Thursday, 16 August 2012

Film News 16/08/2012 - Dragonball Z

Apparently, the 2013 Dragonball Z movie is definitely going to be Dragonball Z - and not Dragonball - which is a brilliant decision as the story matter is so much richer, the characters so much better, and it's just less childish and weird.

It is rumoured to be set after Goku's defeat of Kid Buu (the final bad guy in the Dragonball Z series) and before the World Martial Arts tournament which ended the DBZ series and was set 10 years after the fall of Buu.

This could mean a difficult transition for those not familiar with the Z world as it may require a lot of presumed backstory. 2009's "Dragonball Evolution" started at the beginning, going through Goku's training and his first meetings with Bulma and Yamcha. Then again, this setting for the new film also gives the director almost a clean slate: all baddies have been defeated and there are 10 undocumented years during which almost anything could have happened!

Sunday, 12 August 2012

Film News 12/08/2012

This film news update is aaaall about one of my very favourite actors/faces, Chris Hemsworth!

Hemsworth fans have two upcoming performances to look forward to. One very typical of Chris, "Red Dawn", and one something quite different, "Rush".

"Red Dawn" stars Hemsworth as a US marine forced to protect his country as it is invaded and taken over by North Korean soldiers. A remake of the 1984 film of the same name which starred Patrick Swayze (and in which the enemy were Soviet troops, as would be expected in a 1980s American flick), this looks to basically be an American propaganda piece in which (the Australian) Hemsworth spouts a lot of lines about freedom and justice and American nobility, aka "America, fuck yeah"! However, the casting means I will definitely be watching this movie, not only Hemsworth, but I am also starting to develop a bit of a girl crush on "Transformers 2"'s Isabel Luca (another Aussie).

"Rush" is the new film by Ron Howard. It is a biopic of Formula 1 racer, Niki Lauda, played by Daniel Bruhl, and focuses on his rivalry with fellow driver, James Hunt (Hemsworth). Not my kind of film generally (Formula 1 bores me to tears), but I may have to make an exception here as it stars Hemsworth and Bruhl, another favourite of mine (he is German after all).

Also, for fans of the other Hemsworth, aka Liam, aka Gethin Jones #2, "The Expendables 2" out next Thursday stars the young "Hunger Games" actor as a bit of youth amongst the old fogies which dominate the film. 

Tuesday, 7 August 2012


It's only early August but I think we can say that this month's most talked about release will be Seth MacFarlane's feature film directing debut, "Ted". This is the story of a lonely eight year old boy, Johnny Bennett, who makes a wish on a shooting star for a Christmas gift to come to life and become his BFF. And along came Teddy. Teddy ages with Johnny  and they grow together into man and bear, John and Ted. Lazy and constantly smoking weed, Ted and John are still best buddies 26 years on, but John has a gorgeous and ambitious girlfriend of four years who thinks its time John and Ted have some time apart, a separation neither of them seems capable or willing to uphold!

"Ted" is classic MacFarlane, ticking all the boxes we've come to expect from Seth's other ventures, especially Family Guy and American Dad:

Sick humour - check. MacFarlane in-jokes - check. Brilliant slapstick - check. Surreal cameos - check. Talking creature which shouldn't be talking - check. Random inserts practically irrelevant to the plot - check. Mila Kunis - check.

First of all we have to praise MacFarlane for the original and imaginative idea behind Ted. This director is known for his quirky and unparallelled characters and plots: an evil mastermind baby; an alcoholic, intellectual talking dog; a meterosexual cocktail-swigging alien; a German spy trapped in the body of a fish. "Ted"'s protagonist is typical MacFarlane but not typical of movies. Ted (voiced by MacFarlane) is a brilliant mechanism to highlight the real issue here: Mark Whalberg's approaching-middle-aged, lay-about, good-for-nothing male lead who needs to grow up and learn to commit. To a job. To a girlfriend. To life! His inability to let go of his childhood teddy bear merely represents his inability to grow up. Using a foul-mouthed, pot-smoking, incessantly horny cuddly toy to do this sets this film apart from all the other midlife crisis plotlines which I'm sure there's no lack of in Hollywood.

Running alongside this main storyline we also have Giovanni Ribisi starring as Donny, who as a child adored Ted and has transformed into a massively creepy stalker who wants to obtain Ted for his overweight, terrifying son, Robert (Ted's best line in the film: "I think he's his son, but he may also be his lover!"). Empire declared that this side plot merely detracted from the fact that Ted and John's true enemies are themselves. Hmm, perhaps this is true, but it does generate some fantastic one liners from Ted and the scenes set inside Donny's house (playtime with Robert and an amazing dance solo from Ribisi) add some fantastic moments to the film and make it worth this addition. Ribisi always delivers a great performance. Though he has proven himself a brilliant character actor in serious roles, his true beginnings are in comedies such as "Friends" and he is an undeniable comic talent.

That said, I do believe that where "Ted" perhaps falters is its desire to be a heart-warming film, almost a family movie, as well as a twisted comedy. I don't think it quite finds the harmony between the dark humour and the more intimate, romantic side of the tale, not just John's relationship with his girlfriend Lori (Mila Kunis), but also the more sentimental aspects of his relationship with Ted. It is all brilliantly acted (MacFarlane, Whalberg, Kunis, Ribisi - a flawless cast), but it feels as if it's trying to accomplish too many things at once. It is not an impossible harmony to achieve, but it is a harmony not quite achieved here.

Humour-wise (and isn't that the main factor in all of MacFarlane's works?) I have to say that "Ted" consistently delivers. With undoubtedly high expectations from "Family Guy" fans (aka 70-80% of the UK adult population), there was a lot of pressure on this film to be one of the year's best comedies and so far I'd say the only film I've seen that's potentially matched "Ted"'s funny factor was the fantastic "21 Jump Street". If you don't like sick, juvenile humour maybe you won't enjoy "Ted" but then why would you be watching it? This film is laced with laugh-out-loud, original humour. Like in "Family Guy", there is barely a line of dialogue which isn't funny. That said, the script is smooth and flows completely naturally. This is, of course, largely down to the comic talents of MacFarlane as Ted, but also kudos has to be given to Mark Whalberg, who has proven himself time and again to be incredibly well-suited to funny roles. Whalberg is hilarious and just so lovable. He is defnitely rising on my list of favourite actors. Without question, one of the greatest moments of the film is Whalberg's incredibly speedy and error-less reel off of "white trash names". As pointed out by Empire, his previous experience as a rapper (oh Marky Mark) can't hurt!

The physical comedy in this film is also typically MacFarlane and brilliantly choreographed! A scene where Ted and John beat the crap out of each other to the extent that its ridiculous they're still standing afterwards reminds strongly of multiple FG moments when Peter and his family have brutally attacked each other.If you're looking for a clever comedy to make your sides split, I think there are few who wouldn't be satisfied by this tasty treat! "Ted" is a great movie debut from one of our favourite comic TV personalities and will hopefully not be the last!

Thursday, 26 July 2012

The End of an Era

It is only July 22nd, but I think I can happily say that The Dark Knight Rises is my favourite film of 2012, if not the best film of 2012. And yes, I say this remembering that I still have "The Hobbit" to look forward to in Novembr. I just watched "Batman Begins" for the umpteenth time and reminded myself that this trilogy didn't only achieve greatness with "The Dark Knight", this trilogy began and ended with a bang!

In "Batman Begins" we saw the dawning of an intelligent superhero film. What has always made Batman unique and more interesting than almost all other heroes is his total lack of superpowers. We don't have to believe in magic or aliens or science that's so advanced, it's barely even science anymore! Thank you Dan Brown for that inspiring quote. Batman, and indeed all of his enemies and allies, lives in the real world, our world, and Nolan has captured this so perfectly and has reminded us with his franchise what the true essence is of Batman's character, whilst at the same time adapting the hero in a completely new and unique way!

Creating a third and final film which did justice to this legacy was not going to be easy. Only someone as talented and imaginative as Christopher Nolan could achieve it and, boy, did he!

The most appropriate and fitting word to describe this franchise finale I think has to be "epic". Christopher Nolan does epic better than any other director, as we saw with "The Dark Knight" and as he has proved once again with "The Dark Knight Rises". This film isn't without its flaws, there are moments in the plot which may seem somewhat unclear or slightly random, however, these are but small moments in an incredibly thrilling, visually stunning, beautifully performed and almost flawlessly directed film, which will, I believe, go down in history forever as one of the greatest superhero films ever made - a list which "The Dark Knight" could possibly forever top!

(Spoilers coming for "The Dark Knight":) "The Dark Knight Rises" follows on eight years after the end of "The Dark Knight". Gotham City's DA and White Knight, Harvey Dent, aka Two Face is dead and as a tribute to his legacy a law has been enacted, the "Dent Act", which has taken down most of the city's organised crime and created a period of peace or, at the very least, something which seems like peace. To Gotham's misfortune, however, Bane (Tom Hardy) then arrives on the scene to destroy this harmony and bring war back to Gotham. Bruce Wayne, having lived the past eight years in hiding, the ghost of  Wayne Manner, is forced to reemerge as the Batman for one last fight, only this time, it looks like he might not win!

Nolan has created some of the best, most complex and intricate stories of the past decade. This is one of his greatest attributes as a director: "The Dark Knight", "Inception", or even the less well-known "Prestige". He is the master of movie twists and this new superhero triumph is no exception! No character is without motive or depth in this film. This isn't just a comic book romp, but an intelligent, moving film. Furthermore, in all of its 2:44 minutes, I wouldn't name one unnecessary scene or one moment of lull.

So many stories intertwine! The ongoing inner struggle of Bruce Wayne. Most of his loved one's dead, fighting practically alone to save the soul of America's most corrupt city. Such complexity and varied emotions which we experience through Bruce require a skilled actor to portray, one not typical to the super hero genre. Rise up Christian Bale, a method actor and a fantastic one at that. Bale puts his entire self into his roles, risking health and sanity to do so, not unlike the physical and psychological torment Bruce Wayne puts himself through to be the caped crusader. Nolan's casting is careful and very deliberate. He won't just go for a Hollywood name to draw in big crowds, something which really pays off if you want to make a great film.Christian Bale makes so much more sense as the Batman than George Clooney and who else would have cast Heath Ledger as the Joker or put the Brit, Tom Hardy at the centre of 2012's biggest blockbuster!

Bane has his own backstory and a strong mystery surrounding his origins. The second and third Nolan/Batman films almost have to be described as having multiple protagonists, rather than merely the hero dominating centre stage, as is typical in other super films, such as the Spider-Mans and perhaps most obviously in the Iron Mans. In TDK, the Joker is allowed almost as much screen time as Batman and is arguably a far more interesting character. In TDKR, both Bane and the morally ambivalent Catwoman are fleshed out and allowed to develop as people, not merely iconic images.

Bane initially appears to be purely motivated by a dark and corrupt soul, if he even has one! But as the movie develops layers are added and, as always, Nolan proves to have chosen a more interesting Batman villain that merely going for one of the obvious ones from the various cartoon series: the Penguin, Mr Freeze (*shudder*). Hardy is a great actor, he exudes force and has an amazing and imposing presence. He dominates a scene and can be terrifying. Yet, despite having bulked up immensely for this part, we can sense as an audience, behind the brutish facade, that there is great intelligence in those eyes and that voice. Bane was never merely a brute in the comics, but a genius and Hardy displays both these characteristics well. That said, I believe towards the end of the film, as Bane becomes less of a central threat, his character and story are side-lined and sacrificed a little and we don't get to finish with him properly. Furthermore, as stated above, there are slight confusions and blurs in his back story, which are mostly deliberate on Nolan's behalf but don't always feel so. Perhaps Nolan has tried to do too much at once?!

That said, I have nothing but praise for Hardy's performance and, indeed, for the other two main characters added to this film: Selina Kyle, aka Catwoman (Anne Hathaway) and police officer Blake (Joseph Gordon-Levitt). Hathaway is so good at being totally sexy and feminine, but also completely bad ass. You don't feel like her amazing body and obvious appeal sacrifice her power and independence. She is a strong female lead! This blend of sexy and super are best depicted when Catwoman uses her high heels to cripple an attacking thug. I kind of wish I was her.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt is the young, idealistic policeman, who still believes in good overcoming evil and is utterly incorruptible. Commissioner Gordon (the wonderful Gary Oldman) is getting older and a new generation of moral law enforcers are needed to lead the battles he once led. Gordon-Levitt is given a lot of screen time, which I will always support, and makes a potentially boring character cool and someone you can root for! He is so good-looking and yet in a way that can be completely understated and allows for him to be both an appealing lead but also a great character actor. I definitely see him as one of our generation's greatest talents.

One aspect of Nolan's franchise which cannot be faulted is his dedication to fantastic fight scenes. At the end of the day, this is a Batman film and we as an audience don't have to wait patiently until the end for a satisfying punch! So many of the Avenger precursors fell into the boring trap of saving up one big fight for the end - which was often disappointing and brief - and focusing the entire first three quarters of the film on backstory, character building and amusing shenanigans! TDKR has multiple confrontations between Batman and Bane, between Catwoman and various mobsters, between policeman and vigilantes, and between pretty much all of Gotham's citizens at one point or another.

We can always rely on the Dark Knight trilogy for amazing effects and magnificent stunts. In "The Dark Knight" it was the truck flipping over as Batman battled the Joker on the streets of Gotham and in "The Dark Knight Rises" we are not left wanting for brilliant stunts from our actors and our props. The Batmobile alone - not even a Batmobile any more really, but now just called "the Bat" and basically some sort of plane - with its detachable motorcycle is always learning new tricks and always exciting to watch. The well-known trailer clip of the collapsing football field is probably this film's rotating truck, but there are many more amazing feats to rival it. Nolan's imagination is almost unparalleled in cinema. It's worth watching his DVD extras to see him describe how he comes up with these hugely expensive and visually stunning scenes, which often only allow for one take.

The costumes manage to mix the traditional ideas we have of Batman, Catwoman etc, with a modern twist and avoid the camp, spandex-y theme of many of its predecessors. There are no pronounced nipples on Bale's costume! Catwoman's cat ears are goggles and the Batmobile is a military vehicle designed to jump rivers, looking more like a tank than a sleek winged car.

Music and soundtrack are also one of this trilogy's high points. The original score to these films is so iconic now, there is so much to recognise from "The Dark Knight". Every noise in this film, ever piece of music, every chant, every cry, everything is placed carefully to make you feel something specific, to send shivers down your spine, to make you lean forward subconsciously in your seat, to make you grip your armrests in suspense! I do believe, along with films such as "Gladiator" and "The Lord of thee Rings", that the Dark Knight trilogy has one of the best and most emotive soundtracks of any film to date.

All of that said, what truly makes this third and final installment worthy  of concluding one of the film world's greatest franchises is its ending! When awaiting Harry Potter 7, I wasn't sure it was possible for any book to be good enough to satisfy my needs after such a great series. Likewise, I wasn't sure that even Christopher Nolan could make a film to follow "the Dark Knight", let alone both amazing Batman films. However, like with the seventh Harry Potter book, Nolan has achieved this beyond doubt! I don't want to give away any spoilers, that would be beyond cruel, so all I will say is that you will come out of the cinema both sad that such an amazing franchise has ended, but utterly convinced that it couldn't have been given a better send off!

Is this new instalment as good as "The Dark Knight"? Probably not. For me, the main things holding it back are a slightly less sleek plot and, unsurprisingly, the lack of Heath Ledger's unparalleled performance as the Joker. That said, saying TDK Rises isn't as good as TDK is like saying  "Goodfellas" isn't as good as "The Godfather". TDK was cinematic perfection, a film that you don't expect to arrive more than once a decade and "The Dark Knight Rises" is still a cinematic masterpiece and a greater film than 99% of directors will ever achieve. Well done, Chris! I can't wait to see what you do next!

Sunday, 15 July 2012

Film News 15/07/2012

Looks like the new Dragonball Z movie is set to be animated rather than live action, Dragonball Z rather than Dragonball, and with Akira Toriyama himself well involved! All of these points have to be good news and are an encouraging sign that this could actually be a good DBZ movie which will please fans.

Saiyan Island has an article with all the deets so far!

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Film News 10/07/12: New Dragonball Movie!!

Shonen Jump is counting down to the official revelation of the new (non-animated) Dragonball movie!

It would appear to be another Dragonball movie, rather than Dragonball Z based, which is a shame, but it also seems to be completely unrelated to 2009's awful "Dragonball Evolution", which, despite the fact that I did enjoy it and will always appreciate an attempt   to bring my favourite TV series to the big screen, was pretty bad it must be said. I'm not sure if this adaptation will be another Western version or if it will come from its home country, Japan, but the official announcement is set for this Saturday, so hopefully much will be revealed then!

This is my face right now: :-D !!! Special thanks to my lovely Sophie who learned of this story and informed me, due to her unrivalled knowledge of the anime world!

Monday, 9 July 2012

Film News 09/07/12

Michael Fassbender, my Liebling, is set to star in the movie adaptation of the popular game, "Assassin's Creed"! I haven't played it myself but I get the general idea and who better to play a dark, troubled, menacing character than Fassbender aka the young Magneto?

For more info see this blastr article!

Sunday, 8 July 2012

Spidey's Webb

This is it, the first of 2012's Great Triumvirate: "The Amazing Spider-Man", "The Dark Knight Rises" and "The Hobbit". OK, I've been corrected, I should say the second of this year's Great... um... Quadrumvirate? Anyway, No.1 was "The Avengers" which did reach all hopes. Not expectations, it exceeded those, but hopes! Anyway, back to the actual topic here, "The Amazing Spider-Man"!

First of all though, what kind of a film comes out on a Tuesday? Who goes to the cinema on a Tuesday? I know Wednesday has it's films, but let's be honest, it's all about Friday. There was a time, not more than a month ago, when I wouldn't have cared about the release date as I didn't have a job and I could go to the cinema whatever day I wanted, ensuring I could see all the important films the day they were released! Alas, not any more! But, again, back to the point, I saw TAS today, something I've been excited about for so long! I'm sure I first heard of this film about two years ago when I discovered that some guy called Mark Webb had cast the nerdy, English, relatively unknown Andrew Garfield as my favourite super hero of all time! Did it reach expectations as "Avengers Assemble" did? I'm not so sure, but it definitely entertained and it definitely did not disappoint!

Starting with the cast, because we all know I LOVE Emma Stone and am hugely fond of Andrew Garfield, this film has done very well, it cannot be denied. Garfield, though approaching 30, is a brilliant choice to play the awkward but intelligent and emotionally complex teenage Spider-Man, or Peter Parker to his friends. One of Spider-Man's strengths as a comic is the character depth and interesting backgrounds of its leads, especially the eponymous hero. In this film especially there is a focus on the absence of Peter's parents and their strange disappearance, leaving him to live with Aunt May and Uncle Ben, two of the Spider-Man universe's most well-known characters. Garfield has to balance some strong emotions and life changes in this film: the loss of his parents; the discovery of a possible clue to why they disappeared ten years after it happened; the fresh loss of another loved one; first love; and to top all this off, intense physical transformations and, as we all know, the great responsibility that comes with great power. This isn't as easy a role to play as one might expect from a super hero franchise. Spider-Man has emotional depth perhaps only matched in comics by DC's Batman. Andrew Garfield has proved time and again that he is a diverse and powerful actor and this performance did not not slip from that. He also has a great charisma and likeabiltiy which I believe is key to Peter Parker and the script has tried hard to stay true to Spider-Man's wise-cracking, humorous side as he arrests car thief after car thief, all delivered very naturally by Garfield.

Emma Stone can do no wrong as far as I'm concerned, though it must be acknowledge that this part is not the most challenging of her career. She's sweet and witty and completely believable as a girl in her late teens despite again being 5 or 6 years older than her character. The chemistry between Stone and Garfield is obvious, probably helped by their real-life relationship (that lucky bastard!). Ifans is another actor who never fails to deliver a stand-out performance. Though I don't believe Curt Connors proved as interesting a villain as the Green Goblin in 2002's "Spider-Man" or Doctor Octopus in 2004's "Spider-Man 2", as a character he is made very three dimensional. An old colleague of Peter's father, Richard Parker, he is a scientist at Oscorp (run by Norman Osbourne, the Green Goblin himself, though not yet in this instalment) who dreams of a human race without weakness and strives to find the cures for human diseases in animal genes. His own personal tragedy, the loss of an arm, is the main force that drives him, and like many of Spider-Man's enemies, he is a well-meaning, gentle man, driven to madness and villainy by horrific events in his life and a lab experiment gone very wrong. When will they learn? After Spidey, these experiments never go right! Ifans masters both the sweet but troubled Curt Connors and the cruel and ambitious Lizard. He is not just a Hollywood actor, he is a real actor with great range and a strong presence and this film is no exception to that. Also, I love Sally Field as Aunt May! She is the perfect mother figure and a genuinely good actress.

The visuals and the graphics are also to be praised. Spider-Man's new outfit is very cool. I've always loved his spandex suit, it's complex and well designed, it looks bad ass despite the fact that he's covered himself in blue and red skin-tight fabric, and it's just practical! Plus his entire face is covered, unlike say Super-Man or the Green Lantern, so we do not have to suspend belief when a family member doesn't recognise him. Where costumes are concerned, I actually believe Webb's film beats Raimi's. Maguire's outfit was very cool, but this new version is darker and looks more like its designed for battle. The Lizard is a formidable looking foe and Ifans' face has been well incorporated into it's lizardy facade. As with the first films, your breath catches in your throat and shivers run down your spine in the scenes where Spidey swings through the great heights of New York City, though I find these scenes too few and far between.

As to plot, I love the detail of the back story which this film provides. Adding the intrigue into Peter's parents is the main aspect which sets this apart from Raimi's films. Luckily this film got its villain right, unlike "Spider-Man 3", whose main flaw is its attempt to fit three complex villains into one plot: Sandman, Green Goblin 2, and Venom. The Lizard is a very interesting character in this film. I believe he is generally one of the stronger Spidey villains, and he has been allocated a strong back story as Spider-Man has. I never understood Raimi's choice of the Sandman in SM3, I've always found him a dull baddy. Furthermore, at no point does this film slow down or bore because it fits so much plot in.  There's a blooming romance; the mystery surrounding Peter's parents; the contentious relationship between Peter and his surrogate parents, May and Ben; the foreboding and invisible presence of Norman Osbourne; all on top of the Spider-Man origin story and then the ongoing battle between Spider-Man and the Lizard. 

That said, I did not enjoy it as much as, or believe it was as good a film as, "Spider-Man" or SM2. Let's pretend 3 didn't happen, shall we? The main reason I love the character of Spider-Man is because I believe he has the best powers and, with good special effects, watching Spidey swing through Manhatten, climb vertical structures, shoot web and just generally do some bad ass gymnastics is all breath-taking and I think this film's main flaw is that, although these were all done brilliantly and the fight with the Lizard in the high school is amazing and thrilling to watch, there isn't enough time dedicated to fights and to Spidey, especially with all the focus on the Peter half of him. This was a great film, just not as great as its forerunners.

Despite this, I thoroughly enjoyed this film, would rate it AT LEAST 8/10 and will be incredibly disappointed if a sequel isn't announced soon. Garfield deserves to be a massive star and this franchise has fantastic potential to keep getting better. If you haven't seen it yet, make sure you wait when the credits start for an extra scene a few minutes in. Gosh, I do love Marvel so!

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

A Performance to Remember

This week I will be mostly disagreeing with the general reviews for "Men in Black III"....

I'm going to be honest and confess that I didn't read any reviews for the aforementioned in detail, however, the general idea which I gather is that most label it a mediocre or poor sequel. MIB I was a masterpiece of cinema, I think we can all agree. MIB II I didn't even bother to watch because I heard it was just bad and the advert held no appeal for me whatsoever. But MIB III, well, what can I say, the advert just called to me!

One thing I believe all reviewers and myself can agree upon is that Josh Brolin achieves the mother of all impersonations in this installment as the young K (Tommy Lee Jones) of 40 years prior to the present day. When I saw the trailer and heard Brolin utter those six uncanny words - "How do you know my name?" - with such perfect intonation, accent and manipulation of features that one could almost believe TLJ was just having a really good skin day, I knew I had to see this film. The whole idea of agent J (Will Smith) having to go back in time and chum up to a young K was enough to get my attention and luckily for the film makers they found the perfect actor to encapsulate a young agent K. They were so lucky to find such a brilliant mimic in such a well-respected actor, I almost wonder whether Brolin didn't first go up to them and go "Look what I can do!", causing the concept to spring into their minds.

J and K (or J-K as I'm sure we all like to affectionately label them) were a great pairing from film one. You have two brilliant actors: Will Smith from the early days of his Hollywood career doing what Will Smith has always done best, a jovial, lovable, sarcastic rogue who's got a sassy quip for everyone he meets; and Tommy Lee Jones, a legend and the perfect man to play the stoic, unreadable, passive-to-the-point-it's-frustrating man of few words. Both characters are incredibly likable, the first film was very funny and you have the great pleasure of watching men shoot at weird-looking aliens with their ridiculous, ginormous guns!

The MIB films should be sweet and heart-warming and I believe MIB III maintains this essence from MIB I. It's all about backstory, naturally considering the concept: Why is K so serious and uncommunicative? This question is at the heart of the film as we compare the K we know and love with Brolin's young, jolly K, full of life and happy to shoot the breeze. I warmed to him immediately, as I think any audience member would. His developing relationship with J as J gets to know his partner's younger self is very moving as far as I'm concerned. As always, Smith produces a stellar performance. I literally don't think he's ever fallen short of a good performance. No matter what people may think of some of his films, he can never be criticised for his acting, especially his comic skills. I've already sung Brolin's praises and, to add to this, I found Jemaine Clement to be a pretty great baddy!

Jemaine (from "Flight of the Conchords" of course) is an evil Bogladite assassin called Boris the Animal, locked up in a prison on the moon these past 40 years, but freed by Nicole Scherzinger (yep) and now on the run with a taste for blood! 40 years ago agent K took his arm and put him away and Boris wants revenge. With horrible creatures crawling out of him, gross wrinkly eyes and giant clawed feet, Jemaine, already a large, bear-like human, makes for a relatively fearful villain, but I believe that MIB tends to aim for a bad guy that will make us laugh and who better to chose than one of New Zealand's greatest comic double act?!

I really enjoyed this third installment from MIB. I believe Brolin's performance was a stroke of genius and if the film goes down in history as a dud or not at all, his performance will be remembered and praised for years to come, be it in Empire and Total Film in lists of top characters or one of those Channel 4 list programmes where actors talk about films.

Friday, 8 June 2012

Alien vs Fairytale

I had a bit of a Charlize Theron marathon this extended Jubilee weekend, catching "Snow White and the Huntsman" on Saturday and finally getting to see the "Alien" prequel "Prometheus" this Monday! After a slow few weeks in the cinema it was definitely a treat, and though it can perhaps be argued that neither film quite reached their full potential, I thoroughly enjoyed both and will definitely be watching both again.

SWATH follows the much repeated story of Snow White, from the day her mother pricks her finger and sheds three drops of blood onto the snow - inspiring her desire for a daughter with lips red as blood, skin white as snow and hair black as ebony - to the conflict between White and her evil stepmother. However, this film adds background and a few plot twists of its own. The main appeal of SWATH - other than Chris Hemsworth as the eponymous Huntsman of course - is that it is, I would argue, an original and innovative adaptation of a well-known fairytale. "Snow White" is one of the Grimm stories that has been most reproduced, but I believe it has perhaps the richest material of any of their best-known stories. It has allowed for some interesting interpretations, such as 1997's "Snow White: Tale of Terror", a decidedly horrific adaptation in which the seven dwarfs are seven thieves, multiple of whom attempt to assault Snow White.

In SWATH, Charlize Theron's evil queen, who marries White's father and takes over his kingdom when he is dead, is heavily fleshed out. Her character is developed more than any other, save perhaps the Huntsman, who had previously only played a minor role, usually only appearing in one scene, if at all. We are gradually shown excerpts from Ravenna's (the Queen) childhood and background, explaining her cruelty and strong desire to be the fairest of them all. The characters are given a far greater degree of depth than your traditional fairytale heroes and villains, transforming this into a more adult, complex story than the base elements of the tale allow. Questions that a more grown up and more modern audience might ask are answered in this relatively intelligent adaptation; questions such as how does this ridiculously evil - though admittedly hot - woman convince the King to marry her and subsequently assume control so easily and why is being the fairest of them all so important that she's willing to rip the heart out of a teenage girl? Other characters are also allowed more substantial personalities: the prince is (slightly) more than a handsome man who happens upon White. The two have a history, it is not merely love at first sight. And of course the Huntsman becomes a hero in his own right, not merely a brief threat to the heroine. In fact, the only lead figures who isn't bulked out appears to be Snow White, though perhaps she requires it less. The seven dwarfs are given a relatively smaller role, being replaced as White's main accomplices by the Hunstman, yet they too have a bit more character and motivation than in the Disney version or the original story. Furthermore, we are revealed an entire kingdom suffering under the Queen's cruel rule rather than just one young girl.

The cast is for the most part solid. Theron is always full of character and has mastered this role of evil queen. She has beauty but also strength and power. She is blonde and angelic at the same time as being creepy and dark. Furthermore, Theron's Queen is both cruel and capable of acts of horrendous brutality, while also allowing us to occasionally feel great sympathy for her. I found Kristen Stewart a perfectly acceptable lead, though the part doesn't really demand much of her. Her English accent passable, though this isn't my expertise, and she managed to avoid annoying me throughout, though one motivational speech she delivers to her army towards the end left me somewhat unconvinced. I do question however, whether she is truly "the fairest of them all" or even fairer than Charlize Theron I would have to question, but I believe she can pull off both a delicate nature and reasonable strength which are needed for this role. She is allowed to mope for almost the entire film so the character suits her well enough. Hemsworth is perfectly believable as the Huntsman, large and powerful and grizzly. I think he is a fine actor, looks aside. He is full of charisma and great at comedy - as he showed us in Thor - but can also convey sadness, desperation and anger. Sam Clafin is effectively a new Orlando Bloom, though potentially a better actor. He is the typical dreamy Prince Charming, with absolutely no physical appeal to me but a sweetness and likability which I'm sure will land him many similar roles.

The visuals are what the films has most been praised for and many have claimed that it has sacrificed plot in the quest for mesmerising imagery and I have to agree to an extent. Some of the costumes are incredibly cool for a start. Ravenna is definitely the most aesthetically impressive character, bearing one robe of black feathers which morphs with her into a flock of crows. The multiple scenes of her aging - as she exerts herself with magic - and regaining youth - as she sucks it out of young maidens - look particularly freaky and cool!The film is full of gothic/horror imagery, such as the Queen immersing herself in a bath of milk and of course the image most associated with this story, the blood red apple on the snow white ground. This story definitely offers many opportunities for elaborate scenery, such as the dark forest and all its ghosts and ghoulies, and the film does appear to want to present us with as many impressive and gorgeous sets as possible, perhaps putting less emphasis on the story which is rushed in a few parts, such as the battle at the end. The potential is definitely here for a fantastic film, but unfortunately it doesn't quite deliver. Nevertheless, it was a very entertaining romp!

"Premetheus" is generally classified as the prequel to "Alien", and it is a prequel in that it is set in the same universe and based around a mission funded by the Weyland Corporation, which pops up in the old Alien and even the Predator franchises, constantly attempting to secure the Alien creature as a weapon. However, this film does not involve a battle between humans and the Alien villains from its predecessors. In this movie, we see a group of scientists on a space mission to discover the origins of man. They land on a planet which they believe holds some of the answers to life's great questions and encounter multiple obstacles and enemies.

Many reviews are giving the general impression that "Prometheus" is a bit of a disappointment, a so-so movie. I personally enjoyed it immensely, though I must concede it is not as good a film as "Alien" or indeed "Aliens" and it definitely lacks in the horror and suspense departments in comparison! Yet several of the film's components make it a good film in my books: like SWATH, it too can boast fantastic aesthetics and effects; there is a solid plot line revolving around the mystery of the origins of man; the cast is pretty impressive, including my actor of the year Michael Fassbender, my period drama love Rafe Spall, and the Swedish "Girl With The Dragon Tattoo" star Noomi Rapace, a growing favourite of mine; and of course, the all important "weehhhr, weehhrr" noise played on all adverts and at the film's climax!
The original beast!

I can see why hard core "Alien" fans might be disappointed, as this is not your typical Alien film. The monsters after whom the original film was named are not the villains in this piece, though there are clear parallels between the horrors encountered in "Prometheus" and those in its predecessor. No enemy in this film can claim to be anywhere near as terrifying as the Alien, which I believe is one of the most original and scariest creatures ever created in film. Nor does "Prometheus" create the masterful suspense which made its forerunners, especially "Alien", such brilliant horror films and thrillers. I barely jumped throughout the film but that doesn't mean I wasn't at times scared and unnerved by what was in front of me. This film is a 15 for a reason, though I would perhaps class it more as an adventure/thriller than a pure horror film.

That said, this is a cleverly devised film with a brilliant special effects team behind it. Some of the shots are incredibly beautiful, for example the opening scene which spans across a planet we presume is Earth, its countryside, its mountains and lakes, ending with an amazing and imposing shot of a waterfall. The ship (Prometheus) itself is incredibly impressive and scenes such as its landing on the mysterious planet where the giant head temple is found look amazing and are brilliant examples of how far special effects have come in the past decade or so. This is a fun, exciting film, both due to visuals and plot. At no point in its 2 hours and 4 minutes is there a lull, for this film is about solving mysteries and answering questions and so it carries a pretty dense plot, perhaps rushed at times if anything.

The cast is impressive, we have all noticed this, but does it deliver? As with most ensemble casts, some elements play only small roles, when some of us would perhaps like to see more of them: Rafe Spall for example, or even Idris Elba. That said, Elba does ooze cool in this film, as he has in every film or TV show I've ever seen him in. Noomi Rapace is playing an English archaeologist, Elizabeth Shaw, whose findings spark the film's mission to outer space. Rapace was brilliant in "the Girl with the Dragon Tatttoo" and I believe she is well cast here, in a role which requires extreme emotions - in many ways completely unlike the sullen, inexpressive Lisbeth -  excitement, fear, grief, and she is clearly capable of emitting great strength and presence. Theron is always great, though unfortunately this role demands very little from her. I would say the stand out star is Michael Fassbender, not because he is one of my favourite actors and I love everything he does, but because he has the most challenging, interesting role: the android, David. David is the predecessor of all the more advanced androids we have experienced in the earlier "Alien" films. I won't list them here incase it proves a spoiler for some of you, but you should really have watched these films by now unless you're too young! David is programmed by the Weyland Corporation to assist all of Prometheus' passengers on their voyage, bu as always, the android's motives seem suspect. He is incredibly intelligent but has not been programmed to feel emotions. There are so many layers to this both sympathetic and yet unsettling character. He definitely stole the show for me and I think the film is almost worth it for his performance alone.

Go see Prometheus if you enjoy adventures, thrillers and mysteries, and if you desire a little more background to the Aliens and their movies. The well-known monsters are not really a part of this film, but not are they completely irrelevant. For the most part this is a film about mankind, nonetheless, it is set in space and it is aware that it is part of a wider franchise.

I also had the great pleasure of seeing the new "Dark Knight Rises" and "The Amazing Spider-Man" trailers both in 3D before "Prometheus" and now I'm ridiculously excited for both, possibly even more for "Spider-Man"! Though I'm not usually too bothered about 3D, I do think it worked well in multiple shots in "Prometheus" and I am very tempted to see "Spider-Man" in 3D for the moments when he swings through New York's immense structures. Batman and Spider-Man will hopefully be two franchises which do live up to the hype this summer!

Film News
Apparently a "Snow White and the Huntsman" sequel is already being planned and discussed, as long as this one can generate enough revenue to justify it of course.

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Too uninspired right now to invent a movie word-play

I am finally finished with exams and all of my university degree for that matter so I have
tremendous amounts of free time to get to blog writing but I don't really have any new movies I feel like writing that much about. I went to see "American Reunion", aka "American Pie 100" or something this weekend and two weeks ago I did manage to see Tim Burton's "Dark Shadows", but neither have inspired me to write a lengthy review, though I'll give you a brief overview.

"American Reunion" is everything you'd expect it to be. If you like the first three then I'd say knock yourself out, if you don't then you'll know to avoid it at all costs. I personally find these films sweet and reasonable easy-going entertainment, but no one is going to give them any awards. Naturally the high points of the film all involve Sean William Scott, aka Stifler. He may only star in generic, crude and poorly written films - although I must give credit to "Goon" which was funnier than I expected and incredibly heart-warming - but William Scott is inherently funny and definitely a scene stealer. He is also a classic marmite-actor: you'll either love him or hate him and I definitely love him. The film's one moment of what I would call genius, though I am easily pleased, is a "Jaws" parody at the gang's local beach and it is all thanks to the perfect physical comedy of SWS.

"Dark Shadows" entertained me for all the reasons that pretty much all Tim Burton films entertain me: The gothic scenery, Helena Bonham Carter's face, Johnny Depp's stand-out talent in any role, and in this film I was also a little bewitched by Eva Green and her magnificent hair and - I have to say it - boobs. Furthermore, I did find it genuinely funny. That said, it felt incredibly rushed, I believe due to the large amounts of plot and character they attempted to throw into the film, probably in an attempt to fit as much of the television series into the film as possible. Plot twists get thrown at you with little explanation or back-story and I credit this as the film's main flaw and probably why it received poor reviews. It doesn't flow very naturally.

Film News:
Like all film fans, I am impatiently awaiting June 1 when not only "Prometheus" will appear on our screens but also "Snow White and the Huntsman" which both have the potential - especially the former - to be some of this year's best films.

I am also pretty darn excited about the new James Bond film, Daniel Craig's third, "Skyfall", due for an October release. Though "Quantum of Solace", Craig's last stint as Bond, was a confusing mess, I still place "Casino Royal", his first Bond film, as one of my favourite Bond films ever and the new teaser trailer for "Skyfall" looks like this could be an incredibly exciting and complex installment; though hopefully not with so many plot lines that it is impossible to follow, as was the problem with QOS.

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

2012's most exciting movie

Out of "Avenger's Assemble", "The Amazing Spider-Man", "The Dark Knight Rises", "Pometheus" and "Snow White and the Huntsman" you voted "The Dark Knight Rises" this year's most exciting movie. Nice choice!

I do apologise for neglecting to make "the Hobbit" an option. I'm sure that would have had a firm chance of winning if it had been, but I think Batman is also a petty strong contender.

Sunday, 6 May 2012


Do you like the title? Eh, eh? It's still a film title, aren't I clever? Anyway, this blog shall be about the films I am most looking forward to in 2012 - I also have an appropriately matching poll on my blog at the moment, but that won't be there forever, whereas this post will!

Anyway, the line-up for 2012's blockbusters is insane! It's like Hollywood tapped inside my brain, fished out all my favourite things - Superheroes? check!, specifically Spider-Man and Batman? check! Christopher Nolan? check! The Lord of the Rings? sort of check! Chris Hemsworth? check, check! - and threw them left right and center at different production companies and directors until the following glorious ensemble of movies was created!

1. Avengers Assemble

   It's already out, but boy haven't we been waiting long for this one? It's only May but I can already say with relative confidence that this will be in 2012's top 10, as will the following films on this list I hope.
   I went to see this for a second time in 3D on Friday and I do actually believe that in some places it is an improvement.The vortex opened by the Tesseract is pretty cool in 3D, as is much of the final battle scene on the streets of New York. I also had the pleasure of seeing adverts for not one but two more films from this list: "Snow White and the Huntsman" and "Prometheus", as well as the trailer for "Dark Shadows", which also has strong potential to be a brilliant blockbuster!

2. The Amazing Spider-Man

    I loved Sam Raimi's original Spider-Man franchise with Toby Maguire and I believe the shots and special effects showing the web-slinger swing his way through Manhattan are still some of the coolest and most thrilling scenes in ay super-hero movie. That said, I have been pulled in by the allure of Marc Webb's (appropriate name right?) revamp, starring the incredibly talented and charismatic Andrew Garfield and the beautiful and hilarious Emma Stone. I love the dark twist, though that may be very unoriginal of me, but I'm hoping that this Spider-Man will be to Raimi's what Nolan's Batman was to Burton's: dare I say it? Gritty and dark!

3. The Dark Knight Rises

   Anyone out there who didn't love "The Dark Knight" is probably not the sort of person who's going to read my thoughts on films and any super-hero fan worth their salt is by now getting rather desperate to see this latest installment in Nolan's Batman series. 
  However, the build up to this film began so long ago and expectations have been so high that it's getting to the point where people are asking if it can really ever live up to all the hype. I say, if anyone can achieve such a film, it's Christopher Nolan.
   Batman is one of my favourite super-heroes (second to Spider-Man funnily enough). He faces perhaps the best villains of any hero franchises and holds one of the best back-stories (up there with Spider-Man again). There is a rich abundance of Batman history and characters that should mean that Nolan can't have run out of steam and won't be reproducing a Batman film we've seen before. He's brought us multiple new characters and faces: Bane, who is a completely different breed of villain to characters such as Ra's Al Ghul ("Batman Begins") or the Joker or Two-Face ("The Dark Knight"). Added to this we have Hathaway's Catwoman (or Selina Kyle), who should mix things up a bit with her ambivalent alliances and other additions such as Gordon-Levitt's policeman John Blake and Cotillard's Miranda Tate, of whom little is still known. This could be the best film of the year (bar "the Hobbit" perhaps) if Nolan achieves its potential.

4. The Hobbit

   Since I was 11, "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy has remained on the top of my film list. Until I die, no matter what technological advancements the movie industry sees, even if they manage to resurrect Heath Ledger and he and Chris Hemsworth do a buddy cop movie, LOTR will always be a perfect film in my eyes.
   It has what is probably the best story ever told at its center, some of the best set pieces of any film ever and an ensemble cast that cannot be beaten, even by "Avengers Assemble".
   Now, almost 10 years after "The Return of the King" left our screens, we are being presented with an additional not one but TWO movies to savour and love. And what makes this that bit more perfect is that "the Hobbit" ended up being directed by the man who brought us the originals. Is there any way this film could be anything but awesome? I'd be amazed if Peter Jackson managed that.

5. Prometheus

   The "Alien" saga is  a classic, we all know this, and there could be an argument for it holding some of the greatest horror films and thrillers of all time.The alien itself I would class as being the best, most original and most stylistically perfect movie monster ever. There are so many levels to it: The monster itself, the eggs, the face-huggers, the different forms the alien can take, the acid blood, etc. It's so well thought through. And many argue that Ridley Scott's entry, the first film in the saga, remains the most frightening. It creates suspense and oozes horror better than any other film I've seen.
   This new installment is still a bit mysterious to us as it would appear that Earth's heroes face a different foe, but one that we all presume must hold some link to the eponymous alien creature. And I believe that is this film's greatest asset at the moment. It is perhaps the film that has gauged my curiosity more than any other this year. Even after the new trailer, with lengthier clips and more dialogue, we still have no idea really what's going on and I really, really want to know!
P.s. What a cast ay? Michael Fassbender, Noomi Rapace, Idris Elba and Rafe frikkin' Spall!

6. Snow White and the Huntsman

   I guess this year everyone's noticed the oddity that is two Snow White films turning up at once. There have of course been other adaptations since the classic Disney version in 1937, like "Snow White: A Tale of Terror" in 1997 or that random TV version with Lana from "Smallville". But these few and scattered attempts have spanned over seventy years and now we have two such films coming out within a few months of each other!
   "Snow White and the Huntsman" has seemed to me destined to be the greater film (as opposed to "Mirror Mirror") from the word go. Once again, the director has chosen the dark, sinister path that has made some of this decades most popular franchises. There is a far greater focus here on battles and good versus evil, on the sadistic nature of the queen and the struggle of Snow White to become an empowered young woman than on the traditional fairy tale romance of "boy saves weak girl in need". There is a prince but from what I can tell he forms a very small part of the story. The seven dwarfs, sorry, make that eight here, also seem to play a relatively small role. In fact, one could argue that this film barely represents the traditional children's story we're all so familiar with. Then again, that's not necessarily a bad thing.
   We all enjoy a fresh new take on a well-known tale. Christopher Nolan's Batman did so well because it was an incredibly modernised interpretation of a character who has seen many portrayals in film, TV and literature. If this Snow White is to really capture our attention and stick in our memories, it has to be something new. Also, I'm very happy with the focus on the Huntsman as he is played by Thor (OK, Chris Hemsworth, but here he's clearly just being a dark-haired Thor) and carries far more appeal than Sam Claflin's (bleh) Prince. I'm also hoping that there will be less focus on this "fairer than them all" business, as I don't think that I could sit through two hours of people telling me that not only is Kristen Stewart hotter than Charlize Theron (mmhmmm....), but that she is fairer than them all!

In summary, 2012 is gonna be off the hook!!!

Monday, 30 April 2012

Great Expectations

I was greatly conflicted about my expectations for Marvel/Joss Whedon's "Avengers Assemble", released last Thursday after four years of build-up since "Iron Man"1. Part of me thought it could never live up to the hype, which was inevitably huge, or harness well all six of the team (especially the key four: Thor, Iron Man, Cap America and the Hulk). It could have fallen into the great pit created by "Spider-Man 3", with its multitude of heroes and villains destroying any cohesion in the film. On the other hand, part of me was so excited I kept squealing intermittently on the train journey to Cineworld. Well ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls,.... It totally lived up to the hype! "Avengers Assemble" demonstrates the pure, unbridled cinematic talent of Joss Whedon, seen in his first  movie venture "Serenity" and indeed in the very recent "Cabin in the Woods", but which also must be noted in his TV masterpieces with there fantastic ensembles and brilliant combo of humour, horror, emotion and entertainment! See "Buffy" and "Angel" for probably Whedon's finest moments.

What was so great about "Avengers Assemble"? Where to begin?! Ok, lets start with the cast and the Avengers themselves. I, as you all know, am a MASSIVE Thor fan. Loved the film, love Chris Hemsworth (I need a good nickname for that boy...), love the humour and the characters. I definitely was expecting to love his character the most, though with Iron Man as a close second. I was definitely not expecting much from ScarJo and Jeremy Renner, whose characters seem redundant when fighting next to a demi-God, a hulk, a super soldier and a man in a metal suit which flies and is covered in guns! I worried that the film wouldn't acknowledge or be able to work with the clear lack of equilibrium between powers. And with such a big cast of leads, one always fears some will get too much attention and some too little. My worries were unfounded. 

The Avengers + S.H.I.E.L.D agents + Joss W
One of the best things about this film is the abundance of fight scenes and conflict. Before our heroes even get to fighting Loki they have to become a cohesive unity and that - with such diverse personalities at play - naturally leads to some initial conflict. Thor vs Captain America and Iron Man? Genius. And the pièce de résistance of such inner-clashes is that it allows Whedon to acknowledge their differing abilities and varying power: there's no way Black Widow stands a chance one-on-one with the Hulk for example and this is clear in the film. Nevertheless, ScarJo does not seem redundant as I feared. In a battle against Loki there's no question, she - and Renner's Hawkeye - would lose, but in a war their powers do come in handy. Furthermore, all the characters get decent coverage, though you can't help but think Stark (or Robert Downey Jr) will always steal the show somewhat. I loved all the characters, even the infamously boring Bruce Bannar, played by Mark Ruffalo who I am definitely learning to appreciate. No character is without a good script, a decent back story, depth of personality and some funny one-liners. I can't say who was my favourite really... Captain America certainly nabbed a place in my heart with his endearing and in no way annoying dedication to what is right and to a higher purpose. With such large, unruly and eratic characters such as the Hulk, Thor and Iron Man, the Cap is a necessity! No actor let his character down. The casting - which when I first noted it made me go "Who ARE half these people??" - is pure genius.

Creepy right?
As for non-Avengers casting, Samuel L Jackson was of course BORN to play Nick Fury. That man has, like his wallet, "Bad-ass" written all over him. And, like his co-stars, in this film he is allowed to bring more depth and character to his role. He genuinely moved me in multiple scenes. Oh Nick, I have so much love for you and your eye patch. Tom Hiddleston also has the villainous Loki down. I would not trust that boy with a barge pole. He's cruel, he's deranged, but he's a genius, and despite the other heroes' superior physical powers, he has them wrapped around his finger for a  large portion of the film. Hiddleston brings emotion but also pure sinister-ness to this former Ice Giant. Ice being the operative word. I must also mention Agent Coulson, who since the post-credits scene in "Iron Man" has been bringing out heroes together, preparing them for a time when the Earth will need them and need them to work together. He also gets fleshed out in this film with some new and very lovable character traits: His dedication to the Avengers initiative and his fan-boy-crush on Captain America.

Thor and the Captain mid-battle
The battles and the adventure aspects are what we're all really going to see at the end of the day - and hot men in tight suits naturally - and this film brings it and brings it hard! As I said, there are battles against Loki but also some instances of Avenger#1 vs Avenger#2. Each hero has a completely different power and so no fight scene is the same. You have your hammer-wielding God who packs an ENORMOUS punch; your faster-than-a-human-should-ever-be-able-to-run Captain America who was trained as a more traditional soldier; your shiny metal suit which has unlimited gadgets and, of course, flies; and you have your in-no-way-subtle giant green angry dude. The main battle is of course the final battle in which Loki attempts to unleash hell on earth. Though it may be argued that the villains which accompany him are of no real character or particular originality, the amazing force which the Avengers unleash on them certainly is. It's exciting, its of a good length - unlike the fights which end "Iron Man" 1 and 2 and "Captain America" -, and its diverse. Those Avengers sure do know a lot of ways to kill. This film is as colourful in plot, characters and action as a true Marvel film should be. The final fight VERY much resembles the end of "Transformers 3", but you know, if T3 was frikkin' awesome!

I say to everyone, see this film. No exceptions. It will grab you and not let you go til the end. It had me laughing out loud consistently, it had me on the edge of my seat and it had me in tears at a couple of points which I will leave you to discover for yourself. There is no genre or atmosphere Whedon can't master - as "CITW" also demonstrated very well. As I said, this film is a super hero movie, but as Marvel have been learning to do quite well since beginning this adventure with "Iron Man", it encompasses character, strong plot, humour, darkness, and pure, unhinged adventure. Oh, to watch it again straight away! Trust me, it will happen this week. The Avengers assembled and they assembled well!

P.s. I very much enjoyed Empire's online review of this film, I agree with pretty much all of its points. Check it out if you desire better-written, well-articulated praise of AA, though, I will say that I would add another star to its four-star judgement.

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Scary Movie

I do apologise for the long absence of new posts in this blog. It is the middle of my revision and exam period now and so I have not had much opportunity to go to the cinema, nor to review those films which I have managed to see. Nonetheless, I shall attempt to write a brief and belated review of "The Cabin in the Woods", a fantastic horror film which I was lucky enough to catch two weekends ago.

"The Cabin in the Woods" is a Joss Whedon film which was actually filmed in 2009 and initially due for release in 2010, but due to lack of funding and financial problems its release was delayed until this April, when it finally and thankfuly came out. It is difficult to discuss this film without giving away too much. Many even argue that the trailer is too revealing because *spoilers*....

this film has a big twist, some of which is clear within the advert. Then again, that part which is clear in the trailer is actually revealed pretty much within the first scene of the film and the main revelation comes gradually during the film and neither I nor the trailer will let you in on that secret. However, if you want to go into the cinema completely in the dark, no pun intended, which I think may be a very fun way to watch this film, look away now!

*sigh* Chris Hemsworth looking grumpy
The story is that of five twenty-something college students deciding to take a trip to a cabin in the woods - shocker - owned by the cousin of lead male Curt, aka my current man-crush Chris Hemsworth. Naturally, we're all yelling at the screen "Don't go in there, y'all gonna get eaten/slaughtered/stabbed/shanked/vaporised" or some other horrible ending.

Now, this is where Joss Whedon does something clever, for that is only half of the story. Another set of characters are introduced, dwelling in what appears to be some sort of underground army base or compound, and they're running the entire show in the cabin. This is all I'll tell you about the plot, anymore would be too much I assure you.

Many have argued that this film is not scary. To be honest, I was jumping and covering my eyes left right and center, but as I've mentioned before, I'm not very good with horror. However, even if you do want to argue that it's not scary, I will counter-argue that this film is not really part of the horror genre. At its core, this is a sci-fi film, and all Whedon fans know that this is something Joss does very well: Mix sci-fi with monsters. We've all seen "Buffy"! TCITW, which appears to be another of the many typical teens-in-the-woods-getting-naked-then-slaughtered movies is actually a satire of this genre, posing the question, "why do we enjoy sending teens out into the woods to bet brutally mutilated for our own entertainment?" This film is gory, but it's also funny and thought-provoking.

The cast all play their parts well as you can usually expect when a director hasn't gone for the most famous names he can scrabble together. Though we all know and love Chris now, this film was actually pre-Thor. And many Joss Whedon fans will recognise "Dollhouse"'s Fran Kranz skulking on the left there, as the films resident stoner and wise-guy, and "Angel" and "Dollhouse"'s Amy Acker as one of the science nerds behind the whole cabin project.

The film's pace is incredibly quick and not one moment is wasted on boring details we don't need. You won't be able to predict the multiple twists and turns and your attention will be captivated throughout as every 5 minutes leads to another revelation about the underlying plot. The ending is one of the best, most thrilling I have seen in a long time. Unfortunately, I can't reveal any of the gory details, but the film picks up a ridiculous pace and lets just say Whedon lets his imagination run wild with a multitude of horror film parodies. The finale will have you gripping your seats as you wait with baited breath to see how it will all pan out.

I also had the pleasure of re-watching "Captain America: The First Avenger" last Friday, in preparation for "Avengers Assemble". Generally, I find this film very entertaining and think director Joe Johnston made a brilliant choice casting Chris Evans in the lead, but it did not reach its full potential. It should have been the best of the pre-Avengers films, but instead it falls behind "Iron Man 1" and "Thor" due to its mediocre and rushed ending.

On Saturday night I then re-watched Scorsese's brilliant "Shutter Island". It has a fantastic performance from Leo DiCaprio, who always delivers these days, and I would recommend it to all fans of Leo, Martin Scorsese, thrillers, mysteries, films in general and pretty much anyone when it came down to it. A brilliantly suspenseful and moving film, which will frighten you and make you cry. 

 I must warn you not to expect another post for a while, as exams will probably get in the way, though I do completely intend to watch "Avengers Assemble" this Saturday and if I'm lucky will have time to do a quick review, which I imagine will go something along the lines of...
"Oh my God it was so good. I loved Thor SO MUCH and RobertDowneyJrandLokiandalltheothrzitwaswelxcitingcn'twaitforasequal.OMGOMGOMG!" Or you, some such squeal-like wails.

Monday, 26 March 2012

The Children of Panem

"The Hunger Games"

I just had one of the best film weekends I have had in aaages. I hadn't been to the cinema for three weekends in a row by this Saturday, so I was very excited about this extra special trip to see "The Hunger Games" which I had been eagerly anticipating, having read and very much enjoyed the books. The film did not disappoint I can tell you!
Far right: Hutcherson, Lawrence, Hemsworth

I reckon many fans of the book, like me, will mostly be concerned about whether the films are going to get the three young leads right, whom we have followed and loved (maybe not all of them, but you will have your favourite two) throughout the three books. Luckily for us, the entire cast was nigh on perfect, with the brilliant  Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen. Katniss is an incredibly endearing, in-no-way-annoying protagonist, who has a lot of character in the book, unlike the protagonist of the book THG is most often compared to, "Twilight", who is completely 2D and incredibly annoying and for who I had not one ounce of sympathy while reading the book. Katniss is a skilled hunter and a beautiful girl, but you don't feel jealous or annoyed by these facts, because she's modest and brave and genuinely merits the admiration she generates and Lawrence was perfect casting for this. She's not just pretty, she has charisma, she is a strong actress, but still shows great modesty and likability. You need all these things for Katniss, as well as a capable actress, considering the range of emotions and horrors the character goes through.

The two male leads were also well chosen. Josh Hutcherson shows all the characteristics we expect from Peeta, though in a far less demanding role than Katniss'. He's sweet, sensitive and strongly moral, but also brave and charming. Hutcherson isn't quite as large or handsome as I imagined Peeta,  the powerful blonde baker's son, but he acts Peeta and so he comes to look like Peeta. As you all know, I have much love for Chris Hemsworth, the wonderful Thor, and his younger brother Liam, who plays Katniss' other male lead Gale, is quickly making his way onto my man list. He's like a slightly smaller, dark version of Chris, almost as handsome, and I believe has the potential to prove almost as charismatic. His part in THG is pretty small, but don't worry Hemsworth fans, it is bigger in book 2 and he becomes incredibly significant by book 3. What he mainly does in this first installment is stand there and look handsome and broody, which he does very well, but Peeta is definitely the male lead at this point. Who knows how things will develop later on though... ;)

As always, Elizabeth Banks is PERFECTly cast as Effie Trinket. The representative of the games in district 12, a native of the capital and as such, ridiculously dressed and incredibly oblivious to the horrific reality of the games.  It's all a fun show as far as she's concerned, though there's definitely a deeper, slightly more intuitive side of Effie that comes out as the books continue. I love love love Lenny Kravitz as Cinna, one of my favourites in the book, and ditto for Woody Harrelson, ever the amazing performer, as Haymitch Abernathy, the lovable drunk. And I did enjoy an appearance from Wes Bentley as Head Gamemaker Seneca Crane, I haven't seen him since "American Beauty"! My only quarrel with casting was Donald Sutherland as President Snow. There's no problem with his performance, but Snow, as president of the capital, is supposed to have had extensive plastic surgery to reduce aging in his face, probably a lot of botox, resulting in fake, puffy, slimy lips and a repulsive facade which Katniss finds hard to approach. Even with an evil sneer, Sutherland has a pretty comforting face!

The effects were, as you'd hope for this film, brilliant! The capitol had to be an interesting task, not just the amazing buildings, the stadium in which they introduce the tributes for the 74th annual Hunger Games, but also its inhabitants, with their ridiculous make-up, tattoos, wigs, clothes, all far too colourful and lavish, to the extent of obscenity. The city floats in the middle of a lake, it is incredibly beautiful, but, as well all know, contains an incredibly corrupt society, which is part of what Collins wanted to put across in her book. A society which focuses that much on aesthetics, that doesn't have much bellow the surface, in the way of intelligence or morals.
Team Gale? or Team Peeta?

If you like, or even better love, the books, go see this adaptation! It is incredibly true to the books, to the extent that there were only one or two moments where I thought "That's been slightly altered, but not really," and there are no key excerpts from the book which I noticed missed out. It is very true and a VERY exciting, fun watch!! If you haven't read the book, well, either get reading or get watching! I only condone watching the film without having read the book if you genuinely have no trace of desire to read it. And people, it's time to chose whether you're Team Peeta (which I am in the book) or Team Gale (which I am in the film so far). Is it mega lame to get the t-shirt...?

To see my analysis of "The Hunger Games" books and for a slightly more detailed overview of the plot check out my post "The Hunger Games: A Briefing".

The Hunger Games was awesome, it really put me in a good mood. As I have said a million times, I love it when a book I am particularly fond of is transformed into a great film which really does it justice and I believe this is such a case. What was especially nice about this weekend trip to the cinema is that I left the Odeon to find the sun shining brightly and a warm breeze all around, allowing me to tear off my jumper and enjoy the sun on my arms for the first time in a while. Jim (with whom I watch and share all these movie experiences) and I then went down to Bristol docks, which is just lovely this time of year for an ice cream. But that's not all! No, the weekend delights reached an even greater high on Sunday when we returned to town to watch another film, "21 Jump Street", which turned out to be equally as exhilarating and noteworthy as "The Hunger Games"...

"21 Jump Street"

Jenko and Schmidt were high school enemies, now they're
BFFs,  hunting down some bad guys!
If I ever didn't love Channing Tatum (OK, I didn't, the fact that he was in "Step Up" and just appeared to be generic American hunk with a boring face put me off) I do now! He is seriously funny in this film. His comic timing is perfect, he's totally lovable and endearing as Jenko, while doing what we all know he does best: Play the high school jock with lots of brawn and no brains. Jonah Hill is equally well-suited to his part, the nerdy, awkward, never-successfully-asked out a girl Schmidt. So there we have our two leads and what is the premise? Two useless cops who have only managed to get by by combining their efforts - Schmidt brings the smarts while Jacob aces the obstacle courses and physical training - are caught out when an attempt to arrest their first perp goes horribly wrong. They are subsequently sent to 21 Jump Street, an old Korean church in which undercover cops are trained and sent off on their various missions. Tatum and Hill must go back to high school - at which, naturally, Schmidt was a total loser with no friends and Jenko was the dishy track runner and football player with consistent F grades - and uncover the dealers and brewers of a new drug, which is circulating the school and has killed one student already.

This is one of the funniest films I have discovered in years. The advert really made me laugh, but as is so often the case with comedies, I was expecting the film to not quite live up to it, to have given away its best bits in the trailer. Not so! Not so at all! This film was even more amusing than its brilliant trailer. The laughs are large and consistent and the film is very fast paced. The two leads both shine in their roles, neither one letting the other down or outshining the other, they balance each other perfectly. There are enough action sequences to keep cop-movie-fans satisfied I believe, and an incredibly cool looking party is held at the boys' home (actually it is Schmidt's home, with whose parents the boys are staying to keep up the facade of being teenage brothers). You also have a bit of a love story between Hill's character and Molly, the coolest girl in school, as well as a hilarious (though not a dominant story) romance between Tatum's clearly not teenage hunk and his chemistry teacher, who can't decide whether her morals outweigh her libido. It ticks all the boxes! I would recommend this to everyone, though I'm sure in reality there are those who will never enjoy this type of film.

Film News:
A new film on my "Oh my God, I must see that!" list is "The Cabin in the Woods". Why am I adding a horror film to this list? Especially one whose concept resembles "Cabin Fever" which was crap AND scary? Two reasons: 1) It is being directed by Joss Whedon, creator of "Buffy", "Angel", "Firefly", "Dollhouse" and the soon to be released "Avengers Assemble", and 2) It stars Chris Hemsowrth, now getting a second mention in this week's blog, and currently heading my man-list. Plus, really, this is no ordinary horror film in which five horny teens or tweens (not exactly sure how old they're supposed to be) end up being attacked by slack-jawed yokels or killing each other instead of sleeping with each other, this film has a much more interesting, unique take on the genre. Check out the trailer to see what I mean (unless you want to go in knowing almost nothing, allowing for more surprises,  which can also be fun):