Archive for January, 2013


February is looking like a very exciting month over here in the UK for film releases. There’s animation, Oscar nominated performances, big laughs and big explosions. Here’s my rundown of the films to look out for over the next four weeks.

 

Bullet to the Head – 1st February

This looks like the speech-slurring Sylvester Stallone is back to his best as he teams up with Fast Five‘s Sung Kang. A very ordinary storyline but throw in some fantastic action scenes and funny one liners and you’ve got yourself one of the most enjoyable action films of the year.

 

Flight – 1st February

Denzel Washington is a man that always delivers and here he is with his latest Oscar nominated performance as a pilot who’s heroic saving of a crashing plane is soon under investigation as he may not be all he seems. With a supporting cast of Don Cheadle, Melissa Leo, Bruce Greenwood and John Goodman this has no choice but to be a fantastic drama.

 

I Give it a Year – 8th February

This is probably the film that I am most looking forward to this month. I can’t remember the last time I saw a trailer that genuinely made me laugh out loud as much as this one does. I Give it a Year looks hilarious and I hope that I will not be disappointed, especially since Simon Baker, of The Mentalist fame, is in it!

 

Wreck-it Ralph – 8th February

Nominated for the Best Animated Film Oscar at this years ceremony, Wreck-it Ralph looks set to be able to rival anything that Pixar have done in the past. Set in the world of video games we follow bad guy Wreck-it Ralph in his attempt to prove to himself and everyone else that he is in fact a good guy.

 

A Good Day to Die Hard – 14th February

The fifth installment in the Die Hard franchise promises to be the biggest one yet. And with the introduction of Jai Courtney as McClane Jr it may be a sign that Bruce Willis is ready to pass on the mantle of leading the series, although I highly doubt that!

 

Cloud Atlas – 22nd February

Cloud Atlas‘ narrative structure is one that hasn’t been seen all that often in film and, upon it’s release in America (a good few months earlier than the rest of the world for some daft reason) it instantly divided critics. Despite this, I am still excited to see how the film will play out and really looking forward to seeing how the adaptation of David Mitchell’s epic novel turns out.

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This week has seen a lot of casting being announced for several high profile comic book movies. I will start with The Amazing Spider-Man 2: with the original cast on board and the casting of Jamie Foxx as Electro and Dane DeHaan as Harry Osborn. Now it seems like another villain is going to be in the mix: Rhino. Although, recent incarnations of the character have seen Rhino have a more sympathetic side so that may indicate that Rhino may play a similar role to that of Catwoman in The Dark Knight Rises. The man in talks for the role is the ever wonderful Paul Giamatti. This would be very interesting casting as Giamatti isn’t known for being a very physically fit actor but he is flawless in his performances so this could be something to look out for!

 

Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen and Hugh Jackman have already signed on to a return to the X-men franchise (although Jackman never really left) but this week has seen more familiar names from the original trilogy return for X-men: Days of Future Past. Shawn Ashmore (Iceman), Anna Paquin (Rogue) and Ellen Page (Shadowcat) are all set to return. Shadowcat plays a very important part in the comic book storyline this film is adapting but it is unclear how she will feature in the film. One thing that Bryan Singer (director) has promised though, is that Days of Future Past will include time travel that ‘makes sense’ and that it will be the biggest X-men film yet. I, for one, can not wait!

Sin City is often forgotten when talking about comic book movies because it isn’t your traditional comic book type film. However, among critics and fans it is one of the most highly praised of the genre. And after the recent casting of Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Ray Liotta the title role has now been filled in the sequel – Sin City: A Dame to Kill For. Playing the dame is the wonderful Eva Green, one of my favourite Bond girls ever, although that isn’t really saying a lot taking into account my view on the Bond franchise as a whole.

And finally, we knew that Marvel would be spearheading ‘Phase 3’ with Ant-Man and we now know that Dr. Strange will also have his origin told in a solo film after The Avengers 2. Also, there are rumours that Robert Downey Jr’s Iron Man will be seen going into space in an end credits scene after Iron Man 3 and that he may also feature in the post-credits scene of Guardians of the Galaxy. This would indicate good signs for the future of Marvel’s franchises as it would suggest that Robert Downey Jr is to continue as the charming Tony Stark after Iron Man 3.

Snitch Trailer

UK Release Date: 5th April 2013

Stars: Ric Roman Waugh (director), Dwayne Johnson, Susan Sarandon, Jon Bernthal, Harold Perineau

Plot: A father goes undercover for the DEA in order to free his son who was imprisoned after being set up in drug deal.

Snitch is just one of six films released in 2013 that is set to star the new WWE champion, Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson. And in all honesty, I don’t believe that this is going to be the best.

The trailer portrays Snitch as your typical action film. It’ll bring nothing new to the genre, just another chance to see Dwayne Johnson on the big screen and it is undoubtedly set to be a fun ride. The plot, from what I took from the trailer, doesn’t really seem to make much sense but I guess we’ll find out when we see more than just two minutes of footage.

It looks as though there will be a slow build up with no real big action footage until towards the end of the film, which will be slightly disappointing for action fans. Even the trailer seems to take the slow build up and doesn’t really inject any adrenaline into viewers, which is something that it’s target audience will have been wanting.

Leonardo DiCaprio recently announced that he is to take a break from acting after he has been busy making three films in the last two years. While The Great Gatsby and The Wolf on Wall Street are yet to be released, Django Unchained is in cinemas now.

Since getting his break in the film world back in 1993 playing a mentally challenged teenager in What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, Leonardo DiCaprio has gone on to become one of the most consistent, most versatile and most sought after actors. DiCaprio is one of my favourite actors so I have compiled a list of his top five most iconic performances. And it was incredibly hard, there are some big performances and big films that miss out, but feel free to tell me what you think in the comments. Here goes…

 

5. Jack Dawson – Titanic

As much as I don’t like Titanic and I don’t buy into the whole audience love for it that comes with the film there is no doubting that Titanic was the film that made DiCaprio ‘king of the world’ and really launched him into the limelight. Playing the young and poor Jack Dawson made DiCaprio an international heart throb and opened so many doors for him, allowing him to take his career in any direction he liked. The success that Titanic became has made sure that nobody could ever forget DiCaprio.

4. Calvin Candie – Django Unchained

Django Unchained marks the first time that DiCaprio plays the villain, and what a fine villain he makes. Calvin Candie is one of the most unlikeable character’s in film; he has so many moral issues and just because of the time period of the film he’s a despicable human being. But DiCaprio plays him with such menace and intensity that you just want to see more and more of him. It’s one of DiCaprio’s most enthralling and guiltily enjoyable performances.

3. Jim Carroll – The Basketball Diaries

Believe it or not, DiCaprio did have a career before Titanic. In 1995, a film was made of Jim Carroll’s juvenile diaries chronicling his kaleidoscopic free-fall into the harrowing world of drug addiction. While there may be a few problems with the film (it’s not one of DiCaprio’s best) DiCaprio puts in a fantastic performance as the drug addicted teen and it is one that highlighted his acting talent very early on and it was plain to see he was made for stardom.

2. Howard Hughes – The Aviator

The Aviator is another biopic starring Leonardo DiCaprio and this one actually got him an Oscar nomination. DiCaprio shows Hughes’ rise to success in the field of aviation and film production and even more convincingly, brings us down with Hughes’ decline of mental health. It’s a wonderful film directed by Martin Scorsese and quite rightly got nominations over the board for the film as a whole and DiCaprio’s mesmerising performance.

1. Danny Archer – Blood Diamond

Another role that got DiCaprio nominated for an Oscar. This is one of his best performances and Blood Diamond is one of my favourite films that he has done. DiCaprio got critical acclaim for mastering the difficult South African accent and really puts in a flawless performance that shows his character develop from selfish smuggler to a hero. It’s a wonderful performance which is truly moving by the end of it, DiCaprio puts on a wonderful show.

So that’s my top greatest roles taken on by Leonardo DiCaprio. As you can see there are some brilliant movies that miss out: Gangs of New York, Catch Me If You Can, The Departed, Shutter Island and Inception. For me, all this does is make clear that DiCaprio is one of the greatest actors of his generation with a filmography to match!

Django Unchained is Quentin Tarantino’s latest adventure into history following the success of Inglourious Basterds. ‘Unchained‘ delves deeper into America’s past and examines, in a way that only Tarantino could do, the ugly side of American history that is often brushed over in the mainstream.

Jamie Foxx is Django, a slave freed by bounty hunter Dr. King Schultz. Schultz employs Django to help him bring three overseers of slave farms to their demise and the two grow a mutual respect between one another as they journey. Upon learning of Django’s wife being a slave at Candieland, owned by Calvin Candie, King Schultz decides to train and help Django embark on a revenge mission to free his wife.

It’s a fantastic story of revenge and as you would expect Django Unchained is wonderfully written. Tarantino is famous for his dialogue and while he seems to reign that in here there are still a few scenes where you get the back and forth, quick moving dialogue which is fun to see and listen to. One thing Tarantino doesn’t reign in, however, is his love of violence and gore; the blood flies everywhere at such ridiculous angles and guts come flying out of dead bodies in a way that is hilarious, but that is what makes Tarantino so enjoyable. As a person in interviews he is so over the top and you expect that from his films, it’s brilliant.

Jamie Foxx’s lead performance helps to make Django one of the coolest characters ever committed to film in my opinion. Django is just a complete character, he is so likeable and has so many different colours to his personality which makes him very interesting to watch, so credit to Tarantino for his creation but also Foxx for bringing him to life. There is one scene in particular that springs to mind involving Django and two of the Brittle brothers where Foxx really lets loose all of Django’s pent up anger and this makes this particular scene difficult to watch but so enjoyable at the same time because you’re on his side; there’s a wildness in his eyes.

The rest of the cast is almost flawless too. Christoph Waltz is nominated for an Oscar for his performance as Dr. King Schultz and rightly so, he’s such a likeable character and Waltz’s performance is the root of a lot of laughs due to his mannerisms. Leonardo DiCaprio is one of my favourite actors and it is great to see him playing a villain for the first time in his career and this gives him a chance to really let go of himself and bring a very intense and uncomfortable feel about his character; it’s so different to what he has done before but it is up there with his best performances. For me, there were only two let downs: I thought we would get to see a different side of Samuel L. Jackson after the early hype about him but he was just the same as always and largely disappointing for me; and all the way through I was hoping for a Tarantino cameo but when it finally came it was just underwhelming and restrained.

I’ve heard a lot of complaints about the running time and how Django Unchained sort of falls short because of this but I didn’t feel this to be the case. I did feel like it could have ended at earlier points and been drawn to a close quicker but then what followed those points I really enjoyed and was glad that they carried it on. On the whole, Django Unchained is just a really cool and incredibly stylish film. The beginning is good, the middle is better, and the end is fantastic. Not a realistic choice at the Oscars for Best Picture in my eyes but Tarantino could easily pick up Best Original Screenplay.

All in all, not Tarantino’s best, but far from his worst!

My Rating: 8/10.

Abrams is an expert in the science fiction genre.

I’m not writing this to say that JJ Abrams isn’t a good director or film maker, it would be absurd to say something along those lines after the incredible success he has had bringing Star Trek back to the big screen along with his television work. And I have no doubt that he will do another great job making Star Wars seems relevant again. But when I saw the announcement a little bit of me did die inside. But why?

 

Well, first things first, Abrams has now committed the ultimate betrayal in the world of pop culture. When people ask you whether you prefer Star Trek or Star Wars the only acceptable answers are either ‘Trek‘ or ‘Wars‘ (occasionally someone will let you say neither) but ‘both’ is not usually an option. For around five decades now these two franchises have gone head to head and, I know it’s only films, it doesn’t really matter, but to a lot of people it will matter that Abrams has gone behind Star Trek‘s back and chosen to direct Star Wars: Episode VII. But that’s not the main reason, in fact, I couldn’t care less about this reason because I am not a huge fan of either franchise (although I loved the 2009 reboot).

The main reason for my disappointment is that it is a very boring choice, it’s a safe choice. I expected Disney to really pull out the big guns, get someone in who would create something magical who wouldn’t necessarily be everyone’s first choice but would win everyone over when the film is released in 2015, but this seems to not be the case. Abrams is a self professed fan of Star Wars so I have no doubt that his passion for the project will see that only good things come of this.

Abrams’ 2009 Star Trek reboot was met with wide critical acclaim.

However, the fact that Abrams is now directing the two biggest science fiction franchises in the galaxy, it makes the science fiction genre very boring; it almost seems like a very prestigious boy’s club and if you’re not involved you don’t get a chance. All directors have their own trademarks, their own styles and now there will no doubt be very high similarities between Star War and Star Trek which may blur the lines between the two franchises whereas they should both be kept apart.

 

Matthew Vaughn was considered to be front runner for the job.

I would have much preferred someone else who wasn’t already running a science fiction franchise to take control of Star Wars VII and install their own style and their own creativity into the project. I just don’t think this bodes well for the future of the science fiction genre having one man control the two biggest franchises. Film and cinema thrives on variety and with the vast number of science fiction releases increasing year on year, variety is becoming more and more necessary. I can’t help but feel a bit disappointed with Disney’s choice and their refusal to employ someone who could bring something different to the science fiction genre, but in 2015 I’m sure everyone will enjoy the Star Wars that JJ Abrams brings us.

Pain & Gain Trailer

UK Release Date: 3rd May 2013

Stars: Michael Bay (director), Mark Wahlberg, Dwayne Johnson, Anthony Mackie, Ed Harris, Ken Jeong, Tony Shalhoub, Rebel Wilson.

Plot: A trio of bodybuilders in Florida get caught up in an extortion ring and a kidnapping scheme that goes terribly wrong.

This is actually based on a true story, how much of that true story remains in the film, however, is up for debate. But with a cast that teams together Wahlberg, Johnson and Mackie then you have my attention, even if it is directed by that horrible man Michael Bay.

There are no huge explosions in the trailer so it looks as though Bay might have to try and prove he can be a good director without so much action which should be interesting; unfortunately it also feels like a role I have seen Wahlberg in many times before. However, it is great that Johnson getting to show off some humour in the trailer.

The trailer looks decent, but that’s about it. There’s nothing that makes me really want to see Pain & Gain because of the trailer but there’s nothing that puts me off it either. It’s an interesting premise and it seems like we’re going to get to see the plan, the extortion and the aftermath which should make for an interesting story. Coming from the writers behind two of the most anticipated sequels in film (Thor: The Dark World and Captain America: Winter Soldier) it should be a good script to work from.

UK Release Date: 8th February 2013

Stars: Dan Mazer (director), Anna Faris, Rose Byrne, Simon Baker, Rafe Spall, Minnie Driver, Jason Flemyng, Olivia Colman, Stephen Merchant.

Plot: A look at the trials and tribulations of a pair of newlyweds during their first year as a married couple.

There aren’t many good British rom-coms. That’s the truth of the matter; the majority of them follow the same formula and recycle the same jokes over and over again. So it is great that I Give It a Year seems to be something fresh and, even better, it actually has a funny trailer. And a funny trailer is something that a lot of rom-coms lack.

The cast looks exciting, although there aren’t many high profile names they are taken from some great television shows: The Mentalist, Peep Show, Extras. It’s great to see Jason Flemyng here too! From the trailer it looks like every single character is going to inject some humour into the story which is fantastic.

A lot of good jokes are in the trailer and hopefully there will be more in the film. I don’t think British cinema can take another romantic comedy flop.

The story of Les Misérables, originally written as a novel by Victor Hugo, is 150 years old. The first adaptation of Les Misérables as a musical came in 1980 and it has gone on to become one of the biggest and one of the best musicals on stage in the world. So how do you adapt the musical to film while keeping the operatic feel? How do you make a 150 year old story seem relevant to the 21st century audience? These are the questions that faced director Tom Hooper (The King’s Speech) when creating this giant production.

Les Misérables primary focus is Jean Valjean, a prisoner released on parole after spendingnineteen years in jail. Upon his release and his attempt to become a better man and live a better life he breaks his parole and ruthless policeman Javert dedicates his life to returning Valjean to prison. Along the way Valjean takes in the child of a dying prostitute. The plot spans seventeen years and is set against the backdrop of political turmoil and rebellion in France, culminating in the June Rebellion of France.

One of the key features of Les Misérables was the fact that the actors did not lip sync; their vocals were actually recorded while they sang on set, which is a very unique way of doing things when making a musical film. This means that the actors are forced to act, sing, move and sometimes fight all at the same time. It is a testament to how talented the whole case is that this never gets in the way of their vocals: this also helps to really keep a theatrical feel about the performance.

Hugh Jackman is Oscar nominated for his performance as prison Jean Valjean and his background in theatre clearly helped his performance in Les Misérables. Jackman’s transformation on screen as his character rises and falls in stature is fantastic and, with his performance, he brings so much emotion to the role it is hard not to feel for him. Hugh Jackman’s portrayal of Valjean is probably one of my favourite individual performances I have ever seen. This is also true of Anne Hathaway’s portrayal of prostitute Fantine, although for very different reasons. Fantine is forced to desperate measures in order to raise money to look after her child and the sequence which portrays this (accompanied with the song ‘Lovely Ladies‘) is so harrowing and you can really feel the despair and desperation of the character. I am slightly disappointed that Russell Crowe wasn’t nominated for an Oscar for his performance: even though he plays the villain I thought Crowe made Javert reluctantly likeable and I was really impressed by his singing too.

The songs and the music are the centre piece of Les Misérables and, as you would expect being as though it is a musical, the songs are wonderful. With such beautiful music and compelling lyrics the choice of songs (and addition of new song ‘Suddenly‘) really help to create a wonderful narrative which is vital here as there are very few spoken lines within the two and a half hour running time. Hathaway singing ‘I Dreamed a Dream‘ was a real highlight of the film, ‘Do You Hear the People Sing?‘ was a wonderful team production, ‘Empty Chairs at Empty Tables‘ was another personal highlight along with my favourite song of them all ‘Stars‘.

At the beginning of this review I called the making of Les Misérables a giant production and the huge scale on which this film is made is evident from the very first shot. Right from the get go it is a real team effort and everybody pulls their weight equally. The sets are incredible, the set pieces are fantastic, character development is wonderful. Lots of characters are introduced at different times throughout the film but they never clog up the storyline.

Les Misérables is a terrific story on so many levels and, even at two and a half hours long, I could have happily sat through it again as soon as it finished!

My Rating: 10/10.

Wild Bill (2011) Review

“What did he want?”

“Shooting.”

The best line of the film in my opinion.

The main reason I decided to sit down and watch Wild Bill is because it is the directorial debut of Dexter Fletcher. Fletcher has always provided good performances in front of the camera (Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, Band of Brothers, Kick-Ass) so I was interested to see how he would get on behind the camera. And any expectations I had before watching were completely blown out of the water within minutes.

Charlie Creed-Miles is “Wild” Bill Hayward, just released from prison on parole after serving eight years for numerous crimes. Bill returns home to find his two sons Dean (15) and Jimmy (11), who he hasn’t seen since he got sent down, have been abandoned by their mother who has fled to Spain. A bond between Bill and Jimmy quickly develops, and Dean gradually comes around to the idea of having his father around. However, their domestic life is short-lived, when Jimmy starts drug-dealing for some local villains.

The story is set against the backdrop of the London Olympic stadium construction site as this is where Dean has been working in order to look after his younger brother. This setting immediately allows the audience to be sucked in to the world of the film and it brings a great sense of realism to Wild Bill.  The grittiness and realism of a working class family in recession hit London really helps the film stand out, especially as it is very easy to recognise several problems that the film brings up including poverty, family breakdown and the fall of society; something we, in the UK especially, can all recognise. Credit has to go to Fletcher and Danny King, the writers of the film, to bringing up these problems for all to see.

From left to right: Fletcher, Poulter, Creed Miles, Flemyng.

As Wild Bill Charlie Creed-Miles is brilliant. The character development is there for all to see and Creed-Miles portrays two very different sides to his character; the thug/prisoner/chav that doesn’t care about anything, and then the caring father trying to make an effort with his children, even if he does get it very wrong at times. But the real star of the show is Will Poulter who plays Dean. Poulter carries a great air of maturity and it is very easy to feel for his character thanks to the emotion that he brings to the role. There are appearances from other British actors that different audiences will recognise: Liz White (Life on Mars), Iwan Rheon (Misfits) Andy Serkis (Lord of the Rings), Marc Warren (Hustle) and even a small appearance from Fletcher’s good friend and colleague Jason Flemyng.

Wild Bill is wonderfully acted and is a true example of brilliant character development. Their are strong themes, a strong storyline and even stronger performances. I would argue that Wild Bill is quite possibly the best British film I have ever seen.

My Rating: 10/10.