Tuesday 31 January 2012

Journey 2: The Mysterious Island review

Journey 2: The Mysterious Island (PG, 94 mins)
Director: Brad Peyton
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

This sequel to 2008’s Journey to the Centre of the Earth replaces star Brendan Fraser with Dwayne Johnson, who along with his stepson Sean (Josh Hutcherson, returning from the original) gets washed up on a remote fantasy island while searching for Sean’s grandfather (Michael Caine). Jules Verne’s source gets freely and amiably adapted, and the literary and mythological references get layered on with glee, even as they’re being chased by giant beasties brought to life by well realised visual effects. It’s all agreeably silly, with high production values and likeable performances from everyone - Johnson even sings! Though slightly light on danger, it builds to a strong finish, is smashing fun for the most part, and as Indy rip-offs go, there’s a whole lot worse out there.

Sunday 22 January 2012

Win Kevin Smith's Too Fat For 40 on DVD

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.

Sunday 15 January 2012

Coriolanus review

Coriolanus (15, 123 mins)
Director: Ralph Fiennes
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

In a place calling itself Rome, General Caius Martius (Ralph Fiennes) is hated by the people, who are desperate for food. But when he defeats his great enemy Tullus Aufidius (Gerard Butler), he returns in triumph and is given the title Coriolanus. His subsequent decision to run for consul upsets a pair of scheming tribunes who conspire against him and this along with his inability to associate with the common people leads to his downfall. Though retaining and streamlining Shakespeare’s words, Fiennes, in his directing debut, has updated the setting to modern day Eastern Europe, which cleverly allows TV reports to do the exposition, and for allegorical parallels to be drawn. He delivers action that is visceral and gritty, with running gun battles in the streets and vicious close quarters combat, as well as giving a commanding, full blooded, performance. But the film’s failings lie with the Bard, in what simply isn’t one of his most accessible or interesting works, one in which the motivations of its central character are murky at best, if not downright annoying.

W.E. review

W.E. (15/R, 119 mins)
Director: Madonna
★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆

More than with most movies, nearly all the attention focussed on W.E. will rightly or wrongly be towards its celebrity director, with Madonna making what is actually her second film after the little seen Filth and Wisdom. Telling parallel love stories, it’s a sombre and brittle romantic drama that centres on Wallis Simpson (Andrea Riseborough) and her affair with the future King Edward VIII. Meanwhile in 1990s New York, a young woman (Abbie Cornish) has her own marriage woes, and fascinated by the life of Wallis, looks to her for inspiration. Though competent enough, W.E. never sits still for a minute, full of editorial tics to distract from its lack of emotional core. The Wallis stuff pings about all over the place, from 1920s Shanghai to 40s France, before settling in England in the 30s, but the abdication crisis is hardly ground that needs covered and the modern story quickly becomes a tedious distraction.

Haywire review

Haywire (15/R, 92 mins)
Director: Steven Soderbergh
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

In a diner in New York state, two people, a man and a woman, chat in a booth. Suddenly it explodes into violence, as the pair grapple for life and death before the woman escapes the restaurant and gets away in a jacked car.

A series of flashbacks fill us in on the covert missions in Barcelona and Dublin that led to the current situation. The woman is Mallory Kane (Gina Carano), a black ops agent, and the man is Aaron (Channing Tatum), who was part of her Barcelona team.

When the spooks higher up the food chain (Ewan McGregor, Michael Douglas, Antonio Banderas) get together in a room to discuss them, they're speaking absolute jibber-jabber as far as the audience is concerned. The details of the plot are labyrinthine and barely register, but it matters not a jot because this is director Steven Soderbergh cutting loose and having oodles of kick-ass fun.

Just know it involves the usual betrayal and double cross antics, which leaves Mallory on the run and on a mission to bring down those who set her up.

There are two things that raise Haywire a level above your usual action guff. The first is Carano, a former mixed martial arts fighter. Okay, she’s far from the greatest actress in the world, but her physical performance is hugely impressive. Despite the other big names, she’s unquestionably the star, and watching her lay savage beatings on Tatum, McGregor, Michael Fassbender and countless nameless goons is supremely satisfying.

Secondly, the direction from Soderbergh is just so sharp, so smart, so unlike anything you’re likely to see in a standard action film, that every scene becomes a joy. He brings the cool swagger of Ocean’s Eleven, coupled with his indie aesthetic to bone crunching fights that are brutal and unglamorous yet executed with endlessly dynamic choreography.

As icing on the cake, Douglas is hilarious, Banderas unusually slobby, McGregor a twit, and they're all enjoying themselves immensely, which the viewing audience can’t help but pick up on.

It’s not a million miles away from something Tarantino might rattle out - a marquee cast all taking on smaller roles, probably just for the chance to work with the director, fitting effortlessly into action that’s done in sufficiently different ways that you look on the whole genre afresh.

Wednesday 4 January 2012

Win Troll Hunter on Blu-ray

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.

Goon review

Goon (15/R, 91 mins)
Director: Michael Dowse
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

Nice guy Doug (Seann William Scott) is a bouncer of little brain who gets a trial for his local ice hockey team after they witness his fighting abilities. Even though he can barely skate, he ends up at a minor league Canadian team as an enforcer to protect their star player and get him out of his slump, which puts Doug on a collision course with another legendary destroyer (Liev Schreiber). Funny and sweet, brutal and profane in equal measure, this makes up in amiability and one-liners what it lacks in storytelling. Characters are flat and there are more hockey scenes than are ideal, but a likeable and convincing Scott keeps it on track and there’s a certain compulsive appeal to the violence.