Monthly Archives: September 2013

Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D

I knew I was going to love the first episode of Marvel’s Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D as soon as it was announced. I’ve missed having a Joss Whedon show on my screen and I loved the team up of Whedon and Marvel in the Avengers movie. I spent the first half hour geeking out over reference to the wider Marvel universe and going insane whenever another actor from the Whedon universe appeared (“There’s Gunn! Oh my god there’s Shepherd Book!). Now that I’ve had the chance to calm down I thought I’d give my opinion on how this tv spin-off has worked.

Well there was plenty of the Whedon wit that I love so much, some good twists-I had no idea the damsel in distress was the doctor, and Centipede sounds like an interesting villian. I also hope we see more of J. August Richards’s troubled Mike and Cobie Smulders’ agent Maria Hill. But what about the agents of S.H.I.E.L.D? Its only the first episode so some had more focus than others but here’s my opinion of them so far.

It was great to have a familiar face in Clark Gregg’s Agent Coulson. Although it’s an ensemble show, Coulson proves to be a great focal point for the audience. Many of the show’s funniest moments come from Coulson, highlights include his overly dramatic entrance, and stabbing agent Grant Ward with the truth serum. The show quickly whizzes through his death in the Avengers film, Fury faked his death to inspire the Avengers. However it appears Coulson is unaware of the real circumstances of his ‘death’, which will no doubt lead to much angst later on in the series. So what is his secret? At the moment I’m thinking clone but its way too early to tell.

Of the rest of the cast, Chloe Bennet as hacker Sky also impresses. She’s funny, smart and somehow manages to have glossy hair, flawless skins and great clothes all while living in a van. Only on tv.

Brit Scientists Fitz-Simmons make for an adorable pair. I like their enthusiasm for the job and their bickering and talking over each other like a married couple. In the wrong hands they could have been annoying but I found them endearing. As Joss Whedon projects always involve the death of the nicest, sweetest character (alas poor Tara, Fred, Wash etc) I’m predicting one half of Fitz-Simmons will bite the dust somewhere along the series. I’m leaning more towards Simmons (Elizabeth Henstridge) with Fitz having a breakdown and avenging her death. Ian De Caestecker was great in tv shows The Fades and The Secret of Crickley Hall, so he definitely has the acting chops to handle such emotional arcs.

Ming Na-Wen as Melinda May was unfortunately not used that much in the first episode so its hard to tell what she’ll be like, however she showed great promise. It’ll be good to know why she gave up field work for a desk job. She also seems to be the show’s kick-ass female (another requirement for any Whedon show) and had a great fight scene. Hopefully we’ll see more of her in the next episode.

Grant Walt was the least interesting of the main characters, coming across as a bit dull. Howeverhints at his mysterious family history could provide some interest in the future. Actor Brett Dalton also showed some great comedic skills when he was hit with the truth serum so maybe his character will improve soon.

All in all a promising start. Lets hope it continues onto the next episode.

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The Call

Its been a while since Oscar winner Halle Berry has been in anything worth seeing, with flops like Catwoman and Perfect Strangers under her belt she’s in need of a box office hit (although I have to say Catwoman is a guilty pleasure of mine-the film is hilarious). Can The Call prove to be Box Office Gold?

Berry is Jordan, a 911 operator dealing with a terrible mistake she made six months ago. When teenager Casey (Abigail Breslin) is kidnapped and placed in the trunk of a car she uses a friend’s misplaced disposable phone to calls 911 and speaks to Jordan. Jordan has to use all her experience and skills to help Casey escape from her kidnapper.

The first hour of this film is great. The opening sequence showing Jordan’s mistake that influences her actions in the rest of the film is full of nail-biting tension. When she receives the call from Casey she’s forced to put the past behind her to help save this girl. Berry is the most likeable she’s been for a while as Jordan comes across as a compassionate and determined person. She gives some inventive advise to Casey to help escape her attacker and draw attention to herself so she can be saved. The scenes where Casey tries to get help are nerve wrecking and well-directed. The performances by Berry and Breslin are also great.

However The Call  stumbles around the one hour mark, the film loses its tension and starts becoming a bit silly. When the kidnapper arrives at his lair he gets less creepy and more annoying, despite the film best efforts to try to bring his back story to light. Jordan-who has behaved professional and smart earlier in the film-does some stupid things which makes the audience question her intelligence, especially as she is a 911 operator who should know better. The film starts unraveling and becomes more sillier as it goes on. The ending was also a let down, being down-right ridiculous.

All in all not a terrible film, but a disappointing end lets it down, which is a shame as it had potential to be a great thriller instead of just an average one.

Rating-3/5, A smart, tense first hour gives way to an abysmal final half hour

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The Sessions

A film about a man paralysed from the neck down trying to lose his virginity may not sound like a must-see kind of movie, however drama The Session was released last year to critical acclaim and won a  ton of praise for its cast.

Based on the true story of poet Mark O’Brien(John Hawkes) who had polio as a child and is paralysed from the neck down, because of this he is still a virgin. Fearing he may be nearing the end of his life he decides to hire a sex surrogate named Cheryl (Helen Hunt). The film follows their six sessions together and how their unusual relationship affects them both.

It’s easy to see why Helen Hunt was Oscar nominated for her role. She is brilliant as Cheryl, funny and sensitive as she does her work with Mark. Hunt sheds all her inhibitions in her scenes with Hawkes and manages to make their situation seem completely normal. However its a big mystery as to why John Hawkes wasn’t also nominated for an Oscar as well. Not only does he physically embody the role of Mark, managing to convey so much considering he is barely able to move, but he also manages to slip effortlessly between the funny and tragic moments of the film. A difficult role that he handles so well you do wonder why he was missed out in so many award nominations.

There is also a great supporting cast. William H Macy is great as Father Brendan who does  his best to support religious Mark through his sessions, which leads to many amusingly awkward conversations. Also good is Moon Bloodgood (excellent name by the way) as Vera, one of Mark’s caretaker who has to take him to his sessions with Cheryl.

Rating-4/5 funny, touching and full of great performances-go and watch it now!

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Riddick

After The Chronicles of Riddick I wasn’t sure if we would be seeing Riddick on the big screen again, but you’ve got to admire Vin Diesel’s love of the character. Apparently he went back to the Fast and Furious franchise just so he could make another Riddick film. But do we have another Pitch Black on our hands or a dud like The Chronicles of Riddick?

Following on from the events of Chronicles, Riddick has been betrayed by the Necromancers and left for dead on a desolate planet. First Riddick has to survive in his new environment and then evade capture from two teams of mercenaries, one team that want his head (literally) and another that has a more personal reason to track him down. However the mercenaries soon realise they have more than Riddick to worry about.

Ok so Riddick is no Pitch Black, which is a modern classic sci-fi action thriller, however it is closer in spirit to Pitch Black then The Chronicles of Riddick. The film strips back the fantasy/prophecy elements that dragged down the second movie and concentrates back on the more thriller aspects of the first film.

After making Riddick almost invincible in the second film, Riddick wisely allows our (anti)hero to be vulnerable, while still being the badass we all know. The first part of the film shows Riddick recovering psychically from his betrayal and spiritually going back to his ‘animal’ self from the first film.

Riddick is not as subversive as Pitch Black (I still remember how shocking it was that the ‘villain’ lived over some of the characters who traditionally survive this kind of film), its plot is more standard, and some may argue that it’s too similar to Pitch Black in places. The mercenaries are played by a mixed bunch, the best being Katee Sackhoff and Matthew Nobles as part of the more professional team of mercs. The other group is more stereotypical ‘baddies’, although they have one token good teammate (although why he would be on the same ship as these horrible, immoral mercs is a mystery). But although there aren’t too many subversions the actions sequences are held well and there are some superbly gory deaths which should please those who felt short-changed by the action in Chronicles.

All in all its a return to form and fun to watch, which after the mis-step of the previous film is a welcome surprise.

Rating- 3.5/5-Riddick is back to what he does best, so in future no more necromancers please!

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The Possession

It seems families in America can’t go anywhere without being bothered by pesky ghosts/demons tormenting them and trying to take their souls. The Conjuring shows that these types of films can be done effectively but does this horror  from 2012 stand out from the crowd?

The Possession follows the family of recently divorced couple Clyde (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) and Stephanie (Kyra Sedgwick). Clyde buys his daughter Em (Natasha Calis) a creepy looking box at a yard sell and soon she starts acting strange. Can Clyde get anyone to believe he is not an abusive father and that a demon is trying to possess his daughter?

I’ve given a lot of criticisms for horror films that are obsessed with torture porn and sadistic gore, but although The Possession does not fall into these categories it does something that’s arguably even worse. Its boring. I’m not expecting every horror film I see to be a classic or reinvent the genre but I at least expect a few good jump scares or a unnerving sense of dread. The Possession succeed on none of these levels.

The film is so cliché it fails to come up with much originality. Clyde tries to convince everyone about what is happening to his daughter, no one believes him, people die etc. Its mind numbingly dull. The only thing marginally individual aspect  is that Clyde turns to the Jewish  community for help rather than call on the Catholics but even this has been done before in films such as  The Unborn (2009) . The acting isn’t bad. The actors do what they can but in the end you’re more likely to fall asleep then cover your eyes in fear.

Rating-1/5- don’t waste your time or your money, go watch The Conjuring or You’re Next for real chills

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Beautiful Creatures

There are many films trying to carry on where Twilight left off and create box office gold by trying to  find the next young adult fiction series that can be adapted to the big screen. Beautiful Creatures was an attempt earlier this year to capture that lucrative market.

Ethan (Alden Ehrenreich) is an American teenage boy who is desperate to leave his small town home. Then he meets new girl Lena (Alice Englert) who doesn’t fit in with the town’s religious community due to rumours surrounding her weird family and strange things that tend to happen around Lena. He pursues a romance with Lena only to find out that Lena’s life is quite complicated not least by the fact that she is a caster (a witch) and the females in her family are affected by a curse which means her soul will be either claimed by the light or the dark on her 16th birthday.

Beautiful Creatures didn’t exactly set the box office alight when it was released so its unlikely that any further films based on the book series will be coming to the cinema. It’s not hard to see why people didn’t warm to it. The film is way too long. Although it starts well enough the film soon starts to drag and its difficult to care about whether Lena is claimed for the light or the dark. The supporting characters don’t seem to know how they should deal with the source material, Emma Thompson goes big, hamming it up greatly while Jeremy Irons phones in his performance clearly thinking of the money dear boy.

However what the film lacks in some areas it makes up for in its engaging leads.  Ehrenreich and Englert shine as the loved-up teens. The early scenes where the characters are getting to know each other are the best scenes, establishing both of their personalities and its easy to see why they fall for each other. It’s just a shame their romance gets dragged down with the plot about the curse.

It may not be the best young adult fiction adaptation but for viewers who enjoy romantic films and set their expectations low you may be charmed by the young actors of Beautiful Creatures.

Rating 2.5/5-Easy watching as long as you don’t expect too much

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About Time

Richard Curtis films tend to fall into the love it or hate it categories. So I have to be honest about how I feel. I love his films! Yes they may be cheesy at times but if I know a film is written or directed by Curtis I’m probably going to love it (The Boat that Rocked aside-although it did have a great soundtrack). So as you can imagine I was very excited about seeing About Time, but how does it fare?

About Time follows Tim (Domhall Gleeson) who finds out on his twenty-first birthday that the men in his family can travel back in time. He decides to use this new-found ability to help him get a girlfriend, which is easier said then done. However when he meets Mary (Rachel McAdams) his luck looks like it’s about to change. However time travel can be a complicated matter not only for his love life but also when it comes to the tough choices he must make about his family.

What surprised me most about this film is that the trailers didn’t give away everything about the plot. Yes a lot of it is about Tim and Mary but there’s also a substantial time spent on how Tim uses his time traveling ability to affect his family and friends and what the consequences of those actions are. By focusing on how time travel affects Tim’s life in general makes for a much more effective and in fact emotional film then if it was just spent on Tim’s pursuit of Mary.

That is not to say the love story isn’t good, it is. I was expecting it to be about Tim meeting Mary over and over again but although there is a bit of that in there (as Tim accidentally erases their first meeting and has to fix it), the majority of time is spent on their actual relationship. We see Tim and Mary beyond their first meeting and honeymoon stage, we see them grow older and having to deal with grown up issues. Throughout it all they remain a sweet couple that you can imagine being friends with. McAdams and Gleeson spark off each other well and its enjoyable watching them together as a couple.

As you can imagine with a Richard Curtis film there is a great supporting cast, with Bill Nighy as Tim’s father who explains all about the family secret, Tom Hollander as Tim’s angry playwright friend Harry, and Lindsay Duncan as Tim’s brilliantly blunt mother to name a few.

About Time has some great joke and a wonderful humour throughout the film. But is also has some surprisingly emotional elements to the film and something to say about how we live life in general, living every day but perhaps not savouring the day as we should. I also have to say how amazing Gleeson is in the lead role, hilarious in the funny moments but also able to nail the serious points in the film when needed.

If you’re one of those people who hate Richard Curtis films there’s probably not much I can say to convince you to go and see About Time. However if you’re open to the idea that maybe there is more to Curtis then Love Actually and a bumbling Hugh Grant then give About Time a go, and you may find yourself surprisingly moved by this tale of one family with an amazing secret.

Rating 4/5-I laughed, I cried and I definitely recommend you see it.

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