Monthly Archives: April 2011

Review – Your Highness (15) [2011]

Star Rating: 2.5/5

We’ve had spoofs of horror films, action films and even vampire love-stories. Now, for the first time since the amusing Robin Hood: Men In Tights, there is a parody on a medieval-based kingdom; albeit, this movie has elements of fantasy and magic in it. Your Highness may not be the most hilarious film one will see this year, but it certainly has many funny moments.

Thadeous (Danny McBride) watches as Fabious (James Franco) waits for the magical compass to indicate which way will lead them to the Sword of the Unicorn.

The film revolves around Thadeous (Danny McBride – Due Date, Despicable Me, Up In The Air), the fat and lazy second son of King Tallious (Charles Dance – Game of Thrones, Aliens 3). Thadeous is a stark contrast to his older brother, Fabious (James Franco – 127 Hours, Spiderman I, II & III, The Rise of Planet of The Apes), the handsome and athletic heir, who is the hero of the nation. Not long into the film, Fabious’ fiancée, Belladonna (Zooey Decshanel – Yes Man, 500 Days of Summer, The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy), is taken by the evil sorcerer, Leezar (Justin Theroux – American Psycho, Megamind, Miami Vice). Fabious must rescue her, and do so before the two moons come together. Otherwise Leezar will defile Belladonna, impregnating her so she can give birth to a dragon that will enable him to take over the kingdom.

As Leezar is a powerful sorcerer, the only way Fabious can defeat him is with the mystical Sword of the Unicorn. Thus, Fabious, Thadeous and a couple of others go on a quest to find the fabled sword. En route, they come across the beautiful warrior Isabelle (Natalie Portman – Star Wars I-III, Black SwanThor), who has her own reasons for wanting to defeat Leezar.

The plot is ridiculous and amusing at the same time. Your Highness does not take itself remotely serious and nor do the actors. If one were expecting another award nominating display from James Franco and Natalie Portman, one should think again before seeing this movie. The actors see the film for what it is (a joke) and play their roles accordingly. Indeed, one wonders how they kept a straight face whilst they recited some of their cliché and ludicrously laughable lines.

The evil one, Leezar (Justin Theroux), smirking as he waits for the two moons to merge.

Nevertheless, the dialogue in Your Highness does make viewers laugh quite frequently. It is a very modern, crude dialogue though; devoid of any real reflection of the medieval era. This is not necessarily a criticism; however, if one were going into this film believing it to be a satire of a by-gone age then one will be disappointed.

There is little else to note about Your Highness. The structure of the film has been done reasonably well by the director, David Gordon Green (Pineapple Express, The Sitter, Joe), but the special effects are nothing special,  and the music is a comical mishmash between Pirates of the Caribbean and The Lord of the Rings (plus probably a handful of other scores from films that I am unaware of).

Ultimately, Your Highness makes people laugh and, as a comedy, it therefore fulfils its prime purpose without being anything noteworthy. One will not be in hysterical laughter throughout the entire film, but will find much of the movie amusing if one likes crude humour.

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Review – Limitless (12a) [2011]

Star Rating: 3.5/5

It is believed that human beings only use ten to twenty-five per cent of their brainpower most of the time. After hearing this, it is natural for people to contemplate what they might be able to achieve if they could access a hundred per cent of their mind’s capabilities. Well, Limitless gives us a hint of what it could be like and it makes for pleasant viewing.

Eddie Morra, left, looking down and out, is offered the 'limitless pill' by his ex-wife's brother.

The movie is centred on Eddie Morra (Bradley Cooper – He’s Just Not That Into You, The Hangover, The A-Team), a messy and disorganized ‘wannabe’ author who has yet to write a word of his novel. His partner, Lily (Abbie Cornish – Elizabeth: The Golden Age, Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole, Sucker Punch), has just left him because she sees no future with him.

With his life going nowhere, Eddie bumps into his ex-wife’s brother, Vernon (Johnny Whitworth – Valentine, 3:10 To Yuma, Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance). After buying him a bear in the middle of the day, Vernon offers Eddie a pill that will revitalise him. Reluctantly, Eddie swallows it giving him the clarity of thought and energy that he has lacked his whole life. With this pill, no worldly ambition is beyond him. The problem for Eddie is what happens when his supply runs out and what will others do to have his key to success.

The plot for Limitless is simple to follow, entertaining and strokes one’s ego nicely.

It is not an especially thought-provoking film and several of the side-stories are dropped before they’ve been concluded. This naturally leaves a few things unanswered by the end; but as they are not major parts to the movie, it is easy for viewers to forget that these scenes even took place.

Moreover, things go so well for Eddie that one cannot help but remind oneself that life is full of ups and downs; not just ups. Limitless also doesn’t give much attention to the negative effects of taking the ‘limitless pill’ or drugs unlike, for example, Requiem For A Dream. This is a pity as it would have added a dimension to the film that is sorely lacking.

Since it does not tackle the more serious side of drug addiction, the characters do not have depth. This is a shame; especially for Bradley Cooper. He plays well as a low-life loser and a high-flying, smooth-talking, money making machine. It would have been interesting to see how he would have faired if he’d have been given the opportunity to show us the downside of taking this drug.

Eddie, looking happy with how life has panned out for him since taking the pill, being intimate with his girlfriend, Lily, played by Abbie Cornish.

No other character in the film is given enough time or the script to stamp their mark. In effect, Abbie Cornish, Robert de Niro (Goodfellas, Stardust, Meet The Parents) and Andrew Howard (Transformers II: Rise of the Fallen, Revolver, I Spit On Your Grave) are little more than mere diversions to the story of Eddie Morra’s meteoric rise. This though does not take away much from the film. It is unlikely that they’d have made a significant difference to the movie if they’d have been given more of a role.

The acting on the whole is better than the choreography. The director, Neil Burger (The Illusionist, The Lucky Ones), has not shot the film brilliantly. Some of the scenes are quite dizzying, whilst others do not flow well together. Although this can be disorientating for the audience at times, it does not make the movie hard to watch or undermine its entertainment value.

Ultimately, Limitless is an enjoyable film that enables viewers to switch off as they watch it. It is not a masterpiece and has a handful of minor flaws. Nevertheless, it leaves its audience satisfied, plus makes them think in jest what they could be like if they were able to use their mind to its full potential.

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Review – The Eagle (15) [2011]

Star Rating: 2/5

Since Gladiator, there have been many classical-era or medieval based films. All have tried to repeat the success of Ridley Scott’s masterpiece and most of them, if not all of them, have failed. For those who like the genre, The Eagle might be quite an entertaining movie. But like King Arthur, The Kingdom of Heaven and Robin Hood, it is not in the same league as Gladiator.

Marcus, played by Channing Tatum, leading a Roman legion to the garrison in northern Britain.

The Eagleis based in Roman Britain in 140 AD. In 120 AD, the Ninth legion, led by Flavius Aquila, lost the eagle, a military insignia of Roman rule, during an invasion north of Hadrian’s Wall (modern-day Scotland). The legion disappeared without trace as did the eagle. Twenty years later, Marcus Flavius Aquila (Channing Tatum – Step Up 2: The Streets, Dear John, 21 Jump Street), the son of Flavius, is a commander of Roman soldiers in England until he is given an honourable discharge due to wounds sustained in battle.

Whilst staying at the villa of his uncle Aquila (Donald Sutherland – The Italian Job, Pride & Prejudice, The Hunger Games), Marcus hears a rumour that the eagle has been seen north of the wall and is with the blue-faced Seal tribe. Despite his uncle’s warnings that no Roman can survive north of the wall, Marcus is determined to find the eagle and resurrect his family name. Taking his slave, Esca (Jamie Bell – Billy Elliot, Flags of Our Fathers, Defiance), Marcus travels north, entering unchartered and highly dangerous territory.

The storyline is pretty standard. It moves at quite a fast pace without any surprises. Similarly, the acting is distinctly average and all the characters are rigidly two-dimensional. The dialogue has several clichés too without being laughably bad. At least The Eagle depicts the cruelty of the age; particularly with regard to the (evil) Seal tribe. The fighting scenes are also quite well done and enjoyable, plus have a (vague) resemblance to the tactics Romans once used in battle. (Nevertheless, in comparison to the first scene in Gladiator or even in the much-maligned Troy, they are poverty-struck.)

The lead warrior of the Seal tribe, played by Tahar Rahim.

Otherwise, not much of the spirit of Rome, and what the empire stood for at the time, is captured in this movie; save for the elites having slaves and living in fancy villas. Moreover, the choreography of the film is not great as scenes do not slot in nicely one after the other.

Also, the director, Kevin Macdonald (State of Play, The Last King of Scotland), has let his viewers down vis-à-vis the cinematography. Scotland has many picturesque sights that Macdonald could have chosen; yet, the landscapes adopted throughout the film do not look remotely awe-inspiring. Rather, they look like a background screen of any old scenery.

In short, The Eagle might be enjoyable for classical-era movie lovers; but it is nonetheless a poor film in more or less all respects. Thus, eleven years since its release it still looks like Gladiator has no rival.

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Review – Source Code (12a) [2011]

Star Rating: 3/5

A friend of mine billed Source Code as ‘The Matrix meets Minority Report.’ While this may be a tad broad, it is not an entirely inaccurate explanation of Source Code. Although a Sci-fi film at its core, Source Code is more enjoyable to the general public than many other titles in its genre and will leave one thinking afterwards too.

Source Code is about sending someone into a computer-regeneration of a specific incident in the past in order to find out (useful) information. Throughout the movie, Colter Stevens (Jake Gyllenhaal – Rendition, Brothers, Nocturnal Animals), a US soldier in a helicopter unit, is constantly sent into the Source Code for an eight-minute stint. Each time, Colter finds himself on a train sitting opposite the cute-looking Christina (Michelle Monaghan – Mission Impossible III, Eagle Eye, Due Date); and at the end of the eight minutes, the train blows up. Himself included.

Earlier, a bomb went off on a train in Chicago and it is rumoured that another one will go off in the middle of the same city later that day. Colter’s task is to find the bomb and discover information about the bomber. His superiors, the pretty Captain Colleen Goodwin (Vera Farmiga – The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, Up in the Air, The Judge) and Dr. Rutledge (Jeffrey Wright – Casino Royale, W., The Ides of March) believe that the information could be crucial in deterring the next attack. Yet, after going into the Source Code a few times, Colter’s motives change. He intends not only to complete his mission; but also to save the passengers on the train and ask out Christina.

Source Code’s plot has numerous holes that one can pick at without difficulty. It can also feel quite repetitive at times. The director, Duncan Jones (Moon), a relative novice to the industry, puts forward some interesting ideas that bring to mind tenuous comparisons to The Matrix for de facto teleporting someone into a computer-generated world; and Minority Report for preventing an incident from occurring by using highly futuristic and technologically advanced methods. Yet, Jones also leaves several aspects of the plot with a lot of explaining to do; most notably the paradox of time-travelling and the ending.

One thing, however, that works in Source Code’s favour is that it does not descend into a mushy love-story like so many other films. The dialogue is not bad either and there are humorous moments too. Again, Jones fails to explain the quantum physics behind the invention of the Source Code; but, speculatively-speaking, he has done this deliberately knowing that the majority of the film’s viewers will neither understand nor be interested in such terminology.

Captain Colleen Goodwin and Dr. Rutledge urging Colter to go back into the Source Code so as to unearth more information about the bomb and the bomber.

That Jake Gyllenhaul plays well as the main character gives the movie the credence the plot lacks. He is not given a particularly challenging role, but he still performs decently enough. The same can be said for the other members of the cast. Michelle Monaghan, Vera Farmiga and Jeffrey Wright may act competently; however, they are not given enough screen-time for their characters to be anything other than two-dimensional.

Alike the acting, the choreography is fine. For a movie that is cyclic and teleports the main character suddenly and regularly, it does not feel overly jerky to watch. This takes some skill and credit must go to Jones for this.

All-in-all, Source Code is a surprisingly entertaining film. It has a decent cast, some good jokes and clever ideas. Nevertheless, the storyline is deeply flawed and the ending rubber-stamps it. Ironically though, the film’s very flaws are what will keep viewers thinking long after the film finishes.

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