Anyway, a lot of films have come and gone while I’ve been away, so apologies in advance for skirting over everything a little bit. Since last we spoke, Looper has been one of the biggest releases and it has been racking up some pretty decent box office bank. After topping the box office charts upon its release, it has maintained steady sales and is still sitting pretty in fourth spot. I enjoyed Rian Johnson’s Sci-Fi thriller, though I don’t think I was as blown away by it all as some critics were and I definitely didn’t find it as mind-bending as its marketing team wanted me too. Nevertheless, it’s well worth a watch if you haven’t already.
Taken 2 has undoubtedly been the big hit of the past fortnight however and Liam Neeson’s very particular set of skills has proven to be a big box office draw despite poor reviews from critics. Taken 2 had an extremely profitable opening weekend and this past week it comfortably stayed at the top of the box office charts and took in nearly three times as much as its nearest competitor Hotel Transylvania in second place. Speaking of which, Hotel Transylvania’s solid opening week will please studio Sony but just as its own arrival contributed to fellow spooky family friendly animation Paranorman dropping out of the top ten, so might the arrival of Tim Burton’s Frankenweenie this week prove bad news for Transylvania. That age-old battle for spooky-family friendly animation supremacy rolls on, but I’ve got a sneaky suspicion Burton will reign supreme.
From last week’s releases, both On the Road and Ruby Sparks noticeably performed fairly disappointingly and their respective takings of £218,000 and £299,000, won’t please their studios one bit. On The Road can perhaps hold its head a little higher however as it only opened at around 100 screens compared to Ruby Sparks’ far more sizeable 308. 20th Century Fox may have hoped for a far greater share of the box office pie than that from Sparks, and will be hoping for a strong second week showing. I went to see On The Road this week myself and thoroughly enjoyed it. I get the impression a lot of critics haven’t been too keen but for me I feel that Salles and his team did a decent job of adapting a fairly difficult book to translate to film and he captured the spirit of Kerouac’s work pretty well. I think fans of the book in particular may well find it more enjoyable than the uninitiated or those who aren’t big fans of the source material.
I also went to check out The Campaign this week and by jove was I extremely disappointed with just how unfunny it was. I love a Will Ferrell comedy normally and have a pretty low threshold for what makes me laugh. Heck, I even enjoyed The Watch…yeah…..I’m that guy. Even I however struggled to enjoy this lacklustre offering. It’s disappointing too as there’s a lot of potential in terms of the cast and the subject matter at hand. Oh Will, please buck up your ideas for Anchorman 2.
So to this week, and the major players are two animated family movies in Madagascar 3 : Europe’s Most wanted and Tim Burton’s Frankenweenie, both of which could well challenge Taken 2 at the top of the box office pile. Also out this week are found footage horror Paranormal Activity 4, art house fantastical drama Beasts of the Southern Wild and coming of age drama Ginger and Rosa.
If you want to check to see if any of these films are playing near you, you can visit Find Any Film and they’ll be able to help.
Frankenweenie *Pick of the Week*
Timothy Walter Burton, you good sir have been long due another decent movie. For too long now the king of kooky has struggled to reach the heights he set early on in his career and recently his films have been overwhelmingly all style over substance (in my own humble opinion only of course.) Well it would appear that with stop-motion animation Frankenweenie, Burton may well be back on track. Glowing reviews have been dished out to his ghoulish comedy horror with many critics suggesting it’s his best film in quite some time.
The film revolves around a young boy called Victor who brings his deceased dog Sparky back to life by harnessing the power of lightning just like Frankenstein did with his creature. When Sparky begins to make Victor’s neighbours a touch uneasy though, he must convince them all that he is no monster and is still the faithful dog he always was. Shot in 3D and also in crisp black and white, it’s likely to be a big hit over the coming Halloween period and Disney will be expecting big bucks from one of its most lucrative cash-cow directors. After Paranorman and Hotel Transylvania, Frankenweenie marks the third kid-friendly horror comedy in recent weeks and it if the reviews are anything to go by, it looks set to eclipse the other two at the box office.
Rotten Tomatoes Rating : 88%
Jon Lyus says:
I have to say that each time a first look trailer appears for a Tim Burton film I reluctantly give in to the hope that the final film will be a return to form for the director. This time I was thankfully proved right and if Alice in Wonderland and Dark Shadows are what we need to get one Frankenweenie into cinemas then I can’t be too sorry. For the first time in over a decade there’s a genuine emotional presence in a Burton film. The high theatrics and gothic nostalgia are present and correct but this time are dressing for a heartfelt and moving story. See it.
You can read Jon Lyus’ review here.
I’ll hold my hands up right now and admit that I haven’t seen any of the Madagascar films to date. They have always appeared to me, rightly or wrongly, to be at the more generic and bland end of the animated move spectrum and I’ve just never really had any interest in watching them. However, and thanks to my lack of knowledge on the series I’m not sure exactly how much of a ringing endorsement this will actually be, but the various reviews I’ve read suggest it is the strongest outing yet. Several reviewers sing the films’ praises and confirm that the star-studded, anthropomorphic critters on the loose (probably not a contender for the catchiest film summary award there) franchise has well and truly hit its stride. Plot wise, I am sure you can gather nearly all you need to know from the title and the poster, but long story short, the animal’s are still trying to get back to New York and on the way they join a circus in Europe. Certainly worth seeking out if you’re taking the kids to the cinema but by all accounts its got enough yucks along the way to keep the grown ups happy too.
Rotten Tomatoes rating: 78%
Paranormal Activity 4
The first Paranormal Activity was a colossal box office hit and is regarded as one of the most chilling and effective horror movies of recent years. The two sequels thus far have proven something of a disappointment and it would appear the franchise is in danger of falling into the ‘Saw’ trap, pun intended, of just rehashing variations on the same scares. With this fourth outing, opinion seems to be divided but with the majority of reviewers erring on the negative side of the argument. I get the impression that it is very much more of the same and fans of the other films will know what to expect. That being said, this isn’t always a bad thing. If the film still executes its particular brand of found footage horror well, there’s no reason it can’t still be scary. Kim Newman for one has described it as ‘satisfyingly scary’, and when it comes to horror movies, it’s always best to defer to Kim Newman.
Rotten Tomatoes rating : 33%
You can read Ross Jones-Morris’ review here.
Beasts of the Southern Wild
This intriguing low-budget fantasy drama has been receiving some rave reviews on the festival circuit recently and looks like being one of the art house hits of the year. The story sounds a little complicated and I doubt I’d be able to concisely do it justice so I’ll just share with you the official blurb:
In a forgotten but defiant bayou community cut off from the rest of the world by a sprawling levee, a six-year-old girl exists on the brink of orphanhood. Buoyed by her childish optimism and extraordinary imagination, she believes that the natural world is in balance with the universe until a fierce storm changes her reality. Desperate to repair the structure of her world in order to save her ailing father and sinking home, this tiny hero must learn to survive unstoppable catastrophes of epic proportions.
It looks like a truly unique piece of filmmaking and critics have been lining up to praise director Benh Zeitlin’s film for its captivating fantastical imagery and striking dreamlike nature. Words like ‘beautiful’ and ‘remarkable’ seem to crop up in numerous reviews I’ve read and it looks like a movie that film fans will do well to seek out. I fear it may not be playing at a great deal of cinemas in the UK, so it may take some tracking down!
Joe Cunningham says:
Beasts of the Southern Wild is wonderful, probably a film of the year contender. I recommend watching it knowing as little as possible.
Ezequiel Gutierrez adds;
It’s a wonderful film that’s both profound and whimsical. That little girl Quvenzhane Wallis is totally mesmerizing on screen and Dwight Henry is right behind her! It’s a beautiful film to look at and experience. I highly recommend it!
You can watch Dave Sztypuljak’s interview with Director Benh Zeitlin & star, eight year old Quvenzhané Wallis here.
Rotten Tomatoes rating: 87%
Ginger and Rosa
Set in London in 1962, this coming of age drama stars Elle Fanning (Ginger) and Alice Englert (Rosa) as two inseparable friends on the cusp of young adulthood who share everything together and together dream of a bright and exciting future. Their friendship is threatened however when Rosa’s blossoming sexuality threatens to drive a edge between the pair. The anger she feels from this event drives Ginger into channeling her energy into the CND movement as the Cuban Missile crisis and the threat of nuclear war begins to rear its ugly head. These events seemingly threaten to tear the two friends apart for good.
Critical opinion seems fairly divided on Ginger and Rosa. A fair number speak very highly of it and praise it as an intense and interesting drama about the sexual revolution in society and growing up during a turbulent political time. Others however have suggested it takes itself far too seriously and is overly earnest to the point of distraction. Elle Fanning is singled out for praise by both plaudits and critics alike however, with even the films’ harshest detractors commenting on what a powerful and captivating performance she puts in.
Rotten Tomatoes rating: 63%
You can watch Laura Hills’ interview with Elle Fanning and Alice Englert here.
BB King : The Life of Riley
An in-depth and insightful documentary looking at the life and work of the great Blues legend B.B. King. Director Jon Brewer had unprecedented access to the man himself and amassed around 250 hours of footage to choose from. King is a fascinating subject, born into a poor family in Mississippi in 1925, he faced entrenched racism from a young age and has battled bigotry throughout his life to achieve the success that he has. It’s an absorbing documentary by all accounts, thanks in no small part to its fascinating subject matter. There are contributions from the likes of Eric Clapton, Bono, Ringo Starr, Carlos Santana, Slash, Bonnie Raitt, Buddy Guy, Ronnie Wood, Mick Jagger and Bruce Willis too.
Rotten Tomatoes rating : 100%
Another music documentary out this week is this look back at the extensive career of the legendary Rolling Stones. There is heaps of historical footage, liver performances and behind the scenes adventures, most of which has never been seen before. The Stones themselves all contribute as do former members Bill Wyman and Mick Taylor. The doc mixes modern-day interviews with ones from days of old and all in all it’s a fairly comprehensive look back at the bands eventful 50 year career.
Flying Swords of Dragons Gate
Nominated for several Asian Film awards, this is the latest Wuxia epic starring screen legend Jet Li. It’s actually a re-imagening of director Tsui Hark’s own 1992 movie The New Dragon Gate Inn….which is itself a remake of a 1967 movie Dragon Gate In. Clearly it’s a popular little yarn and this time the director has embraced new technology in the form of both IMAX and 3D. The story begins three years after the disappearance of an enigmatic innkeeper called Jade following a ucontrollable fire which destroyed the titular Inn. A new Dragon Inn has been built, and is run by a group of bandits. By day they are seemingly just regular village folk, but by night they are adventurous soldiers of fortune and an ancient legend suggests that the Dragon Inn itself is built on the ruins of a lost city filled with priceless treasure.
I’ll hand over to Asim Burney for more on this martial arts adventure:
Hailed as the first real 3D Wuxia movie it has some great landscape shots and a mesmerizing opening sequence through a harbour where you are literally flying in between ship’s masts. But pretty much after the action of the opening it’s all downhill as we get all the clichés of these types of martial arts movies, an overly melodramatic hero that just keeps sacrificing things for no apparent reason, insane wire work that after a while looses any possible impact, and a story filled with esoteric metaphors that are impossible to untangle. There is a fight scene in a hurricane though which is kinda bonkers and Gordon Liu who makes a special appearance talk a lot about pickles.Only recommended if you are a die-hard fan of Jet li, can stand preposterous use of 3D and have enjoyed previous Wuxia movies like Hero, House of The Flying Daggers ( although this is nowhere near as good.)