Out Now – 29th April 2011

It’s a four-day weekend, the weather looks terrible and Kate and Will forgot to invite you to their wedding? What makes it worse is that there’s nothing out today worth seeing. Well, nothing spectacular. Forgive me if this whole thing is a little half-hearted.

Parents try to prevent evil spirits from taking their comatose child into a different realm. Made for a tiny amount of money this has become the most profitable movie of 2011 in the US. That’s profitable, not necessarily good.

Cedar Rapids
Fun times at an insurance convention with Ed Helms and John C. Reilly. This comedy has the distinction of possibly being funny. C’mon, who doesn’t love Ed Helms?

The Veteran
“A soldier returning from the war in Afghanistan uncovers a conspiracy involving the intelligence services and a gang of drug dealers.”

A different soldier goes mountain biking, meets a girl and then gets attacked by the locals in this horror that actually came out yesterday. Here’s a trailer if you’re interested.

Zombie Undead
Another one of those films that has two release dates. You still won’t be able to find it.

During the Cold War the French tattle to the US about Soviet spies and consequences happen. With Diane Kruger and Willem Dafoe this is the kind of foreign film you find that bit more watchable because you recognise some of the faces.

I Saw the Devil
A serial killer kills (what else?) the pregnant fiancée of a secret agent and then said secret agent goes after him. This is an 18 so you’re guaranteed something pretty brutal.

A western set in New Zealand starring Ray Winstone? Yes, now stop asking silly questions. Fingers crossed Winstone can do a better accent than Adam and Joe.

Upside Down
“The definitive film about Creation Records, one of the world’s most successful and colorful independent labels.” ‘Nuff said.

Out Now – 27th April 2011

Hello! Yes we’ve been quiet but we’ve been taking a break and enjoying the warm weather. We even turned down a “sponsored” post, down to a mixture of laziness and striving for integrity. The fact that we haven’t seen and reviewed today’s release though is down to nothing but laziness, for shame.

Natalie Portman is back with her fourth (and possibly not last) film of the year. This time she is the love interest of a superhero that also happens to be a god. Lots of positive reviews means that not going to see the film just because the screening was way over in Kensington was a bit foolish. I’ll get round to seeing it right after Scream 4.

Out Now – 22nd April 2011

Wow, this is a weak week for releases. Heh, weak week.

Russell Brand remakes the Dudley Moore classic I’ve never heard of. It has the huge potential to be awful, but with Brand’s energy it just might work.

That this is on general release is a sign of just how weak this week is. It’s like Beauty and the Beast without the enchantment.

How I Ended This Summer
Russian film about a meteorologist who has a tiff with a co-worker. That is not the official synopsis.

Adele Blanc-Sec
Lush looking Frenchy film about a novelist and her adventures. Because novelists have the craziest times.

Zombie Undead
Independent UK horror set in Leicester. Lord knows where you’ll actually find a screening of this.

Pina 3D
Remember Pina Bausch the choreographer who died just before they began making this film? Well want to see her dances in 3D? Never mind then.

“Abandoned at birth, Nikki Black has spent most of her life in care sustained only by fairy-stories. Incapable of love, fearful and desperate for revenge, she decides to find her birth mother, confront her, and bitter enough to consider murder. She travels incognito to a remote Hebridean island where Phyllis now lives as a recluse with Calum, her son.” My favourite part of that synopsis is that we have no clue who Phyllis is.

Documentary following US shepherds herding sheep along a 300 kilometre route. Why does this appeal so much?

TT3D: Closer To The Edge
Watch Guy Martin race in the most dangerous race in the Isle of Man, and possibly a wider area, in 3D. Someone could die!

Attack the Block – Review

As he briefly introduced the film last night Joe Cornish described Attack the Block as a first time for everyone involved; for himself, for the cinematographer, for Basement Jaxx and Steven Price producing the score and for the 11 young actors bearing the brunt of the film. But from the opening shot as we move down from the nights sky to Oval tube station it is clear that this is not the work of amateurs.

Joe Cornish is no stranger to writing, he’s currently going from writing for Spielberg to writing for Marvel, so it’s no surprise he has managed to produce a funny and action filled script. What is surprising is the dialogue of the gang who discover, and try to fight off, an alien invasion on their block of flats. It’s something that caused me major concern in the trailer and the clips that were released but in the context of the film is not nearly so jarring. You can see Cornish did his research, something highlighted by just how awkward it sounds when Luke Treadaway’s Brewis, more private school than council estate, tries to pull off the dialogue himself.

As a director Cornish keeps his camera moving in a slow and steady style, there’s never so much shaky cam or fast editing that you can’t tell what’s going on. Cornish is happy to let the visuals get the attention they’re due, and the fact that such cinematic visuals are possible in a block of flats is down to Thomas Townend in his first feature as cinematographer. Townend makes the most of dark corners, harsh strip lighting and smoke to create a series of eerie and beautiful images.

Basement Jaxx and Steven Price’s debut score provides the usual necessary functions of making the scary moments scary and the tense moments tense but adds another unique layer. This is no orchestral score and the Jaxx-esque music playing throughout reflects more the culture of the kids involved, adding to the setting rather than taking you out of the film. Danny Elfman would have ruined it.

Moving swiftly on to the conclusion of this review, brilliantly set up structurally in the opening paragraph, let’s talk about the real stars of the film: the stars of the film. As mentioned, Luke Treadaway provides some solid comic relief as the outsider trying to look cool and fit in with the gang of youths. The very gang of youths that had not acted before but became the heart and soul of the film. Terrifying, funny and heroic in equal measure throughout the film, the gang of young tearaways go from petty crime to alien warfare and we go right along with them. As their mugging victim, Sam (Jodie Whittaker), learns to stop fearing and judging the group, we do too and by the end we’re right by their side, kitchen knife in hand. Special mention goes to Alex Esmail as Pest for making me love a character I know and dislike in real life.

It’s hard to be totally objective when I’ve been taught to love the work of Adam and Joe in the past year but there’s no denying this is a great, thrill ride of a film and a confident debut by all involved. This film is a powerhouse, particularly for a low budget British monster movie, all the skill behind the camera makes up for any lack of budget, the aliens themselves a testament to ingenuity over cost.

Now as a treat for anyone who is still reading, a clip featuring Mr Joe Cornish:

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Out Now – 21st April 2011

I’ve been told that I am prejudiced against action films made after the nineties when I looked upon today’s release in scorn. I do not apologise for this.

Fast & Furious Five
The gang is back! This time pursued by Dwayne Johnson as the cop who just can’t find t-shirts big enough for his hulking frame. Best quote from the trailer, “whatever you do, don’t let them get into cars.”

Your Highness – Review

I was hoping that seeing Your Highness would present me with the perfect opportunity to write a really scathing review filled with ranting, exaggeration and maybe a bit of swearing, but I can’t. Your Highness isn’t that bad.

Despite the easy comparison Your Highness isn’t trying to be The Princess Bride, it isn’t even trying to parody classic fantasy quest-based films, all it is trying to do is be a broad comedy set in medieval times with plenty of jokes about sex, drugs and people swearing with bad British accents in the middle of speaking with an old English dialect. In trying to be this very specific type of comedy, Your Highness succeeds.

The film may not have been laugh a minute but it was amusing at times, and Danny McBride was offering up nothing different, for better or worse, to what viewers of Eastbound and Down expect from him week on week. The combined talents of Franco, Deschanel and Portman made the film easily watchable, even when director David Gordon Green wasn’t really trying.

A highlight was Rasmus Hardinker as McBride’s sidekick for offering up silly faces and dry wit in equal measure, and to the set designer who hadn’t been told this was just a comedy and the sets didn’t need to rival (and possible beat) Game of Thrones. It was also nice to see Damian Lewis in a larger role than I had expected.

Your Highness is a lot of fun and as a raunchy comedy works quite well. Not all of the jokes stem from sex or drugs and there is some intelligence if you listen hard enough. The only way the film really lets you down is if you are a fan of David Gordon Green’s early work, the beautiful and painfully indie All the Real Girls seems like the work of a much more mature and talented director.

If Your Highness doesn’t seem like your sort of film then it probably isn’t, but for me it fit right into the category of guilty pleasure and I am rightfully ashamed of that fact.

Games of Thrones – Tonight

It’s hard not to notice that HBO’s new fantasy drama starts tonight on Sky Atlantic at 9pm. Every newspaper has endless ads and conversations with the cast. Well, not us! No, but we did get to see the first two episodes so that we could pass on our impartial opinion. And that opinion is… it’s alright. Is that good for a poster?

I won’t even try to get into the plot specifics as it all passed me by a little, Sean Bean’s character leaves his comfortable life to join the king, who seems to be an old pal, and somewhere else a pretty young lady marries the leader(?) of a different tribe, after being groped by her brother, and then has lots of rough sex. There’s also the brilliant Peter Dinklage playing a very privileged man who spends plenty of time whoring around. The rest of the characters it will take me the next 8 episodes to get a grip of.

Though the show is technically in the medieval fantasy realm this consists mostly of silly names, a complicated map and lots of horse riding, the fantasy element has so far been pretty light on the ground. There are no elves or hobbits which is all the better for those not so keen of the Lord of the Rings trilogy.

Even the bloodshed is pretty isolated, though still contains plenty of arcing crimson to keep you satisfied. What you do get is plenty of talking. Quality talking I’ll admit, that is spoken in a modern dialect, but still for a show of this type I expected more sword waving than witty banter. This can only be a good thing, certainly for the first two episodes, as it allows the unsure viewer not too keen on endless horse-riding and slow motion fighting to get into the series before it goes too medieval.

While the violence may be low-key so far the sex certainly isn’t. From Peter Dinklage being swarmed by prostitutes to the new bride being taught how to please a man by her female servant, there’s plenty of boobs and buttocks to make you wish you hadn’t chosen this as the family’s new Monday show.

In summary I enjoyed the show much more than I expected, any fantasy element is so far on the down low and the show is made all the more accessible for it. It still isn’t for everyone and I’m not sure how far into the run I will make it. But you should probably give it a try, so long as you feel comfortable watching the more rompy moments with whoever is sharing the sofa with you.

Rio, Dalston – Indie Cinema

Rio Cinema

Our independent cinema reviews begin in London’s East End: The Rio in Dalston, Hackney.

Rio Inside

The single screen is a decent size, with a capacity of 400 comfy seats. For those with long limbs, the leg room is good and the spacing means short people get a decent view. The concessions stand has a good, wide selection including Monmouth coffee, a whole host of Twinings tea and a range of beer, wine and cider. On the snack side, there are (at least) three different types of popcorn, ice cream and a lot of chocolate.

There tends to be one or two recent releases, combining the (usually well-reviewed) mainstream with arthouse. On Sundays, they have double bill matinees – recently these have been a Geoffrey Rush pair and a selection from the Fringe! Gay Film Festival.

The Rio manage to balance their approach to catering for the newer artsy crowd and the longer-established Hackney residents, including the elderly and young families. The staff are pleasant and despite only one screen, the film choices are well-judged. Overall, The Rio is a local’s cinema: a comfortable place to go for an evening with the reasonable expectation of being entertained.

Despite its size, Hackney doesn’t have much in the way of chain cinemas so for the purposes of comparison, the closest large cinema is probably the Vue Islington – about 20 minutes on the number 38 bus away
Rio Vue
Single adult ticket: £9.00 £10.75
Booking fee: £0.50 £0.70
Medium* Popcorn: £2.00 (Butterkist £1.30) £3.20
Medium* Soft Drink: £2.20 £3.25
Bottle of Peroni (330ml): £2.50 £4.20
*For medium, read whatever is the middle of the three sizes.
Special Deals
This may not be our demographic but especially for the over 60s, there are free Classic Matinees one Wednesday a month. These also have an interval, with tea and cake!Under 60s also welcome at usual matinee prices (£7). I do not know if the cake will be shared.

If you’re planning a trip to the Rio this week, they’re showing Little White Lies, A Turtle’s Tale, Rango and Shogun Assassin.

The Sunday Double is from Japanese Director Tetsuya Nakashima: Memories of Matsuko and +Confessions.

See the Rio diary for more details.

Out Now – 15th April 2011

A few treats out this week from a silly old bear to a ghost faced killer. Double bill anyone?

Winnie the Pooh
Everyone’s favourite bear, suck it Yogi, returns for a big screen, 2D animated adventure. It looks as though Pooh notices that he’s in a book which is seven shades of exciting. Plus Zooey Deschanel does some songs for the film, including the theme tune: Winnie the Pooh

Red Riding Hood
A classic fairytale retold in Twilight fashion. Expect romance, angst and disembowelling. I spoiled myself and found out who the wolf is, now I don’t need to see the film.

Meta horror returns with everyone off of the telly ready for the chop. Who is the killer? Who can even remember the killers from all three films? A must see.

A Small Act (limited release)
Documentary about a young Kenyan who had his education sponsored by a foreign stranger and grew up to set up his own scholarship program. Expect to be uplifted.

Meek’s Cutoff (limited release)
A PG western starring Michelle Williams and Paul Dano. Very mixed feelings on this one.

Little White Lies (limited release)
Not the fantastically over-designed film magazine that doesn’t resort to endless superhero covers (hi Empire!) but a French film about the relationship between a group of friends after the serious injury of a friend. Lots of acting and emotion… in French!

Cold Weather (limited release)
Two men use their love for detective novels to solve the disappearance of one man’s ex-girlfriend.

Sparrow (limited release)
From IMDb: “A gang of pickpockets roam the streets of Hong Kong.”
From Google: “a minimalist mail application for Mac.”
From Wikipedia: “in the family Passeridae are small passerine birds”

Cooking with Stella (limited release)
Wait… didn’t this come out a month ago?