Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes. Even More Monkey Business.

dawn_of_the_planet_of_the_apes_poster_a_pWe’re not being funny but has Andy Serkis considered joining one of those stem cell research programmes?  We’re thinking he could farm out a few spare hip cells to grow an ape-Andy, a Gollum-Andy, maybe take a punt on a Wolverine-Andy to sub for Hugh Jackman when he needs a nap between takes.  It’d save him cumulative weeks in hair & make up. Cost-effective for the studios too.  Just a thought.

In Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes, Andy and his all-conquering CGI gimp suit plays Caesar, leader of a band of genetically modified apes.  These are no ordinary monkeys.  Highly intelligent and highly evolved they communicate by sign language, ride horses and Caesar himself even boasts the odd word of spoken English. The clever so and so. Living in the hills around San Francisco where they fled to escape a deadly virus unleashed by humans a decade before, they doing quite nicely, thank you very much.

Not for long.

A small band of humans have also survived the virus. And where there are humans, there is a need for power.  Our ape chums happen to live amongst the ruins of an old, broken down power station, which the humans have in their beady sights. So begins a power struggle (no pun intended) between ape and human.

You could read a lot into this. It takes in themes of loyalty, truth, standing up for one’s comrades etc etc. Practically Shakespearan, even before you Hail Caesar.  Or if you are of a more base nature, like The Sloth, you can simply sit back and gawp at the quite incredible cinematic vision of thousands of astoundingly realistic looking apes swarming as far as the camera can see.  To quote one of the human characters: “They’re talking apes! With big ass spears!!”.  What more do you need?

UK release 18 July

Begin Again. Band It Like Beckham.

beginYou may or may not know that Keira Knightley is married to a member of The Klaxons. Which is interesting as in Begin Again she plays the girlfriend of a musician tasting new found fame, who then promptly leaves her once the groupies come a-calling.  Let’s not speculate on the chances of art imitating life and move swiftly on.

Dragged reluctantly onstage during an open mike night, songwriter Greta (Keira Knightley) finds herself crooning a self-penned creation to a bar full of disinterested New Yorkers.  Apart from one. Dan (Mark Ruffalo), a shambolic, semi-alcoholic A&R man is enchanted. Fired from his own record label only that morning, Dan drunkenly seizes upon Greta as his ticket back into the business.

Greta is similarly no stranger to troubles. Recently arrived in NYC to support her up and coming musician boyfriend Dave (Maroon 5 frontman, Adam Levine) as he records a new album, Greta finds herself swiftly relegated from co-writer and muse to tea lady. On discovering Dodgy Dave’s been forging more than a strictly professional relationship with one of his new colleagues, heartbroken Greta throws caution to the wind and agrees to record her own album with Dan.

Our Keira’s already proved she can take a neat free kick and fight pirates in a corset. In Begin Again she can add an endearingly girlish, fragile singing voice to her accomplishments.  Taking the decision to record each track outside to capture the background sounds of the city, Dan, Greta and their troupe of session musicians work their way around NYC and through an emotional musical therapy of their own.

Yes, it’s a touch forced in places and frankly, if Dan and Greta reveal their supposed ‘guilty pleasures’ playlists as including the likes of Sinatra and Stevie Wonder, then The Sloth ain’t never showing our Take That collection to nobody. But overall this is sweet and uplifting, helped by an enigmatic, Lost In Translation style relationship between the two leads. A not-so-guilty pleasure.

UK release 11 July

The Knife That Killed Me

knifeOccasionally, it’s good to be the wrong side of youth. The Sloth was reminded of this when watching The Knife That Killed Me. Our schooldays, where the worst possible form of threat was a bog wash and Grange Hill was deemed a bad influence, now seem naively innocent. Today’s youth, faced with ‘happy slapping’, internet trolling and escalating gang violence aren’t quite so lucky.

Based on the acclaimed novel by Anthony McGowan, The Knife That Killed Me relates the events leading up to the death of a teenage boy from knife crime. And this is no spoiler.  Narrated by schoolboy Paul (Jack McMullen), he leaves us in no doubt from the outset as to what is going to happen. The only questions are how and why.

The new boy in a school where students divide themselves into sub-cultures, Paul is finding it hard to fit in. Drawn towards ‘The Freaks’, a group of black haired, skinny jeaned emo-types, headed up by the impossibly mature Shane (Oliver Lee), Paul finally starts making friends. But being new he’s also caught the evil eye of Roth (Jamie Shelton), the psychopathic school bully and leader of a gang. Charismatic and threatening, Roth equips Paul with a knife for ‘protection’ and claims him as his right hand man in an ongoing war with a rival local gang. Soon, the vulnerable Paul realises he is in over his head.

Filmed entirely on green screen it places the actors against dark, scratchy, semi-animated backgrounds in an attempt to solve the eternal problem of doing justice to a book onscreen. Taking reality out of the equation takes a bit of getting used to – at first the abstract, layered visuals feel intrusive and oppressive – but it does allow the dialogue to shine through. We’re not familiar with the book but came out feeling as if we were. We also came out feeling this is a film that needs to be seen. Handling as emotive a subject as knife crime without preaching or sensationalising isn’t easy, but The Knife That Killed Me Manages It.

The Knife That Killed Me are running a Kickstarter campaign aimed at releasing the film theatrically free of charge for one day only on 17 July 2014, to stimulate debate. Visit here to donate. The film will be fully released on DVD and VOD in late 2014.

Mr Morgan’s Last Love. Lost In (French) Translation.

Mr._Morgan's_Last_Love_PosterIt’s a shame that the name Michael Caine can hardly be mentioned without eliciting Italian Job / Mockerney impersonations from all and sundry. For when the urge takes him, he really is a terrific actor, which we were reminded of when watching Mr Morgan’s Last Love.

Retired widower Matthew Morgan (Michael Caine) is an American Professor of Philosophy. A widower, he lives alone in Paris and is struggling to come to terms with life since his wife’s death. Introverted and depressed to the point of suicidal, he lacks friends and even basic French, still limited after several years in France to ordering his favourite sandwich by pointing and talking loudly, to the marvellously Gallic disgust of the shop assistants.

Chancing upon a dance class one day Matthew sneaks in to watch, reminded of how he and his wife used to love to dance. Catching the eye of the class teacher Pauline (Clémence Poésy), to his horror she invites him to join in, starting an unlikely friendship. Both lonely and drawn to each other, they develop a surrogate father / daughter relationship, to the consternation of Matthew’s brattish real children Karen (Gillian Andersen) and Miles (Justin Kirk). But how far can this new relationship go to fill the loss in Matthew’s life?

We’ve seen tales of young women/older men bonding before, so what can this bring that’s new to the party? Melancholic, slow paced and wistful, it could be downright depressing but it’s saved by wonderful performances from both Michael Caine and Clémence Poésy. Not much happens, but that’s not really the point. This is a film first and foremost about the difficulties of getting older, which is not always a rosy prospect. If you’re in the right frame of mind it’s emotional, thoughtful and often quite moving.

UK release 11 July.

The 100 Year Old Man Who Climbed Out The Window And Disappeared

100yearoldThe world’s unquenchable thirst for all things dark, quirky and Scandinavian rages on. The latest Nordic juggernaut attempting to slake it is 100 Year Old Man (we’re not typing it all out again, we’ll wear out our three toes).  Adapted from the best selling novel, this is not just any blockbuster juggernaut, this is the biggest Scandinavian movie EVER at the Swedish box office.  Yup, bigger than anything female and dragon tattoed. That’s sizeable hobnail boots to fill.

It’s Allan Karlsson’s (Robert Gustafsson) birthday. He’s 100, he lives in a nursing home and he’s being given a birthday party whether he likes it or not. Unfortunately, it’s a not. Faced with the prospect of being snapped for the local paper and having to socialise with his fellow doddery residents, he climbs out his window and legs it to the local bus station. While waiting for the next bus a dodgy looking chap asks Allan to keep an eye on his suspiciously enormous suitcase while he pops to the loo. Allan agrees. Then promptly nicks it, taking off in the bus.

So kicks off an eccentric, rambling road-trip-come-shaggy-dog-story that switches between past and present. Present day Allan soon finds himself hotly pursued cross country by the none-too-happy owner of the suitcase, picking up several new friends en route who aid his escape, not least Sonya, a circus elephant. Reminiscing partly with himself and partly to his new buddies introduces us to past day Allan, a frank talking genius (and dynamite expert) who allegedly contributed much to the course of history, hobnobbing with President Truman, Stalin, Churchill and Chairman Mao.

Mad as a bucket of frogs, witty and irreverent, It’s a delight. In a time when Hollywood churns out much unimaginative slush and remakes, how reassuring to see that imagination and new ideas are still actually possible.  And apart from anything else, it’s good to see the market in cantankerous elders hasn’t been entirely corned by Alan Arkin.

Cold In July

cold-in-july-poster1What was it about the 1980s? They really were the decade taste shoved down the back of the (floral chintz) sofa. Bad hair, bad music, bad decor. Terrible technology. Not something The Sloth particularly wants to revisit. But Cold In July does. And with big, shiny, Miami Vice bells on.

Residents of A Small Town Somewhere In Texas, sometime in the 1980’s, Richard (Michael C Hall), his wife Ann (Vanessa Shaw) and their son are woken in the night by an intruder. In panic, Richard shoots him stone dead. Being a good, upstanding member of the gun toting Texan community, the local cops are firmly on his side, accepting it as self defence. All good. Except shortly after the shooting ominous stranger Ben (Sam Shepherd) appears. Evidently the father of the dead intruder, he’s bent on revenge against the family in retaliation for shooting his son.

However, being A Small Town Somewhere In Texas, nothing is simple. Police corruption and cover ups soon come oozing out the woodwork, leading Richard and Ben to form an unlikely alliance.  But two mere civilians can’t take the cops on alone, what they need is a larger than life 1980’s detective. Cue swaggering Don Johnson as Private Investigator Jim Bob, cruising into town in a stetson, cowboy boots and a man-parts-extension convertible, classily plated ‘RED BTCH’.

Part noir thriller, part comedy, part B-movie, Cold In July subverts expectations at every turn. Not always in a good way – some of the characterisation gets rather left behind in the brutally violent final stages – but it’s certainly never dull. Add in a Jean Michel Jarre-esq 80’s synth soundtrack, mobile phones from the days when they required a battery pack the size of a Yorkshire Terrier and a completely scene stealing turn from Don Johnson, it’s as diverting as it is disconcerting.

UK release 27 July

Chef. Keep On Truckin’.

chefAt what point did the world go food mad? Teenagers are meekly queueing outside ‘artisan’ burger joints instead of necking K Cider in the park. Tucker from Grange Hill is on telly making gammon steak and chips for a fat bald bloke and his Aussie mate and it’s called entertainment. Caramel has salt in it. Please, let this madness stop.

Luckily, the movies are a relatively food free zone. Name 10 films about food. No, the Goodfellas pasta sauce scene doesn’t count. A whole film about food. You’re struggling, aren’t you? Well fret no more because Chef, the pet project of Jon Favreau who directed, wrote and starred in it, has arrived to filled the zeitgist shaped hole.

Jon is Carl Casper, a chef once riding high, now coasting under the constraints imposed by restaurant owner Riva (Dustin Hoffman). Riva is keener on getting punters bums on seats with the tried and tested Chocolate Lava Cake than letting Carl induldge his flouncier, creative instincts. One bad restaurant critic review later and Carl quits in a hissy fit. After a spot of soul searching in his wife’s native Cuba, Carl decides to go back to basics and open a food truck serving Cuban sandwiches.

Nicking a couple of chefs from his old restaurant to help, plus Carl’s young son Percy (Emjay Anthony) to provide child labor, our merry band set off, spreading carbs, salt and saturated fat amongst the good American people. And with Percy working social media like a marketing pro, their truck soon has a pied piper following.

Part road movie, part father and son bonding, it’s sweet, feel good and unashamedly up-beat. Yes, it’s a bit contrived but, just when we felt a groan coming on, we were thrown off course by a random comedy curve ball – literally – a scene of our chefy heroes applying corn starch to their, erm, man goods.  Is this A Known Thing? Do please enlighten us. In the meantime, after all that grease we’re in need of a juice cleanse.

UK release 27 June.

Jersey Boys. As In Joisey, Not Jumpers.

jersey-boys-movie-posterIt may come as a surprise to you, it certainly did to The Sloth, that Clint Eastwood is the director of Jersey Boys. Yes, he of a stare so steely it could laser-cut sheet metal at 100 paces, has taken on A MUSICAL. Shurely shum mishtake. Although he is 84 and age-onset urges for brushed cotton bed sheets and a night out at a West End show catch up with us all eventually.

We should confess that we don’t much care for musicals. Nor do we care for the music of Frankie Valli, on whom it is based, so we were looking forward to this about as much as a trip to the dentist. However, it turns out the story of Frankie Valli himself is rather interesting.  A gifted singer from a young age Frankie (John Lloyd Young), born Francesco Castellucciol, sung lead in a band formed and managed by his brother, Tommy (Vincent Piazza). Unfortunately Tommy was something of a n’er do well, fond of liberating goods off the back of lorries and no stranger to the slammer.

Aimlessly playing local clubs, the boys encountered talented songwriter Bob Gaudio (Erich Bergen) whose input finally set them on the road to stardom and supposedly fame and fortune. The fame bit certainly happened but it turns out Tommy’s bad influence put paid to the fortune.

A cautionary tale of greed and the pressures of money, it’s well played by a cast lifted straight from the stage musical. With the one tent pole actor exception of Christopher Walken who DOESN’T TAP DANCE! Frankly, we were gutted.  But that one clanging disappointment aside, we’re not saying it’s sprint to-your-nearest-multiplex good, but if your mum has been dropping none to subtle hints to see ‘that nice film with those nice songs’, there’s no need to fake a virulent bout of dysentery. Go on, you know she’ll love it.

UK release 20 June 2014.

Most Romantic Films That Make You Want To Travel…

Please welcome back The Sloth’s regular guest bloggers Lovestruck.com, who are in holiday mood.

With the summer holidays now firmly in our sites and our sunnies and shorts dug out from the back of our wardrobes, here at Lovestruck.com, we couldn’t help thinking of romance and more specifically, the most romantic films of all time set in foreign climes. Here are our top choices:

amelie-posterAmelie (2001). Location: Paris.
How we love, love, love this French flick about a Parisian waitress (played by Audrey Tatou), who wants to make other peoples’ lives better, while struggling with her own loneliness. Cute and delicate, Amelie is funny, touching and has the most fabulous backdrop. The film is set in the 18th district and makes us want to hop on the Eurostar right this second and go and drink wine in the sunshine on one of the cobbled streets. Our top quote: “A woman without love wilts like a flower without sun.”

94_d_60879_0_UnderTheTuscanSunUnder The Tuscan Sun (2003). Location: Tuscany
Do you ever consider jacking it all in and heading off somewhere beautiful and starting all over? In this film, a recently divorced writer (played by Diane Lane) impulsively buys a dilapidated Tuscan villa where she begins a romance with the Italian local Marcello. And while that romance doesn’t last, she eventually meets an American on holiday proving that love can strike at a time when you least expect it to. Our top quote: “Signora. Please stop being so sad. If you continue like this, I will be forced to make love to you. And I’ve never been unfaithful to my wife.”

before-sunrise-movie-poster-1995-1020190611Before Sunrise (1995). Location: Vienna
This romantic drama, directed by Richard Linklater follows a young American man named Jesse (played by Ethan Hawke) and a French woman Celine (played by Julie Delpy) who meet on a train and get off in Vienna. They spend the night wondering around the city, getting to know each other. Witty and poignant, it is an unabashed look at romantic love.
Our top quote: “Isn’t everything we do in life the way to be loved a little bit more?

Lost-in-Translation-Posters-lost-in-translation-1041742_1200_1850Lost In Translation (2003). Location: Tokyo.
This is a study of two lost souls who come together and spend a few days together in Tokyo. Bob (played by Bill Murray) is a jaded, ageing actor and Charlotte (played by Scarlett Johansson) is beautiful and bored waiting for her husband. The pair form an unlikely bond and realise their friendship might be something more. Beautifully shot, the film also balances humour and poignancy. Our top quote: “The more you know who you are and what you want, the less you let things upset you.”

vicky-cristina-barcelona-movie-poster-2008-1020412324Vicky Cristina Barcelona (2008). Location: Barcelona.
Woody Allen helms this flick about best friends played by Rebecca Hall and Scarlett Johansson, who travel to Barcelona and become enamoured with the same man. Things get much more complicated when his unstable ex then comes to stay. Anyone who needs some escapism (and to see some beautiful views of the city) needs to check this out pronto. Our top quote: “If you don’t start undressing me soon, this is going to turn into a panel discussion.”

What do you think of our choices? Do you have some of your own? Tell us @lovestruck

LOVESTRUCK R LOGO WHITE

Oculus. Reflected Gory.

Oculus-poster-2There are two rules to observe in horror films: #1 stay away from the giant Gothic mirror; #2 if the family dog is barking like a mad thing, take heed. In Oculus, both rules are ignored. Will people never learn?

Tom (Brenton Thwaites) is being released from a mental institution. His sister Kaylie (Karen Gillan), who you’d think would be looking out for her little brother on his release, has plans for them both. Kaylie has just bought a giant Gothic mirror (NOOOO!!! WHAT DID WE TELL YOU??!!!) at auction. This mirror originated from Balmoral Castle, no less (film rule #3 never trust anyone or anything British as we are all inherently evil).  ‘And what?’ you may ask. Well, this mirror was possible the root of Tom’s undoing.

Turns out Tom was institutionalised after being accused of murdering his father (Rory Cochrane), who had apparently killed his mother (Katee Sackhoff). A few family issues then. But Kaylie fervently believes this mirror, which hung in their childhood home, is inherently evil and to blame. To prove her theory she sets up cameras, temperature gauges, computers and numerous alarm clocks, plus a cute French Bulldog for bait and, dragging poor old traumatised Tom along for company, sits back to wait.

Now the scary reflection in the mirror theme has been done umpteen times before, so what can Oculus bring to the party that’s new? Well, it’s taughtly paced, switching rapidly back and forth between present day and childhood flash backs and makes clever use of the two siblings conflicting childhood memories, leaving us bewlidered as to what is real and what is fiction. Add the disfunctional family theme and you’ve got a suspensful psychological creep-fest. And that’s before you bring in the dead eyed lady wandering around in her bloodied nightdress…

UK release 13 July