cinema-screen-220x1503With both Skyfall and Twilight experiencing fairly hefty drop-offs for the second week running, 37 and 55% respectively, Rise of the Guardians sneaked past both with a solid second week to claim top spot with takings of around £1.6million at the UK Box Office this past weekend.

Dreamworks’ animated film will be benefitting not only from the lack of festive feel-good competition, but also the fact that school are starting to break up and more and more families will start going to see it as a result. Likewise Nativity 2, the only other major Christmas family film out in cinemas this month,  had another strong week and remains in fifth spot in defiance of the legions of bad reviews it has received.

Seven Psychopaths had a pretty decent opening, going straight into third spot at the Box Office after taking in around £1.2million over the past weekend. A fair chunk of that number however comes from preview screenings on the Wednesday and Thursday of last week, so it is slightly artificially high. Still, for a sweary and violent comedy action film it has had a solid opening at a time when family movies and blockbuster franchises are seemingly all-powerful, so credit where credit is due.

Pretty much ever other new release last week had an absolutely terrible opening. American comedy The Oranges entered at a pitiful 23rd on the Box Office chart taking in just £18,000 in its opening weekend. To put that into perspective, low-budget Brit flick Sightseers, which showed at a roughly the same number of screens and is now in its second week, took £100,000 in the same time period. This is really quite a terrible return for a mainstream Hollywood comedy and can it looks set to be one of the flops of the year.

RZA’s The Man With The Iron Fists also had a fairly terrible opening weekend, hindered in no small part I imagine by some pretty scathing reviews. RZA’s movie took in around £49,000 after opening at a similar number of cinemas to fellow straggler The Oranges. Universal would have hoped for more from a film backed by both Eli Roth and Quentin Tarantino, but it looks like Iron Fists really struggled to find a market and will sink without a trace. Despite a lower total gross, The Man With The Iron Fists did however achieve a higher site average than Miley Cyrus’ So, Undercover. Entering at a disappointing 14th at the Box Office, Cyrus’ movie only took around £99,000 despite opening at nearly 300 screens nationwide. Coupled with a straight to DVD release in the States, it’s not great news for Miley’s fledgling acting career.

Of this week’s releases though, there is of course one film that is nailed on for the top spot and set to take the country by storm. A fantastical adventure filled with mythical beings, danger and camaraderie, which is made with the very cutting edge of computer technology. That’s right, (five points if you see where I’m going with this), Tinkerbell and the Secret of the Wings is finally here.  A lesser writer may sit back and rest on his laurels after a top draw gag like that, but not me readers, I’ll plough right on without breaking my stride.

Also out this week is The Hobbit An Unexpected Journey, the first part of Peter Jackson’s Hobbit trilogy. One would imagine this will take in quite the pretty penny over the coming weekend and it should sail to the top of the Box Office chart with no difficulty whatsoever. I imagine it will also have a considerable impact on the other films still out at UK cinemas as audiences flock to see The Hobbit at their expense. It’s no surprise to see that no other major studio releases are coming out this weekend as they wisely sit back and let Bilbo and pals have their first week all to themselves.

Also out this week is sobriety based comedy drama Smashed, natural world documentary Chasing Ice and Navy SEAL action thriller Code Name : Geronimo.

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.

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

[yframe url=’http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nOGsB9dORBg’]

It’s seemingly taken an age to get here, but after its torturous route to the big screen and the months of hype, discussion and debate, The Hobbit : An Unexpected Journey finally arrived at UK cinemas this week. The source material is an all the more fun and family-friendly prospect than The Lord of the Rings and also considerably shorter by some margin. Unsurprisingly therefore, the cinematic adaptation of The Hobbit is meant to be more lighthearted and not expected to pack the same dramatic punch as LOTR did, given that its focus is on a band of dwarves and their rollicking adventure, rather than a battle to the death between good and evil.

I’m sure it took many of us by surprise therefore when it was announced that The Hobbit would be split into not just two films, but three epic movies of Middle Earth action. Peter Jackson and his collaborators went to great lengths to assure us that the extra story was there to be found in the Lord of the Rings appendices and that they themselves approached the studio and asked to make it into three movies. Now, call me sceptical, but I really wouldn’t be surprised if it was the other way round. The studio knows a cash-cow when it sees it and with Tolkien’s work they know they have hit the mother load. Either way, a trilogy it is and this first part will see unwitting adventurer Bilbo throw in his lot with Gandalf and a party of dwarves led by the brooding former Royal, Thorin Oakenshield. The dwarves are setting out to reclaim Thorin’s former mountain kingdom and its vast riches from the evil dragon Smaug who swooped in and usurped it many years ago.

The reviews have been a mixed bag on the whole. A handful have raved about it, a handful have ripped it to shreds, but for the most part the consensus appears to be that it’s a solid if unremarkable opening to the trilogy that while far too long and with some noticeable heavy padding, it is still a thoroughly enjoyable adventure nonetheless. I went to see it last night and would definitely go along with the majority on this one. It does have its faults, namely that despite having a  nearly three-hour run time, there clearly isn’t three hours worth of story. There’s only so many times you can watch a group of dwarves run away from something and be exhilarated after all. However, I still enjoyed the ride and as long as you go into it not expecting Lord of the Rings : The Early Years, you should find it pretty darn entertaining.

Sir Ian McKellen is still a joy as Gandalf and Martin Freeman is just perfect as Bilbo, capturing perfectly the hobbit’s early exasperation and then his growing bravery and resilience as the mission unfolds.  Several of the Dwarves fade into the background somewhat, but most of them are fairly well fleshed out and they are in general fun bunch to be around. It didn’t blow me away and strike me as an instant classic, but I like what Jackson and his team have achieved and it has me looking forward to the next instalment next Christmas, which can’t be a bad thing.

Much has been made of the various formats one can watch The Hobbit in at your local multiplex. Do you go 2D or 3D?,24fps or 48fps? Do you go for glorious IMAX or not? Without getting bogged down in a technical argument, I’ll simply say that I went to see it in good old 24fps 2D, purely because I wanted to just experience it first time without any distraction. I’m not a fan of 3D but I’m willing to give the full 48fps/3D/IMAX assault on the senses a go at a later date once the crowds have subsided as I think if anyone can do something spectacular with 3D, then Jackson could be it. I haven’t heard anything positive about 48fps yet, unless you count the fact that eventually you just forget it’s there as a positive, but I am intrigued to see what its like, even if its only the once.

You can read Jon Lyus’ review here.

Rotten Tomatoes Rating : 69%

 

Tinkerbell and the Secret of the Wings

[yframe url=’http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QZ6ZGwVOS6w’]

Coming from the Disney Toon Studios whose stock in trade is  direct-to-video movies, this animated kids movie is part of the Disney Fairies franchise and by all accounts is definitely one for the very young viewers only. This isn’t one of your, clever, sarcastic, chuck a few gags in for the grown-ups type of animated films. This is your full on, twee and playful kiddie film. The official Disney blurb states as follows:

Disney invites you on an incredible journey to an amazing new world, in a motion picture event that will take your breath away. For the fairies of Pixie Hollow, the Winter Woods are strictly off-limits. But when a mysterious force draws Tinker Bell to cross the border into this unknown world, she discovers a secret that will change her life forever. She comes face-to-face with a frost fairy named Periwinkle, the only fairy who can help unlock the secret of the wings. With fun and laughter, they form a magical connection and make an astonishing discovery…they’re more than friends, they’re sisters! When Pixie Hollow is threatened, this perfect pair must work together to save their two worlds. Disney’s SECRET OF THE WINGS will make you believe in the unbreakable bonds of friendship and sisterhood, and will change Pixie Hollow forever.

The critics have been fairly complimentary towards Secret of the Wings thus far and suggest that it will go down a storm with its target audience of young girls. If your kids are a bit too young for Rise of the Guardians, this would appear to be a perfectly safe bet for a cinema trip.

Rotten Tomatoes Rating : 60%

 

Smashed

[yframe url=’http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TNMlicWZAYo’]

This American comedy drama from relative newcomer James Ponsoldt looks at the troubles which befall a young married couple when one of them forsakes their booze-heavy lifestyle and decides to get clean.  Aaron “Jesse from Breaking Bad” Paul and Mary Elizabeth Winstead star as Kate and Charlie, a couple whose relationship is built on a mutual love of partying. After Kate realises her drinking is getting out of hand and affecting her life in ways she hadn’t previously considered, she decides to get clean and go sober. Her marriage to Charlie is then under the microscope as they are forced to address whether their relationship was purely built on a mutual love of getting wrecked or something stronger.

The two leads have received plenty of praise, with Winstead especially singled out for a powerful and accomplished performance. There is a strong supporting cast too with Nick Offerman, Megan Mullally and Octavia Spencer also on board. The critics seem fairly pleased with Smashed overall. I didn’t find any especially negative reviews and the majority went for a solid three stars or equivalent, while a modest number ranked it even higher. Despite being billed as a comedy-drama, it would appear that Smashed is a hard-hitting and unflinching drama in places. The realities of sobriety and the devastating effects that alcoholism can have on lives are laid bare. The relationship between Kate and Charlie is a complicated one and some parallels have been drawn to the likes of Blue Valentine and Take This Waltz. There are flecks of humour throughout however and plenty of heart-warming and inspiring moments in amongst the darker elements. Definitely one worth seeking out if you’re a fan of mumblecore and its derivatives.

Kenji Lloyd says:

Smashed is a must-see this weekend. Mary Elizabeth Winstead is excellent in the lead, and very much deserves the Oscar buzz that has surrounded her since January. An unflinching look at alcoholism and sobriety, and the path of one half of a functioning alcoholic couple towards getting sober. For fans of Breaking Bad, Aaron Paul is also brilliant in the male lead, with Nick Offerman, Megan Mullally, and Octavia Spencer all excellent in support.Really glad to see Sony giving it a release on our shores.

You can watch Joe Cunningham’s interview with Mary Elizabeth Winstead here.

Rotten Tomatoes Rating : 83%

 

Chasing Ice

[yframe url=’http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eIZTMVNBjc4′]

A must-see for documentary fans or anybody with an interest in global warming, this interesting film covers the work of the Extreme Ice Survey as they attempt to collect evidence of climate change using state-of-the-art time-lapse cameras to capture the year-long movements of glaciers. Directed by newcomer Jeff Orlowski and starring one-time global warming sceptic and National Geographic Photographer James Balog, the film features stunning natural footage as well as hard-hitting evidence of the impact global warming is having on our planet. The critics have been raving about it thus far, praising not only its unique and breathtaking visuals, but also its well-argued and clearly articulated scientific reasoning.

Rotten Tomatoes Rating : 96%

Code Name: Geronimo

[yframe url=’http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zXhOZoDKZHY’]

Or as it is also known, the American action drama about the hunting and eventual killing of Osama Bin Laden that isn’t Zero Dark Thirty. While Kathryn Bigelow’s movie is receiving an abundance of critical acclaim, this slightly smaller budgeted and considerably less well received picture is slipping under the radar somewhat. Director John Stockwell’s movie follows the training of SEAL Team Six once Bin Laden’s whereabouts has been determined. As they are made aware of the enormity of the task that awaits them, the team begins to bond and comes together and…….all that generic soldiery brothers-in-arms stuff. You know the drill. Clearly showing its made-for-TV roots, it’s a fairly run of the mill actioner which has garnered reviews ranging from the average to the scathing (Bradshaw).

Rotten Tomatoes Rating : 50%

 

Dead Europe

[yframe url=’http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=POxCtbBLFXs’]

Australian director Tony Klawitz directs this hard-hitting drama about guilt and long forgotten family secrets. Ewen Leslie stars as Issac,a young photographer in Sydney who upon his father’s death learns of a schism which exists within his own family. Upon returning to his parents homeland of Greece, he finds out a shocking truth about his father’s history. Issac continues with his travels but, despite trying to play down the revelation, he soon realises that anti-Semitism and bigotry played a large part in his family’s past. Issac goes on to learn some harsh home truths about why his family moved to Australia and have never returned back to Greece.

It’s a pretty heavy-going film by all accounts with some hard-hitting and difficult moments that really give the film an unrelentingly bleak atmosphere. While it does  look at important issues such as collective guilt, the ghosts of the past and specifically Europe’s turbulent recent history, it does so in an extremely downbeat and sombre manner and this has put several critics off. There have been a number who criticise the film for being portentous and dull, but equally others have praised its power and dramatic impact. It would therefore appear we have a winner for the coveted Marmite Movie of the Week!

Rotten Tomatoes Rating : 69%

Love Crime

[yframe url=’http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ki2ZKNdhyUU’]

A dark psychological French thriller courtesy of director Alaon Corneau and starring Ludivine Sagnier and Kristen Scott Thomas which sees an inter-office rivalry take a turn for the extreme. According to the official blurb:

When Christine, a powerful executive (Scott Thomas), brings on a naive young ingenue, Isabelle (Sagnier), as her assistant, she delights in toying with her naivete and teaching her hard lessons in a ruthless professional philosophy. But when the protege’s ideas become tempting enough for Christine to pass one as her own, she underestimates Isabelle’s ambition and cunning- and the ground is set for all out war. In this devilish, propulsive thriller, Corneau sets up the scenery expertly and his actors devour it.

In other wors, it’s All About Eve meets 21st Century Office Politics. The critics seem slightly divided with a large number suggesting it starts well but soon runs out of ideas and gets a little convoluted , while a smaller number of others seem to think it is a pretty gripping thriller. If you like your Gaelic thrillers nice and twisting, then this may be one to seek out.

Rotten Tomatoes Rating : 64%

Also out this week:

Neil Young Journeys : Concert footage of Young’s hometown shows in Toronto earlier this year intercut with the singer taking a road trip across places from his youth.

False Trail : A Swedish mystery thriller which sees a police interrogator forced to return to his old neighborhood after a brutal murder.

UFO : Low-fi British Sci-Fi about the effects of an Alien Invasion on British society. Our review will up on the site tomorrow.