REVIEW: IRONCLAD

CAST

James Purefoy (Solomon Kane)
Brian Cox (Rise of The Planet of The Apes)
Derek Jacobi (Cinderella)
Kate Mara (Fantastic Four)
Paul Giamatti (Sideways)
Charles Dance (Game of Thrones)
Jason Flemyng (From Hell)
Jamie Foreman (Sleepy Hollow)
Mackenzie Crook (City of Ember)
Vladimir Kulich (Angel)

Jason Flemyng in Ironclad (2011)A prologue describes how the barons of England, aided by the Knights Templar, fought against tyrannical King John in a war that lasted more than three years. It ended with the King signing the Magna Carta, a document granting rights to all English freemen. King John regrets succumbing to the pressure of the barons to sign the Magna Carta. Soon after, he hires an army of pagan Danish mercenaries under the leadership of a warlord, Captain Tiberius, to restore John’s absolute authority over the kingdom, under the presumption that the Pope has agreed to keep Christian missionaries out of their lands in Denmark.Brian Cox and Paul Giamatti in Ironclad (2011)The Abbot Marcus leads three Templar knights (who have taken vows of silence) on a pilgrimage to Canterbury and they take shelter from the rain at Darnay Castle. One of the knights, Thomas Marshall, is assured by the abbot that Marshall’s release from the Templar Order will be sought at Canterbury. By morning, King John arrives at the castle with his army and mercenaries. Baron Darnay signed the Magna Carta and in retribution John orders him hanged. The Abbot attempts to intervene and the King orders that the abbot’s tongue be cut off. Marshall and the two other knights fight the Danes, during which Marshall escapes the castle on horseback carrying the abbot; the two knights left behind are slain. The abbot dies before night of his wound, and Marshall breaks his vow of silence to swear that his sacrifice will not be in vain.Paul Giamatti in Ironclad (2011)Once he has reached Canterbury, Marshall meets with Archbishop Langton, the author of the Magna Carta, and Baron William d’Aubigny, a former soldier turned wool merchant. Langton reveals that the Pope has sided with King John and that he himself is to be excommunicated for writing the Magna Carta. The three men agree that John must be stopped, and that the place to do so is Rochester Castle, the seat of Baron Cornhill and a strategic stronghold that controls southern England and allows access to London and the rest of the country.Kate Mara in Ironclad (2011)Aubigny persuades three of his men to join him, including his squire, Guy, and a petty criminal named Jedediah, but a fourth turns down the baron’s call to arms. A party of seven finally leaves for Rochester where, on arriving, they discover several Danish mercenaries have already claimed the castle; the fourth man had betrayed them to the king. Aubigny’s party fights and kills the Danes, and then claim Rochester Castle in the name of the rebellion, much to the displeasure of Cornhill. When John’s army finally arrives and lays siege to Rochester, the garrison holds fast and manages to beat the initial Danish assault. In the aftermath, Aubigny offers his men leave if they wish; none accept. A second assault sees the Danes’ siege tower destroyed by a trebuchet crafted by the defenders from within the castle. John’s forces then attempt to starve out the defenders. The Archbishop is informed that Prince Louis is biding his time in France and negotiating with John, and sets off in haste to expedite affairs. As the season turns to winter, the hunger of the castle’s occupants continue; Marshall leaves the castle under cover of night and then returns ahead of his pursuers with food stolen from the Danish camp. The castle morale is bolstered by Marshall’s act and he gives in to the advances of Cornhill’s young wife Isabel, breaking his Templar vows.Vladimir Kulich as Tiberius, Paul Giamatti as King John in Ironclad.The Danish leader, Tiberius, threatened by John to take the castle or risk the King reneging on their bargain, adopts a different approach in his next attack and manages to sneak a small force of men over the walls before dawn to open the castle gates from within. Guy discovers the infiltrators and sounds the alarm, but it is too late. Tiberius leads the charge into the castle grounds while his Danes slaughter the garrison. During the chaos, d’Aubigny is wounded and left behind in the chaos of the retreat. Marshall recovers in time to don his knight’s battle armour and charge the Danes on his war-horse, buying time for the survivors to pull back to the keep. Aubigny is dragged before the King and forced to watch as the hands of two prisoners are chopped off. After a defiant verbal exchange with John, he is subjected to the same fate and then hurled by the castle trebuchet into a keep wall. Cornhill tries to surrender but is stopped; he goes instead upstairs to his bedroom and hangs himself. John’s engineers have been preparing a mine under the keep’s foundation, and they have a herd of pigs brought and put in the mine which is then stoked, set afire and the animal fat used to damage the keep’s foundation, causing it to collapse; as the keep’s walls come down, the final assault begins.IRONCLADThe last defenders are killed except Guy, Isabel and Marshall, the latter knocked unconscious by falling rubble. Guy goes out to die fighting where he encounters Tiberius and is almost killed, until a recovered Marshall intervenes. Tiberius challenges Marshall to single combat, and Marshall triumphs after a long and savage duel. Horns are heard in the distance as the combined English rebel and French army arrives at last, and John and the remaining Danes disperse in panic. Marshall meets Prince Louis and Archbishop Langton at the castle gates; the latter tells him that he is now free of the Templar Order. Acknowledging England’s new king with a nod, Marshall rides off with Isabel, while Guy tells his dead baron that “We held”. The epilogue describes King John’s death during his retreat and the reconstruction of Rochester Castle, and how it, like the Magna Carta, still stands.Overall its not a classic nor will it win awards, but for a couple of hours action based escapism it is certainly worth the effort of watching and is far superior to a number of bigger budget Hollywood contemporaries.

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REVIEW: PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: AT WORLD’S END

CAST

Johnny Depp (Into The Woods)
Geoffrey Rush (The King’s Speech)
Orlando Bloom (Lord of The Rings)
Keira Knightley (Atonement)
Jack Davenport (Flash Forward)
Bill Nighy (Wrath of the Titans)
Jonathan Pryce (Game of Thrones)
Lee Arenberg (Once Upon A Time)
Mackenzie Crook (Solomon Kane)
Kevin McNally (Valkyrie)
Stellan Skarsgard (Avengvers Assemble)
Tom Hollander (Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation)
Martin Klebba (The Cape)
Naomie Harris (Skyfall)
Chow Yun fat (Crouching Tiger, Hidden tiger)
Keith Richards (The Simpsons)
Marshall Manesh (How I Met Your Mother)

To control the oceans, Lord Cutler Beckett executes anyone associated with piracy by ordering Davy Jones to destroy all pirate ships in the seas. Condemned prisoners sing “Hoist the Colours” to compel the nine Pirate Lords to convene at Shipwreck Cove to hold the Brethren Court. Captain Jack Sparrow, one of the Pirate Lords, never named a successor. Captain Barbossa, along with Will Turner, Elizabeth Swann, Tia Dalma, and the crew of the Black Pearl, plot to rescue Jack from Davy Jones’s Locker. Travelling to Singapore, the crew meet Captain Sao Feng who owns navigational charts to the Locker. Beckett’s soldiers invade, but the crew escape. Feng and Turner make a deal to give Jack to Feng, so he in turn can use the Pearl to rescue his father Bootstrap Bill from the Flying Dutchman. The crew travels to the locker and rescues the marooned Jack. They find themselves trapped, encountering dead souls, including Elizabeth’s father Governor Swann. They learn the Dutchman must have a captain. Returning to the living world, the Pearl is attacked by Sao Feng and Beckett’s men. Through a complex series of deals, Elizabeth is handed over to Feng under the belief she is the goddess Calypso, while the rest of the crew make for Shipwreck Cove aboard the Pearl, though Jack later throws Will off the ship as part of the plan to seize control of the Dutchman. Sao Feng tells Elizabeth that the Brethren Court bound Calypso in human form after she betrayed her lover, Davy Jones. He plans to release her to defeat Beckett. Davy Jones attacks Feng’s ship, but Feng appoints Elizabeth his successor as Pirate Lord before dying. Admiral Norrington frees Elizabeth and her new crew from the Dutchman, but is killed by a crazed Bootstrap Bill.

The Black Pearl arrives at Shipwreck Cove where Barbossa attempts to persuade the Brethren Court to release Calypso. Jack’s father Captain Teague and Keeper of the Pirate Code, informs the Court that only an elected Pirate King can decide. A vote is taken. To avoid a stalemate, Jack casts his vote for Elizabeth, making her King. Davy Jones visits Tia Dalma in the Pearl’s brig, revealing she is Calypso, and they promise to be together again.

The Brethren Court and Beckett’s fleets emerge for war. On a sandbank, Elizabeth, Jack, Barbossa, Beckett, Jones, and Will parley, trading Will for Jack, and Barbossa steals Jack’s piece of eight, all of which are owned by the Pirate Lords and required to free Calypso. Barbossa frees Calypso, but when Will reveals it was Jones who imprisoned her, Calypso vanishes and summons an enormous maelstrom.

The Pearl and the Dutchman battle in the maelstrom. Elizabeth and Will are wed by Barbossa before swinging over to the Dutchman to aid Jack. On board the Dutchman, Jones and Jack engage in a duel, with Jones gaining the upper hand. Jones stabs Will with a sword, but Jack and Elizabeth have Will stab Jones’ heart. Jones dies, and falls in the maelstrom, free for all eternity. Will succumbs to his injuries. Jack and Elizabeth escape the Dutchman as it is sucked into the maelstrom. As Beckett’s ship, the Endeavour, approaches to destroy the Pearl, the Dutchman rises, now captained by Will, and the crew free of Jones’ curse. Together, the two pirate ships destroy the Endeavour, with a stunned Beckett going down with the ship while his army retreats. With Will now bound to escort souls lost at sea to the next world for ten years, Will and Elizabeth consummate their marriage before he departs on the Dutchman.

Jack and Joshamee Gibbs discover Barbossa has stolen the Black Pearl again, but Jack planned ahead and cut out Sao Feng’s navigational charts, departing from Tortuga alone to track down the mythical Fountain of Youth to become immortal. Ten years later, Elizabeth and her son watch from a sea cliff as Will returns aboard the Dutchman.

At World’s End is a great film, making superb use of its immense budget and wowing audiences with incredible set-pieces and climactic action.  At World’s End is a solidly entertaining film, held up by brilliant action

 

 

REVIEW: PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: DEAD MAN’S CHEST

CAST

Johnny Depp (Into The Woods)
Geoffrey Rush (The King’s Speech)
Orlando Bloom (Lord of The Rings)
Keira Knightley (Atonement)
Jack Davenport (Flash Forward)
Bill Nighy (Wrath of the Titans)
Jonathan Pryce (Game of Thrones)
Lee Arenberg (Once Upon A Time)
Mackenzie Crook (Solomon Kane)
Kevin McNally (Valkyrie)
Stellan Skarsgard (Avengvers Assemble)
Tom Hollander (Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation)
Martin Klebba (The Cape)
Naomie Harris (Skyfall)
Derrick O’Connor (Alias)
Reggie Lee (The Dark Knight Rises)

The wedding of Will Turner and Elizabeth Swann is interrupted by Lord Cutler Beckett of the East India Trading Company, who has arrest warrants for the couple as well as for Commodore James Norrington, for allowing Captain Jack Sparrow to escape execution. Norrington’s whereabouts are uncertain, as he resigned after his obsessive pursuit of Sparrow resulted in the Navy’s flagship, HMS Dauntless, being destroyed in a typhoon. Elizabeth is imprisoned, but Beckett promises to free her if Will tracks down Jack and brings Beckett Jack’s magic compass which points to whatever the holder wants most. Shortly after, Governor Swann tries to escape Port Royal with Elizabeth but is captured. Elizabeth negotiates with Beckett to let her escape to find the compass herself, and she hides aboard a Scottish merchant vessel, the Edinburgh Trader.
On the Black Pearl, Jack reunites with Will’s father Bootstrap Bill, who reveals he is a crewman on the Flying Dutchman, captained by Davy Jones, whom Jack previously made a deal with to raise the Pearl from the depths. Jack must join Jones’ crew or be dragged to Davy Jones’ Locker by the monstrous Kraken. Will eventually finds Jack’s crew on an island ruled by cannibals, from which they escape. The crew meet voodoo priestess Tia Dalma (Naomie Harris), who tells them Jones’ weakness is his heart, locked within the Dead Man’s Chest. Locating the Dutchman, Will is shanghaied into service while Jones sends Jack to bring him one-hundred souls so his blood debt can be paid. On the Dutchman, Will meets his father, and learns that the chest’s key is in Jones’ possession. After playing a game of liar’s dice against Davy Jones, Bootstrap helps Will escape with the key, but Jones sends the Kraken after him, sinking the Edinburgh Trader.
In Tortuga, Jack hires a new crew, including Elizabeth, and Norrington, now a drunk. All parties arrive on Isla Cruces where the chest is buried but a three-way sword fight breaks out between Jack, Will, and Norrington who all want the heart for their respective goals: Jack wants to call off the Kraken, Will wants to rescue his father, and Norrington wants to regain his life. In the chaos, Jack obtains Jones’ heart and hides it in a jar of dirt, but Norrington secretly steals the heart and runs off pretending to lure away the Dutchman’s crew. Jones attacks the Pearl with the Kraken, which devours most of the crew and destroys all but one of the Pearl’s lifeboats, but Jack, who briefly fled, returns and wounds it with a net full of explosives.

Jack orders the survivors to abandon ship, but Elizabeth manacles him to the mast so that the crew can escape the Kraken. Jack manages to break free, but is dragged down to the bottom of the sea by the Kraken. Jones discovers his heart is missing and rages. In Port Royal, Norrington approaches Beckett and gives him the heart and Letters of Marque meant for Jack, allowing him back into the navy as well as allowing Beckett to gain control of Davy Jones and the seas. The Pearl’s crew take shelter with Tia Dalma, where they all agree to rescue Jack. Tia Dalma introduces the captain that will guide them: the resurrected Captain Barbossa.Yes it is darker, much darker than the original. But I think the darkness only adds to the film. It makes the film more credible, rather than a children’s story.

REVIEW: PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: THE CURSE OF THE BLACK PEARL

CAST

Johnny Depp (Into The Woods)
Geoffrey Rush (The King’s Speech)
Orlando Bloom (Lord of The Rings)
Keira Knightley (Atonement)
Jack Davenport (Flash Forward)
Jonathan Pryce (Game of Thrones)
Lee Arenberg (Once Upon A Time)
Mackenzie Crook (Solomon Kane)
Kevin McNally (Valkyrie)
Zoe Saldana (Star Trek)
Martin Klebba (The Cape)

In the early 18th Century while sailing to Port Royal, Jamaica, Governor Weatherby Swann, his daughter Elizabeth, and Lieutenant James Norrington encounter a burning shipwreck and recover a young boy, Will Turner. Elizabeth discovers a golden pirate medallion around his neck, but keeps it so as to protect him. As boats are launched to scour the wreck, Elizabeth sees a ghost ship vanishing into the fog. Eight years later, Norrington is promoted to Commodore and proposes to Elizabeth, but her tight corset makes her faint and fall into the sea. Will’s necklace, which she is wearing, casts a summoning spell. Captain Jack Sparrow comes to Port Royal intending to commandeer a ship, and rescues her. Norrington identifies Jack, and a chase ensues. Jack runs into Will, now a blacksmith and talented swordsman. They duel, and Jack is knocked unconscious, and captured and imprisoned.

That night, the Black Pearl, the ship Elizabeth saw as a child, attacks Port Royal in search of the medallion that summoned it. Two pirates capture Elizabeth and take her to meet Captain Barbossa for negotiations. Elizabeth says her last name is Turner, to conceal her identity as the governor’s daughter, but Barbossa takes her as prisoner. Elizabeth tries and fails to kill him, and Barbossa reveals that after his crew took the Aztec treasure of Cortés from Isla de Muerta, they were cursed as immortals, and they appear as skeletons in moonlight. To lift the curse, they need to return all 882 gold pieces and sacrifice the blood of the owner of each piece. Elizabeth’s medallion is the final piece.

Will Turner frees Jack from prison to rescue his love Elizabeth. Jack agrees upon learning Will’s surname. The two commandeer the HMS Interceptor, infuriating Norrington, and head for the lawless port of Tortuga to recruit a crew. Among the crew is Jack’s friend Joshamee Gibbs. Jack reveals that Will’s father Bootstrap Bill Turner was a pirate, which confuses and angers the law-abiding Will. Gibbs tells Will that Jack was captain of the Black Pearl until Barbossa mutinied and marooned him on an island; Jack escaped and vowed revenge on Barbossa. At Isla de Muerta, Will and Jack witness Barbossa sacrificing Elizabeth’s blood and the final gold piece. However, the curse is not lifted because the medallion did not belong to Elizabeth; it belonged to Bootstrap Bill, making Will the owner by bloodline. Will rescues Elizabeth and brings her to the “Interceptor”, while Jack and his crew confront Barbossa aboard the “Pearl” and get locked in the brig.

The Pearl pursues the Interceptor, taking the crew hostage and destroying the ship. Will makes a deal with Barbossa to let Elizabeth go free in exchange for his blood to lift the curse, but Barbossa exploits a loophole in the agreement and maroons Jack and Elizabeth on the same island Jack was left on before. Elizabeth makes a smoke signal, and Commodore Norrington brings the “HMS Dauntless” to rescue Elizabeth and arrest Jack. Elizabeth requests Norrington to return for Will, convincing him by accepting his marriage proposal. That night, the Dauntless arrives at Isla de Muerta. Jack plans to lure the pirates out to be ambushed by the crew of the “Dauntless”, but the plan goes awry when Barbossa’s crew walks underwater to attack Dauntless. Elizabeth escapes the “Dauntless” and frees Jack’s crew from the brig of the Pearl. However, they refuse to help her rescue Will, so Elizabeth sets out on her own. Jack seemingly reaches a deal with Barbossa to operate a pirate fleet, but suddenly frees Will and engages in a duel with Barbossa, while Elizabeth and Will fight off Barbossa’s crew. Barbossa eventually stabs Jack, but Jack is revealed to be under the immortal curse as well, having taken and kept a piece of gold from Cortez’s chest. He reveals the entire deception as a coup to win back the Pearl. Jack shoots Barbossa, and Will simultaneously drops the final medallion into the chest, with his blood on it. The curse is now lifted, causing Barbossa to become mortal; Barbossa dies from Jack’s gunshot, and the rest of Barbossa’s crew are captured or killed by the Navy. Jack, Elizabeth, and Will escape the island.

Upon returning to Port Royal, Jack is led to the gallows to be hanged for piracy. Elizabeth diverts Norrington’s attention and Will attempts a rescue, but Will and Jack are surrounded and held at gunpoint. Elizabeth intercedes and declares her love for Will, leaving Norrington crestfallen. Jack dives into the sea and escapes aboard the Black Pearl, which is waiting nearby. Governor Swann pardons Will and gives his blessing for Elizabeth to marry him. Norrington decides to permit Jack and the Pearl “one day’s head start” before initiating pursuit. In a post-credits scene, Barbossa’s pet monkey steals a piece of gold from the chest and regains immortality.

Pirates is a cracking film, full of humour, action and pirate satire and has a wide appeal. If you haven’t seen it yet, which really is highly unlikely, then just buy it .

REVIEW: MUPPETS MOST WANTED

CAST

Ricky Gervais (Ghost Town)
Ty Burrell (Modern Family)
Tina Fey (30 Rock)
Steve Whitmore (The Dark Crystal)
Eric Jacobson (Sesame
Dave Goetz (Inside Out)
Bill Barretta (When Families Grieve)
Matt Vogel (Alice Through The Looking Glass)
Tony Bennett Analyze This)
Hugh Bonneville (Paddington)
Jemaine Clement (Legion)
Sean Combs (Get Him To The Greek)
Rob Corddry (Warm Bodies)
Mackenzie Crook (One Chance)
Celine Dion (The Magic Sword)
Lady Gaga (Sin City 2)
Zach Gilifianakis (The Hangover)
Josh Grodin (The Hollars)
Salma Hayek (Dogma)
Tom Hiddleston (thor)
Tom Hollander (Mission Impossible 5)
Toby Jones (Atomic Blonde)
Frank Langella (Superman Returns)
Ray Liotta (Hannibal)
James McAvoy (X-Men: First Class)
Chloe Grace Moretz (Kick-Ass)
Usher Raymond (She’s All That)
Miranda Richardson (Sleepy Hollow)
Saoirse Ronan (The Lvoely Bones)
Russell Tovey (Being Human)
Danny Trejo (Machete)
Stanley Tucci (The Hunger Games)
Christoph Waltz (Big Eyes)

Following the events of the previous film, The Muppets find themselves at a loss as to what to do until Dominic Badguy suggests the Muppets go on a European tour with him as their tour manager. As the Muppets begin their tour, a criminal mastermind named Constantine, a near-exact double for Kermit the Frog in appearance, escapes from a Siberian Gulag and joins his subordinate Dominic to begin a plot to steal the Crown Jewels of the United Kingdom.Once the Muppets arrive in Berlin, Germany, Dominic secures them a show at a prestigious venue. Frustrated with the group’s incessant requests and Miss Piggy’s insistence they marry, Kermit goes for a walk at Dominic’s suggestion. Constantine ambushes him and glues a fake mole onto his cheek then slips away. Mistaken for Constantine, Kermit is arrested and sent to the Gulag. Taking Kermit’s place, Constantine’s blunders in imitating him are covered by Dominic; however, Animal knows the truth. After the Berlin performance opens with Constantine freezing at the audience, Scooter has to introduce the show. Constantine and Dominic steal paintings from a museum while the Muppets perform. The next morning, Interpol agent Jean Pierre Napoleon and CIA agent Sam the Eagle grudgingly team up to apprehend the culprit whom Napoleon believes to be his nemesis “The Lemur” – the number-two criminal in the world.Meanwhile, Kermit has attempted several times to escape the Gulag but is thwarted each time by prison guard Nadya, who is not only aware of his true identity but is as infatuated with him as Miss Piggy is. Nadya orders Kermit to help organize the prisoners’ annual talent show.Following hidden instructions on the stolen painting, Constantine and Dominic divert the tour to Madrid, Spain. Constantine allows the Muppets to perform whatever they wish, much to Walter’s confusion. During this show, Constantine and Dominic break into a museum and destroy a roomful of busts to find a key needed for their plan. Even though the performance is a disaster, the Muppets receive critical acclaim. Sam and Napoleon deduce that the connection between the crimes is the Muppet tour, and the pair interrogates the Muppets, only to find that they are too ill-equipped to be guilty. The instructions on the stolen key lead Constantine and Dominic to schedule the next show in Dublin, Ireland.In Dublin, Walter discovers that Dominic has been giving away show tickets and bribing critics to ensure a packed house and rave reviews, while Fozzie Bear notices Kermit’s resemblance to Constantine. They both realize that Constantine has taken Kermit’s place and brought in Dominic as his accomplice. Constantine attacks Walter and Fozzie, but Animal fends him off and the three escape from the train to rescue Kermit. During the Dublin performance, Dominic steals a locket from a museum and Constantine proposes to Miss Piggy onstage; Piggy accepts, and the pair plan a ceremony to be held at the Tower of London in London, England, where the Crown Jewels are kept.Fozzie, Walter, and Animal reach the Siberian Gulag on the night of the performance, and Kermit uses it as a front to allow them, himself, and all the prisoners to escape the Gulag. Kermit, Fozzie, Walter, and Animal infiltrate the Tower as the wedding begins, and Dominic (with the help of Bobby Benson’s Baby Band) manages to steal the jewels.Kermit interrupts the ceremony, revealing Constantine’s ruse, but the crook takes Piggy hostage and flees to a helicopter, where he is intercepted by Dominic, who is actually the Lemur and intends to double-cross him. Constantine ejects him from the helicopter and tries to take off with Piggy, but Kermit jumps aboard and the rest of the Muppets climb atop each other to stop the escape. Kermit and Piggy knockout Constantine and both criminals are arrested. Nadya arrives in London to arrest Kermit for escaping. The other Muppets tell her that if she arrests him, then she will have to take all of them as well; she relents, allowing Kermit to go free. The Muppets perform at the Gulag with Constantine and the prisoners participating, ending the film.The heart and soul of the film is about the way the characters manage to bring a sense of togetherness and unity to the Muppets and how this unity brings joy to all those around. Throughout the film, Kermit manages to be a core reminder as to why The Muppets are generously wonderful creations for the world: the optimism, the kindness, the laughter: everything combines to form a strong impression that both children and adults can feel completely enamoured by. This is a film that is full of magic and it sits alongside The Muppets magnificently and is not to be missed.

REVIEW: ONE CHANCE

CAST

James Corden (Into The Woods)
Julie Walters (Paddington)
Colm Meaney (Intermission)
Alexandra Roach (The Huntsman)
Mackenzie Crook (Game of Thrones)
Jemima Rooper (Hex)
Valeria Bilello (Miele)
Trystan Gravelle (Mr. Selfridge)
Stanley Townsend (Killing Bono)

A great underdog story The underdog in this story is the real life Paul Potts, the cell phone salesman turned Pavarotti-esque opera singer who won Britain’s Got Talent and became an instant sensation. The film is endearing and tough to dislike as so many. It’s constructed in such a by-the-numbers fashion that it makes Potts’ story seem like a work of fiction.

Comic James Corden, does a surprisingly good job as the South Wales chap who overcame bullying, a less-than-supportive father (Colm Meaney), and a severe lack of confidence to embrace his love of opera, despite being bullied mercilessly for it. The film breezes much too quickly through pretty much every aspect of his life, as if producer Simon Cowell had designed it to be a fill-in episode of one of his many talent-based shows. Potts works in the Carphone Warehouse alongside his RPG-loving best friend Bradden (Mackenzie Crook), but despite his rapturous voice that everyone loves, his lack of self-confidence prevents him taking it any further. He finds that extra boost in Julie-Ann (the lovely and genuine Alexandra Roach), the online girlfriend he’d been too scared to meet in the flesh. Nicknaming one another ‘Brad Pitt’ and ‘Cameron Diaz’, their relationship becomes a guide post for Potts, even as his journey takes him to Venice and a performance in front of his idol, Luciano Pavarotti.

The film takes full advantage of every opportunity to tug at your heartstrings and feel for Potts, who it seems can’t stay out of the hospital bed for any manner of physical ailment. Dressing like a sad clown to perform Pagliacci in front of a rowdy hometown crowd, Potts floors them with his unlikely voice; an early achievement that helped set him on his path. But every time he’s about to take the next step something awful occurs, like a terminal bout of stage fright, or a burst appendix before a major show, or getting hit by a car. These are only given enough emotional weight to earn our sympathy and pity, but even if you’ve never heard of Potts ( how this story turns out won’t come as a surprise.

Directed with workmanlike efficiency by David Frankel, who will perhaps always be known as the guy who helmed The Devil Wears Prada, the film finds a winning formula in the combination of Corden and Roach. The Tony award-winning actor acquits himself well as Potts, lip-syncing to his powerful voice and capturing his warm-hearted spirit. Some may recognize Roach as the teenaged Margaret Thatcher in The Iron Lady, and she shows a different sort of strength and sturdiness here. In a film that doesn’t stretch much beyond formula, their relationship is one that we want to get that storybook happy ending.

REVIEW: CITY OF EMBER

 

CAST

Saoirse Ronan (The Host)
Harry Treadaway (Honeymoon)
Bill Murray (Zombieland)
Toby Jones (The Hunger Games)
Martin Landau (Ed Wood)
Tim Robbins (Antitrust)
Marianne Jean-Baptiste (The Cell)
Liz Smith (The Tunnel)
Mary Kay Place (Sweet Home Alabama)
Mackenzie Crook (Pirates of the Caribbean)
Ian McElhinney (Krypton)

 

In the midst of an unspecified catastrophe, an underground city is constructed to shelter a large group of survivors, with secret instructions to future generations in a small box timed to open 200 years later. This box is entrusted to the mayor of the City of Ember. Each mayor, in turn, passes the box on to his or her successor. Over time, the significance of the box is forgotten, and the succession is broken when the seventh mayor dies before revealing the importance of the box. The box opens at the allotted time, but goes unnoticed. 41 years after the box opens, Ember’s electric generator begins to fail, and the reserves of canned goods and light bulbs are depleted.

At a rite of passage for all graduating students, Mayor Cole (Bill Murray) stands before the students as they choose their occupations by lottery. Protagonist Lina (Saoirse Ronan), who dreams of becoming a messenger, is assigned to be a “Pipeworks Laborer” under the technician Sul (Martin Landau), and her classmate Doon (Harry Treadaway), the son of Loris ‘Barrow’ Harrow (Tim Robbins), is assigned “Messenger”; whereupon the two secretly exchange assignments. At home, Lina finds the timed box, and enlists Doon’s help to decipher its contents. Gradually, they learn that the document is a set of instructions toward an exit from the city; and later, discover that Mayor Cole has been hoarding canned food in a secret vault. When they report the theft, they are arrested and the mayor attempts to take the box from Lina; but a blackout allows Lina to escape. Now fugitives from the mayor’s police, the pair obtain Poppy (Amy Quinn and Catherine Quinn), Lina’s 4 year old sister, and escape with the help of Sul, along a subterranean river. Meanwhile, the Mayor turns against his accomplice Looper, and locks himself in his vault, only to be devoured by a gigantic mole. Lina, Doon, and Poppy reach the surface, where they witness the sunrise; and later tie a message of their discovery to a rock and drop it into the city, where it is found by Loris.

Saoirse Ronan and Harry Treadaway give convincing performances in their lead positions and very rarely give attention to their ages. Sure enough, their roles aren’t the most demanding of jobs, but despite their characters’ underwritten nature both fulfil the requirements of leads nicely and with enough conviction to consistently carry the film forward. Of course, it’s always good to have a familiar face around, and Bill Murray, playing the obnoxious and gluttonous slob Mayor Cole, is the one to provide such a role. Murray, although arguably underused as far as his talents go, does well to establish a character that nobody is necessarily going to warm to, and uses whatever screen time he has adequately to further the movie on and to back up his lead performers. In the end however, all these elements simply come together to create one thing; an adventure. As just that, City of Ember is a very strong and convincing effort from director Gil Kenan who makes his live-action debut here.