Short Of The Week

#2 – The Black Hole (Phil Sansom & Olly Willams)

One of the most famous and widely viewed short films of all-time.  It’s made by a great concept and a very good bit of silent acting by the lead.  Once again, I guarantee a few minutes of your day well spent.

Blue Valentine (2011, Derek Cianfrance) – Review

Every now and then you see ‘one of those’ films.  The kind that properly gets to you, that jumps out the screen and slaps you in the face.  The kind that leaves you staring at the credits for 5 minutes after it has ended, cuts through all the superfluous nonsense and reminds you what a powerful medium film can be.  ‘Blue Valentine’ is ‘one of those’ films.

It was a labour of love for writer and director Derek Cianfrance.  Partly based on personal experience it took him 12 years and 67 drafts to knock into shape.  Watching the final result it’s vividly apparent that this is a story close to his heart.

Dean and Cindy have been married for 7 years and between them have raised a daughter.   We join them with their marriage coming apart, the magic is seemingly long gone and the final few sparks from their young love are petering out before us.  But between the present day scenes of their faltering marriage the film takes us back to their meeting and falling in love, where there are some genuinely touching and tender moments to warm the heart.  For removal worker Dean it’s love at first sight.  For Cindy, a student and aspiring doctor, Deans infectious charm and spontaneity are too much to resist.  We see them opening up to each other about their lives, sharing stupid laughs and in a memorable scene dancing together in the doorway of a cut price wedding shop.

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The split time-frame used by Cianfrance is extremely effective.  From watching the young head-over-heels couple dancing in the street, we cut back to the present day and the dim neon light of a seedy themed sex hotel, a last gasp attempt to inject some passion.  It’s not going well.  The cut is a powerful moment that intensifies both strands of their story, suddenly the bygone highs seem higher and the lows of the present day are even more heart-wrenching.  Deans charm has deserted him, his hair is doing likewise and his potential is unfulfilled.  He loves his job as a decorator, he can have a beer at 8 in the morning and get away with it.  Cindy wants more.  Williams is outstanding in capturing the anxiety and frustration of a woman who feels trapped and empty in a dying marriage.  Her Oscar nomination was fully deserved.  Gosling, who missed out on a nomination, is equally impressive.

Falling in love and falling out of love, both have been explored hundreds of times over the years, but ‘Blue Valentine’ feels like an original take on the subject.  The saying goes that every good story needs a beginning, middle and end, but ‘Blue Valentine’ makes do with just two of the three.  It weaves together the romantic beginnings and the desperate end, leaving the audience to mull over what went wrong in between.  What happened in those 6 years?

A couple of posts ago I prematurely mentioned that ’Warrior’ was my favourite of all the films I’d seen this year.  Well, it has just been surpassed.  ‘Blue Valentine’ is a thoughtfully constructed and incredibly well acted film.  An emotionally draining portrait of a love turned sour, told with an uncompromising realism…. Just don’t watch it on a first-date.

4.5star

 


More Reviews


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Great Scenes (Part 6)

Another installment of some of my favourite scenes of all time.   Includes Spielberg, Kubrick and after seeing Twilight the other week,  I thought I should include a scene from a proper vampire film…

 


Close Encounters Of The 3rd Kind (1977) – UFOs Surround The House

The stand-out scene in a great film.  This is Spielberg at his best.  The lighting and sound are amazing and that chimney shot is fantastic.  Unfortunately the video below ends before the household appliances start to go nuts.  Spielberg has created a few great scenes in his day and this is right up there.

 


Let The Right One In (2008) – Swimming Pool

The shifts of atmosphere in this scene are incredible.  Fun, threatening, violent and then warm all in under 5 minutes.  The underwater shot of the limbs being dragged through the water is inspired, leaving the violence (partly) to your imagination.  I love everything about this film.

 


The Shining (1980) – Are You Concerned About Me?

In a film full of iconic scenes, this is my favourite.  I love the way it moves through the room, cutting between them. The section from Wendy discovering Jacks ‘all work and no play….’ papers  through to the bat swinging on the stairway is one of my top 5 scenes of all time.  Jack Nicholson having a blast, that terrifying soundtrack and some amazing camerawork.  “As soon as possible!”

 

 


Grab a slice of this!


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The Conversation Review

Great Scenes (Part 5)

Great Scenes (Part 5)

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Argo Review

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City Of God Review

 

Recent Viewing

Twilight Breaking Dawn Part 2 

1.5stqrI have defended these films in the past, but for want of a better description Part 2 is a crock of shit. It has all the energy and intensity of a hungover sloth that has only eaten jelly for a week. Here is my stream of consciousness review of some of the things I noticed whilst watching.

The opening credits (and looking back the best sequence of the film), nothing nothing nothing nothing nothing Jacob ends a scene by giving a smug knowing smile, turning, nodding and jogging away nothing nothing nothing nothing in Egypt nothing nothing nothing multi-cultural nothing nothing nothing nothing the background music stops for ten seconds of sweet sweet relief, it plays continuously for the rest of the film nothing nothing nothing nothing Bella meets an interesting and well-acted character in a restaurant, he was called Jenks nothing nothing nothing nothing nothing I didn’t think beheadings could be so boring, but wait! Some major characters are dying, this is almost interesting….oh wait, a massive cop out. Nothing nothing I pick up on a reference to the first film and feel ashamed.

Considering how much money these films have raked in, the CGI is pretty bad. Once again the wolves carry about as much threat as a gaggle of affable butterflies and the score never rises above aimless piano tinkling. Other than Michael Sheen’s ridiculous laugh and Kristen Stewarts face, I didn’t find a single thing to enjoy.


LAWLESSLawless 

2.5starI was drawn in by the cast but Tom Hardy was average, Guy Pearce overacted a caricature of a character and Gary Oldman was barely on screen. Unexpectedly this left Shia LeBoeuf as the standout performer in a disappointing production. I struggle with historical pieces filmed digitally.


We Need To Talk About Kevin 

3starThis is as cold as they come. The film cuts between the present day struggles of Kevin’s mother as she deals with life after the incident and flashbacks to him growing up and their very strained relationship. For me the fact that Kevin was seemingly born evil detracted something from the film. It might have been more interesting if there had been some examination of the factors (parenting, social experiences etc.) that affect a child and could conceivably push them over the edge. It was more like The Omen than anything else. I never felt anything towards the mother and therefore found it a little underwhelming. There are some moments to appreciate (evil, creepy baby staring out his mother) and a great performance from Tilda Swinton, but not a lot else to enjoy.

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Best Of The Bunch


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Warrior 

4.5starI’m not going to be able to describe how much I loved this…so I’ll keep it short. Of all the films I’ve seen this year, this is my favourite. Tom Hardy and Joel Edgerton are both great as estranged brothers, but Nick Nolte is on another level altogether as their troubled father. A soundtrack which is dominated by ‘The National’ and brilliant, brutal fight sequences (Hardy broke toes, ribs and a finger during filming, and it shows). My closing statement? …It’s better than ‘Rocky’.

Short Of The Week

#1 – LOVEFIELD (Mathieu Ratthe)

Every week I will be posting one of my favourite short films, and well… I guarantee that they will be a few minutes of your day well spent.  This week features Mathieu Ratthe’s suspenseful debut ‘LOVEFIELD’, which has drawn comparisons to Alfred Hitchcock.  The cinematography is stunning and it’s a great short film.

Moneyball (2011, Bennett Miller) – Review

Ahhh Baseball…. Anyone for a game of futuristic cricket with imaginary, subjectively placed stumps and lots of spitting? 

In 2002 the Oakland A’s went on a record breaking 20 game winning streak.  Having been stripped of their star players in the off-season and shackled by a relatively small budget it was a remarkable run.  Directed by Bennett Miller (Capote) and penned by not one but two Oscar winning writers, Steven Zaillian (Schindlers List) and the red hot Aaron Sorkin (The Social Network), ‘Moneyball’ follows the ups and downs of the A’s season and the personal journey of their General Manager Billy Beane (Brad Pitt).

Being British my experience of Baseball has been limited to watching the occasional game on holiday and playing rounders with a tennis racket at primary school (where I would regularly hit timely home-runs and make telling contributions from a variety of positions in the field).   I’m therefore completely ill-equipped to make any comment on the accuracy of the storytelling and portrayal of real life events and characters.  All I can say is that as a massive sport fan, I was in my element.  It’s an amazing sporting story that is vividly brought back to life. Continue reading

Five 2013 films I couldn’t Care Less About

Here’s a follow-up to my ‘Five 2013 Films I Can’t Wait For’ list.  Obviously, this list is purely based on speculation.  I will happily waddle off and see them if they turn out to be incredible.

MV5BNTQ0MTM4MTY0MV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwNjQxMzA5Nw@@._V1._SY314_CR129,0,214,314_1. One Direction 3D

Dir: Morgan Spurlock
Release Date: 13th August 2013
Starring: 1D and thousands of shrill teenage girls

Oh dear god, a 3D recording of a One Direction concert. Nausea from the 3D, nausea from the music… If you’re a fan of nausea then this should be right up your street.  It will be a performance for the ages and feature iconic lyrics such as “You don’t know you’re beautiful, oh oh oh, that’s what makes you beautiful”.  Directed by Morgan Spurlock! Weird.


mv5bmtyzmti3njqzm15bml5banbnxkftztcwotkzmzmymq-_v1-_sy317_cr20214317_2. Scary Movie 5

Dir: Does it matter
Release Date:  April 13th 2013
Starring: I have no idea, a couple of Wayans? Ludacris?

The only good thing about this is that I can copy and paste my entry from last year…..Why do people continue to go and see these?  The first couple were acceptable but come on.  There’s only one way to end this, otherwise they’ll go on forever, vote at the box office, don’t go, please.


thor-dark-world-fan-poster3. Thor: The Dark World

Dir: Alan Taylor
Release Date: 8th November 2013
Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Anthony Hopkins, Tom Hiddelston

And here’s the token Marvel entry on the list…. they’ve not half churned this one out quickly.  I was not the biggest fan of the first instalment.  I expect more Marvel winking and boring action sequences (possibly with a giant mechanical robot thing).  Director Alan Taylor has worked on a lot of great TV though (Game Of Thrones, Sopranos, Mad Men), so hopefully he’ll do a good job on his step up to the big screen and prove me wrong.


MV5BMTY5MjI5NTIwNl5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTYwMTM1Njg2._V1._SY317_CR13,0,214,317_4. Star Wars Episode II: Attack Of The Clones

Dir: George Lucas
Release Date: 20th September 2013
Starring: Hayden Christensen, Ewan McGregor, Natalie Portman, Samuel L. Jackson

I may watch the prequels again before we get Disney Star Wars, but there is no chance I’ll be paying cinema prices to watch this drivel again.  The best thing I can say about ATOC is that it wasn’t as bad as Episode I, not exactly a ringing endorsement.  When they re-release the originals though…. I’ll be there.  The most expensive Star Wars film of them all, and the only one that was not the top box-office earner in the year of its release.


MV5BMTkzNzcwMDk0Ml5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwNzkyMDQ2OA@@._V1._SY317_5. Iron Man 3  

Dir: Shane Black
Release Date: 26th April 2013
Starring: Robert Downey Jr, Ben Kingsley, Guy Pearce, Gwyneth Paltrow

I can only apologise to any Iron-Man/Marvel fans…but honestly, deep down, I hated Iron-Man 2.  They seem to have cast Ben Kingsley as an Asian villain called Mandarin.  Ben Kingsley is not Asian….  I mean I couldn’t care less but I wonder how the fanboys feel about that complete disregard for the source material

Five 2013 Films I Can’t Wait For

I’ve had a look through the releases planned for next year, here are the 5 that caught my eye.

1. Lincoln

Dir: Steven Spielberg
Release Date: 25th January 2013
Starring: Daniel Day-Lewis, Sally Field, Tommy Lee Jones, Joseph Gordon-Levitt

Daniel-Day Lewis as Lincoln, I’ve been waiting for this for a long time.  Reviews from over the pond have been almost exclusively positive and on top of DDL the rest of the cast looks great.  Tommy-Lee Jones is one of my favourite actors and Joseph Gordon-Levitt has won me over.  The only slight worry I have about this is Spielberg…

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2. Django Unchained

Dir: Quentin Tarantino
Release Date: 18th January 2013
Starring: Leonardo Di Caprio, Christopher Waltz, Jamie Foxx, Samuel L. Jackson

This was on last years list, but since the release date has been pushed back it’s squeezed in again. A Quentin Tarantino bounty hunter film with that cast…..let’s just say i’m on board.  Synopsis from movieinsider “Django is a freed slave, who, under the tutelage of a German bounty hunter, becomes a bad-ass bounty hunter himself. After taking down some bad guys for profit, they track down Django’s slave wife and liberate her from an evil plantation owner.” Hells yes!  In My opinion Inglorious Basterds was a great return to form for Tarantino, can’t wait.

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3. Inside Llewyn Davis

Dir: Joel & Ethan Coen
Release Date: TBA
Starring: Oscar Garcia, Carey Mulligan, John Goodman, Justin Timberlake

Anything written and directed by Joel & Ethan Coen will draw me in.  With a couple of exceptions I’ve been a big fan of everything they have written.  The film is based on the memoirs of Dave Van Ronk and will follow the experiences of a singer-songwriter navigating the New York folk scene in the 1960s.  Early script reviews suggest that it will be light on plot and heavy on character.  Coen’s stalwart John Goodman returns, love that guy!


4. Mad Max: Fury Road

Dir: George Miller
Release Date: TBA
Starring: Tom Hardy, Charlize Theron, Mel Gibson, Nicholas Hoult

GET IN!! Fury Road is the first of two new Mad Max films.  YAS! Tom Hardy seems like a decent choice for the title role, the original creator George Miller is still heavily involved as a writer and director, Tina Turner is long gone and Mel Gibson is down for a cameo.  It’s quite possible this won’t be out in 2013, there have been delays, but it’s on the way and i’m pumped.  Here’s hoping it’s more ‘Road Warrior’ and less ‘Beyond Thunderdome’.  Plot keywords on IMDB include ‘Dark Future’ ‘Peak Oil’ and ‘Post-Apocolyptic’.  A great excuse to watch the first two Mad Max films again, not that I need one.


5. Zero Dark Thirty

Dir: Kathryn Bigelow
Release Date: 25th January 2013
Starring: Chris Pratt, Jessica Chastain, Joel Edgerton

Directed by Kathryn Bigelow (The Hurt Locker) Zero Dark Thirty is a dramatisation of the hunt for Osama Bin Laden and Operation Neptune Spear.  There’s obviously quite a story to be told here, and with a proven director on board I have high hopes.  If it’s intelligently written and based in reality, and not all “AMERICA, FUCK YEAH!!” it could be a cracker.

Honourable Mentions: Only God Forgives, Kick-Ass 2, Oldboy

Why Does Hollywood Suddenly Love Scotland?

What do Skyfall, The Dark Knight Rises, Harry Potter, Never Let Me Go, Game of Thrones, The Da Vinci Code….as well as the upcoming releases World War Z, Under The Skin, Cloud Atlas and Fast And Furious 6 all have in common?  Well, they all feature Scotland as a backdrop.    I’ve been seeing my home country on film a remarkable amount recently.

Scotland has been the scene for iconic films in the past.  The Wicker Man, Chariots of Fire and Monty Python’s Holy Grail all filmed extensively here, but in the last few years there seems to have been an explosion in the number of major films shooting here, and it has not been limited to live action.  There was also Pixar’s ‘Brave’ . Continue reading

The Greatest Badasses In Film History

If you haven’t seen Part 1 and the first 5 Badasses in the list, I would recommend you take a look…. From now on i’ll be churning them out one at a time.

The urban dictionary definition states that a badass is someone who is “Awesome to an extreme level, thereby leveraging unquestionable authority.”  If anyone meets the badass criteria…it’s this man.

#6 Snake Plissken (Kurt Russell – Escape From New York/L.A)

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Famously, Snake Plissken was the youngest soldier to be decorated by the US President in World War 3, for bravery during campaigns in Siberia against the USSR.  That’s right, he took on an apparently resurgent Soviet Union!  He’s also called ‘Snake’, pulls off an eye-patch and by my understanding wipes out all technology in the world at the end of Escape From L.A, after deceiving the President of the USA. LAD

Badass Quotes:

“I don’t give a fuck about your war – or your President!”

“Call me “Snake.”