extended Godzilla Trailer: First Thoughts

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The extended Godzilla trailer was released yesterday, and it looks pretty amazing. Here are some initial thoughts after viewing the it. Trailer-related spoilers ahead…

Is Godzilla part of a Government cover-up?

The thoughts of Bryan Cranston’s character, indicate that this might be the case. The size of the creature, however suggest a cover up would be tricky to manoeuvre.

Will the film have more depth than other disaster movie blockbusters?

The beginning of this Godzilla trailer, with the focus on Bryan Cranston’s character, suggests more emotion than the average disaster/monster movie blockbuster. Sadness makes way to anger, with Cranston convincing even in these brief segments. After his successful run as Walter White in Breaking Bad, Cranston is a smart casting choice to give this version of Godzilla a dramatic edge.

Are there other creatures in the Godzilla trailer?

On close inspection, Godzilla does not appear to be the only creature in Gareth Edwards’ film. Does Godzilla have henchmen? Or does he have enemies?

What happens to that dog?

Seriously, things do not look good for the dog running from the tsunami. Does it survive? Does it face off to Godzilla and live to tell the tale?

Godzilla is released in UK cinemas on 15th May 2014.

Stuff To Look At

Apes! Turtles! Sheep! And, erm, Godzilla! Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, Godzilla, Lucy and more besides feature this week…

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

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Here is the latest TV spot for Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. No wonder the apes took over the Earth, given their superlative horse-riding skills. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes hits UK screens on 17th July 2014.

Godzilla

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Here is Godzilla director Gareth Edwards discussing his career and working on the upcoming blockbuster. You can view the Godzilla trailer here. I was sort of hoping that it would feature Puff Daddy’s ‘Come With Me’ for old times sake. Nevertheless, I can’t wait to see Godzilla smash up and eat everything. Godzilla is released in UK cinemas on 15th May 2014.

Lucy

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Lucy is the new sci-fi thriller from Luc Besson. The trailer suggests the film transcends from horror to Limitless-style thriller to something like a superhero movie. Starring Scarlett Johansson and Morgan Freeman, Lucy is set for release on 22nd August 2014.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

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In this incarnation of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, the protagonists were created to be heroes for New York apparently. Like many, my knowledge of the franchise springs from the popular television cartoon of the late 1980s. So I am really hoping Krang features. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles will be released in UK cinemas on 17th October 2014.

Shaun the Sheep the Movie

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Here is the teaser trailer for Shaun the Sheep the Movie, which features the Aardman character in his big screen debut. The teaser reveals little about the plot, but the humour seems to be in the style that Wallace and Gromit fans will have been accustomed to. Shaun the Sheep the Movie is scheduled for release in Spring 2015.

Into The Storm

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Into The Storm looks pretty nightmarish from this teaser trailer. Why are planes flying during a catastrophic storm? That doesn’t seem like a sound idea. Into The Storm hits UK screens on 22nd August 2014.

The Other Woman

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Here is a new clip from the upcoming comedy The Other Woman. The clip perfectly illustrates the reason Kate Upton is starring in the film. Featuring Cameron Diaz and Leslie Mann, The Other Woman is out in UK cinemas on 23rd April 2014.

Film Review: Noah

Noah

Darren Aronofsky’s Noah is an aesthetically pleasing film, that works on a certain level. Overall, hover, it is not fully satisfying.

When he receives apocalyptic visions from The Creator, Noah knows he must act. With the help of his family, Noah begins on a quest to rescue the world’s animals before the floods come…

The idea of director Darren Aronofsky helming a biblical epic is a fascinating concept. From the trailers and clips, it was not clear whether Aronofsky would deliver a traditional retelling of the tale, or offer something more complex. The finished article falls somewhere between the two.

Noah seems to be reaching for something profound, but it never quite gets there. There is a great emphasis on Noah’s struggle, which works to a certain extent. It can be difficult to identify with a protagonist in a situation so far removed from any sense of reality. The film would perhaps have benefitted from subtle shadings in the character earlier on to make the later struggle as weighty as it could be.

The story feels padded out at times, as is necessary to fill the run time and embellish the biblical tale. Some of these aspects do not gel with the story that most will be familiar with. Although the film never claims to be realistic, it would have been nice to have a few of the elements explained.

Noah‘s commentary on humanity and choice is the most fascinating aspect of the film. There is certainly an allegorical element that most will recognise. It would have been more satisfying for Aronofsky to explore these themes further.

The cinematography in Noah is excellent. The time-lapse sequences in particular are superb. Special effects are great, and the sound is also an effective accompaniment. Russell Crowe delivers a competent performance in the title role. Jennifer Connelly is not given too much to do, while Emma Watson is decent. Ray Winstone is well cast as Tubal-cain.

As a cinematic retelling of the biblical tale, Noah is certainly successful. Those hoping that Aronofsky would weave through some innovation or variance, or that it would be provocative, may be disappointed with the end product.

Film Review: Honour

Honour

Shan Khan’s Honour has a promising start, which makes way for an ill thought-out middle section and a risible conclusion.

Young Muslim Mona is targeted by her family after she plans to run away with her non-Muslim boyfriend. When matters get out of hand, the family enlist the services of a bounty hunter…

The subject of honour killings is an interesting one to tackle. It is a contemporary issue that has evaded the cinematic glare. Honour begins well enough. The initial set up grabs the audience’s attention as it is unclear where the film will go from there. The non-linear structure of Honour makes the timeline unclear, and offers a number of outcomes as a result.

With a fairly strong start, Honour could have built on this and offered a competent and socially aware thriller. However, writer-director Shan Khan eschews more plausible routes to take the film into the realms of the unconvincing. It is a shame, as the beginning of the film showed suitable potential.

Exactly what the film hoped to achieve is intangible. Given the subject area, it is suggestible that Khan should have dealt with it with a sense of brevity. Honour could have been a meaty investigative drama, but instead chooses a less believable chain of events. Paddy Considine’s character is unconvincing in his transformation. Meanwhile, there seems to be a number of more plausible routes that Mona would have taken given the dilemma of her situation. The final line in the film is truly terrible, given the weight it is supposed to carry.

Paddy Considine delivers a suitable enough performance, but his range deserves more than what he is given to work with. Aiysha Hart is also adequate, with none of the cast really shining in this production.

The serious facts before the end credits belie the fact that Honour is an overreaching thriller that misses its opportunity.