After all the hype from the internet Snakes on a Plane finally took off in the hope of box office glory to rival The Blair Witch Project’s (Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sanchez, 1999) lucrative result when it was the focus of similar media attention. Well it failed miserably, landing the number one spot in key territories such as America and the UK, but no where near the blockbuster status many were predicting. The reason? Perhaps because when you take away the enthusiastic talk from this B-movie with two good ideas, that is exactly what it is: a B-movie with two good ideas stretched out across its runtime. One, have snakes attack people on a plane. Two, get Samuel L. Jackson to swear the best way he can following months of demand from the said internet hype. The fact that one of the best things about this film came from those eagerly anticipating the film, rather than the makers themselves, gives some idea as to how much of a missed opportunity Snakes on a Plane ended up.
High concept is flavour of the season at the box office with Crank following in the path of Snakes on a Plane’s simple yet amusing set-up. Crank sees everyones’ favourite action hitman Jason Statham as gun-for-hire Chev Chelios who is injected with a poison that will kill him if his heart rate drops to a restful pace. Cue a relentless pursuit of adrenalin pumping chases, crashes and gunfights as Chev tries to call his doctor for an antidote, save his girlfriend from the gangsters on his trail and get revenge.
After an undercover FBI drugs bust goes horribly wrong, Detectives James ‘Sonny’ Crockett (Colin Farrell) and Ricardo Tubbs (Jaime Foxx) of the Miami police department receive a phone call from an old friend in serious trouble. Having been exposed by a leak in one of the FBI’s many subdivisions, they find their contact has given up all knowledge of any undercover operations to an extremely well-informed gang of Aryan drug pushers holding his wife hostage. Of course, the contact and his wife quickly end up dead and the FBI is left with a completely uncovered operation. As they are unaffiliated with the FBI, Sonny and Ricardo therefore take it upon themselves to impersonate drug runners, infiltrate the drugs cartel, expose the leak and take the bastards down.
As one of the biggest releases of 2006, Superman Returns had both the reputation of the previous films to live up to and a need to bring in fresh ideas in the face of more recent spin-offs The New Adventres of Superman and Smallville. With Bryan Singer at the helm, the man who brought us The Usual Suspects (1995) and introduced cinemagoers to the world of X-Men (1999), there was every reason to be confident.
Yes Captain Jack Sparrow (Johhny Depp) is back, reprising his humourous, Oscar nominated role along with Orlando Bloom’s bland hero Will Turner and Keira Knightley’s spunky heroine Elizabeht Swann for the second film of what will be the Pirates of the Caribbean trilogy. Dead Man’s Chest places the trio in another high seas adventure in which Sparrow is trying to locate the aforementioned dead man’s chest which will allow him to avoid repaying a blood dept the villain of the piece, Davy Jones (Bill Nighy).
Supposedly Jet Li’s final martial arts ‘epic’, Fearless attempts to build on the success of Hero (Zhang Yimou, 2002) and House of Flying Daggers (Zhang Yimou, 2004), combining the Chinese history lesson of the former with the Eastern traditions of the latter through carefully choreographed fight sequences.
Anderson (Jay Gillespie), Corey (Matthew Carey) and Nelson (Dylan Edrington) are three lazy students preparing to head down to Dayton Beach to celebrate spring break. However, in their last lecture they are pulled to one side and informed by their tutor that for slacking they must complete a stunning assignment on the American civil war or get kicked out of college. Of course this bares no relevance to their spring break but ironically the students find themselves and six other people as ‘northern’ guests of honour at a quaint guts and glory five day festival in the small out of the way town called Pleasant Valley after taking a detour from the main road. Unbeknownst to the crew however, Pleasant Valley is actually a ghost town and the sinister Mayor Buckman (Robert Englund) and his wife (Lin Shay) plan to murder the nine youngsters in retribution for the Union Army destroying their town in a civil war massacre of 1865.
In many ways The Cave of the Yellow Dog is a similar foray to The Weeping Camel: the focus looks back to Davaa’s native Mongolia, at a nomadic family, and uses a mix of documentary and drama — the film naturalistically shoots the family in their everyday life, although the story that unfolds within this appears more fictive, but only slightly. Soon into the film the camera follows the older daughter Namsaa and as she leaves the home one day on a mission to get dung for the fire, though becoming distracted and finding a stray dog alone in a cave. Adopting the animal she names it Zochor (which translates as Spot!) and takes it home, although her father tells her it can’t stay, believing it to be partly responsible for the killing of some of their sheep. From here onwards the film offers poignant insight into the life of the family through following their relationship with the dog.
Could you like a man who protected the interests of big tobacco companies by hiding the true harm cigarettes can do to your body behind a smokescreen of complex statistics and clever comparisons? Well in Thank You for Smoking Nick Naylor (Aaron Eckhart) is that person — and you will like him! For Jason Reitman’s debut feature he has turned Christopher Buckley’s 1994 novel of the same name into a contemporary and very funny satire on one of the most popular vices of the world: smoking and the lobbying needed to keep it an active leisure pastime of the masses. It does not stop there, though, as there are digs at numerous other big business strategies that seek to delude us everyday.
Hard Candy has been knocking around since 2005 when it was first shown at the Sundance Film Festival in January and then at the Cannes Film Market. With its contentious subject of paedophilia, it has been pushed on some shores as a challenging psychological thriller that will shock and keep viewers on the edge of their seats. The sad fact is that the use of a paedophile as the focal point of the film could easily be substituted for a serial killer: this is not as cutting edge as the makers would have you believe.
As the list of horror remakes grows ever longer, each new version of a classic is going to need some kind of spin on why it is being remade as it is getting a little tiring paying to see films you have seen before. For The Omen the marketing push has been the date it was released: June 6th, 2006 or 6/6/6 to give it the significance the money men need it to have. Just as the date suggested the rising of the devil, so we have a remake of the film about the devil’s son being raised by an American family. What lets it down is the neglect for making the project into something relevant to today’s audience other than a date.
Director Wolfgang Petersen’s latest entry in the territory of Hollywood blockbusters that have served him so well during his years working in America is a return to the sea-based disater film with which he stormed the box office with The Perfect Storm in 2000. Then the story was based on a true account of a terrible storm trashing a fishing boat and Petersen effectively generated some empathy for the doomed sailors. Now, for Poseidon, the story has also been told already: in the form of 1972 Oscar-winner The Poseidon Adventure (Ronald Neame). However, Petersen fails to provide much excitement this time, preferring to serve up an increasingly dull series of set-pieces and an even duller selection of heroes.
It’s fair to say The Last Stand has become one of the most divisive films in recent years. The absence of series director Bryan Singer (who could not resist absconding to direct his dream project Superman Returns (2006)) and the rumour of one or two shock twists has lead to a mixture of apprehension and excitement. Now that the film has arrived, it continues to split general audiences and fanboys alike in much the same way as the arrival of a miracle mutant cure has divided the characters in the story. The result leaves a rather sour taste in the mouth. There is much to enjoy, but for every riveting action sequence and nifty special effect, there is an abandoned storyline or the sidelining of a character we had grown attached to.
Finally, J. J. Abrams was announced, which most of us thought was, well, nice. His creation of TV hits like Lost and Alias may have boded well for those of us who wanted a return to the complex, gadget-filled, super-spy antics of the original, but he was far from a tried and tested director. More good news was to come, however, in the shape of an excellent trailer and the announcement of a superb supporting cast including Ving Rhames, Laurence Fishbourne, Billy Crudup (Big Fish (Tim Burton, 2003)), Jonathan Rhys Meyers (Match Point (Woody Allen, 2006)), Michelle Monaghan (Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang (Shane Black, 2005)) and (mouth-wateringly) Phillip Seymour Hoffman as the villain.
All the elements seemed to be in place: the return of an actual IMF team sorely lacking from M:I 2, the promise of a complex plot with the presence of Abrams and, as evidenced in the trailer, an upping in the action stakes. And has it all paid off? Mostly, it certainly has.
Why are people so scared of Paul Greengrass’ United 93? Are they afraid of being confronted with the painful memory of the terrorist strikes on September 11, 2001? Are they anxious that it’s going to pledge allegiance to political agendas not their own? Are they concerned it’s going to distort the facts surrounding the day more than the government and media already have? I was, for the most part, worried that it’s going to be a bad Hollywood movie, capitalizing on the tragedy of the worst day in recent American history.
Horror has become the genre of choice for many production companies as the movies do not cost a lot to make, yet have the potential to earn big bucks from bloodthirsty teen audiences. Hostel (Eli Roth, 2005), Saw II (Darren Lynn Bousman, 2005) saw sub-$5 million investments balloon into $50 million and nearly $100 million returns in the States alone so it is the wise man’s choice to make a fast dollar or two. So Silent Hill’s $50 million budget might seem reasonable when you consider that it is a popular video game adaptation with an excellent premise and in the horror genre. It is all a case of what could have been.
Fresh from the tired mind of writer/director Peter Sturridge bounds Lassie, yet another remake of an old TV series attempting to cash in on the nostalgia of old audiences and in doing so creating new audiences in the younger generations. However, veering away from the original American TV series Lassie is given an English makeover as the loyal dog of Joe (Jonathan Mason), a 1930’s Yorkshire lad who’s father has just lost his job in the coal mines.
Writer/director Paul Weitz takes a swipe at the ego-inducing producers of reality television and the incompetence of a certain Whitehouse resident in this satire that is as composed as arriving at a funeral in your underwear, and then finding you were at the wrong funeral in the first place. Dreamz simply takes the most obvious references to popular culture today and feeds it into a blender to create a messy, confusing and downright unfunny picture.
When the Wayans brothers ran out of steam after Scary Movie 2 (Keenen Ivory Wayans, 2001), it was left to new writers and director David Zucker of Airplane! (Jim Abrahams, David Zucker, Jerry Zucker) to inject some life into the franchise. They certainly did, bringing in just over $110 million at the US box office alone, and now return for more of the direct parodying of recent horror hits and Hollywood blockbusters the last film favoured over spoofing golden oldies.
Laurent Lucas plays Marc, a talented singer/performer who has a strange allure over the women in his audience, a gift that tends to present him with more problems than benefits. After performing a show in Southern France he travels down to his next venue for Christmas, only to find his truck breaking down on a lonely road in the deep South. Fortunately he comes across local dimwit Boris (Jean Luc Couchard) who takes him to a nearby inn run by Bartel (Jackie Berroyer). Marc then finds himself stuck at the inn for a few days with the simple warning never to go down into the village.
A teen comedy adaptation of William Shakespeare’s gender-bender Twelfth Night may seem like an accident waiting to happen but, fortunately for She’s the Man, the light-hearted comedy capers will raise the same faint smile as the daft title. In this modernisation, hot shot footballer Viola (Amanda Bynes) arrives at school to discover her team has been cut due to a lack of interest from the girls. Since her twin brother Sebastian (James Kirk) will be away for the first two weeks at his new boarding school, Viola gets a male makeover to try out for the boys football team at Sebastian’s school. If that is not complicated enough, Viola falls for her unknowing roommate Duke (Channing Tatum) who is in love with a girl that fancies Viola-as-brother-Sebastian. Misunderstandings abound in this silly but amusing fluff.
Here it is then, the sequel that Sharon Stone’s career has been screaming out for, to get her back in the headlines and cinemagoers back into the cinemas. Well this is definately the biggest release since the acclaimed Casino (Martin Scorcese, 1995) but the impact on her credibility is more likely to resemble that of her recent disaster Catwoman (Pitof, 2004).
Tsotsi is not director Gavin Hood’s first film, although it’s probably the only reason most of us have heard of him. The South African film just won the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film, which makes it small fry no longer and stamps a fairly high expectation on it. Unfortunately an expectation a little too high. The film is by no means bad in fact it can be engaging, it just seems to lack something like a real message instead choosing to meander around through several ideas with no real definition.
Race is always brought to the fore in a Spike Lee film, however with Inside Man his talents for telling often very personal stories are mapped onto a genre movie to make what would have been a routine heist thriller into a more engaging tale that crosses ethnic border without getting bogged down with moral messages. It is, after all, aimed to be thrilling.
Hollywood got political last year with several ‘serious’ films that went on to win Oscar recognition. V for Vendetta binds the political with action, but was denied a release alongside such thought-provoking hits such as Syriana (Stephen Gaghan) and Good Night, and Good Luck (George Clooney) when its November release was delayed, rumoured to be because of the London bombings in July. Its narrative use of Guy Fawkes and the gun powder plot to blow up the Houses of Parliament were perhaps too contensious so soon after the London terrorist attacks — certainly disappointing for the marketing department. While that may have been cause for concern for the distributors, what should also have been preying on their minds was how silly the whole film is even if its graphic novel roots are taken into account.