Brave – 7/10

Scottish princess rebels against her imminent betrothal with un-bear-able consequences.

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At this point Pixar had just completely stopped giving a fuck about making appealing movies:

‘Unpronounceable movie about a rat becoming a chef in France’

‘Robots fall in love, barely any dialogue for the first twenty minutes’
and now:

‘Film about a country where the people have accents nobody understands, ridiculous and mental plot twist half way through, no recognizable stars’

Fuck you, we are Pixar, we do what we want.

Unfortunately Brave isn’t the unmitigated success that Ratatouille and WALL•E are. That is not to say that it isn’t beautiful in places and actually surprisingly touching throughout (especially the ending *sobs*) and anything involving the marvellous Kelly Macdonald gets my approval.

It remains to be seen whether Cars 2 and Brave are just a dip or the bursting of the bubble at Pixar but there is no doubting they don’t live up to previous releases. When there is still so much humour, fun and imagination on show however, does it really matter? Rob loves Pixar 4 eva.

Perfume: The Story of a Murderer – 7/10.

An orphan with an advanced sense of smell goes to extreme lengths to find the perfect scent.

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Director Tom Tykwer showed us recently he is not afraid of making bonkers, lengthy and original cinema with his polarizing adaptation of Cloud Atlas. Perfume is equally if not more unusual but it doesn’t work quite as well.

Protagonist (or anti hero?) Jean-Baptiste Grenouille played by Ben Whishaw I found to be such a grotesque character that not only did I not sympathize with him, I actively wanted him to be caught which makes for a strange viewing experience and resulted in me disengaging at times.

Dustin Hoffman is a welcome addition despite being a bit camp and speaking in a pretty terrible French accent. Alan Rickman is impressive as ever but it is nothing we haven’t seen from him before.

Perfume starts off odd and just goes more off the wall as it goes on culminating in one of the most bizarre and unexpected endings I have ever seen. As with Cloud Atlas Tykwer could have shaved at least half an hour off and it wouldn’t have suffered but despite all this criticism I did find I couldn’t look away.

Byzantium – 7/10.

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Two immortal vampires try to exist in modern day Brighton attempting to hide their identity from the authorities and the a mysterious order known as ‘The Brotherhood’.

I will watch anything focusing on vampires or zombies. From the good (Underworld) to the terrible (Queen of the Damned). I’ve even sat through one and a half Twilight films. So where does Byzantium rank? Pretty high actually. The story is compelling, taking in a lot of vampire lore (although only picking and choosing. The vampires can walk around in sunlight but they still have to be invited in) and with some stunning imagery. It is the cast though that really elevates this above the average. Saoirse Ronan is humourless but intense and believable and Gemma Arterton pulls off ‘foul mouthed hooker’ surprisingly well. It is always nice to see Sam Riley in anything and he is probably the best thing about Byzantium. Letting the side down slightly is Caleb Jones who doesn’t seem to know if he is in the flashbacks or the modern day judging from his costume and speech. Despite being predictable (particularly the ending), Byzantium is surprisingly dark and nasty and is much more than just an ‘adult Twilight’.

The Iceman – 5.5/10.

A family man who hides his secret life as a contract killer from his loved ones sees his lies start to unravel.

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An impressive cast for such a pedestrian (albeit true) story. Michael Shannon is intense and menacing as ever. Winona Ryder reminds us she is still a thing in a solid role. Chris Evans is once again wasted in a small role, ditto James Franco. Elsewhere Ray Liotta plays Ray Liotta and David Schwimmer manages to not be too distracting in spite of (because of?) looking for all the world like former England goalkeeper David Seaman.

The pacing is all wrong in The Iceman, it always feels there is no time for character development with such a long time span squeezed into an hour and forty five minutes. Worth watching if you are a big Michael Shannon fan as he really is once again superb but a chore in every other respect.

John Dies at the End – 7/10.

Two normal slacker friends come across a new street drug that transports them through time and space and reluctantly into a battle they never wanted.

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Much like director Don Coscarelli’s other major recent work Bubba Ho-Tep, John Dies at the End is fun, funny and eccentric. Whilst both are a really enjoyable, John Dies… lacks the charm and warmth found in Bubba Ho-Tep. What it loses in heart however, it makes up for with an appearance by Paul Giamatti who is a joy as ever.
On the face of it John Dies… is a daft, Sam Raimi inspired monster movie but under the surface there are some genuinely interesting philosophical ideas which make this cult film more than worthwhile.

The Imposter – 8/10.

Compelling documentary with several WTF moments…

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This fascinating documentary tells the story of Frédéric Bourdin, a French man who pretended to be an American boy who went missing when he was 13.

The re-enactments are a bit crime watch and unnecessary at times but the story itself is frankly astonishing. The Imposter is also a triumph in film making as the story is revealed slowly and in layers to jaw dropping effect. I can guarantee you wont be able to watch this without researching the film afterwards which is surely the highest compliment you can pay a documentary?

The Place Beyond The Pines – 8.5/10.

Ryan Gosling and Blue Valentine director Derek Cianfrance reunite for gripping, multi-layered drama The Place Beyond The Pines.

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It is difficult to write a synopsis for TPBTP without giving too much of the unique storytelling technique away so I’ll keep it brief. A stunt motorbike rider (Gosling) finds out he has a son and starts robbing banks as a means to support his family. This has grave ramifications spanning many years for everyone involved.
A story of things coming full circle and how one bad decision can wreck your life, it is compelling stuff. Great cast (Gosling, Eva Mendes, Ray Liotta, Bradley Cooper), well acted, very well directed. Cianfrance lets the story breathe without trying to rush to the conclusion and a running time of 2 hours and 20 minutes definitely feels necessary. Totally different to Blue Valentine but just as vital.

V/H/S 7/10.

V/H/S proves horror isn’t obsolete.

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For a man who hates found footage horror with a passion I watch an awful lot of them. This is because modern, English speaking horror is in such a rut right now, comprising almost entirely of remakes, sequels, reboots or just rehashing old ideas that even though Paranormal Activity came out in 2007 (Blair Witch Project in 1999!), we are still getting the same tired ideas a hundred times. However, the found footage style, like 3D, doesn’t have to be a replacement for actual ideas, sometimes it can enhance, even make the movie. V/H/S just about falls into this category.
There isn’t really a plot as such. Some criminals, one sporting a great moustache, break into a dead guys house to find a videotape. When presented with many videotapes they start watching them all in the guys house obviously. We, the audience, are watching the films as well and this is what the movie is. This means it is broken down into different stories and segments (all directed by different people) which is a concept that other horror directors need to look into as they all find it so hard to keep a movie interesting for 90 minutes.
Nearly every segment is just ‘stuff happens, builds into WTF ending’ but I think that formulae works well in the right hands. If you leave a horror film (scared obviously but also…) thinking to yourself ‘what the fuck have I just seen?’ then it has done its job.
There is a lot of rubbish in mainstream horror at the moment but V/H/S shows that some people are at least trying to move things forward.

This Is 40 – 6.5/10

This isn’t Sparta. This… Is… 40!

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Sequel of sorts to Knocked Up focusing on Pete (Paul Rudd) and Debbie (Leslie Mann) a few years on.
There is literally no plot to This Is 40, ‘couple argue’ is pretty much it. There are some great one liners though and if you share my undying love for Paul Rudd there is a lot to enjoy.
One downside is that Director Judd Apatow amazingly still hasn’t learned that comedies should definitely not be over two hours long. A mistake he keeps making over and over again. Apatow is still probably the best Hollywood comedy director right now though in the absence of Kevin Smith and with the Coen Brothers work becoming more dramatic. A genuinely funny if forgettable movie.

The Man with the Iron Fists – 7/10.

Wu Tang Clan’s RZA and Eli Roth bring us a story about loads of crazy ninja people trying to find some gold or something. It isn’t important.
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The first first hour is just one long awesome fight scene. Russell Crowe is swanning round sleeping with prostitutes and cutting people open every now and again, he is British for some reason. Then it all goes slightly wrong when they make the mistake of trying to flesh out the ridiculous and overly complicated plot and it gets a bit dull. They pull it together for the final twenty minutes of fight sequences though and it all ends in a satisfactory, heads being punched off bodies, kind of way. If you wanted that scene in Kill Bill where the bride fights the crazy 88’s to go on for an hour and forty seven minutes then this is the film for you.