Film

Black Sea/ The Grandmaster/ The Good Lie

I’ve never been a fan of Jude Law – sure, he was great in much-maligned Gattaca and The Talented Mr Ripley, but poor recent performances, coupled with an ever-receding hairline and off-screen shagnanigans, render him a rather unlikeable cove. 

Misgivings aside, Law manages a fine performance (not to mention a surprisingly convincing Scottish accent) in Black Sea (December 5). Law plays Captain Robinson, a submarine captain (apparently still a profession) who, along with his hand-picked crew of ragtag Scotchmen, decides to seek out some long-forgotten submerged Nazi gold. Unsurprisingly, dingy submarine conditions, gold-lust and rival treasure hunters all conspire to drive crew and captain apart. 

Can the crew get it together and raise all that Nazi gold, or will Captain Robinson have to give them Das Boot (sorry)? There’s only one way to find out. 

Next up this month, something a bit different: visually-sumptuous marital arts ass-kickery in the form of The Grandmaster (December 5), starring Tony Leung Chiu-Wai and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon’s Ziyi Zhang. 

The Grandmaster follows the real life story of Wing Chun grandmaster Ip Man (Leung) – the Man who taught the world’s most famous Kung Fu exponent, Bruce Lee, every kick he knew – beginning with his flight to Hong Kong after the second Sino Japanese war, and ending with the events leading up to his death in 1972. The movie simultaneously chronicles the end of an era in Chinese martial arts history that occurred in the immediate post-war period. 

Ponderous political plot points notwithstanding, the real reason to see The Grandmaster is the jaw-dropping fight scenes (choreographed by Crouching Tiger’s Yuen Woo-ping). I could watch Ziyi Zhang axe-kick all day. Don’t kung-fool yourself into overlooking this gem this month!

Finally this month, The Good Lie (December 12) a schmaltzy, Blindside-y – and damn it! – heartwarming tale, starring Reece Witherspoon, who must be relieved that she will never again be confused with Renee Zellweger since the latter’s recent real-life Face-Off remake. 

The story is thus: after 13 years in a Kenyan refugee camp, a trio of grown-up Sudanese orphans win a visa lottery which allows them to immigrate to the US. Jackpot! Once there, they meet Carrie (Witherspoon), a plucky job recruiter initially tasked with finding them jobs. Soon enough though, Carrie becomes a multi-purpose ambassador/cultural acclimatiser for the men, helping them navigate their new lives and escape the lingering horrors of their war-torn pasts. 

The Good Lie features excellent performances (two of three male leads fled conflict zones in real life) and a feel-good, Oscar-bait type of vibe.

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Film

Pompeii/ Bad Neighbours/ X Men: Days of Futures Past

First up this month is Pompeii (May 2), starring Game of Thrones’ Kit Harrington. Now, as anyone familiar with Ancient Rome will know, if you were a male slave in possession of rippling muscles and no unsightly body hair, you had to be a Gladiator. (I think it was probably Caligua who instituted that law.) Anyway, Milo (Harrington) is a slave in pre-eruption Pompeii forced to battle other glistening dudes in the arena, clad in a nought but a skimpy subligaria. Poor thing. Anyway, he falls for a lady above his status and so begins a desperate race to save her from a loveless marriage to a corrupt senator/ the approaching volcanic eruption ensues.

Next up this month, Bad Neighbours (May 3). Say what you will about Zac Efron (he’s a talentless tool, he’s too short, he’s the poor man’s Elijah Wood etc) but he’s got it going on, aesthetically speaking. The story is thus: couple Mac (Seth Rogan) and Kelly (Rose Byrne) are enjoying the joys of new parenthood: existential terror, insomnia, newly-hatched resentment etc. That is until a Fraternity moves in next door with its testosterone-filled Bros and their hard-partying ways. Cue lots of scenes of utterly ripped Zac sans shirt, throw in some amusing pranks and you’ve got the whole movie. Not entirely terrible.  

Also out this month is X Men: Days of Futures Past, (May 22) which, like most of the stand-out Chris Claremont X stories, can be seen as a thinly-veiled allegory for the gay rights struggle – or every civil rights struggle really. It’s set in a dystopian future where mutants are vilified and interred in camps following a catastrophic event that creates widespread anti-muti sentiment. Lots of famous faces – including New Gay Ellen Page and Game of Thrones’ Peter Dinklage – appear, but the only important question is this: will it be good like X-Men 2-3, or shit like the overhyped, utterly terrible X Men: First Class? (Darwin? What the hell? A universe of ten thousand characters and that’s who they picked?!) Time will tell.

Finally, this month Maleficent (May 30), starring Angelina ‘Octomom’ Jolie. Maleficent is – to borrow from the comics lexicon – the ‘origin story’ of the villain from Sleeping Beauty (the witch who curses SB). Finally, all the things that made her so mean will be revealed, like the fact that she was a middle child, or she did an internship in GCN. It was probably the latter.
 
 

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Film

The Amazing Spiderman/ Calvary/ The Love Punch

First up this month: The Amazing Spiderman 2 (April 8). Sadly this new (well, almost new, as this is his second go round) Spiderman suffers from his chronological closeness to the last one; Andrew Garfield is a good Spidey, but Tobey Maguire was a great Spidey (up until Spiderman 3, that is).

Happily, almost everything else is spot-on. Chronicle’s Dane DeHaan’s evil, angular Harry Osbourne is much more appropriate than James Franco’s dead-eyed version. Perhaps this is because good-looking people can’t really pull off screen evil? Jamie Foxx (who plays Electro) and who is a bit of a ride IRL, is given a make-under and a comb-over presumably to bring out his inner evil, while Paul Giamatti (Rhino) – not the most aesthetically blessed – is left as is. He even throws in a Russian accent to make him doubly bad, but it’s overkill. His face is enough.

Anyway, just like every other movie, Spidey surmounts the seemingly insurmountable at great personal cost. Boo Hoo.

Next up: deathly dark comedy in the form of Calvary (April 11) from John McDonagh, the writer and director of the surprisingly brilliant The Guard.

Brendan Gleeson plays Fr James, a priest intent on making the world a better place for the parishioners of his dioceses who seem intent on making it worse. One day during confession, a penitent threatens to kill him and as the appointed date approaches, things get darker and more comically disturbing.

A killer cast of familiar faces – including David Mc Savage as a cassock-wearing Bishop (the same cassock he wears when he snatches children in The Savage Eye, probably) coupled with McDonagh’s fantastic writing/ direction makes this a mega must-see this month.  

Finally, this month: The Love Punch (April 18), a middle-aged heist comedy starring Emma Thompson and Pierce Brosnan (plus Timothy Spall!).

The plot is thus: divorced Richard Jones (Brosnan) is looking forward to a retirement (aren’t we all, mate!) as he rocks up to the office for his last day of work. But, since people can’t sail off into the sunset in the first 20 minutes of a movie, a problem surfaces – his company goes bankrupt after a fraudulent buy-out, leaving Richard with no retirement riches. So, he enlists the help of his ex-wife Kate (Thompson) and sets out to track down the fraudster who nicked his nest egg, and exact a bit of well-deserved revenge. Mild hilarity ensues.    

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