Guardians of the Galaxy

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Peter Quill was kidnapped by aliens as a child and raised by a band of ruthless interplanetary thieves. Now all grown up, Peter is drawn into a struggle – along with a green lady, a tree, a literal muscle man (I mean that literal reference) and a talking racoon – to keep control of a strange orb that contains the power to destroy the galaxy. I think that’s it? There’s really not much plot to speak of. Instead it’s mostly glorious spectacle, loopy 80’s references and snappy one-liners. But boy is it a fun watch. It wasn’t a Marvel world I was aware of, at all really, but I thoroughly laughed-out-loud enjoyed it. Guardians filmed mostly in studio in Shepperton, although there’s a scene on Planet Xandar that’s actually shot on London’s Millenium Bridge – a great image via the link here. And Chris Pratt? Yes – all that.

Thor 2 The Dark World

Thor 2: The Dark World is big, brash and utterly pointless. Natalie Portman is back as Jane, she’s nice, and Kat Dennings cracks some one liners. Chris Hemsworth thunders plummily. But otherwise it’s all just aliens blowing shit up. I used to like this kind of stuff. I could care less these days. Some of the Earth scenes filmed in my old stomping ground of Greenwich. Even that was meh. Thor 2? A big So What?

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Red 2

I can’t remember why it’s Red in the first place. Code Red? Something like that. Anyway Red 2, the sequel, brings back the old guys from the rollicking first movie, and throws them into the deep-end of some complex and convoluted turmoil that necessitates random killings, transitory alliances and blowing shit up. The plot has something to do with an old British spy from the Cold War who’s buried a nuke in the Kremlin (because, you know, well, yes….) and the guys have to both rescue him and prevent the bomb from falling into the wrong hands.

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The wrong hands is that revolting, moon-faced old gerontophile Catherine Zeta Jones, who’s supposed to act all sexy but spends most of the film being as big-boned and charmless as bad drag. Even the Mary Louise Parker character – so quirky and delightful in the first movie – has devolved into a bored housewife who basically gets off on guns and violence. Red 2 filmed in London and Moscow, amongst other places, and has a few nice aerial shots to prove it, but otherwise it’s fairly non-challenging in the locations department. It’s not a bad film, but it’s seriously disappointing after the promise of the first.

Trance

Simon (McAvoy), an art dealer, is embroiled in a plot by Franck (Vincent Cassel) to steal a famous Goya painting. During the crime though, a blow to the head gives Simon serious amnesia, and he is taken to a therapist (Rosario Dawson) who’ll use hypnosis to get him to remember a very important detail….

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With snazzy designer London locations (that look like purpose built sets) and characters that are difficult to connect with, Trance is (as the Economist puts it) “a fast, cheap, aggressively trashy scrap of pulp fiction. From the outset, it never threatens to be anything more than a slick, noirish B-movie.” I watched the first hour thinking “Who cares?” Luckily by the last bit, I was engaged, and I left the picture feeling more satisfied than the opening parts might otherwise have suggested. Stick with it, that’s what I say.

The Sweeney

Sweeney Todd, Flying Squad. That’s Cockney Rhyming Slang for you, right there. And in this 2012 movie reboot of a more sedate 1970’s UK tv series, London has really never looked better on film. I mean, seriously stylish. The plot involves Ford Escort car chases, a Heat-style Trafalgar Square shoot-out (where, perplexingly, every bullet misses), Serbian crime lords, oily private bankers, and Ray Winstone as the love interest. (I kid you not.) I thoroughly enjoyed it, and I even watched it twice.

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I Give It A Year

I Give It A Year is a British rom-com about the troubled first year of marriage of a famously mismatched couple. He’s a slacker, she’s a career bitch, but they’re both kind of unwilling to be the first one to throw in the towel. Except for when the dashing American tycoon (for her) and the kooky ex (for him) arrive to complicate matters…

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Think of it as A Wedding and No Funeral. Rose Byrne is lovely, Rafe Spall, surprisingly, is lovelier. It’s predictable, plodding, but it doesn’t have a mean bone in its body – there are even some laugh-out-loud moments and I enjoyed it. Lots of London locations to look at. (see what I did there?)

Welcome to the Punch

Welcome to the Punch had lots of promise – a really awesome A-list Britpack cast, great London locations, a few well-staged chase scenes and noisy gun fights. But the plot is convoluted and it just isn’t that engaging. I fell asleep in the middle, and that’s about that.

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Skyfall

I think it might be something to do with it being Year End, but I’m struggling to find much to say about the new Bond movie Skyfall. Of course, I’ll not have a word spoken against Daniel Craig (who seems to have shrunk) – plus Naomie Harris as the capable new Moneypenny is just delightful. It does open quite brilliantly – the high-octane scenes in Istanbul are some of the best adrenalin-pumped, Craig-era Bond yet….

But after that it all becomes a bit silly. There are no grand ideas, there’s no dastardly genius out to destroy the world, there aren’t even gadgets. Aside from Istanbul, even the locations look more like studio sets than real places. I felt I’d seen everything before – even Javier Bardem just looked like Anton Chigurh with dyed hair. (And let’s not get into the decision to play gay-as-camp.) Given the amount of time the film takes to set up the new characters that’ll populate the franchise in future, it felt a bit like the second part of a trilogy – interesting enough but no resolution. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t hate it or anything. I was just a bit disappointed.