Monday, 31 May 2010

Cinema Review: Sex and the City 2

My review for the hotly anticipated sequel is live over at Reel Scotland, a film site dedicated to reporting the latest, most exciting film events in Scotland.

Cinema Review: [REC] 2

What started out as an unknown, almost entirely unpublicised, low-budget horror film transcended into a global success, scaring the vast majority of audiences witless. Who do we have to thank? Juame Balagueró and Paco Plaza, the duo behind Spanish horror [REC] and it's newly-released sequel, [REC] 2.

Beginning instantly after the original ended, we follow a small SWAT team as they enter the quarantined apartment complex, outfitted with cameras, carrying guns and hauling battering rams. Accompanied by a medical officer, the team's aim is to find a blood sample of one of the infected. Sadly, they're completely unaware of the severity of the situation.

Our first scene recaps the last scene from [REC], instantly reminding us of the nauseatingly intense feeling which we were left reeling from. Quickly, we're introduced to our testosterone-induced male characters and the devious medical expert - our more prominent character, really being the only one (until approximately a third of the way through) to progress the storyline to something which individualises it from it's predecessor.

From the moment they step foot in the darkened complex, a sense of overwhelming dread is increasingly apparent. Pacing themselves up into the penthouse on the top floor, every step onto a new level shrouds you in chills at the sheer unknown which could pop out of any door. These continuously intense and chilling moments, much like the first, are throughout, but, with the additional aid from the high-powered weaponry, are a lot more action-orientated, providing high-octane thrills as well as fully-fledged 'jump out of your seat' shocks.

As our story unravels, the surprisingly rapid change from the first - from potentially realistic to entirely supernatural - is an odd direction, but a successful one at that. Despite losing it's believability, the option to fully immerse yourself into the characters' shoes is forced upon you due to the first-person direction. Exactly like the first, this is the biggest asset the franchise holds, throwing you into the unimaginable terror you only wish to be included in during your worst nightmare.

The lack of characterization is a given; each person - including the second set of characters which are impressively introduced - are merely pawns in the game set to trigger off specific happenings. That is until a gloriously well-known character crops up, shit-stirring the film into the absolute unknown, leading to a slightly befuddled but worthy climax. The last scene, especially, leaving a lasting impression.

While it doesn't equal how intensely terrifying and raw [REC] felt, [REC] 2 is a nod in the right direction. Much like Ridley Scott's Alien and James Cameron's undeniably different sequel, [REC] 2 stands as an almost individual film, but retains what made the first so popular all-the-while adding it's own. A thrilling and savagely brutal sequel.


Movie News: Full Theatrical Scott Pilgrim Trailer

And the award for the Most Coolest Trailer of the Year goes to...Scott Pilgrim vs. The World!

Adapted from the acclaimed graphic novel, the director of Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, Edgar Wright, helms the project, proving with the newest, full-length trailer that this may indeed be one of the year's most fun, creative and all-round enjoyable action comedies.

The trailer - released due to the film's Facebook page receiving 100,000 fans - gives a further insight into the film's story, the characters and Wright's style of directing.

Scott Pilgrim falls in love with Amazon delivery girl Ramona V. Flowers, but in order to date her he must defeat her seven evil exes - consisting of Chris Evans, ex-Superman Brandon Routh and a hilariously feisty Mae Whitman as Roxy Richter. With the support of his sister Stacey Pilgrim (Anna Kendrick) and his gay roommate Kieren Culkin, Scott - the somewhat insecure teen - must battle his way through with the undoubtable overuse of quirky one-liners.

Wright's direction heads more for a videogame theme, providing an original and brilliantly enthralling spin on the action comedy. Roll on 6th of August!

Check below for the full theatrical trailer in glorious high definition!

Sunday, 30 May 2010

This Week's DVD/Blu-ray Choice - 31st May

Only a dribble of releases this coming Monday to choose from, both of which are mere time-wasters.

My choice this week is Daybreakers.

Ethan Hawke stars in the latest in the string of vampire-related action flicks, this time spinning it on it's axis and enabling the vampires to have the title role. In the year 2019, the world is overrun by vampires living their every day, albeit vastly changed, life. The uproar in the lack of blood has sent most citizens into a craze, most even turning into a Nosferatu-like demon of the night. Still, researcher Edward Dalton (Hawke) vows to create a supplement, and possible antidote to change everybody back from vampire to human. Dalton teams up with a rag-tag group of hunted humans, endangering both himself and some of the last remaining sources of blood on the planet.
A Blu-ray purchase may be needed to enhance the more action-orientated scenes, but frankly it's not needed.

Today's Cinema Viewing.

[REC] 2

Starring: Jonathan Mellor, Manuela Velasco, Ariel Casas, Oscar Zafra, Alejandro Casaseca

Beginning a short 15 minutes after the original ended, a four-man SWAT team, outfitted with cameras, enter the quarantined building with a medical officer to brace the remains of the outbreak to attempt to collect a blood sample of one of the infected. However, they're unaware of the sheer severity of the situation.

Friday, 28 May 2010

Movie News: Platinum Dunes Go Green

Straying from their usual projects, Michael Bay's Platinum Dunes - run by producers Andrew Form and Brad Fuller - have reportedly taken on the brand new live-action Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie, originally taken on by Paramount through Nickelodeon.

Platinum Dunes are known for remaking almost every classic horror film out there, including the likes of The Hitcher, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and, more recently, A Nightmare on Elm Street.

The companies' producers are planning to meet with writers over the next coming weeks.

Today's Cinema Viewing.

Sex and the City 2

Starring: Sarah Jessica Parker, Kim Cattrall, Kristin Davis, Cynthia Nixon, Chris Noth

The much-loved foursome return to the big-screen after a two year absence, struggling through, once again, more of life's constant throwbacks.
Carrie deals with Big's complacent attitude after marriage; Charlotte has trouble adapting to motherhood; Miranda's new overbearing boss is more than she can handle; and Samantha is enjoying her free and single life - basically sleeping with anything and everything that has a pulse. Luckily for the girls, tickets for an all-expense-paid trip to a five-star resort in Abu Dhabi lightens up the mood.

A Miramax Films Release, Part 2: Serendipity

Ever fallen in love? Well, thanks to almost every Hollywood romance, i'm fairly certain you've fallen for the idea of love - and why not? With the perfect display of swoon-worthy affection on-screen, it makes the whole thing seem effortless, finding your soul mate with a mere single attraction. That's not reality. But alas; this is a fictional romance. It's not meant to be fleshed out with incoherent, and frankly boring, facts that we have to deal with in our everyday relationships. Serendipity falls with the former. Predictably sappy, but that's what we love.

Our story starts in New York City. Bloomingdales, one of the busiest shops on a mere three days before Christmas, yet Jonathan (John Cusack) and Sara (Kate Beckinsale) unexpectedly meet. Despite their instant attraction, they part one another leaving their relationship entirely up to fate.

Seven years later and they're both engaged, but can't seem to shake off the idea of one another and their one magical night they spent together. Vowing to meet again, they both head out on a search to hopefully find each other - despite time, distance and the obstacles conspiring against them.

It's an incontrovertible fact that Cusack and Beckinsale fit - so much in fact that i wish to combine their names Branjelina-style. The sparks projecting off of them during the opening scenes are instantly noticeable, making for a sincerely sweet 'meet' of our main characters and sets the tone for the rest of the film. Beckinsale performs elegantly, while Cusack allures greatly, performing idealistically together. They are the infinite, destined Hollywood couple that we all wish to be, almost forcing us to quiver at the knees with their cheesy, but doubtlessly effective, dialogue. Romances such as this advertently fuel the minds of those who are swayed over easily.

Providing the comedic elements which lighten up the whole Holmes-like adventure are co-stars Eugene Levy, Molly Shannon and Jeremy Piven. Supplying structure to the main duo, the quirkiness of Shannon stands out primarily, bumbling and giggling her way through her short but increasingly enjoyable lines.

The plot is a cut above the rest of its genre, displaying - what could be - a perfectly relevant, and somewhat realistic, relationship between people. That, however, is shot down during moments in the film when 'fate' has its time, calculating in a series of scenes bordering on pure fantasy. Still, despite the obvious flaws, the film is guaranteed to entertain, leaving you with a gargantuan smile.

The quaint characters and heartwarming story all combine for a worthwhile romance, with the final few scenes standing as a culmination of their efforts of finding each other, ending, unsurprisingly, on the highest of notes situated on one of New York's most beautiful land sights.


Look out for A Miramax Films Release, Part 3 coming soon!

Movie News: Roberts Snags Scream 4 Role

The recent uproar in news surrounding the brand-new slasher sequel
Scream 4 - written and directed by the original team, Kevin Williamson and Wes Craven.

Last week it was reported Twilight star Ashley Greene was taking the title role of Jill, a role rumoured to be related to original star Sidney. Now, news is circulating the web that child-star Emma Roberts has snagged the role which, in my eyes, will decide the fate of the entire film.

Starring in a film so far from what she is used to, Jill could be the make-or-break role for Emma Roberts. With Noel Clarke's being released next week, she's differentiating herself from her undoubtedly typecast roles of the squeaky-clean, clichéd teen.

Alongside Roberts, original stars Neve Campbell, David Arquette and Courtney Cox-Arquette are returning, with additional stars such as Lake Bell (It's Complicated) and, while still unconfirmed, Rory Culkin and Hayden Panettiere.

Filming for Scream 4 begins this June.

UPDATE: Hayden Panettiere and Rory Culkin are now confirmed to be starring alongside Emma Roberts.

This Week's UK Cinema Releases - 28th May

A week full of varied releases, including one of my own most anticipated films of the year.

-Michael Patrick King returns behind the director's chair to bring us the four classy ingénues once again in the most fashionable sequel of the year, Sex and the City 2. Die-hard fans of the show will be rushing to cinemas worldwide come this Friday to see their favourite on-screen characters tackling lifes constant challenges. Carrie deals with Big's incompetence after marriage; Charlotte realises motherhood isn't as easy-going as she had expected; Miranda has a new, obnoxious boss to deal with; and Samantha is merely enjoying being free and single. The girls, however, are swept away on an five-star trip to Abu Dhabi.

-Horror fans will be going shit-crazy come Friday, when the sequel - set a mere 15 minutes after the original ended - to Spanish horror [REC], [REC]2, is released. This time we follow a SWAT team as they enter the quarantined complex, outfitted with video cameras, unaware of the ravenous zombies unleashed throughout the building. Undoubtedly one of the scariest, most intense, films of the year. Don't miss this one!

-Action caper The Losers is also released. Jeffery Dean Morgan, Zoe Saldana, Idris Elba, Chris Evans and Justin Long star in a fast-paced, action romp about a CIA black ops team left for dead, betrayed by the powerful Max (Jason Patric). The film spirals into a case of revenge, seeing the rag-tag group attempting their most dangerous mission yet.

-The last sequel this week comes in the form of 3D animation Space Chimps 2: Zartog Strikes Back. The film sees the lovable chimp Comet traveling to an alien planet to find out evil alien ruler Zartog has taken over Mission Control. Teaming up with his friends Ham, Luna and Titan, the chimps must thwart Zartog's destructive plans.

-Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson is also appearing in cinemas, suited with a tutu and sparkly, Tinkerbell-like wings in Tooth Fairy. Rugged man's man Derek Thompson commits a bad deed, leading to a rather unusual sentence; taking the role of the mystical tooth fairy for a week. Cue the cheaply uneffective jokes and 90 minutes of evidence proving Johnson has committed career-suicide.

-Foreign drama The Time That Remains is also released nationwide, but on a more limited scale. Directed by Elia Suleiman, the film examines life in Israel from 1948 to the present day, all inspired by his parent's accounts.

Thursday, 27 May 2010

A Miramax Films Release, Part 1: Chocolat

Let me explain. Wednesday, the 26th of May saw a vast amount of money being transferred into my bank account - something which most people call 'payday', but i like to call a simple, but extravagant, treat. Therefore, i, once again, succumbed to my insatiable urge of buying DVDs, buying three titles included in the "A Miramax Films Release: The Collection". Over the next coming days, i will be submitting my own, albeit short, reviews of these three titles.

Oscar nominated director Lasse Hallstrom brought us the mouth-wateringly pleasing romantic drama
Chocolat in 2000.

Accompanied by a forceful wind, the mysterious Vianne (Juliette Binoche) and her daughter Anouk (Victoire Thivisol) pull-up in a quaint, old-fashioned French town. Renting out the abandoned patisserie and the flat above, they cause controversy within the town folk, spreading gossip faster than a bad rash - which isn't helped by the obnoxious Mayor, Comte de Reynaud (Alfred Molina). Diligently attempting to make friends with certain members of the town, Vianne fits in unsteadily, but surely makes a lasting impact with her choice of business; a chocolatier. Astounding the towns folk with her luscious chocolates, Vianne must deal with Comte de Reynaud, disapproving villagers, a visit to the town by 'water rats', all-the-while keeping her business afloat.

Compassionate director Hallstrom is no newcomer to drama. The Oscar-nominated The Cidar House Rules certifies that, and last year's Hachi: A Dog's Tale further extends the proof that he can handle a storyline infused greatly with heart. While not as heartfelt as it could have been,
Chocolat remains to be one of his best films.

Juliette Binoch carries the film beautifully. With elegance and poise, her character blossoms throughout the film from an instantly likable to a flawed, but relatable woman as we uncover more of the character's inability to stick her feet firmly to the ground, allowing a stable life for her and her daughter in a town where they feel both welcome and at home.

The varied cast of brilliantly acted characters all aid in how triumphant the film is, from Lena Olin's insecure housewife to Alfred Molina's dastardly, conniving Mayor - playing, undoubtedly, the part of the film's villain. Of course, the film would be unfinished without a potential love interest for Binoche's character, and that comes in the form of the upsettingly handsome Johnny Depp as Roux, the captain upon the vessels holding, as the town folk like to call, copious amounts of 'water rats'.

The chemistry between Binoche and Depp transcends well on-screen, but isn't as flawless as her chemistry with her on-screen daughter Thivosol. Unexpectedly unhappy with her mother's constant traveling, the relationship between the two provides enough poignancy to fulfill the crack which is left unfilled by the rest of the characters.

The entire experience of Chocolat leaves a lasting impression. The delicate, rich writing, to the whimsical characters are all so wonderfully enjoyable and emphasise the almost fairytale-like storyline (our main characters are swept in with an uncontrollable wind?). An unusually quirky, sumptuous and profoundly moving tale of a familiar story - which contains enough gorgeously-looking chocolates to work as porn for every chocolate lover out there!


Look out for A Miramax Films Release, Part 2 soon!

Wednesday, 26 May 2010

Movie News: The Last Exorcism Trailer

After the unarguably disturbing poster (to the left) released for the Daniel Stamm-directed horror The Last Exorcism, it was only a matter of time before an even more disturbing trailer was released.

Anybody else thinking a splash of [Rec] and a high dosage of The Exorcism of Emily Rose? Well, it should make for an interesting, albeit rather shocking, feature.

Reverend Cotton Marcus (Patrick Fabian) has performed countless exorcisms. In a bid to end his career, he's approached by the desperate father of a possessed girl (Ashley Bell). Agreeing to rid the demon from the girl, he's unaware of the turbulent nature of the exorcism itself, pitting him face-to-face with the Devil himself.

The film is also produced by horror-fan Eli Roth, giving an undoubtedly gory input into the film.

Check below for the newly released trailer.

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

Movie News: Anchor Bay Picks Up Altitude

I genuinely thought Kaare Andrews' monster flick Altitude had dropped off the face of the Earth!

The fantastically baffling, Twilight Zone-like trailer premiered online sometime last year, and has reportedly, finally, been picked up by Anchor Bay.

Canadian director Kaare Andrews' first full-length feature focuses on a group of teens aboard a plane heading for a holiday getaway. Fortunately for us, not all goes smoothly as a mechanical failure rockets the plane to unimaginable heights, then plummets down through a seemingly endless cloud of mist. Terror kicks in when the teens realise the very ground beneath them has vanished, and a malicious force is lurking in the mist which shrouds their plane.

The film stars 90210 actress Jessica Lowndes, Julianna Guill, Ryan Donowho and Jake Weary.

"Anchor Bay has an outstanding reputation for releasing films that provide audiences with thrills and chills they crave and Altitude is a work that delivers both in a very fresh new way", says Anchor Bay's
Kevin Kasha.

Check below for the early trailer.

Movie News: Rockwell Loves Jesus!

Probably one of the most outlandish and darn right unexpected pieces of movie news this year comes in the form of Sam Rockwell's next project.

Fresh out of Tony Stark's high-powered grips, Rockwell in in talks to star in a comedic re-telling of the well-known Christian nativity, Sweet Baby Jesus, with Kim Cattrall, Bette Midler and British pop artist Pixie Lott also strangely signing on.

The film will focus on Joe (Rockwell) who, in the event of a possible Second Coming, takes his pregnant girlfriend Mary (Lott) to Bethlehem, Maryland. Cattrall is rumored to be playing Mary's mother, Darlene, and Midler as the innkeeper.

Shooting for this undoubtedly odd comedy/drama will begin in August, with Garfield (wait, what?) director Peter Hewitt helming the project.

Blu-ray Review: Earth

In an industry so undeniably obsessed with special effects, it's a rare occasion where a film, or documentary, is released, displaying visuals which are entirely non-computerized - looking equally, if not a substantial more, as beautiful. Released as a BBC production, but picked up in the States as the first feature of Disney's spawned company, Disneynature, Earth has began a whirlwind of documentaries of the highest proportion.

Earth was five years in the making. Filmed in 200 locations; in 21 different countries; 1000's of hours worth of footage; 250 days of aerial photography; 40 specialist crew members. These factors all tie in to inform, and amaze, viewers as we watch and follow families in the wild on their migration paths, dealing with our planet's down-spiraling situation involving the decline of ice, rising ocean temperatures and the lack of freshwater - all of which set of a rippling effect of never-ending misery.

Traveling across the world with rapid, but cautious, pace, we're introduced to our families. A family of polar bears, a stampede of elephants and a rag-tag group of humpback whales, all trenching across their own versions of land while, inevitably, attempting to stay alive. What we're given is a story of survival and, overall, 90 minutes emphasising the resilience of life itself.

The animals remain persistent, almost adventurous, throughout their travels. Never giving up, full of courage and zeal they carefully make their way to safety, all-the-while protecting their young which is heartwarmingly displayed on the screen. Dodging danger whenever it crops it's eager head up, each family run into perpetrators which, in the wild, is something you clearly don't want to do. Caught on camera, each 'clash' is filmed almost Hollywood-like, highlighting how furiously raw the animals' tactics can be.

Whether it's an actual clash or merely sea serpents frolicking in their watery haven attempting to catch their prey, each scene is crammed full of suspense, displaying the very best in high octane action - enough to make even Roland Emmerich quiver at the knees.

Alongside the beautifully serene wildlife and wondrous scenic shots - ranging from the harsh weathers of the Antarctic to the blazing African deserts - is the music. Unarguably bewitching, and utterly captivating the way the melodies coarse through the scenes like blood through veins, aiding, and exaggerating, how pure, elegant and breathtaking our world can be.

Earth is an insight into the wildlife our planet contains and the heartbreaking tribulations they're faced with. An insight which does attempt to inform, but merely to address the increasingly problematic situations which are surfacing on an everyday basis. While the overall tactic is to inform, it dazzles - and i mean it dazzles. With such exquisite scenes, your initial thought is that Mother Nature herself orchestrated such divine beauty, staging multiple enormously stunning spectacles which transfer so charmingly, and almost spiritually, on-screen, but alas; this is our planet.


If you enjoyed Earth, catch the new Disneynature release Crimson Wing: Mystery of the Flamingos, and look out for the up-and-coming fellow features Oceans and African Cats.

Sunday, 23 May 2010

Cinema Review: Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time

Renowned for his high calibre epics, Jerry Bruckheimer teams up with Mike Newell (director of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix) to bring the tales of the Persian Prince to the big-screen, securing an undoubtedly fat cheque in his already full-to-the-brim pocket. Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time continues the string of Summer blockbusters, but is it any good?

Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time is the big-screen adaptation of the popular videogame, spawning countless equally as popular sequels (which is incredibly rare in the land of gaming). Following with honor but not an entirely play-by-play copy of the game, the film centers around Prince Dastan (played by beefy Jake Gyllenhaal), the rebellious Persian Prince who, at a young age, was adopted by the King. Brought up alongside two brothers (Toby Kebbell and Richard Coyle), the trio played and trained under the watchful eye of their Uncle Nizam (Sir Ben Kingsley).

Once grown, the Prince crosses paths with rival, feisty Princess Tamina (Brit Gemma Arterton), but both are reduced to teaming up and fleeing the scene once the King is suspiciously murdered and Dastan is solely blamed, sending the duo on a cross country adventure, running into obscure business men and psychotic assassins, all-the-while equipped with a time-altering dagger which, naturally, is the object of many affections.

Much like Pirates of the Caribbean, Jerry Bruckheimer tries his hand at adapting material and turning it into a fully-fledged blockbuster and luckily with Pirates, he struck gold. Working with a single theme park ride, he transferred the entire theme perfectly, but with Prince of Persia, he had an entire game. However, the make-or-break deal - which would have decided the fate; either gloriously saving it or breaking it beyond recognition - came with bringing game creator Jordan Mechner on the scene.

Astoundingly, Bruckheimer struck gold once again with Mechner. Genuinely knowing the ins-and-outs of Prince of Persia, the exhilaratingly adventurous vibe which the game was so furiously fuelled with was successfully transferred onto film, making for an explosively entertaining experience.

Starring in the title role, and sporting a dashing English accent, Gyllenhaal whips himself into sword-clenching, parkour-loving shape. Whilst his character may seem a tad underdeveloped, that is entirely down, unfortunately, to the poorly, almost amatuer, written script. Effecting every character, each spout countless, cheaply uneffective one-liners, with the unintentional cringe effect which is so hilariously produced by the audience - or a groan of displeasure, if you're like me, at the sheer idiotism behind the bewilderingly child-like writing.

While the dialogue remains dire throughout, the story itself is captivating enough to hold the attentions of the many adolescents which will undoubtedly cause a ruckus in seeing the film beforehand.

Aside from the writing, each actor performs adequately. Gyllenhaal, unsurprisingly, is the stand-out star, changing his appearance entirely - an appearance which will be much loved by many - which aided my own personal belief in the character.

However, for a film of it's stature, it wouldn't have had the complete effect without the predictably average romantic subplot, featuring the leads falling ever so lovingly for one another while, inappropriately, on a mission to save their very lives. Sadly, the chemistry between Gyllenhaal and Arterton is non-existent. Squabbling like incoherent children, both characters are enjoyable to watch but together are merely a distraction for the audience, splitting up the brilliantly staged action sequences, allowing you to catch your breathe before thrown into another pulse-poundingly exciting scene.

While the direction is often rather skittish, the film rapidly jumps from scene to scene - which, for the most, worked -, firing Bruckheimer's traditionally impressive, special effects-laden sequences, all induced with stunningly appropriate cinematography to 'wow' and impress the audience further. Annoyingly, the lack of continuity between the scenes became tedious.

Clearly branded with Bruckheimer's legacy, i'm happy to report Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time stands with the very few game-to-film adaptions that redeem themselves worthy of a re-watch. If the writing was equally as worthy, this review would have been a rave of never-ending compliments. A highly entertaining blockbuster which pays enough respect to the game it originated from.


This Week's DVD/Blu-ray Choice - 24th May

Both DVDs/Blu-rays released this coming Monday have been critically appraised upon their theatrical release, but i'll be recommending only one.

My choice this week is Up in the Air.

George Clooney stars, in his Oscar-nominated role, as Ryan Bingham, a man whose job revolves around him traveling across the country, infiltrating other companies and firing people. That is until his company grounds him, leaving him to train up-and-comer Natalie (Twilight's Anna Kendrick in a career-defining role). His dislike gets the best of him, until he meets fellow-business woman Alex (Vera Farmiga). Written, partially, and directed by Jason Reitman, the film is a cleverly written, brilliantly acted drama. A DVD purchase would be perfectly fine for the film Up in the Air is.

Friday, 21 May 2010

Today's Cinema Viewing.

Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time

Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Gemma Arterton, Sir Ben Kingsley, Alfred Molina

Directer: Mike Newell

The rebellious Prince Dastan (Gyllenhaal) flees the scene with rival Princess Tamina (Arterton) after he is wrongly accused of murdering his father. Equipped with a time-altering dagger, the duo aim to defeat a merciless ruler before he wipes out the entire world with a cataclysmic sandstorm.

Thursday, 20 May 2010

Looking Back: Identity

Released in 2003, James Mangold, the director of the critically-acclaimed Walk the Line and up-and-coming action-romantic-comedy Knight and Day, brought us the psychological horror/thriller, Identity.

When eleven seemingly innocent strangers find themselves, all under different circumstances, stranded at an isolated motel during a storm, not all is right. Elsewhere, a murderer's execution is halted due to a last minute hearing, led by his psychologist Alfred Molina.

As the night progresses, each of the eleven strangers are mysteriously, and brutally, murdered. What they originally thought were a string of unintentionally-planned murders turns rather sinister as they realise their fellow-strandees are systematically dying.

Lead by ex-cop John Cusack, the cast of characters range from the bewilderingly inept to the resourceful. Whilst the lesser-known actors aimlessly flail themselves into a fortuitous death, the stronger, more capable, characters - Cusack, Amanda Peet, Ray Liotta - remain standing, solving the riddle as it progresses, all-the-while dealing with the curious happenings at the motel.

Clearly inspired by Hitchcock's Psycho, the motel retains a similar negative vibe. Aided entirely by the storm ravaging it's surroundings, the motel stands - like Psycho - as a partial character, as well as the main attraction in the plot involving the strangers.

Shrouded in mystery, the film never particularly strays far enough for your attention to be withdrawn from the characters and the undeniably odd situation they find themselves in. Providing enough suspense and thrills to hold the attention span of a three year old, the film grips as it twists and turns, throwing you in the deep end with the arguably shocking ending.

The ending, like many films of its kind, will split the audience right down the middle. The vast majority, i like to think, are like myself; overly ecstatic that the obvious 'hero' didn't disgracefully 'discover' him/her/itself as the psychotic, mystery murderer we've attempted to desperately uncover since the opening few minutes. Luckily, what we're given is something incredibly original - back in 2003, anyway - and genuinely well-made. Upon first viewing, i have no doubts that slight hesitation will be apparent. Psychological-favourite Michael Cooney, the writer of Identity, should be praised on his efforts of the 'shock and awe' tactic that is sadly so obscured and poorly executed in most films that it may as well be without.

While the film doesn't exactly contain the same effect as it does upon first viewing, it remains a perfectly entertaining psychological thriller, with the thrills and chills still as satisfying as it was the day i sat down as an unsuspecting, and slightly bewildered, 10 year old.


This Week's UK Cinema Releases - 21st of May

Big, big week for myself in the Land of Film, all thanks to a special (insert wink) Summer blockbuster having it's release in the UK.

- Director Mike Newell (Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire) teams with producer Jerry Bruckheimer to bring us the film adaptation of adventure game Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time. Being a massive fan of the game series, the film is one of my Summer highlights. With Jake Gyllenhaal in the title role, a man who looks almost identical to the game's Persian Prince, the film should be one of the most enjoyable, all-round-epic films of the year.

- Streetdance 3D gets its official nationwide release. See last week's post if you wish to know more -- if there's actually anything needing explained?

- The evidence of Nicholas Cage's acting-comeback is beginning to pile up with Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call - New Orleans, a film which has been critically praised since it's day of release in the States (it's already out to purchase over there). The film also stars Eva Mendes, Val Kilmer and is directed by Werner Herzog.

- Kevin Smith's latest comedy-fest is cop-spoof Cop Out. The film generally spends 90 minutes taking the piss out of every cop movie released in the last ten years. Bruce Willis and 30 Rock-actor Tracy Morgan star, with, apparently, a rather hilarious cameo by American Pie-actor Seann William Scott.

- Finally, Jim Sturgess stars in Heartless, a man with a disfiguring birth mark on his face uncovers demons on the streets of London.

If you catch any of the films on nationwide, or limited, release this week, leave me a comment with your thoughts. I'd greatly appreciate it!

Movie News: Over 3D?

So, did anybody catch the remake of Clash of the Titans? Ya'know, Avatar's Sam Worthington donning a toga, running around the desert slicing 'n' dicing every creature and unknown presence imaginable - all in 'eye-popping' 3D. Sadly, the film was converted during post-production and, therefore, was rightfully criticised. Genuinely one of the most pointless things i've ever had the chance to come across - and, for most, a hefty amount of money out of the pocket to pay for such a ridiculously ineffective fad.

I'm not under a false state of mind, i understand Rogue Pictures are undoubtedly money-craving and wish for Wes Craven's My Soul to Take to rival the latest Saw sequel which is also in 3D, the difference being that it's been filmed in 3D. Still, by converting the horror flick, they're almost shrouding the entire film in an entirely disappointing sheet. People will want the 3D; people will criticise the actual film if the 3D is ineffective.

Guaranteed Wes Craven has thrown a bitch-fit at the Rogue Pictures execs. Chairs flailing and everything! Good on him.

Reports from Cannes are also informing all of us unfortunate to not be there that cult classic Battle Royale is also receiving the 3D conversion treatment.

I'm not entirely against 3D. When it's used well, How to Train Your Dragon for instance, it's brilliant. Providing an availability for the audience to fully immerse themselves within the world on-screen. But when it's used purely for cash-in tactics, you're fuelled with hatred towards it.

My Soul to Take, directed by horror-meister Wes Craven, focuses on a serial killer hellbent on returning to murder the seven children which were born the night he died. 16 years later, the children begin disappearing...

If they decide to convert Scream IV, there will be hell.

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

This Week's DVD/Blu-ray Choice - 17th May

This Monday saw the release of a vast majority of DVD/Blu-ray releases, and surprising find it hard to recommend just one.

My joint-three (I know, indecisive much?) are:
-Sherlock Holmes
-The Road
-The Boys Are Back

All three are fairly different. With Robert Downey, Jr donning the detective attire, along with his handy sidekick Jude Law, Sherlock Holmes was undoubtedly one of the most thrilling, and all-round entertaining last-entries of 2009. With a quirky, well-written script behind the film and Guy Ritchie taking the director's stand, it was clear it'd be a high-flying success. A blu-ray purchase is recommended.

The Road, however, takes an enormously different route. Adapted from the acclaimed novel by Cormac McCarthy, this depressing tale of a father and his son surviving a post-apocalyptic world is immersive viewing. With Viggo, 'Aragorn', Mortensen carrying the film with his faux-son Kodi Smit-McPhee (boasting his incredible talent, look out for this one!). Another blu-ray recommendation, if only for the brilliantly harsh world which is portrayed on-screen.

Lastly, Clive Owen, a man i can't say i was a fan of before the film, stars as widower Joe Warr in The Boys Are Back. Based on a true story, we follow a man and his troubles of bringing up his charismatic son after the death of his wife. Incredibly heartfelt and beautifully directed, highlighting the bonds between child and parent. Sadly a blu-ray isn't available in the UK, but if possible, import it from the States. The cinematography of the Australian outback is astoundingly stunning! If not, the DVD is going cheap.

Forgotten Review: The Bounty Hunter

Continuing his streak of rom-coms, the director of Hitch and Fool’s Gold, Andy Tennant, brings together two of Hollywood’s most sought-after actors in The Bounty Hunter. Sticking to the traditional rules of a rom-com, the film sets out to not educate, but to simply entertain – and we have proof that they can also be original due to last year’s indie-hit (500) Days of Summer. Unfortunately, the latter seem to fall in the ‘Bleurgh’ category, walking the fine line of uninteresting, unconvincing drivel.

A bounty hunter (Gerard Butler) discovers his latest catch is no other than his ex-wife (Jennifer Aniston), a feisty reporter who seems to have stumbled upon a murder cover-up. As they reunite, the constantly bickering duo find themselves continuously at odds with one another – until certain circumstances force them to run for their lives.

I’m known to be partial to most rom-coms. Whether it’s the script, the chemistry between the lead actors, or even the setting in which the film is set, I normally - normally being the operative word - find at least one thing I enjoy. The Bounty Hunter, however, is most certainly the exception. From the moment it began, the film became ‘faulty goods’. It’s depressingly unfunny, cliché-ridden - and downright overlong - script is to blame.

At no point of the film was I expecting it to be partially realistic; it’s why comedies are usually so successful. They’re allowed to be absurd, but that solely rests on whether the film is entertaining enough. The characters must be convincing, and the situations amusing – things which were non-existent in The Bounty Hunter. The premise wasn’t awful, the story of the exes coming together could have been brilliant, but it tried so hard to distract from the fact that the film is so painfully unfunny that is fails on almost every level.

What saddened me the most about the film was it’s clear disrespect of the actors. Without a doubt both Butler and Aniston were terrible, but that is down once again to the badly written script. Both characters are neither likable nor relatable, and sadly have zero chemistry. Aniston tries her hardest to come across as her usual fun-loving, charming-self, but even I wasn’t wooed enough to disregard her poor character choice. I won’t deny, at times, she was enthusiastic, but overall her entire presence was wasted. Butler – sporting a rather patchy American accent – seemed to rather enjoy his role. Stuffing Aniston in a car trunk, handcuffing her to a bed…I don’t blame him, really. Other than the obvious perks, he brought nothing original – or particularly memorable – to his character.

My one positive remark about the film is rather shallow; both Jennifer Aniston and Gerard Butler were both gorgeous.

Sadly, the film really took ‘formulaic’ to a whole new low. An undeniably poorly written, dull, contrived film, with two leads I actually feel sympathetic towards – which is upsetting as I do, usually, enjoy both actors. Equally as terrible as the photoshop on the film's poster. It should have been a big enough warning...


Unsurprisingly, i found this review stashed away in my folders. I figured i may as well post it!