Sep 032013

The minions (and Gru) return in this mad, action-packed sequel. Becca investigates…

Despicable Me 2

Despicable Me 2It’s hard to believe it’s been three years since Gru, the bald, evil villain (with the most unidentifiable accent), and his hilarious minions exploded onto our screens. I watched it a week ago, and was struck by how often I found myself in fits of ache-inducing laughter (honestly, I was in a lot of pain). With this in mind, I was unsure – even sceptical – that Despicable Me 2 would be any better. Silly me.

Gru has turned his back on his villainous past to become a more hands-on dad to his adopted daughters, Margo (Miranda Cosgrove), Edith and Agnes (who is as adorably odd as ever). He has also started up his own business, making jams and jellies, with Dr. Nefario (Russell Brand), though his old friend would much rather be playing the evil scientist he has always been.

Life is boring, but good…until a mysterious woman named Lucy dramatically shakes things up. She kidnaps Gru and takes him to Silas Ramsbottom (Steve Coogan), the head of The Anti-Villain League – and he needs Gru’s help. A dangerous purple chemical called PX-41, that can turn people into mad, powerful versions of themselves, has been developed by an unknown baddie, and it seems only a former baddie can figure out who it is. Despite initial grumblings, Gru can hardly resist playing spy (although he is less than pleased to have Lucy as his partner), and it isn’t long before he’s getting into all kinds of slapstick hilarity.Despicable Me 2

This is what sets Despicable Me 2 and its predecessor apart from any other animated feature, I think. The comedy is an outrageous mixture of physical and the just plain unpredictable, courtesy of an intelligent script and some of America’s finest comics providing the voices to bring it to life. Kristen Wiig, for example, is exceptional, playing a feisty secret agent with all the best gadgets, like a handbag that turns into a hand-glider (I want one!), and then of course there is Steve Carell. He reprises his role as Gru, and it’s here we see a more vulnerable side to the anti-hero, as he attempts to juggle being a good dad to his girls – imagine the shock he gets when Margo meets a boy! – and finding the culprit behind PX-41. And where would he be without his loyal minions? They once again steal the show, though this time they play a more pivotal role to the story, other than a healthy dose of belly-laughter.

So, this summer, I insist you take the kids to see this film. You will be so glad you did, and not just because they will enjoy it – you all will.

Rating: 4/5

Aug 032013

Charles interest is Horror Films. This short is a 90 seconds tongue in cheek view of the genre.

May 112013

Robert Downey Jr reprises his role as Iron Man (hopefully not for the last time!); Becca investiagtes… 


Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr., Sherlock Holmes) is a broken man. The battle for New York may be long over (and the Avengers may have disbanded for now), but the memories are still very fresh. He is no longer quite the cock-sure playboy philanthropist; he’s having trouble sleeping and the mere mention of ‘New York’ results in severe panic attacks. So, to occupy that time, Stark has been developing more suits, as well as the technology to summon his suit without all the whirring screws and stuff we’re so familiar with.

While this is going on, an old ‘acquaintance’, Aldrich Killian (Guy Pearce, Prometheus, The King’s Speech) is making goo-goo-eyes at Pepper (Gwyneth Paltrow, Contagion) and has apparently found the answer to self-healing. Then there’s an eccentric terrorist named the Mandarin (Ben Kingsely, looking like a weird cross between Osama Bin Laden and Kill Bill’s Pai Mei), is making quite the name for himself hijacking America’s television networks, armed with messages that are surprisingly grandiose for a bad guy with that much tacky bling on his fingers. That’s a lot for one man to deal with, but is Iron Man still up for the challenge, or has (deep breath) New York left him too damaged to save the day? Answer: Just watch him.

There was never any doubt it was going to be a rough task for anyone to best the sheer awesome power ofAvengers Assemble, and I think – I think – Shane Black has pulled it off. It has (surprisingly intense) heart; the emotional side of the film is captured in a way that often makes it raw and painful to watch, thanks to Robert Downey Jr.’s incredible performance. We’re so used to seeing him as (puts on dramatic voice) Tony Stark, this brilliant, supercilious guy who takes whatever comes at him with a cheeky, acidic comment and a twinkle in his eye, so it’s a real shock to see him this vulnerable, relying on his suits more and more to cope with all that has happened to him. This is demonstrated in a startlingly poignant moment when he’s having lunch with Rhodes in a crowded restaurant. A young boy and his sister approach them to have him sign a picture the boy has drawn of Iron Man being the hero of New York. This, of course, starts Stark off, causing a bit of a scene and eventually flying off in his suit which is stood (parked?) outside, waiting for him. It is here you realise how much his suits are a way of escape; they are safe…almost like a comfort blanket when Pepper isn’t around to comfort him, and even then, being with him is not always exactly a walk in the park for her either.

In contrast to this, Iron Man 3 is all about action and explosions, which doesn’t always juggle well alongside Stark and his demons. Sure, the finale is exciting (leaving many a fan squealing in delight), but everything is happening so fast, you’re left feeling a little bewildered when it’s all over, and the final scenes seem rushed, when they could be considered the most important part of the film (!).

Then there are the villains, and that is where the real holes start to appear. In hindsight, I think I came into the cinema expecting too much, hoping we would have someone complicated to hate/secretly love, perhaps like along the lines of Loki or Bane – but so much worse – for Iron Man to go all righteous hero on. But no. Not even close. Even now, a week after watching it, I still have no idea what Killian was trying to achieve, being the other bad guy. Revenge on Tony for ignoring his scientific ideas all those years ago? It seems such a petty reason for coming up with such a hazardous thing as being able to regenerate limbs out of what can only be described asfire. Was that in the comics? Because if it was, I’d probably let the script-writers off, but there is no explanation in to how that could possibly work at all. Also, though Kingsely is absolutely hypnotic as the Mandarin (apparently the crew all gave him a round of applause at the end of one particular scene), he cannot seem to decide which accent to speak in, which begs the question “who is he, really?” Prepare to be amazed…and confused, that’s all I’m saying.

All in all, Iron Man 3 is playful in some aspects, dead-serious in others, and that doesn’t always mix happily together. As great as it should be, you may leave the cinema at a loss for words over how this will eventually lead up to the sequel to Avengers Assemble (fingers crossed Robert Downey Jr will still be up reprising his role), and all the questions it leaves frustratingly unanswered. However, for a nice surprise, I suggest you stay until the credits are over. Shane Black takes Iron Man in a new direction that may or may not appease everyone (and makes the other films look way too intense). At least it’s more engaging than Iron Man 2.
Rating: 3/5


Apr 172013

Becca goes up a familiar beanstalk for the latest fairy tale film… 


Yet another fairy story receives a dust of movie magic, under the rather clever tagline, “If you think you know the story, you don’t know Jack”, even if it isn’t quite true.

The story begins in the small town of Cloister, where in an attempt to find a way to get closer to God, a group of monks grow some magic beans to create a beanstalk large enough to take them to him. As you do. Sadly, they never get that far, because a horde of giants live in between – and the naive monks have just given them the ability to come down and steal stuff and eat everyone.

Fortunately the King has a crown forged from the heart of a giant that gives him control over them (somehow), and he banishes them back up into their castle forever.

Centuries pass, and that part of Cloister’s history has faded into legend. A young man named Jack (Nicholas Hoult, Warm Bodies) is looking for adventure, like that from the story books his father used to read to him as a child. While wondering the market in a hope to sell his horse to fix his cottage roof, he crosses paths with a monk, who gives Jack some beans in exchange for the horse. He warns him not to get them wet (I’m getting Gremlin flash-backs just writing it), and Jack returns home penniless and a little bit puzzled.

Princess Isabelle (Eleanor Tomlinson, Alice in Wonderland) is also looking for adventure, and would much rather go off to explore new worlds, than marry the king’s advisor, Roderick (Stanley Tucci, who plays Caesar Flickerman in The Hunger Games). Jack comes to her rescue when some men give her a spot of bother and then again, when she is looking for shelter from the rain after sneaking out in typical bad-girl fashion. Unfortunately he still has the beans, his house still has a leak, and, well, you can guess what happens next, can’t you? 

The film is entertaining at a glance, with enthusiastic acting from everyone involved, particularly from Ewan McGregor as Isabelle’s protector, Elmont who seems to get all the snappy lines and looks dashing with a moustache. Stanley Tucci also plays a fun, brilliantly slimy character, however he doesn’t nearly enough screen time, while Jack plays the hero. Hoult excelled himself in Warm Bodies, but here, his role seems effortless for him, though it is pretty forgetable. Unfortunately the plot feels bland and overused, though you get the impression the writer tried incredibly hard to make it feel original; the twist at the end certainly makes it that, but even by changing the name of the title, it’s still going to be Jack coming up against a giant or two, while some damsel needs de-stressing, which may remind some of David and Goliath, so is hardly new.

Also, though I love Bill Nighy’s performances in everything that he does –from that hilarious cover of ‘Love Is All Around’ in Love Actually that is actually miles better than the original, to that heartfelt speech about Van Gogh in an episode of Doctor Who – he voices proves to be a massive distraction, as bad giant General Fallon, because, he sounds almost exactly like he did in Pirates of the Caribbean, except the CGI isn’t nearly as good (especially when watched stretched across a giant IMAX screen in 3D).

But my biggest peeve? The battle at the end, and the giants’ absolutely ridiculous struggle to open a castle drawbridge. I watched this twice, and I still do not see the logic in it.

So, Jack the Giant Slayer is an almost great fairy-tale-turned-film that mounts the band-wagon, but will certainly make for a fun day out.

Rating: 3/5

Mar 212012

VxM promotes and facilitates experience-based media education, wisdom, participation, production and dissemination initiatives by connecting cross-border media centres and a virtual youth community platform, targeted at 16 to 25 year olds. It has particular foci on cultural identity and local empowerment. Here is their advert.

Mar 212012

VxM promotes and facilitates experience-based media education, wisdom, participation, production and dissemination initiatives by connecting cross-border media centres and a virtual youth community platform, targeted at 16 to 25 year olds. It has particular foci on cultural identity and local empowerment. Here is VxM Launch Party Footage.