Sunday, 25 September 2011

Review: Crazy, Stupid, Love

Rating: 12A
Duration: 118 mins

It's not unfair suggesting romantic comedies (or rom-coms, as the cool kids say) are ten-a-penny and is a sub-genre that forms the perfect date night fodder. The problem with the format is that for every successful effort, there are a dozen duds. And why? Well, more-often-than-not the rom-com is a genre so saturated with monetary motives, it can easily lose its integrity until a rare gem pops up.

Fortunately, with duo Glen Ficarra and John Requa at the helm - the writers of such quality comedy as Bad Santa - initial signs are positive, and thankfully the likes of Sarah Jessica Parker or Jennifer Aniston are nowhere to be seen. Writer Dan Fogelman (Tangled, Bolt, Cars), assumes script control with an impressive cast consisting of established and new talent: veterans Julianne Moore and Steve Carell star with (relative) newcomers Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone, in a smartly written romantic comedy that sets itself apart from the norm.

After discovering his wife Emily (Moore), is having an affair with work colleague David (Kevin Bacon), Cal (Carell), stumbles into a mid-life crisis of singleness until he meets smooth-talking, lady-killer Jacob (Gosling), who vows to turn his luck around and make him a success with the opposite sex. Meanwhile, we follow a subplot with Hannah (Stone), who, unconvinced she's with the right man, stifles an impending marriage to Richard (Josh Groban). As Cal embarks on a series of promiscuous shenanigans, his teenage son Robbie (Jonah Bobo), has pending issues of his own: an insatiable, yet amusing love for his slightly older babysitter, Jessica (Analeigh Tipton).

The writing of these parallel stories are slick, as they intertwine occasionally; it rarely slackens, as this intelligent comedy never opts for cheap laughs, instead adhering to a more sophisticated take. Crazy, Stupid, Love is a surprising and endearingly romantic comedy. It has mass appeal to both genders for many reasons. Relatable leads such as Stone and Gosling will satisfy the younger audiences: the former is somewhat of a female role model, as well as a pretty face for the male demographic, and the same can be said for Gosling who possesses a metrosexual appeal: girls want him as their boyfriend and guys want to be him. For the most part, the characters remain hugely enjoyable, even through the conflicts that occur in the plot. They are hard to dislike as neatly constructed, yet flawed people presented to us.

Carell and Gosling form a strong bond as the leading men that make up the main story: we follow them from an initial awkward meeting as they develop a friendship through the art of seducing women. They bounce off one another well, as their character arcs change as the script develops. Indeed, we become privy to a world of male bonding via the techniques they use to pick up women- one particular conquest of Cal's comes back to cause him problems just as a glimmer of hope shines for his marriage.

Tonally the film is a mixture of feel-good and emotional despair. Suffice to say, it actually works very well with such starkly contrasting scenes, especially with a comedic element throughout as the issues of love, loss and relationships ring true. We cannot help but join Cal during his emotional rollercoaster of liberating highs and marriage crushing lows.

Audiences are rewarded with an amusing twist towards the conclusion as it rounds-up in a pleasing, yet predictably resolute manner that delves deeper than many of its competitors, whilst sustaining the surrealism of the genre. In avoiding constant clichés, it comes across as fresh and, with Jacobs's suaveness, makes it a more palatable experience and one audiences can actually engage with rather than passively enjoy as a mere popcorn flick. 

Crazy, Stupid, Love is the smartest and most likable comedy of the year. It's witty, funny and sharply written, as it avoids feelings overly familiar and clichéd. Each story thread is well paced, which culminates in an unpredictable, yet hilarious climax. The roles are cast well, with charming turns from Gosling and Carell, as well as great support: this ticks all the boxes and then some.


Friday, 23 September 2011

Review: Warrior

Rating: 12A
Duration: 140 mins

You might sense déjà vu when you come face-to-face with Gavin O'Conner's tale of underdog turned prized fighter and it's hard to look past the idea that Warrior is little more than a hybrid of The Fighter, Million Dollar Baby and the Rocky movies rolled into one. However, scratch beneath the clichéd exterior and you'll discover something a little special with more depth.

First and foremost, Warrior is a drama. It's set within the context of sport (Mixed martial arts) that takes a back seat until the final third of the movie. The three major components that form the narrative are ex-fighter and reformed alcoholic, Paddy (Nick Nolte), short-tempered drifter, Tommy (Tom Hardy), and physics teacher/family man, Brendan (Joel Edgerton). The latter two are separated brothers with Nolte as their shunned father. The plot involves Tommy returning to his hometown after a long absence and, as a result of a YouTube video showing him pounding a UFC contender to a pulp, enlists his old man to train him. Meanwhile, across the other side of town, Brendan re-enters the fighters’ cage after realising his teaching job isn't enough to prevent his home from being repossessed. The two stories run parallel, occasionally overlapping until the pair are reunited at a UFC tournament.

The film progresses as a complex drama that sets its leads up as dysfunctional and uncommunicative alpha males; this is a film packed with testosterone as it's tonally juxtaposed with muscular, broad physiques, most notable that of a beefed-up Hardy. It is the actors’ physical presence that adds authenticity to the characters, as Nolte could quite easily be a washed-up fighter battling the torment of booze, loss and alcoholism, not to mention the complete disconnection from his family. 

The tension within the trio makes for some gripping, as well as emotionally fuelled scenes; at times the abuse Paddy gets from his sons, mainly Tommy, is heartbreaking, but this dislike for one another can also serve up some raw and very touching moments too.

Due to the nature of the film it is imperative to mention the performances and in this instance they must deliver as the weight and depth of the script is measured on how said characters are brought to life. Hardy offers us a tortured soul that struggles with his inner demons to communicate on a basic human level. He looks the part too, as his visible commitment to bulk-up for a role (which includes some beast-like trapeziums) draw comparisons to the Christian Bale School of Method Acting. He handles a short-fused persona convincingly, often void of decency as he flies-off-the-handle, however Hardy perhaps doesn't offer the standout performance you’d expect. That accolade is left to Nick Nolte who, without question gives one of his best career performances. His down-and-out oddity and gruff voice of a broken-man really tug at the heartstrings, and even though we aren't explicitly informed of the family's turbulent past, we cannot help but feel for the man abandoned by his offspring. 

What's refreshing, and ultimately avoids complete cliché, is the lack of back-story of our characters; never once are we subject to a flashback in order to explain a person’s motive or bitterness towards another. Instead subtle dialogue hints at feuds gone by without the need to spoon feed us. This aspect makes it a tad grittier as combining with an intimate, handheld shooting style and comes across like we're intruding on a family dispute as opposed to merely observing a film.

Speaking of style, when it comes to the fighting O'Connor handles it with poise as it maintains a credibility with its sharp direction and edit; a slick, ultra fast pace represents the frantic and ultra intense style of MMA, yet holds a professional validity. Unlike The Fighter, where bouts consist of men possessing unlimited stamina as they knock ten-bells out of one another at lightning speed, Warrior is more composed and true to reality. Its choreography is its strength as a large portion of fisty-cuffs occur in the final third, which is the turning point where the film steps up a notch and away from the methodically paced drama.

For most part, the dialogue is good. Aside from spurts of classic underdog lines- as seen throughout the Rocky series with its 'every-dog-has-it's-day' spiel- it narrowly avoids completely falling into a pit of triviality. It is this zero-to-hero formula that drives the narrative and gives it passion, if a little too conveniently at times, as it conforms to patriotic, American-ideology. Both brothers go from being nobodies to competing on a world stage and through plausible, yet questionable plot devices, the script allows this to happen, which again can be seen as a criticism on the writing.

Towards the end, Warrior begs the question as to its outcome: what will happen, who will win and so forth, as an alternative, yet highly emotive conclusion plays out as the film finishes exactly where you want it to. In fitting with the feuding relationships during the narrative- yet in stark contrast to the familiar nature of the rest of the movie- O’Connor doesn't offer us anything resembling a feel-good, Hollywood ending per se, which again is one of the picture's strengths. We are, however, at least presented with some clarity in reference to the emotional roller-coaster experienced over the two hour slug, which is gratifying in itself.

Warrior is a very character driven effort. It's well executed and displays an emotional depth and complexity that renders it a worthy sports-drama. Hardy and Edgerton do fine jobs, but Notle is the shining light here, he is the backbone to the story, holding everything together as the subsequent magic stems from his actions. Expect an Oscar nod for the veteran, as well as for director Gavin O'Connor's achievement too.

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Review: Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy

Rating: 15
Duration: 127 mins

Without doubt the trailer of the year award goes to Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy. It's not an exaggeration either to describe it as one of the most atmospheric and tense teasers in years, but can the film live up to the flawless trailer? In the capable hands of Let The Right One In director, Tomas Alfredson, you would assume so and based on the John le Carré novel; again, all implications are positive. The 1979 series starring Alec Guiness was well received and is regarded as a hidden gem in television. In all, the movie adaptation has a hell of a lot to live up to, especially in regards to the Oscar buzz emanating from Gary Oldman's performance.

Recent MI6 retiree, George Smiley (Oldman), is summoned back to uncover a Soviet mole within their presence. Smiley, accompanied by Peter Guillam (Benedict Cumberbatch), begins a secret investigation away from the prying eye of Government bods, Bill Hayden (Colin Firth), Percy Alleline (Toby Jones), Roy Bland (Ciarán Hinds), and Toby Esterhase (David Dencik), in the hope of uncovering said traitor.

What's clear from the beginning is that this is no normal film; it's a different kettle of fish to a typical mainstream thriller and can be described as a 'film lover's film' because technically it's very accomplished. It is meticulously directed, nicely lit and boasts some beautiful cinematography as well. Its other strengths are clear too, as the British ensemble exudes such poise and subtlety as they complement one another's performances and convey an authentic 1970's, Cold War era. The costumes, as well as locations, are spot on as the realism is accentuated by the grainy, grey filter over the entire film.

As the story progresses there are moments of tension and danger as characters become ever paranoid in regards to a double agent's identity. However, there's not nearly enough intensity as you would expect, more-often-than-not opting for a methodically slow-paced approach rather than forcing you to sweat it out.

Focally the film shifts between time periods through flashbacks, but we're never informed of these changes, which often become apparent during or after the scene has concluded. There's no need for this ambiguity as it serves no purpose; Alfredson doesn't try to shock nor reveal anything of significance, which begs the question regarding the absence of clarity. Furthermore, the story fails to fixate on anyone in particular; Oldman is the predominant 'lead', but we are presented with sub plots from side character perspectives, thus preventing us from completely engaging with a sole protagonist. It is this disregard for clarity and focus that prevents you from bring lured into the thick of the conspiracy, often relying on intuition to deduce Alfredson's motives regarding the constant shifts.

On a positive note, aside from Oldman, other performances that demand attention are Mark Strong's Jim Prideaux and Tom Hardy's brief, yet powerful role as Ricki Tarr. Both actors offer convincing interpretations as each are responsible for some emotionally touching scenes. For either to receive a supporting actor nod isn't out of the question either.

What feels like a missed opportunity is the immediacy of danger- or lack of it. Rarely are we presented with anything other than conversations between main characters. At times it can appear confusing as to what exactly is happening and which people are being discussed as the film tackles the story in a subtle, yet rather vague manner. It therefore becomes difficult to follow as you constantly play catch-up trying to figure out what has just occurred.

Key aspects- including the reveal- are underplayed and could have been constructed to build much more apprehension, thus having more impact as an engaging narrative. Whilst it boasts immense atmosphere, the fundamental elements of a thriller are absent as it fails to keep you on the edge of your seat, instead forcing your brain into overdrive to keep up with the complexities of the narrative.

Tinker, Tailor, Solider, Spy is an alternative film that can both appeal to and alienate mainstream audiences. It's a very slow burner that'll perhaps appeal to the purer cinema lover within, as Alfredson offers up a whodunit-thriller with superb acting and an authentically set story that is unfortunately marred by a lack of pace and tension. The Cold War setting is painstakingly constructed as it succeeds in drawing the viewer into a world of trust, espionage and paranoia, but it's a shame these positives are weighed down by too much ambiguity and a confused script, not to mention a missed opportunity to truly grip and enthral like the trailer promises.

Monday, 19 September 2011

Review: Drive

Rating: 18
Duration: 100 mins

Unless you've been living in a vacuum for the past year, you'll know that Ryan Gosling is fast becoming Hollywood's hottest talent. With lead roles in Lars and the Real Girl, Blue Valentine and the imminent Crazy, Stupid Love, the Canadian born actor is renowned for his deep and multi-layered portrayals, but the question is this: does his latest offering expose us to the same raw, gut-wrenching emotion?

There's no definitive answer as Gosling exudes a softly spoken, believable character, yet stars in a movie very different to his existing résumé. We don't see the extreme vulnerability as per Blue Valentine, but are given enough to whet our appetites. Combine this with a rogue-like sensibility, he exposes a gentle quality and ruthlessness, which work beautifully together.

A roaring success at Cannes this year, Drive won Best Director as well as a nomination for the Palme d'Or after receiving a standing ovation. Essentially Drive is an indie production, constructed through filmic and cultural influences. It falls nicely into the cult category without the need to follow suit with mainstream conformity as it shows the quality that can be produced on a mere $13m budget. It comes across as  slick, amusing, thrilling, touching, as it encapsulates an intensity that remains throughout. It is this compelling aspect that makes the film so watchable and more importantly, memorable.

The self-contained story sees a man known only as Driver (Gosling), sustain a career as a part-time stunt driver and underpaid mechanic for garage owner, Shannon (Bryan Cranston). On the side he also offers his automobile skills as a getaway driver too, which is the catalyst for the story. His path crosses with single mum, Irene (the effortless Carey Mulligan), who he befriends- along with her young son Benicio (Kaden Leos)- before finding out her crook-of-a-husband, Standard, (Oscar Isaac) is to be released from jail. Subsequently Driver gets entangled in the ex-con's unpaid debts after offering his assistance out of concern for Irene and the boy. Further into the story, Blanche (Christina Hendricks) shady mobster, Nino (Ron Pearlman), and dodgy businessman, Bernie (Albert Brooks), are introduced, but feature non too heavily. Brooks asserts himself with a callous efficiency that adds a notion of danger as he tackles the role convincingly. 
It's clear from the opening shot that director, Nicolas Winding Refn (Bronson), is influenced from 70's and 80's culture; notably the soundtrack of ballads juxtaposed with edgy beats works wonders, which is superbly fused together, heightening tones of romance, despair, and the ultra-fucking-cool. The addictiveness of the soundtrack captures Driver's persona, reflecting his inner torment and isolation against the bright lights of the big bad city. The film offers a B-movie and film noir aesthetic with nostalgic nods to films such as The Driver and is reminiscent of Mulholland Drive. With visual references such as fast cars and chases, Drive pays cultural homage whilst maintaining a gritty modernity. A younger generation will pick up on a GTA: Vice City vibe, as the script is packed with era references, culminating in a retro nostalgia we all want in on.

The central relationship is incredibly balanced. From the moment Driver and Irene meet, the chemistry is so abundant as the pair exchange silent, longing glances as a relationship gradually builds. Mulligan's dimpled-smiles complement Gosling's assertive smirks perfectly. In fact, the strength of their performances gives the film a much needed depth, balancing human fragility with the more frantic, and at times, ultra violent nature. 

On more than one occasion the violent and bloody encounters not only shock, but enrich Gosling's character; never are we offered any back-story or history to him, but we can interpret the kind of man he is as he bonds with Benicio, in comparison to the horrificness contrast of caving a man's head in. This element of European art house cinema certainly give the film an angst-laden, tough exterior and is a pleasant separation from mainstream fodder.

There's no denying Gosling's appeal: a bewitching, charismatic charm he brings to the table that gives audiences no choice but to be 'wooed' by his alluring, yet reserved presence. His scorpion jacket, shades, toothpick, driving gloves, all form a stylish iconography, which visually portrays an interesting loner character with an unknown history; the beauty is not knowing his past prior to the film, thus creating a enigmatic persona you can strangely relate to. His attire doesn't feel gimmicky. It doesn't try to be cool, it is cool - he pulls it off with ease, which makes Driver a man with desirable attributes that viewers will surely be drawn to.

Winding Refn directs with a single-minded confidence as he both shoots and tells the story in a technically competent and clear manner. The imagery is stunning as well; breathtaking LA skylines, murky city streets, subtly lit interiors; it all feels part of an ever-moving, yet surreal world. Winding Refn articulates the script well and captures the essence of the main character exquisitely. We are constantly encouraged to back our protagonist even through the more gruelling segments until the ambiguous ending captures the tone of the film sublimely. 

Drive is a gripping, yet emotionally charged action film with notable performances from Gosling, Brooks and Mulligan. It's consistently thrilling, hugely likable and accompanied by a fantastic soundtrack that makes this the complete package. Winding Refn avoids succumbing to clichés as it progressively becomes more intense and violent before its boiling-point and fitting conclusion. Anything but a mainstream movie, it's got potential to become a cult classic with style and substance, coupled with a charm and dexterity that only a talent such as Gosling can pull off.

Friday, 16 September 2011

Review: The Change-Up

Rating: 15
Duration: 112 mins

Another comedy rears its head in the post-summer months that has seen the genre squeezed dry with the likes of Horrible Bosses, The InbetweenersBridesmaids and the soon to be released, Crazy Stupid Love; are we in need of anymore? It would appear so, as Jason 'I'm everywhere at the moment' Bateman stars alongside Ryan 'I've had a quiet summer' Reynolds in this Freaky Friday-style mind switch movie.

The premise of The Change-Up will feel familiar because it's been done a dozen times before. As good as some may have been -such as the Tom Hanks starring, BIG - the notion of two people swapping minds/brains/bodies is naturally far-fetched and here David Dobkin's (Wedding Crashers) effort is no exception. Undeniably, the biggest qualm to get your head around is this premise and whether you chose to contextualise it within the grand scheme of fantasy-comedy, the film can't escape from being plain daft. If you can overlook this, then you will be satisfied with a film that serves its purpose.

Best friends Mitch (Reynolds) and Dave (Bateman), have very contrasting lives; Mitch is a single, free-living, metro-sexual ladies man, whereas Dave spends his life working a high powered job, supporting wife, Jaime (Leslie Mann), and looking after their kids. The pair utter the inaugural words 'I wish I had your life' whilst urinating in a public fountain one drunken night and wake up the following morning - you've guessed it - in each other's bodies. The complication arises when they return to the fountain to discover it has been moved and therefore spend the movie tracking it down. Whatever unbelievable swap that has occurred is beyond the point; the real test is whether they can do a convincing job of playing one another's character.

The laughs comes thick and fast, ranging from toilet humour to slap stick as it succeeds in entertaining and, low-and-behold, actually being funny. From early on we are set up with the decline of Dave and Jaime's marriage, Mitch's insatiable desire for the ladies as well as the deteriorating relationship with his father played by Alan Arkin. It's a given that these factors will inevitably play a part further down the line, as does the romantic complication with Dave's colleague, Sabrina (Olivia Wilde). 

Bateman and Reynolds do their best to portray the other and end up feeling like impersonations at times, whereas during others you cannot tell; it's very hard to distinguish a separation between both personalities. However, looking at it from purely a comedy perspective, it safely delivers plenty of laughs along the way, albeit in a crass way.

What it tries to do is delve beyond a juvenile exterior with some exploration of relationships, friendship and life, but never manages to do so convincingly. Instead it reverts to reliable humour of the toilet variety (quite literally in some instances). It does score points for at least attempting something with a little more substance, yet does so heavy handedly. 

The Change-Up is a crude, yet amusing comedy crammed with facetiousness and typical set-ups for the purpose of making audiences giggle (sometimes in disgust). Throughout, it remains entertaining even though the catalyst for the film is a thin, worn idea, it only dragging occasionally. Bateman and Reynolds do a fine job as a duo but ultimately it's nothing we haven't seen before. A typical 'popcorn movie' that displays some heart but it, along with a majority of its genre siblings, is far too forgettable.

Thursday, 15 September 2011

Review: 30 Minutes or Less

Rating: 15
Duration: 83 mins

When setting out to make an action-comedy cum heist movie, it's perhaps pinnacle to the film's credibility that the director hires a lead that can handle the role and, if need be, carry the film during the slower parts. Essential is our protagonist's ability to sustain audience's attention, whilst exuding a likable confidence in keeping with such fast-paced, comedic debauchery.

Unfortunately for director, Ruben Fleischer (Zombieland), and his lead Jesse Eisenberg, things here feel flat within the time period of the title. It begins with Nick (Eisenberg), going about his mundane job as a pizza delivery boy who earns just enough to get by, providing he delivers the goods within the price promise time of under 30 minutes. And it's fine as far as that goes; Eisenberg plays the timid loser well, as the opening scenes succeed in generating some laughs. Meanwhile two lay-about, deadbeats, Dwayne (Danny McBride) and Travis (Nick Swardson), are plotting to off the former's millionaire father to claim inheritance. They hatch a plan to force someone to rob a bank so they can pay hitman, Chango (Michael Peña), to carry out said hit, thus leaving them with their fortune. Naturally these two stories intertwine as they target Nick, strap a bomb to him and force him to steal 100 grand or he'll go kaboom. 

However, it's here that cracks begin to show. Eisenberg seems incapable of holding his own as a lead man, especially in a role that requires him to deviate from his typical persona. And it's a shame too, as he has proven his worth with notable performances in both Adventureland and The Social Network, but the character here really doesn't work for him.

Once we are introduced to best friend, Chet (Aziz Ansari), it's obvious the pair don't have any chemistry or natural comedic ability as Ansari often shouts his way through most scenes with copious amounts of swearing and shocked tone in his voice, which neither convinces nor entertains. Combine this with Eisenberg's lack of leading man credentials, we have to rely on the ever-present McBride and to his credit he does provide a majority of the laughs with dim-witted sidekick, Travis.

McBride is, at times, hilarious as he plays the arrogant, foul-mouthed role reminiscent of Kenny Powers in East Bound & Down with ease. Without his character and comedic prowess, the film would hit rock bottom for sure. The story climaxes within the first half of the short 83 minute duration and from then on drags as the predictable becomes laborious and more stupid as it heads towards an unlikely end.

Once we hit the half-way point peak, it's difficult to see where the story can go and it would appear the writer has similar issues too, as it feels hastily thrown together, with a daft outcome that offers little in terms of redeeming features or clarity for the characters and audiences alike. The problem is that we're just not invited to care about any of the cast involved as the lacklustre writing and, at times, directing isn't executed well. To add insult to injury, the title of the film isn't relevant past the opening set up and feels gimmicky, which makes you question writer, Michael Diliberti, and the disappointing effort from Fleischer, who so promisingly gave us the wonderfully sharp and witty, Zombieland.

30 Minutes or Less has an interesting premise to it, but due to a half-arsed script and not-so-funny jokes, can leave you feeling short changed. The first half entertains, but sets itself up too early on, as the second half falls flat and becomes a strain. The flaws and sloppiness are all too visible, as is the cast's inability to gel, but McBride heads up the rescue mission as he steals the film with his one liners and angry-comedy. Unfortunately he cannot do enough to lift this from the title of mediocrity it most certainly merits.

Monday, 12 September 2011

Review: The Inbetweeners Movie

Rating: 15
Duration: 97 mins

Inevitably we are presented with a film version of the successful Channel 4 show that has recently concluded its third series. Such progression was to be expected as we are gifted with a UK version of American Pie, involving hapless quartet, Will (Simon Bird), Jay (James Buckley), Simon (Joe Thomas) and Neil (Blake Harrison), desperate to 'party hard' on a holiday of sun, booze and lady folk, in an attempt to lose one's virginity before University.

Whilst there are some very funny moments such as a Neil-inspired group dance, a feeble public disagreement between Simon and Jay and an unfortunately located ant-hill where the latter drunkenly decides to sleep, the obligatory toilet jokes and frivolity that accompany it feel a little stale and wear thin quickly. The series was a hit due to the bond between the friends, but whilst that element is here, it feels heavy handed and doesn't ignite the same spark.

As you'd expect, the boys are the most developed of the script's characters, yet others feel clumsily written, such as Simon's ongoing love infatuation, Carli (Emily Head), who assumes a different, and frankly unlikable, persona to her show counterpart. Similarly the bullies of the piece are paper thin, written very one-dimensionally and the girls acting as our protagonist's romantic interests are simply bad actors. This makes the plot painfully obvious as to its outcome as we endure bland and all-too-serious, dialogue-heavy moments. The balance isn't quite right, as it comes across as more of a drama than a comedy. There's too many one-on-one scenes that oddly lack any background sound, often giving it a sterile, studio-feel to what were intended as emotional turning points.

The story doesn't follow any particular narrative direction with a synopsis that can amount to 'a group of lads on holiday having a laugh', which might suffice for some, but will bore others; you'll begin to laugh for the sake of laughing. Smaller, more manageable episodes prove more effective than this feature as the story drags exuding bursts of charm, which save it from being labelled a terrible film.

The Inbetweeners Movie is a mildly amusing, throw-away comedy that doesn't live up to the high standards of the TV show, nor is it as well written. It'll entertain fans and those looking for something home-grown to see this year.

Saturday, 10 September 2011

Preview: London Film Festival 2011 - Top 10 To Watch

I'll cut straight to the chase. It was with a sense of optimism that I opened the press email for this October's London Film Festival (12th-27th) that included details for the 55th annual event. It'll host 204 features over 16 days, screening 13 World Premieres, 18 International Premieres and 22 European Premieres, which has naturally created quite a buzz on Twitter with the collection on offer.

As per August's Empire Presents BIG SCREEN, I shall be attending as press for Live For Films with the intention of seeing as many films as humanly possible. Suffice to say I am very excited having read the festival programme, so take a peek at some I've spotted...


Director: Miranda July
Stars: Miranda July
Synopsis: When a couple decides to adopt a stray cat their perspective on life changes radically, literally altering the course of time and space and testing their faith in each other and themselves.


Director: George Clooney 
Stars: George Clooney, Ryan Gosling, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Paul Giamatti 

Synopsis: An idealistic staffer for a newbie presidential candidate gets a crash course on dirty politics during his stint on the campaign trail. Based on the play by Beau Willimon.


#8. ALPS

Director: Giorgos Lanthimmos
Stars: Aris Servetalis, Johnny Vekris
Synopsis: Adhering to a set of rules, a group of people offer themselves to fill the void during the mourning period for recently bereaved families.



Director: David Cronenberg 
Stars: Michael Fassbender, Keira Knightley, Viggo Mortensen
Synopsis: A look at how the intense relationship between Carl Jung and Sigmund Freud gives birth to psychoanalysis.
Director: Steve McQueen
Stars: Michael Fassbender, Carey Mulligan 
Synopsis: A drama centered on 30-something Brandon, his myriad sexual escapades, and what happens when his wayward younger sister moves in with him.


Director: Justin Kurzel
Stars: Daniel Henshall, Lucas Pittaway
Synopsis: When 16 year-old Jamie begins a friendship with a charismatic man, his world becomes threatened by his loyalty and fear of his newfound father figure, John Bunting: Australia's most notorious serial killer.

#4. 50/50

Director: Jonathan Levine
Stars: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Seth Rogen
Synopsis: A comedic account of a 27-year-old guy's cancer diagnosis, and his subsequent struggle to beat the disease.


Director: Lynne Ramsey
Stars: Tilda Swinton, John C. Riley
Synopsis: The mother of a teenage boy who went on a high-school killing spree tries to deal with her grief -- and feelings of responsibility for her child's actions -- by writing to her estranged husband.


Director: Michel Hazanavicius
Stars: Jean Dujardin, Berenice Bejo
Synopsis: Hollywood, 1927: As silent movie star George Valentin wonders if the arrival of talking pictures will cause him to fade into oblivion, he sparks with Peppy Miller, a young dancer set for a big break.


Director: Jeff Nicols
Stars: Michael Shannon, Jessica Chastain
Synopsis: Plagued by a series of apocalyptic visions, a young husband and father questions whether to shelter his family from a coming storm, or from himself.
Synopsis Sources: Internet Movie Database 
Photos: Google Images

Friday, 9 September 2011

Review: Troll Hunter

Rating: 15
Duration: 103 mins

Its existence has been known in the UK for just under a year now and with an imminent, albeit limited release, we can finally bear witness to one of the year's most intriguing films currently out there.

Cinema has seen its fair share of 'found-footage' movies over the years, stemming from the iconic, micro-budgeted The Blair Witch Project way back in '99. Its massive success inevitably spawned a host of imitators, with successes that include [REC] and Paranormal Activity (along with their respective sequels), proving the genre still has potential.

Troll Hunter adopts this premise and adds to it. Norwegian writer/director André Øvredal adds a much needed tongue-in-cheek, surrealist edge. The film opens with an obligatory paragraph informing audiences of the ‘recovered footage and edited together' spiel that could even be perceived as an ironic pop at itself. In fact, the film frequently gels moments of sweat induced tension with laugh-out-loud hilarity, ranging from the dangers of being trapped in a troll-inhabited cave, to a hilarious-looking anti-troll suit, to grotesque, close-quarters troll flatulence.

The way audiences will engage with it is open to debate and where you hail from will determine how the film is read. The promotion in its native country was clever: teaser material at the forefront of the movie's promotional campaign denied viewers even a glimpse of a troll until the eve of its release. Indeed, it might feel like a completely serious film to a Norwegian audience due to its inherent Scandinavian folklore embedded within. To others, notably UK dwellers, the event feels like a well balanced parody bubbling beneath a fundamentally earnest exploration of fairy tale cum reality. Whatever the intentions of the film makers, Troll Hunter succeeds tremendously as a deadpan affair that appears to subtly mock itself.

As far as the story is concerned, it won’t initially surprise. It's obvious a trio of investigative students - Thomas (Glenn Erland Tosterud), Johanna (Johanna Mørc) and Kalle (Tomas Alf Larsen) – aren't tailing an illegal bear hunter as first suspected. In fact, their mysterious target, Hans (Otto Jespersen), is a covert troll enforcer, who keeps the beasties in order and within their respective territories. Dotted throughout the narrative are contributions from other characters, including a shifty wildlife trustee, as well as some comedically-enthralling, linguistically-challenged associates, as the plot unfolds and allows Hans to reveal more about the secret world of troll hunting.

Troll Hunter is different to the likes of The Blair Witch Project in the sense that, contrary to its genre, it doesn't set out to terrify you: early on we witness one of the monsters in all its glory, subsequently getting various glimpses of others, which are un-obscured and in full shot. It is this overt approach that alters the dynamic from scares to adventure, as ambiguity is substituted for full on troll exposure.

The CGI depicts the creatures in a satisfying way, too. Appearances differ depending on breed (mountain or woodland) and whilst they aren't about to fool anyone, they do a surprisingly effective job of fitting in both contextually and tonally. To the film’s credit, they're aesthetically pleasing considering the budget - their presence evokes a different sort of tension from aforementioned comparisons.

The acting is adequate and is accentuated with some amusingly set up scenes as the characters walk a fine line of dramatic and tongue-in-cheek. At times they play up to the camera: engage in banter and act in a self -aware way, which adds to the audience’s scepticism over the film’s intention.

One of the elements that give the film belonging to the real world setting is with its breathtaking landscapes and the cinematography that captures it: from the snowy wilderness, to the dense woodland, it all looks wonderful and exudes an exciting atmosphere of a mythical species existing.

Troll Hunter is a hugely entertaining film that avoids falling into the generic pitfalls. It provides escapism, excitement and a massive sense of adventure, as we follow the students following the expert who inadvertently antagonises these beasties. The film treads a pensive line and whether it’s acknowledged as a parody or not, it does a great job of provoking the question. Troll Hunter is a movie that invites us on a journey to transcend fact and fiction and embrace a fairytale culture that takes you on a thrilling, as well as exhilarating hunt.