FLIGHT review

Starring: Denzel Washington (Training Day), Kelly Riley (Sherlock Holmes), Don Cheadle (Iron Man 2), John Goodman (The Big Lebowski)

Director: Robert Zemeckis (Forrest Gump)

Writer: John Gatins (Real Steel)

Runtime: 2 hours 18 minutes

Release Date: 2 November (US), 1 February (UK)

Denzel Washington stars as a pilot with a serious drinking problem in Flight. Does this film take off in style, or does it crash and burn?

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The opening scenes of Flight are some of the most expertly crafted and intensely thrilling scenes I have seen in a long time. The plane crash centrepiece feels authentic and really puts you into the moment, and the way the film quickly sets up the character of Whip shows great character work and performance. Once that plane crashes, however, the film takes a slight dive in quality. The film goes around in circles for a little while trying to emphasize Whip’s tragic flaw, but his problem is pretty clear within the first scene; we don’t need to be constantly reminded. A scene or two could have been cut here and had no impact on the emotional climax of the film, which truly forgoes usual movie logic and seriously grounds the movie in reality. By no means is the rest of the movie bad, it just fails to match the stupendous quality of those first fifteen minutes.

Denzel is probably one of the best actors working today, and he delivers another marvellous performance here. His portrayal of an alcoholic feels much more genuine and believable than most film drunks. While his character could easily come off as a self-destructive asshole, Denzel manages to keep enough of his natural charm to make sure the audience is balanced towards his side. The rest of the cast does a great job as well. Kelly Riley truly gets to show off her talent here playing a recovering heroin addict, but her character gets faded out of the movie with little impact and her story never feels properly concluded. Don Cheadle and Bruce Greenwood also provide good support as Whip’s defense. John Goodman is also here playing comic relief that too often feels out of touch with the rest of the movie, almost as if he walked right off the set of The Big Lebowski. He’s good with what he’s given, but he just seems a little OTT for such an emotionally dark film.

It’s great to see Zemeckis working in the land of the living again instead of with soulless mo-cap, and he’s still got it. Zemeckis directs the film effectively, but never lets his style get in the way of the drama. Apart from the plane crash, this is pretty much a straight drama, and the film never tries to hide this with fancy cinematography or bombastic music. The film features heavy use of Rolling Stones music, which eventually gets overbearing. I love the Stones as much as the next guy, but this just gets bloody ridiculous.

In the end, Flight is an engaging film with an opening that is worth the price of admission on its own. Zemeckis has returned to live action in style and, while its unlikely Denzel will walk away on Oscar night with a statue in his hand, he gives a wonderful performance worthy of praise regardless.

FINAL VERDICT: 9/10

LINCOLN review

Starring: Daniel Day-Lewis (There Will Be Blood), Sally Field (Forrest Gump), Tommy Lee Jones (Men in Black)

Director: Steven Spielberg (War Horse)

Writer: Tony Kushner (Munich)

Release Date: 9 November (US), 25 January (UK)

Spielberg’s long gestating biopic about the freer of the slaves has finally reaches British shores. Is it made of pure Oscar gold, or is it just bait?

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Being a British person, I don’t have an encyclopaedic history of the life and works of Abraham Lincoln but I know the basics. Luckily, the film covers just about enough of it that it is understandable to an uninformed audience. However, that doesn’t stop the movie from being sluggish. This film is far too long by a good half hour and could have been easily cut down without missing too much. That’s not to say that the movie is bad; in fact, when it’s good it’s amazing. But there were far too many moments where I started to get restless and wanted things to move on. To worsen these matters, the film has a great ending point but then prattles on pointlessly for another 15 minutes just so we can see Lincoln’s death (c’mon, that’s not a spoiler!). We didn’t need to see that; the movie had accomplished its goal by that point.

Spielberg has assembled a massive cast for this film, so much so that great respected actors get relegated to measly roles in some cases. Regardless, everyone is really good. Praising a Day-Lewis performance is as expected as the sun setting, but it is really good anyway. He commands every scene he’s in and truly inhabits this character more than anyone who has ever played the role. Sally Field is also great as his wife, whilst Tommy Lee Jones shines in his supporting role that provides some great drama and even a little comedy.

You generally know going into a Spielberg movie how it’s going to feel, but that never stops it from being beautiful. They’ve really managed to capture the feel of the period, from the costumes to the sets. The cinematography here is really good and keeps the film flowing even during its slow moments, whilst John Williams supplies a familiar but still fitting and grandiose score.

Overall, Lincoln is exactly the kind of movie that appeals to the Academy, but not so much for me. Maybe it’s because I’m not American, maybe it’s because I’m too young, but it didn’t appeal to me so much. It is worth seeing and does deserve some awards come Oscar night, but I have no really want to ever watch it again.

FINAL VERDICT: 8/10

THE LAST STAND review

Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger (The Terminator), Forest Whitaker (The Last King of Scotland), Peter Stormare (The Big Lebowski), Luis Guzman (Boogie Nights), Jamie Alexander (Thor), Johnny Knoxville (Jackass)

Director: Kim Jee-woon (The Good, the Bad, the Weird)

Writer: Andrew Knauer

Runtime: 1 hour 47 minutes

Release Date: 18 January (US), 24 January (UK)

The legendary king of action has returned to his roots for his first leading man role in 10 years. Can an old dog still learn new tricks, or should Arnold have never said, “I’ll be back”?

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Let me get this out of the way quickly: this movie is f***ing stupid. Ridiculously so. But that by no means it is bad. This is classic dumb fun, and no amount of nitpicking can stop it from being so. Sure, there are plot holes abound and moments where the laws of physics takes a nap, but the film’s complete lax attitude towards common sense means it never bothered me. The dialogue, however, is another story. Action movies like this are rarely the work of Shakespeare, but the exposition dumping here is colossally clunky and never feels natural. On the other side of it, the film lacks good one-liners; for an Arnold movie, that’s majorly disappointing. The film is also quite slow at the start, but sitting through it is worth it to get to the last half hour, which is an action extravaganza that will constantly leave you in both shock and laughter.

I hate to say it, but it’s true: Arnold Schwarzenegger has never been a good actor. I love the guy, faults and all, but age and experience hasn’t exactly done much to improve his acting ability. Regardless, it’s great to see him back. The rest of the cast are capable, but none of them truly shine that bright. Whitaker often looks like he’s going through the motions, whilst Stormare gives the usual strange performance he gives in 95% of his movies. Guzman and Knoxville often lighten up the film during its duller moments, but the film really needs much more Arnold that it has.

When The Last Stand gets into action mode, it goes straight for the highest gear. The stuff on display here doesn’t exactly break the mould like The Raid, but it is still crazy and bombastic enough to entertain thoroughly. The cinematography really livens up the action, though it is still occasionally too close for comfort. That combined with some choppy editing can sometimes ruin the flow of the carnage, and that’s disappointing. When will action filmmakers take a hint and film action from a distance? For every film like Skyfall or Jack Reacher that does it right, we get a dozen movies edited in this nausea-enducing fashion. Despite this, the film delivers on what it promises.

The Last Stand is loud, idiotic, violent trash…and bloody great fun! I went in not asking for anything thought provoking and came out with a smirk on my face. Arnold is back on screen and, though maybe not in the best shape or in the best film, I couldn’t be happier.

FINAL VERDICT: 7/10

ZERO DARK THIRTY review

Starring: Jessica Chastain (The Help), Jason Clarke (Lawless), Joel Edgerton (Warrior), Mark Strong (Kick-Ass)

Director: Kathryn Bigelow (The Hurt Locker)

Writer: Mark Boal (The Hurt Locker)

Runtime: 2 hours 37 minutes

Release Date: December 19 (US), January 25 (UK)

The director of the Oscar-winning The Hurt Locker returns to the warzone to tackle the tale of the hunt for Osama Bin Laden. Is this a successful search, or is this case full of false leads?

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Let it be clear: this isn’t a gun-ho action movie. This is a military thriller, made up mostly of people talking about things in offices. But by no means is this movie boring; quite the opposite in fact. Yes, the film can drag and could have lost a good 15-20 minutes in the editing room, but the film always remains tense and captivating at all the right moments. This movie is all about building the tension so when the s*** goes down, it feels weighty and important. When the action hits, the film never feels Hollywoodised. This is as close to being there as 99.9% percent of the world will get to being in this situation, and it is an experience worth taking.

A film that relies on words rather than explosions needs good performances and, while none of these characters have much depth or back-story to them, these actors play it to their limits. Chastain again proves she’s one of the best new actresses working today, giving a performance that further emphasises Maya’s obsession with catching Bin Laden. None of the other actors are given much screen time, but all perform well when they’re there. Bit parts are played by major stars like James Gandolfini and Mark Duplass, but their presence never takes you out of the movie.

If there’s one thing Bigelow knows, it’s intense realism. This is something Zero Dark Thirty delivers constantly. On the rare occasion action breaks out, it always feels raw and genuinely shocking. The film has an almost documentary feel to it, shown by the heavy use of handheld camera. The editing on display here is also near flawless, and the music is subdued and always arrives at the right moments.

Zero Dark Thirty is an emotional thrill ride; a film that shows you what it wants you to see and lets you decide your moral stance. This is neither pro nor anti military, this is neutral observance. Bigelow has further honed her phenomenal skills as a filmmaker to create one of the best thrillers in recent memory, and I can’t wait to see what she does next.

FINAL VERDICT: 10/10

DJANGO UNCHAINED review

Starring: Jamie Foxx (Ray), Christoph Waltz (Inglourious Basterds), Leonardo DiCaprio (Inception), Kerry Washington (The Last King of Scotland), Samuel L. Jackson (The Avengers)

Writer/Director: Quentin Tarantino (Pulp Fiction)

Runtime: 2 hours 45 minutes

Release Date: 25 December (US), 18 January (UK)

Tarantino has once again returned to the silver screen with another genre to rejig to his stylings; in this case, the western. Does he have another classic on his hands, or is time for the master to hang up his hat?

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From the first few seconds, you can tell this is a work of Mr. Tarantino. His style is instantly recognizable and yet it never gets old. His penchant for witty dialogue is shown off here to full effect, and he again creates some of the most memorable characters in recent memory. The story of Django takes many turns, some of which I’m not so fond of. The film occasionally has iffy pacing, slowing down for too long. But he always manages to pull you back in and then the pace picks up again. Despite this, the film never feels as long as it is, and that’s never a bad thing. Another thing (and I don’t want to get all Spike Lee here, but I gotta say it) is that they do use the n-word a bit too much. I’m fine with them saying it, I’m not that shrill, but they could have changed some of them just for varieties sake. The word kind of looses impact when it’s said every other sentence.

Django Unchained has some very impressive performances from a wide variety of fine actors. Foxx himself does well in the role of Django, but he never really captures it as well as anyone else. He’s by no means bad, but there is probably an actor out there much more suited to this role. Waltz, DiCaprio and Jackson all deliver some of their best work in years and all are awards worthy (though only Waltz has seemed to have gotten the nod). The rest of the cast is filled out well with some good cameos, most notably Jonah Hill and Franco Nero (the original Django).

When you think of Tarantino, you think of two things: dialogue and violence. And boy does Django Unchained do that second one. The bloodletting on display here is bombastic and ludicrous in all the right ways. The film is shot beautifully, showing off everything to great effect. Tarantino always has a knack for nailing those genre conventions, and he does it again here. From those fast zooms, to vast landscapes, and even some obvious day-for-night at one point. All of it shows that Tarantino knows his s***. The soundtrack is incredibly anachronistic as usual, but it almost always fits.

Django Unchained is probably Tarantino’s best since Pulp Fiction. It never quite matches up to that masterpiece, but it comes damn close. It’s also probably his most accessible film and easily his most fun. Check it out while you can on the big screen. It ain’t perfect, but hardly anything is.

FINAL VERDICT: 9.5/10

LES MISERABLES review

Starring: Hugh Jackman (X-Men), Russell Crowe (Gladiator), Anne Hathaway (The Dark Knight Rises), Amanda Seyfried (In Time), Eddie Redmayne (My Week with Marilyn)

Director: Tom Hooper (The King’s Speech)

Runtime: 2 hours 38 minutes

Release Date: 25 December (US), 11 January (UK)

Les Miserables is part of an endangered species: the musical. A genre still prosperous on stage, but not so much on screen. With a talented team behind it, does this film prove that musicals are still relevant, or does it support the extinction argument?

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As with the stage original, this is a very truncated version of Victor Hugo’s classic tale; almost like cliffnotes set to music. The story is both incredibly simple and needlessly complicated, making it easy to catch the broad strokes but still leave you confused. As an adaption of the stage version, it’s pretty accurate but of course certain things change. Certain songs have been cut, but some new ones have been put in, and those songs are pretty pointless. The film is incredibly long and dragged out enough as it is; we didn’t really need any new material.

This is much more of an actor’s film than any previous musical, and here plenty of actors get their time to shine. Jackman is great as Valjean, portraying the conflict constantly running through this man incredibly well. Crowe has gotten a lot of flack from some people, but I thought he was fine. He can’t really stand up to anyone else musically, but on an acting level he nails it. Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter provide some great comic relief, even if they are again playing the sort of roles they always play. Redmayne and Seyfried are serviceable and never really stand out, but don’t ruin the proceedings. But the standout is Hathaway, giving what could be her career-defining performance. A win at the Oscars is almost guaranteed, and rightly so.

Where Les Miserables really falters is in its aesthetic choices. Tom Hooper is a good director, but his style doesn’t always gel with the musical genre. His tendency to frame his shots with the actors in the corner gets annoying after he does it for the twenty-seventh time, and he keeps things in such shallow focus that you can’t always appreciate the artistry in the sets and costumes. The editing is also incredibly choppy, especially during any scenes involving action. It’s not quite Greengrass or Bay bad, but it’s still annoying. The music, as you’d expect, is great but it’s not done in the traditional manner; the film really emphasises the grim nature of the story and strays away from the traditional jolly tone of other musicals.

Les Miserables is a good movie. Is it Best Picture worthy? Hell no. But it’s still worth your time purely based on Hathaway’s performance. There are dozens of directors who probably would have been a better choice to direct this than Hooper, but it doesn’t damage the movie too much.

FINAL VERDICT: 8/10

GANGSTER SQUAD review

Starring: Josh Brolin (True Grit), Ryan Gosling (Drive), Emma Stone (The Amazing Spider-Man), Sean Penn (Milk)

Director: Ruben Fleischer (Zombieland)

Writer: Will Beall

Runtime: 1 hour 57 minutes

Release Date: 10 January (UK), 11 January (US)

2013 kicks off with a film that should have come out last year. After a long delay due to the tragic events in Aurora last July, Gangster Squad finally hits theatres. Is it the crime classic some hoped it would be, or will it end up sleeping with the fishes?

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Gangster Squad suffers an unfortunate ailment: being inconsistent. It’s inconsistent in tone, it’s inconsistent in pace and, most unfortunately, inconsistent in quality. The film is all over the place at the start, switching between serious and comedic on the flip of a coin. The film keeps stopping and starting, not letting the action scenes play out properly. However, the film picks up about halfway through and starts to become enjoyable with some fun action scenes and witty banter, capped off by a great shootout in and around a hotel. The film ends better than it starts, but it never truly makes up for that rocky beginning. And for those still wondering, the whole set piece inside the movie theatre is gone (rightfully so).

The main problem I find with Gangster Squad comes from its characters, but not its cast. Everyone in the movie does as good as they can with the parts given to them, but none of the roles are given much meat on the page beyond the most cardboard of cut-outs. The Gangster Squad themselves are made up of the kind of team stereotypes you always see in these types of movies: the suave ladies’ man, the wildcard gunslinger, the nerdy tech guy, so on and so forth. I guess this could be a reference to the classic crime films of old, but they could have kept these character outlines and expanded upon them instead of just presenting them as they are. The only characters that really get any kind of development are Brolin, Gosling and Stone, and even then they go through the motions you expect. Sean Penn is clearly having fun hamming it up as Mickey Cohen, and it is enjoyable to watch him flip out in a bloody rage, but is still often falls into OTT territory. As I said before, my problem isn’t with the actors (Brolin, Nick Nolte and Robert Patrick are great in their roles), but the writer should have put a lot more effort into fleshing them out.

Gangster Squad is a visually interesting movie. The film recreates 1940’s Los Angeles in an exaggerated fashion, which generally suits the tone of the film. The cinematography is often inventive and the action scenes fun, but then the music is sometimes overly bombastic for no good reason and the editing often gets choppy. The film occasionally feels like a Zack Snyder film, which isn’t necessarily bad but I wish Fleischer could have come up with his own visual flair.

In the end, Gangster Squad’s good qualities manages to outweigh the bad. The film can be a lot of fun once it gets itself in order, and isn’t anywhere near as bad as some critics are making it out to be. But the film’s blemishes are too noticeable to ignore, damaging a film that, with much more effort put into the script, could have become The Untouchables of this generation.

FINAL VERDICT: 6/10

My Top 20 Most Anticipated Films of 2013

2013 is shaping up to be an exciting year in cinema and, while I’m not quite done yet with the films of 2012 (I’ll do a best of list for that around Oscar time), I think I should get this list done before I see any films from this year. So without further adieu, here’s my list starting from the bottom.

20. The Last Stand – Arnie’s coming back in full swing this year with The Last Stand, and while it certainly looks dumb it also looks f***ing awesome! Korean madman Kim Jee-Woon makes his Hollywood debut with this film, and his style is all over this. What it seems to lack in brains it definitely has in brawn, so I’m going to remain cautiously optimistic about this one.

19. Ender’s Game – I’ve never read any of the books, but the premise alone here has me interested. Whilst very little has been shown so far and I’m a little nervous considering what happened the last time Gavin Hood was handed a Hollywood project, this could hopefully be the start of a cool sci-fi franchise.

18. Sin City: A Dame to Kill For – I think it’s quite obvious that both Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller aren’t the men they used to be, but that can’t stop me from getting excited about finally re-entering the scummy streets of Basin City. I’m mainly optimistic about this one for two reasons. One: Joseph Gordon-Levitt just joined the cast. And two: Frank Miller isn’t taking complete writing credit, so let’s hope William Monahan has managed to cut down on the crap.

17. Carrie – I’m a fan of the original Brian De Palma film, but I think that not only is it a good time to take another stab at this story, it’s also in the safe hands of talented filmmakers. Chloe Moretz is a phenomenal young actress and I’m sure she’s found a way of making her version of the tormented psychic entirely her own. Let the blood flow!

16. Evil Dead – Speaking of remakes and blood, here’s one I never thought I’d say I’m looking forward to. Remaking The Evil Dead seemed like a bad idea to me for a long time. But the footage so far has convinced me it could work. If nothing else, they at least haven’t neutered out the gore. While it still looks a little too slick and clean right now, it will hopefully still stand shoulders above all the other pointless horror remakes.

15. Oblivion – Tom Cruise seems to be on a roll right now, and so far it looks like his next adventure won’t disappoint either. The design of this post-apocalyptic world looks both fresh and beautiful, and the trailer only hints at what sounds like an interesting story. Whilst many may be wary considering this is in the hands of Tron: Legacy’s Joseph Koskinski, I’m remaining confident that this will be an interesting ride.

14. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire – Whilst I haven’t read the books, I enjoyed the first Hunger Games film despite its many flaws. The first film left off in a way that has me interested in what happens next and I’m hoping they can iron out the flaws despite the film being in the hands of (in my opinion anyway) a much less talented filmmaker.

13. Monsters University – Pixar really needs a critical hit on their hands to get out of their recent slump, and I’m really hoping this one can re-establish the bar even though it doesn’t seem the most ideal way of doing it. Pixar has produced both amazing and terrible sequels, so let’s see what they can do with a prequel. But I’m still waiting for my Incredibles sequel!

12. Oz: The Great and Powerful – I am a humungous Sam Raimi fan and will watch anything of his without question and, whilst so far this one doesn’t seem all there, I’m looking forward to it anyway. The film so far looks a little too Burton’s Wonderland, but here’s hoping they’ve made a good tale that both honours the 1939 classic and does something new with the material.

11. Thor: The Dark World – The first Thor film managed to get past the flaws of its premise and create a strong new fantasy/superhero world to explore. And while it’s disappointing that Kenneth Branagh has moved on from the franchise, I’m confident that it will live up to the quality of its predecessor.

10. The Wolverine – Let’s get this out of the way: X-Men Origins Wolverine was a steaming pile of s***. But after the success of First Class and the new hands they’ve put the project in, I’m sincerely hoping that we can finally get the Wolverine movie the fans deserve. Just don’t fail me now or I’ll really need to get one of those amnesia bullets from the first movie.

9. The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug – The first Hobbit movie was enjoyable despite it’s problems, and here’s hoping Jackson has listened to the feedback and will accordingly adjust his second instalment. Considering I know the story already, I’m mainly curious how they’re going to end this one and how much of the book they’ll leave for the final film. Plus, we’d better see Smaug. His name’s in the bloody title, so if we don’t then that’s just false advertising.

8. Kick-Ass 2 – I’m a big fan of the first film and the graphic novel it’s based on. I’ve yet to read the sequel comic, but I’m excited for the film regardless. It’s sad that Vaughn has stepped down from directing duties, but if it’s even close to being good I’ll be satisfied.

7. Pacific Rim – Giant robots versus giant monsters. What more could you ask for from a summer blockbuster? Guillermo Del Toro is a visually charged director, and so far this is looking to be nothing but good old-fashioned fun. Let’s just hope I avoid singing the Power Rangers theme the whole time.

6. Gangster Squad – After the delay caused by the tragic events in Aurora this past July, Ruben Fleischer’s crime caper is ready to hit the screen. The cast alone is enough to get me excited, but Fleischer’s participation pushes this from interesting to must-see.

5. Man of Steel – Superman is due a true modern update, and right now it looks like it’s taking the right steps. Nolan’s influence is clear here, and hopefully he’s reigned in on Snyder’s more distracting visual trademarks. Henry Cavill so far looks perfect as The Last Son of Krypton, but we’ve yet to see him pull off the bumbling Clark Kent and that still has me worried. Come June, we should know if the world really needs a Superman.

4. Iron Man 3 – Jon Faverau’s departure from the director’s chair is sad, but in his place is the brilliant Shane Black who I’m sure will both follow the footsteps made by Faverau whilst bringing his own trademarks to the franchise. Shellhead is finally facing his arch-nemesis in this third instalment, and here’s hoping we’ll actually get a decent final battle in an Iron Man movie.

3. Star Trek Into Darkness – JJ Abrams’ first Trek film converted me from novice to casual fan, and the sequel so far looks to be topping it immensely. Everything looks scaled up and improved, and Cumberbatch definitely fits the shoes of the villain, whoever the hell he’s supposed to be.

2. The World’s End – Edgar Wright has so far yet to do any wrong in my opinion, and whilst his finale to the Cornetto Trilogy has so far remained quite secret it sounds great. That, and once he’s finished this, Wright finally moves onto the Ant-Man movie. Yay!

1. Elysium – District 9 was an absolute revelation and one of the most interesting sci-fi films in recent memory. Neill Blomkamp’s follow-up remains on the top of my list despite the lack of information about it. But with big names like Matt Damon and Jodie Foster attached, and a considerably bigger budget, I’m reasonably confident that we’ll be seeing another sci-fi classic come this September.

SAFETY NOT GUARANTEED review

Starring: Aubrey Plaza (Scott Pilgrim vs. The World), Mark Duplass (Zero Dark Thirty), Jake Johnson (21 Jump Street), Karan Soni

Director: Colin Trevorrow

Writer: Derek Connolly

Runtime: 1 hour 26 minutes

Release Date: June 8 (US), December 26 (UK)

Well, this one took a long time to cross the pond. And upon arrival here, it’s only playing at one theatre at one time for less than a week here in Edinburgh. It’s a real shame too, as Safety Not Guaranteed is a heart-warming hilarious ride that should be getting a much wider distribution here than it is.

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While inspired by a real want ad, this story is in no way based on true events; that should become pretty clear once this movie gets into it’s third act. But this film has an incredibly original tale to tell, which is thanks to an incredibly simple but funny script. The film has a very sardonic sense of humour that keeps you entertained through a movie that feels surprisingly long and deep for a film that runs shorter than an hour and a half. You’ve probably seen similar films to Safety Not Guaranteed, but not one quite like this. The only negative I can say is that some might find the ending abrupt and disappointing, but I think it was the best way they could end it without becoming too corny or ridiculous.

The cast of the film is mainly made up of the actors you usually see playing bit-parts in much larger films, but everyone puts in great performances here. Aubrey Plaza is perfectly cast in a part that seems made for her deadpan style of humour. She makes this character seem much more engaging than if played by a much broader actress and even manages to get a lot of emotion out of it. Mark Duplass is also great as the aspiring time traveller Kenneth. He nails that fine balance between quirky and crazy, making sure you like the character whilst never forgetting that this guy is totally nuts. Johnson and Soni have great comic chemistry together and their B stories could be entire movies in and of themselves. There are some much bigger names in the film in small cameos, but I won’t ruin those for you considering the advertising doesn’t.

The film has a very simple but beautiful look to it. It has that first feature feel, but it is never distracting. The cinematography isn’t there to show you some fancy shots for no reason to make this film look more expensive; it just captures what it needs to and lets the story and characters carry the film. The music has the kind of indie feel you expect from a movie like this, but it really does fit here and isn’t distracting like it can be in other similar films.

In conclusion, Safety Not Guaranteed is a wonderful motion picture that needs to be seen by all indie film lovers out there. If you enjoy films like Little Miss Sunshine or (500) Days of Summer, this will be right up your alley. Trevorrow and Connolly are genuinely fresh new talents that will hopefully get much more work after this, and I hope this film at least develops a strong enough cult following to keep it alive.

FINAL VERDICT: 9.5/10

RISE OF THE GUARDIANS review

Starring: Chris Pine (Star Trek), Alec Baldwin (Beetlejuice), Hugh Jackman (X-Men), Isla Fisher (Wedding Crashers), Jude Law (Sherlock Holmes)

Director: Peter Ramsey

Writer: David Lindsay-Abaire (Oz: The Great and Powerful)

Runtime: 1 hour 37 minutes

Release Date: November 21 (US), November 30 (UK)

Dreamworks’ latest creation slams together the characters of our childhood into one movie to do battle against evil. Is it The Avengers of animated movies, or does quantity ruin the quality?

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The story of Rise of the Guardians is pretty standard fare. You’ve got your newcomer introduced to a new world that he wants no part of until he realises his true calling so he can come back and save the day. Sound familiar? This wouldn’t be so noticeable if the main character of Jack Frost was made more interesting, but he isn’t. They hint at this lost backstory of his throughout the entire movie, which is intriguing at first, but then they tell you and you’re left wondering, “That’s it?” The film has all the standard messages to kids about believing and standing up to fear, but doesn’t put an interesting enough twist on them. The movie does at least move at a fast pace and I was never really bored.

The characters of the film are varied and distract enough from the bland story. Chris Pine does a decent job at playing Jack Frost, but it’s the writing that really fails him. Alec Baldwin and Hugh Jackman are great as Santa and the Easter Bunny, providing interesting and funny twists on these well-known icons, whilst the silent Sandman provides some good visual gags. Jude Law’s Boogeyman is also visually interesting with his powers, but his shtick feels like it came straight out of Loki’s pocket. Law can play bad guy well, but he really could have come up with own way of doing it here.

What Rise of the Guardians lacks in story, it makes up for in visuals. The film has some really great designs, making these familiar characters and environments feel fresh and new again. The film is full of colour and magic, which is sure to entertain the kids it’s aimed at. The music is suitably fantastically, and the 3-D is actually well used here to augment the action.

Ultimately, Rise of the Guardians has some great concepts but ultimately needed a much more original story to make it seem more like the fresh idea it genuinely is. It is by no means bad and will be sure to entertain the family, but it probably won’t end up an animated classic in the vein of Toy Story or Shrek.

FINAL VERDICT: 7.5/10