Not since 1986, with the Kevin Bacon starring ‘Quicksilver’, has Hollywood turned its gaze to the world of bike couriers and it seems not much has changed. Paper-thin characters (Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s leading man is called Wilee!) and a plot stretched to breaking point would ruin other films but lets face it, we’re here for the fun and director David Koepp doesn’t disappoint with a sting of breakneck cycling sequences. Add to that Michael Shannon trying to out-crazy Nic Cage in the role of a desperate, corrupt, cop and you have a very enjoyable 90 minutes.
Decent films about adolescence are few and far between, especially when they also attempt to tackle larger issues such as homosexuality and mental health, but TPOBAW manages to sidestep the cliche minefield and comes out relatively unscathed. It’s not perfect but it’s the performances of its 3 leads that elevate it above the usual fair. Logan Lerman makes Percy Jackson seem a distant memory and Emma Watson proves what we knew all along with an assured turn and a believable US accent but it is Ezra Miller, following his terrifying performance in ‘We Need To Talk About Kevin’ with an about-face as a charismatic young gay guy, who steals the show.
A short film that lingers long in the memory, ‘What Richard Did’ offers up a moral dilemma and then leaves the audience to decide which side of the line they stand. Featuring a career-making performance from Jack Reynor, the film sidesteps what could have been an easy descent into melodrama and ends up being a fascinating study of guilt, blame and how one moment can change an otherwise perfect life.
RZA from the Wu Tang Clan tries his hand at both writing and directing in this attempt at a martial arts epic/Western mash-up and comes up short in almost every department. The characters are paper thin, the script awful and, most surprisingly, the music is just plain annoying. With a finale that includes a scene which dares to mimic a Bruce Lee classic, the only way this film succeeds is in making the audience yearn to watch the films which inspire it.
No-one knew in 2005, when Christopher Nolan launched his batman franchise, the heights it would reach with last years ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ but ‘Batman Begins’ changed the face of comic-book superhero movies. Gritty and, most importantly, realistic, this is a film not just about a man dressed as a bat but about the larger themes of justice vs revenge and the nature of vigilantism. Oh, and it also features one of the most excitement inducing final scenes in recent memory.
‘Excision’ is a teen horror-comedy gone very wrong but in a good way. AnnaLynne McCord, from the recent 90210 reboot, is unrecognisable as Pauline, a teenager who revels in deviating from the norm. Seemingly untroubled by the the bullies both at home and in school, Pauline is totally content in her own skin and demands life on her own terms. The only positive relationship in Pauline’s life, the one with her terminally ill sister, gives the audience the hope of a redemptive arc but the films overall nightmarish tone points to a different outcome. In any other film Pauline would start as the ugly duckling and then slowly flower into a beautiful swan, getting her revenge on the ‘beautiful people’ along the way. ‘Excision’ decides to tread a far murkier path and Pauline’s dark, surgically erotic, dreams point to a horrifying and devastating climax that, if your stomach can handle it, will blow you away. You have been warned.
Sam Mendes’s elegiac gangster movie may not be to everyone’s tastes but it’s his clear love of the genre that raises it above most other modern attempts. The acting is top-notch with a cast-against-type Tom Hanks giving his most sour performance to date, ably assisted by Daniel Craig, a truly creepy Jude Law and the peerless Paul Newman in his last film role as a troubled patriarch stuck between the son he has and the son he wishes he had. The film hits all of the expected beats with tommy guns, Fedora hats, silhouetted men and religious iconography all present and correct, but it’s in a climactic scene where it manages to both subvert and reinforce genre stereotypes at the same time that the film truly soars and demands your attention.
Based on the New York Times Bestseller of the same name, this movie tells the tale of the black maids of Jackson, Mississippi during the Civil Rights era. Emma Stone is superb as the young wannabe journalist who ultimately tells the story of these oppressed and put down women but the show is well and truly stolen by Octavia Spencer and Viola Davis; The Help. The film’s not without it’s troubles, it uses a young white woman as the agent for civil rights change and at times falls back on stereotypes, but this doesn’t take away from the fact that this film is beautifully shot and well written with a strong and powerful message that is as important now as it was back then.
Mel Gibson’s follow up to ‘The Passion of the Christ’ is a far better film and, as far as chase movies go, I think criminally under-rated. At 139 minutes it should start to drag but, like its main character, it simply keeps driving forward and, despite what you think about Gibson the man, he certainly knows how to shoot a pretty picture. Though strictly speaking not an ‘end of the world’ movie, I don’t think there can be any doubt that in the films final moments our heros world, as he knows it at least, has ended.
Having had a bit of a Bill Murray fest of late, with Ghostbusters 1 & 2, Groundhog day, Life Aquatic, I thought with Christmas just around the corner, I might as well revisit ‘Scrooged’. A great seasonal film! I think he is one of the only men who can actually portray ‘Charming Sarcasm’, a screen hero to many!