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.