Elysium? Yes please!

From the Director of District 9 … The guys Matt Damon calls “the next James Cameron”



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Roger Ebert, R.I.P.

Probably the world’s best known film critic, Roger Ebert, has passed at the age of 70 after a long battle with Cancer.

Follow the link to read what his paper, the Chicago Sun-Times had to say about him:


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Review: The Incredible Burt Wonderstone

Steve Carell, Alan Arkin, and Jim Carrey all in one movie? You would think that alone is a recipe for brilliance! Instead it’s a hundred minutes of awkward & sometimes absurd gags,  enough to make you smile, but nothing to send you rolling in the isles.

Burt (Carell) is a famous magician, and with his partner Anton (Steve Buscemi) they perform magic in the biggest theatre in Las Vegas every night. Until the world becomes hook on modern “reality” magician Steve Grey (Carrey). Now sacked, broke, and suffering a mi-life crisis Burt finds his childhood idol Rance Holloway (Arkin) who along with his assistant Jane (Olvia Wilde) inspire his love of magic again.

It’s the kind of story you would expect from an Adam Sandler movie, clichéd, formulaic, and riddled with corny and cheesy moments. It attempts to do the awkward comedy stylings of the successful Will Ferrel, but instead comes of a cheap second. It’s also almost completely devoid of any real magic, a complete shame in a film about magic.

The essentials of the story revolve around the concepts of old versus new, traditional magic versus the modern shock value reality television version, which is ironic given the whole film is based on modern awkward comedic styles bred from the likes of Saturday Night Live instead of traditional well scripted character comedy. It’s also annoying that given the movie’s theme almost all the “real” magic in the movie is CGI and clearly not even remotely real. There is scope here to provide some genuine magical thrills to accompany the jokes, but clearly not much thought has gone into it.

Alan Arkin brings some much needed light to the proceedings, capable of eliciting a smile with just one of his own while Jim Carrey turns in a good performance. Wilde and Buscemi struggle to rise above their mediocre characters, all while Carrel fills any silence with awkward sounds and uninspired dialogue. It’s a waste of talent in the end, especially for Wilde  and Buscemi who have played some amazing characters in both film and television of late. 

The Incredible Burt Wonderstone attempts to emulate successful films like Anchorman but doesn’t quite reach those lofty heights. It’s not a complete disappointment, it had me smiling and giggling for a great deal of the running time. But it never gets out of first gear, rely’s to heavily on cliché, and has no real magic of its own.


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Kick-Ass 2 Trailer

So, Kick-Ass just happened to be one of the big surprises of 2010. I do really appreciate it wasn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but I really enjoyed the shock value, dark humour and the original yet ridiculous premise of the film. It really was something new, and it had some of the best action sequences on film in a very long time!

Kick-Ass 2 therefor has a lot to live up to! The standards are really high, and to be honest this first trailer does not set my world on fire. I’m worried at this point.

Oh, can you tell which character is Jim Carrey?

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Review: Safe Haven

Safe Haven is another Nicholas Sparks romance novel turned motion picture. There is no denying his popularity, especially among women, his stories do command box office takings. The most notable adaption of his work was 2004’s The Notebook, it’s a film aptly nicknamed “the movie your girlfriend will make you watch over, and over again”. Sadly, this new adaption is a cliched, and hollow film with only a few redeeming features. It may not be that audiences have had enough of Sparks, it might be that his stories have just gone stale.

Katie (Julianne Hough) in an attempt to escape a serious yet mysterious event lands in Southport, North Carolina where she falls for widower Alex (Josh Duhamel). Eventually her dark secret catches up to her, and she’s forced to confront it. If that sounds like a generic description for a romance story, well it is. Frankly it’s uninspired and full of plot developments that exist purely because they have to. Were it not for the twist or two as you near the final act of the film I would absolutely be slamming this film. Clearly Sparks has a gift for telling stories, but I was left so bored for the most part that it would be easy to think this a pure cash grab.

The major key ingredient to a romantic drama is the leading couple, the chemistry must exist! Unfortunately Hough, and Duhamel are nowhere near the class Racheal McAdams and Ryan Gosling. For the most part they could be replaced with cardboard cut-outs and dubbed voices and you would lose none of the sexual tension or desire. It’s a real shame for this type of film, and it’s what the marketting team have traded on. Look at every poster for a Sparks film, it’s the two leads in an embrace about to kiss. Ugh. Can I call this romance porn? Because like porn, there is no plot and the acting is terrible!

It’s probably at this point I should declare I am not a huge fan of romance movies, or even romantic comedies. I find the genre to be as vapid as brainless action movies without the  saturday night “popcorn” flick attraction. I certainly don’t mind then, I would happily watch The Notebook with my wife on occasion, although she would contest that. Regardless, even my wife found Safe Haven a tad boring, and a bit so-so.

This is a movie I’d recommend purely as a romantic date film, because there are no other options at the cinemas right now. Otherwise, steer clear, nothing to see here!

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Review: Zero Dark Thirty

There’s no denying the power of a “true story” when watching a film. The weight of “this actually happened” brings a gravity that you can’t fabricate, even if the scriptwriters have swapped facts for more dramatic elements. Unfortunately Zero Dark Thirty takes a slightly different road appearing more like a journalistic compilation of first hand accounts. The result is somewhere between a documentary without the revelations of any of the real players, and a movie with many dramatic inventions but devoid of entertainment.

Following the decade long search for Osama Bin Laden the film focuses on Maya, a CIA operative whose sole purpose has been to find him. She is depicted as the single-minded driving force behind the pursuit of leads to uncover the whereabouts of the Al Qaeda’s leader, culminating in the raid by SEAL Team Six in 2011.

Much of the films first forty-five minutes is the interrogation and torture of captives under the now defunct American detainee program. It’s hard to know what the point of this was, I couldn’t work out if the film was for or against torture and I also couldn’t work out why the filmmakers had chosen to depict the torture as they had done so. For a film resting on “first hand accounts” the sequences felt contrived, dishonest, and frankly boring. There’s a lot of evidence to suggest that Zero Dark Thirty gets a lot wrong when it comes to the torture of detainees. To me, this feels like torture-porn, added to create controversy without an honest attempt to ask any real questions.

It’s not until we get past the torture that the film gains any kind of momentum and becomes even remotely interesting. It’s about this point in the movie that things are starting to make sense, you actually know the name of one or two of the characters, and the filmmakers start developing them. Yes, that’s right, it takes about forty-five minutes before you get to see the characters do something we can understand and relate to. At 157 minutes, honestly, they should have started the movie here and just summarised the earlier events.

I’ve been quite negative about the film to this point, but it does have two very strong redeeming features. Jessica Chastain as Maya, and the actual raid at the end of the film. Chastain is excellent, she’s the only real developed character in the story and she does justice to her fiery red hair. She’s the films emotional centre, she brings the lighter moments, and she brings all the gravity. I love the concept of a strong independent and well educated woman bringing down the leader of Al Qaeda. Without Chastain I’m afraid this whole film would have been quite boring.

The other major success of the production is the raid itself. Cold, calculating, slow, methodical, and painfully brutal. It’s an amazing counter point to say the Bond or Bourne movies, a reminder of how it works in the real world. I’ve no doubt it will shock a lot of viewers, but probably not come as any great surprise. Regardless, it’s the films best moments, its only source of tension, but I’d love to get the perspective of someone whose life was affected by 9/11 because the movie strongly suggests the end is quite a cathartic moment.

It’s tough to believe everything presented in Zero Dark Thirty. The CIA have issued a fact sheet pointing out factual errors in the story, and many publicly available “first hand accounts” contradict the manner in which they are depicted on screen. There’s also been a tidal wave of criticism about the films depiction of Pakistan, right down to the language being spoken. It seems a great deal of what you see on screen is not even remotely what you would have seen or experienced if you were actually there. The main character Maya is also not a real person but rather a compilation of the many women who helped hunt down Bin Laden.

Zero Dark Thirty is not entertainment, it’s not even entirely believable. It probably does capture the major points in America’s efforts to track down Bin Laden, and it probably does justice to the raid itself. However if you’re going to make a movie like this you need to do more. I would have loved to learn more about the real world players, delved into the politics even if it was speculation, and felt a greater sense of what the killing of Bin Laden meant to the world. I feel this is a lost opportunity, but I didn’t feel like I’d wasted my time.

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Review: Silver Linings Playbook

If you enjoy offbeat comedies with a dash of the deep and meaningful in the fashion of little Miss Sunshine, then you’re going to enjoy Silver Linings Playbook. It might be a little predictable and sometimes contrived, but each and every performer has brought their A-game! This ensemble cast entertain and engage!

Pat Solitano (Bradley Cooper) is released into the care of his parents Dolores, and Pat Snr, (Jacki Weaver, Robert DeNiro) after spending time in a mental institution. Pat is determined to find a “silver lining” to his life, get it back on track and reconcile with his ex-wife. However things become rather complicated when he meets Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence), who is just as troubled as he is.

It’s an interesting tale, one built on its characters and one designed to ask the question “who is really the crazy one?”. Each major character in the story has some kind of character flaw and its related to some kind of mental illness. Pat Snr is clearly suffering from at least OCD if not mild autism, while the rest all convey flaws like narcissism, high levels of anxiety, etc. It’s a welcome sense of depth and the film rely’s heavily on it. At times the two character who are meant to be mentally ill, Pay and Tiffany, are in fact the only sane people.

It’s also given the cast a chance to really shine. De Niro is fantastic, as is Jacki Weaver, they are masters of their trade and they prove it with excellent performances. Cooper and lawrence do more than hold their own next to them, which is a significant development as neither have really excelled in any kind of serious role before. It’s for these performances that I recommend seeing this film, because not much else is worth writing home about.

There is a formula starting to emerge for movies that deal with the difficult subject of mental illness. A set of unwritten rules if you please that revolve around making the subject matter appealing to the audience. You have to be serious, but not too serious. Because the characters have a mental illness, their behavior can be humorous. At times Silver Linings Playbook does this a little too much, often sidelining any plot, or logic to develop the story in a “cooky” manner. This is acceptable because in a film about mental illness, things do not have to make sense. I’m nitpicking, yes, but it is an emerging trend and I think it deserves to be called out.

The film also suffers a great deal from cliche, it borrows too heavily from the romantic comedy genre complete with all its conventions. I was a little disappointed that such strong characters were not given more story to chew on, but again, fortunately their strength holds the film for its two hour running time.

Silver Linings Playbook is a feel good movie with a good message at its heart. It’s a solid win as a date movie for couples this Valentines Day, it won’t tax you too heavily but it will delight.


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