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The HeyUGuys Cinema Release Round-up: 7th December

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Twilight Breaking Dawn Part 2′s fortnight long stint at the top of the box office chart has come to an abrupt end. What big new smash hit has knocked the Vamps off top spot? I hear you cry. A little known spy flick known as Skyfall of course. Yes, after six weeks on release, Bond moves back up to the top of the pile in the very same week where it surpassed Avatar to become the highest grossing film at the UK Box Office of all time.

I don’t think anybody foresaw it being quite this succesful and hats really do need to go off to Sam Mendes and everyone involved for such an impressive feat. Skyfall has currently taken £94.28 million and you wouldn’t put it past it to be the first film to break the £100million barrier in UK cinemas. Breaking Dawn Part 2 meanwhile, despite a hefty 59% drop on its previous weeks takings, is now the highest grossing entry in the franchise, so some praise also due there. No hat lifting warranted there though.

Dreamworks’ Rise of the Guardians was the highest grossing new entry of last weekend, taking in a solid £1.96 million and sitting comfortably in third spot. The studio will be happy with that opening and as the festive season comes ever nearer, there’s a distinct lack of rival Christmas related movies coming out so I would imagine Guardians will have a good few weeks left yet. Last week’s surprise success story Nativity 2 only dropped one spot to fourth and they too should enjoy a few more weeks of decent takings yet, though I can’t see them having quite the longevity of Rise of the Guardians.

Other releases from last week didn’t fare particularly well with Great Expectations taking a fairly disappointing £544,00 despite having a pretty wide opening at around 433 screens. The lure of Dickens on the big screen was seemingly not strong enough to help Mike Newell’s effort and despite fairly acceptable verdicts across the board, it would appear the lack of really rave reviews may have hampered its success. Alex Cross fared even worse, though that’s perhaps not all that surprising given Tyler Perry’s little known status over here and also its countless truly woeful reviews. Takings of just £226,00 doesn’t bode well for the film and after entering the chart at only number 11 this week, I wouldn’t be surprised to see it plummet far lower over the coming days.

Ben Wheatley’s Sightseers had a commendable opening weekend, taking in £218,00 at just 92 screens, which is relatively few compared to Alex Cross’s 212 screen opening. I went to see Sightseers this week and can heartily recommend it to anyone who enjoys their comedy nice and dark. The humour is extremely British and I laughed pretty much constantly throughout. The mix of humour and occasional bloody violence is done well and the two stars, Alice Lowe and Steve Oram are a brilliantly unhinged odd couple. You will never listen to ‘The Power of Love’ in the same way again. Positive reviews will obviously work in Sightseers favour and it should have a steady few weeks at the box office still to come.

Out this week are a number of mid-level offerings which will be looking to post decent opening weekends but in reality will struggle to unseat the big three of Skyfall, Twilight and Rise of the Guardians. The Man With The Iron Fists will have a fair degree of cult appeal but may be a bit too niche to prove overly succesful, while Seven Psychopaths, which is a brilliantly violent romp by the way, of which more later, may also find attracting a broad audience fairly difficult. Expect both to enter the top ten, but neither to come close to the big hitters at the summit.

Also out this week is indie romantic dramedy Celeste and Jesse Forever, comedy-drama in middle-class suburbia The Oranges and the one we’ve all been waiting for, Miley Cyrus’s undercover cop movie, So, Undercover. It’s actually called that. It is genuinely called, So, Undercover. My word.

If you want to check to see if any of these films are playing near you, you can visit Find Any Film and they’ll be able to help.

Seven Psychopaths *Pick of the Week*

Martin McDonagh’s follow-up to the frankly awesome In Bruges is a violent and snarky crime caper with plenty of meta nods to cinematic lore itself. Colin Farrell stars as Marty, a boozy scriptwriter suffering from chronic writer’s block. He’s got the title of his new project, ‘Seven Psychopaths’ and little else. His buddy Billy (Sam Rockwell) is an out of work actor turned dog-napper who takes it upon himself to inspire Marty by introducing him to some possibly fictional and some all-too-real psychos. The most dangerous of which comes in the shape of trigger-happy gangster Charlie (Woody Harrelson) who Billy and his partner in crime Hans (Christopher Walken) cross after they steal his beloved Shih Tzu. Things soon escalate and spiral out of control as Marty finds all too much inspiration in his real life escapades.

I thoroughly enjoyed Seven Psychopaths, it’s filled with the type of dark and snappy humour you’d expect from McDonagh and the magnificent ensemble cast are all on great form. Rockwell is a ball of borderline-insane energy but its Walken who really shines, amping his standard calm and menacing persona all the way up to 11. There is a lot of knowing winks and nods to crime flick clichés and its this element of the story which a number of critics have perhaps found a little grating. The majority seem to have seen it as I did, a romping piece of chaotic fun, but I can kind of understand why some have found it a little, for want of a better term, up its own arse. Personally though, I’m a big fan and fans of Tarantino-esque violence and dialogue can’t go far wrong.

Joe Cunningham says:

Seven Psychopaths is really enjoyable in the moment, although I don’t think it stands up to much scrutiny after the fact.

You can read Ian Gilchrist’s review here.

Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 81%

 

The Man With the Iron Fists

As a wise man once said, if you want beef, then bring the ruckus, Wu-Tang Clan ain’t nuttin to f**k with. Straight from the motherf***ing slums that’s busted, Wu-Tang Clan ain’t nuttin to f**k with. The Wu-Tang Clan’s love of all things Martial Arts is well documented and here life-long Wu member RZA makes his big screen directorial debut and also stars in the lead role of this martial arts opus. RZA stars as ‘the blacksmith’, a maker of obscure weapons for various warring factions who is forced to team up with assorted warriors and assassins when tensions boil over and he is forced to protect his adopted home village. Iron Fists also stars Russell Crowe and Lucy Liu in supporting roles.

Reviews seem to be fairly split on this one with a fair number of critics feeling it is a bit of a mess with some decidedly ropey dialogue throughout. Very few seem to doubt that it’s pretty schlocky and over the top, but whether or not you enjoy it appears to be down to whether you go along with the ride and enjoy the grindhouse-esque silliness. One critic said “It may just be one of the best bad movies ever” which gives you a sense of what kind of movie we’re dealing with here. The fight scenes are particularly impressive by most accounts, it’s just the jumbled story that builds around them which are highly questionable. May just be one for Wu-Tang and martial arts fans only.

Adam Lowes says:

I was looking forward to seeing The Man With the Iron Fists, but a middling critical response and audience indifference from across the ponds has damped my interest a little. I have a feeling this film may be more successful during its small-screen release, but I’ll definitely catch it at some point, cinema or Blu-ray.

Rotten Tomatoes Rating : 48%

 

I, Anna

A noir-thriller by Barnaby Southcombe which stars Gabriel Byrne as a London detective Bernie Reid and Charlotte Rampling (Barnaby’s mother) as Anna, the possible femme fatale of the piece. Anna is a sixty year old single woman who attends speed-dating events and occasionally goes home with men she meets there. One of these encounters ends rather badly and DCI Reid arrives at the scene of the crime and briefly meets the enigmatic Anna. While working on the case, Reid is himself going through a divorce and suffering from insomnia, which seriously begins to hamper his own efforts. When he tracks down Anna to continue his enquiries, she denies ever meeting him. The two develop a mutual attraction however and Bernie soon gets embroiled in a dark mystery centered around Anna.

Critical opinion seems to be divided on this one with some praising the atmospheric neo-noir sensibilities as well as both Rampling and Byrne’s performances.  Others however are less kind and criticise the plot itself, suggesting it all gets rather melodramatic and predictable as the film wears on.  The editing and camerawork have been both praised and scorned in equal measure, so it would appear that it really is going to be a case of personal taste with this one. With a telling 50% on Rotten Tomatoes, this is a cast iron winner of the Marmite Movie of the Week award.

Joe Cunningham says:

I, Anna is a sub-par thriller with a twist ending you can see coming from a mile off.

Our own Stefan Pape was a fan however and you can read his review here.

Rotten Tomatoes Rating : 50%

 

The Oranges

The trailer for this middle-class suburban comedy drama seems to have played before every film I’ve seen at the cinema in the past two months, and every time it’s got less and less appealing. Two families live on Orange Drive in suburban New Jersey and are as close as neighbours can be. One the one hand is David and Paige Wailling (Hugh Laurie and Catherine Keener) and their kids Toby and Vannessa (Adam Brody and Alia Shawkat). On the other is Terry and Carol Ostroff (Oliver Platt and Alison Janney) and their daughter Nina (Leighton Meester). When Nina returns to the family home after breaking things off with her fiance, the family hope she will take up with Toby and bond the two families together even more. However a partridge is put amongst the pigeons when it is discovered that Nina is involved in an affair with Toby’s dad David. After the scandal is uncovered, the unfolding drama has telling implications for all concerned as they question what it means to be happy. Apparently.

The critics haven’t been overly kind on this one. Consensus appears to be that it’s not particularly funny and suffers from a distinct lack of chemistry and credibility between the scandalous couple in question. Light on laughs and far too heavy on middle-class melodrama, it seems like a cast full of great actors has managed the impressive feat of wasting them all. There are a few reviewers who are a touch less scathing however. Some suggest that it’s a relatively harmless and inconsequential dramedy and while its nothing particularly remarkable, there’s enough good lines in it to warrant a watch. The majority however are really not keen at all and as one reviewer pointed out, you are longing for Tony Soprano to stride over from up the street and take care of some business.

Joe Cunningham, with the most positive review I’ve seen yet, says:

The Oranges is a surprising little comedy gem. Great cast, great performances, and some outrageously great lines peppered throughout.

You can see Joe’s interview with director Julan Farino here.

Rotten Tomatoes Rating : 30%

 

So, Undercover

Finally, that Miss Congeniality rip-off starring Miley Cyrus and Kelly Osbourne that we have all dreamed of is here. *Sigh*, ok, look, I know this isn’t aimed at me and you should never review a film you haven’t seen so for the rest of this bit I will try to be as open-minded as I can. Right, here we go. So, Undercover is the story of Molly Moris (Miley Cyrus) a streetwise private investigator who went straight from High School to fight crime with her dad. That all changes though when she is recruited by the FBI to infiltrate a bitchy sorority house and protect a former mobster’s daughter. There’s also a dash of Mean Girls/She’s All That thrown in the mix as the supposedly un-hot yet clearly hot girl is given a make-over and, hey-presto, blends right in with the other hot girls. Molly is at first a fish out of water, but soon comes to start embracing the partying lifestyle of her college friends.

A simple equation for So, Undercover would appear to be, Miss Congeniality + Mean Girls x 21 Jump Street = Cyrus box office gold. Or so the plan goes. surprisingly, the critics haven’t been overly keen. Cyrus doesn’t convince as the street-wise biker and appears entirely more believable as the hot and sassy college girl she is meant to be impersonating. Once at College the laughs are notable by their absence and having Kelly Osbourne onboard as the feisty roommate was never going to be any film’s saving grace. Oh you know what, f**k it, I’m just going to be a snobbish elitist and say it looks utterly dreadful. Just read that plot synopsis back. They have just taken bits from various other movies and jumbled them together into a generic vehicle for Miley with the hope that her diehard fans will all flock to the multiplex to see it. The ploy failed dismally in the States where it wound up going straight to video and I can’t see it doing much better here.  Never Been Kissed! It’s got a bit of Never Been Kissed in there too. Just thought of that one. Anyway, the target audience will lap it up, whoever they may be, but for the rest of us, lets just pretend it doesn’t exist.

I must again reiterate I have not seen it and it could be amazing. It really could.

Rotten Tomatoes Rating : 10%

 

Celeste and Jesse Forever

Rashida Jones and Andy Samberg star in this romantic comedy that sees their titular Celeste and Jesse, a couple who have been together since High School and married young, now seemingly on the verge of splitting up. Celeste is a determined and driven business owner while Jesse is an unemployed and easy-going guy with little or no motivation at all. Celeste suggests they split up while they are still young enough to remain supportive friends after doing so and Jesse grudgingly accepts. As the reality of the situation begins to sink in however, Celeste begins to realise she may have been hasty about the whole thing,  but a reconciliation is now far more complicated that she may have hoped.

Both Rashida Jones, who stars in the excellent Parks and Recreation, and Andy Samberg, of former SNL fame, are hot young talents and I have quite high hopes for a film with the two of them in. I’m really hoping Samberg doesn’t go any further down the Adam Sandler movie route. We all know where that leads Andy, it won’t be pretty for any of us. Here the duo make an appealing central couple and the slight majority of critics seem to suggest that while this isn’t a particularly fresh or ground breaking movie, it’s good-hearted and both sweet and funny when required.  A few dissenters however suggest it gets a little too generic and soon falls into standard rom-com cliché territory. I’m willing to give it a chance personally on the strength of the lead duo and the modest reviews I’ve read, but do be warned, I don’t think it’s going to be a lasting romantic classic by any means.

For example Joe Cunningham says:

Celeste and Jesse Forever is really disappointing. Not funny, badly paced, excruciatingly annoying characters. Just a real mess of a movie.
While Kenji Lloyd says:
I’m on the opposite side of the fence with Celeste and Jesse Forever. I saw it at LFF and thought it was brilliant. Excellent performances all round, especially Rashida Jones and Andy Samberg in the leads, and a very promising debut script from Rashida Jones and Will McCormack. Should be interesting to see what comes next from them as writers.Much more than your average comedy/drama/romance film. Very glad that it’s finally coming to the UK after its summer release in the US.
You can read Craig Skinner’s review here.
Rotten Tomatoes Rating : 67%

 

When Santa Fell to Earth

Based on Cornelia Funke’s best-selling novel, this German festive comedy hasn’t been met with too much enthusiasm from the critics over here. The gist is that Santa has been chased out of Christmastown by the evil Goblynch and lands on the street near to where youngsters Ben and Charlotte live.  The duo team up with Santa and  his pet elves to try to track down the old man’s invisible reindeer and wrestle back control of Christmas from the dastardly Goblynch. It sounds fairly humdrum festive offering and it would appear the decision to dub rather than subtitle the movie doesn’t really work. However if your kids are desperate for a bit of snow and Santa, it should keep them mildly entertained for an hour and a half.

No Rotten Tomatoes Rating at present……it’s that underground.

 

Also out this week:

You Will Be My Son : French drama focusing on an arrogant vineyard owner who cannot accept his own son’s lack of wine making ability RTR: 100%

Life Just is: An indie Brit drama looking at a group of Uni students struggling to adapt to the real world. RTR: 29%

Confession of a Child of the Century: Adaptation of Alfred De Musset’s autobiographic novel starring Pete Doherty (yes, that one) as a romantic libertine in 19th Century Paris. RTR: 0% (yes…0%)