Category: Movie Reviews


Top 10 Films of 2014

2014 turned out to be a pretty good year for films, there were the big blockbusters we were expecting but also the little films we didn’t know about, that provided big surprises. Some of the films didn’t live up to the expectations, Transformers: Age Of Extinction, was a very long and overblown mess, I have enjoyed the previous films at various levels, but this forth instalment bored me, and if I see another city being destroyed! Even one of my most anticipated films was a bit of a let down, Insterstellar had all the ingredients to be one of my favourite films and yes it looked good but to be honest it left me really cold. I will give it another try on blu ray as I love Christopher Nolan’s work.
So onto my top 10, there were a couple of great films that didn’t quite make the 10, David Fincher’s Gone Girl came very close, I thought it was a brilliantly tense and at times darkly funny film, and not having read the book, I had no idea where it was going, Rosamund Pike really showed what a good actress she is.  X-men: Days of Future Past, also just missed out, with Bryan Singer back in charge of the franchise he started we had a real solid comic book movie with some amazing set pieces, especially the Quicksilver kitchen scene. Jonathan Glazer provided another visual treat with Under The Skin, a very odd but beautifully shot film that stays with you long after you finish watching it. Then there was the return to the Planet Of The Apes and also a new Godzilla which easily washed away the taste of the 90’s one. Also the return of everyone’s favourite cute dragon Toothless in How To Train Your Dragon 2, even Spider-man had a few good moments.

10. Pride

Like most people, I hadn’t heard the story of the gay rights group who decided to help out the Welsh Miners during the strikes of the early 80’s. On paper it looks like it could be made up for a British Comedy film, but knowing it is based on real life made it all the more compelling.  It is full of great performances from the always reliable Bill Nighy to Dominic West and Imelda Staunton. It is a very funny film as you have the culture clash between these two groups, but it is also very touching and makes you realise the hard times both groups went through in the early 80’s. It obviously gives a slight one sided opinion of the times and  you do get a few clichéd scenes, but overall it was a very enjoyable film, which also had one big effect on me, until I saw this I had not been on the electoral register, but seeing what the Tories did back then made me want to be able to vote this year and stop them getting back in, a bit of politics there!

9. The Wolf of Wall Street

I know it’s a bit controversial to say, but I’ve never been a huge fan of Martin Scorsese’s films, I appreciate what he has done in the film world and he seems an interesting man, but some of his films leave me a bit cold and I don’t get the hype that some of them get. I really need to go back and watch a few again I think, as I loved The Wolf Of Wall Street. Probably the biggest compliment I can give the film is that it was 3 hours long but didn’t feel like it all. I was engrossed in this story of greed, from start to finish. DiCaprio plays Belfort with a mixture of charm and repulsion. This guy ruined the lives of many people, but you enjoy watching the ride he goes on. Jonah Hill also again shows that he can really act outside of comedy, though this film is really a very dark comedy. Margot Robbie is just stunning and looks to have a successful career ahead of her.

8. Nightcrawler

Jake Gyllenhaal has had a bit of a rollercoaster career, from Donnie Darko to Prince of Persia, and in the last few years he has popped in a few really good films, such as End of Watch and Prisoners. I heard a few reviews coming in about Nightcrawler so thought I should check it out, and was glad I did. It tells the story of Lou Bloom a man always trying to find a new money making scheme, who when he witnesses a traffic accident, is intrigued by the camera crew who turn up to shoot footage to sell to news channels.  Starting with a small camera he soon starts building up his business through various immoral routes. Bloom is such an unlikeable character near the end but you can’t look away, and it was great to see Rene Russo back on the big screen, as the news channel boss who’s morals are almost as dubious as Blooms. Gyllenhaal has created a real watchable psychopath along the lines of Travis Bickle, he should really be among the nominees for best actor this year. Mention also has to go to the look of the film, LA hasn’t looked so good since Drive and Collateral.

7. Next Goal Wins

I love a good documentary, they can both inform and entertain and in some case bring about big change as has been shown by Blackfish. This film will not bring about any chance but it is damn entertaining. It is about the small island nation of American Samoa’s football team, who in 2001 suffered a record 31-0 defeat to Australia during the World Cup qualifiers, and were rooted to the bottom of the FIFA world rankings.  The documentary makers joined them as they prepared for the qualifiers for the Brazil 2014 World Cup and having never won in 17 years and only scored 2 goals. It was decided to make some changes and after answering an advert a new coach was brought in, in the form of Thomas Rongen who had played with Cruyf and Best and brings in a tough new training regime.  The team members themselves have their own stories with the 31-0 goalie coming back to try and wipe out that nightmare game that still haunts him and Jaiyah the first ever transsexual international footballer. I’m not gonna tell you what happens, you really need to check this film out, you don’t need to be a football fan at all, just a fan of a great story.

6. Frank

I was never that knowledgeable about the work of Mr Frank Sidebottom, apart from his nasal tones and papermache head, but when I starting seeing pictures of Michael Fassbender in the head in film magazines I was intrigued. I never managed to catch it in the cinema, but on blu ray at home. It’s a funny little film with quite an odd sense of humour but with great songs.  Following Domhnall Gleeson’s keyboardist as he inadvertently finds himself in a band with the worlds weirdest frontman, the eponymous Frank and trying to take them in a new direction. Despite not being able to see his face, Fassbender manages to give an expressive performance, even if he does have to say what his face is doing at times. Frank’s most likeable song has been stuck in my head ever since, all thirty odd seconds of it!

5. Locke

When you describe the plot of this film it sounds like the most boring film ever, but it is anything but. The film features Tom Hardy driving a car down the motorway from Birmingham to London talking to people on the phone, that’s it! I was a bit sceptical at first when I put it on, and thought I would probably turn it off after ten minutes, but as the calls come in and the drama of John Locke’s life unfold I was gripped.  It’s not a long film anyway, but you are pulled into this man’s life and how one mistake is changing everything for him, I also learned a bit about concrete. It’s a testament to Tom Hardy’s acting skills and a pretty good welsh accent, that it works as well as it does.  I believe it will be on Netflix this month so worth a watch.

4. 22 Jump Street

Funnily enough I watched this again last night, which is probably why it ended up near the top of the list. It’s a very funny film that has a lot more going on underneath it’s mainstream comedy persona. It should suffer from being a sequel, but where Lord And Miller who made the Lego Movie work so well, have succeeded is in making it very self referential. It has lots of jokes about being a sequel, and the usual traps they fall into. It also has one of the best site gags of the year, involving the name of a building in the university campus where Jenko and Schmidt find themselves undercover and even manages to get an Annie Hall joke in as well. To top it all off the best closing credits of the year.

3. Edge of Tomorrow

Since his infamous couch jumping appearance on Oprah, Tom Cruise has been on the end of a bit of a backlash, his films seem to be shot down before they have even hit the theatres. Last year both Jack Reacher and Oblivion got a lot of negative reviews but personally I really enjoyed both. When Edge Of Tomorrow came out, it actually got very positive reviews from the film press, but for some reason, nobody went to see it, I can vouche for this, I saw it the week it came out and had the entire screen to myself, bad for the film, great for me. It’s a shame as it is a great action film, with a unique twist, as Tom Cruise’s Lt Cage experiences the same day over and over everytime he dies in a D-day style battle against alien invaders. Even if you don’t like Tom Cruise it is so worth checking out, especially as you get to watch him die many numerous and even humourous ways. He is able assisted in the film by the lovely Emily Blunt who as the ‘full metal bitch’, kicks many an aliens butt and tries to keep Cage alive long enough that they can maybe find a weakspot in the invaders plan. I can’t recommend it enough.

1. Guardians Of The Galaxy/ Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Okay so I have copped out when it comes to my favourite film of the year. I have really tried to pick one over the other but, really can’t separate them. Marvel are on such a high at the moment, their films just seem to get better and better, I can’t wait to see Age of Ultron.

It’s funny as Captain America was one of the phase one films that didn’t get a huge amount of love and was stuck in Tony Starks shadow, yet was a fun old style action film, so to see the complete change of tone in Winter Soldier is amazing. What the Russo brothers have produced is an old fashioned conspiracy film but with superheroes and have totally shook up the universe that Marvel has been creating in it’s movies. When the big twist came I was as surprised as anyone. There are clever shots hidden in the film as well, I loved the fact that while Cap is in the lift about to have a contained smackdown, they put the Watergate hotel in the background, the symbol of conspiracies and then to top it off get All The Presidents Men’s, Robert Redford in it as well. Not only did he bring that legacy to the film but also a level of gravitas, a recognition that these are not just silly comic book films anymore. The Winter Soldier was a clever twist as well, making us believe that he was the big bad but really he was just a tool for the real villains and also an important part of Steve Rodgers life. I just loved this film from start to finish, I even made a second trip to the cinema to see it again, something I did with my other number one.

I’m not bragging but back at the start of the year when I first saw the teaser trailer I put my neck out there and said it would be the biggest film of the year. There was just something about it that looked like it had elements that everyone could enjoy and most of all it looked really funny. I was almost right as well, It was the biggest film in the US and only just missed out globally to Transformers, what a disgrace! I think in a year where we eagerly waitied to hear about Star Wars, a fun sci fi film had potential to be huge and in director James Gunn we had a man whose films are always slightly off kilter and made the film fit into the Marvel cinematic universe but also made it very unique as well. I had seen Chris Pratt in Parks and Recreation and he always seemed very likeable, but I would never have said he would be a superstar. He has so much charisma in Guardians, that you can’t help but be a fan, from his little dance at the start to his blacklight joke. The rest of the crew are equally as strong, I have never been a wrestling fan, but Dave Bautista is so good as Drax with his literal interpretation of everything, then we have Rocket and Groot, two completely cg characters but so real, and even though she is back in alien worlds Zoe Saldana adds a good foil to the rest of the gang. The fact this film has been so huge isn’t just due to it’s amazing visuals and action, but because it is a funny film that has a lot of heart. Oh and a killer soundtrack!

Well there you go, thank you for taking the time to read this, if you got this far. There were a few films that have been in the presses top lists of the year, such a Boyhood, which I never got a chance to see, but I shall endeavour to catch up.

Here’s to 2015 a film that has so much to be excited about as a film fan.

 

 

 

Into the final stretch.

Rush 23/9/13

Rush

Wouldn’t say I am a fan of Formula One, I used to watch it but the last few years with Vettel’s dominance it’s become boring, but the older days of F1 are a lot more interesting, and Ron Howard thought so. I saw a programme about this story on the BBC a few weeks before the film came out and saw the trailer and had to see the film.  Ron Howard has created a gripping drama about a rivalry between two men that pushed both to the edge with almost deadly consequences. Chris Hemsworth has that 70’s swagger of James Hunt down perfectly, a real ladies man and risk taker. Daniel Bruhl steals the movie though as Nikki Lauder, who takes the analytical approach to racing rather than driving on the seat of your pants. Howard has captured the style of the period and in a rare move this day has used a lot of real cars and car mounted cameras to drag us into the cockpit, to experience how fast and dangerous the racing was. This would make a great companion piece to the excellent documentary Senna.

The Lone Ranger 23/9/13

the lone ranger

Every year some critics, without even seeing a film, will have their knives out ready to destroy it, John Carter suffered this a few years back and this year The Lone Ranger was the target. Whether they had it in for producer Jerry Bruckheimer, or Johnny Depp playing another wacky character, whatever it was they went after it and unfortunately the film appeared to suffer at the box office. It’s a shame as this is actually a really fun, entertaining film, that I thoroughly enjoyed. I will admit it is a bit long, it definitely needed a lot of editing but it makes up for the little bit of drag by giving us some great action sequences, especially the last act train sequence. The chemistry between Armie Hammer (the twins from The Social Network) and Johnny Depp really worked and was very funny at times. When it was first announced it had a massive budget and a supernatural element, to get the budget down, the supernatural element was dropped but strangely you can see little bits of it, especially some nasty rabbits that even King Arthur and his Knights would struggle with.  If you were put off by the negative reviews, I can say it is worth checking out if you want a bit of fun for two and a half hours.

White House Down 3/10/13

white house down

The second of this years White House in peril movies and to be honest the better of the two. The action isn’t any better than Olympus Has Fallen, but what lifts this film above Gerard Butlers film is the humour. Where OHF took itself very seriously and quite violently this film was having good fun with the ridiculous situation.  It helps that the chemistry between Channing Tatum and Jamie Foxx really worked as well, Foxx playing the Obama, that Obama wishes he could be, riding across the White House lawn in the Beast taking out bad guys with a rocket launcher. Tatum picks up the McClane mantel, trying to save a family member whilst wearing the white vest. Replacing OHF’s Korean bad guys with home grown terrorists makes a change, and there are a few nice little twists as well. I enjoyed both White House films but this one definitely wins my vote.

Thor: The Dark World 3D 4/11/13

thor the dark world

The second of Marvels’ Phase Two films, following Iron Man 3, which took mega money, it put a little bit of pressure on Thor’s return to not be a let down, and you know what it wasn’t.  After Loki’s mischief in New York, it’s back to Asgard for Thor, trying to bring peace to the nine realms, but an evil from thousands of years ago is back, and  Jane Foster, missing her Hammer wielding hero, makes an amazing discovery. I have to say I was a little anxious going into see the sequel, but I needn’t have worried, it was another classic Marvel film, lots of action and funny laughs. Marvels’ plan is working and I hope they can keep it going.  The film maybe called Thor, but the star of the show is again Loki, now imprisoned for his attempted take over of Earth. Despite being in a prison cell, he still tries to manipulate his family. They even shot extra footage apparently due to the popularity of the character after the first film and Avengers, and it’s a good thing as he does add that extra element to the film. My favourite character from the first film, Darcy (Kat Dennings) is back as well and again provides a lot of the laughs. Again it’s nice to see London on the big screen, though as always it ends up in a bad state, but Thor does get to try out the transport system. With this and Iron Man 3 Marvel had a good year and with Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Guardians Of The Galaxy this year it could be equally as good.

Saving Mr Banks 15/11/13

saving mr banks

It’s a shocking thing to admit, but I don’t think I have ever watched Mary Poppins, at least not all of it, but I was still interested to see the story behind it, especially as it was a free screening. I am a big Tom Hanks film, so to see him tackling such an iconic person as Walt Disney was an interesting prospect.  The film tells the story of Walt’s attempts to charm writer P.L.Travers into selling him Mary Poppins so he can make a film about her, but little did he know what he was facing. Emma Thompson as Travers, is sensational, her prim and proper writer is a one woman storm giving strict demands about how her prize creation will be treated, not falling for Disney’s charm offensive. A scene where she arrives in her Los Angeles hotel to find it full of Disney merchandise is hilarious. You have to feel sorry for the production team of Mary Poppins, played brilliantly by Bradley Whitford, BJ Novak and Jason Schwartzman as they try to convince her about their songs. As well as this story we also get flashbacks to Travers early life in Australia with her alcoholic father, played well by Colin Farrell, and how it influenced her creation. This was one of the biggest surprises of the year for me, it was touching and funny and as I said Emma Thompson was amazing, especially when you hear a tape in the credits of the original Travers. I have now bought Mary Poppins to watch!

Gravity 3D 25/11/13

gravity

I am a bit of a space nut, visiting the Kennedy Space Station back in 2005 was one of the best days of my life, so a film about a space mission going wrong was right up my street, add to that Sandra Bullock and I’m a happy bunny.  This is probably the film with the most positive word of mouth of any film this year, and when you see it, you can see why. It isn’t just a film, it’s an experience, it has to be seen on the big screen and in 3D, even 3D non fan, film critic Mark Kermode has been singing it’s 3D praises. I wanted to catch it on an Imax cinema but had to settle for my local. The visuals in this film are frankly stunning, you do feel like you are up there floating around, and considering it is nearly all created in a computer is even more amazing. Sandra Bullock and George Clooney put in good performances considering how little they had to work with while filming it. The only downside is that the script is a little lacking at times, but because you get so dragged in the film you don’t really notice some of the dialogue. As a space fan, there was one occasion where I saw a flaw in one scene, and the fact that the Space Shuttles have been decommissioned stuck with me and again it made me tear up a bit near the end. Will be interesting to watch this again in 3D but on a smaller screen, to see if it has the same effect.

Captain Phillips 8/12/13

captain phillips

The second Tom Hanks of the film for me, though it was released before I saw Saving Mr Banks, it was one I was really looking forward to, but kept struggling to find a time to catch it. Finally in December I managed to catch it, and am so glad I did. Based on a true story of a tanker being held by Somali pirates, it was a story I did vaguely remembered from the news, and unfortunately I remembered how it ended, or I thought I did. With Paul Greengrass in the directing seat, the film had his trademark realistic shooting style, and rather than just portray the pirates as the bad guys we get to see their story as well. Lead pirate Muse is played brilliantly by Somali actor Barkhad Abdi, as are the rest of the pirates, but it is Tom Hanks film. I haven’t seen him as good for a while and he deserves all the award nominations he is receiving at the moment. No spoilers, but his performance in the last few minutes of this film are stunning, again I was in tears, it’s an amazing scene, I have never felt so gut punched by a performance. As you would expect from the man that brought us the Bourne Supremacy and Ultimatum, it is a tense, gripping drama.

The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug 3D HFR 16/12/13

https://stuntgoat.wordpress.com/2013/12/30/the-hobbit-the-desolation-of-smaug-3d-hfr/

Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues 30/12/13

https://stuntgoat.wordpress.com/2013/12/30/anchorman-2-the-legend-continues/

So there you go, my cinema going review of the year, hope you enjoyed it. There are a few films that I watched at home that I would like to give mention to as well, so I shall bang up a short piece giving those films their due.

So we have reached the second half of the year and blockbuster season is in full swing, but we start with a comedy.

This Is The End 11/7/13

This Is The End

The film that was ironically the last film you could rent from Blockbuster before they closed, but a fitting send off, as it is pretty damn funny. Jay Baruchel comes to LA to visit Seth and gets dragged along to a party at Franco’s ridiculous house during which a new take on the end of the world happens, and for a change it goes for the religious one, but with ejaculation jokes. The film could have been a back slapping ego trip for the cast but they all play off the public image of themselves and in some cases destroy that image, especially Michael Cera. Have to say it was one of the funniest films I’ve seen this year, as a film fan I got a lot of the jokes they were making about each others careers, and look out for an hilarious cameo towards the end, this in a film full of famous faces.

Monsters University 3D 12/7/13

Monsters University

The first of what turned out to be a monster 3D double bill day for me. I have managed to see every Pixar film at the cinema since Toy Story, this year will be empty without one, and as ever the quality shines through. A prequel to Monsters Inc. which shows us how Mike and Sully became the best friends and ultimate scare team they would become.  Following the first film was gonna be a challenge and this one suffers a little because we know where they end up. It does play up the college frat culture we’ve seen in everything from Animal House to Old School, but with a monster edge. It was very enjoyable and did make me laugh quite a lot, shame the projectionist forgot to turn the lamp up a bit as it was a bit dark!

Pacific Rim 3D 12/7/13

pacific rim

The second of the monster bill, but with added giant robots. Guillermo Del Toro, after dropping out of The Hobbit, went back to the old school monster movies of his childhood and produced this massive movie. After a portal between worlds opens up at the bottom of the Pacific the human race finds themselves at the mercy of the Kaiju, giant monsters, and to fight back they create giant robots called the Jaegers, controlled by two pilots. That’s all you need to know about the plot, giant robots fighting giant monsters, and it’s that simplicity that made this great entertainment. The dialogue was a bit cheesy and Top Gunish but I went to this film to see the visuals and as always Del Toro provides. This film has some of the most breathtaking scenes of the year, a fight that takes place in Hong Kong in the rain is simply stunning, and the 3D added so much in terms of giving scale to the size of the protagonists. I have already watched this film a couple of times at home and it stills looks great on a tv.

The Worlds End 19/7/13

the worlds end

Right this is where I am going to lose a lot of people and probably get a lot of stick, but this film disappointed me a lot, and it left me cold, which surprised me a lot. I absolutely love Shaun Of The Dead and Hot Fuzz, they are great, funny films that I have watched numerous times, so I was looking forward to the finale of the Three Flavours Cornetto trilogy. It seems the problems started when I saw the trailer, something about it didn’t feel right, I don’t know what, but I even mentioned to a friend that it didn’t get me that excited. I put these fears to the back of  my mind and went to watch it, and when I came out a couple of hours later, as said earlier it had left me cold.  Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed the film, it did make me laugh but I just couldn’t get past Simon Pegg’s character of Gary King, he is such a dick, and I know he’s supposed to be, but I just couldn’t understand why the other four would agree to get back with him on a pub crawl when they clearly don’t like him. I also had a problem with the end as well, but I won’t spoil it. I had a similar problem with Edgar Wright’s, Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World, but when I watched it a second time I thought it was genius, so I bought the Three Flavours boxset and gave World’s End a second chance, but it unfortunately didn’t make any difference. Maybe in a few years I’ll go back and try it again and like it, we’ll see.

The Wolverine 29/7/13

the wolverine

When I first saw Bryan Singer’s X-Men, the one stand out for me was Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine, I didn’t know anything about the character, but he stole the film and as we now know, has been the catalyst for the whole franchise. So it was in 2009 that he got his first solo movie, X-Men Origins: Wolverine, now unlike a lot of people, I actually quite liked that film, it had it’s problems, but it was okay. When talk began a few years back of a second solo movie, a lot of the feedback was negative, but I was keen and when they started talking about a darker film I was especially interested. I hadn’t read the Wolverine comic book series this film is based on, I have since, but the idea of him amongst the Yakuza and ninjas sounded great. This film has surprised a lot of the nay sayers, as Logan heads off to Japan, called over by a man whose life he saved in WWII, but soon finds himself as a guardian. Taking Logan out of the X-men universe into his own story works really well, Jackman gets to show a lot more emotional range in the character as he tries to deal with not only protecting the daughter of his friend but also the death of the woman he loved, Jean Grey.  The action also doesn’t disappoint, though the cinema cut does lay off the blood we were hoping we would see more of in this harder take, though if you get the 3D blu ray it comes with a much longer and bloodier cut, which is actually better.  There is already talk of a third solo film, and if you stay past the credits you get a sneak at whats to come this summer in Days Of Future Past.

Elysium 16/9/13

elysium

Back in 2009, a small film came out, from a pretty unknown director and became my favourite of that year, the film was District 9 and it’s director was Neil Blomkamp.  He’s waited a few years to follow it up, but it was worth the wait. The film is set in a future where the world has succumbed to poverty and climate change, leaving a dry arid, polluted planet, but not for the rich. They have all moved to an orbiting space station called Elysium, where they have a privileged existence, and machines that can cure any illness. The design of the Elysium space station, has a bit of irony, in that it looks a lot like the Halo space station from the game of the same name, which Neil Blomkamp was going to direct the film version of, before it was scrapped and he instead made District 9.  Down in the slums of Earth the poor dream of getting to Elysium, and among them Matt Damon’s Max, but after an industrial accident leaves him with days to live, the need to get there becomes urgent, and into the hands of the criminal world. The film also stars Sharlto Copley, who came to fame in District 9 as Wickus, the prawn relocation officer, but this time he plays all round nasty piece of work Kruger, Jodie Foster’s operative on Earth doing all the dirty jobs for her.  On first viewing I enjoyed it but didn’t think it was anywhere near as good as District 9, the story didn’t seem to flow as nicely and was missing some of the charm of Wickus. On second viewing though it seems to a tight action thriller which rockets along at a good pace. On both viewings though the visuals are great, Blomkamp has a great way of making the unbelieveable seem very real, we don’t get the sleek Apple style technology of Oblivion but a dirty and damaged realistic style. I cannot wait to see where Blomkamp goes in the future as I think he is going to be huge.

With all the award ceremonies out of the way it was the time of year where Hollywood starts off it’s blockbuster season, so lets go blow some shit up!

Oblivion 16/4/13

oblivion

Tom Cruise’s second film of the year (okay Jack Reacher was released in 2012), again got a bit of stick, but not to the level of the previous film.  From the director of Tron Legacy, Joseph Kosinski it had the same beautiful visuals, but also like Tron it was sometimes a bit slow. Recently watched it at home and have to say it does improve on second viewing. It was criticised for stealing bits from other famous sci-fi films, but these days what films don’t, and the story had some nice twists and turns. M83 should also get note for their soundtrack, which like Daft Punk did with Tron Legacy, added a whole new level to the film. If you like sci-fi that isn’t all about spaceships blowing up should check it out.

Olympus Has Fallen 23/4/13

olympus has fallen

For some reason in Hollywood, especially in recent times, we have had an epidemic of two different studios bringing out films about the same topic. For A Bugs Life, we also got Antz, for Deep Impact we got Armageddon, for Dante’s Peak we got Volcano. This years face off saw two films about the White House coming under attack, Olympus Has Fallen, was the first out of the gate, more on the other one later.  Directed by Training Day director Antoine Fuqua, this sees Gerard Butler as an ex secret service agent, who was involved in a tragic accident (aren’t they always), coming to the rescue of the President as the Pennsylvania Ave property is taken over by North Koreans.  As far as dumb action films go, this one is pretty good, if a little over violent at times, Butler seems to spend a lot of the film stabbing people in the head.  Unfortunately it does at times take it’s self too serious, which was the one element that made Die Hard (the film this so wants to be) so great. Butler shows he has the leading man chops though and the action scenes are pretty good, it also had my second best line of the year when Butler has a conversation with the bad guy on the phone, and gives him a great sign off.

Spring Breakers 23/4/13

spring breakers

Another of my double headers, came out of Olympus Has Fallen, and fancied watching something else, saw this was about to start and it’s diverse range of reviews made me curious to see it. It’s the story of four girlfriends who are desperate to get to Miami for Spring Break, so decide to rob a fast food restaurant. With the money in their pockets they head off for the debauchery of the college holiday and soon start taking advantage of what it has to offer. Soon they attract the attention of drug dealer, Alien, played with relish by James Franco, and find themselves doing his bidding robbing other students for drugs and money.  This is a divisive film, it’s like a music video dialled up to a 100, the opening shots of all the spring breaking students baring breasts and divulging in drugs and drink is certainly an eye opener. Unfortunately the film suffers from being all style and no substance, some of it seems to be about shocking us by having girls who we know from the Disney club having threesomes in swimming pools. It does have memorable moments though, the girls turning the tables on Alien as he thinks they will be impressed with all his stuff, and the scene that got talked about a lot, the girls in pink balaclavas and holding machine guns, standing around Alien as he plays Britney Spears, Everytime, on the piano. Not a bad film, but not great.

Iron Man 3  29/4/13 & 7/5/13

iron man 3

Yes you read that right, I saw this twice! This was the  first big blockbuster of the year, that I was really looking forward to. The original Iron Man was an amazing film and specifically Robert Downey Jr, if it wasn’t for him, I don’t think we would have got The Avengers film we did. I was also very excited about this because of the choice of director, Shane Black, the man who has written some of the great films of the 80’s and 90’s, a man with a very distinct style. He didn’t disappoint. He has always been known for his snappy dialogue and with Tony Stark as the outlet for his lines, it was the perfect mix. We found Stark suffering from the events of New York and then throw into that the arrival of a new terrorist threat in the form of the Mandarin and Tony was on the edge. Soon he found himself without all his gadgets relying on his smarts and this I think was the master stroke. There was also an amazing twist to come, which some people love and some absolutely hate. I have watched this film a few times since getting it on Blu ray and have to say it is one of, if not my favourite film of the year. This was the film with my favourite line of the year, when a henchman comes face to face with an armed and angry Tony Stark. Also a nice little post credits sting.

Star Trek Into Darkness 3D 13/5/13

star trek into darkness

The first film/reboot by JJ Abrams was such a pleasant surprise, it took a franchise that had run out of steam and gave it a whole new life. It was fun and full of action, so the question was where would they go next. This films release was a bit overshadowed by the news that it’s director was jumping off to helm that ‘other’ space series. In what will probably be his last Star Trek film, JJ left it in a good place, well unless you are a Trekker, who recently voted it the worst film of the series, really!  After the Federation finds themselves under attack from one of it’s own, Kirk and the crew set off on a galactic man hunt for the mysterious John Harrison.  From it’s fun, Indiana Jones style opening to the space battle the film rockets along at a great pace, never dragging at all.  As we come to expect from JJ Abrams, the visuals are impressive as was the 3D, which even though was a post conversion, added to the film, though the usual Lens flare’s were a little bit out of control. Pine and Quinto were as good as the first time and Benedict Cumberbatch was menacing in the first of his bad guy appearances of the year.

Fast And Furious 6 20/5/13

fast and furious 6

It’s weird writing about this film now after the terrible events of a last month, that’s why I picked the above poster to represent the film.  I am an unapologetic fan of the Fast And Furious franchise, in fact my favourite film of the series is still Tokyo Drift, yes you read that right.  After the amazingly OTT action of Fast Five and it’s shocking post credit surprise, I was really looking forward to this one, and it didn’t disappoint. It was great seeing a Hollywood film set in London, and the car chases we love from the franchise were all there.  The chemistry between the crew has got better and with Luke Evans they had a great foe with an amazing flip car, and we also discovered the worlds longest runway. Like the first one, this also had a great credits sting, one that actually made me exclaim out loud when I saw how it locked into the franchise and who was gonna be in F & F 7, I was very excited. Then of course things took a dark turn, Paul Walker’s death was a very sad thing, and put the franchise’s future in doubt. He wasn’t a actor who was gonna win any awards but he was good at what he did and away from the F & F films he did some good work, I especially liked Roadkill with Steve Zahn. He will be a very big missing piece when the franchise returns next year.

Man Of Steel 15/6/13 & 22/7/13

man of steel

Ahead of Iron Man 3 in my most anticipated films of 2013 was the return of Superman. As I may have mentioned on my blog in the past, Superman has a very special place in my heart as the Christopher Reeve film of 1978 was the first film I can remember going to see at the cinema, I even liked Bryan Singer’s 2006 film as well. So following the amazing Dark Knight trilogy I was looking forward to seeing what Warner Brothers were going to do with the Man Of Steel. I was a big fan of Zack Snyder’s previous superhero film, the Watchmen, and enjoyed this a lot more. I thought Henry Cavill was perfect as Kal El, and the flash back style of telling his story was a clever move as it avoided the now common origin story model which a lot of the films in this genre follow. The supporting cast also gave the film a real sense of gravitas, Russell Crowe’s  Jor El was a good new interpretation of the character, from a Krypton we have never seen before. As his adoptive parents on Earth you can’t beat Kevin Costner, as Pa Kent, his line about him always being his son, had me tearing up again and Diane Lane was the supportive mother you expected. Amy Adams, who I am a big fan of, brought a nice harder edge, investigative side to the character who in the past has been a bit of a ditzy character. Am looking forward to sequel, whatever they decide to call it, though I have to admit I am a bit concerned about the amount of characters they seem to be cramming into it.

As is the way, as we start a new year, we look back at the year that has passed. For Christmas 2012 I was bought a cinema gift card, the perfect gift for a film nerd like me (received another one this year!). So as 2013 began I saw a lot of films, some I probably wouldn’t have paid for, and some I definitely would have. Now follows is a look at the films I got off my backside and went to the cinema to see, as there were a lot I shall break it down into a few parts. You will notice I have actually put the dates I saw the films, this is because I actually keep all my tickets and last year with a pile of them sitting around I decided to frame them, 3 big frames worth! For note they go from 1989 Batman to The Worlds End 2013.

cinema tickets

Well on with the show.!

The Life Of Pi 3D 8/1/12

life of pi

When I first saw the trailer for this I thought, “That’s ridiculous a kid wouldn’t survive with a tiger on a boat, he’d be eaten”. I don’t know what changed my mind but I decided to check it out, and I was glad I did. A beautiful film both in visuals and story, I was thoroughly gripped and must admit was a bit teary eyed at the end. The 3D was also amazing especially the flying fish sequence and the scene off the above poster. Watched it at home in 3D and it’s still amazing viewing.

Les Miserables 14/1/12

les miserables

I’m not a big fan of musicals, okay you could call The Blues Brothers a musical I suppose, but apart from that I think Moulin Rouge is one of the few I’ve seen.  I got talking to one of my customers while on delivery and he knew I was a film fan and asked whether I was gonna watch Les Mis, I said probably not, his response was, “oh you must, if you don’t cry you are cold” something along those lines. As a fan of Hugh Jackman and the lovely Anne Hathaway, I thought what the hell, so off I trotted. Well I really enjoyed it, loved the music and the massive scale of the production, thought the performances were great and even Russell Crowe’s singing wasn’t as bad as I expected. My customer was right, again I teared up!  (Where’s the action films to make me to sound more manly!). I have since got the film on Blu ray and enjoyed it equally as much.

Jack Reacher 15/1/12

jack reacher

Tom Cruise gets a lot of shit from the media, mainly because of his religious (?) beliefs, but as an actor I have to say I am a big fan, I don’t think he has done that many bad films. When it was announced he was tackling the Jack Reacher film, One Shot, there was a huge backlash from the fans of the book. This was mainly due to the size difference between Cruise and the character of Reacher who in the books is 6ft 5. Having never read the books I was just looking forward to a crime drama, and it is a great drama film. The story is really gripping with some nice twists and turns, and actually holds up in repeated viewings.  Thought Tom was good and there is a strong supporting cast as well. I know a fan of the books who actually enjoyed it as well.

Django Unchained 22/1/13

Django Unchained

A new Quentin Tarantino film is always a big event, and Django Unchained certainly lived up to it. His first film since 2009’s Inglorious Basterds, it had been a long wait, and Quentin tackling the western genre was an exciting prospect. As we come from to expect from Tarantino, it was a mix of scintillating dialogue and violence, with the usual excellent soundtrack. With great performances from Jamie Foxx, Leonardo Di Caprio and especially Christophe Waltz, who won his 2nd Oscar from a Tarantino film. Some said it was too long, but I have to say I’ve seen it twice and neither time did I feel it dragged. The only downer on the film was Quentin’s Aussie accent!

The Impossible 22/1/13

the impossible

You may notice next to the title, that I saw this the same day as Django Unchained. The cinema I visit, is an Empire Cinema, and they have a great policy of not charging ridiculous prices to see films, and on a Tuesday it’s only £3 a film, so on occasion I will watch a couple of films. On this day, I had come out of Django and thought I quite fancy seeing something else, and The Impossible was about to start so I thought lets do it. Didn’t know much about it other than it was about the terrible Tsunami of 2004. With Naomi Watts and Ewan McGregor who I both find very watchable, I sat and was transfixed as the story of a family ripped apart by a terrible natural disaster played out. The tsunami sequence was visually amazing and upsetting at the same time, in fact a girl sat in front of me nearly threw up at Watts’s injuries. She gave a great performance and her son played by Tom Holland was exceptional.  It managed to avoid being too saccharine, and yes I teared up a bit near the end!

Zero Dark Thirty 28/1/13

zero dark thirty

When I went to see Kathryn Bigelow’s previous film, Oscar winner, The Hurt Locker, I was the only person in the cinema, certainly not the case with Zero Dark Thirty. This film was already being written before Bin Laden was killed, so when he was taken out, they had the dramatic ending for the film. The film got wrapped up in a row about it’s depictions of torture, which is a shame as it distracted people away from what was a tense and very interesting story about one woman’s obsession with finding the worlds most wanted man. The raid sequence while extremely tense is played totally straight without the usual bombastic bravado we get in most films about the military. It was a shame that the controversy over shadowed what should have been an awards winner.

The Last Stand 31/1/13

The Last Stand

Following his small appearances in The Expendables films, this was Arnie’s big return to the genre he helped define in the 80’s and 90’s. The story of a small town sheriff left between an escaped drug kingpin and the border. It didn’t break new ground but was a fun and dumb action film, with Arnie on good form, killing bad guys and quipping away. It was surprisingly quite bloody as well.

Lincoln 5/2/13

 

lincoln

If you have read any of my posts in the past, you will know that I am a huge Steven Spielberg fan and will try and see every film he puts out. A lot of the buzz about the film was the performance of Oscar magnet, Daniel Day Lewis as the 16th president, and for once the hype was right. You forget very quickly that you are watching an actor, he inhabits the role. He’s helped by a great supporting cast including Sally Field and Tommy Lee Jones. It also had a bit of the West Wing vibe to it with a lot of the film being about the background goings on off American politics and Government.

Wreck It Ralph 3D 11/2/13

wreck it ralph

As a gamer, I was really looking forward to this film, watching it I realised I don’t know as much as I think I do about games,  as I didn’t spot that many of the numerous hidden and not so hidden references.  The story of the game bad guy wanting to be good worked so well, especially the bad guys anonymous scene. The only disappointment was that they seemed to spend too much time in the Sugar Rush land, there was a lot of potential different worlds they could have visited, but maybe that will be in the sequel. John C Reilly was the perfect choice for the voice of Ralph and I was impressed with Sarah Silverman’s work on a character that could have been easily very annoying. The 3D was also exceptional, especially in the Halo like battle game world of Hero’s Duty.

A Good Day To Die Hard 26/2/13

A Good Day to Die Hard

If you read my Christmas films feature recently, you know how much I love Die Hard. It is one of my all time favourite films and easily one of the best action films ever made, but the last few films are starting to taint it’s memory. Die Hard 4.0 was a softened down money making exercise, but it had it’s moments and wasn’t terrible, just average. It’s the same with this 5th instalment, but now it seems like even Bruce Willis doesn’t really give a shit, he sleep walks his way through the film, which it has to be said has some good action sequences, the chase through Moscow being one of them, but it just doesn’t feel right. I really hope they don’t do another one, if they do, they need to remember where it all started and stop going bigger, it isn’t always best.

Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues

Image

I was lucky enough to see the original Anchorman at a free preview screening back in 2004, didn’t know much about it going in, came out with one of my all time favourite films. I have watched it many times and it still makes me laugh and I’ve got to the sad point where I am saying some of the jokes before they even come on the screen. I have even watched the outtakes movie, Wake Up Ron Burgundy a few times as well. Like many other big fans of the film, and this films seems to have been growing in popularity over the years, I have been hoping for further adventures from Ron, Brian, Champ and Brick. There were a few occasions where it looked like it was going to happen and there was even talk of it being a musical, but the chances were looking bleak. Then last year came the news, Yes! they were coming back, so I have been waiting all year, in fact this was probably my most anticipated film of the year, but did it live up to my huge levels of hope?

Yes and no.

It’s 10 years later and Ron and Veronica are still co-anchors, and all is still bliss they even have a son called Walter, but a career opportunity comes Veronica’s way and Ron’s life hits the skids again!  Soon though Ron is getting the team together as they head for New York to be part of the schedule of the worlds first 24 hour news channel, GNN. Soon they are dealing with fitting into a world that has changed dramatically since they were bringing the news to the city of the Whales vagina.  As well as dealing with a multi cultural workplace, Ron find himself in competition with the stations star Anchorman, Jack Lime, slimily played by James Marsden (who apparently auditioned for a role in the original).

This film has the same random laughs as the first film, but feels a little bit stretched in it’s 2 hour running time, but laugh I did and a lot. There were a few occasions where I missed some of the lines because I was still laughing at a previous joke. A lot of the best jokes come from Brick, who’s role has been beefed up considerably in this one, he even gets a love interest in the form of Kristen Wiig’s, equally challenged Chani. Unfortunately with Brick’s role being upped, Brian and Champ have been pushed to the back a bit, though Brian’s new cupboard of items will require multiple viewings to catch all the names. There are a few bits that don’t work as well, Ron’s dinner party with new love interest, Linda Jackson, has a few laughs but some verge on offensive, though I still found it funny. The scenes with Ron and his son are pretty funny, “I’m Lace man” and the story does take some rather random turns,  Doby’s song being a very random, but extremely funny one. Obviously it wouldn’t be an Anchorman film without a battle of the Anchors, but I won’t spoil it for you.  The one part of the film I didn’t expect was the quite biting look at the state of news reporting in the modern era, behind all the jokes there is a very smart comment on the stories for ratings culture that exists now, car chases replacing hard hitting journalism.

I went into this film with such high expectations that it was never going to reach, but it came pretty close. As I said earlier I really could do with seeing it again to try and catch all the jokes. It is one of the funniest films I have seen this year and had me laughing out loud on many occasions, worryingly sometimes I was the only one laughing. There are some brilliant jokes in it and a few nice nods for the die hard fans of the original, should they do another one, I’m not sure. Interestingly they are talking about releasing a new version of the film where due to all the improv they can change all the jokes. That will hopefully be released on the blu ray like they did with Wake Up Ron Burgundy. A brilliant piece of comedy which also has something to say, in the words of Brick, I Love Film.

hobbit

I have a confession to make at the start of this review, I liked the original Lord of The Rings trilogy, but didn’t love it. I thought they dragged a bit too much at times, and then after Clerks II, I couldn’t get the joke about them being three films of people walking, out of my head. When it was announced that Peter Jackson was going back to Middle Earth to tackle The Hobbit, I had little interest and especially when it was going be three films.  As a film fan, one thing did draw my interest though, it wasn’t the story but the actually technology, specifically the 48 fps (high frame rate) presentation. There was a lot of talk of it being the future and I thought I would check it out, so off I headed to watch, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. A strange thing happened while I was watching it, as well as liking the smooth 48 frames, I really liked the film. I found it good fun and a lot lighter in tone that the LOTR films so I now approached part two actually looking forward to it.

We catch up with the dwarves as they continue with their quest to return to their home land of Erebor and reclaim it from the dragon Smaug who has made their gold supplies his home. Bilbo has his little secret in his pocket and started to use it, not realising its dangerous side effects. Gandalf is starting to realise that something dark is brewing in middle earth that will have a long lasting effect on the land. The first film was an unexpected journey, part two is an exciting and thrilling trip through the dark and light of Middle Earth.

Many of the criticisms of the first film were that there was far too much time where nothing was really happening and that too much of Dwarfs eating. This film will definitely not be accused of being boring. As the dwarves and Bilbo continue on their journey they have seem to go from one set piece to another. They go from being chased by giant bears to a run in with giant spiders in the Mirkwood, to escaping from the Elves in barrels down the river.

Some of these set pieces are amazing visual feasts and it’s here that the 48fps really shows it’s benefit. The spider sequence is genuinely scary, as these giant spider run towards you in 3D but also so smoothly they look real.  The barrels sequence which is probably the highlight of the film is non stop and in the case of Bombur’s alternative route, is also very funny.  There are also scenes that lock it into the Lord of The Rings story as well, especially one with Gandalf’s trip to the castle of Dol Guldur, where he meets a familiar foe.

It’s not a spoiler to say that they reach Erebor, (it’s in the trailer) where Martin Freeman meets up with his Sherlock co-star Benedict Cumberbatch as the eponymous dragon Smaug. As we come to expect from the director who brought us the amazing visual of Gollum, Smaug is stunning, we only got fleeting glances of him in part one, but here we see him in all his glory, add to that Cumberbatch’s vocal tones and we have a great antagonist.

For me the star of the film is still Martin Freeman, his performances so far as Bilbo have been impressive, he has helped the character to grow from the worrier who has never left the Shire to a full on hero, proving his worth to the doubting Thorin who saw him as an inconvenience. As the ring starts to take it’s hold on him, Freeman gets better and better showing the doubt in the character as he knows that this amazing tool isn’t all it seems.

I also thought that Evangeline Lily was pretty good as the completely made up for the film character, Tauriel, who at first it seems is just there as a love interest with the dwarf Kili, but as the film continues she shows she pretty good with a bow.

Overall, I really enjoyed The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug, probably a bit more than the first one. It’s a fun romp that never gets boring and has some amazing visuals and set pieces. It does end on an annoying cliffhanger, annoying in that we have to wait till next December to see how it ends.  If you can check it out in 48fps, some people love it some hate it, but for me it enhanced the experience.

The Criminally Ignored

mist posterI was recently going through my blu ray collection and pulled out something I hadn’t watched in a few years, but had been thinking about watching due to the latest series of The Walking Dead.  It was Frank Darabont’s film, The Mist. Released in 2007, and based on a Stephen King novella (like Darabont’s classic The Shawshank Redemption) it tells the story of a group of people who become trapped in a convenience store by the said Mist and something that is lurking inside it.   What follows is a brilliantly tense character piece with added CGI monsters.

What I love about the film is the way that the group of people in the store start to become a microcosm of society with little groups breaking out in conflict with each other.  Being a fan of The Walking Dead, its funny watching this film now as you can see the building blocks that would later become the Zombie classic.  The ordinary people in a hellish situation, that has been so brilliantly represented in the TV series, is clearly seen here but whereas the TV series has 12 episodes to do it, Darabont manages to show the social breakdown in just 2 hours.

As well as the director connection, there are also a few familiar faces amongst the cast, Laurie Holden, Melissa McBride and Jeffrey DeMunn all alumni of the Walking Dead. Thomas Jane (The Punisher, Hung) plays the lead David Drayton who is trapped in the store with his son, but the real star of the film is Marcia Gay Haden as local religious nut Mrs. Carmody, who soon starts whipping up a religious frenzy amongst the survivors, by preaching that the apocalypse has arrived. The rest of the cast is full of quality actors such as Toby Jones and William Sadler, there’s even the Sherminator.  I also spotted on the credits the name of Greg Nicotero who is the special effects genius behind The Walking Dead and even directed a few episodes.

There is more I could tell you about the story but like many great films the least you know the better and this film goes in directions you would never expect.

I know I have mentioned the Walking Dead a lot, but I think that if you are a fan of the series and haven’t seen this film, you should check it out, not just because it is directed by Frank Darabont and features some of the cast, but because it is a great film.  On a side note, if you get the blu ray of the film, it comes with not only the colour version of the film but the black and white version which is the way Darabont originally wanted the film released.

(It is available on Netflix)

With 3D movies apparently on the decline with the public, can Michael Bay save it from the big tech pile in the sky? Judging on it’s box office takings so far, over $260,000, 000, then he might he the formats hero, but does the film stand up away from the extra dimension.

It’s 1961 and an Autobot ship called the Ark has crashed on the moon, spotted by the Americans and Russians, a space race begins to be the first to investigate the ship. Apollo 11 makes it first, not to make a giant leap for mankind but for science.  Flash forward to the present and the Autobots are still working with NEST hunting down the remaining Decepticons, but also doing a bit of anti terrorism on the side.  Following a tip off, NEST find themselves in the remains of Chernobyl and discover part of the ARK, that the Russians stole from the moon. This alerts the Autobots to head to the moon to rescue their fallen leader Sentinel Prime from the Ark. They soon discover that the Decepticons have already visited the ship over time and have stolen some devices that could threaten the Earth.

While the Autobots are off around the world, Sam Witwicky is getting used to civilian life. Moved to Washington, Bumblebee has been replaced in his garage by a clapped out Datsun, Mikaela has dumped him and he can’t get a job. Things aren’t all bad though as he has a new girlfriend in the form of Carly (Rosie Huntington Whiteley) and he got a medal from President Obama.  Feeling left behind, he soon gets caught up in the Decepticon conspiracy and is knocking on the Autobots door again.

I really liked the first Transformers film, it was exciting , funny and had a real charm to it. The second film however was a different beast. It was over long, over complicated and don’t even mention the robot balls. All the charm was gone from the first film and it fell into the sequel trap of bigger, louder and longer.  A while after it’s release Michael Bay even apologised for it, which coming from him, was a big deal. So has he learned his lessons from Revenge Of The Fallen. Well sort of.

The story in this film, is a lot stronger than the previous one, as a NASA freak I loved all the Apollo stuff at the start, though I did spot a big fault in the Eagle landing scene! It was also quite funny seeing the actual Buzz Aldrin in the film.  Once the Decepticons plot kicks in the film really gets going. There are a few nice twists as well. Obvioulsy you don’t go to see Transformers expecting an Aaron Sorkin level script, you go for the action and this film has a lot of it. The last hour of the film is just a war between the rival bots in the city of Chicago and is pretty intense, it is also a lot more violent than previous films, just think of the tripod attack in War Of The Worlds. There is also an amazing sequence that doesn’t even need CG as the NEST team fly into the city, in flying wing suits, with a lot of the shots done on helmet cams so you see them dropping in amongst the skyscrapers first person and in 3D it’s amazing. Which brings me onto the 3D, if you been reading the site you will know I’m not a huge fan of 3D, the only thing I’ve seen that truly worked was Avatar which was simply stunning. Most the the films released now in 3D have been post converted and usually don’t look great and are too dark. When I go to see Harry Potter it will be in 2D. With Transformers I was actually looking forward to seeing it in 3D as it was actually shot in 3D, and it shows. It works really well, you do get drawn in especially in the aforementioned Wing suit scene. It has also had another positive effect on the film, in the editing room. In the past Michael Bay’s films have all been about quick cuts, which were so bad that sometimes it was hard to follow what was going on. With 3D he can’t do this as it would just make the viewers feel sick, so he has had to slow everything thing down in the editing which means, in the last film it was hard to work out which robot was hitting which robot. Now you can actually follow the action and take it all in.

A lot of the old faces return for this third installment, with one big exception, Megan Fox, who having said Bay was like Hitler, was axed from the film. Replacing her, is English actress Rosie Huntington Whiteley, a former model, and to be honest it shows. She’s not terrible but when you miss Megan Fox, that says a lot about her acting ability. John Malkovich is very under used as Sam’s new boss, who is all about chi and karma, but seems to turn mental half way through. Frances Mc Dormand pops up as a goverment liasion who doesn’t like the collaboration between NEST and the Autobots There’s a quite funny if a bit over the top appearance from Ken Jeong (The Hangover 1 & 2) as a work colleague who is a robot conspiracy nut.   Nice voice work as well by Leonard Nimoy as Sentinel Prime. Strangely the one person who I didn’t like in this film was Shai Labeouf, in the first two films he was quite charming and funny, in this though Sam seems to have turned into a bit of a dick, the only time he was likeable was when he was back with Bumblebee, I didn’t want his character to die, but just stopping being so annoying.

So overall, the film is a vast improvement on Revenge Of The Fallen, but not as much fun as the first film. The action is definitely bigger and the 3D does add to the visual impact and  there are still a few laughs to be had.  The last hour is a real spectacle. If you’re in the mood for big robots beating the hell out of each other then this is the film for you.

Rating 7/10

Senna

I vaguely remember hearing Ayrton Senna had died, I wasn’t a big F1 fan but did realise that it was a big deal. Over the last decade I have become more interested in the sport and have to say that this season so far has been very interesting.  So it seems apt that in a year where F1 is getting interesting a documentary comes out about a man who made the sport more famous.

Directed by Asif Kapadia, it follows Senna from Go-Karting world champion through to his debut in Formula One to the intense rivalry with Alain Prost and the ultimate tragic ending. Like the sport itself it doesn’t waste any time, the film flies along at a relentless pace keeping the fascinating story interesting. Kapadia and his team were given access to the FIA archives and the Senna family’s private footage which is what makes this documentray so good. We get to see the private side of Senna as well as the genius driver. Of course the most fascinating footage comes from the racing side. He came into the sport as the cockpit cameras were being used, so we get this amazing footage which give us an almost drivers eye view and it’s unbelievable. As first you think it’s been sped up, then you realise thats how fast they are driving. Watching this footage on a big screen reminded me of the old video dome attractions they used to have at theme parks where you watched footage of rollercosters and you got drawn in and felt like you were moving with it. There are also some great aerial shots which I don’t think i’ve seen before. One side of the sport we the public never see are the trackside goings on and in the film we get to see a few of the drivers meetings which are really interesting, especially when Senna is trying to get his point across much to the FIA leaderships annoyance.

A large propotion of the film deals with the rivalry that built up between Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost, as this new kid came in and threatened Prost’s dominance. It’s great to watch the two team-mates being all friendly at the start of their working relationship and then as Senna starts to shine, the two start to fall out and become almost enemies. I have to say I feel a bit sorry for Prost in the film as he is painted a bit as the enemy of the piece when Senna gave as much as Prost did in some of the numerous collisions the two had. The film also shows how much politics there was in the sport during the 80’s and 90’s, something that to honest probably hasn’t changed now.

The film also lets us remember how dangerous the spprt can be, one scene in particular genuinely shocked me where a driver had had such a bad crash that his car had distintergrated to such a degree that the driver was just left unconscious in the middle of the track. This all leads up to the final section of the film that deal with the fateful weekend in Imola in 1994. It all starts badly with Ruebens Barrichello’s terrible crash and then the fatal crash of Roland Ratzenberger. We see Senna visually shaken by the unfurling events and so when we got to race footage I felt my stomach tighten, as we get the cockpit view as he hurtles around the track towards the Tamburello corner. Followed by upseting footage of the medics working on him.

One clever stylistic move by the director is the use of only voiceovers, we hear from people now as well as  recordings from Senna himself and the people he worked with, but the visuals are all archive footage, no people sat in a room talking about what they remember which can be a bit boring in some documentaries.

Apparently Kapadia had so much footage to use that the original cut of the film was over 5 hours long and has been cut down to 106 mins, which actually felt a little bit short, I actually wanted to see more, there was some footage in the credits which was as good as in the film itself. Hopefully the eventual blu ray will have more footage as an extra.

I do love a good documentary and this is a very good documentary. It’s never boring, an accusation usually directed at the sport, and gives us a truly fascinating insight into what gave Ayrton Senna the drive to be one of the greatest drivers ever. Even if you haven’t that much of an interest in the sport, the film is worth checking out.

Rating 8/10