Archive for September, 2012


Not many directors ever get THAT famous among mainstream cinema fans. It really, I believe, takes someone special and a great storyteller, someone who is good enough to make sure that every single one of their films stands up on the big screen to both critics and fans alike; the likes of Quentin Tarantino, Christopher Nolan, Martin Scorsese and Danny Boyle have been able to do this and are a few of the most famous directors around but are there any new directors around who could one day join the ranks of the best directors EVER? For my choices I have limited the candidates to have directed, at most, 3 feature length films or have shown enough in two or just the one feature film that they have great potential as a director. In no particular order, let’s have a look.

 

Rian Johnson

Rian Johnson has to be the first person I mention because it was him that influenced me to write this blog. I recently saw Johnson’s latest film Looper and along with his previous two feature films (Brick and The Brothers Bloom) Looper was both written and directed Johnson and also starred Joseph Gordon-Levitt (although JGL’s appearance in The Brothers Bloom was a cameo). Looper has really announced Johnson on the scene as one of the best story tellers around. I won’t go into too much detail but if you read my review of the film here, you will get an idea of just how good Johnson is. He has managed to revolutionise the science fiction genre and the whole theories surrounding time travel. I think Looper will inspire a new generation of film makers and if Johnson continues to direct at this high standard he will be regarded as one of the best ever.

 

Joss Whedon

If you don’t know who Joss Whedon is by now where have you been all year? Whedon has a vast amount of experience in television and film working as a screenwriter for many years and having created hit shows such as Firefly, Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Dollhouse. Yet this year Whedon was welcomed with open arms to the masses as he directed this year’s highest grossing film Marvel’s The Avengers. Whedon’s only previous feature film was Serenity (a continuation of the Firefly universe) and, of course, flopped at the box office. However, I thought Serenity was great and there is no doubting Whedon’s talent for writing believable characters and dialogue. With him signed on to oversee Marvel’s phase 2 and direct The Avengers 2, the world is his oyster.

 

Marc Webb

Marc Webb is the only director on this list who I would not class as a science fiction director (despite the fact that The Amazing Spider-Man could be described as science fiction but I think that the superhero genre is now a genre in itself rather than a subsidiary of sci-fi but that’s a whole other argument). Webb arrived on the scene with the incredible, hilarious and touching story in (500) Days of Summer and then, like I mentioned, went on to have another summer hit this year with the reboot The Amazing Spider-Man which was more than capable of holding its own against The Avengers and The Dark Knight Rises. Webb seems to specialise in relationships and he has this amazing ability to capture moments in relationships and develop them over time that I haven’t seen in a long time. I hope he continues to work in other genres but keeps his focus on character.

 

Neill Blomkamp

These last two are a little more unknown than the previous candidates but that doesn’t mean they are not as good. Blomkamp has, at the time of writing, only directed one feature length film with Disctrict 9. However, the praise that District 9 gathered and all the rave reviews about it really reshaping the genre of science-fiction and the sequel to his debut smash is highly anticipated, despite his next film being something completely unrelated to that. His next film is another trip into sci-fi and stars Matt Damon and is entitled Elysium. If this does as well as District 9 then stardom really does beckon for this man.

 

Duncan Jones

And finally we have Duncan Jones. Jones’ first film Moon is one of the greatest directorial debuts I have ever seen. Moon is a true masterpiece and Sam Rockwell’s performance along with the directorial skill of Jones is enough to grab the audience without having a mass of characters. His follow up Source Code was purely his directing and this time he had no part in the writing of the film yet still managed to pull off a great action film and again, a magnificent piece of directing because seeing the same 15-20 minutes over and over again can become tiresome for the audience but Jones manages to sustain interest. His next project is a biopic of Ian Fleming and Duncan Jones could well have another hit on his hands.

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“Time travel has not yet been invented. But thirty years from now, it will have been” says Joe, who is himself living in the year 2044 it is worth noting. Joe is a ‘looper’ which means he works for a mafia in Kansas City and the man running the city is from the future. Loopers are people who are hired by the mafia of the future to kill targets sent back in time and dispose of the bodies. There is but one rule: never let your target get away, even if your target is you. So only bad things can come from Joe’s newest target being the future version of himself.

If you get that then you have the very basic knowledge needed to sit down and watch what is most certainly a thinker of a movie. As two of the characters mention throughout the film ‘time travel fries your brain like an egg’ so it is probably best that with already so much going on Looper doesn’t give us a whole definition of time travel for us to get our heads around in one go; instead, information is sort of dripped out to the audience as we go along and it all starts to make sense (providing you don’t go into this with rules about time travel already set in stone in your mind because of other films as time travel does not exist). The way time travel is handled here is very clever.

Anyway, Joseph Gordon-Levitt is Joe from 2044 and playing Old Joe is Bruce Willis. It is clear that Joseph Gordon-Levitt put a lot of effort into his performance and did a lot of research on previous Bruce Willis films to be able to act more like his on screen future self. This research combined with the remarkable prosthetics placed on his face make it very easy for the audience to see how the young Joe becomes Old Joe. Joseph Gordon-Levitt doesn’t disappoint and puts in one of his best performances to date, once again showing his versatility while Bruce Willis certainly looks and feels at home once he gets a hand on a machine gun. Emily Blunt, Paul Dano, Jeff Daniels and Noah Segen all provide excellent back up to the main stars. But Looper is stolen by one actor in particular: Pierce Gagnon. At just ten years old Gagnon is absolutely terrific and shows that without a doubt he is one for the future. It is so incredible to see such a young boy put in such an emotional performance; at times harrowing and so often adorable. It is not a performance you will forget any time soon.

The world of Looper is a very different one to the world we live in at the minute and we are given a brilliant introduction to the world via narration provided by Joe. This is a very simple and easy way to place the audience in the centre of the action and be able to comprehend what is happening. Looper is full of thrills, the action is great to watch, the character development is obvious, the character’s themselves are incredibly well created, the special effects are outstanding… everything about Looper is just stand out perfection of the highest order.

Looper, if there is any justice, will become a staple in film history. It is without a doubt one of the greatest science fiction films I have ever seen, the best time travel movie ever made and one of the best films of this year!

My Rating: 10/10.

UK Release Date: 7th December 2012.

Stars: Martin McDonagh (director), Colin Farrell, Sam Rockwell, Christopher Walken, Woody Harrelson, Tom Waits, Olga Kurylenko, Abbie Cornish

Plot: A struggling screenwriter inadvertently becomes entangled in the Los Angeles criminal underworld after his oddball friends kidnap a gangster’s beloved Shih Tzu.

Seven Psychopaths is a film I have had my eyes on for what seems like an eternity, I had been awaiting a trailer for months and then had to wait even longer for a release date for the United Kingdom to be announced before I uploaded this, but it is definitely worth the wait. This film sees McDonagh and Farrell team up once more after the successful In Bruges.

Farrell is pretty hit and miss but he stars in one of my favourite films (Pride & Glory) and I really like him and here he is alongside a very good cast given a brilliant offbeat story. Sam Rockwell is terrific, Christopher Walken is a proven great, Woody Harrelson never fails to put in a memorable performance and given a storyline that involves kidnapping dogs in order to make money from the rewards and then getting mixed up with gangsters after kidnapping the wrong dog can only lead to plenty of laughs!

And the trailer certainly looks promising. It seems as though Rockwell and Walken are going to get the majority of the comedy lines while Farrell is just along for the ride (despite being the main character). The trailer reminds me a little bit of Sideways in terms of how the comedy looks; it feels different, fresh, new and not too forced which has already made Seven Psychopaths a hit at preview screenings.

The only bad thing is that it is being released in December which is primarily Oscar time when all the big films come out (however in America Seven Psychopaths comes out in October). However, early talk is saying that Seven Psychopaths could be in the frame for a Best Original Screenplay nomination.

A Study in Terror is not the type of film I would usually watch; the only time I ever really watch films from as far back as the sixties is when I go round to my grand parents’ house and my Grandad has Channel 5 on on a Sunday afternoon (which is usually a standard John Wayne film). However, this one caught my attention as it puts together two of the most intriguing characters in British history: the great detective Sherlock Holmes and the infamous murderer Jack the Ripper.

This particular drama tells the story of Sherlock Holmes (John Neville) and Dr. John Watson (Donald Houston) who’s interest is peaked in the Whitechapel prostitute murderers when they receive an intriguing package through the post. And once in Whitechapel Holmes uses those famous skills of deduction to uncover, track down and apprehend Jack the Ripper who is loose on the streets.

In my opinion, the most important thing in a Sherlock Holmes adaptation is that the relationship is portrayed correctly by the two main actors and in this sense, it really is. You get sense of the friendship, comradery and respect that the two men have for one another although the homoerotic undertones of their relationship is scrapped from A Study in Terror (something Guy Ritchie’s most recent films have had fun with). Neville and Houston speed up the pace of the film once they arrive in London and it is much needed after a slow start; their dialogue is well written and well delivered even though it seems like most of it is Watson just asking Holmes how he figured something out and then Holmes just detailing how much smarter he is than everyone else over and over again.

Their are appearances from other Arthur Conan Doyle characters which is a nice turn up with Inspector Lestrade (Frank Finlay) and Mycroft Holmes (Robert Morley) showing up. It is interesting to see these fiction characters mixed up in real events with a young Barbara Windsor playing Annie Chapman, a real life victim of Jack the Ripper. Although when her character gets killed off their is a little part of you that is pleased because it means you don’t have to hear her squeaky, really really annoying, mouse-like voice any more!

And speaking of the killings, those are the most intense parts of the movie. For a film that was made in the 60s the violence is awfully real and the murders by Jack the Ripper are really quite horrible, with the fight scenes also feeling rather realistic so hats off there. Unfortunately though, the period of production does show through with the over the top acting and the really melodramatic feel to it all which is a flaw to a great concept. The murder mystery element is handled averagely as well, with twists and turns coming late on but some are rather too obvious to cause any great sense of revelation and it feels as though, at times, A Study in Terror is trying to feed you clues without actually wanting to. It’s all very conflicted.

Overall, a great idea with good characters at the centre of the piece but sometimes a bit slow and dull unfortunately. Worth a watch on a rainy afternoon if there is nothing else on.

My Rating: 5/10.

There hasn’t really been much news this week that has really grabbed my attention other than these three stories so this shouldn’t take long.
Steven Spielberg’s Robopocalypse is one of the most highly anticipated movies in production right now and the film takes place sometime in the future after the robot uprising.

Earlier this year Chris Hemsworth was reported to have landed the lead role (although some people say that is still being negotiated) but now there have been more rumours about the casting. Anne Hathaway is reportedly in talks to land the female lead which, I think, would be a bad call for this because she doesn’t have a reputation in big blockbusters (The Dark Knight Rises being her only one) and she isn’t actually that good an actress in my opinion; I just don’t see the hype. However, the other casting rumour involves British actor Ben Whishaw who I have no doubt will be a huge star in the next ten years. He has wonderful acting ability and a great sense of likeability surrounding him: he will be in Cloud Atlas and Skyfall later this year. Robopocalypse is due for a 2014 release.

Whishaw is ‘Q’ in the latest Bond outing.

Last month I wrote a blog about my dream cast for a female version of The Expendables. In that cast list I placed Gina Carano, who had her first acting role at the very beginning of this year in Haywire, and now it seems that she is the first name to sign on the dotted line and join the movie. A great choice. Carano will next be seen in the next Fast & Furious instalment alongside action heavyweights Vin Diesel and Dwayne Johnson.

And finally another casting choice that I can smile about. Casey Affleck has taken a part in Race to the South Pole. The film will chronicle the real life journey of two men in the early 1900s, the British Robert Falcon Scott (Affleck’s character) and Norwegian Roald Amundsen (yet to be cast), and their race to be the first man to reach the South Pole which is the last uncharted territory on the planet at the time. What’s more is that Ben Affleck and Matt Damon (that old friendship) will be partnering up to produce the film based on Peter Glanz’s script. It will be Glanz’s second feature film after The Longest Week but Casey Affleck does choose his films carefully so all signs are pointing in the right direction on this journey.

Step Aside Peter Jackson…

Now this isn’t the usual type of thing that I write about because, for a start, it’s not a real movie. But this was too hard to resist.

Last week a trailer was released for Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. Now, a trailer has emerged for a film entitled The Hobbit: There And Back Again, but this film comes with a difference: it is a film put together by children aged between 8 – 13 at Tower House School in London.

 

 

This was part of their school project that actually consisted of making a full length feature (90 minutes) version of JRR Tolkien’s famous novel. The school, which is where Tom Hardy and Robert Pattinson came from, is putting on special viewings of the full project but the one minute trailer has won audiences all over the internet as it recaptures everybody’s sense of imagination and creativity that has since been destroyed after leaving their childhood behind.

The star is 13 year old Joey Whittaker who spends most of the trailer as Bilbo Baggins looking incredibly surprised at every event that happens, even when he is sitting at his dining table in his own home… by himself. The trailer manages to make everybody wish that, for just one day, they too could be children again.

Albeit Tower House School is a prep school but if more schools across England made their pupils do projects like this it is likely to hold their interest a lot more!

I expect two questions to be raised by the title of this post. One: Who is Anthony Mackie? Two: Why will he be a household name? These are both questions that I am set to answer in the next couple of paragraphs. Simply enough, Anthony Mackie is an actor, an actor who has starred in some of the biggest films of the last few years but has so far had very minor roles or exposure in the public domain. However, his talent is undoubted and soon enough, everyone will know who he will be. But let’s not just say random things, people want proof. So what has he been in so far?

Anthony Mackie has made quite an impression on the stage and his theatre roots have not been forgotten as he has grown as an actor and he regularly returns in between filming to perform on stage. On stage he has played Tupac Shakur, starred in three plays written by award winner August Wilson and starred in an ancient Greek tragedy The Bacchae. But while his performances on broadway got him noticed by critics and the people in the know, he would still be unknown by millions around the world if it wasn’t for his film career.

His film career began ten years ago in Eminem’s film 8 Mile. Here, Mackie played Eminem’s rival Papa Doc. I really liked 8 Mile and thought it was a decent film so this was a good place to start for Mackie in my opinion, it was an easy break into the world of film making. His first starring role came a year later in Brother to Brother and Mackie received a nomination at the Independent Spirit Awards for best debut performance. In the next couple of years he appeared alongside Denzel Washington in The Manchurian Candidate, Spike Lee’s She Hate Me and multi-Oscar winning Million Dollar Baby. He later appeared in Helf Nelson and then another multi-Oscar winning film and one that received huge critical acclaim and is probably the best film still to have been made about the Iraq war: The Hurt Locker. With such big hits under his belt how is he still not more famous?!

In the last couple of years it looks as though Mackie has been pushing for more fame, but his choice of roles may just be letting him down. Since 2008 he has appeared in blockbusters such as Eagle Eye, The Adjustment Bureau, Notorious (where he once again plays Tupac Shakur), Real Steel, Man on a Ledge and Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. None of the aforementioned films turned out to be as big as their studios or casts had hoped unfortunately. So that leaves us with what he is going to do next… after ten years of being a successful but little known actor Anthony Mackie finally looks set to receive the fame that that handsome face and charming smile deserve.

One of the most anticipated films of next year is Gangster Squad. And here Mackie is included in an all star cast that boasts names of the quality of Sean Penn, Josh Brolin, Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone… basically it’s a sure fire hit. This could get Mackie the exposure that he deserves but if not, then his project in 2014 will definitely get him noticed. Comic book movies have become the biggest genre of the last few years without a doubt! And Anthony Mackie has been confirmed to be in Captain America: The Winter Soldier where his role will be Sam Wilson, better known as Captain America’s modern day sidekick with the power of flight Falcon. If the film stays true to the comic books then Anthony Mackie will have a big part to play as it is likely that Falcon will be Cap’s best friend and the person he can confide in while he deals with the change of waking up in a whole new world. Anthony Mackie is a perfect choice for the role and the casting decision has been greeted with great positivity by fans of the comic book hero. With a role in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, it is also likely that Mackie could be in with a chance of getting some screen time in The Avengers 2 which would be a dream for most actors at the minute, I believe.

The comic book movie genre shows no signs of flagging and this casting choice could throw Anthony Mackie into the limelight and who knows, in a few more years he might even be headlining films rather than just being a sidekick.

UK Release Date: 21st November 2012

Stars: Michael Hoffman (director), Colin Firth, Alan Rickman, Cameron Diaz, Stanley Tucci

Plot: An art curator decides to seek revenge on his abusive boss by conning him into buying a fake Monet, but his plan requires the help of an eccentric and unpredictable Texas rodeo queen.

Unfortunately, this is not a trailer for a film based around the universally popular X-Men character of the same name, even though if you type ‘Gambit trailer’ into Youtube you will just be forced to watch Taylor Kitsch as Gambit for a few seconds. What this Gambit actually is is a remake of the 1966 Michael Caine film and this trailer is bound to put a smile on anyone’s face.

Written by Joel and Ethan Coen you are guaranteed a hit really, it just seems a shame that they’re not actually directing this one. But since the script is from them you can anticipate lots of humour and great characters. Michael Hoffman’s most recent film was The Last Station which managed to get Oscar nominations for both Helen Mirren and Christopher Plummer, so maybe Hoffman can once again get the best out of his cast here.

The trailer for Gambit gives us plenty to look forward to in terms of a charming-as-ever Colin Firth and a hilarious and naked Alan Rickman; it also gives us something not to look forward to: Cameron Diaz putting on a ridiculously annoying accent as if she wasn’t irritating enough already! Luckily, the trailer puts across a suave sense of style and sophistication which Colin Firth can carry single handedly, but it looks as though Alan Rickman will be allowed to let loose and will be the cause of much laughter come the end of November.

Sometimes when you see a trailer for a film it can either make you really want to go and see that film or it can make you decide that there is no way you are going to see that film if not even the trailer looks good! I felt the latter about Rise of the Planet of the Apes when it was released last year. However, a friend of mine asked me to go and see this film with him and, never being one to turn down a trip to the cinema no matter how bad a film looks, I went along. I went into the screen expecting to be twiddling my thumbs for an hour and a half; I did not expect to be sat there having my heartstrings played with by a CGI invention but this is what actually occurred!

Rise of the Planet of the Apes is the story of Will (James Franco) and Caesar (Andy Serkis).  Will is a bright young scientist working on ALZ-112, otherwise known as a cure for Alzheimer’s disease, and is desperate for his cure to be put into a phase of human trials after successful trials on apes. This is because Will’s father is suffering from Alzheimer’s and Will cannot cope with his father’s illness and the suffering it is putting the family through. After ‘Bright Eyes’ goes rogue at the lab, all chimpanzees have to be put down. This is where Will and chimp handler Franklin (Tyler Labine) find a new born baby chimp, soon to be known as Caesar. Caesar instantly shows signs that he inherited the ALZ-112 drug from his mother and his intelligence charts off the scale for a chimpanzee. Although this is fantastic new for Will at first, events take their toll as Caesar grows older and more ambitious.

In truth this is not one of James Franco’s best performances but that doesn’t mean it’s a bad performance, just not neccassarily as good as one might expect from a man who put in a terrific performance in 127 Hours and managed to grab an audience’s attention and hold it all by himself for ninety minutes. However, his friendship with Caesar is truly believable. Tyler Labine, Brian Cox and David Oyelowo put in an adequate shift, John Lithgow as Will’s father is one of the best performances whilst Tom Felton and Freida Pinto seemed to be competing in a competition of who could act worse. But the real star, of course, is Andy Serkis as Caesar. Serkis has made a name for himself in motion capture performance with roles as Gollum in Lord of the Rings and King Kong in Peter Jackson’s remake of the classic film. Here, Serkis is once again brilliant; his emotion he brings to the character make Caesar one of my favourite characters (and one of the best characters) of this century.

Caesar’s relationships with the human characters are wonderful to watch. Will and Caesar soon have a mutual respect for each other as Caesar soon becomes one of Will’s closest and only friends where he one was just a test subject. Caesar develops a heart-warming relationship with Will’s dad and some of the most touching scenes take place between these two. So for a film that bases so much of it’s development and early story on relationships it seems almost implausible that there is this ridiculous love story happening at the same time between Franco and Pinto’s characters which really adds little to the overall story.

You’d be surprised how emotionally captivating and driven Caesar can be to say he is just computer generated. His creation is a wonderful credit to the visual team on Rise of the Planet of the Apes and Andy Serkis himself. But it is not just Caesar, in the final act there are hundreds of primates running about the town and the special effects are wonderful – the special effects in this film are among the best that I have ever seen. You would honestly think that they were real chimpanzees at times.

The final act is fantastic. There is the climatic battle on the bridge between humans and apes that audiences have waited for since the beginning of the movie with seeds planted leading to this moment for a while. And it does not disappoint; the action is directed superbly and everything happens so smoothly – it really is great to watch and exciting as the apes bring down the police force and war wages throughout the streets.

There were obviously a few things that annoyed me (besides Freida Pinto’s involvement in the film). Most notably, the fact that in the first twenty five minutes eight years pass by and the only character that ages is Caesar. I know it was important to speed through this so that we could get to Caesar’s story as a grown ape but at least make James Franco and the rest of the cast look eight years older. How hard is it to do that when you’re creating hundreds of apes? Come on.

Anyway, Rise of the Planet of the Apes is a very emotional and touching film, not just a nonsense popcorn flick which many people seem to mistakenly believe it to be. I went in with a negative approach and I really enjoyed it, there are some shocks, some great action, fantastic character development in Caesar and a great ending setting up the sequel, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, very nicely indeed.

My Rating: 7/10.

So, this is the movie news that should have been posted yesterday, however I got slightly side tracked by the fact that there was a new trailer for The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey being released and I was so excited and highly anticipating that trailer that I forgot to post this. So let’s all just pretend it’s on time and bathe in the news of the past week.

First up, director news, both joining projects and possibly leaving projects too. James Gunn, after plenty of speculation, has officially been announced as the director of Guardians of the Galaxy, probably Marvel’s most ambitious movie to date. Gunn recently directed Super which received mixed reviews from critics and failed to make any impact at all on the box office. More worryingly is that Gunn will also be re-writing the script: Gunn’s previous writing credits include Scooby Doo and Scooby Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed. However, Joss Whedon has said that he has complete faith in Gunn’s vision for Guardians of the Galaxy and that can only be good news!

The internet is rife with rumours of the directorial departure over at FOX of Rupert Wyatt from Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, the sequel to the rather surprisingly very good Rise of the Planet of the Apes. There have been a few shake ups over at FOX recently and the rumours are now that Wyatt will be leaving the sequel because he is not confident that he can both produce a top quality film and meet the release date which FOX announced as May 23rd 2014. This is a real shame if the rumours are true because Wyatt did a great job of directing the first instalment; he had a very difficult job to do and he managed to pull the story together and get real emotion from most of the characters. The choice of his replacement could be make of break for the new Apes franchise.

Over at the Toronto International Film Festival the awards were given out as the festival drew to a close and there was a surprise winner for the People’s Choice Award. This is a pretty important award because in the past The King’s Speech and Slumdog Millionaire both won this award and went on to be huge successes and obviously clean up at the Oscars. The winner this year was Silver Linings Playbook, starring Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence. While I thought the trailer looked very good I wasn’t sure what to expect from the whole film but early signs suggest this is going to be a fantastic film, even though I doubt it will do as well at the box office as those previous winners.

The other little tid bits of news this week include the announcement that Universal has planned fir sequels to both Ted and The Bourne Legacy. The fact that The Bourne Legacy is getting a sequel should come as no surprise although it received mixed reviews from critics and mainstream audiences. With Ted getting a sequel this is clearly just a money making scheme by Universal as one film was definitely enough. And finally there has been an announcement made on who will be singing the theme tune to this years James Bond film Skyfall. After months of speculation Adele has finally been confirmed to have been given the honour. A perfect choice.