Out Now – 22nd August 2014

Deliver Us from Mild Concern

What If
Good not great romantic comedy starring Daniel Radcliffe and Zoe Kazan that can’t quite reach the heights of (500) Days of Summer to which it aspires as it fails to cast aside the genre tropes it so desperately wants to distance itself from. I saw it. I enjoyed it. I probably won’t buy the DVD.

Into the Storm
A film relying heavily so heavily on the spectacle of the titular storm it doesn’t worry itself too much with things like plot, character, and the audience’s enjoyment. I saw it. I disliked it. I definitely won’t buy the DVD.

Lucy
A silly sci-fi thriller in which Scarlett Johansson becomes superhuman and evolves into a higher being over the course of ninety frenetic minutes. I totally understand if you do not enjoy the film as much as I did and realise that if I watch it again I will disagree with myself but my gut instinct was to give it five stars. I saw it. I LOVED IT. I don’t dare ever see it again.

Deliver Us from Evil
Eric Bana stars as a New York cop forced to team up with an exorcist to combat a spate of possessions across the city. To put this film in context Mark Wahlberg turned down the lead role. Imagine a film that Wahlberg doesn’t want to be in. I haven’t seen it. I might stream it one day for the sake of Joel McHale.

Sin City: A Dame to Kill For
Nine years ago Sin City was cutting edge, edgy, and on edge. Back for a second outing will it still pack the same punch? The reviews say no. In fact the reviews all say two things; the film is awful and Eva Green is naked a lot. Therefore anyone who subsequently sees the film is doing so purely to see Eva Green naked. The film opens in London today and the rest of the UK later in the week. I haven’t seen it. I will never admit to having seen it.

Two Days, One Night
Marion Cotillard stars as a young woman who must persuade her work colleagues to give up their bonuses so that she can keep her job. Critics are positively gushing about this latest feature from the Dardenne brothers. I haven’t seen it. I definitely will.

God Help the Girl
Imagine the lead singer from Belle and Sebastian wrote an indie drama set in Scotland and starring Emily Browning. IT EXISTS! You did it all with the power of your imagination! I haven’t seen it. I will at some point down the road.

Charulata / The Lonely Wife
Re-release of the 1964 Indian romantic drama about a woman who fall in love with her cousin-in-law. I have not seen it. I am bored with this joke now.

The Police Officer’s Wife
“Add a Plot”

Art Party
“Part documentary, part road movie and part political fantasy, The Art Party! feature film captures the spirit of the Scarborough conference held in November 2013; championing the importance of art and its place in education and modern politics. A kaleidoscopic mix of performance, artist interviews and imagined scenes.” I have no idea.

Into the Storm – Film Review

Into the Storm

In a small US town the world’s biggest storm, like ever, is brewing. Death and destruction are everywhere but luckily it is all caught on camera in this found footage drama hoping to distract you from its shortcoming with special effects and shaky camerawork.

Found footage films live and die by how convincingly they integrate the fact that the format requires a character to be filming the action at all times. Into the Storm has a good try by installing a storm-chasing documentary crew at the centre of the story but falls apart when focussing on regular civilians. A major plot thread involves a father and two sons; one of whom is helping a classmate film a video and the other is shooting their school’s graduation day for a video time capsule. It’s difficult to accept that when lives are at risk and your sibling is drowning that they don’t abandon the cameras in favour of actually doing something useful. I assume the initial impetus behind making this a found footage film, aside from creating some distinction between it and Twister, is to immerse the audience in the action and make the film more believable but the contrivance of the cameras only serves to highlight the artifice of the film and increase the ridiculousness of the whole endeavor.

Camera-holding nonsense aside Into the Storm really is below par. The characters are a collection of either unconvincing, unlikeable, or forgettable tropes who deliver dialogue that doesn’t quite come across as human. Richard Armitage stars as the unreasonable father of two bland teens who over the course of the film learns to respect his wayward son and generally like the second. Meanwhile the usually flawless Matt Walsh plays the lead storm-chaser and token asshole who acts as proxy antagonist for the storm. Sarah Wayne Callies takes up the thankless task of being the sole female character with any character, a storm data expert that seemingly relies on the weather forecast for tips. Callies repeatedly says that she shouldn’t have abandoned her daughter to take this job and fails to provide a decent reason why she did. One character in particular got such a short shrift in the story (say that quickly three times) then when he popped up in the end I genuinely did not recognise him. Presumably this was a token-camera-holding-individual rather than someone I was supposed to care about.

Into the Storm 1

Visually and tonally the film reminded me a lot of the entertaining Final Destination 5 which makes sense as they share a director in Steven Quale. Sadly while the Final Destination franchise is famed for its spectacular deaths and wry sense of humour neither can be found in Into the Storm. Everyone is taking the situation too seriously, including the director, aside from two “comedic” aspiring YouTube stars whose contributions to the film I would rather forget.

The other experience Into the Storm brought to mind is the cheesy scene-setting films you might be shown while waiting for a themed ride at Thorpe Park. You stand for an hour queuing while various screens show you out of work actors pretending to be in the midst of a natural disaster before you board a rollercoaster vaguely simulating what they were describing. Sadly Into the Storm does not end in a thrill ride, although the large screen and shaky camera did bring about nausea, instead ending with saccharin moments of reflection and reconciliation.

After ninety minutes of admittedly impressive visual effects and disappointingly poor human beings I was tired and had a sick feeling in my stomach. If you are to take a gamble and see Into the Storm then the big screen is definitely the place to do so as on TV it will only be less engaging. On the whole I advise avoiding this one unless you find watching people driving towards, pointing at, and then running away from tornadoes irresistible.

Into the Storm is in UK cinemas now.

Out Now – 15th August 2014

The Rover

Let’s all pretend that I wrote this on time and not two days late…

The Expendables 3
I haven’t seen this instalment in the franchise that continues to roll on despite how much I ask it not to. See also: my review for The Expendables 2, I’m pretty sure it all applies to this one too.

Hector And The Search For Happiness
Simon Pegg continues to show that despite his talents Pegg’s agent really struggles to find a decent film for him to star in that doesn’t involve Edgar Wright. I urge you to read Robbie Collin’s review as it says all you need to know about why you should not see this film.

The Rover
With stubble covered acting chops Guy Pearce and Robert Pattinson star in this Australian drama. It is set after a world-changing financial collapse and the rest of the plot is a mystery to me but we are in the hands of Animal Kingdom‘s David Michôd so no matter what is going on it’s sure to be worth a look. Plus Pearce and Pattinson… amiright ladies?

The Congress
Robin Wright plays a version of herself who signs over her likeness to a film studio so they can make limitless films starring her without Wright’s approval or involvement. Twenty years later Wright attends a celebration in an animated world and the whole film loses the plot. A few too many ideas here in a film that some people will blindly love and decry naysayers as “just not getting it”. I get it; the film is not good.

We Gotta Get Out of This Place
Crime! Drama! Thriller! Three teens want to get out of their small town so turn to the only answer: crime. When they steal from the wrong man they are sucked into organised crime and at some point perform covers of The Animals classics. Most of this is true.

Singham Returns
Singham is back!

The Unbeatables
Animated comedy about Football. RUN AWAY!!!!

Dinosaur 13
From what I hear/read/vaguely-remember-having-seen-somewhere-but-I-don’t-know-where this is a surprisingly gripping and moving documentary about the discovery of the largest Tyrannosaurus Rex fossil ever found. Prepare to cry over a collection of bones like you’ve just finished a family bucket of KFC by yourself.

Blood Ties
“Two brothers, on either side of the law, face off over organized crime in Brooklyn during the 1970s.” With a cast including Clive Owen, Billy Crudup, Mila Kunis, Marion Cotillard, and Zoe Saldana it’s surprising that this is only getting a limited release. I blame Stallone.

The Notorious Mr. Bout
Documentary about the “notorious” Mr Bout (who?) a former arms smuggler (smuggled weapons and not limbs). To see this film as Bout would want smuggle your own popcorn and sweets into the cinema; Haribo strapped to your inner thigh and popcorn in condoms ready and waiting in your gut. ENJOY!

Lucy – Film Review

Lucy

Science Fiction has a bad reputation. When the term is used it is often associated with variously coloured humanoids flying through space in the pursuit of an inconsequential MacGuffin. When Science Fiction is at its best it is not simply about the setting of the story but rather about what the story must contain and what it must do with it. A truly great Science Fiction story will take an idea and extrapolate it to its natural, or unnatural, conclusion. While you might criticise Lucy for being silly it takes the idea at its core and runs with it. It does this at breakneck speed and without hesitation.

The idea we are asked to consider with Lucy is a familiar one. If human beings were only using 10% of their brain capacity what would happen if a drug gave them access to the full 100%? The concept of us using only 10% of our brains is not remotely true but this is cinema so we must all suspend our disbelief and move on. Anyone with a memory lasting at least three years will remember that this subject was dealt with in the thoroughly mediocre Limitless in which Bradley Cooper uses his increased brain capacity to get a nice haircut and amass a large personal fortune. In Lucy the titular character, as played by Scarlett Johansson, is in the midst of smuggling a mind-expanding drug when the packet leaks and her body is infected. With her brain capacity ratcheting up to its maximum she must evade those who implanted her with the drug and decide what to do with the immense amount of knowledge she is rapidly digesting.

For Lucy the increased real estate in her cerebral cortex is not something that should be used for financial gain. Instead infinite knowledge leaves her numbed as her emotions dull and she seeks out a way to utilise her powers for the good of mankind. While Limitless was about personal gain Lucy knows that with knowledge comes enlightenment and the need to share. With such a similar premise it is impossible not to compare Lucy with Limitless but the former certainly comes out on top. There is a huge void between the two films and it is filled with a lot of excellent set pieces and a wide scope that spans not only the globe but the history of the universe.

When we first meet Lucy she is a spunky young woman hanging out with her new boyfriend (Pilou Asbæk – Borgen/lots of Danish films you probably haven’t heard of). He tricks her into delivering a mysterious package which leads to her taking on the unpleasant role of international drug smuggler with her innards as the cargo hold. When the ruthless Mr. Jang (Min-sik Choi – Oldboy) and his suave British spokesman (Julian Rhind-Tutt – Green Wing) explain that they are willing to kill every member of her family, no matter how remote, Lucy has no choice but to comply with their plans.

Lucy

Thanks to misogynistic henchmen Lucy finds herself groped and beaten up. It is this act of violence that causes the drug to leak into Lucy’s system and gradually crank up her brain capacity. As the film progresses Lucy gains more and more abilities; learning to take full control of her body, then objects around her, and finally… Maybe you should see for yourself. In trying to abuse Lucy and treat her as an object rather than a human the men instead raise her to a level where no man can compete. Indeed an endless supply of both mobsters and police struggle to so much as slow her down.

Johansson puts in another fantastic performance to add to her recent array of intriguing acting choices. No longer is she the eye-candy in the Marvel line-up or taking the dubious position of muse to Woody Allen. Scarlett Johansson is frequently in the most talked about films and putting in high level work. Here we get to see her take on two roles; that of the chirpy young women and then the highly logical and emotionally blank (almost) superhuman she becomes. By the end of the film Lucy lacks the flaws that make us human. Her every action is graceful and considered and her face no longer shows happiness, fear, or any sign of effort. Johansson’s talent is showcased as she portrays the contrast between these distinct versions of her character and does so with nuance.

While Johansson is working hard to prove herself as this year’s hardest working actor Morgan Freeman simply plays Morgan Freeman. This version of Morgan Freeman is a scientist whose early lecture helps explain the concept to us in plain English and provides Lucy with some hope and a sense of purpose towards the end. His slow speech pattern is literally (literally) the only time you have to rest in the film as everything else is turned up to 11. If you need to take a toilet break wait for Freeman to open his mouth and hurry.

The film has a ridiculous premise but has a lot to say and it does so with confidence. It takes itself very seriously and feels no need for wry asides or comic relief. In fact it feels the need for no relief at all; the film is a tight 89 minutes and doesn’t hesitate for a moment. Writer and director Luc Besson has described the film as taking the form of Besson’s own Léon: The Professional then Inception and finally 2001: A Space Odyssey. It wears the influences of each on its sleeve along with dozens of other genre classics.

More than anything Lucy is supremely entertaining. I found myself with a racing pulse and decimated nails come the final curtain as my body physically responded to the experience. You might want to dismiss Lucy as being idiotic but you’ll be missing out on one hell of a fun film.

Whether it will stand up to closer scrutiny I cannot yet say but coming out of the screening Lucy was most definitely a five-star film.

Lucy is on wide release in the UK from 22nd August 2014.