Tuesday, 31 May 2011

My new blog - The Unseen Blog of A.G.R. Moore!

As well as my added responsibilities elsewhere I'll be starting to run a new personal blog finally! It'll be mainly for everything that isn't about the world of film, which will stay here on theFILMblog. The main point of it however is to help promote my upcoming début children's novel, The Unseen Chronicles of Amelia Black, due out early July 2011 via Amazon's eBook publishing system.

So please keep tabs on it, if not for my mediocre writing, then for the utterly amazing and wondrous artwork from my dear friend and creative partner, Gillian Reid!

Thursday, 26 May 2011

The Hangover Part 2

Perhaps I shred all creditability, or perhaps I'm better placed than most to comment on The Hangover 2 from having just watched the original for the first time - and largely enjoyed it, I won't lie - only 12 hours previously, either way the sequel most people probably didn't ask for has arrived relatively under the radar. Last we saw Phil (Bradley Cooper), Stu (Ed Helms) and Alan (Zach Galifianakis) they were hurrying around Las Vegas trying to piece together their colossal stag do from the night before, in search for their best chum, Doug (Justin Bartha) with hours to go before his wedding. Though the setting has moved to Bangkok, the jokes and situations they find themselves in are still very much the same.

Two years have passed since the "Wolf Pack's" escapades in Las Vegas, and Stu having divorced his original wife and not bothering to hook up with Heather Graham from the first film, has finally settled down with the beautiful Lauren (Jamie Chung) and is to be married in her home country, Thailand. Though opting for a low key pre-wedding brunch with the guys, yet again they find themselves waking up with no recollection of the night before, this time on the search for Lauren's younger brother, Teddy (Mason Lee).

Like most Hollywood explorations of a foreign culture, The Hangover 2 does largely bow to all the racial stereotypes you would expect from three American buffoons making idiots of themselves in Bangkok. However I do believe a lot of the film borrows from the same situations of the first film. To be honest, whether or not the chain smoking, drug pedalling monkey, transsexual prostitutes, all night tattooist or Russian gangsters were situated in Thailand or Las Vegas is largely irrelevant as if you're a huge fan of the first film there's plenty to love here.

As with the first instalment, the performances were actually quite enjoyable. I got the impression there was a lot of focus on, Ed Helm's character, Stu's domestic woes in the original Hangover, so it felt only logical he should take centre stage for the sequel. Bradley Cooper and Zack Galifianakis were on fine comedy form supporting him every step of the way, both putting their bodies on the line in various outrageous circumstances. It was surprising to see Ken Jeong get more screen-time but he took top prizes for some of the film's best moments.

The biggest disappointment was yet again underusing, Justin Bartha's role, considering he had to sit out all the madness in the original film. It would have given the writers amble opportunity to have essentially a new character experience all the hysteria for the first time and could have delivered some refreshing results. Paul Giamatti's small role added some extra class to a generally classless film, which yet again insisted on having Mike Tyson make an appearance, this time torturing the audience with an inexplicable musical performance. Seriously.

In fairness to Todd Phillips, I do feel his techniques and visual style has vastly improved since the original film, even if the story and concept of this sequel is a demonstration in typical Hollywood mediocrity. Though I suppose no one goes to these types of films looking for genre breaking, Oscar worthy deliveries. If you're part of a large group of people, going to the cinema for some light hearted entertainment, then The Hangover 2 will indeed give you that, just.

Final Thoughts
So...same jokes, different city? The Hangover Part 2 doesn't offer the audience anything they haven't seen in its predecessor. Though the actors were fine on form, and there was even times when it was genuinely funny - coming from me that's a compliment - overall the film fails to capture the shock value and inventiveness of the original. What's next? Hangover Part 3 set in Dublin? With the rate Hollywood is cashing in and playing it safe in a time that demands originality and creativity it sadly wouldn't surprise me...


The Hangover Part 2 is in cinemas everywhere now.

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides

I've always considered the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise as something of a freak phenomena in the world of cinema. I honestly don't think Disney ever envisaged the original instalment to do half as well as it did - without Johnny Depp it probably wouldn't of. So when it came to its sequels, in an almost Michael Bay fashion, they decided to take everything that was great about the fun, family, adventure film and transform it into an over-the-top, explosive, sprawling trilogy with questionable results. Yet despite the second and third film's many many failings, they still earned enough money for Disney to return for a fourth time with Johnny Depp's most entertaining, mainstream, role lighting up cinema screens once again in the form of Captain Jack Sparrow.

On Stranger Tides leads on from the closing moments of the third film - At World's End - with Jack Sparrow still bent on discovering the mythical Fountain of Youth. Through this he becomes entangled in political tensions between the British and the Spanish, an ex-flame (Penelope Cruz) and her infamous father, Blackbeard (Ian McShane) and once again going toe to toe with his former nemesis/friend/shipmate, Captain Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush).

There's something truly unhealthy about watching a POTC film, but like everything that isn't good for you, you always keep coming back for more. I may be in a minority, amongst the critiquing fraternity when saying this, but despite its imperfections, I always seem to be filled with this unrivalled joy when watching Johnny Depp be let loose as Jack Sparrow, never really knowing what he might do next, especially when the iconic theme written by Hans Zimmer comes blasting out of nowhere. For the most part of On Stranger Tides this is once again true, though I do feel the writers of the films haven't done a terribly good job of progressing his character along since the opening scenes of the first film.

Whereas the film focused on Sparrow's enduring quest, this came at the heavy price of misusing the utterly fantastic supporting cast Rob Marshall had at his disposal. If you're going to draft in the brilliant Ian McShane for the villainous role of Blackbeard, you should really stretch him to his limits. Let him delve into the darkness he discovered while filming Deadwood. In POTC4, I just got the impression he was a disgruntled old pirate, with a ship he could control with his mind - which makes you wonder why there was any need for a crew? Likewise Geoffrey Rush didn't get a chance to truly shine, the way he did in the first and third films and got very little screen-time with Depp, cheating the audience out of some genuinely witty exchanges.

Penelope Cruz was another delightful addition to the cast for me, and some of her scenes with Depp were amongst the few highlights of the film itself. Whereas their strained relationship would've been enough of a love story for one already packed film yet again the writers decided, even in the absence of Keira Knightley and Orlando Bloom, to write in similar characters in exactly like them. No offence to Sam Clafin or Astrid Berges-Frisby but their whole subplot just wasn't believable, movingly remarkable or at all needed.

It's these meandering sub-plots in the POTC films which really made the last two instalments suffer greatly. It's a shame with On Stranger Tides that the film-makers didn't learn from these mistakes. In lesser hands, as on show, silly plot holes start to surface, in a film which just needed to be fun and simple. Not every summer blockbuster has to be like it's directed by Christopher Nolan. The Dark Knight or Inception, this is indeed not. Nor should it be.

I'm a fan of Rob Marshall's work, I really am - Nine and Chicago are guilty pleasures of mine I won't lie. However it's with him and his team - not the actors - which is why this film failed greatly for me. It could've easily have done with shaving off at least another 30 minutes - numb arses anyone?

Once again the film was another example of when not to use 3D - parents tell me honestly, would your children wear those glasses, while sitting still for two and a half hours? Also, I understand having zombie pirates and vampire-esque mermaids may be in vogue at the minute, but it was truly quite a silly addition to an already baffling movie. At least the fantastic score from Zimmer was still ever present...

Final Thoughts
Johnny Depp being on form as Jack Sparrow just wasn't enough to save Pirates of the Caribbean: On Strange Tides from being the first (of many I'm sure) flop of the blockbuster season. Fun performances from the excellent supporting cast aside, the latest film of the freak franchise falls at the same hurdles as its predecessors, lacking any real balance, direction or an acceptable running time. The sad thing is, if Disney make a fifth, I know I'll be the first in the queue waiting for Jack Sparrow to entertain me once again. Maybe by then I'll have entered rehab...


Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides is in cinemas everywhere now.

Saturday, 14 May 2011

Attack the Block - Review

Joe Cornish has built up an unprecedented cult following over the past few years as one half of British comedy duo, Adam and Joe which featured from Channel 4 to eventually finding its way to BBC Radio 6. Branching out on his own, and seemingly taking a leaf out of the book of his mate, Edgar Wright, he's finally unleashed his directorial début in the form of sci-fi comedy horror/social satire, Attack the Block.

As the poster and tagline suggests, Attack the Block tells the tale of a bunch of inner city hoods who pit themselves up against a strange set of ferocious aliens who seem hell bent on tearing them apart one by one. Very much in the mould of Edgar Wright's collaborations with Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, it takes a fairly high (daft) concept and pokes tremendous fun at it.

Despite whether you think the language spouted by the 'child' cast is realistic of inner city life, or modern London slang is frankly a moot point, as it made for some of the best aspects of the film. Sharing with one of the character's views, I too in the event of an alien invasion would probably prefer to live in ignorance, locked in my bedroom playing FIFA on my PlayStation also.

One of the most revelatory performances of the younger cast was John Boyega as the leader of the group, Moses. A broody, troubled child who unlike similar counterparts never harboured ambitions of 'getting out of the block' or such nonsense, and acted as perfect more serious folly to the more slapstick chums scattered around him. His journey showed signs of a typical coming of age story, but whether he really learned anything from it is left up to the audience's imagination thankfully.

In fear of the film becoming a bizarre episode of Channel 4's Skins, the children were supported by some classy supporting performances from more seasoned British actors. Most notable was Jodie Wittaker as Sam, a nurse who actually gets mugged by the heroes at the beginning of the film - not to bow to cultural stereotypes of anything - and eventually finds herself involved in this brutal quest for survival.

Nick Frost was on fine form as local drug dealer, Ron in a film which felt more like a Pegg and Frost collaboration than their lukewarm sci-fi comedy, Paul released earlier this year ever did. It was also great to see Luke Treadaway turn up in the cast, a brilliant young British actor with great things ahead of him.

Joe Cornish's level of technical proficiency on Attack the Block was astounding for only his début. I absolutely fell in love with his use of colour in the film, with warm, vibrant, explosions and fireworks which brought such a decaying, foreboding inner city council estate to life. The ultra-violence on show was at the kind of levels Tarantino would often implore in his best films, and even sparked similarities to Kubrick's A Clockwork Orange in places. Also the sound mixing/editing really managed to stand out, with huge bassy tones, very much like Chemical Brothers' work on Joe Wright's Hanna I saw last week. Furthermore the synthy, harrowing, sounds of the aliens themselves just sounded like Predator on an acid trip. Complete coolness.

Was it perfect though? Being honest, I felt it could've been far funnier with a lot of the best lines already on show in the film's trailer. Also the pacing felt slightly off, taking about a third of the film to properly let myself fully enjoy the experience. Perhaps I'm just nit-picking and on a second viewing it might all make more sense.

Final Thoughts
Some slick performances and refreshing visuals make Joe Cornish's debut feature a fully enjoyable one. The social satire could have been well...more satirical, and the slapstick comedy could have been funnier for people living outside of the London area, nevertheless Attack The Block a fun story, littered with a large amount of surprisingly likeable characters and unlikely heroes which, contray to pre-viewing, you won't wish to get munched by the aliens within the first five minutes.


Attack The Block is in cinemas everywhere now.

Saturday, 7 May 2011

Hanna - Review

Joe Wright's latest film, Hanna triumphantly launches the British director out of the comfort-zone he had created with all these straight dramas - Pride and Prejudice, Atonement and The Soloist - he's made before it. However with all the nods to Leon and surrealist imagery he implores, one has to ask, does it all work?

Hanna tells the story of - that's right - Hanna Heller (Saoirse Ronan), a 16 year old who lives with her father (Eric Bana) out in the harsh wilderness of rural Finland, where she's being trained into the ultimate assassin. When unleashed into the real world, she seems hell-bent on killing the mysterious CIA agent, Marissa Weigler (Cate Blanchett). Obviously there's more to the story I will not otherwise reveal in this review, but suffice to say all is not what it seems.

I was less than kind about Saoirse Ronan in last year's god awful adaptation of The Lovely Bones, but she manages to redeem herself tenfold in the title role of Hanna. Watching her experiencing so many aspects of life, which we would all take for granted, was profoundly touching. Some of these moments even resulted in some of the more light-hearted parts of the film, for instance her experiencing the wonders of electricity, through a simple light, to a kettle boiling and a even being on. She was thoroughly likeable in the role, and globe trotted around our world like Alice would through Wonderland - albeit with more guns, bows and arrows.

Furthermore her scenes with the English family - featuring the brilliant Jason Flemyng and Olivia Williams - she encounters managed to ground the film and giving it a more tender side than I was personally expecting, next to the intense, impressive, highly stylised action pieces.

The more villainous characters were the most fun however, Cate Blanchett's CIA operative being portrayed as a modern day wicked witch, with one particularly cracking moment in the final showdown between her and Hanna emphasising as much. Above all else though, the stand out character was the sheer surreal performance of Tom Hollander's Issacs, a strange German hitman with a couple of skinhead Neo-Nazis for hapless henchmen. Look out for one genuinely creepy scene where he refers to himself as 'The Sandman'. It's as if it's ripped straight from the League of Gentlemen, I swear.

As mentioned briefly, Hanna was a breathtaking film, visually. From the cold, sweeping shots of the Finnish landscapes - slightly reminiscent of the opening to George Clooney's slow burning character drama, The American - introduced at the start of the film, to the almost fairytale wanderings through a Grimm amusement park in the final act, its outlandish flow was completely seamless. The fairytale parallels themselves serve as fun ways to take a film which could so easily have been just another Bourne knock-off and presented something actually quite refreshing and almost original.

Choosing The Chemical Brothers to compose the soundtrack was also a stroke of genius on Joe Wright's part. If anything, I got the impression Wright shot certain scenes - such as Hanna escaping this impenetrable fortress midway through the film - with the bassy overtones of The Chemical Brothers' music in mind. Definitely playing out at times like one of their own music videos.

Despite the slow opening and some, all too convenient, plot twists - maybe even verging into similar footsteps of Angelina Joile's completely naff, Salt - largely the whole film is a complete treat, even leaving certain aspects of the plot open for a potential sequels. However as movies like Leon show, sometimes these things are best left untouched.

Final Thoughts
Bold, refreshing, tense, explosive and dreamy. Hanna delivers much more than what was originally expected of it. Joe Wright has created a charming, curious character portrayed wonderfully by Saoirse Ronan. A modern fairytale thriller? It makes sense in my head. Shame they couldn't spell her name right*...


Hanna is in cinemas everywhere now.

*My little sister is named Hannah for the record.