Monday, 30 January 2012

The Hunger Games - A briefing

Jennifer, Josh and Liam
For my birthday this year a friend of mine bought me the first in the series of books, "The Hunger Games", of which I had never previously heard, but which I quickly took to reading and soon I was buying books two and three, "Catching Fire" and "Mockingjay". These books, a teenage trilogy, starring a brave, resilient young heroine, Katniss, facing constant life-threatening situations, while being simultaneously wooed by two handsome young men, Peeta and Gale, has, unsurprisingly, often been labeled the next "Twilight", but it's so much more.

Effie Trinket with lead, Katniss Everdeen
The story is set in an alternative version of our world, in a post-apocalyptic America, now named Panem. It is divided into 12 districts and a Capitol which rules them all. To ensure fear and complete subservience of the other districts and to repress the urge to rebel, the capital holds annual "Hunger Games". These games involve a lottery in which one boy and one girl between the ages of 12 and 18 from every district is chosen to enter an arena and fight to the death. Last man standing wins. Sound familiar? Yes, it is to an extent a western, 12A version of "Battle Royale". I haven't read the novel of "Battle Royale", though I've read much of the manga, but I'd say it is the better story of that and "The Huger Games". That said, the latter is a consistently fun, often gripping, frequently moving - in some cases to tears - novel, full of lovable characters. I was so thrilled to find out that Lenny Kravitz would be playing Cinna and Woody Harrelson would be playing Haymitch - two of my favourites. 

Though still notably aimed at a teenage audience, these books are significantly better written than the Twilight saga, with more in depth characters and a more well-rounded and action-packed plot. Many of the kinks (the many, many kinks) in "Twilight"'s armour have been ironed out in these novels - though I am by no means arguing that Suzanne Collins thought for a minute about "Twilight" when she wrote them. The protagonist, Katniss, is actually likeable and sympathetic. She has personality, and does not merely feel like she is narrating the events as the author would. She has ups and downs, moments of joy and of sadness, instead of hurtling out moans and complaints at her reader. The two male leads courting her are the ONLY men doing so, unlike in Bella Swan's case where I believe her two male school friends, Mike and Eric, also tried to catch her attention when she first arrived in Forks. There is actual death and violence in this saga about a game show where "kill or be killed" is the mantra, in complete contrast to the vampire novels in which, despite 90% of its population being vampires or werewolves, both creatures designed for strength and the ability to destroy, and despite the age old rivalry between these two races and despite the high tensions between the Cullen clan and the vampire Vatican, not one main character dies in 4 books. Not one! Well, when reading or watching "The Hunger Games", prepare to lose those you love and thought you'd never lose! The individual events of this story are by no means predictable, though you can have a general guess at how it will end, but important questions - such as who will survive?, who will Katniss end up with? - Peeta? Gale? No one? - are not supplied with quick and easy answers. 

The film is going to be a quadrilogy, which I believe will involve splitting the final novel in two - as was done with "Twilight: Breaking Dawn" and "Harry Potter Part 7". The first part is coming out 23 March and, judging from the trailer, looks to be one of this years must-see fantasy films:

Film News:
I am about to reveal to you, the most exciting, inviting, inciting film news you'll hear for ages: It's official, they're making a sequel to "X-Men: First Class" and director Matthew Vaughn is back on board:

Another intriguing new project I have heard of is "Only Loves Left Alive", a film about two vampire lovers, starring Tilda Swinton, John Hurt, Tom Hiddleston and Mia Wasikowska and directed by Jim Jarmusch.

More soon to be released is "A Dangerous Method", out on 10th May, the next in the Michael Fassbender series. This is the story of psychoanalysis, of the friendship of Karl Jung and Sigmund Freud and the tests they carry out on a sexually disturbed Russian girl, Sabina, who ends up driving a wedge between the two. I am very excited about this film, though it appears to be receiving only mediocre praise: 3 stars from Total Film. I love Fassbender, Viggo Mortenson and Keira Knightley and David Cronenberg (director) has made some interesting films. He directed "Crash", which won the Oscar for Best Film. I personally didn't enjoy "Crash", I found it very bleak and there aren't many characters you can really empathise with, but it does address important and interesting issues and he got some brilliant performances out of his cast. Cronenberg also made "A History of Violence", displaying some raw talent from Mortenson and, again, heavy and serious material.  It seems to me it is worth watching his films to look at the issues he raises and the performances of his actors.

Sunday, 29 January 2012

A Very Long-Distance Engagement

I was very eager to go see "The Grey" this weekend. I have seen many 4 star reviews in reputable magazines (aka, not "Zoo", "FHM" or "Hello"). But then when I looked online I could find practically no viewings in Bristol, so, of course, instead of giving up on my weekly trip, I inspected what other goodies were on offer and found "Like Crazy". I'd seen a trailer for this in the cinema about a month ago and forgotten when it was coming out, but it had very much appealed to me at the time, largely because I love Felicity Jones, but also because the subject matter seemed intelligent and not like your average rom-com and the advert displays several Sundance Film Festival award wins:

This is the film of Anna, a young British university student studying in LA, who falls in love with American student, Jacob and decides to stay there with him after their study ends. But Anna comes into problems with her visa and is refused entry back into the US. Subsequently, they struggle through an on-off-relationship, trying to find the best solution to make them both happy. I completely agree with the repetitive 4 star review this film has received. It delivered all I hoped it would, a fantastic performance from Felicity Jones and Anton Yelchin, a moving and natural script and a very insightful look at long-distance, seemingly doomed relationships.

This is one of the best depictions of a young relationship, still in the honeymoon phase: utterly devoted to each other, unaware how to live without each other. When you watch the film, you feel like it is a documentary or just select recordings some of your friends have made to detail their relationship, its ups and downs. It feels so natural for several reasons: The fantastic performances, the great chemistry between Yelchin and Jones; the hand-held camera style, that gives an un-airbrushed, non-Hollywood feel to the film, you feel like you're watching a home video or even that you're right there with them; the lack of pop songs, pre-published songs, in the sound track, it merely uses a score written for it, using pianos and other classical instruments and a lot of the time there is no music at all, which all adds to the natural, real-life ambiance.

The film is very well-paced. It has to cover several years of relationship and so the editors had to pick out the key moments, which is done very well. There is little focus on the early days of the relationship, because what matters is the difficulties they face once Anna is denied entrance into the US. Their first date, however, is included and its definitely a bonus in this film. It helps the audience build a clear image of their relationship, helps you feel invested in it, as you've known it from the start. And it is just a fantastic scene. The dialogue is awkward as they try to think what to say to this person whom they are clearly interested in, but don't know all too well and have definitely never been in a romantic situation with before. This is your typical, honest first date. The chemistry between the two throughout the film is undeniable.

After my last, "Avengers"-orientated post, I decided that it was really time I got around to  re-watching "Thor", which I did on Saturday night and I have to say, though it doesn't have the impact at home as it does on the big screen, it is still jolly good fun. I do think the contrast between the scenes in Asgard and the scenes on Earth is stunning. "Thor" has what no other super-hero film has, a completely different world, the world of the (almost) Gods, which is giant, glorious and gold! This allows Marvel to use their special effects to new, more exciting uses. Chris Hemsworth is fantastic as Thor. He's brilliant at playing the rash, aggressive and naive God of thunder, but he's also hilarious. A prime example of the films humour is the scene in the cafe, when Thor, not used to human civilisation, smashes his cup of tea and demands: "Delicious, I'll have another!" And you have to admit, with the long blonde hair and beard and the immenseness of his pecs, he is a God-like sight to behold. I think he may well be my new number one Avenger, edging out Downey Jr's sarcy, smart, sexy Stark (I am owning the alliteration).

For this week's Top 5 I am going to look at my Top 5 Directors, considering the films that have put them on my list:

Tim Burton
Edward Scissorhands
This man has been my no.1 since I was like 6 and my parents introduced me to "Edward Scissorhands" and soon after "Beetlejuice", still two of my favorite films. I love his gothic style, you know you're watching one of his. I love his characters who never fit into the world they are born into. Characters like Edward, who in their loneliness and feeling of misplacement, are achingly beautiful. Other masterpieces by Burton are, as I have already mentioned in an earlier post, his two "Batman" films, "The Nightmare Before Christmas", based on his story and his characters, though directed by "Coraline"'s Henry Selick, and "Sleep Hollow", which I must have watched about ten times when I first bought the video in 2010.

Ridley Scott
I have always argued that "Gladiator" is a perfect film. Every aspect of it is perfectly chosen and conducted: the acting, the script, the scenery, the music. It is not to be faulted! Another masterpiece of his is "Blade Runner", whose beauty and depth go beyond the visuals, but in the way Scott addresses the question of good and bad and right and wrong. It has one of the best endings of any film ever, when Harrison Ford and Rutger Hauer battle it out on the rooftops. Also, "Alien" - need I say more?

Christopher Nolan
I'm sure I've said it too many times now, how much I love "the Dark Knight" and even "Batman Begins", which hadn't yet reached the complexity and genius of its sequel, but is still fantastically directed and an incredibly unique take on filming the comic book hero. That said, I have seen all  of Nolan's feature-length films and none were bad. He seems to get better with every film, but we mustn't forget the older ones, like "Momento", one of the most cleverly edited films I've ever seen, and "The Prestige", with its brilliantly complicated and twisted plot, its outstanding performances and scenery.

Peter Jackson
Because no one else could have done "the Lord of the Rings" so perfectly and so in keeping with the atmosphere and life of the book. Though Guillermo del Toro is also amazing and would have made an incredibly dark and haunting "Hobbit" I am sure, Jackson was born to make this prequel.

Hayao Miyazaki
Howl's Moving Castle
Because he directed all of the best Studio Ghibli films, some of which are my most beloved films of all time, for example "Howl's Moving Castle" and "Spirited Away". The Studio's films are totally unique and surreal and the studio is Miyazaki essentially. The artwork, the stories, the characters. His signature is on all his films and no one else can possibly claim to be similar to the style of Ghibli.

Film news: They are definitely onto filming "Star Trek 2", which has me all excited, because I am a BIG fan of the first film and slightly in love with Zachary Quinto, ever since he terrified us in the first series of "Heroes". There are many sequels being set up at the moment, including a "Ferris Bueller 2", that's right, it's 26 years after the first one, Matthew Broderick is now 49, but they're doing it. Also in the pipe-line are "Terminator 5", though who is directing it or starring in it is yet to be confirmed and "Fast and the Furious 6" - seriously guys?

The Gangster Squad
In other, very important news, I have discovered a new film to be released on November 9 starring the love of my life, sorry, I mean Emma Stone, alongside Ryan Gosling (repairing them after last year's "Crazy Stupid Love"), called "The Gangster Squad", looking at the LA mafia in the 1940s and 1950s. Sean Penn and Josh Brolin also star, but I was sold at Emma Stone, who has yet to do a film that I haven't liked.

Friday, 27 January 2012

Empire Strikes Back, with Avengers!

This week I am singing the praises of Empire, my favourite magazine! One of the reasons why I have chosen this oh-so-informative of monthlies as THE source of film facts for the past 5 years - yes, I have every issue since November 2006 - is their consistently beautiful front covers and oh what a display we have this month. Every now and again they supply their loyal readers with alternatives. A few months ago we had Batman vs. Bane, for "the Dark Knight" we had Batman vs. the Joker and this month we have an "Avengers" selection, with the options of Captain America, Iron Man, Thor and Black Widow (though why anyone would select the last choice I have NO idea,well not NO idea).

Now the big question you have to ask yourselves, other than which cover you are going to chose, but are you prepared for the coming "Avengers" film? Have you watched "Iron Man" 1 and 2, "The Incredible Hulk", "Thor" and Captain America"? If not, I am here to rescue you. I will give you a brief overview of each film to keep you up-to-date - look away now if you don't want any spoilers! - Though I'll try not to go into to many details, I don't want to ruin some very fun films for you.

Iron Man 1 and 2:
Tony Stark's father designed basically all American weaponry and had his hand in almost every technological jar. Now Stark Sr. is dead, Tony is the company's leading man, a "genius billionaire playboy philanthropist" as he rightly reminds us in "the Avengers" trailer. While held captive, wounded with shrapnel in his chest, in Afghanistan, Stark designs a robotic suit which not only magnetically prevents the irremovable shrapnel from piercing his heart, but enables him to kick some serious butt! In both 1 and 2 Stark faces opponents wearing similar suits, usually based on his own. At the end of 1 he reveals himself to be Iron Man to the press and has since helped Nick Fury to drum together fellow Avengers. Other important characters: PA Pepper Potts, Stark's love interest (Gwyneth Pultrow) and best friend and, after 2, fellow suit owner, James "Rhodey"Rhodes (Terrence Howard in 1, Don Cheadle in 2). You'll see references of, and even appearances from, Tony and his father, Howard Stark, and their business "Stark Industries" in the other Avengers films (e.g. Dominic Cooper plays Howard in "Captain America"), pretty much whenever weaponry or money is mentioned.
We also have an appearance from Scarlett Johansson (the Black Widow) as undercover S.H.I.E.L.D. agent, Natasha Romanoff, in Iron Man 2.
Iron Man 1: ****
Iron Man 2: ***1/2

The Incredible Hulk
This version of the Hulk skipped the intro story because Ang Lee's "Hulk" (2003) covered that part, but basically, Bruce Banner (Edward Norton, now to be played by Mark Ruffalo in the "Avengers") is a scientist helping the military, who are trying to create super soldiers (boy, does that sound familiar), and who accidentally transforms himself into a great green goliath of a monster. This transformation only occurs when Banner's pulse reaches 200bpm, so he is not allowed to get angry or make love to his beautiful girlfriend (Liv Tyler). Banner is on the run from the military, knowing the dangers of his new form, because he does not want the magic formula that makes him mean and green to become a weapon.

There is a long-standing animosity between Odin, King of Asgard, and the Frost Giants of Jotunheim, whom the Asgardian warriors defeated in a battle long ago to prevent them from seizing the nine realms, including Earth. Odin is Thor's father. The Asgardians are not Gods as many would believe, but merely incredibly powerful aliens. Thor is set to soon take his fathers place as king, but when he disobeys direct orders, he  is banished to Earth, seperated from his source of power, the hammer Mjolnir. There he befriends scientists Natalie Portman and Stellan Skarsgard. Thor must return to his home, where his father is in a comma and which is under threat once again from the Jotunheim. At the end of the film, Thor returns to Asgard, his path to Earth presently severed.

Captain America: The First Avenger
In 1942, all Steve Rogers wants is to become a US soldier, but his tiny stature and slight build, despite his great courage and perseverence, holds him back. Meanwhile, an evil Nazi, Johann Schmidt (Hugo Weaving), invades Norway and is clearly up to no good. The US army need a test subject for a super soldier (surprise surprise) programme, a brave, loyal citizen, to fight for their cause. And guess who is the perfect candidate??  In his new and improved form, Roger becomes the poster boy for American heroism and the USA's only hope against the Nazi terror that confronts them. The end of the film sees Rogers crashing a plane in the Arctic. Supposed dead but actually frozen, Rogers is found and reawakened in the present day - explaining his failure to age between WWII and the "Avengers" - and recruited by Nick Fury.

I would find it hard to chose between the Iron Man cover and the Thor cover, but as I  have a standing order for Empire magazine, I receive it monthly in the post with a special, members only front cover.  It's well cool. So I didn't have the tough, though admittedly exciting, decision of picking a cover, I got this bad boy instead...

Avengers News: In an interview with Empire magazine, Neal McDonough, who plays Dum Dum Dugan in "Captain America" has declared that, as well as "Iron Man 3" and "Thor 2", which Marvel already has set for 2013, a "Captain America 2" and a "Nick Fury" or "S.H.I.E.L.D." film may be on the cards for 2014. Watch this space!



I have changed my Blog name and URL from "films what i like" to "the films of others" - A reference to one of my favourite films and a more appropriate name I thought. I hope you like it.


Wednesday, 25 January 2012

It's A Wonderful Day For Film

This day was going to be aaaaall about my university work, but instead I have learned some very interesting things from my friend IMDB! This post is completely focused on film news (though I did today watch "The Diary of Anne Frank" (1957) but I can't be bothered to talk about that right now.

Firstly, a little more Fassbender news. Have you had enough yet? I hope not, because as I said, this is HIS year. I have discovered he is making a film with BRAD PITT and CHIWETEL EJIOFOR, called "Twelve Years a Slave", directed by, surprise surprise, Fassbender's 2nd biggest fan (after me), Steve McQueen. The film isn't set to come out until 2013, little information is known at the moment and these are the only actors as of yet linked to the project, but aren't they enough? Luckily, the film is based on the book of the same title, so we are not at a loss for insight on the subject matter. The general description is a story set in the mid-1800s of a man living in New York, Solomon Northup (who also wrote the book), who is kidnapped and forced into slavery in the deep south. Yes, this is almost word for word from IMDB and any other non-detailed source you read and yes, the film isn't due for release for a year yet, but it's definitely something to get excited about, especially if you want more on the Fassbender-McQueen collaboration.

Secondly, the man I probably mention second most, after Fassbender, Joseph Gordon-Levitt has a cracking year ahead of him, and many films I don't believe I have mentioned coming out. He has five set for this year alone: "The Dark Knight Rises", "Premium Rush", "Looper", "Lincoln", and "Django Unlimited". Of course, I have told you about the first and last of these, but I want to give some details on the ones inbetween. "Lincoln" excites me the most, in which Levitt plays Abraham Lincoln's son, Robert Todd Lincoln. The film is about Lincoln's struggle against slavery and stars... dun dun dun!! One of my all-time favourites, Daniel Day-Lewis as Lincoln himself. Watch this space for some BRILLIANT acting. If anyone can completely personify someone else's being, its Day-Lewis. "Looper" also looks to be full-on entertainment. Partly because the synopsis is so frikkin' cool: a killer who works for the mob of the future discovers one of his targets is his future self. And partly because that killer is Gordon-Levitt and his future self is none other than Bruce Willis, cool guy extraordinaire!

I hope this has wet your appetites! I know they're all going on my list of must-sees.

Monday, 23 January 2012

Treasure - the "Lonely" - Island

I got three films in this week, not bad, could be better, but there's SO MUCH work to do at the moment for my degree. I went to see "Haywire" as promised in the cinema, and I also watched "Hot Rod" for a second time this Friday and "American Pie 2" (I've only seen no.1 before) Saturday evening.

I shall first of all consider "Haywire". This is the story of a private firm which hires out black ops super soldiers. Our heroine, Malory Kane (Gina Carano), is one of said super soldiers. Betrayed by her firm and framed for murder, she goes on the run, beating the s**t out of every Hollywood A-lister who tries to stop her. And many do! In an interview in Total Film I read that Carano, for whom "Haywire" is her first acting experience, until now known as "the face of Mixed Martial Arts", was seen by Steven Soderbergh being generally bad-ass and skilled on SBS (Sorry Bro: Sports) and Soderbergh basically went "I want to make a film about that lady!" You can definitely see this in the final product.

The film is basically one and a half hours of fights and impressive stunts, wrapped in a very suspect plot. Carano does all her stunts and she is pretty impressive. She thoroughly pulverises Channing Tatum,  Michael Fassbender and Ewan McGregor, and those are just the famous ones!  Add to that she is a very sexy woman and does not perform badly as a first-time actress, this is definitely her film. The plot on the other hand is a bit loose. You're not really sure who, what or why when it comes to the double-crossing behind the entire chain of events for most of the film. Why did they kill that guy and frame her for it? Who are all these men in Dublin that Fassbender is talking to? Why do they pick Kane to place the blame on? It is vaguely explained at the end, but even then the plot cracks are not sufficiently sealed. The film was not as entertaining as I hoped it would be, specifically because when Kane is not kicking ass, there's nothing to hold onto or think about, that said, the fights and the chase sequences, through Barcelona, Dublin, New York, and so on, are well done and keep you entertained until the end.

 Now, on to "Hot Rod"! I don't believe I have yet revealed my huge crush on Andy Samberg, but the man is amazing! I have much love for "the Lonely Island", especially their songs "Mother Lover", "Boombox" and "I Just Had Sex". For me, they form the only funny part of SNL (Saturday Night Live), which, despite the participation of amazing comedians such as Amy Poehler, Tina Fey, Bill Hader, etc., constantly disappoints (I'll admit, I've only watched two full episodes, but they did not make me laugh once).

"Hot Rod" stars Andy Samberg as Rod Kimble, a wannabe stunt man, who is pretty awful at every stunt he tries, probably the least bright bulb in the entire bulb factory, but incredibly endearing and lovable. When his stepfather needs a heart transplant but can't afford the $50,000 it costs, Rod steps up and offers to raise the money by jumping 15 school buses on his motorbike. He is constantly trying to seek his stepfather's (Ian McShane) approval, which involves trying to beat him in a fight and his logic is "I'm going to make you better, so I can punch you in the face!" Rod's brother is played by fellow Lonely Islander Jorma Taccone and the film is directed by the third and final Islander, Akiva Schaffer, and the trio's style is firmly stamped all over the project.

The plot of this film, like that of "Haywire", matters very little really. It is merely a framework within which Akiva Schaffer can place his unique and odd comedic clips, for example, my favourite scene in the ENTIRE film, in which Rod, out of the blue, starts pronouncing all words beginning with "w-", "hw-":

This sort of joke, completely random and dropped straight away after it is used, is one of many such jokes that run through the film. Of course, most comedies don't have a a plethora of running jokes, such concepts are not as common as of-the-moment  gags, but the comedy in this film seems more random and quintessentially "Lonely Island". It works fantastically for my funny bone. The entire screenplay is well written and each scene contains its own little comedic treasure, making the film almost a series of witty sketches. That said, the sweet characters and amusing concept of Rod wanting to save his stepfather's life, only so that he can then beat the shit out of him and prove his manhood, hold all of these sketches together and make it worthy of the title "feature film" and not merely a feature-length sketch show. If this hasn't convinced you that this is a must-see piece of tomfoolery, consider the additional cast members of Will Arnett, Danny McBride and Bill Hader. If they are the markers of a film you'd like, get on "Hot Rod".  

I think it would be appropriate this week to look at my Top 5 Comedies, don't you? (As usual, I will try to cover films I have not already discussed):

1. Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story
"Dodgeball" is the story of small-time gym owner Peter La Fleur (Vince Vaughn), who must drum together a team of weak-bodied, but lovable losers to win a dodgeball competition with a $50,000 prize so that he can save his all-inclusive, caring gym: they are true underdogs! Their rivals are a team led by Globo-Gym owner White Goodman (Ben Stiller), an evil, idiotic, perverted ex-fatty. This and "Zoolander" are definitely two of my favourite, and what I consider to be the best-written, comedies I have ever seen. Though the latter was written by Ben Stiller and "Dodgeball" was not, their style is definitely the same and spawned such films as "Anchorman" and many other films starring Will Ferrell or Steve Carrell or Paul Rudd - none of which are as good I might add. "Dodgeball" has some of the best lines of any comedy ("Nobody makes me bleed my own blood"), some of the best performances (Stiller, Vaughn, Rip Torn, etc.) and it is consistent through to the end.

2. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang
I love this film. It's so witty, what a fantastic script! It's an intelligent, dark detective story set in Hollywood, starring Robert Downey Jr. and Val Kilmer, who both own their roles. I must thank this film for helping revive RDJ's career and bringing him into my life. The plot is complex and gripping, the acting and the script are air-tight.

3. Heathers
A very dark comedy here, the story of high school girl Veronica (Winona Ryder): bored of the popular crew (the "Heathers") of which she is part, she accidentally turns to assisted murder when an (incredibly) attractive new student arrives (Christian Slater) with psychopathic tendencies and a liking for Veronica. It's dark but incredibly fun, well-performed, it has a unique style and really addresses teenage life, full of slang, image issues, bitchy popular girls and goofy popular guys.

4. I Love You Man
This is sooo much better than it should be. Can Paul Rudd do wrong? I think not. Does anyone NOT have a bit of a crush on him? Of course not, even my dad does. In "I Love You Man", Paul stars as Peter, a 30-something about to be wed, who realises that he has no male friends and so no best man. Of course, hilarious hijinks ensue. With a brilliant performance as well from the one and only, Mr Andy Samberg, as Peter's younger, gay brother. This film is "heart-warming" made flesh!

5. Clueless
Suuuch a good chick flick. One of the best, alongside "10 Things I Hate About You", "Easy A" and "Mean Girls", this is Jane Austen's "Emma" turned modern day high school drama. Much as I find Alicia Silverstone pointless, she nails the vapid, spoilt, yet caring Cher who enjoys setting all her friends up yet can't find a decent man for herself. Also starring Paul Rudd in the first role I saw him in, back when he was the film hunk,  this is a must for Rudd fans. Another brilliant script and heartwarming tale, no chick-flick lover can miss this, but neither can fans of good comedy.

Film news: Have you heard of the two new Snow White films to be released this year? First in March "Mirror Mirror: The Untold Adventures of Snow White" and then in June "Snow White and the Huntsman". The former stars Lily Collins as White and is a comedic take on the story, the dwarves being rebels enlisted to help White gain back the kingdom from the evil queen (Julia Roberts). Despite the fact that Kristen Stewart is to play White in the latter, it intrigues me more, probably because it appears to be a darker take on the story, and also largely because Chris Hemsworth is to play the eponymous Huntsman. It involves another quest to destroy the evil queen, this time with the Huntsman as White's ally.

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

This Means War

I've decided to see if I can copy "Gossip Girl" in my making all my blog titles film names or slightly-altered film names. "This Means War" is a film to be released on 17th February, starring Chris Pine and Tom Hardy, about two CIA operatives who compete over the same woman (Rheese Witherspoon). Naturally my friends and I have all started choosing whether we are "Team Tom" or "Team Chris". That in mind, I have chosen this film title to head this blog, the main focus of which will be the debate over who is better, J.J. Field or Tom Hiddleston?

Looking at these two - crudely put together and not very clear, I apologise - images, you can see immediately why I compare the two men. In fact, when I googled J.J. Field (left), the above image of Tom Hiddleston (right) appeared on Google amongst many that were actually of J.J. I have loved J.J. Field since I saw him in the TV adaptation of Philip Pullman's "The Ruby in the Smoke" in 2006, in which he played Fred Garland, who in book form is possibly the love of my life and who is almost equally sensible, lovable and charming when played by J.J. (though don't get me started on Billy Piper as Sally Lockhart).  He then went on to play another literary love of mine, Henry Tilney in 2007's "Northanger Abbey". J.J. has had a few film appearances, "Centurion" in 2010 and "Captain America" in 2011, in both of which he played minor characters, but he has never had the success I believe he deserves. He's handsome, inherently charming, charismatic and a good actor.

Now to Tom Hiddleston. Where did he come from exactly? I first saw him in "Cranford" in 2009 (not even the first, proper series of "Cranford") in which I barely paid him attention. IMDB-ing him now, I see he also had a regular part in the British "Wallander", a very good show. This, I believe, is how he got his big break, playing the main villain in "Thor" in 2011, directed by Kenneth Branagh, who played Wallander. Now, all of a sudden, he's getting decent roles in Woody Allen's "Midnight in Paris", beside Rachel Weisz in "The Deep Blue Sea" and, of course, he is to be the big baddy in the upcoming "Avenger's" film (playing Thor's brother Loki once again). What really gets my goat is the fact that whenever J.J. Field does pop up now - which seems rare - people ask "Is that the guy who plays Loki?" No! It is not the guy who plays Loki, it is the original of these dopplegangers, who for some reason has not been as successful! Ok, ok, I like Tom Hiddleston. He's very good as Loki and he has played well every part I have seen him in, but I can never forgive him for overshadowing J.J.! My theory is, if the latter's first two names weren't a mystery - what exactly does "J.J." stand for? - he would be the international star!

Film news: Watch "This Means War" and decide for yourself if you're "Team Tom" (clearly the better choice, it's Tom Hardy for goodness sake) or "Team Kirk" - I mean "Team Chris".

Monday, 16 January 2012

The Naked Truth

   This week I made not one, but two cinema trips on the weekend. The first was the all-important “Shame”, don’t worry, I wouldn’t let you down on that front. The second was “Mission Impossible 4”, requested by Jim, but which I was also very happy to see. But first and foremost, I must discuss “Shame”:

To give a brief overview, which I think is actually quite important in a review but which I rarely do, it is the story of Brandon (Fassbender), a successful 30-something New Yorker with a strong sex addiction.  He has a lot of sex, reads and watches a lot of porn, and... helps himself, we’ll say, frequently. His sister, Sissy (Carey Mulligan), who is as addicted to love and relationships as he is to sex and who has a suicidal history, comes to stay with him, having no home of her own and wanting to become a singer in the Big Apple. Her problems exacerbate his problems and remind him of a difficult childhood which is hinted at throughout. While watching it I thought I sensed some sexual feelings towards Sissy on Brandon’s part, but Jim – whom I see almost all of these films with - disagreed with me and I can find nothing on the internet to support my belief so I shall drop this for now.

The film itself was just as brilliant as I expected it to be. McQueen (the director) refrains from placing too many gratuitous sex scenes in a film about a nymphomaniac - I counted roughly 6 with Michael's character Brandon, having bet with Jim that there would be 10 -, not just using them to shock and be sexy, not making them excessively graphic, but using these scenes to depict the effects Brandon's addiction has on him. The camera rarely often focuses on Brandon’s face during these scenes. Though don’t worry, within the first 5 minutes we have seen several shots of ALL of Brandon. I was told of a brilliant quote in the Guide, which I don't know the direct wording of, but was something along the lines of "Shame uses many close ups of Fassbender's face, luckily he has a face that looks good in a close up". This is true for so many reasons. Michael is a beautiful man, he was on the front cover of last weekend Guardian Weekend magazine – yes, I have saved it – and the interview inside contained the quote that “[Fassbender has] a habit of ducking his chin in a way that acknowledges both how pretty he is and how vaguely embarrassing he finds it”. I loved this.  That said, close-ups of his face are also effective because Michael is able to act physically, without the use of many words, which I have read is similar to the way McQueen used him in "Hunger", which is definitely on my “must see” list. Like Emma Watson’s eyebrows in the Harry Potter films, Fassbender can use his face to depict many heavy emotions. One sex scene nearing the end of the film in which Brandon visits two prostitutes (I presume) contains a close-up shot of his face near the climax and the sadness and despair there is heartbreaking and hard to watch. 

McQueen clearly has a talent for depicting a story through images, without too much need for words. It is all about Brandon's looks, whether he is staring across the room at a dancing woman and seducing her with his eyes - something Fassbender was clearly going to be good at, have you seen his eyelashes?! -, or feelings of anger and frustration at his sister or shame at himself, the audience can see how he is feeling and what is going on through his mind. The scenes where he feels he can't handle life anymore and goes on a late night/early morning run through New York or breaks down in the rain near the river - it is all filmed beautifully, with bleak, gray colours to show the bleak, loveless life he lives. The end is not hopeless or too hopeful, it does not even feel particularly like the end, we have just been allowed a peak into the life of a sex addict, at a turning point, but your guess is as good as mine as to where Brandon will go next.

Carey Mulligan is also fantastic in this film. There is much talk of Fassbender receiving best actor nominations for this and possibly his performance in "A Dangerous Method" and I think his amazing performance as the central character will overshadow how moving and natural Mulligan is. One of her earliest scenes when she is on the phone to a boyfriend, crying and telling him she loves him, is astounding. Desperation, fear and misery are heavy emotions which are often overdone and artificial, especially in horror films, but you really believe everything she does.

McQueen clearly has a talent for depicting a story through images, without too much need for words. It is all about Brandon's looks, whether it be staring across the room at a dancing woman and wanting and seducing her with his eyes - something Fassbender was clearly going to be good at, have you seen his eyelashes?! -, feelings of anger and frustration at his sister or shame at himself. Scenes where he can't handle things anymore and goes on a late night/early morning run through New York or breaks down in the rain near the.... river - it is all filmed beautifully, with bleak, gray colours to show the bleak, loveless life he lives.

"Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol" as it is actually called was just what an MI film should be. It was fun and full of impressive looking stunts and locations, full of tension and variations on the famous Mission Impossible theme tune. The basic plot - though it's so flakey it's hard to explain really - is that Ethan Hunt and his team are framed for blowing up the Kremlin by a Swedish maniac bent on starting a nuclear war. They have to stop him and prove their innocence. The plot is very loose, you end up asking yourself "Why would he do that?", "Would that really work?", "Where's the logic behind that?", but as well all know with this sort of film, if you're going to watch it, these inner questions should be ignored. Despite his crazy ways, I do quite like Tom Cruise in films. He's a decent actor - see "Interview with a Vampire" - and, ignoring his personal life, he's a cool dude on screen, the guy's got presence. The highlight of the film for me was a sequence in which Ethan and his crew are in the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, the tallest building in the world, and Ethan must climb 11 stories on the outside of the building, aka climbing the windows. It looks amazing and it's so tense, it's exactly what you expect from an MI film, Tom Cruise climbing and falling with style. 

Michael Nyqvist is the baddy, aka Blomkvist in the Swedish "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo", aka the Swedish Daniel Craig. I swear he's turning up everywhere at the moment, but I think he's just got a generic European face. He's perfectly fine as the bad guy, he's not really in it that much but he does creepy well and I just have to say that his pronunciation of English is fantastic. I could almost be convinced that he were English. I'm hoping that both he and Noomi Rapace have successful careers, as they're both good actors and it's rare for Swedish actors - woo, go Stellan! - to find success in Hollywood.

I also finally got around to watching "the Incredible Hulk" this weekend - the version with Edward Norton, not Eric Bana -, which I felt needed to be seen considering the upcoming "Avengers" film. I have never really liked the Hulk as a superhero, he seems a bit dull, lacks any complexities to his powers, but then really, I could say the same of many of the Marvel heroes being turned into franchises at the moment, including Iron Man, whose films I really enjoy. Having been presently surprised by "Thor", I am more open minded now to the various heroes. "The Incredible Hulk" was by no means bad, it was an enjoyable superhero film with decent special effects and which was the right length for such an action film. Many action-adventure films these days seem to surpass the necessary length for such a genre. A film should be incredibly entertaining and have a fantastic plot to exceed 2 1/2 or even 2 hours in my books. The plot is pretty basic, there's no interesting origin story for the Hulk - though to be fair, this would be repeating much of what happened in Ang Lee's "The Hulk" or even for the villain. Like in many of these superhero films, the love story is pretty gratuitous. One can criticise the fact that the villain (Tim Roth super-enhanced to Hulk form) is just an evil version of the hero, but the again, it's exactly the same with the vilains of many of these films, such as in "Iron Man" 1 and 2 (the almighty Jeff Bridges and Mickey Rourke) or Thor (with Tom Hiddleston as Thor's brother Loki). I didn't enjoy it as much as any of the other Marvel films, but to be fair, I did see most of the others on the big screen.

Goodness, these posts are getting bigger and bigger. I shall try to be brief with this week's top 5, which I figured, considering the above review, would be my Top 5 Superhero films (the list has been a little altered so that I do not repeat myself too much on passed discussed films, but these are definitely some of my favourites):

1. The Dark Knight
Could it be any other? Christopher Nolan has become one of my favourite directors recently, especially as I have realised that I have seen all of his feature-length films and all have been good if not great! "The Dark Knight" is easily my favourite. I love that he has turned a superhero film into something not camp, but gritty and realistic. "Batman Begins" and "The Dark Knight" could be regular films about crime in New York, except the vigilante detective has loads of money and gadgets. This sets them apart from the others. The latter is superior because of the more detailed plot and the fantastic performance by Heath Ledger as who I consider to be the greatest comic villain ever created. Heath is one of the few actors who can adopt completely new mannerisms, new hand gestures, a new walk, new facial ticks, a completely new voice for each character he adopts. This - despite many other fine performances - may have been his masterpiece.

2. Spider-Man 1 (2002)
I love this film, and if it weren't for the awesome advert and the presence of Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone, I'd be a bit miffed about the soon-ness of "the Amazing Spider-Man" (2012). Tobey Maguire does the difficult task of nerdy to buff convincingly and is a genuinely good actor. Spider-Man is my favourite comic book hero, because of his beautiful and cool suit and his powers, which, though not as flawless as Superman's, are interesting and unique to him. The shots in the film where Spider-Man is swinging through New York city still send chills down my spine.

3. Batman (1989)
Tim Burton has pretty much been my favourite director since I was like 6 and I'm pretty sure he was born to make a Batman film. Their gothic styles match perfectly. Plus Jack Nicholson as the Joker? He doesn't have the Oscar-winning depth of Heath Ledger, but man does he have style! The scene where he enters the museum holding up the boombox is hilarious and cool as!

4. X-Men 2: X-Men United
As I have said, I may well prefer "X-Men: First Class" to this installment,  but it is amazing nonetheless. The casting for these films was mostly brilliant, I love Wolverine, I love Storm, I love Xavier, I love Magneto (almost as much as Fassbender Magneto), though I do have an issue with Famke Jansen in whatever she's in. It's tense, funny, sad and beautifully shot. An exciting plot through to the end.

5. Blade
Is anyone cooler than Wesley Snipe as Blade? Stephen Dorff as Deacon Frost comes close. This films seeps cool. The first scene in the vampire club with the blood sprinklers, Blade's massacre of all the vampires, is still one of the best films I've ever seen in any film.
Film News: I received a post on my Facebook wall with this link: and only one word “AHHHHhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!!!!”, which pretty much summed up my reaction when I ventured onto the IMDB page for "Django Unchained". This is the IMDB plot description “With the help of his mentor, a slave-turned-bounty hunter sets out to rescue his wife from a brutal Mississippi plantation owner.” But that’s not what’s important. Also, it’s not out until Boxing Day, so pretty much a year away. What’s important is that it’s directed by Quentin Tarantino and stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt!!!! (his name is spelled with that many exclamation marks), Leo DiCaprio, Samuel L Jackson and Christoph Waltz (and many more less important people, including Kurt Russel who scares me a bit). This may be the year for Fassbender, but it’s also a good year for JGL, who is starring in many films, among others “THE DARK KNIGHT RISES”! If you’re not excited about the next installment in the Batman franchise, then you’re a boring Betty I’m afraid. It’s gonna be soooo good: 

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Any Fassbender fans out there?

This is just going to be a quick intermediary blog to update on some brilliant film news. It's Fassbender season! This Friday 13th January, "Shame", a film about Fassbender as a nymphomaniac (I know, it's what we've all been waiting for) arrives in the cinemas. This excites me even more for the fact that his sister is played by Carey Mulligan, whom my film buddy is a big fan of and who I do enjoy in a film or two. She's pretty lovely really.
Merely a week later we have "Haywire", an American thriller about a woman on the run with a pretty decent cast, including the Fass but also Ewan McGregor! Then you only have to wait until February 10th for "A Dangerous Method" with Fassbender, Mortenson and Knightley! For what looks to be a raunchy period drama about psychoanalysis, Freud and Jung.
And the cherry on top of the sexy Irish cake? The "Alien" prequal "Prometheus" on June 1st, discussed in my previous blog.

That's the name of the moment, the date to look forward to? January 20th. For the fantastic list of films to be released that Friday: "Coriolanus", "Haywire", "J.Edgar" and "Underworld 3". This sumptuous feast includes Presidential Leo Dicaprio cavorting with the Winklevi twins, vampires in leather, MICHAEL FASSBENDER, and a bit of Ralph Fiennes most probably owning some Shakespeare!

Monday, 9 January 2012

An Adaptation and a Review

This week has been a definite achievement in film watching prowess. Only including films I haven’t seen before, I viewed: “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”, “Due Date”, “Goon”, “Barney’s Version” and “Season of the Witch”, which includes not one but TWO cinema trips. I am proud of myself. 

“The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” definitely did not disappoint. The music was epic and brilliantly atmospheric and the scenery was cold, dark, creepy and beautiful, as is fitting for such a film. Rooney Mara is fantastic as Lisbeth. It’s not an easy character to adopt, but she’s perfect. The rest of the cast is also good, though obviously don’t have as interesting or challenging roles, but there’s no weak link. I love the plot, I love a good detective story and this one has twists and multiple suspects and horrible secrets. It’s completely compelling through to the end.

In comparison with the Swedish version... . Well, it’s not better. Both are brilliantly done and well acted, the differences are mainly in what parts of the story get most attention. In the Swedish version I’d say the gruesome bits are a bit more gruesome and there’s more focus on the case. In the American version it goes into Blomkvist’s life and his relationship with Lisbeth with more detail than the Swedish. It’s definitely more Hollywood, if only slightly. Overall the Swedish version is probably a bit better.

I also went to see “Goon” in the cinema, much to my surprise. Like many others, upon seeing the poster I asked myself “who is actually going to go and see that film?” I guess I know now. Persuaded by my film buddy to go see it – as he had previously been so kind enough to see films such as “New Year’s Eve” with me, I ended up enjoying myself thoroughly. It’s about an unintelligent, but sweet, bouncer who becomes an ice hockey player, basically with the job of beating up the other team. There’s a girl in there too of course. I do like Sean William Scott – though I don’t believe he is the sign of a good film – and he is very likeable and sweet in this film. It’s written by the guy who wrote “Superbad” and “the Green Hornet” who ISN’T Seth Rogan and that nerdy guy from “the Sorcerer’s Apprentice” and it is genuinely quite funny, though nothing I’m going to go out of my way to see again. Go see it if you like S.W.S. and the stuff he’s usually in or if you really like films like “Superbad” but beware, it is incredibly gory for a comedy.

Of the three non-cinema films, I must recommend most highly “Barney’s Version”. It’s basically about Barney’s (Paul Giamatti) life from his first marriage to his third, to the love of his life. It’s kind of one of those films where nothing really happens, like “the Station Agent” or “Sideways” I imagine (I haven’t actually seen the latter), but actually lots happens. The acting is great of course and it’s incredibly moving. I found myself still thinking about it for hours after.

I am planning on reading “the Millenium Trilogy” soon, before I watch anymore of the Swedish or American films, because I believe it’s always best to read the book before watching the film if you plan on doing both. That in mind, in this blog I shall list my top 5 films adapted from books:

1. The Lord of the Rings
I know this is on pretty much all of my lists, but it is one of the hardest books to film right I would imagine, considering the special effects required, the scenery, the pure scale of the film and it is all fantastically captured. You watch it and you believe Middle Earth exists. Though there are a few changes from the book which annoy me – Faramir is so wet in the film – it generally sticks well to the book, keeping in the important bits and editing out what doesn’t detract from the story.

2. A Clockwork Orange
There are various changes from the book, but mainly aesthetic ones. It captures the futuristic, dystopian atmosphere perfectly. It is one of the best books I’ve ever read and one of the best films I’ve ever seen. This could easily have gone wrong, considering the odd characters and events, but these are used perhaps to an even more surreal extent in the film to support the message of the book: Does taking away a bad man’s ability to commit evil acts truly make him good? 

       3.  A Room with a View (2007 – the TV movie)
The Merchant Ivory version of this book is also brilliant, possibly a better cast overall and so beautifully filmed – they’ve done almost all of Forster’s books and very well at that – but one key element makes this more modern version my favourite: Rafe Spall. The best part of this book is the relationship between the protagonists, Lucy and Georg, and, though Helena Bonham Carter was a brilliant Lucy, Julian Sands is just creepy as George. George should be sweet and simple on the surface, but deep underneath. Julian Sands was just creepy and lecherous.  Helena does not seem to enjoy being kissed by him. Rafe on the other hand depicts George wonderfully, he is pure and sweet and clearly more intelligent than he seems. The chemistry between him and Elaine Cassidy is undeniable.

4.    4.   Pride and Prejudice (1995 – the TV movie)
This version is far better than the Keira Knightley version, though I do also enjoy that film. Books like “Pride and Prejudice” and “Jane Eyre” need 6-hour-long series to get in all the important detail and such things are best done in TV period dramas (usually written by Andrew Davies). The scenery, the actors and the script are all perfect, all key characters and events are present and accounted for. Mrs Bennet is hilarious, Mr Collins is horrific, Lydia and Kitty are outrageous, Mr Darcy is irresistable. It’s brilliant.  I’m even slightly in love with Crispin Bonham Carter’s Bingley (I say slightly, that’s an understatement). That said, I do wish Jennifer Ehle would stop finding everything so hilarious! She constantly looks as though she’s holding in a laugh. Ergh, she annoys me so. 

5. 5. Watchmen
This is just so perfect because they’ve copied specific shots from the graphic novel to the very last detail! All of the cast have been chosen and moulded to look exactly like their respective characters in the novel. Plus it’s a brilliant, exciting, compelling plot transformed into a film of aesthetic magnificence and wonderfully horrific fight scenes. The only casting I question is Matthew Goode as Ozymandius. Much as I like Goode, he doesn’t have the right build. The best character in the film, by far, is the Comedian. This is Jeffrey Dean Morgan at his finest. He may be an awful man, but he’s a cool superhero for sure!

Film news: Check out the new trailers for “the Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey”, “the Dark Knight Rises” and “Prometheus”. “Prometheus” is the new “Alien” prequel, directed by Ridley Scott (yay, I do love the Scott brothers), which has a fantastic cast, starring among others Noomi Rapace (who since Sherlock II I’m pretty fond of), Michael Fassbender (we all know how much I love Fassbender), Idris Elba and Rafe Spall (I have mega love for Rafe Spall, see him in “A Room with a View” to see why). This film should hopefully be epic considering the advert, the director, the cast and the subject matter. It should be coming out 1st June 2012. This is gonna be such a good year for film!