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We're back! Unfortunately real life rather got in the way of our podcasting plans this year, but we're here now, and that's all that really matters. Before we return to our regularly-scheduled programming we have a few episodes in which we'll give you our brief thoughts on the films we saw while we were away. In this first installment we'll bring you up to speed on The Railway Man, Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, Grudge Match, Under the Skin, Out of the Furnace, Her, Godzilla, Jersey Boys, The Amazing Spider-Man 2, A Million Ways to Die in the West, Maleficent, Sin City: A Dame to Kill For and Guardians of the Galaxy.
Based on the memoirs of former army officer Eric Lomax, The Railway Man stars Colin Firth as a British soldier imprisoned and tortured by the Japanese during World War II. Told in a series of flashbacks, the film shows us the treatment Lomax endured, the subsequent effects on his life and relationships, and his eventual confrontation with the man most directly responsible for his ordeal. A typically accomplished performance from Colin Firth makes this a worthwhile, if unremarkable, watch.
Chris Pine is the fourth screen incarnation of Tom Clancy's most famous character in Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, which tells the story of the end of Ryan's military career and his induction into the CIA. Kenneth Branagh's assured direction brings us a glossy, competent thriller, while Pine continues to show that he won't, and shouldn't, be forever and only associated with Captain Kirk.
Sylvester Stallone continues to cling with an iron grasp to his movie past, and once again visits the world of boxing in Grudge Match. Here, he and Robert De Niro are former opponents, in both pugilism and love, who enter the ring in an attempt to settle once and for all the question of who was the best fighter. Comparisons with Rocky Balboa are apt, but that film is vastly superior. Still, Stallone is as watchable as usual, and while this is latter day De Niro he is still more engaging here than in the vast majority of his post-2000 output. Kevin Hart's comic relief promoter is lazily written, though, and the script pretty tired. One for the fans only.
Based on Michael Faber's well-regarded book of the same name, Under the Skin follows Scarlett Johansson as an alien creature who travels around Scotland looking for young men to lure back to her lair and dissolve. Highly experimental, highly pretentious and utterly boring.
Former convict Christian Bale sets out to avenge the death of his brother in Scott Cooper's Out of the Furnace. An excellent cast are less than the sum of their parts in a low-key drama that never really gets going.
An interesting concept lies at the heart of Spike Jonze's Her: can a human fall in love with a sufficiently advanced artifical intelligence? A lonely Joaquin Phoenix becomes smitten with a new operating system (voiced by Scarlett Johansson), until he eventually falls in love. Well acted, and with some interesting observations about the nature of love, it nevertheless manages to miss the central concept of a relationship with a non-human. Instead, it's more of a reflection on long-distance relationships, with the nature of Phoenix's romantic partner becoming more or less incidental. Worth watching, certainly, but it doesn't live up to its premise.
Following in the wake of last year's creature epic Pacific Rim, the archetypal kaiju returns to the big screen in Godzilla. While suffering, though not as badly, as Pacific Rim in spending too much time with not-at-all interesting human characters, Godzilla is much more successful in the giant, stompy monster stakes. Still, we were left wanting more, and were ultimately disappointed.
Based on the very successful stage musical, Jersey Boys is a biography of 1960s pop group Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons. Well-produced and with good performances, you're likely to find this reasonably entertaining, as long as you don't particularly dislike the music of The Four Seasons.
Andrew Garfield returns as the famous red and blue webslinger in The Amazing Spider-Man 2, which, in an unexpected twist, sees him have to defend New York City from some dastardly villains while struggling to cope with school and relationships. As slickly produced, colourful and action-packed as you'd expect, the film suffers from having rather uninteresting, poorly-motivated adversaries, and an odd time compression in the development of certain characters. A noticeable step down from Garfield's first outing in the role.
Seth MacFarlane's A Million Ways to Die in the West sees Seth MacFarlane running around the Wild West, being Seth MacFarlane. Its comedy concept is spread pretty thinly over the running time, and it suffers from both a lack of originality and a lack of chemistry between MacFarlane and love interest Charlize Theron. Certainly not funny enough for us to give it a recommendation.
Disney revisits one of its much-loved animated classics, Sleeping Beauty, in Maleficent, a live action prequel which tells the story of Maleficent and how she became the sort of evil witch that would curse a newborn baby. Angelina Jolie is impressive in the title role, the sweeping CGI vistas and fantastical world are a visual delight, and it puts an interesting spin on the well-known story. Sadly it is in danger of being hamstrung by the woeful Sharlto Copley, and we take this opportunity to put out a call to arms for our campaign, "Say No to Copley". If you can get past his abysmal accent, though, we give Maleficent our recommendation.
It's been nearly a decade since Robert Rodriguez brought Frank Miller's stylish Sin City to the big screen, and he returns in 2014 with prequel/sequel Sin City: A Dame to Die For. This is largely more of the same as the first film, if less successfully so, and if you enjoyed that you'll most likely enjoy this.
Based on one of Marvel's lesser-known properties, Guardians of the Galaxy is the tale of a diverse group of reluctant heroes (which include a walking tree, a genetic experiment that bears an uncanny resemblance to an Earth raccoon, and a green woman) who must put aside their differences to save the galaxy from a villain who wants to destroy it. Entertaining set-pieces and some funny character interactions are let down by dull villains and a complete lack of interesting female characters. Guardians is very entertaining nonetheless, and recommended if you haven't seen it already, just not the be-all and end-all that so many seemed to consider it when it was released.
And we'll let you rest there, and pick up with more catchup in our next episode. In the meantime, if you have any comments you'd like to make, or questions you'd like to ask, you can email us, or hit us up on Twitter, @theoneliner.
This is not the end. This is not even the beginning of the end. It is, instead, the end of the beginning.