Monthly Archives: September 2013

Robot & Frank

Robot & Frank (2012)frank-robot-and-frank-13724-1920x1200

Stars: Peter Sarsgaard, Frank Langella, Susan Sarandon

Throughout the yearly Hollywood Summer blockbuster and Oscar contenders comes a film which can sometimes slip by unnoticed.

Set in the not too distant future, Frank Langella plays Frank a former jewel thief who currently resides at home by himself with contact from his daughter Madison (Liv Tyler) whom he converses with via a video call screen played through the TV while she is travelling and son Hunter (James Marsden) who makes a 10hr round trip to visit with little or no outcome from his father who appears quite content managing by himself. Frank is a sufferer of Alzheimer’s, a condition in which he doesn’t recognise and refuses to be convinced that he is a victim, but there are signs that the illness is evident in him and Frank tries to deal with it in his own terms, yearning for a previous state of life which he tries to re-experience  through petty shop lifting.

During one visit son Hunter leaves Frank with a gift from the Memory Clinic which Frank attended. A robot. The robot is an aid to help Frank with everyday tasks like cooking and cleaning, chores that Frank doesn’t do, or doesn’t remember to do. Frank instantly dismisses the robot, but when he learns that the robot will do pretty much anything he is commanded Frank once again can re-visit his former life and with the help of the robot Frank turns back to his old ways as a thief.

The movie boasts a wealth of talent with Frank Langella, James Marsden and Liv Tyler. Aside from these heavyweights of acting comes even more talent. Susan Sarandon plays a librarian in which Frank builds up a friendship, a companionship that he hopes can be more. The robot itself is played by an actress (Rachael Ma) and voiced by Peter Sarsgaard sounding very much like Kevin Spacey.

The story itself is beautiful, although played out too long in certain occasions. The emphasis is purely on Frank and his battle to refuse to believe in an illness which is clearly effecting him and the relationship ‘elders’ have with technology. In certain terms it’s a lot like watching your mum or dad try to send a text message. It is a technology too advance for some, but whom modify the change to their own needs. As the relationship between man and machine builds a bond is formed between them and you start to feel for Frank, although his intentions aren’t exactly normal, but a passion for thievery is Frank’s way of trying to deal with his Alzheimer’s, to do the one thing he remembers.

The final third of the film owes major credit to the writer Christopher D. Ford in his first major movie as the shocking revelation of Frank’s condition hits him hard in a great twist to the story and puts everything into place for him.

The movie is feel good in every factor. An excellent script has been brought to life by a dedicated, dependable and wonderful cast of actors in every form, be it person, in voice or in a robot suit.

Rating: 7/10

Trailer: 

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The Other Guys

The Other Guys (2010)The Other Guys

Stars: Will Ferrell, Mark Wahlberg, Steve Coogan

A Will Ferrell movie is a lot like Marmite or Big Brother. You either love it or completely detest it. Ferrell is one of Hollywood’s greatest comedians with his movies grossing millions, possibly even billions of dollars. But for every quotable unforgettable movie comes the odd one that you’d rather forget. Bewitched for example.

In typical Hollywood comedy marketing the trailer for The Other Guys is pumped full of hilarious scenes and you question whether the rest of the movie is going to follow suit.

The story centres around the New York City Police Department. Top detectives Highsmith (Samuel L Jackson) and Danson (Dwanye Johnson) are no nonsense, over-the-top, celebrity detectives who are the envy of every other detective on the force. They have the moves, the looks and the ability to take down the bad guys, even if it does cause millions of dollars in damages doing so. When a heist goes wrong the heroes are killed in action leaving a vacancy for the next best detectives to step up to take the crown. For Terry Hoitz (Wahlberg) this is the opportunity he has been waiting for, but his partner Allen Gamble (Ferrell) is far more happier doing paperwork and being sat at his desk than to run around waving his gun and chasing bad guys.

Part of Gamble’s daily routine is picking out misdemeanours from his laborious collection of paperwork and one revolves around some unpaid scaffolding from British billionaire, David Ershon (Coogan) the pair investigate the case and uncover a story far more sinister which could be the break that Hoitz has been waiting for.

Fortunately, this is one of the Will Ferrell films that you would love. The comic double act between Ferrell and Wahlberg works really well. Wahlberg himself proving that his acting talents can weave through all sorts of genres and roles and as a comedy performer he is hilarious. In another genius piece of casting, Michael Keaton plays the role of the duo’s Captain and proves just like Wahlberg that he has a knack for producing a comedic role.

British comedian- come new Hollywood star, Steve Coogan adds his own style of comedy to the film which we will all probably recognise as Alan Partridge, but adds a new edge to the film and he is very amusing with it.

The downside to the movie is that, at 107 minutes, it is a bit too long and the Will Ferrell comedy style does become a bit over the top. Had it have been up to 90 minutes long it would have been a very comfortable, very funny comedy but towards the finale, the story does drag a bit.

That being said there are some very memorable scenes. The ‘silent fight scene’ during the funeral was extremely well done and comical.

In a role where Ferrell performs at his best and is joined by genuinely funny co-stars, The Other Guys proves to be a hit and one to watch.

Rating: 7/10

Trailer: 

 

Star Trek Into Darkness

Star Trek Into Darkness (2013)Watch Star Trek Into Darkness Online

Stars: Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Zoe Saldana

I have a confession to make. I am not a huge fan of Star Trek. Out of the “Stars” films I would always pick “Wars” over “Trek”, but that’s not to say I don’t enjoy the films, I just wouldn’t associate myself with them as a fan or “Trekkie”.That being said, J.J. Abrams vision of a new version of the story is exciting, solid and entertaining.

Into Darkness picks up where the original film left off. Despite putting their differences aside, Kirk (Pine) and Spock (Quinto) are still having a difficult relationship. During one particular mission, Spock becomes trapped on a volcanic mountain and Kirk breaks protocol to rescue his fist commander prompting a full report from Spock himself leading to the removal of the Enterprise from Kirk’s power.

Meanwhile an explosion within Starfleet caused by one of its own kind is connected to the enigmatic presence of John Harrison. Harrison later attacks a meeting at Starfleet Head Quarters killing many and fleeing unharmed to the Klingon planet forcing Kirk into a mission of vengeance which will see him back at the helm of the Starship Enterprise and flying into a war that could end all wars.

J.J. Abrams vision of a new era of Star Trek is, as described before, an exciting prospect. For one the old elements are all in place. The layout of the Starship Enterprise is in keeping with the original, only a more updated version more CGI than cardboard and gone are the shaky camera moments to depict an attack from an enemy to a more harsh and brutal reality. Secondly the casting of the movie is phenomenal in recreating the original crew. It is almost like seeing younger versions of the original cast. It is important to keep the origin of the original TV series, not just for new fans, but for the diehard, longlife fans to keep them happy and the film’s ending will ensure the Trekkies will be pleased. It is a perfect way to conclude the first two movies and set-up the sequels that are sure to follow.

The new addition to this movie is in the form of popular British actor Benedict Cumberbatch who plays the villainous John Harrison in a thoroughly haunting, yet superbly executed role and one that will no doubt lead to the actor becoming more and more in demand from Hollywood.

Cumberbatch joins the original cast from the first movie which consists of Chris Pine as Kirk, Zachary Quinto as Spock, Zoe Saldana as Uhura with Simon Pegg as Scotty, Karl Urban as Bones, John Cho as Sulu and Anton Yelchin as Chekov.

There are parts of the movie which will lead us into a situation where we already know what the outcome will be as the movie is essentially a prequel and there is also a moment where an easy route has been taken by the writers to avoid a challenging situation, but other than that we’re left with a thrilling, action-packed vision of Star Trek which will leave you fully satisfied and ready for more.

Rating: 7/10

Trailer: 

 

World War Z

World War Z (2013)world-war-z-poster03

Stars: Brad Pitt, Mireille Enos, Daniella Kertesz

 

The zombie genre has been covered many times with several writers and directors adding their own concepts into the story and the action and the way we view zombies as a whole. Despite the fact that we’ve seen the varieties of zombie movies that have been produced over the years we’re quite happy to watch another. The reason? We all love a good zombie movie. Why? I suppose in a way we all like to imagine ourselves in the situations and wonder what we would do and how we would get out. It’s survival instinct in humans. In another way we like to watch them to see what is going to be different to the other zombie movies that we’ve seen.

World War Z is based on the novel of the same name written by Max Brooks. The term ‘based on’ has to be used very carefully for anyone that has read the book and seen the film will know that there are very little similarities, expect for the basic story and the main character name. Brooks, who is also the author of The Zombie Survival Guide, wrote WWZ as more of a historical report than a story and thus comparisons have been made to the film and confusion has commenced. Hence how the story has been based more on the zombie-festation that has practically taken over the world than word for word.

The story then? Brad Pitt plays former UN Investigator Gerry Lane who has quit his job to take up a role as house husband looking after his two children with wife, Karin (Enos). On route through New York City the Lane Family become stuck in gridlocked traffic. Police and Ambulance crews fight their way through the crowds and it is soon clear that pandemonium has arisen. An ambulance plows through the traffic taking out anyone in its way. An explosion in the distance causes instant panic and soon crowds of people are fleeing. Cue extremely quick paced, hard-hitting and effective camera work as Pitt & Co join in the race from an unknown evil. It soon becomes clear to Lane who or what they are up against and his instinct is for the survival of his family.

Once safe, Lane receives a call from his old boss, Thierry (Fana Mokoena) asking for him to return to his line of work and in return his family will be sent to a safe location. At first Lane declines the offer, but it is soon apparent what they are up against and he has no choice but to return for the sake of his family.

With his family safe, Lane begins a mission that covers some of the major incident zones in the world in a bid to investigate the outbreak and ultimately find a cure.

Having Brad Pitt in the starring role of the movie means that absolutely nothing can go wrong. As mentioned before there have already been a series of zombie films all with their own storyline and twists and the basis of comparison will always be made to those films. So what do we get with WWZ that is different? There is one essential element that I won’t go into detail with as it’ll give away a key point of the movie. Instead, I will concentrate on the direction of the movie which has been extremely well filmed in very quick pacy scenes that may leave you struggling to catch up with the action. The zombies themselves are quick, they are stronger and in some aspects they are smarter than the traditional zombies. The transformation from lifeless corpse into zombie is impressive. In a series of violent thrusts and highly animated convulsions, the dead become undead and are back on their feet running towards their next intended victim in a matter of seconds. With the canvas of the world to play with the scenes have been cleverly played out and leave us in situations with zombies that we’ve not been in before leaving us with a whole new vision of the zombie genre. It creates a tense, yet highly impressive circumstance which enhances the entertainment value of the movie.

Some of the scenes from the movie were filmed in Glasgow and Scottish actor Peter Capaldi  who was brought up in Glasgow appears in the final third of the movie as a W.H.O. Doctor in a laboratory in England. Capaldi, as you may know has gone from being a W.H.O. Doctor to Doctor Who and he will be playing the new timelord in the BBC Series.

Marc Forster has done a superb job injecting the story with intense, scary scenes that will make you jump, but also bringing the vision of zombies not just as slow, pathetic creatures that slope along while us humans almost mock them, but as terrifying, dangerous, quick monsters that will leave you questioning whether , if you were in that situation, you would make it out alive.

Rating: 8/10

Trailer: Click here to watch the trailer for World War Z

 

 

Kick-Ass 2

Kick-Ass 2 (2013)kick ass 2

Stars: Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Chloë Grace Moretz, Christopher Mintz-Plasse

 

It’s been three years since Hit Girl graced our screens in the 2010 hit Kick-Ass. The first film brought along its own controversy in the form of the level of violence and choice of dialogue used by a then 13-year old Chloë Grace Moretz. Fast forward three years and Moretz is now older (at 16 years) and wiser. She returns to the franchise once again as the formidable Hit Girl fighting crime alongside Aaron Taylor-Johnson’s Kick-Ass.

In this film the premise is the same, but more and more “superheroes” have been spawned following the popularity of Kick-Ass. Hit Girl is finding herself pushed further and further away from the life of crime fighting that she wants to continue for her late father by her now guardian and father’s former partner, Detective Marcus Williams (Morris Chestnut). She promises Marcus that she will no longer take the law into her own capable hands and tries to start a life as a student instead. A decision that she finds difficult as school life proves to be for the person that she is not. Dave (Kick-Ass) tries to convince her otherwise, but when his advances are spurned he seeks help from another band of crime fighters known as Justice Forever and led by Colonel Stars and Stripes (Jim Carrey) With this new allegiance comes  new responsibilities. To clean up the town and rid the streets of the crime that the police have failed to do.

On the darker side of the story, Chris D’Amico (Mintz-Plasse) is exacting his revenge on Kick-Ass following the death of his father from a bazooka in the first story. D’Amico becomes The Motherfucker and sets about creating a team of worthy adversaries to target Kick-Ass and destroy all he loves. It’s only a matter of time before Hit-Girl decides against being a normal, hardworking schoolgirl and joins the team for another battle.

In keeping with the first film Kick-Ass 2 also comes with its own controversies as Jim Carrey refused to promote the movie claiming it was too violent in the wake of the Sandy Hook disaster in which 26 people died. Although sometimes in outbursts of controversy comes promotion and it is believed that Carrey’s decision to disassociate himself with the film only worked in the film’s favour by pulling in additional interest and earning a reported additional $30 million dollars. For the limited time that Carrey’s on the screen he does put in a great performance in a character developed far from his normal whacky, rubber-faced, slapstick characters from other films.

The violence is back in all its gory and there are some particular gruesome scenes, but all are done with tongues firmly in cheeks. As the audience you need to remember the premise of the movie which is in reality these people are not superheroes. They do not have super abilities or strength.  A fact that we are reminded of in certain scenes while our heroes are pummeled to the ground in certain fight scenes and left battered and bruised.

The movie is funny, action packed and violent and in certain circumstances really daft. But that’s the beauty of Kick-Ass, it doesn’t have to be anyway else. It works as it is.

Jeff Wadlow takes the chair for this sequel and also penned the screenplay with former writers and director Matthew Vaughan and Jane Goldman taking producer credits. The script is in keeping with the first movie, but the lines of dialogue have been toned down slightly, maybe from the controversy of Moretz’s 13-year old Hit Girl in the first movie, but there definitely feels like something missing from the original.

Johnson and Moretz return as Kick-Ass and Hit Girl more toned and buff and ready to actually become a superhero rather than someone pretending to be one, although in reality they are still somebody pretending to be a superhero. In a world where everybody wants to be a hero, Kick-Ass and Hit Girl are still stood heads and shoulders above everyone else. Admittedly there are some humorous characters that have been generated from the inspiration of Kick-Ass , but they all have the same primary objective. Society has let them down and they want revenge.

This movie is entertaining, action fuelled and all round good fun. If you loved the first movie then this is definitely for you. If you’ve not seen the first movie, go and see it and then come back and watch the second film. You won’t regret it.

Rating: 7/10

Trailer:  Click here to watch the trailer for Kick-Ass 2

 

 

V/H/S

V/H/S (2012)VHS_Quad

Stars: Calvin Reeder, Lane Hughes, Adam Wingard

 

VHS, to any of our younger readers, is the original storage device for movies and television shows replaced by more modern devices such as DVD and Blu Ray. It was a bulky, black cassette which replaced the even bulkier, more cumbersome Betamax video which died out in the eighties. DVD’s eventually replaced VHS cassettes, but the resurgence of this retro classic has been restored for the purposes of horror.

Filmed entirely on an old VHS cassette with the use of camcorders and other video devices, V/H/S is the story of a bunch of guys who make random homemade footage of themselves causing destruction and ambushing women to “flash them” to the camera for a homemade porn website who are called to a house by a mysterious third party to retrieve a VHS cassette. Simple. Simple? On entering the house they are greeted by the dead body of an old man sat in an armchair surrounded by TV screens. The gang members go in search of the elusive cassette leaving one of the party with the dead man and a video player. He turns the camera on himself, hits “play” and the nightmare truly begins.

The movie is broken into segments each with a similar background. Situations begin fairly normally, but one by one they turn sour and horrific. The premise is the same. The footage is all home made videos of “jocks” being loud and annoying as they mostly can be, but the subtle, horrific undertone will leave you uneasy, shocked and reaching for the light switch.

There is a no real connection with each of the videos watched and each section tries to outdo the previous with gross-out situations and unbelievable outcomes. The vibe gives us a modern day Twin Peaks feel. The tone of the movie is very much the rollercoaster treatment with high’s and low’s. There are quieter moments giving the story time to get going with dreadful consequences and there are other revelations that become just a little too unrealistic. I know it’s a movie, but the idea with the VHS footage was to give it the edge of truth. It adds depth and realism to the story.

Almost an homage to “The Ring”, V/H/S bears no great, well known stars, was directed by ten different directors and written by ten different writers and they have all used the uneasy tension of homemade videos well in this original piece. But glorification is overruled by gorification as the action draws to an abrupt close, but leaves room for unanswered questions to be answered.

Step forward V/H/S 2

Rating: 6/10

Trailer:  Click here to watch the trailer for V/H/S

 

 

Pain & Gain

Pain & Gain (2013)pain_and_gain_ver3_xlg

Stars:  Mark Wahlberg, Dwayne Johnson, Anthony Mackie

The first rule to follow when watching this movie is that you must always remember that it is based on a true story. The second rule to follow when watching this movie is that you must always remember that it is based on a true story. Ok, so the repetition of rules in the style of Fight Club were for the purpose of humour, but also for the intention of depicting the reality of this situation as whilst watching it you will find it hard at times to truly believe it actually happened.  The movie itself reminds you of the fact that it is still based on a true story and the narration at the beginning almost apologises for the fact that it is by stating that “unfortunately this story is true.” Still unsure? Stick around for the end credits as images of the true criminals are accompanied by visual evidence of their story.

The story follows three bodybuilders led by Daniel Lugo (Wahlberg) who want to live the American Dream and after attending a “Get Rich Quick” seminar opts to become a “Do-er” as opposed to a “Don’t-er” only Lugo’s idea of getting rich quick and living the American Dream is by preventing someone who is already rich from being so and decides to devise a plan that will see multi-millionaire Victor Kershaw (the always excellent Tony Shalhoub) sign over all of his assets to him and his colleagues so they can live the life of Kings while Kershaw would lose everything. The plan is formulated, but the scheme of conducting it starts off a merry go round of farcical situations virtually reminiscent of a modern day Three Stooges skit where in one scene they bungle around dressed as Ninja’s attempting to ambush Kershaw and kidnap him with comical results.

It’s only when they begin to get their heads together and get organised that you see a different side to the trio. In order to fulfil the plan they set-up a car accident plying Kershaw with alcohol and providing themselves with an alibi leading the authorities to believe Kershaw was drunk at the wheel. The plan backfires and they are left with no option, but to kill Kershaw. Once again, a plan that backfires. True identities and personas are developed and we see that the real life American Dream is that once you have everything you need it is still not enough and you want more.

The now scarred, bruised and beaten Victor Kershaw’s story is not accepted by the police who believe he was drunk at the wheel, but he soon finds a friend in retired detective Ed DuBois played superbly by the simplistic, but effective Ed Harris. Danny Lugo’s American Dream soon becomes a nightmare as his past catches up with him and the trio’s hunger for money grows as they set-up their next intended victim with DuBois hot on their heels.

During the first part of this movie you may start to believe that it could have happened, but it’s during the final third when things get out of hand that you have to remind yourself of the fact from the opening paragraph of this review.  The combination of characters from our three stars provides a perfect assortment of entertaining performances particularly from Dwayne Johnson in a slightly different role from that expected of him. True to the weight lifting, tan wearing background they are essentially “meatheads” given a weapon and set free into society with a head full of ideas and an empty wallet looking for a better life, but opting to obtain that easy life the easy way. It illustrates the true representation of greed and desperation entwined in one and there is also an element of appreciation. To appreciate what you have, because one day you may lose it all.

Wahlberg leads the cast well in a comical, but dedicated role beefing himself up for the portrayal of Danny Lugo. Anthony Mackie himself took to the role of Adrian Doorbal seriously by having an intake of 4,000 calories a day, partaking in 3-4 mile runs and hitting the gym twice a day. In reality the actual trio were far from the glamorous look of Wahlberg and co.

Pain & Gain will take you on a wild ride and show you the impossible can be possible with disastrous results proving the title of the movie is very apt on both levels.

Rating: 7/10

Trailer:  Click here to watch the trailer for Pain & Gain