Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows

The first Sherlock Holmes film by Guy Ritchie was one of the most pleasant surprises of the 09/10 Christmas season. Robert Downey Jr's playfully eccentric take on the iconic Englishman might not have been to the purists' taste but few could deny it wasn't a lot of good harmless fun. So when the inevitable sequel was announced I must admit it got me genuinely excited. It's also worth noting that Sherlock Holmes has enjoyed a 21st Century renaissance by the BBC and portrayed wonderfully by the excellent Benedict Cumberbatch. Though is the world really big enough for two mainstream Sherlock Holmes? Yes it very much is...

The story picks up roughly where the last film left off with Holmes in meticulous pursuit of his elusive nemesis Professor James Moriarty (Mad Men's Jared Harris). All the while the good Doctor Watson (Jude Law) is finally marrying his girlfriend who featured in the last film, Mary (Kelly Reilly). When the wedding night goes horribly wrong, the original dynamic duo join forces once again to stop Moriarty collapsing the very structure of Western Europe and the outbreak of a world war.

Not much can be said about Robert Downey Jr's Holmes that probably wasn't said when I reviewed the first one nearly two years ago. It had all the elements of a typically brilliant comedic performance from the actor, albeit sporting a (fairly decent) British accent. Once again his chemistry with Jude Law was marvellous, giving the relationship between the two characters an almost 21st Century 'bromance', while also letting Watson himself stand on his own as perfect folly to Holmes' eccentricities.

I've always been a big fan of Jared Harris' work and was delighted to see such a versatile, hard-working actor cast as Moriarty instead of cashing in on a big name for the sake of it, like say Johnny Depp or Brad Pitt as was once originally rumoured. He was ruthlessly sinister and unassuming while playing off Robert Downey Jr brilliantly. If the whole film had consisted of the two of them playing chess, I think they could have made it work. Fans of the books will certainly smile at reference to possibly the pair's most iconic moment which I won't spoil here.

The other new additions to the cast were equally as glorious to watch on screen, the original Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (as she'll probably forever be known as) Noomi Rapace dazzled as the mysterious gypsy story-teller while the great Stephen Fry had some truly hilarious scene stealing turns as Sherlock's brother, Mycroft. Sadly there just wasn't as much room in the story this time round for Eddie Marsen's bumbling Inspector Lestrade and Rachel McAdams' beautiful Irene Adler.

Though the film largely retained all the elements which made the previous entry so enjoyable, it also carried over a few of the first film's faults too. Namely milking the back-tracking, slow motion, analysis sequences and over stylised set pieces which admittedly are signature to Ritchie's overall style as much as they are to this Sherlock Holmes' narrative structure. Unfortunately one particular scene involving Holmes, Watson et all running through a forest avoiding large gun fire did take the piss ever so slightly and if done in real time probably could've shaved half an hour off the film's running time.

Nevertheless the productive values were raised compared to the last time, the CGI far better and the steampunk technology, Victorian costumes and period set designs still beautiful on the eye. Hans Zimmer's score featured the playful theme from the last film and during the more action orientated sequences, some intense booming moments which are reminiscent of his more famous collaborations with Christopher Nolan.

Final Thoughts
Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows doesn't deviate too much from the formula which made the first film so much fun. But as the old cliché goes, if it's not broke why should you fix it? Robert Downey Jr and Jude Law were tremendous once again as Holmes and Watson respectively, while Jared Harris gave some old school flare to the villainous Professor Moriarty. It's not the slow burning Sherlock Holmes adaptations your granddad grew up with, but in all honesty, there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.


Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows is in cinemas everywhere now.

Thursday, 22 December 2011

THEfilmBLOG presents... Top 10 of 2011!

Hey there everybody, it's been something of a roller-coaster 2011 for myself personally but in the cinema I've seen and reviewed (not nearly as many as I would've liked to be honest) some truly breathtaking films. Yes, it's that time again to do the obligatory Top 10 best films the blog has seen this year...

10. Tangled - It may have surfaced in the USA back in 2010, but it didn't make its way to the UK until late January 2011. Disney went back to the formula which made them great to begin with: a beautifully animated fairy-tale story full of romance, comedy, suspense, infectiously catchy songs and an undeniably likeable heroin. It took them over a decade but they finally knocked their best chums over at Pixar off their usual place in the top 10, but that being said, Tangled only did have to go up against Cars 2.

9. The Tree of Life - The controversial entry perhaps, but whether you like it or hate it (and trust me it'll either be one or the other) one can't deny Terrence Malick's soul searching, universe spanning, philosophical journey wrapped in a 1950s melodrama isn't a film which will be meticulously dissected and debated in the years to come. Film Studies students have a new movie to write a postgrad on...

8. Submarine - Taking cues from Wes Anderson quirky self awareness, debut director Richard Ayoade brings probably one of the sweetest and most pleasurable film experiences of the year, which also came with a wonderful breakout performance from Craig Roberts.

7. Super 8 - People say you get what you pay for with 'Summer Blockbusters', personally in recent years I think people have been grossly ripped off in most cases. With Super 8 JJ Abrams writes his love letter to 1980s/early 90s Spielberg films with a story which reminds viewers of a time when the Summer blockbuster was an event which was genuinely fun, imaginative, scary and full of gloriously choreographed set pieces. Take note please, this is how its done.

6. We Need To Talk About Kevin - Tilda Swinton was as always magnificent but Ezra Miller's Kevin is truly one of the most terrifying and unassuming performances of the year. Everybody loves a good scare, but if you don't believe in ghosts, exorcisms, demented serial killers from hell, then this might well be the scariest film ever because it (though unlikely it may seem) could be a conceivably real situation.

5. The Guard - Perhaps being Irish sways my opinion slightly but this is without doubt the funniest film of the year.

4. Hugo - One of the true masters of film-making, Martin Scorsese delivers one of the most heart-warming, visually beautiful and superbly acted family films of a generation. There are fewer examples in the world which demonstrate a man's passion, love and enthusiasm for his own craft than the love expressed by Scorsese to the art of cinema and to the works of the great George Melies.

3. Drive - I probably could've done a mini Ryan Gosling chart alone, which this would of course top. Nicola Refn Winding delivers an old school action film full of style, suspense and ultra-bonkers-violence. Not to mention the best soundtrack of the year full of synthy shoegazey goodness.

2. The Skin I Live In - Another of the true voyeurs of modern cinema, Pedro Almodovar comes back with a film full of more twists and pure "WTF" moments than you're ever likely to get or frankly ever need anywhere else, in this bizarre Frankenstein meets Bret Easton Ellis tale. Brutal, provocative, earth shatteringly brilliant.

1. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy - It was never going to be anything else for me. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is a film of which is truly magnificent in almost every conceivable way. Tomas Alfredson created a dark, meticulously authentic Cold War drama full of suspense, atmosphere and the best ensemble of British actors working today. All that and still not managing to butcher a literary classic or come across as a lazy big screen tribute to the iconic BBC TV adaptation.

And that's that! Still a couple of more reviews to see the year out next week but for now I'm crashing in front of the TV, cracking out my blu-rays and consuming my bodyweight in both food and drink!


Friday, 2 December 2011


Martin Scorsese has long since booked his place in cinematic history with uncompromising, gritty thrillers such as Taxi Driver, Goodfellas and The Departed. Over the past decade though he's started to create films which have documented his love for classic cinema, be it The (excellent) Aviator, Gangs of New York and the almost Hitchcockian Shutter Island. Not to mention personally overseeing the restoration of the truly breathtaking 1948 Michael Powell film - often referred to as Scorsese's main influence for becoming a director - The Red Shoes.

However there's perhaps no better examples of Scorsese's undying love for cinema than in his first exploration in the family movie genre (yes, you read that right), with the adaptation of Brian Selznick's beautifully constructed novel, Hugo - full literary title: The Invention of Hugo Cabret.

The film tells the story of young Hugo (Asa Butterfield) as he dashes around a Paris railway station fixing and maintaining the clocks. All the while he starts to develop an unlikely friendship with an enigmatic and often disgruntled fixer of simple mechanical toys (Sir Ben Kingsley) and his articulate, over eager god daughter (Chloe Mortez). As the mystery of who the toy maker is unravels - cinephiles will squeal in delight - before the audience's eyes, Scorsese exposes us to perhaps one of the best tributes to cinema since Cinema Paradiso.

Everything about this film just made me smile from beginning to end. It was almost like watching a cinematic Christmas pantomime. The way the actors characterised themselves was wonderful. Asa Butterfield carried the film with such innocence and enthusiasm. While true legends of the big screen, Sir Ben Kingsley and a very much active Sir Christopher Lee added such weight to a film which was so visually stylised. so vivid and so technically brilliant.

Sacha Baron Cohen also deserves individual praise for his glorious tribute to stars such as Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton with his slapstick, almost Clouseau-esque, Inspector of the railway station. Outside of his theatrics he also had impeccable delivery with some genuinely funny one liners. Meanwhile Harry Potter stalwart, Helen McCrory was fabulous as Kinglsey's wife and, though underused, the likes of Michael Stuhlbarg, Ray Winstone, Jude Law, Emily Mortimer and Richard Griffiths just gave the film this extra layer of depth and class. And that's regrettably without even catching the film in 3D.

The amount of pain-staking effort Scorsese went to recreate the works of the truly ground-breaking auteur George Melies such as the Le Voyage dans la lune (A Trip to the Moon) which features heavily throughout the film was truly magical - especially the scenes where the studio and his films were physically recreated. Also it goes without saying despite being such a sweet and at times tear-jerking story, the educational value this film has goes beyond some adults in the audience, never mind all the children. Not all 100% accurate (actually not even 30% of it is...), but hey never let facts get in the way of such a captivating story.

Final Thoughts
One can only imagine Martin Scorsese smiled just as profusely making Hugo as this blogger did watching it. The sights and sounds of 1930s Paris and silent French cinema are recreated beautifully in one of the most charming, hopeful, feel good films of the year. While a child's mind might wander at times, it'll certainly remind older members of the audience why we fell in love with movies, the cinema, the jaw-dropping imagination of not just directors, but true magicians of the big screen. Could be one for the ages, but if nothing else it's definitely one of the best films of 2011. Magical. Heart-warming. Glorious.


Hugo is in cinemas everywhere now.

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

The Deep Blue Sea

Love, some say it's a curse. Others call it a blessing. One thing I think most can agree on, it's one of the most powerful and mysterious forces in the universe. No more so is this enigmatic emotion shown than in Terrence Davies' homage to old school cinematic melodramas in the adaptation of Terrence Rattigan's stage play, The Deep Blue Sea. Not to be confused at all as a follow-up to the Samuel L Jackson shark gorefest, Deep Blue Sea. Got it? Good, let's move on...

The film tells the tale of Hester (Rachel Weisz) as she tries to re-evaluate her life after a failed suicide attempt. At the centre of it all is her undying almost destructive love for her current husband, Freddy (Tom Hiddleston) and the nostalgic, comforting, stable love from the man she left him for William (Simon Russell Beale).

I've always thought of Weisz as a charming and competent actress but in The Deep Blue Sea she has rarely ever been so alluring as well as being so passionate and at times so utterly unsympathetic. The sheer awkwardness of her initial attraction to Hiddleston adds to the incoherent mess she finds herself in, and makes for some brilliant car crash cinema.

Tom Hiddleston was rather marvellous as the obnoxious, stiff upper lip, working class ex-RAF Brit, Freddy. He enters the film as this suave, dapper male and once the initial primal instincts subside into reality, he's revealed to be nothing more than this petulant, childish, brattish man who never really recovered from the horrors of World War 2. While Simon Russell Beale's older, prouder more cultured William offers Ester what she can't get from Freddy; money, stability and far less drama.

They almost make up one complete male together, and you get that impression Ester makes that conclusion herself towards the latter end of the film, but ultimately the passion reins supreme. She can't explain why she's drawn to Freddy, she nearly kills herself because of it, but it's just there. Even if the message is a little muddled at times.

Visually though Davies has made a film which just oozes class. It sometimes does feel a little too much like a stage play rather than a film, but the cinematography was just beautiful on the eye. Especially in those long drawn out scenes of Weisz smoking a cigarette by the window, harking back to a forgotten era of cinema, and just letting the smoke linger for that second or two longer than needed.

Furthermore the stunning, if at times overly ostentatious, score featuring the at times moving, at times overly destructive Violin Concerto by Samuel Barber almost gives it a Hitchcockian undertone. This tense feeling something more profoundly sinister is just waiting to occur, when in reality it results in something simply quite tragic.

Final Thoughts
It doesn't always hit the mark of cinematic excellence with a disorientating narrative and some hammy, awkward scenes of drama. Nevertheless Rachel Weisz has excelled herself in her most sexy and at times unforgiving performance alongside an ever versatile Tom Hiddleston and accomplished Simon Russell Beale. Terrence Davies' The Deep Blue Sea is a film of pure indulgence on the eye even if beneath its glossy, smoke tinted surface leaves one feeling rather confused, disconnected and hollow. But hey that's love sometimes I guess... isn't it?


The Deep Blue Sea is in selected cinemas across the UK now. Belfast viewers can see it exclusively at the Queen's Film Theatre from Friday December 2nd, 2011.

Friday, 25 November 2011


Given the core subject of 50/50 I will admit I entered the cinema with a little trepidation. A film about dealing with cancer really isn't suppose to be funny. At least, in a slapstick context. However if done right with a stellar cast, some very balanced writing, and clean direction it can be one of the most life affirming films you'll see all year. Thankfully 50/50 did just that...

Starring the excellent Joseph Gordon-Levitt the film tells the up/down tale of Adam, a young, successful, radio journalist who is tragically struck down with a tumour in his spine. Over the course of his treatment he deals with the flaky two-timing nature of his girlfriend (Bryce Dallas Howard), his estranged relationship emotionally suppressed mother (Angelica Huston) and the playful nature of his best friend (Seth Rogen) who just wants to play the sympathy card of his friend's awful situation to get himself laid. Frankly it's nothing new in the originality department, but combined together it results in a glorious little film.

As already shown in the similarly inventive twist on the indie comedy genre, 500 Days of Summer, Joseph Gordon-Levitt was a terrific, relatable and honest leading man. He manages to make it all look so natural on screen, very likeable, great presence and very much a delightful underdog you can't help but root for. More significant however was how sincerely moving the more emotional scenes he was in were. I'm not saying it's by any means the biggest tear-jeaker in cinematic history, but you'll definitely need a moment to compose yourself at times.

The supporting performances though competent and at times highly entertaining, felt slightly more phoned in compared to Gordon-Levitt's contribution because all the characters fitted the archetypes they're all famous for by now. Seth Rogen was just as in the audience's face with his usual obnoxious, horny stoner routine as he has been in Superbad, Pineapple Express, hell even The Green Hornet.

Bryce Dallas Howard channelled the petulant, spoiled brat that seen her through, quite recently, the adaptation of Kathryn Stockett's novel, The Help. As always Angelica Huston was wonderful in the motherly role which has served her so well her collaborations with Wes Anderson over the years. And finally Anna Kendrick as Adam's overeager and sometimes overbearing psychiatrist not too dissimilar to her terrific turn in Up in the Air.

I don't want to seem like I'm damning with faint praise, because 50/50 was one of the most joyful and moving films I've seen in a mainstream multiplex this year. Director John Levine managed to balance the brilliant screenplay from Will Reiser - who used his own personal experiences battling cancer to write the script - in such an accomplished manner.

That delicate blend of harrowing emotion and deafening feeling death could happen at any moment to this man, with those rather sweet beautiful moments which celebrate life, friendship, family and love. You'd be hard pressed, or perhaps just made of stone, if you went in and couldn't take something away from it.

Final Thoughts
Joseph Gordon-Levitt's baby face innocence doesn't disguise the fact the actor is currently leaps ahead of a lot of his contemporaries. 50/50 is cinema at its most basic but most brilliant. An execution which could quite easily be forgettable or extremely haphazard in lesser hands. With enjoyable performances, emotional crescendos, a delightful score from Michael Giacchino, 50/50 is not an easy journey at times but hopefully upon leaving the cinema you'll be thankful you did it. I know I did...


50/50 is in cinemas across the UK now.

Sunday, 13 November 2011

Wuthering Heights

Any visitors to the blog will remember I reviewed - and surprisingly enjoyed - the latest adaptation of Charlotte Bronte's timeless gothic masterpiece, Jane Eyre. It's perhaps unusual however within two months to see a new big screen version of her sister, Emily Bronte's own masterpiece, Wuthering Heights arrive in arthouse cinemas around the nation also. Does it match the dark, brooding, horrific spin on the costume drama genre Jane Eyre presented? No, it doesn't. Fish Tank director Andrea Arnold instead decides takes the rulebook for period costume dramas and tears it up and throws it out the window, to quite striking results...

The whole narrative of the film is told from the perspective of the troubled boy of few words known as Heathcliff. It charts his arrival to the Earnshaw family who reluctantly raise them as their own, in their good Christian household, all the while young Heathcliff strikes up a close relationship with the youngest daughter of the family, Catherine. Any fans of the novel will know this budding love story is ultimately doomed to fail in the harshest of circumstances.

Wuthering Heights managed to do something quite remarkable. It managed to make this genre feel fresh and interesting. Arnold's presentation, from the first person perspectives, the old school 4.3 camera perspective, the abstract symbolic imagery in between scenes, the lack of any notable score preferring to rely on the natural sounds of the harsh English countryside, the almost music video-esque dreamy camera work was so unique and intoxicating it was truly hard to resist. Even if it's not always the most widely accessible adaptation seen on the big screen.

For both leading roles of Catherine and Heathcliff, the four actors involved were tremendous. Though Arnold should be credited for creating a screenplay which let the intimate, yet powerful, imagery carry the film as oppose to the dialogue which was kept to the absolute minimum - especially for James Howson and Solomon Glave's excellent portrayal of Heathcliff. Having not read the book I'd be interested to know if the perception of Catherine is a bit more glorified in the source material. In the film she was just as manipulative, cunning and unforgiving as the tortured Heathcliff, and especially in the scenes involving Kaya Scodelario (of Skins fame). The chemistry and relationships shown were for the large part quite moving, but their love was never entirely justified through these eyes.

For large portions the love story played second fiddle to some of the other issues the film tried to get across. This wasn't just a timeless love story of two extremely flawed human beings, but also an examination of social class, racial antagonism and religious apathy. It was sometimes cold, sometimes brutally harsh but it was hard to tear your eyes away from it at times. Almost how one would imagine a costume drama would feel if Lars Von Trier decided to make one - especially in the questionable treatment of the animal kingdom in certain scenes.

Nevertheless the film did suffered from a prolonged running time which could have easily been 20 minutes shorter had Arnold cut a few solitary shots of rotting fruit and dead animals which looked more at home in a David Attenborough documentary than a seasoned costumed affair.

Final Thoughts
Andrea Arnold's inventive spin on an age old classic may detract purists of the source material, but has almost certainly rejuvenated a somewhat frail genre for a new generation with powerful star-turning performances from its four leads along with the brutal imagery and undeniably provocative themes hidden in the undergrowth. Gorgeous film-making.


Wuthering Heights is in selected cinemas throughout the U.K. now. Northern Irish visitors can view it in Belfast's Queens Film Theatre from Friday November 18th 2011.


The Queen's Film Theatre have put together a competition for devoted fans to visit 'Bronte Country'. Details here ::

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

The Awakening

As it's been well documented on this blog for nearly three years, horror films are probably my least favourite genre. Being scared for the sake of it just isn't my idea of entertainment. However now and again you get a gem of a film full of atmosphere, frights but also (heaven forbid) a good cast with good acting and a mildly interesting plot. With Nick Murphy's The Awakening, we just about get all of this.

Starring the wonderful Rebecca Hall the film tells the tale of young ghost hunter, come writer, Florence Cathcart. After a series of debunking the world of the paranormal in a very Miss Marple/Sherlock Holmes fashion, her journey leads her to an inevitably creepy and isolated boarding school which unearths something ghostly and reveals more secrets than the woman is ever willing to admit about her past. It very much conjures memories of the brilliant Spanish horror film, The Orphanage.

Personally Rebecca Hall's Florence Cathcart was a delightful character to see develop on screen. If the BBC (who co-produced the film) wanted to create a new female equivalent of Sherlock Holmes I honestly believe this blunt, over analysing, flawed, intelligent protagonist could work so amazingly well in her own TV series in similar situations. This almost primal need to seek out the truth of the unknown, all the while secretly wanting for it all to be real. Though her backstory turns into a bit of an inconsistent muddle towards the end overall it was truly enjoyable experience - if not the most terrifying one I've ever witnessed.

The Wire's Dominic West was his usual best and provided the perfect companion to Hall's quest, while also dealing with his own psychological ghosts from The Great War. Again not surprising given her own pedigree, Imelda Staunton channelled her brilliance from Mike Leigh and Harry Potter films past with an elusive, strange and at times mentally disturbed performance as the mysterious maid of the house.

Visually from beginning to end it almost felt like Tim Burton got his hands on Downton Abbey for one week and decided to run riot with it - especially in the opening scene involving a seance. Nick Murphy and his crew did a brilliant job of taking the tired, albeit tried and tested, haunted house routine and gave it some urgency and an interesting psychological edge. Unfortunately for the abundance of atmosphere the film contained it sorely lacked, for the most part, any genuine scares. So anybody looking for a repeat of their Halloween ventures to the cinema of Paranormal Activity 3 might be in for a disappointment.

Final Thoughts
In the hands of lesser acting talent or creative team The Awakening could have easily been a torrid unmemorable affair. Nevertheless Rebecca Hall gives an exciting performance with a character she could easily make her own if Nick Murphy ever decided to develop her adventures further. If you can forgive the muddled ending and somewhat convoluted twist, the film itself is a fun night out at the cinema for people, like me, who just want a good movie instead of a good scare.


The Awakening is in selected cinemas throughout the UK from November 11th 2011.

Sunday, 23 October 2011

The Adventures of Tintin

There's perhaps fewer 20th Century storytellers who are as beloved and transcendent as one George Prosper Remi, otherwise known as, Herge. His Tintin books have captured the imagination of children longing for adventure and adults who crave it just as much. Given that Herge died in the early 1980s, his magnificent tales of the intrepid journalist have slowly drifted into the background of modern pop culture in the past decade or so.

That is until Steven Spielberg stepped in with a long awaited big screen adaptation. However in an age where robot and zombie apocalypses dominate the screens, vampires are in vogue, superheroes reign supreme and Spielberg himself already doing something similar for audiences with Indiana Jones, does something as relatively innocent and wholesome as the faint childhood nostalgia of Tintin still have a place in our hearts? Yes it does. Perhaps now more than ever before.

Taking cues from the Tintin stories, The Crab with the Golden Claws, The Secret of the Unicorn and Red Rackham's Treasure, the film recounts Tintin's (Jamie Bell) first ever encounter with his infamous associate, Captain Archibald Haddock (Andy Serkis). A small clue from a model ship leads the young journalist on a globe trotting adventure as he and Haddock sough to find the lost treasure of the Captain's ancestor before the devious and mysterious Red Rackham (Daniel Craig) does.

It's sad to describe Tintin to someone who hasn't read one of the books. Lazily you could say it's probably more Indiana Jones than the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull was. Despite the fact when Raiders of the Lost Ark originally came out, one could've rightly said, it's very Tintin in its approach. The grumpy old fart cynicism aside however, the film is probably the most fun I've had watching a Spielberg film since the brilliant Catch Me If You Can. It had humour, suspense, mystery and genuinely terrific action sequences which just left a huge smile on my face from beginning to end.

Jamie Bell was thoroughly endearing and likeable in the title role as Tintin. His curious nature was at times infectious and will surely go down well with younger members of the audience. All the while, Andy Serkis was his usual best as Captain Haddock. For me he was the personal highlight, as he went through this bizarre odyssey from this risqué, paranoid, alcoholic to this manly, no nonsense, sailor. Faintly similar to Johnny Depp's journey with Captain Jack Sparrow, albeit with much more grit and far less theatre.

Sparsely but effectively used was Simon Pegg and Nick Frost in the roles of the bumbling detectives Thompson and Thompson. Their Tweedledum/dee routine was highly enjoyable and so natural on screen. A true testament to their chemistry which has come on leaps and bounds from their early days of entertaining me during university in Spaced. Credit must also go to Daniel Craig for his portrayal of Red Rackham, who was truly quite devious and sinister in such a traditional way you rarely see in such cinematic tales these days.

The animation was almost flawless and the backgrounds were truly gorgeous to witness on a big screen and largely the 3D did work. I still do think this type of performance capture animation does still suffer from a bizarre case of dead eye syndrome. Look into those lifeless eyes. Disturbing. Truly.

Steve Moffat, Edgar Wright and Joe Cornish should take as much plaudits for the tidy screenplay they produced which, given the influence those three probably owe to Spielberg and his contemporaries, didn't try to recreate scenes from the Indiana Jones films and stayed true to Herge's own vision instead.

Perhaps to nitpick once more, but I did think the audience was cheated out of an iconic John Williams theme tune. Not that Williams' contribution was terrible by any means, I was probably just expecting, for such an exciting cinematic event, another theme on par with Jurassic Park, ET, Indiana Jones and Superman, but I guess I'm just asking too much...

Final Thoughts
The Adventures of Tintin was full of action, humour, suspense and good old fashion family fun. The film is a beautiful tribute to Herge's books which really do - as the Wikipedia page suggests - transcend time, language and culture. Don't worry if you've never read one of them, or seen the classic cartoon serials, just let yourself be submerged in possibly Steven Spielberg's most widely accessible family film since Hook. Glorious. I didn't even go into my love for the quiff!


The Adventures of Tintin is in cinemas throughout the UK from Friday October 28th, 2011.

Saturday, 15 October 2011

We Need To Talk About Kevin

We need to talk about Kevin. I need to talk about Kevin. I need someone to talk about Kevin with. Fewer films seen in a cinema this year have left me so cold or so troubled than the harrowing imagery found in this. The brilliant, Tilda Swinton - a favourite of the blog - stars as Eva, a reasonably decent woman whose life is thrown into great turmoil when her son, Kevin (Ezra Miller) commits a Columbine-esque shooting on his own school. The narrative skips between the aftermath and sporadic flashbacks of the boy's life and his somewhat strained relationship with his mother.

Tilda Swinton conducted herself so eloquently in this film, possibly the finest role I've seen her in to date. She came across as a very sympathetic soul which I'm sure to much lesser degrees all parents in the audience could quite easily relate to, and her experiences could quite well put off any aspiring parents from the idea of having children altogether - me included. She seemed to drift through the film, especially in the "aftermath", with this lost numbness struck upon her face. It's not comfortable, but it's extremely compelling.

Personally speaking Ms Swinton's acting ability was never in doubt anyway, as she's probably one of the finest British actresses of her generation, the bigger revelation of the film lies within the haunting performance of young Ezra Miller as Kevin, himself. Never, with maybe the exception of the original Omen trilogy, have I seen pure evil personified in a single being so seamlessly. It almost conjures - random and unrelated, I'll concede - memories of watching The Dark Knight and how Michael Caine's Alfred sums up The Joker which I think can also be applied to Miller's character: "Some men aren't looking for anything logical. They can't be bought, bullied, reasoned or negotiated with. Some men just want to watch the world burn."

With some slightly twisted musings I have often wondered, how does someone become like that? Do you blame the friends and influences around him? Possibly. His upbringing or his parents? Large portion of the time, almost certainly. However none of this really seems to apply to Kevin, which makes his actions and his relationship with his reasonably loving and devoted parents all the more troubling. Something which resonated with me for hours since leaving the cinema.

If Miller doesn't get at least an nomination for best supporting actor when award season comes along, then he at least deserves my unofficial award of "most sinister villain of the year". His on screen chemistry with Swinton was fantastic, complete with strife and respect rather than any genuine tenderness. It was almost as if they treated each other like mortal enemies rather than family.

Though I haven't read the book, so can't comment on how faithful the adaptation was, I must say Lynne Ramsay's direction was masterful in parts. Some of that credit must also come to the narrative structure set out in her screenplay she penned alongside Rory Kinnear.

That's not to say it's all deep, dark, unsettling imagery, it seems to subtly throw in the odd bitter-sweet moment which made sections of the audience smirk or giggle at the sheer awkwardness of it all - if nothing else than to release tension at times, especially when set against to the caustic revelations in the final act, brought through so exquisitely by the bold and brilliant score from Radiohead's Jonny Greenwood.

Final Thoughts
Believe those daft statements in the posters and trailers, this is Tilda Swinton's greatest performance of her career to date. We Need To Talk About Kevin is an almost nightmarish odyssey through the most terrifying of family tragedies, and will probably leave you feeling more pale and unsettled than any horror film will this year. Or perhaps just put you off the idea of ever having kids. Go see it, and once you do, maybe you'll need to talk about Kevin too...


We Need To Talk About Kevin is in selected cinemas throughout the UK from Friday October 21st 2011.

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Batman: Year One

It goes without saying the cultural significance that Frank Miller's graphic novel Batman: Year One - along with The Dark Knight Returns - has had not only a huge impact on the comics of Batman in the years to come, but also in TV and film. Without this story there might not have been even the Tim Burton Batman films, a Bruce Timm animated series in the 90s or more recently Christopher Nolan's excellent Batman trilogy - which borrows heavily from this source material. So with an impressive track record in recent years of adapting infamous graphic novels across the DC Universe, Warners Bros show up with one of the biggest in Batman Year One. Does it live up to it's stupidly high fanboy expectations though?

The general story is pretty straightforward, it's quite possibly as famous and overplayed as the birth of Jesus by now. Young billionaire Bruce Wayne returns to Gotham City after years of exiling himself and dons the infamous cowl and cape to become the caped crusader known as Batman to combat the wicked and corrupt. However, like the graphic novel, the main narrative of the story is driven by the strained experiences of Lt. Jim Gordon coming to Gotham City for the first time, and seemingly the only cop in the city who isn't taking bribes from the mob.

Largely the feature is a pretty faithful adaptation of Frank Miller's source material down to the gritty representation of Gotham City to the writer's cold and detached, noir-esque, dialogue which will either grind your gears or fill you with joy pending how much of a Frank Miller fan you are. For me personally, the script comes off well however suffers slightly in the moments featuring Batman/Bruce Wayne due to the soulless, uninspiring, voice acting of Ben McKenzie, but then Batman as a character has always felt slightly off to me in Miller's representation of him.

The true star of the whole piece, and frankly would be my choice to play this character in a live-action setting in the unmentionable 'Post-Nolan' world once The Dark Knight Rises comes and goes next year, is Bryan Cranston (of Breaking Bad fame) as Jim Gordon. He just seems to nail the cynical, downbeat, flawed honesty in Gordon's voice. Other notable contributions come from Battlestar Galactica alumni, Katie Sackoff as fellow GCPD cop, Sarah Essen, Joss Whedon collaborator, Eliza Dushku as Selina Kyle/Catwoman and Jon Polito as Commissioner Loeb.

The quality of the animation was of, as usual, a high standard from Warner Bros. It takes on an almost anime look in sections, reminiscent of the brilliant adaptation of All Star Superman released earlier this year. Though owing more to sections of Batman: Gotham Knight, I still don't think it truly matched the sights and sounds of the Batman created in the glorious Batman: Under the Red Hood of last year.

Final Thoughts
As always with these DC Universe films, they're more than often preaching to the converted. If you don't like Batman, besides being slightly insane, this film isn't likely to change your opinion. Frank Miller's cold, unwelcoming, dialogue and even representation of The Dark Knight isn't for everyone and might not be what you're use to if your exposure of Batman is mainly the animated series and the films. Nevertheless fans of the book should be pleased with the results of the feature and should satisfy all until The Dark Knight Rises reaches cinemas next year. I'm counting down the days, seriously...


Batman: Year One is available on DVD/Blu-Ray now.

Tuesday, 4 October 2011


One of the great director/actor partnerships in British cinema today is undoubtedly been the one struck up between Shane Meadows and Paddy Considine. Even though their collaborations are unlike say Burton and Depp where they can't make a film without one another, it's still managed to produce one of the best British films of the last decade in Dead Man's Shoes and announced Considine as one of the most creditable - if at times underrated in my opinion - actors in the industry today. However this time round, Paddy has stepped away from Shane's directorial creativity and sought to make his own film in the form of brutal drama, Tyrannosaur.

Almost a spin off or a full-length remake of Considine's BAFTA award-winning short film from 2007, Dog Altogether, Tyrannosaur tells the story of dead beat, alcoholic, Joseph (Peter Mullan), as he strikes up a somewhat estranged friendship with good Christian woman, Hannah (Olivia Colman) who works in a local charity shop. The situation becomes more complicated as the Hannah's complicated relationship with her husband surface to the forefront, which suffice to say doesn't make for comfortable, wholesome, cinema.

Where Tyrannosaur stands above quite a lot of films you'll see this year is in the powerful and uncompromising performances of Mullan and Colman. Peter Mullan's Joseph was a seriously disturbed being and I liked that Considine never seemed to shy away from this deranged personality. It made for the moments when the purer aspects of his soul were revealed all the more touching and even in some respects more tragic. Particularly in the scene where he meets Colman's Hannah for the first time, hiding behind a clothes rack.

I've always been a fan of Olivia Colman's work in shows such as Green Wing and the untouchable, Peep Show. However as it turns out, her comedy work never gave her any real justice for her true acting talents. In Tyrannosaur she was simply remarkable. Every moment she featured you just felt this uneasy dread something profoundly awful was about to occur. Her chemistry with Mullan was brilliant, but even more so with the truly sinister performance given by the excellent, Eddie Marsan as Colman's physically and mentally abusive husband.

And so we come to Considine himself, who has created a bleak, hopeless, landscape in Tyrannosaur albeit not too dissimilar to the settings featured in his good friend Shane Meadows' films. Mullan's Joseph could've easily have slotted into the world of Dead Man's Shoes or This Is England. For their sake they'll be thankful he didn't. Though Considine should also be applauded for his tight script, which though being dark also had a soft element of this strange comic timing to it.

If I had to land any criticism to this, mostly fantastic, début film it would be it lacked the emotional intensity found in like minded films such as, This Is England. More than made up for it with the glorious use of The Leisure Society's beautiful song, We Were Wasted in the closing scene and theatrical trailer.

Final Thoughts
Don't be put off by the absence of actual dinosaurs! Tyrannosaur is a truly exceptional piece of British cinema, featuring three of the most honest, visceral, uneasy and ultimately tragic performances you will see in a cinema in 2011 from Peter Mullan, Eddie Marsan and Olivia Colman - who has now officially got my backing for Best Actress in the upcoming awards season. Go see it now. Except maybe if you're a dog lover...


Tyrannosaur is in cinemas from Friday October 8th 2011.

Tuesday, 27 September 2011


Sometimes I'm just not sure if Lars Von Trier creates films for pleasure, to entertain, to inspire. Or simply just to provoke an extreme reaction out of people. With his last effort, Antichrist part of me can kind of get the appeal. It's edgy, it's horrific, it's uncomfortable. It's not for everyone, frankly it's not really for me. All pro Nazi 'propaganda' from his latest Cannes adventure aside, his latest entry to his controversial filmography Melancholia is leaving me, well...kind of glum. However perhaps not in the way Mr Trier probably intended.

The film centres around the wedding of Justine (Kirsten Dunst) in all its melodramatic glory, and the strain relationships she has with her bitter mother (Charlotte Rampling), womanising father (John Hurt), passive fiancé (Alexander Skarsgard), overly tense sister (Charlotte Gainsbourg) and super rich brother-in-law (Kiefer Sutherland). Oh and all the while, the world is facing its impending apocalypse from an unknown planet set to collide with the Earth. Yeah...

Firstly I'll say Trier has probably made his most visually gorgeous film to date. Beautifully shot, striking special effects - especially in the closing scene - and to be fair one of his classiest cast ensembles since Dogville. Also the dynamics of the relationships with each character is well articulated, especially when combating their overwhelming fear with their undeniable fate.

The main problem is just it all felt so hollow, so empty, so frustratingly superficial. Arguably it had echoes of Terrence Malick's Tree of Life from earlier this year, especially in the spacey, Kubrickian imagery. The main difference however was that ponderous, philosophical, feeling I felt from that (Tree of Life) experience compared to this. I realise one could split hairs with how equally pretentious they both are, but least with Tree of Life I didn't want to gauge my eyes out with a rusty nail afterwards. Tree of Life was high concept cinematic art, this was just tortuously lacklustre given the devastating subject.

Though Kirsten Dunst's performance was a mature outing from the star, an attempt to be truly captivating, a bit strange, she - like the rest of the supporting cast - was just so darn dislikeable it mattered little to me by the film's closing scene whether they survive the end of the world or not. Perhaps this was Trier's point, highlighted in a section of the film's dialogue where Dunst's character explains our world is evil and it won't be missed. Given the characters in this and his previous films, Trier himself probably believes this point of view too and if that's the case I feel sorry for him, and his lack of soul.

Besides Charlotte Gainsbourg, the rest of the cast at least had a bit of modern Jane Austin-esque humour about them. Kiefer Sutherland's tragic optimism, John Hurt's drunken buffoonery and Charlotte Rampling's scene stealing bitterness. If twisted into some kind of comedy I would probably 'get it' more.

Final Thoughts
Tedious, superficial, pretentious guff. Lars, you disappoint me. What happened to the edginess? What happened to the controversy? It was so passive and blasé it genuinely hurt. The only thing saving this from only receiving a single mark out of five - and I say this in the most professional manner - is knowing Ms Dunst has a nice set of boobies on her. It's a bittersweet victory though. Melancholia. Yes that's exactly what I'm feeling right now.


Melancholia is in selected cinemas from Friday September 30th 2011.

Friday, 23 September 2011


As I take a quick glance at all the reviews I've done so far in 2011, I notice two things. Firstly my post count is very low on last year. Secondly, and with less vanity, there's been a genuine shortage of really classy action movies over the past year. Thankfully the arrival of Nicolas Winding Refn's - last seen in the director's chair with the Tom Hardy breakout hit, Bronson in 2009 - Drive which blew audiences away at this year's Cannes Film Festival and left Refn picking up the award for Best Director has made the wait worth it.

Based on the book by James Sallis, Drive tells the tale of an enigmatic stunt driver (Ryan Gosling) who moonlights as a getaway driver for criminals. When one last heist goes wrong, and he finds himself in trouble with the local mob, what unravels before the audience's eyes is one of the most visceral action experiences you'll find in the cinema all year.

Ryan Gosling is superb in the leading role, almost playing two distinctly different men in the way he conducted himself. The first side was this introverted, pleasant man of few words. Occasionally throw the odd warm glance or light hearted smile. Then the other side where he's this relentless, violent, absolutely mental human being who stamps men's heads in until they're near liquefied.

Equally so the supporting performances were littered with genuine class from beginning to end. Carey Mulligan as the love interest, who shared some lovely shoegrazey 80s influenced moments with Gosling. Bryan Cranston, now living it up as one of Hollywood's best since wowing audiences with the TV smash, Breaking Bad, was astute as the confidant/partner to Gosling's operations. Ron Pearlman as some deranged L.A. gangster. The true stand out performance however was the excellent Albert Brooks as Pearlman's partner who surely deserves a decent shot at the Best Supporting Actor category in next year's Oscars.

Nicolas Winding Refn direction was certainly worthy of his Cannes hype, making a film which puts even some of Tarantino's best to shame with the manner it's told and the violence factor - none more so than in Christina Hendricks' less than subtle demise. The comparisons to classic movies such as Bullitt shine through, but despite the glamorous cast, I enjoyed the stripped down indie feel, which of course carries over from Refn's background and a 'feel' I hope he can bring to the bigger projects likely to follow off this success.

Special praise must be made for the wonderful 80s esque soundtrack which also combined brilliantly with the tense, atmospheric, soundtrack by Cliff Martinez, which had faint echoes to Hans Zimmer's work with Christopher Nolan in parts. If I had one tiny complaint to the whole feature however it would be the sparse distribution and volume of the frantic car chases I had imagined, but the whole story, and sheer mental action sequences made up for it.

Final Thoughts
Ryan Gosling shines in a relentless leading role which was supported by true acting heavyweights such as Bryan Cranston, Albert Brooks and Ron Pearlman. Nicolas Winding Refn has created a retro action film full of intensity, ultra violence and, heaven forbid, a brilliant plot. Easily one of the best films this year.


Drive is in cinemas everywhere now.

Thursday, 22 September 2011


As I mentioned when I reviewed The Fighter back in February, it still surprises me how the underdog/redemption/fighting formula made so famous by the likes of Rocky, Raging Bull and The Champ oh so long ago still manages to be the stuff of box office quality. Maybe it's because in sport we sometimes naturally want the underdog to win, maybe they appeal to the human side of us all in some quest for redemption and triumph, or maybe...just maybe we simply like to see two brilliant actors kick the stuffing out of each other. The latest in this very long list comes Warrior starring two of Hollywood's brightest acting talents, Tom Hardy and Joel Edgerton.

Playing brothers separated during their teenage years, the film tells the dual narrative of how Hardy's Tommy and Edgerton's Brendan reunite in the confines of a MMA ring. Tommy the estranged, enigmatic and emotionally suppressed ex-Marine and Brendan the struggling, down to earth, high school teacher trying to support his family and keep their house by whatever means necessary.

I'll be honest beside changing the bloodsport from boxing to MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) it isn't at all original, especially as you only need to look to the Oscar winning triumph of The Fighter literally months earlier to see insanely striking similarities - hell watch the trailer and the film is essentially told from beginning to end there. Where Warrior manages to succeed however is in the brilliant performances from both its leading men.

I know a lot has been made about Tom Hardy's training regime in the build up to this film, with faint conjuring's of Robert De Niro's turn in Raging Bull mentioned from time to time. His stature though is probably no less impressive than when he blew audiences away with his portrayal of Charles Bronson back in 2009. Though Tommy lacked a true heart the audience could get behind, Hardy brought real soul to the role. A very flawed and in some ways a very tragic human being who shared very tender and emotional scenes with his father played by an astute Nick Nolte - who has a scene stealing moment with Hardy involving a bottle of whiskey and an audiobook of Moby Dick.

Whereas Hardy was this emotionally suppressed Goliath who destroyed any fighter in his path, Joel Edgerton however was the underdog, full of grit and heart, everyone could get behind. He struggled to beat his opponents, he fought with every last breath he had left, and in these moments every emotional string was pulled to the desired effect. Unlike in 2010's Brothers starring Toby Maguire and Jake Gyllenhaal where I felt the two actors could've had more screen time together, in Warrior the build up and anticipation to the first meeting between the stars was smartly done and really heightened the intensity during their final encounter.

Director, Gavin O'Connor should also take credit for the way he presented the story without turning either characters into true protagonists or antagonists. He delivered on balancing the backgrounds of both brothers, their relationships with the people in their lives and the strained relationships they have with both their father and themselves. I'd even say it had more pace and cinematic panache than David O Russell's The Fighter, albeit with less of a HBO edge to it.

Final Thoughts
Warrior goes pound for pound with such greats that inspired it such as Rocky, Raging Bull, The Fighter and The Champ and nearly comes out on top. Boxing analogies aside, it's simply an entertaining film, full of likeable performances which by the time the curtain falls will have you at odds over who you really wanted to win. Even if it doesn't live long in the memory as a cinematic classic, it should serve a reminder that Tom Hardy and Joel Edgerton are quickly becoming two of Hollywood's most versatile and creditable leading men. One for the lads.


Warrior is in cinemas everywhere now.

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Tinker, Tailor Soldier, Spy.

It's rare to see a cinematic adaptation of a modern literary classic, which has already been adapted to near perfection by the BBC in the late 1970s, be met with such universal anticipation. Though I suppose when you've assembled possibly the most impressive British cast of a generation, being directed a man who made one of the best films of the last 10 years, if you're not like myself and bursting with excitement, then you at least take a bit of notice.

Yes, Swedish director Tomas Alfredson, the man who blew audiences away with his beautiful telling of Let The Right One In in 2009, has been handed the near impossible task of bringing John Le Carre's epic spy thriller Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy to the big screen. It tells the tale of retired secret service agent, George Smiley (Gary Oldman) as he's ordered to find out which of his former colleagues is the mole leaking British intelligence to the Soviet Union during the Cold War.

From the bleakly detached narrative to the painstakingly authentic Cold War aesthetics of England during the 1970s, Alfredson has managed to create a magnificent and separate entity which can stand apart proudly from the book and the TV series. In essence the premise of the story is left unchanged from Le Carre's brilliant novel but it was heartening to see the way he presented the film not just be a drastically cut down version of the Beeb's telling of it.

That's not to say it's dumbed down to moviegoers. Far from it. The intricacies are all there from Smiley's quest to find the mole and his underlying troubles in his marriage to the brilliant overlaps with Ricky Tarr's (Tom Hardy) exploits in Europe and exploring the past which still haunts Jim Prideaux (Mark Strong) which all ties nicely together with a series of flashbacks which flesh out the rest of the characters so wonderfully.

It's hard to follow up a presence such as the great Alec Guinness - just ask Ewan McGregor when taking the mantle of Obi Wan Kenobi in the Star Wars prequels - but Gary Oldman takes George Smiley and makes the role his own. Unlike his predecessor, Oldman's Smiley is a much colder, crueller, soul and possibly the best and most understated performance of Oldman's career to date. His dialogue is minimum as he tells Smiley's tortured back story through the emotive suggestions of his eyes. One of his shining contributions comes while telling the story of his only encounter with the antagonist of piece, Karla. Told in a much more abstract and reflective way than the untouchable TV series presented it.

I could be here all day saying all the superlative buzzwords under the sun to explain my love the supporting cast, but I'll try and keep it brief. Tom Hardy's crazed Ricki Tarr, Benedict Cumberbatch's loyal Peter Guillam, Colin Firth's sleazy, womanising, turn as Bill Haden, Kathy Burke's blunt and outrageous Connie Sachs, Mark Strong's workmanship as Jim Prideaux, Toby Jones' stressful tendencies as Percy Alleline and John Hurt's darkly humorous and ultimately wise contribution as Smiley's boss, Control. All of them, excellent. It was probably only a Michael Gambon, Alan Rickman and Bill Nighy away from achieving perfection.

Tomas Alfredson should take much plaudits for his attention to detail and the atmosphere created in the film. The silent corridors, the cluttered rooms, the dull English landscapes and the eerily dim light. It's almost as if he wanted to give the story a subtle horror element - not too dissimilar from his adaptation of Let The Right One In in its overall tone. Yes his pacing of the story might come under question from more devoted fans of the source material, but as a film it's a mesmerising experience, especially when submerged in Alberto Iglesias' morose score.

Final Thoughts
Films like this don't come along very often. Rarely do we see one which showcases the talents of some of the best actors of a generation so eloquently. Gary Oldman was marvellous as the iconic George Smiley. Tomas Alfredson's reputation will surely continue to grow and bigger things now undoubtedly beckon. He's created a cold, dark, tense period drama with such painstakingly authentic detail. Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy: Go, see, right, now.

Favourite film of the year. So far.


Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy is in cinemas everywhere from Friday.

Saturday, 3 September 2011

Jane Eyre

Having forfeited to pursue English Literature at GCSE and A-Level suffice to say it's not until recently I've had any desired to read Charlotte Bronte's Gothic, masterpiece, Jane Eyre. Even at that getting it for free on my Kindle e-reader is perhaps the only thing that's even really made me peaked my interest. Now that doesn't really matter - says the ignorant film critic - because here's a brand new film adaptation from the director 2009's excellent, Sin Nombre, Cary Fukunaga. Now isn't that handy...

If you've read the book or seen the countless adaptations over the years, you'll already know the story. For those who don't it tells of the trails and tribulations of Jane Eyre (Mia Wasikoska) from her miserable upbringing with her wicked aunt who banished her to a horrible boarding school all the way to her time in the employment of one Mr Edward Rochester (Michael Fassbender).

Inevitably, as is the case with most of these costumed affairs, Rochester and Eyre strike up a curious connection and so unravels one of the greatest love stories ever committed to paper. However the real beauty, like in any great story, lies in the secrets which are buried beneath, which I shan't spoil for those philistines such as myself who failed to read the book before entry to the cinema.

I was perhaps less than unkind to Mia Wasikoska when reviewing her Alice in Wonderland last year - describing her as having as much charisma as my left foot, if memory serves me right - but have since realised her talent after becoming enthralled in the brilliant HBO series, In Treatment. Starring as the title character she added a real level of depth to her performance, strong, witty and passionate while at the same time quite a tragic, suppressed and disturbed soul.

Likewise Michael Fassbender brought his signature intensity, which has won him plaudits in so many films over the last five years, to the role of Mr Rochester. Though maybe not matching Colin Firth's Mr Darcy in the BBC's institutional adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, still I can only imagine he will leave thousands of ladies across the world swooning in delight once the credits roll. The supporting turns were also as classy and elegant as their leads, with brilliant performances from Judi Dench, Jamie Bell and the particularly and the, albeit too brief, appearance of the slimy Simon McBurney.

I can't speak for the tone of the book, but the atmosphere created in the film was completely sublime to experience on the big screen. Fukunaga treats the audience to these striking, bleak, majestic landscapes and towering gothic structures. What sets it apart from these drab costume dramas I've been subjected to over the years - mostly against my own will - was this rather peculiar sense you were watching a period horror film with some distant ghostly sounds and stylish camera work. Dario Marianelli's score is seamlessly embedded into the feature just as his work on similar films such as Atonement and Pride and Prejudice did in the past.

Final Thoughts
How it holds up to past adaptations or its source material isn't for me to say, however I can tell you the Jane Eyre of 2011 is a dark, intense, brooding piece of Gothic romance which strikes a captivating balance between a costumed drama and some atmospheric, humanistic, horror tale so brilliantly. Even if you aren't a fan of this genre of film, I encourage you to give it a chance. You may be shockingly surprised.


Jane Eyre is in cinemas across the UK from September 9th, 2011.

Saturday, 27 August 2011

Project Nim

Having missed Rise of the Planet of the Apes earlier in the month, I figured it was only right to catch a like minded cinematic documentary from Man on Wire director, James Marsh in the form of, Project Nim. The documentary follows the recollections of the scientists who worked on the project where they raise a baby chimp like they would a baby human, feeding him, playing with him and teaching him how to speak and react to the humans around him.

The feature takes it roughly in three stages after the chimp is ripped away from his birth mother by the head of the project, Professor Herbert Terrace. The first was probably the most heart-warming seeing baby Nim in the care of his first 'surrogate mother', Stephanie LaFarge who raised and treated baby Nim like a mother would her own child, and it was quite compelling the tension this caused with her husband and to a lesser degree the rest of her family.

Watching how Nim reacts to the people around him is quite fascinating, but equally so is the subliminal politics being played out between Terrace and his colleagues for Nim's affections also. Particularly in the transitional phase from his motherly relationship with LaFarge to the younger and more attractive Laura-Ann Petitto who the chimp seems to just attach himself to, strangely without a reaction to seeing LaFarge cut off.

After Laura left his life though was when it got really compelling and extremely tragic for Nim, and where a lot of the sheer grit and darkness of the feature unfolds. It's hard to know who to place most blame on, ethically was it right to remove the chimp from his birth mother in the first place, to raise him like a spoilt human who had every need catered for - more so than some humans have even experienced in their own lifetime - then just throw him back in a cage to be prod and poked for the rest of his days? In a strange way Marsh has portrayed Terrace as one of the leading villains you'll see in a cinema all year from this unjust betrayal. None more so than the patronising visit paid by the Professor in the testing site, a year later.

Animal lovers might find some scenes rather unpleasant - particularly after the project itself shuts down. Hell, anyone with a soul should be mortified at the treatment of poor Nim in the final 35 minutes of the feature. In truth though it probably doesn't highlight anything that anyone with an interest in animal rights doesn't already know. Either way, and referencing back to Planet of the Apes for a moment, you can see why they might rise against us.

Visually the way Marsh presented the whole feature was simply superb to experience on the big screen. Slick, bold, graphics and quite dark, atmospheric re-enactments of past events which wouldn't be entirely out of place in some deranged horror film. One of the personal highlights however was the joyful music, composed by Dickon Hinchliffe, which played during the moments when Nim learnt a new word or was evolving as a living being.

Final Thoughts
You'll be shocked, you'll be deeply saddened, you'll even be down right angry at times. However you'll also have your heart warmed, raise a smile and genuinely feel for another living being. Not an animal, not strictly just another a chimp, this was a living being who was treated and benefited from loving human interaction and it's genuinely sad to see, in the end, he was ultimately betrayed by it. A compelling, powerful and essential documentary. Project Nim? Project Win*.


Project Nim is in selected cinemas throughout the UK now. Northern Irish readers will be able to see the documentary in the Queen's Film Theatre, Belfast from Friday September 2nd, 2011.

*That was cheap, I'm sorry, it's been a long weekend.

Friday, 26 August 2011

Conan The Barbarian

Let's leave nostalgia at the door and face a painful truth for just one moment. The original Conan The Barbarian starring the great Arnold Schwarzenegger was a pile of muck. However to lads of a certain age, it was our pile of muck. The inevitable remake of the saga has been on the cards for probably as long as when the original films first materialise. There's been a variety of different proposals, hell even WWE wrestler Triple H was set to take up the mantel at one point with Arnold in a cameo role. Thankfully that never came to light, but what we got instead probably wasn't much better.

The Conan the Barbarian of the 2011 stars, Jason Momoa in the title role. Off the back of a successful and creditable stint in the excellent HBO fantasy series, Game of Thrones he's probably in danger of being typecast for life as some muscle bound warrior with a big heart deep down. Though largely similar backgrounds and characterisations, the fundamental differences in Momoa's tall, silent, terrifying performance in Game of Thrones and his lacklustre, eye rolling attempt at Conan probably came down to the haphazard pacing, ham fisted dialogue and generally piss poor script he had to work with.

His supporting cast fared slightly better, even if all they did was just fulfil the typical archetypes associated with these conventional, fantastical, bloodied quests for revenge. Stephen Lang was sort of menacing as an evil warlord, then sort of not as you wondered how Conan - a husky, well built, ruthless sort - would have much trouble bringing down some hysterical fool on the right side of 60. Especially as the star had already raked up an impressive body count into the hundreds by the time the final showdown commences.
Rachel Nicholas, easy on the eyes she may have been, didn't do an awful lot besides being a walking, talking, plot device whose blood is what Lang's evil warlord seeks to unleash hell upon his enemies. Rose McGowan could've been quite interesting as the primary villain - a disturbing witch - but played second fiddle to Lang's eccentric rantings. Shame because she has the moments closest to resembling genuine creepiness and mild horror.

Visually director, Marcus Nispel gets it about right, even if the story came across less like Conan the Barbarian and more like The Erotic, Bloody, Adventures of Sinbad. Even though I decided to forfeit the 3D presentation this outing, the special effects were decent and the violence is what you expect from this, but even next to the campy exploits of Arnold's Conan it just all lacks a bit of fun, a few memorable one liners and unfortunately a character to really root for.

Final Thoughts
Wrong villain, wrong director, wrong script, wrong remake. Right star though, just a shame the former problems outweighed Jason Momoa's valiant effort, which unfortunately pales in comparison to his very similar turn in Game of Thrones. In reality it's not much better than the original but the original has Arnold Schwarzenegger in all his menacing, muscular glory and unfortunately for the Conan of the 21st Century, that ultimately wins this argument.


Conan The Barbarian is in cinemas everywhere now.

Saturday, 20 August 2011

The Skin I Live In

Pedro Almodovar's latest film has already caused quite a stir at this year's Cannes Film Festival, and for lowly mortals such as I the wait to finally see this film has been, quite frankly, agonising. Antonio Banderas stars as the illusive and brilliant, Dr Robert Ledgard as he goes on an insane venture of playing God to create 'the perfect skin' through the methods of transgenesis. Skin which can resist being burnt and fight off disease. His ethically questionable experiments are all carried out on a mysterious woman, he keeps in isolation, named, Vera. Suffice to say as both their pasts slowly unravel all is not what it seems.

When watching the trailer for The Skin I Live In, I got the impression Banderas' character was something akin to Christian Bale's Patrick Bateman in American Psycho or a younger, more macabre take on the sick and twisted, Hannibal Lecter in Silence of the Lambs. However as the revelations of his past is exposed to the audience, slowly and surely, he paints a much more tragic and almost sympathetic soul. Which in turn makes him all the more terrifying and genuinely unnerving in the moments where he loses control altogether.

His co-star, Vera played by the gorgeous Elena Anaya is a much more intriguing being and her story is one of the most shocking and, in a way, terrifying journeys you will probably see in a cinema all year - and something so bloody hard to write about without spoiling the sheer wonder and shock value of the entire feature. Lazily I could argue there was faint comparisons with Vera and the children in the utterly mind boggling, Dogtooth released last year, but perhaps with less naivety. Anaya herself like past Almodovar leading ladies just oozed sincere class and true sexuality on screen, perhaps on this occasion for all the wrong reason though. Nevertheless you only needed to look into her eyes to see the amount of sheer passion in the young actress fantastical portrayal.

Supporting turns from the likes of Marisa Peredes as Robert's servant and trusted confidant Marilia, Jan Cornet as Vincent, Blanca Suarez as Robert's daughter Norma just round off the film brilliantly. Special mention must go to the surreal introduction of Roberto Alamo as Marilia's estranged son, Zeca who you first see in this daft leopard costume which set against these minimalistic, sporadically colourful, surroundings is just a visual overload.

Outside of the Hitchcockian suspense the rest of the feature was essentially textbook Almodovar at its best. The film yet again shows why the playfully imaginative director is regarded as one of the greatest film-makers of his generation. He also should be praised for the way he told the story, so intricately woven yet so easily accessible. A genuine triumph in modern film-making.

Final Thoughts
A dark, disturbing, tense, faintly tragic piece of macabre story-telling. Antonio Banderas was excellent in the leading role, switching between this suave, sadistic madman and this ultimately flawed and insecure soul. Though it wouldn't be a Almodovar film without the leading lady taking all the plaudits and Elena Anaya shines beautifully as the bizarre, mysterious, Vera. The Skin I Live is in strong contention to be my favourite film of 2011, and just goes to show how much punishment there is in the search for perfection. Frankenstein meets Bret Easton Ellis? Makes sense in my head.


The Skin I Live In will be shown in select cinemas throughout the UK from Friday August 26th, 2011.

Monday, 8 August 2011

My debut novel, The Unseen Chronicles of Amelia Black has launched

Normally I would reserve such a post solely for my other blog, however this is just too big! Over the last year and a half I've spent a lot of my free time crafting this story, The Unseen Chronicles of Amelia Black. And after all is said and done, here it is finally for your own personal enjoyment!

Price: £2.30 on | $3.78 on | EUR2.99 on

If you buy it and enjoy it then, well I'll frankly never be able to truly thank you for it. Though I would appreciate if you were able to spread the word of my book, the character and her magical adventure. All devoted readers of the blog for the past two and a half years, now I ask of you to write a review for me.


Andrew (A.G.R. Moore)

The Synopsis:

Amelia Black is a kind, curious and wonderful soul. Like her dear mother and father, who were equally kind, curious and wonderful, she was a keen explorer of the unknown. When her parents vanish without a trace, she finds herself swept into another universe. An Unseen Universe.

In the Unseen Universe, Amelia discovers a power within herself, which will change her life forever. Under the watchful eye of her faithful butler and lifelong friend, Julius E. Dawson and an ill-tempered pixie (just don’t call him a fairy) named Sid, watch as the extraordinary girl ventures into a magical universe full of pure goodness and unrivalled darkness.

Revelations of her past lie with a mysterious King of the Unseen Light, while her destiny may lead her to what lurks in The Dark.

Saturday, 6 August 2011

Super 8

I get accused of romanticising situations a lot, but just bare with me a moment. Remember a time when summer blockbusters were spectacles? Much anticipated events? Cinematic magic? Gave you moments of pure imagination which stayed with you for life? For me it was seeing that first glimpse of a dinosaur in Jurassic Park, watching E.T. go home, seeing Indiana Jones run away from a giant boulder, that sheer feeling of terror created when Jaws appeared for the first time, seeing the Death Star blow up, Michael Keaton uttering the words, "I'm Batman," and Arnold Schwarzenegger looking badass with a gun in Terminator 2 before saying, "Hasta la Vista, baby."

It's a shame for all the progress we've seen in cinema over the past 20 years in regards to special effects and grand set pieces, the summer blockbuster season has in recent years been reduced to the bud of all jokes with cinephiles. That grotesque time of the year where the likes of Michael Bay flourish with soulless, dumb action movies which are made purely to undermine the audience's intelligence and make a mountain of money for those pesky film studios. However, like myself and a lot of other people of my generation, J.J. Abrams remembers when the Summer Blockbuster was something more. Something very much like Super 8.

Taking cues from Steven Spielberg - who serves as producer for the film - at the height of his 1980s popularity, Super 8 tells the story of a group of harmless, mischief making misfits as they sough to spend their summer making a home film based on a zombie invasion. However all is not what it seems when they witness a particularly nasty looking train crash - probably one of the best choreographed set-pieces I've seen in so long - which unleashes something strange, and mysterious on their hometown. The situation turns even more ugly when people around the town start disappearing without a trace and the U.S. Airforce have the small middle American town on lock down.

From the way it was filmed, the pure late 70s aesthetics of the town, the bright and bouncy John Williams-esque score from Michael Giacchino and even just the way the glorious young ensemble presented themselves - if Hollywood want to do the unthinkable and remake The Goonies, they might have just found their cast - Super 8 just conjured so many wonderful romantic memories of how Summer blockbusters use to be made, and frankly still should be.

Despite the mysterious Cloverfield-esque marketing in the build up to the film, the story is probably more akin to E.T. albeit with much more suspense. Almost like a children's film, with the innocent coming of age cues taken from 80s films like Stand By Me except with a 21st Century survival horror edge to it. The young cast were wonderful, showing signs of real maturity with some terrific comic timing and one liners as well as holding their own in the more gentle moments. If I had to punish Abrams for anything it would probably be his insistence to yet again use those excruciating lens flares techniques he uses in all his films. which I find so undeniably off putting at times. Though I'm just nit picking to be honest.

Final Thoughts
With tidy and charismatic performances from the young leads, scenes of genuine suspense, glorious visuals and an absolutely fantastic finale, Super 8 surpasses nearly every other blockbuster released in the cinema this year using a formula so tried and tested it's a wonder why it's taken until now for someone to pick it up again - perhaps even Spielberg himself. Though J.J. Abrams might not be Steven Spielberg in ability like the rest of us romantics he too remembers a time when the summer blockbuster was more than just a soulless, money making venture, and the world is a little bit better off for it. I'm still smiling thinking about it.


Super 8 is in cinemas everywhere throughout the UK now.

Sunday, 31 July 2011

Sarah's Key

Recently there was a science paper published listing the saddest movies of all time. It inexplicably listed The Champ (1979) as number one, at the expense of some genuine tearjerkers such as Disney's Bambi, Ghibli's Grave of the Fireflies, Diving Bell and the Butterfly, Requiem for a Dream amongst countless other soul numbing features which scarily populate my own DVD collection - not sure what that says about me. Well there might be a new one to trump them all - at least for the time being - in the form of Gilles Pasquet-Brenner's Sarah's Key.

Adapted from Tatiana de Rosney's best selling novel, the film tells a tale set between the present day and 1940s France accounting the Vel' d'Hiv Roundup, a dark period in Nazi occupied Paris where all the Jews in the city were taken from their homes by Parisian police and sent off to concentration camps. All the while, Kristin Scott Thomas plays a journalist living in Paris in 2010, researching the tragedy, focusing in on the trials and tribulations of a little girl named Sarah, as she attempts to escape a concentration camp, make her way towards home and be reunited with her brother who was hidden in their apartment before the rest were taken away.

You could rightly argue the whole subject of The Holocaust is a slightly over crowded sub genre in the grand scheme of period cinema. From Schindler's List, The Pianist, The Counterfeiters, The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas I could go on and on. Usually all excellent, but I think possibly because this is the first I've seen in the cinema, Sarah's Key seemed to profoundly move me in a way few (if any) films have done all year.

Kristin Scott Thomas was terrific in the lead role, as you watch her go deeper and deeper into her investigation, bringing up old wounds of even her own family's past, it seems to also bring the audience into it also - conjuring memories of when I read a like minded novel, The Book Thief. One of the most innocent and touching performances I've seen in so long was young Melusine Mayance in the role of the title character. She has some particularly memorable moments none more so than the scene were she's reunited with her brother. Might want to get a box of tissues for that one...

Once the film hits its emotional height, just over two thirds of the way through, the story does unfortunately drag out and simmer a bit at the end with Scott Thomas' story coming to its own conclusion.

Final Thoughts
With little hint of hope or bitter-sweet redemption for all involved. Sarah's Key contained scenes which were both deeply moving as they were so profoundly sad. Kristin Scott Thomas lead with the same grace which has served her so well for over two decades now, while Melusine Mayance shined with as character so beautifully portrayed as possessing undeniable will and determination to face some genuinely terrifying human experiences. If you fail to be moved by this film, to weep or just to sit there in a state of numbness once the credits roll then I simply feel sorry for you, and your lack of soul.


Sarah's Key is in selected cinemas throughout the U.K. from August 5th, 2011.