Rating: The Good – 75.4 Genre: Comedy, Crime Duration: 96 mins Director: James Gunn Stars: Rainn Wilson, Ellen Page, Liv Tyler
One of those rare films which leaves you somewhat speechless, Super begins in the same vein as Mystery Men or the more recent Kick-Ass but ultimately becomes something much darker and much more serious. Rainn Wilson stars as a not very confident nor important working stiff who slips into madness when his wife (played by Liv Tyler) leaves hims for a dastardly drug dealer (Kevin Bacon in delicious form). After a painfully humiliating attempt to get her back, he funnels all his rage into the self-delusional persona of a crime fighting social avenger, “The Crimson Bolt”. Beginning with small time hoods or people who are just plain rude to him, and picking up Ellen Page’s even more eccentric sidekick “Boltie” along the way, he heads for the inevitable showdown with the bad guys who he believes have brainwashed his wife.
Kick-Ass flirted with the darker side of the super hero mythology by showing the violence and perils that come with donning a suit and mask but ultimately it didn’t aspire to be anything more than a satisfying action comedy. Super let’s you think it’s going in the same direction with only hints of what’s to come but then in the third act, it folds back on the genre to fascinating effect. Written and directed by James Gunn (who gave us the excellent Slither), this hugely original and even poignant film quite simply redefines the superhero genre.
Like the film itself, Wilson’s performance starts off in typecast fashion but ends up blossoming into some proper heavyweight acting. Page is annoying at times and genuinely hilarious at other times but that’s very much in line with her character’s personality. Michael Rooker and Tyler also score well but are somewhat underused. However, as usual Kevin Bacon is excellent and it’s fitting that it’s he who delivers the film’s defining line. You may not like where this one goes and the violence can be quite sudden and shocking but if you’re a fan of the genre, SUPER is a must see for its daring and originality. And in a world where action cinema is becoming synonymous with tiresome super-hero vehicles, a slice of cynical meta-analysis is just what the doctor ordered.
Rating: The Good – 74.8 Genre: Horror Duration: 95 mins Director: Sean S. Cunningham Stars: Betsy Palmer, Adrienne King, Jeannine Taylor
One of the original slasher films follows a group of young fun-loving camp counsellors as they prepare to re-open a lakeside summer camp that was the scene of some grizzly murders years beforehand. This is still to this day a genuinely creepy film as one by one the counsellors are picked off by an unseen stalker. Director Sean Cunningham paces the film extremely well and makes the interesting decision to skirt the boundaries of the supernatural as well as the natural.
Oliver Stone’s sprawling account of New Orleans’s DA Jim Garrison’s investigation into the assassination of JFK is a remarkable piece of work. Coming in at three hours long and replete with dialogue heavy scenes and very little action, this film shouldn’t have worked. However, Stone employed a documentary style full of flash backs and hypothetical re-enactments laced together with quick paced explanatory dialogue which was for the time a revolutionary approach to making a feature. He also populated the expansive story with a seemingly endless array of big name actors which itself was a masterstroke as it allowed the audience to easily remember the various personalities who popped in and out of the narrative. Kevin Costner is terrific as Garrison and carries almost the entire film as he features in nearly every scene. The rest of the cast are excellent while John Williams throws in with a nice little score. However, in the final analysis, this film is ultimately about the Stone’s direction, his and Zachary Sklar’s screenplay, and Joe Hutshing’s and Pietro Scalia’s peerless editing.
Rating: The Good – 77.2 Genre: Comedy, Horror Duration: 96 mins Director: Ron Underwood Stars: Kevin Bacon, Fred Ward, Finn Carter
Hugely entertaining creature-feature that shows yet again that inspiration and intelligence can produce better horror and sci-fi than the biggest of budgets. Kevin Bacon and the great Fred Ward play two down on their luck handy-men who yearn to escape the confines of the small desert town Perfection only to find their way blocked by some nasty giant underground worms who seem to lock in on the vibrations of anything that moves above the ground and then eat it. The creature effects are fantastic and like Carpenter’s The Thing they rely on innovative methods more than big budget technology. However, the major strength of any film where the threat goes mostly unseen must be in the chemistry between those actors we do see and this is where Tremors is a runaway success. The characters are all playfully drawn out and watching them zing off each other for the entire 90 mins is a hoot. Bacon and Ward are terrific together and form one of the better on-screen partnerships while Michael Gross and Finn Carter are just two of the excellent support players who do their bit.
Rating: The Good – 77.8 Genre: Comedy Duration: 109 mins Director: John Landis Stars: John Belushi, Karen Allen, Tom Hulce, Donald Sutherland
John Landis’ genre defining screwball comedy about a good-for-nothing frat house that puts itself at odds with rival fraternities and their crusty old dean is 90 minutes of deranged fun. Whether it’s the horse in the dean’s office, Donald Sutherland’s brilliant cameo as the apathetic pot smoking professor or John Belushi’s Bluto doing the human zit, the memorable characters and incidents of Animal House will leave you howling with laughter. Landis handles the whole thing with just the right amount of irreverence and none involved shy away from the more controversial aspects to the humour. Written by Harold Ramis (Second City TV) and starring the golden boy of Saturday Night Live, Belushi, this one was never going to miss the mark. However, nobody could have foreseen what a phenomenon it became. If you’ve seen it before, see it again. If you’ve never seen it and you’re into carefree comedy that knows no bounds, don’t let another day go by without seeing it.
Rating: The Good – 70.3 Genre: Drama Duration: 122 mins Director: Ron Howard Stars: Frank Langella, Michael Sheen, Kevin Bacon, Sam Rockwell
Quietly gripping dramatisation of the famous Frost/Nixon interviews of 1977, in which the former achieved what no other journalist, investigator, or politician could: – an admission of wrong-doing from Richard Nixon. In adapting Peter Morgan’s play, director Ron Howard could’ve chosen to give this feature all the trappings of a stage production and still tell the story effectively and in entertaining fashion. Such is the power of the dialogue and acting. However, he chose to make a film out of it and a film this is. Frost/Nixon is extraordinarily well dramatised, and the story is never allowed to stagnate or bore due to impeccable structuring, pacing, and the many tension relieving comedic moments which cushion the more dialogue-centred scenes. Hans Zimmer’s soft but strong score deserves special mention in that regard too as it helps Howard greatly in moving the film forward as swiftly as he does.
Michael Sheen puts in an attractive performance as the fast living Frost, populating his character with all the idiosyncrasies of the real life journalist and a few more thrown in for good measure. Whether or not an impersonation runs a different track to acting is a valid question and, at times, it feels like the former is what Sheen is all about. But then at other more crucial moments he leaves the safer confines of mimicry and stretches himself admirably. Frank Langella turns in a powerhouse performance as the disgraced president and it captures all of the man’s arrogance, his hidden humanity, and much of his obscure charm. The two central performances are orbited by a collection of pitch perfect turns from some seriously good actors. Sam Rockwell is fantastic as the pent-up bookworm James Reston Jr., who’ll accept nothing short of a Nixon apology. Oliver Platt is also in top form as Bob Zelnick, the second of Frost’s research team while he and Rockwell are matched blow for blow on the other side by Kevin Bacon who imbues his character with a wholly believable austerity which is befitting of the career soldier and devoted Nixon aid he’s playing.
All in all, Frost/Nixon is a worthy successor to the legacy left by films such as All the President’s Men. Films which embrace the feel for those classics and favour brains over action. In this respect, it belongs to a small group of interesting and bravely made modern movies like Michael Clayton and Zodiac.
Rating: The Good – 64.9 Genre: Action, Fantasy Duration: 132mins Director: Matthew Vaughn Stars: James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence
As tedious as origin stories are at the moment, this one had potential primarily because of an interesting and talented cast but also because its director Matthew Vaughan has shown some promise that he’s going to be more than just another journey man or studio lap-dog like the host of directors who are normally hired to shoot these popcorn movies. Set in the 1960’s, First Class stars James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender as the two heavyweight mutants of the future, Professor X and Magneto, with the story centring on their battle with an even nastier mutant (Kevin Bacon) as he attempts to manipulate both the US and the Soviet Union into World War III. However, the moral differences between both Professor X and Magneto regarding where relations with the human race fit into the new emerging mutant order constantly threaten to break their uneasy alliance.
The two leads are superb together and their charisma alone makes this movie enjoyable to watch. The visual effects are excellent too and the action sequences are handled competently by Vaughan even if they are a little uninspired in places. The biggest let down however is the script which at times reaches the level of mindlessness. Lines such as “A ‘war’ suggests both sides have an equal chance of winning” are uttered without a hint of irony (or even an awareness of how stupid they are) while the more dramatic moments are rife with flat cliche. The plot at times isn’t much better and who knows what they were thinking of when it came to choosing the mutants who would take part in this movie (Angel Salvadore and Banshee were just ridiculously lacking in the intimidation factor). Ultimately, First Class counts as an opportunity missed but the quality of the actors playing the three main mutants plus a decent and well shot climax does make it worth a look.