This Week’s Films (03/02/14)

Wings of Desire

All That Jazz (1979)All That Jazz

Part tragic, part comic, this outrageous look at life in the fast lane in the Academy Award-winning musical about Bob Fosse’s excessive life in show business. Played by Roy Scheider, Fosse’s alter-ego drives himself over the edge and soon finds he is caught between a recurring fantasy about his death and the reality of a near-death experience. Dazzlingly presented, this electrifying story about the perils of pushing yourself too hard is filled with Fosse’s legendary song-and-dance choreography.

Verdict: A lavish spectacle with a fantastic leading performance from Roy Scheider. 8/10

Last NightLast Night (2010)

Joanna (Keira Knightley, Never Let Me Go, Atonement) and Michael (Sam Worthington, Avatar, Terminator Salvation) are a married couple in Manhattan who face temptation when they spend a night apart. Michael is away on a business trip with his colleague Laura (Eva Mendes, The Other Guys), where each moment together brims with escalating sexual tension. Joanna bumps into her past love Alex (Guillaume Canet, Tell No One), who is still madly in love with her.

Verdict: Interesting depiction of a fragile marriage and temptation but the ending is anti-climactic. 6/10

Moneyball (2011)Moneyball

Brad Pitt, Jonah Hill and Philip Seymour Hoffman star in this baseball drama co-written by ‘The Social Network’ (2010) screenwriter Aaron Sorkin. Based on real events in 2002, the film follows the unconventional tactics employed by Billy Beane (Pitt), general manager of the cash-strapped Oakland Athletics baseball team, to rebuild his club after losing a few key players to the Major League. Beane enlists the services of Yale economics graduate Peter Brand (Hill) to devise an unorthodox player selection system based on a sophisticated statistical analysis of each player’s skills. As Billy and Peter start to build their team based on computer-generated data rather than the traditional scouting methods, they meet with resistance from old hands such as team manager Art Howe (Hoffman). But when the club begins a winning streak with its roster of inexpensive ‘wild card’ players, the naysayers are forced to admit that the scheme appears to be working. 

Verdict: Fascinating sports drama with three great leading performances from Pitt, Hill and Hoffman. 8/10

X-Men First ClassX-Men: First Class (2011)

X-Men: First Class brings together the epic scale and action of a classic blockbuster with a character driven story that unveils the beginning of the X-Men saga–and a secret history of the Cold War and our world at the brink of nuclear armageddon. As the first class discovers, harnesses and comes to terms with their formidable powers, alliances are formed that will shape the eternal war between the heroes and villains of the X-Men universe. The British dream team behind Kick-Ass–director Matthew Vaughn and writer Jane Goldman–are joined by a stellar cast including James McAvoy (Wanted), Michael Fassbender (Inglourious Basterds), Nicholas Hoult (A Single Man) and Jason Flemying (Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels) in one of the biggest comic book blockbusters. 

Verdict: The effects are outshone by a memorable cast in this impressive prequel to the X-Men movies. 9/10

Parked (2010)Parked

Irish drama in which a middle-aged man returns to his homeland with nowhere to live but his car and strikes up a friendship with a couple of fellow outsiders. Fred Daly (Colm Meaney) returns from England to Ireland with very little going for him. At the midway point in his life he has no home and few apparent prospects. However, when 21-year-old Cathal (Colin Morgan) parks beside him, things abruptly begin to look up for Fred. A friendly and laid-back dope smoker, Cathal reawakens the spirit of life in Fred and even helps him seduce Finnish music teacher Jules (Milka Ahlroth). The trio form a close bond – one with the power to change their lives forever.

Verdict: Moving drama about an unlikely friendship between two homeless men from contrasting backgrounds. 7/10

SmashedSmashed (2012)

Kate and Charlie are a young married couple whose bond is built on a mutual love of music, laughter and alcohol…especially the latter. When Kateʼs drinking leads her to dangerous places and her job as a school teacher is put in jeopardy, she decides to join AA and get sober. With the help of her friend and sponsor Jenny, and the vice principal at her school, the awkward, but well-intentioned Mr. Davies, Kate takes steps toward improving her health and life. Sobriety isn’t as easy as Kate had anticipated. Her new lifestyle forces her to confront a troubling relationship with her mother, as well as the necessity of facing the lies she’s told her employer. She also must question whether or not her relationship with Charlie is built on love or is just a boozy diversion from adulthood. 

Verdict: Ponsoldt’s drama benefits from a strong central performance from Winstead. 7/10

Attack the Block (2011)Attack the Block

Attack the Block is a fast, funny, frightening action adventure movie that pits a teen gang against an invasion of savage alien monsters. It turns a London housing estate into a sci-fi playground. A tower block into a fortress under siege. And teenage street kids into heroes. It¹s inner city versus outer space. 

Trainee nurse Sam is walking home to her flat in a scary South London tower block when she’s robbed by a gang of masked, hooded youths. She’s saved when the gang are distracted by a bright meteorite, which falls from the sky and hits a nearby parked car. Sam flees, just before the gang are attacked by a small alien creature that leaps from the wreckage. The gang chase the creature and kill it, dragging its ghoulish carcass to the top of the block, which they treat as their territory. 

While Sam and the police hunt for the gang, a second wave of meteors fall. Confident of victory against such feeble invaders, the gang grab weapons, mount bikes and mopeds, and set out to defend their turf. But this time, the creatures are bigger. Much bigger. Savage, shadowy and bestial, they are hunting their fallen comrade and nothing will stand in their way. The estate is about to become a battleground. And the bunch of no-hope kids who just attacked Sam are about to become her, and the block’s, only hope.

Verdict: Not the best horror comedy but a fun one all the same. 6/10

Lawnmower Man 2Lawnmower Man 2 (1996)

Sequel to ‘The Lawnmower Man’. The hapless Jobe (Patrick Bergin, inheriting the role from Jeff Fahey) returns from the first film and convinces his doctor to hook him back up to the computer system that gave him a virtual alter ego. The doctor wants Jobe to create a mammoth computer city/system in cyberspace thus bringing him many riches. However, Jobe has plans of his own and wants the use of a special chip to decipher an encryption code which will allow him to control the world from inside cyberspace.

Verdict: The effects aren’t bad but everything else is dreadful. 2/10

The Stuff (1985)The Stuff

Amalgamated Dairies hires David Rutherford, an FBI man turned industrial saboteur, to investigate a popular new product called “The Stuff,” a new dessert product that is blowing ice cream sales out of the water. Nobody knows how it’s made or what’s in it, but people are lining up to buy it. It’s got a delicious flavor to die for.

Verdict: A terrific concept isn’t pushed as hard as it might have been in this quite good horror flick. 5/10

Asterix Conquers AmericaAsterix Conquers America (1994)

Caesar has had enough when another legion is hacked to pieces by the damned single indomitable village in Gaul because of the druid’s magic potion, so he decides to tackle the problem at the root before conspiratorial senators exploit his humiliation. 

Verdict: Not Asterix’s finest hour but a good little adventure. 6/10

I Heart Huckabees (2004)Huckabees

Dustin Hoffman and Lily Tomlin lead an all-star cast including Jude Law, Naomi Watts and Mark Walhberg in this outrageous comedy from director/co-writer David O. Russell (Three Kings). Kindhearted but confused activist Andrew Markovski hires a pair of screwball “existential detectives” (Hoffman and Tomlin) to help him find the meaning of life. All the while, a sexy, French author (Isabelle Huppert) is trying to throw a wrench in their plan by seducing andrew’s mind and body.

Verdict: Unusual but thought-provoking and entertaining comedy. 8/10

Truth About KerryTruth About Kerry (2010)

A young American woman (Stana Katic, TV’s Castle) travels to a remote village in Ireland to investigate the mysterious circumstances surrounding her best friend Kerry’s death. She realizes that the village may be hiding more secrets than she thought, and it isn’t long before she develops an obsessive belief that her friend’s death may have been no accident. A stunning, suspense film with a shocking conclusion!

Verdict: Pretty good murder mystery but the ending isn’t difficult to predict. 6/10

Wings of Desire (1987)Wings of Desire

In WINGS OF DESIRE, director Wim Wenders’ (Paris, Texas, Alice in the Cities) most metaphysical work, a guardian angel desires nothing more than to be human. Every day, Dammiel (Bruno Ganz, The American Friend, Downfall) listens to the thoughts of mortals who play their lives out on the streets of West Berlin. He finds himself entranced by a trapeze artist (Solveig Dommartin, Until the End of the World) whose eloquent expression of her doubts and fears makes him yearn for a life where he can feel happiness and love. Like Michael Powell’s A Matter of Life and Death, the afterlife in WINGS OF DESIRE is a world in monochrome. Only the living can see in full colour and it is their lives, with their moments of sorrow and joy, that Wim Wenders captures so eloquently in this singularly original film that was co-written with Peter Handke (The Goalkeeper’s Fear of the Penalty Kick, Wrong Move). Winner of the Best Director prize at the 1987 Cannes Film Festival, WINGS OF DESIRE is both a paean to Germany’s capital and a rumination on human existence, and remains one of the most vital films ever made. 

Verdict: Beautifully filmed and gently paced tale of an angel that longs to be human. 10/10

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Dave Brown

I was born in Barnsley, South Yorkshire, England and have always been a bookworm and enjoyed creative writing at school. In 1999 I created the Elencheran Chronicles and have been writing ever since. My first novel, Fezariu's Epiphany, was published in May 2011. When not writing I'm a lover of films, games, books and blogging. I live in Barnsley, with my wife, Donna, and our six cats - Kain, Razz, Buggles, Charlie, Bilbo and Frodo.
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