An intriguing premise keeps the audience gripped for about 20 minutes before the movie runs out of steam. Which is far too early. Despite the always-engaging presence of Ryan Reynolds, this fantastical thriller is slick enough to hold the attention, but fails because it's unable to generate any interest in the central characters. And instead of exploring the fascinating issues the story raises, the filmmakers instead fall back on irrelevant violence.
The story opens as billionaire Manhattan businessman Damien (Ben Kingsley) discovers he has six months to live. But he has heard about a new medical procedure called "shedding", in which his mind is implanted in a lab-grown body. At $250 million, it seems like a bargain, so he signs up with Dr Allbright (Matthew Goode) and prepares to abandon his old life for a new one. He wakes up in New Orleans as Edward (Reynolds), and begins to adjust to his fit new 35-year-old body. But after he misses his adjustment meds one day he has a series of bewildering flashbacks that make him wonder about the true nature of the shedding process. Maybe his new body wasn't so "new" after all. So he goes looking for answers, which involves teaming up with Madeline (Natalie Martinez) and seeking help from his business partner Martin (Victor Garber).
There are all kinds of intriguing themes swirling through this set-up, including issues of identity and mortality. But writers David and Alex Pastor seem uninterested in exploring any of this in lieu of a much more simplistic morality tale packed with continual shoot-out and chase scenes, plus far too much body-swapping. All of this is produced to a very high standard by director Tarsem Singh, who has a reputation for seriously stylish cinema (see The Fall or The Cell). He adds a strong edge to every scene, with intriguingly haunting editing choices and camerawork that add plenty of tension and uncertainty even if the plot itself is utterly predictable.
Continue reading: Self/Less Review
What would you do if you had one of the smartest minds and largest bank accounts on the planet, but were still faced with your own mortality? For Damian (Ben Kingsley), a man credited with single-handedly building a city. He is also, steadily deteriorating and dying from cancer. When a shadowy scientist named Albright (Matthew Goode) offers to save him with an experimental treatment, Damian believes he has no choice if he wants his mind to live on. With his mind implanted into the body of someone else (Ryan Reynolds), he begins to enjoy his revitalised body to enjoy his life. That is, until he starts to realise the sinister truth behind living out an immortal existence in, what is revealed to be, a stolen body.
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Montana Moore is a thirty-something flight attendant who has achieved the inevitable and become the only unmarried/ unaffianced woman in her whole family after her younger sister announces her impending marriage in a month's time. She is determined that she will not attend the ceremony alone and will have, not only a boyfriend, but a long term partner by her side. With the help of her friends, the rest of the staff at the airport, she tracks down several ex-boyfriends on various international flights and manages to travel a massive 30,000 miles in her efforts to find the right man for her. There's Damon Diesel, who has hopeless dreams of becoming a superstar; Curtis, a pastor; Langston, a wealthy former lawyer; and a young millionaire named Quinton Jamison, but who will sweep her off her feet and fulfil her dreams of true romance and happiness?
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An energetic cast and some terrific music make up for the rather hackneyed plot of this Dreamgirls-style drama. Remade from a 1976 film, the story is that familiar trajectory of musicians who achieve fame only to fall into a string of ugly problems. It's just about watchable, but what makes it notable is that it features Whitney Houston in her last film role.
It's set in 1968 Detroit, where Sister (Ejogo) is determined to become a star. Her singer-songwriter sister Sparkle (Sparks) is the one with real talent, but she's happy to stay in the background with their other sister Dee (Sumpter). As Sister and Her Sisters, they are managed by Stix (Luke), a fast-talking charmer who falls for Sparkle. But the girls' intensely religious mother (Houston) is under no illusions: she has been there, done that and continually warns her daughters that they shouldn't go the same way she did. But of course, they have to live their messy lives themselves.
Since it's such a familiar story, the film has a cheesy, soapy feel to it, playing on the sisters' rebellion against their religious upbringing. Of course, danger is represented in the men they fall for. While good-girl Sparkle tries to keep Stix at arms' length for awhile at least, Sister must choose between two men: the poor but nice Levi (Hardwick) and the flashy but drug-addled Satin (Epps). Since we know that she will choose the wrong guy, we know it's not going to be a happy journey for her. But this trawl through the dark side gives Ejogo a chance to steal the film with a much more emotionally charged performance.
Continue reading: Sparkle Review
With an apocalyptic asteroid strike due in three weeks, Dodge (Carell) wonders why he's still going to work at his dull insurance firm. Then he runs into Penny (Knightley), distraught because she's broken up with her boyfriend (Brody). Dodge wants to revisit his childhood sweetheart, while Penny wants to see her parents in Britain. And Dodge knows someone with a plane, so they team up. Along the road, they get help from a trucker (Peterson) and Penny's survivalist ex (Luke). But with the world ending, their priorities begin to shift.
Continue reading: Seeking A Friend For The End Of The World Review
Sparkle is our eponymous star, set to shine in this tale of rags to riches as she rises to achieve her ambition of becoming a musical force. A musical prodigy from an affluent area of Detroit, Sparkle must overcome issues that are tearing her family apart whilst following her own musical ambitions. One of three sisters to a single mother, Sparkle tries to balance a new romance with music manager Stix whilst dealing with the unexpected challenges her new life will inevitably bring as she and her two sisters, Sister and Dolores, strive to become a dynamic singing group during the Motown era.
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But as "Captain America" he's just a propaganda tool until he gets a chance to prove himself on the front line as a key weapon against the deeply evil Nazi Schmidt (Weaving).Shot more like a rollicking adventure than a typical superhero movie, the script spends just about enough time on the origin story to grab our attention, including nifty effects that render Evans as a 90-pound weakling. Then the action kicks off, powering through one set piece after another. Refreshingly, it never bothers to deepen the story with random sideplots, superfluous characters or knowing winks. So it's a lot of fun to watch.
The action sequences are thrilling without being too suspenseful and, for the most part, the filmmakers keep the stunts and explosions within believable proportions. In fact, the film has a wonderfully dishevelled look, combining more rough-and-ready filmmaking touches with the slick 1940s clothes and architecture. Which almost makes it feel like one of the propaganda films it so cleverly recreates.
Continue reading: Captain America: The First Avenger Review
Steve Rogers is a sickly young man who has always been bullied in the streets of 1940's Brooklyn because of his weight. He applies for World War II military duty in an attempt to toughen up but is rejected as 'unfit for duty' because of his frailness. Steve isn't put off, however and attempts to enlist again, despite dissuasion from his friend, 'Bucky' Barnes.
David Mamet's latest project is far from conventional fare, and ultimately that works in his favor. From the opening scene, where two soldiers pursue each other through a jungle, Mamet keeps us guessing. What kind of movie are we watching? Within about 10 minutes, the bones of the story are made clear: the president's daughter (Kristen Bell) has been kidnapped from her dorm room, and the Secret Service pulls out all the stops to get her back. That includes recruiting special operations soldier Robert Scott (Val Kilmer), an uncannily capable military man who's as intuitive with people and motives as he is skilled with weapons.
Continue reading: Spartan Review
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Montana Moore is a thirty-something flight attendant who has achieved the inevitable and become the...
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