What do you do when you don’t get accepted by any college you apply for? Well, start your own, of course! That is the set up for the latest American teen comedy, and you’ll forgive me for not jumping for joy as I sat down to watch this sometimes ludicrous offering.
When a Martin Scorcese film comes around, you sit up and take notice. When a Scrocese picture with Robert De Niro was released, it was like being treated to a extra Christmas. So what about a Scorcese movie with the legendary sinister smile of Jack Nicholson? Well The Departed treats us to ol’ Jack at his nastiest best — a mob boss with an devilish attitude, and the perfect subject for Scorcese’s specialist topic: gangsters.
Following the critical praise that met the first film about 9/11, United 93 (Paul Greengrass, 2006), many predicted that Oliver Stone would deliver a heavy-handed and inappropriate interpretation of the tragic events. Having built his reputation on flamboyant and politically-charged work it seemed these would be reasonable assumptions given the sensitivity of Word Trade Center.
In the year 2027 all women have become infertile and the world’s youngest person, 18-year-old “Baby” Diego, has just died. With the global population slowly dying out there are no children for adults to care for and schools are abandoned shells. In England, the setting for Children of Men, refugee camps hold all those who are not British as the country tries to retain some form of structure while other nations have given up hope completely. There are rumours of a group called The Human Project that is seeking a solution to the problem away from the public eye, or any official existence. But when Theodore Faron (Clive Owen) is asked for help by ex-wife Julian (Julianne Moore), he becomes embroiled in a mission that may offer a future for the human race: the delivery of 8-month pregnant girl Kee (Claire-Hope Ashitey) to The Human Project.
This Friday sees Tartan’s release Brothers of the Head, a startling work about the rise of conjoined twins Tom and Barry Howe from small-town isolation to the stages of the mid-seventies punk explosion. The film has an original basis in a true story, but takes off from Brian Aldiss’ book of the same name and the rock n’ roll ‘rags to riches’ and ‘live fast die young’ myths. Directed by Keith Fulton and Louis Pepe, the men behind Lost in La Mancha (2002) and The Hamster Factor (1997) and with a screenplay by Tony Grisoni (In This World (2002), Fear and Loathing In Las Vegas (1998)) the film has already been causing a stir at festivals, making the Official selection at Toronto, opening Berlin and winning Edinburgh’s Michal Powell award, its explosive story offering much to laugh at and dance to, alongside some pretty powerful drama.
Once upon a time in Hollywood, Brian De Palma was a cutting edge director favouring the gritty and stylish with offering such as Scarface (1983)and The Untouchables (1987). More recently he has struggled to find a project with the same conviction. Snakes Eyes (1998) and Mission to Mars (1999) were largely ineffectual and confirmed a downturn in quality that suggested he may never replicate the form he showed earlier in his career. The Black Dahlia offers de Palma a chance to prove the critics wrong be returning to the crime capers he once so effortlessly brought to celluloid. Based on a James Ellroy novel that uses the murder of Hollywood actress Elizabeth Short in 1947 as its foundation, this has a similarly classic film noir tone to one of the best Ellroy adaptations, LA Confidential (Curtis Hanson, 1997). However, heavy handedness proves to be its downfall.
One day on a search for a universal remote controller to make his life that little bit easier Michael comes across a bizarre company specialising in the most up to date experimental technology, run but a scientist called Morty (Christopher Walken). Morty takes pity on Michael’s hectic life and gives him a remote control that he can use to revisit moments of his past, pause time or skip right through the everyday tedium and concentrate on the good times. However whilst it’s all fun and games to begin with, the remote control develops a life of its own and problems quickly start to arrive.
If challenging your mates to, say, tattooing phrases only normally found scrawled on school desks to their bodies and then drinking beer laced with fag butts is your regular source of entertainment, then Dirty Sanchez: The Movie is sure to be like a night out down the pub. Crude, crass and almost unwatchable at times, it occupies a strange position as a cinematic release that is probably only comparable to Jackass: The Movie (Jeff Tremaine, 2002).
It also offers an suggestion as to the communications Tony Blair (Michael Sheen), the new Prime Minister at the time, had with Queen Elizabeth (Helen Mirren). While it never tries to pretend that it is an accurate work of non-fiction, The Queen is an intriguing affair mixing light hearted humour with drama and the facts of the British public’s frustration with its silent monarch.
Shortly after the release of Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back (2001) Kevin Smith shocked fans by announcing that he was never going to make a film starring Jay (Jason Mewes) and Silent Bob (Kevin Smith) again. The he made Jersey Girl (2004). Now Smith is back, doing what he does best and attempting to make up for his most disappointing film yet by giving the fans what they want and returning to his much loved indie debut, Clerks (1994).
“Everyone pretend to be normal” Richard (Greg Kinnear) shouts to his family as they await the attention of a police officer at the roadside — a line that will have you in stitches by the time you have seen the often too real depiction of a family on the verge of meltdown. Little Miss Sunshine provides us with a view of the hopes and (some-already shattered) dreams of the Hoovers’ as they attempt a 800-mile drive to get seven-year-old Olive (Abigail Breslin) from Albuquerque to the Little Miss Sunshine pageant in Redondo Beach, California. There are the usual fractured domestic problems, but they are handled so well and with a close attention to detail that this American indie comedy has become the highlight of the late summer.
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.
Driving Lessons is released in the UK on September 8th, with other territories to follow later in the year. Tartan Films will no doubt be expecting this to be another mild Britcom success in the UK in __ the vein of recent films such as Kinky Boots (Julian Jarrold, 2005).
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 the first part of our run down on the hottest summer releases, comic book heroes and franshises ruled the schedule. After The Break-Up (Peyton Reed, 2006) proved that even the rom-com could deliver a truck load of money to the major’s doors this year, it seems anything could end up top of the box office. Superman Returns (Bryan Singer), however, has stuttered on its opening weekend. As the blockbuster season rolls into the later months of the summer, there are some juicy original projects and a couple to bring a smirk or two as the long sunny days draw to a close.
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.
Competition! 5 The Cave of the Yellow Dog Soundtracks to be won!
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.