So many films, so little time! I will try to cover off as many films that I have seen recently as possible, and I won’t include old ones I have rewatched (all the X-men films up to Wolverine, Spider-man, and Austin Powers – The Spy Who Shagged Me):
Conan the Barbarian the remake/reload whatever you want to call it is an entertaining fantasy adventure film and something I was keen to see being a big fan of the character on the written page. It wasn’t too bad in comparison to Clash of the Titans (the only other remake I can think of that falls within the same genre) and has some similarities in terms of action and characterisations to the Marmitelicious Prince of Persia. My only negative is that the opening seemed unecessarily similar to the opening for Lord of the Rings with its ‘one ring to rule them all’ premise – in this case it is a mask. The film also reminded me in places of the woeful Christmas Daily Mail readers’ family favourite Temple of Doom. Nice touches were references to Conan the Wayfarer and the Freebooter probably included in the shadow of Pirates of the Carribean’s enormous success. I will give this film a generous (7/10)
Mission Impossible (4) Ghost Protocol stands up really well in comparison to what I regarded as the pinnacle of Impossibleness which was MI:3. Blamed for blowing up the Kremlin Cruise and team have to rely on limited resources to prove there innocence kinda A-Team stylee having been disavowed by the bigwigs back in the good ol’ US of A. The bad guy just needs a fluffy white cat to stroke to fit into a Bond film – he is the wooden actor out of Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, no not Daniel Craig, the original Swedish chapper. He is a bit lame in comparison to Philip Seymour Hoffman in 3, so much so I’m not even going to bother looking up the actor’s name! Simon Pegg gets a bigger role while the cool black dude is reserved to a cameo appearance. The first question that I was asked when I mentioned I had seen it was is Ethan Hunt still happily married – well to say so here would be deemed a spoiler – let’s just say that the way they write themselves ‘out’ of it is very good. J.J.Abrahm is on top form delivering thrills and spills and a lot more reality – no dueling motorbikes in this one (unlike Woo’s frankly silly MI:2) – people miss jumps and make mistakes, Hunt is human after all, but still remains victoriuos in the end thanks to his team. Also in the team is the chappy from Avengers and the Bourne Legacy who provides convincing competiton for Hunt in the fucked-up hero department until of course Hunt climbs out of a window of the tallest building in the world armed only with a couple of ‘magnetic’ gloves. This sequence (and the ‘making of’) is truly awe inspiring and justly deserve to be on the cover of the disc. Whatever people may think of Cruise’s private life as an actor you cannot fault his dedication to the roles he plays. Points off for the lame baddy and silly computer stuff, added points back on for IMAX eyes wide open stunts, and given the socre for Conan above I will give it an excited and giggly (9/10)
Apollo 18 is an exercise in trying to produce authentic looking documentary, hand-held and amatuer cinematography of a period while still delivering a horror show. The story is one in which the US DoD send one last mission to the moon to set up an anti-missile system in a Cold War climate. What the astronauts find on the moon is the subject of the debate. It’s like a mash up of The Blair Witch Project versus Apollo 13, and shares similar plot points with Alien, Mission to Mars and therefore Prometheus. It feels like a low budget film and is also quite short, but the money has been spent in post-production to make the stuff look like it was actually previously undiscovered archive material. For more shit and giggles see www.lunatruth.com I will give it (7/10) because I like sci-fi. Wouldn’t bother buying it on Bluray though.
Colombiana is a Luc Besson film and as such it should be no surprise to find that it is similar to Taken and the original Nikita. Zoe Saldana maybe better known for being Uhura in the Star Trek remake and being behind the blue alien in Avatar kicks some serious ass while wearing tight-fitting clothing in this revenge flick. I found it to be a very entertaining film in comparison to the multitude of similar action films with essentially the same plot, and enough to give it (8/10).
Set Up is 50 Cent vehicle with similar plot points to The Town in that a heist goes wrong and people get shot and a bad guy tries to make good the resultant situation. It differs in that the main character (Fiddy) does not fall for the women victim of the hesit. In fact it transpires that the woman is no victim at all but the sister of the Judas of the piece. Fiddy’s character and Vincent (not Vega, although there are Pulp Fiction style chats on the way to murderalise / torture people) the aforementioned Judas know each other from way back so it beats me why Fiddy doesn’t recognise his mates sis during the robbery. Odd. Bruce Willis pops up as a mob boss. There is a Mexican stand off where predictably everyone but Fiddy and Vincent get killed. Fiddy’s character is clumsily made out as the bad good guy who will give some of his money to the girlfriend of his other mate who gets shot and helps a kid reach something on a top shelf in a hardware store while he’s buying a spade which he intends to use to dig someone’s grave (well actually get them to dig it themselves in true mobster style). The film was entertaining and Fiddy’s acting was good, more so than most of the other cast including Willis who dialed it in. (7/10)
Detective Dee: Mystery of the Phantom Flame is a martial arts film that took my fancy on Film 4 a while ago. Detective Dee is released from prison and recruited to solve a series of mysterious deaths in the days leading up to the inauguration of Chinese Empress Wu. While featuring some impressive special effects, CG scenery and mental wire-work the film is a little disappointing and at times I felt I was watching a foreign remake of Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes, however at least the acting was better! (6/10)
The Host is a creature feature in which a bizarre amphibian monster causes chaos in Seoul. Unlike my closest recent reference point Cloverfield this is low budget, not filmed in the Blair Witch style and a kind of black comedy. The monster itself was seriously bizarre and it was a shame that they did not have enough money to make it really work believably on the screen. I did really enjoy the film though, and of the three subtitled Film 4 offerings reviewed here this is the one I would recommend the most. (6/10)
Viva Riva is a kind of gangster film based in the Democratic Republic of Congo (hope I got that right?) where chancer Riva has nicked some petrol to sell for immense profit from some nasty Angolans who want it back. Everyone is out to make money and there seems to be little concept of honour amongst thieves. The film at turns is unashamedly violent and sexual. The main villain is a little ‘comic book’ (okay he doesn’t have tentacles or fly around on a rocket propelled platform cackling) in the way he swaggers around in his cool suit amongst the decay and degradation of a city on it knees where kids are scrabbling around in the dirt to make a living, and this detracts somewhat from the grittiness of the rest of the characters. Also I found Riva (our hero) to be pretty unlikeable and because of this I didn’t really give a toss what happened to him – not the audience reaction the filmmakers probably wanted, sorry (6/10)
Happy-Go-Lucky is a low budget comedy starring kooky Sally Hawkins (recognised from Layer Cake) who seems to wander around being happy-go-lucky (no shit!) and not really doing a lot. Actually she is a primary school teacher in London (I think I saw a red bus at one point?) who has a group of friends, no boyfriend and is learning to drive. Lots of things could have happened but they didn’t. It was a pretty boring film if I’m honest. Eddie Marsan plays the most complex character who is Poppy’s driving instructor – he has many many chips on his shoulder and is an angry man. If it wasn’t for this character I would have been bored stiff. However there seems to be no character arc for anyone but Poppy and even that is lame. She gets a boyfriend, wowsers…. (4/10) [I checked with Siggy on this one just to check I wasn’t missing a chick-flick payoff I had missed, but she agreed it was an hour or so of her life she would never get back…]
Last, but not least Nowhere Boy is an early biography of John Lennon leading all the way up to him going off the Germany with his ‘new band’ who’s name never gets mentioned. Aaron Johnson is very good as the sarcastic young man who has to cope with being disowned at an early age by his frivalous young mother and being brought up by a straight laced Aunt. Most of the film is about his discovery of my he was abandoned (his mum only lives a few streets away!) and his difficult relationship with his mum. Worth a gander (7/10)