The blog of Amon Warmann: Film journalist.

Film Reviews

Film Review | Noah

Noah_1600

★★★½☆

Any notion that Noah, the latest film from Black Swan director Darren Aronofsky, is going to be a Sunday school retelling of the well-known Genesis tale is utterly obliterated once we see fallen angels – termed ‘The Watchers’ – envisaged as giant rock monsters. It’s the weirdest liberty in a film teeming with them, and it’s not hard to see why there’s been much controversy surrounding the reimagining leading up to its release. For those willing to roll with Aronofsky’s ambitious endeavour, there is a thoughtful and entertaining film to be found. At least, up until the final act.

(more…)


Film Review | Captain America: The Winter Soldier

captain_america_the_winter_soldier_2014-wide

★★★★★

Where Captain America: The First Avenger was an efficient if slightly underwhelming piece of superhero entertainment, the star-spangled hero’s second solo outing helmed by Community’s Anthony and Joe Russo is an altogether different beast; multi-layered and action-packed, it’s Marvel’s best standalone film yet and easily the best representation of the character on screen thus far.

While Thor returned to Asgard and Tony Stark retreated to his armoury, Steve Rogers aka Captain America (Chris Evans) has been working for S.H.I.E.L.D since the events of New York whilst trying to acclimate to the modern world. When a colleague comes under attack and conspiracy is suspected, Steve goes rogue and teams up with Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) in a bid to expose the corruption, a mission made more difficult when an old friend from his past re-emerges as a formidable adversary – the Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan).

(more…)


Film Review | 300: Rise of an Empire

300-Rise-of-an-Empire

★★★½☆

Zack Snyder’s 300 was a surprise hit back in 2007, a veritable feast of stunning visuals, hyper-violent battles and quotable lines, the latter of which has predictably come back in vogue in the past few weeks. Snyder has since moved on to bigger and (arguably) more muscular heroes allowing Noam Murro – whose only previous filmmaking credit came with 2008’s Smart People – to step into the director’s chair for long-gestating follow-up 300: Rise of an Empire. Though the second instalment isn’t as proficient as its predecessor or the Spartans contained within it, the story expansion in addition to another welcome helping of spectacle make it a worthy addition to the saga.

(more…)


Film Review | Ride Along

ride-along-9

★★½☆☆

It’s difficult not to think of those classic Eddie Murphy cop films when watching Ride Along (2014), the latest film to see Kevin Hart flex his comedic muscles. There are many similarities between the two loquacious humorists, and while there is no denying Hart’s leading man potential he is still in pursuit of a project that can fully utilise his talent. An uninspired buddy cop comedy, Ride Along means the search continues.

(more…)


Film Review | A New York Winter’s Tale

A WINTER"S TALE

★★☆☆☆

Akiva Goldsman’s screenwriting résumé makes for curious reading. On the one hand, here we have someone who penned the Oscar-winning screenplay for A Beautiful Mind; on the flipside, he also helped write 1997’s Batman & Robin, widely regarded (with good reason) as one of the worst superhero films ever made. For his latest project – an adaptation of Mark Helprin’s beloved novel A New York Winter’s Tale – Goldsman takes on directorial duties for the first time in addition to writing and producing, and there’s little doubt as to which column this film resides.

(more…)


Film Review | Her

Her-Movie-siri-operating-system-ftr

★★★★★

Our culture’s increasing reliance on technology has been a heavily utilised plot point in cinema for quite a while, the most prudent example being the Terminator franchise. With Her, Spike Jonze – here directing from his own script for the first time – has tackled the topic in a much more intimate fashion, and the result is a gloriously original and imaginative examination of love and human connection that, whilst perhaps not being ideal date-material, will have a wide appeal.

(more…)


Film Review | Cuban Fury

Nick-Frost-and-Chris-ODowd-in-Cuban-Fury

★★★☆☆

After having made many an entertaining comedy in his collaborations with Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright, Cuban Fury (2014) marks Nick Frosts first bona fide solo outing. Directed by newcomer James Griffiths, it’s a feel-good, if predictable offering.

Initially conceptualised in a drunken email Frost sent to his producer, the film centres on Bruce Garrett (Frost), a former teen salsa champion who hung up his dance shoes after a bout of bullying. Cut to the present day and Bruce, who has since become overweight, now spends his days working a mundane 9-5 job whilst being bullied by his smarmy colleague Drew (Chris O’Dowd). When it becomes apparent that his boss Julia (former Parks & Recreation star Rashida Jones) also has a passion for salsa, Bruce is encouraged by his sister Sam (Olivia Colman) to dust off his dancing shoes and gain her interest.

(more…)


Film Review | RoboCop

robocop-2014

★★★☆☆

It’s no surprise that Paul Verhoeven’s RoboCop has stood the test of time. A perfect mix of biting satire, black humour and thrilling action, fans of the beloved cult hit were less than happy when a remake was announced. Thankfully, rather than go the direct remake route, José Padilha’s 2014 reimagining is an intelligent piece of sci-fi entertainment in its own right.

Padilha’s RoboCop takes place in the year 2028, with Multinational Corporation OmniCorp vying to put its robot drones on US streets to help police its citizens as they have done in Iran. However, the initiative is continually derailed by public and governmental anxiety, due in no small part to the drones’ empathy-void nature. Enter Alex Murphy (Joel Kinnaman), an honest cop who is critically injured after an attempt on his life. Calling on bionic engineer Dennett Norton (Gary Oldman), OmniCorp CEO Raymond Sellers (Michael Keaton) quickly grabs the chance to build a new breed of law enforcement officer that’s part-man, part-machine: RoboCop.

(more…)


Film Review | That Awkward Moment

awkwardmoment_012714_1600

★★☆☆☆

On paper, That Awkward Moment (2014) was an appealing proposition; a rom-com told from the male perspective with talented up-and-coming actors in the lead roles. So it’s unfortunate that Tom Gormican’s debut feature, which might have offered a refreshingly astute perspective on young relationships, makes for a largely forgettable affair.

After Mikey (Chronicle’s Michael B. Jordan) is blindsided by the revelation that his wife Vera (Jessica Lucas) wants a divorce, best buds Jason (Zac Efron) and Daniel (Miles Teller) come to his aid. In an act of solidarity, the trio make a pact to avoid committing to any future relationship. However, soon enough Jason starts to fall in love with Ellie (Imogen Poots), whilst Daniel begins to swoon over long-time friend Chelsea (Mackenzie Davis). Meanwhile, Mikey finds it hard to move on, seeking to repair his marriage with Vera.

(more…)


Film Review | Out of the Furnace

Furnace

★★★☆☆

Scott Cooper made his directorial debut with Crazy Heart (2009), a film that won Jeff Bridges an Oscar for Best Actor. For his sophomore effort Out of the Furnace (2013), Cooper once again manages to get the very best from his star-studded cast, but whilst there is admiration to be taken for foregoing a traditional revenge story, the well-intentioned narrative is sadly short on momentum.

Set in small-town Pennsylvania, Out of the Furnace centres on Russell Baze (Christian Bale), a virtuous blue-collar man who takes care of his dying Father and looks out for his little brother Rodney (Casey Affleck), an Iraq war veteran. An untimely accident sees Russell go to jail, and he returns to a girlfriend who’s moved on and a Father who has passed away. Worse still, his younger sibling has fallen into the world of bare-knuckle fighting in a bid to pay off his gambling debts. On the hunt for more lucrative bouts, Rodney begs bookie John Petty (Willem Dafoe) to set up a fight in the backwoods of New Jersey run by psychotic hillbilly Harlan DeGroat (Woody Harrelson). When they don’t return and the police prove reluctant to get involved, Russell takes matters into his own hands.

(more…)


Film Review | Grudge Match

Grudge Match Ultra HD

★★½☆☆

The ‘who would beat who in their prime’ filmic boxing debate has always been a popular discussion, an ultimate what-if scenario that almost always yields outlandish answers. One such set-up is that of Rocky vs. Raging Bull, and though the time to see them duke it out at their peak has long since passed, Peter Segal’s Grudge Match (2014) – which pits Sylvester Stallone and Robert De Niro, avatars of the aforementioned characters, as boxing rivals – is still an easy sell for the majority of pugilist-loving punters. An intermittently entertaining sports comedy, for every punch it lands there are several which miss the mark.

(more…)


Film Review | Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit

JACK RYAN: SHADOW RECRUIT

★★★☆☆

Following on from predecessors Alec Baldwin, Harrison Ford and Ben Affleck, Chris Pine is the latest actor to take on the mantle of the late Tom Clancy’s CIA analyst in Kenneth Branagh’s Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit (2014), a safe series reboot which takes the character unsurprisingly back to his roots.

We are first reintroduced to our eponymous hero as just another helpless college student watching 9/11 before fast-forwarding three years to a marine-clad Ryan serving in Afghanistan. When he is seriously injured on a mission, he has to undergo intense physical therapy to even have a hope of walking again. It’s here he meets Dr. Cathy Muller (Keira Knightley) and shadowy agent Thomas Harper (Kevin Costner). Ten years pass, and Jack is working as an undercover CIA analyst in Wall Street ferreting out possible terrorist threats by analysing data whilst also trying to convince Cathy, now his girlfriend, to marry him.

(more…)


Film Review | August: Osage County

AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY

★★★☆☆

There is something innately relatable about family dysfunction. Whether you’re part of a tight knit brood or only meet up for holidays, disagreements are inevitable. Sometimes those encounters are flippant, and other times they can be decidedly more hurtful. An adaptation of Tracy Letts’ Pulitzer and Tony-Prize winning play, August: Osage County is very much of the latter variety. Though it’s not helped by John Wells’ workmanlike direction, the razor sharp dialogue combined with supreme acting prove just enough to compensate.

(more…)


Film Review | Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues

anchorman_2-slider

★★★½☆

Back in 2004, Anchorman birthed a fan-favourite character in Ron Burgundy and has since gone on to become a cult hit, blossoming into an oft-quoted piece of pop culture. 9 years later, Ron and the team are back by popular demand for another helping of improvised one-liners, celebrity cameos and Brick…being Brick, and the sequel is a worthwhile, if at times over-indulgent follow-up.

(more…)


Film Review | Homefront

HOMEFRONT

★★★☆☆

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.

(more…)


Film Review | Black Nativity

black-nativity

★★☆☆☆

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.

(more…)


Film Review | Frozen

Frozen

★★★★☆

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.

(more…)


Film Review | Kill Your Darlings

Kill Your Darlings

★★★½☆

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.


Film Review | The Best Man Holiday

best-man-holiday-feature

★★★☆☆

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).

(more…)


Film Review | Saving Santa

Saving Santa

★★☆☆☆

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.

(more…)


Film Review | The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

the_hunger_games_catching_fire_1920x1080-583

★★★★☆

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.

(more…)


Film Review | Ender’s Game

enders-game

★★☆☆☆

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.

(more…)


Film Review | Thor: The Dark World

2013_thor_the_dark_world.psd

★★★★☆

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.

(more…)


Film Review | Enough Said

_EST3045.NEF

★★★★☆

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.