Seventeen years ago we all thought Rocky V (John G. Avildsen, 1990) had put the veteran screen fighter out for the count. A lame story about Rocky taking fighter Tommy “Machine” Gunn (Tommy Morrison) under his wing and culminating in a street fight climax was a knock out blow to the franchise. No one thought Rocky would be making a comeback. Yet, to many people’s amazement and the joy of many others, here he is back in the ring for what probably will be the last round.
After the gritty and gripping cop thriller Narc in 2002, writer/director Joe Carnahan was looking like hot property. He was signed onto Mission: Impossible 3, but left due to creative differences with star Tom Cruise to make Smokin’ Aces with full control. I, for one, was relieved he was holding true to his beliefs…until I saw this disjointed and rather self-indulgent sub-Tarantino tosh.
This friday sees the release of renowned director Paul Verhoeven’s (Total Recall, Robocop, Basic Instinct) Black Book (Zwartboek), an eagerly anticipated return to cinema and to his European roots. In association with Milan Records we here at zap! bang! are giving you the chance to get hold of one of five copies of the film’s soundtrack, scored by Oscar-winning composer Anne Dudley (The Full Monty, American History X).
Film fans take heed, Nick Broomfield fans heed even more because to celebrate the release of his new feature Ghosts we have two signed posters to give away.
There are more than three million migrant workers living and working in Britain today, in key roles on which our economy depends yet with no rights or protection. Ghosts documents the harrowing experiences many of these face — forced into near-slave labour to fill our supermarket shelves for little reward. Although fictional, it is based on fact and the tragedy of Morecombe Bay when 23 Chinese workers lost their lives cockling in February 2004.
Mel Gibson angered plenty of people when he released The Passion of The Christ back in 2004. It was expected to be a flop by many as not only was it a brutal piece of cinema on a controversial subject, it also relied on subtitles as it was shot in Aramaic and Hebrew. Yet it grossed millions. Even so, eyebrows were raised once when Gibson announced his next directing project would be a foreign-language epic about the Mayan civilization. But this is not another historical lesson; rather it is a blockbuster action film. Placing emphasis once again on visual imagery and human defiance, the links with the Mayan civilisation are just the basis for a kidnap-escape-chase movie. On those terms, it is excellent popcorn fare.
Dutch director Paul Verhoeven, best known for Hollywood action spectaculars such as Robocop (1987) and Starship Troopers (1997) as well as the flesh-filled Basic Instinct (1992) and Showgirls (1995), marks his return to the Netherlands with an intelligent and gripping World War Two drama. Set against the dying months of the war, Black Book is a fast-paced thriller about young Jewish singer Rachel Steinn (Carice van Houten) who joins the Resistance in The Hague after her parents are brutally murdered in front of her. Verhoeven clearly wanted to produce something special after the 23-year wait for him to produce another Dutch film, and the great news is this is one of his most accomplished pieces of work.
Fresh from winning an Oscar with Million Dollar Baby (2005), Clint Eastwood turns his attention to historical drama with two films about The Battle of Iwo Jima. This first release tells the American side of the fight through an examination of the famous flag-raising photograph which came to symbolise a nation on the verge of victory. The reality of the shot was very different: it was not the first flag to be raised, the battle continued to rage long after it was taken and the resulting publicity was primarily used to raise war bonds for the cash-strapped American armed forces during World War II.
Family entertainment usually falls into two categories: fun for all or fun for only those young enough to ignore leaps of logic, pacing and character. Sadly, Night at the Museum, despite all its effort to win over the adults with it’s “A” grade comic actors, will be remembered by the children more interested in CGI trickery including a dinosaur made completely out of bones.
After two classic series, where did we leave off? Caroline (Tamsin Greig) is engaged to Guy (Stephen Mangan), Mac (Julian Rhind-Tutt) has little time left and Statham (Mark Heap) and Joanna (Pippa Haywood) are on the run; the hospital is in chaos, even more so than usual — so what happens next? Give yourself the chance to find out:
It is Christmas Day and a group of sorority sisters are gearing up for their seasonal celebrations at their house — but so is Billy Lenz (Robert Mann). He used to live at the house with his parents, where he was locked in the attic for years. One day he broke out, murdered his parents and got locked up at an asylum. Now he wants to come home for Christmas…and carry on where he left off.
Paul Verhoeven makes a return to filmmaking in Holland after 23 years and produces one of his most acclaimed films. This World War Two drama has already been the winner of such awards as best international film at the Venice Film Festival and taken three top honours at the Netherlands Film Festival including best picture and best director.
Eyes perhaps tired of Woody Allen over the years were ignited with a fresh enthusiasm over Match Point, a welcome return to top form after a track record which had been somewhat mixed of late. The veteran director is essentially a comic though and so after this more serious filmmaking effort, the audience’s reinvigorated eyes looked towards a return to humour, and to the lofty heights of classics such as Annie Hall and Manhattan. And so we have Scoop — full of promise: again filmed in London, capitalising on this successful change in Allen’s previous film, and again starring Scarlett Johansson — but after this build up how does it fare?
Director Renny Harlin follows up the terrible The Exorcist: The Beginning with another no-brains movie: horror/action hybrid The Covenant. Its mix of typical late teen school life and mystical mumblings about ‘The Power’ are about as exciting as after school detention. You really will think you did something wrong to deserve to be put through this dire piece of work.
What would it be like if your life was the subject of a novel being written, and you could hear every word as it was being typed? Government taxman Harold Crick (Will Ferrell) wakes up one day to exactly that: an all-knowing narrator perfectly describing his actions to only him.
You may recall in my Dirty Sanchez: The Movie (Jim Hickey, 2006) review that I said I hoped the Jackass boys could do better stunts and pranks with their second offering than the MTV Europe guys managed with their debut. Thankfully they have, avoiding the general reliance on bodily fluids and nastiness in favour of a frat pack flavour that ensures much hilarity ensues.
Pan’s Labyrinth marks the third effort of Mexican director Guillermo Del Toro’s 1940 Spanish-based films and is a much welcome return to his more substantial ‘art-house’ film flavourings after Hollywood efforts Mimic (1997), Blade 2 (2002) and more recently Hell Boy (2004).
Bond is back and he is better than ever, if you listen to the hype and the advanced publicity. Has Daniel Craig really managed to stick two fingers up at the doubters by turning in a debut Bond performance to match Pierce Brosnan’s excellent first outing GoldenEye (Martin Campbell, 1995)?
Evil mind games abound when a psychopath killer who paints surreal religious pictures with the blood of his victims is captured by police in German thriller Antibodies
Director Christopher Nolan follows up last year’s Batman Begins with a period piece about two Englsih magicians battling it out to learn each other’s secrets and perform the most amazing trick: ‘The Transported Man’.
A break up can be the source of brilliant, moving and heartbreaking drama, as Neil Jordan’s wonderful The End Of The Affair (1999) proves, but there is absolutely nothing innovative, entertaining or sympathetic about watching two pricks arguing about lemons and behaving in such a fucking despicable way. If you’re planning on seeing The Break Up I suggest you go home and piss in your partner’s shoes because you’ll have an equally shit time without having to pay for the privilege. An absolute travesty.
What must be one of the most-hyped comedies ever finally hits screens with what may come as a surprise — believe the hype. Borat could never surpass expectations as they have been built so high due to close on overexposure across the world. It at least meets the expectations as we witness Sacha Baron Cohen’s fake Kazakhstani TV reporter Borat Sagdiyev get sent to America to research its culture and improve his own country. While the Kazakhstan government may have been up in arms about the way it was perhaps unfairly portrayed in the trailer, Borat is far more subversive towards American culture than any made-up facts about Kazakhstan.
The annual Halloween treat of another set of Jigsaw’s tricks brings more grizzly deaths to the mega popular shock horror series. Tobin Bell returns as the game of death mastermind, ready to set his victims with the choice of a horrible death or the pain of survival by inflicting hurt on themselves. But he is not alone in his schemes. Still joined by former victim Amanda (Shawnee Smith), he brings one of his most elaborate schemes ever to fruition — one that places even his fate in the balance.
I really have had enough of these Hollywood Japanese horror remakes, and Hollywood horror in general actually. There seems to be a never-ending torrent of bland drivel on a monthly basis with each offering eating into my sanity, as I sit through another 90 minute slog of well-worn plot contrivances. At least Freddy vs Jason (Ronny Yu, 2003) had the decency to throw in a bit of fun as two of the most overused characters dueled it out for the finale. Grudge 2, on the other hand, barely makes any attempt to be original or new either within the confines of the franchise or the perception of Japanese horror. As long as there is a grey girl showing up in creepy places unable to walk in a straight line we are supposed to be scared. Well, those producers need to realise that while we all lapped up what was new in The Ring (Hideo Nakata, 1998), the original that is, has fast become one of the most roll-eye inducing moments in modern horror history.
Hailed as one of the highlights of the Edinburgh Film Festival this year, first time feature writer/director Paul Andrew Williams has crafted an uncompromising urban thriller in London to Brighton. A seedy tale of revenge set in the back street underground, it sees badly beaten London prostitute Kelly (Lorraine Stanley) flee with 11-year-old Joanne (Georgia Groome) to Brighton with her pimp Derek (Johnny Harris) in hot pursuit. As the exact events of the night before unfold through a fractured narrative and flashback, it is revealed millionaire paedophile Duncan Allen (Alexander Morton) and his cold and brutal son Stuart (Sam Spruell) have fuelled the search for the two girls. It won’t be a happy reunion.