Friday, April 17, 2009



  • Released Internationally on 19/03/09
  • Released in Malta by KRS on 22/04/09

In 1959, during the inauguration of a new primary school in Boston, USA, a time capsule is buried containing student impressions of what the future will look like. Fifty years later, it is opened, and amongst the drawings of spaceships and robots, one of the submissions stands out. A sheet of paper filled to the corners with numbers, the odd artwork falls into the hands of the son of an astrophysics lecturer, who eventually starts to realize that the numbers have a chilling significance.

Starting off innocently enough, the film soon starts to show its supernatural side during the prologue. Lucinda, a socially isolated girl in the new school, starts to act strangely, and then frantically scribbles down the seemingly random sequence of numbers when asked to prepare an entry for the time capsule. Fast-forwarding to present day, we're introduced to a father-son family still getting to grips with the tragic loss of the woman in their life. When the time capsule contents are handed out during the son's school anniversary, he gets Lucinda's cryptic entry, but only later does his father stumble upon a possible meaning for the numbers. Despite the interesting and intriguing fantastical element, the film remains largely grounded in reality for the first two acts, but then veers off into more traditional science fiction and disaster-movie scenarios.

Nicolas Cage carries the film on his shoulders and is possibly the only actor you'll recognize from the entire cast. He continues to do fine work in various different projects, fitting convincingly into very different roles. His average-guy appearance and unconventional persona allows him to slip easily into the shoes of scientists, hitmen, comic heroes or neurotic losers, as the films may require. He does a more than serviceable job here, juggling his role as father, scientist and potential saviour, and remains intense and focused in the face of an increasingly incredulous worldwide scenario.

Director Alex Proyas (The Crow, I, Robot) has managed to infuse his few films with a very distinct look and feel. The ominous characters that Lucinda sees in the shadows, and who fifty years later return to haunt her descendants, are reminiscent of the iconic 'strangers' in his wonderful 1998 offering Dark City. Apart from directing, he also contributed to the screenplay and production, and manages to meld low-key eeriness with grand-scale disaster. Some of the earlier visual effects are a bit scratchy by today's high standards, but the film's finale contains scenes that any disaster-movie would be proud of. The scenes of chaos that ensue after a plane crash and towards the end are particularly memorable and emotionally charged.

Ultimately, the premise of the movie is more interesting and promising than the end result. The prologue and its reprise in present day offer a supernatural concept that has a spark of originality amongst today's countless similar films. And in the hands of Proyas and Cage, it remains believable and enjoyable, and very entertaining. Finding a satisfying conclusion proves to be more of a challenge, and the overall pace and feel of the film are lost towards the end, with a conclusion that may disappoint. Still, the film deserves special mention amidst today's countless disaster movies and supernatural thrillers for managing to juggle the two elements successfully, and not opting for any easy, predictable ending. It also poses an interesting question - is it worth knowing when tragedy will strike, if there's nothing you can do about it?


Trailer: (High-res quicktime)

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The Boat That Rocked

The Boat That Rocked2


  • Released Internationally on 01/04/09
  • Released in Malta by KRS on 15/04/09


In a nutshell

In the latter half of the 60s, the conservative and all-powerful BBC was in control of what the UK public got to watch and listen to. Rock and pop music were only allowed a few tiny slots per week, despite their growing fan base. Enter ‘Radio Rock’, the 24-hour pirate radio station which from a ship in international waters used to reach over 24 million UK listeners and give them what they craved – non-stop hit music. The government wasn’t too pleased however, and the ensuing battle to close the station down has been hailed as the start of the opening-up of the airwaves.

Who’s in it?

We arrive aboard Radio Rock in the company of the young Carl (relative newcomer Tom Sturridge) who is going through a rough patch and has been sent aboard to spend some quality time with his godfather, and captain of the ship, Quentin (the wonderful Bill Nighy, of Love Actually and Notes on a Scandal fame, in yet another show-stealing role full of languor and dry humour). Carl soon meets everyone else on board, including the infamous deejays the whole nation is tuning-in to, and their minimal crew. Philip Seymour Hoffman (Doubt, Capote) is The Count, a rock guru brought over from across the Atlantic. Nick Frost (Hot Fuzz, Shaun of the Dead) is Dr. Dave, who doesn’t let his obesity interfere with his sex-symbol status. And in a much-hyped return after his brief career abroad, the station is proud to have back their silken-voiced rock god Gavin, played with much gusto by Rhys Ifans (Notting Hill, Enduring Love). On the other end of the spectrum, Kenneth Branagh (Valkyrie, Henry V) is the minister who dreams of sinking the ship, with the help of his assistant, Twatt (Jack Davenport from Pirates of the Caribbean and The Talented Mr. Ripley). The supporting cast is just as hilarious, with each member of this energetic crew bringing his own unique touch to the radio’s growing audience.

Richard Curtis

Despite the impressive ensemble cast, the film promotional material only ever had to have one name plastered all over it – Richard Curtis. The highly revered British writer-turned-director has given us some of the best laughs and romances of the past 25 years. Blackadder, Mr. Bean, Four Weddings and a Funeral, Notting Hill, Bridget Jones and the seminal Love Actually were all the fruit of his pen, whilst he also produced a number of them, and directed Love Actually. His very British sense of fun, warmth and humour is once again all over this film, though maybe not up to his highest standards.

Music to our ears

As can be expected from a film about a 60s radio station, the soundtrack takes centre stage and helps give the film an extra dose of energy, colour and nostalgia. From Procul Harum to David Bowie and from Cat Stevens to The Who, everyone should find at least a handful of songs they love peppered through the film, with a number of key sequences being built around the music the radio happens to be playing, to great effect. (The Beatles are notable by their absence, which probably suggests licensing issues). A classic piece of Morricone spaghetti-western score from the same era is used brilliantly in a key action sequence, and one of the film’s emotional highpoints is made all the more solemn by the use of Elgar’s Nimrod (from the Enigma Variations), which works like a charm but is becoming a bit overused, with recent prominence in Elizabeth and Australia.

Only a few leaks

Despite being a joy from start to finish, and a fun slice of retro Britannia, the film falls slightly short of Curtis’ previous efforts. Its main flaws are forgivable though – despite being long, it’s still fun throughout, and with regards to historical accuracy, Curtis himself has stated he just wanted to make a piece of entertainment, not a precise documentary. Still, despite its blemishes, the film is as infectious and fun as the music it so proudly pays tribute to, and during the many montages of UK listeners tuning in and twisting to their favourite hits, it’s hard not to wish you were there.




Trailer: (High-res Quicktime)


Friday, April 10, 2009

Fast & Furious

Fast & Furious


  • Released Internationally on 01/04/09
  • Released in Malta by KRS on 10/04/09


In a nutshell

An international criminal who uses his driving expertise to hijack targets on the tarmac is looking to revenge the death of his ex-girlfriend. In the seedy underworld of drug trafficking he meets up with his old acquaintance and driving buddy, who now works as an undercover FBI agent. Together they make it onto the highly selective team of expert drivers who shuttle heroin into the US from Mexico, and seek to bring down the drug cartel from within.

The films and the franchise

In 2001, a film called The Fast and the Furious drove through the summer box-office with an action-packed mix of fast cars and scantily-clad women. It did reasonably well, and as seems to always happen with hit films nowadays (unless your film is, say, Ray or Munich), sequels soon followed. Chronologically, this film is set between the 2nd and the 3rd film, and manages to breathe some life into a flailing franchise by reuniting the entire main cast from the original film (and giving it more or less the same title).

Who’s in it?

The appropriately named Vin Diesel (xXx, The Chronicles of Riddick) returns as the wanted criminal who likes to steal from behind the wheel. After sitting out the first sequel, Diesel had returned for 2006’s Tokyo Drift, and is now re-teamed with his love interest from the first film, played by Michelle Rodriguez (S.W.A.T., the upcoming Avatar). The less appropriately named Paul Walker (Flags of our Fathers, Eight Below) plays the FBI agent with a dark side, whose passion for driving gets him caught up with his old allies. His romantic history involves the sister of Diesel’s character, portrayed by Jordana Brewster, who also returns from the first film. The director’s chair is filled by Justin Lin, who had helmed the previous outing in the franchise.

More of the same

As expected, and probably as hoped-for by the franchise’s core audience, the film delivers more road races, more pimped-up cars, and more shapely female fans in this alternative world of high-speed driving. The prologue sequence is the most memorable, featuring a high-speed hijack of a land train full of fuel on a desert highway in broad daylight (of which you can see an abridged version in the trailer below). Still, the action sequences seem formulaic and predictable, without any real tension or surprises.

Little else

The major flaw however, is that once again, once you look beyond the shiny bodywork, there’s little else to savour. The film plays out like a playlist of pre-determined action sequences, with a few forced moments of sentimentality in between. Hijack scene – check, road race – check, chase scene – check, tunnel chase – check, and so on. And despite Diesel’s star power and macho image, both of which are essential ingredients to the film, it’s often painful to watch him act, and he is obviously more comfortable driving cars than trying to look sad or pensive.

At the finish line

In the end, I guess it all depends what your expectations are. If you enjoyed the previous three films and want to see more juiced-up cars defying the speed cameras, then this is your ticket. But if you like your action films to have a decent story and interesting characters, then this is unlikely to turn you into a fast and furious fan.




Trailer: (High-res QuickTime)


Saturday, April 04, 2009




  • Released Internationally on 18/03/09
  • Released in Malta by KRS on 01/04/09


In a nutshell

Claire used to work with the CIA, but now works as a corporate spy with a huge pharmaceutical company. Ray used to work with the MI6, but now works as a corporate spy for the main rivals of the above-mentioned pharmaceutical company. Together, they’re hatching an elaborate plan to swindle the companies out of 40 million dollars.

Slick and sexy

Adopting the overall look that was perfected in the recent Ocean’s trilogy, this film oozes style. The formula is tried and tested – good-looking stars, tailor-cut suits, pristine interior decor, a smattering of European locations, and lots of witty dialogue. It almost looks too clean, and there’s hardly a hair out of place. Even the music, delivered by James Newton Howard (The Dark Knight, Signs) is a jazzy score as has become standard in such heist or con films.

Pretty woman

Marriage and motherhood have seen the lovely Roberts slow down on the acting front, with her output over the past couple years being just voiceover work for animation, and 2007’s Charlie Wilson’s War. Her welcome return finds her in as good as shape as ever, although she doesn’t get to flash her trademark smile too often this time around, and handles some of the lengthy dialogue duels awkwardly. Still, her star status shines through, and it’s a pleasure to see her back on our screens.

Smooth operator

Her chemistry with Clive Owen doesn’t seem as smooth as it was in their last outing together, Closer, in which they were both excellent. But in this case that’s partly intentional, since their respective characters juggle a budding relationship and an innate sense of distrust and reserve. If this is how all spies in love act, they’re not to be envied. Owen continues to impress, and could probably make a shopping list sound convincing and important, but with scene after scene of droll dialogue it eventually starts to get tedious.

Who else is in it?

The two major supporting actors are wonderful to watch. Portraying the rival giants of the pharmaceutical world, Tom Wilkinson (Batman Begins, RockNRolla) and Paul Giamatti (Sideways, Cinderella Man) give us two very colourful CEOs who have all to lose in the current corporate war. In one of the highlights of the film, they are literally at each other’s neck on a rainy runway in the brilliant main title sequence. Tony Gilroy, the acclaimed screenwriter who made the successful jump to directing with Michael Clayton, once again directs his own screenplay, and this time adds a layer of humour to the mix of his previous effort.

In the end

As mentioned earlier, the endless self-indulgent dialogue can be a bit too much at times, but the film is nonetheless very enjoyable and amusing overall. On original concept in familiar settings, the plot manages to keep interesting, and as a slice of stylish fun the film manages not to outstay its welcome.




Trailer: (High-res Quicktime)