Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Film Review: Battleship


Directed by Peter Berg (Hancock, Friday Night Lights) and co-produced with Hasbro legend, Brian Goldner, of the Transformers and G.I. Joe franchises, Battleship is the latest science-fiction, action thriller to hit the big screen. Inspired by the Hasbro board game of the same name, Battleship has also been hyped as music star Rihanna's film debut.

Based on its Transformer's credentials, audiences are likely to expect a lot from Battleship, but does it deliver?

Unfortunately, with a somewhat long-winded opening that is more comedic than exciting, Battleship is not instantly gripping. After breaking into a convenience store to steal a chicken burrito for gorgeous girl Samantha (Brooklyn Decker), Hopper is forced to do something with his life and joins the navy. But, as Samantha's father is a hard to please Admiral (Liam Neeson), Hopper (Taylor Kitsch) has to prove himself before he can marry her.

This overly-long introduction is sporadically interspersed with scientists sending messages to Planet G - a planet with a similar climate to ours. When Planet G's aliens send their ships to earth during a naval exercise, Lieutenant Hopper embarks on an intense ocean based battle with the help of Petty Officer Cora Raikes (Rihanna) and Japanese Commanding Officer, Nagata (Tadanobu Asanu).

Once the action gets going, Battleship does ramp up the excitement level. The alien ships are convincing, with the exception of weaponised, metallic, fire balls that just seem a step too far. But much of the suspense falls apart when the aliens' faces are revealed. Being somewhere between human, fish and lizard, it might have been better if they had just left their helmets on.

It also never really becomes clear what the aliens want. They appear to target objects that threaten them - guns and roads - being unconcerned with humans themselves. This aspect of Battleship would have benefitted from further development, or at least a summing up in the film's closing moments.

On the plus side, the US military battleships are nicely showcased, particularly a steam based veteran ship. But this is sadly undermined by an overly patriotic script that becomes almost cheesy in parts. To its cost, Battleship lacks interesting characters that go beyond mere action movie stereotypes. For her debut, Rihanna is not given a particularly challenging role, although she does manage to pull off the part of the tough weapons officer fairly well.

The film's tenuous link to Hasbro's boardgame is introduced neatly in the form of an electronic grid that monitors water displacement, enabling identification of the alien ships. On the downside though, this is also part of a much too sentimental Japanese-American subplot.

Although Battleship is bursting with patriotism and has numerous plot holes and cliches, it does deliver entertainment value through its action sequences.

For the official site, click here

Monday, 16 April 2012

Film Review: Cabin In The Woods


Fans of television series 'Buffy' and 'Angel' welcomed the release of Joss Whedon's latest film creation, Cabin in the Woods. Co-written by the Buffy and Angel creator and long time series writer Drew Goddard, who also directs the movie, Cabin in the Woods is a twist on classic horror that is both quirky and fun.

Both Cabin in the Woods' trailers and official plot synopsis give away only limited details. Five, very stereotypical, college friends go to a woodland cabin for a short vacation and horrific things begin to happen. But this is not all there is to Cabin in the Woods and it does have a great deal more to offer. Although the secrecy about the plot is a deliberate attempt to save the film's genre-bending twists for the cinema experience, it seriously endangers Cabin in the Woods' credibility in the eyes of potential viewers. This secrecy is certainly a good decision for those who actually see the movie, but perhaps a poor one for those who will be put off by the trailer and miss out.

Whedon and Goddard's genre-bending does make the first twenty minutes or so of Cabin in the Woods hard to place and the audience is likely to fall into one of two camps, finding it either interesting or confusing. Shaky performances from the five cabin goers during their early scenes also weakens the opening. But, once Cabin in the Woods gets going, it becomes near impossible not to fall for its characters, its approach and its intrigue, dragging its audience completely into its bizarre version of reality.

A major plus for Cabin in the Woods is that it doesn't rely on one single twist. Movies that do this are typically enjoyable only once, put back on the dvd shelf never to be watched again. But Cabin in the Woods hints at its twist from the very beginning, unveiling its secrets gradually. A trait likely to make Cabin in the Woods enjoyable even after multiple viewings.

Cabin in the Woods' horror is convincing and well put together. But the film is also incredibly funny and there are moments when it feels like a hilarious spoof. The script is also brimming with Whedon-speak and this flair for invented language gives the dialogue an exciting, original feel.

But I'll bring myself to a halt now, before I go on to spoil the very well kept secrets of this film that you should enjoy for yourselves. Cabin in the Woods is original, creative and funny. It is also quite weird and constantly surprising. Disregard what you've seen in the very misleading trailer and see it if you're a fan of quirky, imaginative meta-horror, or simply want to be surprised.

For more information see the official site

Friday, 13 April 2012

Find Me On Pinterest!

In case you haven't heard of Pinterest, it's an online virtual pinboard that allows its users to create their own boards to collate the things they love.

My Pinterest page is a medley of cinema, culture and chic. On my pinboards you can find images from films, movie memorabilia, portraits of the stars, recommended books and beautiful vintage things. For the fashionistas among you, I've also included pinboards for my favourite fashion trends. Pinterest is new and is growing - I'm building my boards day by day, so keep checking back.

Pinterest is definitely worth a look - there are some wonderful images to lose yourself in. And if you're tempted to create your own boards, request an invite today. Be warned though it's incredibly addictive!

Saturday, 7 April 2012

Film Review: Headhunters

Last week, Cineworld treated me to a preview of Jo Nesbo's thriller Headhunters. Here's what I thought:


Headhunters is an adaptation of Jo Nesbo's book of the same name - the first of Nesbo's Scandavian crime fiction thrillers not to feature the hugely successful Harry Hole. Filmed in Norwegian and Danish with English subtitles, Headhunters sees Roger Bown (Aksel Hennie), headhunter by day and prolific art thief by night, risk everything for the biggest heist of his life.

The opening to Headhunters is skilful. It begins with Roger Brown narrating his simple rules for a successful art theft. He tells us about his one key insecurity - that he is just 1.68 metres tall - and discloses a fear that he cannot keep his beautiful wife by any other means than money. Even that is at risk because what Roger's wife wants most of all is a child, and Roger confesses to us that he is unwilling to give her this.

Headhunters' script writers excel in this opening sequence, getting the audience to promptly question what Roger is so afraid of. In fact, all the elements in Headhunters' opening - the script, the performances and the direction - give an immediate impression of Roger's flaws. From the very beginning, the audience can see Roger's actions are a front and it becomes ever more compelling watching Roger discover this for himself.

When Roger gets the chance of a theft worth up to 100 million, his life quickly unravels. Aksel Hennie's delivery of Roger's jealousy, nerves and fear is impeccable as he is pursued by Clas Greve (Game of Thrones star, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau), whose past work in counter terrorism has left him with advanced skills in tracking. As Roger is backed into a corner, Hennie conjures panic and cunning in equal measure, making it impossible to guess his next move. And, in his more agitated scenes, Roger's actions are backed by surround sound breathing noises, immersing the audience in his anxiety.

Synnove Macody Lund is also persuasive as Roger's wife, Diana. Diana is an art lover, which heightens Headhunters' tension, as the audience assumes what Roger does to keep in her fine jewels would actually be abhorrent to her. It is clear that Headhunters' is founded on a story that is both well developed and splendidly put together.

Headhunters' is immensely suspenseful. It is a suspense that builds up gradually, along with the amount of violence and gore, so that Headhunters gets steadily more disturbing without allowing its audience to become accustomed to it. Director, Morten Tyldum, brings an attention to detail that makes for incredible intensity, particularly in Headhunters' action sequences. And scenes which could have encouraged humour if not dealt with carefully, are made horrifying and unsettling. But, if there is anything at all to criticise in Headhunters, it is perhaps that its ending is a little too neat.

Don't be put off by Headhunters' foreign film status. It's suspense is not diminished by it being delivered in a foreign language and, instead, it is one of the most powerful thrillers of recent years.

Film Review: Titanic 3D

A few months ago, on Valentines night, Cineworld treated their Unlimited customers to a free preview of Titanic 3D. Here's what I thought:


James Cameron has timed the release of Titanic 3D perfectly to coincide with the 100 year anniversary of the actual event. At the time of its original release, fifteen years ago, Titanic was the most expensive movie ever made, with a budget of $200 million. And it quickly became a phenomenon, with its box office records being broken only by James Cameron's very own Avatar. But James Cameron is not the only star to emerge from the Titanic limelight. Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio are now both critically acclaimed in their own right with an array of Academy Award nominations to speak of. But how does Titanic fare fifteen years on?

In this new 3D release, Cameron claims that the 3D conversion technology offers moviegoers 'the most visceral and dynamic screen experience of Titanic yet imagined'. But, for me, whilst the 3D does not revolutionise the Titanic experience, the digital enhancement does provide crisp and crystal clear visuals that revitalise the film for today's big screen. The majestic beauty of the ship at the beginning of its hopeful maiden voyage is even more glorious in this enhanced version, where the opulence of the first class cabins glitters and sparkles as if brand new.

But what is most impressive about Titanic is its staying power. Seeing it again on the big screen, it doesn't feel or look in the slightest bit dated - and this certainly says something about the quality of the technology Cameron used at the time it was made. Of course, Titanic does have its somewhat corny moments, but these are easily forgiven in light of its emotional power and lasting story. Titanic's 194 minutes still go by in a flash, gripping the audience from its very first moments to its last.

James Cameron's storytelling ability is incredible and the emotional investment in Titanic's character's is what makes it such as success. You might think that, with its roots in such saddening historical facts, any version of the Titanic story would induce emotion within its audience, but this simply isn't the case. Compare Cameron's Titanic to Julian Fellowes current television series and its a no brainer - James Cameron builds characters that the audience can't help but root for. Of course, it also helps that these are brought to life by such charismatic and skilful performers as Winslet and DiCaprio.

Titanic really is at home on the big screen. The sinking is on a grand scale that demand a grand screen in order to be fully appreciated. After years of watching the dvd, you will be amazed at how much more impressive Titanic is at the cinema with surround sound that brings you right into the action. I could live without the 3D, but to have this epic back on the cinema screen is wonderful. Don't miss out on this chance to see Titanic where it belongs.

I'm now looking forward to seeing the IMAX version this weekend!

For the official website, click here

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Film Review: Wrath of the Titans


In this sequel to 2010's Clash of the Titans, Hades (Ralph Fiennes) and Ares (Edgar Ramirez) embark on a plan to restore Kronos, leader of the imprisoned Titans, to his full power. Perseus (Sam Worthington) braves the underworld to rescue his father, Zeus (Liam Neeson) and save Greece from the Titan's wrath.

Avatar star, Sam Worthington, puts in a decent performance as Perseus, but the strongest performances in Wrath of the Titan's come from Ralph Fiennes and Liam Neeson as brothers Hades and Zeus.

Bill Nighy, as Hephaetsus, and Toby Kebbell, as Agenor, both bring a nice touch of humour. Gags are over quickly though, avoiding the temptation to linger and become corny. Despite this, much of the film's dialogue is tarred by the multitude of accents on display, making the film feel inconsistent and silly in parts. The film also has a cliche love interest that is predictable and dull.

On the plus side, Wrath of the Titan's action is convincing. It's monsters, particularly a fire breathing dragon at the start of the film, are impressive, fitting within their environments well and avoiding a green screened look. Wrath's tension builds and builds, especially as the action passes in to Tartarus (the underworld dungeon). The appearance of Kronos is also well worth the wait (although his main weapon does appear to be a simple wave).

Wrath of the Titans is certainly entertaining and keeps you on the edge of your seat. But, with a few tweaks, it could have been much better.

For more information, see the official website

Monday, 2 April 2012

Film Review: The Pirates! In An Adventure With Scientists


The Pirates! In An Adventure With Scientists, sees Aardman - the animators who brought us Wallace and Gromit and Chicken Run - return to the stop motion animation they are famous for. There's certainly a lot of pride in Britain for Aardman and it's comforting to see them return to their stop motion roots. Pirates! clearly demonstrates their incredible talent for it and it's definitely an improvement on the CGI Arthur Christmas that they gave us at the end of last year. The level of detail in Pirates! is immense and their model version of Victorian London is nothing short of beautiful.

Based on the first of Gideon Defoe's collection of children's books about aptly named The Pirate Captain, An Adventure With Scientists sees him attempt to win the Pirate Captain Of The Year award after years of humiliation and failure. But, on raiding Charles Darwin's ship, The Pirate Captain instead becomes embroiled in a scheme to win Scientist of the Year and comes up against the film's villain, Queen Victoria, hater of all things Pirate.

Far from being terrifying, The Pirate Captain has a pleasant face and a seemingly gentle nature. It's hard to imagine him terrorising anyone to add to his swag. Hugh Grant voices him perfectly, making him an unlikely winner who the audience roots for from the beginning. Imelda Staunton is also outstanding as the voice of furious Queen Victoria, who becomes the most memorable character of the whole film.

But, whilst some of Pirates! supporting characters are exciting and it's disappointing that we get to see very little of them (such as rivals Black Bellamy, Cutlass Liz and crew member Pirate With Gout) others (such as Number Two and Albino Pirate), verge on boring and annoying.

The Pirates! is full of Aardman's quirky sense of humour and is brimming with typically British jokes (including a lovely biscuit dunking tea gag). Of course this is just what we would expect from the Wallace and Gromit creators. The film's backgrounds are littered with puns that spill out into Pirates! advertising - even the film's website sports a traditionally styled 'Welcome to Blood Island, twinned with Weston-Super-Mare' sign. And, being backed by a Brit-Pop soundtrack makes Pirates! even more unusual.

But Pirates! quality humour is also mixed with a great deal of silliness too. Darwin is portrayed as a nerd with no hope of getting a girlfriend and the ship's crew are smitten with 'ham night'. There's also a strange jumble of historical time periods that nitpickers will find hard to swallow, particularly as the film's characters claim this is 'our most educational adventure ever'. For instance, The Pirate Captain makes a phone sign and uses modern street talk, while Queen Victoria herself reels off a speech based on one given by Queen Elizabeth I. But this is merely part of Pirates! unique style.

Pirates! is not on a par with the originality and brilliance of Wallace and Gromit but it does have a charm of its own. With laughs for both adults and children, The Pirates! In An Adventure With Scientists is a fine choice for the Easter break.

For more information, see the official website