Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Top 10 Of 2013

As we approach another exciting year, it's time to look back at some of my own favourite films from the past year, in what was yet another exceptional 365 days in the cinematic calendar. It was a tough contest, with many a brilliant film emanating from every corner of the cinematic universe, but I've finally narrowed the list down to 10 and here they are.

1. Captain Phillips -Tom Hanks deserves an Oscar for this spellbinding performance in a gruelling, thrilling, nail-biting film that grabs the audience from start to end. Talking of the end, it is one of the most profoundly moving finales you will see in a long time.

2. Gravity - The work of an absolute visionary, Gravity is monumental in its scale, visuals and performances, culminating in a groundbreaking cinematic experience. The 3d is stupendously perfect, Bullock earns another Oscar nod and Clooney offers a superb supporting role. Unbelievable visuals, immense sound work and gripping drama, Gravity is a stunner.

3. Don Jon - Honest, funny and wonderfully structured, JGL's debut feature stands out from the rom-com crowd in every aspect. It's one of the cleverest and in-depth studies of the genders in a very long time and just shows how talented Gordon-Levitt really is.

4. The Selfish Giant - A magnificently brave debut feature that speaks volumes in the British industry today and stands tall like a giant among even the very best of British in recent years.
The young talent on show here is nothing short of astounding, even usurping the hugely impressive senior cast members.

5. Man Of Steel - It's the Superman depiction we were waiting for; epic in scale and in its action sequences, strong in its emotional edge and utterly engaging.

6. The Spectacular Now - Simply breathtaking stuff. Miles Teller is the best he's ever been and Shailene Woodley once again shows why she is one of the best young females around.

7. Like Father, Like Son - With a simply fascinating premise, Like Father, Like Son presents interesting key individuals who really help the audience to invest in the events unfolding. A strong adult cast is only bolstered by superb choices in child casting, to create a wholly emotional and affecting film experience.

8. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire - Capturing the sheer essence of its literary counterpart, Catching Fire is the film that builds on the foundations of the first films and delivers in aces.

9. The Kings Of Summer - Cut from the same cloth as Stand By Me, The Kings Of Summer is a sheer exceptional film brimming with wonder and superiority. Packed with beautiful imagery and scenery, this is one independent film that will live long in the memory with its captivating story of running away from home to begin a new life and the eventual perils involved with independence.

10. Stoker - Haunting, psychological warfare on the mind that etches itself in there and doesn't let go. Sublime direction and editing backed by the exceptionally unsettling and sinister Goode and tainted Wasikowska

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Where are they now?

As a regular contributor to Yahoo!, I often throw my hat into the ring of their horror blog and produce content that focuses on the best in the genre.

Recently, I took a journey of exploration to find out about five individual figures notable in the world of horror and asked the question; where are they now?

Check out my articles and feel free to share.

Sir Christopher Lee

Robert Englund

Christina Ricci

Jamie Lee Curtis

Heather Langenkamp

You can also check out my Yahoo profile with more of my work here.

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Cinema Review - Carrie

Don't get me wrong, I've enjoyed horror remakes/reboots (whatever you want to call them) in the past; Rob Zombie's Halloween even made me sit up and recognise that my favourite horror film could be tinkered with to great effect, but there are some that should have been simply left alone. The latest edition in the 'classics that should be left alone' is Kimberley Peirce's Carrie

For those not familiar with Brian De Palma's classic take on the Stephen King novel, Carrie focuses on the shy Carrie White, this time portrayed by the brilliant Chloe Grace Moretz, as she attempts to make her way through school. Unfortunately for her, trouble comes in the form of both her abundantly religious, self-harming and forceful mother (Julianne Moore), as well as the majority of those around her at school.

For Carrie, life is dreadful and day-by-day the events that unfold see her slowly descending into anger, culminating in her uncovering that she has telekinetic powers that are growing stronger. Amazed by her newfound characteristic, Carrie's life seemingly improves further when she is invited to the prom by one of the most popular guys in school. Initially confused, she soon comes around to the idea it is not part of a joke, but unbeknownst to her or her date, something terrible is being planned, and will unleash her inner fury upon them all...

Shot-for-shot remakes simply have no place in the horror genre, let along any
other. They seem like the most pointless addition to the growing list of Hollywood releases, and in Carrie it feels like a lot of the 1976 film is being replicated through lack of originality. That being said, Kimberley Peirce's 'update' is flaccidly scripted, devoid of any scares or real terror, and simply doesn't provide the strong characteristics required to be called a success.

In truth, the only guiding light throughout the whole film is Moretz, gritting her teeth and plunging herself into a role that sees her turn from scared and bullied teenager to livid defier of human nature. She produces another horror remake turn worthy of plaudits, it's just a shame she is let down by her support anchors. The usually reliable Julianne Moore turns pantomime villain as she overplays mother Margaret, while the remainder of the cast may as well have been plucked from a straight-to-DVD film. 

Peirce clearly respects her subject material but all too often, culminating in a wholly forgettable horror entry. Cementing her version with laughable dialogue, changes that provoke head shakes, and a real failure to channel any fear into her audience, this is a piece of work she may want to forget. 

Film rating: 2 out of 5 F's 

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Blu-Ray Review - Time Bandits

The ultimate throwback to the adventurous films of the 1980s, Time Bandits makes it bow on blu-ray and I don't mind telling you, it looks breathtaking in its new form and still glimmers with excitement and joy with every scene that passes.

Time Bandits follows eleven-year-old Kevin (Craig Warnock) whose love for everything historical is about to get a whole lot more exciting, as he joins a group of dwarves on an adventure as they use a stolen map to locate treasure. Along the way, they come along such individuals as Robin Hood (John Cleese), Napoleon (Ian Holm) and King Agememnon (Sean Connery). As their quest continues, Evil (David Warner) plots to steal the map and use it for his own devices.

Time Bandits is without a doubt one of those films that will appeal to a certain generation, its low-budget and lack of special effects a far cry from the films of these days. Nevertheless, an adventure that is undoubtedly as fun for the actors themselves as us the audience, it is a breathless delight and proves that adventures don't have to be blockbusting and possess a huge budget to be ultimately immersive.

With the likes of John Cleese, Michael Palin, Sean Connery and many others on hand, the film itself whisks along at a nice pace, allowing for the fun to really be had by viewers, and the story is as simple yet captivating as humanly possible. 

Regarded as a cult classic, Time Bandits is one of those films that will forever remain a stalwart of the film history, involved in its own quest to slay the blockbuster dragons and prove that low budget films have just as much a right as any to wow audiences. A stunning blu-ray conversion and a true family film, this is one you can savour for years to come yet...

Blu-Ray Rating - 4 out of 5 F's

Friday, 23 August 2013

Cinema Review - Elysium

Neill Blomkamp sprung onto the scene just a few years ago as he presented the world with a staggering vision of sci-fi in the supreme District 9. Now, armed with a bigger budget and a larger platform, the director brings to us Elysium, but can he work his magic once again in the genre?

Elysium sees the world in 2154 as it has changed vastly, with Earth a wasteland and only home to the poor, with those who can afford the luxury, living on Elysium, a brand new space station world with no disease and maintaining a fruitful way of living. 

On Earth, Max (Matt Damon) is looking to live as best as he can working an honest job, but when he is exposed to extreme radiation poisoning, he has little choice but to find a way up to Elysium for a cure. His only way of doing so is doing one last illegal job as he dons an electronic suit of armour that gives him super strength and is the key to his survival. Unfortunately, on his trail are Secretary Of Defence Jessica Delacourt (Jodie Foster) and her hired bounty hunter Kruger (Sharlto Copley)...

There's no denying that Blomkamp is certainly at home when it comes to the sci-fi genre. His imagery and focus on an engaging story within a ravaged world is once again at the pinnacle, and with Elysium he is allowed to broaden his horizons in comparison to the slums of South Africa in District 9. That extra allowance is arguably a welcome sight, with the film among one of the most beautiful sights to behold this year, but at times it does feel a little too big.

While the spectacle is for the most part impressive, Blomkamp's casting is a mixed bag. Damon is undeniably brilliant in the leading man mould, as ever, his character evolving from helpless citizen to the one man who can make a difference is definitely what a blockbuster of this magnitude requires. So too is the villain of the piece, Copley, whose rather soft-hearted accent is quickly shunned by a truly intimidating, blood-lusting individual whose dangerous motives and sheer anger easily strikes that level of fear into the audience that we expect. 

On the flip side, both William Fichtner and, more surprisingly, Jodie Foster bring the bad, with wooden performances and, in Foster's case, an awful accent. At times, in fact, it almost appears that Foster's dialogue is being dubbed somehow, slightly perplexing the audience.

Those negatives aside, Elysium is certainly an applaudable second entry from Blomkamp and continues his strength in the genre, especially when it comes to thrilling set pieces. Any film that contains guns that simply evaporate people and a brilliantly poised grenade explosion to the face should be worthy of accolades.

Film rating: 4 out of 5 F's

Monday, 19 August 2013

Cinema Review - Kick-Ass 2

In a world where Marvel have taken comic book movie domination to a whole new level, it was great to see Mark Millar's Kick-Ass spring onto the scene a few years back. Now, with a reputation to withstand as somewhat of an underdog in the comic world, Kick-Ass 2 hits our screens with new director Jeff Wadlow handed the reins from Matthew Vaughn.

Dave Lizewski (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) has fully embraced his alter-ego as crime fighting Kick-Ass, and in representing good in the city, soon finds that more costumed heroes are out there fighting the good fight. But as Dave joins forces with Justice Forever, led by Colonel Stars And Stripes (Jim Carrey), Mindy McCready (Chloe Grace Moretz) looks to hang up her cape as titular hero Hit-Girl.

With Kick-Ass teaming up with his new gang of superhero friends, Mindy experiences the tough reality of high school as she butts heads with the popular girls, an experience she is far from familiar with. Meanwhile, the villain formerly known as Red Mist (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) is determined to kill Kick-Ass once and for all, creating himself a new persona as The Motherfucker. Hankering for a slaughter, the self-proclaimed 'world's first ever villain' creates his own team, The Toxic Mega-C*nts and sets out to wreak havoc.

Kick-Ass 2 is certainly a return to familiar territory for fans of the original, with the stakes and the character numbers heightened. In doing so, director Jeff Wadlow slightly lets the ball slip but it would be very unfair to say this sequel is one that is far from its predecessor in terms of quality and its all-important fun factor.

Filled to the brim with belly laughs, outrageous violence and projectile vomiting, Kick-Ass 2 is a brilliant continuation of the series and produces yet more magic from its leads in Johnson and, without a doubt, Moretz. In fact, this is very much Hit-Girl's show, with Moretz returning to bring yet more obscenities and over-the-top youth violence, with her slashing her way through leagues of villains in some of the best action sequences in the film.

That's not to say Kick-Ass and the rest of the gang don't have their fair share, much to the contrary as a great array of new colourful characters add depth to the proceedings. Carrey may be slightly underused but he utilises his screen time well and the likes of Night Bitch (Lindy Booth) and Doctor Gravity (Donald Faison) offer up new and refreshing servings. On the villainous side, Mintz-Plasse hams it up just as he should do but Mother Russia (Olga Kurkulina) is the beast that towers above all both physically and in her performance. A truly formidable foe if there ever was one.

Kick-Ass 2 may not quite be as good as its predecessor but Wadlow knows how to make his audience tick and manages to forge together elements of the first film along with some new ideas to create a riotous affair. Kick-Ass may be around for one last bow but it's certainly Hit-Girl who we want to see more of.

Film rating: 4 out of 5 F's

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Review - The Conjuring

My blog has been out of action for a few months now so I thought it best to revisit this barren wasteground with some new reviews. First up is James Wan's frightfully brilliant, The Conjuring.

The Conjuring continues James Wan's rich vein of form as one of horror's best directors around today. Based on true events, we follow paranormal investigators Lorraine and Ed Warren (Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson) as they enter the home of the Perron family. 

Mother Carolyn (Lili Taylor) and father Roger (Ron Livingston), along with their five young daughters, begin to experience strange goings-on within the house as it becomes apparent that paranormal entities are running rife. As the experiences become worse, the family, along with their aid begin to uncover further secrets within the house.

The Conjuring is quite simply one of the most terrifying horror experiences you will have this year, but not quite as you would expect it to be. While many directors within the genre rely upon cheap jump-scares, James Wan cleverly weaves a web of intrigue as he walks the corridors and rooms of its focus house and ramps up the tension throughout. Never does he indulge in these often overused ploys to get audience reaction, favourably choosing the pulse-pounding terror of silence and visuals to really hit home hard.

It's easy to stick to clichéd realms of paranormal activity in films and, whilst it does feature many of what we've seen before, Wan delivers everything with a great poise and certainly stamps his own unique mark on the genre. Coupled with his fantastic direction, both Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga prove their metal with superb performances, along with the rather larger-than-usual family featured in such films. 

Tense, eerie, heart-pounding terror the way horror should be done, The Conjuring is without a doubt one of the year's best horrors so far and if Wan continues this way then Insidious: Chapter Two will be brilliant. Here's hoping...

Film rating: 4 F's out of 5 

Friday, 17 May 2013

Cinema Review - The Great Gatsby 3D

Based on the literary classic by F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby sees bond salesman Nick Carraway (Tobey Maguire) as he makes his way through an unbelievable story through the roaring twenties where he befriends his mysterious neighbour, Jay Gatsby (Leonardo DiCaprio). As their friendship blooms, Nick uncovers that Gatsby is in love with his cousin, Daisy (Carey Mulligan), and when the pair are finally reunited, lives change forever.

On paper, Gatsby's cast looks as splendid as a Baz Luhrmann-led party but these thoughts are soon quelled with what can only be described as sub-par performances from some of the best in the business. Whilst DiCaprio occasionally offers glimmers of his Hollywood heydays gone by, Carey Mulligan appears as a mere damsel with little depth and Tobey Maguire remains, as ever, a flea in the ear. As is the constant ramblings of DiCaprio's use of the term 'old sport'; I'm sure this is said around 100 times throughout!

At times, the film does indeed captivate, as it should, with the reuniting of Gatsby and Daisy, as one of the pinnacle moments of the source material, executes a feeling within the audience that really warms the heart only to turn it almost into a parody, playing for laughs when completely unnecessary. It's moments like these where Luhrmann doesn't quite seem to garner the full force of his source material and in turn this results in few truly groundbreaking and memorable instances. 

Where Gatsby does however, flourish, is in its set pieces, costume design and, of course, those party scenes. Vibrant, flamboyant and backed by some intriguing soundtracking, the Australian sure knows how to create some truly stunning visually quests and this is by far one of his best. It's just a shame he hasn't quite got the hang of 3D...

The Great Gatsby is an effort from Baz Luhrmann to bring up-to-date one of the greatest pieces of literature there is and frankly it all seems a bit of a mess. With collectively average performances and few scenes that really stick out in the mind, it lacks that killer punch and is dogged by an insistence in making everything look pretty. If the whole film was a party then Luhrmann would be gaining all the plaudits under the sun but this is one love story he hasn't quite nailed down unlike his previous outings. Should've dropped 'The Great' and simply called it Gatsby, Baz...

Film Rating - 2.5 F's out of 5

Sunday, 12 May 2013

Cinema Review - Star Trek Into Darkness

JJ Abrams is somewhat immersing himself in a world of sci-fi and following a second viewing of Star Trek Into Darkness I cannot help feel this was the genre where he was always going to thrive. For now we can look forward to Star Wars' return but at present one must marvel at his latest achievement.

Into Darkness sees the crew of the USS Enterprise return for a mission that takes them on a journey to face their most challenging nemesis yet, John Harrison (Benedict Cumberbatch). With Harrison waging a one-man war against Starfleet it is up to Captain James T Kirk (Chris Pine), his First Officer Spock (Zachary Quinto) and the rest of the crew to take him down once and for all.

The magic of Abrams' first Star Trek outing was his appreciation of scale and insistence on forging relationships between his characters, and Into Darkness builds upon those aspects and bring to play something truly special.

Offering up some truly astounding action set pieces and visions of other-worldly planets, including the Klingon homeworld Kronos, Abrams delves deeper into the Star Trek mythos and indulges in yet more thrills and spills with the Enterprise. With the 3D thankfully excelling the pulsating moments, we are thrust into space battles, chased by aliens throwing spears left, right and centre, and witness the aftermath of a jump into lightspeed with a glistening blue shine. 

As for its characters, Pine and Quinto excel as their relationship reaches new ground, and the likes of Saldana, Pegg (in a meatier role this time around), Cho and even newcomer Alice Eve slip into their roles as easily as those red, blue and yellow uniforms. It is Cumbercatch though who comes out on top of the proceedings. His John Harrison proving a hugely formidable foe who oozes danger, charisma and a lurking evil under a steel face. 

Star Trek Into Darkness is a phenomenal event for 2013, serving up on a platter some superb visuals, a pace that never quite lets up and a cast who bring emotions of every kind to play throughout. JJ Abrams has once again steered the Enterprise to astounding realms and has produced the blockbuster to beat for 2013.

Film Rating - 4.5 F's out of 5

Thursday, 28 February 2013

Cinema Review - Cloud Atlas

When talk of ambitious projects comes up in conversation then the likes of Life Of Pi, Watchmen and others regularly occur, but now it seems that the most ambitious project of all seems to be making waves, Cloud Atlas. Captivating and awe-inspiring, Cloud Atlas looks into a world where all of our lives are linked in some way and tells various stories of love, life and loss as we span decades to witness various individuals experience life-changing events.

Each story very different from one another yet interlinking with pure genius, Cloud Atlas throws up many a sub-plot all combining to create an unforgettable cinematic experience. Spanning across 1849, 1936, 1973, 2012, 2144 and the very distant future, the stories are each their own fascinating entity. Beginning with Adam Lewing’s (Jim Sturgess) morality-questioning story aboard a ship during the age of slavery, the film then heads into the life of Robert Frobisher (Ben Whishaw), a talented young musician who falls in love with Rufus Sixsmith (James D’Arcy) and looks to complete his masterpiece, The Cloud Atlas Sextet. Heading further forward, we then track the steps of reporter Luisa Rey (Halle Berry) as she meets an older Sixsmith and finds herself embroiled in the uncovering of a nuclear plot as her life is on the line, with a hitman (Hugo Weaving) on her tail.

Heading into 2012, Timothy Cavendish (Jim Broadbent) hits the jackpot when the author he represents is sent to prison for murder and sales of his books fly high. Unfortunately for him, his lust for money sees violent men on his tail and a prank played on him that will change his way of living forever. Zipping forward to a more futuristic world, the penultimate story takes us to 2144 where we become acquainted with Sonmi-451, a clone working in a restaurant who finds solace in freedom fighter Hae-Joo Chang (Sturgess). The final story is set in The Valley, where human civilisation has been depleted and there are cannibals wreaking havoc. When Meronym (Berry) calls upon Zachry (Tom Hanks) to aid her in finding the Cloud Atlas communications technology, the pair embark on a dangerous mission through the mountains.

Such a blend of differing stories is bound to confuse even the most challenged of minds but to Cloud Atlas’ merit it does a superb job of making things as clear as possible. Initially setting out each story in chronological order, we soon see things blended and mixed up, but in such a way as to maintain a pace and understanding that things don’t get too overwhelming. It is clear that the directing trio of Lana and Andy Wachowski and Tom Tykwer have carefully planned out and dissected the stories from the book to create a marvelous outing.

Of the stories to follow we will all have our favourites, and the stand-outs for me personally are those of Robert Frobisher and the futuristic world of Sonmi; both hugely diverse yet awe-inspiring. In the case of Ben Whishaw, the actor produces a sublime performance and really shows that he is an actor who is heading for all the right places.  

With Tom Hanks on usual top form (look out for his crazy Irish author!) and the rest of the cast very impressive, Cloud Atlas is an awe-inspiring movie that breaks the boundaries of expectations and ambition. It's just a shame that it is let down by its runtime that slightly meanders into overstaying its welcome.

Film Rating: 4 out of 5 F's

Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Cinema Review - Hansel And Gretel: Witch Hunters 3D

Fairytales have seen somewhat of a resurgence in film over the past year or so, with two Snow White films, a future Jack and the Beanstalk film and now one based on Hansel and Gretel. Released today, Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters focuses on the title characters following their encounter with a witch in the famous candy house.

Sworn to protect the people from the witch menace emanating from the dangerous woods, Hansel (Jeremy Renner) and Gretel (Gemma Arterton) soon find themselves up against an evil witch (Famke Janssen) as children are kidnapped in order for a Blood Moon ritual to be complete. It is up to the brother and sister to halt these proceedings before further terror is unleashed.

Forget those lousy reviews that came from America, sit back, relax and enjoy 90 minutes of pure blood, guts and fucking fun. It doesn't take an expert to realise that Hansel And Gretel isn't going to be a masterpiece, instead far from it, but for what it presents itself as it is a complete and utter riot.

Bringing us a brilliant double act in Arterton and Renner, the film oozes style, with the pair appearing comfortable in their roles and creating that brother and sister bond. They get their asses handed to them plenty of times and come out on top on other occasions, and that is exactly how a film like this should be (certainly not like Alice dominating in Resident Evil).

The premise is pretty simple and the continuation of a much-loved fairytale proves to be well set out and developed with a solid villain in the form of the always sultry Famke Janssen. Wielding their unique weaponry, the siblings unleash an unholy amount of violence upon us in glorious 3D as blood, limbs and arrows fire at us from all directions in what is a decent use of the extra dimension.

In all, Hansel And Gretel: Witch Hunters proves to be a bloodthirsty treat of a film that clearly doesn't take itself too seriously but also offers up its own stylish swagger. Its leads are hard not to enjoy and one cannot help rejoice at a troll stamping on heads and crushing skulls into a bloody pulp. An absolute riot and a fun frolic of a film.

Film Rating: 3 out of 5 F's

Sunday, 17 February 2013

Cinema Review - A Good Day To Die Hard

Just when you thought we were free from action stars returning to their roots another Die Hard movie comes along... 

That's right, John McClane (Bruce Willis) is back for a fifth instalment into the Die Hard franchise with A Good Day To Die Hard, and in truth the title is as ludicrous as some of the scenes within the movie.

Taking a vacation to Russia, McClane is on a search to reunite with his son, Jack (Jai Courtney), but when he inadvertently complicates a mission his son is on for the CIA things take a turn for the worse. Cue a carrot crunching villain, attack helicopters and some rather ridiculous slow motion moments.

In essence, the film is somewhat of a hash of an action movie; clichéd from beginning to end, filled with less-than-impressive dialogue, yet featuring some brilliant action scenes early on. Fortunately, the Die Hard films have always been this way and this is what we loved so much about them, but when it enters territory in which John McClane is carelessly jogging away from an attacking helicopter you know the time is up.

That's not to say there aren't good moments in the film. The first half is actually a brilliant spectacle of an action movie, kicking off the adrenaline fuelled proceedings pretty quickly and thrusting us into a breathless car chase. There are explosions, crushed cars and all, and, despite some shaky camera moments that do distract, it provides one of the best chase scenes in some time. Then it all falls apart.

A chief villain who is far from sinister, a plot twist that is simply shoulder-shruggingly uninteresting and Bruce Willis sighing and trudging along like he was forced to be in the movie, much like those in Movie 43. It's all uninspired and doesn't make for a fun watch. Instead it makes you want to rename it A Good Day To Stop A Dying Franchise. 

Film Rating - 2 F's out of 5

Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Cinema Review - Flight

Consistency is something we rarely see within the harem of actors on screen these days but in Denzel Washington Hollywood has a man who has remained at the top of his game for years on end. From painstaking drama in Philadelphia to vengeance-bringer in Man On Fire, Washington’s work with characters has varied from year to year bringing us a glistening showcase of why he remains one of today’s best acts around. For his latest film, Washington teams with Robert Zemeckis for the director’s first live-action outing since 2000, and it sure is worth the wait.
Flight opens with Captain Whip Whitaker (Washington) indulging in cocaine, alcohol and a beautiful woman in a hotel room after what we can imagine was a rather heavy night. Setting the tone for things to come, it is a sign of Whitaker’s vulnerabilities in life and before we know it Whitaker is preparing himself for piloting a flight in rather treacherous weather conditions. Intoxicated and attempting to mask it, the captain soon finds himself thrust into a life-changing incident as the plane fails and he has to step up and pull off a manoeuvre that will save those on his flight.
Instantly regarded as hero upon the saving of the majority of the people on the flight, Whitaker is wracked with guilt and soon after an investigation takes place into the cause of the crash. As the authorities delve deeper into the details of that day, the state of the crew, Whitaker included, is taken into account and soon the captain finds himself fighting to save himself from prison following his alcohol-fuelled antics. Taking solace in his second home and befriending a similarly struggling addict, this time with drugs, Whitaker takes a downward spiral into alcoholism as his life around him slowly falls to tatters.
Marking the live-action return of Zemeckis, Flight certainly stamps the director’s name back in the limelight and produces one of the most solid and breathtaking performances from Washington in his exceptional career. Where Flight succeeds is in its blend of themes and the sheer splendid presentation of the proceedings. Opening with a glimpse of our main character at his most outrageous, Flight soon descends (literally) into a 15-minute nightmare in which we are aboard a plane that is heading for death and destruction. Of all the plane crashes and disasters depicted on screen this may well be the most harrowing. With every decision made by the flight crew we the audience are holding our breath and the sight of passengers screaming and falling from their seats to deathening thuds on surfaces hits home hard. Zemeckis is never distasteful in thrusting us into this scenario and therefore provides us with an utterly realistic, harrowing and truly gripping opening sequence.
Once the spectacular set piece takes our breath away, we are then taken on a journey through the faltering life of a man whose addiction to alcohol and drugs is as heartbreaking as it is unstoppable. As Whitaker lies in a hospital bed insisting that he will longer take another sip of drink we almost know this is going to be a tough journey. Even befriending drug addict Nicole (Kelly Reilly), whom is on the right track to recovery, Whitaker is unable to harness the will to overcome his weakness and we descend into darkness very quickly.
In one of his toughest roles of his career so far, Washington is an absolute revelation as Whip Whitaker. An individual wracked with guilt and addicted to alcohol, he is a broken man from the very first moment we clap eyes on him but throughout he is someone we instantly connect to on an emotional level. His struggle through an addiction is at times tough to watch and the influence of his friend Harling (John Goodman), whilst providing well-placed comic relief, adds further fuel to the fire.
Robert Zemeckis’s long-awaited live-action return is a beautifully harrowing blend of drugs, alcoholism and religion all depicted with a harsh emotional edge. Denzel Washington’s performance is worthy of the Oscar nomination and the brief glimpses of John Goodman offer light relief in what is essentially a morality film. The plane crash opening is as gripping and tough to watch as any and the story which follows continues to dig deep into the emotional core of the viewer. Flight is a soaring success and one that marks the return of a fantastic filmmaker and the continuation of one of the best actors around.  

Film Rating: 4 out of 5 F's

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Cinema Review - Gangster Squad

Now, when I first heard of yet another film pairing the beautiful Emma Stone and exceptional Ryan Gosling together once more I couldn't hide my delight. Band them together with the likes of Sean Penn, Michael Pena, Josh Brolin, Giovanni Ribisi and many more, and Gangster Squad looks like the perfect gangster ensemble film. Unfortunately, where the films pack a punch in terms of cast it suffers in content.

Directed by Zombieland's Ruben Fleischer, Gangster Squad heads back to Los Angeles, 1949, and a time when gangster Mickey Cohen (Penn) ruled the criminal underworld with an iron fist. As police chief Bill Parker (Nick Nolte) struggles to gain a foothold on the constant buying out of police officers and level of crime, he turns to one man for a solution.

Sergeant John O'Mara (Josh Brolin) is a dedicated police employee who is married to the job and one of few who is willing to stick his neck out to stop the terrifying reign of Cohen. When he is tasked to leave his badge at home and put together a squad to slowly take down the gangster's growing empire, a plan is set in place and all hell breaks loose.

With such an esteemed cast and a seemingly simple true life story to adapt to screen, you can't help think that Gangster Squad is going to be everything you wished it would be. The ingredients are all there - a moody Josh Brolin leading a ragtag group of individuals each with a special something, a secret romance blossoming between Gosling and Stone, and plenty of opportunities for action set pieces. Unfortunately it all results in a massive dose of mediocrity.

Where director Ruben Fleischer kept Zombieland fresh with some extremely well choreographed sequences, his latest offering keeps rather standard and is at times almost lazy. Admittedly the cast are a joy to behold, Penn has fun in the mould of Cohen, Brolin proves once again his leading man status and the likes of Stone and Gosling ignite with sexual tension. Where the letdown lies is in the scenes where we should be on the edge of our seats. The combat is predictable, slow motion sequences not enthralling enough and the majority proving to be predictable.

Gangster Squad is by no means a terrible film. It packs enough ingredients to be classed as a good gangster film, but good doesn't quite make the cut when you have a cast of such high-end individuals. Sean Penn stands out from the crowd in a role he revels in but with others losing out on sufficient development many of the other characters are easily disposable.

Fleischer has attempted to adapt his style to the time period and it never quite hits that spot, leaving Gangster Squad as a fun yet easily forgettable early year release.

Film Rating - 3 F's out of 5

Monday, 14 January 2013

Cinema Review - Jack Reacher

Much has been made of Tom Cruise's casting as the title character in Jack Reacher but such is life with some adaptations of books these days. Fortunately, I went into the film with no knowledge of the character from the books, but after leaving the cinema I will be seeking out the books to compare. Such is the strength of Jack Reacher that it has compelled me to head to the source material and make comparisons.

Moving on to the film itself, Jack Reacher sees the title character (Cruise), a loner, a stray, a drifter, whatever description you see fit, called into investigation when a mystery sniper shoots a number of innocent individuals seemingly at random. When the suspected culprit calls on Reacher, it appears a much wider web of deceit and lies has been weaved and a person like Reacher may be the only one who can solve the case.

Casting choice aside, Jack Reacher is a well-oiled machine of an action thriller. Providing its fair share of invigorating set pieces, combat scenes and intelligence, it is among one of the most clever thrillers in recent times. While many would suggest that an actor such as Liam Neeson would have been deemed fit for the billing, it is undeniable that Tom Cruise can carry a film of this magnitude and once again does so with ease.

Supported by the likes of Rosamund Pike, Richard Jenkins and the impressive David Oyelowo, Cruise is in good company, and one cannot forget the vindictive turn of one Werner Herzog. Given few scenes in which to make an impact, Herzog tackles his role as chief villain by the scruff of the neck and leaves a shiver down the spine with every word he utters. It is almost a let-down that he is given so little time to leave an impact, but a professional such as he delivers all the same.

Breaking away from the blockbusting Mission: Impossible franchise for the time being, Tom Cruise delivers yet another thrilling encounter and this time proves brawn and intelligence can be combined to provide an enthralling film experience. Many may argue the toss on casting and relation to Lee Childs' books but in terms of filmmaking Jack Reacher is one not to be ignored. 

Film Rating: 4 F's out of 5