Warrior follows the story of two estranged brothers as they train for and compete to become the champion fighter. Tom Hardy is a US Marine, back from the Middle East, while Joel Edgerton plays a high school teacher and family man. They both have different reasons for fighting, but they both desperately need to win. The movie never encourages the audience to pick sides, painting both brothers in a sympathetic light, making the outcome of the match completely unpredictable. Edgerton and Hardy both shine in the lead roles, packing on an impressive amount of muscle to play convincing fighters. The fight scenes are deeply visceral and heavily charged with sweat and emotion. It’s been called “Rocky for the MMA generation”, which is high praise indeed. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself on your feet by the end of the movie.
Mainstream sci-fi guru JJ Abrams gives the classic TV series a modern polish. Bringing back Kirk, Spock, Bones, Chekov, Uhura, Scotty to the big screen, this reboot managed to tell a cracking Star Trek origin story without getting bogged down by the original Trek’s need to turn everything into a parable about communism or the environment or whatever. Rebel without a cause James Kirk (Chris Pine) is on the verge of being expelled from Starfleet Academy until the entire fleet is called to aide an attack on Spock’s home planet. What happens next is a bold sign from Abrams that these prequels aren’t going to stick to the rules of the original show, and it’s handled in a way that even the most hardcore trekker can’t object to. We’re being a bit vague with the descriptions here because we know that a lot of you haven’t seen this movie. Even if science-fiction isn’t your thing, trust us here: Abrams’ Star Trek is well worth a gamble.
Currently, Rotten Tomatoes has given 2007’s I Am Legend a 69% approval rating, which is fair but not fully accurate. This adaptation of Richard Matheson’s influential science-fiction novel sees esteemed virologist Will Smith (stay with us here…) as the only man left in New York after a virus has turned the world’s population into cannibalistic zombies. The first two thirds of the movie are enormously compelling, as we follow Smith’s daily routine on the abandoned streets of Manhattan. We see him trying to cope with the solitude, maintaining the little that remains of his old life, all whilst keeping an eye on the shadows, where the creatures bide their time, waiting for him.
The third act moves in a conventionally Hollywood direction that lacks the ambition that runs through the rest of the story. Still — Smith, as always, is a charismatic lead and the film’s tension is built genuinely and organically. It’s disappointing to see a movie come so close to greatness only to falter at the last lap, but there’s enough goodness in the movie to have us firmly recommend I Am Legend.
Could this be another film about a British Monarch faced with a personal and professional crisis? With the awards showered on The Queen and The King’s Speech, you’d think that there was an enormous public clamouring for more movies following the lives of those poor, wretched royals. The Young Victoria dramatises the early years of the Queen’s reign, focusing on her courtship with Prince Albert (Rupert Friend). There is some meat to the story, with Emily Blunt’s Victoria caught between power-hungry relatives and manipulative politicians. Mark Strong and Paul Bettany are well cast as the men who would chose to control the Queen, forcing Victoria to find a way to express her own voice. Written by Downton Abbey creator Julian Fellowes and produced by Martin Scorsese, we expected something weighty from this collaboration. But instead, we get a pleasantly light and entertaining soufflé of a film. Nobody will likely remember this film in ten years but that doesn’t stop it from being very easy to enjoy.
By now, this is a very familiar story: a young man who experiences a premonition of him and his colleagues being killed in a freak accident. Acting on this vision, he narrowly saves a handful of people from plunging to their deaths. But as we know from the previous films as well as the ominous intonations of the county coroner (played by former Candyman and series regular Tony Todd) death doesn’t like being cheated. In order to restore survivors of the accident are in due course subjected to horrific demises, each more elaborate than the last. The set-ups involve a deadly gymnastics routine; a Lasik operation gone wrong and a particularly uncomfortable acupuncture session are peppered with enough misdirection to keep even veteran horror fans in suspense. Final Destination 5 may not be particularly original, but it’s still a lot of fun.