Sunday, 5 December 2010

Preview: Monsters

A lot of you may not be familiar with the name Gareth Edwards, let alone his new, and possibly career defining film, Monsters. I have read a lot of comparison to District 9, notably in Empire Magazine whom hail the first writing and directing efforts of Edwards as "an amazing achievement".

However, having viewed the trailer but once, I will admit it does not look anything extraordinary (unlike that of D9). Do not be put off. Do not dismiss it. Because, like D9, you might just be in for the treat of your life.

The concept of other worldly creatures inhabiting and settling on Earth (as long as it's done properly) intrigues and fascinates me, as does the highly praised use of special effects visualising the said titled 'monsters' that allegedly pose a threat to humanity. The tag line 'After six years, they're no longer aliens. They're residents' sums up the premise which fills me with similar anticipation as D9.

Suffice to say I shall be seeing it (this week if I'm lucky) to judge for myself if I have found my new District 9. I will report back as and when.


Sources: Internet Movie DataBase , Empire Magazine Iss.258 (Dec '10)

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Ryan Reynolds, Buried alive you say?

Upon reading an article about an upcoming independent film Buried, the concept of what it claimed to be both surprised and intrigued me. Starring Ryan Reynolds, who in between projects (his next being big budget The Green Lantern)has opted to dabble in the indie, low budget flick. In fact, referring to it as low budget could be percieved as as an overstatement. Buried was filmed with a hand held camera, containing no special effects, with its most ambitious budgetary display in the form of a crane and dolly.


Filmed in Barcelona, the script sees Reyonolds sealed inside a coffin-type box for the 94 minute duration, meaning the script must be air tight (no pun intended) if it has any chance of maintaining my interest for more than a minute. I know what you're thinking too, how can this possibly work? Well, I too ponder, with similar scepticism.

The idea of a sole character confined to a box for the entire narrative really draws me in. The success of Phone Booth proves it can be done. But simply put, I wish to observe how a restricting story and single location can successfully grip and entertain audiences. I wish to know how such a script is constructed and how it transfers to film. It's premise, as a script writer, fascinates me.

The concept, as with similar genre movies like Open Water, have a certain watchability, not for the thrill a minute actions scenes, but for the what the hell are they going to do next?! tension that such films evoke and inevitably drive it.

No doubt the buzz surrounding the picture somewhat pleased Reynolds,  after what can only be described as a hellish 17-day shoot in a box. An intense schedule meant that up to 35 shots a day were frequent, shows the experience was surely a gruelling one unlike his previous Hollywood comfort.

It remains to be seen if Buried will live up to it's promise and whether the story of a sole protagonist trapped in a confined space will achieve something of original genius, rather than immense boredom.

Buried is released October 1st.





Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Preview: Avatar Special Edition

Just in case you have been living in space for the past 15 months you might not be aware that Avatar (2009), released late last year going on to become the highest grossing film of all time, is being re-released at the cinema on August 27th (hurrah!).
Here are a few beautiful stills and trailer of the soon to be re-released epic, titled Avatar Special Edition, it's still in 3-D (which is essential no matter how many times you have seen it), with additional scenes this time, which I'm sure will make the event even more joyous...

   

Tip: Best viewed in 3-D iMAX. Immense.


Photos: Google Images ,
Video: You Tube


Saturday, 7 August 2010

Review: Inception

Yes, as late as it is, I thought perhaps a review of Christopher Nolan's latest epic would be well received a few weeks after its initial release. It gave me time to reflect and decide whether I in fact appreciated everything that encapsulates Inception, or if I was merely dragged along in the media hype and global success it has achieved. Or it might just be the fact I have been too busy with work and various other things to sit down and blog it. Either way I'm sure you will thank me.

The trailers excited me. The posters intrigued me, as did the fact Leo (probably my favourite actor of the past decade) was the central protagonist, especially after a string of notable performances since the turn of the century (The Departed, Blood Diamond, Shutter Island). Hell, the hype excited me too and whilst I got a little bored of hearing a new film by the bloke who did Batman, the thought of what Inception could be, made me feel like a child on his way to Disney World.


I would like to make it clear now that I was not left disgruntled, nor let down, nor disappointed in any way whatsoever. Inception is simply breathtaking. It was pleasing in every way.

An original and creative plot was arguably the films strongest aspect. Much like Memento, it maintains your attention, draws you in and grips you for its entirety. You will be asking questions, and, surprisingly it resolves such discrepancies as the plot develops, thus never leaving you bewildered. Matched by the strength of the cast, Di Caprio puts in a strong performance as protagonist Cobb. Not only does he drive the excellently paced narrative, but is accompanied by a selection of quality supporting roles, with the likes of Tom Hardy, Michael Caine and Joseph Gordon-Levitt, which made Inception compelling and a real pleasure to watch.

The premise; amidst a sci-fi future world where people are hooked up to enter and manipulate one another's dreams, Cobb has a questionable reputation exploiting said technology and uses his expertise for morally ambiguous intentions for equal minded individuals. A particular job Cobb undertakes is the focus of the main story, which appears simple enough, thus allowing the premise intricacies and definition of the idea of  inception to be explored.

Never is it boring. Certainly thrilling, especially towards its climax, Nolan has followed up to his Batman sequel flawlessly, living up to all expectations, making arguably an even more impressive motion picture than The Dark Knight.

Instantly I am left wanting more and cannot wait to see it again. All that is left to do is, at the earliest opportunity, watch it again, and again and probably a few more times over the coming years and place Inception comfortably into my elite collection beside the likes of Goodfellas and The Departed.

★★★★


Sources: Internet Movie DataBase
Photos: Google Images

Friday, 30 July 2010

Review: Toy Story 3

When I first got wind of a potential third instalment of the Toy Story series, I was somewhat sceptical, not only because sequels are rarely of a high quality, but learning the terrifying news that the third film would be solely made by Disney (with numerous poor cash in follow ups in recent years), with Pixar (the genius behind the first two as well as WALL-E and Up) remaining out of the picture entirely .

Fortunately my scepticism was dispelled on both accounts. Not only are John Lasseter and the legendary Pixar team behind it, but the entire original voice cast are back to conclude a near prefect trilogy.

Toy Story 3 plays out similarly to the second, but in places, is clearly the darkest of the three. Bar a few original characters, everyone including Woody, Buzz, Hamm, Rex and Slinky are back, as well as several new and frankly brilliant additions, which include a Fisher Price phone, a disgruntled clown and a sinister strawberry scented bear (it'll make sense), which fit effortlessly into the Toy Story world, without stealing focus from the main characters.

The theme of the final instalment is one of moving on, with the toys realising their time with owner Andy is over. However, their purpose is reiterated by Woody throughout; to always be there for Andy, even if they are dumped in the attic.

Unsurprisingly things don't go to plan. Woody and the gang end up at Sunnyside, a day care centre where they will never be disgarded or outgrown, as Andy is now leaving for College. At this point I began to question the film's direction and intent. I quickly learnt how naive I was to assume such things, as the story took off, it became mightily entertaining, made me laugh out loud and genuinely thrilled me at times. Cue the set up for a prison break style movie, which pays hommage to some classic movie moments, one finely executed sequence parodying Oceans Eleven.

As well as iconic film references, several jokes from the previous two pop up without feeling overdone or stale, finding a subtle, perfect balance, as seems the trend here.
Granted it isn't perfect, but then nothing is. A short spell midway through did feel a tad slow, as did a segment at the end, but all is forgiven as such a pacing was necessary to conclude the series.

The charm is there in buckets, with the appealing nature to both adults and children alike, as Pixar have demonstrated so well over the years. Genuinely fresh and funny as the story progresses, one of the high points being when Mr Potato Head temporarily replaces his body with a sandwich related food (no spoiler intended!) and a symbol crashing, (literally) eye popping, deranged monkey (it'll make sense upon viewing), makes Toy Story 3 a conclusion worthy to be mentioned alongside the first two.

Not as ground breaking or original (obviously) as the first Toy Story or even their films of recent years, it can, however, stand proudly beside them. Toy Story 3 delivers on every level and the 3D makes it even sweeter.

★★★★★


Sources: Internet Movie DataBase
Photos: Google Images

Monday, 12 July 2010

Review: Moon

For me, the name Sam Rockwell has been synonymous with undeserved, minor roles in notable films such as The Assassination of Jesse James and a slightly larger part in Ridley Scott's Matchstick Men.

His most recent starring role is last years small budgeted, widely unknown Moon. Directed by Brit d├ębutante Duncan Jones (son of legend David Bowie), Moon follows the isolated tale of Sam, whom, in the future where Helium-3 is harvested on the Moon to aid Earth in its energy crisis, he is the sole employee on a lunar space station to oversee the mining of said resource. Paying homage to 1968's 2001: A Space Odyssey, Sam's only company is a computer AI by the name of GERTY (voiced by Kevin Spacey) whom assists his daily life.

The film is refreshing and derives from anything remotely mainstream, with Rockwell's strong performance carrying the simple narrative well. Essentially categorised as science fiction, which, after a particular plot revelation becomes more apparent early on, Moon tends to focus on a personal journey in regards to Sam's lonely existence and longing to be with him family back on Earth. A couple of twists aside, the narrative progresses slowly, but maintains interest even though it is far from a thrill a minute.

As straight forward as the plot appears, there is a compelling quality that is hard to identify. Maybe it's a combination of fine acting and use of a good script without the need for special effects, that you rarely see in modern sci-fi.

The character-driven script is, as mentioned,  excellently acted and is gripping at times. Moon delivers on many levels, it's gritty and dark, yet amusing, as well as heartfelt; evoking a genuine sense of concern towards the protagonist, which can be identified as arguably it's strongest aspect.

Considering it's essentially a one man cast and with a low budget, Moon offers something different in terms of a science fiction movie. It focuses more on the gruelling and, at times, desperate existence of Sam rather than the technological impacts of the future, which again, offers something a little different to audiences who are used to the same sci-fi ideas regurgitated over and over.

Admittedly, patience and an open mind is required here, but at a mere 97 minutes, the rewards are most certainly worthwhile.
★★★★
Sources: Internet Movie DataBase
Photos: Google Images

Thursday, 24 June 2010

TESTOSTERONE, MUCH?!

It's not out till the end of August, but just the thought of what The Expendables (2010) could turn out to be, blows my mind.

And what's not to love? With Sly Stallone, Mickey Rourke, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Dolph Lundgren (to mention a few), will one screen actually be big enough for so much man power?

It might just be too much muscle to handle... Or just plain awesome, I predict the latter, with my only qualm being that Steven Seagal is absent from the ensemble 'hard man' cast, but with the array of stars who are in it, I guess a guy can't have it all...

In the meantime, feast your eyes on the trailer for a taster of things to come...



Thursday, 10 June 2010

Retrospect Review : WALL·E

Just this morning I lay in bed (as I frequently do) yearning to watch something special. Something I could optionally watch with intense commitment or snooze in and out of. Something familiar, something simple to evoke a feeling of contentment and obviously, pleasure. Call me picky. It must be a comfort thing, and yes, the motivation for such bed bound niceties vastly undersells what I am here to discuss.

I am of course referring to, drum roll...WALL-E. Thankfully I've seen the aforementioned many times, thus harbouring no need to give it my full attention. However, for parts, I found myself wanting to pay attention as opposed to having to, to appreciate the beauty of the draw dropping animation, as Pixar bravely returned to form after the disappointing Cars and, the good but not great, Ratatouille.

WALL-E is one of those rewatchable experiences. And, upon reflection, that's down to its strongest, most significant element; charm. Indeed charm is what brings me back every few months. Charm invites me to follow the title character of the same name, in a world where pollution has gotten out of control. Where humanity have taken off on a somewhat perma-holiday to outer space. Charm that leaves a single, charismatic cockroach as WALL-E's companion.

I shan't hold back, it's brilliant. Instantly I adored it upon visiting the cinema, and has since grown on me even more. I stand by my initial view that the first half is better than the second (yes I'm dividing it into 2 'parts' to separate the films 2 locations). Might I also add the first 'part' is devoid of dialogue (a bold move for a mainstream film), yet triumphs where might have anticipated disappoint. Throughout, it's easy to become enthralled by the quirkiness and utterly delightful nature that is WALL-E and his curious actions. Only after a significant spell of following him around in his daily existence, is another character introduced; Eva, where the pair form an unusual, yet moving friendship. Yes, touching indeed.

May I confirm, by no means is the second 'part' poor. In honesty, it's almost a disadvantage that the opening hour is of such a high standard that it's difficult to maintain that consistency throughout. Let me reiterate, the second half is great, brilliant in fact, just not as stunning as the first.

As a whole, WALL-E is an excellent and highly accessible film and does what Pixar do extremely well, which, on a basic level is to entertain kids with it's simplicity and appeal, whilst on another, is to present a mature, witty and equally accessible movie adults can relate to.

Certainly in the top 3 of Pixar's best (in my humble opinion) and is arguably the most innovative and ground breaking instalment of their collection since the sublime Toy Story.

★★★★


Sources: Internet Movie DataBase
Photos: Google Images

Friday, 28 May 2010

The Life of Leo

Ever since he appeared in Catch Me If You Can, and, with the- likable at times- thriller The Beach, something about Leonardo Di Caprio changed forever. A change for the better, might I clarify, as he began a journey into maturity and undertook a transformation to become an exceptional actor. Romeo and Juliet had its moments, but displayed a young, pretty and not-so-credible persona.

Regardless of the mega success of Titanic, such a role was off-putting (as a male viewer) as nothing in it challenged or affirmed any real credibility as an actor as he went through the motions. He was a boy. However, one must applaud whoever advised him to work on what have turned out to be a string of top quality films, which in turn secured his transition from adolescence to a talented, critically acclaimed professional. His talents are not to be doubted and it's therefore no coincidence how he's managed to affiliate himself with some of the best; including Danny Boyle, most recently Christopher Nolan and more frequently, Martin Scorsese.


In truth, Catch Me If You Can was solid and enjoyable. Tom Hanks complemented Leo's cheeky, as well as intelligently likeable performance perfectly. The film had directorial prowess with Spielberg at the reigns either, which helped things along nicely.

Yet it would seem from that point, as Di Caprio approached his thirties, his acting developed in a way that drew him to more serious and complex roles.
Shutter Island (pictured right), saw him, once again, play the role of a cop, but in a completely different context, which is set in the 50's. For most part of what was an atmospheric and intriguing thriller, Di Caprio played the role excellently, only scuppered by the unoriginal ending, but then, I guess it depends on what expectations you have going into it.

Notably, it has been his collaborations with Scorsese on no fewer than four features in the last eight years, that have brought him to the forefront of his profession, where he has successfully- as well as convincingly- portrayed a variety of roles. Referring to his impressive and dynamic performance as Howard Hughes in biopic tale, The Aviator (pictured left), to the undercover role of Billy Costigan in Oscar-winning, The Departed, affirms him as of my favourite actors. Another gritty and superb performance, he played the paranoia induced character well, complimented by a fantastic ensemble cast including Jack Nicholson and Martin Sheen, to name a few.

Which take us nicely to his latest release, Inception, which- by the looks of the trailer- appears to be a blend of Dark City and The Matrix, which frankly excites the pants off me.

At times it's easy to define Di Caprio as a talented, yet typecast actor. Criticism directed his way suggests he isn't all that diverse. Typical of an edgy, paranoia filled role, yet surely one could define De Niro as similarly typical in the roles he played and to great avail?

The way Leo's career is going, it wouldn't be inconceivable to suggest somewhere down the line he could have such iconic status as De Niro himself. Saying that, it'll take many more acclaimed roles and a few more collaborative efforts with Scorsese et al before such legendary status is awarded.

It's fair to say that Inception will be getting Leo yet more positive critical attention and due respect he rightfully deserves. Roll on July 16th!

Sources: The Internet Movie DataBase
Photos: Google

Thursday, 6 May 2010

The Hidden Gem: Brilliant films you've probably never heard of... The Belleville Rendez-Vous

The world is a cynical place. For example, were I to suggest the idea of spending 80 minutes watching a silent, French animation, you would probably find any excuse to avoid such a perceived punishment.
I'm certain a majority of retorts would include 'what, a cartoon for kids?', or 'oh no, I don't do subtitles'. If, you too, find yourself muttering the same narrow minded thoughts, then be prepared to miss out on something truly special.

Les triplettes de Belleville, or The Belleville Rendez-Vous as was per UK release title, is one of those obscure films that, whilst some may find odd, others will find utterly enchanting.
The story follows Champion who, trained by his little old grandmother Madame Souza (complete with clubbed foot), is obsessed with cycling and is preparing for the Tour de France. During the race Champion goes missing, suspicious he has been kidnapped, Madame Souza, along with their overweight and lazy dog Bruno, set off on a journey to rescue him.

To address said qualities of its silent nature, it does have small amounts of dialogue (albeit it in French) at various points, but the story is told in such a brilliant way that it has little need for dialogue at all.

The films strongest point has to be its stylistic approach, with the animation as its most appealing factor. Forget anything in the realm of Disney because these uniquely designed characters are like nothing you've ever seen and have such a sense of originality, makes it impossible not to fall in love with.
In fact, the characters are so aesthetically intriguing, the simple yet effective story plays a back seat, as you find yourself visually enthralled by director Sylvain Chomet's artistry.

The story has a sophisticated level of intelligence and humour, rendering it more adult than child orientated, which I always find refreshing in the genre. A simple and charming story coupled by wonderfully created, vibrant characters, give Les triplettes de Belleville acclaim for being not only a memorable, but brilliant film.
Admittedly, it's not going to appeal to everyone, and yes, it has a somewhat freaky look, but if you're searching for something different, then this could be for you.

Sources: imdb.com
Photos: Les triplettes de Belleville (2003), imdb images

Friday, 16 April 2010

The day I almost walked out of the cinema

Over many, many years I have excitedly scurried into a cinema full of optimism with a general positive attitude. However, for every 100 satisfying films, there is one that either, by poor judgement, deceptive trailer, or mere ill fate, absolutely stinks. It's bad. Awful to the point of questioning how on earth such an idea was pitched and commissioned, let alone conceived. Some films I have witnessed, and I use that term due to their sheer horrific nature, make me question why I decided to see such a film in the first place. I'm proud to say that as bad as a film is, I have never left mid-experience.

Gamer (2009) is an example I was (un)lucky enough to see on my Birthday last September. Starring Gerard Butler (whom I still have fond, brutal memories of in 300 (2006)) and the talented Michael C. Hall, a cast, which gave me a glimmer of hope that it might be bearable. I was wrong.

It didn't help that I walked into the theatre a couple of minutes into the film, with the surreal and utterly confusing goings on seeming even more bizarre without a starting point to work from.

So, where to begin? The acting? Story? Characters? Setting? Pacing? Structure? - All truly appalling. Thinking about it now sends a cold, Gerard induced shiver down my spine because it baffles me how genuinely decent actors decide to partake in things that can surely never have seemed like a good idea. Notably Robert De Niro is one whom, after a frankly outstanding career, branched into comedy (why God, why?) and agreed to star in other rubbish, such as Godsend (2004), to name but one.  Gerard hasn't got the decades of quality behind him, so can ill afford to make these mistakes so early.

Surprisingly it was memorable for a bizarre reason. Around a third of the way in the mish mash of colours, weird mise en scene and questionable character actions, made me worry whether my pick ‘n’ mix contained a hallucinogen. It was plain odd, without any relevance and seemed crazy for the sake of it.
The dialogue and 'plot' continued to nose dive into a pit of oblivion and found myself counting down the minutes till I could escape to do, well, absolutely anything else.
The film was epitomised by Hall's dance at the end, which reminded me of Tobey Maguire's embarrassing moves in Spider-Man 3 (2007).

The point I'm making is don't ever watch this. If you are compelled for a bit of Gerard action, then watch 300. You get to see him slaughtering men whilst sporting a magnificent beard.

Sources: Internet Movie DataBase
Photo: Gamer (2009)


Tuesday, 6 April 2010

The Hidden Gem: Brilliant films you've probably never heard of... Lars and the Real Girl

Occasionally someone will speak fondly of a film you simply never knew existed, naturally sparking a curiosity. No matter how many films you’ve watched, there is always something out there waiting to be discovered. Even rarer, every now and then you hear about this one, amazing film you've never heard of, but simply must see. And yes, sometimes that film turns out to be a brilliant find, a treasure, and all the more sacred because the media haven't sniffed it out and smeared it over every medium possible.

Lars and the Real Girl is one such treasure. So obscure that when I mentioned it in a room of film academics, not one had heard of, let alone seen it, filling me with self indulging superiority.

The narrative follows Lars (Ryan Gosling), a man who finds visiting his brother Gus (Paul Schneider) and wife Karin (Emily Mortimer) a mightily stressful task in itself. His social ineptitude is exacerbated at work with the awkward romantic tension between himself and co-worker Margo (Kelli Garner). Just as it would appear Lars isn’t capable of forging relationships, he finally alleviates solitude by ordering a sex doll; he names Bianca, to become his ‘girlfriend’ as well as love rival to Margo. Naturally, the reaction of the tight nit community is to question his emotional stability, but is the point where the film moves in a refreshing direction. Lars attempts to integrate himself and his unconventional lover into community events anticipating acceptance. Rather than have him thrown in the nearest mental asylum, the locals agree to play along with his delusion (somewhat reminisant of The Truman Show) and treat Bianca as a genuine member of the community.

Powerful and emotive at times, the story flows surprisingly well considering the slow pacing in a lengthy film where, to be honest, not a lot actually happens. Lars’ emotional journey is a satisfying one and as things progress, it becomes apparent that the focus is on how Lars understands and comes to terms with his personality disorder. Interestingly the film boldly suggests that the compassion and support of the people surrounding Lars is more effective than any medical solution.

Heart-warming and at times sad, with a contrast of quirky positivity, Lars and the Real Girl is a compelling and thought provoking film. Supported by a cleverly written script and more than adequate performances from Gosling and Mortimer, makes for an entertaining spectacle.

Now go watch it.

Loved it? Hated it? Please do share...

Photos: Google Images
Sources: Internet Movie DataBase