At the Cinema: January 2010

New year, new decade, new resolution to keep the blog up to date. Starting from this month, I’ll be posting a monthly round-up of my trips to the cinema. As they will be very short reviews, it hardly seems worth publishing them separately, but hopefully once a month won’t be too arduous for anyone. I’ll also try and post initial reactions via Twitter, if you’re one of the twitterati.

Edge of Darkness (2010) 

Mel Gibson returns in this reasonable thriller from Casino Royale director Martin Campbell. Based on the classic 80s BBC TV series, Gibson stars as Thomas Craven, a Boston detective whose daughter is gunned down on his doorstep. Initially convinced he was the target, Craven soon begins to uncover a conspiracy involving his daughter’s employer, a company that has some secrets to hide. Gibson is on fine form in his first acting role in seven years. The plot is good, but has clearly been squeezed in to a much shorter running time than the original series, and suffers for it; a more measured pace would have paid greater dividends in some places. Still, there’s plenty to enjoy here, particularly Ray Winstone as a mysterious agent with uncertain loyalties. 3/5

Daybreakers (2009)

Semi-intelligent stab at a different sort of vampire movie, where the world has been overrun by vampires and humans are now an endangered species. This poses all sorts of questions, not least of which is: what do vampires eat when human blood has run out? Some intriguing ideas are raised by Daybreakers, and the strong cast (including Sam Neill and Willen Dafoe) do their best, but alas the film squanders them through some dumb dialogue, uninvolving action and an unsatisfying ending. Nice try though. 3/5

Up in the Air (2009)

Delightful comedy-drama about a corporate gun-for-hire (George Clooney) who makes a living doing the one job no-one wants to do: laying off staff. Living almost permanently out of a suitcase as he flies across the States, his beloved self-imposed emotional exile is brought crashing down when his own job is suddenly under threat, at the same time meeting a woman (Vera Farmiga) who could well be his perfect companion. At times very funny, at others moving and thought-provoking, this is a winner on almost every count. Clooney is perfect as the high-flyer who comes back down to Earth with a jolt; very much a Cary Grant sort of role, and he gives the film much of its heart. Director Jason Reitman continues his swift ascent to the top flight of Hollywood directors following Juno with a characteristically quirky yet totally accessible parable of our times. 5/5

Avatar (2009)

‘Cowboys and Indians in space’ sums up James Cameron’s sci-fi action drama, as humans try to take over a mineral-rich moon from its indigenous population. Using genetically engineered ‘avatars’ (alien bodies controlled by humans), the company hopes to encourage the natives to leave – but one avatar begins to switch sides. A brilliantly realised production makes Avatar a must see, especially in 3D – the alien world is a marvel to look at. Cameron hasn’t lost his touch when it comes to the action either; plenty of edge-of-the-seat excitement here. If there’s one flaw, it’s the script. Cameron’s weakness is usually his writing, and there are a few duff lines; the plot also has been nicked from Dances with Wolves, spliced with scenes from FernGully. But these are minor flaws in what is a true spectacle. 4/5

Nowhere Boy (2009)

Solid dramatisation of John Lennon’s formative years, as he gets in to trouble at school, discovers why he lives with his aunt (Kristin Scott Thomas) instead of his mum (Anne-Marie Duff), learns to play the guitar, and meets a bloke called Paul. Strong performances from a good cast, including newcomer Aaron Johnson, make this an engaging musical history lesson. 4/5

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