The Contenders are:
Thor: Thor, son of Odin is a powerful but arrogant warrior until he is cast out of Asgard and forced to live on Earth amongst humans. Done badly Thor could be the least accessible and credible Marvel comic book adaptation, in the hands of director Kenneth Branagh it is funny, exciting, entertaining and fun. Advertised as being in 3D, Fortunately there was also a 2D option, no prizes for guessing which one I saw.
Hanna: I really enjoyed the elements of this movie, the characters, the scenarios, the action and the acting are all good but the overall movie just feels a little flat and a little hollow. Saoirse Ronan is an engaging heroine, Cate Blanchett and Tom Hollander are suitably chilling villains, of the leading cast only Eric Bana is underused. The Chemical Brothers score works well too. The problem I just walked away thinking what was the point of all that?
Priest: Last year I saw a movie called Legion starring Paul Bettany and directed by special effects guru Scott Charles Stewart, at the time the duo had a second movie in the can, Priest. Rather than receiving the original planned release the movie went back into the F-X lab to be retrofitted with 3D. Loosely based on a comic book series of the same name Priest tells the story a warrior priest attempting to find his niece who has been kidnapped by vampires. With a story that owes more than a nod to John Ford’s The Searchers it is actually a far better film than most reviews have given it credit for. Unfortunately there was no 2D option and as you would expect, the 3D is completely pointless.
13 Assassins: Nineteenth century Feudal Japan; in order to assassinate the Shogun’s insane and sadist illegitimate brother before, a small group of samurai take on an army. Famed for his violent action and horror thrillers, Takashi Miike takes on historical drama but turns it into a truly Takashi Miike movie. The first half of the movie is heavy on dialogue and low on action, the second half is all out action. This Black Hawk down with Katanas! Well made, well acted but bloody and brutal, its not for everyone.
Water for Elephants: The story of an older person telling the tale of a bygone age has been done countless times before; although there is nothing wrong with this movie it is far from the greatest entry into the sub genre. The cast headed by Twilight star Robert Pattinson and Oscar-winners Christoph Waltz and Reese Witherspoon is good. The production design and photography are great recreating the depression era in a colourful and believable display. So what’s wrong with the movie? Simple put there is nothing wrong, there is just nothing exceptional about it.
The Way: A road movie without cars. An American man travels to France to recover his body of his son who is killed whilst walking the El camino de Santiago (The Way Of St. James), an 800 kilometre pilgrimage. He soon finds himself walking the pilgrimage himself. Written and directed by Emilio Estevez and starring his farther Martin Sheen the movie was conceived when Sheen walked the Camino with his grandson Taylor Estevez (Emilio Estevez‘s son) a few years ago. Over two hours of people walking could have been dull and boring, it is actually engrossing, likeable and enquiringly touching, thanks in no small part to the excellent supporting cast including Yorick Van Wageningen, Deborah Kara Unger and James Nesbitt.
Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides: Cap’n Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) is seeking the mythical Fountain Of Youth, along the way he crosses paths with old flame Angelica (Penélope Cruz), her farther, the legendry pirate Blackbeard (Ian McShane), Captain Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush) and a Spanish fleet for good measure. After the tedious parts two and three I didn’t know what to expect from this fourth movie, despite its many faults, it is actually a surprisingly good fun swashbuckling adventure that I enjoyed more than I thought I would.
Attack the Block: An ambitious and interesting premise sees an 80’s American style monster movie in the vain of Tremors, Gremlins or Critters relocated to south London. A gang all in their early teens fight to protect their tower block from “t’ings” from outer space. Focusing on comedy over scares, the movie is often funny and largely enjoyable. There is an interesting connection/correlation between the gang (who first appear with hoodies and bandanas covering their faces) and the (faceless) aliens that possibly says more about society than any other part of the film does. On the whole it isn’t as funny as it should be and the character arc doesn’t provide the level of redemption the filmakers appear to intend.
Blitz: If you suspend all sense of morality this is a surprisingly good genre movie that owes a debt to revenge movies of the 70’s and 80’s. Jason Statham makes a good Dirty Harry alike cop and his mismatched budy relationship with Paddy Considine works really well, however the real star of the movie is Aidan Gillen as a sociopath serial killer. The supporting characters are largely superfluous to the plot, the premise isn’t bad but the plot is wafer thin making the movie more reminiscent of a TV show than a feature film. An enjoyable if slight British thriller.
Win Win: Lawyer and high school wrestling coach Mike (Paul Giamatti) becomes the guardian of Leo, an elderly client (Burt Young) for purely fanatical reasons. When Leo’s grandson Kyle (Shaffer) comes to stay it Mike and his long suffering wife (Amy Ryan) feel obliged to look after him. Kyle’s presence soon has a profound effect on everyones lives as well as on the fortunes of Mikes failing wrestling team. An engaging and interesting morality tale littered with interesting characters but it is just a little too thin and directionless to be a great movie
Julia’s Eyes: Julia (Belen Rueda) doesn’t believe the death of her blind twin sister (also Belen Rueda) is suicide. Despite the protestations of her husband Julia starts to investigate, this is made more complicated as she is suffering from the same condition as her sister and is slowly loosing her own eyesight. A wonderfully atmospheric horror/thriller that isn’t afraid to take its time and let the story develop slowly. Belen Rueda (You may remember her from the excellent The Orphanage (2007) also produced by Guillermo del Toro) is mesmerising in the title role expressing every bit of her pain and determination in her facial expression.
So what is the movie of the month? Of the eleven movies listed above there are three real contenders: 13 Assassins is as breathtakingly brilliant as it is brutal; Julia’s Eyes is comfortably the best horror/thriller of the year to date; but the movie of the month goes to the surprisingly moving The Way.
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