Tag Archive: blockbuster


Back in 1975 Jaws became the highest grossing film to date. It’s arguably one of the most famous films ever that has been parodied and referenced in countless numbers of films and has a theme tune that everyone can hum and recognise. The release and the popularity of Jaws marked the arrival of the summer blockbuster, which would become a staple in the cinema calendar; the summer blockbuster spots are reserved for the biggest studios to bring out the big guns and rake in the profits over summer. The whole idea of a ‘blockbuster film’ has gone through celebration and survived criticism but you can not deny that they are still apparent and, as we have seen this year, are the most bankable films of the year. But the originality has gone, and with that so has some of the fun.

Among the top ten highest grossing films of the year so far there are eight films that have been released in the summer. Only one of those is an original concept: Pacific Rim. When Jaws was released it marked a trend of ‘event’ films that major studios released to compete with Jaws and its sequels. Taking this into account Pacific Rim seems like a typical summer blockbuster remade for a modern audience. It seems like everything a summer audience want: mindless action, giant robots fighting gigantic aliens and what’s more the film had major clout behind it as it was directed by Guillermo Del Toro. Pacific Rim only just managed to double its budget worldwide despite all the hype surrounding it and Idris Elba booming “today we are cancelling the apocalypse” before every other summer film that you would go and see. Of course, one reason why Pacific Rim could have fallen short of expectations is because Michael Bay did such an awful job with the Transformers film that any film with robots in will now be tossed aside without thought.

 

But then a film with fighting robots also became the fifth highest grossing film of all time: Iron Man 3. So this seems to suggest that that was not the only reason for Pacific Rim‘s failure to make a huge impression on the audience. In a world with so many sequels it is becoming more important to see those sequels when they come out, especially with what Marvel are doing with each film becoming a huge stable of cinema in itself and an unmissable event. People want to see what they already know because the first films are so good and successful that it gives a sequel credibility before it is even released. The likes of Star Trek Into Darkness, Fast and Furious 6, Monsters University and even Despicable Me 2 cracked the top ten highest grossing films – all coming off the back of successful franchises or original films. World War Z and Man of Steel also join the list but they’re coming from hugely successful books and comic books. With World War Z it also seems to suggest that star power is also important for a summer blockbuster with Brad Pitt no doubt being responsible for some of the surprisingly huge audience the zombie action film found.

So what of Will Smith, Tom Cruise and Johnny Depp? Three of the biggest movie stars on the planet absolutely tanked at the box office in 2013. Smith’s After Earth and Cruise’s Oblivion both seemed pretty similar in their basic premise: Earth has been abandoned and now Will Smith/Tom Cruise come back to Earth and find out that it’s not as bare as they might have thought. It was assumed that one film would take the spoils because they were too similar but as it turned out, neither film did and both failed. Johnny Depp looked to bring a new franchise to the big screen and should have been more successful being as though The Lone Ranger is integrated in popular culture – everyone has heard “Hi-Yo, Silver!” at least once in their lives. But a difficult time in production seemed to put an end to any plans Disney had of making a sequel. And the less said about R.I.P.D the better.

 

Another one of the most anticipated films of the year was Neill Blomkamp’s Elysium. After Blomkamp’s debut feature District 9 was an Oscar nominated film people were expecting something exceptional from Elysium, starring Matt Damon and Jodie Foster. However, as of now it has only just managed to make back its budget and not set the world alight as people expected. Of course, a late summer release won’t have helped being as though it seems everyone had already spent their money on previously mentioned films. So why is it so hard to find a spot for originality in the summer months?

For me, I think it comes down to the cost of going to the cinema. Over summer the children are off school and people go to the cinema as a family. This means that you’re going to be spending around £25-£35 on tickets and then another £20ish on drinks and popcorn which makes it seem pretty expensive just to go and sit down for a couple of hours. Nobody wants to go and see a bad film at the cinema anyway but when it’s costing that much you want to know that you’re going to enjoy what you watch. Therefore, I believe people are more likely to go and see Iron Man 3 when Marvel have a spotless record and you’re guaranteed a great performance from Robert Downey Jr. rather than take a chance that something like R.I.P.D or Pacific Rim which you don’t know much about.

 

In the next couple of years we are going to see more Marvel films – Guardians of the Galaxy in 2014, The Avengers: Age of Ultron in 2015. The Man of Steel sequel featuring Batman is coming out too, the same as the seventh chapter of Star Wars and presumably a third in the new Star Trek trilogy: add to that another Fast & Furious film, a sequel to World War Z and X-Men: Days of Future Past. It seems like so many huge franchises are begging for people’s money that it seems impossible for anything new to turn heads. For the sake of cinema that has to change sooner rather than later.

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Now You See Me Review

A star studded cast embark on a game of cat and mouse as the FBI and Interpol attempt to catch four magicians who use the disguise of their magic show to conduct bank heists and give the stolen money to their audiences. This band of magicians are known as The Four Horsemen and are each solo artists brought together by a mysterious hooded figure and a series of tarot cards. When together the group pull off these bank heists as a way of being allowed entry to an exclusive group of magicians known as ‘The Eye’.

“The closer you think you are, the less you’ll actually see”

The film opens every bit as you might expect: introducing the four characters separately, allowing for the audience to quickly get to know them and acknowledge their traits before they are put into the group dynamic. Up first is street magician J. Daniel Atlas (Jesse Eisenberg) whose opening trick is cleverly conducted to work on the audience as well; then comes Merrit McKinney (Woody Harrelson), a mentalist who uses his ‘gift’ to find out dirty secrets about people and extort them of their money. The only female member of the group is Henley Reeves (Isla Fisher), an escapologist and former assistant to J. Daniel Atlas. These three are joined by the only one of the magicians whose actual tarot card links to the Four Horsemen of mythology: Jack Wilder (Dave Franco) who seems to be more like a con artist than magician. These opening scenes are every bit as exciting as you would hope and introduce our heroes as being likeable characters, so much so that it has you gripped form the very beginning.

Jump one year later. Now we’re in Las Vegas watching the Four Horsemen put on a show under the watchful eye of benefactor Arthur Tressler (Michael Caine) and magician defrauder Thaddeus Bradley (Morgan Freeman). Here it is that the magicians pull off the bank heist that gets them noticed by the FBI. However, what the audience will notice is just how long this scene drags out and unfortunately it isn’t the only one. As with the case with real life magic shows, the magicians tend to lengthen things out, giving long speeches and explaining what they’re going to do before they do something completely different. While this may be all fine and well at real magic shows, when you have less than two hours on a cinema screen some of the waffle has to be cut down.

“These guys, they’re tricky”

But then that’s why Jesse Eisenberg impresses the most. If it wasn’t for Eisenberg’s charisma then perhaps Now You See Me would run the risk of being slightly dull, but every time Eisenberg appears on screen he hastens up the pace (if not only for his fast talking) but he inhabits the character; it feels like Eisenberg is the only one who has done his research and knows about magicians… which isn’t really surprising considering he was the first name attached to the project.

The other horsemen each have their own moments of glory (although arguably Isla Fisher’s comes at the beginning and never really rears it’s head again) with Harrelson providing a few sporadic laughs throughout, while Dave Franco provides one of the most exciting sequences of the piece in a fight scene with FBI agent Mark Ruffalo where trick mirrors, slight of hand and playing cards all come into use. It really stands out as one of the best action scenes of the summer which is remarkable considering the strength and special effects of the other blockbusters such as Iron Man 3 or Star Trek Into Darkness.

“Want to know how they did it? Just say the magic word”

While each individual actor gets their moment in the limelight at one point or another, it is a slight downfall that the four central characters seem to have very little chemistry with one another. The conversations at times seem jarred and the jokes not as free flowing as you would expect. Perhaps the worst part of the film is the completely unbelievable relationship between Mark Ruffalo’s character and the Interpol agent played by Melanie Laurent. Even the two actors don’t seem invested in that storyline.

Throughout the film there are (almost too many) hints towards the fact that there is going to be a twist so part of the fun comes from guessing what that twist is going to be. There is a little foreshadowing throughout but the reveal should still come as a surprise. It’s a great idea, but arguably poorly executed which is where it is going to be let down. However, this is just a small problem compared to the plot holes scattered throughout the plot and the pointlessness of Michael Caine’s character.

“First rule of magic: always be the smartest guy in the room”

Had it been released at any other time of the year Now You See Me could have very easily run the risk of bombing in the box office. But this is summer and people expect certain things from a summer blockbuster: they want to laugh, be entertained, see great action sequences, wonderful set pieces and big budget effects. And that’s what Now You See Me can deliver. It has it’s flaws but all in all is a thoroughly enjoyable film that can be filed under ‘hit’ for director Louis Leterrier.

My Rating: 6/10

Star Trek Into Darkness Review

With J.J. Abrams set to direct the new Star Wars film it is as yet unknown whether he will return for the inevitable conclusion to his finely crafted trilogy that has successfully reinstated Star Trek as one of the most important science fiction franchises in the world. Has he left behind a good legacy with Into Darkness?

Star Trek Into Darkness picks up with Captain James Kirk (Chris Pine) and his new crew, at least new in this franchise, already on a mission on the pre-civilisation planet of Nibiru; it is clear right from the off that the crew of the USS Enterprise are not going to be without danger as Spock’s life is immediately put on the line. Luckily, he survives and manages to carry on with the rest of the film. Where eventually they run into John Harrison (Benedict Cumberbatch), who just so happens to be Star Trek’s arguably most famous villain, Kahn. Kahn is carrying out terrorist acts that turn this film into an emotional chess game between Kirk and Kahn as the two battle it out in a test of will, strength and heroics as they battle to save their respective crews: only one side can win.

“Let’s go get this sonofabitch”

The first thing you notice about Into Darkness (and one of the most significant things) is that it does not feel like a sequel: the film immediately places you at the heart of the action with little knowledge of the previous film (or even Star Trek in general) required to enjoy the film. The whole of the Enterprise crew is back including Kirk, Spock (Zachary Quinto), Sulu (John Cho), Scotty (Simon Pegg) and Captain Pike (Bruce Greenwood) and none of the characters come off badly with each one, even Chekov (Anton Yelchin) having their moment in the spotlight; it would have been nice to have seen Uhura (Zoe Saldana) do more, however as her character does feel less like an equal crew member and more like a pawn to try and evoke some emotion in Spock, something she doesn’t really do that well.

The old faces are joined by new additions such as the incredible Benedict Cumberbatch and the almost pointless Alice Eve. Cumberbatch’s portrayal of Kahn is really spectacular; this is the greatest villain that will hit the screens this summer and is the most memorable in modern blockbusters, as far as my memory serves me anyhow. He poses a serious threat to Kirk and his crew on a mental and physical scale. Right from the off he gives you the creeps and it is clear his plan is very well thought out.

“You should have let me sleep”

The action takes place at a quick pace, occasionally slowing down to give the audience some breathing space and for the characters, mainly Kirk and Spock, to talk their problems through which does sometimes border on the line of good or bad writing; but that can be forgiven as you can guarantee whenever something feels stale Into Darkness shakes things up (quite literally), the amount of times they get attacked off guard id pretty suspicious for a craft of such high technology. But the action scenes are spectacular, right off the bat from Nibiru, to the home of the Klingons on Kronos, right up to the final fight scene between Spock and Kahn.

With such a lot hanging in the balance for Kirk, Spock etc. it seems imperative that there is humour injected into the story and that comes in the, predictable, forms of Bones (Karl Urban) and Scotty. This story centres on Kirk and Kahn but the majority of my attention was on Bones, coming out with quality one liners and throwing around metaphors like they were going out of fashion: he’s a treat every time he comes on screen.

“Damn it man! I’m a doctor not a torpedo technician!”

Into Darkness closes with the USS Enterprise about to embark on a five year mission. Is this five years a hint at how long it will be until we see the third chapter of this Star Trek revival? If so, maybe Abrams will be back on board. Part of me doesn’t want to wait so long but part of me longs for the return of Abrams to finish what he started!

In my Iron Man 3 review I claimed that Iron Man 3 could be the best blockbuster of the summer. Well all that’s changed now: Star Trek Into Darkness will not be topped.

My Rating: 9/10.

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.

After a lacklustre (lacklustre, disappointing but not bad!) Iron Man 2 there wouldn’t normally be much hype around another sequel but since a little film called The Avengers came out excitement for Iron Man 3 spiked again. Today it has hit an all time high! Nick Fury in The Avengers said that he “still believed in heroes” and now with the first official trailer from Iron Man 3 having been released we have The Mandarin teaching us “lesson number one: heroes, there are no such thing”. Iron Man 3 looks set to be the biggest Iron Man film to date with huge set pieces and massive blockbuster moments, but it also is set to become the most personal and give an insight into how much Tony Stark has changed since we first met him back in 2008.

The official synopsis for Iron Man 3 is thus: “Marvel Studios’ Iron Man 3 pits brash-but-brilliant industrialist Tony Stark/Iron Man against an enemy whose reach knows no bounds. When Stark finds his personal world destroyed at his enemy’s hands, he embarks on a harrowing quest to find those responsible. This journey, at every turn, will test his mettle. With his back against the wall, Stark is left to survive by his own devices, relying on his ingenuity and instincts to protect those closest to him. As he fights his way back, Stark discovers the answer to the question that has secretly haunted him: does the man make the suit or does the suit make the man?

Here’s the trailer:

There are a lot of things to pick up on from the trailer, to question and to get excited about. There’s the first look at The Mandarin, there’s the return of Don Cheadle as James Rhodes/War Machine, Pepper Potts in great danger, the Iron Patriot armour, the new look golden Iron Man armour, Happy Hogan defeated on the floor, Stark’s clifftop home being destroyed, Tony Stark bruised and battered, Stark and Potts both seemingly attacked by Iron Man armour. It’s action packed!

The Mandarin, played by Ben Kingsley, is Iron Man’s greatest foe from the comic books. It will be a real pleasure for fans to see Iron Man taking on someone that is more than just a man in a machine (Iron Monger and Whiplash in the previous two instalments both had armour). The Mandarin has different qualities, he is the most powerful enemy that Iron Man will ever come up against and his appearance was previously hinted at in Iron Man with the Ten Rings terrorist group that Stark helped put an end to originally.

Anyone who knows anything about Iron Man and Tony Stark (a role made his own by the fantastic Robert Downey Jr) is that he does love to massage his ego so it should come as no surprise that the latest Iron Man suit comes with a splash more of gold than his recent suits. Everyone loves Tony Stark for his quick wit and his cool remarks and this is something that is set to come to precedence with Shane Black writing and directing (the man who previously gave Robert Downey Jr a second chance at fame in the brilliant Kiss Kiss Bang Bang). Black’s incredible dialogue and character arcs will see Tony Stark thrive as a character and will no doubt be a hit with audiences all over the globe.

As for the suits attacking Tony and Pepper in the trailer there are different theories on this one. Perhaps The Mandarin has somehow got control over the suits? However, the theory I am most drawn to at the minute is that which brings the Extremis technology into the story (Extremis is the comic book storyline this film has been inspired by). The Extremis technology allows Stark to control his suits with his mind, this is why we see him being able to bring his Iron Man glove towards him earlier on in the trailer. Anyway, with this Extremis technology it could be programmed so that whenever Tony sensed any danger or fear that the suit would spring into action and protect him and Pepper. Again, this is only a theory and nothing will be proven until we see the end product.

Even though the Iron Man films are known to be big blockbusters I don’t think I can remember any particularly large set pieces from either of the first two films (the break out in Iron Man just after building the first suit and the race track fight with Whiplash in Iron Man 2 being the ones that immediately come to mind) but Iron Man 3 looks set to change all that. With Stark’s home being blown to pieces and the President’s aeroplane coming under attack there are sure to be plenty of edge of your seat moments and this will show that Iron Man is the best Avenger.

Obviously, cameos from other Marvel characters have not been hinted at yet and the one you are most likely to see will be Mark Ruffalo (probably as Bruce Banner, not the Hulk) but I don’t think we’ll know that until the film is released. Iron Man 3 hits cinemas on April 26th 2013.

The countdown to Phase 2 starts now.

 

He’s just a guy that I really want to hang out with.

Since it’s his birthday today (14/10/2012) this is the perfect opportunity for me to write about one of my favourite British actors, or actors in general, at the minute – Ben Whishaw. Now, I’ll openly admit I haven’t seen everything he has been in but once you see him for the first time in a main role, you will not forget him. Even if on screen for just a few minutes he brings great charisma, energy and unforgettable character to his roles and, being in quite a few big films this year, it becomes clear almost instantly that Whishaw is a master of the craft of acting.

At 32 years old, Whishaw has been acting now for 13 years. His career began all the way back in the twentieth century in 1999 and although he appeared in a few films and television series’ it would not be until 2011 that Ben Whishaw would finally get the recognition and attention that he so richly deserves. Whishaw has been quoted previously saying about his personal life “as an actor you have total rights to privacy and mystery, whatever your sexuality, whatever you do. I don’t see why that has to be something you discuss openly because you do something in the public eye. I have no understanding of why we turn actors into celebrities” perhaps showing a desire to stay out of the public eye and just to enjoy his work and let others enjoy his performances too without focussing too much on him as a person.

Ben Whishaw and Daniel Craig together for the first (but not the last) time on film.

As well as appearing on stage Whishaw first got recognition from the film world in 2001 when he was names Most Promising Newcomer at the British Independent Film Awards for his part in My Brother Tom. This led to appearances in Enduring Love, Layer Cake (where he would appear with Daniel Craig for the first time) and Stoned, a biopic about Brian Jones in which Ben Whishaw played Keith Richards. He then moved to television to appear in short lived Channel 4 comedy Nathan Barley. At the time I can remember watching this and thinking that it was indeed very funny, although upon a recent return to the series I think I over rated it quite a lot back then.

After this Whishaw appeared in Perfume playing a perfume make whose craft turns deadly and I’m Not There in which he is one of several people to portray Bob Dylan. After a BBC television series (Criminal Justice) and a couple more feature films: Brideshead Revisited, The International and The Tempest Ben Whishaw appeared in the role that would help get him into Hollywood. The role in question is that of Freddie Lyon in The Hour, a sort of British answer to Mad Men which I enjoyed greatly! Whishaw was absolutely brilliant in his role and this is where I first became the big fan of his that I am right now. After this Ben Whishaw played King Richard in the BBC adaptation of Richard II which thanks to his back catalogue of performing Shakespeare in the theatre Whishaw was perfect for.

My favourite Ben Whishaw role so far – The Hour.

And that brings us right up to speed with Ben Whishaw’s projects this year. The Americans get to see him this month in Cloud Atlas but we Brits have to wait until next February for our chance, but Cloud Atlas is a huge undertaking and has already done well critically in early screenings. Then we finally get to see Whishaw as a young Q in Bond flick Skyfall, which will see him reunite with Daniel Craig eight years after both appearing in Layer Cake. From what I have seen of Whishaw already he seems like he will make the ideal Q. And on top of that (as if that’s not enough) Whishaw is rumoured to be in the running for a role in Robopocalypse which, if you read my blog regularly, you will know is Steven Spielberg’s upcoming blockbuster.

One thing is certain: Ben Whishaw is a very talented young man. Whether he continues to ply his trade in theatre, television or film he will surely be enduring great success. I predict that if he continues to work in films he will one day be on the receiving end of an Oscar nomination, if not being a winner.

Hopefully we’ll see Whishaw in plenty more Bond films after Skyfall!

He's so happy!

There are some actors who work incredibly hard but never reap the rewards that Brad Pitt or George Clooney do; there are some actors who appear in a lot of films but not many people would know who they were. If you enjoy films, especially those directed by Guy Ritchie or Matthew Vaughn, then you will know the face of Jason Flemyng.

Flemyng boasts a wide variety of films in his back catalogue: gangster flicks, comic book movies, big budget blockbusters, small budget indies but interestingly, Flemyng continues to return to his television roots despite, by many people’s opinion, making it as a film star.

Lock, Stock: Flemyng's big break.

In 1994, Flemyng made his first film appearance after dropping in on a number of television series. This film was a version of The Jungle Book, but it was four years later that he got his big break in Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, directed by Guy Ritchie and produced by Matthew Vaughn. Ritchie then went on to direct Flemyng again in Snatch.

In the early 2000s Flemyng made a transition to big budget Hollywood films. The two notable films of this time are From Hell, alongside Johnny Depp, and unfortunately the heavily criticised League of Extraordinary Gentlemen where he starred with Sean Connery.

The fun that Jason Flemyng had with Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels‘ co-star Jason Statham led to Flemyng being cast in action sequel Transporter 2. The relationships that Flemyng has forged in the movie industry are clearly important to him as he continued to work with Ritchie, Statham and Vaughn on more than one occasion.

Helping to reboot the X-men franchise

Matthew Vaughn has described Flemyng as his ‘lucky charm’ and this is why Flemyng features in most of Vaughn’s films, whether Vaughn is producing or directing. The partnership formed on Lock Stock has seen Flemyng given roles, however big or small, in Snatch, Mean Machine, Layer Cake, Stardust, Kick-Ass and a brilliant role in X-men: First Class as teleporting mutant Azazel. This is a role Flemyng will more than likely return for, especially as Vaughn is once again signed on to direct.

Jason Flemyng’s work has not gone ignored by others in the industry and he has appeared in several other films such as Soloman Kane, Clash of the Titans, Ironclad, the critically acclaimed The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and even an uncredited appearance in The Social Network.

With such a wide range of films to his name it is almost impossible to avoid Flemyng’s work. He is a really really good British star who doesn’t get half the recognition that he deserves. No matter what role he plays, big or small, Jason Flemyng gives it his all.