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Posts Tagged ‘The Darkest Hour’

From speaking to American movie fans and reading their blogs I understand that January is a bit of a lean month full of crappy movies. Here in the UK things are very different, with indie gems and Oscar contenders coming out, for example last January I saw: 127 Hours, The King’s Speech, Black Swan and Blue Valentine. Unfortunately I also saw Season of the Witch! So what did I see this January?

The Artist -The story of the end of the silent era told in the format of a silent movie, stunning!

The Darkest Hour – Alien invasion movie, a good concept poorly executed.

The Iron Lady – Great performances from Meryl Streep and Jim Broadbent can’t save what is an ill judged mess of a biopic of form British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.

Shame – Beautifully shot and brilliantly acted tale of sex addiction. Michael Fassbender and Carey Mulligan are devastatingly good.

Haywire – Steven Soderbergh gets his hands dirty with a revenge B thriller and a new action star is born in the shape of former cage fighter Gina Carano.

War Horse – Manipulative, sentimental and clichéd, but surprisingly enjoyable. What do you expect for Steven Spielberg.

Underworld: Awakening – Kate Beckinsale returns in her trademark catsuit as the war between Vampires and Lycans has taken a new turn. Disposable but fun. It would have been better without the 3D.

J. Edgar – Uneven but interesting biopic of J. Edgar Hoover. The main draw is a great performance from Leonardo DiCaprio.

The Descendants – With his wife in a coma following a powerboat accident, an Hawaiian lawyer has to reconnect with his daughters. A fantastic family drama that surely makes George Clooney favourite for the best actor Oscar.

The Grey – Surprisingly good adventure thriller about a small group of drillers oil workers who survive a plane crash in Alaska only to find they are in the middle of the kill zone of a pack of wolves.

Like Crazy – A British student falls for an American classmate, things are complicated when she is deported for overstaying her visa. An honest and believable story beautifully told and with a fantastic young cast.

The movie of the month is:

And an honorable mention for a movie that is far better than I ever imagined it could be:

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I don’t mind bad movies, I actually sometimes like them, there is something charming and fun about crap movies. Take a look at the works of Edward D. Wood Jr. Enzo G. Castellari or more recently Uwe Boll, none of them are particularly good but equally none of them are completely without artistic merit or entertainment value. These movies should not be confused with a far worse crime against cinema, disappointing movies. The Darkest Hour is certainly a disappointing movie. It has so much going for it but fails to deliver. There is an attractive and talented leading couple (Emile Hirsch, Olivia Thirlby) and a director (Chris Gorak) who impressed with his debut feature (Right at Your Door), to add to all this Timur Bekmambetov (Night Watch) is attached as a producer.

So what’s the problem? Before exploring the problems it is problem worth explaining what is going on for those who haven’t seen the movie, I think that my well be most of you! Two young wannabe dotcom entrepreneurs (Emile Hirsch and Max Minghella) fly to Moscow in the search of investors for their new social media website. Finding themselves shafted by a colleague (Joel Kinnaman) they head for a trendy bar to get drunk. They quickly hook up with two American (although one is clearly Australian) girls (Olivia Thirlby and Rachael Taylor) until things go wrong. A power failure in the bar signals the start of an alien invasion involving an invisible advisory that devours electricity. Not knowing how far the invasion has spread the group look for a way out.

Where to begin! Although clichéd, the characters aren’t bad thanks to the charisma of Emile Hirsch, Olivia Thirlby and Max Minghella. Rachael Taylor lacks dimension but that is more down to the script than her performance. And that’s the big problem the story and the script. Given the huge global scale of the events, not a lot happens. The same can be said for the characters attempts escape from the aliens, they never seem to be in that much danger except from the stupid positions they put themselves in. While they are able to work out the aliens intentions and weaknesses with ease they still do senseless things and inevitably get themselves killed. The people who run upstairs when they should be running out the front door in a slasher movie display genius in comparison to some of their actions.

There is a convention in creature movies to not show the monster. As they are virtually invisible most of the time this is an easy trick for the film to accomplish. When we do see more of them towards the end of the movie they are like the movie itself, disappointing. And that’s the crux of it. Every good thing the movie does eventually falls flat and fails. To top all this off it claims to be in 3D. I don’t like 3D at the best of times but after seeing Hugo I am prepared to admit it can work however here, other than the opening and closing shots I couldn’t see any 3D.

The result is a movie that could easily have attained four out of five stars if all the parts had gelled but in reality it is so dull at times that I feel generous giving it two stars. The finall scenes suggest this is the setup for a sequel or franchise, good luck with that!

Two Stars out of Five ★★★★★

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With just two more movies to see this year: Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol and The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (making a total of 108 movies seen at the cinema this year) I am already looking forward to the new year. I am led to believe the early part of the year can be a bit of a barren time for American cinema goers but here in the UK the new year is often the time to see the Oscar bait movies that week get a few months later.

With two academy awards from sixteen nominations, nothing says Oscar like Meryl Streep. The Iron Lady tells the story of former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher. From the clips and trailers I have seen, it looks interesting, the only doubt, the directors, Phyllida Lloyd’s only other feature appears to be Mamma Mia!

I have heard nothing but good things about Shame despite the unusual and controversial subject matter, sex addiction. After the excellent Hunger (2008), the re-teaming of director Steve McQueen and actor Michael Fassbender must be a good thing. The addition of co star Carey Mulligan and I am really looking forward to this one.

Clearly Ralph Fiennes’ doesn’t believe in making life easy for himself, making his directorial debut with an adaptation of William Shakespeare’s Coriolanus. The updated setting is reminiscent of Richard Loncraine’s Richard III (1995), looks interesting.

I understand J,Edgar has had mixed reviews on the other side of the Atlantic but with Clint Eastwood in the directors chair and Leonardo DiCaprio in the starring role it has to be worth seeing.

There is already Oscar talk about George Clooney in The Descendants, directed by Alexander Payne (Election 1999 & Sideways 2004). I don’t know much about it but Clooney on good form remains a watchable movie star reminiscent of the stars from the golden age of cinema, I’m in!

Bizarrely, the two films I am most looking forward to aren’t going to feature at the Oscars, they are more what is (condescendingly) referred to as “genre movies”. As one of the few people who liked The Girlfriend Experience I am always interested in Steven Soderbergh’s more experimental ideas. Like with The Girlfriend Experience Soderbergh has gone for an unexpected lead actress for the action movie Haywire, former Mixed martial arts fighter Gina Carano. He has surrounded her with an impressive supporting cast including: Michael Fassbender, Ewan McGregor, Michael Douglas, Antonio Banderas and Bill Paxton. As I said it won’t win Oscars but it looks like its going to be fun.

There are two real guilty pleasure franchises around at the moment, we have to wait until later in the year for the next Resident Evil movie, but Underworld Awakening is out in January. Nearly a decade after the first Underworld movie Kate Beckinsale is back in her most iconic role (and costume). From the trailer it looks as dumb as the previous movies, but I really don’t care, I can’t wait!

Other movies coming out in January include: War Horse. Thanks to a really cheesy trailer, I can honestly say I have never been less excited by a new Steven Spielberg movie. I know nothing about The Darkest Hour other than what I have seen in the trailer but with director Chris Gorak who impressed with his debut Right at Your Door (2006) and Timur Bekmambetov credited as a produce I will give it a go. Another movie I now nothing about other than the trailer is Man on Ledge. The trailer makes it look a lot like Spike Lee’s Inside Man (2006), that isn’t a bad thing.

Check back on the 1st of February to find out what I actually saw and what I thought of them.

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