One Chance  (2013)    35/100

Rating :   35/100                                                                     103 Min        12A

I’m very tempted to say James Corden has already had his one chance with ‘Lesbian Vampire Killers’ (09) which was one of the direst films I have ever seen in my life – no hyperbole, but he at least has the saving grace of not having been involved with its screenplay. Here, he embodies the opera singer Paul Potts who rose to international prominence by winning the first ever ‘Britain’s Got Talent’ TV competition in 2007. Now, given that it is painfully (perhaps even disturbingly) obvious here that it is not him singing and that he equally cannot do the accent required (all the more emphasized by the fact he is surrounded by actors who either can or for whom it is their natural accent anyway. Bizarrely Potts is depicted as growing up in Port Talbot in Wales here and Corden’s lack of anything approaching a decent Welsh accent is astounding – and yet Potts is actually a Bristolian and not only didn’t move to Wales until later on in life, but also does not have a Welsh accent, so if they hadn’t butchered his real life story Corden’s accent would have been fine. Crazy) the reasons for his casting would seem to be whittled down to naught more than the extra layer of insulation he has lovingly nurtured (notwithstanding the Tony award he won in the States last year, minor detail). Something which we are visually treated to in all its fleshy glory on more than one occasion.

Was it not possible to find a vocally gifted actor that could just shove a pillow up his jumper? Or a young opera talent who could passably pull off the dialogue? Actually, just the pillow singing by itself would be more believable – unfortunately the leading man leads this film straight down the pan, and it is only due to the supporting cast that it manages to deliver any sort of reward or emotional engagement whatsoever, with most of the first half just cringe worthy. Alexandra Roach (pictured above) is wonderful, and it is her that’s largely responsible for saving the movie from complete incineration, together with a bit of help from Colm Meaney, Julie Walters and Mackenzie Crook. The fact that the film also takes enormous liberties with the actual life of Potts, including not mentioning previous employment with local government in Bristol for seven years and multiple opera tours before appearing on television, together with the knowledge that the movie is partly produced by the man behind the talent show Mr Simon Cowell himself, just drives the final nails into its coffin.

One of the other producers for the film – big Hollywood player Harvey Weinstein, aka ‘The Punisher’, was actually responsible for pitching the role to Corden, but then in rehearsals immediately called his main actor ‘tone deaf’ before hiring Potts himself to do the voice over (he should really have just played himself) and then, astoundingly, having this to say to the MailOnline about the final product – “James is definitely up for a Golden Globe or Oscar: it’s that kind of performance.” Is he deliberately trying to sabotage his career? Corden is actually due to appear in two upcoming big budget films where he will be singing, so this slight debacle will probably be forgotten about soon enough …

When I began writing this review, it became apparent whoever care takes the imdb page for the film was also not a fan of it, with any clicks around the top of the page directing to different lesbian films. Sadly, these links have been removed now – but to save the affront to your patience that watching this film would entail, you can find the clip below of the actual performance from Potts that got him his place in the ‘Britain’s Got Talent’ show (apparently it’s one of the most watched clips on YouTube) thus extracting the best bit from the movie, and another more recent clip from the same show which is also worth a gander …

James Corden is definitely up for a Golden Globe or Oscar it’s that kind of performance.”

Bad Grandpa  (2013)    61/100

Rating :   61/100                                                                       92 Min        15

Normally, trailers for films don’t usually wet The Red Dragon’s appetite much, partly due to overexposure and partly due to having a somewhat voracious appetite, but the ad for this did have me looking forward to seeing the full movie. The difference is though, that with the trailer the fact that this involves pranks on real people is not so prevalent on the consciousness of the audience, whereas it is foremost on one’s mind when watching the film and it’s not so easy to switch off completely and enjoy it – although all the people whose faces aren’t blotted out did give their permission to appear in the final edit.

This is of course the latest Jackass film, one with a slight alteration to their previous movies as here Johnny Knoxville dresses up as the titular Bad Grandpa, Irving Zisman, and goes on a road trip with his grandson, played by Jackson Nicoll. A lot of the gags are funny, just not as much as I was expecting them to be – all except for the beauty pageant scene, which never failed to get a laugh in the cinema when the trailer was on and despite seeing it many times over, it is still quite hilarious. A slightly higher rating is probably merited when watched with a couple of beers and your mates …

Closed Circuit  (2013)    63/100

Rating :   63/100                                                                       96 Min        15

A thriller based around two lawyers assigned to a high profile terrorism trial in London. The lawyers in question are played by Rebecca Hall and Eric Bana – with Julia Stiles, Riz Ahmed, Ciarán Hinds, Jim Broadbent and Anne-Marie Duff rounding out an impressive cast list as the various journalists, MI5 agents and other interested parties that get involved. It’s a jittery start with somewhat ropey editing attempting to set the scene as the legal team are given separate investigations to follow in order to represent their client. A client who stands accused of helping to orchestrate a suicide bombing in the city, but his defense are legally bound to keep their investigations secret from one another when the trial is separated into a public hearing and one behind closed doors – all in the interests of national security.

To be honest, whenever I watch a film with Rebecca Hall it takes me a while to get over just how strikingly beautiful she is and actually pay attention to what’s going on, and here she displays a certain vulnerability – a subtle nervousness that suits her character well as she tries to confront the difficult scenario she is faced with. The acting all round is fine, and the middle of the film does generate some real tension, it’s just not quite skillful enough to make it anything special in the end.

Ender’s Game  (2013)    75/100

Rating :   75/100                                                                     114 Min        12A

I loved this film. The premise seemed somewhat airy fairy – a young kid is selected as humanity’s best hope against an invading alien species that almost wiped us out the last time they dropped by to say hello, but actually it is delivered to us in quite a believable and entertaining way. Something anchored very strongly by Harrison Ford’s performance as the sort of grand training colonel, lending the necessary gravitas to the set up. Asa Butterfield as Ender is good, as are all the supporting young actors. There’s a decent amount of philosophy to chew on throughout the film, and the only real complaint to raise is the slight hiccup with a few minor editing choices for the last minute or two of the film – these overall don’t really matter, but it is a shame as they sort of define the feeling you walk away from the film with. Similar in essence to ‘The Hunger Games’ (12) and just as good.

Walesa – Man of Hope / Czlowiek z nadziei  (2013)    69/100

Rating :   69/100                                                                     127 Min        12

A very interesting film that charts the rise of electrician Lech Walesa, from dockland worker in Gdansk in the early seventies to the co-founder and leader of the first independent trade union movement in Poland (and indeed the Soviet bloc) over the next two decades, and eventually the winner of the Nobel peace prize and the presidency of the Polish nation. Internationally respected director Andrzej Wajda had in mind to simply relate a factual account of events, without the traditional sort of narrative that we might expect from a Hollywood biography – and the result is a fascinating story, albeit one that does lack a certain emotional connection at times.

Mixed in with the relation of events chronologically is an interview with Walesa that seems to try and provide insights into his character not given elsewhere, but here the film is at its weakest, with the meaning a little too ambiguous and unclear (anyone under the microscope in an interview is already giving us an out of context glimpse of their personality, likely with an agenda behind their answers) and the heavy stylised use of cigarettes – smoking certainly fits into the historical context here, but with the interview it serves no real purpose, and for a film decrying the corruption of big business it seems markedly odd to be kowtowing to one of the most pervasive, corrupt and destructive businesses there has ever been.

Notwithstanding the occasional drifting of one’s attention, the tale is a fascinating and important one, promoting the rights of the common man as well as the power of self belief and determination to accomplish truly great deeds, as we watch Walesa battle against severe, and at times deadly, political forces. Robert Wieckiewicz as Walesa is believable throughout and seems perfect for the role, with Agnieszka Grochowska as his beautiful but constantly stressed out wife just as good. Real archive footage was used throughout – sometimes with Wieckiewicz’s face digitally imposed on top, and the style of the film very much mirrors one shot in the seventies.

Captain Phillips  (2013)    73/100

Rating :   73/100                                                                     134 Min        12A

Tom Hanks stars as the eponymous captain Richard Phillips in this based on real events thriller, set in the waters off the horn of Africa as his large cargo vessel is beset by Somali pirates. The events took place in 2009, and although the film is engrossing and recommendable with a good leading performance from Hanks, much controversy has been caused by the depiction of his heroic efforts in the movie. In real life the captain seems to have a lot of questions to answer – with various crew members, who are suing the company they worked for, claiming he had something of a death wish, didn’t try to hide the crew as shown in the film, and sailed the ship unnecessarily close, in the region of three hundred kilometers too close, to the Somali coastline despite knowledge of several attacks on cargo vessels in the three weeks prior to their voyage.

Notwithstanding this disappointing information the film is still definitely worth a look in with a realistic and sustained feeling of suspense throughout – and the brave efforts of chief engineer Mike Perry are related to us just as they occurred in real life. With Hanks’ domineering popularity with movie goers and industry insiders alike (he was recently voted America’s most trustworthy person) perhaps together with the misfortune of being recently diagnosed with diabetes, it is quite likely this will garner him another Academy Award nomination next year. One by no means undeserved. From director Paul Greengrass (‘The Bourne Supremacy’ 04, ‘The Bourne Ultimatum’ 07, ‘Green Zone’ 10).

Enough Said  (2013)    69/100

Rating :   69/100                                                                       93 Min        12A

This low key drama featuring Julia Louis-Dreyfus, James Gandolfini, Catherine Keener and Toni Collette starts off badly with very little of any interest going on at all, and indeed a rather poor line when an adult witnesses a child dropping litter and chides her saying “What are you doing? You’re not British!”. Not impressed.

Eventually though, the film successfully gives us the impression that we are witnessing the lives of real people and therein lies the hook for the audience, as we watch divorcee Eva (Louis-Dreyfus) begin to fall in love with Gandolfini whilst she also comes to realise Keener, one of her massage patients, is the ex-wife of her new lover – an ex-wife who bitches about him constantly.

There is a bit of a spoiler in the trailer for this, so I would recommend avoiding it if you’re planning on watching the movie, but it becomes a pretty good drama with a small dash of understated comedy, and one that is laced with sadness being the penultimate film to feature the much loved Gandolfini, who passed away from a heart attack earlier this year. A performance made all the more poignant by its vulnerability and contrast to his more common, heavily masculine roles.

Escape Plan  (2013)    70/100

Rating :   70/100                                                                     115 Min        15

Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger once again put their decades old rivalry behind them and team up for their first non Expendables film together – and their powers combined have produced, for each, one of their better films. Stallone plays Ray Breslin, a security specialist who inters himself in maximum security prisons in order to then try and break out, thus testing their security. It all goes wrong, however, when the CIA ask him to test their not so legal prison for those the government would like to disappear, wherein he meets fellow inmate and soon to be buddy Emil Rottmayer, played by Arnold.

There are elements of both a really good prison break film and the sort of slightly cheesy action we would expect from the two powerhouses, combining to produce a really enjoyable film. The actual escape techniques run the gamut in terms of plausibility, and although some of them may not hold up so well under scrutiny they are at least sold to us in a believable fashion, and at times they are indeed quite clever. It’s always good to see these guys onscreen, and their camaraderie now compared to their rivalry before, which they admit helped drive both of them forward in their careers, is worthy of a film in itself. Jim Caviezel (‘The Thin Red Line’ 98) also appears in support, doing a very good job as the villainous head warden.

Le Week-End  (2013)    53/100

Rating :   53/100                                                                       93 Min        15

One can tell immediately from the trailer, which features married couple Jim Broadbent and Lindsay Duncan off for a weekend trip to Paris, that this is going to be a reflective piece on the state of the protagonist’s marriage, probably interjected with sparse moments of comedy to lighten the mood, with the tensions of various unresolved issues rearing their ugly heads in order to tug at similar threads with as many audience members as possible, all before reaching some sort of cleansing and redemptive conclusion. This is exactly what is delivered, a formula which can work if done well – as in ‘Before Midnight’ for example, but here subtle errors make it difficult for the story to feel genuine, and ultimately it feels like the husband and wife, who are both well educated intellectuals perfectly capable of expressing themselves fluently, have barely ever had a conversation together.

Moreover, our sympathies are supposed to be equally divided between the two of them, but Lindsay’s character repeatedly comes across as a sort of caustic emotional corpse, with her to-ing and fro-ing between various states of half-life never really ringing true. The setting of Paris merely adds to the feeling of inherent pretension, and one can’t help but laugh when they climb the stairs of Sacré-Cœur, turn around to admire the view and exclaim ‘Who would want to live anywhere else?’ and the camera cuts to … a completely flat, overcast landscape. Really? They could surely have waited for a nicer day at least. I’m sure Paris has lots of lovely areas, but my overriding memory of the place is a heavily urbanised sprawl towered over by a great big rusty pylon. Indeed, the film is careful to only show the Eiffel Tower from a distance during the day. There are several irritations throughout the film as well – such as ‘a meal’ made of Broadbent’s character’s trait of eating with his mouth open, which is gross to say the least – but then we the audience are subjected to listening to it during more than one scene. PUKE!! With Jeff Goldblum popping up in support, and directed by Roger Mitchell. Who has at least improved on his last effort – ‘Hyde Park on Hudson‘.

Turbo  (2013)    63/100

Rating :   63/100                                                                       96 Min        U

For youngsters, the smooth graphics, rich voice cast, and traditional tale of the underdog realising his dreams through determination and self belief will probably make this quite an enjoyable experience – for adult viewers it’s a little too simplistic and flat to really engage with.

Theo (Ryan Reynolds) and Chet (Paul Giamatti) are ordinary garden snails, ordinary, that is, except for Theo’s ambition to one day race in the Indy 500. Fortune smiles on the intrepid young mollusk when a freak accident effectively turns him into a miniature F1 car, allowing him the chance to fight for what he’s always wanted. With Samuel L. Jackson, Michael Peña, Luis Guzmán, Bill Hader, Snoop Dogg, Maya Rudolph, Richard Jenkins, Ken Jeong and Michelle Rodriguez in support, and an upcoming spin-off children’s TV series on Netflix due at the end of this year.