It is safe to say that Out Of The Furnace is a powerhouse of bleak. It is also safe to say, it’s outstanding.

Casey, Christian and Woody are exceptional. Bale is arguably the pick as we watch his character change before our eyes. He slips and slides towards an inevitable climax as every morsel of hope is stripped from him. It’s impactful stuff figuratively and literally. Grim, bone crunching sequences rain down freely from start to finish.

This is a deeply felt film about being a man in the primeval sense and about being your brothers guardian. Its primitive rendering of machismo will turn plenty of people off, but that doesn’t stop this flick being a cinematic high about fierce stoicism in the face of biblical hardship.

Glee on steroids I guess is the best way of describing Pitch Perfect. If you like musicals, you’re not going to be disappointed. Admittedly the character arcs are erratic to say the least, but that’s not why we watch. We watch to revel in the glory of The Breakfast Club, it’s Simple Minds title music and of course No Diggity sang a cappella in a drained swimming pool. A-ca-awesome! Or to be truthful, A-ca-better than average.

Pitch-Perfect-Anna-Kendrick

The Howling is quality 80s horror. It’s not in the same league as American Werewolf In London, but as far as films about hairy man dogs go it’s a good one. Plus the special effects are splendidly gruesome and robust.

The Howling

More Than A Game doesn’t have an IMDB entry, but you can watch the whole thing on Vimeo, just hit the link.

The world of competitive video gaming is certainly worthy of being delved into, just watch The King Of Kong: A Fistful Of Quarters for confirmation of this. Unfortunately this look at the worlds best Super Street Fighter 4 players lacks the characters, insight, raw enthusiasm and narrative that made TKOKAFOQ the achievement it is. Regardless though it’s still a decent watch.

More Than A Game

Mads is one of my favourite actors. Typecasting him, the role he plays in The Hunt is outside his usual domain. He’s not exactly known for his sympathetic roles.

It’s grim but compelling viewing as a small community rallies against Mads’ character behind an ubsubstantiated accusation of kiddie-fiddling. The narrative is unbearably tense throughout and peppered with explosions of unsurpassed dramatic intensity. There are two scenes especially that will stick with you, one of which involves the most satisfying cinematic head-butt ever committed to screen.

The Hunt

TRON: Legacy isn’t what I expected. I actually liked it. Well, I liked the motorcycle and plane scenes. They’re seriously well crafted. Unfortunately there is a staggering amount of chat about computer science stuff that feels entirely unnecessary. While these are happening though it’s easy to let yourself be distracted by all the pretty lights. Just be like a movie loving moth. Also two words on the young Jeff Bridges/Clu, fucking creepy.

It’s not terrible, but The Sitter isn’t quality either. It’s in that comedy category where there are enough, admittedly well spaced, chortles to make it to the end without ever feeling totally obliged to get up from your couch and do something more worthwhile. That said come the end you do wonder why you bothered. No surprises, a few chuckles and Jonah Hill. If that’s your thing… Even Sam Rockwell can’t elevate it above distinctly average.

The Sitter Jonah Hill

The second screener was The Trials Of Cate McCall due out on the 7th July. Now this might be just me, but courtroom dramas do feel like a bi-product of the 90s and this is no exception.

Does this make it bad? No. Does it hamper it? Yes. It doesn’t feel relevant or as significant as it should. It’s all a bit ’90210′ (original series). Beckinsale is miscast and although she is more than capable of carrying a film she has to, through no fault of her own, battle against this. She’s too ‘perfect’, something her character is constantly shown not to be to the point of distraction. It’s as if the film is fighting against the associations an audience has with the actress. Nolte does his grizzled thing and aside from that no-one else has much to do.

There is also a lot of chat. All the significant incidents are discussed rather than shown. A choice most likely to keep the viewer’s perspective in line with McCall’s and a legacy of its made for TV origins. But even so there is still no dynamism to anything, there’s barely a raised voice.

Intriguingly too Taye Diggs is way up on the cast list, yet never appears. It’s a conspicuous absence…

The Trials Of Cate McCall Kate Beckinsale Nick Nolte

A screener for Expecting arrived slightly premature of its VOD 30th June due date and as it stars Michelle Monaghan I reckoned it would be well worth a look.

Monaghan plays wild friend to Mitchell’s settled down desperate to have a kid Lizzie. Monaghan becomes pregnant thanks to a one night stand and the plot runs with it from there. The outcome is a sort of reserved version of Knocked Up. There isn’t the explicitness or commitment required to make things really comedic or dramatic, and setups seem forced meaning nothing rings true.

That’s not to say it’s a terrible movie, it’s just too easy going, too matinee. Monaghan does lift proceedings but even she struggles to nail down her characters traits, a vital flaw of the whole shebang.

It’s worth mentioning the scenes with the therapist played by Mimi Kennedy because these although almost outside of the actual plot hint at what could have been. Unfortunately the lack of a strong hand in both the writing and behind the camera leave this flick floundering.

Expecting Michelle Monaghan

The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug is a trick. I sit for two hours happily enjoying myself at the spectacle of it all, admiring Evangeline’s pointy ears and then the film ends. And it dawns on me that nothing has happened. That’s not strictly true, a lot has happened I mean the screen is packed with stuff going on. In terms of narrative though, the journey has moved barely to the end of the street. It’s so frustrating, basically you’ve been fed padding for the duration and only at the end do you realise this.

Amongst all this though it has to be said Freeman is sensational as Bilbo.

Nymphomaniac: Vol. I & Nymphomaniac: Vol. II are out there and Shia’s accent is every bit as incomprehensible as you’ve heard. Nevertheless it wasn’t quite as horrific and sordid as I’d expected, which was a relief. Obviously these preconceptions came in the light of having seen Antichrist, so I should probably caveat that sentiment with a ‘relevantly’.

There is no denying that Von Trier is as interesting as he is controversial and this pair of films reflect that. However I wouldn’t be put off, if you’ve enjoyed his previous work you’re going to get something out of these films too. Who can resist masses of meaningless sex on a train compared to the finer points of fly fishing!?

Flaws, Vol. I is better than Vol. II. The second movie pushes the suspension of disbelief too far for my liking and I hated the end. It wouldn’t surprise me though if that was intended by design.

Nymphomaniac Stacy Martin

This is tough for me because I usually like the work of everyone involved in this film, however Don Jon isn’t good. It feels like a bad 80s sitcom of New Jersey life was used as the only reference point. The cliches pile up to smothering levels before characters break type unfathomably to become ‘better’ people. Heart was in the right place, execution was scattergun at best, offensive at worst.

Don Jon

Philomena is an staggering story. In part because of the coincidences and revelations it revealed to those involved and in part because you can’t believe what atrocities are carried out by some frighteningly self-righteous nuns. Dench is phenomenal, she’s never not her character, which is quite the achievement when you’re arguably the most famous actress on the planet. Coogan too, does not fall short. This film is well worth the accolades bestowed upon it.

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Unfortunately I was not entirely swept up by Inside Llewyn Davis. It’s a good film but I found the eponymous lead played by Oscar Isaac not that likeable, and even worse, not that interesting. The vignette with Goodman and his driver I enjoyed a lot predominantly because the dialogue changed pace, quickened and had a real beat to it. Obviously the music is sensational too, but this Coen brothers fan was left a little indifferent to proceedings.

Inside Llewyn Davis Oscar Isaac

I’m with the critics that liked the The Counsellor. In fact, I sort of loved it. There’s a lot of expensive sunglasses, couture clothing, top marque cars and lavish, design laden locations on show and the characters that occupy them are it’s safe to say deluded, cretinous, insane and morally fucked. This has been enough to put people off, but McCarthy’s script gets away with.

McCarthy refuses to bow to Hollywood convention. There is no hope, when things go bad they go bad and nothing is going to change that. The characters know their world. They talk of what’s going to happen. And it happens. This might not be to everyone’s taste, but this in McCarthy’s hands and directed by Scott works wonders when, as a viewer, you catch on to how this is going to play out.

There’s no hope in this film but what it has in spades is sharp ass dialogue and scenes you won’t forget any time soon. In ten years, in twenty years even, people will still talk about Cameron and that Ferrari (catfish), Pitt and Fassbender’s to-and-fro convos, the separating of a motorcyclist’s head from his body and that motorised fucking neck-tie.

The Counsellor Cameron Diaz

There might be too much attention given to capturing the x-rated teen dream Dree Hemmingway in wayfarers at just the right tight angle in Starlet but this can be forgiven. Downtown LA sun and bleached out exteriors are a mainstay of this self-consciously indie flick yet the story at its core is a genuine one. And when everything falls away this is about avoiding preconceptions and being nice to one another. Can’t dislike that.

Starlet