Planes

120px-Film-stripJust a quick review as I’m short on time. Little Miss was off with friends to see the Mortal Instruments film, so I took Little Mister to see something shorter and more enjoyable.

Planes

“He’s gonna die.”

Plot-in-a-nutshell: underdog crop duster plane wants to enter world racing championship against all odds

See it if you like: Cars, Cars 2, etc.

A simple story that’s been seen before – lots of times. In essence it’s a cross between the two Cars films – no-hoper pushing for glory, aided by a retired/clapped out expert, globe-trotting scenes, well-known British actor in a supporting (not evil) role… there are more, but that way lies spoilers.

Visually, it’s excellent though nothing new. There is some good dialogue, plenty of lovely touches in the scenery and background. John Ratzenberger puts in his obligatory cameo.

It’s fun. Little Mister enjoyed it and left the cinema running along with his arms outstretched.

Don’t expect anything that’ll make you go “wow – I did not expect that plot twist” at any point during its running time and you’ll probably enjoy it.

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Facebook whingers

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Facefart

Loving all the people who don’t like the new facebook “we can use your posts, comments and images in adverts” policies being touted, and who think that simply posting that “I do not give you permission…” etc. is enough to prevent this.

Sorry folks, by using facebook (for free, remember) you agree to *their* terms and conditions. If you don’t agree to them, then you can’t use the service. It’s not an “agreement” in that you sit down over a pint and discuss one-to-one how you’re going to use the service (for free) and then walk off after a handshake.

Facebook provide you with a contract to which you must agree to use their service. Part of that contract is that they are permitted to *change* that contract as long as they give fair notice (they seem to think 7 days is fair). If you don’t agree to the contract (in whole or in part), you don’t use the service. That’s the agreement.

Frankly, I think it’s a storm in a teacup. The example of usage they’ve mentioned is, for instance, an advert for a venue underneath which they may place a post from one of your friends who’s been there before. A post/picture you’ll already have seen as you’re on their friends list. They aren’t taking stuff you’ve posted to a limited audience (friends, groups…) and posting them publicly.

Get over it, or get out. Good luck gaining as large an audience or following on Google+ with its echoing walls.

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Elysium / The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones

120px-Film-stripDate night rolled round and the two films that fitted in back-to-back were both effects-heavy, yet different.

Elysium

“I’d like them dead.”

Plot-in-a-nutshell: in a dystopian future, one man needs to get from the poor zone to the rich zone. Violence ensues.

See it if you like: sci-fi with an actual plot and very good effects. And, obviously, District 9.

If you’ve seen the aforementioned (moderately low budget) District 9 then it won’t take more than a few minutes of Elysium starting before the visual similarities make themselves known. Neill Blomkamp does a dystopian wasteland better than most and he’s stuck with the theme for this big-budget outing.

Before I get to the plot and actors, I just have to say that the visuals are superb. They look realistic, the physics in the moving stuff feels just about right, there’s a ton of detail… Basically, they back up and bolster the film making the setting and story that bit more believable. Exactly what effects should be. This is a plot-driven movie with effects to support it, not an effects-driven one with a story tacked on.

Damon is pretty good as the downtrodden ex-con to finds himself in need of medical treatment. The only place to get it is on the orbiting rich-person-only space station Elysium. Their immigration policy is similar to that suggested by certain Australian politicians and begins with “Arm missiles…”.

Leading the posh nobs is President Patel (Faran Tahir), but he’s overshadowed by an as-usual excellent Jodie Foster who’s somewhat more militant in her outlook. In her pay is mercenary Kruger (Sharlto Copley, who played the lead in District 9) who is deliciously nasty.

The story, though, doesn’t flow so much as it staggers. A shame as the various plot strands aren’t bad. For me, they just didn’t move around as well as they could. This only spoiled things a little for me as I was utterly drawn into Blomkamp’s world.

A top notch piece of sci-fi. Nicely silly in places, great to look at and with a very able cast.

The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones

“Everything you’ve heard… about monsters, about nightmares, legends whispered around campfires. All the stories are true.”

Plot-in-a-nutshell: Young girl starts to find out there’s more to the world – and herself – than she thought

See it if you like: Harry Potter, Twilight… teen vampire/magic/werewolf stuff

From sublime sci-fi to ridiculous teen-angst mush. OK, it wasn’t that bad. To start with. But by the time I’d asked myself “Is this it? Is this the climax? Is it over?” I’d just got fed up with the whole thing and wanted to go home. Often, I’ll pass that off as simply being tired and therefore judging the film unfairly but when the wife – who likes this kind of stuff – says the same thing you know the film’s just gone on too… damn… long.

We have a young girl, Clary (Lilly Collins), who starts drawing mysterious symbols subconsciously. Something inside her is trying to get out and an attack on her family leads her to meet Jace (Jamie Campbell Bower) – a “Shadowhunter” who battles demons.

And thence begins a journey where she discovers what’s truly within her, snogs someone, battles vampires, yada-yada-yada. Sorry, but it just seemed to drag on.

The leads are typical teen fodder – pretty girl, brooding boy, unwelcoming peers, nerdy best friend (Robert Sheehan, who’s been far better in everything else I’ve ever seen him in). The story is very predictable, the effects are OK, and – in case I’ve not made the point already – it’s too bloody long.

Started well, got boring, should have limited itself to ninety minutes. It’s officially 130 minutes, but feels like 180.

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RED 2 / 2 Guns

120px-Film-stripOne sequel, one film with a “2” in the name that isn’t, and a very sore tummy from eating a landfill-engulfing quantity of jalapeños for dinner.

RED 2

“What happens in the Kremlin stays in the Kremlin!”

Plot-in-a-nutshell: the good guys from the first film are targeted by the nastiest hired killers on the planet because they apparently have some information that they don’t

See it if you like: spy thrillers with a nice edge of humour

You may recall such recent reviews as Kick-Ass 2 and Despicable Me 2. Well, RED 2 can join the list of sequels which don’t try to be the first film all over again, and which are better for it.

Whereas the original RED had some exceptionally comic book-esque scenes (the sequence in the shipping yard being the prime example), these are generally lacking in this sequel which goes more for chop-socky fast-paced combat and over-the-top scenes with guns instead. The good thing is that it doesn’t suffer as a result.

All of the central original cast are there, and this time joined by some other big names. Anthony Hopkins turns up at one point, but I can’t go into detail as it may be spoiler-some. Suffice to say he’s brilliant and shows an impressive range with a very entertaining character.

Also appearing is one of my favourite unsung actors, Neal McDonough. Since seeing him in Boomtown (a superb series which should never have been cancelled), I’d always looked forward to seeing him in things and he is spot on in this. He plays a very determined, no holds barred, whatever it takes to get what he wants operative.

Add to this Catherine Zeta-Jones who has more slap on than three women working at the Boots make-up counter, David Thewlis as a hard-to-catch seller of secrets and Byung-hun Lee as the world’s most dangerous contract killer and you have a very good cast indeed.

The story is also good, and the dialogue fizzes. In particular, and as in the first film, Willis and Malkovich play incredibly well off each other.

There’s everything a decent spy story needs. Guns, women, explosions, tension, backstabbing, cars, guns, more explosions, poison gas, things blowing up… All with a decent number of laughs thrown in.

Yup, this one’s good.

2 Guns

“Are we people?”

Plot-in-a-nutshell: Uncovered undercover DEA agent his patsy find themselves hunted for stealing the wrong person’s money

See it if you like: gun-thirsty action thrillers which still make you think

Second up was this nice twist on the buddy story starring Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg. Without giving too much away (no more than the trailer does, anyway), the two are drug-running and robbing places left, right and centre… but unknown to Stigman (Wahlberg), Washington’s character Bobby is an undercover DEA agent.

Thing is, despite this little fact coming to life at an inopportune time, the two end up thrown together in a bid to keep themselves alive and get revenge on various parties who’ve wronged them.

It’s pretty violent, but like RED 2, has some very humorous moments. The dialogue and chemistry between the two leads is great to watch with some fast-paced verbal jousting that’s either the result of a lot of rehearsal or a natural link. Either way, it makes many scenes very entertaining indeed.

Importantly, the story is good as well although it’s a little bit easy to guess who the overall bad guy is. This doesn’t steal any of the story’s thunder, though, and it rides well until a suitably chaotic and blood-soaked finalé.

 

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Kick-Ass 2 / Alan Partridge: Papa Alpha

120px-Film-stripOne evening, two comedies of very different sub-genres. Cineworld cards back in our pockets after a year-long hiatus.

Kick-Ass 2

“I’m here to end Kick-Ass.”

Plot-in-a-nutshell: superheroes become supergroups and superteams. Which leaves the path wide open for a gang of supervillains to set up in competition

See it if you like: superhero films, but do enjoy taking them with a pinch of salt

WARNING: this review contains swearies.

How do you top a film as ridiculously silly as Kick-Ass? Well, you don’t. What you can do is sidestep a little, change your tack and try and make a film that’s just a little different.

While there are some beautiful over-the-top fight scenes and the obvious use of bad language, nothing quite has the shock of young Mindy (Chloë Grace Moretz) saying “cunt” in the first film. We’ve seen that, and now she’s older it’s just not got that same impact. Instead, we turn the tables and make things darker.

Kick-Ass 2 is all about repercussion. Mindy/Hit Girl is growing up. Her guardian is trying to stop her doing the superhero thing. Dave/Kick-Ass (Aaron Taylor-Johnson), however, has been taking time out and wants to get back into things. Things go wrong for both of them.

Batting for the other team (I often think in both senses of the phrase…) is Chris D’Amico (Christopher Mintz-Plasse), son of the previous film’s head villain and out for revenge. This takes the form of The Motherfucker and his criminal gang, The Toxic Mega-Cunts. So, yes, the language is still there. And it’s still silly. And funny.

It is a good story, as things progress, but as I said it lacks the impact of the first film. That “wow” factor and sense of originality. Obviously, this is a sequel so that couldn’t really be expected. However, it’s good to see that they’ve not just tried to effectively remake the first film and hope for the best. K-A2 honestly has a better story that its precursor. It twists better, has more shocks (OK, nothing major but all the same…) and it’s grittier.

Having said that, it’s not quite as enjoyable as the first film. Possibly as it’s easy to get your mind prepared for pant-wetting hilarity and instead get something more downbeat and dark. Still good, just not what you’re lobes are expecting.

Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa

“She’s a drunk racist. I’ll tolerate one but not both.”

Plot-in-a-nutshell: armed siege at a radio station goes… well, a bit weird

See it if you like: the Partridge TV series

First things first – I don’t like Alan Partridge (Steve Coogan). From an amusing bit-part of the ensemble show The Day Today, he started to become just a little bit grating by the time he had his own show (Knowing Me, Knowing You). Once we were being inflicted with I’m Alan Partridge which was more of a sit-com minus the com, I gave up entirely. He wasn’t funny – just annoying.

But.

This isn’t a bad film.

Maybe it’s because I’ve had years away from the character, or maybe it is just a decent script. I don’t know, but either way I did enjoy it. I found it funny, with some really good dialogue, and a reasonable if predictable story.

Partridge is a DJ with a radio station which is being bought out and “updated”. One of his colleagues (Pat Farrell, played byColm Meaney)  is given the heave-ho as being too fuddy-duddy for the new image. Obviously, he returns to the promotion party with a shotgun and takes the staff hostage. Alan is his only link with the outside world.

For those who don’t know, Alan Partridge is a character who has no concept of political in-correctness, no real manners and no sense that what he says often berates those around him. He’s not uncaring or deliberately mean – he just doesn’t seem to realise. His ego gets in the way. This is funny at first, but over the years does wear thin.

But for ninety minutes, it’s just fine. Along with some other great performances (series regulars Michael (Simon Greenall) and Lynn (Felicity Montagu) are also in place) the story doesn’t wear itself thin and there are plenty of verbal jokes which hit the mark more often than they fizzle. I don’t go for “cringe” humour – I despise The Office – but this film survives my cinematic taste buds.

As a quick aside and coincidence, Monica Dolan appears as a woman at the party. She also plays one of the super-group (Tommy’s Mum) joined by Kick-Ass in the first film we watched tonight!

 

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