where you been? what you seen

This is a fair statement right now, I have been missing from the blogosphere for a few weeks, various reasons which I wont go into right now but I have not been missing from the cinema for all that time, a few weeks with nothing worth seeing sure but I have accumulated some good stuff recently and I promise to add them to the site when I get the chance.

So in the mix are Tin Tin, Contagion and In time as well as a few oldies and dvd releases which deserve some coverage, so watch this space and things will appear soon

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Real Steel

Real Steel is the new hi tech film from Hugh Jackman. Jackman   an ex professional boxer of some promise who is now down on his uppers as a fighting bot showman. We meet him in debt to everyone and taking on a 1000lb bull in the modern take on the rodeo, bull against robot. He takes a bet he cant pay to try and get his funds back up but ends up with a destroyed robot and having to run away from the shows promoter who also happens to have been the last guy to beat him in the ring.

In his rush to escape he meets some officers of the court who inform him the mother of his eleven year old son Max has died and he is required to attend the court to assign custody to the boys aunt, now a millionaire. He sees an oppurtunity to make a buck and agrees to sell the custody for $100,000 as long as he takes the boy for the summer so her husband can enjoy his trip to Italy. He uses the money to buy Noisy Boy an ex league fighter and with the help of Bailey, Evangeline Lily, his old trainers daughter and sometimes romantic partner he gets the bot ready for a challenge match, all the while shadowed by his smart world wise son.

When things dont go to plan for Noisy Boy they have to visit an old scrap yard illegally to find bits for a make do bot, after an improbable incident at the edge of a dam like structure Max digs up Atom, a sparring bot. Forced to get him out alone he brings him back to Bailey who gets him working and they find he is serviceable and has some unique features. With Max training him on shadow mode the boy becomes convinced he can be a champion and when he finds out Charlies fighting pedigree he is sure they can win if he is trained in the human style, charlie disagrees but is coerced into helping him.

Cue various small bouts where the skills and durability of the robot become apparent, all the while the boy and his father are bonding. after numerous battles where the public start to buzz about the 2nd generation sparring bot who seems unbeatable they get an invite into the World Robotic fighting league, where the undefeated Zeus is holding court. He is put in with a two headed  beast and after some initial problem he manages to defeat him, the crowd go mad and Max takes the mic and bravely challenges Zeus to a head to head much to Charlies disgust.

Charlies old fighting foe finds him and beats him up for the money owed taking Max’s share in the process as well as roughing the boy up. The Aunt is back so Max is dropped off by charlie who loves the boy but wants to see him safe and well cared for. while talking to Bailey he realises the boy means so much more to him than he imagined so when Zeus’s people agree to the fight he visits Max to get him onboard one last time.

The end is exciting and not to schmaltzy so I wont spoil it here, fair to say the action is worthy and watching robots fight isnt as sad as it might sound, this isnt robot wars but a martial art. The CGI is brilliant and the people behind Avatar worked on this one and it shows. the humans are believable and there is warmth and pathos along with the excitement of the action scenes.

My boys who are 6 and 15 both enjoyed it as did the majority of the audience I was in with which was mixed ages, there is the typical american sentiment here but not slathered on and its well worth the 2 hrs its on, there is an element of the rocky spirit and you will get caught up in the action even though its robots, well worth a watch.


Drive

Drive is the second of three Ryan Gosling films being released in quick succession and I hope its the worst of the three because if not it doesnt bode well of the Ides of March which he is in with actor director George Clooney.

This isnt an awful film and with a few tweeks could have been oh so much better but I get the impression what I thought were its weakness’s were deliberate on behalf of the director in an attempt to stylised the whole thing.

Gosling is Driver, he is never given a real name just the kid by some and the driver by others, its done on purpose to add something to his character, what they needed to add was some more dialogue and depth.

The film starts with him giving a speech over the phone about his contract with the caller, a robber, he repeats it later in the film but it doesnt work as a golden moment of dialogue it was supposed to be. You then see him doing his part in the robbery, no scenes of the robbery itself just him looking passive chewing a toothpick and listening to the police radios. The getaway is cool and clever and as an opening sets you up for a really good crime drama, unfortunately its also the highlight of the film and what follows never really adds up to what we thought we were going to get.

Driver does stunts and mechanical repairs for his mentor Shannon, Bryan Cranston, a dodgy guy who wants to get the the kid to drive stock cars and make money off of the back of it, he entices an old friend, a connected guy called Bernie, Albert Brooks, to invest in the idea and things are looking up for the pair. As driver swaps abode after each job he moves into an apartment block where Irene, Carey Mulligan, lives with her son Bernicio. Her husband is inside and they begin a very slow and boring romance which reaches its peak with some hand holding.

Irenes husband gets released and scuppers their plans but Driver manages to stay involved by helping Standard, the husband, when he gets leaned on by some gang guys to do a job, they give the boy a bullet and beat Standard up, seeing the danger to Irene and the boy driver offers his services to help standard get the gang off his back, they are lumbered with Blanche, Christina Hendricks, a sometime girlfriend of the guy they are doing the job for. Things go wrong, double crossing and threats ensue as well as death in gory fashion.

Driver is now up against it and warns his friend Shannon to bug out before he gets hurt, Bernie’s less friendly business partner Nino, Ron Pearlman, is behind the whole mess and after killing his friends and threatening the lives of Irene and her son he takes revenge, killing easily and seemingly without thought or passion.

The end is very simple and you are by this point just hoping to avoid piles as youve been sitting for what feels like days, which is unneccessary as edited differently it would have held together a lot better.

Driver is an emotionless loner, you dont like him or feel any warmth towards him, Irene is essentially all but willing to cheat on her husband is only stopped by his release from prison, and the other characters, while more rounded and easier to make an opinion on dont really add up to a good plot. Its incredibly slow and moody shots of driver looking out in his shades with the toothpick in the corner of his mouth dont make him look cool and moody they just take up time which could have been used to add some more meaningful dialogue or action scene.

Its an 18 and the only reason is the addition of some gore,the semi nude strippers arent worthy of 18 and it adds nothing, Tarantino would have made this story into something great but as it stands its a bearly enjoyable how ever long it really was thats left you feeling a little annoyed at the time it took and the result it offered. I wont be seeing it again and cant really recommend it, like I said hopefully Goslings next film is a lot better.


Crazy Stupid Love

Crazy Stupid Love is the new movie from the superstar of American comedy Steve Carell .He is joined in the shenanigans by Ryan Gosling, Julianne Moore, Emma Stone and Marisa Tomei.

Its based on the story Cal Weaver, Carell, who is told his wife wants to divorce him over dinner leaving him devastated and not a little crestfallen. His kids are equally upset but the extremely gorgeous babysitter is chuffed as she is in love with Cal and thinks she will now have a chance, unfortunately his thirteen year old son is besotted with her and uses every opportunity to tell the world.

In his depression Cal comes to the attention of Jacob, Gosling, who takes him under his wing and shows him how to dress and act in order to attract women, after a faltering start he gets into the groove, starting with Tomei he goes on a journey of sexual conquests using his natural charm to shag his way through the single women of LA.

while this is going on Jacob has fallen for Hannah, Stone, who is trying to get over the fact she is regarded as PG13 by everyone else, he is entranced and loses his super detached demeanour to her charm and beauty, meanwhile Cal is desperately trying to get his wife back using his new style and charisma to show her what she’s missing.

the whole thing gets messy and theres some dark moments that are followed on by some real hilarity and some schmaltzy stuff which does lower the tone somewhat.

Although I think most people will be able to tell how it ends, the cast are excellent and the comedy is usually very high quality and some of the scenes are just knock about humour from the old school. I could go into more detail but some of the info would spoil a few of the gags and I wont be responsible for ruining anyone elses fun.


Killer Elite

Killer Elite is probably the most mistitled film in ages. Yes its about killers and they are elite but the story is much bigger than that and I feel it flys under the radar when it could with the right title and publicity be a blockbuster. The only issue I have with the film is the casting of Jason Statham as Danny Bryce, the elite killer of the title. I like Statham and he can be good in dramatic role, The Mechanic proved that but he wasnt believable as the mercenary killer who is coerced into a ridiculously hard set of hits for the deposed sheik of Oman.

Bryce has a prtner in crime called Hunter, Robert DeNiro, who took the job but failed to get anywhere near the targets, he is taken hostage and used as leverage for the rest of his team, bringing Bryce out of retirement to gain his friends release.

The real story is about the war in Oman and the involvement of the SAS in the deaths of three of the sheiks sons, he wants those involved killed, with admission on tape and the deaths to appear accidental, no small task dealing with regular men but those targeted are all SAS and have the necessary skills to make any attempt to kill them difficult let alone the added caveats.

Back in blight Spike is working for the secret organisation The Feather Men, a shady group of ex SAS who have sworn to protect the men who serve din the regiment from harm, Spike sees the risk before it happens and despatches men to surveil the obvious targets. as each hit goes down the feather men get closer to the reality of what is going on. there are dark forces afoot and as Danny moves closer to getting his mate released he meets with greater opposition and needs to be more creative at every turn.

Thos film is based on the book The Feather men by Sir Ranulph Fiennes who appears in the film as the last target. he wrote his side of the tale and this brought much controversy at the time and plenty of governmental denial and this is the truly interesting side of the tale. The mercenary team against the worlds best Elite unit is good for action and there is plenty of very well directed action but the intrigue takes second place and this is an error to my mind.

There seems to be an effort to make Bryce seem like a good murderer, doing it as a necessity while showing the nobility of Spike as he tries to find the team and protect his men, sometimes without the permission of his shady group, who are being coerced to prevent Spike from finding anything out.

The end is decent, being true they couldnt really do much about it and we get the sense that Bryce isnt regarded as the baddy just an agent of the British and Oman government to get their hands on the vast oil reserves the arabs are sitting on. you are left at the end with the question of the nature of these men, whether they are SAS or mercenaries is what they do any different from each other, after all state sanctioned assassination is still murder isnt it?

There are some very good performance especially Clive Owen as Spike and DeNiro is his usual self


30 Minutes or less

30 minutes or less is the new Jesse Eisenberg vehicle with the added benefit of Danny McBride to spice things up a bit. It tells the tale of Nick a pizza delivery boy with a bad attitude and even worse driving skills. He is a likeable rogue who is in love with his best friend Chets Twin sister, something he has failed to mention to his best buddy up until now.

Dwayne is the son of an ex marine who won big on the lottery and enjoys ragging on his useless son and his halfwit friend, while enjoying a lapdance and bitching about how his dad is blowing his inheritance his dancer hits upon the idea of employing her friend from out of town to take the old man out and thereby give Dwayne what he feels he deserves. this leaves the two buddies in need of 100,00 bucks to pay for the hit and no obvious way of getting it.

this is where the two mens paths cross, as while discussing the use of s stooge to carry out a robbery the advert for Nicks pizza joint comes on offering the 30 minutes or less promise, nick is duly late and thinks his strange customers are just winding him up. when he awake to the masked men he is wearing a bomb with a ten hour timer and a tamper proof set up that means he dies if he tries to get out of it, call the  cops or generally not rob the bank the men have planned for him. With his new problem he turns to Chet for help, bringing him out of his job as a high school teacher to assist in the robbery. they decide they will follow the template set out in the Keanu Reeves movie Point Break, with this in mind they get a getaway car from an old neighbour and buy replica guns and ski mask, giving the teller reason to believe they are planning a rape.

The robbery is hilarious and the getaway even better, they have no real skills to draw on and manage to somehow get away and meet the hitman to swap the cash for the code which will diffuse the bomb, he knows nothing so they beat him up along with the lap dancer who set the whole thing up. With the deal going wrong the crazy mexican decides he will kill Dwayne instead for being unprofessional, when he describes himself as the satanic hispanic you just have to laugh, Michael Pena hams it up all the way and make his character likeable while loathing him at the same time.

Kate gets dragged into the situation and Nick has to pull out all the stops to get her back to safety, rid himself of the bomb and hopefully survive the whole thing. Cue crazy plans and hilarious high jinks which eventually ends with a great finale, the spend no time trying to tie up the loose ends, and there would be plenty they just give you a nice ending which doesnt seem to cliché.

In all I would recommend this film to all who liked Eisenbergs other films, he doesnt so much act as be himself in a funny situation, there is the feel of a Judd Apatow to this film which is always a good thing and some stand out performances from Pena, Fred Savage and McBride make it worth a second viewing sometime soon.


Generation Kill

Generation Kill is a mini series brought to us by the fine people at HBO and as usual it is incredibly well made and hard hitting, provisos of anything HBO do these days.

I was given a set of discs by my brother as for some reason this series was never shown in UK as far as I’m aware anyway and I cant understand why, the story of the 1st battalion recon division of the United States Marine Corps in the build up and early days of the invasion of Iraq. It follows Sgt Brad ( Iceman ) Colbert and his team of grunts as they follow some seriously misguided officers into an unknown situation. This is all brought to us by the embedded journalist Evan Wright of Rolling Stone Magazine who rode with Colbert throughout the operation. The candour of the story is such that I did wonder if it was just a bit of Yank bashing at first until I found out it was all true and Rudy Reyes one of the characters is played by himself and I consider he wouldnt be in it if they were dissing his squad would he.

the grunts themselves are a colourful bunch of misfits and lunatics with some outrageous political views and ideas but somehow they work as a team and back each other up to the fullest regardless of whats gone before which is admirable when you see some of the things that they had to do as part of the operation. The whole thing details the lightning quick move through the Iraqi desert to support the invasion and capture of Baghdad. they are issued with the wrong type of NBC suits, have insufficient batteries for their night vision equipment and all manner of other deficiencies that they are told to deal with, the Army goes equipped the marines  make do is the saying thrown about .

What you see through the events documented by Wright is the inadequacies of the command structure and the stupidity of some of the officers who have no concept of modern warfare or the risks and dangers, also in the case of Captain America. one of the officers, his strange ways of dealing with dangerous situations that eventually lead his men to be chastised for his wrong doings. He along with some of the NCO’s and Godfather the husky voiced commander of the whole operation seem to have no capacity to empathise with the troops who are continuing regardless of the situation as best they can.

Lots of innocent Iraqi’s die, Hajis as the marines call them seem to get in the way, ignore warning shots and in some cases just happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, whole villages are bombed on the off chance there was a rocket launcher team somewhere nearby, Colberts immediate superior Lt. Nathaniel Fick tries his best to avoid these killings but he is ignored or countermanded at every turn, leaving him no choice but to ignore commands on occasion to save his men and innocents along the way.

The tension between the officers and the political infighting act as a back drop for the fire fights and hard miles of traversing hostile territory without armoured support or proper equipment, a gunner who loses his helmet in the pell mell rush to beat British Para’s to an airfield is left to find his own replacement as they left their supply vehicle behind in the rush, losing the battalion colours in the process.

you are shown the courage and camaraderie of the marines and have to respect their efforts to do things right even when the rules of engagement mean they dont have to worry too much about any come backs. They are faced constantly by evidence of what they have done to the innocent Iraqi people but after a short period of reflection they set out to achieve the operational goal of Godfather and the upper echelons of command. As a political comment its hard hitting and the realism is maintained throughout, being true there are no set piece battles to cover the men in glory, just nasty skirmishes which often result in very little gain and luckily no major casualties.

As they travel towards Baghdad the men swap stories, have good shits and masturbate when they get the chance, all this is recorded by Wright who listens to everything and enquire into anything he doesnt get, they are happy to speak in front of him and regale him with as many examples of the their prowess and fuck ups as he can handle, he gets access to officers meetings and hears first hand the bullshit excuses of the incompetent men in charge of these brave marines.

In the end it serves as a counter to the gung ho crap we get fed all the time and yet still maintains the integrity of the average Marine who fights for his comrades and not a lot else at the end of the day, they are professional and in the main good men, there are the rotten apples, racists and the like but their personal feelings come to nothing in the face if the enemy and defending their buddies right to be wrong is as important anything else in their world.

I will be watching this again to get some of the stuff I didnt notice first time round, the acting is superb throughout and could have been a documentary at times such is the quality of the settings and acting. It might not be the best advert for the motives and methods of the American military machine but its certainly evidence of the quality of the marine  recon division.