"THIS! IS! SPARTA!" Or rather, "THIS! IS! THE! AEGEAN SEA!" as the next chapter of the pumped-up fight fest that was 300 moves the action to a fresh – and very wet – battlefield. Set during the same timeline of the suicidal Spartans' clash at the Hot Gates, director Noam Murro (with previous 300 helmer Zack Snyder producing) presents the slightly less-exciting but still fun Battle of Artemisium that takes place almost exclusively at sea. Caution: the first two rows may get wet.
Posted by Ali Gray
at 08:30 on 28 Feb 2014
In the final shot of Non-Stop – spoiler alert – Liam Neeson attempts to crack a smile. It does not look like the smile of a happy man. The poor guy has just spent the last 106 minutes with his face contorted into a permanent grimace; his 61-year-old body presumably ravaged with pain. This is Liam Neeson's life now: playing action hero and paying the physical price. He is now professionally angry and exclusively achy. He's not so much an actor as he is an unofficial Expendable. It's sad to see a once-great actor like Neeson reduced to slugging his way through cheesy B-movies, but Non-Stop at least has the decency to be appropriately ludicrous – and Neeson at least gets to sit down for a bit in this one.
So who is Ice Cube? He's a rapper, actor, macker, got a little problem with the redneck cracker. Though I'm having to take 'macker' on trust as I'm not entirely sure what it means, he certainly wears the first two hats. He's recorded three of the greatest hip-hop albums ever made, with whose uncompromising ghetto reportage I was able to identify closely growing up in Devon, and he can properly bloody act. Now he's produced and co-starred in buddy comedy Ride Along, which is a stone-cold smash US hit, and it's comin' to YO' hood. (That's the last time I'll try to talk street, I promise.)
Last summer I remember reading about George Clooney and Matt Damon playing basketball at a Cambridge council-run gym. They posed for photos, were called 'lovely people' by the manager and basically had a cracking time in south Cambridgeshire. And while in my neck of the woods, they shot scenes for The Monuments Men at the Imperial War Museum, Duxford: a joyful place I was often taken as a child by an over-eager father keen on Spitfires, but less keen on buying me an Airfix model of one.
Posted by Ali Gray
at 01:00 on 16 Feb 2014
I am an impressionable idiot. Take me to a martial arts movie, I'll come out Kung Fu fighting. Take me to a spy thriller, I'll be eyeing everyone with suspicion in the car park. You don't want to know what I'll do after I see Nymphomaniac. Naturally then, Nick Frost's comedy Cuban Fury - a movie set in and around the world of salsa dancing and rumba rhythms - had me swaying my hips and sashaying down the Jubilee Line all the way home, where I suggested to my wife we take dancing lessons. Me! Someone whose one and only dance move was nicknamed 'The Ali Shuffle'! Cuban Fury may not have the long shelf life of Frost's Cornetto movies, but during that all-too-brief post-movie glow, it serves as a wonderful example of feelgood comedy done right.
As with any remake of a beloved 80s classic, a lot of people will just want to know how similar it is to the original - and none of them are going to be happy, whatever the answer. But then the alternative is to do the sensible thing and judge the film on its own merits, and how do you account for all the elements that have been liberally poached from its predecessor? No, the one and only fair way to critique this remake is to judge it by RoboCop's own Prime Directives.
If documentary film was once considered the presentation of truth, the best examples of its contemporary boom seem now more concerned with examining the nature of truth itself. As if the genre had begun to no longer trust its own motives, we now see deliberate use of unreliable narrators, and are invited to consider the anatomy of a lie. Lance Armstrong is as unreliable a subject as you're likely to find, and by the end of Alex Gibney's latest film, you're still not sure whether he's telling the whole truth.
You join me as I battle the triple threat of fatigue, hangover and a burgeoning cold in attempting to semi-satisfactorily review Grudge Match in the two hours I have before I collapse. This tight schedule is caused by a three-night midweek run in which I saw the film, then contributed drunkenly to Team Shiznit's glorious triumph at the Picturehouse Podcast Comedy Film Quiz, and now am attempting to write the review by the release date. Now, when a film is press-screened three days before it comes out, you fear the worst, but they needn't have worried: Grudge Match is pretty good fun when it bothers trying.
Posted by Ali Gray
at 21:10 on 20 Jan 2014
Jack Ryan is unique in reboot terms, in that you could hardly call him a franchise: with four actors playing a single role over five movies, it feels more like a Doctor Who-esque regeneration than an attempt to rebuild the character from scratch. Despite his myriad abilities, Jack Ryan is not the most adaptable of fellows: there are few drastic differences between Chris Pine's interpretation of the Tom Clancy hero and Ben Affleck's take in The Sum Of All Fears. When you consider just how much America has changed in the last 12 years, in terms of global perception, geo-politics and national security, Shadow Recruit has to go down as a missed opportunity. Apart from an early nod to the September 11th attacks, it could have been written in 2004, 1994 or even 1984. It feels intentionally bland; homogenised so it can play to any audience at any time. Except Russians, obviously.
Posted by Ali Gray
at 15:00 on 17 Jan 2014
When was the last time you saw a three-hour movie that didn't once make you check your watch? When was the last time you saw a three-hour movie that didn't sag with its own self-importance? When was the last time you saw a three-hour movie that featured Jonah Hill masturbating at a pool party? Unless you have recently watched Martin Scorsese's The Wolf Of Wall Street, the answer is probably, hopefully, 'never'. In a time where the phrase 'awards season' has come to mean a deluge of desperately worthy, transparent, over-long Oscar-grabs, Scorsese is only interested in the best of excess – for a cautionary tale of a corrosive lifestyle, The Wolf Of Wall Street is surprisingly, shamelessly and consistently entertaining from beginning to end.