Saturday, 31 March 2012

21 Jump Street


Comedy fans can breathe a sigh of relief…He’s back! After branching out and starring in oscar-nominated biographical drama, Moneyball earlier this year, Jonah Hill has returned to the comedy screen. Our much-loved Superbad actor buddies up with Channing Tatum in the latest comedy flick which promises over a hundred minutes of fun, laughter and heaps of silliness.

Newly-assigned police officers Schmidt (Hill) and Jenko (Tatum) are far from satisfied with riding their pushbikes around the park rescuing kid’s balls from the lake. The incompetent officers fail to successfully undertake their street duties and are sent to 21 Jump Street on an investigation to find out who is supplying a popular drug being used in a nearby high school.

Desperate to make their first arrest, the two move back into Schmidt’s parents house and “cool” it up ready to return to school and “bust some ass” to prove their worthiness in the force. But on their first day they find that school has changed- in the first few minutes of entering the gates they find themselves enemies of the fellow students (Dave Franco being one of them, starring as the high-school alpha male), in the principles office being threatened to be expelled, and accidentally switching their undercover identities. Tatum- now science-geek enrolled in Chemistry, and Hill- now athletic popular kid enrolled in Drama/art, the couple find themselves reliving each others past lives as teenagers in school. Chuck in a hallucinogenic drug in the mix and we have comedy gold just waiting to unfurl.

As the unlikely heroes become torn between their investigation and new life at high-school their brotherhood is tested and their future as policemen put on the line. A simple, predictable plot but nevertheless providing exactly what it says on the tin- a fun-filled and laugh-out-loud tale of what happens when you throw two grown dummies back into high school. For instance, picture this: Tatum dressed in a science bauble jumper and Hill dressed as Peter Pan in a pink Volkswagen Beetle chased by a mob gang of angry bikers down the highway- certainly not your average Hollywood car chase!

Jonny Depp (that’s right, the Jonny Depp) even makes an unlikely five-minute appearance as the bike-gang member reveals himself as an undercover cop too. Who knew Depp was capable of going un-noticed on screen for that long. His cameo is tribute to the 1987 TV series of the same name in which he starred in over 80 episodes.

With a naturally comical on-screen presence both Tatum and Hill are a lovable duo that keep us laughing till the very end.

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel


John Madden brings us this year’s feel-good movie as a bunch of British retirees travel to India in search of redemption and a new start. But the assumption that their booked accommodation is a plush and “exotic” hotel could not have been more wrong. With dusty drapes, incomplete d├ęcor and broken (or even absent) furniture- far from the luxuriousness visualised in its advertisement- it is down to unorganised but happy-clappy hotel manager Sonny (Dev Patel) to maintain the stay of his first residents. While each character unravels their story, the hotel unravels its charm to create a fresh tale of enlightenment, friendship and self-discovery.

With the likes of Judie Dench, Bill Nighy, Tom Wilkinson, Maggie Smith and Penelope Winton at the helm, this star studded cast could not have been more perfect as the residents of this hotel for the ‘elderly and beautiful.’ With a fine balance of witty humour and deep emotion, Madden delivers a story of magic and wonder as each resident celebrates, or indeed struggles with, the transition from their complicated or rustic lives on British soil to the colourful and vibrant domains of Indian culture.

True, the plot is predictable and doesn’t exactly stretch the imagination but it is believable and original. Cliches are plenty with Dench failing to get her head around how the internet works and Dev battling with his mother about arranged marriages. Maggie even gets in her infamous politically incorrect one-liners that allow us to roll our eyes but chuckle all the same. But this all adds to the films inexplicable charm and delight that is well carried throughout the whole two hours.

A must see sunday-afternoon flick for all those who are seeking inspiration, or simply wish to be humoured.

Saturday, 3 March 2012

The Raid


The spring edition of the horror festival, Film4 Frightfest, celebrated its seventh year at Glasgow’s Film Festival last month with a schedule of 11 film premieres- the biggest of their weekenders yet with an additional 3 films in the line-up than in the previous year.

The UK’s favourite horror and fantasy film festival did not disappoint as it boasted a firm line-up of horror mayhem, among which was the UK premiere of CRAWL from the China brothers (Paul & Ben) and the newest instalment from director/producer/writer of 2009’s DREAD Anthony DiBlasi with CASSADAGA. The festival hosted some of its favourite masterminds of the genre; Italian madman and director of SHADOW Federico Zampaglione came to jump around and shout about (literally) his new movie TUPLA which he showcased a clip from for the very first time. Alan Jones, co-director of Frightfest, recognises that it’s important for the audience to meet the “talent behind the terror.”

After two days and 10 movies down, the festival sure ended with a bang as the film theatre had to hold onto its roof tightly during Gareth Evans’ eagerly anticipated The Raid.

You will be sure to reach an adrenalin-high after watching this super-exhilarating, blood-pumping action film by welsh director of MERANTAU, Gareth Evans.

Rama (Iko Uwais) is part of a SWAT team who are sent to raid a building full of degenerates. As the team are quickly picked off in several shoot-outs and bare-knuckle fights of the most brutal and spectacularly visual kind in their attempts to reach the ‘gang leader’ on the top floor, Rama is determined to complete his mission- to fight his way through whatever or whoever stands in his way.

Uwais, who has before only ever starred in Merantua as Yuda, has been learning Silat (an Indonesian traditional martial art) since he was a young boy and his extreme talents as a fighter, stunt artist and choreographer are overwhelming in what has to be a career defining performance. Himself and Yayan Ruhian, who did the majority of the choreography work, have to be credited for the range and diversity, not to mention the complexity, of the fight sequences some of which last minutes without cutting. [Most notably, the ultimate fight between Rama, Jaka (Joe Taslim) Mad Dog (Yayan Ruhian) is visceral eye candy for those who wish to witness an endurance match of utter viciousness and brutality; a jaw-dropping combat of precision, intensity and power between three true masters of the arts.]

Acting as the core of the movie, the numerous fight scenes are mind-blowingly imaginative and innovative; Powerful and pacing. The way in which Evans directs the camera is intimate enough for you to get close to the action- to feel the stabs, the bullets, the punches. Though he spares the audience at times, much to his credit, by taking a few steps back to allow us to see the scope of the action. Even when the combat is hammered off-screen, you are still able to grasp the impact of the unseen. While some directors fall into, and arguably overuse, the ‘video-game’ style of camera work when creating a piece of this disposition, Evans does well to avoid this by instead exploring a diverse range of camera angles mixed with both quick-cutting edits and suspense-building sequences.

But don’t think that this is an action film of just action. The direction of the film is slick and the back story to the character of Rama which comprises his obstacles are moving and fits into the narrative superbly.

Now firmly embedded into the Indonesian film industry since becoming a resident there, Evans mixes his western roots with his flare for eastern techniques to create this unique piece. He celebrates the raw talent of the East by providing a fresh reminder of what can be achieved with cleverly designed special effects and a firm ignorance of CGI. The post production of visual and sound effects fit incredibly well with the pulsating soundtrack by Aria Prayogi and Fajar Yuskemal, doing justice to, and completing, the genius work of the film’s cast and crew that I sense will be long celebrated- and not just by enthusiasts of the genre.

 The Raid is to receive a UK release in mid-May and is certainly an experience not one to be missed on the big screen.