Film Diary: January 2018

The month kicked off as any year usually does, with a handful of potential Oscar nominees finally hitting UK cinemas after their festival debuts the year before. Darkest Hour featured a blistering performance from Gary Oldman, though little else. Joe Wright’s drama about Churchill in the lead up to Dunkirk rested on the talents of its lead, who mostly kept things afloat even when the script faltered. As someone who disliked Pan, but loved Atonement, I’m also searching for a Wright film to match up to that. This isn’t it, though it can still be admired for what it is. Continue reading “Film Diary: January 2018”

Advertisements

Review: The Dark Knight Rises (2012)

Eight years after the grisly events that resulted in the death of Harvey Dent, Batman is nowhere to be seen and the city of Gotham has become a place of peace and mutual co-operation under the Dent Act. However, when a ruthless madman named Bane (Tom Hardy) rises from the darkest depths of the world and begins to take advantage of the city’s new-found order, Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) is forced to call upon Wayne Enterprises’ virtuoso Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman), Continue reading “Review: The Dark Knight Rises (2012)”

Third And Final Trailer For The Dark Knight Rises

Warner Bros. Pictures have released the third and final trailer for The Dark Knight Rises – one that promises a more dramatic, emotionally resonant entry into the latest, inherently murky Batman franchise.

Written and directed once more by the partnership of Christopher Nolan and Jonathan Nolan, The Dark Knight Rises finds Batman (Christian Bale) hunted by the Police Department after taking the fall for Harvey Dent’s demise. However, Continue reading “Third And Final Trailer For The Dark Knight Rises”

Review: Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy (2011)

Awards season enters its prime with the long-awaited release of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, a new cinematic adaptation of John Le Carré’s acclaimed spy thriller of the same name.

Entrenched in the mid-1970’s, George Smiley (Gary Oldman) is pressured from semi-retirement by Control (John Hurt), the head of British Intelligence, to expose an undercover Sovient agent within MI6’s ranks. His list of suspects include the wily Percy Alleline (Toby Jones), liberal Bill Haydon (Colin Firth), laconic Roy Bland (Ciarán Hinds), reticent Toby Esterhase (David Dencik) and then, of course, Smiley himself. Continue reading “Review: Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy (2011)”

Review: Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows: Part 2 (2011)

Synopsis: The final instalment begins as Harry (Daniel Radcliffe), Ron (Rupert Grint) and Hermoine (Emma Watson) continue their pursuit to find and destroy Voldemort’s three remaining Horcruxes, the enchanted components responsible for his perpetuity. But as the mystical Deathly Hallows are unearthed, and Voldemort learns of their plan, the ultimate battle begins. Life as life as they Continue reading “Review: Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows: Part 2 (2011)”

Review: Kung Fu Panda 2 (2011)

Synopsis: Po (Jack Black) the chop-sockey panda, returns for a new adventure, this time taking on evil Lord Shen (Oldman): a formidable enemy with a nasty secret weapon. Po is joined by his old buddies – Tigress (Angelina Jolie), Crane (David Cross), Mantis (Seth Rogen), Viper (Lucy Liu) and Monkey (Jackie Chan) – to protect the Valley of Peace.

Kung Fu Panda 2, the sequel to Dreamworks Animations’ heavily buzzed about Kung Fu Panda, is a wondrous equal to its perfectly enjoyable predecessor – if not slightly more sophisticated and well-rounded. The comedy, story and voice-work have all been upped in an attempt to combat sequel fatigue and, to the films merit, everyone pulls it off in a charmingly buoyant manner.

The script, penned by returning screenwriters Glenn Berger and Jonathan Aibel, is wonderfully paced, and a marked improvement on the original. Not only are Berger and Aibel able to strike the perfect balance between Po and the Furious Five’s quest to stop Lord Shen’s and Po’s heartbreaking discovery of his adoption, but they heighten the enjoyment factor with lampoonery, exhilarating action and the inclusion of an inspired kung fu-esque score by John Powell and Hans Zimmer. It’s not an easy task to alternate between the heaviness of characters lost childhood and spritely adventure, but Kung Fu Panda hits the nail on the head, exquisitely weaving the two strands together in a near seamless manner.

Director Jennifer Yuh Nelson oversees with a keen eye and indisputable zing that ensures Kung Fu Panda 2 preserves the marvellous spark and sheer gaiety that made the original so popular. A snappy pace and scenes that are choreographed with a distinct level of creativity – most notably the anime-infused flashback scenes revealing Po’s psychologically disturbed childhood and the hilarious Pac Man-esque chase sequence through Gongmen city – wholly infuse the film with an overarching fun disposition, and ensure the animation is as visually interesting and detailed as physically possible. The fact that Guillermo Del Toro acted as creative consultant shines through and indicates how dedicated Dreamworks Animation were to making a worthy sequel.

The film might boast first-rate animation and a refined script, but it’s the star-spangled voice-work that makes each and every madcap character stand out from the crowd and feel as integral as the last that is the films true prize. Black, in particular, gives a top-notch as the burgeoning Po, and is the ultimate heart and soul of the film. His personality has become so suffused with that of Po’s that it’s hard to think of them as two separate entities. Hoffman, Jolie and Rogen stand out amongst the supporting cast, each injecting the necessary laughs, thrills and enterprise into their roles.

It is, however, the new additions that steal the film. Oldman delivers a necessarily, and utterly convincingly level of menace as Lord Shen, while Yeoh and – try not to laugh – even Jean Claude Van Damme fit perfectly in their roles as Soothsayer and Master Croc, proving their worth as befitting additions to the already bountifully capable cast.

Kung Fu Panda 2 works not only as marvellous family entertainment, but also as an innovative and fervid animation spectacle, intercut with heartwarming revelations, thrilling action, skilful comedy, superlative voice-work, and a soaring soundtrack to boot. It’s a film for all ages, and one that unquestionably deserves to be cherished and enjoyed as much, if not more, than the first.

Review: Red Riding Hood

Red Riding Hood is director Catherine Hardwicke’s follow-up to the hugely successful Twilight, and stars Amanda Seyfried, Shiloh Fernandez, Max Irons, Lukas Haas, Billy Burke, Gary Oldman and Julie Christie.

Valerie (Seyfried) is a beautiful young woman torn between two men. She is in love with a brooding outsider, Peter (Fernandez), but her parents have arranged for her to marry the wealthy Henry (Irons). Unwilling to lose each other, Valerie and Peter plan to run away together when they learn that Valerie’s older sister has been killed by the werewolf that prowls the dark forest surrounding their village.

For years, the people have maintained an uneasy truce with the beast, offering the creature a monthly animal sacrifice. But under a blood red moon, the wolf has upped the stakes by taking a human life. Hungry for revenge, the people call on famed werewolf hunter, Father Solomon (Oldman), to help them kill the wolf. But Solomon’s arrival brings unintended consequences as he warns that the wolf, who takes human form by day, could be any one of them.

As the death toll rises with each moon, Valerie begins to suspect that the werewolf could be someone she loves. As panic grips the town, Valerie discovers that she has a unique connection to the beast – one that inexorably draws them together, making her both suspect and bait.

Hardwicke’s direction is limp and lifeless, undoubtedly let down by awkward staging, tacky production design and a script that doesn’t seem to know where it’s going, what era it’s in or how best to use its talent both in front of and behind the camera.

Seyfried is striking to look at and easily fulfills the sumptuous ‘big eyes’ part of the characters profile, but it never capitalises on the actress’ raw talent to demonstrate both innocence and transgression simultaneously.

The less said about the male leads, the better, as neither Fernandez nor Irons prove themselves capable of acting with conviction – they’re merely there as objects of Valerie’s affection.

The supporting crop, including Oldman, Christie, Haas and Burke, all take a decent stab at their respective characters, showing much more conviction and flair than the younger, more integral group, but they suffer from far too many cliches, hilariously cheesy dialogue, and severely limited screen time to make an overlying impression.

Red Riding Hood is quite obviously cashing in on the Twilight crowd, and does nothing to convince audiences otherwise. It’s badly acted, badly scripted and shockingly directed.

Saying that, with its glossy aesthetic, thundering emo-rock soundtrack and inclusion of Seyfried, there are obvious attempts at bringing the old Red Riding Hood fairytale into the 21st century, but sadly Hardwicke’s vision isn’t strong or clear enough for it to be any more than a disastrous attempt.