Tag Archives: 2011

#22 ‘Midnight In Paris’ (2011)

owenrach

"Biscuit.. or... cake"

Cast:-

* Owen Wilson

* Marion Cotillard

* Rachel McAdams

* Michael Sheen

* Tom Hiddlestone

* Kathy Bates

*Corey Stoll

*Adrien Brody

Director:- Woody Allen

Frankly, Woody Allen has always been a hit and miss filmmaker for me – perhaps its my naive, young mind unaware of the rich back catalogue of Mr Allen.. Or it may be my own stubbornness due to the obviously ‘dated’ approach of style that the director continues to use. However for all the excuses I could make, Midnight In Paris is one film that I am proud to be a fan of.

This is a tale of a young screenwriter Gil Pender (Wilson), disillusioned with his Hollywood lifestyle, and looking to gain inspiration for a novel with a trip to Paris with his fiancée, Inez, portrayed by Rachel McAdams. The film transports to 1920′s Paris, in a subtle, but well-executed twist in the film’s narrative – Where Gil meets his literary idols and succumbs to the charms of another woman, a mistress of Pablo Picasso (Cotillard).

Gil is an obvious romantic, constantly lavishing his affection for the city’s beauty while in the company of Inez, her friends and parents. While Inez is dismissive and seems more interested in priceless furniture and jewellery to be appreciative of Paris’ more notable charms. She also is far more in-sync with friend, Paul (Michael Sheen), who is a certifiable pompous jerk that spares no effort in trying to impress her on the history of Paris – but is corrected by an aloof Gil on more than one occasion. The character is a pitch-perfect for an actor such as Wilson – his most precise and admirable performance to date, and Sheen is effortlessly smug and patronising as his opposition.

The film’s transportation to Bohemian-era Paris of the 1920′s is as much an eyebrow raiser, as it is a welcoming turn for the books. For Gil’s character, a man truly passionate about his craft and inspirations, the face-to-face encounters with such literary masters such as F. Scott Fitzgerald (Hiddlestone), Ernest Hemingway (Stoll) and Gertrude Stein (Bates) allows the audience to fully connect with him personally and sympathise with his plight. As well as delving humourously into some of the shaded personal lives of a few, truly cementing the movie’s light-hearted take on such iconic figures, while not shamefully removing the ideals that made them highly regarded.

While it’s certainly not a patch on Allen’s great works from previous decades, the film is a refreshing new take on the genre of romantic comedy. While ignoring the stagnant aesthetics that the Hollywood-types have plagued on the nature of love and mutual companionship. Midnight In Paris shows a love that blossoms from the most simplest of things. And brings enough of the sophistication, light humour and charming warmth that we have come to adore from Allen.

8/10


#17 ‘Drive’ (2011)

No smartarse caption necessary

Cast:-

* Ryan Gosling

* Carey Mulligan

* Albert Brooks

* Bryan Cranston

* Ron Perlman

Director:- Nicolas Winding Refn

Danish director Winding Refn, a film maker I was totally unaware of til now, has restored my faith in filmmaking – an absolute beast of a feat. Drive has undoubtedly become my favourite film this year to date – bringing to light that this is still an art form to behold and praise. It’s made me excited and eager to watch movies again – reminding of an era of cinema long forgotten, trampled and shit on by the onslaught of mindless, dumbing pieces of work that belong in the bottom of the ocean. In the wake of its release, Drive caused a great divide among film fans and some critics alike - Whether it’s the ‘misleading’ trailer, or the ‘misleading’ title – I am one that struggles to comprehend why so many people I’ve conversed with regarding the film are so indifferent about it.

Canadian actor Ryan Gosling (to 17-23 year old girls – ‘That guy from The Notebook’) portrays the unnamed ‘Driver’, works as a mechanic and part-time on movie stunt sets by day, while taking night work as a getaway driver for criminals for a bit of extra coinage. But after meeting neighbour Irene (the adorable Carey Mulligan) and former Hollywood movie producer Bernie; he is subsequently thrown into a whirlwind of organised crime and retribution through the goodwill nature of his actions.

Set in L.A, ‘Drive’ delivers a totally contrasted vision of what we would usually see of a modern depiction of Los Angeles. During night scenes particularly, it’s the least of all a spot for celebs or high-profile personnel - instead a seedy, dim and dangerous backdrop where organised crime is apparently King. Though it is an extremely strong attribute to the atmosphere and tone of the film’s narrative and characters alike. With an instantaneously noticeable inspiration from 80′s cinema, b-movie eras and specific works based around Vice crime and noir-style features in particular. Never thought I’d make such a comparison… Saying that, it will certainly separate the opinion of some viewers as to what the film is trying to achieve, or to who it’s trying to reach out to. Best description I could make is that it’s a love letter to some of Winding Refn’s most treasured films. Nods aplenty to Scorsese’s ‘Taxi Driver’, ‘Bullitt’ and also 90′s heist smasher ‘Heat’. The balance of Drive’s intertwining forms of retro style and technique is so sweet, so precisely formed - that it’s almost effortless and you would struggle to make an assumption otherwise.

The dialogue throughout is considerably minimal, especially on the part of Gosling – who becomes most vocal during some of the film’s more violent, or his suitably ‘assertive’ sequences. Particularly one involving a hammer, a bullet, a phone call and the eye of a crook. It’s the film’s most impacting scene – showing us the lengths that The Driver will go to. In regards to Gosling’s diminutive input, it’s something that will be more understandable towards the film’s climax. The character himself I have voiced a great deal of admiration for. Noting his way to incorporate such a compassionate and heroic nature about him, while masking a sinister, psychopathic, vulnerable soul that is unleashed on those that stand in his path of avenging the innocent and hard done by.

The support cast is headed by the previously mentioned Carey Mulligan, who portrays a single mother living across the hall from Gosling’s Driver. Her part seems to be the humanization of Driver – to show that he is skin and bones, and has a heart and a need to be wanted and cherished. There is a subtle spark between the two – most apparent in shots of the two smiling coyly at each other – Behind an honest and genuine longing for each other, though they know it could never really be. Ron Perlman, man of the moment Bryan Cranston and Taxi Driver stalwart Albert Brooks are inspired castings from Refn – Cranston again showing why he is one of the most in-demand actor’s today with a touching performance as Gosling’s mentor and friend, and Brooks carving out that niche role that only he can. With Perlman portraying a smug, self-assured mob underling attempting to make his way by stealing from his ‘Family’ – actually impressing me more than I anticipated as the film’s more prominent antagonist.

If there is one thing that gives Drive its ‘drive’, it is most certainly the musical score. Composed by Cliff Martinez, and including tracks from College and Kavinsky, the scoring is a seething mix of electro pop and 80′s themed synthesizer jams – creating an almost dreamlike state in conjunction with the aforementioned setting. Certain numbers are played to evoke certain emotions to come into play, and some also to give the audience a glimpse to understand the relationships between certain characters within the film.

I will point out, for those that haven’t seen it. This is a drama film, with a hint of action – This is not a ‘driving’ movie. The title, if I am correct, refers to The Driver character, not what he does but what he is as a person. What motivates him inside, what makes him tick, why does do what he does for such high risk? Unfortunately, it’s never really answered. The Driver has, in my opinion, become a modern-day classic movie character – they’ll be talking about this one for decades, I’m tellin’ ya.

Overall, I can not really say enough that will do this film justice. I have sat down and prepped for a review on this film for two weeks, and it’s an extremely difficult feature to review with an unbiased mind. There is a real, genuine feeling when watching that we’ve experienced something special. I implore you, to see this film with a fresh, uninterrupted and broadened mind. A picture of great depth, heart, passion and guts. What a film.

 

9.5/10

 

 


#16 ‘Attack The Block’ (2011)

The Avengers.... For Nolan's realism demographic

Cast :-

* Jodie Whittaker

* John Boyega

* Alex Esmail

* Luke Treadaway

* Nick Frost

Director:- Joe Cornish

What do you get when you take 5 knife savvy, hoody wearing yobs, throw in a couple of hairy aliens and add a dash of Adam & Joe to taste?

This year’s surpise hit  – ‘Attack The Block’. Written and directed by British comedian and writer Joe Cornish. A man who had mysteriously vanished from my television screen at the turn of the millennium. To my recent knowledge, however, he has apparently been busy helping out his mate, Edgar Wright. Later steadily working away on the script for a film about a quiffed, fictitious, teenage Belgian nosey-noser.

I won’t go into the history of Mr Cornish, but, given that he has come from such humble beginnings as a flick on, flick off television comedian to one of the most promising directors in Britain. I’d say take the time to watch some of his material on YouTube with Adam Buxton.

On a small budget, and with a crop of very inexperienced actors…. Block really appears, on first glance, to be doomed to failure. However the incorporation of mild pop culture references, very realistic characterisation, and a believable setting ushers the film to a height that was probably inconceivable at the time of production – the merits of Block is suitably on the chests of the young, inexperienced cast who become overnight heroes in the inner city.

The story focusses mainly on Moses (Boyega), a 15-year-old gang leader, who causes trouble with his 4 fellow hoodlums  (who all live in the same housing estate as Moses) around the titular ‘block’ they call home. They approach a nurse (Whittaker) walking home from work, where they promptly threaten her and mug the defenceless woman. Suddenly, a meteor crashes into a car nearby – and the Block will never be the same again…

The five teens, are so in-sync in terms of diction, attire and body language of the British youth of today it’s almost impossible to consider them actors. It may sound like a negative observation, but it works to the film’s advantage. Casting an experienced group of actors with no realistic connection to their role would have caused the whole movie to cave in. Making it more of a caricature of today’s culture, a laughable (a bad one) parody. I didn’t recognise them as acting on-screen, portraying a character. They appear to be just being themselves, and seem to have great fun with it. It’s an original, simple and refreshing approach to methodically creating an ensemble – while working cleverly with friend Edgar Wright’s well-known sweet timing for comedic quips. I sincerely applaud Joe Cornish for using common sense, where most in his position would overwhelmingly fail to do so.

The film’s backdrop of an inner city council estate is obviously not the first choice for an alien invasion film. Though, it’s something that we can indeed relate to from some point in our lives, as well as the characters themselves - and again, this is what gives the film a wedge of merit. John Boyega, the film’s lead, combines the multi-facets of a troublesome teen that we can all admit to have encountered. He’s headstrong, volatile, vulnerable and ultimately very selfless. The fact that those negative and not so appealing qualities to his character carry the film is something that I found a potential limitless effect.

Ok, so enough brown-nosing….

At a short runtime of just under 90 minutes, Attack The Block is a great watch for the casual film fan. It may have faired better by adding more suspense elements to the alien invasion angle, as the only few do tend to fall flat on repeat viewings, and the occasional scary moments are watered down by the brash, arrogant comedy timings by the young cast. However, it’s an accomplished debut from Cornish. A film that delivers a suitable mix of Edgar Wright’s ‘horrordy’ (comedy and horror, geddit?) and an often scrutinised insight into the young culture of today in Britain.

7.5/10


My thoughts on ‘Drive’ (Not a review)

'The Driver' - A real human being, and a real hero

I started writing these first-impressions immediately once I got home after watching the film. A little experimentation from the  ‘standardised’ formula that I’d normally undertake for reviewing.

Just got home from seeing Nicolas Winding Refn’s first foray into the mainstream, ‘Drive’…..Shit, I just got mindblown and I didn’t even realise. This film is so good, it’s an absolute testament to the medium of film. The story, the acting, the music (amazing), the direction, editing – inching almost to perfection. To be brutally honest, I’d find it really difficult to sum up in a few sentences… As opposed to short, sweet little soundbites running through my head lol. But, yeah… Just overwhelming, start to finish. Think I already tweeted that. Mr Refn has crafted a modern classic. Without question. In the essence of a heist film – ‘Drive’ is extremely unconventional for our current time. It’s a throwback to the likes of Bullitt, Taxi Driver and Rebel Without a Cause. Not only within the structure of the narrative and cinematography which is truly gorgeous, but also in the characters and their interaction. Ryan Gosling, as the lead, is a revelation – A man doing all he can in the name of what’s good and what’s right. The lengths he goes to are extreme at times, but it solidifies ‘Driver’ as a very complex, engaging and mesmerising character. Oozing an amalgamation of charm, vulnerability, kindness, spirit, modesty and pure strength in a way that I cannot recall being portrayed in recent memory. He’s my new hero.


#14 – ‘Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes’ (2011)

MAN HUG

 
Cast:-
 * James Franco
 * Andy Serkis
*David Oyelowo
* Freida Pinto
*John Lithgow
* Brian Cox
* Tom Felton
 
Director: – Rupert Wyatt 
 
*MINOR SPOILERS*
 
Being honest, I’m starting to get sick of looking at my posts. I’m always moaning about the lack of originality, the uninspired premises, rebooted franchises, marketable recognition etc. Recently though, I’ve kind of laid down and accepted it. I’m convinced this is how the film industry works in the 21st century and it’s pretty much never going to go away  - and there’s no man or woman (except Christopher Nolan) that can interject with a serious dose of un-tapped, pure artistic vision that this constantly dumbing medium needs.
 
So, why am I running with this review? The Planet of The Apes franchise has been in a state of disarray for a decade since the visually great, but thematically dismal Tim Burton vision. Personally, I haven’t seen any other of the movies or TV shows other than the original book adaptation – although I’ve heard there are many hit and misses in the series, they do not compare to Franklin J. Schaffner’s 1968 classic. Would studios, in the wake of many new adaptations of popular franchises, be THAT bold to give this one a spin again? British newbie Rupert Wyatt (director of the entertaining prison break film – ‘The Escapist’) was given the reigns to ride this behemoth into a new direction. 
 
Originally, I completely disregarded this film as a cheap, unwarranted attempt to purely cash-in (and it does…) on one of the most loved sci-fi movies of all time. The trailers showed a basic plot overview of James Franco explaining his new medical procedure to rebuild brain cells with a synthesized virus. Later there’s a lot of monkey action and then we’re treated to Andy Serkis’ Ape revolter Caesar, giving us a glare that would shake the boots off of Charles Bronson. It was nothing really to get excited about from my perspective. They just ‘did their job’ to get bums on seats.
 
BAH GELL (@IAmGaryBarlow shout out), they were a total bluff…
 
Rise of The Planet Of The Apes is an interesting little film. To my pleasant surprise, there’s broadening of boundaries and a different approach is taken to what many would perceive. Taking into account the fact that this film is about a monkey rebellion, the suspension of disbelief is most definitely a given in this kind of scenario – but there’s actually a true, and grounded direction that this movie holds.
 
James Franco (as genetics whiz Will Rodman), off the heels of his award-winning performance in 127 Hours, most certainly is not the obvious choice for such a character, and he doesn’t have opportune moments to chew up scenes and showcase his still underrated abilities as a lead actor. It’s a real lead-balloon fiasco. Because of the nature of the relationship between Caesar and Will, it’s understandable that there’s no real, actual emotional connection there.
 
Caesar is simply ‘work brought home’, a statement by Will himself. Not to mention his treatment of Caesar as a pet, and seemingly false assurance that he was his ‘father’. The majority of his focus in the early goings is toward his ailing father, a great turn from the seldom-seen John Lithgow, who appears to care for the ape, and vice versa. It’s after Caesar’s eventual horde attack on San Francisco, that Will begins to realise the enormity of his treatment of Caesar.
 
This is Andy Serkis’ film. His credentials as the King of Mo-Cap is further solidified by a truly stunning and awe-inspiring portrayal of Caesar. From infant to revolutionary. It’s a real deterrent from the breathtaking visuals applied by Peter Jackson’s busy boys over at WETA studios. A rare occurrence, the fluid and beautifully acted emotional motion capture/digitally enhanced performance was this film’s most rewarding feature. From every facial expression, stance and sweet monkey move, Mr Serkis is near-faultless, and it is a serious contender for an Oscar nomination. A nomination in the Best Actor category, I might add.
 
At a relatively short running time of 105 minutes, ‘..Apes’ is much strengthened by its non-dragged out sequences. It’s an extremely linear narration, which I think is a positive in this particular genre. The only diversionary plot point is the introduction of the virus to humans that would eventually begin the pandemic that kills the population. Again, it’s not beaten like a dead horse, we’re simply shown what we need to see to understand what’s going on. Nothing unnecessarily inserted for maximum ‘wow’. The post credits sequence is a nice touch, while we’re on the subject!
 
Franco, as the secondary antagonist has decent support from David Oyelowo as his boss Jacobs and Lithgow as Papa Rodman. Not to mention Potter alumni Tom Felton as the ape-hating chump Dodge, and his ‘sanctuary’-running father John, played by Brian Cox. The only gripe – Frieda Pinto. Who, as easy on the eye she is, doesn’t do much other than play Caesar’s vet and Rodman’s love interest. With hardly any real investment into the story, though with an exception where she tries to jump off a bridge….. :-/
 
There’s no huge action scene throughout the entirety of the film, as it keeps us waiting until the climax for what the kiddies want to see. The story’s development culminates at the Golden Gate Bridge, a stand-off between Caesar’s army of apes and the San Francisco police. A very worthwhile wait I might add. With WETA’s boys throwing together a non-stylistic ‘charge!’ sequence where apes most certainly rise.
 
Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes totally blurs out the perception of what a science fiction film can be. Emotionally driven, and steadily directed, its only flaws are really in the support cast and their development. But its a wonderful surprise as a Summer flick. Something that Hollywood really needs. A film that goes against the norm without completely alienating its true nature.
 
8.5/10
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

#13 ‘Captain America: The First Avenger’ (2011)

20110726-115904.jpg

'Save The Whales' Motherfucker

Cast:-
* Chris Evans
* Hugo Weaving
* Tommy Lee Jones
* Hayley Atwell
* Dominic Cooper

Director:- Joe Johnston

***MILD SPOILER ALERT***

With the Marvel superhero juggernaut, ‘The Avengers’ – already well under production, the final piece of the cinematic universe is put into place. Through the story of the First Avenger.

Captain America is the latest feature from Joe Johnston, a director most synonymous with cult favourite The Rocketeer and the recently panned Wolfman adaptation starring Benicio Del Toro. After the lacklustre DC offering that was Green Lantern, and a huge act to follow with the likes of Iron Man 1 – there was a huge amount riding on one of Marvel’s flagship characters this Summer.

Set in the 40′s during WW2, a young man called Steve Rogers (Evans), is selected for a new military medical procedure. Bio-enhancement treatment to the nth degree- Dubbed ‘The Super Soldier’ forumula.

Anyone who’s familiar with the origins will know this, but to those new in -
Roger’s stature at the beginning, makes you wanna take him indoors and give him 50 cheeseburgers.
He’s scrawny, asthmatic, short, and weak. But what he lacks in size, he makes up in humility and determination. The digitally altered body of Evans is absolutely mind-blowing and achieved so well it could easily fool anyone to thinking it was real. An effective use of CGI, when telling a story – exactly how it should be.

After the procedure is completed (dare I say after a slight hiccup, but Rogers is *determined* to see it through), Steve is full-on jacked and ready to kick some Nazi, sorry, HYDRA keister. Led by the somewhat underwhelming Hugo Weaving as The Red Skull.  A failed precursor to Steve Rogers’ more successful operation.

Weaving definitely looks the part, albeit under all that makeup – But it’s an extremely stale performance, utterly forgettable. The accent isn’t really up to scratch either…. There is a saving grace in terms of supporting cast in the form of Tommy Lee Jones as Rogers’ superior – the man who selected him for the Super Soldier project. Some great one liners I picked up on and he has an aura of inspiration surrounding him in the first act. A most notable aspect in the build up to the Cap experiment. Other support, from the painfully wasted Sebastian Stan as the doomed Bucky, and British goddess Hayley Atwell as the love interest Peggy are so-so. Just adequate enough to keep you intrigued but you won’t care about their fate in the end.

Captain America allows for a subtle sigh of relief in terms of doubters - the origin is dealt with faithfully and in a very entertaining manner. Carrying a build up of interest in conjunction with the charm of its setting – and the introduction of the character of Steve himself. A very surprising show from Evans. Definitely not my initial pick for the role – however he inhabits the truly ‘good man’ that Rogers is deep inside with aplomb.

His dialogue is enriched with that ‘down to earth’, humble, everyday guy that the character is – just wanting to do his part for his country. It was like a flower finally blooming from the shadows.

The action sets are decent enough – It’s solid and traditionally shot and we’re not subjected to any fancy panning or camera trickery. It’s straight to the point and we know what’s going on in the scenes. For which I was very relieved.

I had a nagging thought that the film would become too engrossed in attempting to level with the sequences in 21st century set superfilms such as The X-Men & Iron Man flicks. But it’s fair to say, you could see this kind of film screened back in those old theatres with the method it is shot and directed. Nice touches in the form of montages showcasing Cap as a propaganda magnet for the US forces are brilliant executed – with some sterling musical numbers from Alan Silvestri.

Looking back, The First Avenger is a solid thumbs up. However its second half does deeply contrast with the first hour or so – and tarnishes a great set up. The mix of supernatural, science and WW2 in the film’s last quarter could lead to more than one bathroom break.

7/10


#9 ‘Thor’ (2011)

Cast:-

*Chris Hemsworth

*Natalie Portman

*Tom Hiddlestone

*Anthony Hopkins

Director:- Kenneth Branagh

*MINOR SPOILER ALERT YOU GEEKS*

Remember at school, you was taught about all those wonderful Gods of Greek, Roman and Norse mythology? Well apparently they’ve the ability to cross worlds… It’s a sweet life for some, eh? Enter Thor, God of Thunder and heir to the kingdom of Asgard. This latest offering from Marvel Studios further develops Marvel’s ultimate goal of the ‘quintessential comic book movie’ – to be released next year, and actually fares a lot better than last year’s let-down, Iron Man 2. Slated for development over the last few years, a story such as this one is the kind you have to ask

- Would what works well in a comic book necessarily work on-screen?

Well the easy answer is no. Adaptation from book, even in novel form, to film has been a problem that beleaguered many screenplay writers and directors. Thor is an extremely challenging story to translate into live-action – having to switch from native Asgard, where there are a towering scape of sleek, shiny buildings with an abundance of metallic spray paint – to a modern-day New Mexico complete with holes in the ground and coffee shops seems like a film any director could easily let go by unnoticed. Least of all a British thesp with a resume filled with Shakespearean works. But, yes, of course – Acclaimed actor and director Kenneth Branagh took the reigns of this massive beast and puts to shame any doubters on whether he could direct a summer blockbuster popcorn film. His credible work on Shakespeare films is actually a positive marker on ‘Thor’.

The arc revolving around three of the main characters, Thor, his brother Loki, and father and ruler of Asgard, Odin, is very reminiscent of a Shakespearean tale of betrayal and tragedy. With one brother resenting and envying the other’s achievements, and a heinous plan to force themselves upon their kingdom as their King through means of malicious and hurtful intent. See? Sounds like a great and engaging story, huh? Aussie man-mountain, Chris Hemsworth, is surprisingly great as the titular hero. With a knack for the arrogance that is an apparently important trait of Thor – and convincingly realised by the former soap actor. To be honest I found that after Thor’s journey to Earth and subsequent involvement with Natalie Portman’s Jane Foster was the point where I found myself a tad less impressed by Hemsworth. As a more charming and intimate God of Thunder, he just trails along the similar path that 9 out of 10 love stories in films leads. But due to the plot, we have to realise that this is part of the humility and selflessness Thor has to come to terms with.

It also avoids the fish out of water pothole. Where a character is constantly befuddled and unaware of new surroundings and its inhabitants. There’s only 2 or 3 scenes where we see that being used to comedic effect. Which was a very big relief for me personally. It could have potential turned this film into a complete car wreck. Along with a great casting of Anthony Hopkins in the role of Odin, and Branagh collaborator Tom Hiddlestone as the eventual villain, Loki, Hemsworth makes the cut convincingly enough to warrant a strong thumbs up.

 A few nags that most viewers may express might be the over-exuberance of CGI and the sort-of dumb Asgardian costumes (metallic spray-painted synthetics). But it’s not really to the point of constant eye-rolling and sighing.

Conclusion. Thor is a great start to the summer. Cool action scenes, some super dialogue and a solid direction from Branagh. Let’s see when those sequel rumours begin to spread.

7.5/10


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