Monday, 28 October 2013

Gravity (2013) directed by Alfonso Cuaron, 28th October


On a routine spacewalk fixing the Hubble telescope, disaster strikes. Stranding Dr Ryan Stone ( Sandra Bullock) on her first Shuttle mission with veteran astronaut Matt Kowalsky ( George Clooney) on his last mission together in space and fighting to survive.


This is a survival thriller starring Sandra Bullock and George Clooney. Set adrift in space and trying to find a way to survive.

The film looks stunning and captures the claustrophobia and the infinite size of space all at the same time. The sound and soundtrack is amazing adding atmosphere to this film.

Sandra Bullock gives a solid performance of someone who only lives to work and with past demons. It is a measured  and sensitive performance. George Clooney plays the seasoned veteran down to a tee. At one moment he is the flippant devil may care attitude of a flyer and then with a flick of a switch when disaster strikes he becomes a believable consummate professional. Ed Harris lends his voice to mission control. A role that he has played before in Apollo 13.

Alfonso and Jonan Cuaron have written a first class story.

The direction from Alfonso Cuaron is great and the tension is ratcheted up all the way during the film with no real let up.

There are some implausible bits but hey this is a film afterall.

This is a beautiful stunning 90 minbute film where you feel like you are transported into space. It is a roller coaster ride, gripping and intense. A must see film.


Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Metro Manila (2013) directed by Sean Ellis, 5th September


Set in the Philippines. After a poor harvest, rice farmer and former soldier Oscar is forced to seek a better life with his family in Manila. Like a fish out of water the family are overwhelmed by the intensity of the city and fall foul of their situation and taken advantage from the hard bitten locals. Luckily Oscar finds a break working as an armoured car guard. His luck changes and his senior partner takes Oscar under his wing but is he being used again.


Set in the Philippines this film was written and directed by English director Sean Ellis.

This film is a mash up of Genres.

The film opens with beautiful lush shots of the countryside in the Northern Phillipines. After the failed harvest, Oscar and his family journey to Manila and once there they try to seek a better life but they fall further into poverty whilst trying to maintain their dignity. Oscar takes up any labouring work whilst Mia his wife starts to work as a hostess in a girly bar. Everywhere they turn people are hostile and when people are helpful they soon fall victim to them. This thread is shot as an arthouse/documentary style with long lingering shots of Oscar and Mai and the countryside as they journey to Manila. It also highlights the poverty and sex industry of the city.

Then by chance Oscar applies for a job as an armoured car guard. He is spotted by Ong a seasoned guard who helps to get him the job and soon Oscar becomes his pupil. Here there is definitely chemistry between Oscar ( Jake Macapagal) and Ong ( John Arcilla). Hence we enter the buddy/cop film.

Ong is not as he appears and from his actions he sets Oscar onto a course of action which he cannot escape. Finally the film becomes a thriller/heist film.

The soundtrack though quite minimal really adds to the film.

As said before this is a mash up of styles from arthouse/documentary, buddy/cop and finally thriller/heist. There are enough twists and turns in the film and real tension as the film comes to it's climax. Though the film does slightly drag with the arthouse/documentary part but this is due to the subject matter of the unrelenting hopelessness, harshness, poverty and poor luck which makes it quite depressing.

To be honest this film's story does not have to be based in the Philippines and it could be easily transposed to any part of the world and it would still work. The story alone has a universal appeal.

An altogether quite complete film which was really entertaining and stands out significantly. My favourite film of the year. Go and see it.


Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Rush (2013) directed by Ron Howard, 3rd September


Set in the 70s in the wold of Formula 1 focusing on the intense rivalry between James Hunt the gentlemen playboy racer and Niki Lauda the consummate professional racer both on and off the track. Culminating in the final race of 1976 where this final race would determine the championship.


The film starts 6 years before the 1976 championship. Where both James Hunt and Niki Lauda meet and lock horns in the Formula 3 division. Here we have two very different characters where James Hunt is the hard drinking, partying playboy racer with a natural ease with women and people. Whilst Niki Lauda is the cold, abrasive and technically brilliant driver engineer. For all there differences they have both similar backgrounds coming from privilege but ostracised by their families in their pursuit to become racing drivers. The thing that makes them both similar is their hunger and passion for winning and their pursuit to become world champion.

Although this is a film set in the world of motor racing it is more a film of passion and what drives men to risk their lives in the pursuit of winning.

The main leads of Chris Hemsworth ( Hunt) and Daniel Bruhl ( Lauda) are brilliant and the film is dominated by it's two leads giving very little room for any one else. Even the race cars take second place but there is enough of them for you to remember that this is a race film. To be honest there is very little in this film for the leading ladies Olivia Wilde ( Hunt's wife) and Alexandra Maria Lara ( Lauda's wife). Every other character is almost a sideline in this film.

This is the second collaboration between Ron Howard and Peter Morgan after Frost/Nixon. They have focused on the human side of racing and not the cars making this a gripping and intense film. Both have managed to capture the era and give real intensity to the on and off track rivalry. It is also pretty realistic in capturing the danger  and atmosphere of the time by careful use of achieve footage. All that was missing was the petrol fumes.

This is a great film where it pursues the difference and similarities between two men making them both human and in the end you want both to win. As both are heroes and villains at the same time but different in their own ways.

You are still going to enjoy this film even if you are not a motor racing fan.


Wednesday, 31 July 2013

The Conjuring (2013) directed by James Wan, 31st July


Based on a real case of real life paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren. The pair going to the aid of the Perron family who are terrorized by a presence in their new family home.


Well is has been a little while since I wrote my last review. Usually I am not a real fan of horror films. Usually I find them gory, slasher, predictable and not particularly suspenseful. The last horror genre film I enjoyed was " Cabin in the Woods" which was not really a horror film. This film has bucked the usual trend of the horror films being good and quite intelligent.

This is partly thanks to Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga playing the titular characters giving an earnest, measured and sincere performance. Additionally what gives the characters credibility is their work with the Roman Catholic church. In some way this film has similarities to "The Exorcist" where the investigators try to dispel demonic possessions with reasoned and scientific answers to most cases. The film also touches or just barely scratches the surface the stages/proof and philosophical questions of demonic possession. How true the couple worked with the Church I am not sure but this association gives the characters more credibility and sincerity rather than just being independent investigators of paranormal activity.

James Wan keeps the suspense going and it simmers gently, cranking it up evenly during the film. Nothing new and using tried and tested techniques/tricks for this genre but they are used well hitting the right notes at the right time.

Aimed at a teen audience it certainly shocked the audience and got the right response from them.

The film has the right amount of introduction and introduces the main protagonists as humane, fragile and damaged characters after all their previous investigations.

The film does slightly run out of steam at the end but this is a good competent..... dare I say great horror film of recent times. Like most horror films, at the end it leaves it open for a sequel. After the success in the US I am sure there will be a sequel. I just hope that it will be just as good as this film and the start of a good franchise rather than a successful cash cow. There should be enough good material from the Warren case files.

For a change an intelligent and thoughtful horror and not a gore/slasher.


Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Hummingbird (2013) directed by Steven Knight, 17th June


A disgraced ex-special forces operative on the run from a military court martial. Suffering from post traumatic stress disorder and living rough on the streets of London. Barely scratching a living and numb to the world through drink. Then on a typical night being roughed up by some low level enforcers he decides to fight back. By chance he survives this encounter and manages to find a safe haven. An opportunity which allows him to turn his life around thanking those who once helped him and helping those who were around him. All the while it allows him to dispense street justice.


If you are expecting an all out Jason Statham action film then you are going to be sorely disappointed by this film. Coming from Steven Knight the writer of 'Dirty Pretty Things" and "Eastern Promises" this is going to be gritty. From his previous writing efforts he has shown London at night and revealed it's dark ugly underbelly before.

The first 25 minutes of the film opens with what could be any action film. Flashbacks of Afghanistan. Street life in London. Injustice and being wronged. A chance opportunity to find safety and turn his life around. Here we have all the ingredients for a decent revenge action film. Then the film changes tonally to a crime drama. This is no bad thing but then again if you were expecting an all out action film you will be disappointed with the lack of Jason Statham dispensing justice with his fists.

Jason Statham plays Joey Jones. A traumatised ex-special forces soldier having served in Afghanistan and committed an atrocity there.  Awaiting to go to a military court he escapes from a military hospital and gravitates to London to slink into drink and obscurity. Here we have a morally ambiguous character. Someone who knows right and wrong and prepared to to wrong first to do right. Where the ends justify the means. He is also an estranged husband with a 9 year old daughter. On the night which changes his life he is accompanied by Isabel another person living rough who he helps to escape. When he finds sanctuary and an opportunity to escape his street life past he still sticks to the bottle and only kicks the bottle when he hears Isabel has disappeared. Here he cleans his act and starts to get back into shape. Taking up work as a dish washer and then on another fateful night his skills as a fighter are noticed. He finds gainful employment with Mr Choy (Benedict Wong) a local gangster and no job is too dirty for him as long as he gets the right payoff.

The real stand out is Agata Buzek playing Cristina a nun who runs a late night soup kitchen. Another damaged person who has more in common with Joey Jones  than we would expect. She gives a measured performance of a conflicted and at times hypocritical person. Happy to give advice but afraid of home truths.

Initially their relationship is prickly but she helps Joey to find Isabel and also tries to change him and show him the error of his ways with little effect.

Jason Statham has been given an opportunity to do something a little different  from his previous acting gigs. He actually does more acting but still beats up people and in this film there is less beating up and greater time looking troubled and conflicted. Admittedly he has not been given that much more to do than in his past films and plays it straight with no quips or knowing looks at the camera. I am a big fan of Jason Statham but some how I think someone like Viggo Mortensen would have made a better Joey Jones.

The film is also lightly peppered with some moments of humor. Also it was great seeing London at night.

This is not a Robin Hood type of film where he steals form the rich to give to the poor. Joey uses dirty money to help the poor and he has no problems wih this as long as he is doing good. Unusually in this film the hero is more dangerous when sober. This film tries to do a lot in it's short 100 minutes. There are some threads which are not fully explored or explained like his wife and daughter.

Jason Statham has carved out a niche for himself in the film industry to which he does a great job. The problem with this film is the star. He has made a watchable performance and has tried to make a break from his typecast role. Unfortunately for me his presence unbalances the film as his brand is too strong as I keep expecting at anytime for the Stath to get into a fracas and clean up and settle scores with his fists once every 10 minutes.

If you can remember that this is a Steven Knight film and just so happens to star Jason Statham and it is not a Jason Statham movie vehicle then you will enjoy the film. On the whole the film is watchable and entertaining  as you would expect from the writer of Eastern Promises and Dirty Pretty Things.


Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Man Of Steel(2013) directed by Zack Snyder, 12th June


Sent to Earth by his parents Jor-el and Lara to escape the dying planet Krypton. Raised by the Kent's as their own for 33 years Clark Kent has lived as one of us. Set a drift in a world that does not know he exists.  Wandering from place to place and moving from one low end job to another. Struggling to find his place in the world knowing that he is different and possessing powers which could make him a god. All this changes when he hears of a mysterious object discovered in Canada and heads off to discover it. From here he triggers off events which allow him to find his place in the world at last after years of wondering.


This is a second re-boot of a super hero franchise. The last attempt was almost 7 years ago with the much maligned and underrated Superman Returns by Bryan Singer. The film has Chris Nolan's finger prints all over it. Like his previous enterprise with Batman he has started off with another origins story changing the tone and making it more 'Real' as if this could really happen in our world. Allowing Zach Snyder to have his own take on Superman.

The film opens with planet Krypton on the edge of destruction. From here the film goes straight in with action and explaining the reasons for General Zodd's (Michael Shannon) actions. The first 30 minutes of the film are told in flashbacks mixing the past with the present to explain why Clark Kent is wondering the country.

Henry Cavill fills Superman's boots well. Certainly looking and acting the part of the do-gooder and also being nobodies fool. He gives a convincing performance of someone lost but knowing that they are destined for something greater in life. All he needs to do is be patient and bide his time. Amy Adams portrayal of Lois Lane is her own take and a more subtle portrayal than Margot Kidder. Kevin Costner and Diane Lane are perfect as the Kents. Whilst Russell Crowe whom I was not expecting to play a major part in the film excels as Jor-El. The ever watchable Michael Shannon gives a different take of the General Zodd from Terrence Stamp. Here he is portrayed as a fanatic where the ends justify the means. Whilst Antje Traue playing Faore-Ul is a very suitable sub-ordinate of the general. Laurence Fishburne is a great Perry White and steals the screen whenever he is on. To be honest everybody mentioned here adds to the film. Unfortunately the military men played by Henry Lennix as General Swanwick and Christopher Meloni as Colonel Hardy are just given two dimensional characters to play.

Like previous Zach Snyder films this is a heavily laden CGI film. Unfortunately there is no escaping this and it is required to capture the scale and titanic fight scenes between the Kryptonians. The 3d does not really add much to this film but the story is good enough for you to forget the 3d.

The look of the film and even the new suit is good though some purists will be insistent on having the red pants back. There are few laughs but small subtle jokes are within the film. This is a serious film and starts on a huge operatic scale lending the need for gravitas where the fate of humanity rests on the shoulder of someone not of this world..

My only real criticism is that the titanic battle does go on for a titanic time but when you have two opponents of equal abilitlies and powers this is to be expected. Also there are some clunky parts like when Superman discovers his powers. Surely he would have known these already when he was younger but this is just nit picking.

This film has all the hall marks of David Goyer and Chris Nolan from their Batman series but there is enough in this film to know it is directed by Zack Snyder. As a whole this is a great re-boot. The tone is grittier and is set in a believable world. There are hints and nods in this film to the next villain if a sequel is made. It is not going to please some people especially those comparing it to the recent  efforts on television and the Christopher Reeves/Richard Donner films. To get the most out of this film it is best not to compare and be prepared for something slightly different. As mentioned in the film you need to take a leap of faith first before people will accept. I have taken the leap and ready for the next film.


Thursday, 6 June 2013

World War Z (2013) directed by Marc Forster, 6th June


Gerry Lane (Brad Pitt) wakes up to what appears to be like any other ordinary day in Philadelphia only for his day and the world to break out into an all out global pandemic Zombie infection crisis. As the crisis deepens, Gerry is re-called by his former employers to help and investigate the start of the crisis.


Loosely based on the book by Max Brook. This film has been a long time coming and after much speculation of a troubled production and long re-shoots it has finally landed. The film differs much from the book which is a collection of stories across the globe told from different view points.

Zombie films generally fall into two categories. Fast or slow moving. This film follows the fast moving mold.

The film opens with a sleepy suburban family home life of Gerry Lane for the first 5 minutes. Showing a sedate loving family but then the film hits the gas pedal showing a rapid collapse of civilisation into lawlessness, rioting and looting. We then enter an adrenaline fuelled globe trotting race against time to find the cause and hopefully a cure for the global zombie infection spanning 4 continents.

The escape from Philadelphia is quite effective being dark, moody and claustrophobic. Here there is an impression that there is true peril to the family.

This film is really a vehicle for Brad Pitt the action hero and he does a competent job of it and carries it off well. Unfortunately everybody else is only there to support him. This is not the fault of Pitt/Gerry but the story.  As unfortunately anyone who is working with him does not have a high percentage of making it with the exception of Segan played by Daniella Kertesz. Playing an Israeli soldier and even then she does not get off lightly.  Mirelle Enos playing Karen Lane, Gerry's wife and is only given to look worried for her husband during most of the film.

The film direction is fast paced and captures a sense of urgency which lends the film the right amount of tension. Not really much happens in the film and for a film at close to 2 hours it is not short. Thanks to the direction and pacing by Marc Forster the film zips by quickly. At the end of the film I did not notice 2 hours had past.

Unfortunately the 3d does not really had much to the film. The film is played mostly straight with relatively few laughs and is quite bleak. There is no real gore as well.

This film is not the disaster as many had predicted.

This is a good solid action film. Ideal for escapism. It is a workman like blockbuster and it does not pretend to be anything else. Finally there is a hint that there could be a sequel but like all movies these days this depends on the box office returns. If there is one then I would be more than happy to see it.