LISTED Film Previews – December 2011

This is it!! The final run down of the year, and what a year its been for films! We’ve had a lot of great films come past us this year, and a lot of terrible ones….. and a lot of ones that looked great but turned out to be terrible and ultimately disappointed me to the extent that I cried. Physically cried. Sad isn’t it? Please Hollywood, stop making disappointing films and just do good ones? Thanks, ‘preciate it…

Anyway, after that short distraction, I should probably mention that you can hear more film reviews, news and previews (and other things that rhyme) on May Contain Spoilers – the Film Review show that knew Soylent Green was People all along! You can “Like” our page on Facebook to get all the latest updates, links to our podcast and pictures of our competition prizes, or you can follow us on Twitter using @FilmSpoilers. And for a taste, you can follow this link to listen to the podcast of our show:

http://maycontainspoilers.jellycast.com/podcast/feed/2

But if you came here for Film Previews to get you in the Christmas mood then… well, there aren’t many Christmas movies out this month. Sorry. But instead, I packed this months previews full of some other awesome stuff instead. Just thinking of you, you know. Enjoy!

SHERLOCK HOLMES: A GAME OF SHADOWS (12A) (Dir. Guy Ritchie)

After the surprise break-out hit of the first film, Guy Ritchie brings back the crime-solving duo of Holmes (Robert Downey Jr) and Watson (Jude Law) for a second action-packed adventure. In A Game of Shadows, Holmes and Watson are pitted against their fiercest adversary and the only man that ever matched Holmes for intellect – Professor Moriarty (Jared Harris). Also returning is Rachel McAdams as Adler and a new addition of Noomi Rapace as Sim (which links to another release this month…) as the group go on a chase across Europe to stop Moriarty’s web of murders. If it’s as smart as the first, you can bet A Game of Shadows will be a massive hit across the board in time for the Christmas break. Released December 16th.

THE THING (15) (Dir. Matthijs van Heijningen Jr.)

Not actually the re-boot that everyone thought it might be, but instead a prequel to the John Carpenter 1982 original, The Thing stars Mary-Elizabeth Winstead as grad student Kate Lloyd working in an Antarctica research facility that has discovered an alien craft. This discovery not only leads to a confrontation between her and her research professor (Ulrich Thomsen), but a series of grizzly goings-on which explain all the events that lead right up to the opening of the original film. Expect big references to the original and plenty of thrills and flame-throwers. Released December 2nd.

PUSS IN BOOTS (PG) (Dir. Chris Miller)

A somewhat tenuous spin-off from the successful Shrek series, Antonio Banderas returns for the origin story of the scene-stealing feline as he teams up with mastermind Humpty Dumpty (Zach Galifianakis) and Kitty (Salma Hayek) to steal the famed Goose that lays Golden Eggs. If you’re a huge follower of the Shrek series or have kids then it might be worth going to see, but the rest of us might remain cautiously sceptical for now. Released December 9th.

MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE – GHOST PROTOCOL (12A) (Dir. Brad Bird)

Having to compete with the possibly more anticipated Girl With the Dragon Tattoo is no easy feat for Ethan Hunt’s (Tom Cruise) fourth outing in the series. Although the M:I series is starting to die out a bit, Ghost Protocol looks like it will be going in a new direction as Hunt’s group must go rogue in order to clear the name of their organisation. Also starring Jeremy Renner before he appears as Hawkeye in The Avengers next year, Ghost Protocol looks to have everything that made the previous films successful, but with a darker edge. Released December 26th.

THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO (15) (Dir. David Fincher)

Gradually becoming a slightly more acceptable American remake than others recently, this version stars Daniel Craig as the journalist Mikael Blomqvist who is aided by wanted computer hacker Lisbeth Salander (Rooney Mara) in his search for a woman who has been missing for 40 years. Although the original Swedish films were a massive hit this side of the Atlantic, the American remake is still sure to bring in crowds due to its much higher filming budget and big name cast/direction team, so it’s probably worth going to see even if it’s just to compare with the originals. Released December 26th.

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

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LISTED Film Previews – December ’10

It’s December already? When the hell did that happen?! Ok, believe me, I’m not complaining about the fact that I can now wake up to a small chocolatey treat every morning, but it would be nice if I had at least some of my Christmas shopping done and dusted already! I suppose I had better get on with it and blitz my credit card on some online stores! In the meantime, for those of you out there who have already done your shopping, here are some film previews for you to read:

THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA: VOYAGE OF THE DAWN TREADER (12A) (Dir. Michael Apted)

There is a certain amount of scepticism accompanying the release of this third instalment in the Narnia franchise, mainly down to a change of both production companies AND directors. However, with Voyage of the Dawn Treader now being backed by the same company that released Avatar (Fox) there is potential for as much of a marketing blanket as there was before. In this instalment, the Pevensie children once again get swept away to the magical world of Narnia where they re-unite with King Caspian (Ben Barnes) and take a trip on the royal ship The Dawn Treader to their greatest adventure yet, encountering dragons, merfolk and more on their voyage to the edge of the world. Plenty of potential for great 3D here, but without the backing from Disney, will it have quite the same “magical” quality it originally had? Released December 10th.

TRON: LEGACY (PG) (Dir. Joseph Kosinski)

The follow-up to one of the biggest cult sci-fi hits ever finally hits screens this month, following nearly a couple of years of gradually building hype. Sam Flynn (Garrett Hedlund) gets sent to investigate a signal from his father’s old arcade decades after he went missing. When he does, he too is sucked into the futuristic cyber world of TRON where his dad Kevin (Jeff Bridges) has been trapped for 20 years. After reuniting with each other, they team up with warrior Quorra (Olivia Wilde) to take down the Master Control Program. Disney are releasing this in competition with their old franchise of Narnia, so you can expect this to tick all the right boxes to make sure they bring the crowds in. Everything that made the original great is now upgraded, so expect some immense 3D light cycle action! Make sure you see this! Released December 26th.

MEGAMIND (PG) (Dir. Tom McGrath)

From the same people that brought us How To Train Your Dragon and Shrek comes Will Ferrell’s answer to Despicable Me. Ferrell plays Megamind, the most notorious super-villain Metro City has ever seen. But after he finally defeats his heroic opposite Metro Man, he creates himself a new foe who turns even more evil than him. Now, Megamind might have to use his powers… for good! Also starring Jonah Hill, Tina Fey and Brad Pitt, Megamind could easily crush comedic opposition like Little Fockers, and if this works out well for Ferrell then perhaps Anchorman 2 might not be so far off after all… Released December 3rd.

GULLIVER’S TRAVELS (PG) (Dir. Robert Letterman)

Jack Black renews the old story as Lemuel Gulliver, a journalist who gets transported to an island in the middle of the Bermuda Triangle where he is a giant among the civilisation of the Lilliputians and eventually becomes part of their community. This is perhaps a slightly unusual turn of character considering what Jack Black is capable of from past ventures, but the fact the production company wouldn’t let him open for Pearl Jam (a lifelong dream of his) shows that dedication has been put into this, so let’s hope it’s all worth it! Released December 26th.

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

Despicable Me (Contains Spoilers)

Although I’m not particularly proud of the fact that I wound up seeing Despicable Me before I’m able to go and see The Social Network or even the re-release of Back To The Future, I’m ok with the fact that I ended up seeing Despicable Me mostly because of the fact that from the trailers and the hype it’s been getting it looked like it would be at least a semi-decent animated comedy film. Perhaps not quite of the standards of Shrek or Kung-Fu Panda or anything like that, but entertaining enough to actually be worth killing time on. And that’s what it turned out to be – a semi-decent animated comedy that was perhaps actually worth killing time on.

I’ll be the first to admit that it probably wasn’t my film of choice to begin with, and I wouldn’t have been kicking myself if I had wound up missing it at the cinema, but it turns out that Steve Carell actually does a pretty good job on voice acting as well as physical comedy too, thusly legitimising him as a pretty well rounded actor. Although, that could also have been said after watching Dan In Real Life a few weeks ago as well… Anyway, the point is that although he’d deliberately putting on an accent in this, he does bring a little bit of his own comedy wonder to the character of Gru, the evil genius out to prove that he’s still the best there is at what he does – being a total bastard. Even in the first 5 minutes of the film, Gru manages to cheer up a little kid, put a smile on his face and make him all happy just to deliberately bring him down again! Clearly, it had to be established upon the first point of seeing Gru that he had to be a complete arse and that was very much achieved.

Essentially, what I liked about Despicable Me was the fact that you have to sympathise with a guy who is deliberately out to make people’s lives a bit of a misery. Gru IS the evil genius that creates heroes out of nothing, and yet no heroes try to stop him, so he’s free to rain down his evilness on anyone and anything. But obviously, because this is a kid’s film, it couldn’t quite take that sinister tone too far and so they had to introduce a more human side to him – one of a kid with hopes and dreams, of which his mother completely shot down as nonsense. Thus, this creates an association with Gru, and he’s not such a bad guy anymore – just someone who USED to be evil who now has lots of cool gadgets and millions of minions.

A little thing that bugged me about part of the story of Despicable Me is the fact that his Minions aren’t really explained, more just taken as granted that they’re there. Perhaps it’s me wanting more of a cohesive reason behind small things like that in the films I see, and forgetting that kids generally tend to take most things as a given and not question these things, but I would have liked to have known how Gru got all his little minions that, strangely enough, resemble the Tic-tac men painted yellow. This, however, was not given but what we get instead is a tool of such great comic relief that you find yourself not caring anymore. Ok, they’re silly, they’re stupid, and they’re basically yellow Tic-tac-shaped Oompa Loopmas, but I think you’d have to be a pretty straight-faced critic to not have a little giggle when one of them manages to drink and anti-gravity serum and floats out a window, only to crop up at ridiculous times later on. Or even when one gets cracked and shaken and starts glowing like a glow stick. They’re the kind of bizarre humour that contrasts the kind of outright, slightly predictable humour of some of the other characters.

On that point, it has to be said that I’m probably not one of Russell Brand’s biggest fans. In fact, earlier in his career I found him to be pretty irritating and generally kind of thick, and wondered what the appeal of him was. However, in recent years he has started to show a bit more of a genuine appeal as a comedy actor in things like Forgetting Sarah Marshall and Get Him To The Greek (ok, he’s basically playing himself in those films, but at least he can play a character and read a script now!), and I think his role as the doddery old Dr. Nefario (the ‘M’ to Gru’s ‘Bond’, to draw a total parallel) was pretty genius. I think it’s mostly his delivery of the lines that his appeal lies in, which just shows that when you get rid of the stupid skin-tight jeans, guyliner and lady-killing hair, he CAN still deliver a line very well.

The basic plot of Despicable Me is that the “evil” Gru needs to re-capture a shrink ray from a rival evil genius Vector (Jason Segel) so that he can steal the Moon. But, in order to do this, his plan involves adopting three young girls from an orphanage to infiltrate his nemesis’ lair and steal it for him. But in the process of doing so, Gru finds that having a family is better than being feared, and learns alot from the growing love they have between them (que sobs and violins). Ok, a pretty predictable plot if there was one, but for a kids film its one that works pretty well.  There’s a dynamic amongst kids films recently of sympathising with unlikely characters (again, Shrek is a good example), and more and more developers of animated films for “kidults” are playing off of this. Not that this is a bad thing – what it means is that it will eventually get increasingly harder for developers to make films like these and not tread on the heels of previous similar works. The comedy in Despicable Me is pretty one-of-a-kind for now, which gives it that genuinely entertaining edge, but in my opinion the plotline isn’t exactly one that will stand the test of time. But perhaps this was known all along, as you get the sense that there is an air about Despicable Me that it’s really not trying to be something it isn’t – just a straight-edge family comedy with some original characters backing it up.

Essentially, there is a lot to like about Despicable Me, despite it actually being a fairly average film. The three girls Margo (played by iCarly’s own Miranda Cosgrove), Edith and Agnes are sickly adorable and actually provide a pretty strong centre of comedy, Steve Carell does a great job as always, and the Minions are definitely worth a giggle. The fact that the orphanage owner had what she referred to as a “Box of Shame” also made me laugh in a kind of darkly sinister way, but perhaps that’s just me… However, the major let downs of Despicable Me was the fact that it became somewhat predictable and didn’t break the mould too much for a film of its hype, and ended the film on one of those annoyingly rubbish dance scenes. Call it a pet peeve if you will, but I personally just don’t find these funny anymore and I feel it’s becoming a stamp of a rubbish ending to average films. Another niggling thing is how much films advertised as being 3D films don’t actually have much reason for using 3D. Throughout Despicable Me there was not really as much 3D effects as had been hyped but the fact that when the 3D effects were used, it didn’t exactly add to the experience or storyline but it did visually look impressive, made a bit of a difference. It will also be interesting to see how well Will Ferrell’s own evil animation Megamind does in answer this considering it also stars Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill when that gets its release in a couple of months time.

Overall, Despicable Me probably isn’t something I would choose to see above a lot of films currently available, but for families it’s a no-brainer! Despicable Me gets an easy 6 out of 10 for being somewhat predictable, but also a bit of fun.

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