Wesley Snipes once again dons the leather overcoat, this time to join… MoreWesley Snipes once again dons the leather overcoat, this time to join forces with an elite vampire unit to combat a race of Nosferatu-like zombie vampire hybrids who threaten to over-run both races. Blade II is essentially the vampire film's answer to Aliens with the high-octane action of the first film still in evidence but this time it is added to by Guillermo Del Toro's keen sense of style and atmosphere. The production design is fantastic and the script involving different factions constantly vying for the upper hand is far more complex than that of most superhero films (David Goyer went on to co-write The Dark Knight). My only gripe is that some of the CGI is starting to look a little dated in a similar way to the original Spiderman films, but this is a comparatively minor point. It may not be to everyone's taste, but for fans of the genre it is a visceral cocktail of vampiric gore and martial arts mayhem that action junkies and horror fans alike should not miss.
A pair of con artists are blackmailed into helping the FBI entrap… MoreA pair of con artists are blackmailed into helping the FBI entrap corrupt politicians or face jail. David O. Russell's long con comedy drama was very well received upon its release and fans of Martin Scorsese will no doubt see his influence throughout the film. It has the flavour of a PG rated version of Casino as these amoral hustlers try to out manoeuvre each other while staying one step ahead of the organised criminals they are charged with duping. Its light-hearted tone makes for a few amusing moments, often revolving around Christian Bale and Jennifer Lawrence's car crash of a marriage and the general level of ineptitude displayed by this cut price Ocean's crew. But one thing the story didn't seem to have is any kind of narrative momentum. It just seemed to be a loose collection of characters heading in the same general direction towards an ill-defined goal dressed up in Boogie Nights' wardrobe. The cast are all fine and it is consistently entertaining but there seems little meat on what is little more than an insubstantial con job with an inevitable who's conning who twist. In the end this fun but flimsy film feels like it could've been so much more in the skilled hands of Scorsese himself rather than a pretender to the crown.
In the pursuit of the gleefully sadistic yet cowardly Scorpio killer,… MoreIn the pursuit of the gleefully sadistic yet cowardly Scorpio killer, played to perfection by Andy Robinson, Detective Inspector Harry Callahan manages to step on the toes of every one of the bureaucratic superiors he holds in so much disdain. The man with no name may have been the character that made Clint a star, but it was Harry Callahan that made him an icon; he is the personification of tough guy charisma in one of the all-time classic cop thrillers. Don Siegel directs with incredible economy, encapsulating Callahan's character in a brief exchange with the mayor and his methods in the classic bank heist shoot out all within the first 15 minutes. No car chases, no explosions, no romantic interest. Just a brilliantly written, perfectly executed hard-boiled crime thriller scored wonderfully by best of the best, Lalo Schifrin. Nigh on perfect.
A 17 year old girl left to care for her family in dirt-poor rural… MoreA 17 year old girl left to care for her family in dirt-poor rural Alabama goes in search of her absentee father when faced with the choice of either forcing him to appear before the court or losing their home. Winter's Bone, despite its detective story-style premise, has a flavour very much of a frontier western; take away the synthetic fabrics, pick-up trucks, indoor plumbing and narcotics of choice and you have a community whose life has probably remained pretty much unchanged in the last hundred years. It's a portrait of the struggles of living below the poverty line in contemporary rural America as Jennifer Lawrence's destitute but proud heroine explores the underbelly of her tightly knit but deeply dysfunctional extended family. It's a stark, bleak and gritty drama full of characterful and completely believable performances set within a part of contemporary society rarely depicted outside of trailer trash stereotypes. Tense, occasionally frightening and extremely well observed, Winter's Bone is a serious drama that chooses substance over superficial flash and is all the more affecting and disturbing for it.
Three brothers in the bootlegging business during the prohibition era… MoreThree brothers in the bootlegging business during the prohibition era refuse to bow to the will of Chicago gangsters and provoke a war between their backwoods community and big city organised crime. John Hillcoat reunites with scriptwriter Nick Cave who collaborated on the atmospheric and characterful The Proposition for this old school gangster drama which unfortunately has neither of those qualities. Despite a promising cast, Lawless is a rather unengaging affair that's a little too admiring of some pretty unpleasant violence perpetrated by a singularly unlikeable bunch of characters. Tom Hardy and Jason Clarke are little more than a pair of mumbling thugs, Guy Pearce's gun toting dandy is little more than a caricature and Shia Lebeouf once again channels his simpering frat-boy persona and fails to conjure any kind of charisma or chemistry whatsoever. The film is attractive to look at and the screen ignites during Gary Oldman's all-too brief appearances but the editing is choppy and the characterisation unappealing and unconvincing. Ultimately Lawless has none of the weight or moral message of a serious drama, nor the excitement or sense of fun of an action film making for an uninvolving tale of a trio of "heroes" it's very difficult to care about.
A retired CIA operative is targeted for elimination and so he reunites… MoreA retired CIA operative is targeted for elimination and so he reunites with his former colleagues to strike back at the assassins. RED is a comic strip action film based on a DC Comics series about ex-spies who come out of retirement and teach the new young whipper-snappers how it's done. The tone is very light-hearted despite the amount of fire power on show and it embraces the concept of "geriaction" wholeheartedly. I must admit I was expecting something a little more substantial considering the heavyweight cast however, as RED is little more than an episodic series of shoot outs combined with a few quips about ageing. The quality cast do keep the story entertaining enough, although it is slightly cringe worthy watching an actor of Malkovich's calibre gurning and prat-falling like an elderly Howling Mad Murdoch; in fact the whole film feels very much like an extended episode of The Aged-Team. It's all very slight and rarely laugh out loud funny leaving RED feeling like nothing more than a sitcom with a body count. Despite the big names involved here, The Losers was very similar and slightly better.
A lonely writer unwilling to commit to a relationship because of a… MoreA lonely writer unwilling to commit to a relationship because of a traumatic break-up finds himself falling for the artificially intelligent Operating System of his computer. This near-future blending of romance and sci-fi has a similarly quirky feel to that of Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind. Her prefers existential soul-searching to the quirkiness of Michel Gondry's much loved tale however and as a result feels rather more intimate than its more overtly comedic counterpart. Joaquin Phoenix puts in a very honest performance as the confused human half of the relationship, not sure whether what he is feeling is "real" (whatever that might mean!) and there are some amusing and insightful scenes dealing with the current trend of the ever-more intimate blending of social relationships and technology we are currently seeing. This makes for a vision of the near future which seems not only authentic but almost inevitable and Spike Jonzes' sensitive handling of the subject is perceptive without being judgemental. Sweet-natured and heart warming, Her is like a re-imagining of A.I. by Woody Allen in his prime and fans of Eternal Sunshine are sure to fall in love all over again.
A retiring detective and his young successor investigate a series of… MoreA retiring detective and his young successor investigate a series of bizarre murders based on the seven deadly sins. The lukewarm reception for David Fincher's debut Alien 3 resulted in most writing him off as another style over substance hack from the MTV generation, but boy did he learn from his mistakes. No-one was expecting his follow up to be much of interest; let alone a virtual modern masterpiece. Fincher had clearly been studying the stylistic hallmarks of Ridley Scott, and the dark, brooding atmosphere crossed with artistic visuals are very much in his tradition. Although the formula of world-weary educated gentleman cop teamed up with a young hot head is hardly an original one, excellent performances and intelligent writing steer the material clear of cliche, and the imagery of the grotesque never descends into unnecessary gore or sensationalism. Complimented by a suitably claustrophobic soundtrack and a brilliantly unpredictable plot twist, I struggle to see how this film could have been any better. In the absurdly overcrowded marketplace of the serial killer movie, this stands head and shoulders above the rest as the very, very best of the genre. And yes, that includes the over-rated Silence Of The Lambs.