Sunday, 11 September 2011

Quick-Fire Reviews

To catch up with new releases and get up to date with some reviews, I've compiled the latest I've seen below and a few lines with a rating for each one. There's been a lot of great films released in the cinema and the dvd stores this summer (??? I mean June - Sep), so here's a bit on each:

The Skin I live In
A fantastic new release from Spanish auteur Pedro Alomodovar and beautifully shot. Antonio Banderas is superb as the haunted plastic surgeon Robert Ledgard, and Elena Anaya is spellbinding as his scientific test subject trying out a new synthetic skin he has formulated. Like all Almodovar's films, this is beautifully shot with a great musical score, and his storytelling is masterful, like a cotton reel slowly unravelling. Definitely one of the best films of the year so far.
* * * *

Cell 211
The Spanish sure know how to tell a story, and this gritty prison flick is definitely in the same league as last year's Un Prophete and Mesrine. The story sees brand new guard Juan get locked in with the prisoners whilst being shown around when during a prison riot breaks out. Ditching his badge and specs he takes his chances feigning to be a new con. When prison head honcho Malamadre takes him under his wing, all hell starts to break loose. Fantastic acting from the lead characters - especially the menacing Luis Tosar as the charismatic psychopath Malamadre - and a very gripping and complete plot, this will have you on the edge of your seat until the harrowing finale.
* * * * *

Battle: Los Angeles
To be completely frank, there is very little to say about this film. The posters, like the image on the left here, pretty much sum up the entire plot. Aliens invade taking over all the World's major cities. The decide LA will be one of the hubs, but unfortunately for them Sgt. Mike Nantz and his hardass crew of marines are just about the toughest sons-'a-bitches living, and there'll be damned if aliens will take over the United States so they spit cliche lines, act macho and save the day. (The special effects are bloody brilliant though!)  * *

The Extraordinary Adventures of Adele Blanc-Sec
Louise Bourgeon is perfect as the titular journalist/ writer/explorer/ investigator/ archaeologist Adele Blanc-Sec. Like all of his films, Luc Besson has a knack for great casting when it comes to his leading ladies, and this is another to the pile. The story is great fun - with a great mix of adventure and crime like a concocttion of TinTin, Indiana Jones, and french noir. We follow Adele on her discoveries as she tries to uncover the truth behind a rogue pterodactyl terrorising Paris, whilst also trying to find the cure or curer for her catatonic sister.
* * * *

Ironclad
This little gem tells what happened after John of England signed the Magna Carta and then decided to wreak bloody havoc against all those who stood against him. Backed by the Pope and a thousand-strong army of Danish warriors, he sweeps across England to regain power and glory as a tyrannical King, until his plan to use Rochester Castle as a strong-hold is foiled by a scraggy gang of British warriors and a lone Knight Templar who fight to the last breath to keep the King and his cohorts at bay. The castle invasion scenes are very well choreographed and have all the blood, guts and gore needed for 12th Century battle, and it sees a stellar British cast getting together, with the likes of Brian Cox, James Purefoy, Garth Mackenzie and Derek Jacobi joined by Paul Giamatti in possibly his best performance as King John. Great viewing - only it's probably not one for the missus.
* * * *


Captain America: The First Avenger 
The latest Marvel comic to be adapted, and another superhero to be seen in next year's The Avengers, Captain America did exactly what it said on the tin: entertain. Chris Evans is great as the heroic and noble Steve Rogers, and the backdrop of 1940s New York is very impressive, as is the CGI used to make Evans look like a small weedy version of himself for the earlier scenes. The premise is simple: America's military is testing out a new formula to make stronger, tougher, faster soldiers. Unfortunately, after the first trial is complete the formula is destroyed, and thus Captain America is born - America's first and only super soldier. The film lacked enough war scenes for my liking, and a good 20 minutes was wasted on a tour montage, but aside from those hiccups, it's very enjoyable and on a par with it's predecessor, Thor.
* * * *

Cowboys & Aliens
Another comic book adaptation, Jon Favreau's latest sees Daniel Craig and Harrison Ford as western tough guys fighting off an alien invasion in the good ol' West. Sam Rockwell gives brilliant support as timid-turns-tough bartender Doc, and Olivia Wilde is the eye candy as a sassy but mysterious doll, Ella. What starts as a fight to save their loved ones turns into an all-out attempt to kill off the species and restore Earth's freedom. Not quite as good as the first Iron Man but better than the second, Favreau is a safe pair of hands in this genre and always delivers the goods, even if he tends to fall just shy of the mark at times. * * * *

The Guard
Directed by the brother of the guy who made In Bruges, this delightful little film is a great comedy crime thriller. A socially inept and unorthodox police officer (or guard) from rural Ireland is paired with a black FBI agent in order to assist with a drug smuggling investigation. When the guard links the investigation to a recent murder, the two start to work together to bring down a band of criminals. Stimulating, heart-felt and extremely funny, this witty crime film is just fantastic, and the chemistry between Cheadle and Gleeson is sheer enjoyment to watch.
 * * * *
Sucker Punch
Zack Snyder certainly dropped the ball on this one. After the promising 300 and then the very good Watchmen, there were high hopes for Snyder, but this really is just a shallow sellout of a movie. It follows Babydoll's woeful life as she ends up in a mental institution by her evil stepdad, and rather than suffer the abuse, she slips into a dream-World where she and her friends make a new reality. The girls are cute and the outfits bordering illegal, but any traces of storyline or plot ar lost in the overuse of slow-mo and the busy CGI war scenes. Second star for originality; just a shame that he missed a trick here. Fingers crossed for Man of Steel. * * 

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