Seth Rogen may well be the luckiest guy in Hollywood. That’s not to say that he isn’t a likeable screen presence, but considering his not particularly versatile acting style and fairly average looks, not to mention the fact that his biggest hit was largely sold on its writer-director rather than him, it’s somewhat mind boggling that the still twenty-something star has been given the opportunity to not only star, but co-write this latest attempt to launch a new action franchise. To be fair, The Green Hornet is not one of the more beloved of pulp characters – it’s hard to imagine Rogen being let lose on more enduring characters of the same vintage like Batman (the comparison to the Dark Knight being a telling one as this version of playboy vigilante Britt Reid has also been provided with an origin story very similar to that of Bruce Wayne, presumably to remind the audience of the more-beloved hero while, thankfully, skirting the dark tone of that franchise). Yet, while it looked like Rogen’s luck may well have been about to run out, what with The Green Hornet’s difficult conception, peppered with numerous stories of delays and reshoots, he may well have just scraped by yet again (especially when taking the respectable box office figures for the film’s opening into account).
Like Rogen’s other writing credits, The Green Hornet isn’t exactly a ‘good’ film, but it does have a sort of scruffy charm about it. The extremely loose, meandering writing style of Rogen and his writing partner Evan Goldberg is visible all over the film (an impressive feat for a film subject to so much studio interference), which may make for a rather limp and unexciting action flick (although the action scenes aren’t too bad – Rogen’s well publicised pre-filming fitness regime may not have visibly slimmed him too much, but does mean that he can pull off a few fight sequences), but results in moments of pleasantly Apatow-esque bromance between Reid and his valet/sidekick/brains behind the operation Kato.
The non-Rogen parts of The Green Hornet are a lot more frustrating. It was a wise move on Sony’s part to partner him with seasoned, distinctive talents, but sadly none are really given a chance to shine. Tom Wilkinson turns up in essentially an extended cameo as a fairly standard tyrannical father-figure, while Cameron Diaz’s secretary/love-interest is a role that she could turn in in her sleep – its sometimes hard to remember what a great comedic actress she can be, and she’s barely given any opportunities here to remind us of that (not that surprising as like all women in the bromance genre she’s more of an afterthought than a character in her own right, with a fairly paltry amount of screen time). The foreign-language speakers imported by the studio also have somewhat mixed fortunes. Taiwanese pop singer Jay Chou may clearly not be an actor, or even someone who understands much English, but he does have a physical gift for both comedy and action. Inglorious Bastards’ breakout star Christoph Waltz has proved in the past to be both an unnerving and amusing actor and he manages to bring both qualities to his scenes here, but sadly he’s barely in the film. Possibly most hard done by is director Michel Gondry who is reduced from mad genius to anonymous hand for hire. Although the few moments where he tries to put his distinctive visual style on proceedings feel forced, his technical skills are put to use in less obvious areas – for one the film’s soundtrack is well chosen, taking in Johnny Cash and The White Stripes amongst others, and the film’s 3D is surprisingly effective, considering it was converted in post-production rather than shot in the format. The 3D is of course, still rather unnecessary – the film’s goofy tone would suit candy-coloured and bright visuals rather than the gloom bestowed on it by the dark glasses – but the effects are at least noticeable.
While there are many things wrong with The Green Hornet, the things that are right about it just about manage to keep the interest throughout the lengthy running time. Although should the film prove successful enough to warrant a sequel, hopefully the studio will choose to invest more in script editing.
By Leo Owen
Director/ Producer: Jon Favreau
Writer: Justin Theroux
DVD and Blu-ray release date: October 25 2010
Studio: Paramount Home Entertainment
Number of discs: Available on solo DVD, double disc DVD and three disc combo DVD/Blu-ray
Price: From £9-£15.93
Running Time: 119/124 mins
Starring: Robert Downey Jr, Don Cheadle, Scarlett Johansson, Gwyneth Paltrow, Sam Rockwell, Mickey Rourke, Samuel L. Jackson, Paul Bettany, Jon Favreau, Clark Gregg, John Slattery, Kate Mara, Leslie Bibb, Garry Shandling, Christiane Amanpour
The super hero genre is still going strong and quite rightly with releases like Favreau’s sequel to his first surprisingly entertaining Iron Man Stan Lee comic book adaptation. Full of the same tongue-in-cheek gags and fun-filled action that kept audiences chuckling the first time around, Iron Man 2 follows a disillusioned Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr) who’s publicly recognised as Iron Man and is having to fight to keep possession of his suits – the only things keeping him alive while also rather paradoxically gradually killing him.
Action packed from the outset, the film opens with Tony free-falling and then blasting off into a cheesy American flag clad expo, featuring scantily “dressed” dancers in US colours to complement his dramatic entrance. Tony is full of the same feigned arrogance seen first time around, cockily claiming: “I have successfully privatized world peace” but as his blood toxicity levels fluctuate, his behavior becomes more erratic, seen by his hedonistic late grand prix entry, his sudden promotion of Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) to CEO of the Stark family business and characteristic flippant remarks, such as “I want one”, referring to Ms Rushman (Scarlett Johansson).
While he worries about his life, in true comic book style an ex-colleague of his father’s and his nemesis, comes back from the grave through his son seeking revenge. Keen to bring down Iron Man, Mickey Rourke stars as the unrelenting ex-con scientific mastermind – a Jaw’s like villain with predominantly silver teeth.
Other new characters come in the shape of a kick-arse Johansson, complete with black lycra cat suit and swift leg work, taking out an entire corridor of guards in the time it takes Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau) to floor one. With her double identity, mysterious personality and quick-witted boss (Samuel L. Jackson), she’s set to either win Tony’s heart or bring him down.
Iron Man 2’s lengthy running time passes unnoticed in action packed sequences and cheeky humour. Although Samuel L Jackson’s character is underdeveloped and explained, Downey Jr’s repeat charismatic performance, the endearing chemistry between Stark and Pepper Potts and scenes like Starks’s party and the dumb-bell fight more than make up for it.
- Deleted Scenes with optional commentary by Jon Favreau -
Coulson at the Senate
Natalie Wears the Gauntlet
Element Rediscovered (extended)
- Featurettes -
Creating Stark Expo
Practical Meets Digital
Music Video: AC/DC “Shoot To Thrill”
- Digital Copy
- Feature film with optional commentary by Jon Favreau (HD)
- S.H.I.E.L.D. Data Vault (HD) — Extend your knowledge of the Marvel Cinematic Universe with high-level clearance into S.H.I.E.L.D.’s digital data vault. Interact with select scenes from the movie that include new layers of graphics and insider information. View case files, dossiers, S.H.I.E.L.D. training films, tech details and more.
- Previsualization and Animatics (HD)
- Ultimate Iron Man: The Making of Iron Man 2 (HD) – including Rebuilding the Suit, A Return to Action, Expanding the Universe and Building a Legacy.
- Featurettes (HD), including Creating Stark Expo, Practical Meets Digital, Illustrated Origin: Nick Fury, Illustrated Origin: Black Widow, Illustrated Origin: War Machine and Working with DJ AM.
- Deleted Scenes with optional commentary by Jon Favreau (HD), including Alternate Opening, Coulson at the Senate, The Sub-Orbital Jet, Tony’s Workshop (extended), Natalie Wears the Gauntlet, Flying Party Girl, Mark II Security and Element Rediscovered (extended).
- Concept Art Gallery
- Theatrical Trailers (HD)
- Music Video: AC/DC “Shoot To Thrill”
By Leo Owen
Director: Mike Newell
Writer: Boaz Yakin, Doug Miro
Running time: 116 minutes
Studio: Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment
No of discs: 1
Price: From £12.93-£16.79
Release Date: September 13 2010
Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Gemma Arterton, Ben Kingsley, Alfred Molina, Steve Toussaint, Tobu Kebbell
Doe-eyed Gyllenhaal once type-cast as the “sensitive type” attempts to re-brand himself through action flick Prince of Persia, based on the legendary computer game.
A brotherly power struggle underpins the plot as adopted Prince Dastan (Jake Gyllenhaal) finds himself defending his honour after being accused of murdering his father with a poisoned robe. Dastan discovers his reputation isn’t the only thing that needs protecting when he meets wronged Princess Tamina (Gemma Arterton) and her unusual sword.
Despite Gyllenhaal’s well-documented pre-Prince body pumping, the ridiculously gruff voices of Gyllenhaal’s chivalrous brothers make him sound almost effeminate and his delivery of terrible eye-rolling gags falls flat. His on-screen relationship with growing love-interest Tamina at least has an Indiana Jones style charm about it.
As always Ben Kingsley shines as the scheming growling villain, Nizam, but it is Alfred Molina’s appearance as Sheik Amar in the Valley of the Slaves that sticks. Playing a self-described “slightly dishonourable entrepreneur”, Amar’s creation of the terrifying Valley of Slaves myth in order to create a tax-free area with black-market ostrich racing every Tuesday and Thursday is ingenious. His devotion to the ostriches, describing them as having suicidal tendencies and how he has “to watch [his favourite] night and day to make sure that she doesn’t do anything stupid” is both endearing and comical.
Full of lots of roof-top running and leaping like the original computer game and slowed-down action shots of a nimble footed beefed-up Gyllenhaal drawing swords, Prince of Persia enjoyably fulfils everything you’d expect of a high adrenaline big budget action film – cliched lines like “you know what they say about men with big swords”, melodrama (“If the glass shatters, the world dies with it”), comical farcical villain-hero scenarios (“Next time…”) and romance (“It is said some lives are linked across time connected by an ancient calling”).
DVD bonus feature: An Unseen World – Making The Prince of Persia.
1-Disc blu-ray bonus feature: The above DVD bonus plus Deleted Scenes – The Banquet: Garsiv Presents Heads.
3-Disc combo pack bonus features: All of the above DVD and Blu-ray bonus features plus CineExplore: The Sands of Time – Take control of the dagger and use it to unlock secrets behind your favourite scenes; turn back time and uncover over 40 spellbinding segments – including “Walking Up Walls,” “Filming in Morocco”, and “Ostrich Jockey Tryouts”.
So, after a fairly relentless marketing campaign and an incredibly disappointing opening in America, British audiences now get a chance to see Edgar Wright’s take on the cult Canadian comic series Scott Pilgrim. And, even though it’s debatable if it will find a wider audience over here, it must be said that taken on it’s own terms Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is an absolute triumph.
Telling the story of Toronto slacker Scott, his brilliantly terrible band Sex Bob-Omb (the name, like many things in the film, a reference to Nintendo games of the late 80s and early 90s), and the girl of his dreams (literally) Ramona Flowers, Scott Pilgrim might have it’s basis in low key mumble-core style navel-gazing comedy, but then it cranks things up to 11 by throwing in the obstacle of Ramona’s seven evil exes, and a lot of surprisingly well-choreographed fight scenes. In order to perhaps make such wackiness palatable to more sceptical audience members, Wright has claimed that the film could be seen as taking place in Scott’s head, and while it would make sense that such fevered nonsense could be the result of Scott’s over-caffeinated imagination (even the soda based product placement in the film is well-thought out), it’s more fun to just take the events at face value and believe that such things as impromptu Bollywood-style musical numbers, demon hipster chicks and psychic vegans are possible.
It’s unlikely that fans of the books (themselves some of the most amusing and imaginative work in the field of graphic novels, and recent literature in general) will have any grievances with Wright as much of the film is lifted right off the pages of creator Bryan Lee O’Malley’s work. There were initial grumblings about Michael Cera’s casting in the lead role but he manages to pull it off well – admittedly he is still very much ‘Michael Cera’, but pleasingly the screen Pilgrim keeps much of his inked counterpart’s charm, as well as his less attractive self-obsession. Besides, despite his name being in the title Scott isn’t the main draw anyway, but rather the rich background of supporting characters – all parts are cast to very closely match the original book designs, and a parade of recognisable faces turn up in even the smallest roles. The women of Pilgrim’s world are also far much more interesting than those usually offered in the action-comedy genre, with not only Mary Elizabeth Winstead as Ramona providing a suitable match for Pilgrim’s positive and negative qualities but other particular stand-outs including Ellen Wong as Scott’s school-girl ex-girlfriend Knives who is delightfully sweet, hyperactive and, as her name would suggest, a mean fighter in her own right and the ever-reliable Alison Pill providing an amusingly bitter commentary on the events of Scott’s love-life as Sex Bob-Omb’s drummer Kim. Although, as many other reviewers have mentioned, Kieran Culkin steals the film from everybody as Scott’s snarky gay room (and bed) mate Wallace.
There is a downside to the film in that Wright has squeezed six books worth of plot into less than two hours of screen time while making sure that many of his and the fans’ favourite moments are kept in, meaning that events, jokes and characters have the habit of flying by before they have a chance to sink in. Wright’s previous work on Spaced, Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz was already fast paced and frantic but it’s pushed to the limit in this film (with the amount of background visual and audio gags stuffed in as well, it seems like no frame of film is wasted). People over a certain age may have a problem with the ADHD style film-making, as would those who demand character development in their films – Scott may learn a lesson at the end, but it’s as much a playful dig at the usual last minute moral revelation in rom-coms as it is a plot point, and one of the few major deviations from the books’ plot-line is in the (fairly justified) snipping of the later volumes’ maudlin soul searching. It’s a good thing that Scott Pilgrim wasn’t released in 3D as this much scattershot editing coupled with the effect of the 3D glasses would have induced waves of nausea in the audience, if not full blown aneurysms. Although, judging by the film’s poor reception in the States, cramming everything in seemed to be the best decision, rather than having to leave proceedings on a never-to-be-resolved cliffhanger. The frenetic nature of the action does also mean that Scott Pilgrim will reward multiple re-watches and will hopefully result in the film doing great business on DVD, after all something this unique and inventive really does deserve to find an audience that appreciates it.
By Leo Owen
Director: Miguel Sapochnik
Writer: Eric Garcia, Garrett Lerner
Release Date: August 23 2010
Studio: Universal Pictures UK
Number of discs: 1
Price: From £9.99
Running Time: 107 mins
Starring: Jude Law, Forest Whitaker, Alice Braga, Live Schreiber, Carice van Houten
After his shameful involvement in the appalling sentimental twaddle that was A.I, the prolific Mr Law is back braving sci-fi again, in his second foray into the dystopian branch, pondering “How can anything be alive and dead at the same time?”
Set in an unspecified future, Repo Men imagines a society where technology has advanced far enough for organ donor lists to become a thing of the past, replaced by warehouses full of prosthetic organs and body parts awaiting those needy and willing to pay the price or sign up to an instalment plan with a three month “grace period” – effectively a contract on their lives.
Jude Law plays Remy, one of the company’s most talented repo men who coldly and precisely retrieves organs and body parts from live clients who have paid on credit and have reached the end of their 90 days. Remy and his partner, Jake (Forest Whitaker), are both ex-military, believe a “jobs a job” and love their work, using hi-tech equipment to scan for organs and track over-due customers. When they do a job outside Remy’s family home during a barbeque, Remy’s wife gives him an ultimatum – his family or a transfer to sales.
Remy’s decision to do just one last job is life-changing in more ways than one. The legendary DJ Remy has followed since childhood, Jimmy T Bones, is ironically his last job and one that goes horribly wrong, resulting in him waking up in hospital with a company heart unit keeping him alive.
With his own, weighty contract bearing down on him, Remy grows a conscience and starts to recognise the “re-claims” as people with families. No longer able to cold-heartedly and mechanically slice open overdue clients, Remy’s “new heart is accumulating interest with every beat” until he resorts to life on the run seeking refuge in the reclaim nests he once thrived on. Here he meets, Beth, a singer he once admired who has artificial everything and is all out of cash – the only real thing are her lips. Desperate to beat the system, Remy and Beth try everything, concealing themselves with jammers, until they realise they will always be hunted unless they find the mysterious “pink door”, wipe the system and bring down “The Union”.
Sapochnik’s future is a dire vision where health is a commodity, children are used as surgeons for their steady hands and life and death are closely linked – the blinding bright white scene in the factory production line contrasting with the black guards’ uniform offers continued symbolism for this running theme. Repo Men is drenched in the blood of knife warfare and stabbings, culminating in a kick-ass final showdown and possibly the strangest most brutal love scene seen to date before a disappointing Vanilla Sky twist with the advertisement of Neural Net’s complete sensory experience promising: “Yesterday’s dreams are today’s reality.”
Repo Men’s script is liberally peppered with obvious but strangely satisfying slogans for The Union’s sales team: “Only you get one you out of you”, “What’s new in you?,” “You owe it to your family and yourself”… Law and Whitakers’ character chemistry compensates for the flat performance from Carice van Houten as Remy’s wife. Entertaining from start to finish with some inspired ideas and some stolen ones, Repo Men is worth watching as an intelligent “cautionary tale” and all-out blood bath futuristic action flick.
- Unrated cut has eight additional minutes that include a little more gore and a scene with John Leguizamo – both versions of the film available.
- Deleted Scenes.
- The Union Commercials.
- Inside the Visual Effects Featurette.
- Writer/Director Commentary.
Considering both the action-comedy and Tom Cruise were two of the more successful parts of 1980s cinema, it’s surprising that Cruise hasn’t starred in more of them. In fact, aside from his supporting role in Tropic Thunder and a cameo in the third Austin Powers, Knight and Day marks Cruise’s first comedy role since Jerry Maguire (although of course there are some who would claim that Eyes Wide Shut and Vanilla Sky had a fair amount of unintentional comedy in them). So it’s highly likely that audiences will spend a fair amount of time when watching Knight and Day wondering what exactly attracted him to this script.
Reuniting him with Vanilla Sky co-star Cameron Diaz (who is thankfully much less irritating here than her hysterical turn in that movie), Knight and Day charts the whacky scrapes that happen to Diaz as tom-boyish singleton June Havens after she accidentally gets on a flight with Cruise’s loose cannon secret agent Roy Miller and then ends up having to go on the run with him in order to keep herself alive as well as stop a marvellous MacGuffin (and the genius behind it) from falling into the wrong hands.
Clearly the stars and the director James Mangold (who has proved himself capable of handling both award-winning dramas with Walk The Line and Girl, Interrupted, as well as rather less distinguished fare like Identity and 3.10 to Yuma) are punching below their weight with this movie – the globe-trotting action rom-com is something that’s been done better before. The uninspired nature of the script starts with its title (Knights feature in a couple of different guises, but not in a prominent enough way to make the title actually seem as clever as it wants to be) and doesn’t stop there. Also for a film so reliant on special effects, it’s surprising how cheap and dated many of them look, particularly the film’s over-reliance on unconvincing green screen shots. However, despite all this, Knight and Day is a difficult film to dislike.
What mostly makes the film interesting is the presence of the two leads. Cruise does his usual charming thing, and it must be said that he does it well, but owing to his highly publicised private life it’s no longer easy to take this at face value, which adds a layer of suspicion to the actions of Miller, perfectly fitting for a character who is meant to straddle the line between paranoid and heroic. Diaz on the other hand is not only her pleasantly warm and amusing self, but it appears has actually decided to let herself age gracefully and naturally, which is admirable considering both the usual standards of beauty for women in Hollywood and the fact she launched her career based entirely on her looks, and this in turn makes June more relatable and likeable than if she had been played by one of the many of the other actresses who could have filled this part.
A strong supporting cast also helps matters, even if the casting is pretty uninspired – of course Peter Sarsgaard is going to be playing someone shifty and untrustworthy, and Paul Dano will turn in a weird, nerdy performance, fortunately they’re pretty much just left to get on with what they’re good at. There’s also a long list of exotic locations straight out of a Bond movie to look at, and a few nice running gags such as where a series of ever more ludicrous action scenes are merely seen as glimpses as a character comes in and out of consciousness (which could well have been a practical necessity in order to save money from the effects budget, but ends up being among the film’s highlights).
It’s hard to begrudge Knight and Day its existence, even when it so much of it looks so shoddy when the amount that was spent to make the film is considered. There’s nothing about the film that could really be seen as being offensive, at its best there is something goofily likeable about it, whereas at its worst (which, it must be said, is a fair chunk of the film’s running time) it’s merely unremarkably forgettable.
By Clark Hogan-Taylor
I must admit I had my doubts as soon as I heard the title. All films that feature Roman soldiers in any way are necessarily overlong, inaccurate predictable with laughable scripts where even soldiers of the lowest ranks speak in elliptical prose about honour in battle. They’ve all held the record for highest number of extras and usually culminate in a battle scene that only ever involves either two or two hundred thousand people. They are ‘epic’ in the worst possible way.
Thankfully, Centurion is not what it appears to be. This is, in fact, a very clever film and if I’d given proper thought to Neil Marshall’s back catalogue I would have realised I had nothing to worry about. Centurion’s structure is that of a chase movie superimposed onto a subject matter that usually yields an entirely different genre. As it turns out, turning the story of the unexplained disappearance of the Ninth Legion of the Roman Army into a chase movie is inspired.
The story centres on the Romans’ increasing frustration with the Picts’ resistance to the expansion of their empire by defending what the Romans called Caledonia and Picts presumably called ‘ours’. The action really begins with the Romans’ decision to send the Ninth Legion north, lead by General Virilus (Dominic West), into “the arsehole of the world” to “wipe them from the face of the earth”. The manner in which this mission goes utterly tits up will not be unfamiliar to viewers. Think America in Vietnam, the Soviets in Afghanistan and of the current occupations of the latter and Iraq. Indeed the bumph tells us that the guerrilla tactics of the Picts have been the Romans’ undoing. Given that Virilus alludes to these tactics when he tells his men, “This is a new kind of war, without honour”, it is surprising that the Marshall’s Ninth march loudly into a dense forest in full tortoise formation armed with spears. It was never going to end well, and indeed it doesn’t.
The rest of the film is borne out of this enormous tactical error. Virilus’ capture necessitates his rescue which must necessarily be undertaken by the six sole survivors of the ambush, lead by Quintus (Michael Fassbender). Their sparse number turns them from legionnaires into accidental guerrillas, much more similar to and thus capable of challenging their enemy. Their efforts to rescue the General make Gorlacon (Ulrich Thomsen) and his Pict army very angry indeed. The chase, as they say, is on. However, it is not a battle of swords but of wits and tracking skills as the band of Roman brothers are pursued across the breathtakingly beautiful Scottish landscape, itself the only suitably epic element in what is otherwise a very concise, focussed and linear film.
Some ingredients gel less well than others however, for while the dialogue is refreshingly witty and, one suspects, quite realistic in the circumstances, the voiceover sounds like something from Lord of the Rings. Its profundity and high-minded pseudo-Shakespearian pronouncements don’t quite match the gritty realism of the action on the ground. Also, since the Pict’s incredible tracking skills are the main threat to the Romans’ escape one would have thought the latter wouldn’t leave helmets and dead animals around to mark their progress. Likewise the ease with which even the Romans are able to lose and find one another does seem rather extraordinary given the absence of satellites and GPS.
But such nitpickings are impossible to sustain in the face of the extreme(ly satisfying) violence and hand-wringing tension that builds to the dramatic climax necessitated by the chase. Like the dialogue, the fight scenes are also reminiscent of other, more modern genre. As in the Bourne Trilogy, every shot is a money shot, every swing a direct hit, and you are left reeling not only at the level of gore but at the fact that this is only rated 15.
One might say, therefore, that Centurion is a hit in more ways than one. None of its ingredients are new but the dish they create most certainly is, and the result is hugely enjoyable. Furthermore, despite the allusions to contemporary neo-imperialism and the failings thereof, it does not fall into the trap of becoming a buttock-numbingly overlong one-sided polemic against the West (I’m looking at you James Cameron. I want my 162 minutes back). Rather it is a variously tense, funny, violent, dark and gripping chase movie set against a stunning backdrop, with all-round convincing performances, particularly from Dominic West, Michael Fassbender and David Morrissey. It was 97 minutes I would happily relive and highly recommend.
A remake of the 1981 Greek mythology based action adventure by Transporter 2/Incredible Hulk director Louis Leterrier, in which the gods, angry at mankind losing faith in them, unleash a series of deadly beasts on the city of Argos, and the citizens only hope lies in a ragtag band of warriors, lead by reluctant half-god Perseus (played by Avatar star Sam Worthington, in his first role since the release of that $2 billion juggernaut). As the original is more fondly remembered for its creatures – animated in suitably creepy style by stop-motion legend Ray Harryhausen – than its story, this is one Hollywood remake that has the potential to improve upon its source material. Read more »