The Watchers

The Watchers

Monday, 30 June 2014

Film Review: CHEF

Jon Favreau the Director of Iron Man, Iron Man2 and Elf – comes a much smaller, personal story. Here the director takes the lead roll, in a film that is very much a labour of love.
The plot surrounds a 40 something Chef, Carl Casper. Who is divorced and has a young son – he lives in a small apartment while paying for the marital home. He works at a restaurant which has become uncreative for him, we quickly learn he has been cooking the same menu for the past ten years. Due to events that unfold (not wanting to spoil) he finds himself rebuilding his career from a food truck serving Cuban sandwiches.



What could have been a run of the mill Hollywood comedy without a soul becomes thankfully the opposite. The director makes sure that the characters and the story are at the focus here. A man lost in his life hit his stride ten years previous and now unknowing where, what or even why to bother with life.
The film is heart warming without being sicking, it is by far the best drama I have seen in years from an American film maker. The cast tells you about this director and the project – because these actors of there calibre are not doing this film for a pay check, the budget just isn’t there. The work is why this cast is here and it shows on screen. A supporting cast such as John Leguizamo, Scarlet Johansson, Oliver Platt, Robert Downey Jnr and Dustin Hoffman don’t just work on anything or even just work on it because there friends with the director (helps im sure).
The film will leave you smiling and satisfied with life and the film you’ve seen. What is so brilliantly written in this film is the Father Son relationship, perfectly written, paced and acted. Enjoy this – it will make you smile and also make you want to eat after viewing.

4 out of 5 - Rhys

Thursday, 26 June 2014

Bond In Motion

I took a look at the James Bond exhibit in Covent Garden in London, it is a must for all film fans - but if your a Bond nut like us at The Watchers book your tickets now!


so take a look at the Photos from my trip here and enjoy :)

If you are a James Bond fan and new to us at the The Watchers - take a look at the Bondathon we did for Cancer Research Wales back in 2012.
Rhys

thewatcherscharitybondathon2012


Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Mini-Countdowns: TV-To-Film Adaptations



Friday (27th June) sees the opening of Mrs Brown's Boys D'Movie, a big-screen adaptation of the hit TV comedy show, the latest in a veritable host of films that have been made based on TV shows. 

In The Simpsons Movie, Homer states 'I can't believe we're paying to see something we get on TV for free!' The best films based on TV shows take the original premise and do something more with it, rather than just rehash the same old stuff that you can see on your telly without the expense and hassle of leaving your sofa. Unsurprisingly, there's a bit of a quality control issue. For every Star Trek: The Motion Picture, there's a Holiday On The Buses... 

So, in honour of Mrs Brown's Boys D'Movie, here are five good and five not-so-good TV adaptations. 

THE GOOD...

1. Serenity (2005)


The fact that Firefly only lasted for 13 episodes before being canned is still something that sticks in the craw of a lot of Joss Whedon fans. Thankfully, Serenity did an admirable job of giving the crew a final outing. Energetic, skilfully directed and full of the usual Whedonesque quip and one-liners, it's a damn fine film and a good example of how a TV-to-cinema adaptation should work.

2. The Inbetweeners Movie (2011)


One of the strengths of The Inbetweeners is its truthfulness in capturing the awkwardness of being in your late teens and all that it entails. The film continues that by transplanting the hapless foursome on a lads' holiday in Malia. Again, just like the TV show, it's screamingly funny, toe-curlingly cringeworthy and unflinchingly honest.

3. South Park: Bigger, Longer And Uncut (1999)


South Park has never been known for its subtlety or manners. Even on TV, it pushes the envelope when it comes to good taste and propriety. Well, in the film, the envelope is not so much pushed as viciously shoved into the long grass. The result? A profane, jaw-dropping and downright hilarious movie. 

4. In The Loop (2009)


I had some concerns that the scabrously funny and merciless political satire of The Thick Of It might be somehow tempered or diminished by a big-screen outing which transplanted the politics from London to Washington. The fear of a neutered Malcolm Tucker, hindered by having to rein in the foul-mouthed bluster, just didn't sit right. However, all those fears were allayed when I saw the finished result. Peter Capaldi's brilliant as always as the ferocious spin doctor and the insightful and bloody funny script was nominated for a Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar.

5. Dr. Who And The Daleks (1965) and Daleks Invasion Earth 2150AD (1966)


Essentially augmented big-screen adaptations of the first two TV stories which featured the Doctor's nemeses- The Daleks and The Dalek Invasion Of Earth- these films capitalised on the Dalekmania of the mid-1960s and has a great central turn by Peter Cushing as an alternative version of The Doctor.


AND THE BAD...

1. Bewitched (2005)


I am a big fan of Nicole Kidman and I will pretty much forgive her anything, but this woeful outing really does strain that forgiveness. It fails at the very start for trying to be too clever- an actor revives the show Bewitched and casts a real witch in the role of Samantha- but the script is uneven at best and there's zero chemistry between Will Ferrell and Kidman. Even a game supporting turn by Shirley MacLaine can't elevate this beyond dismal.

2. Thunderbirds (2004)


All you need to know about this cinematic abomination (apart from the fact that it seems that this is one of Ben Kingsley's doing-it-for-the-money roles) is that Gerry Anderson- creator of the original Thunderbirds- declared this to be 'the biggest load of crap' he had ever seen in his entire life. The only two performers who come out of this well are Sophia Myles (Lady Penelope) and Ron Cook (Parker). 

3. Sex And The City (2008) and Sex And The City 2 (2010)


Frankly, there was no need for the first Sex And The City film and even less need for the dire and slightly offensive sequel. The story was told, Carrie got her man, the other girls had their own kind of happiness. Leave it there. There was no need to drag it out again and the interminable back-and-forth of the relationships in the films is unnecessary.  

4. The League Of Gentlemen's Apocalypse (2005)


A real disappointment. I love The League Of Gentlemen's dark and very twisted humour and there are some mordant flashes of it throughout. But again, it's at a loss by trying to be too clever- the idea of the characters of Royston Vasey breaking into the real world is an interesting one, but the conceit is taken too far. 

5. The Avengers (1998)


Oh dear God. What an awful film. As an adaptation of the 1960s spy show, it falls down badly. Some parts of it can fall under the so-bad-it's-actually-kind-of-good category, but most of it is just bad. For a further dissection of why I disliked the movie so much, you can read this article from 2012 (should you choose to).  


That's just my opinion. But there are loads and loads of films based on TV shows. If you can think of any particularly good (or particularly bad) examples, let us know in the comments below!

Tez

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Review: Oculus (UK Cert: 15)


Anyone who has kept up-to-speed with the blog will know I’m the one who loves horror films. I get a (some would say weird) kick out of being scared, wanting to look away from the screen but can’t, because I want to know what happens next. Horror is my favourite genre bar none, but for every good horror film, there are plenty of trashy, recycling the same old clich├ęs, straight to DVD time wasters stinking up car boot sales, eBay and second-hand DVD shops. I’ll happily sit and watch a film that has vampires, zombies, werewolves, demons, masked killers, or a haunted house, but I’m high maintenance when it comes to what films deserve a place in my DVD collection. The best horror films are the ones that break the rules, that are subtle and try something different. They take a familiar concept – you think you know where the jolts and loud bangs are – and make it unpredictable. The most frightening horror films are always the ones where you genuinely don’t know what’s going to happen.

Go back ten years and if you wanted a decent scare, you had to watch something with subtitles. Occasionally us Brits came up with something memorable, but for the last ten-to-fifteen years, the very best horror was coming from Europe and Asia. There were a couple of exceptions (Paranormal Activity, The Mist), but America was more interested in torture porn, remakes, and churning out sequels. Take a look at blogs and fan sites in the early-to-mid noughties and there are plenty of posts and articles suggesting that America had forgotten how to scare people. Mercifully this changed in the last few years with first-rate films such as The Last Exorcism, Insidious, Mama, Cabin in the Woods, The Conjuring, and Lovely Molly. You can now add Mike Flanagan’s Oculus to this list.

Having survived a family tragedy, brother and sister Kaylie (Karen Gillan) and Tim (Brenton Thwaites) return to their family home to try and remember what happened. Did their father lose his mind, or was a mirror, the Lassar glass, responsible? Kaylie is convinced the mirror is haunted, that it can possess its victims, and becomes obsessed with finding the evidence she needs.

Oculus is a smart film. You can understand why Gillan decided to come on board, Jeff Howard and Mike Flanagan’s script is like an episode of Doctor Who, if Steven Moffat decided to write something violent and mess-with-your-head disturbing. Flanagan is clearly a big believer in the rule, “Show, don’t tell”. When the film opens we have no idea what happened to Kaylie and Tim when they were children. Instead the film deftly flicks back and forth between past and present, piecing things together until, cleverly, in the final act, past and present combine with both adult and child actors crossing over in the same scene, all skilfully edited together by Flanagan.

Usually in a horror film, it’s all about the scares; fleshed out characters are right at the bottom of the To Do List. With Oculus, Gillan and Thwaites get more to do than jump in all the right places. Throughout most of its hundred-and-four minutes, Oculus asks the question, is the mirror really haunted or are Kaylie and Tim blaming the Lassar glass for their parents’ actions? Rather than the flaky female lead who runs around screaming, Kaylie is aggressive, obsessive, and borderline unhinged. There is no question in her mind that the mirror is to blame. Yet watching how Kaylie behaves, you constantly question her logic. Tim is supposed to be the crazy one, having grown up in an institution. Instead he looks at things calmly and rationally; he’s Dana Scully from The X-Files. While it’s easier to empathise with Tim, you start doubting his version of events; was it all a tragedy, no more, no less, or is it the therapy talking when Tim claims that none of it was real?

Oculus isn’t the perfect horror film like Wise’s The Haunting or Polanski’s Rosemary’s Baby; it has one or two niggling flaws. In the final twenty minutes, the film buckles under the weight of its own ideas. By making you question what’s real and what isn’t, it loses some of its coherency. At long last, what happened to Kaylie and Tim’s parents is revealed, the grown-up brother and sister taking on the mirror together. It’s uncomfortable, fidget around in your seat levels of tension, though you’ll find yourself struggling to work out whether a couple of scenes in the film really happened. The dialogue is occasionally clunky instead of coming across as natural, and Karen Gillan’s Scottish accent sometimes rears its head.

These are small issues. Oculus is good old-fashioned horror with plenty of new ideas, relying on an increasingly uncomfortable atmosphere to scare you, and the jolts, when they do come, are when you least expect them. Do you like scary movies? If the answer’s yes, then say hello to one of your favourite films of this year.

4 out of 5

Matt

Thursday, 12 June 2014

Review: Edge of Tomorrow (UK Cert: 12A)


Sometimes, no matter how good a film trailer looks, or if it’s definitely your cup of tea, you go into the cinema not expecting much. Rise of the Planet of the Apes? After the Tim Burton remake, I didn’t get my hopes up. The Amazing Spider-Man?  Expected to see the same scenes from the Sam Raimi films played out all over again, only not as good. The Evil Dead remake? The same film for fans of torture porn. Usually with films your gut instincts turn out to be right, but sometimes you’ll be surprised (I was surprised by how good all three films I mentioned were). After last year’s Tom Cruise sci-fi Oblivion, I wasn’t expecting much from Edge of Tomorrow. Despite being directed by The Bourne Identity’s  Doug Liman, starring the always impressive Emily Blunt, and having a trailer that ticked all the boxes, I sat down at the cinema expecting to struggle through Edge of Tomorrow’s two hours. Instead I was massively surprised to realise early on that I’m enjoying this film; I’m enjoying it a hell of a lot!

Edge of Tomorrow sounds like the safest bet a Hollywood studio could make for a big budget film: aliens, huge set pieces, things blowing up, all happening in this Groundhog Day-style narrative and starring one of the most famous actors on the planet. What makes Edge of Tomorrow stand out is that, while it’s hard not to spot its many influences (The Matrix, Starship Troopers, and just about every war movie ever made), Liman and screenwriters Christopher McQuarrie, and Jez and John-Henry Butterworth, have come up with plenty of their own ideas.

In recent years its felt like all Tom Cruise has had to do is run round and shoot people. Here, Cruise gets much more to do. Edge of Tomorrow’s protagonist isn’t a family man or a secret agent, he’s a media consultant; a man who has never fought in a warzone (he joined the US military after his advertising firm collapsed) and whose job it is to glorify war so that more men and women join the army. William Cage is an arrogant, permanently grinning coward. In a brilliantly subtle scene alongside Brendan Gleeson, Cage sinks to new lows as he tries to save his own skin, talking his way out of being sent to the frontline. It’s not until Cage sees the full horrors of war first-hand, and is forced to get shot, blown up and torn to shreds, that he begins to change. Cruise also gets to remind us how good he is at comedy, Edge of Tomorrow doing a lot with the central idea that Cage has to keep dying over and over; Cruise delivering several blackly comic high-pitched screams.

Emily Blunt gives another hard to fault performance. Instead of being the love interest you normally see in summer blockbusters, Blunt is Cruise’s Master Yoda mentor. Always convincing as Rita Vrataski, the human resistance’s poster girl, she is tough, gutsy and driven. It’s not spoiling anything by saying that you get to see the softer side of Vrataski and, while you could argue this is predictable, at least her change is gradual and understated instead of being heavy-handed.

Christopher McQuarrie and Jez and John-Henry Butterworth deserve praise for ensuring the film’s Groundhog Day with aliens premise never feels tired. Scenes we watch for the first time have been re-lived by Cage over-and-over: Cage getting into a fight with his fellow squad members and effortlessly dodging every one of their punches, or meeting Brendan Gleeson for a second time and listing off everything he is about to do. You also have the flip side to this; about to fly a helicopter, Vrataski realises that Cage has lived through this moment before. Tearfully, she asks him how many times he has watched her die, Cage struggling to answer.

The only complaint you could throw at Edge of Tomorrow is that, by aiming for a 12A certificate, the film is not as complex or as unflinching as it should be. If Christopher Nolan had directed the film, you can bet there would be plenty of scenes examining what dying countless times would do to a man. How would you feel knowing that, if you die, you can start the day again and, when Cage inevitably gets his mortality back, how does this change your outlook on life? None of this is addressed in the film. If Paul Verhoeven had directed, you would have seen every time Cage was bumped off instead of cutting away. While I’m the first to argue that the imagination adds far more than any amount of splatter, seeing Cage die would have given the film more of a punch. This isn’t a video game Cage is playing; he is in his own purgatory, being killed off time and again.

Liman isn’t interested in making a violent, complex science fiction film; his plan all along was to make a fast-paced, entertaining blockbuster. Edge of Tomorrow isn’t Aliens or District 9, but it is funny, thrilling, with more than enough ideas to make it stand out from the sequels and rehashes that take over the cinemas from May to September. It’s also the best film to appear on Tom Cruise and Doug Liman’s CVs in a long time.

3 out of 5

Matt

Thursday, 5 June 2014

Review: A Million Ways to Die in the West (UK Cert: 15)


The difficult second album. Both critics and the public adore you, you’ve made a small fortune, then The Powers That Be want the same again. For every The Bends, Nevermind or Morning Glory there’s Second Coming (The Stone Roses), Room on Fire (The Strokes) and Neither Fish nor Flesh (Terence Trent D’Arby). The same thing has happened to Seth MacFarlane. Cashing in on the hype around Ted, MacFarlane follows up 2012’s ginormous hit with A Million Ways to Die in the West, MacFarlane now writer, star, and director. The bad news first:  Laugh-wise, A Million Ways to Die in the West doesn’t get close to the heady heights of Ted or even an average episode of Family Guy. On the plus side, it’s still a lot of fun.

The cast does a solid job. Seth MacFarlane has had plenty of criticism fired his way, which is unfair. While you can’t imagine MacFarlane playing Hamlet, he can deliver a deadpan one-liner and is an expert in comic timing, which is all you could want in a gross-out comedy. Charlize Theron is the star of the show here, making comedy look easy. Whilst watching MacFarlane’s latest, you forget this is the same actress who made her name hidden under heaps of make-up, playing serial killer Aileen Wuornos in Monster. Liam Neeson looks like he’s having a great time playing snarling gunman Clinch; he’s the straight guy to MacFarlane and Theron’s pranksters. How I Met Your Mother’s Neil Patrick Harris is scene-chewingly over-the-top as moustachioed toff, Foy, getting many of the film’s big laughs. Giovanni Ribisi and Sarah Silverman play a Christian couple who refuse to have sex until their wedding night; Silverman is a prostitute who, on a quiet day, will sleep with a dozen men. They’re the same joke repeated over-and-over, but their scenes are always funny.

While A Million Ways to die will have you chuckling throughout, there are very few roar with laughter moments. The moustache song, one of the best cameos in recent years, and MacFarlane going out of his mind on drugs are the only times where you’ll end up red-faced from laughing. There are no scene-after-scene, cry with laughter gags here. Unlike Ted, with its Patrick Stewart narration, Wahlberg reeling off white trash names, or Ted having a house party full of hookers, you’ll be sniggering like a kid at the back of the classroom for most of A Million Ways to Die’s two hours, but that’s about it.

A Million Ways to Die in the West is a decent enough comedy (there are far worse out there gathering dust on the shelves of CEX), and nowhere near as bad as the savage reviews suggest. The thing is, if someone who had never seen Family Guy or Ted gave A Million Ways to Die a go, they would struggle to work out what all the fuss is about with Seth MacFarlane.

3 out of 5

Matt


Sunday, 1 June 2014

Review: Maleficent (UK Cert PG)



We all know the story of Sleeping Beauty, right? Beautiful princess cursed by evil fairy to prick her finger on a spinning wheel and sleep til true love's kiss awakens her. But what about that evil fairy? What's her story? And it could it be that the truth, as we know it, is not the truth at all? This is the premise behind Disney's Maleficent. It tells the untold story of the evil fairy and why she did what she did. Basically, Maleficent does for Sleeping Beauty what Wicked did for The Wizard Of Oz.

Angelina Jolie really sinks her teeth into the central role, and you can tell she's really enjoying herself. The performance is high camp in places, but it's not played for laughs or played broadly or like something you'd find in the local amateur dramatics society annual pantomime. The scene where she gatecrashes the christening is just sublime- Jolie looks fantastic (the costume team have done a brilliant job) and relishes her waspish dialogue. It's a thoroughly committed performance throughout and the most important thing is that you actually sympathise (or empathise) with her- she's driven to do what she does after she's comprehensively shafted by Stefan. 

The adult Stefan is played by District 9's Sharlto Copley who gives a decent enough performance, even if his sink into obsession and paranoia occasionally brushes into the melodramatic. Elle Fanning plays the teenage Aurora, a naive, sweet girl who veers to the side of saccharine occasionally but isn't merely a simpering, whimpering child (which is good). There's comic relief in the form of Imelda Staunton, Lesley Manville and Juno Temple as the trio of good fairies charged to look after Aurora and keep her away from Maleficent's evil. I also particularly enjoyed the performance by Sam Riley as Maleficent's henchman Diaval, occasionally acting as her conscience and advisor. 

So performance-wise, it's all pretty good. The script by Linda Woolverton (inspired by Disney's 1959 version and the original Perrault and Grimm fairytales) is pretty solid. There's exposition a-plenty on how Maleficent becomes seen as evil and nothing feels rushed, despite a relatively short screentime of 97 minutes. The main theme is one of female emancipation and empowerment, which is very refreshing to see. It's just a poor matter of timing that Frozen is still laround (and which contains a very similar theme). I'm not judging Maleficent too strongly on that because, as we have previously seen, twin films come along quite often.

However, there are a few flies in the ointment. Whilst director Robert Stromberg has a good eye for an epic shot, the action sequences are dreadfully shot, with muddy and shaky camerawork which really undermines what's going on. The CGI on some of the faerie creatures leaves a bit to be desired (looking like rejects from Harry Potter). Unfortunately, fantasy has been done many times since The Lord Of The Rings and has been done better. It's perfectly fine but there's nothing particularly innovative in the effects (and, as usual, 3D doesn't add much apart from a bit of depth of field). 

I will be honest, I didn't go into Maleficent with the highest of expectation. Disappointing films like Snow White And The Huntsman and Oz: The Great And Powerful have meant I've lowered my expectations for revisionist fantasy tales but I was pleasantly surprised to find Maleficent was better than I expected. It's a thoroughly decent film with a strong central performance by Jolie. 

Rating: 3.5 out of 5

Tez