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MSN Movies UK - Blog has written 99 posts for Periferica

This week’s big three – Sept 17th 2010

by Andy Gibbons

Comedy coppers, whacked-out actors and a bleak family drama set in rural America – it must be another week at the UK box office! 

The Other Guys (2/5) stars Will Ferrell & Mark Wahlberg as a pair of mismatched cops who are well and truly on the bottom rung of ‘cool and heroic’ ladder – Samuel L. Jackson and Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson rein supreme at the top. But they’re soon caught up in huge case centred on Steve Coogan’s shady banker which sees them well out of their comfort zone. Despite a handful of genuine laughs and a good performance from Eva Mendes as Will’s ‘plain Jane’ wife, The Other Guys just isn’t as funny as it should be. Once Jackson and The Rock are out of the picture, the film has to rely on the Ferrell / Wahlberg and they just didn’t do it for me I’m afraid. Frankly all the best bits are in the trailer so save yourself the money and just watch that a couple of times.

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I wanted to take a look at the M. Night Shyamalan produced Devil but unfortunately it’s not being screened to the press – make of that what you will – so instead we’ll movie on to I’m Still Here (3/5), Casey Affleck’s documentary / mockumentary (make up your own mind!) about his brother-in-law Joaquin Phoenix’s personal journey as he quits the acting to become a rapper. No really! We’re no closer to finding out if this often shocking yet intriguing movie is real or staged but when it’s is oddball as this, who cares? If it is staged, then I’d suggest that Phoenix be handed next year’s Best Actor Oscar now ‘cos he’s disturbingly convincing. But if it’s real, then he might need some serious therapy.

And finally this week is low-budget festival pleaser Winter’s Bone (4/5). It stars Jennifer Lawrence as 17 year-old Ree who is looking for her drug-dealing father when he skips bail after putting the family home up as insurance. Ok, so it’s not exactly laugh a minute but Lawrence gives such a stunning performance that it’s worth handing over your cash to see her alone. Throw in the scenery of the Ozark Mountains in the US and some fascinating characters and you’ve got a real, if rather bleak, winner.

This week’s big three – Sept 10th 2010

The big three have a distinctly female feel this week as Drew Barrymore, Gemma Arterton and a couple of Twilighters go head to head for your hard earned cash.

Up first is long-distance rom-com Going The Distance (2/5), which stars Drew and her real-life on-off boyfriend Justin Long as a young couple whose blossoming New York relationship faces a tough test when she heads home to San Francisco to finish school. Naturally complications ensue. While this may not be exactly redefine the rom-com genre, there’s more than enough here for both sexes – Drew and Justin offer some genuine chemistry while Long’s buddies Jason Sudeikis and Charlie Day provide the laughs. But it is Christina Applegate as Drew’s snippy sis who steals the show.

While Going The Distance is ok, Tamara Drewe (4/5) is breath of fresh Dorset air. Gemma Arterton stars as the Tamara of the title, an up-and-coming London journo who heads back to her rural home to sell the family pile her late Mum left her. But her reappearance causes some major ripples in the small rural idyll. Beautifully shot by Stephen Frears and boasting some of the best of British (including Roger Allam, Tamsin Grieg and Dominic Cooper), this is witty, sharp, dark and wildly entertaining and one of those rarest of things – a comic book movie than more than lives up to the source material.

And finally Twilight co-stars Kristen Stewart and Dakota Fanning bring us the story of rebellious ‘70s US rockers The Runaways (2/5). The pair star as founding members Joan Jett and Cherie Curie as we chart the rapid rise and ultimate fall of the all girl band – so pretty much the same as ever other rock biopic story. But let’s not dismiss things so readily – both Stewart and Fanning give decent performances and the music holds up well some 35 years after it debuted. Just how close the film is to actual events is open to question but you can sense it still has some rock and roll at its heart.

Blimey!

Hollywood needs to watch out for Bollywood. I reckon this would steal The Expendables’ lunch money!

This week’s big three – Sept 3rd 2010

by Andy Gibbons

Let’s take a quick look at the big three movies the studios hope you’ll be splashing your cash on come Friday.

In The Switch (2/5), upwardly mobile singleton Jennifer Aniston decides to beat Mother Nature to the punch and have a baby, using a carefully selected donor. But her (secretly in love with her) best friend Jason Bateman secretly swaps the samples and, nine months later, Jen’s a mommy but doesn’t know that Jason’s the daddy. Heee-lariousness ensures. It’s only a strong turn from Batemen that stops this from being another Aniston-lead romcom abomination but even then it’s a close call as director Josh Gordon plays it strictly by the numbers.

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If you’re after a decent comedy then you’d best avoid Dinner For Schmucks (2/5) ‘cos laughs are well and truly off the menu in this loose remake of French movie Le Diner De Cons. The vague plot sees Paul Rudd working for a boss who likes to host dinner parties where his guests have to invite the biggest ‘schmuck’ they can and a run-in with Steve Carell’s oddball tax inspector provides Paul with the perfect +1. Despite a decent supporting cast including Zach Galifianakis and David Walliams, this whole thing feels wildly misjudged and awkward and it really struggles to raise a smile let alone any belly laughs.

And the third biggie this week is The Last Exorcism (3/5), which I’d been assured would give me sleepless nights. Shot in a documentary style, it centres on a former Louisiana preacher whose lost his faith and is now out to expose the sham of exorcism. However his ‘final case’ proves to be more of a test than he could have imagined. Admirably tense and with a few bladder testing shocks, this is solidly scary enough but a bungled final five minutes do let things down a bit.

Sean Connery at 80: My acting days are over

 

Following his 80th birthday, the mighty screen presence of Sean Connery has gracefully stepped aside, leaving us with a few interesting reflections.

Sean Connery at the AFI Night at the Movies at the Achlight Theatre in Hollywood, California.

Hollywood legend Sir Sean Connery says that at 80, his movie-making days are behind him.

"I don’t think I’ll ever act again. I have so many wonderful memories but those days are over,” he said.

Reflecting on a career that has spanned half a century, he revealed that from Russia with Love was his favourite Bond film.

"The story was intriguing and the locations were intriguing. It was an international movie in every sense of the word," Connery explained to the Daily Record.

As for the film he most enjoyed? "Indiana Jones And The Last Crusade. I was working with Steven Spielberg and George Lucas. The teamwork was special. It was a great adventure and Harrison Ford and Denholm Elliot were wonderful actors. I had so much fun."

3D – The Good, The Bad and the Ugly

by Andy Gibbons

With Piranha 3D opening across the UK this week, I wanted to take a look at the state of 3D and see if it really is the industry changing format many people think. So let’s check out the highs and lows so far.

PiranhaUK

The Good:

Without doubt Avatar has to be top of the list. James Cameron poured his heart and soul into this film, creating groundbreaking new technology along the way which genuinely took 3D to the next level. But for me the area in which 3D works best is animation – the likes of Toy Story 3, Coraline, Up, How To Train Your Dragon and The Polar Express are just a few of the films to have benefitted from that extra dimension. It also says something about the relationship between 3D and animation that older films like The Nightmare Before Christmas and Toy Story 1 & 2 have also been successfully re-jigged. And I’ve also been impressed with both Street Dance 3D and Step Up 3D.

Better in 2D? There’s been enough care and attention put into bringing the 3D to life in these projects to warrant a solid 3D thumbs up.

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The Bad:

Where to start? Well you’ve got to give a cursory scowl to anything converted to 3D AFTER being shot. Yes Clash Of The Titans, Alice In Wonderland, The Last Airbender etc., I’m looking at you! And does anyone get the point of concert movies, let alone 3D concert movies such as Hannah Montana & Miley Cyrus: Best of Both Worlds Concert, Jonas Brothers – The 3D Concert Experience and U2 3D? Surely if you want to feel like you’re at a gig, you go to a gig, not to the cinema.

Better in 2D? Having seen Alice In Wonderland in both 2D and 3D, I can confidently testify that the latter did nothing to enhance the film. As for the others, I think it’s fair to say the 3D was little more than an afterthought and should be treated as such.

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And The Ugly:

This honour has to go to the 1983 abomination that is Jaws 3D. Ok, so it isn’t part of the new generation – I remember watching this wearing those flimsy two-tone cardboard glasses – but it was still a magnificently bad movie. The sight of the recently blown- up shark’s jaws floating out of the screen towards the audience will live with me forever…

Better in 2D? Possibly but when a film’s this bad, who cares?

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And where does the gloriously grisly Piranha 3D belong? Well I’m afraid I don’t have an ‘entertaining gimmick’ category…

To Bend or not to Bend…

by Andy Gibbons

The school playground can be a cruel arena. It’s often full of scratches and scrapes, both physical and mental as youngsters learn their way in the world. Every generation has their own favourite putdowns or cusses that are thrown around and, when I was 11 or 12, the insult du jour was ‘bender’. At that age we had no idea of the wider connotation of the word and it wasn’t even considered particularly malicious – trust me we had much worse names we could use when needed. So why now, all these years later, did I giggle my way through M. Night Shyamalan’s The Last Airbender like a naughty school boy?

Aang

And it wasn’t just me – the screening I was in was full of middle aged film critics who audibly sniggered every time the word ‘bender’ was used. For context I should point out that the ‘bending’ in this fantasy adventure is the ability to control and manipulate the elements so you have Airbenders, Earthbenders, Waterbenders and Firebenders – but these throw up all sorts of opportunities for a script of staggering one liners. ‘Highlights’ include:

‘I knew from the first time we discovered you were a bender…’

‘She’s a bender’

‘Suppress all other bending’

‘There are really powerful benders in the Northern Water Tribe’

‘We must minimise their bender sources’

In the US the word bender is used to describe drinking binges but given that the movie features Harrow’s finest Dev Patel, a guy who made his name in a TV series about teenagers, did Dev not point out to Shyamalan that his script would have a whole different meaning on this side of the pond? And let’s not forget that this film is aimed squarely at children aged 10 – 14, the exact age I was at when the ‘b’ word was so prevalent in playground politics.

Dev Patel

But before we condemn Shyamalan, it’s worth explaining that he’s working with someone else’s material. The movie is based on Avatar: The Last Airbender, a highly successful cartoon show on Nickelodeon in the US and it’s not as if Night could have used the Avatar name. Also there are very few countries in the world where ‘bender’ is or has been used as a derogatory term – can we really expect a filmmaker to make significant changes to appease our fragile sensibilities?

Things have changed considerably since I was at school – I doubt I would understand half the insults bandied around these days, let alone feel affected by them – so I think that if anyone comes out of The Last Airbender with a guilty smirk on their faces, it’s more likely to be the parents than the kids.

TLAB Intl Payoff 1-sheet_r3_3D

The Last Airbender is in cinemas from August 13th.

The Sorcerer’s Apprentice – Exclusive Alfred Molina interview

by Andy Gibbons

He’s been a staple of summer blockbusters for a few years and now perennial baddie (but they thoroughly, toughly affable) Brit actor Alfred Molina is back playing a sinister wizard in Disney’s The Sorcerer’s Apprentice. And we caught up with him for a chat to find out about the film, the special effects and the secret of Jerry Bruckheimer’s considerable success.

Tell us a bit about your character and how he fits into the scheme of things in the movie.

I play Maxim Horvath, who is a Morganian (an evil sorcerer) who, as opposed to Balthazar Blake, played by Nicolas Cage, who is a Merlinian (a good sorcerer) and the back story is that we were protégées or apprentices to Merlin and the other apprentice was a girl called Veronica [who] we fell out over her; this was a thousand years ago. Then Nic Cage’s character took the road of good and my character took the road of evil so it’s basically a classic tale of the struggle for world domination between Nic Cage and Alfred Molina.

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It’s another summer blockbuster for you and yet another villain – what is it about you and the bad guy?

Well we’re a perfect fit, a match made in heaven (laughs). I love playing bad guys. If I go down occupying a tiny little footnote in the history of films as a bad guy, that’ll suit me. I belong to a rather honourable traditional of British actors who’ve gone to Hollywood to play the villain; it goes right back to Basil Rathbone and Brian Aherne and all those guys and it’s a very nice gig. I was talking to Bob Hoskins the other day who said ‘Playing the bad guy is great because you work half the amount of time as the leading man, they treat you like the crown jewels and if the movie stinks, nobody blames you.’

And the bad guy in this certainly gets the best costumes…

Fabulous costumes. I was teasing (producer) Jerry Bruckheimer about it, I said ‘This is bit of a step up from all that crap you gave me to wear in Prince Of Persia’. They were like someone’s dirty pyjamas (laughs).

The Sorcerer’s Apprentice has lots of CGI and effects but it right you went old school for the scene in which your fingers are on fire?

Yeah, and that was a really old trick. When I read it in the script I thought ‘Oh, they’ll CGI that’ but this special effects guy comes up and they made this glove from this very, very thin rubber which they moulded to my hand and then they put flame retardant tape on the fingers. Then they rubbed the fingers with this kind of paraffin gel and said ‘Ok, this is how it works. On action we will light up your hand, it will burn and you will have between 10 to 15 seconds before it starts to get really warm. Carry on as long as possible but when it starts to get uncomfortable dip you hand in this other solution which will put it old.’ And that was it, it worked great and it looks great. But it a very strange sensation looking at your hand and watching it alight.

THE SORCERER'S APPRENTICE

You pretty much went from one Bruckheimer film in Prince Of Persia straight in this, another film of his…

Yeah, that was just fortuitous; it certainly wasn’t planned but it was a very happy accident. We were just coming towards the end of filming Prince Of Persia when one of the producers who was on both movies said ‘We’re doing this movie and we’re drawing up a list of actors – would you consider doing another film with us?’ It wasn’t an offer – they made that very clear – but I said yes and it all worked out.

Bruckheimer seems to have a bit of a midas touch when it comes to movies. Why do you think he keeps churning out hit after hit after hit?

I’m not quite sure what it is really. I could give you a bullsh*t answer but the truth is I think it’s some kind of alchemy, some sort of sixth sense. I think he’s got some feel for what’s popular and I think part of it is that he’s a movie fan himself and he follows his instincts. At some level I think he’s able to ask himself the questions ‘What do I want to go and see?’ and he follows that instinct. He understands where he’s going with it and what’s required.

You share a lot of screen time with Toby Kebbell in the film. As an up-and-comer, how do you rate him?

Oh he’s a wonderful actor Toby; he’s one of my favourite actors of his generation. The first time I saw him was in Control which I loved and then I saw Rocknrolla and then my daughter told me about Dead Man’s Shoes. He’s a wonderful actor and we had a great time working together on Prince Of Persia and then when he came on board to do Sorcerer I was thrilled because we had even more to do together.

There’s a lovely nod to your scene in Raiders Of the Lost Ark in the movie. Did you know it was planned?

I didn’t. I knew there were going to be a couple of quotes from other movies – there’s a lovely direct quote from Star Wars which Toby has which always goes down brilliantly and then Jay’s little quote from Raiders; I laughed out loud when I saw that. And I was sitting just in front of the director at the screening so I just turned around and went (puts thumbs up and grins) ’Thank you’.

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The Sorcerer’s Apprentice is in cinemas from August 11th.

How to win a dance-off…

Anna Smith, Guest Blogger

Have you often found yourself in this situation? Good. Thought you had.

In order to address this, and to celebrate the release of Step Up 3D, we’re offering a few simple steps.

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Fancy your moves? Reckon you’ve got what it takes to win a dance contest and pay those college fees/medical bills/bailiffs?

Before you throw yourself onto the ‘floor, remember that there are experts in this field. They are known as “screenwriters”. Between them, these guys have formed an indispensable guide to triumphing in dance-offs, from rough-and-ready street battles to Britain’s Got Talent-style tournaments.

By scouring through the likes of Streetdance, You Got Served, How She Move, Stomp The Yard and the entire Step Up series, we’ve put together a set of rules you must follow in order to form a winning crew. Bring it on!

1.   Move house
Statistics have shown that a lone dancer is extremely unlikely to find a suitable crew in their own ‘hood. So if you’re on your own, either move to a different area or start hanging out with dancers on the other side of town. Perhaps there’s a posh dance academy you could skulk around and make new friends?

2.   Resist change
Just because we’ve told you to move in different circles doesn’t mean you should enjoy them. Practise that sneery face – you’ll need it when your new cohorts start showing you their moves. They’re, like <completely opposite> from what you know and dancing together will never, ever work.

3.   Disrespect authority
You should give anyone in charge serious cheek or this thing will never get off the ground. This can include your parents, your dance teacher and the law (though do try to avoid actual jail). Bosses are good for this too – if you lose your job, you’ll have the incentive you need for that prize money.

4. Pick your crew
OK so you’ve made new mates who can bust a move, but do they look the part? You need at least two good looking guys – one white and one black. One should be serious and the other a rebel/joker. Then a nice smattering of racially diverse girls. All skinny, please – at least one should be struggling with an eating disorder.

5.   Train up
Stick some beats on the boom box and prepare yourself for a movie montage. Have a change of threads ready and be prepared to switch location to an abandoned warehouse. Make sure you patiently show an attractive slow-coach a move three times before they get it.

6.   Have a romance
Let’s hope you’re single, because no romance means no deal in the world of street dance. You know that boy/girl from the other side of the tracks whom you hated at first but secretly fancy? Now’s the time. Go get ‘em. Get dirty dancing.

7.   Hit the clubs
Ah, the nightclub, scene of movie’s finest dance-offs and a breeding ground for the aforementioned romance(s). You should all dress up, hit an underground club attended by your rival crew, and show them what’s what on the ‘floor. Don’t even think about drinking though.

8.   Have a fall out
No prizes for nice guys in this game – you need a row to create the kind of tension a dance crew thrives on. Maybe someone’s been keeping a secret? Perhaps there’s a mole in the ranks? Have it out with them, and then talk about disbanding the crew, dejectedly.

9.   Find a defector
Make sure one of your crew jumps ship to your rivals. They will pretend to be moving house or concentrating on their studies, but they will show up at a heat with the reigning champions, having considered them a better bet. They are so wrong.

10. Hit the heats
Heats will be held in dark, steamy cavernous buildings below the city streets. Just look out for the flyers, show up and wow them with perfectly choreographed routines you have had absolutely no time to prepare.

11.  Make the show
So you’re at the exam/audition/graduation and your crewmates are nervously preparing backstage, convinced that they will never succeed without you. Have heart – a previously cynical family member/teacher will whisk you off to the show so you can join them at the last minute.

12. Win!
You are ready to perform your final routine. This must incorporate moves from several dance disciplines, showing the audience how you have integrated as a team both spiritually and literally. You don’t need to be any better than the competition – just nicer and newly harmonious. One last thing: never, ever, dress head-to-toe in black. Leave that to the bad guys.

The A-Team roll into town

by Andy Gibbons

I’ll be the first to admit that, as a kid, I was a huge fan of The A-Team. I’d settle down in front the telly every Saturday evening to get my fix of these inventive soldiers of fortune so to hit the red carpet at last night’s UK premiere of the big screen update was, for me, pretty damn cool. And things soon flew off the cool scale as the four leads arrived in Leicester Square in BA’s iconic GMC van (even if BA wasn’t driving, it was a bloke called Bruce!).

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Out stepped Liam Neeson (Hannibal), Bradley Cooper (Face), Quinton ‘Rampage’ Jackson (BA Baracus) and Sharto Copley (Murdoch) to huge screams from the fans while director Joe Carnahan and co-star Jessica Biel weren’t far behind.

The first person I caught up with was Joe and I was keen to find out how he approached the film, given the nostalgic reverence in which many hold The A-Team. “You gotta make something that’s entertaining. I think the movie’s fantastic; it does everything it should do so if you love the show you’ll love the movie and if you know nothing about the show, you’ll still love the movie,” he told me, before explaining how he got his dream cast. “Liam was always the guy I wanted for Hannibal and I knew that if we cast Liam, you send a very specific message to people about what kind of movie it’s going to be. It’s not a comedy, it’s not a clownish sort of thing. And then, when Liam got in, it rolled downhill so quickly, literally like they’re billed in the movie – Liam, Bradley, Rampage and Sharlto. I was very, very fortunate in that way.

The A-Team premiere 065 Joe Carnahan

Liam too admitted that fans of the ‘80’s wont be disappointed by this 21st century update. “We all paid homage to the original, me with my silver hair, Rampage with his mohawk but then we made our own movie,” he said. But he admitted that playing Hannibal did have it’s downside, especially when it came to one of his particular vices. “I’ve been off cigarettes for 16 years but Joe the director insisted I smoke cigars. It was touch and go because they were Cuban cigars so it was tough and go for two days.” Fortunately he resisted and Liam is proud to confirm that he’s still smoke free.

The A-Team premiere 077 Liam Neeson

Next up were Sharlto and Copley, both of whom confessed to being big A-Team fans with Sharlto especially feeling a connection to his slightly deranged on-screen alter ego Murdoch, saying “It’s really special. It’s quite a moving experience because it was such a part of my childhood and it was so inspirational. That character in particular was one of those that made me want to be in the business. I used to do voices, I used to make little videos with my friends doing crazy voices and characters so it’s humbling to wind up looking at a billboard of myself with the name of character I grew up loving”. Rampage meanwhile admitted being much more at home with the fighting (he is a former UFC Champion after all) than he was with the driving, admitting that he “can’t drive worth sh*t.”

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Sharlto Copley                          Quinton ‘Rampage’ Jackson

And finally it was on to Jessica and Bradley. Jess, who for some reason started explaining her love of English crumpets at one point, had nothing but praise for her co-stars and director and revealed she was just ”pretty much just one of the guys” while filming. “Joe Carnahan just makes everything so comfortable so I never felt like an intruder coming to a boys club. And the guys were so nice, so professional themselves – we had a very good time” she said while Bradley (who easily got the biggest screams of the night from the fans) admitted that he’s “not even close” to being as charming as his character in the movie. I don’t believe him for a second!

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Jessica Biel                                  Bradley Cooper

The A-Team is in cinemas now.