Saturday, June 30, 2012

Garfield (Peter Hewitt, 2004) Review

You know the drill, successful cartoon/comic/book = film adaptation. In most cases it usually exceeds the source material. Not this time. Now, I like Garfield whether it's the cartoon or the comics so, naturally, I was excited for this film. It had a CGI Garfield in a live action world. It looked great...it ultimately was not. It could have worked well but you can tell it didn't. Why? Let's find out.

As you may know, Garfield (Bill Murray) is a fat, lazy house cat who lives with his owner Jon (Breckin Meyer). When Jon decides to adopt a new pet, Odie, Garfield is less than excited. After lots of abuse from Garfield, Odie is entered in a dog show accidentally. His performance gains the attention of a TV personality, Happy Chapman (Stephen Tobolowsky), who is looking for an animal he can use for publicity. After Garfield locks Odie out of the house, Odie runs away, leaving him open to Chapman's clutches. Now it's up to Garfield to get Odie back.

Yeah, this film kind of sucks. There, I said it. It had promise but couldn't deliver. I may have to start with a good point though and that would be Bill Murray's performance. He actually isn't that bad as Garfield and I couldn't really think of anyone else that would fit the role. It's funny that Bill Murray played Peter Venkman in Ghostbusters and the voice of Venkman in the cartoon is Lorenzo Music, the original voice actor for Garfield. It goes round and around and around! Breckin Meyer wasn't bad as Jon either but there were probably people that were more sutable to the role.

Now what DIDN'T I like about this film. Oh boy where to start. Well for starters Odie isn't CGI. It wouldn't be such a problem but it just doesn't seem like Odie. If Garfield can be CGI then why not Odie. Hell, why aren't Nermal or Arlene CGI? They look or act nothing like they should. Happy Chapman is an adequate villain. Sure he has a scheme but he was clearly conducted for the kids. I don't care and neither should you. Liz (Jennifer Love-Hewitt) is okay. Just...okay. She isn't entierly in character but is more so than Nermal or Arlene. Also, where's Lyman? It shows Odie's introduction so Lyman should be there too...at least Pooky is there...briefly.

The jokes were clearly written with only kids in mind and, while some are quite funny, generally leave a silent atmosphere were there should be laughing but, alas, there is not. Bill Murray saves this film from being a complete disaster but that cannot excuse the poor writing, crap new characters and ruined old characters. Just as well they didn't make a sequel or else that would have...what?...there IS a sequel? Is it too late to kill myself?

Verdict:
4.5/10
Just under average. If it weren't for Bill Murray, this would have been terrible.

Friday, June 29, 2012

The Golden Compass (Chris Weitz, 2007) Review

Ok, I'm fine with adaptations. They are sometimes the best films aroudn but if you want to...MAKE SURE YOU GET THE TITLE RIGHT! Yes, I know the book Northern Lights by Phillip Pullman is known as The Golden Compass in America but...this isn't America. Localisation...GET IT RIGHT! Anyway, it is an adaptation of Northern Lights by Phillip Pullman and considering it was a popular book series it only made sense to make a film of it. It worked for Harry Potter so does it hold up? Let's find out.

Set in an alternate universe where people are accompanied by animal companions known as Daemons (made up of their owners souls), the film focuses on an orphan girl named Lyra (Dakota Blue Richards) and her daemon Pantalaimon (Freddie Highmore). Meanwhile, Lyra's uncle Lord Asriel (Daniel Craig) is leaving on an expedition to study a substance that has come from another world known simply as 'Dust'. After Lyra meets Marisa Coulter (Nicole Kidman) who decides to take Lyra with her as her assistant. Prior to the events of the film, children have been disappearing and are being taken by creatures known as gobblers and Lyra and her friend Roger (Ben Walker) agree that if ever one of them is taken, the other must rescue them (may or may not be foreshadowing). 


If I took away one thing from this film, it would be the epic fight between Iorek Brynison and Ragnar Sturlusson (two polar bear daemons). Why? Because they are voiced by Ian McKellen and Ian McShane. It's the fight of the Ian Mcs! Just throw in Ian McNeice and Ian McDiarmid and you'll have on hell of an epic Ian Mc showdown. You actually may have noticed that the thing I like the most is just on scene...that's because it is. The Golden Compass is an average film. Sure the cast is great and it looks pretty good, the story and characters don't seem to work as well in the film version as they did in the books.


I was impressed by the cast of the film.considering it's sub-par reception and that fact that it's an average film. Why is it when a film that's based on a book I want to be made always wind up not doing well. It's A Series of Unfortunate Events all over again. With a line up like Daniel Craig and Nicole Kidman as well as the voices of Ian McKellen and Freddie Highmore, I was wondering how this could fail? Nicole Kidman, I will admit, was pretty good in this film but the rest of the cast seems forgettable...


The Golden Compass was universally rated average and I can see why. It moves at a snails pace and gets boring quickly and considering the acting is 'okay' I wouldn't say this is an essential film. I say they rinse it off and reboot it...with Eragon considering that was adapted too but was even worse than this was. If you want a great story, read the books instead, they are great but try to avoid this film...or at the most watch it once. 


Verdict:
5/10
An average adaptation of a great book. It's just too slow for my liking and it's a waste of great talent.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Tangled (Nathan Greno and Byron Howard, 2010) Review

Hair! There's lots of hair! Hair everywhere! HAAAAIR!!! If you couldn't tell, this is Disney's adaptation of the fairy tale Rapunzel. Since Disney have done most fairy tales (and those they missed were taken care of by Dreamwork's Shrek film franchise) so naturally it was time to take care of Rapunzel. Unlike past fairy tale Disney films, this was done fully CGI rather than traditional animation (like those OTHER films) but it actually works here and was probably done due to the large amounts of HAAAAAIR!!!

After being kidnapped by Mother Gothel (Donna Murphey) when she was a baby, Rapunzel (Mandy Moore) lives her life up in a tower with Gothel acting as her guardian. Gothel keeps her there so that she can use Rapunzel's magic hair (context...) to keep her young. Rapunzel, however, dreams of visiting the outside world having been kept in the tower all her life. After Gothel leaves to gather things for Rapunzel, the master thief Flynn Rider (Zachary Levi) finds Rapunzel's tower and agrees to take her with him to see the world.

Did I mention it's a Disney film? So you shouldn't be surprised that a Disney princess wants more. What a twist! The animation, while not traditional like the previous Disney film (The Princess and the Frog), still looks great and it's good to see a CGI Disney film that actually holds up well (unlike the three previous attempts). It feels like a classic Disney film so if you liked the previous entries to the Disney animated canon complete with some great songs.

I'm a Disney fan but there is one big thing that I always look forward to: the villain. Mother Gothel is great. Donna Murphy pulls off a great performance as Gothel and comes with a great villain song (all the greats have one). My only problem with the villain is that the last one was so fantastically awesome that he overshadows Gothel. Doctor Faciler from The Princess and the Frog was one of Disney greatest villains that left one of an impact on me but still...Gothel holds up.

Besides the CGI, this is the Disney film you would have been waiting for if it weren't for The Princess and the Frog sniping that position as the best Disney film for a while. If you want some CLASSIC Disney, fully drawn then I recommend you go watch that but Tangled is still a great film in it's own right. Don't be fooled by the CGI (which I guess is "in" nowadays), Tangled is a great Disney film that is a must see for animation fanatics.

Verdict:
7.5/10
A great Disney film that throws me back to the classic days of Disney.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Fantastic Mr. Fox (Wes Anderson, 2009) Review

Roald Dahl's books have gone to to make a lot of film adapataions. I know you know the more popular ones such as Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory or the 'not as good' remake Charlie and the Chocolate Factory but there have been other adaptations of his work. They aren't as good as the previous films but they're not bad. These include Matilda, Danny Champion of the World, The Witches and James and the Giant Peach but today I am going to look at the most recent adaptation of his: Fantastic Mr. Fox.


Mr. Fox (George Clooney) lives with his wife, Mrs. Fox (Meryl Streep) and their son Ash (Jason Schwartzman) but, getting bored of his lifestyle, as a mid life crisis. He buys a brand new house, welcomes his nephew Kristofferson Silverfox (Eric Chase Anderson) into his family and starts to steal food from the three biggest farmers in the area, Boggis (Robin Hurlstone), Bunce (Hugo Guinness) and Bean (Michael Gambon). The three farmers become aware of this and stop at nothing in order to take down Fox and stop him for good.


I should really say that this is loosely based on the story. Only loosely. Sure it has the same characters but they have been changed and given more personality. The biggest example is the Rat (Willem Dafoe). Originally a small character in the book that only appeared it a brief appearence, Now, he acts as Bean's henchman and makes more appearances. Other characters include Badger (Bill Murray) who, while similar to how he was in the book, is more of a rival for Fox but still his friend and plays a much larger role. The three farmers are improved, most notably Bean. They are more antagonistic and are likeable characters, which is unheard of in a Roald Dahl story, he always makes the villains horrible but they are great in this film.


I wish more films went down the route that this one did: Stop frame animation. It still works today as shown with films like Coraline and Wallace and Gromit so I wonder why there aren't that many (other the the obvious fact that it takes ages). It's refreshing to see a stop frame film. The best thing about it is the art style, it looks like taxidermy puppets giving a realistic look that really pays off and looks fantastic.

Fantastic Mr. Fox is a pretty good adaptation of a great story. The cast, while somewhat questionable (who looked at Mr. Fox and thought George Clooney...despite the fact that he did a very good job). Sure, it's not perfect and there are a view moments that I was questioning but they are covered by a good narrative and some thrilling scenes (such as the fight between Fox and Rat). It makes the story more entertaining but some may prefer the book and that's understandable.


Verdict:
7/10
A nice looking film that, while being weird at times, holds up well.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Be Kind Rewind (Michel Gondry, 2008) Review

If I was asked "What film do you aspire to the most?", Be Kind Rewind would be among them. Not number one, but still, it's up there. Inspiration stems from this film and that is very much a good thing. It's built around one idea that I appriciate and enjoy very much so, a couple of guys have to remake some of the biggest films of all time including Ghostbusters and Robocop.

Mr. Fletcher (Danny Glover) runs a video rental store with the help of Mike (Mos Def), his trustworthy and reliable assistant. When Mr. Fletcher goes on 'vacation' (and by vacation I mean to spy on rival video stores that have moved on to DVD), Mike's friend Jerry (Jack Black) tries to convince Mike to shut down the eletrical power plant with him (it makes sense in context). After Mike declines, Jerry does so anyway but, after a electrical disaster, accidentally wipes all the videos on the store. Now they have to recreate all the films that were wiped before Mr. Fletcher returns however they're 'sweded' (the term they use for their films) films catch the interest of the customers and soon recreate all the films they have with the help of residents such as Alma (Melonie Diaz).

As you might expect, with the concept of film parodies, there is lots of room for some interesting and hilarious moments linked with the films that they recreate. Yes there is. The inventive ways they get around the big budget CGI effects are really a great thing and is one of the films high points, whether it be negative camera mode for night time or zooming in on a marshmallow man...then setting it on fire while Jerry is to the side making sound effects. It leads to some funny moments that really make one want to make their own films.

Be Kind Rewind, despite being a comedy film, has a clear message that's actually quite shocking. The film addresses the idea of copyright issues that are shown at the beginning on films on the video. It makes for some important ideals about making films or recreating them. There is also an idea about moving on from video to DVD which is mentioned a few times. This is during the time in DVDs were rising and VHS tapes were no longer the standard (and I hope DVDs don't get replaced considering Blu-Ray failed at becoming the standard) .

I say this is a inspirational film since I love to make films as well as act in them. It also dabbles in the ideas addressed rather well (I'm just glad there was no mention of 3-D...*shudder*) and leads to some great emotional moments. It's not just in it for crude comedy, it's structured well and goes at a decent pace. It leads to an ambiguous and great climax. The ending lets the audience think about what happens next...much like this review since I can't think of a way to finish it off...so...erm...THE END!

Verdict:
8.5/10
A clever film that mixes comedy with some great moments. A unique idea that works well.

Monday, June 25, 2012

The Castle Of Cagliostro (Hayao Miyazaki, 1979) Review

For those not familiar with the legendary Hayao Miyazaki, he is a visionary in animated films. The founder of the fantastic animation company Studio Ghibli. Studio Ghibli is behind some of the best animated films around including the likes of Spirited Away and My Neighbour Totoro. Hayao Miyazaki is the mastermind behind alot of the best Ghibli films but there were a few that he did before he ever set up Studio Ghibli...this is one of them. Based on the popular anime/manga series Lupin III, The Castle Of Cagliostro is Lupin's first feature length film and with a legendary creative mind at the helm, I think its time to take a look (and for the sake of it, this is the Streamline English Dub I am reviewing).

After a recent successful casino break in, Arsene Lupin III/Wolf (Bob Bergen) and Daisuke Jigen (Steve Bulen) discover that the money they have stolen from the casino is counterfeit. After getting rid of their money, the get caught up in a car chase involving some henchmen going after Lady Clarisse d'Cagliostro (Joan-Carol O'Connell). Having fought off the henchmen, Lupin learns where the money came from after they discover the European duchy of Cagilostro. The Count of Cagliostro (Michael McConnohie) is holding Clarisse prisoner so that he can marry her and learn the secret behind Cagliostro. With the help of Jigen, the samurai master Goemon (Steve Kramer), the sexy theif Fujiko (Edie Mirman) and bitter rival Inspector Zenigata (David Povall), Lupin must save Clarisse and discover the secret behind Cagliostro for himself.

This film is one hell of an experience. I've always loved adventure films and this is one of the reasons why. The many mysteries that are uncovered are thrilling and makes for a great, well-paced narrative. I'm not a regular of the Lupin III franchise but having watched this, I would gladly be one. The Castle Of Cagliostro opens up the world of Lupin III to many people and there are plenty of reasons why. The thrill and adventure is the biggest reason. This is easily Lupin's greatest adventure and it all comes together nicely with one hell of a climax. Every character met plays a big part in the film. I direction this film took by taking a franchise and turning up the epicness to 11!

The Castle Of Cagliostro is a revolutionary film. Sure, it may not seem like it at first but it's had a bigger affect on the film industry then you may think. The most obvious one is easily the increase interest of Japanese anime films specifically ones made by Studio Ghibli. The more subtle ones are the influence on great directors. The car chase featured in the beginning of the film is regarded as the greatest car chase in film history by the likes of Steven Spielberg (who even claims it's one of the best adventure films ever) so clearly there is a reason to see this film.

The Castle Of Cagliostro is, without a shadow of a doubt, my favourite animated film of all time and it would consider it the best too. It looks fantastic (as is standard with Studio Ghibli) and the voice acting (in the version I watched anyway) is great. The action is nothing short of exceptional and it's clear to see why people like Spielberg like it so much. Sure, it took away the adult humour from the main series but that makes it much more enjoyable. A worthy loss as it no doubt made room for more development of story and character. I'm done. I'm taken away by this tremendous masterpiece. If you haven't seen it yet, I recommend you watch it as soon as possible, you will not be disappointed. It's hands down my favourite film of all time (big thing to say but, hey).

Verdict:
10/10
The best animated film I have ever seen and my favourite film. A true masterpiece.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Johnny English Reborn (Oliver Parker, 2011) Review

It took them long enough to make a sequel. I was excited since I like the first one but I was still a bit sceptical since I comedy sequels are generally worse than the first one. It's largely due to them running out of jokes the first time round. Amazingly that didn't happen here! The jokes seem fresh (even better than on the first one) but it's still a parody of the Bond franchise however it's less obvious here. Does it hold up on it's own? Let's find out.

Johnny English (Rowan Atkinson) is hiding out in a remote region in Asia after a mission gone wrong. The problem is, the MI7 need him back for a new mission due to him being the most experienced agent after foiling Pascal Sauvage's plans. In order to gain redemption for his failure on the 'other' mission (the whole reason he was hiding in the first place), English must uncover the conspiracy that is running through the KGB, the CIA and even the MI7. Now with his new sidekick, Tucker (Daniel Kaluuya), English must unravel the conspiracy and save England from a new threat. 

This is definitely an expanded sequel. There are loads of new characters that fill in for iconic Bond characters. Pegasus (clearly based on M) is back...sort of. Originally played by Tim Pigott-Smith, turns out Pegasus is just a title, just like M, and is now played by Gillian Anderson. Taking the role of Q is Patch Quartermain (Tim McInnerny) who supplies English with all his gadgets. Considering that Agent One was killed during the events of Johnny English (and by that I mean blown up in the first ten minutes) has been replaced by Simon Ambrose (Dominic West), a typical 'Peter Perfect' character that leads to some great jokes. Lastly is English's love interest Kate Sumner, played by a previous Bond girl from Die Another Day Rosamund Pike.

Johnny English Reborn is just like watching a Bond film, albeit funnier. It takes place in different locations around the world, features car chases (or...wheelchair chase...), a 'Bond girl' and a well crafted villain. It feels like a genuine Bond film (pre-Craig) and is filled with some excellent action moments (and some Bond clichés such as a snow chase ending in a fight with the main villain in a cable car.

Johnny English Reborn actually manages to do something that no other parody has done: beat it's source material. What do I mean? It out-bonds Bond...specifically Craig's bond films. Don't get me wrong, Casino Royale and Quantum Of Solace are great films but as Bond films...they just don't hold up to the classics like  The Spy Who Loved Me or From Russia With Love. Johnny English Reborn feels like a classic Bond film and it's a great experience.

Verdict:
8.5/10
Feels like a proper Bond film at times...even out-bonds Bond! An escalated sequel if ever I did see one.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Johnny English (Peter Howitt, 2003) Review

There are two kinds of parodies in the world: affectionate parodies and just...just stupid parodies. The former kind is quite rare but when you find one, it pays off (such as Shaun of the Dead) and the latter includes the likes of Scary Movie and is just stupid. Johnny English is a parody of the James Bond franchise but the question is: what kind of parody is it? Let's find out.

Johnny English (Rowan Atkinson) is a wannabe secret agent and, after a surprise attack on MI5, his dream comes true as he is the only agent left alive. The head of the MI7, Pegasus (Tim Pigott-Smith), appoints English as their primary agent (you know, since he's the only one) and, accompanied by his sidekick Bough (Ben Miller), sends English to find out what Pascal Sauvage (John Malkovich), a powerful yet jumped-up Frenchman, is up to. Turns out he's a classic villain (inspired by classic Bond villains) out to seize the Queen's crown and take over England, turning it into the largest prison in the world. It's now up to English and Bough to stop Sauvage and save England.

As already mentioned, it's a James Bond parody and it actual does a decent job trying to copy it. Spy spoofs practically have their own genre due to the sheer amount of them. Johnny English is the only one that could actually hold up it's franchise (as shown with the sequel Johnny English Reborn) due to it's well written dialogue and interesting characters. Sauvage is a good example of a character that (with a more convincing accent) could qualify for a Bond villain (maybe a Roger Moore one but.....eh).

Let's not forget that it is still a parody though therefore it has to make jokes at it's own expense or even at the source materials expense. Some things include Sauvage's accent. I can't tell if it's really bad or really good. It's that strange kind of accent that you think he's trying to hard yet it is convincing at times...or it could just be atrocious...take your pick. The hilarious car chase scene as well as the scene where English and Bough break into Sauvage's office are memorable and are great parodies of classic Bond moments.

Johnny English is one of the best parodies around mainly due to that fact that it takes it's time with some quiet moments and also is very well written. If you stripped out the humour and replaced the actors, it could qualify as a proper Bond film. It's close but just misses the mark of out Bonding Bond (but considering it was up against Die Another Day, I think it may have...maybe).

Verdict:
7/10
An affectionate parody that may be too silly for some. It actually tries and it certainly pays off.

Friday, June 22, 2012

The Simpsons Movie (David Silverman, 2007) Review

Ah yes, The Simpsons. One of the most iconic television shows of all time that left a great mark on comedy forever. It was a great show and I will miss it...what...IT'S STILL ON?! Oh good god...still...it WAS a great show. Naturally when you get a hit TV show, it's only right to get a movie down the line whether it's straight to DVD, on TV or even released in cinemas. The Simpsons went with the latter, The Simpsons Movie gained one hell of a hype towards and the day came, the day it was released in the cinemas. Was it worth it or does it sink into the modern Simpsons sink-hole (heh, see what I did there?) of mediocrity. Let's take a look.

After Green Day drown in the incredibly polluted Lake Springfield, Lisa Simpson (Yeardley Smith) tries to persuade the town of Springfield to clean up their act and stop dumping rubbish in the lake. Amazingly, they do! That is, until Homer (Dan Castellaneta) dumps a silo full of pig crap (it makes sense in context) into the lake. Having seen the increased pollution rate, the head of the EPA, Russ Cargill (Albert Brooks), manages to conceal Springfield within a giant dome so the pollution can't spread. The citizens of Springfield manages to chase Homer, Bart (Nancy Cartwright), Marge (Julie Kavner), Lisa and Maggie (I have no idea..I would assume Nancy Cartwright again) out of town. Now the Simpsons family have to stop Cargill and save Springfield.

You can obviously assume the best part of this movie is the humour. Of course it is: IT'S THE SIMPSONS! Well, The Simpsons prior to season 20...yes 20 (trust me, they're well beyond that now). This is one of the most quotable movies in a long time, just like the show. While it does focus on the Simpsons family themselves, other Simpsons characters get some funny moments in and even the guest stars are funny. Albert Brooks has appeared in The Simpsons many, many times but here, he's at this second best (Hank Scorpio was his best). Green Day make a hilarious cameo as well as other cameos such as Joe Mantagna reprising his role as Fat Tony on the show. There are points where it feels the humour is forced but it doesn't break up the rest of the humour too much.

I fell as though this movie is the point where The Simpsons declined...heavily. The Simpsons Movie isn't the best movie nor is it the funniest but that's a tough thing to do with a film, especially based on the source material. The best of The Simpsons is long behind them and basing a film on a show that lost it's touch by this point was a risk. It would either be a success or a failure...it was the former. Critically though, it was from average to great. Personally I think it could've been worse but then again, it could've been better...much better.

The Simpsons Movie was a gamble but it certainly paid off. While it may be dodgy at times, it is very entertaining and really, that's all I want from The Simpsons. If you're a fan...you should have watched this by now. If you haven't seen it, you should. It isn't perfect and by no means is it the best film ever but it's not bad. It looks fantastic and it wait for it certainly paid off.  

Verdict:
7.5/10
With the best of The Simpsons behind it, this movie still holds up and is worth a look.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

The Pianist (Roman Polanski, 2002) Review

It's history lesson time so brace yourselves! Let's look back to World War II, a time known of us were around in (so how you can look back, I have no idea). The Nazis rule over Germany and Poland has been invaded. Naturally, the Nazis are rounding up the Jews into their concentration camps. There, that should set the mood for the film. Well it is a Roman Polanski film so I guess it's justified.

Wladyslaw Szpilman (Adrian Brody) is a Polish, Jewish pianist, popular on the radio. His life takes a turn for the worst when the radio station he works at is bombed. After evacuating, Wladyslaw finds that the Nazis have invaded Poland and the Jewish residents are segregated. Their lives and society slower starts to deteriorate until it takes a turn for the worst (repetition, I realise this) when the Nazis decide to take them away. Wladyslaw is saved at the last second by another man who takes his place but is never seen again. Wladyslaw now has to spend the rest of his time avoiding the Nazis and trying to survive.


This is a very powerful film. The impression it leaves is deep thanks to the relationship that builds between Wladyslaw and the Nazi Captain Wilm Hosenfeld (Thomas Kretschmann) which brings forth Wladyslaw's piano talent (it's a big thing, hence the name of the film). The other twists and turns are shocking and really is strong. These moments lead to some memorable things that will stay with you.

We have an Oscar winning film here, people. Adrian Brody won the Academy Award for best lead actor for his role in this and it's very clear to see why. Wladyslaw is an excellent character who Brody portrayed very well that gets alot of emotion in as well as create a very naive character that you end up feeling very sorry for. Brody creates a character that is easily the high point of the film. It's more than enough reason to watch it.

The Pianist is a very powerful film. It conveys a realistic setting and is filled with great acting and some well crafted characters. Adrian Brody and Thomas Kretschmann work off each other very well and do a fantastic  job of acting. This is easily one of the best films Roman Polanski has done. It's also one of the best films set during World War II. If you haven't seen it and are fascinated by history, you should watch this fantastic film.

Verdict:
7.5/10
A strong film that leaves quite an impression. It isn't for everyone but it's still fantastic.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Gran Torino (Clint Eastwood, 2008) Review

It's Clint Eastwood being a grisled old badass...original, I know. While he's a genre icon for western films, he has does several non western roles such as Dirty Harry and, now, this. It may or may not be the most depressing film i've ever seen but it pays off for a great experience. Clint Eastwood hasn't lost his touch and is still as entertaining as always. Everything in this film comes together well but as for the verdict...let's take a look.

After his wife's funeral, Walt Kowalski (Clint Eastwood) finds that he has new neighbours from Hmong. One f them being Thao (Bee Vang), a shy teenager who is pressured by his step brother to do certain things. One of which is trying to steal Walt's prised Gran Torino car. Upon catching him, Walt decides to make Thao a more assertive person and not get pushed around as much. When a gang war rises with Thao's family in the middle, Walt goes out of his way to protect them.

There's a great message to this film. Probably something along the lines of prejudice (since Walt is less than excited when he meets his new neighbours) and also the idea of gang violence. The gang war leaves an impact on Thao's family. It does make you think which, if you've read my reviews, is a very good thing.

There is some great acting in this and it mostly spans from Clint Eastwood. When I heard he was in this, all I could think of was that he was going to be as badass as always...he didn't disappoint. His performance makes for some great and memorable moments (one of which is a internet meme...just because). The rest of the cast is also great. Bee Vang does a great job of creating a naive character that eventually takes a level of badass as a result of Walt's teachings.

Gran Torino gets a great message across and is a film that makes you think. If you're into that sort of thing, you will enjoy this and especially if you are a fan of Clint Eastwood. He's a good as ever. With a great twist ending, Gran Torino should not be missed.

Verdict:
8.5/10
Clint Eastwood hasn't lost his touch. A film that leaves a great impact and loads of badassery.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

The Terminal (Steven Spielberg, 2004) Review

When people talk about their favourite Tom Hanks film, they think the likes of Forest Gump and Saving Private Ryan. Those films are fantastic but for me, The Terminal is my favourite Tom Hanks film. It brings a great idea for a film that really opens lots of opportunities for great moments. Tom Hanks pulls off a great role as do the other characters. One of Spielberg's finest and underrated.

After arriving into the United States via plane, eastern immigrant Viktor Navorski (Tom Hanks) learns that the country he hails from is at war and, therefore, isn't recognised  by the US. As a result, Viktor cannot enter America without a country but also cannot go home because of the war. He is left with one option: live in the airport. He turns benches into his bed, gets food by bringing in trolleys for money and even gets familer with regulars at the airport such as Amelia Warren (Catherine Zeta-Jones). The problem is that the person who runs the airport, Frank Dixon (Stanley Tucci), is less than happy about Viktor in his airport and wants him out.

I mentioned that the idea leads to great moments. Well, it does. The film set in an airport (about two minutes of the film is not) leads to some clever ideas that I haven't seen before. The writers must have spent ages in an airport but then again, I've never set foot in one so I wouldn't know. The film gives insight into how things work and offers a realistic view on airports...expect with more corrupt bosses. Sure, there's product placement but it works here and makes the diegetic world that more real.

Tom Hanks really pulled off a great role here. I don't care whether or not you think his accent here is good or bad (considering it's a made up country, it's hard to judge) but never the less he is still great. You fell sorry for Viktor since he is portrayed as naive, which is understandable, and since Frank wants him out, either way. Frank is also a memorable character as Stanley Tucci does a good performance,as usual as fro Tucci, he is a great but somewhat underrated actor.

The Terminal is one of Spielberg's best. Tom Hanks performs one of his best roles along side Stanley Tucci. It's filled with some excellent moments and plot points that comes together with a great ending. If you haven't seen this film then I strongly recommend it to anyone. It's a film anyone can enjoy so go and watch it...now.......I meant it. I'm still here. Watched it yet? Then hurry up and watch it!

Verdict:
8.5/10
A clever and excellent film. My favourite role of Tom Hank's and is filled with great moments.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Brassed Off (Mark Herman, 1996) Review

It's time to take a look at a British gritty realism film. I've done some comedy ones but I decided to aim for a more depressing one...a depressing one that still has hints of comedy. It's a feel good film yet it's filled with depressing scenes and moments. There are great aspects that make up this film, whether it be acting or writing or some others. 

In a Northern mining town, the miners get by in life by participating in their very own brass band. The band is run by Danny (Pete Postlethwaite), acting as the band leader and conductor. The mine is in jeopardy and is at risk of closing, leaving the miners without jobs. The miners decide it's best to stop the band and work on rebuilding their community but this clashes with Danny's determination at playing in the national competition. More complications crop up when Gloria (Tara Fitzgerald) arrives and joins the band after winning Danny over with her flugelhorn playing. Band member Andy (Ewan McGregor) falls for Gloria but is unaware whether she's helping the miners or wanting the miners closed.

I love the sound of brass bands, just like the ones this film focuses on, so it's great to hear the music that they play. Their renditions of famous songs such as Danny Boy or Jerusalem are fantastic. Considering that this film focuses on music, it's an important factor and it doesn't disappoint. It sounds great and, if you can, I would suggest you get the soundtrack if you love the music. There are tons of songs that feature throughout and the narrative leads into each song very well.

Brassed Off is different and unique as it focuses on more than one main character. Sure, it's been done but here, everyone has a story. It's great to see what each character is doing at different points in time. The characters are well written and the acting is great. It's easily Pete Postlethwaite's best role and comes close to Ewan McGregor's best (debatable). Another great story is Danny's son, Phil (Stephen Tompkinson), who is left having to be a clown to get money.

It's obviously a gritty realism film yet there are hints of humour at points. It's depressing at times, sure, but it's light-hearted and may even make you laugh at times. It's a great mix of genres and it's full of juxtapositions that make for some mixed emotions...huh. 

Brassed Off is a mixed film in terms of content. It's great but I feel it can't be fit under one set genre. Everything else is great. The acting is top notch, the music sounds fantastic and the narrative and writing is well done. If you're up for one hell of a satisfying ending then you'll enjoy this. I recommend it to anyone who can appreciate the British setting and narrative as well as great acting. If you can find it, check it out. You won't be disappointed. 

Verdict:
8.5/10
Filled with great acting, writing and a mixed genre, Brassed Off is a great British film experience.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Despicable Me (Pierre Coffin and Chris Renaud, 2010) Review

Well, it's Father's Day so I thought of no other film than Despicable Me. Why? Because it's main focus is on a father! It's about a father developing love for his adopted children. Appropriate, I know. I didn't see this film when it first came out because I was unimpressed by it. You could say I was being prejudice to a film. I guess it had to do with the fact it was competing with Megamind, another animated villain film but was it worth watching after all? Let's dive in!

Gru (Steve Carell) is the biggest super villain in the world...that is until a new villain rises and takes Gru's glory. He develops a plan in order to take back his glory: he is going to steal the moon. First thing's first: he needs a shrink ray in order to shrink the moon down and take it. This is where he hatches a new plan. The rival villain Vector (Jason Segel) has the shrink ray and so Gru adopts three children, Margo (Miranda Cosgrove), Edith (Dana Gaier) and Agnes (Elsie Kate Fisher) in order to get into Vector's base with cookies (it makes sense in context). Gru starts to spend more time with the kids and slowly starts to open up to them.

It's heartwarming, obviously. I know for a fact that my Dad loves this film and for good reason. Gru goes through some great character development and you really get to like him by the end. Steve Carell did a really good job of voicing Gru and avoid his usual comedic approach. It's nice to see a more serious role from him. Gru's opposite, Vector, is like marmite. You either like him or hate him. There is no middle ground. He's a character that was designed to be hateful so I guess you'll most likely hate him...he's still funny though. My favourite character is still Dr. Nefario (Russell Brand) just because he's your typical crazy old mad scientist.

It seems that animated films always have to have some kind of marketable mascot. Scrat for Ice Age, Aliens for Toy Story and Despicable Me is no different. Gru's minions act as this. They are everywhere in the advertising and everywhere in the film. Again, for good reason. They are great characters that are more than just a marketing ploy. They actually help out alot (even saving Gru's life at several points).

Despicable Me seems to be a hit with fathers (along with Aladdin) when it comes to animated films so I would recommend if your dad likes animated films and has a good sense of humour. It's a heartwarming story that closes on a great and satisfying conclusion. The characters are likeable and it looks fantastic along with some top notch voice acting.

Verdict:
7/10
A great film for Father's Day if you and your dad have a great sense of humour and enjoy a good animated film.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Catch Me If You Can (Steven Spielberg, 2002) Review

Calling it! Leonardo DiCaprio's best role. I would rather watch this than his other big films such as Titanic and Inception. In fact, everyone in this film is great. Tom Hanks and Christopher Walken are excellent (especially Hanks). This is one of Speilberg's underrated yet best films (kind of like Hook) and it really shows how great of a director he is.

Based on the life of Frank Abagnale Jr. (portrayed by Leonardo DiCaprio), Frank, the son of Frank Abagnale Sr. (Christopher Walken), has caught the attention of the police as he's become a expert con artist after is 19th birthday. FBI agent Carl Hanratty Jr (Tom Hanks) is sent after Frank but is constantly one step behind him due to his expert conning skills allowing him to move around the country with millions of dollars at his disposal. Carl's main aim is to outsmart Frank and catch him...if he can!

I absolutely adore the clever ways in which Frank manages to out wit the authorities. There is lots of suspense built up and it pays off well. It's always great to see how Frank gets out of tight situations such as signing up to a hospital to hide out or claim he's another FBI agent in order to confuse Carl. It leads to some excellent scenes between Frank and Carl and also the expansion on their relationship. It's the main reason I love this film. It's a clever film that really makes you think about how you might get out of those situations. I've taken things away from it.

That's actually another great point. I wouldn't say they become friends but get become close, almost as if they're playing a game. What with Frank taunting Carl by calling him every Christmas (taking place over several years). You really learn to like both of the characters but you don't want Frank to get caught since the relationship would end. They actually learn to trust each other by the end and there is great development over the course of the narrative.

Catch Me If You Can restored by faith in Leonardo DiCaprio (didn't really like him after Titanic) and Tom Hanks plays one of his best roles. It's an excellent retelling of Frank Abagnale Jr's story with some engaging characters, acting, writing and developments. Some people may figure things out before others but all in all it is a great film that really makes you think.

Verdict:
8.5/10
An excellent film that makes you think. It doesn't dumb things down and is thrilling to the end.

Friday, June 15, 2012

The Spongebob Squarepants Movie (Stephen Hillenburg and Mark Osborne, 2004) Review

It's Spongebob on the big screen. I don't even...I don't...I....WHAAAAT?!?! Unlike most movies based on Nickelodeon cartoons, this did actually make it into cinemas and wasn't exclusive to TV or DVD. That's a good sign right? That means I must be good enough to make it into the cinemas...right? Well there's only one way to find out. Let's (and I really don't mean to make a pun) dive in.

After a fantastically out of place and therefore hilarious dream scene, Spongebob (Tom Kenny) is set to arrive at the opening of the brand new Krusty Krab 2...right next to the first one. Upon arrival at the grand opening, he learns that his boss, Mr. Krabs (Clancy Brown), hasn't made him the manager instead making Squidward (Rodger Bumpass) the new manager. Krab's reason: Spongebob is too immature (surprising, I know). After a night out at Goofy Goober's Ice Cream...place...with his best friends Patrick (Bill Fagerbakke), Spongebob shows up at work to find that King Neptune (Jeffrey Tambor) has had his crown stolen and blames Krabs. Neptune gives Spongebob and Patrick three days to return Neptune's crown from the hellish Shell City.

The cast is surprising. I was actually amazed and impressed at who they got to feature in this film. Now obviously the regular cast of the show perform the voices for their characters as always but there are some guest stars that really are surprising. I already mentioned Jeffrey Tambor as Neptune but his daughter, Mindy, is played by none other than Scarlett Johannson! Wha-? And there's also Alec Baldwin as the hitman Dennis and David Hasslehoff as...David Hasslehoff. Really. He isn't animated. It's just the Hoff! I really have no idea what they were thinking but IT WAS A DAAAMN GOOD IDEA!!! Their idea, not mine...you know, since I had no idea.

If I had any problem, I think the biggest would be the lack of Spongebob characters. Now what I mean is, while Spongebob and Patrick are present throughout, other characters aren't in it as much as you'd think. Mr. Krabs and Squidward feature quite a bit and my favourite character, Plankton (Mr. Lawrence/Doug Lawrence/whatever), acts as the main antagonist but it's the other main characters that are either absent or make a cameo. Sandy (Carolyn Lawrence) and Mrs. Puff (Mary Jo Catlett) appear briefly. The new characters make up for it so I guess it isn't a huge problem...more of a slight complication.

The most notable technique used is the blend of animation and real life. Once the narrative reaches a certain plot point, Spongebob and Patrick are taken to the shore which is captured with a video camera and the animated characters placed on top akin to the likes of Who Framed Roger Rabbit?. I looks fantastic and the upgraded animation works well (not CGI, thank God) with the real life footage.

The Spongebob Squarepants Movie brings forward some ideas that, while not really new, are reinvented and looks great. The voice acting is top notch and has a fantastic soundtrack (I'm not kidding, it's really good!). The plot is inventive and epic for a Spongebob film and the new and existing characters are great fun. It might not be to everyone's taste but if you like the show or are just a big kid, you'll get a lot out of this film.

Verdict:
8/10
A surprisingly good leap to the big screen for a cartoon. A great cast and some fantastic voice acting makes this a delight.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Ghost Rider (Mark Steven Johnson, 2007) Review

Comic book films. I've done lots of them already. The only ones I have reviewed however are ones that are part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Now listen, Ghost Rider is a Marvel franchise, HOWEVER, one should note that Ghost Rider isn't part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Ghost Rider is it's own film which may be it's biggest fault. Let's dive in.

After making a deal with the devil Mephistopheles (Peter Fonda) in order to cure his fathers cancer, Johnny Blaze (Nicholas Cage) becomes the devil's hitman. Blaze is called on when the devil needs him and transformed into the flaming skeleton known as Ghost Rider. A new evil is rising onto the Earth and threatening it's existence as well as Mephistopheles himself: Blackheart (Wes Bentley). Now Blaze has to enlist the help of a previous Ghost Rider (Sam Elliot) in order to defeat Blackheart while also trying to rekindle his relationship with Roxanne Simpson (Eva Mendes).

This is one of the most forgettable films I have ever seen. I can't really remember much of it! I had to go to IMDb in order to remind me about Eve Mendes' character! It was enjoyable, I'll give it that but it can't justify the rest. The two Ghost Riders are enjoyable but the rest of the cast seems boring and flat...except Peter Fonda who seemed too downplayed. I would have loved to see more of him.

Actually, speaking of Peter Fonda, my biggest criticism is the amount of downplayed characters. I already said that the two Ghost Riders were great but outside of them, the other characters aren't that great. Blackheart is a boring villain, Roxanne had little to no character since she was just a damsel (except in the final battle where she did more). Blackheart's henchmen and Mephistopheles were left out of a lot of it and I really enjoyed them so it was a shame to see them pushed aside for larger yet more forgettable characters.

Nicholas Cage was a weird pick for Ghost Rider, anyone can tell you that, but I was actually impressed. He managed to pull it off really well and since he has a reputation for being over the top and 'so bad he's good' but it works to his advantage here. Ghost Rider isn't as prone to wisecracks as, say, Deadpool (looking for to that film by the way) and Spider-Man (When done right) but it's good to see a combination. He's a great character who you empathise with (especially at the expository sequence)...don't get the jelly beans though or the questionable CGI. Glad they improved that in the sequel.

You properly think that I hate this film. Not really. Sure it has it's problems but it is NOWHERE NEAR the worst comic book film ever. I would even say it's closer to the best than the worst. It's above average. The only problem is the fact that it's forgettable except some decent characters, action scenes and it's based on one of my favourite Marvel franchises. It's an accurate adaptation but may bore those not familiar with Ghost Rider.

Verdict:
5.5/10
It's above average but is only for those who don't get bored easily. If you love Ghost Rider then you will...like(?) this.

And no, the sequel is not tomorrow. I haven't actually got round to seeing it yet.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Inspector Gadget (David Kellogg, 1999) Review

Oh boy, here we go. If ever there was a film that could be considered the worst adaptation...this probably isn't the worst (I'm looking at you Catwoman). The only problem with reviewing it is that well, this is actually a guilty pleasure of mine. I only like this film from a nostalgic standpoint but as I'm being critical about this...let's do this!

John Brown (Matthew Broderick) is a wannabe cop who is just a security guard. His next job is to be security guard of a laboratory run by Brenda Bradford (Joely Fisher) and her father. One night, Sanford Scolex (Rupert Everett) breaks into the laboratory, kills Brenda's father and gets away with their top secret robotic experiment. Brown goes after Scolex but is blown up in the process but not before leaving Scolex's hand crushed. Brown is reborn using the robotics from Brenda's experiment as Inspector Gadget, a cyborg filled to the brim with gadgets (hence the name, if you couldn't guess). Meanwhile, Scolex is also reborn but as Dr. Claw thanks to the robotic claw he now possesses as a result of his hand being crushed.

I might as well begin with the failure of the adaptation. What I mean is what has been changed...for the worse. Now, Gadget is basically the same character since he's still a slapstick inducing moron but the biggest change is Claw. In the cartoon, he was never seen. All that was shown was his arm that he would wave in anger alot and he was voiced by the legendary Frank Welker. So what does he look like? Is he a robot? A demon? Covered in scars? Or the gay guy from My Best Friends's Wedding? Apparently David Kellogg though it was the latter. Who knew!

The film ruined a lot of things. Brain has little to no screen time, Penny isn't the one to save Gadget as is always the case in the cartoon, the Gadgetmobile isn't awesome anymore and for some reason it's voiced by  D.L. Hughley...I don't know what happened there. There is always slapstick, no one is safe from it and it gets lazy and tiresome by the end. It's clearly a kids film but done wrong. If you want to adapt a cartoon to a film (and in this case, reboot it) then to it justice please. To describe it in a word, all I can say is annoying. I like Broderick's Gadget and Everett looks like he's having fun but they can't make up for the rest of the blunders. Don't even get me started on the random sound effects (apparently taping on someone's shoulder will make it ring like a doorbell....)

It is far from the worst film i've ever seen but it's even further from the best i've ever seen. It's just under the scale of average. I still quote it and would re-watch it but only for sentimental reasons. I remember watching it as a kid and liking but the only way to enjoy this film and get the most out of it is pretend your a kid again...which I wouldn't recommend.

Inspector Gadget is an example of an adaptation done wrong but it features some (and by some I mean two) enjoyable characters but the rest of it is just annoying. The is basic and forgettable, the secondary characters are pretty rubbish, the effects are average and the sound effects are UNNESSESARY!!! Not a recommended film unless you are immature...like me!

Verdict:
3.5/10
A rubbish adaptation that doesn't do the source material justice. Questionable casting and stupid moments galore!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

How to Lose Friends & Alienate People (Robert B. Weide, 2008) Review

Simon Pegg does America. Sure, Paul did it and, frankly, it did it better but that's not to say this is a bad film. It's taken more seriously here and it pays off. This film is loosely based on the life of writer and editor Toby Young while on his five year run in America as a contributing editor at Vanity Fair magazine. After the average Run Fatboy Run, it's good to see a solo Pegg film that actually is comparable to other films he's done.

Sidney Young (Simon Pegg), as previously mentioned, is a British writer for different magazines. When some of his previous work is observed is moved to America from his cameo filled office (seriously there was a surprising amount of cameos from other actors) in order to work for the popular Vanity Fair magazine, run by Clayton Harding (Jeff Bridges). Sidney fails to fit into his new office and is constantly an annoyance to his co-workers including Alison Olsen (Kirsten Dunst). Shenanigans arise when Sidney tries to cope in America and do well in his new job.

The main message, if you can call it that, I gather from this film is the clash between humour from different cultures. Obviously, Simon Pegg uses British humour which was previously seen in Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz. Now that he's in America, his humour does bode to well for the American magazine. Paul got away with it due to the context of having two British nerds on a road trip, this is business and has to be taken seriously. Comic actors such as James Corden and Chris O'Dowd make some hilarious cameos which shows that it doesn't forget that, deep down, it's a British comedy film. 

I was surprised by some of the acting in this film. Now Simon Pegg and Jeff Bridges were just as I expected.      They play very likeable and fun characters. The real surprise was Kirsten Dunst. She plays a well written character that you really get to like and get one with (you know, if you worked with her). It's good to see Kirsten Dunst playing strong, independent characters unlike certain ones that may or may not have featured in the Spider-Man films. And then there's Sophie Maes, played by Megan Fox. She's just playing herself! I honestly think that she is an overrated actress who is only popular for her looks and even then I don't think she's that good looking...well...as good as everyone claims she looks. 

It's definitely not Simon Pegg's best film but it isn't his worst either. It's good to see him in a some what serious film, kind of like Jim Carrey in The Truman Show or Yes Man. The rest of the cast and characters are excellent and fun to watch (Clayton Harding being my favourite) and it's good to see a combination of both British and American humour. It's an enjoyable film that was a treat to watch. I would recommend it to anyone with a great sense of humour...you never know, you might end up relating to it (I don't work for a magazine so obviously I don't relate).

Verdict:
7.5/10
Not Simon Pegg's best but it's still great fun for those who can get into it and appreciate it's humour.

Monday, June 11, 2012

No Country For Old Men (Coen Brothers, 2008) Review

I don't know how to begin with this, it's a fantastic film. It has a great cast, an excellent story, spectacular acting and four Academy Awards grabbed. What more can I say, surely that is enough to convince you to watch this film...right now...no I haven't gone anywhere. Watched it yet? No? I'll just have to continue then.

Llewelyn Moss (Joss Brolin) stumbles upon what's left of a shoot out site, filled with corpes and bullets. He finds a satchel containing two million dollars and takes it make to his trailer. Knowing that any survivors of the shoot out would look for the money, he sends his wife Carla Jean (Kelly MacDonald) away so she won't be harmed. A hitman, Anton Chigurh (Javier Bardem) is sent to retrieve the money and, upon finding that it's been taken, proposes to track down Llewelyn, dead or alive...knowing Anton, probably dead. Meanwhile, A cop, Ed Tom Bell (Tommy Lee Jones), is trying to apprehend Anton once and for all. 

Javier Bardem. JAVIER BARDEM. Talk about perfect casting. He looks the part, sounds the part and just gives a tremendous and creepy performance as Anton Chigurh. Think Heath Ledger as The Joker just more monotone and you'll have Anton. Bardem has been praised countless times and is the first Spanish actor to win an Academy Award which he one for this film! Every scene he is in is a treat to watch and for some reason I couldn't stop smiling, even laughing at times. I don't know, maybe I'm just a psychopath. He is unrelenting yet still manages to get a good laugh...from me anyway.

If you read my review of Prometheus then you'll know how confused I was and I felt it was too ambiguous. I should state that there are two types of ambiguous films. Ones done right and ones done wrong. Prometheus was done wrong as it just left with nothing and I felt more annoyed than wanting to ponder but No Country For Old Men does it right. You actually get engaged and wonder about the things left out and with the sudden and ambiguous ending, you really want to think about it afterwards.

No Country For Old Men is hands down the best film from the Coen Brothers which is helped greatly by the fantastic writing and characters. They should be extremely proud of what they have produced and if you haven't seen it, you are missing out. One of the greatest films of this generation!

Verdict:
9.5/10
A spectacular film that uses ambiguity to it's advantage. It's essential that you watch this...right now!

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Captain America: The First Avenger (Joe Johnston, 2011) Review

Why do they keep releasing Marvel films in the same year? Captain America: The First Avenger and Thor were both released in the same year, just like Iron Man and The Incredible Hulk. Well, we've seen Iron Man, Thor, Hulk, Hawkeye and Black Widow. If you've seen Avengers Assemble then you know that there is one member left: Captain America.


Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) is a soldier in World War II who is willing to undergo an experimental procedure that allows Rogers to  become a super-soldier of sorts. He takes the experiment and becomes a new breed of super hero known as Captain America. Meanwhile on the German side, a Nazi officer, Johann Schmidt (Hugo Weaving), locates the fabled Tesseract (as seen in Avengers Assemble). Upon finding it, Schmidt undergoes a similar experiment that Rogers went with but is turned into super villain Red Skull. Captain America know has to stop Red Skull from using the Tesseract to destroy America as well as the woman he loves, Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell).


The four Marvel films (Iron Man 2 doesn't count) all have an aspect that makes up Avengers Assemble. Iron Man has humour, The Incredible Hulk has character relationships, Thor has character development and that leaves Captain America: The First Avenger which is where the action orientation originates from. Sure, Iron Man 2 arguably had more action, I felt Captain America focused on it more. Being set during the Second World War may have something to do this that. This may be a reason that it isn't as good as the other films mainly because the humour seems forced and the character interaction just isn't as interesting maybe due to the lack of development. Sure there are some great characters such as Colonel Chester Phillips (Tommy Lee Jones) and Red Skull but it isn't enough to compete with a film like Iron Man 2.

Actually, speaking of Avengers Assemble, what is with the subtitle of the film: The First Avenger? Sure, this film takes place before the rest of the others but he is the last one introduced and, if the comics are any indication, he joins The Avengers after Iron Man, Hulk and Thor. It is quite ambiguous in the film whether Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) finds Captain America after he's already got hold of everyone else so I highly doubt he is the first Avenger...

Captain America is definitely the weakest of the Marvel Cinematic Films but in it's defence, the other ones are hard to top. The characters, while not as great as other films, are still enjoyable and likeable and the action is great. There are excellent twists and turns throughout the duration of the film and it builds up to a great climax. No. Avengers Assemble is not my next review, IT WAS MY FIRST! Go find it for the epic crossover extravaganza!

Verdict:
7/10
The weakest of the Marvel Cinematic Universe films, but that's not to say it's bad. Great action, characters are a highlight and it leads right into Avengers Assemble.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Thor (Kenneth Branagh, 2011) Review

With Hulk and Iron Man out of the way, it was time to turn attention to a new Marvel film in order to complete the line up for Avengers Assemble. Next on the agenda, Ant Man.....no, of course not. He doesn't get a film. It's Thor. One of the most famous and popular Marvel franchises, based on Norse legends of the God of thunder.

After an invasion in order to attack the race known as the Frost Giants (enemies of the Asgardians), Thor (Chris Hemsworth) is stripped of his powers by his father, Odin (Anthony Hopkins) and is banished from Asgard, a mythical world based on Norse legend, and sent to Earth. Thor is introduced to scientist Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) and is has to get her help in order to get back to Asgard, in the mean time, Thor has to get used to life on Earth as well as get his mighty hammer Mjölnir back from SHIELD.

So The Incredible Hulk features great relationships and Iron Man features some great humour and interactions but what does Thor bring to Avengers Assemble? Character development. Thor and Loki (Tom Hiddleston), his brother, both go through some deep character development. Thor learns to cope with human life (with some hilarious consequences) while Loki...you know what, I don't think it qualifies as a spoiler anymore ever since Avengers Assemble as it rubs it in your face, Loki becomes the main villain and is certainly a dark villain (until Avengers). Maybe it's because he's British and all the best villains seem to be British...talk about a cliché.

I need to address something from this film. Iron Man 2 introduced Black Widow so that's four members of The Avengers but with one film left, who's the last member who doesn't get a film? Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner). Apparently he wasn't good enough to get his own film or even be a main character like Black Widow was. Hawkeye only makes a cameo in one scene. Sure it's brief but I had to address it or else people who haven't seen Thor (and I just spoiled Loki's treachery) and would be confused that Hawkeye comes out of nowhere in Avengers Assemble considering he's the first member shown in it.

Sure, Iron Man and it's sequel are the humour that makes up Avengers but that's not to say that Thor isn't funny. It is. It's actually pretty hilarious. The things Thor does when he's trying to cope with human life ("ANOTHER!") as well as their reaction to finding Thor. There are also Thor's friends back on Asgard such as Volstagg (Ray Stevenson) and Hogun (Tadanobu Asano). While they are serious characters that take part in most of the action, it's their downtime after Thor's banishment that really makes up some of the humour...mostly Volstagg.

Thor may not be the best member of the Marvel Cinematic Universe but it isn't the worst. It holds up as a solid film that mixes a number of different things together well. Humour, action and character development are some of best parts that make up Thor and it is a treat to watch.

Verdict:
8/10
 A good iteration to the Marvel Cinematic Universe that manages to mix everything together nicely.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Iron Man 2 (Jon Favreau, 2010) Review

In my Men In Black II review, I mentioned that sequels are generally worse than the original that it takes after. I should have rephrased that. Comic book sequels are generally BETTER than the original. X-Men 2, Spider-Man 2, Superman 2, The Dark Knight. All sequels, ALL BETTER!!! You can probably guess where I'm going with this, Iron Man 2 is better than the first. Honestly, It's not by much but that doesn't change the fact it is a better film.....just.

After the defeat of Obadiah Stane and announcing he was Iron Man, Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) is kick starting the year long Stark Expo started by his father, Howard Stark. During the Expo, Tony learns that the device used to keep the shrapnel out of his heart is slowly killing him. He has parties, handing the Stark company to Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) and even falling out with his good friend James 'Rhodey' Rhodes (Not played by Terrence Howard from the first film, he is now played by Don Cheadle) in response to finding out he's going to die. Meanwhile a new threat is emerging in the form of Ivan Vanko/Whiplash (Mickey Rourke) who wants revenge on the Stark family.

The new characters introduced are all excellent and are great to watch. One of the most notable new characters is Natalie Rushman (Scarlett Johansson) who you may know as Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow, one of the main characters of Avengers Assemble. Apparently she wasn't good enough to get her own film...same for Hawkeye (who is not in this film, I just wanted to make a point). Vanko is probably a worse villain than Stane simply because Stane had a connection to Tony himself while Vanko has it in for the Stark family. Neither the less, his Whipslash weapon makes for some great action and gets more screen time than the Iron Monger suit. The most notable introductions is for Rhodey's new alter-ego, War Machine. We now have two Iron Men flying around...that is awesome. Other new characters include Tony's business rival Justin Hammer (Sam Rockwell), a PROPER appearance of Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) and a much expanded role (which isn't saying much) of Agent Coulsen (Clark Gregg).

With more characters that can only mean one thing, more character interaction. I praised the first film for how well written and performed the interaction between characters was. I feels real and genuine. I really feel that the cast got to know each other (which Gwyneth Paltrow and Scarlett Johannson did NOT!). As always, Gwyneth Paltrow and Robert Downey Jr still work off each other very well (in both films and Avengers Assemble). Now we also get Robert Downey Jr and Sam Rockwell, the characters clearly are rivals so the portrayal .

Iron Man 2 may not be as big of an expansion other sequels might be but it's still better than the first, not by much. With more characters, a slightly different cast and more of the best from the first film, Iron Man 2 proves that comic book sequels are generally better than the original.

Verdict:
8.5/10
An expanded sequel that takes what was great about the first film and makes it slightly better.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Iron Man (Jon Favreau, 2008) Review

Two films, one year. Iron Man and The Incredible Hulk. One came out on top, the other pushed aside. Can you guess which was which. Well I already mentioned The Incredible Hulk was underrated so that riddle was leading no where...why did I even bother. The second (or first...I generally have no idea, they both came out around the same time) entry to the Marvel Cinematic Universe that helped build up Avengers Assemble.

Tony Stark (A perfectly cast Robert Downey Jr.) is a genius, billionaire, playboy, philanthropist (I didn't steal that line from Avengers! What are you talking about?) who, when touring a war stricken area, is blown up by one of his one weapons. The only damage done to him is shrapnel entering his body and risking his life (you know...shrapnel in the heart would probably kill you). After being captured by terrorists, he creates special armour (modelled after the first design of Iron Man, clever) Upon breaking out and returning home, Tony decides to recreate a better suit in order to fight against evil.

The rest of the cast is excellent. I already mentioned that Robert Downey Jr. was perfectly cast as Tony Stark (and I believe Marvel remodelled the comic version of Tony). One of the reasons he's perfect is because of how he interacts with other characters. The best interaction is between Tony and his right hand woman, Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow). Paltrow and Downey Jr clearly have some great chemistry that developed over the course of filming this movie. A clever binary opposite is between Tony Stark and Obadiah Stane (Jeff Bridges). They both are clearly rivals and hate each others guts. Iron Man focuses on character interaction and it is definitely it's high point.

I mentioned Obadiah Stane was Tony's rival. Marvel fans will know what happens (look up Iron Monger) which leads to my next point. The Incredible Hulk begins with Bruce Banner already having the Hulk virus and therefore gives no foreknowledge to what just happened and who these characters are. Iron Man gives a proper introduction to who the characters are and how the hero becomes the super hero. Hulk is there from the start, Iron Man is shown to be created. This film should be watched before The Incredible Hulk, made more obvious thanks to Tony Stark's cameo at the end of said film.

Iron Man is a good film to begin the Marvel Cinematic Universe with. It's, so far, the only Marvel Cinematic film to get a sequel (Spider-Man, X-Men and Ghost Rider aren't part of it) and for good reason. There is an excellent blend of humour and action just like in Avengers Assemble (that would be the contribution that Iron Man makes for Avengers). An excellent adaptation of the comic book series which is an excellent way to kick start the Marvel film series (the PROPER Marvel film series).

Verdict:
8/10
A great adaptation with perfect casting, excellent humour and character interaction.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

The Incredible Hulk (Louis Leterrier, 2008) Review

Here we are. The first film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (Okay, so technically second but you'll have to wait until tomorrow for that film). Don't know what I mean? The films that build up into Avengers Assemble. This was an odd way to start off the series considering that there was a previous Hulk film cleverly titled Hulk. Genius title, I know. The weird thing is, The Incredible Hulk takes place after the events of Hulk but Hulk is from a different director, cast, producer and even a different studio. It's not related to Avengers Assemble.

Bruce Banner (Edward Norton) is hiding out in Brazil in order to try and control his other half, the unstoppable green giant simply known as The Hulk (Voiced by Lou Ferrigno). After his gamma infected blood gets out into the world and ends up infecting and killing an innocent bystander (Stan Lee), the military work out where Banner is and track him down. General Ross (William Hurt) recruits Emil Blonsky (Tim Roth) to take part in a experiment similar to the one performed on Banner in order to give Blonsky super-human abilities. Banner is trying to get past the military and reunite with his love interest Betty Ross (Liv Tyler).

If you saw this film after watching Avengers Assemble then you may notice one significant change: Edward Norton is playing Bruce Banner as opposed to Mark Ruffalo. There probably is a reason that Norton didn't return to play Banner but honestly it wasn't a problem since Ruffalo did a fantastic job of covering for Norton. They both do and excellent job of the role but if I had to pick a preference then I prefer Mark Ruffalo.

This film has a huge problem that I just can't ignore. Now don't get me wrong, most comic book films are better if you have foreknowledge of the comic but there is usual and origin story to them like in Iron Man and Captain America: The First Avenger. Now, Hulk was an average film that has no connection to this one but if you want the full story behind The Hulk since it is only hinted and shown briefly through quick flashbacks in The Incredible Hulk. If you have no prior knowledge yet don't want to watch Hulk (which is perfectly understandable) then it's going to be hard to follow.

The villain is obviously a big part of a comic book movie and seeing as the one featured Hulk is so forgettable that I even forgot who it was, the one featured in The Incredible Hulk is much better. Emil Blonsky (who Marvel fans may know him as The Abomination), played by Tim Roth, is an excellent choice considering he can rival the Hulk and Bruce Banner at the same time. Roth looks like he was made for a villainous role and it really shows here.

The Incredible Hulk features a great cast, great acting and some excellent character chemistry. It is definitely the most underrated comic book film so far which may have been a result of Hulk putting people off the character. It started off the Marvel Cinematic Universe (along side another film) and the build up Avengers Assemble was well worth it. So what's this other film I keep mentioning. If I told you that Robert Downey Jr. makes a cameo at the end of this film then I think you can guess what film is being reviewed tomorrow. See you then!

Verdict:
7/10
A underrated comic book adaptation which features great acting and action but may confuse people either not familiar with The Hulk.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

School Of Rock (Richard Linklater, 2003) Review

Jack Black's a musician. Jack Black's an actor. So why not make a film where he's both! That's exactly what they did in School Of Rock. Sure, we've seen films about rock before that feature songs throughout but the highlight in this film is that not only is Jack Black using his actual skills and talents but the entire class of kids is full of talented musicians...and Miranda Cosgrove. Go figure.

Dewey Finn (Jack Black) is a wannabe rock star who has been kicked out of his own band. Upon hearing from his flatmate/land lord Ned Schneebly (Mike White) that he needs more money in order to pay the rent, Dewey poses as Ned, a substitute teacher, in order to teach at a school having fooled the principal Rosalie Mullins (Joan Cusack). Obviously, Dewey has no idea of how and what to teach so instead he forms his very own band with the students in order to compete in the upcoming Battle Of The Bands contest.

Music. There's a lot of it. Now, I'm a fan of rock music (y'know...classic rock like AC-DC and the such) so the references and covers of famous songs. Sure, they do their own songs which are great and very memorable (I should probably look for the soundtrack or something, it's a great soundtrack). This film is definitely for rock fans but it can be enjoyed by people who aren't.

There are two sides to the audience as they relate with the characters more. One half is like Dewey, rock fans who are shocked when people don't know about classic rockers, and the other half is the students, not having any foreknowledge of rock and being introduced to it. It's a film for everyone but rock fans will get the most out of it.

I feel obligated to address the incredible talent of the students themselves. They are fantastic musicians that kind of make me feel useless. Aw well. You win some, you lose some. Sure, not all the students are in the actual band, there are kids behind the scenes (not of the film, but for the band) such as technicians, groupies and the campiest kid in film history as fashion designer. Seriously, that kid must be dubbed by a girl. Summer Hathaway (Miranda Cosgrove) is the teacher's pet who Dewey appoints as the band's manager, she is one of the most memorable characters in the film. Whether of not that's a good or a bad thing is up two the audience. Personally she gets pretty annoying but she does have some redeeming moments.

School Of Rock just cries out to rock fans and, while there are probably a few better rock films out there, it still holds up as an entertaining film with a satisfying and non-traditional ending. This film holds one of Jack Black's best roles. If you are a fan rock, this is a must see.

Verdict:
8/10
A must see film for rock fans but it could end up alienating people who don't like rock...to each his own.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Paul (Greg Mottola, 2011) Review

No! No this is NOT part of the Blood and Ice Cream Trilogy. Is that clear? Different director, different cast (except for Simon Pegg and Nick Frost), set in America and different writers. The only similarity (other than Pegg and Frost) is the producers which I believe was one of the main advertising points. Good for them! Shaun Of The Dead and Hot Fuzz were clearly made with a British audience in mind but, while there is a bit of British humour, Paul is made for a universal audience. No one is left out this time!

Clive Gollings (Nick Frost), a Sci-fi writer and Graeme Willy (Simon Pegg), Clive's artist, are touring America after visiting Comic-con in San Diego. They plan to visit all the alien related sites in America until they encounter a real alien, Paul (Seth Rogan). Paul is on run from FBI agents due to Paul's escape and breakout from Area 51, where he was being held for decades, giving ideas to the human race regarding alien life (movies, television, lunch boxes etc.). Top FBI Agent Zoil (Jason Bateman) enlists the duo of Agents Haggard (Bill Hader) and O'Reilly (Joe Lo Truglio) in order to help track down Paul and take him back to Area 51 for experiments.

This is a Sci-fi comedy. A strange combination for a film genre, I know but that can only mean two things. It's either a parody or, like Paul, it's filled to the brim with references to different media (most noticeable other films). These references range from t-shirts to quotes to even casting Sigourney Weaver because of her role in Alien (seriously she is a genre icon for Sci-fi, don't argue). This is truly a film for nerds and geeks and really, that's not a bad thing (seeing as i'm both, I don't see a problem).

I think it's safe to say that the FBI agents deserve their own paragraph. That's because they do. Zoil, Haggard and O'Reilly are easily the funniest, most memorable and just the best characters in the film. Mainly the duo of Haggard and O'Reilly. While Zoil is the only sane man in the film (which is saying a lot), Haggard and O'Reilly are the comic relief and MAN do they ever act in that role. With one of them being played by the hilarious Bill Hader, what else were you expecting. I won't go deep as there is way to much to cover in terms of hilarity but I'll just say that every time their on screen, some funny is about to happen.

Paul, despite being a comedy, has a lot of deep...I want to say morals but I'm not sure if that covers it...such as religion (well handled by the love interest Ruth Buggs (Kristen Wiig) so there is something to take from this film. I would imagine the majority of what to take is the quotes and references. It's a film you can come back to and notice new things, like Back To The Future.

Verdict:
8/10
A hilarious take on alien films that is only for those nerdy enough to get the references.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Hot Fuzz (Edgar Wright, 2007) Review


Want more laughs? Violence? Swans? It's all here in Hot Fuzz. Simon Pegg and Nick Frost return with Edgar Wright in the directing role in order to provide yet another hilarious film not unlike their previous film, Shaun Of The Dead. There is a lot more here than in the previous film. More actors, a bigger location, more jokes, more violence and much bigger stars used. Hot Fuzz is a huge expansion on Shaun Of The Dead.

Nicholas Angel (Simon Pegg) is the top police officer in London but the rest of the police force (including Steve Coogan, Martin Freeman and Bill Nighy) are less than happy for his success. In an act of jealousy, the force send Nicholas to the country village of Sandford, a village which hasn't had a murder in many, many years which Nicholas isn't used to. He meets Sanford's police force, run by Inspector Frank Butterman (Jim Broadbent) and he gains a new police partner Danny Butterman (Nick Frost). After Nicholas' arrival, a series of suspisious 'accidents' occur leaving Nicholas and Danny to work out what is behind them.

If Shaun Of The Dead is a parody of zombie films, then that means Hot Fuzz is a parody of buddy cop/slasher films. it shows the partnership between Nicholas and Danny, pandering to the buddy cop half, but is also incredibly violent, much like a slasher film. It manages to balance the two genres incredibly well and it is great to see a comedic take on these genres that actual works and is incredibly funny. I can only assume the third film in the Blood and Ice Cream Trilogy, At Worlds End is going to be a parody of end of the world films such as 2012 and The Day After Tomorrow.

The cast is a huge expansion on the cast of Shaun Of The Dead which featured the likes of Dylan Moran and Jessica Hynes with cameos including Martin Freeman and Matt Lucas. Now, the cast includes the likes of comedian Bill Bailey, James Bond star Timothy Dalton, and the aforementioned Jim Broadbent. That's not to say there aren't cameos featured throughout. Lord Of The Rings Director Peter Jackson, an unrecognisable Kate Blanchett and even the director Edgar Wright appear in 'blink and you miss it' moments. Hot Fuzz is a coming together of some of Britain's greatest comedic stars (and even more more serious stars).

I recall mentioning in my review for Shaun Of The Dead that there is a lot of British humour and OH MAN is it present here. It's set in a Somerset village so naturally there are going to be a lot of references to British themes. Things such as chavs (a little bit), a shoot out in a Somerfield supermarket and it can even be linked to the riots that occurred in Britain in 2011 with the idea of corrupt police (although it came out before). This shows the range of references.

Hot Fuzz takes what was made standard in Shaun Of The Dead and expands on it, making for a much funnier, bigger and better film. The expanded jokes, references, cast and violence make for a great film that really shows a more accurate representation of Britain in comparison to films such as Four Weddings and a Funeral or Notting Hill.

Verdict:
9/10
A hilarious yet violent film that expands the best of Shaun Of The Dead.