UK Cinema Releases: Friday 30th April 2010



Iron Man 2 (Paramount): The hotly anticipated sequel to the 2008 blockbuster is all set to rule the UK box office this weekend as it kicks off the summer season. Interestingly it opens here a week before the US, which suggests Paramount are keen to build buzz in international markets before it opens in the States. The story sees billionaire inventor Tony Stark aka Iron Man (Robert Downey Jnr) reaping the acclaim as an all-American hero who has “successfully privatised world peace” due to his fantastical suit. Problems begin when the US military and a rival defence contractor (Sam Rockwell) want access to his technology; a mysterious Russian inventor (Mickey Rourke) is hell bent on revenge; and Stark faces a major health from wearing the Iron Man suit.

The elements that made the first film such a success (Downey Jnr’s lead performance, the chemistry between characters) are stretched to unfortunate lengths as too many supporting characters from the wider Marvel universe are introduced (including Scarlett Johansson and Samuel L Jackson). It is still entertaining – and is a guaranteed hit – but Marvel and director Jon Favreau may regret the S.H.I.E.L.D plot elements in anticipation of the upcoming Avengers movie. [Odeon Leicester Square & Nationwide / 12A]

The Last Song (Walt Disney): A drama centered on a rebellious girl (Miley Cyrus) who is sent to a Southern beach town for the summer to stay with her father (Greg Kinnear), where they start to reconnect with one another through their mutual love of music.

Developed alongside the Nicholas Sparks novel by the same name, this looks like another attempt by Disney to make Miley Cyrus into a leading lady. The US reviews suggest this might be a trickier task than expected. [Empire Leicester Square & Nationwide / PG]

Gentlemen Broncos (20th Century Fox): A comedy about an aspiring fantasy writer (Michael Angarano) who has an idea stolen by an acclaimed novelist (Jemaine Clement) is under pressure to come up with a hit book.

Directed by Jared Hess (who made the breakthrough indie hit Napoleon Dynamite) this is something of a curiosity. Its release was delayed and when it did open in the US a few months ago was utterly savaged by critics, which makes its commercial prospects here fairly limited. [Ritzy & selected Key Cities / 12A]

A Disappearance Of Alice Creed (CinemaNX Distribution): A low budget British film about the kidnapping of a young woman (Gemma Arterton) by two ex-convicts (Martin Compston and Eddie Marsan).

Written and directed by J Blakeson it was shot in the Isle of Man (a popular location for production because of its generous tax breaks) and it screened at the London Toronto Film Festivals last year. Given the better than average names for a film of this size and a decent marketing effort, this could attract a reasonable audience who don’t fancy seeing Iron Man 2. [Vue West End & Nationwide / 15]


Erasing David (Picturehouse Cinemas): A documentary from director David Bond that explores the amount of personal information being gathered by various organisations in modern society. [Gate Notting Hill, Picturehouse Stratford, Ritzy & Nationwide]

24 City (New Wave Films): A hybrid drama-documentary from director Jia Zhang-ke about the changes in modern Chinese society as it undergoes its current economic miracle. [ICA Cinema & Key Cities / U]

A Boy Called Dad (Kaleidoscope Entertainment): A British film directed by Brian Percival about an absent father (Ian Hart) who returns to his family just as his 14-year-old sone has himself become a father. [Apollo Piccadilly Circus, Vue Shepherds Bush & Key Cities / 15]

Cleo From 5 To 7 (bfi Distribution): A BFI reissue for Agnès Varda’s 1961 film about a singer (Corinne Marchand) who befriends a young soldier (Antoine Bourseiller) about to ship out to Algeria. [BFI Southbank & Key Cities]

Housefull (Eros): A Bollywood film directed by Sajid Khan about ‘the world’s unluckiest man’ starring Akshay Kumar and Deepika Padukone [C’Worlds Ilford, Shaftesbury Ave., Odeon Greenwich, Vue Acton & N’wide]

The Milk Of Sorrow (Dogwoof): The winner of the Golden Bear in Berlin last year, deals the fears of abused women during Peru’s recent history. [Odeon Panton Street & selected Key Cities / 12A]

Revanche (Artificial Eye): An Austrian film about a man (Johannes Krisch) deadened by thoughts of revenge in the wake of a crime that was to grant him and his girlfriend a new life. Written and directed by Götz Spielmann. [Curzon Renoir & selected Key Cities / 15]

Valhalla Rising (Vertigo Films): Directed by Nicolas Winding Refn, this historical drama is set in 1000 AD and follows a Norse warrior named One-Eye (Mads Mikkelsen) and a boy named Are as they travel with a band of Vikings in pursuit of a Crusade. [Apollo Piccadilly Circus, Ritzy & Key Cites / 15]

DVD and Blu-ray Picks for Monday 26th April including Avatar and Mad Men Season 3
Get local cinema showtimes for your area via Google Movies

Regulators approve movie futures market

Yesterday U.S. regulators gave the go ahead for Cantor Futures Exchange, a market that will give speculators a way to bet on expected movie box office receipts.

The major Hollywood studios and cinema chains are staunchly opposed to the trading of movie futures contracts, calling it a form of legalized gambling.

The Motion Picture Association of America has said that they are:

“…united in our opposition to a risky online-wagering service that would be detrimental to the motion picture industry”.

I think they have a point.

Given the amount of people in the industry with access to sensitive information about various projects isn’t there a huge risk of insider trading?

Although studios have apparently already tightened up how tracking numbers (the data that essentially predicts how much a film is going to earn) are released, information will always find a way to get out.

There is a certain irony that this was approved just days after President Obama finally decided to clamp down on the casino-style capitalism of Wall Street banks that almost caused the global financial system to collapse.

Isn’t there a lesson to be learned from the Goldman Sachs story currently unfolding?

Senator Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.) has included a ban on movie futures trading in the financial reform bill that is set to be debated in a committee today (Wednesday).

Cantor Fitzgerald, the backer of the futures market, said in a statement it appreciated the “excellent work” of the commission, with a final decision expected in June.

My prediction? A major scandal, which is then swiftly adapted into a movie.

After all, this wouldn’t be the first time Hollywood has made a tale about the perils of insider-trading.

Walter Murch on Cinema

Veteran editor Walter Murch (Apocalypse Now, The English Patient) recently gave this fascinating talk about ‘the three fathers of cinema’, with reference to Ludwig van Beethoven, Gustave Flaubert and Thomas Edison.

Murch once had a shrewd observation about the impact of film on audiences:

I believe that one of the secret engines that allows cinema to work, and have the marvelous power over us that it does, is the fact that for thousands of years we have spent eight hours every night in a “cinematic” dream-state, and so are familiar with this version of reality.

Iron Man 2

The sequel to Iron Man is a sporadically entertaining follow up to the 2008 original but suffers by introducing a raft of new characters from the wider Marvel universe.

When the first film was about to be released, it was something of an unknown quantity: the Iron Man character was not as famous as Batman, Spider-Man or Superman; it was self-financed by Marvel; lead actor Robert Downey Jnr had been through some well documented troubles; and Jon Favreau was new to directing a tent-pole release like this.

Despite those question marks, it was a genuine mainstream success that proved a major hit at the global box office and was warmly received by the critics, to the point where this sequel is one of the most hotly anticipated blockbusters of the summer.

The basic story of this franchise concerns a billionaire inventor named Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jnr) who, after being captured by terrorists, invents a robotic suit that allows him to atone for his past as an arms dealer.

This one starts with him reaping the acclaim as an all-American hero who has “successfully privatised world peace”.

However, various problems emerge: the US military and a rival defence contractor (Sam Rockwell) want access to his technology; a mysterious Russian inventor (Mickey Rourke) is hell bent on revenge; and Stark faces a major health from wearing the Iron Man suit.

Like the first film, this has solid foundations: the lead characters are engaging and funny (especially Downey Jnr, who was perfectly cast in the lead role), the blend of banter and action is good and there are some terrific visual effects from ILM, especially the blending of the mechanical suit with the CGI one that flies around.

The problems emerge when characters from S.H.I.E.L.D. start to turn up, principally Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) and Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson).

If you stuck around until the end of the credits sequence for the first film, you would have seen a cameo from Nick Fury and later that summer in The Incredible Hulk (another Marvel character) Tony Stark his own post-credits cameo.

What does this all mean?

Well, Marvel are preparing for an Avengers film (and I’m not talking about the one with Sean Connery dressed as a teddy bear) which is reportedly going to combine various characters including Iron Man, Captain America and the S.H.I.E.L.D. gang.

But this to me hints at a wider malaise amongst Hollywood studios, who now pander too much to the geek community.

It is a trend that has gathered pace since the enormous success of the X-Men and Spider-Man films over the last decade.

With the rise of events like Comic-Con, it seems like studios have become addicted to chasing this market, to the point where there are detailed panels and press conferences about films months before they are actually released.

In the case of Iron Man 2, it seems like a lot of compelling elements have been drowned out by trying to cram in all of this other stuff designed to make comic book fans gasp ‘awesome!’ when they read about it on sites like Ain’t It Cool.

This extended fanboy hype and pre-judgement is already a major problem, but in the case of this film the more compelling elements, such as Stark’s relationship with his assistant Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) and his conflict with the military, get crowded out by other stuff.

There was one stretch where Mickey Rourke’s character (who is pivotal) seems to be off screen for such a long time that when he returns, it seems like he’s been on holiday.

When the big climax arrives, it doesn’t have the necessary impact because so many threads have been weaved in order to get there.

This is a shame because much of what is in the film is pretty good: Downey Jnr still makes an arrogant billionaire genius to be likeable; Paltrow suits her role nicely; and in key supporting roles Rourke and Rockwell are good value.

Plus, some elements seem to have been literally cut out: one notable moment from the trailer is absent from the film, although why this is the case when it lasts about 20 seconds is hard to fathom.

For the next film, I hope that the film-makers strip away the S.H.I.E.L.D. elements and focus on the basic stuff that works.

It is worth remembering that there is value in not pandering to the masses. Did Orson Welles obsess over what audiences wanted when he made Citizen Kane? Did Francis Ford Coppola unveil work-in-progress footage to screaming geeks when he made The Godfather?

In the case of a huge franchise like Star Wars, it was depressing to note the drop in quality when George Lucas started pandering to what he though fans wanted in the prequels. Instead of Han Solo we got Jar-Jar Binks.

Henry Ford once said:

“If I’d asked my customers what they wanted, they’d have said a faster horse.”

In the case of blockbusters I’d humbly suggest studios and directors trust their own vision rather than trying to cram in elements that play well at comic book conventions.

This is still going to be a massive film at the box office but if it focused on its core elements, it could have been a better one.

> Official site
> Iron Man 2 at the IMDb
> Find out more about the character at Wikipedia