Sunday, 20 February 2011

The Mechanic, if it ain't broke, don't fix it.

Say what you like about Jason Statham, when it comes to action films, he can deliver.

There are holes in the plot, some very odd character development and one or two clich├ęs.  But really, who gives a shit?

What really matters when a film's poster is a gun made of many guns? The answer is, well, guns.  Guns and explosions and fighting and killing all in newer and more innovative and exciting ways.  So good news.  You get that, and lots of it.  

You also get a fairly good plot,  an updated version of the 1972 film of the same name starring Charles Bronson.  Guilt drives an assasin (Jason Statham) to take on a rather risky protege (Ben Foster).  Things go not too perfectly and soon the two find themselves on a mission of revenge, although by my calculations one of our dynamic duo would have precisely no clue what exactly they are getting revenge for.  The action sequences are well worked out and the fighting is sufficiently realistic without going Rambo style over the top.

Statham is his usual cool as cucumber typecast self.  Foster's character is a little uncomfortable and unpredictable, exactly what the role needed.  Donald Sutherland plays Statham's boss and father figure, he does his usual good job later being replaced (in the boss department) by the other bloke from Ghost (apparently he has done other stuff since then), who also delivers a solid performance.

NB:   The film is a 15 certificate but if you're planning on watching it with a 15 year old, and I'm not here to judge, there is one sex scene which let's just say, I enjoyed very much.  I'm sure they will too.

Good action film, not disappointed.  7 out of 10

Friday, 18 February 2011

And all the awards go to... The King's Speech

Certain films are made with awards in mind, Slumdog Millionaire is one example, Titanic another.  The King's Speech is also up there.  Not that this is a bad thing, if Mr Darcy wants an Oscar and he delivers a performance deserved of one, for gods sake give it to him.

What I don't agree with and what is unfortunately yet another Hollywood foible (obvious example: Award dragnet Braveheart), is not letting the truth get in the way of a good story.  Two minutes googling will give you a barrage of information and misinformation on The King's Speech every piece of which is much too controversial for my little mind to comprehend, it's all pro-Nazi this and "sieg heil" that.  The only conclusion being that the average cinema goer wants to see an untroubled story of a poor little monarch countering his disability, so that's what they gave them.  


Unfortunately though, the rest of the film is too good to let that slide.  It is an intelligent film targeting intelligent cinema goers, the like of which do not merely accept what is in front of them. I am not the only one who will spend two minutes with a search engine, we are many.  And as there are many intelligent viewers out there, why take the gamble?  Why not surprise them with the truth, let them leave the cinema, go home shocked and a little dismayed, turn on their computers and find out... OMG, it's all true.

Colin Firth plays a good dad, a dutiful brother and an afflicted, put upon son.  It is an award worthy performance, you feel his discomfort and his embarrassment as if first hand.  Helena Bonham Carter is the queen mum, she just is.  The impression is uncanny.  Geoffrey Rush insists on calling the monarch Bertie but is (at times) scared of his own wife, a very nice scene is one where the two meet.  This leading cast has no low point.  

King Edward VIII was unbelievable, maybe not because of the acting though.  When we first meet Guy Pearce he is still a prince, as is Firth.  There is no stammering, only a comfortable brotherly conversation, the kind you have with a sibling you haven't seen for some time.  Later though there is reference to the fact that the Bertie stammers most while in the company of his father or brother, this is sloppy and a mistake that I am focusing on days after seeing the film.  A real shame.  George V, Michael Gambon: true thespian, great scary dad, honourable king, tough act to follow.  Then; frail, confused, lovable.  All while sporting a truly monumental beard. Timothy Spall as Churchill, uncanny, if a little skinnier.  Although, did they allow lit cigars in the presence of a monarch even then?

This is a very good film, it will get a crop of awards in ceremonies the world over.  Not least from the Academy.  Firth deserves honours. All the rest of the categories; I think there's better out there.

7 out of 10.

by Lee Power

Thursday, 17 February 2011

The Green Hornet... not as bad as everyone says.

Ok, I'll be honest, it's not great.  It is a very restricted production.  

Here begins the battle with Hollywood.

Michel Gondry, a late comer to the project, who brought us music videos made for the likes of Daft Punk and Bjork, was quite clearly tied down by the powers that be.  As good as the performances in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind are, it is the free direction of Gondry that makes it great.  Not so with The Green Hornet, you'd be forgiven for not even realising that it was his picture.

Seth Rogen suffers the same fate, it seems that somebody behind the scenes (maybe even Rogen himself, as he co-wrote the screen play) wanted to make sure that this didn't become a his usual comedy.  Why not?  Suppressing his personality was always going to deliver a stunted performance.  I'm not a fan of Cameron Diaz, but she's OK in this, her character doesn't get chance to develop at all so she doesn't get chance to irritate too much.  Jay Chou, in his first English speaking role, delivers a good solid ass-kicking performance, having said that though Bruce Lee's performance in the 1960s TV series didn't give him much to live up to.  Christoph Waltz's villainous performance is precisely that, villainous.  The film is a comedy super hero adventure, but as Gene Hackman proved in Superman, the bad guy still needs to be believably sinister, Waltz is not even close, I'd go as far as to say that he is the low point of the film.  James Franco makes a surprise appearance early, I would have liked to see more of him.

Final Hollywood bad mouthing.  3D, no reason for it, please stop it.  Tron Legacy is the only film I've seen that uses it well and let's face it, it kind of lends itself perfectly to the format (review coming soon).  Whichever big multimedia or electronic company is paying Hollywood to shoot every flick in 3D, it may well be the biggest sell out in cinematic history.  Either that or they actually think that it's the future... God I hope not.  This is not the worst example of a 3D film, but it certainly lends nothing to it.

Bashing complete.

The film, even with all it's flaws, is watchable.  Good car chases, excellent action sequences and martial arts.  Cool cars, guns and technology.  Some very funny scenes and one liners.  Believable friendship and tension between Rogen and Chou.  Not to mention an awesome coffee machine.  It just should have been better.

Don't make it your first choice but don't write it off either.

5 out of 10, must try harder.

by Lee Power

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

And for the inaugural review: Black Swan

Firstly, having seen this last week, I read a review on the Guardian website which if I hadn't seen it prior would have ruined the whole film experience.  This review is safe to read if you've not seen the film yet.  That in mind it may seem a little vague.  If anyone would like to comment on specific scenes, please put a spoiler alert before you do.

Walking out of the cinema I heard a few people's first thoughts, they included "one too many lesbian scenes""well that was shit" (hopefully sarcastically) and "amazing, just amazing".  I think that this rainbow of comments heard on exit will be pretty standard in cinemas every where.  The reason for this is that people have judged the film before going to see it, always a mistake.  If you want to see a lovely light hearted film about the ballet, you will be disappointed.  If you're likely to focus solely on the girl on girl action, then you are missing a lot.  This is a deep film that will have you chatting about it all night.  It doesn't follow the Hollywood rules and it wasn't made simply to win awards.  Love it or hate it, this film will be talked about in decades.  

Cinematically stunning, very clever and a little disturbing.  It's as close to a Shakespearean tragedy as has been made in modern times.  Aronofsky's subtleties in direction shown in the Wrestler are apparent here too, but they give out as the film progresses to reveal the signature melodramatic shots found in his early work.  It's good to see that he's not lost his youthful exuberance.  Portman is stunning, believable, fierce and fragile at the flick of a switch.  Vincent Cassel delivers a largely overlooked yet brilliant supporting role and Barbara Hershey creeps me out just thinking about her.  I urge everybody to see this film, you may or may not like it or even understand it but it will keep you entertained long after the credits roll.

Marks out of 10, I'll give it 8.  If you haven't already, go see it.

by Lee Power