Sunday, 27 January 2013

Now is Good | DVD Review

Based on the novel Before I Die by Jenny Downham, Now is Good is the latest, excuse the label, 'cancer drama' that hits us square in the gut, paralleling that of Jodi Picoult's My Sister's Keeper, though British-based with an young American actress at its core.

Tessa wants to live her life to the full, even more so now she's diagnosed with cancer and has, for a number of years, had to live with the consequences and the harsh treatments. Preferring a short life lived to the full rather than a prolonged life under intense treatment, Tessa declines the next stages of chemo and instead decides to do the things she feels every teenager must do before they die, thus goes by a list she concocts against her father's wishes.

What she doesn't count on, however, are the little things, the things she doesn't think she'll miss or achieve in such a short time, but instead finds herself completely in the wrong. With the help of the new boy next door, Adam, she finds new meaning in her remaining time.

The outcome is inevitable, yet we refuse it to ourselves over and over again. And so, Now is Good is a determined watch, one that defies all sense of the human emotion. You may even find yourself inconsolable -- i'm not owning up to anything. And saying that, does that mean Now is Good gets it right? Is it truly a faithful adaptation of a novel i've never heard of yet can guarantee is just like the rest of its kind?

First and foremost is Dakota Fanning; the typical American teenager with acting chops to boot, seen most recently in the closing chapter of the Twilight Saga or in Sundance with Elizabeth Olsen. What she does get expertly, however, is something that parallels a chameleon. She's superb with characters, and not only adapts but owns the role. Here, she's a British teenager. Clothing, attitude and all, she nails it right on the head. A careless attitude is exuded by Tessa as she weaves through understandably horrid circumstances, all the while attempting to survive sex, first loves, family drama, friends, pregnancies, drugs, shop lifting and of course the cancer itself. It's a rush for her, and whilst time is limited, the writing never loses plot of what Tessa, or any regular teenager, would deem an important ritual into teenage life.

War Horse's Jeremy Irvine enters and Tessa immediately catches his eye. Foremost hesitant falls down to the knees when an honest, intensely likeable relationship strikes between the two stars, both relatable and real, and all the more heartbreaking. Paddy Considine and Olivia Williams are the bickersome parentals who're on two separate paths; one too caring and considerate of everything to do with the sickness, the other barely manages a trip to the hospital. Considine, a firm favourite of the Brits, is an outstanding and brutally emotional addition to a supporting cast that ranges from the inconspicuous to the important.

Ol Parker respectfully balances between a blatant emotional core that creates a heartbreaking backbone that Now is Good stands firm on. What induces this further is a performance that Fanning should be proud of, a story that, while been done to death, feels as natural as the real thing, and come the end leaves you lip-quivering and battered, almost to the point where you can easily wonder if this was one of your family members, what the hell would you actually do?

Verdict: Amidst an outstanding core performance, Now is Good will shatter every remnant of your soul, heart and every being. It's wonderfully written and undeniably uplifting, but at the forefront poignance is its game.

Movie 43 | Cinema Review

I can almost guarantee those who sit before Movie 43 are either entirely aware of the inevitable, or those who have merely spotted the starring talent and insinuate immediately off the bat that if Kate Winslet and Hugh Jackman sign up for it, it'll be worth their hard-earned cash. What I can truly determine happening regularly throughout audiences all over the globe after catching this anthologic comedy is a swarming sea of baffled faces. What is this? This is Movie 43. If it isn't a warning, then i myself am left ultimately baffled.

Two best friends set their computer wiz-kid brother on a challenge to find the upmost illegal, most banned video on the internet -- which they've aptly titled Movie 43, to shroud every sense of mystery behind the thing. As he begins to search, multiple videos are found, and shown to us, which leads to something ultimately bigger, the end of the world.

Movie 43's really come out of nowhere. A rushed release and minimal trailer coverage means that when this hit cinemas on our ponds, we just saw the talent. Everything else is a blur and therefore there are no expectations or hopes, if there were then you're kidding yourself. Approaching it with the upmost caution, we're flattened, battered and bruised beyond belief when we witness the first story, of which is the main core of Movie 43. A turd of substantial proportions with a script so perpetually awful and lazy that you don't particularly know how to take it: is this a spoof, or is this someone's idea of comedy? The latter truly frightens me.

I'll hand it to them, to garner such an impressive array of actors -- amidst the ones previously mentioned, Naomi Watts, Hallé Berry, Elizabeth Banks, Emma Stone, Chloe Grace Moretz, Christopher Mintz-Plasse and Richard Gere to name a few -- in a film that overall turns sour alarmingly quick, it shatters what sort of mindset they were in when they signed on to do such a project.

By no means is everything bad. When the initial core storyline has launched, the first video nasty we come to is Kate Winslet blind dating Hugh Jackman which ensues an easy laugh at the expense of these two A-listers, followed eventually by a grossly effective Tampax add, with extra bite, and ultimately the last saving grace, Hallé Berry and Stephen Merchant playing truth or dare. Whilst none of these require particular intelligence to write, it's laugh-out-loud for the sake of laughing at something that is essentially the most random short stories in an anthology ever created.

Emma Stone pairs with Keiran Culkin in a wasted segment; Richard Gere plays host as a blatant parallel to Steve Jobs with his crudely inappropriate creation the iBabe; Chloe Grace Moretz receives her first period on a date (and a white couch). It's three-year-old writing at best, most of which are unparalleled in how unfunny and painfully forced it actually is. Nothing's worse than forced comedy, let alone forced comedy which repeats the same mistake over and over again.

It's tasteless, occasionally offensive and regularly desperate, Movie 43 is one of those rarities that can easily be stored for later discussion in the category 'Are You Freaking Shitting Me?'. Confounding and witless for the most, the squandered cast do utterly nothing to help themselves, but then again, should they come out unscathed after knowing what they were getting themselves in? We sure didn't.

Verdict: Bar a handful of brief highlights, Movie 43 is painful, dirty and frankly unbelievable. It shatters the senses and undoubtedly leaves the viewer left in a state of absolute shock. Warning has been given.

Sunday, 13 January 2013

This Week's Home Releases | 14th January

This section of Great Expectations features the hottest home releases of the week.
If i've missed any, please leave a comment below.

Slim pickings this week in regards to anything i've personally seen, but that's the beauty of home releases, no? LoveFilm is at the ready!

Dredd 3D - Adapted from comic strip Judge Dredd, this retelling of the titular law enforcer proved quite popular with critics and audiences alike, and i personally loved it. An exemplary adaptation that pits Dredd (Karl Urban) and a newcomer to the force (Olivia Thirlby) in a dystopian metropolis called Mega-City One, an essential post-apocalyptic wasteland, where the Judges hold the power to judge, jury and execute. They both head to a nearby apartment complex before being closed in by big baddy Ma-Ma (Lena Headey), a feared drug lord. They both attempt to survive the onslaught of a 200-storey high-rise block of flats. Beautiful yet incredibly violent, this 3D action-thriller packs one hell of a punch.

Lawless - Tom Hardy, Shia LaBeouf, Gary Oldman, favourite Jessica Chastain, Guy Pearce and Mia Wasikowska star in western gangster flick Lawless, set during the prohibition in the US as a bootlegging gang is threatened by a new deputy and the authorities who want a cut of the profits. John Hillcoat directs.

247 Degrees Fahrenheit - Halloween's Scout Taylor Compton and Travis Van Winkle (what a name!) star in this horror-thriller as four friends head to a lakeside cabin for a getaway. All is happy as Larry until they become locked in a sauna, and as the heat rises they must make tough decisions in order to survive. Worth a watch, even if it's to laugh at the implausibly stupid premise.

Shadow Dancer - Andrea Riseborough, Clive Owen and Gillian Anderson star in this tense drama as a Northern Irish woman makes the tough decision between her family's loyalty and the possibility of becoming an MI5 informant. 

When the Lights Went Out | Blu-ray Review

Hailed as Europe's most violent haunting, the Pontefract Haunting is the focus of this latest ghost chiller in Brit supernatural thriller When the Lights Went Out.

As the Pritchard family finally move into their newly-assigned Council house, excitement roars for a home of their own to decorate and live, happily, in with their young daughter. It isn't until nightly interruptions force the young girl, Sally (Tasha Connor), to realise something isn't quite right in their home in Pontefract. Unbelieving parents Jenny (Kate Ashfield) and Len (Steven Waddington) brush off the allegations of a haunting and blame it on Sally, feeling awfully silly once the supernatural being begins to play with their emotions.

Ghost stories as of late have been filmed on the overtly-dependable found-footage genre, ala Paranormal Activity who, essentially, revived the sub-genre and spawned many a-sequel, as well a brand new, other projects. True, it's become tiresome, so when we're given a supernatural thriller without the sub-genre we've solely depended on, it's slightly stunning. And with a tag such as "Based on a true story", we've only to expect the most expected. We've seen it all, no? This is When the Lights Went Out's true downfall, it's absolutely expected, everything and anything.

Known to some as the haunting of The Black Monk of Pontefract for the hidden, malicious spirit residing in 30 East Drive Chequerfield, and unlike in the film, said haunting took place over a number of years. Perhaps if this was included and exaggerated in Pat Holden's chiller, a sense of exhaustion for the family may have been exuded. A prolonged sense of dread and terror, instead of the inevitable slapdash series of typical ghostly activity. Moving lights, creaks, shadows and the odd squealing of a pig being slaughtered. The latter was slightly unnerving, followed ever so quickly by a giggle. Where did it come from?

Typical jump scares are in the form of sudden thuds, with the occasional building of suspense (a scene involving the father in a back room with a looming, blackened figure) proving most successful, but it's too quick for its own good, and is shortly interrupted by bursts of bad acting, poorly conceived sub-characters who merely address said problem as "the ghost". It's awfully rushed, but never feels totally wasted. It does frighten to an extent, and if you're eligible for a jump or two you'll be fidgeting like no ghost's business. It doesn't exactly cross into the dreadful until the last act, by which the beckoning of the credits will seem like a godsend.

Verdict: A rushed, painfully generic ghost story with a tag that introduces one too many promises. A core performance by newcomer Tasha Connor is watchable, but barely scrapes passed everything else that offends the eyes and ears.

Les Misérables | Cinema Review

A novel so renowned that its adaptations are in the dozens, none more popular than the musical of which it spawned and opened in 1985 in London. The original novel by French playwright and poet that focuses on the French revolution and several core characters of which are entangled amongst it is churned into a sung-through musical, with music by Claude-Michel Schonberg and lyrics by Alain Boublil and Jean-Marc Natel. Classed as one of the greats which stands firm as one of the most popular, sought-after musicals today, it's never received quite the adaptation as Tom Hooper's rendition.

During early 19th Century France, ex-convict Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman) is released on parole after serving nineteen years for stealing a loaf of bread for starving relatives before he flees and escapes, taking on a new identity after a bishop inspires him to start anew. While relentless police inspector Javert (Russell Crowe) tracks him down, Valjean finds a new perspective in life after starving prostitute Fantine (Anne Hathaway) beckons her young daughter upon him, saving her from selfish innkeepers Thénardier (Sacha Baron Coen) and Madame Thénardier (Helena Bonhham Carter). It's these and a slew of idealists who become embroiled in a last, important stand in an important period in France.

A roaring opening number pits Valjean, a burly peasant with abnormal strength, and a hundred downtrodden others as they haul an enormous, bulking ship into the docks whilst overseer Javert stand on the throne, encapsulating a power that instantly dominates the screen. Frantically, it introduces both musically and characteristically the sheer power behind Les Mis' backbone, between Schonberg's hearty, empowering music and the stand-out performance of Jackman.

While the former is an esoteric musical, aiming primarily at fans of Les Mis itself and the general idea of a musical, the star quality of Hooper's film and his overall achievement at successfully balancing between a historically important drama and the rare recordings of live vocals, thus transcending a dozen musical numbers into raw, emotionally-empowering moments of cinema, requires the attention of general filmgoers. This is a film to introduce us into the New Year, it's a feat unmanaged by others.

With a cast as enormous as this, it alarms that stars such as Anne Hathaway and Amanda Seyfried are reduced to performances which are on-screen for approximately fifteen-to-twenty minutes. While the latter isn't particularly anything special, her chemistry with My Week with Marilyn's Eddie Redmayne is delightful, thus romantically dominating the film as their sweet, almost poetic singing stuns and, for Redmayne, astounds. And while her performance is a catalyst for the vast majority of the film's happenings, Hathaway's Fantine is a stand-out performance, worthy every second of the recent Academy Award nomination. Desperation leads her to prostitution, doing everything possible to supply for her illegitimate child in current care of the dastardly, money-laundering mitts of the preposterous innkeepers Coen and Carter -- both providing momentary, comedic interludes. Flawlessly, she crams a raw, emotionally-dominating performance that could span the wilds of the film's entire three-hour duration into a stunning twenty minutes, with the show's power number "I Dreamed a Dream" sung with heartbreaking rawness and absolute precision for the measure.

Jackman, however, provides nothing but an astounding, cautionary bravado, overflowing with sentiment and a blatant joy for the character with the professionalistic realism and an abundance of vivacity and vigour than any who past played Valjean -- despite reports of him unable to successfully dominate the role. And while Crowe's intensely deep vocals may appear the most dominant and frankly manly aspect of Les Misérables, Jackman triumphs impeccably over his on-screen rival.

Tremendous, deeply emotional core musical numbers dampen as much as they uplift, with enough brava and intended applause that any showing of Les Mis, film or show, should ever receive. It's a feat from Hooper, encapsulating the chaos and ensuing inspiration to win as well as transcending novel and stage to screen, which should inspire others to attempt. A roaring success from most involved, with outstanding, musically career-defining performances from Jackman, Hathaway and Redmayne.

Verdict: Overlong, but packs way too many a powerhouse punch to refuse it. Phenomenal performances and musical numbers deem it a must-watch for any musical fan, and an introduction to others who aren't too sure of where they stand with them.

Thursday, 10 January 2013

Take This Waltz | Blu-ray Review

Starring: Michelle Williams, Seth Rogen, Luke Kirby, Sarah Silverman

Directed by: Sarah Polley

Still riding from the critical success of her directorial debut Away from Her, Sarah Polley's follow-up feature, Take This Waltz, continues a string her personal series of dealing with conceptually heavy-handed material. Though, unlike Away from Her, it doesn't quite deem itself as successful due to one primary factor: the cast.

Margot (Michelle Williams) is a happily married woman. Living day-to-day with a smile on her face with cookbook-writing husband Lou (Seth Rogen) in a idyllic, suburban lifestyle amidst the blistering heat of Toronto. It isn't until she meets the artist across the street, Daniel (Luke Kirby), that her affections detour towards another man, bringing to light a dozen insecurities she has about her marriage and her lifestyle itself.

Polley knows what she's doing; her directorial techniques are what i'd personally deem quaint. The lighting is often intensely dazzling, splashing together a cornucopia of fresh colours amidst a searing summer. But while she captures what the most settled, idyllic and dream-like lifestyle, it parallels quite extensively with a heavy plot that deteriorates said pre-conceived ideas of what route Take This Waltz will be taking, and by so introduces awkwardness and guilt into a seemingly ordinary love story.

Williams, a firm favourite of myself, is tremendous, and typically deals with a character who weighs herself down with said guilt almost instantly. Introduced to Margot as a fun-loving, chirpy and effortlessly perky married woman, she turns sour and rigid at the thought of another day with Lou, a man whose primary concern appears to be, as of late, chicken -- the preparing of it in multiple ways for his cookbook extends Margot's tremendous boredom of her current married life.

Daniel, however, is new. His fresh outlook of Margot makes her feel young and wanted, thus triggering a battle of self-preservation against hormones that are entirely natural. Margot isn't a particularly likeable character; perpetually mousy with a gradually lesser respect for husband Lou. But whilst Michelle Williams plays her, we can't help ourselves. And with chemistry as loveable and real as that between Williams and Kirby, there aren't any complaints. We invest ourselves immediately, but whilst Williams continues as the most naturally charming and deftly humourous thing Take This Waltz has to offer, the intentions are thrown to the wind.

With a supporting cast which consists of Seth Rogen and Sarah Silverman, two of the most well-known, naturally comedic acts that most know, it bewilders that they're subdued to a backhanded husband and a failing alcoholic, and thus we're stuck with giggling over Margot urinating in a swimming pool. They're useful for a few minutes before taking stance in the back of anything.

It's not quite as polished and emotionally-crafty as Away from Her, but Take This Waltz is expertly handled. Though the casting sometimes splits opinion, it's swamped with beauty and truth, and as unnerving and anti-romcom as it may appear, it works as something entirely fresh. A subtly charming lead performance from Williams will trap attentions as Polley masterfully unravels an ordinary marriage into oblivion.

Verdict: A moving, fresh drama from passionate filmmaker Sarah Polley, even if its sharpness doesn't quite rival that of her previous feature.

Oscar Predictions | 2013 Academy Awards

The 85th Academy Awards
In light of tomorrow's nominations for the 85th Academy Awards (airing Sunday, February 24th), i, like many avid fans, flee to the bloggersphere to shine light on my own personal favourites of the year which i deem worthy of an award or two. And while i've already dotted down my top ten of 2012, not everything i fell head over heels for will undoubtedly make the cut. Still, i understand the general ethics of the Academy, and while every year appears to fall short for myself, those who win are obviously deserving -- for the most.

Whilst i garnered a hefty list of favourites from 2012 -- ranging from the consensually loved to the odd guilty pleasure -- this is a mere estimation and frank guessing game on my behalf of the categories that stand firm as the most popular -- Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Actress etc.

Best Picture

Life of Pi
Zero Dark Thirty
Les Misérables

Wild Card: Silver Linings Playbook, The Impossible, The Master, Beasts of the Southern Wild

Political thrillers Argo and Zero Dark Thirty are obvious contendors; deftly made, mostly ballsy -- the latter standing firmer for past Best Director winner Kathryn Bigelow ("The Hurt Locker"), whereas Lincoln is a shoe-in. Les Misérables has the general consensus whilst Life of Pi has my vote.

Best Director

Kathryn Bigelow, "Zero Dark Thirty"
Ben Affleck, "Argo"
Ang Lee, "Life of Pi"
Steven Spielberg, "Lincoln"
Paul Thomas Anderson, "The Master"

Wild Card: Quentin Tarantino, "Django Unchained"; Tom Hooper, "Les Misérables"; J.A. Bayona, "The Impossible"

Toted as his best film in decades, i'd certify Spielberg as a candidate for Best Director, whereas the Academy's fondness of Bigelow is also an almost definite. Affleck and Lee a truly deserving for their entries, whilst Anderson borders on Wild Card territory -- personally i wasn't at all fond of The Master, but understandably, it's well made.

Bayona's undoubtable efforts to transcend The Impossible from the average disaster flick makes him in line with Spielberg as my most wanted.

Best Actor

Daniel Day-Lewis, "Lincoln"
Joaquin Phoenix, "The Master"
Hugh Jackman, "Les Misérables"
Jean-Louis Trintignant, "Amour"
John Hawkes, "The Sessions"

Wild Card: Bradley Cooper, "Silver Linings Playbook"; Anthony Hopkins, "Hitchcock"; Denzel Washington, "Flight"

Day-Lewis, Phoenix and Hawkes are a shoe-in, whilst Jackman's a deserving though bordered possibility. If anyone was to swoop in under our rader, it would be Cooper for Silver Linings, and with Helen Mirren receiving critical praise for her turn in Hitchcock, it seems absurd Hopkins wouldn't receive the same buzz.

Best Actress

Jessica Chastain, "Zero Dark Thirty"
Naomi Watts, "The Impossible"
Quevenzhane Wallis, "Beasts of the Southern Wild"
Marion Cotillard, "Rust and Bone"
Jennifer Lawrence, "Silver Linings Playbook"

Wild Card: Helen Mirren, "Hitchcock"; Keira Knightley, "Anna Karenina"

Chastain's ballsy performance certifies her, whilst Watts' natural and heartbreaking turn as a tsunami survivor demands a nomination -- Cotillard almost parallels this, though not quite as deserving as Watts, in my opinion. Lawrence is a favourite, though if anything was to push her through a mere possible, it would be for the film she's attached to.

Mirren could easily swoop in, whilst Knightley is simply a hope that will most probably not be heard.

Best Supporting Actor

Phillip Seymour Hoffman, "The Master"
Javier Bardem, "Skyfall"
Leonardo DiCaprio, "Django Unchained"
Tommy Lee Jones, "Lincoln"
Robert De Niro, "Silver Linings Playbook"

Wild Card: Christophe Waltz, "Django Unchained"; Samuel L Jackson, "Django Unchained"; Matthew McConaughey, "Magic Mike"

Django Unchained owns this category, though DiCaprio, i'm sure, is in for the slot. Christophe Waltz could easily swipe the position away from Bardem for Skyfall, but really i'd rather the latter -- this is my  predictions, god-dammit! Jones and De Niro are definites.

McConaughey's here for the sheer hope he gets his kit off.

Best Supporting Actress

Anne Hathaway, "Les Misérables"
Amy Adams, "The Master"
Judi Dench, "Skyfall"
Ann Dowd, "Compliance"
Helen Hunt, "The Sessions"

Wild Card: Nicole Kidman, "The Paperboy", Sally Field, "Lincoln"

I'm almost certain for my top five nominations, though if anyone would swipe one, it'd be Sally Field from Ann Dowd, more so for the general rawness of Compliance -- and the fact that near nobody over the seas has seen it yet, myself included.

Adams, a firm favourite of myself and the Academy, joins Dench and Hathaway as definites.

Best Animated Feature

The Pirates: Band of Misfits
Wreck-It Ralph

If there's even five nominated.

Wild Card: Hotel Transylvania, Rise of the Guardians

Barely an extensive guess at this year's Academy Award nominations, but these are the ones i most look forward to. Undoubtedly, like many years passed, these will be wrong, but we shall find out later this week.

The nominations for the 85th Academy Awards screens tonight, January 10th, and the ceremony itself will be held on February 24th.

Saturday, 5 January 2013

Texas Chainsaw 3D | Cinema Review

Director John Luessenhop courageously opens the latest spawn of Leatherface, Texas Chainsaw 3D, with an admirable re-hash of Tobe Hooper's 1974 classic, cutting an exciting prologue which feels warmly nostalgic, renewed and revamped in post-converted 3D -- fitting with the remaining extra dimension the rest of the film is shown in. We then cut to moments after our heroine Sally escapes and a local Sheriff revs up to the Sawyer home, followed shortly by angered, vigilante townsmen. Guns are a-blazing and the Sawyer household, along with members we've met previously and a handful who appear to have vacated the premises during the original, burns to the ground. It's around this point that hope dwindles, with momentary bursts of a wince-inducing script merely teasing the joys to come.

Heather Mills and co head to Texas, on route to a Halloween bash, to explore a newly-uncovered inheritance in the form of a house left by a mysterious grandmother. Upon entering the cavernous, beautifully-rendered mansion, they're quickly picked off one by one as basement-dweller Leatherface revs up his favourite tool once again, unbeknownst that his cousin, the last remaining Sawyer, is the one he's desperate to kill.

Alexandra Daddario vs. Chainsaw
Putting aside the remake and countless sequels, this direct sequel hits a nail that's fresh and original, and oddly enough hasn't been done before now. What ensues is something refreshing, ably retreading that of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and spouts into an entirely different direction. But while we can thank Luessenhop for taking a daring route, it can only go so far. The direction maps limited, lazy and frankly brutishly annoying and overtly clichéd characters through shoddy plodding and an inert general plot that's instantly wasted.

Executed sluggishly, Luessenhop's intentions are for that of the fans, but sorely misses the mark as he appears to intentionally inject a comical tone wherever a laugh may be had instead of a scream, unfortunately vastly reducing any remnants of true horror Leatherface once grasped out of this poor man's version of Hooper's uncomfortable, relentlessly horrific fare. Typical jump scares are sporadically dotted throughout a squandered carnival chase, multiple uninspired killings, a FaceTime'd investigation and a midrift which appears to be glued to the screen -- Daddario's workout DVD will undoubtedly hit shelves sometime soon.

What sadly aids the superfluous, aimless bunch of teens are the supposed villains of the piece. Not Leatherface, but the Mayor and his minions, all of which sport some incredulous, utterly disastrous trait or two that creates more of a cheap caricature, including that of Clint Eastwood's son who also stars. I can't quite see the legendary actor looking over the script for Texas Chainsaw 3D with glee.

Nothing here really screams justice, not for the money you'll be paying or the promise of a decent follow-up to the original, but those who're knowledgable of these backhanded sequels will take pleasure in how bad it truly is. Therefore, if you allow it, there is fun to be had, even if it is to catch a cheeky glimpse at Gunnar Hansen's brief cameo.

It's not completely worthless, but Texas Chainsaw 3D is definitively uninspired, lazy and incredibly wasteful, throwing to the wind an original plot and a possible reinvention of one of cinema's greatest horror icons. Instead, it opts in for cheap comedy, gratuitous gore and a Leatherface with too much humanity, and it by no means is aided by the 3D -- all it particularly does it cross your eyes until headaches are induced through the grating buzz of a blood-soaked chainsaw.

Verdict: Texas Chainsaw 3D is clunky, generic, tension-free and upsettingly uninspired; this is an exploitive, gory effort that has far too much gristle than prime beef.

Thursday, 3 January 2013

This Week's Cinema | 4th January

This section of Great Expectations features the hottest theatrically released films of the week.
If i've missed any, please leave a comment below.

The Impossible - Released New Year's Day, J. A. Bayona's disaster epic depicts that of the Boxing Day 2004 tsunami which had thousands fighting for their live amidst a landscape of absolute chaos. Naomi Watts and Ewan McGregor headline a family, based on the true circumstances of another, as they, separately, battle to survive and to find one another again. A demanding yet emotionally crippling drama, expertly executed. Read the full review here.

Playing for Keeps - Released New Year's Day, Gerard Butler stars as an ex-footballer whose fame has decreased him to a life of coaching his son's soccer team, leaving him to battle off the bored soccer mothers who pursue him at every turn. Jessica Biel, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Dennis Quaid and Uma Thurman co-star in a breezy romantic-comedy.

Quartet - Released New Year's Day, Maggie Smith stars in Dustin Hoffman's quirky drama about a retirement home whose annual concert is disrupted by the arrival of Jean (Smith). Billy Connolly, Tom Courtenay and Pauline Collins co-star in a drama based on Ronald Harwood's same-titled play.

Texas Chainsaw 3D - Advance screenings this coming Friday (4th) and Saturday (5th), John Lussenhop's latest addition to the reeling sequels of Leatherface's past is actually a direct sequel to Tobe Hooper's 1974 classic. Alexandra Daddario (Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief) is Heather, a young woman who, with a handful of friends, heads to Texas to collect her inheritance. It is, however, to her surprise that a certain chainsaw-wielding maniac resides in said inheritance. Certified fresh by Hooper himself, anticipation for this 3D sequel is rife. Didn't think that would be possible. The film has a full general release on January 9th.

The Impossible | Cinema Review

On December 26th, 2004 the world witnessed a natural disaster that shook millions. From that moment on, our thoughts were with those who were involved, those whose lives were either shattered or flipped entirely, but here, safe and unharmed, we truly couldn't understand the harm, the chaos and the sheer terror it caused -- and is still very much alive. The Impossible, the latest from director J. A. Bayona, gives an impossible insight into said disaster, one that packs a heavy punch.

Naomi Watts & Tom Holland star in The Impossible
Naomi Watts and Ewan McGregor star as two English-speaking tourists amidst the terror, basing their characters on true-life Spanish survivors whose life-altering experience in Thailand is documented through the eyes of a director whose greatest care is taken to create the idealistic, most absolute realistic and heart-pounding experience, not to purposely upset or traumatise but to remain faithful to an experience that's undoubtedly just that. The parents and their three children are among thousands thrown into the mix, grasping for their very lives amongst debris and a land literally turned upside down.

The sun-blazened beaches and pristine, glistening oceans are the idealistic holiday vacation for the family. Over Christmas it's their most desired getaway, and it's understandable. The moment the wave hits, however, nothing is desirable, nothing is expected, and Bayona nails this right on the head. Frantic and ultimately terrifying, the sight is astounding, the tension palpable and the moment feels instantly real. Watts' battered, bruised and intensely bloodied face accompanies a dozen piercing shrieks, and they appear real, not at all idealised as a mere work day; Holland, playing the eldest of three sons, is a shattered, scared little boy, but at the same time steps up to the plate and defends his weakened mother, protecting her and hurtling himself through debris to reach her. The performances of these two are astounding, immediately hooked upon their heavy descent into a life primarily fixated upon survival. It's raw and deeply emotional, made all the more effective with the relationship of these two stars; it's truly, undoubtedly and impossibly brilliant.

McGregor, on the other hand, is drenched, head to toe, in blood, cuts are in their dozens, topless. He doesn't care of his current position, all he cares for is of his family and the two that are currently not by his side. An unrelenting, heartbreaking desire to find them ensues. This side of the film carries a weight unparalleled, one that is a consistent force throughout The Impossible, and one that is an undeniable power that carries the film extensively. A performance almost as great as Watts and Holland, but by his own right, one that's still as real as they get.

Bayona's ability to maintain a tightness between his characters ably enforces the emotion, focusing on their pain and their tears, eschewing a realistic survivalist within them. Balancing between this and a frightening panoramic view of the obliterated landscape shakes you to your very core, reducing the film to either emotionally breaking you or unsettling you completely. Either or, it's a magnificently horrifying anti-horror movie with a realistic backbone, executed with ease and the upmost care.

Verdict: This is an emotionally-draining experience, but it's also one of the most deserving depictions of a real-life disaster in movie history. Watts, bedridden for a hefty duration, gives the performance of her career, whilst Holland, a newcomer, is on due course for stardom. A must-see.

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

Top Ten Films of 2012

Like most before it, this year has given us something to gossip over. Between the closing of two very affluent franchises to the opening of another, to long-awaited supposed prequels that received an odd topsy-turvy kind-of-reception. To a half dozen book-to-screen adaptations to Channing Tatum demanding audiences' attention monthly -- really, how many has there been -- it's undoubtable that the silver screen has given us more than one excuse to relinquish that hard-earned cash.

10) Magic Mike - Steven Soderbergh

Channing Tatum writhes uncontrollably in baggy sweat pants as Alex Pettyfer's The Kid dishes the handsome, whereas White Collar's Matt Bomer dons a sailor's outfit and Matthew McConaughey is as one with his leather get-up. It's a woman and gay man's absolute wet dream, the only thing that would be an easy gripe would be the non-3D tag. 

In all seriousness, Soderbergh manages to balance adult humour in the form of male stripping (paralleling that of Tatum's past life pre-acting gig) and the negatives that come with the occasionally seedy lifestyle. Drugs, casual sex, cock pumps and a ton of male swagger, it's one that can be easily watched on a night in with the girls with a never-ending supply of Galaxy and rosé.

9) ParaNorman - Chris Butler, Sam Fell

Laika's follow-up to their anti-fairytale Coraline has an almost-identical feel, ably encapsulating childish humour whilst wrapping it ever-so-delicately in an adult premise, touring frequently into the dark side, much like Coraline

Wonderfully voiced, with titular star Norman played by The Road and Let Me In's Kodi Smit-McPhee accompanying that of Anna Kendrick, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Casey Affleck, Leslie Mann and John Goodman, while the animation (stop motion) is a breathe of fresh air from the usual. Disney's other similar Halloween project Frankenweenie almost took ParaNorman's place, but Tim Burton's usual flare is beginning to grate.

8) Ted - Seth MacFarlane

The cloyingly cute Ted comes to life one Christmas Day to befriend loner John, but once John grows older and becomes increasingly wrapped in girlfriend Mila Kunis, Ted's inner-stoner and all-round abominably crude-self becomes more of a hazard for John's daily routine. Cue anything and everything we love about Family Guy and times it by a thousand, including outrageous laughs, a very specific, typically MacFarlane crudeness, the odd random escapade or two (the entire film bellows a love for Flash Gordon) and an unusual warmth that comes with a determined and curiously fantastic relationship between Mark Wahlberg and Ted himself. 

7) Skyfall - Sam Mendes

Named just today as the biggest Bond ever, Skyfall, the billionaire success at the Box Office, roared onto our screens with phenomenal anticipation. It delivered, that's for sure. 

Between Daniel Craig's intense suaveness and determination as James Bond -- undoubtedly the best Bond going -- we've got Javier Bardem's villainous Silva, Bond girls Naomie Harris and Bérénice Marlohe, Ralph Fiennes and, of course, Judi Dench's M. 

In Bond's true test of loyalty to M, we've got a dozen insane, heart-thumping set pieces as well as sharp dialogue and assured direction from Mendes himself. We're taken all over the globe as 007 attempts to uncover M's dirty past. 

6) The Cabin in the Woods - Drew Goddard

A horror fan; a Buffy the Vampire Slayer Fan; a Chris Hemsworth fan. Oh boy, was this a treat.

Months and months (and months) seemed to slowly, every so slowly pass by before The Cabin the Woods hit our cinemas, and while we patiently waited for Drew Goddard's directorial baby and Joss Whedon's latest effort, we sat patiently, and read, as geeky as we possibly could, every little titbit about the film as we could, attempting to dissect that impenetrable trailer. And while it's not the horror film outsiders would be expecting, it was so, so much more.

The cavernous, mysterious mind of that fantastic twosome brought us a deliriously clichéd horror on the surface of something far more enjoyable, one that i can't particularly mention because it truly would ruin the greatness of it all. It's utterly hilarious, frightening and never-ending with its surprises. What would have been even better was if, on home release, multiple versions of the particular outcome could be altered. You'll know what i mean if you've seen it. 

5) The Dark Knight Rises - Christopher Nolan

It's the explosive blockbuster we all hoped for and expected, rounding off Christopher Nolan's consistently jaw-dropping franchise with gusto, a Bane-like fierceness and awe. 

Bale's as tremendous as ever, but like The Dark Knight, Heath Ledger's Joker stood firm as the must-see performance of the year, and here, it's Tom Hardy. Marion Cotillard, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and the usuals Morgan Freeman and Michael Cane add tenderness and a homely, climactic poignance. 

4) Prometheus - Ridley Scott

It's the film which split millions. As Scott for months demanded Prometheus had nothing to do with his original horror masterpiece Alien, we fans knew otherwise. Who was he kidding when the trailer flashed images of the infamous Space Jockey, and behind-the-scenes pics dished the truths which we weren't meant to know. We didn't, however, get the jist of these Engineers, and we still don't 100% know.

It's large in magnitude and answers a handful of questions we've wondered all these years, but where Prometheus falls is in the questions it asks. It often loses its way, and by this many deemed the film as a complete failure. I see it as a stepping stone to another, and a hopeful trilogy which will answer said questions with a definite thoroughness. 

Michael Fassbender steals the show as android David, while Noomi Rapace's 21st century Ellen Ripley deals with horrendous C-sections, a curious, acid-like black liquid, frightening snake-like creatures and pissed elders. Charlize Theron and Guy Pearce wander aimlessly -- one looks good doing it, the other could do with a little work. 

3) The Perks of Being a Wallflower - Stephen Chbosky

My favourite of 2012 until this month, Stephen Chbosky, writer and director of both novel and feature film, has a firm grasp on his characters. Reading his definitive teen novel beforehand had myself at one with his layered characters, loving it more so after his adaptation, and more so after a second watch. 

Definitively high school, wrapped in teenage angst, first loves, past truths and Rocky Horror, The Perks of Being a Wallflower is one of those films you have to watch in high school. To ably appreciate the times you have with friends is one of the lessons is consistently teaches. Well, that and to simply adore the musical Rocky Horror. 

A beautifully deep, emotional and unparalleled performance by Logan Lerman, supported by Potter's Emma Watson, an unnerving and swift change by Ezra Miller from We Need to Talk About Kevin and a dozen others, all of which unfold in a high school drama that aspires to be something much like a John Hughes classic, though very much weaves a handful of real, 21st century problems. Unexpectedly brilliant. 

2) The Impossible - J.A. Bayonna

The account of one family's impossible feat of survival during the December 26th, 2004 tsunami is a harrowing and deeply emotional experience. It's both intensely raw and impossibly real, which hurtles  an audience into the true chaos of that day as we are submerged, much like this family, into an upside down world where terror becomes the forefront of a seemingly idyllic day. 

Physically and emotionally draining, Bayona's feature kills as much as it uplifts with the remaining hope of this one family, with Naomi Watts and newcomer Tom Holland on their absolute top form as a mother and a son whose determination for the others survival is something that breaks the heart as much  as repairs it. It's an eye-opener, with a dominant underlying message of cherishing what truly matters while it lasts. An outstanding feat like no other.

1) Life of Pi - Ang Lee

Owner of Yann Martel's novel of the same name for a number of years now has led me a fool after watching Ang Lee's visual masterpiece. 

Very much a visual stimulation as much as it entices the mind, Life of Pi is very much a story about hope and survival as one boy attempts it on a raft in the middle of the ocean, accompanied by a Bengal tiger. It'll be the strangest thing you've heard all year, i'm sure. 

Spirituality and religion is on the forefront of Pi's mind as much as it is Ang Lee's, but without cramming religious allegory down your throat it attempts to hand it to you on a platter, wrapped in a visual treat or two, and demands an audience to decide for themselves. And for that, it aids the film exponentially. It's downright original as much as it is explosive, heartfelt, bizarre and consistently awe-inducing. A true masterpiece, and one that dons some of the best 3D i've seen. 

Honourable Mentions:
-The Amazing Spider-Man - Marc Webb
-Looper - Rian Johnson
-Silver Linings Playbook - David O'Russell
-Moonrise Kingdom - Wes Anderson
-Killer Joe - William Friedkin
-Anna Karenina - Joe Wright
-Rust and Bone - Jacques Audiard
-Ruby Sparks - Jonathan Dayton
-The Raid - Gareth Evans
-The Woman in Black - James Watkins
-The Divide - Xavier Gens
-The Avengers - Joss Whedon