Thursday, 29 April 2010

Iron Man 2 - Review

This is, most likely, the geek in me talking but I often find myself beaming with a sense of excitement and anticipation any time I go to see a comic book adaptation. With Kick Ass already flying the superhero flag this year with an outstanding contribution to the genre, its time to check on an old classic in the form of Marvel's Iron Man, returning for his surprisingly, much anticipated sequel. Can Jon Favreau manage to defy expectations once again and deliver another blockbuster hit? It seems to look that way...

Picking up literally from the closing events of the first film, Tony Stark - in a moment of sheer arrogance - has just revealed himself, to the world, as the mysterious armour-clad Iron Man. The news starts to spread rapidly, and eventually finds its way to Russia where Ivan Vanko plans his revenge on Tony for disgracing his family name. All typical comic book fluff so far.

As you would expect Robert Downey Jr is, effortlessly, on top form for playing...err...Robert Downey Jr? Some people, understandably, find this quality in his acting a bit irritating and repetitive, personally I have always enjoyed it, offering light relief from the constant intensity found in his peers, in similar features, such as Christian Bale in Batman or Toby Maguire in Spider-man. He managed to capture the narcissism of Stark while also having the opportunity to touch upon his much documented alcoholism, a brilliantly bold move for a superhero, who is obviously a role model to children.

Downey Jr was fortunately boosted by a frankly brilliant supporting cast, Mickey Rourke defied my expectations as the psychotic Whiplash - even producing a mildly acceptable Russian accent - while Sam Rockwell was entertaining as Tony's corporate adversary, Justin Hammer. Don Cheadle had one of the hardest tasks required for any actor having to step into the shoes of the departed Terrance Howard - who bowed out from returning due to contractual issues. Though he wasn't quite as charismatic as Howard in the role of Rhodey Rhodes he probably pulled off the 'All-American Solider' persona a bit better, coming off as a stern bad cop to Stark's laid-back slapstick good cop, not to mention was one of the highlights of the movie as War Machine.

Though faring far better than I had initially expected, it was slightly disappointing not to see Scarlet Johansson's sultry Black Widow sport her original Russian accent - seriously if Mickey Rourke can just about get away with it, why not someone as capable as she?! One of the outstanding cameos that made me genuinely smile was not the brief appearance of a certain iconic shield, nor was it the return of Nick Fury (Samuel L Jackson) but seeing Mad Men's John Slattery appear in vintage video reels as Tony's father Howard.

Similar to the first movie however I was underwhelmed the action element took a bit longer to fully bare fruit than perhaps it should for a sequel. However when you have a character like Tony Stark, you could probably go most of the film without seeing his near-indestructible alter ego and having few complaints. Where Iron Man 2 succeeded as a sequel was developing Tony Stark as a person, realising his own personal journey, into the hero everyone wants him to be, is far from complete. The film also is a treat because it must be the first sequel in a long while to not bother going down the 'darker is better' route, capturing the true spirit of Marvel Comics, in comparison to their DC counterparts.

Final Thoughts
Iron Man 2 was a highly entertaining film that perhaps could have had a higher injection of mindless action to balance the troubling inner-demons of the protagonist. Overall I found it no better yet no worse than the first instalment which, considering how enjoyable the previous film was, is hardly a bad thing. Though as mentioned before, time after time, will the film makers at Marvel please consider better villains for their future productions.


See This If You Liked...
Iron Man, Spider-man 2, Fantastic Four, The Incredible Hulk

Iron Man 2 is in cinemas nationwide from April 30th

Wednesday, 28 April 2010

Deadville - Review

Its a troubling thought, I dwell on more than most, when writing this blog. Often wondering why I have such a love/hate relationship with locally made films from Northern Ireland. Though I'm an vivid supporter of the stellar talent this country produces, I find myself being its worst critic at times also. Over a year on from my last local experience, I'm back to Queen's Film Theatre to view another Northern Irish movie, the début feature from director Kieran Majury - Deadville.

The general plot of Deadville follows closely to the usual zombie thriller formula. Most of Ireland's population is dead from a horrific virus, and those left alive face an un-living nightmare. David (an impressive performance from Neal McWilliams) is on a quest to find a cure, for his beloved girlfriend, amidst the chaos; leading him to a strange encounter with a mysterious couple.

Upon entering the cinema I was given a flyer describing Deadville as a feature that shows having a low budget - £800 - should never be an issue, which is a commendable statement, nevertheless the message the film was trying to convey suffered greatly because of this.

Due to the aforementioned constraints it felt as though Deadville was being, tightly, held by a leash. Never having the chance to fully let loose with its intended blood and gore factor, which it was in dire need of, at times. The 'psychological horror' element was also ill-conceived rarely having the chance to delve into the troubling psyche of the protagonist. It possibly could have done without the genuinely cringing prologue which felt more like an advert for Storm Cinemas than the intro to a horror film.

Deadville often succeeded when setting its locations out in the wilderness areas, amongst bleaker settings, such as the loving couple's hideaway, conjuring memories of another Northern Irish feature, Ditching. However Deadville took a gamble to also expose the audience to a deserted backdrop of Belfast, which unfortunately failed because the film-makers didn't have the resources to turn the city into a desolate area. I find it comforting to know, it may be the end of the world, but at least there's minimum litter and vandalism problems...

I personally find, the highly lucrative, market for all things zombie-related a tired genre these days. The film ultimately lacks from a genuine focus in its overall theme, juggling from being a bleak psychological horror to shifting, at times, to an uneasy black comedy. These ideas have been performed time and time again by more innovative films such as 28 Days Later and Shaun of the Dead. What's even more disappointing is the fact Deadville isn't even the first zombie film to be shot in the Belfast area (I've yet to see Battle of the Bone for the record).

Final Thoughts
Deadville is a piece of low budget film making which, for a first attempt, all cast and crew can certainly be proud of. Decent performances and a chilling score also add weight to a solid argument that there is definitely potential here. Though everyone must start somewhere, lessons must be learnt, and perhaps a more original, focused and visually pleasing film will bare fruit when the producers decide go the extra mile and inject more than £800 into their productions - which in the current economic climate is far easier said than done I realise. If at first you don't fully succeed, lads, please try again!


See This If You Liked...
George A Romero films (Night of/Day of/Dawn of/Diary of the Dead etc etc), Shaun of the Dead, 28 Days Later, Battle of the Bone

Deadville is being shown on May 1st 2010 as part of the Queen's Film Theatre's zombie season, The Life and Times of the Living Dead.

For full details:

Support your local cinema!

Monday, 26 April 2010

Belfast Film Festival :: Adam Resurrected

Ponder this. If you (yes, you) were intending to make a, darkly comic, film based primarily around a Jew coping with his life, post-World War II, would Jeff Goldblum be your first choice for the leading role? No? Thought not. Which is a shame because in this critic's opinion he is one of the most under-rated and charismatic actors of his generation, and capable of much more than his career has dealt. Not convinced? Perhaps upon watching Jurassic Park and The Fly I wouldn't be either, however after watching his latest, Adam Resurrected, it may make you reconsider.

The film follows the story of Adam Stein, a charismatic patient at a mental institution for Holocaust survivors in Israel, 1961. He reads minds and confounds his doctors, lead by Nathan Gross (Derek Jacobi). Before the war, in Berlin, Adam was an entertainer - cabaret impresario, circus owner, magician, musician - loved by audiences and Nazis alike until he finds himself in a concentration camp, confronted by a past audience participant, Commandant Klein (William Dafoe). Adam survives the camp by becoming the Commandant's "dog", forced to entertain him while his wife and daughter are sent off to die.

Goldblum is already embedded into the hearts and minds of film audiences everywhere for his roles in the aforementioned sci-fi classics - The Fly and Jurassic Park - however, this performance is easily his most moving and provocative to date as the deeply conflicted Adam. His ability to shift from a sophisticated, intelligent man - a trademark quirk for most of his performances - to a sad, twisted, troubled shell of a human being, still reeling from the scars, both hidden and unhidden, left by the horrific treatment gave unto him in the concentrate camp was a fascinating experience.

Though the narrative skipped back and forth between the present events of the story and the flashbacks within the concentration camp, it never once felt disjointed or irrelevant to the overall plot. Whether shifting to black and white for the flashback scenes was overly necessary when the period settings of 50s/60s Europe was so beautifully vivid is another matter entirely.

What was, perhaps, the most beautiful aspect of the film was observing Adam's relationship between his fellow inmates, faintly reminiscent of Jack Nicholson's master-class performance as Randle McMurphy in the brilliant One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest. He was the 'leader among men' as a result of being the most individual, the most out-going, the only one able to really communicate with his care workers - even having a brief, albeit, bizarre intimate romance with the head nurse, (the gorgeous Ayelet Zurer).

The main vocal point for the film's soul lies within his relationship with the boy David whose mental problems reflect his own troubles while trapped in the concentration camp, conjuring up the painful memories to go along with it. This unfortunately proves to be the film's downfall as the boy (Tuder Rapiteanu) doesn't quite live up to the high quality set by the rest of the actors. I wouldn't normally punish a child actor on the merits of inexperience but due to being a centrepiece of the feature, I regret it's going to make me deduct the points from somewhere.

Final Thoughts
Paul Schrader performs a wonderful job, creating a breathtaking piece of period cinema, which shines more as a 50s/60s odyssey of the mind, as oppose to the lesser developed World War II/Holocaust sequences. Though the rest of the cast don't quite live up to Goldblum, this is without a doubt the most personal and emotional performance of his career. Forget Adam, this film is Jeff Goldblum Resurrected.


See This If You Liked...
One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest, Schindler's List, The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas

Adam Resurrected was part of the 10th Belfast Film Festival and currently available only on import DVD.

Saturday, 24 April 2010

Centurion - Review

Its been a while since I've seen a film set around the Roman Empire, surely Ridley Scott's Gladiator wasn't the last one was it? Probably not, but I do like to blank those god awful Asterix films out of my mind. Hoping to fly the flag for the, ill fated but never forgotten, empire is the latest movie from Neil Marshall (The Descent, Dog Soldiers), Centurion.

The premise behind the film is set around, the legendary, Roman Ninth Legion whose disappearance still alludes historians and archaeologists to this day. Director Neil Marshall however thought he would take his own stab at conjuring a theory that they were essentially all wiped out by the native Celts, or Picts, save for a few survivors who go on a suicidal mission across harsh enemy territory to get themselves home.

Though sporting an impressive cast list featuring, the ever-versatile, Michael Fassbender (Hunger, Inglourious Basterds), Dominic West (The Wire), Noel Clarke (Kidulthood, Doctor Who), David Morrissy (State of Play, Red Riding) oh and that horrendous excuse for a Bond girl, Olga Kurylenko, the film never really had the chance to suck you into its harsh environment and sheer brutality in the way I was genuinely hoping.

Though I won't lie, I did enjoy it for what it was - which wasn't much admittedly - the film suffered greatly from what seemed like a heavily edited script which made the narrative more ill-conceived than it should have been, jumping from one set of bleak circumstances to the next. Due to this, I was left rather disheartened as I never had the chance to truly connect with these characters in the manner I would have liked. But sure who needs complex character development when men and women are being butchered you ask? BLOOD! GORE! GRRRRLS! Which is a fair question, but call me old fashioned in that respect.

That's not to say Centurion was a complete shambles. Fassbender was brilliant in the lead role - considering what he had to work with, similarly so was West (still playing a little on his character from The Wire), the rest of the cast however never really sparked my interest, though I think the - already much battered - editing of the film also attributed to that. Another highlight for me personally was Kurylenko never opening her mouth, she could kick some ass, looked pretty enough and frankly that's about all I can take of her.

In a visual capacity I thought the director captured the ferocious settings in a beautiful manner, despite the rather comedic opening credit sequence, however I can't really fault him for trying something a bit different. The whitewashed effect on the camera lent a minor degree of elegance and class, to a film which, will hardly be associated with both those two words in the years to come.

Final Thoughts
An entertaining and brutal affair which unfortunately lacks a genuine killer edge, suffering from some horrendous editing room choices. Fassbender once again shows his credentials as a fantastic leading man, while Kurylenko shows all she's good for is to just stand there and never open her mouth, harsh but true. A likely director's cut upon the film's DVD release might clear up a few of the ridiculous loose ends but perhaps -to be romantic about it - the disjointed nature of the film lends itself beautifully to the mystery of the Ninth Legion which has alluded historians for centuries since. Suppose I shouldn't have expected much more from the man who directed The Descent...


See This If You Liked...
Gladiator and 300

Centurion is in cinemas everywhere now...

Sunday, 18 April 2010

Belfast Film Festival :: Lymelife

With a rather spectacular opening day at the festival, it was back down to the Queens Film Theatre for yet another healthy dose of independent cinema. This time in the form of Lymelife, from director Derick Martini and produced by, screen legend, Martin Scorsese. A darling of the Sundance Festival in 2008, can it match such acclaim in Belfast?

Set in the early 80s, Long Island, New York, Lymelife follows two families who crumble when tangled relationships, real estate problems and Lyme disease converge in the heart of suburbia. Fifteen-year-old Scott Bartlett is a gentle boy, radically different from his blustery father Mickey and tightly wired mother Brenda. An outbreak of Lyme disease, as well as the accompanying paranoia, hits their suburban community hard.

It seems my experiences, of the Film Festival so far, have been analysing and reviewing films centred entirely around family matters, however Lymelife was hardly the caustic journey I witnessed yesterday in Dogtooth nor the beautifully filmed straight drama of Adrift. Like many before it this film has a good attempt of poking fun at the highly dubious ideology of the 'American Dream' - happily married, couple of kids, big house and of course making loads of money, essentially capitalism at its heartless best. As you can probably imagine life is rarely that simple.

The film follows the route taken by many film seen before in the Indie comedy/drama route where it feels as though nothing actually happens for the best part of an hour, which is a shame but thankfully its saved by the brilliant performances of hardened veterans such as the brilliant Alec Baldwin - proving he's capable of straight acting outside of his larger than life character often seen in 30 Rock - as well as the likes of Jill Hennessy, Cynthia Nixon and the often over-looked Timothy Hutton.

The real beauty of the movie however came from the unravelling relationship between young Rory Culkin and Emma Roberts, like their characters in the film, both maturing into real stars for the future. Honourable mention must go to the appearance of Rory's older brother Kieren - though you got to feel sorry for poor Macaulay (remember him?) for clearly not getting a phone call.

Regrettable however, the film failed to offer anything new that hasn't been seen time and time again in superior features like American Beauty or A Serious Man. How many times does one have to sit through a movie and be bombarded by several more Star Wars references, yes I love it too but please, there's a time and a place for such geekery.

There's very little to complain about the production of the film, containing sights and scenes reminiscent of Donnie Darko - albeit far less surreal - and similarly so, the soundtrack features all the pop and rock hits heard of the particular period.

Final Thoughts
Performances from the wonderfully assembled cast aside, Lymelife will offer very little from the land of the Indie Americana that you have not seen before in films that are unfortunately much better and much more original. Really makes you think how much Macaulay Culkin's career has gone to shit if his brothers can get into this and he can't...Harsh? Probably but with a film this unremarkable you have to find the jokes from somewhere. Enjoyable enough but don't expect it to change your life.


See This If You Like...
American Beauty & A Serious Man

Saturday, 17 April 2010

Belfast Film Festival :: Adrift & Dogtooth

Nothing is as far away as one minute ago, said one man. If that's the case then it must feel like an eternity since last I here writing about the 9th Belfast Film Festival. Last year's festival brought some of the best films I had the utmost pleasure of watching in 2009, and one can only hope this year's is no different. To kick off the event (for myself as I am aware the festival was on to its third day by this stage) was a trip to Belfast's wonderful Queen's Film Theatre for two films arguably quite similar yet poles apart in their underlying themes. First up the latest film from Brazilian director Heitor Dhalia, simply titled, Adrift (A Deriva)

Making its world debut at Cannes last year, Adrift is set against the beautiful backdrop of a seaside coast in Brazil, fourteen year-old Filipa is spending her vacation at Búzios with her father, Mathias (Vincent Cassel), her alcoholic mother, Clarice (Debora Bloch), and her two younger siblings in their beach house. When Filipa feels that the relationship of her parents is deteriorating, she snoops in her father's office, revealing secrets you dare not wish any child to ever have to find out.

The film is not like any of the Hollywood gaffe I have had to endure of late, giving a moving, provocative dissection on family life. Watching the film's events unfold mainly from the viewpoint of eldest child, Filipa, was a brilliant decision from the director as it presented the circumstances of the story in such a clear cut, black and white manner. Yet as anyone over the age of 18 would know, life is never quite as simple as a man cheating on his wife and therefore the wife simply packing her bags and leaving him forever. The beauty of Adrift was how it slowly unravelled the events and circumstances as to why Mathias and Clarice's marriage crumbles apart.

The acting certainly lent to the elegance of the feature, with Vincent Cassel in possibly his most intimate and personal role since L'Appartement, portraying the woes and joys of a married man beautifully. From the in-house domestics with his wife to the undying love and devotion he displays for his children he was simply brilliant. Debora Bloch was equally brilliant in the role of his wife Clarice, initially displayed to the audience as a broken, alcoholic, housewife her story becomes clearer as the film progresses.

Arguably the stand-out performance must go to young Laura Neiva in the role as Filipa, for essentially being the audience's eyes and ears to the entire events, and it was fascinating seeing how the actions involving her parents rubbed off on her in a social context with her friends and would-be boyfriend who pops up from time to time. Her coming-of-age journey, shedding of her innocence was another real vocal point of the narrative which was as enriching to experience as the story between her two parents.

Perhaps one of the more unusual features of the film was the director's attempt to tease the audience with the possibility a family tragedy bigger than the destruction of a marriage was set to unfold, whether this was needed or took away from the beautiful drama unfolding before my eyes is another matter for when I watch the film on DVD down the line.

I have obviously already mentioned how sincerely beautiful the film looked, as well as the amazing cinematography but I think these striking, uplifting images were enhanced by the moving piano score from Antonio Pinto. Now if I could just find it on CD somewhere then I'd be really in business...

Final Thoughts
A simple yet elegant drama displaying the complexities of family life. Though it - perhaps unjustly - teases that something more profoundly tragic may unfold, maybe there is nothing more tragic in a child's eyes than watching his/her parents simply grow apart and lose their love for one another. A refreshing experience in the light of all the mainstream tosh I've suffered through lately.


After a quick break, and once again indulging my love for wine gums, the dark clouds start to gather as I sit myself down to watch Dogtooth.


As briefly mentioned in the introduction, Dogtooth is slightly similar to the previous movie in that its a story about family. However that's essentially where the comparisons end, as this feature was a different beast altogether. The second film from Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos and winner of the Prix Un Certain Regard at Cannes last year.

Dogtooth tells the story of a married couple and their three kids living at the outskirts of a city. There is a tall fence surrounding the house. The kids have never been outside that fence. They are being educated, entertained, bored and exercised in the manner that their parents deem appropriate, without any influence from the outside world. They believe that the airplanes flying over are toys and that zombies are small yellow flowers. Sounds a bit mental surely, but could easily be considered quite quirky. As expected though all is not quite as it seems.

From the opening scene, Dogtooth is quite a harsh film, the house the family occupy is quite barren inside, completely void of any real emotion, which is certainly amplified by the rather odd sex scene between the son - none of the children are ever named - and the family's only outside visitor, a security guard named Christina.

Its a strange film in many ways, because it features some truly sinister moments, including brutal violence (ever fancied seeing someone be bludgeoned to death with a VCR? No? This is the movie for you) and unspeakable acts of incest, seriously grim. However that isn't to say the film doesn't have these peculiar scenes of dark comedy, because it does, but due to the absolutely horrid nature of the darker scenes you almost feel bad to laugh or even crack a smile. Such scenes as one of the daughters reacting to viewing a video of the film Rocky for the first time - never doubt the power of cinema my friends - or the same daughter wanting to name herself Bruce, as she never had a name to begin with.

The performances of the three children (well I say children, they're all easily in their mid/late 20s) were truly absorbing, and shows how easily a parent's influence can mould a child's mind if you cut them off from the outside world. It was a fascinating insight, what may seem completely obscene to any right minded individual seems perfectly normal to these people, because they have no other influence like television, litrature or a free press to say otherwise.

That however doesn't quite justify the actions of the father in the family whose characteristics bared an uncanny similarity to Josef Fritzl (and will no doubt suffice til the inevitable bio-pic). He was quite an interesting person to analyse, you could argue (I don't for the record) he wasn't intentionally evil, just a man who was so terrified at the thought of his children having minds of their own, he would tear them away from the outside world and create this completely warped reality. He thrived on having that control and went to great lengths to attain it.

Final Thoughts
Dogtooth is one of these films similar to Gasper Noe's and Lar Von Trier's best work that challenges film audiences with scenes that are designed to shock and disgust, and the director performs his duties beautifully. The characters, the home, the outside environments are almost as ambiguous as the infuriating ending, which will no doubt leave audiences speculating for long after. I would urge everyone who yearns boundary breaking, extreme cinema to see this as soon as possible! Absolutely masterful.


Monday, 12 April 2010

Date Night - Review

Tina Fey and Steve Carrell are quite possibly two of the best comedy actors on American television at the moment. With Fey starring in the spectacularly brilliant 30 Rock and Carrell defying logic and leading an American remake of a British classic - The Office - that wasn't cancelled after the pilot episode, they finally join together on the big screen for the movie, Date Night, from director Shawn Levy - whose credits include The Pink Panther remake, Big Fat Liar, Cheaper By The Dozen. Best leave the kids at home...

In New York City, a case of mistaken identity turns a bored married couple's attempt at a glamorous and romantic evening into something more thrilling and dangerous - involving eccentric characters such , as crooked cops, corrupt public officials and Mark Wallberg, whom unable to find his shirt.

I will concede on paper it does sounds poor, and yes watching it, it's even more so. However there were moments that did actually make me laugh, giggle and even crack a smile but it was almost in an embarrassing 'This is what would happen if your parents tried to be cool' kind of way.

Though I'm a huge fan of Tina Fey, she's clearly a better writer than actress, as 30 Rock has proved a million times before. Perhaps it didn't help her case that she was essentially playing the exact same character she usually dons every week in 30 Rock - so just playing herself then? Carrell at least tries to make a bit of effort to be more assertive in his role, as oppose to the awkward weird guy in the corner he so frequently is type cast as in similar films like Anchorman, The 40 Year Old Virgin and Get Smart.

The supporting cast actually fare better than our lovable couple, with a playful turn from Wallberg, William Fitcher and even Ray Liotta (good to see him not in a Straight-to-DVD feature for once, though I don't blame him for maybe thinking he was...).

I often wonder, what it would be like to be in a room, where films like Date Night get pitched to mega studios as such 20th Century Fox. Though mildly humorous, the plot was so outrageously silly that I failed to care how a film about a depressed married couple go from dinner, to being chased by men with guns, to a high speed car chase and end up posing as strippers in a seedy backstreet brothel in the worst part of New York City. Seriously in such a time of great economic uncertainty, how does a screenwriter manage to sell this kind of tosh?!

It was also equally bothersome to find, after managing to live through these series of unfortunate events, that it didn't feel as though the couple's lives had change drastically from their new-found experiences. More depressing than realising their marriage was doomed for failure at the start of the film was that they seemed perfectly content after a night of sheer, uncontrollable madness to go back to their banal little lives. Tragic.

Final Thoughts
Date Night is perhaps the last movie I would go to see on such a night, and most likely you will too. Though it has the odd humorous moment and Fey and Carrell manage to make a rather charming couple, its completely unbalanced by the series of rather extreme events that awkwardly fit together after one another. Shame, but not overly surprising to anyone who has seen the trailer...


See This If You Liked...
Mr and Mrs Smith? This the best one I can come up with...anyone got a better similarity contact me please...

Friday, 9 April 2010

Whip It - Review

Perhaps it doesn't say much for the film when I approach the box office of the cinema and forget the name of the movie I intend to see, "One for Hit It? Twist It? Whack It?...Bop It?" After a series of failed guesses the kind lady at the front desk corrects me and off I go. Marking her debut venture in the director's chair, Drew Barrymore presents Whip It.

The story tells the delightfully quirky tale of an indie-rock loving misfit named Bliss Cavender (Ellen Page) who finds a way of dealing with her small-town misery of a controlling mother with an obsession for beauty pageants, after she discovers a roller derby league in nearby Austin.

Taking similar cues from Ellen Page's other indie smash hit, Juno, I must admit I found myself enjoying this film a lot more than expected. Perhaps even more so than Juno on the basis Page's character in Whip It was ten times more likable. Based on my own interpretation I didn't think Bliss was intentionally a rebellious type, nor did she particularly hate her mother, she is - like many - just someone who hadn't found her place in the world quite yet. You would almost believe this was Page playing a character who was more akin to her own personality, which I found rather endearing.

Where the film tended to shine however was in the amazingly colourful support cast of quirky, psychotic, eccentric roller derby skaters such as the brilliant Kristen Wiig as Page's mentor Maggie Mayhem, along with the rest of her team-mates feautring director, Drew Barrymore, being the stand-out performer. Anyone who has visited the cinema in the past year I'm sure will be happy to see Juliette Lewis in something that wasn't Fingrz Of Fury (surprised the advert wasn't shown before the movie actually...). Other notable performances should go to Andrew Wilson - brother of Luke and Owen - as the hilarious coach of Bliss' roller derby team, The Hurl Scouts, Marcia Harden as Bliss' controlling mother and Jimmy Fallon as 'Hot Tub' Johnny Rocket, the roller derby commentator/host.

What I thought screenwriter Shauna Cross captured brilliantly was the under-dog element of the film as oppose to going completely gung-ho with the 'girl power' themes, which could have so easily alienated the male members of the audience. It almost conjured memories of Disney's The Mighty Ducks films - a childhood favourite of mine - which actually left me, at times, genuinely smiling as well as actually laughing.

The film however did faultier on the basis the you will surely have seen it all before and will be able to hazard a guess how the story unfolds within the first 20 minutes. There was nothing new or original about how it was shot nor the choice of music featured in the soundtrack, regardless I would still recommend it to anyone planning on going to the cinema this week.

Final Thoughts
A fun, albeit, standard, indie comedy/drama full of the trademark quirks and nuances seen in countless others before it. However with brilliant performances from Ellen Page and the supporting cast it just about gets away with it. A solid directorial debut from Drew Barrymore, which makes me wonder what else she is capable of. Whip It? Bop It? Twist it? Hit It? Pull It? Who cares, just go See it!


See This If You Liked...
Away We Go, Juno, The Mighty Ducks?

Whip It is in cinemas nationwide now.

Saturday, 3 April 2010

How To Train Your Dragon - Review

Most people probably find this irritating but it has to be one of life's more innocent moments when watching a family movie in the cinema and one of the children in the audience like to contribute a running commentary to how the events unfold, which you usually find is more blunt and brutal than a critic could ever be. Perhaps none more hilarious was sitting through this film and hear a child shout in an unintentionally dry manner, "He's dead". Brilliant.

Based on a series of children's books by Cressida Cowell, How To Train Your Dragon tells the story of a young Viking teenager named Hiccup aspires to follow his tribe's tradition of becoming a dragon slayer. After finally capturing his first dragon, and with his chance at finally gaining the tribe's acceptance, he finds that he no longer has the desire to kill it and instead befriends it.

Since their mega hit Shrek, DreamWorks have unfortunately had a tough time of competing with that other studio, Pixar, though making entertaining movies such as Kung Fu Panda, Madagascar and Monsters Vs Aliens they have lacked the consistency of their main rivals making awful features such as Bee Movie, Flushed Away and Madagascar 2. Their latest film How To Train Your Dragon thankfully does not fall into the latter category.

The overall feel of this film was absolutely spellbinding, with some genuinely epic moments that would give the likes of Avatar and Lord of the Rings a decent run for their money, perhaps this was amplified by the wonderful Celtic score from John Powell (and for more Nordic vibes, Jonsi was shoved in at the end also). A brilliantly realised script which was both kiddy friendly - barely any dragons were actually harmed during the making of this feature - and made the trip reasonably enjoyable for the parents, which is the true measure of any family film.

What I think the directors captured beautifully was the heartwarming connection between the hero - Hiccup - and his dragon - Toothless, almost reminiscent of Henry Thomas' Elliot and ET. It was enough to bring the sternest of souls to smile. The animation was magnificent, and trust me Clash of the Titan's Kraken is not nearly as impressive as the horrible beast featured in this film's finale.

The voice acting was another highlight with Jay Baruchel's dead pan demeanour stealing the show and lent to the older members in the audience tastes while his slapstick banter with the dragon was also amusing. Gerard Butler and Craig Ferguson were at their Scottish best conjuring scenes that could have easily been lifted from the long running newspaper comic Hagar the Horrible.

Final Thoughts
Smart script, hilarious scenes and heartfelt moments all combined together with beautiful animation, what more could you ask for? I loved this film way more than I was expecting, and could not recommend it enough for parents out there stuck for ideas to keep their children entertained over the Easter holidays. Though whether it will stand the test of time like some of Pixar and Disney's best is another matter altogether.


See This If You Liked...
Dragonheart, Lord of the Rings, Avatar, Asterix