Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Contagion? Outragion!

Forgot to post my review of Contagion from last week. It's basically an all-star version of the killer virus plot we've seen before in Outbreak, The Stand and countless other movies and books. The film has a few surprises, including killing off Gwyneth Paltrow and showing her head being cut open (don't worry, that's not really a spoiler - it happens in the first ten minutes). The cast, especially Kate Winslet and Laurence Fishburne as two of the investigators trying to unravel the source of the virus, is superb and Steven Soderbergh's low key directing actually adds to the believable scariness of the story (though some may find it a little slow and talky in parts). If the miracle vaccine resolution is a little too pat, the coda where we finally learn who patient zero is provides a nice circular ending. Not quite the apocalyptic epic you might have hoped for, but worth a watch.

Friday, September 02, 2011

Attack the Block

Attack the Block (a movie which has gained some unfortunate connotations since the English riots) finally came to Greenville, South Carolina. It’s a fun homage to 80’s monster and alien invasion movies that works wonders with its small budget.
The film opens with our “heroes” – a gang of multi-cultural teens living in a London council block – robbing a nurse at knifepoint. This scene is understandably controversial and will turn some viewers off the protagonists right from the start. But writer/director Joe Cornish (from the Adam & Joe show and co-writer of the upcoming Tin Tin movie) wants to show us that behind the loutish criminal behaviour lies real people with real emotions. The kids are forced to defend the neighbourhood they once terrorized when furry aliens with big glowing jaws start landing all over.
The film makes good use of mostly unknown faces (Nick Frost, the closest thing to a star, only gets about ten minutes of screen time) and like Shaun of the Dead plays the danger for real despite the laughs (most of the cast are dead by the end). John Boyega is particular impressive as Moses, the quiet but intense leader of the gang who gets to become a genuine hero, complete with slow motion run at the end.
The creatures are simple but effective, with Terry Notary (famous for choreographing those damn dirty apes in Planet of the Apes) inside the suit. The film may not be groundbreaking but it's an entertaining and sometimes surprising sci-fi movie that should show up in my top ten of the year.

Thursday, September 01, 2011

I like his movies, except for that nervous fella who's always in them

Finally got to see Woody Allen's latest, Midnight in Paris, at the cinema. It's the first time my wife and I have been able to go see a movie without the kids since Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part I. It was an amusing romantic fantasy that the word charming might as well have been invented for. Owen Wilson does a good job as Allen's surrogate, a writer who is able to fulfill his nostalgic fantasies when he finds a time portal that transports him to Paris in the 1920's. The film takes a simple premise and uses it to illustrate how no matter what era people live in, the past always looks rosier. Allen's camera is clearly in love with Paris and shows it off to beautiful effect. The supporting cast is full of wonderful comic turns, especially Michael Sheen as the pretentious bore moving in on Wilson's fiance, Corey Stoll as Ernest Hemingway and Adrien Brody as Salvador Dali (the more you know about the real life artistic figures featured in the film, the better). The conclusion may not be profound, but it's a fine resolution to the feel good movie of the summer.