Friday, November 14, 2008

The Baader Meinhof Complex

I have had a taste for German film ever since I saw "Run Lola Run", so I was looking forward to this film in quiet anticipation.

Having thoroughly enjoyed Uli Edel's previous film "Downfall", I was expecting a dose of the same bleak, yet personal film-making. There was bleak aplenty, however, one never truly feels like one understands the passions and beliefs that drive the members of the Baader-Meinhof group (part of the Red Army Faction).

However, all is not lost. deeper exploration of the group psyche gives way to a faithful and expansive re-telling of the events that shook Germany throughout the 1970's. Indeed, I haven't seen a film exhibiting attention to detail on this scale since "Zodiac".

So what we are left with is a sporadically violent, episodic trip through the paisley clad West Germany of the 70's. Many people - authority figure or not- are riddled with bullets and although we never find out what motivates any of the characters on a deeply personal level, it is made plain that although the film follows a specific group of "commandos", we should not focus on them, but rather on the politics that fascinated and terrified the globe in equal measure.

I have tried not to give too much away about the film (even if you have read the book on which it is based), I want you to experience it for yourself. Try not to get inside the mind of a terrorist, it is much more interesting to put oneself into the same situations. You may be scared by what you start to believe.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

The name's Bond...

...James Bond is back and bigger than ever. Warning some minor [SPOILERS].

After much deliberation over whether I liked the new Bond theme, I was still undecided...until tonight.

Yes folks, I have just returned from watching "Quantum of Solace" the 22nd James Bond film and the news is predominantly good.

As you may have read, Quantum picks up almost directly after the final scene of "Casino Royale" and it proceeds to throw the audience right into the action with a beautifully orchestrated car chase. The term "beautifully orchestrated" might not be the first to come to mind when describing stunt sequences, but Marc Forster (Director) and his stunt team have got these sequences down to a fine art. Not only that, they have succeeded in creating sequences that not only tie Casino and Quantum together as one film but are also reminiscent of Bond films from the past. All of this and only five minutes of the film have passed (in an adrenaline pumping blur).

Cue title sequence. Another blend of contemporary and old-school Bond. Lots of images of sand reflecting the arid landscapes depicted throughout the film. And as Bond aficionados may spot, the return of the Walther PPK, Bond's weapon of choice up until it was replaced by the P99 in the Pierce Brosnan movies. The title song "Another Way To Die", as performed by Alicia Keys and Jack White did not immediately strike me as a typical choice for a Bond theme, however, it blends seamlessly with the images of bullets and scantily clad, undulating dancers. The only problem I have is that the wire-frame globe motif used throughout somehow reminded me of something I once saw in "The Man From Uncle" (another franchise screaming out for a contemporary "re-imagining").

Already the film had succeeded in grabbing my full attention, I was riveted. Some people have claimed that this film has less depth than Casino, but I am inclined to disagree. In a film with so much action it would be inadvisable to break up the flow of the film with extended, introspective shots of a brooding, bleeding-heart Bond. Instead Forster chooses to cut the excess expository dialogue in favour of a few brief shots that manage to easily convey the emotions of most of the primary cast. Amazing considering Quantum is a good 35 minutes shorter than its predecessor. These differences in style can be attributed to Casino and Quantum having very different directors. By simply comparing the back catalogues of Martin Campbell and Marc Forster it is plain to see that audiences should expect a different visual style to the one they became accustomed to in Casino. However, I find the two films work best when considered as one. Casino is a film created to show Bond's flaws and emotions. Quantum was created to show the aftermath of a mans breakdown and his re-emergence into the world, albeit through bloody, violent revenge.

And be warned, it is violent. I am somewhat surprised that it passed as a 12A.

Another issue that has been brought to light is that the character of Dominic Greene (Mathieu Amalric) is simply not threatening enough for a Bond Villain. Tosh! Greene is a leading-edge villain fit for the modern age and the current political climate. He has no need for a facial disfigurements, white cats or caricature-esque hench-persons (I won't say henchmen, who could forget Bambi and Thumper?) to make an impact. Although he does share many character traits with Messrs. Ernst Stavro Blofeld and Elliot Carver insofar as he is a man of great influence and ambition who will do anything to succeed. I still haven't completely ruled out the return of Blofeld in a later film. The Bond slate has been wiped clean so to speak, the possibilities are boundless. Or that might just be my inner geek wishing out loud.

It seems that this film is bursting at the seems (or is that scenes) with sly little homages to past films in the series. Most aim not to specifically recreate past scenes, but do create a familiar ambiance that Bond fans will appreciate. Some of the choices of shots alone led me to believe that Sean Connery could burst onto screen at any moment. There is however, a single scene, that will either delight or disgust due to its (intended) similarity to a particularly memorable scene from 1964's "Goldfinger". You know the one.

So, lets complete our James Bond checklist. Car chase's: check, Bond girls: check, speedboat chase: check, obligatory tuxedo scene: check, M in a bad mood: check, Felix Leiter: check, explosive (and I do mean explosive) showdown: check, numerous product placements from Ford (extolling the virtues of hydrogen powered cars...remember this, hydrogen cells play a part in the penultimate scenes) and Virgin: check, Bond getting revenge and the closure he so desperately needs...well I'll let you discover that for yourself.

In conclusion, this was a truly excellent film. The juxtaposition of retro and contemporary worked a treat. The stunts were jaw-droppingly amazing and the dialogue tight and concise. This gradual insight into the mindset of Bond should leave audiences longing for more. Roll on Bond 23!




Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Lack of review.

So....no review of HSM3 as promised. Sometimes I really need my deadlines to be enforced. I would probably get many more articles written for when I promise them if threatened with a suitably Victorian punishment.

Speaking of deadlines, I am still trying to fine-tune my application to the Beeb. 24 hours and counting until that particular deadline. The consequences for not meeting this deadline may not involve antiquated forms of discipline, however, the psychological damage could potentially be far worse. I am tired of my potential laying dormant due to my fear of rejection. Every writer has been turned down at some point. This should not be used as an excuse to give up, but rather as encouragement to improve and progress.

Wish me luck.

Monday, October 20, 2008

A little surprise...

I have just returned from previewing a print of "High School Musical 3" and my brain feels like it is ready to leak out of my ears. The film wasn't as terrible as I had assumed it was going to be, but at two hours long it felt like it was never going to end.

A full review will probably appear when I crawl out of bed at some point later this afternoon. Although hopefully I will have finished refining my application to the BBC for a journalism apprenticeship by then.

Oh, and the little surprise. I have just received an e-mail from the lovely creator of beards.org to tell me that I now have a photo in the beards of the world gallery. How cool am I!

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Oh dear...

As if to reinforce my conviction that modern, mainstream cinema is going to the dogs; I have been informed that come Wednesday four of the largest auditoria (an entire fifth of those available) at the cinema in which I work will be dedicated solely to showing "High School Musical 3".

I understand that the movie business is exactly that, a business. Film companies will always choose to fund a format that has a guaranteed fan base and will therefore turn a profit. That, right there is capitalism in action, be it for the good of mankind or otherwise. It is not the actions of the studios that worry me. They are acting out of a sense of self-preservation in an incredibly competitive field. What I find so disturbing is the type of "product" that has become so prevalent in the multiplexes of the world. These films speak more about the state of modern society than they do of the business practices of Hollywood Producers. Supply and demand, it is as simple as that. I worry that the growth in lowest common denominator film making is a sign of the dumbing down of society. Give us 500 years and the world may well be like the one shown to us in Mike Judges' hilarious, if blunt film "Idiocracy".

The redeeming factor for HSM3 is that it comes from Disney. This should at least guarantee that it provides wholesome fun and some sickly sweet life lessons that will be ignored by the vast majority of the pig-ignorant youth that will head through our doors. The resurgence of the musical has a lot to answer for. I, myself will be running a check of one of the four copies of the film tomorrow night, so you can expect an in-depth review by Monday morning.

Until then, I leave you with this thought:

We cannot begin to expect more of our entertainment until we start to expect more of ourselves.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

The Fall

Several days ago I entered the cinema auditorium at The Cornerhouse expecting to see an interesting piece of film making. I got that and much more , it has taken me this long to truly process just what it was that I experienced. And this is an experience. A lavish, visual treat that may well be the most aesthetically magnificent film I have seen in recent times.

"The Fall", based upon the 1981 Bulgarian film "Yo Ho Ho", was shot over the period of four years by renowned commercial and music video director Tarsem Singh (although he prefers just plain Tarsem). His last foray into mainstream film was 2000's Jennifer Lopez sci-fi thriller "The Cell", an early indicator that Tarsem had a talent for creating elaborate and stunning visuals.

After the critical and commercial disaster that was "The Cell" it became increasingly difficult to find funding for "The Fall". However, Tarsem was so taken by the story that he plunged millions of dollars of his own money into the project, which saw shooting in 26 locations in 18 countries across the globe.

This is one of those films that I could rave about for hours, so you will be surprised to hear that the plot of the story is relatively straightforward. The year is 1915, a stuntman named Roy (Lee Pace) has been admitted to a Los Angeles hospital after an accident on the set of a new "flicker". In another ward a young girl named Alexandria (newcomer Catinca Untaru) sits with an arm in a cast, writing a note to the hospitals chaplain apologising for deriving her enjoyment from throwing apples at him whenever he crosses the courtyard. Upon trying to deliver the note, by means of throwing out of a window, it falls into the hands of Roy in a room below. Alexandria goes to retrieve the note but is taken in by Roy's charm and is curious to find out more.

Roy and Alexandria form a friendship of sorts; Roy now begins to tell Alexandria "an epic tale of love and revenge" that takes patients and staff from the hospital and places them in exotic lands with new personalities. Roy is now the Black Bandit, the leader of a group of buccaneers out for the blood of Governor Odious who has done each of them a terrible injustice. The story loosely follows the love triangle that has left Roy heartbroken and features Alexandria's favourite nurse (Justine Waddell) Evelyn as Princess Evelyn and Sinclair (Daniel Caltagirone); the film star who stole Roy's girlfriend, as Odious.

The story is simple, yet captivating and is given much more weight through amazing visuals that were created without any computer-based interference. The fantasy characters, as you would expect from a children's story, are suitably one-dimensional and yet marvellously entertaining (point in case: Charles Darwin...yes that one... dressed like a pimp and regularly talking to Wallace, his pet monkey). Its all really rather clever when you realise that although Roy is narrating the story, we are seeing events through the eyes of Alexandria. This is especially evident and sweetly funny when Roy begins to talk about a character who is an Indian, living in his Wig-Wam with a squaw. Alexandria has never learned about the American Indians and so the character is portrayed as a bearded, turban wearing man from India.

The story starts to take a darker turn as we start to realise that Roy has a personal motive for weaving his tale. He is depressed after losing the love of his life and realises that he may never walk again and so he attempts to captivate Alexandria enough so that in return for continuing the story she will steal morphine for him from the dispensary. Alexandria has invested a lot in Roy's fantasy world, as have the audience, but it is now up to Roy to decide whether The Black Bandit, and indeed himself, are to survive.

This film is a beautiful blur between fact and fantasy as witnessed through the eyes of a child. It managed to evoke feelings in me that I thought I had lost many years ago. It was genuinely refreshing to see a film so moving and yet equally sweet, funny and visually arresting.

I cannot recommend this film highly enough.

5 Stars!!!



The Fall - Trailer

Monday, September 29, 2008

Mutant Chronicles

"I'm not paid to believe, I'm paid to fuck things up"

Eloquent words, I think you'll agree. And there are plenty more where they came from in the 100 or so minutes that make up "Mutant Chronicles".

I am not going to lie to you. From the first time I saw the trailer for this film I began to anticipate its arrival, and thanks to a little good fortune I have managed to get a sneaky viewing in before the October 10th UK release date.

Plot:

Loosely based upon a Swedish pen and paper role-playing game (and later board games), "Mutant Chronicles" is a tale of a dystopian Earth in the 28th century. The planet is under the complete control of four warring corporations, all of which are throwing men into battle to secure complete dominance and an overall share of "the market". However, before the plot is given a chance to develop into a diatribe of our destructive, capitalist ways, one such battle between two of the corporations just happens to uncover an ancient machine, which just so happens to reanimate and mutate the recently deceased. With bodies aplenty to drag away, the mutants begin to multiply until eventually the call is given to evacuate Earth. As the ships begin to leave it is apparent that millions will be left behind to face the rapidly encroaching hoards.

Does that sound like a lot of action to cram in? Yes? Well that is just the first act. And a clunky first act it was. Take away the flashbacks, spools of exposition and the set-up of characters you know full-well are going to eat dirt reasonably soon and you are left with very little else. But I am not the type to walk out on a film, especially one involving rampaging mutants in a futuristic dystopia.

The remaining two acts are concerned with a Monk named Brother Samuel (Ron Perlman), a member of an ancient order possessing knowledge of the mutant machine, who is on a quest to recruit soldiers to help him venture into the underground heart of the machine to bring an end to the destruction. Having found some suitably high-profile cannon-fodder (John Malkovitch has already appeared and has since buggered off again) in the form of Thomas Jane, Devon Aoki, Sean Pertwee and Benno F├╝rmann (Inspector detector in "Speed Racer"), Brother Samuel proceeds to show off his mute assistant with mad sword skills and then chooses to waffle about the value of faith for a little while. Eventually some characters get exploded. The end.

So, it was never going to be Shakespeare, but the Philip Eisner screenplay was ridiculous. I enjoyed Eisner's previous and much underrated big screen effort "Event Horizon", but that was way back in 1997. I believe the intention was for the writing to be "out there", but aside from some genuinely funny one-liners, there was little to salvage.

The script may not burn itself onto your mind, this is left to the visuals. The film is shot almost in its entirety in front of a blue screen and contains over 2000 effects shots, which at the time of production was a record for any British helmed and funded film (the screenplay is American, but the film was shot entirely in the UK by British director Simon Hunter). Obvious comparisons could be drawn to films such as "Sin City", however, a closer fit and slightly more dubious honour, would be to compare it to "Sky Captain and The World of Tomorrow". Both films make use of digitally created retro styling in a futuristic setting. Whereas Sky Captain used an art deco aesthetic, MC opts for a much darker, steam punk variation on the early 20th century (yes, those are steam-powered flying machines in the trailer). I applaud the film makers for pushing boundaries, but as with Sky Captain, the effects failed to blend seamlessly with the action and indeed, some of the shots had the effect of looking unfinished.

All-in-all, this wasn't a brilliant piece of film-making, but it definitely isn't going to be the worst film of the year - far from it. This is, if not every ones cup of tea, is a decent popcorn action movie that takes itself too seriously, making it funnier than it is intended to be. If you disagree with that, then I hope you can at least agree that this makes Simon Hunter a director to watch out for in the future.

[SPOILER - kind of] But it did quite obviously steal the finale to "Total Recall"...Cheeky Philip Eisner.

2.5 severed limbs out of five.



Friday, September 19, 2008

Chase me, chase me!

Morning folks.

On Wednesday, for the first time in ages I was gifted with a new film to check before its impending release. The film in question was "The Chaser", and having heard mostly good things, including news of a forthcoming Leonardo DiCaprio remake, it is fair to say that I was excited to get to my seat.

Let me fill in those of you who have managed to miss the hype surrounding this film.

"The Chaser" - or "Chugyeogja" in its original Korean - follows a detective-turned-pimp as he searches for the person he only knows as 4885 (from his mobile phone number), whom he believes has been kidnapping his "girls" in order to sell to other outfits.

Initially this all sounds a little high-concept, but once you get a feel for the characters then it becomes easier to stop questioning and start relating. It is then that you can appreciate this film for exactly what it is, an often harrowing, sporadically funny, very simple story that is told very well.

The one downfall of this film can be highlighted by its mildly misleading title. The initially mysterious "4885" is captured within the first half hour of the film and this is where the chasing stops, at least in a purely physical sense. The rest of the film is spread a little thin as we view the story from the three perspectives of our pimp (searching for one of his girls whom he believes to still be alive), the police (who are holding "4885", but are hindered by bureaucracy) and "Mi-Jin Kim" the last girl to be taken.

This split-perspective serves to slow down the middle of the film, and although I appreciate the inclusion of the police procedural aspects of the story, after a while it started to feel like an especially gruesome episode of "Law and Order: Special Victims Unit" that just happened to be set in the suburbs of Seoul. The up-shot to these scenes is that they have a much-needed grounding effect, which works to counterbalance the eventually cloying story of our Pimps moralistic awakening.

So in conclusion, this film was well shot, well told and something a little bit different. It is well worth the price of admission and if you can get over the rather slow second act and the clunky transition of our pimp from money-centric bastard to Korea's most feeling man you will be rewarded with a sublime finale that many will not have seen coming.

In keeping with 4885's tool of choice I award this film 3.5 Bloody Chisels out of 5.

(You have been warned).



Enjoy the original Korean Trailer for the Film (The US voice over in the Western Trailer is rubbish).

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

The Bitching Hour

Good morning world.

For a change this blog may reach people numbering in their hundreds, rather than the single figures that I am used to. Why? It is definately not because I have anything of real interest to divulge, it is merely because I have been messing with the settings in "new" facebook and discovered that you can forward blog posts from other sites so that they are published in your notes. So, essentially, this rare addition to my blog is merely a chance for me to stare in awe at the splendour of web 2.0 and all its shiny, shiny goodness.

If I ever do think of anything interesting to say then I also have the option of using Nokia's Lifeblog service (installed on my shiny new phone). I think this means that I can publish my ramblings on the move, but to be completely honest I haven't quite worked out how to use it yet. It amazes me how much a person can fascinate and indeed salivate over features such as this on a phone. I suppose it is something that is ingrained into the hearts of all geeks and tech lovers. And yet, like many of the fads of my past, my interest in this particular bell/whistle has faded. I honestly can't imagine the level of urgency involved for me to have to publish a blog whilst out and about. Surely if the news/gossip/bollocks was so important I would tell people directly rather than having to wait for them to be passing by my page on Blogger. Updates like that are reserved for the important, the interesting and the egocentric.

Now that everyone is aware of the new methods of blogging that I have available to me (but will ultimately choose to ignore), I think it is time to acknowledge the original purpose of this blog. I originally started this blog after becoming a projectionist in order to have a space in which I could post film reviews and pieces of news that I thought were of interest. And whereever news and reviews were thin on the ground I would update you on my various writing endeavours.

I have been decidedly lax when it comes to updating this blog. I will openly admit that I have been lazy and often forgetful, however, my lack of fresh self-deprecation and scattergun vitriol does not stem exclusively from these partiular character flaws. I believe that I avoid writing in my blog for such extended periods because it remids me that I could be writing something infinitley more rewarding. I could be finishing assignments on my correspondance course in creative writing, I could be completeing the book that I have been half-heartedly working on for the past 3 years, I could be submitting articles to magazines for publication. And yet I never do any of these things. So here I am at my prime blog posting slot between the hours of 0300 and 0400, finally typing something, but realising that this update is merely another distraction aimed at indefinately delaying myself from ever staring to write something with any meaning. It is an incredibly frustrating feeling, which is only made worse by the fact that I am bringing it on myself.

Maybe I will take the David Lynch route to artistic exploration and begin a programme or Transcendental Meditation. The theory and philosophy behind it is fascinating. At first glance TM has cult written all over it, but look at little deeper, past the joining fee, past the new-ageness of it all and it really starts to make sense. In fact, there is a TM run primary/secondary school in Skelmersdale (location of the TM UK headquarters) that supplements the regular curriculum with periods of meditation. The intention is to create a relaxed and open-minded learning environment. Result - Consistently good (destroying the national averages) GCSE results across the board and well rounded students with a healthy attitude towards life and learning.

I very much like the philosophy that all you need to help yourself can be found within. I believe that to have faith in oneself is a far greater thing that to have faith in any of the many deities that have come and gone over the millenia. I'll let you know how things are going if I ever decide to give it a go rather than just sitting here whining into the void.

So, once again, so long, farewell...parting is such sweet sorrow.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Absence makes the brain grow duller

So...

This blog was intended to be a fresh start for me. A way to stimulate my creative side. So far it has been a spectacular failure. I have not once written about any of the "interesting" films I have seen since my last post in late January. I have made no progress whatsoever on my creative writing course. I have not managed to write more than a few pages of anything to contribute to a single one of the many "ideas to flesh-out" that reside in the small spiral bound notebook that now rarely leaves my desk.

It seems as though I have fallen foul of my tendency to daydream yet again. This habit has seemingly played a substantial part in most of the major decisions in my life up until this point. It constantly annoys me that I tend to picture my perfect vision of some situation and that, in comparison, reality always proves a disappointment. This trait of mine was exactly what led me to study engineering. I had the image in my head of being a hot-shot designer, living in comfort and spending my weekends flying my very own little aeroplane. Unfortunately that plane and the bubble in which it lived didn't stand a chance when up against the reality that I had a less than satisfactory grasp of the subject matter required to go far in the field of Aero Engineering.

Although I always had a better understanding of words over numbers I am beginning to fear that I am trapped in some sort of human hysteresis loop in which the correct course of action will always lag behind my misjudged decisions. I am sure I could probably have provided a better analogy than that, but it is after four in the morning and it is entirely possible that none of the above will make sense anyway. Sometimes it is nice to have a rant.

Maybe one day I will pull my finger out and stop complaining, until then I shall remain a happy-pessimist. A contradiction in terms. A lazy sod.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Operation [Uncle Phil from The Fresh Prince]

Good Morning all.

The title of this post may confuse those of you who were not present at the 0030 screening of "Cloverfield". The simple explanation is that Uncle Phil (more specifically, a radiocative, mutated Uncle Phil) was my prediction for what the monster ie "Subject: Cloverfield" in the film was going to be. Suffice to say that I was incorrect, however, I shall continue to refer to the creature as Uncle Phil so as to not give too much away.

Plot (WARNING: SPOILERS):

Rob is a company Vice-Chairman who resides in a fashinable loft in Manhattan but is set to start a new life in Japan. Naturally Robs' friends and Brother wan't him to have a farewell to remember so they organise a leaving party at the aforementioned loft complete with fully stocked bar, disco lighting and Robs' best friend Hud filming the whole thing as a leaving present.

With the set-up concluded, the plot can begin to thicken. Rob seems especially interested in one party guest in particular, Beth. It transpires that the pair have feelings for each other, but neither of them quite knows how to act knowing that Robs' future seems to lie in Japan. Rob and Beth fight. Beth goes home. We, the audience share a personal moment of exposition with Rob and his friends, we bond with them, then the "earthquake" hits. Only that was no earthquake. A better, if still shaky, view from the roof reveals a huge explosion and the first, long-distance shots of Uncle Phil crashing the party. If this were another version of Manhattan, the Ghostbusters would have been promptly called and everyone could have sat down, had a cup of tea and thought about re-evaluating some of their life choices. However, this film is firmly rooted (at least its human element) in reality and so explosions lead to debris, debris leads to panic and panic gives way to legging it as fast as possible in the opposite direction.

"Running you say? That doesn't sound like an awfully interesting film concept". But stop. Running away just wouldn't do. What about all that Beth related set-up. Cue Robs' cellphone ringing. Apparently Beth is trapped and bleeding. It's dashing heroics time, but all filmed in a way that for anyone seated even remotely near the front of a cinema auditorium may cause bouts of uncontrollable vomiting (also epileptics take note: Reel 4 is quite "flashy").

So, skipping ahead. After lots of pretty effects shots and not so pretty deaths, Beth is rescued. Now we can proceed to escaping New York. With no sign of Snake Pliskin and Uncle Phil still on the rampage, this was always gonna be tough.

Do the friends make it out alive? Will Uncle Phil be vanquished? Why do I sudennly want a can of Mountain Dew and a new Nokia? These are questions that I shall let you answer for yourselves. Uncle Phil is waiting.


Technical Notes:

Cinematography: The look of this film is absolutely amazing. Far from being distracting, I found the hand-held, amateurish style of shooting to be immersive. It made it that much easier to not only feel the terror of everyone in shot, but to bond with the characters. This could be described as a chase movie, a monster movie or a sci-fi movie, but I would much rather think of it as a series of intimate character portraits that happen to be divided by gunfire, explosions and a rampaging Uncle Phil from The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.

Editing: After the screening I heard some people say "that must have been the easiest film in the world to edit". I must disagree. Although the footage being shown is "as found" and the transition from scene to scene and reel to reel is accomplished by means of a simple cut with the addition of a moment of static (as if to imply the camera has been turned off at one point and back on again later) , there is much subtler editing at work. Scenes covering long runs through the New York streets are handled excellently, so much so that cuts are seamless and barely noticable. This almost invisible but incredibly effective editing is probably one of the main factors that contributes to the somewhat lean 85 minute running time of Cloverfield. The film rushes by at an alarming rate, never giving you a chance to get bored or ask questions.

CGI: Practically flawless. From images of a burning New York City to the images of Uncle Phil himslef (although his screen-time is only around 10 minutes in total...and you have to wait for the money shot), nothing feels out of place. Characters, locations and sets all blend seamlessly into one and other. The attention to detail is astounding; portions of scenes that are only on screen for a matter of seconds and "events" that are occuring on the periphery look like they have been given the same meticulous treatment as the more obvious or in-your-face effects. Coupled with the dynamic style of shooting Cloverfield accomplishes a level of realism not often seen in "monster" movies no matter how large the budget.

Screenplay: I don't have much to say about the screenplay other than it works. The witing is understated and avoids the cliches of men suddenly finding their macho side or the oft-used ample-breasted, screaming blonde. It genuinely does feel like the audience is watching a home-movie, just not one that could be sent into "You've Been Framed" even taking the amount of people that fall over in the film into consideration.

Sound: Six tracks of digital sound have been used to their maximum effect. We see a bunch of people standing, open-mouthed, all looking to their left and suddenly a monstrous roar will blast forth from all of the speakers on the left hand side of the auditorium and then echo behind the screen and then to the right as if the audience were surrounded by the skyscrapers of New York City. It's an unsettling effect that made me feel on edge and somewhat enclosed. Brilliant.


In Conclusion:

A monster film in which the monster is not the main attraction. I know that this will dissapoint some, but I found that the focus on the human aspect of the film made the the tragedy and loss of the story that much more effective and poignant. Any film that works on this kind of scale and manages to retain such a personal atmosphere deserves to be rewarded with your ticket money. Several scenes did literally make my jaw drop. Talks are already underway to make a second installment. Using the same techniques a second time around could never feel as fresh and exciting. So what can Matt Reeves and JJ Abrams do to draw in the audiences a second time around? I sit in anticipation.


***** (Five Stars)

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

An odd week for entertainment news.

Well here I am again, somewhat later than I promised back on the 16th. Although I am at fault, that is not to say that you were not forewarned about my general state of apathy when it comes to finding the correct level of focus required for writing. Indeed, I bumped into a couple of friends this afternoon and shared with them my belief that I am not cut out to be a writer, in a professional sense at least. So here I am, Dan McDowell, 23, apathetic part-time blogger.

To the news:

Heath Ledger found dead at 28

This news still hasn't sunk in to its fullest extent and still feels a little unreal. I keep wanting to believe that this is all a huge, if very sick, publicity stunt for "Ther Dark Knight", but I realise that this can not be the case. I am sure that most of you will be keeping abreast of the details of this story through the media so I won't bother going into details about the case. All I will say is that we have lost an actor who was truly beginning to show the extent of his talent and versatility. He will be missed.

Oscar Doubts

Following the farce that was The Golden Globes "ceremony", speculation over the format of the 2008 Academy Awards is rife. Despite reassurances from awards organisers that the show will go ahead as planned on February 24th, very little is being said as to whether expectant film fans will be treated to the usual three-hoiur extravaganza.


The Writers Guild of America have stated that they intend to picket the event unless a settlement can be agreed to by all parties involved. The sister union to the WGA, The Screen Actors Guild, have taken a stance of solidarity by saying that none of its members would cross a picket line. So the immediate future for this usually star-studded event remains in doubt.

In the 80 year history of The Academy Awards, the show has only been postponed three times; once in 1938 due to flooding, once in 1961 after the assasination of Martin Luther King Jr and finally in 1981 after an attempt on the life of then President Ronald Reagan. Even the writers strike of 1988 failed to put a stop to what has become the biggest event in showbusiness.

Negotiations are continuing, however, most Hollywood insiders are predicting that we may see a much scaled-down version of the Oscar ceremony this year. The Academy can apply to the WGA for a waiver in order for it to use union writers during the strike.This may be the only saving grace for the show, but time is running out. Previous years have seen teams of upto 20 writers preparing for the event anything upto six weeks in advance. The Academy have set a rather ambiguous cut-off point of "late February" at which point their also ambiguous "contingency plan" will take effect.


Torchwood Still Gay!

The second episode of series two of this BBC show heralded a return to form after a rather shaky start to its second series (and first non-repeat run on terrestrial TV).

Whereas the first episode was altogether forgettable despite an unmissable performance from James Marsters (otherwise known as Spike from Buffy), episode two once again shows that BBC writers are able to remember the shows brief and not turn the whole thing into an American-fronted, Cardiff-based, special-effects filled pantomime.

Ignoring the oft-used conceit of sleeper-agents (and rip-off's of War of the Worlds -- "they're already here" anyone???) taking the forefront, this episode was genuinely well written. Gone are the days of Russel T Davies seeing exactly how far he can push the themes of sex and violence with a wild disregard for pertinence to plotting or characterisation. Don't get me wrong, this episode is at times turned red with blood and blue with language, however, it was never over the top and it never felt like it was there purely because of the post-watershed air time.

Yes! There are still an awful lot of references to Jack and his penchant for a nice bit of man-love every now and again, but once again this has been toned down in favour of plot and actual useful dialogue. I especially liked the message of this episode that love can conquer all, unless, of course, you have an alien device implanted in your arm which causes you to go "a bit Terminator 2" on your loved one by stabbing him with the blade that has just extended out of your arm.

It's nice to see that contemporary science fiction is sticking to its roots and still has a message, even if finding that message involves guns, sex and Welsh mines full of nuclear warheads.

Thank you and goodnight.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Welcome

Myspace seems to be dying on its arse, so I finally decided to get with the 21st century and start a proper blog of my own.

Stay tuned for reviews of "AvP:R" and "Sweeny Todd", coming after I have finished cooking the curry I am making for dinner.