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19 Aug 2015 | Leave a Comment

There aren’t enough opportunities for actresses at Helen Hunt’s age. By Hollywood’s standard, she’s old, too old to play anyone apart from mothers, aunts and grandmothers. It’s refreshing then to see her as the romantic lead in Ride, a film she wrote and directed herself. She plays Jackie, a lifelong New Yorker working in publishing who pursues her aspiring writer son Angelo (Brenton Thwaites) to LA when she hears he’s dropping out of school to become a surfer. There she meets and falls for Ian (Luke Wilson) after he agrees to teach her how to surf to impress her son. We’re inundated with films about middle-aged men creeping on young women (not least in films by Woody Allen – the 54-year-old Colin Firth paired up with 26-year old Emma Stone in Magic in the Moonlight for example); it’s nice that here the imbalance is flipped and, a few jokes aside, it’s never a big deal.

While Ride is easy to like in theory, it’s not as strong in execution. Jackie and her son trade overlapping barbed witticisms like a ’40s screwball comedy, but without the cleverness or humour of those films. What’s worse is that twice in the first few scenes the dialogue is shot and edited in such a way that the screen direction, the way the characters are looking, flips. This is disorientating and amateur – it’s literally the first thing you learn in film school. Jackie’s text conversations with her son are read out in flat voice-over, rather than integrated into the frame the way many TV shows and films are doing, à la Sherlock. After one such conversation, Jackie googles “sexual inactivity” then clicks a drop-down menu labelled “number of years”, selecting 5. Such is the level of subtlety at play here.

The target of the humour keeps switching. Is it Jackie, the New York intellectual who doesn’t know how to drive, hires a limo to take her around LA and thinks that surfing is so easy she can master it in an afternoon? Or is it Angelo, who rejects criticism of his work along with academia and just wants to hang out surfing all the time? It can be both, but not really both simultaneously. A lot of Jackie’s behaviour is indefensible, stalker-ish, and yet the music and tone imply it’s all just a lark. Hunt does herself a disservice, writing her character so cold and unlikeable initially that winning back sympathy from the audience is an uphill battle. There’s a reveal that goes some way to explaining her strange behaviour, but naturally it arrives right at the end.

The tragicomic scene where the truth does come out, when Angelo confronts his mother over her behaviour, is actually touching and very well done, showing a restraint that’s lacking elsewhere. Other moments also speak to Hunt’s promise as a writer-director, even if that promise hasn’t been entirely fulfilled with this film. Hunt and Wilson have such an easy chemistry and Wilson is so charming that it’s not until long after the film ends does it dawn on you that we really know nothing about his character. Their surfing scenes are some of the best in the film, and the water photography is alternatively lively and serene, doing a good job of convincing Jackie and us of why people enjoy the sport in the first place. There’s an idea there, about balancing intellectual knowledge with real-world experience, and seeking that experience outside your comfort zone, that occasionally shines through despite the scattershot nature of the film.

5/10 – Hold out hope for Hunt’s next film; this one’s a wash.
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18 Aug 2015 | Leave a Comment

Everything that’s old is new again. The trick in Hollywood now is not the remake or sequel or even reboot. The ‘soft reboot’ allows you to maintain that important brand recognition and continuity with the original films that fans love while also picking and choosing what is canon. Here Rusty Griswold (Ed Helms) decides to take his wife Debbie (Christina Applegate) and sons on a vacation to Walley World, inspired by the memory of his father Clark in the original National Lampoon’s Vacation. Of course in the previous films the vacation always goes horribly wrong, but this doesn’t deter Rusty. Why would it, when a new franchise hangs in the balance?

Vacation tries to stand on its own two feet (National Lampoon, absent from the title, only avoided bankruptcy through the rights fees from this film). It even attempts a meta 21 Jump Street style joke, the only of its kind in the film, about the “new” vacation requiring no foreknowledge of the “old” vacation. Otherwise this is everything you expect from a Hollywood comedy in 2015. The gross-out humour is over-the-top, if a little illogical (the Griswolds don’t notice they’re smearing shit on themselves until Kevin finds a discarded needle?). As is tradition, there are a multitude of bit-parts from recognisable TV comedians that give the film the pace of a sketch show. Some land their one-joke characters while others don’t, but at least they’re over quickly.

It’s in the dynamic between the sons that Vacation is at its darkest. Kevin (Steele Stebbins) tortures his sensitive older brother James (Skyler Gisondo) relentlessly; he’s anarchic, violent, reprehensible, and yet very fun to watch. Elsewhere the gags are painful in a bad way. Rusty rents a car from Albania and of course it’s weird and wacky with its two gas tanks and extra wing mirrors and remote control and GPS with different languages (oh those Eastern Europeans, what will they think of next?). A bizarre amount of time is devoted to this one joke that wasn’t that funny to begin with.

And just around the corner there’s that all-consuming warm glow of nostalgia. The third act especially is bogged down with the obligatory callbacks and cameos from Chevy Chase and Beverly D’Angelo of the original Vacation films, leading to an emotional resolution where the family we’ve all seen hating each other realise that hey, actually, we kinda like each other. This note of sentimentality is soon spun in a cynical direction, but ultimately with the same result: the fractures in the supposedly ideal American white suburban nuclear family that have been widening over the course of the film are easily plastered over. It’s all a little too manufactured, something that’s stifling for great comedy.

6/10 – Vacation is exactly what you’d expect, no more, no less.
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5 Aug 2015 | Leave a Comment

We might be on holiday at the moment (hence the lack of posting), but sometimes, something shows up you really think needs to be shared. Behold. The official Deadpool trailer.  There was a dodgy camera phone version doing the rounds a while back, but now here it is in all it’s HD glory.

Based upon Marvel Comics’ most unconventional anti-hero, DEADPOOL tells the origin story of former Special Forces operative turned mercenary Wade Wilson, who after being subjected to a rogue experiment that leaves him with accelerated healing powers, adopts the alter ego Deadpool. Armed with his new abilities and a dark, twisted sense of humor, Deadpool hunts down the man who nearly destroyed his life.

DEADPOOL stars Ryan Reynolds, Morena Baccarin, Gina Carano, T.J. Miller and Ed Skrein and will be IN UK CINEMAS 4TH FEBRUARY 2016.

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15 Jul 2015 | Leave a Comment

As you are all very aware i’m sure, there is a new Marvel movie arriving on Friday in the form of ANT-MAN starring Paul Rudd as Scott Lang aka Ant-Man, Michael Douglas as Hank Pym (old Ant-Man), Evangeline Lilly as Hope Van Dyne, and Corey Stoll as Darren Cross aka Yellowjacket.

To celebrate the launch of the movie, From Thursday 16th July IMAX and Marvel are putting the British public’s powers of close observation to the test by hiding 100 ant-sized Ant-Man tickets around London, Manchester and Birmingham. Each of the 5 x 10mm tickets can be exchanged for the epic cinematic experience of seeing ANT-MAN at IMAX cinemas in the respective cities!

Clues to the locations of the tickets will be posted on IMAX’s twitter page at beginning today. Those who are successful in their hunt as encouraged to tweet a selfie with their tiny ticket to @IMAX using the hashtag #IMAXAntMan.

The tickets will be left at various spots around the cities, each accompanied by a magnifying glass to aid the search.


Win Ant-Man Tickets

Win Ant-Man Tickets

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14 Jul 2015 | Leave a Comment

I think I’ve mentioned before on the site and podcasts how i’ve never been totally sold on Fox’s new take on the Fantastic Four. It all seemed to serious and hard edged, so it’s nice to see a little bit of humour creeping into this trailer. I also heard an interview with Director Josh Trank about his take on the film, and he’s starting to convince me it could be much better than i first thought… Only a few more weeks to wait to find out!

FANTASTIC FOUR, a contemporary re-imagining of Marvel’s original and longest-running superhero team, centres on four young outsiders who teleport to an alternate and dangerous universe, which alters their physical form in shocking ways. Their lives irrevocably upended, the team must learn to harness their new abilities and work together to save Earth from a former friend turned enemy.

FANTASTIC FOUR lands in UK cinemas – 6th AUGUST 2015

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13 Jul 2015 | Leave a Comment

After a weekend of leaks from Comic Con, WB have relented and released the full HD quality version of that Suicide Squad trailer that has been doing the rounds on the internets in shaky cam style.

Sue Kroll, the studio’s president of Worldwide Marketing explained the decision – “Warner Bros. Pictures and our anti-piracy team have worked tirelessly over the last 48 hours to contain the Suicide Squad footage that was pirated from Hall H on Saturday. We have been unable to achieve that goal. Today we will release the same footage that has been illegally circulating on the web, in the form it was created and high quality with which it was intended to be enjoyed. We regret this decision as it was our intention to keep the footage as a unique experience for the Comic Con crowd, but we cannot continue to allow the film to be represented by the poor quality of the pirated footage stolen from our presentation.”

Essentially Kroll has just learnt  you can’t remove things from the internet… If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em. 😉

An all-star roster of actors has joined new action adventure Suicide Squad, bringing DC Comics’ super villain team to the big screen under the direction of David Ayer (“Fury”).

The film will star two-time Oscar nominee Will Smith (“The Pursuit of Happyness,” “Ali,” “Focus”) as Deadshot; Joel Kinnaman (“Run All Night”, “Robocop”) as Rick Flagg; Margot Robbie (“The Wolf of Wall Street,” “Focus,” upcoming the “Tarzan” movie) as Harley Quinn; Oscar winner Jared Leto (“Dallas Buyers Club,” “Alexander”) as the Joker; Jai Courtney (“Divergent,” “The Water Diviner”) as Boomerang; and Cara Delevingne (“Anna Karenina,” upcoming “Pan”) as Enchantress.

Ayer is also writing the script for Suicide Squad, which is being produced by Charles Roven (“The Dark Knight” trilogy, upcoming “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice”) and Richard Suckle (“American Hustle”). Zack Snyder, Deborah Snyder, Colin Wilson and Geoff Johns are serving as executive producers. 2016.