Archive for 2013

Don Jon

Posted in Comedy, Drama with tags on December 31, 2013 by Mark Walker

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Director: Joseph Gordon-Levitt.
Screenplay: Joseph Gordon-Levitt.
Starring: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Scarlett Johansson, Julianne Moore, Tony Danza, Glenne Headly, Brie Larson, Rob Brown, Jeremy Luke, Channing Tatum, Anne Hathaway, Cuba Gooding, Jr.

There’s only a few things I really care about in life. My body. My pad. My ride. My family. My church. My boys. My girls. My porn“.

For anyone remotely interested in film, it’s been hard not to notice or monitor the rise of Joseph Gordon-Levitt over recent times. Sure, he started off as a child actor in 1988 and appeared in such television shows as “Family Ties“, “L.A. Law” and “Quantum Leap“. He made his film debut in Robert Redford’s “A River Runs Through It” before arguably becoming a household name in the brilliant TV show “3rd Rock from the Sun“. Since then, his meteoric rise has went from strength to strength in both independent and blockbuster movies. “Don Jon” now marks another achievement in Gordon-Levitt’s career; it’s his writing and directorial debut and it’s a very strong footing to start on.

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Prisoners

Posted in Crime, Drama, Mystery, thriller with tags on December 17, 2013 by Mark Walker

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Director: Denis Villeneuve.
Screenplay: Aaron Guzikowski.
Starring: Hugh Jackman, Jake Gyllenhaal, Paul Dano, Viola Davis, Terrence Howard, Maria Bello, Melissa Leo, Dylan Minnette, Zoe Borde, Erin Gerasimovich, Kyla Drew Simmons, David Dastmalchian, Wayne Duvall.

Pray for the best, but prepare for the worst“.

In 2011, Canadian director Denis Villeneuve’s “Incendies” received an Oscar nomination for Best Foreign Language film. For that, he depicted a family that ventured on a journey of discovery. In “Prisoners“, Villeneuve turns his eye to another bleak family drama where ‘discovery’ is, once again, the driving force behind his characters’ motivations.

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Prince Avalanche

Posted in Comedy, Drama with tags on December 16, 2013 by Mark Walker

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Director: David Gordon Green.
Screenplay: David Gordon Green.
Starring: Paul Rudd, Emile Hirsch, Lance LeGault, Joyce Payne, Gina Grande.

True love is just like a ghost – people talk about it but very few have actually seen it“.

David Gordon Green is a director who’s work I’m largely unfamiliar with. I’ve never been drawn to the comedies “Pineapple Express“, “Your Highness” or “The Sitter“. However, I’ve heard that he’s done some good dramatic material in “George Washington“. Before this, the only film I had actually seen, that he was involved in, was Jeff Nichols’ “Shotgun Stories” – on which Gordon Green only served as producer. That being said, if “Prince Avalanche” is anything to go by, then I reckon I could find some enjoyment from his previous outings, as well as future endeavours that he might be involved in.

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Europa Report

Posted in Science Fiction with tags on December 5, 2013 by Mark Walker

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Director: Sebastien Cordoro.
Screenplay: Philip Gelatt.
Starring: Michael Nyqvist, Sharlto Copley, Christian Camargo, Anamaria Marinca, Embeth Davidtz, Daniel Wu, Karolina Wydra, Dan Fogler, Isiah Whitlock Jr, Neil deGrasse Tyson.

Compared to the breadth of knowledge yet to be known… what does your life actually matter?

Being released in the same year as the big-budgeted and visually stunning “Gravity” would normally hinder the successful chances of any other film in the science-fiction genre. However, Sebastien Cordoro’s “Europa Report” actually manages to find it’s own niche and invigoration by relying purely on a strong premise and confidence in it’s delivery. It will, most certainly, not pull in the revenue or audience of “Gravity” but it’s proof, yet again, that coughing up the green isn’t always necessary when venturing into the cosmos.

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Gravity

Posted in Adventure, Drama, Science Fiction with tags on November 22, 2013 by Mark Walker

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Director: Alfonso Cauron.
Screenplay: Alfonso Cauron, Jonas Cauron.
Starring: Sandra Bullock, George Clooney.
Voice of: Ed Harris.

Clear skies with a chance of satellite debris“.

In 2009, director James Cameron opened the floodgates on the innovation and possibilities of stereoscopic filmmaking when he delivered “Avatar“. Since then, it has been experimented and tinkered with by many filmmakers but now, four years later, Mexican director Alfonso Cauron has set a whole new benchmark.

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The Family

Posted in Comedy, Crime, Drama with tags on November 21, 2013 by Mark Walker

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Director: Luc Besson.
Screenplay: Luc Besson, Michael Caleo.
Starring: Robert DeNiro, Michelle Pfeiffer, Tommy Lee Jones, Dianna Agron, John D’Leo, Jimmy Palumbo, Domenick Lombardozzi, Stan Carp, Vincent Pastore, Jon Freda.

It was a time when I had it all. People would ask me, “What was it like being untouchable?” The question they really should’ve asked was “What happens when it’s all over?”

During the 1990’s, Luc Besson was a director that I kept a very keen eye on. He delivered the dynamic French thriller “Nikita” before moving on to the kinetic and striking “Leon“. He followed this up with an outrageously unique Sci-Fi in “The Fifth Element” before tailing off with more obscure art-house and animation fair. “Angel-A” in 2005, was the last time I seen anything good from him and his latest in “The Family” would suggest that I’ll have to wait a little longer before he finds his feet again.

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The Way, Way Back

Posted in Comedy, Drama with tags on November 7, 2013 by Mark Walker

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Directors: Nat Faxon, Jim Rash.
Screenplay: Nat Faxon, Jim Rash.
Starring: Liam James, Sam Rockwell, Steve Carrel, Toni Collette, Allison Janney, Rob Corddry, Amanda Peet, AnnaSophia Robb, Maya Rudolph, River Alexander, Zoe Levin, Nat Faxon, Jim Rash.

I’m afraid I’m gonna have to ask you to leave!… You’re having way to much fun. It’s making everyone uncomfortable“.

Nat Faxon and Jim Rash may be familiar to some but they haven’t really been household names over the course of their careers. They are both sometime, bit-part, performers having appeared in numerous TV shows but it wasn’t until 2011 that they earned some well-deserved attention by winning an Oscar for their screenwriting duties on Alexander Payne’s “The Descendants“. Now, they turn their hand to directing and it’s apparent that they’re just as comfortable when calling the shots themselves.

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The Conjuring

Posted in Horror with tags on November 5, 2013 by Mark Walker

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Director: James Wan.
Screenplay: Chad Hayes, Carey Hayes.
Starring: Patrick Wilson, Vera Farmiga, Lili Taylor, Ron Livingston, Shanley Caswell, Hayley McFarland, Joey King, Mackenzie Foy, Kyla Deaver, Shannon Kook, John Brotherton, Sterling Jerins.

Want to play a game of hide and clap?

Having already had a hand in fuelling the string of torture porn horrors when he began the “Saw” franchise in 2004, director James Wan opts for a more retrained approach to his latest horror. “The Conjuring” harks back to vintage horror movies of the ’70’s where atmosphere takes precedence over shock tactics. As a result, it manages to be one of the more successful horror movies of recent times.

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Sunshine On Leith

Posted in Drama, Musical with tags on October 23, 2013 by Mark Walker

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Director: Dexter Fletcher.
Screenplay: Stephen Greenhorn.
Starring: Peter Mullan, Jane Horrocks, George MacKay, Kevin Guthrie, Antonia Thomas, Freya Mavor, Jason Flemyng, Paul Brannigan, Emma Hartley-Miller, Daniela Nardini.

After recently enjoying the debauched underbelly of Edinburgh in Irvine Welsh’s “Filth“, I was curious to see Scotland’s capital feature again in a more lighthearted film. As a general rule, I avoid musicals at all costs as I’m just not that keen on people bursting into song every few minutes. However, I was impressed by actor Dexter Fletcher’s impressive directorial debut “Wild Bill” in 2011 and couldn’t resist the urge to see a musical featuring the fantastic songs of The Proclaimers.

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Filth * * * *

Posted in Comedy, Crime, Drama with tags on October 10, 2013 by Mark Walker

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Director: Jon S. Baird.
Screenplay: Jon S. Baird.
Starring: James McAvoy, Jamie Bell, Eddie Marsan, Jim Broadbent, Imogen Poots, John Sessions, Gary Lewis, Brian McCardie, Emun Elliott, Martin Compston, Shirley Henderson, Kate Dickie, Shauna Macdonald, Iain De Caestecker, Ron Donachie, Natasha O’Keeffe, Jonathan Watson, David Soul.

As the year draws to a close, so does the (unrelated) British trilogy of James McAvoy leading roles. He began with the disappointingly generic “Welcome To The Punch” before moving on to the teasingly elaborate “Trance” before finally heading back to his native Scotland to tackle “Filth” – the ‘unfilmable’ novel by cult writer Irvine Welsh. Since “Trainspotting” in 1996, Welsh’s material hasn’t really been given an adaptation deserving of his talents, but here, director Jon S. Baird delves (groin first) into Welsh’s unrelenting prose and delivers a sharp, sordid and deeply debauched, delight of a film.

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Oblivion * * 1/2

Posted in Action, Science Fiction with tags on September 28, 2013 by Mark Walker

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Director: Joseph Kosinski.
Screenplay: Karl Gajdusek, Michael Arndt.
Starring: Tom Cruise, Morgan Freeman, Andrea Riseborough, Olga Kurylenko, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Melissa Leo, Zoe Bell.

Say what you will about Tom Cruise but there’s no denying that his choice of projects have always been bankable. Throughout the 80’s and 90’s most of his films and performances were of a particularly high standard. The same could be said of the 00’s as well. However, over the last three years, cracks are beginning to appear; “Knight and Day“, “Rock of Ages” and “Jack Reacher” have failed to register any form of quality. On the surface, “Oblivion” has all the hallmarks of the Cruiser getting back on track but, unfortunately, proves just as lacklustre as the aforementioned duds.

In the year 2077, Earth has been obliterated by an alien race and the surviving members of humanity have moved on to inhabit Saturn’s moon, Titan. Jack (Tom Cruise) and his wife Victoria (Andrea Riseborough) have remained on earth, though, to protect machinery harvesting the planet’s resources before Jack begins to suspect that his mission isn’t as straightforward as he thought it was.

Director Joseph Kosinski follows up his previous science fiction film “Tron Legacy” with another venture into the future. He works from his own graphic novel and delivers an intriguing premise that pays homage to classic Sci-Fi movies like “2001: A Space Odyssey” and “Planet of the Apes“. His setting is suitably bleak (captured beautifully by cinematographer Claudio Miranda), his use of visuals are striking and his tone is perfectly sombre. In fact, Kosinski actually assembles a good addition to the science fiction genre. Unfortunately, his assembly soon falls apart due to a script that’s devoid of any substance or characters that we can invest in. The pace is lethargic, to say the least, which only really registers that a lot of the film is just padding. Nothing happens for a good chunk of the movie and when the plot is finally opened up, it fails to make sense or hold any form of coherence. Even if it did, your likely to have lost interest by that point anyway. Cruise wanders around aimlessly (presumably in search of characterisation) and the likes of Morgan Freeman and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau needn’t have turned up at all. The most frustrating thing overall, though, is that the big reveal is one that we’ve seen many times before and all, but completely, rips-off Duncan Jones’ far superior “Moon“. The similarities are almost shocking and I wouldn’t have been surprised to have seen Jones’ name on the screenwriting credits.

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Kosinski is a director that may yet find his feet. He certainly has an eye for sumptuous visuals and can stage a fine action set-piece. However, he really needs to work on a coherent narrative and one that isn’t as dull or desolate as the landscape that his characters roam.

Mark Walker

De Niro: A collaborative Adventure.

Posted in Uncategorized with tags on September 19, 2013 by Mark Walker

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Okay, here’s a little venture for you..

As most of you know, I’m a massive fan of Adam De Sandler, sorry, Robert De Niro. How on earth can I mix them up? Maybe it’s because they both produce sub-standard comedic material these days?
However, my or (our) aim is not to highlight the below par delivery of Robert De Niro these days, but to she’d some light on the most outstanding qualities that this truly great actor has offered over the years. Myself, and my good friend, Tyson Carter from Head In A Vice have chosen to share our common appreciation of this great, stupendous actor, and as a result, began a completely new blog that will focus, entirely, on him and his life’s work. We hope that you (our friends and followers) will join us in contributing to posts, lists, reviews and Blogathons that are all catered around this particular screen legend.

Our new site is still in it’s infancy but hopefully with your support and contribution, you can help me and Tyson, realise the potential of our new collaborative site. Head over to “You Talkin’ To Me?” and don’t be afraid to follow or get involved with your thoughts.

If you don’t… Here’s what Bob will be doing to you…

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World War Z * * * *

Posted in Action, Drama, Horror, thriller with tags on September 11, 2013 by Mark Walker

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Director: Marc Forster.
Screenplay: Matthew Michael Carnahan, Drew Goddard, Damon Lindelof.
Starring: Brad Pitt, Mireille Enos, Daniella Kertesz, James Badge Dale, Peter Capaldi, Matthew Fox, David Morse, Ludi Boeken, Fana Mokoena, Elyes Gabel, Pierfrancesco Favino, Ruth Negga, Moritz Bleibtreu, Abigail Hargrove, John Gordon Sinclair.

In making it to the screen, World War Z wasn’t without it’s problems; firstly, there were complaints of it’s very loose take on Max Brooks’ novel, then it’s violence was toned down to achieve a PG-13 certificate; a script rewrite happened half way through production; cinematographer Robert Richardson left to work on “Django Unchained” and the likes of Ed Harris and Bryan Cranston dropped out due to scheduling conflicts. As all these problems piled up, the expectation was that the film would be an absolute disaster. Well, quite simply, it’s not. Despite it’s problems, it’s actually quite a tense and impressively handled thriller.

Gerry Lane (Brad Pitt) is a former UN worker, happily spending some time at home with his family, until the sudden outbreak of a zombie plague takes over his home city. They are forced to flee and Gerry manages to get his family to safety but news breaks that the whole world is suffering the same outbreak, leaving Gerry to get back in the field and use his experience to search for a cure.

After a brief introduction to our protagonist, Forster doesn’t waste time in getting down to business. Within minutes we are thrust into an absolutely exhilarating opening sequence of the rampaging undead overtaking Philadelphia (actually shot in Glasgow, where I witnessed them filming) and it’s from here that you realise that there’s plenty of potential in this summer blockbuster. It doesn’t matter that there’s a lack of blood or gore because the suspense is handled so competently and effectively that you’re still on the edge of your seat. In fact, it’s the perfect example that less can be more sometimes. What’s most impressive, though, is the epic scale in which it’s delivered. There are several intense action set-pieces where hordes of zombies leap from rooftops, clamber over walls and rampage through an aircraft mid-flight. As an action movie, it certainly delivers the goods and also finds the time to incorporate geopolitics as the epidemic goes world wide. Anchoring all this mayhem is a solidly understated, central performance from Pitt. Having produced this movie – throughout it’s spiralling budget – his commitment to make it work comes across in his performance. He’s entirely believable and identifiable as a family man desperate to survive his chaotic surroundings. Nobody else really gets a look in, including a severely downsized role for Matthew Fox and a brief cameo from, the always reliable, David Morse. Ultimately, the film rests on Pitt’s shoulders, though, and he handles it with aplomb. So much so, that the lack of blood splattering and zombie flesh eating takes a back seat to the character driven drama.
Due to it’s production difficulties, plans for a sequel were shelved. However, having now become a box-office summer smash, the sequel has been given the go-ahead. I, for one, wholeheartedly welcome it.

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Against the odds, this manages to be a satisfyingly tense addition to the zombie sub-genre. It doesn’t go for the jugular in a gratuitous manner, instead it works on your nerves and focuses on telling a relatable story. Die hard horror fans may want more from it, but it delivered just the right amount of thrills for me.

Mark Walker

Evil Dead * 1/2

Posted in Horror with tags on September 5, 2013 by Mark Walker

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Director: Fede Alvarez.
Screenplay: Fede Alvarez, Diablo Cody.
Starring: Jane Levy, Shiloh Fernandez, Lou Taylor Pucci, Jessica Lucas, Elizabeth Blackmore.

It’s been over 30 years since director Sam Raimi gave us his cult horror classic “The Evil Dead” in 1981. Now, like most other films of the genre, we are given the unavoidable remake. Raimi is on-hand again, with producing duties, but the same can said of most remakes, in that they needn’t have bothered in the first place.

In order to kick her heroine habit, Mia (Jane Levy) and a few friends head to a remote cabin away from society and any temptations. It’s here, that they stumble upon some strange goings on in the cellar and find the Book of the Dead, which once opened, releases a demon intent on possessing them all.

The difference between this and the stylishly imaginative original, is that Raimi’s was shot on a shoestring budget by a bunch of college students, intent on experimenting and pushing boundaries. This, on the other hand, throws in the bucks and it’s use of gratuitous gore simply doesn’t have the same impact or originality of it’s tongue-in-cheek predecessor. The approach that debutant director Alvarez takes is the film’s biggest issue: it has an innate inability to laugh at itself. It’s far too serious and as a result has to be judged on that. It’s one of those horrors were you know not to expect logic, reasoning or any form of a sensible decision by it’s characters. They’re merely there as fodder for some soul devouring evil entity. It is what it is, and that’s fine, but when you ask an audience to fully commit themselves, then you have to offer them something in return. If it was in touch with it’s sense of humour then this could have been a wild ride in a similar vein to “The Cabin in the Woods“. Unfortunately, it isn’t and its serious, po-faced approach comes across as ludicrous. Added to which, it’s a horror film that has very few genuine frights, a surprising lack of suspense and it’s use of jump scares are glaringly obvious and redundant. To be fair, it does bring some laughs to the table, but those laughs are entirely unintentional.

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One for the torture-porn generation that have no interest in characterisation or plot development. It’s main agenda is to deliver gore and plenty of it. In that respect, it delivers but on every other level it fails miserably. Unequivocally, the worst film of 2013.

Mark Walker

Mud * * * *

Posted in Drama with tags on August 30, 2013 by Mark Walker

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Director: Jeff Nichols.
Screenplay: Jeff Nichols.
Starring: Matthew McConaughey, Tye Sheridan, Jacob Lofland, Sam Shepard, Ray McKinnon, Reese Witherspoon, Sarah Paulson, Michael Shannon, Joe Don Baker, Paul Sparks, Bonnie Sturdivant.

After such brave and exemplary displays in “Killer Joe” and “The Paperboy“, Matthew McConaughey has completely turned his failing career around. He seems to have left his rom-com days behind him and cemented his reputation as a serious leading actor. “Mud“; the long awaited follow up of the award winning “Take Shelter” from promising director Jeff Nichols, is even further proof of McConaughey’s commitment and keen eye for an intriguing character.

Ellis (Tye Sheridan) and Neckbone (Jacob Lofland) are a couple of kids who roam the backwaters of their local area. They soon stumble upon Mud (McConaughey), a known fugitive hiding on an island. They are drawn to him and his story of reuniting with his girlfriend Juniper (Reese Witherspoon) and decide to help him escape from the authorities and a gang of bounty hunters, to meet with her again.

Following on from his debut “Shotgun Stories“, Nichols takes us back to his home state of Arkansas for another slice-of-life and coming-of-age yarn. It has been compared to the likes of “Stand By Me” and more accurately, the works of novelist Mark Twain and his “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” in our young protagonist’s exploration of the colourful people and places along the Mississippi River. These comparisons are entirely understandable but Nichols doesn’t merely tread old water, he delivers a competent mood piece with three dimensional characters that are entirely fleshed out and convincing. The two young leads, in newcomer Jacob Lofland and especially Tye Sheridan (“The Tree of Life“) are absolutely outstanding in their natural deliveries of impressionable teenagers and there is solid support from the likes of Ray McKinnon, Sam Shepard and an understated Reese Witherspoon. Regular Nichols collaborator, Michael Shannon is really the only one who doesn’t get much to work with, but that was due to time constraints as he had already committed to “Man of Steel“. The real draw here, though, is a snarling and haunted McConaughey. It’s yet another performance of a very high caliber as he perfectly embodies a man with emotional strength yet an almost crippling vulnerability and naivety. This multilayered attention is afforded to the rest of the film’s script and almost all of it’s characters have their differing approaches and struggles with relationships and the environment they inhabit. Nichols operates at a leisurely pace and is in no rush to tell his story. This is entirely suited for his material with the only major issues being that it, ever so slightly, overstays it’s welcome and descends into formula in the final third. That being said, the characters and the environment (captured by cinematographer Adam Stone) are so rich and involving that it’s flaws are easy to forgive.

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What first strikes you as an engaging adventure tale soon becomes an emotional and intelligent fable that ruminates on love and loss. It massages both the heart and the head and confirms that Jeff Nichols and Matthew McConaughey are playing at the top of their game right now. We’ll be seeing much more of young Sheridan in the near future too.

Mark Walker