Svengali leads the new cinema releases & trailers – w/e March 21st 2014

svengaliThe weekend beckons and here are a bumper crop of films for your delight and delictation, maybe.

This week’s selections are: Svengali, The Machine, A Long Way Down, About Last Night, Blood Ties, Labor Day, Starred Up and Under The Skin.


Svengali is a new British comedy which tells the story of Dixie (Jonny Owen), a postman from South Wales, and a music fanatic. All his life he’s dreamed of discovering a great band and then one day, trawling through YouTube, he finds them… ‘The Premature Congratulations’. He hunts them down and offers them his management services. They are young, arrogant, sexy and utterly magnificent. Putting their demo on a cassette tape, Dixie heads out onto the streets of London…

Written by Jonny Owen, Svengali stars Martin Freeman, Vicky McClure, Matt Berry, Michael Smiley, Morwenna Banks and Katy Brand. It’s due for release on March 21st in the UK and I laughed plenty of times during it, so this film is a definite must-see!

Hit or Miss? Verdict: Hit!

The Machine

The Machine is a bizarre new movie starting Toby Stephens (Die Another Day) about two computer programmers who fall in love as they create the first ever piece of self-aware artificial intelligence…

With an impoverished world plunged into a Cold War with a new enemy, Britain’s Ministry of Defence is on the brink of developing a game-changing weapon. Lead scientist Vincent McCarthy (Toby Stephens) provides the answer with his creation, The Machine – an android with unrivalled physical and processing skills. When a programming glitch causes an early prototype to destroy his lab, McCarthy enlists artificial intelligence expert Ava (Caity Lotz) to help him harness the full potential of a truly conscious fighting machine.

Also starring Sam Hazeldine, Denis Lawson and Lee Nicholas Harris, this looks fantastic so I want to see this, too.

Hit or Miss? Verdict: Hit!

A Long Way Down

A Long Way Down is a comedy of sorts with an intriguing premise which centres around four people who inadvertently meet on New Year’s Eve when they all get the same idea to go onto the roof of a building and commit suicide. They then form a sort of surrogate family in a bid to help each another out with their problems.

Starring Pierce Brosnan, Toni Collette, Imogen Poots and Aaron Paul, plus Rosamund Pike, Tuppence Middleton and Sam Neill, the only thing that puts me off is the trailer’s attempt to be all jolly by throwing in a jaunty James Blunt track along the way.

If that hasn’t put you off, then A Long Way Down, adapted from the Nick Hornby novel, is out this weekend.

Hit or Miss? Verdict: Hit!

About Last Night

About Last Night follows two couples as they journey from the bar to the bedroom and are eventually put to the test in the real world.

Based on the trailer, it looks as predictable as it sounds. The fact that Kevin Hart takes the lead role speaks volumes, and not even Michael Ealy can save it. He was so good in the TV series Sleeper Cell, which was cut short to two seasons when it clearly had at least one more season left in it.

Regina Hall, Christopher McDonald and Paula Patton co-star.

Hit or Miss? Verdict: Miss!

Blood Ties

New York, 1974. Fifty-year-old Chris (Clive Owen) has just been released on good behavior after several years in prison following a gangland murder. Reluctantly waiting for him outside the gates is his younger brother, Frank (Billy Crudup), a cop with a bright future. Chris and Frank have always been different, and their father, Leon (James Caan), who raised them alone, seems to favor Chris despite all his troubles.

Yet blood ties are the ones that bind, and Frank, hoping that his brother has changed, is willing to give him a chance – he shares his home, finds him a job, and helps him reconnect with his children and his ex-wife, Monica (Marion Cotillard). But Chris’ inevitable descent back into a life of crime proves to be the last in a long line of betrayals, and after his brother’s latest transgressions, Frank banishes him from his life. But it’s already too late, as the brothers’ destiny is bound together, forever.

Also starring Mila Kunis and Zoe Saldana, Guillaume Canet‘s English-language directorial debut looks like a strong one and a film I definitely want to see, not least for the stylish ’70s feel.

Hit or Miss? Verdict: Hit!

Labor Day

Depressed single mom Adele (Kate Winslet) and her son Henry (Gattlin Griffith) offer a wounded, fearsome man a ride. As police search town for the escaped convict, the mother and son gradually learn his true story as their options become increasingly limited.

Labor Day is in the United States is a holiday celebrated on the first Monday in September. It is a celebration of the American labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of workers. You would’ve thought this film would’ve been released at the same time, but it didn’t come out on general release over there until January 31st.

Written for the screen and directed by Jason Reitman, it also stars Josh Brolin and James Van Der Beek, and if Adele’s depressed, the trailer will leave you feeling the same way…

Hit or Miss? Verdict: Miss!

Starred Up

A troubled and explosively violent teenager is transferred to adult prison where he finally meets his match – a man who also happens to be his father.

Starring Jack O’Connell and Rupert Friend in the lead roles, plus Ben Mendelsohn, Sam Spruell and David Ajala, I wasn’t wowed by the trailer. Just seemed like an angst-ridden-for-the-sake-of-it Brit flick.

Hit or Miss? Verdict: Miss!

Under The Skin

I missed mention of Under The Skin last week because IMDB said it had a release date of March 21st. I know some bigwigs in London had said it was due out on the 14th, but you often find the capital gets films ahead of a nationwide release, so there we are.

Anyway, put simply, Scarlett Johansson plays Laura, an alien seductress preys upon hitchhikers in Scotland. From what I’ve seen of it, this film which also stars Paul Brannigan, Jessica Mance, Krystof Hádek, Scott Dymond and Michael Moreland is a definite must-see.

Hit or Miss? Verdict: Hit!