Tag Archives: Review

DVD Review: Moss


No one likes disappointing a friend. I’m sure “stop letting friends down” or “make more time for people I care about” will rank highly amongst the more realistic New Year’s resolutions made this January. Imagine my irritation then when, just days into this New Year, a film of my choosing was a source of both disappointment and bafflement as I met a friend for the last time in at least weeks, perhaps months.

There’s nothing quite like sharing fear. Love might come close, maybe, but fear is much easier to talk about afterwards and grows funnier with hindsight, whilst love’s sadness merely mellows with age. What could be better then, than a horror film send off? Where better to have it than a dark, secluded, silent spot in the wind battered countryside? What better concept for the story than a weird mix of mysterious murderers, seeking salvation from their sins in the supernatural, founding an isolated community and terrorising an outsider to protect their secrets?

I was anticipating a creepy, jumpy thrill ride through shocks and secrets of unspeakable evil. Or something to that effect. Moss is a Korean film and I was therefore expecting it to be free of any British sensibility or pretentious European limitations. I’d heard Korean horror was something to be genuinely feared and was expecting a double barrelled fright fest.

Instead I’m not quite sure what it was we got. It was certainly long. Only just less than 3 hours long, in fact. Moments in the film were clearly intended to be terrifying but I think that Moss’s marketing campaign, which places it firmly in the genre of horror, was misguided to the say the least. But then again I’m not sure what else to call it. The plot is evidently meant to be a complex web of revelations and reverses but I was left, at the end of the marathon runtime, feeling like I’d learnt nothing new. If this is a mystery there is precious little to start with and no more by the end.

The drawn out story follows Yu, who arrives in a remote community after his estranged father (also called Yu) suddenly dies. We learn through regular flashbacks that the older Yu had some sort of spiritual gift, which maverick Detective Cheon decided to harness in order to rehabilitate killers. For young Yu, arriving in an odd and small village of eccentrics, doubts continue to hang over the nature of his father’s death. Did he fall from the land of the living or was he pushed? What exactly was his father doing in the middle of nowhere with this man called Cheon, who everyone appears to worship despite an aura of danger surrounding him?

Moss meanders through themes as diverse as corruption and rape, spirituality and bureaucracy. It never succeeds as a horror because the monsters are in plain sight from the start, with most of them succeeding only at being hilariously inept. One character in particular is so bumbling that had the script tossed him a few innuendos we could have been watching “Carry On Korean Conspiracy”. The lighting undermines any potentially scary moment, even when the soundtrack is trying its hardest to initiate some jitters. The dialogue, at least when rendered as English subtitles, is expositional, dull and far from conducive to horror.

Moss fails to manage a single scare and even more importantly as the story drags endlessly on; it never makes you care either.

2011 in review


The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2011 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 9,400 times in 2011. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 3 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

The Awakening


Originally published at X-Media Online

There’s an infant poltergeist on the loose in a boarding school. There’s been a death. And worst of all the posh parents are feeling disgruntled enough to contemplate complaining. Who you gonna call? If you’re the debut director of The Awakening Nick Murphy, it’s Rebecca Hall, for her first starring role as ghost buster Florence Cathcart.

A schoolboy’s death from what may or may not have been an unfortunate asthma attack is far too grave a matter for Dominic West’s battle scarred teacher Robert Mallory to convey via telephone, telegram or text however. Being a respectable 1920s gent he hotfoots it to London to beseech Miss Cathcart in person. Whilst reluctant to take the case, as these deductive geniuses always are, she of course accepts and accompanies Mr Mallory to mysteriously sinister rural Cumbria.

In many ways this is a traditional tale that plays out in typical surroundings. There’s a big house with a groaning staircase and rooms full of dusty echoes. There are a handful of characters that might be suspects or allies, each with a secret. There are also the standard back story elements which occasionally add emotional depth but mostly lose the film marks for being clunky, convoluted and cliché.

Indeed many critics have treated The Awakening firmly, claiming that it’s haunted by classics of the genre and ends up being an inexpert imitation, squandering its good points by succumbing to the modern trend of climactic twists. I’d argue these reviewers are looking at the film in the wrong way. There are far more positives than negatives on show from a production that cannot easily be categorised despite its familiar trappings.

Besides being a chiller about a haunted house, The Awakening is also a lovingly drawn period drama, complete with grandeur and detail and an
arresting atmosphere. It addresses serious themes with surprising depth,
touching on tough topics such as shell shock, scepticism of the supernatural,
love and loss. As a result there are passages of dialogue rich in emotional and
intellectual meat for the actors to devour. Perhaps the most pleasing strength
of The Awakening is the sight of Hall and West excelling on centre stage, just
as they have always done in supporting roles.

The Awakening begins as a unique superhero story, with Cathcart unmasking charlatans and battling demons, both society’s and her own, at breakneck speed. Its concluding twist, whilst a little disappointing, works far better than most critics have suggested and does not spoil a good film. Spooky, intelligent and gripping, The Awakening is fine storytelling, inspired, not haunted, by horror classics. And yes I was scared. Out of my seat at times.

My rating: 4 stars out of 5

The Ides of March


Originally published at X-Media Online

The Ides of March delivers exactly what you would expect, whilst shying away from surprises, in a way that is somehow both disappointing and irresistibly satisfying.

Stephen Meyers, played by 2011’s rising star Ryan Gosling, is an idealistic PR man for wannabe Democratic Presidential candidate Mike Morris (George Clooney). He begins the film with strong but adaptable principles that allow him to twist the truth everyday for a greater good, whilst never really dirtying his hands in the muddiest pools of the political swamp. However by the end he’s discovered why the cynics are so disillusioned with the transformative power of politics and learnt that a detached and destructive ruthlessness is vital to climbing this particular career ladder.

The plot changes direction a number of times but is mostly predictable and heavily reliant on an ever building intrigue. Indeed it’s the narrative content of The Ides of March that is a letdown. Clooney delayed the film in the wake of post-Obama political optimism in America, choosing to wait for the inevitable onset of apathy and scepticism. At times it feels as though the creative team behind the project believe that they are exposing the dark, hidden underbelly of the American system, which is in actual fact a familiar and unremarkable mixture of sexual scandal, greed, deceit and privilege.

But at others the filmmakers seem to recognise that the story they’re telling is far from groundbreaking. Instead the focus is on letting great actors play with themes like betrayal, jealousy and ambition. This is when The Ides of March is at its best; when Clooney’s extensive experience in front of the camera enables actor friendly direction from behind it.

It’s fashionable to salivate and drool over Ryan Gosling. Women want to be with him, men want to be him. Film critics of either gender, not content with praising him to the skies, seem to desire an encounter in a hotel room that doesn’t involve an interview. However in my view the older master of seduction, George Clooney, along with Phillip Seymour Hoffman and Paul Giamatti, outshines the young hotshot.

The film is based on a play written by a political insider, which adds authenticity, if not a shockingly enlightening level of truth. The theatrical source material also gives the likes of Clooney, Hoffman and Giamatti the chance to flex their muscles in some solitary speeches, on loyalty or legacies, to Gosling’s character. Clooney is genuinely convincing and attractive Presidential material, who sells policy with inspirational idealism and charm.

A slightly unpredictable ending and the outstanding calibre of pure acting on show ensures that The Ides of March does more than pander to critics, even if its story does lack substance.

The Lost World (1925) with John Garden’s new score


Originally published at X-Media Online

Composer John Garden’s electronic reimagining of the 1925 silent film classic, The Lost World, provided a raw, unique and truly cinematic experience at Exeter’s Phoenix theatre.

Why do we bother with the cinema anymore? In the age of Blu-Ray what’s stopping us from sitting comfortably at home, without the irritants of various strangers and the overpriced tickets, to enjoy a hassle free and personal movie experience? In the build up to The Lost World last Thursday I was reminded why I do make the effort to see films the way they were meant to be watched.

Firstly the Phoenix exuded a great deal more charm than the average multiplex. Secondly, and most importantly, the people that walked in were an extraordinarily eclectic and eccentric bunch. They were spearheaded by a loud elderly lady, asking questions to anyone that would listen and leaving various items accidentally in the reception area. Other audience members that stood out from my vantage point in the front row included a bubbly child dressed as Batman, a grey haired chap who resembled a decaying professor and the spitting image of One Day writer David Nicholls.

It really did feel as though I was a part of a wonderfully interesting cross section of society, gathered in one place, lured by the appeal of a very different evening of entertainment. And it certainly was different. A message on the screen informed us beforehand that this was the fullest version of the 1925 film possible, which seemed a daunting way of saying “this is going to be long”.

Length was definitely the principle problem with this version of The Lost World. By the end the yawn factor had infected me at least and I’d shifted position in my seat several times. The other main problem was John Garden’s modern music, which ranged from the incredibly dramatic and haunting, to the repetitive and out of place.

I don’t know anything about music. But at times the combination of synthesisers and electric guitar just did not seem to match the scene. Sometimes the flow of the film benefited from consistency and recurring themes, whilst elsewhere the drama was nullified by the same old tune. Despite being just a few feet away from a talented musician I could not help craving a more traditional orchestral accompaniment.

The film itself has aged remarkably well. I expected to find the effects cringe worthy but instead particular movements of dinosaur tails seemed more impressive than the CGI in many modern blockbusters. The team behind the effects here would go onto wider recognition with King Kong.

The acting, for the most part, is terribly dated but this is perhaps unavoidable. Special praise must go to Lewis Stone for his performance as Sir John Roxton. Somehow, without words, he delivers a performance that would not look too out of place today.

Despite its flaws The Lost World was a vibrant example of historical silent cinema, to which Spielberg’s Jurassic Park owes and enormous debt.

My rating: 3 stars out of 5

Shallow Grave


Originally published at X-Media Online

Danny Boyle’s evolution as a director has accelerated in the last few years so that, much to the dismay of those who cherish the label “alternative”, his vibrant filmmaking fingerprint has been assimilated by the establishment. After the mainstream, Oscar winning success that was Slumdog  Millionaire had eclipsed the mad and edgy Trainspotting, Boyle’s new position in society was confirmed when he was handed control of the opening ceremony for London 2012.

Firing the starting gun for the much anticipated Olympic Games is a huge responsibility, especially in the shadow of the dazzling show put on by the Chinese in Beijing. Many are saying that we simply can’t compete with that spectacle. But Boyle, who has proved himself as an unorthodox winner, will no doubt think otherwise.

The director’s films have often been shocking and are sometimes difficult to watch. Think James Franco cutting his arm off in 127 Hours or Ewan McGregor running amok in Scotland fuelled by Class A drugs. Beneath the hard hitting exterior however he tells stories with an irresistible sense of fun, fuelled by addictive dark humour and inventive visual trickery.

Boyle’s mischievousness and frank brutality are both on show in his 1994 debut, Shallow Grave, which his father apparently still considers his best film. Three yuppies living in an impressive Glaswegian flat laugh the evenings away, taking sadistic pleasure in humiliating those who apply to become their lodger. Eventually they approve of one, who moves in.

Keith Allen’s Hugo is easily the most charismatic character in the film. His lines ooze mysterious hidden depths so that the stuck up doctor of the group, played by Kerry Fox, stops her mocking and starts looking. Unfortunately the plot necessitates Hugo’s swift and sordid death. The gang find the “writer’s” stash of cash next to his naked corpse. After minimal deliberation they resolve to keep it and dump his body in bits in a wood. No one knew about him, no one will miss him.

Of course Hugo’s shady past begins to catch up with our opportunists. Once the body is grimly dealt with cracks appear amongst the friends and Christopher Eccleston’s paranoid accountant retreats to live in the loft with the money. Ewan McGregor’s journalist, who suggested the scheme in the first place, ignores the simmering suspicions in the flat till it’s too late.

In many ways Shallow Grave is the perfect CV for a director. The plotting is tight until it unravels disappointingly at the end, the characters lifelike and the editorial flair evident. Empathy is the one vital missing ingredient letting it down as a narrative. Characters do not all need what Simon Cowell would call “likeability” but we do need to feel at least a little attached to them. The three protagonists are painfully irritating. Because we don’t care about them they become boring, whatever excesses they embrace or however mad they go on greed. Long before the end you’re left wondering, besides the initial fun, what’s the point.

My Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Midnight in Paris


Originally published at X-Media Online

Woody Allen’s latest babbling love letter, whilst slow at times, takes you on an enchanting and enlightening journey at Exeter’s delightfully intimate Picturehouse.

I am far from well versed in Allen’s CV but anyone with a set of eyes and ears can’t have escaped the fact that a cinematic legend has become a running joke in recent years. And yet Midnight in Paris has been championed loudly as a possible comeback since Cannes, even more so than 2008’s Vicky Cristina Barcelona, which featured a sizzling kiss between Penelope Cruz and Scarlett Johansson.

There’s no explosive passion of that kind in this film, despite appearances from beauties Rachel McAdams and Marion Cotillard. In fact the sex appeal is of a different nature altogether. Allen lays the seductiveness of the Parisian streets on thick, as you might expect from the title. But then there’s also the exotic charm of what happens to Owen Wilson’s unfulfilled scriptwriter Gil, surely a character embodying Allen’s disgust with his own decline, on his aimless midnight wanderings.

Inexplicably Gil is whisked back in time to the city in the 1920s, an era he views as a deliciously unobtainable “Golden Age”. American literary greats, from Tom Hiddleston’s F.Scott Fitzgerald to Corey Stoll’s hilariously frank Ernest Hemingway, inhabit the nightspots acting droll and generally genius. The beautiful women that were the muses of Picasso and Adrien Brody’s rhinoceros obsessed Salvador Dali dance and sip cocktails in the moonlight.

Allen makes no attempt to ask how Gil finds himself partying in the past, nor does he question whether it’s all a concoction of his stifled imagination. Instead the film focuses on the dangers of living your life longing to be a part of history that’s already been made. Sure the 21st century can be dull and depressingly devoid of truths to discover but what’s the point of clinging to nostalgia?

Gil thinks there are plenty of reasons. He wants to get the manuscript for his novel looked over by Hemingway and be inspired by TS Elliot. Does the film manage to make these 20th century icons into characters though? The answer is; a little. In reality they’re more like caricatures, with Fitzgerald spouting “old sport” like his famous Gatsby, Hemingway constantly spoiling for a fight and Dali little more than an oddball.

Ultimately it doesn’t matter that they lack depth. Midnight in Paris is a fantasy, full of irresistible fun. It’s slow at first but eventually Owen Wilson steams through a couple of fantastically funny scenes, supported by an impressively irritatingly Michael Sheen and others, including French first lady Carla Bruni.

I’ve often craved a more meaningful backdrop of Blitz spirit or Hollywood glamour. But in the end Allen’s uplifting message is simple. The past’s allure lies with its alien mystery. And the great figures of the past were only great because they chose to grasp the present in both hands; to seize the day.

My verdict: 3 out of 5 stars

Beginners


Originally published at X-Media Online

My attendance of Campus Cinema began on Tuesday with Beginners, a film that begins with Ewan McGregor’s Oliver beginning to get over the death of his father. He really is still in the early stages of progressing through his grief though, as he spends much of the film in a melancholic mess. The hardships of ordinary bereavement are complicated by the fact that his beloved Dad finally came out of the closet in his final years, all guns blazing, following the death of Oliver’s mother from cancer. This is a story rich in uncertain identities and confusion, as well as poignant bonding and mutual understanding.

The most surprising thing about Beginners is how funny it is. Perhaps it shouldn’t be such a shock, given that it’s essentially an unconventional rom com, but the laughs really do flow consistently at points. You’re never quite sure where the gags will jump out at you from. It could be McGregor’s dodgy impression of Sigmund Freud at a party; it could be particularly black humour in a deeply serious situation or simply the chemistry between accomplished actors delivering witty dialogue. The likes of Christopher Plummer, McGregor and Melanie Laurent from Inglorious Basterds make for a far from shabby cast.

There’s also some excellent visual humour that regularly appears in scenes out of the blue. Oliver’s father had a dog, Arthur, who is incredibly attached to members of the family, so that he wails and whines unbearably when parted from someone he trusts. Suitably cute and quirky subtitles to match his cuddly appearance flash up on screen occasionally to express his thoughts. There are also quite a few montages from Oliver’s childhood to set the scene and provide background information to characters and relationships.

I am not a fan of voiceover in film because it is usually executed woefully. However in Beginners McGregor’s reflective and self aware musings mostly come across as meaningful, adding depth to the story, especially when coupled with very distinctive still images. Oliver feels like the at once familiar and mysterious first person narrator to a novel we are watching, rather than the main character in a romantic film.

The downsides of this are that Beginners will be far too quirky for some to stomach. It wears its sentiments without shame, jumping willingly into boxes marked “indie” and “offbeat. It toys with ideas of minimalist storytelling, not just with slideshows of random pictures but with a wordless meeting between Oliver and his love interest. The recurring montage and voiceover sections give the time hopping narrative structure and symmetry but also a couple of false endings better than the one director Mark Mills eventually delivers.

Despite fizzling out somewhat Beginners features a touching, believable love story and avoids being overshadowed by the issue of an old man’s homosexuality at its heart. It asks smart questions in a unique and yes, quirky, way. Bravo Campus Cinema, even if the ads did promote Plymouth University!

My Rating: 4 stars out of 5

DVD Review: Neds


Fresh back from the warped taster of Scottish society that is the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, I settled down to watch Neds, the tale of a bright young lad from a rough Glasgow family in the 1970s directed by Peter Mullan. Neds stands for “Non Educated Delinquents” and refers ironically (it should be “uneducated”) to the thuggish and feral characters that John McGill tries to avoid.

John thinks of himself as different to the low life underachievers around him wasting their lives on alcohol and ignorant quarrels between rival gangs. He has lofty ambitions of university and journalism in his sights as he leaves primary school a focused, intelligent boy, a book glued permanently to his hand. In other words he’s more likely to end up representing Scotland as an arty type in Edinburgh’s cultured crowds than as a menacing rioter. Oh wait that’s actually an English problem…

Anyway Neds begins promisingly. The ten year old John McGill is brilliantly played by Greg Forrest. He is fearful as he starts at “big school” that he will be bullied because he is smart. And of course he is right to worry. But his attitude doesn’t help, as he demands a meeting with the Headmaster after being put in the second best class, rather than the top one. He works hard in the opening months to gain promotion to the Premiership and temporarily silences the bullies by setting his criminally inclined elder brother on them.

Then though, with his grades consistently outstanding, particularly in Latin, things change in the course of a summer. Conor McCarron is now playing John as a beefed up pubescent two or three years older. He’s moving from the “annex” of the school to the main building. He’s still in the top class as his last term at the annex ends and his teacher warns him to keep busy during the summer months.

But after being shunned by his middle class private school friend and his family, and a confrontation in a playground with a gang that only respected him because of his big brother’s reputation, John goes off the rails. Tempted by popularity and peer pressure he starts slacking off. He talks back at teachers. He embraces forbidden fun. And he realises there’s nothing worthwhile they can do to stop him.

The problem I had with Neds was the nature of this transition. We barely see any of the six-week holiday period that transforms John. He goes from a lover of Latin dictionaries to a loathsome little dickhead in the blink of an eye. Clearly he was humiliated by the rejection of his posh best mate. He also has a drunken father and an anxious, all but absent mother at home to contend with. But his spiral from the escape of school work to the distraction of yobbish behaviour is not properly explored.

Of course I’m aware I might be missing the point. These things can happen quicker than you can say “gimme all yer money wee man o’ I’ll stab ye guts oot”. It might just be that the beginning of Neds resonated more with me personally. Being picked on for a lack of cool credentials and a tendency to get the right answer too often is far more familiar to me than the harsh realities of a deprived Glaswegian area.

Nevertheless John’s sudden degeneration limits where Neds can go at times. It doesn’t chronicle his suspenseful slide into failure and criminality because he falls rapidly from grace; face first into a whole load of shit he had previously dodged by burying his head in the musky pages of a book’s embrace. Redemption always looks unlikely and as a viewer your hopes are repeatedly dashed and downgraded. I was reduced to praying that he did not slip to an ever lower rung of grim despair.

Talking of prayer and redemption, Neds contains a drug fuelled fight scene with Jesus, along with a lot of other considerably more delicate religious references. Not many films can claim to contain a fight with the son of God and I’m not sure why Neds does. It’s certainly not a good scene but one worth mentioning I’m sure you’ll agree.

The Jesus bashing scene takes place in a disjointed final third erratically looking for a suitable endpoint. Director Peter Mullan, an instantly recognisable actor, chooses to give himself the role of John’s father and it’s towards the end of the film he becomes a thicker strand of the plot. But their relationship has zero setup and the father as a character is so two dimensional he is almost redundant.

Neds does have its good points. Its period detail is so spot on that the film doesn’t look like a modern production but as though it were made at the time. The acting from most of cast is faultless and the portrayal of school life is vivid. But as I’ve said the film’s major flaw is its narrative pacing and progression. John has already fallen so far by the end that there’s nowhere for the story to go and discretely wrap up satisfactorily.

Battle of the Summer Blockbusters: Rise of the Planet of the Apes vs. Super 8


It’s been a while since I went to the cinema. But it feels much longer than it actually is. That’s because it’s summer blockbuster season and every week a new big gun toting production swaggers into town. Stay away from the saloon for too long and you’ll have nothing to talk about with your fellow drinkers because they’re engrossed in conversation about things you haven’t seen or experienced. Sure you can try to chip in with your recycled opinions but you feel like a cheat. And most of all you feel jealous.

Some films I would have liked to have seen had already been EXPELLIARMUSED!  from multiplexes by a certain boy wizard’s refusal to die quietly and works of art like The Smurfs and Mr Popper’s Penguins. I know that later in August I want to see Cowboys and Aliens, One Day and the film of the TV series that defined my generation, The Inbetweeners Movie, so I figured I better catch up before then.

At the time of writing Rise of the Planet of the Apes and Super 8 have exactly the same score on Rotten Tomatoes, with 82% each. They also have identical ratings from numerous respected reviewers, including four stars apiece from Empire Magazine. Because of this it was completely logical of me to decide to watch both films and report back with absolute certainty on which is the best blockbuster of the summer, as clearly the others and those yet to be released, can be discounted.

First up then at 11.30 in Screen 10 was Rise of the Planet of the Apes. I couldn’t quite believe I’d paid to see this as I walked in. I’d never really enjoyed the previous films from what I could remember of them. I was also genuinely baffled by the growing chorus of support for the motion capture technology used to create the rebellious cheeky monkeys. The first trailer I saw for the film helped me decide in a nanosecond not to make the effort to see it. It looked like a naff CGI fest with a ridiculous concept and some awful lines of dialogue. And there was the sickening clumsiness of that double “of the” in the title.

I was persuaded to give Rise a watch by the film reviewing community online and I now have a newfound trust in them. There’s no doubt that this will be the runaway surprise success, at least critically, of the summer, if not the whole year. It’s not what you expect it to be and yet it delivers what summer audiences are after. By the end of its 105 minute runtime I was converted from a suspicious sceptic into someone salivating at the thought of the sequels.

It’s hardly a spoiler to say that the apes rise up in this film and that events begin to take place that will lead to the “Planet of the Apes”. As other reviewers have pointed out though, what’s really interesting and remarkable about this film is how we get to the final twenty minutes of solidly entertaining, action packed revolt. The climax is explosive and plays out on a hugely impressive scale, with stunning special effects and fresh ideas for set pieces. But the drama of this action comes from the build-up in the rest of the film.

It charts the life of Caesar, an ape played via motion capture by Andy Serkis, a veteran of the technology after his iconic roles as Gollum and King Kong. Serkis is unquestionably the real star of this production, despite other big names like James Franco, Brian Cox, Freida Pinto and Harry Potter’s Tom Felton orbiting Caesar’s central story. The effects are vastly improved from the initial trailer that underwhelmed me. Facial expressions and movements are so lifelike that despite the lack of dialogue, indeed perhaps partly because of its absence, the scenes amongst the apes with no human interference are some of the most intense and engaging in the entire movie, well handled by director Rupert Wyatt.

Caesar is the offspring of an ape called Brighteyes that responded to an experimental cure to Alzheimer’s. However she was killed when she rampaged, in a maternal rage, around the headquarters of the pharmaceutical company James Franco’s character, Will, works for. Will took the baby ape home so it could avoid the cull ordered by his profit minded superior played by David Oyelowo. He cares for Caesar, practically as a son, for a number of years at home, where he notices increasing signs of a heightened intelligence passed
on from the effects of Will’s drug on his mother.

I make it all sound dull. But a bizarrely convincing and charming family dynamic, which just happens to feature an ape, begins to form. Conveniently, for plot purposes at least, Will’s Dad has Alzheimer’s. Encouraged by Caesar’s progress Will treats his father with the drug, which cures him in the blink of an eye; for a while at least.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes is carefully constructed. It helps its structure that the conclusion is clearly defined from the off but it could still have been a flop. Instead a movie with some ludicrous components and some walking pace, stereotypical acting from most of the humans, including Franco at times, manages to be clever, funny and incredibly involving. The apes really are the key pieces of the puzzle, with Caesar a complex character in his own right who looks certain to remain compelling as he tackles rival apes (introduced here) in a power struggle in the sequels. There are so many interesting directions this series could follow, after ditching all the bad aspects of the original franchise, in favour of character based thrills with some genuinely insightful social commentary on big themes.

After a pause for a Greggs baguette and sausage roll, I was back at the cinema by 14.45 for Super 8 in Screen 1. I invested in popcorn because I’d been told for months now that Super 8 was getting back to what movies should be about, so I thought I’d better go the whole hog and sit back in anticipation. If I’d enjoyed Planet of the Apes I was going to love this.

In case you’ve been living in a secret underwater kingdom for ages, Super 8 follows a group of friends making a zombie film who witness a train derailing in spectacular fashion. They are then embroiled in weird goings on and Air Force conspiracies in their local sleepy town, as something appears to run wild. Oh and it’s pretty much a Steven Spielberg film, executive produced by the man himself and helmed by JJ Abrams.

The start works well, as most critics have said. Well at least it makes sense. You can’t help but be sucked in by the young cast and fascinated by their relationships. Joe is the focus of the story. His mother has died in an industrial accident and he barely sees his father, the Deputy Sheriff. His fat friend is making a zombie movie for a film festival with the help of a kid who likes fireworks, a shy and lanky lead and Joe’s makeup skills. Joe begins to fall for the beautiful Alice when they manage to recruit her to act in their masterpiece.

Then there’s that gigantic train crash. It was jaw dropping stuff at times but did anyone else think there were a few too many random explosions and balls of flame? I’m not complaining…well I am actually. Aspects of the crash didn’t feel that real. And as for the rest of the film, JJ’s trademark mystery is teased out too long, and when we finally see the monster it is a disappointment. The threat of the alien is never powerful enough to match the fabulous group dynamic between the friends.

Super 8 feels like the film Abrams wanted to make when he was younger. It’s sharply executed but more than a little messy and dare I say a tad immature? For all its influences it feels as though a particularly talented youngster is behind the camera at points, with a huge budget to burn compared to the DIY methods of the kids. Just like the kids making their own project, it’s as if JJ thought of the premise and the lives of the characters in detail but couldn’t decide where to take them.

So let’s compare and contrast. Both Rise of the Planet of the Apes and Super 8 have creatures (irrelevant) and post-credit sequences (even more irrelevant). In one film the humans disappoint and in the other the beast. If Rise had the human heart of Super 8 it would be the film of the summer. If Super 8 had the coherent structure of Rise to go with its incredibly moving moments, it too could have been one of the year’s best films. As it is they are both simply very good and worth seeing.

Sorry to end so abruptly, rather like Super 8. But if I had to choose one I’d go Apes.