Monday, 30 May 2011

Upcoming Releases - June '11

Here is a selection of films due out in UK cinemas next month.

X-Men: First Class - 1st June
Action | Adventure | Drama
131 mins
12A certificate
Main cast: James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Kevin Bacon, Jennifer Lawrence, Rose Byrne, January Jones, Jason Flemyng, Nicholas Hoult
Director: Matthew Vaughn

'Before mutants had revealed themselves to the world, and before Charles Xavier and Erik Lehnsherr took the names Professor X and Magneto, they were two young men discovering their powers for the first time. Not archenemies, they were instead at first the closest of friends, working together with other Mutants (some familiar, some new), to prevent nuclear Armageddon. In the process, a grave rift between them opened, which began the eternal war between Magneto's Brotherhood and Professor X's X-Men.'

Official site:

Senna - 3rd June
Documentary | Biography | Sport
106 mins
12A certificate
Main cast: Ayrton Senna, Alain Prost, Frank Williams
Director: Asif Kapadia

'A documentary on Brazilian Formula One racing driver Ayrton Senna, who won the F1 world championship three times before his death at age 34.'

Official site:

Mammuth - 3rd June
Comedy | Drama
92 mins
TBC certificate
Main cast: Gerard Depardieu, Yolande Moreau, Isabelle Adjani
Directors: Gustave de Kervern, Benoit Delepine

'Serge Pilardosse has just turned 60 and is about to retire from his job in a slaughterhouse. He has always worked from the age of sixteen, never been on sick leave. So, how will this man fill his days? He does not like reading; doing odd jobs about the house is not his cup of tea; shopping is not his passion ... To make matters worse, his wife Catherine, who still works in a supermarket, notices that her husband will not get full retirement benefits since some of his former employers failed to do the requisite paperwork. So off goes Serge, riding his old Munch "Mammuth" bike, in search of the missing documents.'

Official site:

Mother's Day - 10th June
Crime | Horror | Thriller
112 mins
18 certificate
Main cast: Rebecca De Mornay, Shawn Ashmore, Deborah Ann Woll
Director: Darren Lynn Bousman

'Veteran Saw franchise helmer Darren Lynn Bousman continues his foray into the macabre with this remake of the 1989 Troma B-film classic Mother's Day. The revamp will still center on a demented mother (Rebecca De Mornay) and her two sons, but will focus on them terrorizing a couple that is residing in their old home rather than the original's theme of a group of hikers being tortured in the woods.'

Official site:

Kung Fu Panda 2 - 10th June
Animation | Action | Adventure
90 mins
PG certificate
Main cast: Jack Black, Angelina Jolie, Gary Oldman, Jackie Chan, Dustin Hoffman
Director: Jennifer Yuh

'In Kung Fu Panda 2, Po is now living his dream as The Dragon Warrior, protecting the Valley of Peace alongside his friends and fellow kung fu masters, The Furious Five. But Po's new life of awesomeness is threatened by the emergence of a formidable villain, who plans to use a secret, unstoppable weapon to conquer China and destroy kung fu. Po must look to his past and uncover the secrets of his mysterious origins; only then will he be able to unlock the strength he needs to succeed.'

Official site:

The Beaver - 17th June
91 mins
12A certificate
Main cast: Mel Gibson, Jodie Foster, Anton Yelchin, Jennifer Lawrence
Director: Jodie Foster

'An emotional story about a man on a journey to re-discover his family and re-start his life. Plagued by his own demons, Walter Black was once a successful toy executive and family man who now suffers from depression. No matter what he tries, Walter can't seem to get himself back on track...until a beaver hand puppet enters his life.'

Official site:

Green Lantern - 17th June
Action | Sci-Fi
105 mins
TBC certificate
Main cast: Ryan Reynolds, Blake Lively, Peter Sarsgaard, Mark Strong
Director: Martin Campbell

'A test pilot is granted a mystical green ring that bestows him with otherworldly powers, as well as membership into an intergalactic squadron tasked with keeping peace within the universe.'

Official site:

Soul Surfer - 17th June
Action | Drama | Sport
106 mins
TBC certificate
Main cast: AnnaSophia Robb, Dennis Quaid, Helen Hunt
Director: Sean McNamara

'An inspiring true story of teen surfer Bethany Hamilton, who lost her arm in a shark attack and courageously overcame all odds to become a champion again, through the love of her family, her sheer determination and unwavering faith.'

Official site:

Bridesmaids - 24th June
125 mins
15 certificate
Main cast: Kristen Wiig, Maya Rudolph, Rose Byrne
Director: Paul Feig

'Picked as her best friend's maid of honor, lovelorn and broke Annie looks to bluff her way through the expensive and bizarre rituals with an oddball group of bridesmaids.'

Official site:

Bad Teacher - 24th June
92 mins
15 certificate
Main cast: Cameron Diaz, Jason Segel, Justin Timberlake, Lucy Punch
Director: Jake Kasdan

'A comedy centered around a foul-mouthed, junior high teacher who, after being dumped by her sugar daddy, begins to woo a colleague - a move that pits her against a well-loved teacher.'

Official site:

Information obtained from IMDb, Rotten Tomatoes,, and the films' official websites.

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Vietnam War Films

Vietnam war films are often action-packed and emotional. I have written a series of articles for Suite 101 that examine whether the tragic events in three Hollywood films are always viewed from an American perspective with a disregard for Vietnamese losses:

Monday, 23 May 2011

Ikea Manuals For Sci-Fi TV and Films

These clever designs from College Humor are inspired by the sci-fi TV show and films Doctor Who, Star Wars, Jurassic Park and Back to the Future. Created by contributors Caldwell Tanner, Susanna Wolff and Conor McKeon, the series of pictures are a witty take on the instruction manuals you get with self-assembly products from Ikea. The four sci-fi Ikea manuals feature a Tardis, Lightsaber, T-Rex dinosaur and a modified DeLorean.

[Written for PSFK. Article originally posted here]

Friday, 20 May 2011

Hollywood Haiku #5

Blade Runner

Replicant hunter
meets his match with Roy Batty.
Wake up, time to die.

This is an entry for the Best For Film Hollywood Haikus blogging competition. Enter now.

Thursday, 19 May 2011

Hollywood Haiku #4

Monty Python and the Holy Grail

King Arthur and knights
use coconuts for horses
on quest for the Grail.

This is an entry for the Best For Film Hollywood Haikus blogging competition. Enter now.

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Hollywood Haiku #3


A hitman and girl
form an unlikely friendship.
She's out for revenge.

This is an entry for the Best For Film Hollywood Haikus blogging competition. Enter now.

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Review: Biutiful

This is the fourth feature film from Mexican auteur Alejandro González Iñárritu, following Amores Perros (2000), 21 Grams (2003) and Babel (2006). Biutiful stars Javier Bardem, who won an Oscar for his performance in No Country for Old Men back in 2008. He was nominated for Best Actor for this film but lost out to Colin Firth and the mighty, multi award-winning The King’s Speech. However, this did mark the first time that a Spanish language performance had been nominated for a Best Actor Oscar at the Academy Awards.

Bardem features in the central role of Uxbal, and Biutiful is a long film about one man’s struggle. He struggles with many things; illness, poverty, fatherhood, crime, guilt, mortality. It is a stark and intimate portrayal of a man who is told he has only months to live, after being diagnosed with terminal and inoperable prostate cancer.

Many will find the film dull and depressing; it certainly can’t be called an entertaining film. It is at times awkward and uncomfortable to watch. However, others will appreciate the character study and the towering performance of Javier Bardem. We are given a window into Uxbal’s life in his final months and there is plenty of intense and heavy emotion. At almost two and a half hours long, the film drags, especially as it is such a slow-burn as well. It feels like an emotional marathon, and would have benefitted from being cut to less than two hours.

Uxbal is searching for redemption throughout the film, trying to tie up loose ends and make sure his two children can go on without him. He is a petty criminal in the Barcelona underworld, a kind of middle-man who deals with illegal immigrant labour. He also has a strange sideline in talking to the recently deceased and lifting their relatives’ grief. We feel for him, even though he isn’t a wholly sympathetic character, as there are dark aspects of his personality. However, he is the tragic hero of the story and this doomed man holds the film together. The many close-ups of Bardem’s tired, concerned face portray deep emotion and it is a really heartfelt performance. There are also good turns from Maricel Álvarez as Uxbal’s estranged wife and the mother of his children, who herself is struggling with psychological problems, and Eduard Fernàndez as his brother and partner-in-crime.

One of my favourite moments in the film comes when a scene from early on is repeated at a much later point, but viewed from a different angle so you don’t quite realise it at first. It is as if Uxbal is watching the events from a different perspective, like he is revisiting the moments in his life, remembering them as his final months come to an end.

Rodrigo Prieto, the cinematographer for Biutiful, does a great job of depicting the harsh naturalism of the environment. He worked on Iñárritu’s previous three films, as well as Brokeback Mountain, State of Play and Frida. Here he effectively portrays the dark, dingy and dangerous underworld and creates an intoxicating vision of doom.

Throughout the film, as we watch this man’s demise, the audience knows there is only one way it is going to end. That heavy feeling, and some aspects of the story, threaten to drag the film down. However, a truly masterful and heavyweight turn by Javier Bardem lifts it, even if he isn’t quite backed up by the material.

[DVD screener provided by flickfeast. Review originally posted here]

Hollywood Haiku #2


Amity Island
terrorised by shark attacks.
Brody saves the day.

This is an entry for the Best For Film Hollywood Haikus blogging competition. Enter now.

Monday, 16 May 2011

Hollywood Haikus competition

The lovely people over at Best For Film are running a writing competition for bloggers. To enter, you need to transform a movie into a haiku (3 lines: 5 syllables, 7 syllables, 5 syllables). I've been giving it some thought over the weekend and have come up with a few entries, which I'll be posting throughout the week before the Friday deadline. I'm looking forward to reading all of the inventive haikus in this unique collection of movie-inspired poetry.


Ripley and marines
get hunted by aliens.
It's game over, man!

This is an entry for the Best For Film Hollywood Haikus blogging competition. Enter now.

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Review: My Neighbours the Yamadas

My Neighbours the Yamadas was written and directed by Isao Takahata, co-founder of Studio Ghibli with his long-term colleague Hayao Miyazaki. It is a definite change in genre from the popular 1988 film that was his first with the studio, Grave of the Fireflies, a war drama. My Neighbours the Yamadas is a comedy focusing on the lives of a Japanese family who experience many adventures and misadventures. It was released between Studio Ghibli’s international successes Princess Mononoke (1997) and Spirited Away (2001).The film received an Excellence Award for animation at the 1999 Japan Media Arts Festival.

My Neighbours the Yamadas has a unique visual style, very different from the other Studio Ghibli films. It is the first 100% digital movie created by the studio and uses a nicely drawn sketch-like animation technique with pastel watercolour-style artwork that results in one of the most visually simplistic Ghibli animations. It was inspired by the Japanese ‘Nono-chan’ comic strip by Hisaichi Ishii.

The film has no continuing storyline; instead it is comprised of a compilation of scenes that depict the daily life of a somewhat dysfunctional Japanese family. Takashi Yamada (superbly voiced by John Belushi) and his wife Matsuko live with their teenage son Noburo, young daughter Nonoko, the children’s grandmother Shige and the family dog Pochi. These are relatable characters and the entertainment comes from the heart and humour that they provide.

The collection of short vignettes is like a number of individual four-panel comic strips, usually ending with a funny outcome. Each segment is introduced with a descriptive title, like ‘The Iron Chef’, ‘Dynamic Duo’, ‘Beauty is Fleeting, Life is Long’ and ‘Age Comes Before Wisdom’. Japanese Haiku is also used at certain points in the film. Examples include, “The scent of plums on a mountain path. Suddenly dawn” and “Turn toward me. I’m lonely too. The autumn dusk.” These serve to elevate the events above the dull, daily grind, into something more poetic and fantastical, suggesting we should try to see the magic in our everyday lives.

The film won’t appeal to everyone because some may be put off by its disjointed format as it takes some getting used to. However, it does grow on you after you’ve settled into watching it. The visual and narrative styles are different from what people have come to expect from a typical Studio Ghibli film. Also, the dramatic moments in some of the sections don’t work as well as the jokes.

Overall though, the bickering family and the amusing situations they’re presented with are both charming and endearing. Although it follows a typical family in Tokyo, the themes circumstances are mostly universal so there is no problem with a lack of knowledge about the Japanese culture. My Neighbours the Yamadas is a feel-good comedy about the many adventures life throws at you, even if you’re just an ‘ordinary’ family. It celebrates everyday family life and the entertaining ups and downs.

[DVD screener provided by Flickering Myth. Review originally posted here]

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Review: Laputa - Castle in the Sky

Laputa - Castle in the Sky was the first film to be created by the Japanese animation studio and production company Studio Ghibli. The famous studio behind more recent successes Princess Mononoke (1997), Spirited Away (2001) and Howl’s Moving Castle (2004) released the original version of this film back in 1986 and it won the Anime Grand Prix 1st prize that year. It was written and directed by the prominent and influential film director Hayao Miyazaki, co-founder of Studio Ghibli.

Laputa follows a young girl called Sheeta who is voiced by Anna Paquin (X-Men, True Blood) in this English dubbed version. Sheeta wears a mysterious crystal as a necklace, which lots of people want to get their hands on. An exciting pre-credits sequence culminates in her falling from an airship after being tracked down by sky pirates, the crystal starts to glow and enables her to float safely into the arms of a young boy called Pazu (James Van Der Beek; Dawson’s Creek, The Rules of Attraction).

Hunted by the pirates, the army and some secret agents, Sheeta and Pazu go on the run and join in the search for a legendary floating castle that many believe to be a myth.  The crystal has been in Sheeta’s family for years, passed down by her grandmother, and the different groups that want to claim it believe it holds the key to finding the castle of Laputa and unlocking its secrets.

'Laputa - Castle in the Sky' is a reference from Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels, which features a hovering castle called Laputa. This imaginative extrapolation of that small idea is a very strong first outing from the studio responsible for a number of enjoyable animations that have become popular not just in Japan, but across the world. It is a fun adventure story with many selling points; pirates, conspiracies, robots, airships, magic crystals and a beautiful floating castle. The familiar visual style is seen in many Ghibli films, it is colourful and well-drawn. The supporting cast of voice actors includes Luke Skywalker himself, Mark Hamill, along with Cloris Leachman, Jim Cummings, Richard Dysart and others.

The film reverses audiences’ opinions about the different types of people we are introduced to. The pirates who at first (and often in films) seem to be the bad guys, later join forces with Sheeta and Pazu to try and find the floating castle. The men who work for the government should be agents for good but they have sinister ulterior motives.

Laputa - Castle in the Sky is a very engaging fantasy adventure. There are moments of action, comedy, coming-of-age drama, suspense and thrills that keep you hooked. The film also boasts great visuals and impressive animation. Although it lasts two hours, it successfully fills its runtime and maintains a high level of interest and excitement so you won’t be checking the clock. It’s a really fun animated film that will amuse and entertain the whole family.

[DVD screener provided by Flickering Myth. Review originally posted here]
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