I’ve decided to rename my ‘ratings’ posts to ’round-up’ as I try to actually write something now rather than just giving scores when I can.
The Host (2013
I know, I know, anything coming from the author behind Twilight is likely to be awful, but this was adapted and directed by Andrew Niccol (screenwriter for The Truman Show and director Gattaca). While I can only speculate about motivations, I sincerely hope Niccol delivered this steaming pile purely for the money. The paper thin plot involves aliens who take over human bodies, but a girl called Melanie (Saoirse Ronan) still seems to inhabit her mind, enabling her to speak to her alien occupier. The crushingly tedious and instantly forgettable tale then serves, like Twilight, as an excuse to see a very boring girl get swooned over by an equally boring hunky guy. Complete crap.
Anna Kendrick, a sometimes promising young actress, regresses here back to playing a student reluctantly attending college at the insistence of her professor father. This college exists in some strange fantasy world when a cappella singing groups are all the rage, so much so that many hopefuls try out for positions and rival groups exist. Kendrick reluctantly ends up joining the all-girl a cappella group and the film plays out a tiresomely predictable underdog story as they prepare for a competition against the arrogant, leading all male group. Other opinions and all that but all the music featured is all totally awful, in both its original and a cappella formats, and never appears to be actually being performed by the actors on screen (I couldn’t see anyone doing the rhythmic parts in the showdown). The film is hardly ever funny, with two big vomit based gags being low points, and predictably adds in a vapid romance with a boring but good looking man for its leading lady.
One of the things that has made Jason Statham so successful is that he appears to know what he’s good at and sticks to it. He hasn’t done exclusively action films, indeed he didn’t start out with them, but has become a mainstay of the genre over the last decade. On paper, Hummingbird (retitled to the more generic Redemption in the US) seems like an ideal vehicle for him to expand his repertoire with. It marks the directorial debut of Steven Knight, who wrote two excellent London crime dramas; Dirty Pretty Things and Eastern Promises. Like them, this also delves into London’s crime underworld (and involves immigrants). Statham plays a traumatised Afghanistan veteran, now homeless, who stumbles upon an empty, upper class apartment. Upon learning the owner is away for the summer he decides to take residence and ‘get his life back together’. It’s by no means an action movie but has a bit of action in it in fight scenes, it mainly follows Statham as he works for a Chinese gangster and tries to bond with a nun. To his credit, Statham never seems out of his depth in the dramatic scenes, and this is more interesting than many of his recent action movies. Knight shoots London well but can’t bring his story to life in a way that Stephen Frears and David Cronenberg did with his previous work.
This thriller from Machinist director Brad Anderson turns the spotlight on the little seen but important work performed by 911 call operators. It all starts out rather well as a teenage girl is abducted and placed in the boot of her captor’s car. She manages from there to make a 911 call to a veteran operator (Halle Berry) who must try to rescue her. It succeeds in being tense and gripping for some time, mostly playing out in real time, leaving you wondering if it can keep it up for a whole film. Unfortunately it can’t. After an hour or so it abandons its initial situation and turns into something much more silly and generic. Berry does solid work but the girl is overly hysterical and the villain lacklustre.