Movies

American Hustle

★★★★★★★★☆☆
Certificate 15 128 minutes
Dir: David O. Russell Stars: Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence

First movie of 2014!

Christian Bale sports a beer gut and the most horrendous combover you could imagine in this 1970s era black comedy. It’s loosely based on an actual case, where the FBI forced a conman to entrap politicians into taking bribes from a “fake sheikh”. As the film says, “Some of this actually happened…”

Christian Bale plays the eponymous grifter. He’s unhappily married to inept single mother Rosalyn (Jennifer Lawrence – Brilliant characterisation & comic timing, but still looks far too young for these kinds of roles IMHO). Bale is forced to work for the feds when his partner in crime and love interest (Amy Adams with a delicious fake “British accent”, and styling herself Lady Edith) is herself entrapped by federal agent Bradley Cooper.

They embark on a scam to trap corrupt politicians so bizarre that it actually seems credible, even when the mob gets dragged in, in the shape of Robert De Niro, and there’s a feeling of barely suppressed madness throughout.

The four central characters almost form a strange dysfunctional family, but I couldn’t help feeling at times that this was a cast & crew reunion for last year’s Silver Linings Playbook (Cooper seems to be playing pretty much exactly the same character). I wonder if it will be as successful? 8/10

How I Live Now

Certificate 15, 101 mins. ★★★★★★★★½☆
Stars: Saoirse Ronan, George McKay, Anna Chancellor. Dir: Kevin Macdonald

This started out as your standard teen coming of age flick, set in the English/Welsh countryside. Saoirse Ronan plays a stroppy teenager who’s sent to stay with her English cousins for the Summer. So far so standard, except that it’s set against the backdrop of World War III breaking out. Just as the kids are falling in lurve, the bomb drops, destroying London and kicking off waves of wind, snow, power cuts, troops, mayhem, invaders, martial law and all that good stuff.

White House Down

Certificate 12A, 2h 11m ★★★★★☆☆☆☆☆

This is the third time Roland Emmerich has destroyed the White House. First in Independence Day, then in 2012, and now in White House Down. The film stars Jamie Foxx as the US President, Channing Tatum as Cale, a single father Cop who is applying for a job in the US Secret Service. Along with his 11 year old video-blogger daughter played by Joey King, he goes to the White House for an interview. When he doesn’t get the job, Cale and daughter join a  tour group. Then, wouldn’t you know it, just as daughter wanders off for a pee, the White House is attacked by a bunch of paramilitary terrorists, led by white supremicist Stenz (Jason Clarke)

Planes

Certificate U, 1h 32m ★★★★★★★☆☆☆

We’ve seen from the Red Bull air races that racing aeroplanes can be fast, exciting and dangerous, and arguably even more so than car rallying or the (boring) processional laps that dominate Formula 1. Disney has tried to capture that excitement and bring their successful Cars format to the world of flying.

Kick Ass 2

Certificate 15, 1h 53m, ★★★★★☆☆☆☆☆

The original Kick Ass was the shock hit of 2010. Reviled by critics because of its strong language and ultra-violence, it nevertheless became a huge success with real moviegoers. So can we expect the same from Kick Ass 2?

Alan Partridge – Alpha Papa

Certificate 15, 90 minutes ★★★★★★★★☆☆
Starring: Steve Coogan, Colm Meaney, Simon Greenall, Anna Maxwell Martin, Felicity Montagu, Tim Key, Nigel Lindsay, Sean pertwee

Steve Coogan’s bumbling two-faced cringe-worthy character, TV/Radio presenter Alan partridge first appeared on Radio 4 more than 20 years ago. This quickly led to regular spots on TV and eventually his own TV show, and massive popularity for Coogan.

The Lone Ranger

Certificate 12A, 149 minutes, ★★★★★★★☆☆☆

Before writing this I went onto Rotten Tomatoes to see what they had to say – with a score of just 29%, I was intrigued to find out why everyone seems to hate this movie. It’s been branded a big budget flop in America, where it came out 6 weeks before it opened here.

Okay, so it had massive budget overruns and “production problems”, and the American press seems to think they’ve gone off Johnny Depp. But what matters at the end of the night is what you see on the silver screen, yesno? That’s what we paid our £15 quid a month Cineworld Unlimited subs for, right?

After Earth

Certificate 12A, 100 minutes, ★★☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆

Will Smith, Jaden Smith, Sophie Okonedo and Zoe Kravitz star in this M Knight Shyamalan directed sci-fi movie.

For some reason, humanity has been forced to leave Earth and move to new digs on Nova Prime, where everything looks like it belongs to a cross between a sailboat and a Persil commercial (other detergents are available, and probably needed to keep all the white fabrics clean…). All well and good, apart from the alien bugs that  go around killing people and spiking them with extreme prejudice.

Daddy Smith plays a general in the interstellar space force, who is the only person that’s immune to these bugs, because he has no fear (it seems they hunt by detecting the pheromones produced by fear). Actually he has no real emotion of any sort. Diddy Smith plays his son, who idolises his father but has obedience issues after his older sister was killed by one of these bugs.

Anyhow, Daddy and Diddy wind up together on this spaceship which gets damaged in a meteor storm and crashes on a now-interdicted Earth. Daddy is badly injured and so is forced to sit in part of the wrecked spaceship, wearing a “who wrote this crap? Oh, it was me… what was I thinking?” pout, while Diddy wanders around the planet being chased by CG apes and giant eagles and being out acted by the trees. Of course this giant bug shows up, and the only way Diddy can survive to save the day is to show no fear. But since he hasn’t shown any other emotions up to this point, that shouldn’t be too difficult.

I’m still left wondering why Hollywood keeps letting Shyamalan back behind a camera, since he only demonstrates time and time again a talent for awfulness. And I have to say this film is just as bad as the rest.

 

The Host

Certificate 12A, 125 minutes, ★★★★★☆☆☆☆☆

Saoirse Ronan (Hanna, Atonement, The Lovely Bones) stars in this movie adaptation of Stephanie Meyer’s 2008 novel, The Host.

At first you’d be forgiven for drawing parallels with Invasion of the Body Snatchers, and yes we have glowing alien centipedes that inhabit the brains of their hosts, but that’s pretty much where the similarity ends. You see, these aliens are nice.

And that’s the problem.

We have an exciting first reel (do they still have reels? maybe I should just say first 20 minutes…) in which Melanie (Ronan) is chased down, tries to kill herself but is saved, healed and implanted by a “Soul” called Wanderer. Then we find out that the Souls’ take over of humans is not as complete as they’d have us believe, and Melanie is still in there, fighting to regain control. She manages to make Wanderer flee into the desert where she’s found by Uncle Jeb (William Hurt).

After that it goes all new age eco weird.

There’s the usual Meyer  inter-species love triangle, but the twist this time is that it’s a four-way triangle with only three bodies (you just know how that’s going to end…), but the two boys are pretty bland and uninteresting, the obsessive baddie cop “Seeker” (Diane Kruger) sent out to catch Wanderer/Melanie (who has been nicknamed Wanda in an effort to get the movie over a bit quicker) is ineffectual, which means we’re left with the internal two people in one body conflict to carry the tension. And it fails. It just comes over as one person with an occasional twitch and a reverbed voice over from time to time.

But the chrome Lotus Evoras were nice (as was the chrome R44), and the cavern complex with hand-cranked mirrors for lighting was truly stunning.

But scenery and shiny cars a good movie do not make. Shame. 5/10