Wednesday 29 June 2011

Larry Crowne review

Larry Crowne (12A/PG-13, 98 mins)
Director: Tom Hanks
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

Tom Hanks marks his second time out as director with this throwaway comedy drama, co-writing with Nia Vardalos of My Big Fat Greek Wedding fame. Hanks also stars as Larry Crowne, a department store worker and model employee who is let go because he doesn’t have a college education. Recently divorced, unable to find another job, and with negative equity on his house, he decides his only recourse is to go back to college where one of his tutors turns out to be Julia Roberts. Leaving aside the similarities to the episode of Family Guy where Peter is passed over from promotion because he hadn’t finished the third grade, this is a breezy and charming, if paper thin confection that features very little interaction between its two stars during the early stages and too many incidental characters. It’s lightly comical without aiming for especially funny, but some shoddy physical gags let it down, and with its modest budget and ambitions, it’s far from the superstar vehicle suggested, though both Hanks and Roberts remain highly watchable.

Transformers: Dark of the Moon review

Transformers: Dark of the Moon (12A/PG-13, 154 mins)
Director: Michael Bay
★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆

As a piece of storytelling, the Transformers well has long since run dry, leaving us with a franchise kept on life support by the power of the dollar. Though we had some fun with the first movie in 2007, we got punished by its unendurable sequel two years later, one whose success made a further instalment inevitable.

Now we come to the third go around with the robots in disguise, the good Autobots who keep earth safe from the nasty Decepticons. Rewriting its own mythology yet again, we learn that the during the first Apollo moon landing, the astronauts discovered that the Autobots were already there, leading to a four decade cover-up to keep the news hidden.

Meanwhile at Chernobyl, a part from a long lost Autobot ship has been found, and their leader Optimus Prime wants to get to the technology before the Decepticons, who are plotting to get their hands on it to help them win the age-old war that has been raging between them.

The human face is once again provided by Sam (Shia LaBeouf) who, in one of many extraneous plotlines that drag the running time to insupportable levels, is having difficulty finding a job, even after having saved the planet twice already.

LaBeouf has an undeniable star quality, but as a character Sam is nothing but a lot of running and shouting. With Megan Fox out of the picture, his new squeeze is Carly (Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, making Fox look like Meryl Streep), while also new to the party are the likes of John Malkovich in a showy yet thankless turn as Sam’s boss, and Frances McDormand as a CIA goon.

Pare it back, amputate the ridiculous amounts of unnecessary flab, and you’re still left with absolute galloping nonsense, just as idiotic as what we were put through in the second film. But while it’s not quite the gruelling assault that was Transformers 2, it is every bit as mind-alteringly tedious.

The first hour and a half is the gift that keeps on taking, and though there are a few scenes of robots talking or shape-shifting, it’s light on action and long on explanation. There’s so much to irritate, from the quips coming from the heavily accented ‘bots, to director Michael Bay’s unquenchable penchant for soft rock and scenes set in the golden glow of sundown.

The first major rumble is a freeway chase-and-hit, and it’s undeniably impressive. But don’t even try to follow the machinations of the ropiest of plots and you might just survive to the final reckoning, wherein the streets and buildings of Chicago become a battleground for the robots’ decisive encounter.

Visually, its equal may never have been seen, but it’s entirely investment free. It’s a graceless, grinding, exploding cacophony of computer generated metal and noise, and never in the history of cinema has a film been more geared towards mere spectacle than coherent and involving storytelling.

Wednesday 22 June 2011

Blu-ray Prizes to be Won


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Wednesday 15 June 2011

Green Lantern review

Green Lantern (12A, 114 mins)
Director: Martin Campbell
★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆

Comic books heroes have been treated fairly well at the movies so far this summer, but this adaptation of the DC property has to be viewed as a backwards step. It begins with a cosmically silly prologue telling us all about the Green Lantern corps, an intergalactic peacekeeping force whose mystical green rings give them the power to do almost anything.

When one of their number is critically injured while battling a super-foe, he makes his way to earth to use the ring to choose the next Lantern. This turns out to be Hal Jordan (Ryan Reynolds), a hotshot test pilot, whose cocky, reckless nature at first seems at odds with the stoicism of the other 3599 Lanterns, but it’s nothing a training montage can’t fix.

So with the Lantern home planet and earth under threat from the extremely powerful super-baddie, as well as Peter Sarsgaard’s scientist-turned-telekinetic-freakshow, Hal must overcome his human fears and weaknesses and save the day.

On the one hand, there’s not much to actively dislike about Green Lantern. It’s not aggressively stupid, just colossally goofy, with its endless references to the green power of will and the yellow power of fear, and as mythologies go it’s fairly out there.

Most accountable is the one-note script that spends an hour on the most cliched, cheesiest setup imaginable, all dead fathers and flimsy motivations, followed by a sustained burst of passable action. It does look good and the special effects are solid, but it’s just too puerile to be engaging, though the ever-likeable Reynolds does his best, and too reminiscent of kid-friendly chores like Fantastic Four to come close to the more mature and satisfying adventures of recent years.