Friday, 23 March 2012

Intermission - 2011 Catchup: Troll Hunter, Certified Copy, The Extraordinary Adventures of Adele Blanc-Sec, Project Nim

Troll Hunter

More found-footage fun, this time from Norway, as a documentary crew accidentally stumble across a disgruntled troll hunter, in the clandestine employ of the Norwegian government. It's clever and silly at the same time, convincingly produced and well worth a look. I am getting heartily sick of the found-footage device (see this rant), but it's used well here and actually makes sense as part of the story (as opposed to being a tenuous excuse for lame storytelling). The trolls themselves are fantastic and the surrounding mythology is very cleverly adapted into the modern-day setting. Seek this out on DVD, it's a gem.

*******8/10 

Thursday, 22 March 2012

Movie #27 We Bought A Zoo


Another quick one: the rather literally-titled We Bought a Zoo. Cameron Crowe's Damon/Johansson vehicle, is a curiously tricky thing to review. Not because it's a challenging example of the cinematic art, but because in fact, despite only seeing it a couple of days ago, I can barely remember anything about it.

Adapted from British journalist Benjamin Mee's whimsical memoir of his own experience doing up a run-down zoo in the (relative) wilds of Dartmoor, Crowe shifts the action to California, with widower dad Matt Damon upping sticks en famille from the big city to the titular zoo. And, as an inoffensive (apart from a couple of 'bullshit'-level swears), syrupy family Saturday afternoon melodrama, it's more-or-less OK: if all else fails, there are animals to look at.

So the good things, in brief: Thomas Haden Church is in it, the soundtrack is good and the animals are winningly photogenic. The downsides are more numerous - the story has been fairly obviously squashed and squeezed into a Standard Hollywood Narrative, and it doesn't quite work. Matt Damon - who I like - is somewhat exposed here (not to mention has terrible hair), and the supporting cast are hardly stretched. It's shot with lovely light; the palette almost approaches sepia at times, but literally no risks are taken here at all: this is filmmaking by the book, with none of the mainstream sass of Crowe's earlier landmark movies. The only thing distinguishing ...Zoo from, say Beethoven, is the occasional PG-level naughty word and the Neil Young tunes in the background. Inoffensive fluff, no more, no less.

****4/10

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Movies #25 & #26 Project X, The Devil Inside - and a rant


And now a couple of bona-fide stinkers. I’m pairing them up, as they share a common framing device (‘found footage’), and they’re both rubbish. First, the lesser of the two evils:

The Devil Inside

This rotten mess is yet another exorcism affair. Laughably billed as ‘the film the Vatican doesn’t want you to see’ – suggesting, if nothing, the Pope and his cardinals have better taste in films than you might expect – it conforms to most of the rules of the priest-versus-demon sub-genre. At least 2010s highly flawed The Last Exorcism attempted to offer something new, and last year’s even less impressive The Rite had Antony Hopkins’s heft to help it along.

To be fair, at a trim 83 minutes it at least has the decency to be short, and there are few (pretty cheap) jumps – though even moderate horror fans will see them coming a country mile away. This is not a flick for the veterans, who will find the premise, the scares and the execution risible. Nonetheless, I can’t imagine even horror neophytes being too impressed, particularly given the pointlessly oblique ending.

**2/10

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Movie #24 The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel


 As John Carter (review pending) disappoints at the box office, the surprise smash that almost kept it from the top spot is this Saga-tastic tale of superannuated Brits upping sticks to the titular crumbling hotel in Jaipur. A cunning meld of mid-market source material, picturesque location, dubious (but harmless) national stereotyping and National Treasure™ actors has struck a chord with UK cinema audiences and will no doubt turn a very healthy profit.

While I’m outside the film’s target demographic, there were still a few things I was looking forward to – I’m a big fan of some of the performers involved, I have an abstract sense of liking India (I have some Raj-era family history, and my Grandma used to tell me endless stories of the ‘tiger on the veranda’ variety) and generally appreciate any attempt to make serious films that ignore the whims of teenage boys.

Monday, 19 March 2012

Movie #23 21 Jump Street


A quickie down on Jump Street: so this is the Channing Tatum/Jonah Hill reboot of a TV series unheard of in the UK, except as a footnote in the career of Jonny Depp, for whom it was the first rung on the ladder of fame. Essentially, it was a pretty cheesy high-concept thing, a young-looking police detective sent back to high school to bust teen-aged crims.

And, though set in 2012, the film version follows the same plot, with Tatum and Hill going undercover with tongues firmly in cheek. The trailer made it look like standard frat-ish sub-Old-School hogwash, but in fact this is a pretty good movie with some genuine belly laughs, real wit and heart - directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller realising that, as with Goon earlier this year, comedies are funnier when the audience gives a damn about the characters.

To be fair, credit is also due to Hill (who co-wrote) and, particularly, Tatum (who very ably sends up his own lunk-headed himbo persona) who both play the movie out with enthusiasm, chemistry and real, old-fashioned comic timing. The supporting cast are similarly good (there are a couple of neat cameos), with Ice Cube a particular highlight.

All-told, while hardly transcendent stuff and definitely too long - overstaying its welcome by a good twenty minutes - this is nonetheless a decent and entertaining time to be had in the cinema.

******6/10

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Intermission - the incredible self-plugging blogger!

On a whim, I've started up a new blog. This one's dedicated not to cinema, but to cycling (see previous post), and particularly cycling in and around the wild and wonderful city of Manchester.

Therefore I've chosen the classily self-explanatory name of The Manchester Cyclist. Please do check it out, and if you like it, join the site.

Fans (and indeed detractors) of 'brand Slut' will notice the consistency of aesthetic across the two. Did you know I once worked 'in' marketing? Well, now you do.


Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Intermission: Slut in bicycle plunge horror!

So, I've been a bit quiet for the last week - that's because I've been on a short break to the hills and valleys of Wales, to play poker and ride my bike (far away from multiplexes and decent wi-fi). And whilst there I managed to take an almighty tumble over the handlebars, doing my bit for Anglo-Celtic relations with a fair exchange of molecules between the Welsh tarmac and my English face.

This could make for a rotten excuse to churn out a 'top ten bike films' or indeed 'top five instances of bruised ribs', but I'll give that a miss for now (I'll be honest, I'm waiting for the upcoming Joseph Gordon-Levitt bike-messenger flick Premium Rush to appear before I turn those out). I just wanted to post my excuse for not being quite as prolific as I should be. I'll haul my wounded arse back to flicks this week to check out the dubious delights of Project X and The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel before running the rule over John Carter - in 2D - this weekend.

That said, the 'plex is a real cultural wasteland at the moment - I've managed to miss out some of the more honking awfulness - One for the Money, The Vow, This Means War - but there are slim pickings indeed over the coming months. So much so that the film I'm looking forward to the most is actually 21 Jump Street, which could at least be a bit funny. Looking back to last March we had Animal Kingdom and Rango on wide release; no such luck this time around.

April's not looking much better either. Battleship, Mirror Mirror, Wrath of the Titans, Gone and the ludicrously-titled Avengers Assemble (That's The Avengers to you and me) are not putting metaphorical jam in my figurative doughnut. I'll watch them anyway - you never know - but will counter-programme at home and do a bit more catching up on the better-rated 2011 releases that I missed on the big screen.


Happy trails, guys.

Monday, 5 March 2012

Movie #22 The Woman in Black


Regular readers might be aware of the fact that I like to declare my prejudices right of the bat, so here goes: I dislike middle-brow movies in general, and middle-brow horror movies in particular (cf The Awakening). Also, while I have enjoyed some ghostly movies (The Orphanage, The Shining), they aren't usually my cup of tea horror-wise; my tastes run more toward the fantastical (Pan's Labyrinth), the realistic (Texas Chainsaw Massacre) and the inevitable zombies. And finally, I have seen the much-vaunted stage production of The Woman in Black and... was bored by it.

So on the face of it, things aren't looking good for this movie adaptation of The Woman in Black, even though I am well-disposed toward Daniel Radcliffe playing the lead role of Kipps, a London lawyer tasked with selling the spooky old Eel Marsh house. On his despatch to the house (in generic, though presumably northern and certainly coastal, rural England) he arrives to find the comic-book locals eyeing him with suspicion and attempting to frustrate his business, seemingly due to local superstitions regarding the house, its ghost, and the manifold deaths of local children.

Sunday, 4 March 2012

Movie #21 The Muppets


Prejudices declared - I was a muppet fan as a kid and remain so as an adult. I'd been waiting for this for some time, ever since I first got wind of it back in 2010 (and there's been an insanely long delay between US and UK release dates). In fact, strike 'waiting' and replace with 'eagerly anticipating'. So imagine my delight on takign my seat in the the theatre... First, we're treated to a lovely Toy Story short - talk about "you had me at hello" - before kicking off the title sequence with Paul Simon's 'Me and Julio Down in the Schoolyard'. Mix that in with a later nod to The Economist and you're already approaching a perfect Multiplex Slut storm of references.

Thursday, 1 March 2012

List #8 Top Ten... creepy coppers

Uh... you don't think we look sleazy, do ya Val...? Val?!

For the first list in a while, I thought it best to celebrate Woody Harrelson's superb turn in Rampart: so here's a rundown of my favourite examples of that fine cinematic archetype - the creepy copper. Read on...