LISTED Film Previews – July ’10

For what I think is the first time of doing these, I’ve actually posted a review of one of the films I’ve previewed BEFORE I’ve been able to put up the preview! So, if you like the look of the Toy Story 3 preview, you can look below and read the actual review of it. Winner! Anyway, here’s a longer than normal list of what you should (and shouldn’t) make your way out to see this month:

SHREK FOREVER AFTER (PG) (Dir. Mike Mitchell)

Perhaps this film might be better titled as “Shrek Lets the Franchise Die”, after it all got a bit too repetitive with number 3. Going back to the roots of the story and re-establishing the characters all over again, a mid-life crisis stricken Shrek goes to Rumplestiltskin to cut a deal to feel like a real ogre again. But he gets tricked, and taken to an alternate reality where none of the events of the past films happened, Rumplestiltskin is King and Ogres are hunted and live together in colonies. Shrek must now gather together his friends and his Ogre missus Fiona and get back home again. All very touchy-feely, but are they perhaps running on the fumes left from the fires of all their old jokes? This franchise has been well and truly lived now, and it’s time to let it go. Is this likely to happen? With a rumoured Puss-in-Boots spin-off gathering a cast together, it doesn’t look promising. Released July 2nd.

THE A-TEAM (12A) (Dir. Joe Carnahan)

And so continues the spree of the “Hollywood Re-Imaginings” this year, just going to prove that perhaps there really are only so many original ideas in the world. However the upshot of this series of seemingly unoriginal storylines is, simply, this film. Focussing on a group of Iraq War veterans (updated, for obvious reasons!) framed for crimes they didn’t commit, The A-Team now work as renegade heroes-for-hire, doing jobs that no-one else can. The A-Team has always had a massive fan base from the start, so this film was always going to deliver on the style of the original series. And I have to admit that after being against it, from the look of the trailers this will be about as big and bombastic as you can get! Bradley Cooper and Liam Neeson are perfect for their roles as Face and Hannibal respectively, and after doing such an impressive job in District 9, Sharlto Copely looks like he can pull of a convincing “Howling Mad” Murdoch. And although no-one could ever really replace Mr. T, Quinton “Rampage” Jackson is probably the closest thing you can possibly get to a new, younger B.A., so it’s not like the characters are changing much from the ones we know and love! You can also bet on a sequel happening in the next couple of years. Go and see it, fool! Released July 30th.

THE KARATE KID (12A) (Dir. Harold Zwart)

Only, is it REALLY anything to do with The Karate Kid at all? For the record, “Karate” is Japanese in origin – this film is set in China, has Jackie Chan re-imagining the character of Miyagi, and teaches Jaden Smith Kung-Fu, NOT Karate. The only reasons behind it being The “Karate” Kid are the characters and the same basic storyline. Having said that, this film could be worth a watch purely to see all the cool, impressive stuff Jaden Smith worked so hard to achieve during shooting, and could be good if you don’t compare it to the original in any way. But apart from that, sorry Jackie Chan – we love you, but probably not in this film. Released July 16th.

TOY STORY 3 (U) (Dir. Lee Unkrich)

The third instalment in the Disney/Pixar series that started it all is set to be the biggest selling film of 2010. Fact. Kids love it, there are jokes in there for adults, and the two previous films have been the helm of Pixar’s entire franchise – the jewel in the crown, if you will. Toy Story 3 starts off with seeing Andy all grown-up and leaving for college and leaving his childhood possessions behind. As such, Buzz (Tim Allen), Woody (Tom Hanks) and the rest of the original characters are given to a day-care centre where they meet new friends, and a devilishly dastardly Ken (Michael Keaton) and plot their escape. The script also comes from the same writer of Little Miss Sunshine Michael Arndt, so you can expect it to have the right ratio of heartstring-tugging scenes and laugh-out-loud moments that have given other Pixar films the reputation they now hold. Make sure to catch it in 3D! Released July 23rd.

PREDATORS (15) (Dir. Nimród Antal)

Not the remake of the original 80’s franchise starter it was first thought to be, Predators is now looking to be a pretty worthy new addition to the long run of hit-and-misses since the series began. A group of elite warriors wake up in the jungle without knowing where they are or who anyone else is, all the while being watched by an alien race of merciless hunters whilst they work out that they are no longer on Earth. Adrian Brody has worked hard to gain some “tough” credibility this year with Splice, and Topher Grace has been doing the same, making this an interesting cast. And with Robert Rodriguez backing this project (who, let’s not forget, brought us Desperado and Planet Terror), this is sure to give the Predator films the reinvigorating jump-start it so desperately needs after the sorry excuse that was AVP:R, and could well be better than the planned Alien prequel. Enjoy this while you can! Released July 9th.

INCEPTION (12A) (Dir. Christopher Nolan)

Taking a break from the Batman franchise, Christopher Nolan directs this thriller set in the “architecture of the mind” about a group of businessmen who can construct a dream world for their clients and then infiltrate it to steal their subconscious. All very compelling and interesting stuff, but it’s the look of the trailers that has everyone buzzing about this film, and could be the most anticipated major studio release of the year. Leo DiCaprio is on a roll with this too, alongside Shutter Island being released on DVD soon, he is proving he’s big enough to be in the major leagues of film stars. Let’s hope that this is paving the way for another Batman release too! Released July 16th.

As published in Listed Magazine Issue 29 and on www.listedmagazine.com

Toy Story 3 (Contains Spoilers)

Finally, after its been released for nearly 2 weeks, we finally get to go and see the new Toy Story film. Since it’s release, Toy Story 3 has been getting rave reviews all round, and is looking likely to be (as expected) the biggest selling box office film on the year.

I will admit that I was at first sceptical about it when I first heard about it being made sometime last year. I automatically figured that it would be another way of Disney making more money re-selling something they already made by jumping on the 3D bandwagon that everyone seems to be on right now. I figured it would be something shoddily thrown together in a lame attempt at hooking people in with the promise of pretty 3D visuals to entertain them for a couple of hours, and would be something cheap, hollow and frankly meaningless and would ruin the reputation set up by the previous two Toy Story films which were actually pretty great. Then, when I started hearing more about what the storyline was and seeing some of the graphics that they were using (very much updated from the originals!), I started believing that there could actually be substance behind all the shine that Disney were putting on this, especially since the script apparently took 2 1/2 years to write. Turns out, I really shouldn’t have doubted a Disney/Pixar reunion project!

Toy Story 3 is, without a doubt, an awesome addition to this line of films. It has everything about it that made the originals so great, and then some. The original cast (minus the voice of Slinky Dog, after he unfortunately passed away a few years ago), the humour, the heartwarming sentiments – it’s all there by the bucketload, which is what makes this film what it is. The storyline itself revolves around Andy now being fully grown and moving away to college, and as such having to leave his childhood possessions behind. But, of course, there’s a mix-up in the moving and they al get thrown out instead of put in the attic. This leads Woody (Tom Hanks), Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen) and the rest of the toy box team to donate themselves to Sunnyside Daycare Centre. Only, this doesn’t turn out to be the safe haven they were promised – instead they are repeatedly mistreated by constantly sticky toddlers, and then locked away at night in a prison-like regime lead by a seemingly sweet Lotso-Huggin’ Bear and a dastardly Ken doll (played by Michael Keaton). The storyline itself is fairly complex in its make-up, creating relationship tests and undertones throughout the script that other trilogy round-offs might otherwise be lacking. The fact that Andy decides to keep Woody with him whilst leaving the others to go to the attic creates an air of resentment that has been untouched since the first film – the atmosphere of favouritism.

Of course, there has to be a happy ending to the story (it had to, it’s Disney!), but that doesn’t mean they can’t make you completely second guess how it might end right up until the last moment. There were parts where I found myself genuinely questioning whether Disney/Pixar might actually end the series with a really morbid ending with them all ending up in a trash compactor. But, of course, everything works out for the better and yet still manages to end on a not-entirely-unpredictable ending either. Naturally, its right at the very end that the tears would start to well up when Andy donates everyone to a young girl with a big imagination, knowing they’ll still stay together and stay special to someone. It’s all very heart-warming stuff, and rounds off the series in a way that easily satisfies any fans of the original two films.

Everything about this film works towards its benefit – the music is still good, the humour is definitely still there, and even though there has been a change of direction from the other two (John Lasseter is now replaced by Lee Unkrich at the helm of the project, after editing the previous two), Lasseter has stayed on as a Producer behind the film, so all the important elements have stayed the same from the first two.

Overall, this is generally a brilliant round-off to the Disney/Pixar project that started it all, and takes the whole series to another level that is sure to please any fans of either of the other Toy Story films or any Disney/Pixar project in general. Definitely an easy 8 out of 10.

Coheed And Cambria – “Year of the Black Rainbow”

Even though I’ve been excited about Year of the Black Rainbow’s release for a while, this is the first time I’ve owned an album and not had the chance to listen to it for nearly a month! However, it was completely worth the wait, and I finally got to sit and listen to it.

Anyone who knows about Coheed And Cambria will know about the creative brain behind the New Jersey Prog-Rock outfit Claudio Sanchez, who created the entire storyline and characters that his bands albums follow in the sci-fi landscape of The Amory Wars.  All of this has already been put down in an earlier review of their second album In Keeping Secrets of Silent Earth: 3, so for more details on all of this, check that out.

I personally sprang for the Special Limited Edition of Year of the Black Rainbow, which comes with a “Making Of…” DVD entitled “Every End Has a Beginning”, a hard-backed lyrics book with the CD and DVD, and a full prose novel of The Year of the Black Rainbow, which is the chronicling of The Amory Wars from the very beginning – which is essentially what this album is. This could, theoretically, be the last Coheed And Cambria album to be made, as this is a prequel to their other albums (their first being Second Stage Turbine Blade) and tracks how the characters of Coheed Kilgannon and his wife Cambria came into existence.

Opener One is an entirely instrumental, atmospheric introduction to the album (as is usual on their albums) and ushers in the beginning of the Coheed And Cambria saga. From this point onwards until the end of the album, you realise you are listening to something very new and different from Coheed And Cambria. Not quite as instantly accessible for metal fans as No World For Tomorrow was, not quite as varied from song to song as Second Stage Turbine Blade was, and not as lengthy in its content as In Keeping Secrets… was either, Year of the Black Rainbow is definitely very much its own stand-alone album as far as its sound is concerned. There is a very dramatic curtain draped over this album – from the sound of songs like Here We Are Juggernaut to the lyrics of Pearl of the Stars, you could almost imagine this being the soundtrack behind an epic, dramatic space-age theatre show. Which, perhaps, was the kind of mindset Claudio Sanchez and the rest of Coheed And Cambria were in whilst writing this album. Either way, Year of the Black Rainbow has a very dramatic sound-scope backing up its prog-rock lyrics.

First song actual on the album, The Broken, gives you the first general idea of these new directions when its juddering, angular sounds rip through the atmospherics left by One and kick off the album in the expected epic fashion. Guns of Summer signals a completely different sound from what fans might expect of Coheed And Cambria – a more Depeche Mode sort of sound (think Linkin Parks New Divide with a bit more grit and distort). This daring new move on their sound will either alienate some fans, or gain their respect for trying something new and, actually, making it work pretty well. What Guns of Summer also does is change the tone at points you don’t expect, so it keeps changing from the kind of song you first expect it to be. This fashion of a more electric-synth-beat lead song keeps occurring throughout Year of the Black Rainbow, and adds a new element to the already epic sounds Coheed And Cambria have worked hard to achieve. Not quite as show-offish as Muse (probably a good thing…) but also not quite bringing back a retro style, what Coheed and Cambria have done on Guns of Summer and other songs like World Of Lines is simply add another dimension to their music to enhance the dramatic atmosphere of this start to an epic storyline. And it definitely works, as far as drawing in your interests goes, as it leaves you curious as to what they will do next as the album runs on.

Here We Are Juggernaut is another great song, harking back to some of the more original material that Coheed And Cambria fans are more likely to recognise, whilst also keeping the emotionally driving songs on the album in the form of Pearl of the Stars, which could also be a sincere love song at the same time.

Album closer The Black Rainbow is the longest song on the album, clocking in at just over 7 minutes, and bridges the gap between this album and the lengthy prog-riddled songs of their two earliest albums, but also signals the end of an era as far as Coheed And Cambria’s storyline takes them. After the two bonus songs on the special edition version, Chamberlain and The Lost Shepherd (which don’t tie into the album really, but are early demo versions instead), you’re left thinking about what the next possible step could be for Coheed And Cambria.

Is it likely that since this saga is done with now, Claudio might revisit his Prize-fighter Inferno side project and their album My Brother’s Blood Machine (which is also referenced in the lyrics on In Keeping Secrets… and ties into The Amory Wars also), but work it into the Coheed And Cambria outfit somehow? Who knows. Whatever happens, it will be interesting to see where they go from here. Either way, Year of the Black Rainbow did not disappoint, and is a welcome addition to The Amory Wars storyline, completing the saga once and for all.

LISTED Film Previews – June ’10

Ok, so these may be a tad late, because I thought I had put them on already but wasn’t sure, and also because I’ve been working on the next month’s ones as well as all my normal work, which has all been building up to the final few days which are still yet to come. And yet I still find time to do these film previews for you lovely people. Because I’m just awesome like that. Wrap you’re dirty great eyelids around these then!

GET HIM TO THE GREEK (15) (Dir. Nicholas Stoller)

Somewhat of a spin-off from Forgetting Sarah Marshal, Russell Brand returns to reprise his role of the outlandish rock star Aldous Snow. Jonah Hill (from Superbad) plays a lowly intern at a record company who is given his big break when he has to accompany an out-of-control Aldous and get him to LA’s Greek Theatre in time for his concert. Get Him To The Greek looks set to have some great performances from its cast, mainly because Jonah Hill is naturally very funny, and Russell Brand only has to be himself to play this part. This could well be choke-on-your-popcorn comedy! Released June 4th.

KILLERS (12A) (Dir. Robert Luketic)

Playing the rather unexpected role of an international super-assassin Spencer, Ashton Kutcher takes the leading role alongside Katherine Heigl who plays his newly wedded wife Jen. They live quite happily in domestic bliss, until the morning after Spencer’s 30th Birthday, when they discover he is the target of a multi-million dollar hit. And if that wasn’t bad enough, the hired killers have been stalking the happy couple for years, and they begin to suspect each of their neighbours! This could easily be hollow entertainment for the masses, a la The Bounty Hunter, but if you’re in the mood for simple comedy then this could prove to be ideal. Released June 16th.

JONAH HEX (12A) (Dir. Jimmy Hayward)

Delving even deeper into the world of comic books, Josh Brolin plays DC Comics’ scarred colonial bounty hunter with supernatural powers, who gets hired by the US Military to take down a terrorist (John Malkovich) who is preparing to unleash Hell on Earth. Many original fans are amazed that such a little-known DC Comics character is getting his own film release, despite how much potential Jonah Hex has as a hero character. The two things that will likely bring this film down is a bad case of Ghost Rider­-itis in the script, and Megan Fox’s flat acting. Hopefully, the character and the action will be enough to carry this film on their own. Released June 25th.

THE TWILIGHT SAGA: ECLIPSE (12A) (Dir. David Slade)

Although the first trailer for the third instalment of the infamous Twilight Saga made it look more like “Static Mid-Shots of Miserable Teenagers 3”, the second trailer released on the internet managed to gain back some credibility with the promised story of a pack of newborn Vampires led by vengeful vamp Victoria (now played by Bryce Dallas-Howard, who was originally offered the part in the first film) moving to attack Forks, and teasers of mass-vampire slaughtering courtesy of the Giant Wolves. Interwoven in this is the continuing conundrum of Bella’s (Kristen Stewart) decision of her love between super-buff Wolf Jacob (Lautner) and sparkly Vampire dream-boy Edward (Pattinson). It’s likely, though, that some of us might start wishing she’d just make up her mind so we can see some vampires get torn apart… On the whole, though, this film WILL be a success, whether you want it to or not! Released June 30th.