Tuesday, 31 March 2009

Belfast Film Festival Day 4 :: Sword Of The Stranger

After 3 nights in a row of a tentative mix of innovative, quirky, beautiful, mind bending live action movies it was time for the anime portion of the festival, having arrived early and downed two glasses of Shiraz and a packet of wine gums it was the perfect mix for sitting down to watch...

Sword Of The Stranger

I'm a huge fan of animation from Disney to Ghibli, 2D to (most of the time) 3D all the way from Mickey Mouse to Bugs Bunny. I've grown up with these kind of characters and you should have too. And if you haven't, then I feel sorry for you, and your lack of soul. For the very few not in the know anime is a term given to the Japanese animation that usually involves huge robots, epic sequences, reality f**king plots and colourful original characters. That is what usually happens, however for my latest review, Sword Of The Stranger that's not entirely the case, and to be honest the story benefits from it significantly. This is the début feature from BONES studio, famous in the anime world for giving the demographic the Cowboy Bebop and Full Metal Alchemist movies, released nearly two years ago in Japan, Sword Of The Stranger marked their first original film directed by début director Masahiro Andō (who was apparently meant to be present within the audience during the screening but unfortunately was unable to attend. Bugger)

Hunted by the Ming from China, young Kotaro and his dog meet a nameless, mysterious samurai (Eastwood reference? Probably not but who knows...) who is haunted constantly by memories of his past which has lead him to avoid drawing his sword ever again. Among the Ming is a fearsome Western fighter named Raro (yup the name is about as Western as they come I know...) whose only desire is to find a worthy opponent. When both groups clash with a Sengoku-era feudal lord a proud general, and monks torn between faith and survival, the reason behind the Ming's pursuit tests the bond between Kotaro and our nameless hero. The film's plot was actually relatively straight forward compared to past anime films I have seen such as Akira, Howl's Moving Castle and hell, even the first Pokemon movie, with a lot of Hollywood-esque action sequences thrown into the mix which should appeal to all mainstream casual movie goers as well as the die hard purists. One aspect of the film's plot I really enjoyed was the tension and anticipation the creators built up, in the final act of the story, to when the nameless warrior used his sword for the first time, which was emotionally charged and extremely violent. However due to the relatively straightforward take of the story there was unfortunately nothing on offer in the tale that was new or original that I hadn't already seen in past films be it live action or animated involving samurai and feudal Asia. Also there was so much to the movie that was unexplored, giving absolutely no insight at all into why the young child was so special, nor was it ever explained what that green *can't think of a good word other than* thing was that was handed to him in the opening sequence and in which he bargains with the nameless hero to be his bodyguard and guide to his destination.

Despite these slightly negative points, I found the film to be captivating from beginning to end and definitely a film I would like to watch again in the future. The stand out character for me was the movie's main protagonist, the man with no name, who was definitely given the most development and time to shine on screen and with this critic being a sucker for a good hero/redemption story loved every single minute of it, with the highlight being the film's finale with the assault on the temple (which would seriously not be out of place in the epic Ghibli feature, Princess Mononoke) and the sword fight between him and the villain Raro, marking one of the best fight sequences I have seen in an animation feature for quite some time. Onto the animation itself which was (as expected) epic and to a standard that usually puts a lot of studios in America to shame, however there was no need at all for the 3D additions that were sparsely placed through the movie, likewise the score was emotionally charged orchestral music that was been present time and time again in these kind of films invoking (as mentioned already) a very Princess Mononoke feel to it.

To conclude, Sword Of The Stranger won't offer the die hard anime fans anything they haven't already seen before in terms of plot or animation however what it does offer to them as well as casual audiences, is 100 minutes of quality characters, huge action pieces and most importantly an immense amount of fun.


See this if you liked...
Seventh Samurai, Princess Mononoke etc

Sunday, 29 March 2009

Belfast Film Festival Day 3 :: Gigantic

Due to another more important commitments, as well as the hangover from the madness of the post-Let The Right One In piss up in a pub down the street, I wasn't able to get to two films I wanted to today, but the one I did catch was a complete delight. Having arrived at the QFT quite late I was very pleased to receive a complimentary Jamesons Whiskey while I sit down for the fifth film of the festival for myself.


You know it has been a while since I have seen a comedy that was genuinely made me laugh from more than just slapstick antics from the Seth Rogans or Will Farrells of this world, so when I originally watched the trailer for Gigantic I was actually quite excited by the quirkiness and apparent intelligence of what was seemingly on offer, and thankfully I wasn't disappointed. Written and directed by newcomer Matt Aselton, Gigantic is a delightful, fun tale about a young mattress salesman named Brian (played by fast rising indie star, off the back of his fantastic appearance in 2007's epic There Will Be Blood, Paul Dano) who decides to adopt a baby from China but is distracted when he forms a relationship with quirky, wealthy Harriet (played by the wonderful, beautiful and constantly under used Zooey Deschanel) whom he meets at his mattress store. As their relationship flourishes, unbeknownst to them, a hitman is trying to kill Brian for reasons we're never actually revealed (one of the few negative points of the movie).

Gillian Reid 2009.

With witty intelligent dialogue and a vivid New York backdrop that until now only Woody Allen could create so magically, Gigantic is a completely eccentric tale with a collection of eclectic and truly lovable characters from Brian's insane mushroom taking father (played by the star of Pixar's upcoming animation Up! the brilliant Edward Ashner) to his two older more successful brothers, in which one of them has a knack for dodgy deals and entertaining representatives from Asia with the most inappropriate of activities. The stand out however of the support cast, as well as the entire film was a complete return to form for John Goodman (yes he's still alive. Seriously) as Harriet's hypochondriac, rude, loud mouth but absolutely hilarious father Al. Any scene he appears in made me laugh and smile with utter joy as he insists on making Brian's relationship with Harriet more and more uncomfortable as the film goes on, if I still did "Stand Out Quotes" they would all be from him. Goodman's contribution should not take anything away from the young leads however, has the on screen chemistry between Dano and Deschanel is as fascinating as it is infectious. Both complete soul mates and alike in so many ways, maybe a little too much to be believable but still does not make it any less enjoyable.

Wonderfully shot with booming grand cinematography from Peter Donahue, placed with brilliant score from the one and only Roddy Bottum (the keyboardist of Faith No More dudes! F**k yeah!). As mentioned earlier in the review the only part of the film I couldn't quite comprehend was the homeless hit man that insisted on making Brian's life hell with no real explanation, consequence or conclusion, and frankly the film's plot would not have suffered at all if it was completely left out of the final cut. That said the first encounter was comedic enough if it had of been just a randomly one off it would have worked. As well as a slightly frustrating open ended, ambiguous ending these were my only negative points of a very exciting, captivating, up-lifting comedy. Gigantic won't change the genre or set anything new or ground breaking but is intelligent enough with a good mix of comedy and emotion to make a really enjoyable evening at the cinema all the more worthwhile. Fantastic cast, with an interesting début from the director/screenwriter to make Matt Aselton one to look out for in the future. Plus anyone who has made John Goodman a big player again deserves high praise. It's a gigantic winner in my books.


See this if you liked...
Manhattan, Baby Mamma, Dano's star turn supporting performance in Little Miss Sunshine.

Belfast Film Festival Day 2 :: Tokyo! & Let The Right One In

Howdy once again fellow bloggers. After an up/down first day, of a slightly disappointing movie crossed with one of the best movies I've seen in recent years, it was onto the second day to see if it performed to the high standard set by Synecdoche, New York the night before. Currently 7pm on yet another cold windy Saturday night in Belfast with the natives restless only minutes away at Windsor Park I sat myself down for the evening at Belfast's favourite (and possibly only...) genuine arthouse/indie cinema, the Queen's Film Theatre, for two foreign films, the first emanating from Japan (with a predominately French production crew) and the second from a slightly more obscure location in the film world, Sweden.


Released last year, and hitting Northern Irish shores for the first time is the triple directed tale of Tokyo! featuring the talented work of Michel Gondry (of Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind fame) as well as two directors I am only being exposed to for the first time French director Leos Carex and South Korean director Bong Joon-ho (director of the South Korean monster film The Host), consisting of 3 extremely surreal tales (about 40 minutes each respectively) that you could only envisage in a city like Tokyo. After a slight delay in kicking off the movie at the festival (as is the norm at these things) the film opened with a bright vivid animation of a plane landing into a cartoon sketch of the city you could already see Gondry's influence on the movie literally seconds in.

The first tale was actually Gondry's contribution to the movie, the short film titled Interior Design, which is a story about a young couple who go off to live in Tokyo, the boyfriend a young aspiring director who seemingly can't get his insanely pretentious picture out of porno theatres, and on the other side of the coin you have the girlfriend who, with a kind heart, feels as though she has no real direction in life, unable to find her place in the world. All quite conventional even by Gondry's standards until through unexplainable circumstances she finds herself transforming into a wooden chair, yet able to transform right back again. Headf**k you say? Very much so. However it was as, always with Mr Gondry, beautifully shot, demonstrating areas of the city which are unique, with an opening sequence which thoroughly threw off the audience's initial perception of the tale, mimicking past Japanese films of international horror and destruction so commonly present in much of Japanese cinema from their live action right through to their animation. Overall though so far so good from this directorial ensemble piece.

The second story was from the only director of the team I was completely ignorant to, Leos Carex whose tale entitled Merde (anyone who took French at school will know what that means...) which turns out to be the most exciting and delightful short of the three, about an unkempt, gibberish-spewing subterranean creature of the Tokyo sewers, played by Denis Lavant, who rises from the underground lair where he dwells to attack unsuspecting locals in increasingly brazen and terrifying ways: he steals cash and cigarettes from passers-by, frightens old women and salaciously licks schoolgirls, resulting in a televised media frenzy that creates mounting hysteria among the Tokyo populace. Obviously meant to mimic one of the best Japanese exports ever given to the film world, the behemoth known as Godzilla, Merde is a fascinating tale of a somewhat misunderstood man and frankly Carex could create an entire film franchise out of this colourful dangerous cartoon-like character who took me completely by surprise at every turn, full of life and energy any time he featured, with only one man able to communicate with him, a French lawyer who could pass for Big Phil Scolari's ugly twin brother. Merde had everything you wanted and expected from a film about Tokyo! revelling in the city's love for a disaster and a monster to demonise or sympathise with.

The third film was probably the weakest of the piece but at the same time probably the most intimate, not really using the city itself as a centre piece for the action as the previous story did. Entitled Shaking Tokyo directed by South Korean director Bong Joon-ho features a man who is a hikikimori ("Tokyo shut in") who has not left his apartment in over a decade. His only link to the outside world is through his telephone, which he uses to command every necessity from a series of random and anonymous delivery people, including the pizza that he lives on and the hundreds of discarded pizza cartons he meticulously stacks in and around his cramped apartment. But one day is different — his pizza arrives thanks to a lovely young woman who succeeds in catching the shut-in’s eye. Suddenly an earthquake strikes Tokyo, prompting the beautiful young delivery woman to faint in her client’s apartment. And then the the hikikimori falls hopelessly in love. Time passes and the shut-in discovers through another pizza delivery person that the improbable object of his affections has become a hikikimori in her own right. Taking a bold leap into the unknown, our hero crosses the threshold of his apartment and takes to the streets in search of his mystery girl, at last discovering his kindred spirit at the very moment another earthquake strikes. It wasn't necessarily bad I thought but not nearly as inventive or visually awe inspiring as Gondry's or Carex' stories before it marking a slightly anti-climatic end to the movie I thought.

Overall though the movie was an absolutely mesmerising and enjoyable 100 mins of foreign cinema mixing the best of Japan with French sensibilities. Now if Michel Gondry would get back to doing a full feature length tale then we're in business.....


See this if you liked...
I am a Cyborg, but that's OK, The Science Of Sleep, Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind.

After the wonderful Tokyo! the night took a much darker bleaker turn, within a packed Film Theatre, was the Northern Irish première of the highly anticipated ...

Let The Right One In

Just want to get one thing out of the way, I normally detest horror films, not because I scare easily (unless its giant insects...) but because I find this genre to be extremely out dated and that frankly peaked during the late 70s/early 1980s in its extremity and shock value. I am however a fan of the sub genre in the realms of horror fiction of the creatures known as vampires, be it Bram Stoker's iconic Dracula to Anne Rice's novels all the way to the Buffy The Vampire Slayer TV series or the comic book adaptation Blade, I've always had a healthy love for these kind of films. The latest entry to this category obscurely comes from the land of Sweden, based off the book of the same name by John Ajvide Lindqvist, entitled Let The Right One In. An absolutely unique entry into the genre, forfeiting the Gothic identity that has been associated with these types of stories for decades replacing it with the bleak surroundings of a council estate in a snow covered Stockholm, LTROI is a tale about 12-year-old-boy Oskar who is being bullied at school. He befriends a mysterious child, Eli, who moves in next door with an older man, Håkan. Eli is revealed (as you can probably guess) to be a vampire, but the two children develop a close relationship and Eli helps Oskar fight back against his tormentors.

The story itself as many critics have already commented upon plays out like a modern fairytale by the Brothers Grimm or Hans Christian Anderson which is bleak, beautiful and at its core a story about love and loss (common theme running through the films at this festival thus far). In a horror film!? What!? Madness I say, where's the blood!? The gore!? The pure unadulterated violence?! Well actually its here and then some, used sparingly throughout the film for a much deeper and fuller impact, scenes like Eli's adult servant cutting open late teenagers so she can drink their blood, or the man himself knowing full well his days are numbered precedes to offer himself to Eli as a sacrifice after pouring a jar of corrosive acid over his face. Grim? Very much so. This brings me to the character of Eli who is one of the most fascinating endearing creatures brought to life in a film in recent years played beautifully by young actress Lena Leandersson who is very much the star of the film out shining her male lead played Kare Hedebert. Never before have I walked out of a film classed as a "horror" with a smile on my face. This was truly something special.

The man introducing this film before it began (who in turn was the projectionist of the QFT for a great number of years before retiring) said he thought the ending was either a beautifully happy one or an extremely depressing one in whatever manner you looked at it. And it would be fair to say it could be true on both accounts. Breath taking is my word of the day and its the only way I could possibly describe a practically faultless film from beginning to end, which brings me to my complete and utter shock of why it was snub at the foreign category at this year's Oscars. Injustice? Downright disgrace. Let The Right One In is a landmark in horror film making, proving it isn't all about scares and shock tactics, and like the Spanish made 2006 film Pan's Labyrinth before it, shows a genre with the booming potential for substance and elegance that only the truly talented film makers can achieve. Miss out at your peril. Highlight of the festival thus far. Roll on the DVD!


See this if you liked...
Genuinely well made films regardless of genre.

Friday, 27 March 2009

Belfast Film Festival Day 1 :: Ditching & Synecdoche New York

Well ladies and gents it's that time of the year again, if you're living in Belfast with a complete obsession for movies such as myself, then the Belfast Film Festival is for you. Shamefully this critic actually missed the opening première due to other commitments so onto the second day and I am pleased to have had the opportunity witness a world première and an advanced preview within succession. Two very different films with one similarity, both feature directors giving their début productions. So enough arsing about and onto the reviews!

Starting off in the Movie House on the Dublin Road in Belfast I sit tentatively waiting, surrounded by cast and crew alike for the premiere of...


It isn't often in my life I will get the chance to witness a world première of a film and knowing my luck I will probably never get the chance again so for now I'm out to enjoy this. For anyone who is not in the know, and frankly you would be totally forgiven for going "what?!" Ditching is as fiercely independent as movies come, produced by one of the biggest contributors to the arts in Belfast for many years, Factotum, which has brought the people of Belfast the completely delightful, very insightful and equally pretentious newspaper (it makes The Guardian look like The Daily Star), The Vacuum. The movie itself is probably one of the more original concepts I have encountered in recent years it sets itself around Northern Ireland in the future, which is a post apocalyptic landscape of decaying towns and primitive technology, and centres around two people setting out on a journey, which we're never fully as to where or why they are going. Ulster has become a depopulated, feudal and dangerous wilderness where people have forgotten the past and are confused about the ruins that surround them. They distract themselves with improvised ceremonies and games but feel threatened by a world they do not understand.

Truly unique is the only way I can describe this movie, which is why I'm really disappointed to say it didn't fill me with as much joy and spell-binding wonder as I wanted it to. Possibly being around the cast and directors of the film, who laughed and cheered at all the inside jokes and tiny bits that the audience weren't to know of, left me feeling a little left out, as if to watch it was to be part of an exclusive club. Slight bitterness aside however, the actors of the film were absolutely top class Mary Lindsay and Lalor Roddy (who appears in the 2008 indie/arthouse hit Hunger) as the curious leads who wonder the Northern Irish landscape with nothing more than a shopping cart of their belongings and a simple minded soul named Dave, fill the screen with a beautiful mixture of serious drama and endearing light heartedness, however the star of the show for me was an absolutely eccentric/wise elderly man, living in complete isolation with seemingly exclusive knowledge into how life was before N.I was reduced to this haggered, decaying landscape. Being a former student of archaeology all the sets of this film felt all too familiar to me which is probably why I didn't feel for the bleak surroundings as I probably should have, that said Paddy Bloomer does an immense job with the set interiors and should be commended invoking an extremely Terry Gilliam-esque feel at times. Overall though Ditching is a very intimate film with visions of grandeur that it never quite achieves, maybe that's due to lack of experience from the director's stand point (being their début feature after all) or possibly because of the lack of a significant budget. One of the high points of the background production was the soundtrack produced primarily by a series of acoustic/ambient jam sessions by Deadman, Kinnego Flux, BEW, Stuart Watson & Allan Hughes, as well as a local favourite of mine RL/VL (aka Jack Hamill) and internationally renown Belfast composer David Holmes. In this film the creators have constructed a world where so much is unexplored, like why was our wee country reduced to the state it has become or even why Belfast is never mentioned, is it gone, is it a restricted zone?! Why is there a king of Armagh?!!? WHY I SAY!?! Ahem...

To round up Ditching is a very enjoyable piece of local cinema that demonstrates the sheer natural talent and creativeness booming throughout Northern Ireland and its art sector and if it had more support pumped into it could achieve something really special, unfortunately for Ditching though we're not quite there yet.


Being slightly behind schedule from the late start of Ditching, I had to ditch the end credits for a quick jaunt up the road on a windy night to the QFT for...

Synecdoche, New York

After watching a low budget local production, I move onto a distinctly different film with a much bigger budget and a much more well known cast and director. Though this is his debut feature in the director's chair, Charlie Kaufman has made his name already from scripting some of the most mind bending pieces of cinema that has appeared in front of general audiences in the past 20 years, from his Oscar and BAFTA winning screenplay Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind (a personal favourite of mine) to being the source of Spike Jonze inspiration for such classics as Adaptation (Nick Cage's last good movie. Seriously.) and the darkly, head frying experience that is Being John Malkovich. Synecdoche New York was originally meant to be yet another Jonze/Kaufman collaboration however Spike Jonze wanted to delay the production as he opted to direct, his upcoming adaptation of, Where The Wild Things Are instead (which is in my top 10 most anticipated films of this year and look forward to it immensely). Not content with sitting there waiting, Kaufman decided to direct the feature himself. And boy, he did a rather amazing job.

The film opens with Caden Cotard (played by one of the blog's favourite leading men, Philip Semour Hoffman), a theatre director who after the production of his latest work, an adaptation of Death Of A Salesman finds his life unravelling. Suffering from numerous physical ailments, he is depressed and alienated from his wife Adele (Catherine Keener, playing opposite Hoffman for the second time since the 2006 Oscar winning movie Capote) and starts having an unconsummated flirtation with Hazel (Samantha Morton), the woman who works in the box office. As events unfold Caden unexpectedly receives a MacArthur Genius grant that gives him unlimited wealth to pursue his own artistic interests. He is determined to use the money to create a piece of brutal realism and honesty, something into which he can pour his whole self, and so he gathers an ensemble cast into an impossibly huge warehouse in Manhattan's theatre district. Completely conflicted and with fear of his life dwindling into obscurity he starts to create his entire existence around the characters he creates within his play, slowly becoming a biographical tale of himself watching his own life from afar through other actors portraying actual people in his own life. In true Kaufman fashion the viewer of the tale will start to question what's real and what isn't, wondering if it is all subject to the worries and aliments within Cotard's own mind or is it something more. Stripped down to its bare basic bones however SNY is a film about life, death, love and loss acting in complete synch with each other from beginning to end. To commend Kaufman for this film by the sheer basis that it is his first movie would be an utter insult to him as this is a really special film, that mixes everything from drama, real life horror, light hearted comedy that frankly blows the majority of the films that won big at the Oscars this year out of the water.

SNY is an absolutely beautiful tale, and will have the audience talking for weeks after their first viewing, it may be confusing to follow at times but its not the least bit pretentious (well...maybe a little bit...). Hoffman once again shows the world why he is one of Hollywood's most capable and talented leading men, and a leading man is only as good as his support cast in which the likes of Michelle Williams, Emily Watson, Dianne West amongst many other steller performers. The stand out of the cast outside of Hoffman was Tom Noonan who essentially also plays Hoffman's character on the stage and steals the show any time he walks on, with his sheer presence that captivates as well as demonstrates the array of talent before you. On the technical side the production was excellent from a touching minimal piano score by Jon Brion, to frequent Lynch collaborator Fredrick Elmes with the epic grand cinematography. Charlie Kaufamn has performed an amazing achievement in modern cinema, and I urge everyone to witness this film for the sheer size and ambition of the project on hand, mimicking the film's story itself. An over used word at times I know but this was simply: Beautiful.


No release date is currently set for Ditching, however Synecdoche New York is out 8th May.

Friday, 20 March 2009

Lesbian Vampire Killers - Review

Gillian Reid 2009.

Before I get stuck into this review I just want to make a couple of things clear. Firstly I am not an overly huge fan of Gavin and Stacey, it has Rob Brydon in it therefore it must be commended on that alone but outside that it does very little for me. And secondly I don't find James Corden and Matthew Horne's new sketch show on BBC 3 remotely funny at all. Maybe it's because these lads aren't comedians and merely actors, which is why they are somewhat lacking in the comedy department when it comes to their delivery. However I will try to not let my distaste for their small screen antics influence the review of their big screen debut...too much....

Right off the heels of all their current success, numerous awards, mixed critical reaction and an absolutely essential appearance on Gordon Ramsay's Cook-a-long live, Horne and Corden have taken the next logical step. Cinema. Following in the footsteps of Britain's other favourite "down on their luck" duo, Simon Pegg and Nick Frost (in case you live under a rock, stars of one of the best comedies ever screened on TV, Spaced and stars of the equally brilliant Shaun Of The Dead and Hot Fuzz) they have decided to take a stab (no pun intended) at the horror genre in the form of this delightful family piece Lesbian Vampire Killers, directed by new-comer Phil Claydon and written by two screen writers from the Friday Night Project (no not Alan Carr or Justin Lee Collins...). The plot is pretty much as you would expect it to be, revolving around two down-on-their-luck slackers, Fletch and Jimmy - (Corden and Horne), who decide to temporarily escape their woes and go on holiday to a remote village, only to find that all of its women have been enslaved by (yes you guessed it) lesbian vampires, after they hook-up with a bus-load of attractive foreign female history students and run in to the local vicar (played by one of the film's few saving grace's Paul McGann). Even at it's core the mere concept of LVK could be a semi-decent enjoyable laugh with your mates, but frankly it does little to even make you smile never mind laugh out loud. The comedy isn't smart and there is only so many dick, fart and "I'm a fat bastard, heres my belly. LOOK!" jokes Corden can come out with that will carry a show for so long.

From a film making perspective I can't really tear into the production team too much, clearly influenced by the likes old school Hammer Horror movies (trivia: This was originally meant to be a kick start for a new wave of Hammer movies, but was passed by the company. Smart move) and 1950s/60s vampire films, with the intention of making it cheap and nasty (or maybe that was budget restraints?) with even more cheap and nasty ladies. And yes the ladies, lets be honest, we don't go to see a film called Lesbian Vampire Killers for Oscar Winning performances from it's leading women, we aren't expecting a performance on par with Kate Winslet in The Reader but I honestly would not be surprised if the casting boys just opened an issue of Nuts and went "Right, her, her, her, her and.....her." "Awesome. So have they got much acting experience." "What?..." However Swedish born actress, MyAnna Buring who plays Horne's love interest isn't actually that bad though if you want to see a genuinely terrifying movie featuring the beautiful Buring I recommend her 2005 appearance in The Descent (still can't fathom how they're making a sequel to that with the original cast but anyways...). Probably the film's final stake in the heart (see what I did there?) is that it was pretty much all taken up by Corden, when in my opinion Matthew Horne is probably the better actor of the two. Corden should have been the bumbling side-kick/comic relief to Horne's straight man but it stupidly did not work out that way. Long story short this film is bad, it isn't that funny, it isn't remotely clever and the plot is even more ridiculess than it is even suppose to be. However if you're really really drunk after a night out with your mates and want to stick on a movie to laugh at while you munch on that 2am kebab, by all means this wouldn't be a bad choice. But the right choice however would be Shaun Of The Dead. Sorry lads, but Simon Pegg and Nick Frost you are not. Back to TV with you.


See this if you....are drunk. And I mean really drunk.

Lesbian Vampire Killers is in all cinemas from today.


Tuesday, 17 March 2009

New contributor!

Good morning fellow bloggers. No film review until Friday, but I just want to take a bit of time to properly introduce a new, extremely talented, contributor to the blog, professional animator and life long friend of mine Gillian Reid. She is currently working on a film over in China at the minute (which is all rather hush hush for now, but hopefully reviewed on this blog somewhere down the line!) and has generously offered her talents to the blog.

She will be contributing an original cartoon/art piece to coincide with each review from now on and to give a sneak preview of her work here is a quick sketch of last week's film Bronson (which actually should have came with the review originally, but I dropped the ball on that one, my sincere apologies...).

Gillian Reid 2009.

I also encourage all of you to keep tabs on Gill's work at her own blog Gillianimation which I'm personally a big fan of (the link is also a permanent fixture on the side also). So there you have it, the team is growing and the blog is expanding! Good times ahead folks, thanks for stopping by and showing your support.


Friday, 13 March 2009

Bronson - Review

In Britain there are usually two kinds of films, in one corner you have lovely, very English "stiff upper lip" romantic comedies usually written by Richard Curtis and/or Ben Elton ala Four Weddings And A Funeral, Love Actually (guilty pleasure of mine while we're on the subject), Bridget Jones' Diary etc etc. And in the other corner you have slightly tongue and cheek insights into Britain's underworld in the form of such films as Guy Ritchie's Lock Stock..., Snatch, RocknRolla to Shane Meadow's epic This Is England and Dead Man's Shoes. The latest entry falling into the latter category is Bronson, a surreal and stylish biographical tale of, arguably, Britain's most famous living criminal Charles Bronson (aka Michael Gordon Peterson) played by Tom Hardy (only realised this after I posted the review but he's the bad guy in Star Trek Nemesis, fuck he bulked up!!!!?!) and directed by the virtually unknown Danish director Nicolas Winding Refn. Like many films that fall into this category of British cinema, it is what you would expect, darkly humorous, bleak, gritty and very explicit in its violence and sex. Only out today and it has already sparked slight controversy at the première, when a recording of Bronson's voice was played with no prior permission granted by officers at HM Prison Service, who called for an inquiry into how the recording had been made, but that is a discussion for another website, we're here to talk films!

The film opens up in a strange setting of a theatre, where Bronson talks to the audience about his strange philosophies (this is a recurring theme played throughout the film) , along with his ambitions and a quick introduction into the beginnings of his life which, for a man who had virtually no real prior knowledge to Bronson other than what I saw in old news reel footage, I was quite taken back by how normal a life he appeared to have led prior to going off the rails. Coming from a loving family, and was quiet enough in school to suddenly going mental and beating his teacher with his school desk. From here on we are subjected to many comedic moments of Bronson in his late teens to early 20s where he gets a few jobs and briefly shows the audience a glimpse into his first marriage where he had a son (and strangely that is about all you see of that...), leading up to his first public offence where he was jailed for seven years in 1974 for a bungled armed robbery of a post office, in which he stole £26.18. Unlike other people who might be sent to prison, realising their wrongs and hopefully try to rebuild their lives, Bronson's was only beginning. Hopping from prison to prison Bronson builds his reputation as a complete nutjob (professional term I swear...) holding prison guards hostage, beating other inmates etc.

Unsurprisingly, as the film goes on, Bronson's sanity spirals even more downward. Having not really been in a starring role before, Tom Hardy carries the film beautifully with enough wit and charm that makes it slightly hard to hate the man he is playing, which is completely comparable to Eric Bana's amazing performance as Chopper in the film of the same name. With an OTT flamboyance and electrifying energy, you would nearly be forgiven for thinking Hardy's take on Bronson was something out of a comic book (strangely he gives the audience some really Joker-esque moments), and frankly I wouldn't bet against him in a fight with Batman. In terms of supporting roles, I was so delighted to see Matt King (for those who are going "who!?", he plays Super Hans in Peep Show) playing the trusted camp friend of Bronson, Paul Daniels, practically stealing the show any time he appeared on screen. Refn also does a terrific job in the director's chair of capturing the run down bleak settings of broken 70s and 80s Britain, from prisons, to insane asylums all the way to the shitty council flats which you see on a weekly basis on TV detective shows like Silent Witness or Waking The Dead. However despite so many positives (and there were many, don't get me wrong) there were unfortunately some uncontrollable pitfalls. One of my main problems with the film was the way it jumped from scene to scene without any real explanation or definite insight into Bronson's past, various events such as his brief bare knuckle boxing career, his two marriages or even his hostage situations weren't really given time to breath or develop, as well as leaving out some pure comedy gold completely such as demanding a getaway helicopter to take him to Cuba, two Uzi sub-machine guns, 5,000 rounds of ammunition and an axe and then claiming afterwards being "as guilty as Hitler". I don't necessarily blame the people who worked on the film, but I'm sure if Bronson had a bigger budget and (not often I say this) had the film been longer we would have been given a much fuller, captivating, biographical tale of the man's life to date. All that aside Bronson is a very brutal British movie about a very brutal British criminal, giving the audience only a glimpse into the psyche of an extremely complex man, and upon leaving the cinema I yearn for more.


See this if you liked...
Chopper, The Firm, This Is England, Dead Man's Shoes.

Bronson is in most cinemas from today.

edit: Thanks Gill for pointing out the typos. Appreciate it :)

Thursday, 5 March 2009

Watchmen - Review

Hollywood has not been kind to Alan Moore, after the failures of V For Vendetta and League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen, one would forgive the man for not being positive about this, to the point of having his name legally taken out of the credits. It's been a very long journey for all, in 1986 Alan Moore created a graphic novel, some even say it's the graphic novel. Having sold the film rights roughly not long after the book was published and after a colossal array of cock-ups in development involving about 4 different studios, 5 screenwriters and 6 directors (including such heavyweights as Terry Gilliam, Darren Aronofsky, Paul Greengrass all attached at separate points respectively) over 20 years later we finally have the comic book adaptation many geeks (including myself) have been waiting for, Watchmen: The Movie. Succeeding where, frankly, more established and creative directors have failed, Zack Snyder at the directors chair has delivered one of the most astonishing and ambitious film projects undertaken in recent years. For those who haven't had the pleasure of reading the book (which is highly recommended), Watchmen is set in an alternate 1985 where due to various events tensions are higher then ever between the USA and Soviet Union, history has been changed greatly, America won in Vietnam, Richard Nixon won a historic third term and, as you would expect, superheroes (until recently) for a time had roamed free without the worry of being considered vigilantes or outlaws.

The film opens with the murder of one of the main characters of the piece, Edward Blake (played by seemingly the bastard love child of Robert Downey Jr and Javier Bardem, Jeffrey Dean Morgan), who went under the superhero name of The Comedian. Investigating the murder is former superhero turned vigilante, the mysterious Rorschach, through his own paranoia he uncovers a plot that is intent on killing and discrediting all past and present superheroes. Reconnecting him with members of his former crime-fighting legion, including Nite Owl II, Silk Spectre II and the god-like Dr. Manhattan. Visually the film is comparable to Snyder's previous comic book adaptation 300, with extremely vivid imagery and hyper violence that you would only be likely to find within a comic book. Unlike 300 however this film and story has a level of substance to it, with an intelligent take on the story that some consider too complex for the screen, this is only amplified by the actors' performances. Jackie Earl Haley's turn as Rorschach is brooding and intimidating almost as if he was lifted straight from the pages of the book itself (however you would be forgiven for thinking it was Christian Bale under that mask with the Bale era Batman voice he puts on which is a little off putting initially). Probably the most established actor of the ensemble, Bill Crudup's performance of Dr. Manhattan was an interesting take on the character and quite different to how I imagined it in my head, instead of a booming god-like presence and voice to match he plays the role somewhat timidly as a curious soul interested in more obscure matters like the formation of molecules than being intimate with his girlfriend Laurie (aka Silk Spectre II, played by newcomer Malin Akerman). Akerman unfortunately is the weakest of the cast, not because she was necessarily bad but her character was written poorly, purely on show as the tits and ass of the piece and really nothing more. Matthew Goode's performance as the villain (or was he? Up for debate that one) of the story Ozymandias was pretty much spot on to his comic book counterpart, arrogant, all knowing yet completely conflicted, however for me personally the stand out performance is Patrick Wilson's Nite Owl (which has nothing to do with my love for Batman) who acts as the conscience, the most human character of the film, and the hero the audience is bound to feel the most for, he wants to save the world the right way, he wants to get the girl in the end, all classic comic book material for the good guy of any story.

On a technical level I found this film hard to fault, the visual effects were awe inspiring (Rorschach's mask was done perfectly and Dr. Manhattan was blended seamlessly into the film, though was there any need to be exposed so many times to ALL of him? Watch and you'll get what I mean). Something that was brilliant but questionable the same time about the time was the score/soundtrack, personally I thought it was a great move from the film makers to add pieces of music from the 70s and 80s into various scenes, referencing of course the book itself (the opening credits with Bob Dylan's "Times They Are a-Changing" gave me goosebumps) however the choices of tunes during Silk Spectre and Nite Owl's more intimate scenes were down right cheesy, verging on cringe worthy. Snyder translated the key scenes from the book perfectly in my opinion, and what he changed and left out is nothing for fan boys to cry about. Without risk of getting hate mail, I personally think the ending of the movie is a lot more plausible than Moore's original one. That's right Moore you fucking heard me! That squid idea was dumb! There I said it... Ahem... I digress...

Overall though I do feel that anyone who read the book and loved it should enjoy this film (unless you are Alan Moore...), however to the newcomers experiencing Watchmen for the first time without reading the book may not necessarily get all the tiny bits and pieces of the story which holds it all together, such as the Under The Hood book or Tales Of The Black Freighter posters/comic book etc. Due to the editing of the theatrical version it did skip about leaving it feeling a little disjointed, however I am fairly confident it will make more sense in the Director's Cut DVD which is due for release in the summer with an added 40 minutes worth of footage making it a titanic length of roughly 3 hours 30 minutes, and as far as I know that's without the upcoming Tales Of The Black Freighter animated feature spliced in also. For now though, Watchmen is an extremely enjoyable film that anyone with a love for the comic book genre will definitely enjoy which, along with The Dark Knight as the perfect genre film for the post-9/11 age, questioning the nature of why one becomes a hero, and the grey areas in between that defines a villain. Is it as good as the comic book? Probably not. Is it the best possible adaptation of one of the most complex graphic novels ever published? Honestly...yes.


Stand Out Scene...
Rorschach in prison, demonstrating the film at its most gritty and most violent level.

Stand Out Quote...
Rorschach "The world will look up and shout "Save us!"... And I'll whisper "No.""

See This If You Liked...
The Dark Knight, V For Vendetta, Hellboy, 300, Nightwatch etc etc.