Gravity

120px-Film-stripA sneaky daytime showing this week. My aunt volunteered to look after the little one while the other two were at school. I have Tuesdays off, and I’d heard good things, so we booked a couple of tickets for an IMAX screening of…

Gravity

“I hate space!”

Plot-in-a-nutshell: A routine shuttle mission goes all to hell…

See it if you like: sitting on the edge of your seat and not blinking for ninety minutes

Let’s just add a review-in-a-nutshell to this: See. This. Film.

Slightly expanded: If possibly, See. This. Film. In. IMAX. 3D.

If Hollywood died tomorrow and left Gravity as its legacy, then the industry would be fondly remembered. It’s so good, that I have – after many years – finally forgiven Sandra Bullock for The Net. A film I have derided for nigh on two decades. Sandra, seriously, you can now hold your head high.

With a cast of – to all intents and purposes – two, Gravity proves that you don’t need an all-star ensemble cast to sell a film. In fact, the last time I remember seeing a film with a cast so small it was The Disappearance of Alice Creed. Coincidentally, or maybe not, that film was also staggeringly good (you can see my review here).

Absolutely honestly, with my hand on my heart, I don’t think I so much as blinked (except to “avoid” on chunk of debris that looked like it would hit me in the face) after the first five minutes of the film. Around fifteen minutes in, my wife held my hand and we didn’t let go of each other until the credits rolled.

As ever, I don’t want to tell you too much about the plot for fear of giving anything away. Suffice to say, it’s a drama set in space against the background of a serious accident which leaves a shuttle crew stranded up there. Only it’s way better than that. Way better. Think how good you reckon that could be and then multiply that tenfold. At least.

George Clooney is excellent opposite Bullock, but the real star is director Alfonso Cuarón. With the aid of digital technology and a lot of new techniques, he’s made the visuals so realistic that it moves the film from “impressive” to “jaw-droppingly stunning” in every aspect. I don’t really buy DVDs any more, but this is very much likely to sway me purely as I’d expect some very interesting “Making of” features. In fact, it’s good enough to possibly convince me to finally get a Blu-Ray player.

In case I’ve not convinced you – see this film. If you see one film a week, month or year… this is the one. And stump up for IMAX 3D if you can. I know I go on about how 3D’s rubbish. This doesn’t hold for good IMAX 3D as it makes use of the size of the screen to fill your field of vision, plus the image quality helps.

I’d still not touch it in 3D at a regular cinema, but the extra we paid for IMAX was worth every penny. Twice over.

Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2

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Very quick review here as I’m buried in other stuff:

Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs 2

“Where did he get a brown pencil from?”

Plot-in-a-nutshell: the food from the first film is taking over the Island – can Flint (Bill Hader) and co save their home?

See it if you like: great animation, funny stories and incredibly bad puns

Went with Little Mister (5) and Little Miss (12) for this one. All three of us enjoyed it, which is a good thing. Every bit as good as the first and follows on very closely from it. However, it’s not just the same film over again. The humour is subtly different and the jokes far worse. In a groan-inducing way.

Most of the verbal humour is based on puns, something I grew up with and which kids these days don’t seem to get. I put it down to a lack of reading, but hey. Every little helps. However, there are a couple of slightly more off-colour lines which really make you giggle – such as the one quoted above. It’s near the start of the film and brushed over so quickly that you could miss it.

The voice cast is great, the animation is superb, the characters are wonderful, the story is engaging… simply put, this is a very, very enjoyable film for all the family. The action doesn’t let up and it’s bright – this will keep the younger ones happy. Older kids will appreciate the story and jokes. Adults will lose themselves in the sharp dialogue and clever animation.

Great film. See it.

Captain Phillips

120px-Film-stripFirst film in a couple of weeks as we’ve been to that many gigs. Actually, we were heading to the Ramones/Andrew WK concert, but discovered we were a ticket short. I passed the one we had on at a loss to someone else and we went to see a film instead. Not very rock and roll, but we were both pooched and fancied a comfy seat rather than a loud concert.

Captain Phillips

“They’re not here to fish.”

Plot-in-a-nutshell: Pirates take over ship populated by unarmed merchant seamen

See it if you like: tension and real life drama

Short review as it’s past my bedtime and I have work in the morning! Simple point to make is that Tom Hanks is superb in this – as good as I’ve ever seen him – and supported by an equally excellent cast.

Now, it’s “based on a true story” so without reading up on the tale in detail it’s always hard to know how close to the real story we’re sticking. What’s important for your spending money is “is it enjoyable”? In this case – yes. Yes it is.

It takes about fifteen minutes to get going, and from that point on it really is tense.

To be as spoiler-free as possible, the only thing I’ll tell you about the ending is that it doesn’t drag on. It would be easy to make is ridiculously schmaltzy, but director Paul Greengrass seems to have decided where the story ends and stops the film at that point. Sensible decision.

Good cast, good film, enjoyable visit to the cinema.

Filth

120px-Film-stripOne film this week due to the times available. In fact, it was last week and I’ve only had a chance to type things up! So only a very brief review of:

Filth

“Don’t start something you cannae ******* finish.”

Plot-in-a-nutshell: corrupt policemen descends down a drug-fuelled helter-skelter

See it if you like: off-the-rails, slightly weird black comedies

Being based on a novel by IrvineTrainspotting” Welsh, it’s no surprised that Filth is full of drugs, violence, sex and bad language. And that it’s based in Scotland. The aforementioned student favourite is going to be an inevitable comparison, but other than the simplest of themes there’s little else to link the two.

Two different directors have taken two different works by the same author and made two very different films.

One thing I want to make clear about Filth, though, is that it is far from the comedy that the trailers will have you expecting. It’s much darker, weirder and unsettling. It’s also too long and gets a bit boring before it reaches its conclusion.

Fair play to James McAvoy for taking the main role of dodgy copper Bruce Robertson (David Tennant had signed up, but had to drop out when shooting dates changed and conflicted with other commitments). It’s a nasty character to play, and a difficult one as Robertson himself increasingly loses touch with reality.

It’s just a shame that, overall, the film just doesn’t hold interest. It’s difficult to watch in places, though I’m sure others would find it far more so than a desensitised individual like myself found it. I do think that the trailers are partly to blame, leading you to expect one type of film and then being slemmed sideways by something utterly different.

Gillian really wanted to see this, I was just curious. Both of us left disappointed.

Great cast, wonderful performances, but a drawn-out plot that just didn’t satisfy.

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Rush / White House Down

120px-Film-stripTwo-film Thursday again, and this week only two films happened to be on that we hadn’t seen and wanted to see. Nice, easy choice for a change!

Rush

“Asshole.”

Plot-in-a-nutshell: dramatised biopic of the 1976 F1 season focusing on the rivalry between James Hunt and Niki Lauda

See it if you like: tight, character-driven dramas with an edge of action. Or F1. Or cars.

I begin with the same disclaimer with which I started my review of Senna about two years ago: “I am not an F1 fan. I appreciate the technology and so forth, but I find the sport itself deathly dull.” I will, however, also reach the same conclusion – it makes for bloody brilliant films.

Seriously, without looking on IMDB to check his filmography, I don’t think Ron Howard has made a single bad film. And he continues the impressive trend with this.

Despite being set in the world of motor racing, the tale is very much focused on the two main characters – ladies man and bit-of-a-dick James Hunt (Chris Hemsworth), and rat-like workhorse Niki Lauda (Daniel Brühl).

From their first meeting during a Formula 3 race to their world famous clash during the 1976 F1 season, the story follows their personal lives, relationship with each other and memorable events on the track.

One benefit, as with Senna, of not being a fan of the racing is that I didn’t know exactly how things would pan out as far as results went. Obviously it must have been tight, but beyond that it added something to the film by not knowing. At one point the wife, who probably likes F1 even less than me, leaned over and asked “Does anyone die in this race?” She was genuinely wrapped up so much in the characters that she was nervous about watching. It’s that good.

While the track sequences are stunning they are purely the backdrop to the excellent performances by the leads (and supporting cast) who really portray two vastly different men who ended up very much respecting each other. The story on the way there is a roller-coaster of a ride of the highest order and left me just as thrilled and exhausted at the end as if I’d been on a real one.

I’ll finish with a quote from the Mrs: “I’d say more than pleasantly surprised, there were points when I was literally on the edge of my seat. Not into cars at all but this is a great film, I really enjoyed it.”

White House Down

“How do you lose a rocket launcher?”

Plot-in-a-nutshell: mad loons break into the White House to kidnap the President. Only one man (and his daughter, and a tour guide, and another man, and some people outside) can stop them

See it if you like: Silly action films that don’t make much sense, but entertain nevertheless

By coincidence, we watched Olympus Has Fallen earlier this week, which has a very similar plot but takes a more serious tone than the more “jokey” one apparent in scenes of White House Down. In fact, the trailer for this film may make you think that it’s more of a buddy-buddy comedy action.

Actually, it isn’t. Although there are some light-hearted moments and good one-liners, it’s as much a comedy as Die Hard (which is always going to be the benchmark for 1-man or 2-men against overwhelming odds action films). The effects are better than OHF‘s as well, which to me looked more like a made-for-TV movie with some shonky CGI vehicles and the like.

In this WHD, Channing Tatum plays Cale, a wannabe secret service agent and actual army drop-out with a failed marriage. His dream job is to be on the presidential guard to impress his daughter (a marginally annoying, but only in a way all teenagers are, Joey King). The President in this case is played by Jamie Foxx and he’s probably the piece of the puzzle (barring the usual “no human can take that many beatings issue) which provides the weak link.

Foxx isn’t bad at all. And he works well alongside Tatum in their scenes together. It’s the character himself that requires belief suspension. First of all a black president (one of the background reporters towards the end actually refers to him as “Obama”!), and one who wants to withdraw all troops from the Middle East thus setting up the reasons for the assault on the White House. Yeah, right.

However, if you can’t suspend belief during an action film then you may as well sit at home. It rollicks along at a fair old pace once it gets going with suitably bad bad guys, buff good guys, and ineffective authority figures bickering amongst themselves instead of getting the job done.

Oh, and if there’s one whopping great reference to Bruce Willis‘s best film it’s the computer hacker. Flamboyant, egotistical, and listening to classical music while he taps away.

As expected, the bangs and crunches get bigger and stupider as the film progresses. No surprises, no major twists that you can’t see coming a mile away but still a fun ride.

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