Tuesday, 27 August 2013

One Direction: This Is Us review

One Direction: This Is Us (PG, 92 mins)
Director: Morgan Spurlock
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

As long as you disregard the concert footage and accept the notion that this is music that couldn’t really get any worse, then this profile of overnight-sensation boyband One Direction is really quite engaging. The main thing to note is how well they come across, a bunch of cheeky, decent lads having some fun ever since Simon Cowell moulded them from five X Factor rejects into the biggest band in the world, a phenomenon perhaps not seen since The Beatles. We follow them on their worldwide tour, focussing on the heartfelt devotion of the fans, and their sincere gratitude for it, noting that they're constantly on the road and working incredibly hard, at the same time as they're little more than wee boys whose mammies miss them. Sure it’s a whitewash, with Cowell no doubt supervising every frame to ensure there’s no suggestion that they drink or swear or stay up past 10.30. But it’s got a sense of humour, wheeling out a neuroscientist to explain about the dopamine and the affect this has on the hyperventilating throngs of teenage girls who follow them. What’s of even more interest is the unprecedented amounts of money that facilitates - this may be music that makes Take That look like Led Zeppelin, but that’s very far indeed from the point.

Thursday, 22 August 2013

DVD Prizes to be won

Win Phantom on DVD

To celebrate the release of the suspenseful submarine thriller ‘Phantom’ - out on DVD and Blu-ray 19th August 2013 - we have a copy to give away to one lucky winner!

Starring Academy Award-nominee Ed Harris (Apollo 13; The Rock; The Abyss) and David Duchovny (X-Files; Californication), ‘Phantom’ sees a Soviet submarine armed with nuclear missiles go missing in the Pacific during the height of the Cold War. On board, a battle-tested captain (Ed Harris) and a rogue KGB agent (David Duchovny) wage a life-and-death game of cat and mouse with a nuclear Armageddon hanging in the balance.

“The Hunt for Red October” meets “Crimson Tide” in this intense claustrophobic thriller about extraordinary men facing impossible choices!

To be in with a chance of winning, simply send an email with your name and postal address to aloneinthedarkcomps@gmail.com by Friday August 30th.

Terms and Conditions

Only one entry will be accepted per person.
Entrants must be UK residents and aged 18 or over.
The judge's decision is final and no correspondence will be entered into.

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Kick-Ass 2 review

Kick-Ass 2 (15/R, 103 mins)
Director: Jeff Wadlow
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

Based on the graphic novels of Mark Millar and John Romita Jr., Kick-Ass was one of the freshest and most entertaining films of 2010.

It took superheroes out of the realm of fantasy and into the real world, where ordinary New York teenager Dave (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) dressed up as a masked vigilante, Kick-Ass, and took on crime. The problem was that, though Kick-Ass was trying to be a hero, he was never very super, something that made him the least compelling aspect of his own movie.

So it was left to Mindy Macready, aka Hit Girl (Chloe Grace Moretz) to provide both the fighting skills and be the star of the movie. The opening scene in this sequel mirrors one of the most iconic from the first film, in which Big Daddy (Nicolas Cage) shot a gun at his bulletproof vest-wearing young daughter, Mindy. Only this time it’s Mindy who’s holding the gun, and she’s shooting Dave as part of his training.

Mindy, now 15, is still taking on criminals and kicking ass, but Kick-Ass himself has hung up his suit, even though he has inspired others to take to the streets in costumes and fight wrongdoers. But Mindy makes a promise to her guardian, Marcus (Morris Chestnut) who was once her father’s partner in the police force, that she won’t be Hit Girl anymore.

Touching on the insanity of what they're doing, that Mindy should be a girl with a normal childhood, is the first clue that this sequel intends to take a more thoughtful look at these characters’ actions, and not simply be a hyper-violent cartoon.

Yet Dave is keen to get back into Kick-Ass ways, and joins up with a team of masked amateur avengers led by Jim Carrey, who goes by the name Colonel Stars and Stripes. This is where Cage is missed, no doubt about it, with Carrey not really offering the same level of crazed wit as his would-be replacement.

Meanwhile Chris D’Amico (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) is hungry for revenge since Kick-Ass killed his crime-boss father. He reinvents himself as a supervillain, the Motherfucker, and gathers together a team of baddies to hunt down Kick-Ass and his pals.

Also new to the scene is director Jeff Wadlow, taking over the reigns from Matthew Vaughn. Wadlow certainly delivers with a smart screenplay, but isn’t quite able to bring the same level of panache to the action scenes that the first movie offered.

Being modestly budgeted means it’s fairly low key action-wise, in the first two-thirds of the film at any rate, but the scale of the action matters less than the imagination, the originality and the impact that it has. Moreover it allows the focus to fall on the characters, and is what elevates Kick-Ass 2 beyond simple exploitation.

Though it still has its share of outrageous moments, and a truly inspired all-action finale, the element of surprise, particularly in regard to Hit Girl, has been lost. But that’s precisely why they spend so much time out of costume this time round, so we can get to the core of the people under the masks.

More of the same just wouldn’t cut it, and it’s entirely right and necessary to expand the world and move the characters forward. It’s a movie that’s aware of its comic book origins, but this isn’t the world of Spider-Man and his oft-repeated “with real power comes real responsibility” mantra. This is the real world, with real-world consequences and responsibilities.

It’s the growth of the characters through this realisation that makes Kick-Ass 2 a successful piece of storytelling, far more than it’s a successful bit of comic fun. For that it should be applauded.

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

DVD Prizes to be won

This competition is now closed.

 Terms and Conditions

Only one entry will be accepted per person.
Entrants must be UK residents and aged 18 or over.
The judge's decision is final and no correspondence will be entered into.

Monday, 5 August 2013

Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters review

Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters (PG, 106 mins)
Director: Thor Freudenthal
★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆

The mash-up of Greek myth and Harry Potter (lots and lots of Harry Potter) that was Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief from a couple of years ago was always intended to kick off a series of movies, and so we return to the world for this rather tired sequel.

Modern day teenager Percy Jackson (Logan Lerman) discovered in the opening entry that he was the son of Poseidon, but without the need for lengthy setups this time round, we jump straight into Percy at Hogwarts, sorry, Camp Half-Blood. After saving the day in the first movie, his worry is that he was a one-quest wonder, not as worthy a hero as believed, but an attack on their enchanted camp sends Percy and his pals on a quest to recover the Golden Fleece, which involves travelling to the Sea of Monsters where the bad guys are trying to resurrect the Titan, Cronos.

Though far from original, this is reasonably agreeable fantasy fare, especially when compared to the lumbering Clash and Wrath of the Titans from which it takes much inspiration. But it’s just all so forgettable, so where the first film still managed to be acceptably fun, despite its glaring similarity to Potter, this is dull as well as derivative. Grave import is given to very goofy events, with none of the heft of Potter, nor the breadth of characters to invest in, with only a cameo by Nathan Fillion briefly piercing the torpor. Drenched in CGI, the action set pieces are unmemorable, just stepping stones on the way to a dumb finale and the threat of yet more adventures to follow.