Review: The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out Of Water (2015)

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Nickelodeon legend SpongeBob Squarepants adorns – and in the aftermath owns in tremendous fashion – the big screen for the second time in The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out Of Water. Life is typically buoyant for the residents of Bikini Bottom, until the recipe for food favourite Krabby Patty disappears. Unaware of the pirate Burger Beard (Antonio Banderas) and his dastardly plot, Spongebob (Tom Kenny) and Plankton (Mr. Lawrence) are accused of the crime, sent out to track down the recipe while the town decends into chaos. Continue reading “Review: The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out Of Water (2015)”

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Review: The Expendables 3 (2014)

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Sylvester Stallone and his ragtag team of ageing action heroes return in The Expendables 3, the third and potentially final entry in the increasingly preposterous, testosterone-fuelled franchise. Under the helm of Red Hill director Patrick Hughes, The Expendables 3 finds Barney (Stallone) up against old partner-turned-foe Conrad Stonebacks (Mel Gibson), this time with some new, younger and more tech-savvy mercenaries along for the ride. Continue reading “Review: The Expendables 3 (2014)”

Review: I’m So Excited (2013)

I'm So Excited

Pedro Almodóvar, one of Spain’s most internationally acclaimed directors (he’s won two Academy Awards to date), returns to familiar territory with I’m So Excited, his first out-and-out comedy since Women On The Verge Of A Nervous Breakdown was released some twenty three years ago. Gone are the somewhat sombre explorations of dark, labyrinthine subjects found within his recent crop of Continue reading “Review: I’m So Excited (2013)”

The Delirious Beauty Of Gael García Bernal

Gael Garcia Bernal

I was first introduced to Spanish actor turned director Gael García Bernal through Bad Education. I had already watched – and subsequently fell in love with – All About My Mother and was inspired to watch Pedro Almodóvar’s other films by my then film teacher Claire Doyle, the first of which ended up being Bad Education. And, as if by magic, my love for Gael was born. He had the talent, the look (boyish charm mixed with rugged handsomeness) and the, erm, body. And, for what it’s worth (quite a lot, ashamedly) he looks amazing in drag. Continue reading “The Delirious Beauty Of Gael García Bernal”

Six Of The Best: Pedro Almodóvar

Pedro Almodovar

Writer, producer and director Pedro Almodóvar is arguably the most well-known and well-regarded Spanish filmmaker in the country’s colourful history. With eighteen feature films under his belt, and another currently in post-production, Almodovar has gone from strength to strength in his 30-odd year career, creating films that not only entertain, but also educate and captivate. Continue reading “Six Of The Best: Pedro Almodóvar”

Review: Ruby Sparks (2012)

Having achieved meteoric success at the tender age of eighteen, Calvin (Paul Dano) is now plagued with writer’s block and unable to move past his own self-doubt, relying all too heavily on his therapist, Dr. Rosenthal (Elliot Gould), and assertive brother, Harry (Chris Messina), for direction. In a desperate attempt to kickstart Calvin’s creative flow, Dr. Rosenthal implores him to write about a fantasy scenario as if it were true; and so Ruby Sparks (Zoe Kazan), the lively Continue reading “Review: Ruby Sparks (2012)”

Antonio Banderas And Gwyneth Paltrow Join Picasso Biopic

Antonio Banderas (The Skin I Live In) and Gwyneth Paltrow (Iron Man) will star in a biopic of Pablo Picasso, the world renowned painter, The Telegraph is reporting.

Banderas is attached to play Picasso himself, often regarded as one of the world’s most influential artists, while Paltrow will appear as Dora Maar, Picasso’s lover, likely undergoing a radical transformation to accurately convey the troubled Continue reading “Antonio Banderas And Gwyneth Paltrow Join Picasso Biopic”

Review: The Skin I Live In (2011)

Pedro Almodóvar is a world-renowned cinematic master at interlacing a multitude of plot threads and themes into a discernable and absorbing piece of filmmaking with a seemingly blasé attitude. His latest film, The Skin I Live In, personifies that applaudable ability further.

The Skin I Live In is a gloriously twisted and inherently psychological take on Thierry Jonquet’s short story Mygale: an almost Frankensteinian-esque fable centering on one’s ability to harbour wicked control through science. It tells the story of Robert Ledgard (Antonio Banderas, who was always Almodóvar’s first choice), a highly successful plastic surgeon who, after a Continue reading “Review: The Skin I Live In (2011)”

Almodóvar Retrospective #2 – Labyrinth Of Passion

To mark the release of Pedro Almodóvar’s eighteenth feature film The Skin I Live In on August 26, I’ll be watching and reviewing one of his films per week in the hope of examining the acclaimed Spanish filmmakers extraordinary vision and knack for storytelling through his resonant filmography.

This week: Labyrinth Of Passion

Labyrinth Of Passion was Almodóvar’s second feature feature-length film, and it saw both a marked technical and visceral improvement on Pepi, Luci, Bom And Other Girls Like Mom. The film is about four central characters:  Sexilia (Cecilia Roth), a nymphomaniac; Sadec (Antonio Banderas), a gay Islamic terrorist; Riza Niro (Imanol Arias), the son of the emperor of Tiran; and Queti (Marta Fernández Muro), the daughter of a dry-cleaner. When Riza Niro discovers that Sadec and his colleagues are after him, he disguises himself as a punk rocker, and falls in love with the stunning Sexilia, his first straight relationship. Meanwhile Queti, Sexilia’s “biggest fan”, helps Sexilia come to terms with her new life-style.

As you would expect from such an array of gender confused characters, they spend a fair amount of the running time stoned or indulging in a multitude of other carnalities, but, to the films merit, everyone slots neatly into their clearly defined roles with an unsettling yet nonchalant ease. From the beginning, Labyrinth Of Passion is fast-paced, camp, brazen, trashy, frivolous, and flippant. In simple terms, it does exactly what it says on the tin, and has a lot of fun in the process.

As expected, the film has a unmitigated look, filled with outlandish costumes, a gallery of psychedelic colours, and ridiculously excessive hairdos that stand out against the drab city backdrop. Despite this, Almodóvar directs with a notably naturalistic eye which lends the proceedings an almost plausible air, making the weird and wacky characters seem very much as ease with their absurd lives and Madrid’s unorthodox aura.

While there’s no specifically brilliant performances on display and, with a cast of larger than life characters, it’s difficult to emote with anyone in particular. Each cast member delivers an enthusiastic turn, adding a certain personal touch to the ensuing mayhem. Banderas (who becomes a frequent collaborator with Almódovar in later films) has a small, yet alluringly arousing role as an Islamic terrorist who uses his sense of smell to track down and kidnap the emperor’s son, while Almodóvar himself makes an inspired cameo appearance as a leather clad transvestite pop singer, wonderfully blurring the line between artist and art.

Labyrinth Of Passion supplies a very early glimpse of Almodóvar’s talents and the themes which he re-addresses in greater depth in his later films, though arguably with less spirit and boyishness enthusiasm than is on display here. It may be, at times, a messy, chaotic and unfocused mind fuck, but it’s certainly one that demands attention as a piece of wild cult cinema from a burgeoning director discovering his voice.

Next week: Dark Habits

Review: You Will Meet A Tall Dark Stranger

You Will Meet A Tall Dark Stranger, writer/director Woody Allen’s fortieth feature film, is tale of chicanery, infatuation and disappointment, and reunites one of the world’s best directors with the beautiful city of London.

The film follows a pair of married couples, Alfie (Anthony Hopkins) and Helena (Gemma Jones), and their daughter Sally (Naomi Watts) and husband Roy (Josh Brolin), as their passions, ambitions, and anxieties lead them into trouble and out of their minds.

After Alfie leaves Helena to pursue his lost youth and a free-spirited call girl named Charmaine (Lucy Punch), Helena abandons rationality and surrenders her life to the loopy advice of a charlatan fortune teller.

Unhappy in her marriage, Sally develops a crush on her handsome art gallery owner boss, Greg (Antonio Banderas), while Roy, a novelist nervously awaiting the response to his latest manuscript, becomes moonstruck over Dia (Freida Pinto), a mystery woman who catches his gaze through a nearby window.

Though not Allen’s strongest material, You Will Meet A Tall Dark Stranger still has a solid story, blending the ups and downs of each relationship, and highlighting the hypocrisies of marriage. Allen clearly still has a way of letting his stories unfold in an eloquent and timely manner.

Through the unstable characters’ troubled relationships, Allen not only examines how people deal with mortality but also how we cope with life, love and existence in general.

The film, however many life-altering questions it brings up, ends just when complications set in, which not only makes you wonder how invested Allen really is with the characters’ lives, but also makes it harder to empathise with their troubled being.

The characters, from Jones’ Helena neurotic to Brolin’s anguished Roy, feel more like puppets rather than human beings with natural instincts, human emotions and comprehensible senses. They all come over as extremely egocentric and have little to offer in the way of benevolence to their counterparts.

Jones leads the cast perfectly with her portrayal of Helena. Watts, Brolin and Hopkins fail to break free of their limited dialogue and uncoloured characters, and, the shamefully wasted trio of Punch, Friel and Banderas who, despite having the most interesting on-screen personaes, are not given enough time to thrive amongst their equally underused counterparts.

While the acting isn’t up to the heights of Vicky Christina Barcelona, Annie Hall or even Match Point, it’s impressively low key enough to be a joy to watch.

You Will Meet A Tall Dark Stranger is by no means Allen’s best film, but it’s also not his worst. It’s well-plotted, beautifully directed, contains some mildy humorous moments and isn’t short of talented actors.

It’s irritating, then, that it’s let down so wrongly by glorified scenery, under-developed characters and a script that seems to foolishly avoid dramatic impact.