REVIEWED: LONDON BOULEVARD

London Boulevard

It gets serious points for its intensity.

A screenwriter any actor would jump to work with, William Monaghan shot to the scribing A-list following his Oscar win for his magnificent work on Scorsese’s Best Picture winning remake of Infernal Affairs; The Departed. London Boulevard, his latest foray into crime fare – this time set on our turf, ostensibly – is overflowing with talent, and though Monahgan’s directorial debut is a considerably lesser work than his previous, there is still plenty to applaud in this wincingly brutal albeit uneven film.

Mitchell (Colin Farrell) has just been released from prison after a 3-year stint for GBH. Quickly reconnecting with old mate Billy (Ben Chaplin), he nevertheless rejects his old ways in favour of a cleaner lifestyle, serving as a bodyguard and pap-buffer for the reclusive, constantly hounded actress, Charlotte (Keira Knightley). However, motivated by the murder of an old friend, Mitch finds himself dragged back into his old life, turning to the hot-tempered Rob Gant (Ray Winstone) to locate the killers. In this stead, though, he winds up putting just about everyone around him in harm’s way. (Continued…)

REVIEWED: MACHETE

Machete

Don't eff with the wrong Mexican.

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Just about every fan of exploitative schlock has eagerly been awaiting Robert Rodriguez’s gore-soaked homage to Grindhouse cinema with his Danny Trejo-starring Machete. It’s oddly straight-laced and serious, but it isn’t without its awesome moments, even if it feels a bit restrained, especially considering the cast that Rodriguez managed to rope into it.

REVIEWED: THE GIRL WHO KICKED THE HORNET’S NEST

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest

Noomi Rapace's good work is reduced by the script.

The inexplicably overhyped, overrated and overbaked Milennium trilogy finally trundles to an agonisingly distended close in The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest, the dullest and clumsiest entry into an already incredibly mild series of thriller films, which have to this point tiptoed perilously between pretentious self-effacing seriousness and self-aware hokum. This third installment lacks the visually impressive direction of the first film (helmed by Niels Arden Oplev before Daniel Alfredson took over for parts two and three), nor submits enough to the silly pulpiness of the second; it is an ugly ball of hot air, strewn with countless foibles of basic narrative storytelling.

Continuing literally seconds after The Girl Who Played with Fire concluded, Lisbeth Salander (Noomi Rapace) is hospitalised following the brutal standoff against her father. Dragged before the court, Lisbeth is accused of the attempted murder of her father, as the brutish Neidermann (Micke Spreitz) attempts to evade the authorities and finish her off at the behest of numerous shady old men. Meanwhile, Mikael Blomkvist (Michael Nyqvist) does all within his investigative power to help Lisbeth from behind the scenes, though soon enough all of the Milennium reporters become targetted for their efforts. (Continued…)

REVIEWED: UNSTOPPABLE

Unstoppable

The pair deliver the simple genre thrills.

Apparently bored with neither Denzel Washington nor trains yet (after a consecutive run of three films starring Washington, with the previous, The Taking of Pelham 123, also involving trains), Tony Scott has with Unstoppable attempted to make what is probably the most straightforward and easily placed genre film of his entire career. Stylistically and thematically, Scott is a divisive action auteur, though audiences may be pleased to see him reigning in his exuberant M.O. a little here; that is to say, he edits with a less epileptic sensibility, and opts for a gritty rather than colourful palette on which to shoot his disaster flick, even if Unstoppable is ultimately no match for the King of the Gimmick Thriller, Speed.

After a pin-headed employee of the train company, Dewey (Ethan Suplee), allows a train to leave the yard unmanned, with the air-brakes cut, carrying tonnes of hazardous chemicals, rolling into populated territory (with regard to both other trains on the track, and the impending residential areas), it is up to two conductors – a trainee, Will Colson (Chris Pine), and a 28-year veteran, Frank Barnes (Washington), who have been paired together that day – to stop it. (Continued…)

REVIEWED: HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS PART 1

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1

The most awkward entry yet, but the finale should dazzle.

With expectations already set sky-high for the final Harry Potter installment next July, director David Yates is tasked with the challenging duty of somehow heightening them even further with his adaptation of the first part of the final book, The Deathly Hallows. Speaking as someone cold to the source material, I can only assume that all the sizzle comes in the second half, because The Deathly Hallows Pt. 1 is the dullest and most frustrating iteration of the usually reliable Potter franchise to date. A reminder of a lot of the bad and not a whole lot of the good that these stories offer, there is the sincere hope that this is just that awkward bridging episode leading up to the hopefully epic conclusion.

Picking up where The Half-Blood Prince left us, Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe), Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint) and Hermione Granger (Emma Watson) must now attempt to destroy the trinkets that hold the key to the evil Lord Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes)’s immortality before he and his legion of Death Eaters can catch up to them. (Continued…)

REVIEWED: WE ARE WHAT WE ARE

We Are What We Are

A solid stab at sinister minimalism.

With the horror genre being perhaps the most conventional and lazily-engineered of the lot, it is nice to find some actually positive consistency within the genre; that consistency being that the very best horror offerings of the last several years – Inside, [REC], Martyrs and Let the Right One In – all have one thing in common; they are born of a foreign tongue. Whether it is that ambiguous, restrained European flavour that is refreshing to audiences nowadays, or simply that there aren’t any ridiculously-clothed, binge-drinking, nymph-like teens in sight in any of the above four films, We Are What We Are, a Mexican horror, is the latest to join their league; a lesser film than its ancestors, though still brooding and creepy, it is one worth the discerning horror fan checking out.

We Are What We Are begins with a man dying on the street, coughing and spluttering until he expires. His bedraggled appearance wouldn’t tell you, but he is married with three children, and as the sole breadwinner, he leaves a daunting task behind for his family; who will take his place as the patriarch, tasked with putting food on the table? Complicated further by the fact that this is a family of cannibals, they will have to choose their new leader carefully, for the slightest mistake in hunting will alert the already edgy authorities to their activities. (Continued…)

REVIEWED: SKYLINE

Skyline

The visuals are as good as it gets.

The best and worst thing that can be said about new sci-fi flick Skyline is that it is directed by The Brothers Strause; good, because it ensures that expectations (following their ultraviolent-yet-somehow-still-dreadful Aliens vs Predator: Requiem) remain ostensibly low, and bad because their shoddy work contributes to making Skyline perhaps the worst theatrically-released science fiction film since the Razzie Award-winning Battlefield Earth.

The plot is so one note it is scarcely worth talking about, but here we go anyway; the protagonists are a couple, Jarrod (Eric Balfour) and Elaine (Scottie Thompson), visiting Los Angeles for the birthday party of Jarrod’s best mate, Terry (Donald Faison). However, after a hard night of partying, they awaken to find a mysterious alien race have descended on Earth to steal and presumably harvest the humans, using their vast array of weaponry to do so. Together with any survivors they come across, they must try to flee to safety…wherever that may be. (Continued…)