In Scotland, an alien life-form takes the body of an attractive young woman (Scarlett Johansson), and then proceeds to travel the country in a cube van seducing men. As she lures her victims into a trap with the promise of sex, the men are deceived and abducted, never to be seen again. She is monitored by another alien, in the form of a male motorcyclist, who mops up any mess she leaves behind. After she takes pity on one of her victims and allows him to escape, she is forced to evaluate how much ‘humanity’ she possesses and whether she wishes to continue doing what she was brought to earth to do or to strike out on her own.
Under the Skin is one of the most unique and fascinating stories we are likely to see on screen this year. The film features a strikingly bold performance from Scarlett Johansson, a performance that is completely unlike anything she has portrayed before, and with her acting alongside mainly nonprofessional actors the weight of carrying the film falls almost entirely on her very capable shoulders. (more…)
The follow up to director Mark Webb’s reboot to the Spider-Man franchise slings itself into North American theaters this week after already amassing a hearty amount of box office cash overseas. In this outing of the masked web slinger, Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) has settled into the life of a hero, with all the trappings of fame and glory that can cloud anyone’s judgement included, and despite the warning from the final moments of the first film, is still spending time with Gwen (Emma Stone). But soon new villains emerge to challenge Peter, the emergence of Electro (Jamie Foxx) and his old friend Harry Osborn (Dane DeHaan),and they all have seem to connect to Peter’s past and the ominous conglomerate known as Oscorp.
This outing of “The Amazing Spider-Man” is definitely a step up from the previous Mark Webb incarnation, the effects work is crisper and the ‘go pro video’ style incorporate d into the web slinging does a lot to make it feel more realistic, but the film suffers from an overstuffed script that was clearly influenced by the studio. Garfield is still very solid in the role of Peter and Emma Stone is perfect as Gwen, while DeHaan is a very welcome addition as the deluded and angry Harry. Jamie Foxx suffers through his turn as Electro though as the script and design of the effects does him no favors. Electro sports a poorly conceived look that never comes across as menacing, more like a goofy lower budget version of the Watchmen’s Dr Manhattan, and as Electro disappears from the film for long stretches he is not missed.
It’s 2010 and indie rock band The National is set to embark on their largest international tour to date. Enter lead singer ’s younger brother Tom, a wannabe horror filmmaker with aspirations to make a documentary film about the band. Starting out with large ambition and grand ideas, and starting with Matt’s full support, it’s not long before Tom’s tour roadie position is hanging by a thread due to his constant by slacking off on the job, getting drunk and overall lack of ability. What starts out as a candid music doc ends up going in a completely different direction, delivering an earnest, behind-the-scenes look at Tom’s endeavours and subsequent departure, but the question becomes will Tom be able to salvage his film?
Mistaken for Strangers may be one of the best stories about brothers captured on film. Tom may not have started out wanting to include himself into the film, but eventually his own antics and screw ups became too difficult for the director to ignore and he discovered the real film within his footage. This discovery also plays out over the course of the film’s last act, a rare glimpse into what goes into developing a film beyond the filming stages.
After the cataclysmic events in New York that occurred in “The Avengers” we find Steve Rogers, aka Captain America (Chris Evans), living a relatively quiet life in Washington, D.C. Cap is still working with Nick Fury (Samuel L Jackson) and S.H.I.E.L.D. but is quickly becoming very disillusioned at the politics behind doing so. But when a S.H.I.E.L.D. colleague comes under attack, Steve becomes a central figure in unravelling a web of lies, deceit and intrigue that threatens to put the world at risk that leaves the Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) as the only S.H.E.I.L.D. ally he can trust. When the full scope of the villainous plot is revealed, Captain America and the Black Widow must enlist the help of a new hero, the Falcon (Anthony Mackie) to help take down a menacing force that is much grander in scope than even Cap could have predicted.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier is easily one of the best films that the current Marvel universe has produced. With ramifications and repercussions that will play out over many Marvel movies to come, Winter Soldier features a brilliant script that incorporates many nods towards the comic crowd while remaining easily accessible to regular audiences as well. The film takes a more espionage/thriller slant this time around, but with some extremely successful and impressive fight sequences, think “Manchurian Candidate” meets “The Raid”. This time around Cap’s fighting style has emerged as a fusion of MMA and Parkour that is highly effective and dangerous looking at the same time. This is a particularly more lethal looking Captain America this time around, which is reflective of Cap living in the modern world and perhaps hanging/working around Black Widow more often.
New in theaters is the remake of the 1981 Franco Zeffirelli film of the same name, Endless Love. The biggest claim to fame of the original film starring a very young Brooke Shields was the Oscar nominated song it inspired from Lionel Richie. This time around the story revolves around privileged Jade Butterfield (Gabriella Wilde) and charismatic David Elliot (Alex Pettyfer) whose instant desire sparks a love affair made only more reckless by her father (Bruce Greenwood), who tries to keep them apart.
The first 20 or so minutes of Endless Love are very promising and frankly surprising. The chemistry between Pettyfer and Wilde is evident from the very start and Wilde connects with the audience right away. Dayo Okeniyi has a few fun moments as David’s buddy Mace and Rhys Wakefield steals the entire affair as Jade’s brother Keith, the only truly funny character in the film (more…)
Disney’s “Muppets Most Wanted” sees the entire Muppets gang embarking on a global tour, selling out grand theaters in some of Europe’s most exciting destinations, including Berlin, Madrid, Dublin and London. But mayhem follows the Muppets as they find themselves unwittingly entangled in an international crime caper. This nefarious plot is headed by Constantine—the World’s Number One Criminal and a dead ringer for Kermit—and his dastardly sidekick Dominic, aka Number Two, portrayed by Ricky Gervais. Meanwhile, Kermit is detained behind bars by Nadya, a feisty prison guard played by Tina Fey, and Ty Burrell tracks all the shenanigans as Interpol agent Jean Pierre Napoleon.
Back in 2011, Jason Segel teamed up with writer Nicolas Stoller, songwriter Bret McKenzie and director James Bobin to reintroduce the Muppets to a new generation, while showing audiences who grew up on them exactly why they loved them as much as they had as children. The sequel brings back everyone minus Segel, which sadly leaves Muppets Most Wanted without a heart to its story, reducing the follow up to the equivalent of a rudderless ship. Without a viable human aspect to relate to this time around we are left with the random ramblings of the Muppets themselves, and while some of the gags work, others fall very flat.
Starting this past Friday, January 24th 2014, and running until April 4th, the TIFF Bell Lightbox is launching another major retrospective series, this time chronicling the career of prolific Dutch directorPaul Verhoeven, entitled Flesh + Blood: The Films of Paul Verhoeven. After making a string of brilliant and bloody films in the Netherlands that had him proclaimed a national hero, Verhoeven was slammed back down to earth with the critical backlash that erupted from his motocross epic Spetters, which ended up with him packing his bags for Hollywood. Verhoeven would soon become the master of action packed excess with such films as Robocop, Total Recall, and the sexually charged thrillerBasic Instinct. But soon the critical backlash would rear its head in Hollywood as well, sending Verhoeven back to his homeland. (more…)