Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Film Review with Robert Mann - Kick-Ass

Kick-Ass *****

Have you ever wondered what it would be like if someone tried to be a superhero in real life? And I don’t mean like in Christopher Nolan’s Batman movies - the most realistic superhero movies that have been made to date - with all the cool gadgets and stuff, I mean if someone just put on a homemade costume and just started fighting bad guys without nothing more than some major overconfidence and their wits (and perhaps a pair of nun chucks) to give them an edge over their opponents. Well, you don’t have to wonder anymore because the latest superhero movie Kick-Ass, based on the ongoing creator owned comic series of the same name written by Mark Millar and illustrated by John Romita Jr., shows exactly what it would be like if someone really did try the superhero thing and it would be quite fun apparently. The road to getting the film made, though, has not been an easy one, with the project being rejected by all the major movie studios due to the rather graphic and perhaps controversial nature of some of the comic’s content and director Matthew Vaughn having to raise the $70 million production budget himself, the financing coming entirely from independent sources. This, however, is not at all a bad thing for the completed film as freedom from the constraints of studio imposed restrictions has allowed Vaughn to make the film exactly as he saw fit, and thus deliver something that is in no way diluted or cheapened by the interference of studio executives whose only interest is the bottom line.

A nerdy teen who's unfortunately “invisible to girls”, Dave Lizewski (Aaron Johnson) is a comic-book fanboy whose major obsession is superheroes and whose object of desire is the beautiful Katie Deauxma (Lyndsy Fonseca) who happens to think that he is gay, Dave has always wondered why we don't see superheroes in real life, and one day he decides to try it out for himself. With his home-made costume - a wet suit bought online - and weapons, Dave springs into action against some local hoodlums. Amazingly he survives, and is thrilled and amazed to find his life is changed forever. With his new superhero name 'Kick-Ass', Dave inspires an entire subculture of copycats, ranging from well-meaning do-gooders to crazed vigilantes, among them fledgling crime fighter Red Mist (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) with whom he forms a friendship. Not only that but he also finds himself working alongside real superheroes in the form Hit-Girl (Chloe Moretz), an 11-year-old sword-wielding dynamo, and her father, Big Daddy (Nicolas Cage) as he takes on the the forces of local mob boss Frank D'Amico (Mark Strong) who has resolved to wipe out the costumed crusaders. At first Dave thinks that “with no power comes no responsibility” but he soon learns that this is far from the case.

Director Matthew Vaughn is following in the footsteps of fellow Brit director Danny Boyle in proving to be extremely adept at a variety of genres. First, he won acclaim in the gangster genre with his directorial debut Layer Cake, then he enchanted viewers with his magical fantasy Stardust and now he has delivered one of the most original and most super superhero movies in a long time with Kick-Ass. And you probably thought that there was no originality left in the superhero genre. Here, Vaughn has delivered a film that is superb on every level. Featuring serious geek credentials in the form of numerous subtle (and some not so subtle) superhero and comic book references and in-jokes and being a sincerely faithful adaptation of writer Mark Millar’s comic series (unlike 2008’s rather unfaithful adaptation of his Wanted comic), this is a film that is guaranteed to please fans of the source material but at the same time there is plenty for the unitiated to enjoy as well. Several films in the past have attempted to combine superheroes and comedy or deconstruct the superhero genre and in most cases they have either failed or only been semi-successful in achieving this goal, e.g. Mystery Men and Watchmen, but Kick-Ass succeeds where they don’t, managing to be both hilariously funny and show superheroes in a whole new light. The approach taken here is one of realism and this allows for a superhero movie unlike most you have seen before. Even though some later scenes perhaps stretch believability slightly, pretty much everything you see happen in the film is stuff that really could happen. The superbly shot and choreographed fight and shootout sequences, which are thrilling, hilarious and brutally realistic in equal measure, are all things that are very plausible and could perhaps happen in real life. There are no super powered battles or anything, just violence that is brutal and bloody, but refreshing in that we see an undiluted representation of the brutal reality of what it would be like to be a superhero as opposed to the fantastical representation so many superhero movies show with their 12A fantasy comic book style violence - not all fun and games. Additionally, the fight sequences aren’t as clear cut as what we are used to seeing, with the fights not always turning out in favour in the hero. In fact, the first attempt by Kick-Ass at crimefighting ends in disaster, with him being beaten, stabbed and run over by a car. The dialogue too is every bit as refreshing and honest. Never shying away from crude language, more sensitive viewers may be offended by some of the things that are said, but every bit of dialogue sounds authentic and true to life, adding to the realism of it all. The characters too seem realistic. They do not have superpowers, in some cases they don’t even have good basic fighting skills and (a few exceptions aside) don’t have access to cool Batman style gadgets and gizmos. The heroes are just everyday people with everyday problems and this feeds into their lives, making for characters that are far better developed and have far more interesting dilemmas than your average superhero. As a result, the characters are much more relatable and believable, allowing a deeper level of audience empathy than in most comic book movies. Conversely, the villains are not over the top supervillains but rather just mob criminals, the kind of which you would find in the real world. Realism is also present in the way Kick-Ass becomes an internet phenomenon and an entire new wave of popular culture develops around him. If someone really did try to be a superhero this is exactly what would happen.

The film is technically excellent on every level, with Matthew Vaughn Jane Goldman’s screenplay being truly hilarious, tragic, exciting and realistic offering up a superbly coherent and well structured narrative, some very memorable, believable and profanity laden dialogue and plenty of well developed and authentic seeming characters. Vaughn’s direction is every bit as fantastic with the director bringing some real style to the production in the form of great continuity and editing, superb camera work and the incorporation of both comic book style text at points and a comic style sequence which fills out the backstory for Big Daddy and Hit Girl. The roles have been cast to perfection too. British actor Aaron Johnson is proving to be a very versatile actor. Just two years ago, he was playing the male romantic interest in Angus, Thongs and Perfect Snogging, last year he played John Lennon in Nowhere Boy and now he absolutely excels in the role of Dave Lizewski. Not only does he nail the American accent but he also convincingly and humourously portrays both the geek and ‘tough guy’ sides of his character and proves very capable at everything that is required of him here, both the funny and the serious stuff. For all the strengths of his performance, though, he just does not compare to Chloë Grace Moretz, an extremely talented young actress who is fast becoming the early 21st century’s answer to Jodie Foster, not a child actress but a grown up actress in the body of a child. She delivers an extremely mature performance that is way beyond her years and perfectly captures the toughness of her character as well as the emotionally tormented side. She swears up a storm and some will be shocked at some of the language coming out of her mouth, particularly a mention of the c word, but it never seems gratuitous, rather making her damaged character all the more convincing. Moretz also shares a very good hero-hero/father-daughter dynamic with Nicolas Cage, the two being so perfect together that you could easily believe that they really are related. Cage too is excellent, taking a backseat in a supporting role for a change rather than being the leading man. His role here is perhaps one of his most perfectly cast parts in some time, combining his usual energy and superb entertaining abilities with his other, somewhat less seen acting abilities, with genuine emotion being portrayed in certain scenes. Mark Strong once again does the villain gang, being well cast in the criminal boss role, although not having quite the impact he could have due to having played the bad buy part quite a few times lately. Any such problems are not the fault of his performance here though, just that he doesn’t much particularly different this time round. Christopher Mintz-Plasse also delivers an enjoyable performance as the wannabe superhero who isn’t quite who seems to be. Finally, Lyndsy Fonseca is a very likable romantic interest and not merely a damsel in distress, and Clark Duke and Even Peters are also well cast as Dave’s geek friends Marty and Todd. Other recognisable faces putting in appearances are Dexter Fletcher and Jason Flemyng but little is made of either. Overall, Kick-Ass is a superhero film that genuinely does bring something new to the table. It offers a take on superheroes that seems fresh and original, is hilariousl, thrilling and even slightly tragic and is superbly made in every respect. Simply put, this is a film that truly does kick ass and the news that a sequel is already in the works already has this critic getting excited. With Iron Man 2 now less than a month away, April 2010 is set to be a stellar year for superhero movies.


Review by Robert Mann BA (Hons)

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Kick-Ass: Cine-literacy and the Geography of an Action Scene


I'd been looking forward to Kick-Ass for a long while, perhaps that was the problem? I'd heard amazingly posititve hype from preview screenings as Comic-Con, perhaps that was the problem? I'd read relentlessly enthusiastic quotes from 5-Star reviews, perhaps that was the problem?

Sure, Kick-Ass is by no means an awful movie, it's also, sadly, not a classic. Kick-Ass is enjoyable enough, but it falls short of the edgy, rampant and off-beat status it occasionally flirts with and Matthew Vaughn seemed intent to preserve. Vaughn financed the film outside of Hollywood, because he knew no studio would be willing to front up the cash for a film as violent, different and potentially controversial as this. Based on the graphic novel by Wanted scribe Mark Millar, the story focuses on an average teenager who wonders why nobody has tried being a real-life superhero. His efforts see him getting repeatedly battered and becoming an internet video sensation. This, in turn, attracts the attention of Big Daddy and Hit-Girl, two 'genuine' superheroes (though, like Batman, their power is in the artillerly) who have a vendetta to settle with mob boss Frank D'Amico.

At it's out-set Kick Ass works excellently, it's fast-paced, darkly humourous, juggling its multiple narratives with a sense of whimsy and mystery; the introduction of Nic Cage and Chloe Moretz as Damon MacReady (aka Big Daddy) and his daughter, Mindy (aka Hit-Girl), is superb. Meanwhile Aaron Johnson as Dave Lizewski (Kick-Ass) makes his oddball transformation the stuff of genuine awkward teenage fantasies, and the film laces his early attempts at superheroism with enough gritty realism to shock. Unfortunately these touches, brutal stabs of reality, fail to punctuate the film which gradually becomes more and more like any number of other superhero/action films without bringing anything particularly new to the mix.
After his first beating Dave is hospitalized and finds himself, at the end of his stay, staring at X-rays of his skeleton filled with metal plating and scaffold, with the doctor's informing him of damaged nerve-endings; so much for his lack of super-powers, now, like Sam Raimi's titular Darkman, he has a slightly higher tolerance for pain. Also, much like Raimi's Peter Parker in Spiderman 1 through 3, Dave gets the gorgeous girl - after a very humourous mid-section in which she thinks him gay - this is a change to Millar's graphic novel, alongside a few other plot machinations, and is a rather unrealistic and disappointing inclusion to the film. And rather than continue to subvert the genre conventions in the story-telling, as the film hints at when Dave's narration begins to reference movie-characters who have continued narrating from beyond the grave, the final act of the film is disappointingly predictable.

What really bugged me though was the lack of cine-literacy in the despatching of chief villain Frank D'Amico. Near the end of the second act one of the henchmen pilfers a bazooka from Big Daddy's HQ, clearly this will be used at some point in the film, the bazooka remains in our collective conscious until the final confrontations between Kick-Ass vs. Red Mist and Hit-Girl vs. D'Amico. Kick-Ass and Red Mist knock one another out, whilst D'Amico gets the advantage over Hit-Girl, it is at this moment that he goes for his gun. We intercut to the unconscious Kick-Ass who slowly begins to stir. Clearly, he would be incapable of taking on D'Amico unarmed, and the only weapon we know he could use at this point would be the aforementioned bazooka. Sure enough, just before D'Amico can point blank Mindy, Kick-Ass is at the door, fires the bazooka and D'Amico is sent flying out the window to explode at a safe distance. Unfortunately, this feels like a very unsatisfying end to a reasonably threatening chief villain.

It made me think about the end of True Lies, in which Arnie is taking out bad guys in a harrier jump jet whilst trying to rescue his daughter from plummeting to her doom, and also has chief terrorist Art Malik on his wing with an uzi. We, as an audience, know that Arnie has a missile on the wing of his plane waiting to fire, we know that Malik is unsteady on his feet when Arnie banks the jet and we know, when Arnie gives his daughter a 'Hold On' look, everything that's about to happen. Sure enough, Arnie banks the jet, Malik slips, slides down the wing and gets caught on the missle. Arnie hovers his finger over the launch button, draws a wry smile and looks Malik in the eye, our anticipation is high, we're giddy, waiting to hear what possible quip Arnie could come out with... "You're fired." he deadpans, it's so perfectly cheesy that it ellicts cheers and guffaws in equal measure. Whoosh! The missle is launced sending Malik flying, but not only that, he zooms straight through a building towards the helicopter gun-ship containing all his terrorist buddies - KABOOM! Perfect cinematic action geography by one of the genre's masters, James Cameron.

Before firing the bazooka into D'Amico, Kick-Ass said something, but such is the lack of impact of this moment that I can't even begin to remember what it was! Elsewhere in the film, especially in the 'blood-letting', I felt that the film fell short of those that had gone before; with the spurts of red on a lesser level than, say, studio-backed V For Vendetta and Hit-Girl's hallway shoot-out had none of the thrills and wit of, for example, Leon's final confrontation. The violence in this film should've have had you spitting popcorn with its excessive gore and humour, much like, rather neatly, Timur Bekmabetov's adaptation of Millar's graphic novel Wanted, which was a pleasingly 18 certificate movie with a fine sense of action geography.

These are just a handful of my initial qualms with Kick Ass, don't get me wrong, I did enjoy the movie, but it's not my 'new favourite film' as some sites are claiming; but their sense of hyperbole has often been dubious. I look forward to returning to Kick Ass on DVD in the future, to see how it holds up, but I won't be rushing back to the cinema to check it out again... in fact, the likes of this year's Daybreakers and Solomon Kane - though poorer films overall - had a better regard for witty violence and inventive action and, thusly, hold more repeat curiosity for me. Even though, as previously remarked, all in all they aren't as good as Kick Ass!

June Havoc R.I.P.

June Havoc, the Hollywood actress whose childhood partly inspired the musical Gypsy, has died in Connecticut at the age of 97, it has been announced.

Havoc, younger sister of famed stripper Gypsy Rose Lee, died of natural causes on Sunday at her home in Stamford, her publicist said on Monday.

Born June Hovick in 1912, Havoc had leading roles in more than 20 films, among them Gentleman's Agreement.

Yet she mostly worked on the stage, appearing in numerous Broadway shows.

These included Pal Joey, in which she appeared with Gene Kelly and Van Johnson, and Cole Porter show Mexican Hayride.

Her last Broadway appearance came in the early 1980s when she took on the role of Miss Hannigan in Annie.

However, it is for Gypsy - filmed in 1962 with Rosalind Russell and Natalie Wood - for which she is perhaps best known.

Havoc inspired the role of Baby June in the musical, the archetypal stage daughter pushed to stardom by her overbearing mother.

The play was based on a memoir of her older sibling Louise, who grew up to be the burlesque star Gypsy Rose Lee.

"I loved my sister but I loathed her life," said Havoc in 1998, saying there was nothing wrong with her mother Rose's "drive and ambition".

Havoc also wrote four plays, one of which - 1963's Marathon '33 - won her a Tony nomination as best director.

Chloe Moretz Is Kick Ass

Actress Chloe Moretz endured months of demanding physical training for controversial new movie Kick-Ass - she had to perform 1,000 crunches every night and learn how to take apart a gun.

The 13 year old was cast as assassin Hit Girl, a character who uses bad language throughout the movie and is seen savagely killing numerous villains.

And to prepare for the physically intense role, Moretz learned martial arts and spent two months in a challenging training program, prompting co-star Aaron Johnson to dub her a "mini-Schwarzenegger".

She says, "Two months before the movie started I started training to be Hit Girl. I knew it was going to be physical, but I didn't know it was going to be that physical. First I did basic training - how to take apart a gun and how to put it back together. I then did more technical training, like the bow staff and butterfly knife. They made me do 1,000 crunches a night and 50 pull-ups. I loved learning the martial arts moves. Learning to flip a butterfly knife was fun and challenging too."

But despite her role, Moretz is adamant she hates bloodthirsty films: "I would never want to see that kind of violence. I'm a chicken. I'm scared of spiders. I like romantic comedies. I'm totally a chick-flick girl."

Butler Bored Of His Own Face

Gerard Butler is delighted his new animated movie How To Train Your Dragon has taken attention away from his role in The Bounty Hunter - because he's fed up with seeing his face on posters promoting the action film.

The Scottish actor's turn as a bounty hunter received huge press attention after it was rumoured he was romancing his co-star Jennifer Aniston off screen.

The pair laughed off the claims, insisting they are just pals - but Butler admits he's tired of being subjected to tabloid speculation.

And he's pleased his new DreamWorks project, which topped the US box office charts at the weekend, has taken some of the media glare away from him.

He explains, "I do admit that it's got a little weird seeing my mug (face) everywhere. I have my face on posters and buses and I don't need it on everything.

"It has been a pleasure to go behind the scenes and be just the voice of a character. It's good to lie low for a while."

Cemetery Junction Q&A

April 12 at 5pm, Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant will be sitting down LIVE with MySpace to answer your questions on the making of their first feature film, Cemetery Junction.

Mike's Kick Ass Review

With No Power, Comes No Responsibility...

When I was growing up, like any young boy, I had many fantasies and daydreams (some of which are probably not suitable to talk about here). One of those fantasies was to end up like my greatest role model, someone who enforces justice, puts the bad guys behind bars and does it all in a nifty suit.

That person?... Columbo

I also wanted to be a Super Hero.

So, how come no one’s ever tried to be a Super Hero?

Enter Kick Ass.

Directed by Matthew Vaughn and based on a comic book series written by Mark Millar, Kick-Ass tells the story of Dave Lizewski (Aaron Johnson), a floppy haired high school teenager who spends most of his time being ignored by girls and masturbating to the tribes women of National Geographic. After being mugged, Dave decides to become a real life super hero, albeit one problem... he has no super powers. Way over his head, Kick-Ass inspires two other vigilantes, Big Daddy (Nicolas Cage) & Hit Girl (Chloe Moretz) and soon finds himself caught up in an increasingly violent blood feud with mob boss Frank D’Amico (Mark Strong).

The film was everything I wanted, funny, gory and very well cast.

Chris Hewitt from Empire Magazine says:
“A ridiculously entertaining, perfectly paced, ultra-violent cinematic rush that kicks the places other movies struggle to reach.”

To be honest, I find it hard to disagree!

Claudia Winkleman Is Film 2010

The very pretty Claudia Winkleman has been named as the new presenter of Film 2010, succeeding Jonathan Ross, the BBC has announced.

The star, who currently has her own weekly arts show on BBC Radio 2, said: "I am completely over the moon about being given this enormous honour."

The long-running BBC One show, which started as Film 71, was presented by film critic Barry Norman for many years, with Ross taking over in 1999.

TV presenter Winkleman will begin her new role in September.

"Everyone has an opinion on film and I'm looking forward to debating the biggest news and releases with a whole variety of guests each week," Winkleman said.

"I am incredibly proud to be to be presenting the new look Film 2010. It's an honour to follow on from the brilliant Jonathan Ross.

"I have been lucky enough to cover the Baftas and present the UK broadcasts of the Oscars and the Golden Globes for years and now to be able to work with the producers on Film 2010 is just amazing."

She also explained that the format of the show would be changing slightly.

"And also, just so people don't panic, it's not just me, because that would be horrifying. So it will be brilliant critics and all kinds of people sharing their knowledge, because I'm rubbish on horror."

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Film Review with Robert Mann - The Blind Side

The Blind Side ***

Released in cinemas in time for Thanksgiving in America last year, The Blind Side is a film that, well, blind sided pretty much everyone. Expectations were considerably less than stellar for a film that was expect to to merely do average box office and pass by largely overlooked by moviegoers but when it opened far bigger than anyone expected it became apparent that this film is far more than initially appeared, something which has only become more apparent with the film turning its surprisingly big US opening weekend of $34 million into a truly awe inspiring $250 million and counting, not forgetting that the film is also an Oscar winner, with star Sandra Bullock having taken away the Best Actress award at this year’s Academy Awards. So, why has this film been so unexpectedly successful? Like so many inspirational films before it, the fact that it tells a undeniably true story (based on the book The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game by Michael Lewis) makes it something that is both relatable and all the more moving for its real life inspirations. But, does this success mean that the film itself is actually something special?

Homeless and under-educated African-American teenager Michael Oher (Quinton Aaron) has precious little going for him. A gentle giant, he's isolated at school and traumatized by the gangsters in his run-down neighbourhood. A shadow of the person he should be, it's not until he befriends a young boy named SJ Tuohy (Jae Head) and gets taken under the wing of SJ's mother Leigh Anne Tuohy (Sandra Bullock) that Michael gets the help he needs to reach his true potential. The gutsy matriarch of a well-off white family, Leigh Anne is determined to help Michael overcome the adversities he faces from his family - also including adopted sister Collins (Lily Collins) and father Sean (Tim McGraw) - teachers Miss Sue (Kathy Bates) and Coach Burt Cotton (Ray McKinnon) and peers. With his new home environment and adopted family, Michael makes steady progress, and ultimately sets off on the road towards becoming an All-American sporting hero.

The Oscar that Sandra Bullock won for her performance in The Blind Side is very well deserved. Here she delivers the performance of her career, nailing the accent of her character perfectly and effectively combining heart, emotion and toughness to create a thoroughly believable and well developed character with whom we can really empathise and who really root for. She also has a very convincing and sincere motherly dynamic with co-star Quinton Aaron. In fact, pretty much the entire cast performs strongly. It should be noted, however, that only Bullock even won an Oscar here, the film as a whole not receiving any such recognition from the Academy Awards. You see, this is a film that will divide moviegoers. Some people will love it for its optimistic and positive portrayal of the world and events and lack of edge, grit and realism - these things make it a very ‘happy’ film where, aside from the last half hour, some of which seems like its from another film altogether, nothing bad happens at all, everything being completely sugar coated - while others will hate the film for the exact same reason. The sugar coated representation of reality shown here bares little in common with actual reality and such an absence of realism robs the film of genuine drama, the kind of which that could make events truly engrosssing (although people who want to forget about the real world will lap it up). Also, the focus of the film is primarily on the character of Leigh Anne - a well to do woman who almost views helping Michael like a project, even if it does grow to be much more rather than the potentially more interesting character of Michael himself. A major problem here is that Michael is too underdeveloped as a character with not enough insight being shown into his past. We only get very brief glimpses into his childhood in the form of flashbacks, the emphasis being on the flash as flashes are all we get, robbing of the crucial background that could make him so much more interesting as a character. This, in turn, makes it harder to really empathise with him, even though we can still feel happy as his life is turned around for the better. For British viewers, the American Football scenes will also hold the film back, with many viewers likely to be alienated by all the references, which will only be truly understood and appreciated by Americans and the Football scenes themselves which may be too hard to follow for those lacking an understanding of the sport, i.e. most British people. Things such as this mean that, while this film has lots of potential, it doesn’t fully deliver on it, the film never being as engaging as it could be. Nonetheless, though, the story is inspirational, that much is undeniable, and it will be hard not to be moved by it. Just remember that The Blind Side is pretty much carried by Sandra Bullock and without her it is most unlikely that it would be receiving much attention at all.


Review by Robert Mann BA (Hons)

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Film Review with Robert Mann - How to Train Your Dragon

How to Train Your Dragon 3D ****½
How to Train Your Dragon 2D ****

Following a quiet 2009 for DreamWorks Animation, with only Monsters Vs Aliens being released in cinemas, 2010 is set to be a mega year for the animation studio with three new CG animated features being unleashed onto cinema screens in both two and three dimensions in the form of July’s Shrek Forever After, November’s Megamind and this week’s How to Train Your Dragon. Unlike many DreamWorks Animation creations, however, their latest effort is not an original idea for once but rather based on pre-existing source material in the form of the book of the same name by Cressida Cowell, which is part of a series following the adventures of young Viking character Hiccup. Speculation is that the film isn’t an entirely faithful adaptation of the source material but on its own terms does it at least live up to the standards of other DreamWorks movies, particularly their fantastic first foray into the 3D format from last year?

Hiccup (voiced by Jay Baruchel) is a Viking teenager who lives on the island of Berk, where strength and prowess in battle are everything and fighting dragons is a way of life. But hapless Hiccup doesn't exactly fit in with his tribe's longstanding traditions. He pines for the affections of Astrid (voiced by America Ferrerra) and longs to join his fellow Vikings in their war against the dragons but his wimpiness and clumsiness only ever get him into trouble, so he is set aside working as an apprentice to Gobber (voiced by Craig Ferguson). The time of initiation is coming, and this is Hiccup's one chance to prove his worthiness to his tribe and father Stoick (voiced by Gerard Butler). But when he encounters and befriends an injured dragon, whom he names Toothless, Hiccup's world is turned upside down. His unexpected friendship with a dragon challenges him - and his fellow Vikings - to see the world from an entirely different point of view.

Anyone who goes into this film expecting a how to guide on training dragons will be disappointed but anyone who wants to see a fun, action packed family animated adventure will find that How to Train Your Dragon is a film that has much to offer. For starters, the animation is up there with the best work that DreamWorks has done, combining breathtakingly beautiful, and pretty realistic looking, animated landscapes with well realized dragons that come in varieties both scary and cute - the dragon at the centre of the story being particularly adorable. The film also boasts plenty of exciting dragon filled action sequences, spectacular flying scenes and, if seen in 3D, some extremely stunning 3D effects work. Made to be shown in 3D from the start, not converted to 3D in post production like some films, you really can tell that this is the case, in the excellent application of three dimensions, with everything from simple shots - one underwater shot really pops out - to the action sequences gaining massively from the extra dimension, providing you with a first hand experience of events that really do seem like they are happening right in front of you. If you don’t get to see it in 3D, though, don’t fret as the animation is still pretty spectacular even in 2D and the other aspects of the film are not influenced in any way by the added dimension. The story is pretty heartwarming either way and carries a nice message, the dialogue and humour are pretty sharp and quite funny, if not the best that DreamWorks has done and the vocal performances are, as you would expect, excellent with everyone doing a good job at giving their characters distinct personalities. Obviously, the accents are not authentic but who cares? Other vocal performers include Jonah Hill, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, T.J. Miller, Kristen Wiig, Robin Atkin Downes, Philip McGrade, Kieron Elliott and Ashley Jensen. Overall, How to Train Your Dragon isn’t quite DreamWorks Animation’s best film, falling behind last year’s superior effort, but it definitely falls amongst their finest films with this tale of dragons turning from being pests into pets proving to be a rollercoaster ride of a movie that will be enjoyed by both kids and adults alike.


Review by Robert Mann BA (Hons)

Film Review with Robert Mann - Nanny McPhee & The Big Bang

Nanny McPhee & The Big Bang ****

It’s the Easter holidays again and, as usual, the film studios have several choices lined up for family viewing, although only two really worth mentioning - firstly the latest DreamWorks Animation effort How to Train Your Dragon, which will no doubt be the dominating movie at the box office, and the number two film for this school holiday, Nanny McPhee & The Big Bang, the sequel to the very popular 2005 family film Nanny McPhee. Given the dominance of the American film industry in the realm of family entertainment (and blockbusters in general come to think of it) it is quite refreshing to see a completely British made family movie grace our screens again but, following underwhelming returns for British made features in recent years, a lot is resting on this film to not only deliver quality family entertainment, the kind of which only the British can really provide, but also to restore British cinema to a position of popularity with British cinemagoers.

The magical Nanny McPhee (Emma Thompson) appears at the door of Mrs Isabel Green (Maggie Gyllenhaal), a harried young mother who is trying to run the family farm while her husband is away fighting in the Second World War and is also having to contend with her brother-in-law Uncle Phil (Rhys Ifans) who is determined to convince her to sell the farm. But once she's arrived, Nanny McPhee discovers that Mrs Green's children Norman (Asa Butterfield), Megsie (Lil Woods) and Vincent (Oscar Steer) are fighting a war of their own against their spoiled city cousins Cyril (Eros Vlahos) and Celia (Rosie Taylor-Ritson) who have just moved in and have wasted no time in causing havoc. Relying on everything from a flying motorcycle and a statue that comes to life to a tree-climbing piglet and a baby elephant who turns up in the oddest places, Nanny McPhee uses her magic to teach her mischievous charges five new lessons.

Nanny McPhee is not exactly a film in need of a sequel yet Nanny McPhee & The Big Bang nonetheless proves to be a very worthy follow up. More a new adventure featuring the titular character than a direct sequel (the film takes place in a different time period to the original film although there is one loose link to the first film), The Big Bang does not have that much of a plot, the narrative mostly going from one of Nanny McPhee’s lessons to the next, but it makes up for this in other areas. The messages at the heart of the story are good and honest and today’s children could certainly learn a lot from them. The humour is clean, simple and old fashiones, completely avoiding anything that is crude, aside from a few (tastefully done) poo jokes. The film has moments of ingenuity, particularly the ‘Scratch-O-Matic’ invention which resides on the farm. The visual effects are extremely charming, with the animals being brought to adorable life, especially the piglets that are so adorable, especially when they are doing acrobatics, flying or performing a synchronised swimming number (yes, you read that right). Visually, the film is nice to look at in virtually every respect, with beautiful countryside locations and a a period authentic recreation of World War Two London providing backdrops and set design being both colourful and vibrant. Such vibrancy is also present in the extremely colourful characters that inhabit the story, everyone brought to life superbly thanks to a series of great performances from the film’s cast. Reprising the titular role of Nanny McPhee, Emma Thompson (who also wrote the script and acted as executive producer) is completely perfect, American actress Maggie Gyllenhaal shows a different side with a lively performance and delivering a very convincing British accent and the child performers are all superb too, with special mention going to Rosie Taylor-Ritson. The intruding cousins are suitably stuck up and horrid while the other children are perfectly full of energy as their characters fight back against them. The all star British cast also includes Maggie Smith, Bill Bailey, Ralph Fiennes, Ewan McGregor, Sam Kelly, Katy Brand and Sinead Matthews. The only weak link in the cast is Rhys Ifans who is strangely underwhelming in his role. Overall, Nanny McPhee & The Big Bang is perfect family entertainment for this Easter holiday. It may not be the best family film of the year but it is certainly one of the most magical and you after seeing it you will believe that pigs can fly.


Review by Robert Mann BA (Hons)

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Hot Gossip

"I have worked out to that song Bonkers" - Brad Pitt

>> Cuntgate <<

Ken Russell rules
Hugh Grant supposedly called Matthew Freud a Berkshire Hunt at a party last week,
to which the publicist responded by smearing chocolate cake on the actor.
Hugh must be delighted that the cunt is on the other foot for once.
Back when he was just starting out Grant appeared in Ken Russell's Lair of the
White Worm. On his first day on set Ken was trying to direct a scene, but Hugh said
"I've been thinking about my character and I thought I should play the scene sitting
down". Ken looked at him and said "Who gives a fuck what you think you cunt?"
And that was the end of that discussion. God bless Ken Russell

Wednesday, March 24, 2010



Script To Screen, Shifty with writer and director Eran Creevy
Date:   Sunday March 28th.
Time: 12.00pm
Place: Odeon Panton Street, London. (Seating is limited)

Sign up here...

So the movie is the BAFTA nominated Shifty, directed by one of Britain’s newest talents (you can see a
short excerpt from an interview with him.)

As soon as you sign up, you get the shooting script – this gives you the chance to read the actual pages
they took to set and see how the story evolved through a very tight shooting schedule and almost no budget.

On Sunday, you see the film on 35mm, after which an extended film makers Q and A with Eran himself.

Finally, everyone retires to the pub across the road for a networking event.

So new to this mix (and just confirmed now with the producers) is the short proposal that the film makers
used to secure their deal with Film London (due to confidentiality, some parts have been omitted).
It was this deal that enabled Shifty to be both produced and very successfully marketed.

You will get this PDF when you sign up.

There is also a Shifty poster which Eran will sign and we will raffle in the room on the day.
Don’t leave it too late - the last two events (Dead Wood and Exam) both sold out and they had to turn
people away!

Tickets £19 (plus booking fee and inc VAT)

More details here...

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

I Agree With James Cameron

Both the Avatar Blu-ray and DVD will be released without any superfluous trailers, as James Cameron, so do I. Especially the ones you are unable to skip. Doesn't make any sense.

Thanks to Frank for pointing out this link.

The Scouting Book For Boys

Set in a Norfolk coastal caravan park, The Scouting Book for Boys is a British drama about careless and free Emily and David, both fourteen, who fill their summer days climbing on roof tops, swimming in the pool and playing tricks on each other. The teenagers’ unshakable friendship suddenly is put under threat and, as a result, the kids come up with a terrifying plan. Brace yourself for a stomach kicking, shocking turn of events, as The Scouting Book For Boys is not for the faint hearted!

Aptly described as the coming of age love story with a sting in the tail, The Scouting Book for Boys is the cinematic debut of Bafta award winning shorts director Tom Harper and Skins writer Jack Thorne, assisted by some of the team behind Slumdog Millionaire. This Is England’s Thomas Turgoose delivers an excellent performance depicting the awkwardness and contradictory instincts typical of an adolescent finding his feet through adulthood.

The film has screened at festivals around the world including The Times BFI 53rd London Film Festival earlier this year, where writer Jack Thorne won Best British Newcomer Award for his screenplay.

I personally recommend this beautifully shot British drama, a refreshing change from predictive story lines and Hollywood painted glitter

Monday, March 22, 2010

Nanny McPhee & The Big Bang - Review

Or Nanny McPhee 2 if you prefer. Or if you're fond of sarcasm, like me, Mary Poppins 3.

Having been forced to sit through the first Nanny McPhee film so many times I actually grew to enjoy it, and then so many times after that that I got totally sick of it, I didn't hold out much hope of liking this.
My first thoughts at the start were surprise that the middle-English voice narrating belonged to Maggie Gyllenhaal, and that the narration itself along with the freeze-frames at the start were really annoying. What I hadn't expected was for the annoyingness to wear off, and that the whole thing would continue to be quite tolerable.

Maggie Gyllenhaal plays a mother trying to run a farm and bring up three kids, while her husband is away at war. The children are supposedly running riot (but actually seemed pretty well-behaved to me). Rhys Ifans plays Maggie Gyllenhaal's brother, who is a jerk and trying to persuade her to sell the farm to cover a gambling debt. Two posh kids from the city show up, act like spoilt brats and make life even more difficult.
Cue Emma Thompson's magical nanny who shows up in the nick of time to teach the kids to be nice, and basically save the day.

There are a fair few laughs to be had with the magic tricks that McPhee pulls - my kids had a rare moment of agreement that the flying pig was the best part of the film - and there are some interesting big-name in small cameos (Ewan McGregor barely has a single line).

The kids both agreed it was better than the first Nanny McPhee, though they disagreed on whether it was better than last week's How To Train Your Dragon - this may be a girl/boy thing (it was my son who preferred the dragons, in case your wondering).

Personally I would also have to say that this is a more enjoyable film than the first Nanny McPhee, although I may change my mind after another thirty viewings...

I'm Here Online

Quick News

Philip Seymour Hoffman wanted for Daniel Johnston biopic?
John Malkovich and Frances McDormand join Transformers 3.
Brad Pitt looks great at Kick Ass premiere.
In The Darkness trailer is creepy.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Chris Evans Is Captain America

Fantastic Four star Chris Evans has won the race to become comic book superhero Captain America on the big screen, according to industry reports.

The actor was among the favourites to land the coveted role, and now The Hollywood Reporter is reporting that Evans will be the colourful character.

The news is sure to upset comic book purists, who wanted a more mature actor to play the role.

Alex Ross, the artist who redesigned Captain America for Marvel Comics, recently went public with his thoughts on who should play the character.

He told Entertainment Weekly magazine, "We've been saying for years, if you don't sign Jon Hamm to play this part, you're crazy.

"Captain America is supposed to be the patriarch of the Marvel universe. To get a guy in his early to mid-20s is only thinking about where the character began, not what he ultimately needs to become."

Evans will reportedly battle The Matrix and The Wolfman villain Hugo Weaving in the first Captain America movie.

Film Review with Robert Mann - Hachi: A Dog's Tale

Hachi: A Dog’s Tale **½

Coming about a year after Marley & Me, not to mention several other canine themed films - dogs were very popular at cinemas early last year - Hachi: A Dog’s Tale is another feelgood family film of the canine variety, albeit one that finds its inspirations in a very different place. While, like ‘Marley’, it still finds its inspirations in a true story, Hachi is actually a remake of 1987 Japanese film Hachikō Monogatari which itself was based on the true story of the faithful Akita Hachikō, remembered for being loyal to his owner, even many years after his owen passed away. Hachikō was given away after his master’s death but repeatedly escaped to return to his master’s old house and, upon realizing that his master was not there, visiting a train station where he had accompanied his master many times before. Hachi 2010, however, is an American adaptation so, obviously, a few liberties have been taken with the story.

Parker Wilson (Richard Gere) finds a lost puppy (Hachi) at his local train station. Not wanting to hand the puppy over to the dog pound, Parker takes it back home with him. Banned by his wife Cate (Joan Allen) from having another dog, Parker hides the dog, who his friend Ken (Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa) tells him is called Hachiko, Hachi for short, to the best of his ability but due to Hachi's mischievous behaviour Cate soon finds out. No one comes forward to claim Hachi and he and Parker become so inseparable that Cate cannot help but accept the mystery puppy into their family, which also includes their daughter Andy (Sarah Roemer) and her husband Carl (Jason Alexander). Each morning Hachi accompanies Parker to the station and faithfully returns to greet his master each evening at exactly the same time. Through his daily journeys to the station, Hachi becomes a regular fixture of the community and an inspiring symbol of love, friendship and loyalty to all who meet him.

Anyone who has seen past films by director Lasse Hallström will be familiar with his chocolate box filmmaking style, as evidenced in his films (the appropriately titled) Chocolat and Casanova among others. This same style is present in Hachi: A Dog’s Tale but sadly this film is nowhere near as good as those. Not everyone will agree with this assessment of course, in fact some people will love this film, but the film’s entertainment value is largely equivalent to that of one of the better made Hallmark Movies of the Week rather than a film you would expect to see at the cinema. The storyline, which is pretty faithful to the true story only with events transplanted from Japan to America, is very predictable, not really dramatic enough and not especially interesting to non dog lovers, and often it seems like scenes are loosely stringed together rather than following a well constructed narrative, with the film even dragging a bit at times. Also, the non canine (i.e. human) characters are largely underdeveloped, their lives only being shown fleetingly, although this is probably the point as the protagonist is really Hachi himself rather than Parker. That said the film is not without its charms. The dogs playing Hachi in both his puppy and adult forms are absolutely adorable and you would have to have a heart of stone not to be won over by them. For all its flaws, the story about the unwavering loyalty of man’s best friend is still very sweet, touching and sentimental, and the tragic direction in which the tale goes is sure to bring you to tears. While the roles offer little that is substantial to work with all the cast members do a decent job and while the film is mostly quite basic in the visuals department there are some moments of genuine beauty and the black and white/colour drained dog point of view shots are quite a nice touch. Overall, these things are not really enough to overlook the fact that Hachi: A Dog’s Tale is not that special or memorable a film, seeming more like something made for television than cinema viewing, but its warm message still makes it worth checking. Unless you’re a dog lover, though, don’t expect too much.


Review by Robert Mann BA (Hons)

Film Review with Robert Mann - I Love You Phillip Morris

I Love You Phillip Morris **½

The latest Jim Carrey comedy is a film that both has a distinct air of familiarity surrounding it and, at the same time, a sense of freshness as well. The whole conman thing is not exactly a new concept and Carrey himself has treaded similar territory before with Fun With Dick and Jane but what really sets this film apart from everything Carrey has done before is in the romantic element of the story - the character he is playing is homosexual. In comedy, when dealing with homosexuality - something which is still considered taboo by some, particularly in the US - there is always the risk of the issue being made fun of and viewed as a joke rather than being taken seriously. However, I Love You Phillip Morris does not do this, the issue of homosexuality not really being an issue at all, the film really just being a tale of love and the things people will do to keep it, not about the characters being gay. The characters simply are. And, perhaps surprisingly given improbability of the story being told in this film, everything here is based on a true story, that of US conman Steven Jay Russell, who was notorious for a series of remarkable cons and astonishing prison escapes and who is currently serving life in solitary confinement in a Texas prison. His story was documented in I Love You Phillip Morris: A True Story of Life, Love, & Prison Breaks by journalist Steve McVicker. Will you too love Phillip Morris or will you leave this film with a broken heart?

Steven Russell (Jim Carrey) is a happily married police officer who plays the organ at church and prays every night with his wife Debbie (Leslie Mann). However, after finding and being rejected by the mother who gave him up as a baby and getting into a car crash, Steven leaves his family to be his true, flamboyantly gay self. He moves to Miami, finds a boyfriend (Rodrigo Santoro) and becomes a conman to pay for his lavish lifestyle. But Steven is caught and sent to prison, were he meets and falls in love with Phillip Morris (Ewan McGregor). But Steven - a forlorn lover who cannot bear to be separated from his soulmate - will go to any lengths to be with Phillip, including breaking out of jail, impersonating Phillip's lawyer and fraudulently becoming the chief of a major corporation.

“This really happened. It really did.” - These are the words that open I Love You Phillip Morris, a film which, for once, claims to be based on a true story and genuinely is. Despite the improbably and ridiculous sounding nature of it all, everything that happens in this film really is based on true events. However, while it can indeed claim this, this by no means makes it a particularly good film. The true nature of the story and over the top comedic style to telling it taken by the filmmakers proves to be something of a mixed blessing. The over the top comedy approach often feels at odds with the true nature of the story but at the same time complements the improbable nature of it quite well. Even if the film as a whole isn’t all that great, though, there is something here that should definitely be applauded - it’s representation of homosexuality. Too many comedies featuring gay characters base their humour around gags that come at their expense but here this is not the case, even with a fair amount of humour being rather crude - a lot of dialogue and gags are based around sexual situations and there is some quite explicit sexual content that may be offputting to some, so this definitely isn’t a film for more conservative moviegoers and it obviously won’t be to everyone’s taste - and the film being very heavy on the profanities, notably in the scenes set in prison - this does at least create authenticity within the prison environment. No attempt at humour ever comes at the expense of the two central characters though and it is these characters that are the driving force. Jim Carrey and Ewan McGregor are excellent as two straight actors portraying gay characters and they play the roles sensitively, sincerely and convincingly. The two share an extremely believable and quite sweet romantic chemistry and also excel when on their own with Jim Carrey doing a good job of bringing to life a complex character, who we loathe one minute then like the next - a compulsive liar who only really has good intentions at heart - and Ewan McGregor being being perfectly soft and emotional. The film revolves around the performances of the two but sadly the film is considerably less successful in other areas. Despite taking a comedic approach, the film isn’t really that funny - some may disagree with me though - with the hit rate of the gags and the dialogue being way below the average for Carrey films and the film as a whole suffering from a lack of wit. The film does improve somewhat, however, when the focus moves away from the more crude humour. The romantic element of the story often gets sidelined for the cons, many of which are quite generic and not particularly imaginative - although the prison escapes are actually quite ingenious and clever - tending to take the film into a more familiar and predictable direction, something which the story as a whole tends to avoid. So, overall, I Love You, Phillip Morris is a solid piece of cinema that shows how homosexual people should be portrayed but sadly, while it may show a progression in the depiction of gay characters, it is somewhat underwhelming on its own terms. Will you love Phillip Morris? Probably not, but you might just about like him.


Review by Robert Mann BA (Hons)

Straight Outta L.A.

Rapper Ice Cube has made a new documentary about his beloved Los Angeles Raiders American football team.

The former N.W.A. star, who has always worn the silver and black of the sports franchise - now the Oakland Raiders, chronicles the rise and fall of the team during its time in Los Angeles.

The film, Straight Outta L.A., will debut at the Tribeca/ESPN Sports Film Festival next month.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Click On The Links For News

Doctor Horrible sequel may be a feature film

Pinto lands Bond girl role

Mickey Rourke reveals major Iron Man 2 spoiler


Kate Winslet ‘Dumped’ Sam Mendes Over Other Man’s ‘Text Messages’

Predators teaser trailer and SXSW artwork

Has Blockbuster Finally Gone Bankrupt?

Robert Duvall: Legend

Duvall to receive San Francisco film prize

Robert Duvall is to be honoured with the Peter J Owens Award at the San Francisco International Film Festival for his "incomparable acting career"

The movie star will be feted with an onstage tribute at the Castro Theatre on 29 April.

The Owens Award, named for the longtime San Francisco benefactor of arts and charitable organisations and Film Society board member, honours an actor whose work exemplifies brilliance, independence and integrity.

Past recipients include Robert Redford, Maria Bello, Robin Williams, Ed Harris, Sean Penn and Nicolas Cage.

Spaced Gun Fight Flash Mob

It's not really film related but I thought I'd share this with you quickly.

Loads of people doing the Spaced Gun Fight in Tralfalgar Square

Film Review with Robert Mann - The Bounty Hunter

The Bounty Hunter *

The latest high concept romantic comedy (although perhaps one with less emphasis on romance and more on the comedy) is one that genuinely has the potential to stand out from the crowd. The first of two films that could perhaps be described as romantic action comedies - the other being April’s Date Night - the basic concept for The Bounty Hunter - a bounty hunter who finds himself having to arrest his ex-wife - is one that just screams of comic potential. And the people involved in The Bounty Hunter certainly have the credentials to delvier on such promise. Director Andy Tennant previously helmed the great Will Smith romcom Hitch, and both of the film’s leads are talented and charismatic performers who certainly have what it takes to get the inter-character dynamic right. But following a string of mediocre romcoms from equally talented directors and stars in the past year does The Bounty Hunter truly collect on his bounty?

After getting kicked out of the police force, Milo Boyd (Gerard Butler) is reduced to taking a job as a bounty hunte for bail bondsman Sid (Jeff Garlin). To Milo's amusement, he is assigned to track down his own ex-wife, Nicole Hurly (Jennifer Aniston). A feisty investigative reporter, Nicole is not at all pleased to see Milo back in her life. "What I do is I hunt down idiots who jump bail," Milo tells her with evident relish. But if he thinks it's going to be an easy payday, he's forgotten how resourceful - and downright infuriating - his ex can be. As Nicole quickly gives him the slip to chase a lead on a murder cover-up, Milo goes after her. Soon the couple are scrapping just like old times - but then they find themselves on the run for their lives...

With The Bounty Hunter director Andy Tennant attempts to combine elements of the romance, comedy and action genres and his attempt fails miserably. As a romance the film is lacking in much that is actually romantic, the romance between the two leading characters constantly being sidelined for the other elements of the story and the chemistry between Gerard Butler and Jennifer Aniston only ever being decent and never truly convincing or entertaining, mostly due to Aniston proving quite bland in her role her, the only thing she really brings to the film being her looks. Gerard Butler does fare pretty well, though, at least on his own, clearly enjoying the role and delivering a performance that is genuinely pretty entertaining. As a comedy the film is lacking in much that is particularly funny. A number of genuinely quite talented comedy performers - including Jeff Garlin, Jason Sudeikis, Christine Baranski and Siobhan Fallon - appear but are completely wasted because of a weak script that boasts a poorly constructed and wholly predictable plot, weak and unmemorable dialogue and mostly one dimensional characterisation, not to mention failing to provide any genuine laughs in either the gags or the dialogue, both of which seem cheap and very obvious. The funniest things in the film are probably Jennifer Aniston tazering Gerard Butler and the two crashing a golf kart into a pond - that is just how unsuccessful this film is in the humour department. As an actioner the film is low on thrills, the action sequences being extremely low octane and unlikely to even come close to providing the adrenaline rush that action fans seek from their films. A major problem with the film is not only that the different, disparic elements are unseccessful individually but also that they really don’t gel together, the overall product seeming like several different films stuck together. Still, it is really a case of several poor films rather than just one. Attempts to cater to several opposing demographics fail, delivering nothing that will truly satisfy any of its target audiences. So, overall, The Bounty Hunter is a film that is unsatisfying on all fronts. Completely failing to live up to the promise and potential of its concept or even do anything with the battle of the sexes format, this is another hugely underwhelming romcom coming out of Hollywood that sees a director with a good track record turn out a complete misfire. Do not pay the bounty on this one, it really has nothing to offer.


Review by Robert Mann BA (Hons)

Film Review with Robert Mann - The Spy Next Door

The Spy Next Door *½

Hulk Hogan in Mr Nanny, Arnold Schwarzenegger in Kindergarten Cop, ‘Dwayne Johnson in The Game Plan and Vin Diesel in The Pacifier - each of these is an example of a Hollywood action star trading in their tough guy image (presumably for the paycheque) to do films that see them facing the ultimate challenge for any action hero - dealing with a bunch of kids. Now, another addition can be made to this list - Jackie Chan in The Spy Next Door, a film which sounds virtually identical to Vin Diesel’s The Pacifier in virtually every respect, only with trailers that have made it to look considerably less funny. And it’s even got Billy Ray Cyrus in it too - take that as you will. Already a box office flop in the states, where it crashed and burned despite facing virtually no competition from other family movies, the signs haven’t been encouraging for this film and it should come as no surprise that the warnings for this one should definitely be listened to.

Bob Ho (Jackie Chan) is a top international spy working on attachment to the CIA, working under boss Glaze (George Lopez) and alongside partner Colton James (Billy Ray Cyrus). However, Bob wants to give up his ultra-dangerous career to settle down with his neighbour and girlfriend, the lovely Gillian (Amber Valletta). But Bob has one more mission to complete before Gillian agrees to marry him - winning over her three opinionated kids Farren (Madeline Carroll), Ian (Will Shadley) and Nora (Alina Foley). When Gillian suddenly has to leave town, Bob volunteers to babysit the children so he can earn their approval. Plenty of mayhem ensues as Bob struggles to cope with his feisty charges, but when one of the kids mistakenly downloads a top-secret formula from his computer, Bob's Russian terrorist arch-enemy Poldark (Magnús Scheving) is alerted to his whereabouts. Now Bob is forced to juggle the roles of spy and prospective stepfather in the most challenging mission of his career...

Where do I start on just how bad The Spy Next Door is? Well, to begin, it blatantly rips off Vin Diesel starrer ‘The Pacifier’ without even coming close to being as good as that film (note to filmmakers - if you are going to rip something off, first choose something that was particularly memorable to begin with, then at least try to do something decent with the concept you’ve stolen), only ever coming across as a pale imitation. More importantly, even when not being compared to that film, The Spy Next Door is still extremely poor. From the very start, with an opening spy fight montage set to the tune of ‘Secret Agent Man’, the film prety much covers every spy cliché in the book and fails to anything with them that hasn’t been done many times before and much better. The storyline and dialogue are tired and predictable, and the characters are completely underdeveloped, having no depth whatsoever and being little more than generic stereotypes - the kids are just annoying, the villains are just Russian, the girl is just the love interest, and so on. The poor characterisation isn’t just the fault of writers, though, but also the actors. Everyone in the cast seems to phone in their performances, Chan and Valletta have absolutely no chemistry, the villians deliver rubbish Russian accents and the kids are mostly pretty annoying, although the latter is probably intentional. Additionally, the film is largely unfunny with lame gags giving the cast absolutely nothing to work with. Only a few instances in the film manage to raise any laughs, these being a few inventive uses of spy gadgets and the film’s one saving grace - Chan’s trademark comic fight sequences. As well choreographed, entertaining and ingenious as ever, Chan’s fights once again show that he really can use pretty much anything as a weapon - things being used here include a bicycle and a refrigerator among many other everyday items - and provide the few scenes in the film that are actually really funny. Sadly, the fights really aren’t enough on their own to make the rest of the film worth sitting through. So, The Spy Next Door is a very poor film with only one redeeming feature that unfortunately still isn’t enough to warrant the price of a cinema ticket, unless you are a very young and undemanding child anyway. Still, if you are a Jackie Chan fan and you ever get the chance to record it when it eventually appears on television it might be worth doing so so that you can fast forward the majority of the film and just watch the fights.


Review by Robert Mann BA (Hons)

Friday, March 19, 2010


Check out the website.

"Predators - a reinvention of the classic sci-fi franchise. Get ready for a hunt like no other."

More News For Ya!

Here we are again, happy as can be....


New Ong Bak 3 trailer.

A Megamind teaser trailer.

Tim Burton to direct a stop-motion animated Addams Family Movie in 3-D.

A Knee Trembling News Burst

Here are three little bits of news for you to tide you over, until the next news burst.

A SXSW interview with Robert Rodriguez.

Joe Corroney’s Star Wars propaganda posters.

Cheech & Chong’s Hey Watch This poster for the live show documentary.

See you in an hour or so.

Mika's Kick Ass Music Video

Check out Mika's new RedOne-produced song and video, the theme to the upcoming Kick Ass.

Suck It Dreamworks And More Posters

Thanks to the fantastic Mike Rudge, we have these great posters with honest movie titles.
Tom, you do great work.

Forget You

Robert Pattinson is anxious about the reception his new film Remember Me will receive - warning his fans not to expect to have their "buttons pressed"

The Twilight hunk stars in the romantic drama opposite Emilie de Ravin and plays a rebel who faces a tragic end.

And the actor is concerned his devotees may be left disappointed by the moving film, as it isn't the "happy romantic drama" people may be expecting.

He tells Sky News, "It does worry me that when a film has a lot of attention, most audiences are used to having all their buttons pressed, and it doesn't really press the same buttons as other films.

"I hope people don't go into it thinking, 'I am going to watch a really happy romantic drama', because it is not really."