Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Smashed - Trailer

As a massive fan of Aaron Paul and Breaking Bad, I couldn't wait for his appearance in a Hollywood movie. Yes, he's popped in a few small roles previously, but the massive critical and eventual commercial success of the show was bound to open doors, as it has for his partner in crime, Bryan Cranston.

Anyway, this looks like a great choice for the actor most famous as a meth addict and cook / dealer Jesse, that was have come to know in BB. A brutal tale of star crossed lovers struggling with alcoholism, Smashed looks like everything I'd hoped AP would show us, intelligent, character driven drama. It's out now in cinemas in the US, and lets hope it follows very soon here in the UK.

Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Review: The Ides Of March

I have avoided writing reviews for some time. And, when I became of The Ides Of March last year, on its' release, I avoided it too.

There was something about the notion of Hollywood liberal and UN Ambassador George Clooney and his actor pals doing a self congratulating movie about the death of American liberalism that just turned me off. But I read it wrong. This movie is far more nuanced, a fascinating a character study, and an analysis of the corruption of the human being inside the Machiavellian US political machine.

At the heart of it is not Clooney (who directs, but doesn't even really appear until several minutes in, and then only sporadically), playing Governor Mike Morris, a Presidential Candidate going through the rigours of a Democratic Primary election in Ohio. It's his campaign staff, namely heart-throb of the moment, Canadian Ryan Gosling as Steven Myers, his second in command, who the action centres on, and his development from idealistic political ingĂ©nue to cynical insider.

While the movie begins with Myers helping his boss Paul Zara, played with effortlessly and gracefully by Philip Seymour Hoffman, when the campaign hits a snag, he embarks on an affair with beautiful young intern Molly Stearns (Evan Rachel Wood), 10 years his senior, who precociously seduces him.

But it's when he gets an offer from the rival campaign manager Paul Giamatti, and discovers a secret about Morris's personal life, that things begin to unravel, and his deep emotional bond of loyalty to his boss is questioned.

I have to say, I enjoyed this movie more than I thought I would, and it's partly because of the highly skilled, effortless performances, great direction, and a wonderful story. It changes direction unexpectedly, but it perfectly paced.

The sense of corrupt system in which only the manipulative can survive is perfectly communicated, and little touches like the supporting performance and sub plot with the Marissa Tomei's journalist character, underscore the sense of younger, innocent people being chewed up and spat out by older, more cynical souls. Or worse, becoming like them, and trading their innocence for advancement in the process.

Movie Hack Rating 4/5.

Buy Ides Of March on DVD USA

Buy Ides Of March on Blu Ray in USA

Buy Ides Of March on DVD in the UK

Buy Ides Of March on Blu Ray in UK

Friday, 20 April 2012

Review: Cabin In The Woods

Movies often arouse a variety of emotions in people, as is their intention, but fury is an unusual response. 

But that's exactly what I felt this afternoon when I spent £8.80 of my own hard earned money to watch Cabin In The Woods, the Joss Wheldon produced/written horrommedy (Geddit?), which was hotly hyped by the wonderful Christy Lemire and her cohorts on What The Flick. I respect the collective opinions of Messrs Matt Atchity and Alonso Duralde, and Mme Lemire so much that I went to see the movie on their recommendation. Oh my how you let me down guys!

The attractive and capable cast is not the problem. Innocent heroine Dana (Kristen Connolly, pictured, right) is the lead protagonist of the movie, and joined this journey into wild woodlands by Thor, or Chris Helmsworth (pictured, left), who can be seen camping it up elsewhere in the current Avengers movie, and who plays an all American jock/ part time sociologist (this is supposed to connote emotional depth apparently). Meanwhile Anna Hutchinson plays The Slut, Fran Kranz* the fool/ stoner, and male model Jesse Williams plays against type as the scholar. 

If these seem like unfair tropes, the standard fayre of horror movies, this is because Cabin In The Woods intends it to be so. It's very much a post modern deconstruction of the horror movie genre, begun by precursors like Scream, a decade ago, when viewers began searching for more cerebral horror as the thrills of the overly familiar genre were perceived to have run dry. 

CITW ups the ante in its self-awareness by making inevitable zombie family resurrection and gradual death of the cast the product of an international conspiracy of a murky underground organisation that chooses 5 young people each year to be human sacrifices for some otherworldly beings that hold the planet to randsom.

The perfunctory manner in which the characters were drawn and dichotomy between this and the underground shenanigans of men and women sat at computer monitors and banks of dials and switches making it all happen made me furious. 

A horror movie should work first and foremost as a movie, and this didn't. A movie must have an emotional heart, and I spent much of the time not caring about anyone on screen once I realised the makers of the movie did not. The Dana character played by Connolly is supposed to service this purpose, but once you realise the authors of this movie are hell bent on unfolding a ridiculous conceit, you cease to care even about her, given the contrived nature of her surroundings.

In conclusion, then, Cabin In The Woods is a movie which is short on horror, heart, and comedy, and this renders its attempt at being cerebral irrelevant.

Movie Hack Rating: 1/5

* The only thing in this movie that doesn't suck.

Friday, 7 January 2011

Ones To Watch 2011: Cowboys And Aliens (TRAILER)

Last seen camping up Ironman 2, director and Swingers money-man Jon Faveau is back with Cowboys And Aliens later this year, where a spaceship arrives in the Wild West, and is faced off by cowboy gunslingers. Yes, it's very much the 'Snakes On A Plane' / Ronseal of its day, and will be out in July in the UK. Aiming for the big summer blockbuster market, see? Oh, and it stars unemployed Bond star Daniel Craig, and Harrison Ford, with Olivia Wilde. Enjoy.

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

The Writers Guild Awards 2011 Nominations: The List

And so, Hollywood's back slapping red carpet season cranks into gear, as the Writers Guild announce their list of nominees for their annual awards.

There are no surprises in the nominations for Original Screenplay of Oscar Baiting movies like Natalie Portman much lauded lesbian ballet flick Black Swan and highly rated Christian Bale's The Fighter, while lesser known Please Give also gets a nod. Last year's highly grossing, thinking man's action movie Inception also makes the cut.

Though not as prestigious as the Oscars, the WGA are highly respected industry awards, and this year's ceremony will be held on Saturday, February 5, 2011, while simultaneously taking place at the Renaissance Hollywood Hotel-Grand Ballroom in Los Angeles and the AXA Equitable Center in New York City. 

In the adapted screenplay category, it's notable to see recent Oscar winner Danny Boyle get his new movie 127 Hours listed (surely a contender), while the gay theme continues with Jim Carrey / Ewan McGregor love story of I Love You Philip Morris. The highly critically rated The Social Network also gets into the list, perhaps a chance to gain early momentum as the season inevitably marches towards the Golden Globes and Oscars.

The full list of movie nominees is below. The TV nominees, and further details can be seen at the  WGA site.

Black Swan, Screenplay by Mark Heyman and Andres Heinz and John McLaughlin; Story by Andres Heinz; Fox Searchlight

The Fighter, Screenplay by Scott Silver and Paul Tamasy & Eric Johnson; Story by Keith Dorrington &Paul Tamasy & Eric Johnson; Paramount Pictures

Inception, Written by Christopher Nolan; Warner Bros.

The Kids Are All Right, Written by Lisa Cholodenko &Stuart Blumberg; Focus Features

Please Give, Written by Nicole Holofcener; Sony Pictures Classics

127 Hours, Screenplay by Danny Boyle & Simon Beaufoy; Based on the book Between a Rock and a Hard Place by Aron Ralston; Fox Searchlight

I Love You Phillip Morris, Written by John Requa & Glenn Ficarra; Based on the book by Steven McVicker; Roadside Attractions

The Social Network, Screenplay by Aaron Sorkin; Based on the book The Accidental Billionaires by Ben Mezrich; Sony Pictures

The Town, Screenplay by Peter Craig and Ben Affleck &Aaron Stockard; Based on the novel Prince of Thievesby Chuck Hogan; Warner Bros.

True Grit, Screenplay by Joel Coen & Ethan Coen; Based on the novel by Charles Portis; Paramount Pictures

Enemies of the People, Written, Directed, Filmed and Produced by Rob Lemkin and Thet Sambath; International Film Circuit

Freedom Riders, Written, Produced and Directed byStanley Nelson; International Film Circuit
Gasland, Written and Directed by Josh Fox; HBO Documentary Films and International WOW Company

Inside Job, Produced, Written and Directed by Charles Ferguson; Co-written by Chad Beck, Adam Bolt; Sony Pictures Classics

The Two Escobars, Written by Michael Zimbalist, Jeff Zimbalist; ESPN Films

Who Is Harry Nilsson (And Why Is Everybody Talkin’ About Him)?, Written and Directed by John Scheinfeld; Lorber Films

VIDEO: Pete Postlethwaite RIP

Veteran British screen and stage actor, Pete Postlethwaite has died at the age of 65, from cancer, it has been announced. The seasoned Shakespearean stage performer, once referred to by Steven Spielberg as "the best actor in the world", appeared in a host of movies, including The Usual Suspects, Brassed Off, A Private Function, In The Name Of The Father, Distance Voices, Still Lives, and Inception.

Some of his most notable performances have been in Brassed Off, where he plays the leader of a brass band in a beleaguered Yorkshire mining community (see his standout speech from teh movie, below) , and Distant Voices, Still Lives, which has been described as "Britain's forgotten cinematic masterpiece".

Here we include a selection of clips and trailers from these films, as well as a Guardian interview relating to one of his final movie appearances, The Age Of Stupid. Postlethwaite's final screen performance will be in the forthcoming movie, Killing Bono, which will be released later this year.

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

Review: Cemetery Junction

I didn’t grow up in a cold, grey, wet council estate in inner city Manchester in the 80s dreaming of escape. In the world of my imagination, I in fact grew up in a small town in America, in the 70s, far cooler than I actually was, driving round in a souped-up car, smoking Lucky Strikes, pulling girls who wore flares and listening to Led Zeppelin. And so it is for so many of us here in Britain. The world of our youthful imaginations find affinity in the depictions of Americana’s finest coming of age movies, be it the small town of Richard Linklaters’ Dazed and Confused, the rebellious New York nightlife of Saturday Night Fever, the angry, misunderstood cool of James Dean in Rebel Without A Cause, or the mourning of lost childhood innocence and freedom in 80s flick Diner. And of course, the are the high school movies of John Hughes, classics like Ferris Beuller Day Off, the Breakfast Club and Pretty In Pink. Nowadays, there’s Judd Apatow, of course. I could go on, but you get the idea....

We don’t do that here. Youthful rebellion, escapism, struggling to hold onto one’s dreams in the face of a cruel, uncaring world have always been depicted in grim, tragic terms, the “kitchen sink” dramas of the 60s, like Saturday Night, Sunday Morning (think Shameless without the comedy and sense of fun), or, more recently, Shane Meadows’ This Is England. For Americans, growing up can feel good, but on this side of the Atlantic, does growing up always have to be grim?

For the makers of Cemetery Junction, Ricky Gervais and his lanky cohort Stephen Merchant, the film came out of a sense that we could compete on an equal footing with the Americans. Thankfully, the results are beautiful, and joyous. The story revolves around three friends, first of all, Freddie Taylor (Christian Cooke), a handsome, sincere young man whose life is changing as he starts a new job working in door to door life insurance sales, after escaping from the factory his dad (Gervais) works in. Then there’s his friend, good looking bad boy Bruce Pearson (Tom Hughes), an angry young man who is popular with the ladies, quick with his fists, and likes a drink, not unlike his alcoholic father, with whom he often clashes. Finally, there’s Snork (Jack Doolan), the loveable loser of the bunch, who is a big miss with the ladies, and provides a lot of the comedy with his efforts.

While they go out, chasing girls, and getting into fights, their lives are changing, as Freddie realises he needs to leave the larking about and “grow up”, taking his new job seriously if he’s to have any chance of escaping his humble working class background. Things take a turn for the unexpected when it turns out the bosses daughter is none other than his childhood sweetheart, Julie, who is engaged to his new mentor at work, Regional Manager Matthew Goode, an evil misogynist who prays on the fears of the people he sells life insurance to.

As for Julie, she’s trapped in the backwards sexist attitudes of the time, given the old-fashioned values of her parents and husband to be, so when she shares her dreams of seeing the world with Freddie, sparks fly for both of them, and Freddie realises he needs to leave Reading to follow his dreams, rather than spend 40 years in a job he despises.

While the couple provide the romance of the piece, it’s Bruce that provides the heart, as his carefree demeanour hides a great deal of anger. While he spends his days working the factory, outside work his childish antics often take a turn for the worse. He constantly clashes with the local police, regularly ending up in the cells, while constantly taking his anger out on his father, all because he did not standing up to the man who his mother had an affair with.

Bruce dreams of leaving his dead-end life, but never does anything about it until Freddie says he’s had enough. Meanwhile Snork, dreaming of meeting foreign girls who won’t understand his terrible chat up lines, and leaving his job at the local railway station, Cemetery Junction, agrees. But will they, or won’t they find the courage to leave their small town lives behind?

While Cemetery Junction provides these likeable, familiar characters, who we care about, and a plot that feels familiar, there no major surprises or upsets, it’s the experience that makes it worth watching. In the end, Cemetery Junction is like those train journeys on sunny days you experienced as a child. Nothing unexpected or bad happens, the sights are nice, and it leaving you with a warm, good feeling inside. And given that, in Britain, the feelgood movies we do have usually involve the affluent, upper middle class world inhabited by characters played by bumbling toffs like Hugh Grant, to see the lives and dreams of ordinary people celebrated in a joyous, glorious manner, is very refreshing indeed. 

Hack Rating: 4/5