Sunday, July 26, 2015


TERMINATOR GENISYS is a straight forward film that makes no sense. In its first half hour we are in 2029 AD, in a post-apocalyptic world where a rebel leader called John Connor (Jason Clarke) leads surviving humanity in a fight against a sentient computer programme called Skynet.  The rebels destroy the computer but not before it sends back a Terminator robot to 1984 to kill John Connor's mother.  So he sends back his number two, Kyle Reese (Jai Courtney), to intercept the Terminator and save Sarah Connor (Emilia Clarke).  The surprise is that Sarah and an aged Terminator (Arnold Schwarzenegger) are already tooled-up and ready, both for the original Terminator (young CGI Arnie) and Reese.  In the second half hour of the film, Good Arnie, Sarah and Reese realise that they haven't prevented Judgement Day, the day when Skynet killed humanity, but merely postponed in to 2017.  The humans time travel forward to 2017 and are greeted by an even older Good Arnie and a suspicious  J K Simmons with a plan to blow up Skynet again before the release of its deadly Genisys programme.  The third half hour sees the biggest plot twist in the film which, once you see it, you'll know it was coming. And this sets us up for the inevitable action packed showdown at Skynet.


Niki Lauda was an Austrian Formula One driver in the 70s and 80s most famous for suffering an horrific crash at the Nurburgring in 1976.  His scalp, upper face and right ear were burned off, he inhaled toxic fumes that poisoned his body, and his lungs didn't work.  Not only did Lauda survive bet he went on to race at Monza just 33 days after the crash, placing fourth. He later retired from Formula One and went on to be a successful entrepreneur and retained an influence in racing.

His story, and particularly his rivalry with the flamboyant British driver, James Hunt, was recently told in fictionalised and simplified form by Ron Howard in RUSH.  And the wider story of how this crash was part of an era in which the car tech advanced faster than the safety controls, was told in the superb documentary, 1. That doc was a comprehensive and beautifully made story of the evolution of Formula One racing as something that could kill you to the safer sport we enjoy today.


HOT PURSUIT is a piss-poor alleged comedy in the vein of the far better MISS CONGENIALITY. It stars the usually likeable Reese Witherspoon as an uptight unfeminine cop who was inspired by her famous cop father but has become a running joke.  Her chance to redeem herself comes when she's asked to escort a mobster's wife (Sofia Vergara) to court to give evidence against the cartel.  The level of humour that we're operating at is the two women pretending to be lesbian lovers and a slack-jawed yokel getting so excited he blows his finger off.  And then there's literally a scene in which Reese Witherspoon first dresses like a boy in a bad wig and then dons a floral headpiece and folk outfit reminiscent of Miss Congeniality. I can't imagine why Reese Witherspoon thought she had the slapstick comedy chops to play this role, but even with a more appropriate lead actress, this is a woeful production.  Anne Fletcher's direction is workmanlike and the script by David Feeney and John Quaintance predictable and uninspiring.)  There is nothing to recommend this film to your attention.

HOT PURSUIT has a running time of 87 minutes and is rated PG-13. The movie is on general release.

Sunday, July 19, 2015


MAGIC MIKE XXL is a shameless cash-in: a movie ordained inevitable by the popularity of the original rather than by any narrative necessity.  Three years after Magic Mike quits stripping to set up house with The Kid's sister, his old stripper friends give him a prank call and invite him to a stripper convention for a kind of all-or-nothing retirement stripathon.  It's all a little shaky and fuzzy as motives go. To be sure, Mike's post-stripping life hasn't been a success: his business is struggling and his girl has left him.  But to go by the depiction of stripping shown in this film, why on earth would he ever have left? MAGIC MIKE XXL depicts a utopian world where strippers are ARTISTS and where by catering to women's whims they empower these "queens" and bring them a kind of sexual healing.  Accordingly, when Mike meets Zoe - an ex-stripper, maybe addict, down on her luck - he knows deep in his heart and groin that all she really needs is a cutting edge lap dance to bring her mojo back.  Better living through thongs. And so the movie unfolds as a kind of hippie dippie drug- and sex-fuelled road-trip to the convention where the kindness of strangers gets our motley crew of strippers through the night. I must admit that Gregory Jacobs and Channing Tatum's script and the men's acting does deliver an authentic feeling of male camaraderie.  But Jada Pinkett Smith is no match for the absent Matthew McConaughey as the MC, and there's no real depth to anything in the film - nothing to keep us going. And as for the routines and Troy from Community's rapping topless, awkward rather than sexy, I would say. Worst of all is the A-team style training montage where the boys put their new routines, costumes and sets together for the competition finale.  Let's hope this is the end of this particular franchise.

MAGIC MIKE XXL has a running time of 115 minutes and is rated R.  The movie is global release.

Saturday, July 11, 2015


I'm not entirely sure what the producer's saw in Colin Trevorrow's indie comedy SAFETY NOT GUARANTEED that made them think, "this director has what it takes to direct a big budget effects-heavy action film" but boy, he can! JURASSIC WORLD is the best film in the franchise since the original, and while not entirely without its problems, it's a handsome way to spend a couple of hours in the cinema. 

The movie picks up as if the events of the second and third film hadn't happened.  We are twenty years on from the "teething problems" on Isla Nubar and arrogant money-hungry humans have learned nothing.  Jurassic World is now a successful theme park, but in order to keep the customers happy, park manager Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard) has sanctioned the genetic modification of dinosaurs to create a new attraction - the Indominus Rex. Oh, and by the way, those insanely violent Velociraptors are still in the park because some idiot wants to use them for military purposes. Naturally, the Indominus escapes its enclosure and we soon learn that a) it's not socialised and b) it can plan complex strategic attacks.  All of which the wrangler Owen (Chris Pratt) had warned them of. And this being a Spielberg film, into the mix we throw two kids - brothers Zach and Gray (Ty Simpkins and Nick Robinson) and a T-Rex.

Everything about the dinosaurs, action, soundtrack and sense of awe and wonder is perfect in this film. It's less scary than the original, which I rewatched recently, but it's going for a younger audience.  The problems start when we look at the characters and the relationship between Claire and Owen in particular.  Dear Hollywood, does every successful businesswoman need to be emotionally frigid?  Does every powerful really woman really just need a hunky old-fashioned man's man to sort her out?  And it's not like Chris Pratt has it any better as Owen - shorn of the humour that made GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY such a hit, he's essentially just an objectified beef-cake.  And where the two kids in the original movie had a really lovely mixture of vulnerability and moxie, here they're essentially just Macguffins for the adults to protect. 

Still, for all that, I do like this film. It has all the cynicism about human nature that infected Michael Crichton's book. And where that dark element was only channelled by Jeff Goldblum in the original film (I HATED the transformation of the park owner into a cuddly wide-eyed grandpa) at least in this version Irrfhan Khan has the evil charisma of a true DNA-meddling entrepreneur.

JURASSIC WORLD has a running time of 124 minutes and is rated PG-13. The movie went on global release the weekend of June 11th and finally rolls into Japan on August 5th.


You can listen to a podcast review of this film here or subscribe to Bina007 Movie Reviews in iTunes.

THE MINIONS, as any fule kno are the ridiculously and surprisingly popular side-kicks of Gru, the star of DESPICABLE ME. These yellow-bean-like energetic, gibberish-speaking cheeky chappies arguably already hijacked that franchise, as evidenced by the fact that they, not Gru and his daughters, were on most of the posters. So I suppose it was inevitable that we would get a spin-off.

The fantastic news is that the movie more than stands up on its own two feet.  Despite the quasi-unintelligible talk, we absolutely understand that our protagonists, Stuart, Kevin and Bob, are different personalities.  This is more than helped by an hilarious deadpan witty voice-over from Geoffrey Rush (PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN) at the start of the film.

We open with a natural history of the minions - starting as little amoeba in the opening credits - haplessly following whoever is the Big Bad of the moment, until the dinosaurs become extinct and they have to find evil men to follow.  In classic minion style, their eagerness overmatches their competence and they end up stuck in an icy waste having followed Napoleon into Russia.  At this point, the story truly picks up, with three minions going on an adventure to find a new evil henchman to follow. They sail to the USA and journey to Villaincon (a wonderful satire on the insanity that is Comicon) where they fall into the service of Scarlett Overkill (Sandra Bullock in a self-satirising villain role).  I guess the moral of the story is be careful what you wish for - and through a series of accidents Bob becomes king of England, and then has to rescue the nation from Scarlett and find their new master on the way.

Kudos to co-director Pierre Coffin who also voices ALL of the minions  - creating separate characters and also enough actual language that we can keep up with them.  The movie has wit, a warm heart and is a worthy addition to the DESPICABLE ME world.  There's nothing here not to like!

MINIONS has a running time of 91 minutes and is rated PG.  The movie was released in June in Indonesia, Australia, Malaysia, Singapore, Armenia, Brazil, the Czech Republic, Croatia, New Zealand, Slovakia, Uruguay, the UK, Ireland and Poland. It was released earlier in July in the Netherlands, Sweden, Argentina, Austria, Colombia, Germany, Denmark, Israel, Estonia, Spain, Finland, Iceland, Lithuania, Latvia, Norway, Belgium, France, Iceland, Jamaica, the Philippines, Trinidad and Tobago, Azerbaijan, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Chile, the Dominican Republic, Hong Kong, Hungary, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Lebanon, Macedonia, Mexico, Russia, Thailand, Ukraine, Bulgaria, Canada, Cuba, India, Pakistan, Puerto Rico, Romania, Taiwan, the USA and Vietnam. The movie opens in Cambodia on July 14th, in Peru & Portugal on July 23rd, in Albania on July 30th, in Japan on July 31st, in Serbia on August 20th, in Italy on August 27th, in Turkey on September 4th, in Greece on September 25th, in South Korea on October 15th and in China on November 25th.


The hackneyed story of an angry kid called Stet (Garrett Wareing) from literally the wrong side of the tracks who's dumped in an elite choir school by his philandering rich father and of course turns out to be a musical prodigy who defies his hard-ball music teacher (Dustin Hoffman) to become the star.  

It's the sort of movie that tells you a kid comes from a bad home by having his his mum literally wake up in front of a bottle of vodka, and literally has him throw rocks through a window. Dustin Hoffman portrays uptight harshness by walking out of every meeting and then giving the kid one of those "you don't want this" speeches at an elevated emotional pitch that comes out of nowhere. Naturally he is also hurting, because he wanted to be a concert pianist. Naturally, the two end up bonding and the choirmaster helps the kid overcome his stage fright.

There are pompous speeches about the power of communal singing and affecting an audience and mistily filmed scenes of faux-English school buildings in the manner of DEAD POET'S SOCIETY.  The evil nemesis (well, the cocky current choir-leader) even has a dodgy peroxide blonde dye job like Draco Malfoy.

So it is clear than from a cinematic perspective there isn't much new or to like here.  But the film isn't entirely unwatchable because it at least takes the movie takes music seriously, not least in being directed by Francois Giraud,  who is also an opera director. And if you were in a serious choir at school, as I was, the familiarity of the rehearsals, the concerts, the repertoire will at least add a nostalgia factor.

BOYCHOIR has a running time of 103 minutes and is rated . The film played Toronto 2014 and was released earlier this year in Singapore, Canada, the Netherlands, the USA, Croatia, Serbia, Portugal, Turkey, Kuwait, Israel and Greece.  It is currently on release in the Philippines, the UK and Ireland.  It opens in Hong Kong on September 3rd, in Germany on September 10th, in Japan on September 11th, and in Italy on December 3rd. 

Sunday, July 05, 2015


LOVE & MERCY is a beautifully directed and acted biopic of the legendary musician Brian Wilson. Directed by Bill Pohlad from a script by Oren Movermen (RAMPART), the movie is sensitive, deeply felt and cleverly constructed.  It weaves together a narrative from two parts of Wilson's turbulent life. In the first period of the mid-60s we meet the Beach Boys as global superstars selling a myth of ever-happy sunshine-drenched California living.  But Brian, who writes and crucially arranges all of the music, is feeling hemmed in by the pressure to be up-beat and what's to create a perfect album with complex harmonies, dubbing and influences. It's the album that's going to become PET SOUNDS.  The music press loves to create fatuous lists of the all-time greatest albums of all time, but I've always felt that PET SOUNDS really is one of those seminal albums - arguably the best of the 60s, and just seeing it being created in the studio is one of the joys of this film.  But it's bittersweet because you're also seeing Brian's fellow band-mates/brothers push against his need to take them into darker more complex territory, as well as his first experimentation with drugs and slow slide into a kind of mental breakdown that's going to lead him to spending two years in bed in the 70s.  Paul Dano is absolutely fantastic in this role.  Both the mental slide and the precision producing feel authentic. In fact, this feels like one of the best films to document how music is actually produced. 

In the second time-period, we see Brian (John Cusack) in the mid-80s, under the malign influence of Dr Feelgood aka Eugene Landy (Paul Giamatti) and started to date his future wife Melinda (Elizabeth Banks).  Brian's the same sweet soul and off illegal highs but Landy's got him under complete control with over-medication and sheer emotional terrorism. What's fascinating is seeing how that terror is echoed in his stories of his childhood with an abusive father who continues to screw him over financially despite the Beach Boys sacking his as manager.  But it's Giamatti who's the real villain of the piece, fluctuating between oleaginous charm and sinister control as he tries to break Brian and Melinda up and squeeze yet another album out of his financial cash-cow.

The central performances in this film are outstanding - Dano deserves some kind of award. But the production as a whole is just perfection. I love the way both timelines are inter-cut to contrast and enhance the consistent themes in Brian's life - the mental illness, controlling men, musical genius almost painful to live with. The aural landscape is also superlative. Not just the fact that we see iconic tracks created in front of us, but the way in which the film takes us into Brian's aural world and how the over-sensitivity to voice and sounds in his head leads to his breakdown. It's as thought the famous overlapping harmonies and melodies in the Beach Boys music merges into an inescapable and sinister soundtrack to life that's unbearable. The resulting film is compassionate, intricate and ultimately uplifting.  It's the film that Brian Wilson deserves.

LOVE & MERCY played Toronto 2014 and Berlin and SXSW 2015. It is currently on release in the UK, USA, Canada, Germany, Singapore, Kuwait, France, Spain and Ireland. It opens later in July in Portugal and South Korea. It opens in August in Japan, Greece, Israel, Sweden and Turkey.