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Movies with Michael Doherty

Wednesday, 8 April 2009

What films is Michael reviewing?

. Race To Witch Mountain
. Fifty Dead Men Walking
. Let The Right One In
. In The Loop
. Top 5 Easter Rentals for Kids

Race to Witch Mountain

Director: Andy Fickman
Starring: Dwayne Johnson, AnnaSophia Robb, Alexander Ludwig
Running Time: 97mins
Classification: PG
Courtesy: Walt Disney Pictures

Other Verdict: Remember the BMX chase scene from 'E.T. - the Extra-Terrestrial'? Of course you do. Imagine that bicycle chase scene being stretched out to a full-length movie - but without the bicycles, the kids or the scrawny, wrinkly cute alien. Now you have an idea of what 'Race to Witch Mountain', the latest live-action movie from Walt Disney, is like...
The movie stars Dwayne Johnson (the WWE wrestler formerly known as The Rock). He plays a kind-hearted Las Vegas taxi driver who helps out two teens - a brother and his sister - who happen to be aliens (from Outer Space and not the sort sneaking over the Mexican border) from being captured by ominous U.S. authorities. To complicate matters a Predator-like alien assassin has also been sent to kill the siblings. Carla Gugino, whom sharp-eyed cinemagoers will recognise as the Silk Spectre's senior citizen mom in 'Watchmen', plays an astrophysicist who helps them out.
The plot involves the teens having to return to their home planet in time to prevent an alien invasion of the Earth - but all that doesn't really matter. The movie is one long chase scene. It is action from the word go and 'Race to Witch Mountain' doesn't bother spending much time on fluff such as characterisation and motivation. There are good guys and there are bad guys, and that is all you need to know as the movie rushes from one exciting action sequence to the next, never pausing to catch its breath.
Fifty Dead Men Walking

Director: Kari Skogland
Starring: Jim Sturgessm, Rose McGowan, Ben Kingsley, Kevin Zegers
Running Time: 117 mins
Classification: 15A
Courtesy: Brightlight Pictures

Other verdict: Do we really need another IRA movie? In light of the recent shootings it seems that the saga isn't over yet and there are more stories in the city. And if there are more stories like 50 Dead Men Walking there will be no complaints.

Based on Martin McGartland's book, Fifty Dead Men Walking opens with a bang: McGartland (Sturgess) is shot in his car in 2001, in a scene that boasts the edgy style of Paul Greengrass, and this sets the tone for the rest of the film. The story then cuts back to 1988, where a young Martin is running the IRA/British Army gauntlet by selling knock off gear in Catholic areas. He's recruited by the IRA as a driver but, not long after, he's approached by Special Branch 'handler' Fergus (Kinglsey) to tout on the IRA's movements for the British. Convinced he'll save lives (the title refers to the lives saved) if he leaks intelligence to the British, Martin's situation gets ever more precarious as he rises through the ranks of the IRA and lands himself a family with Lara (Press)...

What is impressive about Fifty Dead Men Walking is, if politics were taken out of it, the film still works as a gritty urban thriller - something akin to the underrated Nothing Personal. Skogland, who owes a debt of gratitude to her set designer for fully realising the era, brings frenetic energy to the action scenes and isn't shy about shoving the violence up front (a torture scene is tough on the eyes). The performances can't be faulted either: Kingsley, although his usual dependable self, takes a generous back seat to the emerging talent of Jim Sturgess, who, after Across The Universe and 21, proves that he can handle tougher roles like these. He's backed up by Kevin Zegers, who brings a wild-eyed intensity to Martin's best mate, and host of solid character actors in believable supporting roles.

Let the Right One In

Director: Tomas Alfredson.
Starring: Kare Hedebrant, Lina Leanderson, Per Ragnar
Running Time: 116 mins
Classification: 16
Courtesy: EFTI Pictures

Other verdict: 12-year-old Oskar (Hedebrant) is a lonely kid living with his divorced mother and spends his days fantasising of stabbing the school bully who makes his life a misery. Into his bleak world steps Eli (Leanderson), a girl who has just moved into his apartment block. Eli is 12 too, but has been 12 for 'a very long time', only comes out at night, doesn't mind the cold and doesn't go to school. When a series of murders occur in the area, Oskar begins to suspect his new best friend is not all she seems...

Adapted by John Ajvide Lindqvist from his own novel, this coming of age horror-drama injects some much-needed originality into a genre that was screaming out for something new. Although Alfredson obeys all the vampire rules and there are some familiar elements - the 12-year-old vampire girl is right from Interview With The Vampire; the humanising of the inhuman is Bram Stoker - but the director finds wiggle room within that. Alfredson downplays everything and takes his time telling the story, but the slow pacing gives the audience a chance to empathise with the characters and appreciate the performances: these 12-year-old kids make the Twilight crowd look immature by comparison.

This horror gives the tender but sad romance angle prominence, so those expecting guts and gore will be a tad disappointed, as a lot of the murders happen off screen; the murders that happen on screen are carried out with a banality-of-evil coolness by Eli's 'father' (Ragnar) who suffocates, hangs and then drains the blood of his victims - so attention won't be drawn to Eli. Horror fans frustrated with the slow pacing would be best advised to wait for the shocking final scene. We're looking at a modern cult classic here.

In The Loop

Director: Armando Iannucci
Starring: Chris Addison, Chizzy Akudolu, Peter Capaldi
Running Time: 109mins
Classification: 15A
Courtesy: Optimum Releasing

Other verdict: If Armando Iannucci's political farce about the road to war through the corridors of power weren't so funny, it would be utterly terrifying. When a British cabinet minister, Simon Foster, comments publicly that he thinks war is "unforeseeable", the result is an immediate bollocking from Malcolm Tucker, the prime minister's testy bulldog pushing for war. Unable to clarify his position, Simon is sent to Washington, where, trying desperately to be important, he meets Karen Clark, a U.S. State Department official, and General Miller, who see him as a transatlantic partner in building a consensus against war. They search for a secret war committee, led by Karen's hawkish colleague, Linton Barwick. And as farce demands, all parties eventually converge for a climactic shuffle between rooms, in this case at the United Nations. Wickedly sardonic and filled with secrets, lies, leaks, plugs, and faulty intelligence and walls, In the Loop leads us behind closed doors to reveal bungling bureaucrats entangled in petty rivalries and obsequious aides jockeying for favour. Source Sundance Film Festival

Top 5 Easter rentals for kids:

In a distant, but not so unrealistic future, where mankind has abandoned earth because it has become covered with trash from products sold by the powerful multi-national Buy N Large corporation, WALL-E, a garbage collecting robot has been left to clean up the mess. Mesmerized with trinkets of earth's history and show tunes, WALL-E is alone on Earth except for a sprightly pet cockroach. One day, Eve, a sleek (and dangerous) reconnaissance robot, is sent to earth to find proof that life is once again sustainable. WALL-E falls in love with Eve. One day a massive ship comes to reclaim Eve, but WALL-E, out of love or loneliness hitches a ride on the outside of the ship to rescue Eve. The ship arrives back at a large space cruise ship, which is carrying all of the humans who evacuated earth 700 years earlier.

From the beloved best-selling series of books comes "The Spiderwick Chronicles," a fantasy adventure for the child in all of us. Peculiar things start to happen the moment the Grace family (Jared, his twin brother Simon, sister Mallory and their mom) leave New York and move into the secluded old house owned by their great, great uncle Arthur Spiderwick. Unable to explain the strange disappearances and accidents that seem to be happening on a daily basis, the family blames Jared. When he, Simon and Mallory investigate what's really going on, they uncover the fantastic truth of the Spiderwick estate and of the creatures that inhabit it.

The central issue, as in past films, is the relationship between sweethearts Troy the captain of East High's Wildcats basketball team, and the bookish Gabriella who face the possibility of imminent separation when Gabriella gets a chance to attend college early. With this third outing in the wildly popular Disney series, director Kenny Ortega takes full advantage of HSM3's big-screen leap, staging musical numbers that go far beyond the scope of the movie's predecessors (see the lavish "I Want It All" by resident East High diva Sharpay, played by Ashley Tisdale). While the series regulars are in fine form and a few new characters are introduced, the film really belongs to Efron, who gets the most screen time and is clearly on a trajectory for stardom beyond HSM.

Kung Fu Panda is a solid animated flick for kids, and for any adults who are singing "Kung Fu Fighting" to themselves as they enter the multi-plex (guilty as charged). While not in the top echelon of animation - Finding Nemo or The Incredibles - KFP kicks it up a notch with the superb vocal gymnastics of Jack Black and Dustin Hoffman, who are perfect together as the student and teacher in this new riff on the Karate Kid theme.

Ratatouille is complex in its simplicity. It can be summed up quickly by saying it's about a rat who helps a clumsy oaf achieve greatness in a French restaurant. But the rich themes that it covers in the process are universal and inspiring. Remy (voiced by Patton Oswalt) is something of a misfit in the rat kingdom. He's surrounded by family and friends who like the comfort and predictability of the status quo. And when you're a rat that means eating garbage and loafing around. Remy, on the other hand, has a keen sense of creativity.