Wednesday, 1 May 2013

60 Second Film Reviews #4

A round-up of some of the most recent films that I've seen on both the silver screen and at home, Gone in 60 Seconds is a regular feature that gives you the low-down on a film without the waffle. This month, we have The Croods21 Jump Street, Safe House and Moneyball.

The Croods (2013)

Dreamworks go prehistoric in this cute take on 'the first modern family' in The Croods

After spending the last few years nipping at the heels of Pixar, Dreamworks' have taken a few steps back with this Ice Age/The Flintstones/Land Before Time carbon copy. It isn't as fresh and heart-warming as Kung Fu Panda/How to Train Your Dragon as it reheats old ideas and plot points. It does however, do so with a fresh visual palette and an injection of rib-tickling humour that doesn't render it pointless. 

The voice cast is impressive with Emma Stone, Nicholas Cage and Ryan Reynolds playing curious Eep, sceptical Grug and adventurous Guy respectively. The plot (the continents are shifting and threatening to destroy the family cave) is all explained in an inventive opening sequence before the family are introduced and the plot speeds along at a fairly rapid pace that should keep young'uns entertained.

So whilst it isn't the best and brightest animation the studio has ever made, it isn't a complete waste of your time. If you don't get chance to watch it in the cinema, your kids will love you forever if you get it on DVD.

I give The Croods: 6/10

21 Jump Street (2012)

A contemporary take on an 80's teen television series, 21 Jump Street sees two young cops (Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill) sent back to high school on a mission to uncover the source of a secret drug supply. For anyone who is a fan of police screwball comedy (The Other Guys, Hot Fuzz), 21 Jump Street is a no-brainer. It's witty, it's smart and it is one of the funniest films I have seen in a while. 

The first day on the job where the pair are left cycling across a sleepy park with nothing to do escalates into a hilariously silly chase whilst 
a sequence mid-distance where Jenko (Tatum) and Schmidt (Hill) are forced to take the drug their investigating in the middle of a school day is brilliant as they shout, run and hallucinate their way across campus.

However, the two biggest strong points for me were these; first, the self-referential humour which pokes fun at fact it is a remake and second, the heart. What surprised me most is the amount of sincerity both Hill and Tatum brought to the film at times. 

I give 21 Jump Street: 7/10

Safe House (2012)

Starring Ryan Reynolds and Denzel Washington, Safe House is about a fresh-faced CIA operative (Reynolds) who is tasked with escorting international criminal (Washington) from across Cape Town, South Africa right after their safe house is attached by skilled mercenaries. 

Safe House is really a film of two halves. The first half is great, a really tense and suspenseful thriller that sets up the characters, action and setting nicely. Everything is going nicely.

The second half is one that slows to a crawl and allows for all the energy to drain out. Tasked with spreading an already thin script out across a run-time that is around 20 minutes too much, the second hour of this film is one that lumbers and lurches along until a damp squib of an ending. 

Reynolds tries his best to cast himself in a Bourne-esque light but ultimately what can now be known as the 'Green Lantern' curse strikes again. Brendon Gleeson and Vera Farmiga offer supporting roles but the only real star here is the malicious Washington. 

It's a solid, if unspectacular and formulaic thriller that left me feeling a little underwhelmed. 

I give Safe House: 5/10

Moneyball (2011)

Wow, just wow. I haven't enjoyed a film as much as I enjoyed Moneyball in a long time (probably since watching Silver Linings Playbook or Side Effects).

The story of Billy Beane (Brad Pitt) who is the general manager of the Oakland A's, a lower-tier baseball team struggling to compete against the league's heavyweights. Based on a true story of how Beane and his young junior assistant Peter Brand (Jonah Hill) changed the way the game works for good, Moneyball is a touching and delicately-made drama that takes a niche topic and opens it up for anyone. 

It really is an all round fantastic film that should appeal to anyone, not just those who are fans of baseball. I know absolutely squat about baseball, but I still loved Moneyball. Both Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill act their parts brilliantly, the former giving one his best career performances and Hill completely breaking free of his 'high school nerd' typecast.

What makes this film so great is not just its spot-on acting, but also its cinematography. It really is beautifully shot with long-shots that capture the scale of the stadiums as well as plenty of mid-shots that linger on the emotion of Pitt's face.

Moneyball pretty much hits a home run (Yes, pun intended) across the board. Be sure to check it out.

I give Moneyball: 10/10

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