Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Film Review Roundup: May-June

CASUAL NOTE: Busy work hindered any attempts to write up reviews for March and April. However is was somewhat barren anyway. Long story short of those that I saw:

True Grit = Instant western classic, Jeff Bridges always shines.
Source Code = Pretty dam good sci-fi with an unusual approach to science.
Adjustment Bureau = Great concept and well done but nothing special.
Rango = Brilliantly animated and with great characters even with a formulaic story.



(Directed by James Wan, running time 100 minutes)

The “usually” reliable Patrick Wilson and Rose Byrne play a couple of parents who are terrorized from house to house by an unknown apparition. Despite an incredibly stereotypical vintage haunted house meets possessed child premise that has been in bed with film more times than an even more incredibly stereotypical sexual metaphor, a number of well placed heart pounding jump scares and an overall eerily constructed sense of atmosphere gives Insidious a far more legitimate claim to being a “horror” film than most of the poorly scripted torture porn that seems to have fancied itself as such... even if it turns out that the manifestation of evil looks like a cross between Freddy Krueger and Darth Maul.

Also staring Ty Simpkins, Lin Shaye and Angus Sampson.


(Directed by Joe Wright, running time 111 minutes)

Action adventure fresh from the United States... and United Kingdom... also Germany, this multicultural ride stars Saoirse Ronan as a teenage super agent “Hanna” trained since birth in secret by a CIA veteran played by Eric Bana, both of which quickly become independently on the run from agency forces led by Cate Blanchett. The national production mixture does lend itself to an entirely unique approach to the action genre to more than just the fact the deadly assassin is a young girl. It’s rather inconsistent style is both its saving grace and downfall at times where on one hand the film can be dark but seedy, action packed but erratic and well scripted but fast to leave plot points and characters. While far from perfect, overall Hanna is definitely one of the most intriguing films of its type, although at times you might even question just what that type of film is.

Also staring Tom Hollander, Jason Flemyng and Olivia Williams.

Kung Fu Panda 2

(Directed by Jennifer Yuh Nelson, running time 91 minutes)

Jack Black returns as the voice actor for one of his more likable characters Po the panda in one of Dreamworks’ more enjoyable series. Even though Po has already become a kung fu master, another lesson must be learned, this time finally tackling the issue of his origins that seem to tangle with a current hostile take over of China by a malevolent Peacock voiced by the delightfully over the top Gary Oldman. It’s all harmless fun with simple yet effective gags and some downright beautiful art design and set pieces. This time however Dustin Hoffman’s (in all honesty in-depth) Master Shifu takes a backseat to the less interesting Tigress voiced by Angelina Jolie as the supporting role and the effectively integrated Chinese philosophy of the original has been significantly lessened to make way for more action. Regardless, this is one of those few animated sequels that doesn’t drop the ball.

Plus Jean-Claude Van Dam voices a crocodile.

Also staring David Cross, Seth Rogen and Jackie Chan.

X-Men: First Class

(Directed by Matthew Vaughn, running time 132 minutes)

Following the abysmal X-Men Origins: Wolverine, the X-Men film franchise appeared close to the brink. Director Matthew Vaughn of Kick-Ass fame saves it from going under with what feels more like a reboot than a prequel. With a fresh young cast, First Class goes to the young adult years of Charles Xavier (Professor X) and Erik Lensherr (Magneto) played by James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender respectfully, both being interesting, complex and wholly likable portrayals of the classic Marvel characters. While the side characters may not share the same level of character development, they all do their parts justice with a more three-dimensional Mystique played by Jennifer Lawrence and an effective villian of Sebastian Shaw played by the reliable Kevin Bacon as he attempts to kick start World War Three. With a fresh story-arc and more real drama, First Class is a truly well crafted superhero adventure.

Also staring Rose Bryne, Nicolas Hoult and Oliver Platt.


(Directed by Paul Feig, running time 125 minutes)

Yes that's right, I took a gamble.

Co-writer and lead star Kristen Wiig plays a down on her luck single women who is given the role of maid of honor when her best friend played by Maya Rudolph becomes engaged. What follows is a series of hectic and often at times futile attempts at preparation and pre-parties with the other bridemaids who are either desperate or socially suffocated, along with a "best friend" competition with another good friend to the bride to be played by Rose Bryne. There's plenty of unconventional antics on display including some toilet humor more akin to the male-orientated side of group comedy like The Hangover. While this is definitely not a generalization, due to the heavy female cast, there's also plenty of drama and romance thrown in for good measure including a series of "romantic" encounters between the lead actress and Chris O'Dowd IE Roy from The IT Crowd. Even though I will admit the script does occasionally drift beyond one's own personal tastes at times with the heavy handed dramatic moments, many instances seem to be immediately be remedied with some well timed comedy. Most likely better suited for the ladies.

Also staring Melissa McCarthy, Ellie Kemper and Wendi McLendon-Covey.

BY THE WAY has anyone noticed that Rose Byrne has appeared in THREE of these films?

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