Since novelist Dan Brown wrote a new thriller featuring the symbologist Robert Langdon, Tom Hanks and director Ron Howard have reteamed to bring it to the big screen. But this second sequel to The Da Vinci Code feels like a pale imitation of the original. Gone are the clever, fake-academic revelations and rather wacky action antics, and in their place are clues that feel utterly irrelevant, accompanied by fights and chases that are incoherent.
At least it opens well, with Langdon (Hanks) waking up in a Florence hospital without a clue how he got to Italy. Then when a sexy cop (Ana Ularu) tries to kill him, Robert's hot doctor Sienna (Felicity Jones) helps him escape. She also has an unusual knowledge of antiquities, so she travels with him to figure out why he's being chased by the police, an army of World Health Organisation officials (led by Sidse Babett Knudsen), a man (Omar Sy) leading a team of violent goons and a shady businessman (Irrfan Khan). Robert traces all of these shenanigans to the recently deceased billionaire anarchist Bertrand (Ben Foster), who was plotting to release a virus that would kill off half of mankind to halt overpopulation. Is his plan still going forward? Can Robert stop it in time? The next clues are in Venice and then Istanbul.
The settings are gorgeous, and Howard knows how to use them to pack the film with old world elegance. But while David Koepp's script keeps the mayhem moving along whether or not it makes any sense, Howard directs everything at a glacial pace. So it looks like Hanks is in danger of falling asleep at any time, even in the middle of a car chase. There's also the problem that the central premise is utterly preposterous: if you're planning a terrorist attack that will kill four billion people, would you take the time to set it up as an elaborate scavenger hunt? And it doesn't help that everyone in the movie seems untrustworthy. The script sorts the good from the bad as it goes along, but it never matters.
Continue reading: Inferno Review
A-list director Ron Howard worked with the surviving Beatles to assemble this engaging documentary, which offers an inside look at Beatlemania, the three years when the best pop band in history toured the world. The messy title is a hint as to how compromised this film is: it's not a proper journalistic look at the band, but rather an approved portrait with the rough edges removed. But with its never-seen footage and lots of great music, it can't help but be hugely entertaining.
John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr spent years developing their sound before they hit the big time. And when they set off on their first tour in 1963, things immediately went crazy, with unprecedented displays of fan adoration. Fans couldn't get enough of these cheeky young guys from Liverpool, and their irreverent antics during interviews further endeared them to their audience. As they embarked on their first major tour of America, young journalist Larry Kane was sent to accompany them. Initially annoyed at this fluffy assignment, Kane was won over by their talent and the way they stood up to segregation laws in the South. But by 1966, they found that playing concerts in stadiums was simply too exhausting (they couldn't hear themselves above the screaming), so they abruptly stopped performing in public. The rest of their career took place in the studio.
All of this is recounted in a terrific range of home movies, archive footage, snapshots and interviews from the time, plus present-day recollections from Paul and Ringo. Added to this are interviews with celebrities who as children saw them perform, artists who worked with them and historians who examine their talent and impact. With access to this kind of material and a skilled editing team, Howard creates a film that's energetically gripping, offering a perspective on the Beatles that we may not have seen before.
Continue reading: The Beatles: Eight Days A Week - The Touring Years Review
With a huge budget and a relatively small story, this is an intriguingly offbeat blockbuster that might struggle to find an audience. Basically, it's aimed at fans of more thoughtful, personal stories of tenacity and survival, but it's shot with a massive special effects budget that sometimes seems to swamp the drama. Still, it's involving and moving. And it's also fascinatingly based on the true events that inspired Moby Dick.
The story is framed in 1850 as novelist Herman Melville (Ben Whishaw) visits an ageing sailor named Tom (Brendan Gleeson) to quiz him about a momentous event in his past that he has never spoken of. Flash back to 1820 Nantucket, and Tom (Tom Holland) is a rookie crew member on the whaling ship Essex, working under the posh, privileged Captain George (Benjamin Walker) and his able but low-class first mate Owen (Chris Hemsworth). As these these two leaders clash against each other, the ship sails off for what will be a very long journey. Eventually they head into the Pacific in search of a mythical pod of whales. But when they find it, they run afoul of a gigantic white whale that takes their arrival personally, sinking their ship and pursuing the survivors in their lifeboats.
All of this is staged as an epic battle between humanity and nature, with layers of interest in the way these men strain to survive against unimaginable odds. It's a riveting story, beautifully shot and rendered with immersive effects. And the cast members create complex characters who are profoundly changed by their experience. Not only is there mammoth action, but there's plenty of barbed interaction and even some strongly emotional moments that bring the themes home to a modern audience. Sometimes this aspect feels a bit corny, as clearly whalers at the time wouldn't feel remorse about killing one of these majestic creatures. But we would.
Continue reading: In The Heart Of The Sea Review
This may look like it's going to be a zany Christmas romp, but it's really a warm exploration of family connections, essentially an American take on Love Actually's multi-strand comedy-drama. At least it has an unusually strong cast and moments of hilarity scattered throughout the story. And while it's never very deep, the themes are strongly resonant.
The Cooper family is gathering for what Charlotte (Diane Keaton) hopes will be one last perfect Christmas together. She knows that her 40-year marriage to Sam (John Goodman) is on the brink, but is ignoring that to plan a massive dinner. Their son Hank (Ed Helms) is stinging from divorce and unemployment, while daughter Eleanor (Olivia Wilde) has picked up a hunky soldier (Jake Lacy) in the airport and asks him to pose as her boyfriend so her family will stop asking about her love life. Meanwhile, Charlotte's father Bucky (Alan Arkin) is trying to cheer up his favourite waitress (Amanda Seyfried), and Charlotte's sister Emma (Marisa Tomei) is delayed when a cop (Anthony Mackie) arrests her for shoplifting.
Narrated with wry joviality by Steve Martin, the interwoven stories are fairly simplistic, but each touches a raw nerve. And the above-average cast brings out the underlying themes without overplaying their scenes. Keaton and Goodman add subtle shades to the slightly undemanding central roles, while Arkin finds a couple of new textures to his usual twinkly grandad persona. Helms and Wilde strike the right balance in their intriguingly unlikeable roles, while Tomei gets the most complex character as a woman who feels like she's merely watched her life drift along. By contrast, the outsiders played by Seyfried, Lacy and Mackie are much less defined, but each actor brings just enough magnetic energy. The most wasted performer is June Squibb, as a ditzy old aunt who's little more than the requisite gross-out relative.
Continue reading: Love The Coopers (aka Christmas With The Coopers) Review
The cast and crew were spotted among the many arrivals on the red carpet at the New York premiere for James Brown biopic 'Get On Up'; among them included stars Tika Sumpter and Brandon Mychal Smith, co-screenwriter John-Henry Butterworth, co-producers Erica Huggins and Brian Grazer and director Tate Taylor.
Get ready to be reminded about some absolutely appalling films as we try to ease Disney's Lone Ranger-shaped worries with an overview of some of the biggest box office bombs of all time
Jerry Bruckheimer and Johnny Depp back together in another swashbuckling adventure, what could possibly go wrong? Unfortunately for Disney, a lot did go wrong with The Lone Ranger; no one was interested in a big screen version of a 1930s radio series. Johnny Depp is starting to lose his box office appeal and, ultimately, it was terrible. But hey, at least there's worse film right?
The Lone Ranger probably wont make it into the top five
The film isn't out of cinemas yet, so we can't really say how much it will lose (who knows, it might have the best week three in cinema history), but we can assume it will sit nicely next to Disney's last big box office flop: 2012's John Carter. Speaking of John Carter, when it comes to the top box office flops, the confused martian adventure doesn't even break into the top ten. Here's the five worst performing films of all time.
Ridley Scott has a good thing going here, tossing these two Hollywood bigshots into the ring and letting them play cops and robbers while he slathers on the period detail with a trowel. There's some serious Superfly outfits (including a godawful $50,000 chinchilla coat that plays a surprisingly key part in a plot twist), a generous helping of soul music, enough fantastic character actors to choke a horse (Idris Elba, Jon Polito, Kevin Corrigan, an incredibly sleazy Josh Brolin, and so on), the specter of Vietnam playing on every television in sight, and the odd enjoyment one gets from watching cops in the pre-militarized, pre-SWAT days take down an apartment with just revolvers, the occasional shotgun, and a sledgehammer to whack down the door. Scott's smart enough to let the story cohere organically and without rush, keeping his main contenders apart for as long as could possibly be borne, making them fully developed characters in their own right and not just developed in opposition to the other. But there's something in this broad and expansive tale that can't quite come together, and it seems to start in Denzel's eyes.
Continue reading: American Gangster Review
The Klumps once again revisits the life of Sherman Klump, an overweight university science professor looking for love in all the wrong places. Sherman has just invented a new "youth drink" that enables man or beast to become younger for a short period of time. Janet Jackson is the love interest who chooses the lovable Sherman for a soul mate rather than excel at her career as a university professor (and for the most ridiculous reasons). With love on his mind, Sherman is determined to rid himself of his alter ego, Buddy Love from the first Professor, who still resides with vigor inside his psyche and causes Sherman to act like a bad imitation of Vince Vaughn from Swingers. With some convoluted mumbo-jumbo about DNA extraction, Sherman extracts the "Buddy Love" link in his DNA and smartly deposits Buddy into a handy-dandy lab beaker. But one night, the beaker is knocked over and Buddy Love is regenerated... because every movie like this needs an unnecessary villain to thwart the good guy.
Continue reading: Nutty Professor II: The Klumps Review
But the violence is real, like when The Rock repeatedly pummels Mankind with a folding chair. And that isn't cow's blood running down his head afterwards as he rolls around on the mat, apparently incoherent.
Continue reading: Beyond The Mat Review
Relative newcomer Kate Bosworth plays Anne Marie, unofficial leader of a trio of surfer chicks and the only one who's tasted fame. Three years prior, she aced a teen championship and flirted with the pro circuit, but a head-on collision with the coral reef resulted in a near-death drowning incident that Anne Marie just can't shake. Her reluctance to get back on the board threatens her final shot at the Pipeline Championship, and the sponsorships and recognition that come with the pro surfing tour.
Continue reading: Blue Crush Review
American audiences adore underdog stories, particularly those tied to sports. From Rocky to Seabiscuit, we devour worthy longshots given a chance to reclaim such precious commodities as pride, significance, or the undying love of family. That, and anything with Darth Vader in it.
Continue reading: Cinderella Man Review
Seldom do movies contain enough power to influence or change our convictions. Through enormously convincing performances, a masterful screenplay, and aggressive direction, this movie takes us on an extraordinary journey into the mind of a fascinating character, providing insight on its unique subject. Move over Good Will Hunting, here comes the ultimate movie about a math wiz!
Continue reading: A Beautiful Mind Review
The film stars Eddie Griffin as Undercover Brother, a modern day black man with a wild afro and everything a '70s man could want, including a solid gold caddy, platform shoes, and polyester bell-bottoms. Brother is recruited by the B.R.O.T.H.E.R.H.O.O.D. organization to help overpower the evil efforts of "The Man." The Man, along with henchmen "The Feather" (Chris Kattan) and "White She-Devil" (Denise Richards) are causing havoc with race relations between blacks and whites. In "Operation Whitewash," The Man has influenced black General Boutwell (Billy Dee Williams) to not run for President, but rather to open a chain of fast food chicken restaurants.
Continue reading: Undercover Brother Review
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