Tag Archives: Gemma Arterton

The Girl with All the Gifts (2016)

With the film adaptation of The Last of Us — in my opinion the greatest video game of all time — looking less and less likely by the day, I decided to check out the movie people are calling the next best thing: The Girl with All the Gifts (well, at least until Logan comes out later this year).

Yes, it’s a low budget British film, but I was still surprised how little buzz the film received, especially considering that it stars two very recognisable names in Gemma Arterton and Glenn Close. And it’s a post-apocalyptic zombie movie too, and the genre is super popular these days.

Whatever the reason, the world is missing out on a great zombie movie, one that would have easily been the best of the year but for the awesome Train to BusanThe Girl with All the Gifts is intriguing, thought-provoking, tense, dramatic, and above all, pretty darn horrific. It’s an excellent standalone film that ticks all the boxes, including being based on a celebrated genre book (by MR Carey).

I don’t want to give away too much, as part of the pleasure of this movie is gradually discovering the world in which it is set. But basically, the film starts off in a future in which a bunch of kids are kept in cells as prisoners and rolled out in wheelchairs every day to undergo lessons given by a teacher named Helen (Gemma Arterton). There is one young girl, played by the phenomenal newcomer Sennia Nanua, who appears to be particularly intelligent and makes a connection with Helen, much to the displeasure of a military sergeant (Paddy Considine). Meanwhile, Glenn Close is hanging around as a mysterious authority figure.

The trailers and other synopses give away a lot more than that, but I would advise trying to stay away from such spoilers and finding them out for yourself throughout the movie. I love that sense of not knowing what’s going on and having to figure it out from the hints that the film drops. Having said that, I have noted that the film has been hailed as “similar” to The Last of Us, so you can probably connect the dots, though I will also say that there are sufficient differences in both premise, plot and characters to give audiences a fresh experience.

The biggest strength of The Girl with All the Gifts is the girl, Sennia Nanua, who just steals every scene she is in with this blend of innocence, curiosity and fear. It’s a remarkably self-assured performance that carries the film from start to finish, and really helps audiences empathise with her character and care about her fate. As with most zombie movies, it’s the characters that make all the difference. You know the kind of quality you’re getting with veteran actors like Arterton and Close, so I was pleasantly surprised by how Nanua dominated the film with her presence.

The zombies in the film are fantastic and look, as far as I can tell, like they are played by real people in most of the scenes as opposed to CGI. They’re genuinely freaky, and director Colm McCarthy does a great job of utilising their characteristics to build suspense and deliver thrills. The set designs and visuals of the landscapes do remind me a lot of The Last of Us, so I do wonder if McCarthy has played the game and/or is a fan of it.

The main negatives about the film are some of the rules regarding how the zombies operate, which don’t appear to be consistent or logical all the time. There are also parts of the movie, particular in the beginning, that have that ugly greyish tone a lot of British movies have (and signifies boring), which is the main reason why it took me a little while to fully get into it.

In all, The Girl with All the Gifts still gets a big two thumbs up from me. Intelligent, scary, provocative and heartfelt, it’s everything I want from a Last of Us adaptation if they ever get around to it.

4 stars out of 5

2012 Movie Blitz: Part 12

Yes, there are still movies from 2012 that I have not yet finished reviewing or watching. But I am getting there. I swear. Here are four more film reviews.

Byzantium (2012)

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This was one I had been really forward to because it’s directed by Neil Jordan, and I really needed Saoirse Ronan to redeem herself in my mind after the disaster that was The Host. I’m still not 100% sure what to make of Byzantium, which is an interesting twist on the vampire genre and relies a lot on its brooding and melancholic atmosphere as opposed to cheap scares — though I wish I could have found it more engaging and frightening.

Gemma Arterton and Saoirse Ronan are a mother and daughter vampire pair who have been around for a few hundred years by surviving on human blood. The story is dominated by a back story dating back to the Napoleonic Wars of how they became who they are, interspersed with their modern day exploits and typical (or not so typical) mother-daughter tensions. And of course, there are mysterious people hunting them down.

It’s a very dark (literally — the film is almost always poorly lit), bloody and violent film that provides a welcome escape from all the vampire lover fantasies we’ve had in recent years. I also loved the whole concept of how they are made into vampires and the way they transform when they feed. It’s different and haunting, driven by two very strong performances from Arterton and Ronan.

On the other hand, the dreariness got to me a little as the film progressed, and I yearned for less melodrama and more excitement. The back story, to be brutally honest, was somewhat predictable and stale, and I think that is what dragged the film down and prevented it from being an exceptional vampire flick. A minor disappointment because of high expectations, but not a bad film to catch on DVD on a rainy night.

3.25 stars out of 5

Cosmopolis (2012)

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So I keep hearing about what a great American writer Don DeLillo is, and Cosmopolis is based on one of his novels. And it’s directed by David Cronenberg (who gave us the magnificent A History of Violence and Eastern Promises in the last few years). Sure, it starred Shovelface, aka Robert Pattinson, but Cosmopolis was definitely high on my list of most anticipated movies of the year.

What’s it about? That’s hard to describe, but essentially it’s about a young billionaire (Shovelface) trying to head to his barber in a limo and gets sidetracked. He meets a bunch of people (from his wife to an assortment of mistresses) and things suddenly start to spiral out of control. Just 109 minutes of people saying and doing strange, random, confusing things.

The film has gotten mixed reviews and two minutes in I could see why. Cosmopolis seems like a great story on the paper, but adapted to the screen and it just feels all wrong. Every scene and conversation feels painfully contrived, like they are trying to sound mysterious and befuddling. No one on the history of the planet has ever spoken like the characters in this film, and yet everyone in it speaks in the same way.

I like the feeling of not knowing what is going on as things are slowly revealed to me throughout the film, but this film tries way too hard to mess with the audience’s mind and challenges them to look for deeper meaning (the follies of capitalism and materialism, perhaps?) when there isn’t really anything to look for. At least it feels that way anyway.

Cronenberg’s direction is stylish and the film is atmospheric, and the performances are strong, though that doesn’t make up for all its faults. It’s disappointing because there was definitely potential here, but instead all Cosmopolis did for me was bore and frustrate.

1.5 stars out of 5

Killing Them Softly (2012)

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I was warned about Killing Them Softly, which received praise from critics but was panned by many regular people who watched it. In fact, I was warned by an aunt to avoid it at all costs because it might bore me to death. Being the sucker for punishment that I am, I braced myself and watched it anyway, and to be honest I just thought it was OK — not boring, not great. Just OK.

The premise is simple. Ray Liotta runs an underground gambling ring for mafia types and once held up his own den to steal money off his patrons. Armed with the knowledge if that it happened again that people would automatically point the finger at Ray, a couple of goons (Ben Mendelsohn and Scoot McNairy) are hired to rob the place. In the aftermath, a hitman played by Brad Pitt, who likes to “kill them softly” (ie, quick and relatively painless) is assigned to…sort things out.

This is one of those movies I probably would have fallen asleep in a few years ago, but nowadays I have come to appreciate the art of “slow storytelling” and have come to understand why certain films are paced in a certain way. Killing Me Softly is undeniably slow, with lots of well-crafted dialogue and pauses. But the dark and bleak noir atmosphere is definitely intriguing, and when the violence hits it is brutal and uncompromising.

Having said all that, there’s not a lot about the movie that makes it something I would want to recommend to others. It’s simply a well-made movie that is slow and gritty, with big name stars delivering the expected strong performances. I wouldn’t call it boring, though it’s not exactly entertaining either.

2.75 stars out of 5

The Expatriate (2012)

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Known as Erased in the US, The Expatriate is a bit of a “meh” film in the sense that it’s perfectly adequate but does little to suggest that it should be anything other than a straight-to-DVD film, which is is.

Aaron Eckhart is a former CIA agent (kinda like Liam Neeson in Taken) who is living with his daughter in Brussels while working as a security expert. One day he suddenly discovers that all traces of his existence have been “erased”, so to speak, forcing him on the run as his ex-colleagues all start dropping dead. So essentially the whole movie is about him trying to survive while figuring out what big conspiracy he has been dragged into.

It’s not the most original premise, but there are elements of the film that work effectively for this to be an above average thriller. But when you have movies like Taken and those from the Bourne franchise (which this film borrows from liberally), a movie like The Expatriate pales in comparison and feels almost redundant.

I’m a fan of Aaron Eckhart and I think he does a great job in it, but it’s hard to like a movie when you feel like you’ve pretty much seen everything before, except done better.

2.5 stars out of 5

Movie Review: Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters (3D) (2013)

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I’m not sure what spell I was under that made me go and see Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters, the latest instalment to the fairytale/historical ‘reimaginings’ Hollywood loves so much nowadays. What’s worse, this film was forced upon me in 3D, with no non-rip off 2D versions available anywhere (as far as I could find, anyway).

The premise is simple: Hansel and Gretel (Jeremy Renner and Gemma Arterton), the brother and sister from the classic Grimm fairytale, after killing a witch as per the story, grow up to become adult witch hunters. Bet you didn’t expect that!

The famed duo take their witch-killing talents to a small village where small children have been missing, and agree to help the mayor find the kids and slay the nasties, much to the disdain of local sheriff (Peter Stromare).

What ensues is a lot of witch hunting and fighting against the head nasty (Famke Janssen) and her minions. In 3D.

If you’re in the mood for something silly, you might enjoy Hansel and Gretel’s adventures. I, on the other hand, failed miserably to engage with this film despite not expecting a whole lot in the first place.

I suppose the aim of the filmmakers was to create something that people would think is cool (killing witches), make it a little scary and a little funny, and add a dash of money-grabbing 3D. But the problem was that the film was not very funny or very scary. Sure the witches looked nasty, but they were more comical (in a bad way) than frightening. And the majority of the humour lacked punch and came across as fairly lame. There really wasn’t anything that made this film stand out from other similar efforts.

Gemma Arterton does her best but Jeremy Renner, Academy Award nominee, looked like he was just there for the money. Plus he has the least suitable face for a fairytale in probably all of Hollywood — he just looks too…modern.

Another major gripe is the action, which had little originality and was plagued by rapid cuts that made it difficult to figure out what the heck was going on at times. Throw in the arbitrary, annoying and pointless 3D, and what you have is an uninspiring, all-round mess.

1.75 out of 5

Qantas In-Flight Movie Blitz!

I need to get this one out quickly because all of the movies are fading fast from my memory.  On my trip to China a couple of months ago I saw 2 movies on the flight there and 2 on the way back.  Keep in mind that I was under the influence of anti-anxiety medication for all 4 films.

Thanks to Qantas for having such a terrific collection of reasonably new films, even in economy.  I’ll let all the safety issues slide this time.

The Switch (2010)

Huge fan of Jason Bateman (largely because of Arrested Development) but not much of a fan of Jennifer Aniston.  Unfortunately, the Aniston factor overrode the Bateman factor on this film about a dude (Bateman) who switched the sperm sample used for the artificial insemination of his best friend (Aniston).

This was a strange film.  The main problem is that while it’s an interesting idea, there’s just nothing fresh about it.  Its biggest sin is that it’s supposed to be a comedy but it’s not particularly funny.  Damn you, Aniston.

1.75 stars out of 5

Conviction (2010)

This was one of those inspirational true stories starring Hilary Swank.  She plays Betty Ann Waters, a remarkable woman who went to law school and became a lawyer just so she could prove her brother’s innocence.  That’s dedication for you.

While Conviction was good, anchored by the usual strong performance by Swank and also by Sam Rockwell as her brother Kenneth, it wasn’t as good as I thought it would be.  It was dramatic but occasionally slow, heartfelt but occasionally melodramatic.  Good but not great.

3.25 stars out of 5

SPOILERS: By the way, this was not mentioned in the film, but Kenneth Waters actually fell off a wall and died just 6 months after his release from prison (where he spent around 20 years).  That’s just so brutal I’m lost for words.

Tamara Drewe (2010)

I recently checked out the comic book from which this film was based, and I must say I found it a little boring.  The film, on the other hand, was a surprising delight.  It’s one of those well-made little films that explores human nature.  It stars Gemma Arterton as the titular character, who returns home to a small village in England to sell the house she inherited from her deceased mother.

I guess a part of the reason I liked the film was because Tamara is a journalist and the film is set around a writers’ retreat, which provided many opportunities for clever humour.  It’s not a masterpiece by any means, but Tamara Drewe was probably the best film out of the 4.

3.5 stars out of 5

Morning Glory (2010)

This was a coming-of-age film about the morning television industry and the crazy stuff that goes on behind the scenes.  I really like Rachel McAdams and she does a great job here as the young up-and-comer on the show ‘DayBreak’.  Harrison Ford and Diane Keaton are also both very good as the anchors.

It’s a charming film because of the characters and performances but unfortunately not as enjoyable as I thought it would be.  Even though there haven’t been very many films with the same subject matter, I somehow felt like I had seen it all before.  Perhaps all such films have the same formula?  Or perhaps I’m just not really into the world of morning TV?

3 stars out of 5

End of Year DVD Blitz: Part IV

I guess this will be the final part of my ‘End of Year DVD Blitz’, considering it is the new year, after all.  Four more here, then I’ll have to start my ‘Start of Year DVD Blitz’ (since I still have a bunch to watch).

Machete (2010)

Apparently Machete is a character from the children’s film Spy Kids and stemmed from a fake trailer in Grindhouse, but this Robert Rodrigue (and Ethan Maniquis) film stands on its own just fine.

In Machete, Machete (Danny Trejo) is a Mexican badass that likes to use, uh, machetes to hack people up.  And there’s plenty of that intentionally fake, gory violence that was employed in Grindhouse, though for me it was still cringeworthy watching limbs and heads hacked off.  The film features of trio of sassy ladies — Jessica Alba, Michelle Rodriguez and Lindsay Lohan — and excellent bad guys, such as Robert De Niro, Jeff Fahey and in probably the best role of his career, Steven Segal.

Machete is fun, entertaining and loud-out-loud funny at times, though the ‘fake exploitation’ angle does get a little old quickly.  It’s a movie you’re likely to remember a few years from now, though you’ll probably have no idea what it was all about.  I actually have trouble remembering right now, but I do recall it was fun while it lasted.

3.25 stars out of 5


The Disappearance of Alice Creed (2009)

Perfect example of a tight, well-written script and excellent direction (by J Blakeson).

Gemma Arterton is the titular Alice Creed, who is kidnapped by two goons (Martin Compston and Eddie Marsan).  It seems like a standard kidnapping film, except that it’s not.  The Disappearance of Alice Creed is an intelligent film full of thrills, tension, and twists and turns.  Shows that you can make a great film that doesn’t have to be lengthy (96 minutes) and has a limited set and budget (most of it takes place in a couple of rooms), as long as it has a good script, a good director and good actors.

This film might have gotten most of its press from the fact that Arterton gets her kit off but it’s definitely one of the better thrillers I’ve seen this year.

4 stars out of 5


Skrek Forever After (2010)

I liked the first Shrek and liked the second, and I can’t remember whether I saw the third (and don’t care).  I kind of approached this fourth, and supposedly final film in the franchise with the same indifference — thinking that it would be pretty funny but wary because I was afraid they have milked the same jokes too far.

As it turned out, I was pleasantly surprised.  In this one, Shrek, married with children, is bored with living ‘happily ever after’, and in a moment of weakness hastily signs a contract that turns his world upside down.  By creating an alternate universe and a brand new villain (Rumpelstiltskin — played by Walt Dohrn), DreamWorks has reinvigorated an otherwise stale franchise.  A lot of the jokes have been recycled, but there are some new ones to keep things fresh and funny.  The magic and the excitement may no longer be there, but the laughs certainly are.

It may be because my expectations were relatively low, but I think this one was definitely better than the third film, whether or not I actually watched it.

3.5 stars out of 5

Get Him to the Greek (2010)

I’ve always thought any movie with a Judd Apatow connection has been overrated.  Some of them may have been pretty good, or at least different to a lot of the same old crap we had been seeing over the last few years, but none of them have been, in my humble opinion, as great as they have been made out to be.

Get Him to the Greek is, and I don’t say this lightly, the WORST movie I have seen this year.  Maybe not from a technical standpoint, but I truly loathed this film, to the point where I had to challenge myself to finish the damn thing.  This is incredibly rare for me as I’m usually known to be quite generous when it comes to reviewing movies.

Where do I start with this crap?  It’s a comedy-drama that is brutally unfunny for the vast majority of its 109 minute running time.  I wasn’t even in a bad mood, so I can’t blame it on that.  I actually thought Russell Brand’s character Aldous Snow was the highlight of the 2008 film Forgetting Sarah Marshall (from which this film spun off), but here he was just an annoying prick.  And despite his girth, Jonah Hill, whom I’ve never been a big fan of, simply cannot carry the film as the protagonist.  Maybe he tries too hard, but neither him nor Brand are likeable or sympathetic characters.  And don’t even get me started on P Diddy, who received rave reviews for his performance as a foul mouthed record company head.  His act got old on me real quick too.  Only Rose Byrne’s character, Jackie Q, cracked me up a couple of times.

Am I being too harsh here?  I dunno.  All I do know is that I have rarely felt such passionate distaste for a film.  If people being incredibly obnoxious and vulgar, constantly swearing (in an unfunny way), constantly vomiting and being obsessed with anuses is your idea of humour, then maybe you might like it better than I did.  The randomness worked well in Sarah Marshall because Snow was a minor character, but here it felt contrived.  I just didn’t get this one.

0.5 stars out of 5

Movie Review: Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time (2010)

I’ve been a fan of Prince of Persia as a video game since the 2003 version on the PS2, The Sands of Time.  However, given the track record of game-to-movie adaptations, I wasn’t expecting a whole lot from the Disney spin-off film, Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Gemma Arterton and Ben Kingsley, and directed by Mike Newell (Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire).

Well, I didn’t hate it, but it didn’t do a whole lot for me in the end either.

Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time (let’s just call it PoP from now on) is first and foremost of popcorn movie, and as such, it isn’t too bad.  The action and the feel of the film, for the most part, is exciting.  As there is a lot of running around, being chased and fending off enemies, the film has this kind of Arabian Nights/Aladdin feel to it, which I thought was pretty cool.  You know, lots of sand, people dressed in cloaks, a tightly built city, arrows and daggers, that sort of thing.  I can honestly say that the film captured, to the extent it could have, the essence of the original video game on which it was based.

Before I forget, yes, PoP does have a plot.  The plot revolves around a King, a few Princes, a Princess, a poorly concealed villain, and a magical weapon that can turn back time.  It’s an adventure film that takes the central characters on a journey, and on their way to solving a mystery they find out a few things about the world and about each other.  Not exactly groundbreaking stuff but it could have been a lot worse.

Jake Gyllenhaal, looking all buffed and tanned, makes a fine Prince Dastan, capturing the spirit of the video game character by climbing off walls, jumping from building to building, swinging off beams, poles and so forth.  It was probably all stunt doubles, but nevertheless…whoever it was, it looked like fun.  He’s a good, but not very memorable character because he lacks the charm of, say, a Captain Jack Sparrow.

Gemma Arterton has been in a lot of big movies lately (I last saw her in Clash of the Titans), but I don’t quite understand why she is so popular yet.  She’s not a bad actress and she’s certainly not unattractive, but there’s something about her character, Princess Tamina, that got me irritated whenever she was on screen.  Perhaps it was because she tried too hard to be a “feisty” heroine.  Or maybe it was just the whiny voice.

Ben Kingsley doesn’t get to do a whole lot here, so it was up to Alfred Molina to save the minor characters with his Sheik Amar, who provided most of the comic relief.  Steve Toussaint, who plays his knife-throwing sidekick, was probably the coolest character of the entire film, and he has a climatic battle that tops the action sequences.

My problem with PoP was that the pieces didn’t all fit together.  Most aspects of the film were adequate, but nothing was particularly outstanding.  In terms of excitement, action, comedy, drama and special effects, the film was above average in all departments, but the sum of the parts didn’t elevate it to another level.  I want my big budget blockbusters to be great, not just good.  And if there is one major gripe, it’s the ending.  I absolutely hated it.

3.25 stars out of 5