LISTED Film Previews – November 2011

Now, by this point, you’re probably wondering to yourself “How come there have been all these previews of films coming out, and yet we’ve hardly seen ANY actual reviews of these films? Whats going on, Mister? Why are you doing this to us? Whywhy?” Well, I’ll tell you – I’ve been massively busy on other projects in the works (mostly being that I need an actual job so I can afford things… like food…).

One such project I mentioned in a previous post, and that is the new Film Review Radio Show/Internet Podcast I am now a part of called May Contain Spoilers! We go out live every week on Thursday nights at 9, and our podcast follows shortly after in the week so you can catch it even if you didn’t hear it live. To keep up with our shenanigans and stay up to date with our fantastic competitions and news, you can add us on Facebook by searching May Contain Spoilers, on Twitter through @FilmSpoilers or you can e-mail us for information or to suggest a Soundtrack of the Week at maycontainspoilers@thebayradio.com. So come along, have a listen and get involved in the action yourself – its guaranteed to be 100% better than trying to eat a shoe!!

Now that’s done, shall I tell you about what to see this month? Yes. Yes I shall…

THE RUM DIARY (15) (Dir. Bruce Robinson)

Johnny Depp is Paul Kemp, a freelance journalist writing for a newspaper in the Caribbean who finds himself at a critical turning point in his life. As he tries to carve out a niche for himself in the journalistic world of Puerto Rico, he begins to fall in with crowds of lost souls. And if you notice that it bears a resemblance to Fear and Loathing In Las Vegas then you might not be surprised that The Rum Diary is also adapted from a novel by Hunter S. Thompson and written and directed by Bruce Robinson, so you can expect a few trippy scenes here and there. Possibly not for the faint of heart, but definitely for those that enjoy a bit of madness mixed in with their drama. Released November 4th.

IN TIME (12A) (Dir. Andrew Niccol)

Starring Justin Timberlake in an altogether different role, this sci-fi thriller is set in the near future where people stop aging at 25 but can only live for one more year, meaning time is used as currency so the rich stay young forever and the poor die early. But when a young man (Timberlake) finds himself with an abundance of extra time, he is swiftly on the run from an elite police force lead by Cillian Murphey called The Time Keepers. While the trailer seems like Logan’s Run, there may be more to offer than first meets the eye. Released November 1st.

IMMORTALS (15) (Dir. Tarsem Singh)

Appearing at first a bit like 300 Again, Immortals tells the tale of Theseus (Henry Cavill), a mortal man chosen by Zeus (Luke Evans) to lead a fight against King Hyperion (Mickey Rourke), a ruthless leader who is on a rampage through Greece with his disfigured army on a quest to find a weapon that could destroy humanity. While you can expect the action and effects to be just as stylised as 300 or Clash of the Titans, you can also expect more references to Greek mythology and the Greek Gods. While there might be a few reasons to see this in 3D, it’s also a good opportunity to see Henry Cavill in action before he takes on the Superman mantle in next year’s Man of Steel. Released November 11th.

THE TWILIGHT SAGA: BREAKING DAWN – PART 1 (12A) (Dir. Bill Condon)

Those cash-cow teens (and the one that can’t keep his shirt on) are back again for the first part of the final film of the saga. In Part One of Breaking Dawn, we see Bella (Kristen Stewart) finally tie the knot with her sparkly Vampire lover Edward (Robert Pattinson), much to the dismay of muscly wolf-boy Jacob (Taylor Lautner). Only thing is, after returning from their steamy, private honeymoon, Bella discovers she’s pregnant and the Vampire sprog inside of her not only poses a threat to the Quileute Wolf tribe and the Volturi Vampire coven alike, but could also be killing her from the inside. Perhaps it’s a message about abstinence, but at the same time this movie has taken the giant leap from being a cult phenomenon to becoming just a tad ridiculous. Expect lots of teenage angst drama in the build-up towards next year’s final conclusion. Released November 18th.

As published in Listed Magazine and online at http://www.listedmagazine.com. Search “May Contain Spoilers” in Facebook for information on all these films and more.

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Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (May Contain Spoilers)

Like many people who saw an early version of the film poster teaser for On Stranger Tides (the basic silver Jack Sparrow skull on a black background), I had a mix of contrasting feelings. At first, I was hit with the excitement of “Oh, YES! Another film about Pirates! This is going to be sweet!” And then the shocking memory of the two sequels subsequently crushed that thought and replaced it with “Oh, yeah, that’s right… I hope this one isn’t as shockingly mundane as the last two were…” It was a dubious mix of the two until it was announced that A) It would be in 3D (not initially grabbing me, but at least showing promise) and B) Orlando Bloom and Kiera Knightley would not be part of the cast, which clearly meant this Pirates instalment was starting over on a fresh slate.

The basic plot of On Stranger Tides is a little bit of a continuation from the last film, now meaning the Pirates franchise is more of a series of on-going films which are basically The Continuing Adventures of Jack Sparrow. On Stranger Tides sees Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) setting out to find the fabled Fountain of Youth, but along the way he encounters Angelica (Penelope Cruz), a mysterious woman and ruthless con artist from his past. Hijacking him and taking him aboard her ship, Jack soon realises he is on the Queen Anne’s Revenge – the ship of Angelica’s father, the dreaded Blackbeard (Ian McShane), who requires Jack to lead them both to the Fountain before anyone else can find it. At the same time Captain Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush), who is now a member of the King’s Navy, is hot on the heels of Jack Sparrow and seeks revenge on Blackbeard for reasons of his own.

Unlike the last two sequels, On Stranger Tides felt like it was back to being an actual pirate-style adventure film like Curse of the Black Pearl was. Perhaps it’s because On Stranger Tides is more of a separate film from the others, or because it’s a new cast and a new storyline that goes back to focussing on pirate folklore (like Mermaids, or the way they tied in Voodoo dolls and Zombification together which is historically correct and did not go unnoticed by myself!), but On Stranger Tides definitely marked an improvement from the last two.

The few small problems I have about On Stranger Tides are more like echoes of what brought the last two down. The fact there were scenes in the middle that seemed to slow the pace of the film (even though it opened up the story for more exposition and development) like Jack and Barbossa’s daring escape from the Spanish camp meant the film teetered on the edge of dragging a bit, which lost a bit of the magic that made the first one so great. Also, the underlying story between Philip and Syrena the Mermaid was filled with holes – for one thing, how is it they suddenly know so much about each other when we haven’t seen them talk? And what exactly was meant to happen to them at the end when he’s been badly hurt and she drags him into the water? Since they both didn’t come into the story until about half-way through, it felt like they were mostly thrown in to fill the hole left by Will and Elizabeth’s token love story, like it was tacked on as an afterthought and stole focus from the main story.

I’ve also had my own problems with 3D films in the past, and I said to myself “if nothing good happens in 3D in this film, I’m swearing it off”. Luckily, there were two parts of the film which were really cool in 3D – but I won’t tell you what they were! Just let it be known if more films can do 3D like that, it would make them worth seeing.

Penelope Cruz was also surprisingly good in On Stranger Tides, as I was concerned about her ability to do an English speaking role.  But in the 30 second clip after the credits, with her sitting on the beach and finding the Jack Sparrow Voodoo doll, there is a definite hint that there could be a lead into another Pirates film, but also rounded off ambiguously enough to be left as it is (even though we all know they’re likely to keep making more).

Overall, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides has all of the good, clean adventure fun that made the first so good, with none of the tripe or fat that dragged down the ensuing sequels. On Stranger Tides gets a solid (pieces of) 8 out of 10 for being an improvement to the series, but still not holding a candle to the first.

LISTED Film Previews – May 2011

Yes, once again it’s the lead up to the big Summer of blockbuster movies, and you can already tell that production companies are gearing up for the big summer releases when the sequels start appearing more and more towards the Summer months. Having said that, a lot of them look quite interesting this year and I’ll more than likely end up at most of them. But until then, here are some previews for you lovely lot out there to have a gander at while I get comfy and watch my stories. SHHH, it’s about to start…

PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: ON STRANGER TIDES (12A) (Dir. Rob Marshall)

Once again seeing Johnny Depp reprise his role as the iconic rum fiend Captain Jack Sparrow, On Stranger Tides is not so much a sequel but more of a continuation of a now on-going series. This time round, Cap’n Sparrow is on a search for the fabled Fountain of Youth, during which he crosses paths with a woman from his past (Penelope Cruz) and the infamous Blackbeard (Ian McShane), who takes over control of the Black Pearl. Personally, I’m not expecting too much that hasn’t already been done in the other films, and with Gore Verbinsky overboard from directing it might not have the spark that made the first Pirates so ground-breaking. But with Knightley and Bloom now dropped from the cast, Keith Richards returning again as Jack’s father and the inevitability of it being released in 3D, it might just be the Pirates that the previous two were so desperately trying to be. Released May 18th.

THE HANGOVER PART II (15) (Dir. Todd Phillips)

The Wolfpack is back for another outrageous series of events from the night before from hell. This time we see Phil (Bradley Cooper), Stu (Ed Helms), Doug (Justin Bartha) and Alan (Zach Galifianakis) travelling to Thailand to celebrate Stu’s wedding in Bangkok. But where there are celebrations, there are consequences. So when everyone wakes in a hotel room with memory loss, some shaved heads, facial tattoos and a monkey on the loose, they have to track down Stu’s fiancée’s brother by following clues from their night out leading them to a monastery, a tattoo parlour with a crazy artist, and all over half of Bangkok in the process. And if you thought that they got into some trouble in the first Hangover, then Part II is sure to top everything! As with the first film, The Hangover Part II is sure to be the breakout comedy hit of the year. Released May 27th.

PRIEST (15) (Dir. Scott Charles Stewart)

Set in an alternate world ravaged by centuries of war between humans and vampires, a legendary Warrior Priest (Paul Bettany) lives in a dystopian walled-in city run by The Church. But when his niece is abducted by a roaming pack of vampires, Priest chooses to break his sacred vows to the Church and leaves the sanctuary of the city in order to find her, aided by a young band of warriors like himself. The overall feel of Priest comes across like a mixture of Underworld or Resident Evil with a bit of Terminator: Salvation. Whilst it seems like it might be lacking some depth in its story, Priest could make up for it with some promising (if overblown) 3D action sequences, so check it out if you’re into big ridiculous action films! Released May 11th.

HANNA (12A) (Dir. Joe Wright)

A 16-year-old girl (Saoirse Ronan), raised by her father (Eric Bana) to be the perfect assassin, is dispatched on a mission across Europe while also being tracked by a ruthless intelligence agency and facing questions about her existence and her humanity. Bear in mind this is less of an action film but more of a drama with serious undertones, go and see it if you ever enjoyed the film Leon. Released May 6th.

As published in Listed Magazine and on http://www.listedmagazine.com

Alice In Wonderland (Contains Spoilers)

When I first heard about this film being made, I was so incredibly excited about it that I sent the link to the trailer to a bunch of my friends. After that, I slowly became wary that the films like this usually have a hard time living up to expectations, so I was ready to view this film with an entirely open mind. Tim Burton’s take on the Lewis Carroll classic is interesting to say the least. But it’s also clearly Tim Burton massaging his ego with the material he’s probably been dying to do ever since he graduated Art School. I’d like to point out here that I, in no way, “hated” Alice In Wonderland. But I also didn’t think it was the jewel in Tim Burton’s crown everyone was expecting it to be either. In other words, it was good, but not as great as it was meant to be…

Alice In Wonderland is the kind of film that relies heavily on a few things. First and foremost, it relies on having the epic, drug-addled visuals that the original material built up in people’s heads. This, Tim Burton has done a fantastic job on – of course he has, it’s Tim Burton’s imagination! He probably has dreams like this every night! But regardless of that, everything that appears in this Alice In Wonderland version matched pretty closely to how things should look, with Burton adding in his own acid-trip effects in the right places. However, maybe letting Tim Burton totally re-write how things should have looked as well would have been interesting to see, but could have annoyed and confused people who know the original material well.

This leads me to my second point – the adaptation to the script. Obviously, this version is not the original story. Or at least, not for the most part. There were clearly parts from the original text that Tim Burton wanted so badly to do, but at the same time create a unique piece of work that could act as his own version, that he couldn’t choose between the two. So the fact that the now 19-year-old Alice has conveniently forgotten her original adventure into Wonderland means that for the first hour or so of the movie, she gets to re-discover everything all over again. This has obviously been done for the convenience of easing the audience gradually into this new extension of the original story without completely going off the rails. Which could be either clever or redundant depending which side of the Tim Burton fence you fall on.

But possibly the biggest thing that Alice In Wonderland’s storyline relies on isn’t Mia Wasikowska’s performance as Alice at all. In fact, this version revolves (for the most part) entirely around Johnny Depp’s character of The Mad Hatter. And that, unfortunately, is where I thought the film started to falter…

Whilst it’s common knowledge that Tim Burton and Helena Bonham Carter (who also appears in nearly every Tim Burton film, and stars in this as The Red Queen) are married, its undeniable that him and Johnny Depp do so much work together that they may as well be having an affair. However, doing so much work with Tim Burton is obviously starting to wear thin for Depp, and his Mad Hatter seemed to be lacking a few elements to be entirely complete. Which is a shame, because as I mentioned, this new story revolves almost entirely around The Mad Hatter character, and sadly, I expected a lot more from him in this. I personally was expecting an entirely outrageously eccentric character from Depp, but instead he seemed more like The Multiple Personality Disorder Hatter, or The Mild-Case-Of-Tourettes Hatter instead. It’s perfectly reasonable to say that this character fits this version, though, as Tim Burton is doing his usual thing of putting a darker twist on an otherwise light-hearted story.

This new story, as many might know by now, sees Alice returning to wonderland to take up her rightful place of overthrowing The Red Queen’s rule over Wonderland (or technically “Underland”) by slaying The Jabberwocky (played by none other than Christopher Lee!) so that The White Queen (played by Anne Hathaway) can restore the land to the way it once was. This darker, almost apocalyptic version of Wonderland is fitting for what Tim Burton does, and Johnny Depp’s more serious, forlorn Mad Hatter fits into this, but it’s clearly not what people were hoping for from him. Instead of the bizarre, original, off-the-wall character we were hoping for we get a mixture of Jack Sparrow and Sweeny Todd. There were also other things about the story that started to annoy me which I’ll avoid going on a rant about, but I’ll list in case other people noticed them as well.

Firstly, the fact that Alice miraculously and conveniently tames the Bandersnatch after it already nearly killed her. It had no rhyme nor reason behind it, other than it was means for her escape from the castle. There were many other ways that this could be done, but instead they clearly wanted to have a scene with Alice taming a Bandersnatch. Secondly, the “why is a Raven like a Writing Desk?” riddle was brought up WAY too many times – it was clever in the original text to prove a point, but they are trying to use it way too much in this. The whole point of the riddle is that a raven IS NOT like a writing desk, and therefore its point for use is made redundant! Thirdly, Anne Hathaway (as great as her acting is, making her one of the best performances of the film) does this thing with her hands throughout the film to make her character seem more graceful, but it actually distracts from her performance a little too much.

As for the rest of the film, I thought it was fantastically stylised, and the voice talents of Stephen Fry as The Cheshire Cat, Matt Lucas as The Tweedles and Micheal Sheen as The White Rabbit amongst others were completely on the mark and really perfected those characters. The visuals were epic, the creatures like The Jub-Jub Bird and The Jabberwocky looked perfect, and all the set pieces from the original Wonderland story were there. I think that seeing Alice In Wonderland in 3D or IMAX would possibly be distracting people from the storyline with pretty effects and stuff, but it would also be entertaining to see how different certain scenes are between the 2D and 3D versions.

Overall, I enjoyed Alice In Wonderland to the extent that I found it interesting to watch and fun to see the characters and set pieces brought to life in a live-action film, but the storyline that doesn’t delve too deep and a few disappointing performances and parts of the script mean that it wasn’t the instantly awe-inspiring film that I was hoping to be. For that, I’m giving Alice In Wonderland a half-and-half 5 out of 10. I liked it, but I did not love it.

LISTED Film Previews – March 2010

Because of changes in the printings for Listed Magazine, these will actually be going out monthly now, as opposed to covering two months in one go – which means more movie previews packed into a months space than before, making your movie-going choices even more difficult than before! I love being helpful!!

ALICE IN WONDERLAND (PG) (Dir. Tim Burton)

Tim Burton, master of the wierd and gothy, has struck once again – this time turning his hand to Lewis Carroll’s famous masterpiece! Taking on a slightly different storyline to the usual concept, this version sees a 19 year old Alice returning to Wonderland to fulfil her destiny of ending the Red Queen’s reign of terror over Wonderland. Burton has given the film’s visuals his own unusual-but-accurate approach, and with a star-studded cast including Johnny Depp (of course) as The Mad Hatter, Stephen Fry as The Cheshire Cat, Michael Sheen as The White Rabbit and Helena Bonham Carter as The Red Queen to name just a few, this is definitely one (acid) trip you’ll want to go on! Miss this, and you’ll miss out! Released March 5th.

THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO (15) (Dir. Neils Arden Oplev)

After having a huge reception, this Swedish adaptation of the bestselling book is reaching our shores soon! A journalist (played by Michael Nyqvist) and a computer hacker are paired up to investigate a girl’s disappearance. But the more they investigate, the more they uncover about the families history and a string of murders from the past… Even though Sony have already optioned for a remake, you’ll want to check out this original version first and foremost! Released March 12th.

THE RUNAWAYS (15) (Dir. Floria Sigismondi)

A chronicling of the rise to fame of LA rock band The Runaways, who were an all-girl band in a man’s rock world in 1975. Written and directed by Sigismondi, this film sees Kristen Stewart break FAR away from her previous Twilight Saga role to play teenage lead singer Joan Jett, as well as Dakota Fanning looking surprisingly grown-up playing Cherie Currie. A must see for drama lovers and music lovers alike! Released March 19th.

CLASH OF THE TITANS (12A) (Dir. Louis Leterrier)

Whilst 2010 seems to be “The Year Of The Bad Re-Makes” (stay tuned for future months for more on those…), the Clash Re-make starring Sam Worthington (of Avatar fame) looks like it could satisfy anyone having withdrawal symptoms from 300! Loosely based on Greek myth, Perseus (Worthington) embarks on a mission to destroy Hades (Ralph Feinnes) before the underworld can spread to Earth and seize the power of Perseus’ father Zeus. The visual effects in Clash Of The Titans looks fantastic from the trailer, so you can definitely get more bang for your buck in this one than any other action film this month. Expect every other re-make this year to look awful compared to this! Released March 26th.

HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON (PG) (Dir. Dean DeBlois & Chris Sanders)

From the same studios that brought you Shrek and Kung Fu Panda, How To Train Your Dragon is an adaptation of the children’s book of the same name that follows a young Viking named Hiccup Horrendous The Third as he finds his very own wild dragon, Toothless. If you’re a fan of kid’s films with things for the parents included, then this is a great comedy adventure for the family. Catch it in 3D if possible, too! Released March 31st.

As printed in Listed Magazine Issue 25 and on www.listedmagazine.com

LISTED Film Previews – July/August ’09 (Part One)

These are the previews for the latest issue of Listed Magazine, but I’ve put that this is only Part One because I’ve only just been informed that they need ANOTHER set of July/August ones for the next issue as well, and then a set of August/September ones for the one after that, so they overlap a bit. Fun times! Also, this is giving me something to do since a certain company which I order my CD’s and DVD’s from screwed up my last order, and I’m STILL waiting for them to fix it. As if I wasn’t already annoyed enough that they sent me the CD without the actual CD in the case! Anyway, here’s the previews:

HARRY POTTER 6: FINALLY getting its summer release, it’s the beginning of the end of the multi-million selling franchise that IS Harry Potter. Potentially being the penultimate film in the saga (the final one is planned as a two-parter), this is set to be the darkest film so far, as Harry learns more about Lord Voldemort’s deadly past and unravelling the mystery of who the Half-Blood Prince really is. Amongst all that world-saving, though, they’ll also have to deal with a greater danger – Girlfriend problems! If you’ve read the books (which you probably have, everyone else has!), the mysteries won’t be so enticing, but otherwise this looks to be a good addition to the franchise. Released July 15th

PUBLIC ENEMIES: Michael Mann’s latest directorial release stars Johnny Depp in his latest guise of notorious bank robber John Dillinger in this incredible true story of the 1930’s Depression-era crime wave. Also starring Christian Bale, this film captures the attitude of a nation plunged into Depression by the banks of which John Dillinger decided to rob. We also see how this made him a folk hero to much of the public in the process, and how he became J. Edgar Hoover’s (Billy Crudup) and the newly formed FBI’s First Public Enemy Number One. Definitely worth catching if you like your true story movies. Released July 3rd.

FINAL DESTINATION – DEATH TRIP 3D: Once again, Death is out to get these pesky teenagers that keep cheating him. Same old storyline, same series of events. BUT, this time, it’s in 3D. Could this mean it’s going to be any better than the previous ones? Let me phrase it this way – it’s still people getting decapitated, exploded, punctured in various manners, disembowelled and basically being splattered all over the walls, except this time it’s coming RIGHT at you off the screen! Enough said! Released August 28th.

THE TIME TRAVELER’S WIFE: Eric Bana stars in the title role of this adaptation of the highly popular book about a librarian from Chicago who is in possession of a gene that allows him to involuntarily time travel. This, however, begins to cause problems for his love affair with the beautiful artist Clare in this romantic drama that’s ultimately about the test of love and patience, capturing the two in a romantic trap. Fans of the book should definitely be front of the ticket line for this! Released August 14th.

INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS: The latest offering from writer/director Quentin Tarantino sees him broadening his material matter once more with a historical World War II thriller. Brad Pitt leads the cast as Jewish-American Lt. Aldo Raine, leader of a Nazi-hating group of violent army brats called “The Basterds”, who are chosen to spread fear through the opposing ranks by scalping and brutally killing Nazis. This is new ground being broken for Tarantino, and it looks like it may well pay off for him and if you’re a fan of his previous work, you’ll know you’re in for a gruesome thrill ride. Released August 21st.

As Published in Listed Magazine Issue 19 and on www.listedmagazine.com