Though there are a few exceptions here and there, a film headlined by Jason Statham usually falls into one of two categories; generic but entertaining actioner or generic and too lax to ignore actioner. Directed by Gary Fleder, Homefront offers up just enough satisfying fun to reside in the former group, taking its place alongside Parker and Safe as one of the Stath’s better offerings in recent times.
Towering pieces of work, be they literary, theatrical or cinematic, are often subject to reincarnation in a variety of mediums, such is their enduring quality. Originally a stage play created by Harlem Renaissance figure Langston Hughes, Black Nativity (2013) is the latest example of this frequent occurrence. Whilst writer and director Kasi Lemmons should be commended for being able to retain the essence of the classic narrative, the 21st century update suffers from extremely heavy-handed execution, ultimately resulting in that fact that his film doesn’t resonate quite as well as it might have done given its seasonal release.
Whether it be Bambi (1942), The Jungle Book (1967) or The Lion King (1994), almost everyone has a favourite Disney animation from their childhood that still holds up on repeat watches. A terrific combination of a heartwarming story, effervescent animation and memorable musical numbers, Frozen (2013) has the potential to be that film for this generation, and is easily one of Disney’s strongest features in recent memory.
As we near the end of 2013, the time has come to not only look back at the year’s best (and worst) films, but also to look forward to next year’s offerings. One of the most highly anticipated releases is The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014), a sequel to Marc Webb’s not-so-amazing 2012 franchise reboot. The marketing machine has been getting into full swing over the past few weeks, from new posters and stills to not one, not two, but three ten-second teaser trailers granting us a brief look at the web-slinging hero. Now a full two-minute plus trailer has hit the web (no pun intended), and the footage gives us a closer look at what Peter/Spidey will have to overcome.
Directed by John Krokidas, Kill Your Darlings is the previously untold story of how murder brought together a young Allen Ginsberg (Daniel Radcliffe), Jack Kerouac (Jack Huston), and William S. Burroughs (Ben Foster) at Columbia University in 1944, providing the spark that would eventually lead to their Beat Revolution.
The film premiered to rave reviews at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, and on behalf of Flicks and the City I spoke to the director John Krokidas about researching his first feature, getting the most out of his actors, and how close Kill Your Darlings came to not getting made.
Read the interview at Flicks and the City here.
In the past three years a number of films have focused on the poets of the Beat Generation, with Howl, On The Road and Big Sur all enjoying varying degrees of success. Now it’s the turn of first-time filmmaker John Krokidas, who has admirably found a fresh perspective with Kill Your Darlings.
Read the rest of this review at Flicks and the City here.
Although fourteen years have passed since Malcolm D. Lee’s The Best Man (1999), the characters resonated in such a way that the idea of seeing them together again was an enjoyable one to ponder. It’s been a long time coming but finally the sequel, The Best Man Holiday (2013) has arrived, and thanks to its likeable cast it’s just about worth the wait.
An opening montage reminds us of the events of the previous film before we catch up with its characters in the present day. Bestselling author Harper (Taye Diggs) now has a child on the way with wife Robin (Sanaa Lathan), but is having trouble with his writing. Meanwhile, NFL star Lance (Morris Chestnut) is set to end his illustrious career to spend time with his wife Mia (Monica Calhoun) and his kids. Seeing Lance’s retirement as an opportunity to cash-in by writing his biography, Harper accepts Mia’s invitation for a holiday get-together with old friends Julian (Harold Perrineau), Candy (Regina Hall), Shelby (Melissa De Sousa), Jordan (Nia Long) and Quentin (Terrence Howard).
Released just in time for the festive period, Saving Santa (2013) is yet another animation given the cinematic treatment despite being planned as a DTV feature. Directed by Leon Joosen and Aaron Seelman, it’s a fairly watchable jaunt that’s high on Christmas spirit but short on originality. Bernard (Martin Freeman) is a lowly stable elf with aspirations of one day joining the elf elite by becoming one of Santa’s inventors. He hopes his latest gadget, which accesses people’s happiest Christmas memories and replays them, can help fulfil his dream. However, an unexpected malfunction exposes Santa’s secret location to the world. This prompts evil and bitter Nevill Baddington (Tim Curry) to invade and steal Santa’s secrets. To set things right, Bernard must use the TimeGlobe time travel device in Santa’s sleigh to thwart the villain.
Expanding on the socio-political themes inherent in Suzanne Collins novel in addition to being a terrifically entertaining blockbuster, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire proves that this franchise is still at the top of the food chain when it comes to young adult films. As book-to-film adaptations go, it’s damn near perfect.
A year after surviving the 74th annual Hunger Games, an emotionally-damaged Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) is back in the impoverished District 12 living in ‘Victor’s Village’ along with her family and co-winner Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson). While embarking on their mandatory victor’s tour, the dissent that Katniss’ act of defiance has inspired among the various districts becomes more and more vociferous. With rebellion on the horizon, President Snow (Donald Sutherland) hatches a plan with new gamekeeper Plutarch Heavensbee (Phillip Seymour Hoffman) that sends Katniss and other victors back into the arena once more.
DC’s jewel in the crown Superman marked his return to the silver screen this year with the somewhat divisive Zack Snyder-directed, Christopher Nolan-produced Man of Steel, but next year will be an all-Marvel affair for superhero blockbusters. We were given our first look at ‘Phase Two’ offering Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014) last week, and The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014) and Guardians of the Galaxy (2014) are two other highly-anticipated entries, but now the first trailer for X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014) has landed online. Based on the celebrated comic-book arc of the same name, the footage offers a tantalising glimpse of what is an elaborate undertaking.
It’s been a long road from page to silver screen for Ender’s Game. In 1985, Orson Scott Card’s futuristic novel won the coveted Hugo and Nebula award – along with legions of fans – but for the past decade the film adaptation has been languishing in developmental hell. Directed by Gavin Hood and complete with a star-studded cast, the popular book has finally been brought to life. But whilst the classic literature is hailed as an inspiring and poignant coming-of-age story, the film doesn’t quite prove itself worthy of similar praise.
Marvel are on something of a roll at this moment in time. With Joss Whedon’s Avengers Assemble (2012) and Shane Black’s riotous Iron Man 3 (2013) both crossing the billion dollar mark at the global box office, it’s clear that their colourful superhero blockbusters have struck a tone with not only comic book fans, but uninformed audiences as well. There’s a good chance that Alan Taylor’s Thor: The Dark World (2013) will continue the strong start to Marvel’s ‘Phase Two’ when it hits UK cinemas next week (you can read my review here), and smartly the studio has also seen fit to reveal the first trailer for Anthony and Joe Russo’s Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014) online this week to ride on the current wave of goodwill.
Since conquering London’s West End in the late 90’s, Irish filmmaker John Crowley has gone on to have numerous successes on both stage and screen, with BAFTA-winning dramaBoy A a recent career highlight.
His latest film is Closed Circuit, an international suspense thriller in which two ex-lovers are forced to work together on a high profile terrorism case. The impressive cast includes Eric Bana, Rebecca Hall, Ciarán Hinds, Julia Stiles, and Britain’s own Jim Broadbent.
The film hits UK cinemas this week, and on behalf of HeyUGuys I got a chance to sit down with Crowley to discuss the visual palette of the film, in addition to the differences between stage and screen directing.
After the billion dollar successes of both Avengers Assemble and Iron Man 3, Marvel’s ‘Phase Two’ continues with the highly anticipated Thor: The Dark World. With Game of Thrones director Alan Taylor replacing Kenneth Branagh at the helm, the sequel serves up the thrills as well as the laughs in what is an enjoyable superhero outing.
Much like Branagh’s franchise opener, The Dark World begins with Anthony Hopkins’ Odin narrating a prologue before we catch up with Thor (Chris Hemsworth), who’s been busy on cosmic peacekeeping duty post-Avengers. When an ancient race led by the vengeful Malekith (Christopher Eccleston) resurfaces on the hunt for a powerful weapon that could destroy the universe, Thor must ally with the mischievous Loki (Tom Hiddleston) if he is to save the Nine Realms.
With four well-received films in 14 years, Nicole Holofcener has established herself as one of the best writer-directors in the business, drawing on her own life experiences to create observant and funny feature films.
Her fifth and latest film, entitled Enough Said, sees single parent and masseuse Eva (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) strike up a romance with Albert (the late great James Gandolfini, in his last leading role). Simultaneously, Eva is becoming fast friends with her latest massage client Marianne (Catherine Keener), who is soon revealed to be Albert’s ex-wife. Unable to turn a deaf ear to Marianne’s constant complaints about her ex-husband, Eva soon begins to doubt her own relationship with Albert.
Holofcener was in London to promote the film for the London Film Festival, and on behalf of HeyUGuys I got a chance to chat to her about working with Gandolfini, and how her relationship with long-time collaborator Catherine Keener has developed.
Nowadays, more and more film stars are heading to the small screen, such is the wealth of excellent material being made on television. For romantic comedy Enough Said however, it’s the reverse; written and directed by Nicole Holofcener, it brings together two TV icons in Julia Louis-Dreyfus and James Gandolfini (in his last leading role) to charming effect in a film that’s both sweet and bittersweet. It’s regrettable this is one of the last times we’ll see Gandolfini grace the silver screen, but it’s a fine note to go out on.
Read the rest of this review at Flicks and the City here. Enough Said was screened at the 2013 London Film Festival.
Whilst Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger ruled the 80’s as action Gods, nowadays heir apparents such as Jason Statham and Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson are the perennial muscle men. Unbelievably the two titans never united at their zenith, an oversight which Escape Plan has now righted. It delivers exactly what you would expect from a film that has these two names side by side – and that is by no means a bad thing.
Having acted under the tutelage of some of Hollywood’s finest directors in his twentysomething years in the industry, it’s safe to say that Joseph Gordon-Levitt has had a masterclass in the art of filmmaking en route to making his first feature. Rather than play it safe, Gordon-Levitt has admirably chosen to tackle the delicate subject matter of porn addiction with his London Film Festival offering Don Jon (2013), applying all he has learnt and more in what is a smart, funny and insightful debut.
British director and master of suspense Paul Greengrass returns to screens this week with Captain Phillips (12A). Based on the book A Captain’s Duty: Somali Pirates, Navy SEALs, And Dangerous Days At Sea – which details the incredible true story of the 2009 hijacking by pirates of an American cargo ship – it’s an impressively told and suitably gripping thriller, and one of this year’s many highlights.
Read the rest of this review at Flicks and the City here. Captain Phillips opened the 2013 London Film Festival.
Easily the biggest sports scandal of recent times, the rise and fall of Lance Armstrong was bound to attract attention from the filmmaking community. There are currently three biopics on the disgraced cyclist in development, but first up is The Armstrong Lie. Directed by prolific documentarian Alex Gibney, the film examines both the how and the why of Armstrong’s contemptible actions.
Read the rest of this review at Flicks and the City here. The Armstrong Lie was screened at the 2013 London Film Festival.
Directed by Bill Condon and based on two novels – one by Wikileaks partner Daniel Berg, the other by Guardian journalist David Leigh – The Fifth Estate is an enjoyable dramatisation of the tumultuous rise of whistleblowing website Wikileaks and the relationship between its two founders. The film opens with the now infamous release of classified US military information before rewinding to the first meeting between Julian Assange (Benedict Cumberbatch) and Berg (Daniel Bruhl). As Wikileaks’ popularity grows in the wake of its public unmaskings, the friendship between its two creators sours as they clash over Wikileaks’ mission and morals.
Read the rest of this review at Flicks and the City here.
World wars and their subsequent fallout are topics cinema loves revisiting. Directed by Peter Webber and set in the immediate aftermath of the Second World War, Emperor (2012) centres on the efforts of military intelligence head Bonner Fellers (Matthew Fox) – under orders from General MacArthur (Tommy Lee Jones) – to investigate Emperor Hirohito’s (Takatarô Kataoka) culpability for Japan’s war crimes. Although he has a strict ten-day deadline to adhere to, Fellers’ focus is distracted by memories of his past romance with Japanese exchange student Aya Shimada (Eriko Hatsune), whose whereabouts are unknown.
The examination of sex addiction in cinema is becoming more and more frequent. Steve McQueen’s Shame (2012) was a bold exploration of the topic, whilst Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s directorial debut Don Jon (2013) will once again put the subject under the microscope. Directed by The Kids Are All Right scribe Stuart Blumberg, Thanks for Sharing (2012) arguably has the most mainstream appeal of the three. Ultimately, it’s not a film to abstain from, nor is it a film you should be overly eager to indulge in either.
We’re now entering the final quarter of the year, and although there are many great-looking films yet to be released, only a few will be more hotly anticipated than the second instalment of Peter Jackson’s pre-Lord of the Rings trilogy, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (2013). Following the character banners that have been revealed in the past few days, a second full-length trailer has surfaced online, giving us a tantalising glimpse of this big-budget December blockbuster.