Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Sin City: A Dame To Kill For - review

Wow. A lot can happen in nine years. Especially to a city. It can rise up to become a bustling metropolis or crumble and fall into a dilapidated wasteland.

Unfortunately for Sin City, it has become the latter.

When the original film came out in 2004, near the start of the of the current comic boo movie boom, it was one of the most faithful adaptations and Rodriguez captured its look perfectly so it made you feel like you were watching a comic book on screen.

Sin City: A Dame To Kill For might still have the look but some of the dialogue and performances are as flimsy as the dime store pulp novels that inspired these stories.

If you haven't seen the original film recently or read any of the graphic novels, A Dame To Kill For may prove to be every bit as confusing as trying to pick up Doctor Who having missed a couple of episodes.

Despite being a sequel, the majority of the stories take place before the events of the first film thus allowing Mickey Rourke's character Marv to return along with several others who have been recast for a variety of reasons.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Powers Boothe deliver two of the best performances, and are the most comfortable with the style and content of their story which is the only decent new addition to the canon.

Nine years on, and having done very little inbetween, Jessica Alba remains the weak link and is unconvincing as the stripper turned vengeance seeker. If she needed tips on how to play a convincing femme fatale, she only had to watch the sultry, salacious Eva Green who for the second time this year, walks away being the best thing about a sub-standard Frank Miller comic book movie.

"Walk down the right back alley in Sin City and you can find anything". Unfortunately it looks like they took a wrong turn as the result is a film that may look like a carbon copy but lacks the hard-boiled grit and impact of the original.

2 stars

Let's Be Cops - review

Since it stars Jake Johnson and Damon Wayans Jr Let's Be Cops in a way feels like a prequel to New Girl, examining what Nick and Coach got up to before Jess came along.

It is an action comedy, similar to this year's Ride Along, where men approaching their thirties who are stuck in a rut try to gain a sense of confidence and responsibility be doing one of the most irresponsible things you could do... impersonating a police officer.

Inevitably, while showing off and abusing their new found powers, they attract the attention of some local bad guys and suddenly it is not just jail they are facing for their pretence.

Johnson and Wayans Jr do have a good rapport, as one would expect having worked together for years on a TV show, but the material is weak and tired with not enough gags to make it a good buddy comedy.

There is also a lack of threat due to the East European main villain being played by Brit James D'Arcy, leaving an unexpected cameo to deliver the appropriate but all-too-brief menace.

Better call 911 because this film needs to be read its rights.

1 star

Deliver Us From Evil - review

Despite being based on a real life case of NYPD officer Ralph Sarchie involving demonic possession, there is nothing in this film the church would classify as "original" sin.

Sarchie (played by Eric Bana) has a gift for spotting trouble, his partner calls it his "radar", but it gets them in over their heads when a series of troubling cases become linked by a series of occult messages and a squad of soldiers who encountered something evil when on tour in Iraq.

He joins forces with an unorthodox priest (Edgar Ramirez) who make for an interesting team as they are both fighting demons (internally and externally).

It plays out like The Exorcist meets Se7en with creepy things happening as police officers and priests investigate dark places during heavy downpours.

It might not be original but Sinister director Scott Derrickson continues to prove he can make audiences jump by executing a well-timed scare in a darkened corridor or basement.

Small notes:

The Doors feature heavily in the movie including "People Are Strange". A premonition of what was to come in the form of Dr. Stephen Strange?

It's pretty much a given that Sean Harris will never appear in a movie as the warm, cuddly romantic lead will he?

It might Deliver Us From Evil but the film could have tried harder to deliver a fresher and scarier frightfest.

2 stars

The Unbeatables - review

Missing an open goal by arriving after the World Cup but sneaking in just at the start of the Premier League season, The Unbeatables was an incredibly Argentinian animation about fussball but unfortunately any sense of fun or enjoyment is lost in translation thanks to an English dub that rewrote the dialogue to fit with a British footballing perspective (despite the fact the town is undeniably Latin American).

Not only must fussball wizard Amadeo put together a team of Mighty Ducks-style misfits and magical fussball players (whose powers are unexplained beyond the tear of a child) to save the town in a football match against former bully-turned-Ronaldo-esque superstar Flash, but he must also try and win the heart of his first love Lara which is difficult when told that his rival has... and i quote verbatim from the film... Taken her with his chopper"! Talk about foul play.

An own goal of a film as lethargic and disorganised as Manchester United playing under Van Gaal.

1 star

Sunday, 24 August 2014

The Congress - review

Congress can be defined as "the action of coming together".

The US Congress is made up of two houses to grant legislative powers but the process can be messy and not always work out as originally planned.

Both of these descriptions accurately describe Ari Foldman's The Congress which features two very interesting and different film ideas but join together to make for an uneven end result.

The movie begins with a slightly fictionalised version of Robin Wright being pitched "the role of a lifetime" which involves being scanned into a computer so the studio can own the "character" of Robin Wright in exchange for a lot of money but the price of never performing in person again.

It hints at being a savage Hollywood satire, critiquing the way women (that aren't Meryl Streep) are treated once they reach a certain age and the reliance on CGI and motion capture in today's business.

It features one of the year's best scenes in which Robin's agent Al (Harvey Keitel) tells her the story of how he became an agent, both funny and sad, in order to elicit the proper emotions from her as she is scanned into the computer.

But just as it gets going, the satire is replaced with another plot where Wright attends 'The Congress' which is an animated hallucinatory haven where the film company Miramount are expanding into other novel ways of exploiting their film star commodities. Before you can say "Soylent Green is people!" they are marketing their last two stars, Wright and a male star who looks suspiciously like Tom Cruise, as consumable products like food and milk shakes.

Wright's reaction to this causes an uprising in the haven resulting in the majority of the world becoming addicted to a chemical which allows them to live their lives in the animated world of the truth.

It is a brave and bold segment which draws upon various animation styles including Ghibli and Tex Avery but feels like another movie altogether.

The Congress could have been a masterpiece but instead is a good movie that is less than the sum of its impressive parts.

3 stars

Thursday, 21 August 2014

The Rover - review

David Michod's follow up to the excellent Animal Kingdom is set in the barren, dusty and dangerous Australian outback, ten years after "The Collapse".

It is not specified what the collapse was and what caused it but I would hazard a guess that it timed up with the moment The Inbetweeners set foot on Australian soil.

The Rover has a plot as simple as Robert Pattinson's character.

A group of hoodlums steal loner Guy Pearce's car and he does everything he can to get it back, including capturing R-Patz's character Rey who is brother to one of them and forces him to take them to their hideout.

Substituting car chases and action scenes for long, drawn out scenes of sparse dialogue, empty landscapes and moments of brutal violence, The Rover plays out like an art house Mad Max.

Pearce is excellent as the mysterious loner who slowly reveals his past but keeps us guessing to the Macguffin of why he needs his car back so badly.

Pattinson really does impress with another role following the likes of Cosmopolis that will put the death nail in the coffin of Twilight fans seeking out his post-franchise choices. If I was not aware of him as an actor, I genuinely would have believed him to be an actor on the spectrum or mentally disadvantaged.

The film, like the characters, slowly move towards a bloody showdown that is bound to split opinions.

Will I rewatch Michod's Rover? No never, no more.

3 stars

Hector And The Search For Happiness - review

Following an initial delay to Hector's journey due to the longest series of production company title credits I've ever seen in a movie (It honestly felt like five minutes passed as the film circumvented the globe getting money from every destination that Hector visits), finally begins a journey of self-discovery as every bit uncomfortable and insufferable as a round-the-world flight stuck in economy between a screaming baby and someone of poor personal hygiene it could have been called The Secret Life Of Walter Shitty.

I could have saved Hector a lot of time and effort because the answer to his search.

Happiness is a warm gun. A gun that Hector should use to end his "misery" if he can't be happy living in a luxury apartment overlooking the Thames with Rosamund Pike.

*mild spoilers*

It would probably come as no surprise that after travelling halfway around the world, cheating on his girlfriend the first chance he gets, receiving Pseudowaffle and psychobabble from a host of poor racial stereotypes that he discovers that he already had everything he needed to make him happy.

Beyond the Hallmark card messages of hope ("Happiness is the freedom to love more than one woman at the same time"), the biggest obstacle to anyone leaving this film happy is the central character of Hector.

He is a complete arse. Ungrateful of all that he has, which is much more than most people, and his reasons for the trip are awful e.g. He wants to find out how poor people are happy, yeeesh!

Last year, Simon Pegg successfully managed to get audiences on side with his character in The World's End despite him being a selfish, obnoxious oaf but he fails miserably here which leads me to wonder if it is only Edgar Wright who can bring out his true talent as a leading man.

Hector may have found some small modicum but for everyone else, best keep searching because happiness will certainly not be found here.

1 star