Wednesday, 30 July 2014


Good news, Nicholas Cage is back on form after so, so long. I am going to say immediately that his performance in this drama is his best since Leaving Las Vegas. Before I describe in detail why he’s managed to do this I should probably lay out the scene for what this film is about. Based on the novel of the same name by the late Larry Brown it tells the story of an ex-convict Joe Ransom who is given a new lease in life when he finds out that he has an illegitimate son and must become a reluctant father. The son in question is a troubled fifteen year old Gary.
So without any delay, Mr Cage. I was completely stunned at this performance, in the last couple of years Cage has been in no shortage of bad films, as well as outlandish ones that polarize everyone. But this powerful and emotional performance not only demonstrates his own ability, but also helps to secure the entire film and makes it incredibly realised. Not to say that Joe(it might be difficult to know whether I mean the character or the film, in this case the film)  relies heavily on his performance though. In fact it is the opposite, the rich atmosphere that Joe (film) displays draws you in instantly.
But simultaneously, the grotesque nature of the environment in which the film is set helps you stay with the plot through the entire film. The murky side of backwoods areas is clearly shown and used to great effect. Joe (character) works to get rid of old trees using poison to make room for saplings. That’s a brilliant metaphor, for what exactly, try the substances that have effected and claimed so many older lives in the South and are now inevitably spreading to claim the younger citizens that initially take the place of the elders.
This does make a very good understanding of the film. But that’s not surprising as there is a great mix of director and source material. David Gordon Green has deep roots within the Southern communities in which Larry Brown’s novel is set, so he should know exactly how to present the images that Brown painstakingly crafts within his book. They both understand the people that live there and understand why this story has to be told. With such a relatable story of himself, how could Green ever fail to make it a great piece of filmmaking.
Of course when he finds out that he’s a father, Joe (character) is very reluctant, and also sees a younger version of himself in this damaged teenager. It would be easy to turn his back on him but instead the title character takes it upon himself to try and improve his son’s life. It’s this kind of moral decision that makes him a rather indisputable hero in his own story. He doesn’t go looking for trouble, trouble finds him.
So this film works like a well-oiled machine. More than that though, it has the heart and soul combined with a great full, yet repulsive cinematography to convey the environment that was established in the writings of Brown. If you’re nt a fan of him then Joe (film) will make you wish you are.    
Result: 7/10

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Summer Blockbusters

Well School’s out for Summer, at least it is now over in Britain. That’s right my friends across the pond we have much shorter holidays. So I have decided to use this opportunity to pick five films that I think will be topping the film charts over the next six weeks. Some of these films have already come out but have not yet reached huge heights, but I think they will inevitably, so here we go and we start with…
Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes: This is a film that I am hugely excited about and as I said in my review it is brilliant so it has a very strong bet on being a big hitter. Admittedly it is far from a family friendly film, a little too dark and serious and all children will cry at the sight of monkeys being killed. But teenagers, adults, fans of the original and newcomers will all have a very good viewpoint of this film and it holds a lot of potential.
Transformers: Age of Extinction: I have made it no secret that I despise this film, it’s just a mess of loud noises and random explosions. And that is exactly why it will do well this summer. I really wish I could say no, give earnings to a good film, but this will easily come under the ‘what shall we do today, what about the cinema, isn’t that new Transformers film out?’ category of high grossing. Even if you know it’s bad, the Dinobots are in it, they were what made my result 1/10 instead of 0/10.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Finally Michael Bay is doing something else, and I am cautiously optimistic about this new project. Every single person who watched the cartoons and read the comics (myself included) will want to see this film. But it’s also being made for kids and hopefully it will get a PG rating so parents won’t be hesitant about taking them to watch it. It should appeal to both sides of the target audience, providing that it’s good (you can do it once MB).
How To Train Your Dragon 2: It’s been out for a few weeks now with a slow start, but hopefully now the kids are out of school it will see a huge increase in viewers. The first film was very successful and many people now want to see it move past the origin story and into a wider world which I can confirm it does very well. It also shares themes and excitement which parents and kids will love it so families can go together. Also, it’s the only mainstream animation this summer so there is little competition.
Guardians Of The Galaxy: A big gamble for Marvel, but I’m confident it can pay off for them. So many fans of marvel looking for clues to Avengers 2 will want to see this, as well as casual viewers and families can see it. It may get a 12a rating but Marvel is so associated with superheroes that parent will simply see this as another one of those, whether it turns out to be different or not. Most importantly, with Star Wars fever hyping up every day now until December 2015, this science fiction adventure could help scratch those itches until that day.

Do you agree, or is there a film coming out this summer that you think will prove to be a success. Leave a comment below if you think so and be sure to recommend this site on google.     

Top 5 Science Fiction Sequels

With Dawn of the Planet of the Apes proving to be a massive success with critics and audiences it looks set to join that illustrious group of science fiction sequels that are better than the first instalment. This raises a good question, what are the best science fiction sequels of all time. Well wonder no more because these are my top five best science fiction sequels.
5: Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior (1981)
Before Mel Gibson became… well you know, he starred in this brutal apocalyptic film about a man named Max who is Mad and drives about destroying things. That’s all the information you should need to start watching this film. Road Warrior was what the original should have been with a bigger budget, scope, cast and everything else. Fearlessly exciting and intense, the Road Warrior helped define the entire genre, it is petrol fueled classic.
4: Aliens (1986)
Ridley Scott’s original Alien was a claustrophobic masterpiece, but when James Cameron took the reins of the franchise and injected it with a shot of action by introducing more aliens and Space Marines, creating years of inspiration for both films and video games. The only survivor of the first film is now thrown into an all-out war between humans and aliens. As well as being thrilling and terrifying at the same time, it cemented the Xenomorph as one of the most iconic film creations.
3: Terminator 2: Judgement Day (1991)
He said he would be back. Interestingly, the concept for T2 was originally made for the first, but James Cameron’s idea was not physically possible with the effects of the time. Several years later he reinvented the concept for this sequel that proved to be brutal and shocking with one thrilling chase after another as well as containing a larger than life Arnie as the ultimate anti-hero.
2: Star Trek 2: The Wrath of Kahn (1982)
Improving upon the first Star Trek film was not hard, with shell suits and their voyage to confront… a cloud? But Wrath of Kahn is considered as the best of the franchise for a reason. Not only did it have the best villain of the series but excellent pacing, epic space battles, more mature themes and a heroic death. Interestingly Kirk and Kahn never meet face to face in person, but it still works beautifully, their duel through space forms the backbone of a great film.
1: The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
The film that cemented the concept that sequels have to be darker featured the ruthless Galactic Empire return to, well, Strike Back. It built upon, and was better than, the original in every way. It featured a much more rapid pace and a far more complex story. the internal struggle and emotional depth of every character was increased as well as the action and humour that made this film dazzling to watch. Not forgetting of course, cinema’s greatest twist, in one of its greatest films. 

Monday, 28 July 2014

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

2014 really is shaping up to be the year of the sequel. We’ve seen the equivalent of the Godfather Part 2 and Empire Strikes Back in comedy and superhero with 22 Jump Street and Days of Future Past. But now we are faced with a Science Fiction sequel that is also a remake. Excluding Days of Future Past, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes was probably the film I was looking forward to most of all this year for two reasons. We’ve now reached a very rare stage where there are two remakes of the same film in the space of less than ten years. Tim Burton’s Planet of the Apes remake (horrible and thankfully forgettable) and Rise of the Planet of the Apes which was stunning, I was completely blown away by the visuals and the emotional depth, everything seemed to work. And there was plenty of room for expansion so I was very pleased when a sequel was announced.
Some will argue that this is not a remake, it is a prequel. But those of you who are familiar with the original franchise will know it is a reboot based upon Conquest of the Planet of the Apes. That brings me on to my second point as this latest films is based upon Battle for the Planet of the Apes which is certainly the worst film of the franchise (apart from Burton’s, sorry Tim). So if they can successfully remake this then I have very high hopes for this reboot series.
So, if you can keep up with all of these …of the Apes titles (we’re on Dawn of by now) I will state my opinion instantly. This is absolutely brilliant. As we follow the struggle between the human and Ape colonies that teeter on the edge of war yet still have one last chance for peace, both still face internal problems within. The threat of a conflict would mean disaster for both species, so naturally we want to avoid it, and that is a fact that we are constantly reminded of. This creates fantastic amounts of tension throughout. They are consistent and repeatedly effective on the same level as Jaws or Psycho, it really is that good. There are some moments of relief, my heart needed them, and it just further emphasises the action and intolerance of this constant paranoia felt by the central characters. A standoff between Caesar and the humans, the supreme Ape trying desperately to explain his intentions for peace to distrusting enemies as the Apes that follow begin to doubt their leader is just one terrific example from this two hour thriller.   
It also does the absolute best thing a sequel can do, goes to the next level for scope and exploration into the world established. The true extent of the carnage caused in Rise is clearly shown and the stakes have never been higher for both sides. Like the previous film it expertly displays the sympathetic and deplorable sides of both species. The emotional depth of every character, displayed by two strikingly different yet similar tribes is not left out for a single second. This another reason why you feel so tense over a potential war because you feel the emotions of both species, and a war would result in annihilation for one or both.]
The character interaction is also breathtakingly seamless. I mean of course the expert motion capture technology that makes the Apes. It is truly stunning, this could be the first time that motion capture is truly viewed in the same light as live action. Gary Oldman is fantastic (as ever) but the true star of this film is Andy Serkis. His ability to make these inhuman creatures look so, well human through his movements, remembering that he will not be able to look back on his own acting as a finished product until it is too late to redo them is absolutely astonishing.
The intelligence, patience and engagement is highly admirable in the film. Similarly to Rise, Dawn is refreshingly serious for a film about monkeys taking over Earth. Don’t panic though, it also manages to avoid falling ill with Nolan syndrome, there are great moments of fun and enjoyment, a nice relief of tension. The plot runs smoothly, with acting and effects to match it. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is truly the best science fiction sequel since… there are too many good ones to make an effective point, you get the idea anyway, it’s chest-pounding-inducing brilliance.

Result: 9/10    

Friday, 18 July 2014

Top 5 Shakespeare Adaptations

William Shakespeare is 450 years old this year! I have always been a huge admirer of his works and it seems that there are others who take their admiration a step further by translating it to the big screen. Whilst there are countless versions available I have narrowed down my favourite five in this list.
Let me lay down a few ground rules first. I am only counting films that are self-declared adaptations rather than sharing themes and taking inspiration from Shakespeare, so no West Side Story’s and Lion King’s will be appearing here. Also there are to be no films about Shakespeare as a person, so do not expect to see Shakespeare in Love or Infamous. Without any further delay we go once more unto the breach.
5: Romeo + Juliet (1996)
Everyone knows the story to this, two lovers from opposing families are caught in a battle of loyalties. Baz Luhrmann managed to do several extraordinary things with this film, he modernised the classic tale as well as introducing a good classical element. This is mainly due to the fact that unlike the 2013 adaptation he kept the original dialogue, as well as introducing fantastic energy and pace to the way the lines were spoken. It makes the play as accessible as it can as well as using some rich cinematography and helping the characters resonate even more with audiences.
4: Henry V (1989)
I often find that this play resonates with young people more than any other from Shakespeare. The character ark of a drunken slacker who becomes a victorious monarch is clearly relatable from the standards that are set by society. This version seems to take a more nuanced and revisionist approach to the character and story. More than any other adaptation it demonstrates the real consequences of actions in the play beyond those that Shakespeare wrote.
3: Macbeth (1971)
A tragedy rooted in the influence of supernatural, it makes you wonder why no one has tried to adapt it recently. Until then this is by far the best in my opinion, it manages to make the scenes genuinely terrifying when they need to be and certainly depicts Macbeth as a sympathetic character, something that a surprising amount of versions have failed to do. The character development is also beautifully presented which further emphasises the tragedy of the story, which is what Macbeth is.
2: Titus (1999)
Surprised, well you shouldn’t be. Titus took one of Shakespeare’s less popular plays and breathed great new life an energy into it in terms of character development and visual nature. One of the best things about Titus is the fact that the visuals perfectly match the rather abstract script that it was based upon. It only emphasises the emotion of the characters and manages to be surreal and tense simultaneously whilst paying homage to the genius himself, Shakespeare.
1: Hamlet (1996)

Arguably the finest play from Shakespeare and for me the best adaptation as well. The performances are immensely enjoyable even if you’re not a follower of the play the film is based upon. Amazingly it utilizes just one set and the time period matches the style of Hamlet itself really well, it’s difficult not to admire the intelligence behind the project. Like the best adaptations they make the characters more understandable whilst adding an element of irrational behaviour that makes us realise their transformation.       

Thursday, 17 July 2014

Begin Again

A question that I’ve often thought about when writing a review is should the title of the film effect my opinion of it. If so then I’m sorry to say that based on the title alone this would be a very generic and clichéd film, Begin Again formerly known as Can A Song Save Your Life. If they’d stuck with that title it would be an answer to the question, can a title sum up the film in one sentence? Because that is what this film is about, people with problems who play instruments to solve them. Or to go into greater detail a failing musician Dan Mulligan (Mark Ruffalo) befriends a heartbroken songwriter and singer Greta (Kiera Knightly). The pair then decide to set up a creative project as a cure for their blues.
However, I am knit-picking because this is a step up from the usual kind of style that these films are laid out in. Begin Again features a rather impressive cast, a nice mix of British and American talent, we see both James Corden and Kiera Knightly trying to launch their careers in the good old US of A and this is a good way to start. The Incredible Hulk has also joined in to benefit some of the many successful roles that have been offered to all of the Avengers cast after the battle of New York.
But no amount of obscure references will distract me from reviewing this film. The structure of the film moves surprisingly smoothly considering that we know exactly what happens during the first half an hour. That is of no fault of the film itself, it’s just that this genre in general suffers from it, the story of the film would be prohibited if the first half an hour did not take the turns that it does. However wait around and you’ll see that this manages to keep us guessing despite the fact that it follows a normally formulaic plot. Normally these films follow a story of success, but you won’t have to look very hard at Begin Again to find a deeper message.
Plot aside and focus on the main selling point of this film the music. And it’s very enjoyable in that factor. Not only that but I can guarantee that unless you lack a soul then you will leave this film feeling happy and rhythmic, if not a little bitter sweetened (spoiler). You may call this film light hearted, but that’s what it sells itself as. I would object to the tone of it if Begin Again was presented as a hard hitting drama but instead it openly advertises the comedy and musical elements so you feel as if you’ve gotten your money’s worth and that is a very underrated feature of films now.
But at the same time it manages to avoid being labelled predictable, like I said before there are a few plot turns that you will not expect. So it’s immensely enjoyable but nor predictable, that is a triumph on its own, combine it with some great performances and a charming script result in a surprisingly fantastic film, even if the title is not.
Result: 7/10


Monday, 14 July 2014


So far this year I have struggled to find a film that I am sure will be chosen as a nominee for the Academy Award for Best Picture. But I think I have found it with this narrative epic from Richard Linklater. Without a doubt this is the most ambitious project in recent cinema history, certainly of the past decade. In 2001 Linklater conceived a rather impractical idea of directing a film that would require his devotion for twelve long years. It would be the story of a parent-child relationship that rather than simply placing different actors of different ages as that boy, he would use the same cast and watch them grow up and film those experiences in a dramatized for to the scenario he had devised.
To say that this is unique in scope would be an understatement, true we have watched child actors grow up on-screen with the Harry Potter franchise, but that project consisted of eight films. This project on the other hand would result in just one film. Already there are high expectations for this film then, is it really possible for Boyhood to be worth all of that production trouble? Where would you find actors committed enough to stay with the project, and how you would guarantee that their childhood charm would translate to good acting as they become young adults? As well as this when Linklater began this arduous task he still wasn’t sure how the story would end, each section of the script was written over the same time period at which the film was shot, with some scenes being completed just the night before shooting them.
This monumental gamble has paid off in so many ways, becoming the best film so far this year and will almost certainly be regarded as the director’s masterpiece. The long-time collaborator starring as the main character is Ellar Coltrane as a six year old child of divorced parents Mason (Ethan Hawke) and Olivia (Patricia Arquette). This is an excellent casting decision to say the least, maybe it’s because Coltrane’s own personality is used as an element when writing for Mason Jr, but whatever the reason his transformation from a cheery and whimsical child to a mature and individual young man is utterly compelling and demonstrates a true talent. By the end of the film he develops into an actor of amazing charisma and memorability.
Mason Jr and his sister Samantha face issues throughout their journey through childhood that every child faces, everything from sibling rivalry to secret dens and their vague hope that their parents will get back together is explored in a funny, wise, tender and completely heart-warming way. Their parents meanwhile have their own struggles that are not left out of the story, Linklater obviously knows how to translate the struggles of adults just as much as he does for children. Amid all of the side stories in the film, life goes on for this broken family. It’s the modern day equivalent of Forrest Gump in many ways, just as Tom Hanks was part of key historical events, in this we witness events from the past decade, Obama’s victory, the I-Pod launch, even discussions of future Star Wars films between a father and son (even more amazingly is the fact that the particular scene was filmed BEFORE the shocking announcement in May 2013, impressive isn’t it).
It is difficult to believe that Linklater was writing these scenes with no clear end in sight, just continue to plough through the year’s one small step at a time. In one sense you can think of the scenes as being connected only by the same characters, but if you look deeper you realise that everything from awkward educational conversations between parent and child about sex to brushes with alcohol and an ever expanding family are all connected. It is obvious that each one of them leaves their mark on young Mason to form his eventual personality, as events of everyone’s childhood influences their adulthood more than any other part of their lives.
The characters are brilliantly layered and believable, they’re not perfect but they’re still likable. Linklater has an amazing ability to make the audience like his characters because of their flaws, it is yet another perfect example of how brilliant a writer he is. A fine ensemble of actors come together to bring this writing to life, it really feels like they have evolved and matured in a very similar fashion to the people they portray. Every single performance is completely engaging, combined with the fantastic director this film makes life seem so much fun while regrettably stained with sadness and bitterness.
The entire tone of the film expertly changes in maturity as its central character matures and grows up. Contrary to the title you will enjoy this film even if you’re not a boy, you just have to have been a child (I think that applies to most people). I know this has been quite a long review, like the production of this film, but honestly this is one of the best films I have seen from the 21st century. Without losing any humanity or emotional depth, Boyhood is simply the story of life.

Result: 10/10    

Saturday, 12 July 2014

The 100 Year Old Man Who Climbed Out The Window And Disappeared

Phew, well that’s half of the review practically done after typing the title of this adaptation of the comedic international bestseller by Jonas Jonasson. As you may already have guessed, this is one of the quirkiest and absurd films I have seen in a long time. I’m not entirely sure as to whether or not that humour even applies to me. It has to be done very well to work in my opinion, and it has to be partly relevant. For me even the most bizarre comedies cannot just comprise of a series of random events for no reason, it simply isn’t good filmmaking.
When a rebellious century-old man escapes form his retirement home on his birthday he is caught up in a number of escapades involving drugs, money, motorcyclists, crime lords and a circus elephant, oh and did I mention the fact that he’s a dynamite expert. The film has proven to be sensational in its native country Sweden, but in other countries it has been met with a much more lukewarm reception. But then again the Swedes have always liked absurdity, and I can really see a cult phenomenon developing around this film.
The set up for the films entire plot pretty much sums up the tone of the entire film. Allen Karlsson uses his explosive knowledge to destroy a fox that has killed his treasured cat. Naturally that causes a bit of a stir and he is removed to a retirement home. For someone of Allen’s persona this is torturous, from there segments of his life are presented to the audience having participated in the Spanish Civil War, The Manhattan Project and meeting Joseph Stalin as well as the CIA.
Credit must be given to the director Felix Herngren, who balances the absurdity and dark comedy as well as throwing in hints of tragedy quite well. It fits together rather neatly despite the quirky retelling of Allen’s past that is matched in terms of the presentation of modern day life. Within minutes he picks up a suitcase and exits in spectacular fashion. Freakish accidents and events follow in quick pursuit. I’s woven together so delicately and meticulously that once again it has to be admired whether you like the actual film or not. But then again it is inspired by a book (how this translates onto paper I don’t know as I have not read the book of The 100 Year Old… you get the idea) so do not give too much praise for the writing of the film, give it to Jonas Jonasson.
If you cannot admire the plot and absurdity do not expect to admire anything else. Robert Gustafsson stars as the 100 Year Old Man Who… anyway, he is apparently the ‘funniest man in Sweden’ which can either mean two things. Firstly comedians in Sweden are clearly thin for pickings and not that good anyway, or that Robert (I can’t remember how to spell his last name) is giving a broad performance deliberately because it is so hilarious that we do not even realise that it is hilarious at all, I’m not so sure. His performance is really broad and not in a 100 year old man kind of broad, I mean more of just being either bored out of my mind or a bad actor or a robot. Take your pick as to which one it is.
As well as that the whole attitude of the film seems to think that it’s much funnier than it is. In my opinion it only appeals to one very strange and unique line of comedy that it only fills fairly decently anyway. but it presents itself like some artistic visionary project. Still, many of the people who looked at the start of this review will have scrolled straight through the rest without reading. To those people I wish you good luck in your serious and conventional film viewing. For the rest of you, if you want to leave the cinema tittering slightly and still just as confused as when you entered, here you are.

Result: 5/10  

Friday, 11 July 2014

Transformers: Age Of Extinction

What I am about to write, and what you are about to read may prove controversial. In fact many of you will undoubtedly disagree but I feel that it has to be said. There was a constant implication of this but we all dismissed it, thinking that it would be impossible for the fourth Transformers film to actually do this. But here it goes, Age Of Extinction is WORSE THAN Revenge Of The Fallen.
Where on earth do I start with this film, normally I aim for roughly five hundred words to write. But here I may exceed that with the problems that this film has hidden away behind a horrible mix of flashing images and loud noises. To start with there’s the cast. As I stated in my review of the franchise, I quite liked Shia LaBeouf in this series. He had a part that went quite well with the (admittedly small) talents he has as an actor. His character was definitely rubbing everyone the wrong way by the third film, but in my opinion this is more due to Michael Bay neglecting to make us care about him at all. But anyway, Bay has now hired a completely new set of actors, without any reference to the old cast at all. Firstly this means we have to waste time with a human backstory that is identical to that of the first film. Secondly Bay still fails at making us connect with these characters, and lastly it highlights his paper-thin commitment to his own story, having spent nearly ten years to at least try and develop a character.
As well as this there is the underlying problem of the fact that we are no longer so impressed with the special effects that they disguise the weak story. As the film drones on it becomes less and less interesting, to such a point where I found myself wishing that the film would end in a climactic battle more than ever because that would serve as a much better memory of an emotionless film. The story is as dull as the effects are exciting.
The worst thing is that the amount of fun and flashy nature of the series has now been sacrificed to try and make room for a story. This would be a nice step forward if the plot and character development was decent, but it isn’t. As a result there is even less to distract you from it, so anything that made the other films remotely enjoyable has now been sucked out and replaced with something much worse.
Also I am knit picking here, but what does the title Age Of Extinction actually refer to? Cleary it’s not the Dinobots because they’re not wiped out at the start. It’s not the Decepticons because, surprise surprise, they’re back again. And it doesn’t refer to the Autobots because although we are initially made to believe that Optimus might be the only one left for some reason – oh, no don’t worry they’re back, nothing has changed that would require another lengthy film to describe it to us. Humanity, no. True there is some amount of death in the film, but nowhere near extinction level. In fact the attack is less damaging than the one we witnessed in Dark Of The Moon. So what this really means is that as well as having an irrelevant title, the fourth Transformer film fails to take the franchise to any new levels.
The dialogue is cringe worthy and the battle sequences have lost all originality. As well as this they have still failed to address the problem of knowing who everyone is, it is genuinely difficult to distinguish between Autobots and Decepticons. So we have no clue as to whether anything that we witness in these scenes is significant to the plot at all.
In short then, this is by a long way the worst film of the series. But annoyingly it is not long enough. Face it, this franchise had been stretched to its maximum after the first film. I have lost all faith in any hope of saving the series now, as you can imagine I am ‘thrilled’ that a fifth and sixth instalment is in development. Let’s hope that it won’t come out for a long time.

Result: 1/10       

Cold In July

A fitting title for a film released at this time of year, but then again, it takes it directly from the novel upon which it is based. With a spectacular plot that would not have been exceedingly difficult to translate to the big screen, it is surprising that this is the only adaptation since the books release in 1989. So there is nothing to compete with apart from other films of this genre, and Jim Mickle is no stranger to this genre either as well as Don Johnson Michael C Hall that form a rather impressive cast.
Like most of the best thrillers, its protagonist is an ordinary citizen who enjoys his own life and has no desire to be drawn into a world of action. But sadly that is exactly what happens to Richard Dane (Hall) after he kills an intruder in his house. From then on he becomes involved in a dark and gruesome underworld. It really is a case of normal one minute, and hectic the next. This transition has an excellent pace, but still manages to maintain all of the tension and nerve shredding suspense that any good thriller should have.
The character development is basically a downfall story. Like I said before this is a normal man who is slowly drawn into a dark environment in which he not only survives, but thrives. Eventually of course he becomes comfortable and at ease with these horrible acts he performs. The true hero of this film though, has to be Sam Shepard, who introduces some much needed charisma and strong willed persona into the film. Without him it would feel very empty and uninteresting although it does have enough of that on its own anyway but it is Shepard who brings most of it straight through a set of steel doors and forcing his way into the foundations of the film.
Now we move onto the plot, undoubtedly the film’s strongest factor. It’s ripe with twists and turns yet manages to keep the viewer up to speed with everything. It may just be me, but this plot feels vastly complicated, yet it is easy to keep up with. Don’t ask me to fully explain it or how they do it, but somehow they have, and the results are fantastically enthralling. Instantly the plot is sent in an unexpected direction, if you think you know everything about the plot you’re about to be very surprised as you watch this film (unless you read the entire summary on Wikipedia). It is Dane who is traumatised by his own violent actions, as anyone would be, but it is heavily emphasised throughout the film to make the transition more obvious.
Though there are a few problems with the actual narrative, they are easy to ignore amid this brilliantly engineered and often hilarious as well as horrifying story. It never lets go either, so if you admire films that give you a moment to breathe then maybe this one isn't for you. Normally I would complain about this myself, but it suits the style of the film very well, so I remain highly impressed as well as surprised with this.
Result: 7/10

Thursday, 10 July 2014

Jersey Boys

Jersey Boys Poster.jpg
Though he will always be remembered for his cold and impassive stare, accompanied with a voice as smooth as sandpaper that made the man with no name so memorable in the Dollars Trilogy, Clint Eastwood has undoubtedly built up an admirable career as a director. This biographical-musical-drama is a step out of the ordinary for him, but then again, no great director has built a career around the same format over and over again, so how has the ageing icon fared with his latest release.
Make no mistake, just because this is a musical does not mean it is all happy and upbeat. In fact the musical scenes are the only ones that are consistently up-beat, but I mean that in a good way. It helps that it is about a band, also they can include music despite the fact that the scenes that do not involve music make sense when compared to them. As well as this, there are clear elements of classic Eastwood themes. To explain quickly I’ll describe the opening narration, where Tommy DeVito explains that if it wasn’t for him, he and his friends would be lying in a car trunk with bullets in their heads, rough stuff for a group of swinging sixties singers. We watch s these four boys battle their way out of the New Jersey community to stardom, forming the highly successful Four Seasons group, amid gambling and loan sharks.
So you should be asking yourself, what kind of film is this? Despite my best efforts, I can’t properly explain. I can only register my own opinion of what this film is, and in my opinion it falls in-between music and drama. Regrettably I would struggle to refer to it as a biography, as it is rife with historical inaccuracies and leaves out key facts, like one of the main characters dying just ten years after the point at which the film ends, I really was surprised not to see at least a short paragraph to state what happened to these people next. True, it does tell the story of real people, famous ones at that, but without a great deal of real historical context it feels a bit too dramatized. As well as this there are a few too many clichés and true history makes clichés irrelevant. But in this context it feels like more like a commonly used plot point.
However, that does not make the film bad. To sum this film up in a phrase, as ridiculous as it sounds, it’s ‘What if Martin Scorsese did a musical?’ The story even features Joe Pesci, and the start feels remarkably like a light hearted Goodfellas, it even has the narration to accompany it (and serious fans of the mobster masterpiece will spot a subtle reference later in honour of Pesci’s involvement). There are some great performances as well, Christopher Walken delivering as he always does. As well as this the Four Seasons do feel genuine, maybe not historically, but as characters in a film they are nicely layered. Their friendship and eventual fallout all feel genuine, and either they are very good actors or they genuinely are enjoying portraying this iconic band and that makes it feel real.
The film also has a very impressive look as well. Maybe it’s because we admire the sixties in a nostalgic nature, but the film really is a visual feast. It’s richly coloured and (ironic for Eastwood) contains a smooth sound. As well as the fact that the music is fun and uplifting, contrasting well with the harsh nature of the plot, it is a welcome release of tension. However this may hinder it slightly, on more than one occasion it jumps from serious to singing too quickly to let the emotional impct sik in, or to enjoy to music. It may fail to convince us that these people really existed, but it does offer an appealing take on the slum to success story.

Result 5/10   

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

22 Jump Street

I hope you’ll forgive me for overlooking this comedy sequel for some time now. I didn’t see it as anything to be excited about, I may have enjoyed 21 Jump Street but comedy sequels usually disappoint on so many levels. This one however is far bigger in budget, scope and star factor. And it has worked brilliantly.
Having successfully broken a high school drug ring, our two favourite undercover cops Schimdt and Jenko are assigned to infiltrate a college and to bring down the latest drug craze. It sounds like a carbon copy of the first film, and yet somehow 22 is able to take the comedy a step further whilst echoing the original, which is what a sequel should do. As well as this the film has some fairly decent action sequences (no, seriously) which help remind the viewer that the characters are apparently in real danger.
So then, what is different? Well to start with the makers have obviously been more adventurous when developing this film. Every element feels like it would have been left out of the first film due to the less ambitious scale of it. In this case that is a very good thing, like I said before a comedy sequel needs to reflect the old one in some form and that is a good way to do it, through repetition and sticking to the formula that made the first film good, the jokes become funnier and funnier. To put this opinion simply, it’s the same as the last one, just bigger and as a result, better.
Somehow, amid all of the extra elements a bit of character development is included. The plot isn’t up to much when compared to more elaborate espionage films, so I won’t claim that this film works as a comedy and a standalone action film, it doesn’t. It is a comedy, and nothing else. But that is by no means a bad thing, I would rather have an excellent comedy than a bad mix of more than one genre, because if you fail at one you fail at all of them. By keeping their intention of making a comedy very clear the producers have kept their eye on the goal and scored in brilliant fashion.
The cast remains at the heart of the film. Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum have now come to form one of the most hilarious on screen double acts of the last decade. Maybe it’s because I associate it with them now, but as soon as I see them standing side by side brandishing pistols I immediately start laughing yet still taking them seriously in a small and completely necessary way.
It’s not perfect; there are a few jokes that are repeated once too often, losing their effect as a result. And it lacks the pace and tightness of 21. This is a large problem as it is essential for this kind of film to keep the audience laughing at all times. There are a few moments, however rare they are, where I found myself desperate to get back into the action of the story. But luckily when the film does reach its moments of silliness, it goes full on. There is a good time to tell if you are reaching a five minute segment that lacks pace, if the pace you have just witnessed shows any signs of slowing at all, you might be able to afford to get a few refreshments, you won’t miss much.
Overall though, 22 Jump Street is by a long way the best comedy sequel of all time. That does seem to be quite a bold statement, but right now nothing else springs to mind that has matched and bettered the original on such a scale (if you disagree leave a comment). If the writers can keep this up, I see a 23 Jump Street on the horizon.
Result: 8/10  

Transformers: The Franchise So Far...

With the impending release of Transformers: Age of Extinction, this seems a good time to bring out another franchise perspective. It has been filled with hits, and far too many misses. Age of Extinction has to try and salvage something and prove that Transformers is not quite a dead horse yet. Michael Bay has taken the definition of a modern summer blockbuster (that does not mean it has to be good, just profitable) and made not just one, but three versions of them. Without any further delay I’m moving into the start of the series.
The start is also the highpoint, the worst thing any franchise can do. But focussing on the first Transformers as a standalone film, I must say that it was quite impressive upon its release. Admit it, you were blown away by the amazing CGI used to bring these iconic toys to life, I know I was. This was an area that Michael Bay actually succeeded at, he made them look very mechanical whilst keeping an element of organic nature about them. Fans of the animated show were obviously split right down the middle over the redesign, but I felt that this was an effective way to utilize the effects, which would be needed to distract us from the many problems.
The film was one of those instances where you felt as if the part of you that respects true film art should hate this feature. But you don’t, it is a rather stupid plot, with many holes and parts that could only have come from a script, not to mention the rather flat dialogue between the humans. Mind you, and what I’m about to say may be a bit controversial, but I really liked Shia LaBeouf in this film. This time he had a part to suit him, a socially awkward, smart but underappreciated by everyone character, who could also rise to any challenge that comes his way even if that involves saving the world. For once, his part perfectly suited his range as an actor. However, it is still very difficult to connect with these humans, because of the fact that many have weaker personalities than the robots they’re helping. So far from perfect, but then you see explosions and giant robots and you think ‘who cares’.
So the sequel was eagerly awaited as most science fiction sequels tend to be better that the first, the backstory is out of the way and you can now expand on the world you have created and set up the long term plot for the other films. Oh, how wrong we all were. To describe the flaws of this film, I find myself quoting from the Youtube channel Screen Junkies’ Honest Trailer segment. Revenge of the Fallen contained way too many racist and sexual parts of dialogue for a film based on CHILDREN’S TOYS. Kids are going to want to watch this film and yet this is the image they are presented with, nasty, that’s all I can say. Shots are reused from both the first film, and earlier parts of the same film, and we still have to endure the humans that have no personality or character of any kind. Not to mention wasting more time with Sam’s parents, because that is what everyone was asking for (!).
More problems include that fact that we’d all gotten over the initial excitement of seeing the CGI Transformers, and now that they were being used in huge battles there was no way to distinguish between the good side and the bad side. Every time we see a Transformer die it is difficult to know if it is even relevant to the plot because we have no idea who it is. The first may have had plot holes, but this one goes above and beyond. Just a few unanswered questions are; why does the all-spark bring Megatron back to life if it’s what killed him, and if it brings him back why not just use it on Optimus, why is the roommate included, why does the military not use the Decepticon gun until the last five minutes, and why do the Decepticons not utilize their human transforming abilities to a more useful task than just seducing Sam, and many, many more.
Now onto Dark of the Moon, and immediately there are problems. I’m no fan of Megan Fox, but if you create a character for a film that keep that character rather than just use a terrible excuse to explain their absence. Luckily the effects are minimalized due to the fact that we don’t care about the character anyway. Anyway, I digress as Dark of the Moon was a lot better than Revenge of the fallen, but that is still a lot worse than the first film. It was better mainly for the fact that the story was improved and this time the Transformers were partially distinguishable from each other. The acting however is worse than ever, even more characters are introduced and they all still fail to connect with the audience. But what’s more is that this really should have ended a trilogy. I have no doubt that the next film will make more money, but I’m struggling to look forward to it. 

Monday, 7 July 2014


Chef 2014.jpg
John Favreau directing and starring, with Robert Downey Jr and Scarlett Johansson, but this time it’s less Iron Man and more Iron Chef (it took me a long time to think of that joke, so if you wish to comment please be kind). But rather than take on a supporting role in this film, as well as directing Favreau takes the helm in more ways than one as the main character. Chef Carl Casper’s reputation is destroyed overnight by a ruthless blogger (gives us a bad image). With nothing else left he takes to the streets in a food wagon and tours the country, assisted by his son and ex-wife.
I am trying not to be mean as I say this, but John Favreau looks completely at home in the kitchen, slicing his way through ingredients and stirring them together like it is nobody’s business. He has recently hit a trend for bigger blockbusters, but like his central character of the film he goes back to basics with a smaller, independent plot. Food in films is often used as a metaphor, and in this case it is used to describe many things, love, success, responsibility and desperation. But in this case not all of them are made obvious, you have to look rather close, and have a good understanding of cooking. I like that, trusting the viewer’s intelligence and sticking closely to its subject matter, for a comedy that is a sign that there is always going to be a hint of drama, rather than dumbing down the subject to compensate for the masses, they instead want the audience to thoroughly connect with the plot.
For story then, initially it gets off to a good start. But I will not try to cover up the fact that the plot is rather predictable. Think of any other film in this kind of genre, and the plot will be nearly identical, in a phrase it is ‘get knocked down, but get up again slowly’. That is a bit of a spoiler, but do not panic, the real charm behind this film lies far beyond the overall plot.
The characters are well developed and believable, as well as the impeccable acting from this star studded cast. Like I said before food is used as a metaphor frequently. The plot of this film involves much more than mere cooking. When Casper’s career crumbles he reconnects with the life that he sacrificed for it, the family life with his son and wife (Emjay Anthony and Sofia Vergara) as well as confronting her new husband, a wealthy idiosyncratic hedonist (Robert Downey Jr at home, not a huge jump from a ‘genius billionaire playboy philanthropist’).
The wide variety of set pieces offered from travelling the country in a food wagon are used to great effect, as well as the cultural music from each area to represent the ever changing tone of the film. Perhaps at times there is a distinct element of too much drama instead of time that could be used to see more food related comedy. Normally this would not be too much of a problem, but due to the fact that this is marketed as a comedy film, and not a comedy-drama, we are expecting a lot more comedy than drama (if you have understood that then well done).
But the film is able to keep a light tone, so the effects are as minimal as they can be. It is good natured and pleasing to the eye, so if you want to be entertained and sweetened then this is a very promising film to satisfy those parts of your taste.

Result: 6.4/10

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

X-Men: The Franchise So Far...(Part 2)

To the prequels, spinoffs and reboot/sequel/prequel/crossover, part two of this franchise has further expanded and delved deeper into the world of mutants, with varying degrees of success. It has undoubtedly helped set up the scenario for Days of Future Past to ensure a better understanding of the characters. I would like to think it has all been part of some grand plan to lay the foundations of the next chapter in this film series, but whatever the case, it would be better to look back at all of the films first.
Originally, Origins: Wolverine was planned to be the first instalment of a whole series of Origins films. WE can only be quite glad today that the series did not go down that road, especially if this was the platform on which it would have been launched. The biggest problem is that it takes away any of the mystery and depth behind Wolverine’s past. Everything that happened as a backstory was exactly what the viewer could have guessed, he fights in wars, used to work in a rogue team of mutants and has his memory wiped. It feels as if this is too, ordinary for Wolverine, he should be an exceptional mutant who has been built from centuries of torment, not from one event that barely qualifies as a story anyway. It also tries much too hard to match up its narrative with the events leading to the first X-Men film. The events there do not take place for another twenty years after the events of this one, Wolverine could have changed slightly during that time, but no, he obviously did nothing, as the character at the end of the film is exactly the same one that we are introduced to originally. As well as this the film ruined comic favourites like Gambit and Deadpool, and a frightening CGI Patrick Stewart.
Luckily the quality soon picked up again in First Class. Younger versions of the original X-Men are tasked with preventing World War Three, and at the same time we watch as friends Magneto and Xavier are slowly turned against each other. A strong cast and a much better thought out plot, as well as leaving room for expansion in terms of chronological story, it was the ideal X-Men prequel. You could argue it is slightly light hearted compared to other X-Men films, but that seems to suit the youthful attitude of the characters. But very little of the dramatic messages are left out. Unlike the previous film, First Class was able to maintain the themes of discrimination that lay the foundations for the entire X-Men story. Best of all it does not feel the need to explain everything about the characters. Look at this example, in one scene Magneto is a child in the death camps, and in the next he is a grown man hunting down Shaw. Do we need to know what he spent doing in those years, no? Is the young Xavier perfectly shaped into the version that we see in X-Men, again no, and that is good, if he was Days of Future Past would not seem as well-crafted and thought out.
Despite the failure of the first Wolverine film that did not discourage their hopes to make another. One thing I did not mention earlier is that originally Origins was going to portray a Wolverine traumatised by various wars and suffering from PTSD, as well as battling the usual mutant enemies. That sounded like a much better film, and thankfully that concept was moulded into The Wolverine. This was certainly a much more personal and emotionally challenging film for the series’ main protagonist than any other. Since Days of Future Past leaves little room for personal emotions for a lot of characters, this was another good setup for it. It’s difficult to write a great deal about this film as it is much easier to treat it as a standalone project that shares just one central character. So with all of the good action we have come to expect and an underlying personal theme, this is the Wolverine film that fans have been asking for.
But of course, all of this is made irrelevant by the latest film. So what now, does this mean the events we witnessed for over a decade are all rewritten, on the surface it would appear so. But then again, this is a problem that Bryan Singer has to deal with, it will be up to him to answer any questions remaining in the next chapter, roll on X-Men: Apocalypse.