Category Archives: Movie

Movie stuffs including news and reviews

2012 Movie Preview

This is my yearly round-up of ‘Genre’ movies coming out in the next year (this was the 2011 one). Genre is pretty loose and translates to ‘anything I thought sounded interesting’. It includes films that are already out in the other parts of the world but haven’t made it to the UK yet. Most of the info is gathered from a few web sites I hang out on, so it’s a really narrow subset of everything coming out but hey, watchya gonna do.

Oh, and it looks like Joseph Gordon-Levitt is officially in every movie in 2012. Or 3 of them anyway.

The Darkest Hour (January 2012)
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1093357/
http://www.thedarkesthourisnear.com/

Alien invasion movie with a Russian slant (In Russia, Invaders Alien you!) Aliens travel across the universe using incredible amounts of energy in order to invade our tiny planet and steal …. our energy. Might be nice to get another non-US-centric slant on the alien invasion trope but I wish someone would make up a better reason for them being here. Maybe they want our MP3 collection?

Haywire (January 2012)
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1506999/

Covert operative must hunt down the people that betrayed them, using deadly and impressive skills, in order to protect their family. With a twist! It’s a Woman! Oh, we did that with Salt? Well, anyway, guns, women and kick-ass moves, I’m in. Trailer looked cool too. Shallow much?

Chronicle (February 2012)
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1706593/

Teenagers with telekinetic powers go mad, handy-cam ‘found footage’ indie movie which sounds like it might be a nice contrast to the shiny superhero stuff littered throughout 2012. If you can stop yourself vomiting when presented with another horizon-shake-fest.

The Woman In Black (February 2012)
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1596365/
http://www.womaninblack.com/

Harry Potter travels to a remote location and ends up investigating mysterious goings on that hint at something dark and dangerous. Oh wait, sorry, Arthur Kipps (played by Daniel Radcliffe) travels to a remote village and ends up investigating something mysterious, well you get the point.

Hotel Transylvania (February 2012)
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0837562/

Animated comedy, a sort of who’s who of hammer horror monsters, in a hotel run by Dracula. With a love story thrown in.

Premium Rush (February 2012)
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1547234/

A chase movie – on a bicycle. Really. It’ll be adrenaline fuelled and full of psycholist action. Not really genre, but I wanted to be able to use ‘psycholist’ so there you go (google it).

Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance (February 2012)
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1071875/

Really, they’re making a fucking sequel? God help us.

Dr Seuss’ The Lorax (March 2012)
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1482459/

What can I say
a movie a film
with voices and action
and all nice and trim

Animation and graphics
and wonderful sights
No doubt a huge hit
with those troublesome mites

The children.

John Carter (March 2012)
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0401729/
http://www.johncarterarrives.com/

Avatar, but the big aliens are green. Unfair? Maybe. Based on the John Carter of Mars pulp stories, the movie has dropped the ‘of Mars’ because Mars based movies suffer from the kiss of death. Much like Russian Mars based space missions. I’m not sure people will ‘get it’ but we’ll see. If it’s fun and light it might catch an audience.

The Wrath of the Titans (March 2012)
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1646987/

Oops, left this off the list first time around.  Should probably be called ‘The Wrath of the Fans of Clash of the Titans’.  The trailer looks good, bonus points for the trailer soundtrack, and they seem to be going full-on mythical beast war, which might work out for them.  Hopefully without the ‘constraints’ of having to remake the first one, they might achieve something more entertaining.

The Hunger Games (March 2012)
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1392170/
http://www.thehungergamesmovie.com/

A book adaptation! How unique! Televised death matches, love stories, kids pitted against other kids, utopian world ‘supported’ by horrific practices? Nothing new here so I hope the implementation brings something exciting.

The Croods (March 2012 -maybe, other sources say 2013)
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0481499/

Animated prehistoric fun! With fun!

American Reunion (April 2012)
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1605630/
http://www.americanreunionmovie.com/

It’s not a genre movie, but come on! Another actual, legit movie in the American Pie series starring everyone from the original cast! How can it not be awesome? Hopefully full of knob jokes, wanking allusions and Finch having toilet incidents.

Lock-Out (April 2012)
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1592525/

A Luc Besson action thriller? I need to hear no more. It’s sci-fi you say? I think I need a change of pants.

The Avengers (May 2012)
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0848228/
http://marvel.com/avengers_movie

This is probably it. Make or break for Joss Whedon’s big movie career. If he pulls this off, the universe is his oyster, he’ll be able to make anything he wants until he fucks up big. But if this turns out to be a huge, complex, over-busy steaming pile of shite, then he’ll be back to having to make tea to pay the bills. (To be fair, he seems to have made 2 other movies on the sly while making this, so I guess Joss will be okay whatever happens, but a bit of hyperbole never hurt anyone). Iron Man! The Hulk! Thor! Captain America! It’s Testosterone On Speed On Acid! It’s gonna be busy, and I hope it works, I really do.

Frankenweenie (May 2012)
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1142977/

Tim Burton brings us a movie about death, resurrection, children and dogs. So, nothing really new.

Battleship (May 2012)
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1440129/
http://www.battleshipmovie.com/

‘Inspired’ by the game, in the sense that it has ships in it, Battleship may find itself in erm, shallow water? Maybe. Some people in big ships attack some unknown ships to work out what those ships are doing – i.e. shoot first, ask questions later.

Men in Black III (May 2012)
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1409024/
http://www.sonypictures.com/movies/meninblack3/

Time Travel! I predict an overly complex and untidy plot, intermixed with childish jokes about weird looking aliens, Will Smith looking confused, Tommy Lee Jones being reserved and Josh Brolin getting all the acting awards. I’m in. (Oh, and BFG’s)

Prometheus (June 2012)
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1446714/

Ridley Scott wheels out an Alien Sequel that’s a Prequel that’s not an Aliens movie but contains Aliens that aren’t Aliens and some Geiger artwork. Who the fuck knows what it’ll be about – but it’s Ridley Scott, and it’s sci-fi, so a) it’s on this list and b) we’ll all see it.

Jack the Giant Killer (June 2012)
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1351685/

Like Gremlins (don’t get them wet) only bigger!  Much, MUCH bigger.  Another modern day take on an old world fairy tale, not sure from the trailer if it’s a young adult movie, comedy or action flick, but quite entertaining by the look of it.  Can’t wait to see that beanstalk erupting from the screen in 3D, no really, can’t wait.  Honest.

Star Trek 2 (June 2012 – now delayed, out in 2013)
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1408101/

Delayed for various reasons, millions of casting rumours, nothing concrete. Can J.J. pull it out of the bag a second time? Hopefully, no red matter in this one when it finally arrives sometime in 2013. Also, the rumour is this time, Wil Wheaton is doing *all* the voices, not just the Romulans. Can’t wait to hear his Kirk impression.

The Amazing Spider Man (July 2012)
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0948470/
http://www.theamazingspiderman.com/

Mixed bag – a ‘teaser reveal’ in the trailer, for a character that’s already been in 3 recent movies seems a bit weird. Recent posters seem more intriguing but I think the franchise might be in trouble, Spider Man the untold story is hard to imagine given the years of content. Good luck.

The Dark Knight Rises (July 2012)
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1345836/
http://www.thedarkknightrises.com/

Meh, I’m getting bored of the endless ‘LATEST DARK KNIGHT PHOTO’ and the stuff about Bane. I fear I may be suffering Batman fatigue. This better be more awesome than an awesome day in awesomeville or people are going to be peeved. I hope it’s just me, and that the fan base isn’t growing jaded. Oh, and Bale’s voice, /sigh, not looking forward to another 120 minutes of him chewing gravel.

Ice Age 4: Continental Drift (July 2012)
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1667889/

Do I need to say anything? The only good thing will be the nut jokes.

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (August 2012)
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1611224/

I’m pretty sure the title has everything you need to know.  Seriously.

The Bourne Legacy (August 2012)
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1194173/

It’s Bourne, without Bourne. Same universe (er, the real world?) but with a different undercover blackops blacklisted CIA operative who will probably have to do stuff, and put himself at risk, to save something. Without the ‘I don’t remember who I am’ schtick isn’t this just Mission Impossible: Solo or Bond #24?

Total Recall (August 2012)
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1386703/
http://www.totalrecall-movie.com/

Total Remake! Will it bring something new? Will we get a fat headed special effect saying “Twwooo weeekkkss” and giving me nightmares for 10 years? Who knows. I’m quite excited despite myself. The original, as with many of Arnie’s sci-fi movies, was heavy and lumbering despite my enjoyment of it. I’d love to see an agile, light-on-it’s-feet remake which injects some pace and intrigue into this story. Also, hoping for some hot chicks in latex to complement the plot (Len Wiseman, don’t let me down now!)

Dredd (September 2012)
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1343727/

Karl Urban, keeping his hat on. So it’s already 90000% percent better than the Stallone version. I have a lot of hope for this, and I’m nervous. I want Karl to rock. I want this movie to do well.

Looper (September 2012)
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1276104/

Bruce Willis and Joseph Gordon-Levitt in the same movie. Guns, time travel, the mob, confusing paradox based plot? Yes, yes, yes and hell yes.

Taken 2 (October 2012)
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1397280/

The kidnappers are stupid and out for revenge, so they kidnap the dude that killed all the kidnappers and hope somehow to turn that to their advantage. Dumb. Anyway, people loved Taken, I felt it was weak in parts, but hopefully this will improve the position. I’ll not hold my breath.

Cloud Atlas (October 2012)
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1371111/

The Wachowski’s bring their talent to a sprawling story set over six different periods in time, hoping to tie them all together into an overall tale. It’ll either tank, or it’ll be a cult hit that eventually makes billions, maybe. Oh, and check out the cast!

Gravity (October 2012)
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1454468/

If I said, “The lone survivor of a space mission to repair the Hubble telescope desperately tries to return to Earth and reunite with her daughter” would you be interested? If I then said, starring Sandra Bullock and George Clooney would you change your mind? I might. Bit of a weird one.

Skyfall (Bond #23) (November 2012)
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1074638/

Apparently, Quantum of Solace was impacted by the writers strike, wasn’t meant to be as much of a sequel to the first one as it turned out to be, and people weren’t happy with it. I thought it was okay personally. Anyway, this one is going to be AWESOME honest with AMAZING action sequences and HOT women and INCREDIBLE gadgets. I guess 007 will find himself out on a limb, have to fight his way back into everyone’s good books and solve some entirely obvious crime at the same time (involving the theft of air, or some other easily obtained resource).

Superman: Man of Steel (November 2012 or 2013)
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0770828/

Zack Snyder – not an amazing directing record. 300 I loved, but it wasn’t widely loved by others. Watchmen was soggy in the middle. Sucker Punch took a beating (see what I did there?), and was confusing, despite the fact that I loved it (I think). Yet here he is, making a Superman-reboot reboot. Will Zack’s visual style bring us closer to a Superman we can get behind and find exciting? Can Superman ever be exciting? Will there be a love story? Does the viewing public even care any more?

Rise of The Guardians (December 2012)
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1446192/

Like The Avengers, but the bedtime story version. Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, Sandman and the Tooth Fairy team up to save the world from the Bogeyman. Nice voice acting cast.

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (December 2012)
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0903624/
http://www.thehobbitblog.com/

Need I say anything? This is it. The Film He Said He Would Never Make. The Movie That We Thought We Would Never Get. The start of it all. The journey that gave us Lord of the Rings. The tale that gives birth to a legend. The story that enthralled a generation. Bilbo steps out of his front door, and nothing is ever the same again. Beards, dwarves, wizards, pipes, hairy feet and Middle Earth. I’ll be there. I’ll be there if the reviews say it stinks worse than dragon shit. I’ll be there no matter what.

Snow White and the Huntsman (December 2012)
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1735898/
http://www.snowwhiteandthehuntsman.com/

Continuing the trend of remaking fairy tales, which started out dark, then got Disneyfied, into dark movies, we have Snow White. A different slant, and hopefully, a female role model who doesn’t believe her own self worth is based on who she marries.  Instead, she’ll be a trained killer with ninja-like instincts.

Django Unchained (December 2012)
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1853728/

Tarantino’s next outing – is a Western that Won’t Be A Western. But the cast looks good, maybe I’ll give it a shot. Maybe. Perhaps he’ll just give us the end of a shoot-out in a street, and then 80 minutes of people arguing over which coffin to use.

World War Z (January 2013)
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0816711/

Based on the book, the film seems to have the same premise (recounting of first-hand reports during a Zombie war). I know nothing about the book which is supposed to be very good, but hopefully the movie will be quite enjoyable. It’s almost 8 hours since we had a Zombie movie, so you know, plenty of room for another.

The Hobbit: There and Back Again (December 2013)
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1170358/
http://www.thehobbitblog.com/

I’ll be here as well. No doubt.

Notable mentions:

Two crowd-funded movies with potential,

Iron Sky
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1034314/
http://www.ironsky.net/

Lunar bases filled with invading Nazis? What’s not to like. The small budget (in relative terms) has been stretched to cover some pretty grand concepts, let’s hope it works out for them.

The Cosmonaut
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1935261/
http://thecosmonaut.co/

Another sci-fi movie funded by donations and advertising, but this one is going to be available on the Internet and not shown theatrically. The Soviets have lost a Cosmonaut en route to the Moon, but he finds himself returned to a deserted Earth.

Information for this post gathered from Den of Geek, Empire Online, SFX and IMDb.

The Hobbit – What I’m looking forward to most

Dwarves who aren’t comic relief.

I get why The Lord of the Rings movie was the way it was.  There is, for all intents and purposes, only a single Dwarf in that story, and in nearly every scene he’s in, he’s adding some comic relief.  Whether it’s being tossed by the beard, afraid of trees, counting how many goblins he’s killed, being stuck under a warg or claiming Dwarves were built for sprinting, most of his lines are designed to make us chuckle.

But I’ve been reading fantasy books for a long time, and roleplaying for about the same duration and Dwarves are mighty warriors, dour, taciturn, honourable, noble and solid like the mountains they inhabit.  They aren’t the butt of anyone’s humour, or if they are, that person finds them self missing a limb pretty quickly.

With a bakers dozen Dwarves in The Hobbit though, I’m hoping at least a few of them live up to the fantasy literature design that I love, and the way I enjoy playing them in games.

Don’t let me down Mr Jackson.

Half Year Movie Roundup

In January I wrote a preview of what movies were coming in 2011, with a genre slant.  Quite what genre means is open to debate, but probably translates to ‘stuff that I think I might enjoy’.  We’re about to saunter into July so I thought I’d look back, see how we fared in the first six months and then in a later post, look at what the rest of the year has in store for us and how it’s changed from the January outlook.  Caveat: I have seen very few of these movies, and I’m basing these comments on reviews, reports, financial statements and stuff that I read elsewhere.

To be fair, although we’re half way through the year it’s likely that more movies will be released in the second half than than the first, so this might turn into an awfully short article.  So in no particular order (or rather, in the same order they showed up in the original post).

Sucker Punch – Miss
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0978764/

The critics hated it and the fans were pretty disinterested.  Rotten Tomatoes gave it a rotten 22% (fan rating 53%) while Metacritic gives it 33%.  In the US it only managed second place to Diary of a Wimpy Kid in its opening weekend (~$19m).  It’s grossed around $89m against an estimated $81m budget so with DVD/Blu-ray sales it will make a profit (that was probably never in doubt).  Much of the negative criticism revolved around the lack of characters and plot along with the misogynistic imagery.

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides – Hit
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1298650/

Critic proof and proving it.  Much of the critical response was highly negative – flabby, too long, lacklustre, and yet the fans flocked to it and drove it to a $90m opening weekend in America and £11.6m in the UK.  Worldwide it’s now taken $986m, putting it ahead of The Curse of the Black Pearl ($654m) and At World’s End ($963m).  RT (Rotten Tomatoes) gave it a rotten 33% (fans rated it 63%) and Metacritic 45%.  Despite being too long it looks like Johnny Depp saved this outing, and until he signs on to #5 we might still be saved from yet more buck swashling and rum jokes.

Fast Five – Hit
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1596343/

A clear surprise, Fast Five had the potential to be the worst sequel to date of any franchise but somehow it managed to dig deep and give audiences something worth getting behind.  Even the critics liked it with an (essentially) unbelievable fresh 78% on RT, 67% at Metacritic and an opening weekend in the US of $86m.  It’s now grossed over $590m worldwide, making it the most successful of the franchise to date by a significant margin.  Bucking the trend in the industry, Fast Five shows you can make a movie part of a franchise and still pull in people and give them something to enjoy.

Thor – Hit
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0800369/

I’ll be honest – I was dubious.  Doubtful.  Maybe even negative.  I was also dead wrong.  Delivering an entertaining and eye blisteringly impressive movie, Thor was proof that you can deliver dramatic action while dressed like a dork.  RT loved it (78% fresh), Metacritic thought it wasn’t bad (58%) and critical reception was generally positive.  Despite opening very early in the year Thor pulled in respectable box office cash ($64m opening weekend in the US, $436m to date worldwide against a budget of $150m estimated).  Get a quality director and a half decent script, and even super heroes can be believable.

The Green Hornet – Miss
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0990407/

It opened strongly ($33m in the US) and it’s easily covered its budget with a worldwide gross of $227m, but The Green Hornet is average at best.  Even the RT critics and RT fans agree giving it a rotten 44% and fan score of 49%.  The score seems to boil down to the movie not knowing what it was meant to be and falling squarely between serious and slapstick giving that terrible serious-stick kind of performance that makes us all cringe.

Drive Angry – Miss
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1502404/

Having made about $28m worldwide, I think we can safely say this movie flopped.  Although flopped suggests that it was alive with a chance in the first place, where-as we know better.  This fish was dead in the water at inception.  It garnered a surprising 45% on RT which I put down to excessive drug use to be frank, Metacritic gives it 44% based clearly on equally absurd chemically induced insanity.  Fans on RT were more sensible giving it only 40%.  If you need any more evidence, it opened with a $5m box office weekend in the US, dismal.

Hanna – Hit
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0993842/

I thought maybe the world wouldn’t quite be ready for 2 kick-ass kids so close together.  But apparently, they were.  Hanna did okay, not brilliantly, but definitely okay.  RT rated it fresh (71%), it opened in the US to a $12m weekend and has grossed $56m worldwide against what is probably quite a small budget (estimated $30m).  Although on average the movie scores well, it certainly wasn’t universally loved and many critics complained it was vacant, meaningless and without soul.  Since many critics are vacant, meaningless and without soul I’ll consider us even on that point.

The Hangover Part II – Hit
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1411697/

Fair to say the critics disliked it (RT 35%) but the fans came out, supported it and for the most part enjoyed it (RT Fans 62%).  The critics disliked that it was the first movie all over again while the fans seemed to be happy to accept exactly that.  Opened to another whopping $85m in the US (£10m in the UK), and has so far sucked in over $527m globally.  Undeniably financially sound, but not necessarily a winning movie.

Your Highness – Miss
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1240982/

I had high hopes but apparently, too high.  Looks like the puerile humour didn’t hold up in this gross out fantasy comedy.  With the notable exception of The Princess Bride, fantasy comedy never works – don’t they know that!  Murdered more thoroughly than a Dragon at a Knights and Wizards convention, Your Highness dredged up a terrible 26% at RT, with even the usually lenient fan reviews only getting up to 45%.  I’m sure it has moments of hilarity but the critics weren’t falling for it.  Opened to a semi respectable $9m in the US, but has grossed only $24m worldwide to date.  A royal flop.  Not even shots of Natalie Portman’s naked arse could save this script.

Limitless – Hit
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1219289/

Proving Bradley Cooper is hot property, Limitless did well enough with the critics and very well with the punters.  On a reasonably low key release it pulled in $18m in the US on it’s opening weekend and has grossed $145m to date.  RT gives is an impressive 70% (fans 74%) and Metacritic 59%.  In general it seems Bradley manages to smooth over some of the weaker elements of the script to give this franchise-free action-thriller a good run for your money.

X-Men: First Class – Hit
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1270798/

Another surprise in the first half of the year for me – X-Men: First Class had so much potential to fall flat on its face that it could have been known as the ‘flat on its face movie’.  Okay, that didn’t sound as smooth as I thought it might.  Despite the fears, the script (by the excellent Jane Goldman, Matthew Vaughn, Ashley Miller and Zack Stentz), the choice of time period and stand-out performances from McAvoy and Fassbender seem to have wowed crowds and critics alike.  RT gives it 87%, Metacritic 65% and it pulled in an impressive $55m on it’s US opening weekend (already up to $321m worldwide).

Paul – Hit
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1092026/

Well, I loved it.  Although it wasn’t trumpeted as an outstanding success, Paul is sucking in money, making people laugh and has more than easily covered it’s budget.  Despite some negative reviews, the overall RT score of 71% is solid, while the Metacritic score of 57% seems harsh.  In the US it only opened to $13m, ranking 5th that weekend (against Sucker Punch and Diary of a Wimpy Kid), but in the UK it pulled in a respectable £5.5m (~$8.9m).  Globally it’s now done okay at $94m, easily covering the estimated budget.  It’s a sleeper of a movie, and I’m hopeful DVD/Blu-ray sales will do it proud.

Green Lantern – Miss
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1133985/

I don’t think Rotten Tomatoes alone is a good measure of a film.  The rotten/fresh scores are sometimes out of kilter with the movie going public, and critic proof blockbusters can easily get 20% on RT and still make a billion dollars.  What I do think is an interesting measure is when the critics hate something (27% on RT in this case) and the fans don’t mind it so much (56% fan score on RT).  Despite that, I’m still rating Green Lantern as an overall miss.  That’s even with a friend saying she really enjoyed it – she was pretty much hypnotised by Ryan Reynolds’ ass, and so I’m discounting her view.  It’s early days, but Green Lantern opened to a decent $53m and has grossed $122m worldwide.  Why then a miss?  Because it could and should have been more.  It should be scoring like X-Men: First Class on RT, it should be raking in $80m on the opening weekend, and it should have grossed $300m worldwide by now.

I Am Number Four – Hit
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1464540/

Haven’t heard much about this, so basing this commentary solely on the numbers.  Disliked by critics but reasonably enjoyed by the target audience, I Am Number Four made a wedge of cash ($19m opening weekend, $144 globally) and probably kick started a franchise.

Red Riding Hood – Miss
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1486185/

At 11% on RT and 29% on Metacritic, Red Riding Hood is the worst performing movie out of the bunch this year.  It’s empty, vacant, banal and a failure according to the critics.  The potential fans weren’t wowed either with a 44% fan score on RT.  Financially it didn’t do too badly, a half decent opening weekend of $14m in the States and $89m worldwide so far mean it’s paid for itself, but I think it would be disingenuous to describe it as anything other than a miss.

Battle: Los Angeles – Miss
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1217613/

Title confusions aside (was it ever called World Invasion: Battle LA?), it appears as though Battle: Los Angeles was a missed opportunity.  Rotten at RT (35%) and equally weak at Metacritic (37%), reviews suggest the movie could have delivered much more than it did.  On the other hand, it apparently appeals to fans of Killzone, Crysis and other similar games and may just be too narrow for a general audience to appreciate.  Opened to a good $35m, and has easily earned back the budget with $202m worldwide so it can’t be considered anything other than a critical failure but a financial success.

Source Code – Hit
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0945513/

A half decent year for original thrillers with a near-future theme, Source Code impressed the critics and entertained people who actually pay for their tickets.  An out of this world 91% at RT puts this near the top of this years genre movies to date, and with fans agreeing (82% on RT) and the box office backing it up ($14m opening weekend, $112m worldwide vs. a low $32m budget).

Unknown – Hit
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1401152/

Although it just barely scrapes in, Unknown was probably a hit.  Average scores on RT and Metacritic, and an okay performance in the box office mean we probably won’t see a sequel (Also Unknown, Mostly Unknown, What do I know Unknown) but it won’t offend and it might just pass the 113 minutes in a sort of enjoyable haze.  Another soft script saved by a hard Neeson performance.

Priest – Miss
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0822847/

The critics were never going to love it were they?  It’s not their thing.  But the studio never gave me a chance to like it either because they only opened it in 3D.  No 2D showings anywhere near me (where there any at all)?  As expected it got panned (17% on RT), and the fans didn’t like it that much better (40%).  It opened reasonably well ($14m in the US) but is only just beginning to struggle past its budget (only $75m worldwide so far).  The editing seems to be the biggest issue and the movie is very short (these days) at 87 minutes.  Many people wonder what’s on the floor and if it could have been even better with a little more work.

The Adjustment Bureau – Hit
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1385826/

Turning Philip K. Dick stories into movies is notoriously hit and miss, but this effort seems to have found the right audience.  Described as intelligent, romantic and imaginative, the movie scores 72% fresh at RT (although fans gave it 68%).  Considering the budget (estimated $50) the $21m opening weekend was very healthy and the worldwide gross of $123m assures us that in 15 years someone will try a remake.  Matt Damon will have been a big draw, but people must have found something enjoyable once they arrived.


Overall then, a bit of a mixed bag.  The stand out winners so far are Fast Five and X-Men: First Class.  Thor and Paul get honourable mentions, while Drive Angry and Red Riding Hood take home wooden spoons.  Seriously, did any of you think Drive Angry would be good?  Really?

Inception

Some films are there to purely entertain, some are to encourage you to think and ask questions.  It’s a rare flick that manages to include both elements to sufficiently please a diverse crowd of people.  I knew the basic premise of Inception before I watched it,  and I was expecting to be confused after hearing some comments.  But it’s not actually a confusing movie.  I was expecting to be left asking questions when I saw the ending, but for me personally, I think the questions were answered.

Inception is a story of dreams and the people who can enter them to extract information.  Much more detail than that and you begin to ruin the story, which I’ll try to avoid.  It’s set in a contemporary or very-near-future setting, and sees our main protagonist Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) unable to return to his family and seeking employment as an extractor.

This leads us on a journey across continents and into dreams, where we being to question what is truth and what is real, along with Cobb and the supporting cast.  The story is truly interesting, the characters are engaging and the pace is pretty solid.  There are some moments where I felt things were under-explained, not to add mystery but almost because they ran out of time, but overall it’s a solid, cohesive story.

I didn’t find the visual effects particularly breathtaking and I think too much emphasis has been placed on them in the trailers or hype running up to the film.  This is a pretty personal story and any effects are really there to encourage us to believe what we’re seeing is not real.  There is however one set of scenes in which one of the characters operates in zero-gravity, that I thought were exceptionally well done.  This isn’t an action movie, although it has a lot of action, and it’s not a sci-fi movie although it has some speculative fictional elements, and it’s not a love story despite a core element of it being about a relationship between two people.  It’s hard to place it into a single genre.

What it is, is very engaging.  You do have to think, not to keep track or work out what is going on, but to question what you’re seeing and why, and if what the characters believe is even true.  Through multiple layers, both on a story level, and a dream level, we are encouraged to consider whether what is happening is real or not, at every stage.  It’s very hard to write a review without giving away too much.

I enjoyed watching it, and I’ll want to watch it again to see nuances I may have missed first time, but it didn’t leave me punching the air or grinning like a fool.  It left me considering Nolan’s brilliance, and the performances of some of the actors (personally I think Joseph Gordon-Levitt is excellent, and likewise Ellen Page), and the self referential ending.

The movie starts with the concept that ideas are like viruses, and it ends with a question that plants an idea and leaves you wondering, if you want to.  Well worth watching, well worth talking about, and considering it’s an original screenplay, pretty impressive stuff.

Giving Blade a second chance

So, given recent posts and memories of movies, I’m going to give Blade 2 a second chance.  This has nothing to do with my man crush on Guillermo del Toro in any way.  And I’ll swear to that in a court of law!  We saw Blade 2 in the cinema and we were expecting a very specific kind of movie and we didn’t get it.  I wonder now, knowing what to expect, whether the flick will be any more enjoyable?  I’ll let you know when it arrives and after we’ve watched it.

The A-Team

In a year filled with ensemble action movies, The A-Team was surely the one with the best known back story?  Maybe that didn’t do it any favours.  While many of us loved the series, at the time, countless repeats and plenty of piss taking later meant there were concerns about it transferring to the big screen.

Would the new actors be able to pull off the old characters?  Would it feel like a sad pastiche?  Would we accept the new faces in the old roles?  Would they be bogged down by the memories of countless episodes in which no one gets seriously injured, not even the bad guys?  Would a modern audience accept the ludicrous solutions the team are well known for?

I’d heard mixed reviews about the film before sitting down to watch it – and I have to say, I was pleasantly surprised.  Someone I know said ‘do they expect us to believe this shit?’  Well, my answer is no, they don’t.  They know it’s unbelievable, but they don’t care.  If you want to enjoy this movie you’ll take the step and willingly suspend your disbelief.  If you have no intention or ability to do that – then the director isn’t interested in trying to entertain you.

The A-Team tells the story of how the famous four get together, the crime they are supposed to have committed and the attempt at clearing their own names.  It’s a contemporary set-up for the series, a prequel, and as such a very clever decision.  Just another long episode would have been harder to pull off, but giving us the start of the story in an up-to-date setting worked very well.

The actors take on the roles without ever really trying to do second rate impressions of the previous team, for which I was quite grateful.  There’s a moment early in the movie where they crush BA’s van which is almost a statement from the director – yes, these are the same guys, but no, this is not the same cheesy 80’s series.

From that moment the action ramps up and we are led through a series of chases, captures, and betrayals that get us to the defining moment – when the team must break out of prison, prove their innocence and save the girl.

It’s funny, it’s totally entertaining and it’s entirely insane.  It’s everything that was good about the A-Team without the 80’s cheese, instead, it brings along the 80’s vibe and the 80’s good feeling.  There’s clearly room for a sequel, and I’d quite happily go and see it.

Scott Pilgrim vs. The World

I didn’t see Scott Pilgrim vs. The World in the cinema, because at the time there were some other movies that I felt would be better on the big screen.  Scott Pilgrim looked, from the trailers, like it would do okay on the smaller screen.  I was wrong.  This is why.

Scott Pilgrim is visually the most memorable and exciting movie I’ve seen since The Matrix.  Sure, Avatar was pretty to look at and the CGI was a step beyond anything we’ve ever seen.  Yes, 300 was a revelation in terms of colour and style.  I agree that Sin City brought us comic book visualisations like we’d never really seen.  But Scott Pilgrim vs. The World presented a mixture of real life, comic book and computer games in a single visual package that blew me away.

The clear craftsmanship that went into every single shot, the attention to detail, the mixture of sound effects, on-screen visuals and cinematography working together in a way I’ve just not seen before.  If Scott Pilgrim vs. The World was an ice-cream flavour, it would be Strawberry Mint Choc-chip with Raspberry Ripple and Cookies.  And it would work.

Stunning visuals alone don’t make a good movie, and therefore it’s with some relief that we discover Scott Pilgrim has a heart, a plot, an excellent sound track and some very funny and touching moments.

Based on a graphic novel, the reasonably simple story plays out thus.  Scott (Michael Cera) plays in a band, hangs out in the arcade, and finally meets the girl of his dreams.  But early in their relationship he discovers he must battle and defeat her seven evil exes in order to date her.  The brilliance comes from the mixture of the real and the unreal.  The fights are done very much in the style of computer games, the movie is strewn with on-screen flashes of comic book style text and computer game style popups.  They never get in the way – they simply enhance the sense of involvement.

The girl of Scott’s dreams is the enigmatic Ramona (Mary Elizabeth Winstead).  The character is both engaging and interesting.  The supporting cast around them is also excellent, the rest of the band in which Scott plays, and a small circle of friends and past-partners.  Alison Pill (as Kim Pine) steals every scene she’s in though, she is superb and delivers some of the funniest moments in the whole movie.

As we and Scott work our way through the various evil exes we learn more about all the characters, and in parallel we watch the band (Sex Bob-omb) rise in status.  The interplay between the characters is really the soul of the story and I’ve intentionally not mentioned a lot of that.  While the battle against the evil exes is the part the trailers focus on, the real story is the continuing personal development of everyone involved.  That’s where the heart of this story lies.  Although not constantly laugh out loud the movie has some excellent comic moments.  But again, it is the quality of the shots, the care with which each frame has been prepared and the beautiful cinematography that give that soul and comedy something to stand on.

The finale is both brilliant and satisfying and the final outcome was just what I hoped for.

Not everyone will like this movie.  It speaks in a language that may put some people off (some gaming culture and comic book references), although it’s more accessible I think than Watchmen.  I get that, it’s fine.  But a world with only one flavour of jam would be a terrible place (even if it was Strawberry).  And likewise, a world in which we only see huge action movies do well in the box office, or even get funding, would be a sad place.  I should have gone and supported Scott Pilgrim at the cinema.  Not just because it would have been an incredible movie going experience, not just because it’s probably the most enjoyable movie I’ve seen for a very long time, but because it deserved to get better box office numbers to show that people do want this kind of stuff.

And we do.  The DVD / Blu-ray sales will be excellent I’m sure.  But it should have gotten better box office takings.  I already apologised to Edgar Wright for my part in that.  You can do your bit.  Buy this movie, watch it, love it, and next time, go and support movies like it in the cinema.

The Hobbit – ready for 2012?

In July 2008 I wrote this,

So this is it. The Hobbit. The movie everyone denied they were even thinking of making. And we’re not getting one, we’re getting two. The news was announced at the end of 2007, but I’ve not been thinking about it much since we’re not going to see anything until 2011 and I don’t want to end up in a fever 2 years too early.

So the news broke in 2007, and because ‘we weren’t getting the movies’ until 2011, I didn’t want to post too soon.  Well, it’s 2011 and they haven’t started filming yet.  But they are, finally, about to.  In a tale almost as complex as the Lord of the Rings we’ve had issues with rights, issues with financing, issues with timing and issues with ownership.  Not to count the issues with unions.  But we are here, on the cusp.

From Deadline,

MGM and Warner Bros have finalized a deal that gives Warner Bros worldwide theatrical distribution on the Peter Jackson-directed The Hobbit. MGM will retain international television rights. This solves another problem on Jackson’s eagerly awaited followup to The Lord of the Rings, which has overcome an MGM freeze because of angry creditors, and the threat that the films would move away from New Zealand after local unions blacklisted the production.

Shooting begins next month [February] …

The only bad news, is they’re shooting them in 3D.

Due on our screens December 2012 and December 2013 – I’ll be getting my tickets soon.

Predators

When Arnold stepped out of the jungle, covered in mud, and stabbed the alien predator thing in the face (metaphorically), he was doing so with the weight of the 80’s action movie genre behind him.  Any movie which tries the same post year 2k does so with the weight of the 80’s action movie clichés crushing them from above. The 80’s gave us the new face of the Action Movie, and then it was caved in mercilessly during the 90’s and early 2000’s by the likes of Tarantino and the Wachowskis.

In the late 90’s and 2000 onwards, the action movie had to smarten up and add something new.  And it needed to be cool, otherwise it just got slated and slotted into the ‘another 80’s cliché movie’.  But these days, it seems to be okay to relive the glory of that decade.  Sometimes you have to poke a little fun at your age (The Expendables, Red) and sometimes you need to accept the clichés and deliver some interest and excitement anyway.

Predators is an ensemble movie which takes us back to the jungle and pits a group of natural killers against the universe’s paramount hunter.  There’s no apology and in fact the whole movie setup apes the lack of depth- our ‘heroes’ are dropped into the jungle unconscious, to wake up (hopefully) as they fall from the sky, their parachutes opening at the last moment.

Nimród Antal (director) couldn’t have made the point any clearer – don’t worry about why these folk are here, don’t worry about where they came from, or who they are.  Worry about how they’re going to survive – that’s all they’re doing.

If you do that, and if you settle back to enjoy an action movie which knows that’s all it is – then you should enjoy this.  A collection of unlikely heroes who slowly get hunted and killed by the Predators.  Surprise alliances, surprise treachery and some madness along the way.  The action is exciting, the dialog is kind of interesting and Laurence Fishburne turning on all he has for the lone survivor stint adds some grit.  Adrian Brody pulls off action hero better than I thought he would.  A simple complaint is that although I don’t think anyone should artificially bump up or down gender roles in a movie, would it have hurt to have a few more women in the pack of killers?

The surprise turn is from Topher Grace but I’ll leave you to guess why.

The pace is quite tight, it doesn’t try to tease us with aliens we’ve already seen, and it adds plenty of fun.  Predators is better than I expected, and as good in it’s own way as the original movie it makes reference to.