So it’s 2014. That’s crazy isn’t it? Before we know it we’ll be finished with this decade… But you don’t want to hear stale musings about how time flies, do you? You want to read about a few films. Well no problem, it just so happens I’ve managed to watch some. Let’s take a look at one…
The Intouchables tells the true story of Driss; a recently released criminal who is unexpectedly hired to be a caretaker for a rich quadriplegic man called Philippe. The start of their time together is strained, mainly due to the steep learning curve Driss encounters. Although his new caregiver has no previous experience, Philippe appreciates his unprofessional approach: he even goes as far as sharing a couple of joints with him. More importantly, Driss doesn’t pity Philippe because of his condition and the two become firm friends.
The Intouchables has made millions at the box office, picked up a César Award for Best Actor and back in 2011 it became the highest grossing movie in France. And yes, you should believe the hype because it really is brimming with personality and charm. Judging by this, it’s no surprise that American distributers The Weinstein Company already have an English remake on the way. But if you’re all for watching subtitles (and you really should be, there’s a literally a whole world of foreign language films) then you should take the time to check out the original.
Highlights: Driss’ genuine disbelief that Philippe can’t feel being continuously scalded with a teapot.
The Loved Ones’ premise isn’t anything special: a girl, Lola (Robin McLeavy) captures a boy, Brent (Xavier Samuel) after he refuses to take her to the prom. Together with her loving father, they go about torturing Brent as he desperately tries to find a way to escape. It’s a pretty standard affair, but the great thing about the film is what director Sean Byrne does with the material.
The entire film is thoroughly gripping from start to finish. Robin McLeavy’s performance as the psycho princess Lola is as captivating as it is unsettling to watch. No part of the film makes it feel strained or out of place, which can be the downfall of so many horror films. A good script, tight editing and great acting really sell the story, while the Australian outback serves as a stunning backdrop for the mayhem that gradually unfolds. This is a film that you should see; even if it’s outline is slightly lackluster.
Highlights: The sub plot about Brent’s friend actually attending the ball is an interesting addition to the movie. Plus it mercifully eases some of the tension.
I think it’s high time we took a look at a romantic film, don’t you? Away We Go follows Burt (John Krasinski) and Verona (Maya Rudolph) as they prepare to have their first kid. After discovering that Burt’s parents are relocating overseas, the couple decide to take a leaf out of their book and move. Together they set out across America, visiting their family and friends in hope of finding their ideal home.
This is a really well done road movie. Prolific actors such as Jeff Daniels, Allison Janney and Maggie Gyllenhaal deliver excellent performances, making each of Burt and Verona’s stops memorable. The supporting cast is nicely balanced with the equally impressive leads. John Krasinski and Maya Rudolph’s onscreen chemistry really sells the journey of the kooky thirty something couple. Great direction makes watching them go through the motions of finding a new home very enjoyable and heartwarming. Definitely worth a watch.
Highlights: The good intentioned bickering between the Burt and Verona as they discuss their friends, travel destinations and more importantly, their baby.
For anyone who had their head stuck in a hole, it was Doctor Who’s 50th anniversary last week. Millions of fans tuned in for the hotly anticipated 799th episode ‘The Day of the Doctor’. Withnail and I’s Paul McGann featured in a mini episode ‘The Night of the Doctor’. Even Google paid tribute to the series with an impressive Doodle. If you were like me and knew nothing about the BBC show, a lot of this probably went over your head. Fifty years worth of episodes, spin offs and regenerations can be pretty confusing. Luckily, An Adventure in Space and Time is a pretty good place to get acquainted with the long running drama.
The movie centers on how Dr. Who started its run back in 1963. Producer Verity Lambert struggles with difficult actors, cramped sets and a limited budget. Circumstances beyond their control like the assassination of John F. Kennedy result in fluctuating ratings. The first half of the film feels like a tense battle between David and Goliath, with disaster being narrowly avoided at every turn. The stellar cast, lead by David Bradley, brings the story of the show’s first shaky steps to life. All in all, it’s a very intriguing insight into how the series grew into the phenomenon it is today.
With so much going on for the anniversary, An Adventure in Space and Time could easily be pushed aside by fans in favour of other Dr. Who outings. Similarly, people who aren’t big on sci-fi might find their eyes glazing over at the prospect of giving it try. But this is a great movie. The best thing about this film is that both fans of the series and total newcomers can enjoy it. Die-hard veterans will love the subtle references and in-jokes while people who aren’t familiar with the show will appreciate the story and setting.
Highlights: The impressive level of detail put into recreating the swinging 60s. It holds its own even when compared to big budget, era centric shows like Mad Men.
Dark Days follows a community of homeless New Yorkers living underground near Penn Station. The premise initially seems unbelievable. Living in constant darkness with vermin and loud passing trains doesn’t sound habitable. But we’re slowly shown the ways these people adapted. They used dogs to keep rats away, scavenged in the right places for edible food and set up traps to alert them to danger. Even in their bleak environment, you can’t help but respect the men and women who made it their home.
But the documentary wasn’t made to show the residents’ tenacity. Instead it’s a sharp critique of a government that failed them for so long. Director Marc Singer chose to focus on immersing the audience in this derelict world. The film is presented in black and white, devoid of any colour. With a few exceptions, no music accompanies the footage. The result is an uncomfortable wake up call, a reminder that even in first world countries many people still live in horrible conditions.
Highlights: For me the main highlight is that Dark Days ultimately has a good ending, which offers hope that this way of life will eventually become a thing of the past.
Paprika is about a group of scientists who develop a way to enter and record people’s dreams using a new piece of technology called the DC Mini. This breakthrough brings about a new type of therapy where doctors can fully explore the inner workings of their patients. When a terrorist starts taking over people’s minds, the scientists and the mysterious Paprika race against the clock to recover the device.
This is a film you’ll want to watch twice in order to fully understand everything. With so much going on, plenty of details can be lost the first time around, particularly if you have no real notion of what Paprika is about. But this isn’t a bad thing. You’ll find yourself wanting to revisit the strange world that director Satoshi Kon has created. It’s fun, creepy and will certainly inspire budding animators, musicians and writers alike.
Highlights: The incredible amount of creativity put into the dream world, which features a pink elephant pushing a white crocodile around in a wheelchair.
South Korean film The Host follows an aquatic, man-made monster as it terrorizes people along the banks of Seoul’s Han River. When it captures a young girl, Hyun-Seo, her family resolves to find her, no matter what the cost.
Unlike Peter Jackson’s 2005 King Kong remake, The Host doesn’t suffer from its long running time. In two hours the film creates a rich story filled with believable characters, intriguing sub-plots and some very impressive CGI. The narrative progresses at an even pace as it slowly builds to a tense, unforeseeable ending. From start to finish, this is an attention-grabbing monster movie.
Perhaps The Host’s strongest element comes from its unique strain of dark humour. The initially laughable mistakes made by lead character Park Gang-Doo can often turn into genuine tragedy seconds later. This cements the notion that this is an average man, propelled into an extraordinary situation. His personality almost lampoons the typical traits main characters often possess in various blockbuster films.
This is one of the best-made monster movies in the last twenty years. It’s tense, character driven and unpredictable. Expect to find a beautiful and haunting addition to the horror genre.
Highlights: Hyun-Seo’s desperate attempts to escape the monster’s lair.
The Revenant is essentially a vigilante-vampire-buddy movie. Sounds cool right? It is. In the first five minutes Bart, an American soldier, is shot, killed and dragged off by an unknown group. When his body is flown back to America, he returns to the land of the living, albeit with a few… changes. After convincing his best friend Joey to help him, they start exploring his powers, especially Bart’s newfound taste for human blood…
It’s surprising that The Revenant didn’t do better when it was released. It’s one of the best comedic horror films I’ve seen since Shaun of the Dead. The dialogue is clever, the usual clichés are nicely avoided and the effects are truly gruesome. If you’re sick of ho-hum Halloween flicks, give this one a try: you won’t be disappointed.
Highlights: There are plenty of great moments that come to mind. The only problem is it’s hard to pick something and not ruin it… Let’s just say a scientologist, a hearse and a dildo all feature.
I can’t say I had high hopes when I sat down to watch Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters. Even the title was somewhat off-putting. I assumed it was another tiring flick from a strange Hollywood trend that’s already given us Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. I expected to see an unimaginative, re-imagining of a classic fairy tale. Instead I got an enjoyably goofy movie.
The plot follows a grown up Hansel (Jeremy Renner) and Gretel (Gemma Arterton) as they travel from town to town hunting witches. Their childhood experiences have made them experts in their line of work and the opening credits presents us with a short montage depicting their rise to fame. The story starts as they take on a routine job: to find a witch that’s been terrorizing a town. Of course, things soon take a turn for the worse and they realize that there’s something bigger going on in Augsburg.
The simple premise may seem lackluster, but after the first ten minutes you’ll find yourself thoroughly invested. The main reason is that it doesn’t take itself too seriously. Director Tommy Wirkola avoided creating a too-cool-for-school film by adding in some much needed wacky elements. This leads to some hilariously over the top fight sequences and one-liners that really make the movie stand out.
Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters did well at the box office, and judging by its worldwide gross of over 200 million there’s a good chance many of you have seen it. But if you read the generally poor reviews and assumed it wasn’t worth a watch (like I did), think again. It won’t have stellar performances or an Oscar winning story, but if you want to watch a downright entertaining movie, look no further: this is the film for you.
Highlights: The fight sequences, hands down. Head butting? Skull crushing? Nose breaking? It’s all here, and it’s all gloriously silly.
Despite its poor run at the box office, James Gunn’s Super does feature an impressive cast, lead by The Office’s Rainn Wilson. The plot follows Frank Darbo (Wilson) after his wife (Liv Tyler) leaves him for a notorious drug dealer named Jacques (Kevin Bacon). After receiving no help from the police, Frank decides to rescue his ex himself, and thus the “The Crimson Bolt” is born. Aided by his sidekick “Boltie” (Ellen Page), the duo set out to rescue Sarah while sporting two crudely made (yet brilliantly realistic) costumes.
The setup is fairly typical of many superhero films, but over the course of its running time, Super deviates from this slightly derivative outline. Compared to the usual depiction of heroes, Frank’s motives are flawed and selfish. He assaults any rule breaker by hitting them with a pipe wrench, regardless if they’re a child molester or if they’ve simply cut in line. For Frank, the difference between right and wrong becomes blurred and his growing sense of self-entitlement turns a standard superhero story into something a lot darker.
Super is a great film because it brings something new to a tried and tested format. If you watch it expecting something like Iron Man or Kick Ass, there’s a good chance you’ll be disappointed. If you can look past this however, you’ll find a well made, thought provoking film.
Highlights: Ellen Page’s manic laughter and Nathan Fillion’s appearance as Frank’s muse, “The Holy Avenger”.