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Sunday, 6 January 2013

THIS WEEK: Pitch Perfect/Quartet/Even The Rain/The Prey (Le Proie)

0 - No Redeeming Feature
1 - Poor
2 - Passable
3 - Good.  Rent it.
4 - Full Price
5 - Must See!

The new year brings with it a host of promising films and here follows my take on one of the first releases of 2013, along with no less than three previously unwatched movies.  Yes, I did well this week.


Anna Kendrick is coming to prove her worth with her last few film choices; whether one likes the movies or not, she is undeniably a strong screen presence and an actress who, like Pattinson, appears to have the talent to get out from under the Twilight shadow in the long-run.  Here she plays Beca, a woman who joins Barden Universtiy with one goal, to become a DJ.  Upon arrival she is swiftly accosted in the shower by Aubrey, who hears her singing voice, and is almost ordered to join the all-girl singing group The Bellas.  The Bellas compete each year in the campus singing competition, and it is clear that this time they have more to overcome than just their male competition, The Treblemakers.

It featuring a lot of teens straight out of performing arts, musical set pieces, witty one-liners, and is directed by Jason Moore, responsible for episodes of Dawson's Creek and One Tree Hill, among others.  The Glee similarity is all too clear, and Moore's TV roots do show; given that, there is no denying the trepidation I felt walking in.  Much to my surprise, then, and I would by lying to say otherwise, I found myself entertained.  Yes, it is exactly what you would expect when you look at the poster, not much more or less, but it is raised above the average by the musical elements genuinely working well, the refreshing look at the girl group as human beings with different personalities, rather than as being simply 'mean girls', and a strong sense that Moore understands its intended audience.  This is perhaps best reflected by the choice to heavily reference The Breakfast Club in the story; many who watch Pitch Perfect may not have seen it, but could well be encouraged to go take a look, and understand the use of this coming-of-age classic as a reference point due to its influence.  It is not to say the two are at all in the same league, but it is to say the movie remains arguably the most iconic of the field Pitch Perfect is aiming to be included in.  The narrative and character development is fairly weak and there is no getting around the fact it is clearly at its best when being funny or breaking out the music action, but it is what it is and it does the job well.

Most people will recognise the standout element of the film, the thing most people will talk about, as Bridesmaids' Rebel Wilson as Fat Amy; she is intentionally given some of the best lines and she delivers superbly.  The film is worth watching for her!  Pitch Perfect will do exactly what we expect, be popular for a while, particularly with the crowd into this sort of movie, and then gradually be forgotten, but Wilson is a comedy gem of the future; she is here to stay!

At cinemas now.


Dustin Hoffman directs what is otherwise a quintessentially British play-turned-film. A quartet of yesteryear's professional opera stars are asked to perform again at a gala, which will save the retirement home in which they now live. You might be forgiven for assuming this will end up being a stuffy piece, about a boring topic, which will hold only the interest of a select audience, but you would be wrong on all counts.

Quartet's winning stroke is the casting; I could not imagine a better line-up of four performances I would rather watch.  Not one of the principal cast drop the ball and I am hard pushed to choose any actor's performance over another; this is supported by the fact they are given such humorous, touching, and most importantly, real dialogue to deliver and honest emotion to play.  The situation that emerges and how it plays out all feels so natural, there is no avoiding being drawn in, entertained, and ultimately moved by it.

The film is no longer than it needs to be, rather dry with its humour, touching with its sentimentality, without over-egging it, and well observed in its detailing of the people you are watching.  You come to realise, fairly quickly, that what is important is not whether you enjoy the subject of the music, or whether you are of an age that you will naturally relate to the characters, but just that you understand the frame of reference through which the touching story of love and regrets plays out.  It is not a film to set the world on fire, and will likely be swiftly overshadowed, but it does what it does very well.  It is a touching, enjoyable movie for all, which will likely find its most loyal audience outside of the cinema, on a lazy Sunday afternoon.

At cinemas now

3.5 / 5


An almost perfect drama, which beautifully balances the story of a film being made about exploitation of the New World with exploitation in the real world.  A film being made, about Columbus' discovery of the New World 500 years ago, enters turmoil as around the film makers the people of Bolivia enter into a volatile urban war over water.  In their efforts to complete what they consider an important movie no matter what, the question is whether the film makers are becoming a cog in the very machine their film decries?

It takes perhaps half an hour to settle into a groove, and with it being a foreign language movie, I might understand some people losing interest and switching offThis is a shame, as Even The Rain actually rewards patience; it becomes an extremely engaging drama about politics AND people; it is provocative, exciting, very well put together, and is easily among my top ten of 2010.  Telling a tremendous story and featuring a great screen presence in Luis Tosar as pragmatic producer Costa, this is a superb movie all should see.

Get it on DVD/Blu-Ray now.

4.5 / 5

Catch it if you like:  Che, Fair Game, The Hurt Locker, Lebanon.


Released in 2012 and totally overlooked, I won't say much about this except it is another typically impressive slice of French thriller cinema, looking like Hitchcock directing a Tarantino screenplay, if you can imagine such a thing.  Primarily a cat-and-mouse chase, it is a bit let down by its odd score, which does feel a bit Pink Panther at times, but it also features some terrific actions sequences, a wonderful central performance from Albert Dupontel, who cinephiles will be likely to recognise, and it is all underpinned by an exciting idea that feels like a Harlen Coben novel.  Worth checking out.

On DVD/Blu-Ray

3.5 / 5

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