Sunday, 27 February 2011

What Should Win at The 83rd Academy Awards

What Should Win at The 83rd Academy Awards
Tonight’s the night when the stars hit the red carpet and flock around hundreds of tables all complimented by disgustingly expensive champagne and enjoy the Oscar ceremony with some hoping they might even get up to the stage and collect a naked golden man. As I’ve said in earlier posts, the winners are pretty obvious, but an awful lot of deserved people and pictures have been forgotten in the waves of publicity the front runners are causing, so I’m going to supply you with my opinion on who and what should win.

Best Picture
‘Inception’ (dir: Christopher Nolan, 2010)

Easily the most original, most accomplished and certainly the bravest picture out of the 10 nominees. This is the best film of 2010 and the likelihood of any film being this good in the near future seems incredibly distant.

Best Leading Actor
Colin Firth – ‘The King’s Speech’

The hype is right; Firth has been long awaiting an Oscar and he completely deserves it for this incredible and unforgettable performance. We Brits certainly know what we’re doing.

Best Leading Actress
Jennifer Lawrence – ‘Winter’s Bone’

In all honesty, Best Leading Actress is easily the worst category this year seeing as only 2 of the 5 deserve a nomination. Although Natalie Portman is outstanding, it’s Lawrence who gets my vote. Her performance is relentless, emotive and she shows an elegance and grace of an actress double her age. A marvellous achievement. 

Best Supporting Actor
Geoffrey Rush – ‘The King’s Speech’

Rush is the best thing about the film and it’s unfair he’s been set aside. He plays Lionel with such charisma and charm that it’s impossible to take your eyes off him. He’s a sensational actor and deserves to win for this wonderful performance.

Best Supporting Actress
Hailee Steinfeld – ‘True Grit’
Now this is the best category of the year but Steinfeld is the star by a country mile. Melissa Leo is the frontrunner and undeservedly. Steinfeld’s portrayal of Mattie Ross is exquisite, accurate and breath-taking. All that talent from a 14 year old! She’s my actress of the year hands down.

Best Original Screenplay
‘Inception’ (Christopher Nolan)

Adventurous, exciting and immensely engaging; Nolan’s screenplay is a fine example of cinematic writing and he proves once again that he is the finest and most dedicated British filmmaker working today.

 Best Adapted Screenplay
‘The Social Network’ (Aaron Sorkin)
No problems with the frontrunner here either. Sorkin’s screenplay is acid-tongued, rapid-paced and down-right hilarious. He’s turned ‘The Accidental Billionaires’ (which I’ve read) into a hugely quotable and loveable tale. The best adapted screenplay for a very long time.

Best Director
Joel and Ethan Coen – ‘True Grit’
The Coen’s latest is not only my favourite film of 2011 so far, but easily the most accomplished in its direction. It’s glorious vast spaces, dust-soaked streets and staggering naturalistic imagery makes this film a visual treat.

Best Animated Feature
‘Toy Story 3’ (dir: Lee Unkrich, 2010)
Although I’d love ‘The Illusionist’ to win too, it’s this film that has to win. Incredibly moving, heart-warming and bursting with beauty, this incredible film wraps up the finest trilogy in cinema history.

Roger Deakins – ‘True Grit’
The cinematography here is utterly breath-taking and absorbs the audience like no other. Laced with awe-inspiring wilderness shots and gorgeous weather-soaked locations, Deakins provides probably his best work here.

Best Documentary Feature
‘Exit through the Gift Shop’ (dir/s: Banksy/Jamie D’Cruz, 2010)
Not only is this a hugely entertaining and enjoyable film, doesn’t everyone want to see Banksy collect an Oscar? How bizarre would that be? This is a great documentary filled with incredible art and a wonderful soundtrack.

Visual Effects

Surely I don’t need to explain this?

‘Black Swan’
Choppy, intricate and claustrophobic are the words that spring to mind. The editing’s pace is as fragmented as this incredible picture.

Best Original Score
‘Inception’ – Hans Zimmer

Thrashing percussion complimented by elegant strings makes the music a huge asset to the incredible atmospheric world of the picture. Zimmer is a fantastic composer and this score is up there with his best.

Oscar Maths

Mathematical Study of The 83rd Academy Awards

Every year it’s the same old story with the Oscars; for the most part, they are so obvious, you could bet your house on whom or what is going to win. Only ever occasionally do we get a huge shock or a nice surprise, but unfortunately, the 83rd Academy Awards looks set to be another totally obvious ceremony. In fact I’m so certain on the majority of winners that I made some mathematical charts and graphs to prove it. Have a look...

Can’t say I’m that excited about tonight’s show to be honest, but that never prevents me from sitting up until 5am watching it each and every year. Let’s just hope I’m wrong on some of these big ones.

Saturday, 26 February 2011

'I Am Number Four' Review

'I Am Number Four' (dir: D.J. Caruso, 2011), Cert: 12A

Stories of young men possessing impossible powers and risking everything for a girl may be a tale as old as cinema itself, but it seems to have become immensely popular in recent movie-going. Characters like Edward Cullen from the ‘Twilight’ saga fit this boat perfectly and we’ve all seen how successful his character is to the modern viewer, so why not put another one up? Now director D.J. Caruso (‘Disturbia’ (2007)) presents us with his screen-adaptation of Pittacus Lore’s Sci-Fi Action novel ‘I Am Number Four’. Produced by Michael Bay and written by Alfred Gough and Miles Miller (‘Smallville’), this should be a fantastic picture filled with dazzling effects and ferocious action, but is that the case? Or is it just another mind-numbing pyrotechnics carnival?
 John Smith (Alex Pettyfer) may have an ordinary name, but he is far from ordinary. John is from a distant planet, and is one of 9 who escaped to Earth who all possess incredible powers. John is consistently hunted by a group called the Mogadorians who have already killed three of his kind. He moves from city to city, changing his identity frequently. He finally settles in Ohio where he attends school and tries to become a ‘normal’ teenager. He meets Sarah (Dianna Agron, Quinn from ‘Glee’), a beautiful young woman whose obsessed with photography. They form a connection and John finds himself falling for her, but he can’t afford to let his affection get in the way of his secret identity. The pair now embarks on a dangerous journey to escape his certain fate and find a new life. Three are dead, he is Number Four.
 I approached this film with caution; I am not a fan of Pettyfer, nor did I know this was based on a novel. My main attraction point was Gough and Miller’s screenplay as I am a huge fan of ‘Smallville’, plus I like Caruso’s previous pictures. As I took my seat, I hoped I wouldn’t be disappointed, and I can safely say I wasn’t, in fact I couldn’t believe just how much I enjoyed it.
 ‘I Am Number Four’ is a relentless and engaging Sci-Fi Actioner that has that perfect balance between style and substance. For many critics, having ‘Produced by Michael Bay’ slapped on the poster makes them see red and probably makes them bias prior to watching which I think is incredibly unfair. There is no denying that this film contains ‘Bayhem’; you can see it so clearly in some sequences, but Caruso fails to get carried away with mindless amounts of explosions and carnage. They are all used in sensible quantities and when the narrative requires them.
Still from 'I Am Number Four' (dir: D.J. Caruso, 2011)
This film is a great spectacle in all senses; its CGI is incredible and makes the picture look stunning, the cinematography is crisp and it flows wonderfully and Caruso’s keen direction keeps you on the edge of your seat. The opening minutes of this film are breath-taking and all of these things come into play.

 Sure, this film doesn’t seem particularly original but then again, what does nowadays? And yes, it does contain some incredibly cheesy dialogue, but I found it funny rather than irritating. If people find the dialogue off-putting in this, they clearly haven’t sat through any of the ‘Twilight’ pictures. I think those who totally shun this film before viewing are not only missing out on a treat, but are obviously shallow-minded.
 The performances are good all around; Pettyfer is great as John and I didn’t find him annoying as I usually do. He plays the part with conviction and power making John a likeable and believable hero. He doesn’t seem as down-trodden as characters like Edward Cullen or Harry Potter, but he’s certainly a hero who will win audiences over. Agron is also entertaining as Sarah and it’s refreshing to hear her talking rather than singing. She looks gorgeous, but masks her beauty with her timid and sensitive nature making her a perfect love interest. Timothy Olyphant is also very good as John’s protector Henri, and Teresa Palmer is an all-action heroine as the cool and edgy Number 6.
 ‘I Am Number Four’ is a perfect Friday night film that all will enjoy. I’m certain critics will gouge their sharp teeth into it’s flesh like a pack of hungry wolves, but what they will be missing is underneath some silly dialogue and Bay’s manic touch is a truly entertaining and visually impeccable feature which puts the majority of Hollywood blockbusters to shame.
 This film won’t win any awards, and it probably won’t win much respect from people, but it won me over massively and it was a joyous experience watching it. It’s one of my favourite films of 2011 so far and I’m proud to stick up for it. This is not just a box-office gobbler; this is a really great film that does what cinema was made to do; entertain. Roll on a sequel.

This is no Oscar movie, nor is it artistic cinema or your typical ‘5 Star’ picture, this is a nuts-and-bolts popcorn flick that will brighten up your day. I think it’s absolutely fantastic.
By Chris Haydon

'Paul' Review

'Paul' (dir: Greg Mottola, 2011), Cert: 15

Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, the inseparable pair, return to our screens in an American feature directed by the wonderful Greg Mottola (‘Superbad’ (2007), ‘Adventureland’ (2009)). ‘Paul’ contains some big names in comedy and its title character is a foul-mouthed alien, what’s not to love?
 Graeme Willy (Pegg) and Clive Gollings (Frost) are two British comic book geeks who head to America to visit the annual Comic-Con convention. The pair then set out on a tour of the United States stopping off at all ‘alien sighting and landings’ destinations. On a long stretch of open road past Area 51, the pair witness a huge car crash, and from out of the burning ruins comes Paul (voiced by Seth Rogen). Paul is a drug-smoking, potty-mouthed alien who is desperate to return to his home planet after being held in captivity in Ares 51 for hundreds of years. Graeme and Clive reluctantly agree to help Paul and in doing so open up a whole new chapter of their American adventure.
 What audiences expect from a film like this is big laughs that are consistent, and that’s exactly what they will receive. ‘Paul’ is frequently hilarious and is a sheer pleasure to watch, but to much surprise, the majority of the laughs aren’t from Pegg and Frost. It’s Rogen who provides the crux of the comedy and the cavalcade of comedians and ‘Saturday Night Live’ stars which act as the supporting cast including Jason Bateman, Bill Hader, Kristen Wiig, Joe Lo Truglio, Sigourney Weaver and Jane Lynch (‘Glee’s Sue Sylvester).
 Pegg and Frost have their usual charming chemistry but they seemed a little out of their depth here. They were funny enough to keep the ball rolling and they bounced off of the other cast members nicely, but at points they seemed far too dependant on Rogen’s voicing to get the scene started, but then again this doesn’t really matter that much because Paul is such a brilliant character and Rogen’s voice is the perfect compliment to him.
Still from 'Paul' (dir: Greg Mottola, 2011)

 This is not up there with Pegg and Frost’s best, nor is this Motolla’s finest hour, but ‘Paul’ has enough to keep you giggling and joyful throughout. The dialogue is edgy and fast-paced, the action is comical and playful, and its underlining themes of Religion vs. Evolution are side-splitting. It also contains nice little quirks which keep you smiling including one great scene with Paul talking to Steven Spielberg in which he gives him the idea for ‘E.T: The Extra-Terrestrial’ (1982).
 The performances are good, especially Rogen which I’ve already mentioned, and Bateman who is brilliant as the sharp-talking and quick-witted Special Agent Lorenzo Zoil. Hader and Lo Truglio are also very funny together as the budding cops Haggard and O’Reilly, and Wiig is as wonderful as ever as Ruth Baggs; a woman with strict Christian values who discovers the art of swearing. Lynch’s cameo is also enjoyable, she plays Pat Stevenson; a cafe worker near Area 51 who creates Sci-Fi based coffees.
 So for the most part ‘Paul’ is a success and a great comedy to see for some much-deserved stress relief. Its characters are great, its story is amusing and its quirky running jokes will bring a childish smile across your face.

Hugely entertaining, laced with silly humour and it contains the coolest alien to grace the silver screen in a long time.
By Chris Haydon

'Never Let Me Go' Review

'Never Let Me Go' (dir: Mark Romanek, 2010/2011), Cert: 12A

‘One Hour Photo’ director Mark Romanek returns to the director’s chair to bring us his screen adaptation of Kazuo Ishiguro’s novel ‘Never Let Me Go’, which was labelled ‘The best novel of the decade’ by Time magazine. The film sports an all English cast including Carey Mulligan, Andrew Garfield and Keira Knightley and has been on the receiving end of great praise, so this should be a truly great piece of British cinema, but can the American moviemaker create that?
 Kathy (Mulligan), Tommy (Garfield) and Ruth (Knightley) have spent the majority of their lives together. As children, they spent their time at a beautiful and idyllic boarding school called Hailsham and through their teenage years to adulthood, they lived together in a small farming community. Everything sounds great, but what lurks under the surface of this charming exterior is haunting and harrowing. The three have to come to terms with love, desire and most importantly, loss, which is one of the few things they actually know; everything else around them is merely a facade of life itself.
 ‘Never Let Me Go’ succeeds in what British cinema does best, it doesn’t settle, nor does it conform. Rather than relentless ‘happy endings’ or ‘closure’, we Brits are far more cine-literate and understanding that not everything is nice, that in fact, life for the most part can be quite cruel and distressing. This film grasps that concept and paints the town red with it. There is no real resolution for these characters, only the fate that waits for them, the fate that was designed for them. From the film’s advertising campaign, the majority who haven’t read the book (myself included) would think on a first glance this was a typical British period piece, but actually Alex Garland’s screenplay turns this into more of a Sci-Fi with rural England as it’s backdrop rather than Apollo 13.
Still from 'Never Let Me Go' (dir: Mark Romanek, 2010/2011)
 Having said all that about ‘happy endings’ and so forth, I can’t agree with the masses about this film being depressing. I actually think ‘uncompromising’ is a better word. It’s true that ‘Never Let Me Go’ could be seen as a tough watch to some, but for film buffs, this is a stroll in the park, and a mighty beautiful one at that. The cinematography is exquisite and laps up every possible picturesque image of the British country and seaside. I’m incredibly surprised this film hasn’t performed well in American because they thrive of this type of imagery, but maybe this film was a little too ‘depressing’, I mean ‘uncompromising’ for them.

 This film however really relies on its cast, and it requires an awful lot from them. The film is set into three sections which are all relevant to a certain time period in the character’s lives. The first is set in Hailsham when the trio are school children, and for me, this was the best casting. All the children looked like mini versions of the older three which was refreshing and slightly bizarre too. Ella Purnell who plays young Ruth is a dead ringer for Knightley and got all her mannerisms across wonderfully. Izzy Meikle-Small (young Kathy) and Charlie Rowe (young Tommy) were also brilliant and had such a screen presence for basically unknown child actors.
 The adult casting was fantastic too; Mulligan was fantastic as always, and even though many say she’s a ‘one trick pony’, she’s certainly very good at it. Kathy is a loving and heart-wrenching character who is really brought to life by Mulligan’s soft and sensitive screen nature, it’s a marvellous portrayal. I found Garfield rather irritating as Tommy, but I’ve heard from people who have read the book that his performance is spot on and that he presents Tommy the way the book intended so I guess he’s a triumph too. I however think the star of the show is Knightley, in fact by a long shot. You can tell she’s being working in this industry longer that the other two by her ferocious screen presence and her ability to make even the kindest of words seem venomous. Knightley, who is the signature girl for British period cinema, proves that she is diverse and she gives an award-worthy performance here, shame she was completely overlooked.
 If you’re looking for a ‘happy-go-lucky’ Friday night film then steer clear of this one, but if you are looking for a reflective, emotional and chilling cinematic experience then take your seats now. ‘Never Let Me Go’ is unsettling, harrowing and above all, incredibly beautiful.

Heartfelt, moving and emotionally challenging, this is a fine example of great British cinema complimented by the steady hands of an American and an excellent cast.
By Chris Haydon

Sunday, 20 February 2011

'Brighton Rock' Review

'Brighton Rock' (dir: Rowan Joffe, 2010/2011), Cert: 15

As a current resident of Brighton, I am fully aware of the passion Brightonians have for ‘Brighton Rock’; both Graham Greene’s classic novel and the Boulting Brothers 1947 film adaptation starring Richard Attenborough, so I wasn’t surprised to hear many people up in arms about the remake, and the fact that it’s time frame had been changed from the 40s to the 60s. As a fan of both the original movie and novel, I was more intrigued about the update than annoyed. It stars the brilliant Sam Riley and Helen Mirren, plus Andrea Riseborough, Andy Serkis, Phil Davis and John Hurt so the cast is incredibly strong, but is that enough to sell the movie to the more sceptical viewer?
 ‘Brighton Rock’ follows the antics of teenage gangster Pinkie Brown (Riley); a razor-wielding maniac who becomes involved in a vicious act of murder. Before the act takes place, a seaside snap is taken which, if it falls into the wrong hands, could be devastating evidence. The person with access to the photograph is Rose (Riseborough); a shy and classic young woman who works in a cafe. Pinkie sets out to befriend Rose and gain the ticket to that vital evidence. Rose falls madly in love with Pinkie and he has her eating from the palm of his hand. Rose’s boss Ida (Mirren) suspects foul-play and sets off on her own personal mission to uncover the truth behind this terrible crime.
 The story is identical to the original text apart from it now being set in the 60s, which adds a new dimension of political and sociological identity and culture to the tale. The 60s was the era of the ‘baby boomers’, teenagers, and of course ‘Mods and Rockers’ who appear heavily in this film. Some parts actually feel like they were ripped from ‘Quadrophenia’ (1979) but this isn’t a complaint. All of this works well and binds together nicely, plus it allows new viewers who are unfamiliar with the previous entries to benefit, however, somewhere along the way, the story seems to get slightly forgotten. For what it’s worth, this is a good film with great performances (apart from Andy Serkis, but I’ll get to that) and stunning cinematography, but too often it feels baggy and lacking pace. At 111 minutes, it seems a lot longer than it should.
 Director Rowan Joffe is clearly skilled when presenting scenery and space, but at points, his actors feel very forced into the scene which makes the film look cramped and overpowering. Considering the majority of this picture was filmed in Eastbourne, Joffe obviously understands how Brighton looks, feels and is as a thriving part of seaside society. Many shots made me think “Oh that’s....” and I found myself smiling at the perfectly subtle images of Brighton’s landmarks which felt refreshing. I can’t stand it when movies rub locations and landmarks so heavily in your face. I know the Eiffel Tower is in Paris ok?

Still from 'Brighton Rock' (dir: Rowan Joffe, 2010/2011)
 As I previously mentioned, the performances are brilliant, especially Riseborough who is intoxicating as Rose. The audience feel suffocated for her under the hideous treatment of Pinkie and at points, you want to psychically shout out to her and tell her to leave him. It’s a fantastic performance and one that will continue to impress through multiple viewings. Riley is also fantastic as Pinkie; he may not feel as cool as Dickie’s portrayal, but his screen presence is utterly menacing and terrifying. His harsh husky voice compliments the cruel words his spits perfectly. Considering Riley is in his 30s, he looks as fresh faced and youthful as ever. For all those who doubted him as Pinkie will probably have a change of heart after seeing the film. Mirren is great as always, she never needs much explaining. Ida however, is the character who has changed the most from the original movie. In the ’47 film, she is seen as a bit of a ‘floozy’ who with a few Ports down her will head home with any man, whilst here she mighty still be a foxy older woman, but she is stern and relentless in her investigations. Mirren uses her classic touches and her wonderful dialogue delivery to give Ida a whole new dimension.

 Davis is great as Spicer and performs with great skill. It must have felt a bit surreal for him returning to ‘Mod’ Brighton considering he was also a star in ‘Quadrophenia’. Hurt is also very good and provides some much needed humour, but unfortunately he only pops up a few times and those feel very brief.
 However, Andy Serkis’ brief performance as Italian-British gangster Mr. Colleoni is excruciatingly bad. It’s utterly cringe-worthy and his costumes look like something Del Boy or Prince would wear. I found myself sinking in my seat due to embarrassment when he was on-screen, and considering he’s a vital part of the story, and supposedly scary, it was a huge distraction.
 Overall, ‘Brighton Rock’ is a perfectly adequate remake that works well as a stand-alone picture and a visual spectacle, but it’s lack of ‘get up and go’ made it feel like a slight drag and Serkis’ role threw me massively out of the narrative. For those who are new to the ‘Rock’ world, I’m sure you will find this to be a great piece of British crime cinema, but to film buffs and old-timers, you might respect the performances, but feel just a little disappointed.

Top notch cinematography and a great bundle of performances, but beware it’s time-stretching abilities and bring a blanket to protect your eyes from Andy.
By Chris Haydon

Friday, 18 February 2011

'Tangled' Review

'Tangled' (dir/s: Nathan Greno/Bryon Howard, 2010/2011), Cert: PG

The giants at Disney are now calling it a day with their Princess features. After 49 films, they have made one more to make a perfect 50, and this is that film. ‘Tangled’ is a re-telling of the Brothers Grimm’s classic ‘Rapunzel’ and is now the most expensive animated feature, and indeed film ever made with a budget of $260 million (more expensive than ‘Avatar’ (2009)), so Disney have given audiences an extremely high expectation of this movie, but can they go out with a bang, or will it merely fizzle out?
Blonde and beautiful Rapunzel (voiced by Mandy Moore) is locked away in her tower where she’s spent all her life. Her evil ‘mother’ Gothel (voiced by Donna Murphy) claims it’s for her own good and safety but Rapunzel wants to live. 18 year old girls want to see the world and find themselves. Known for her famously long hair, she is made to suffer in solitude whilst her mother flees each day to take care of business. Every year on her birthday, an array of sky lanterns swallow the air and take her breath away. She believes they are meant for her and is desperate to witness them from outside her bedroom window. When she stumbles across a thief, who happens to be hiding in her room, she bargains with him and asks him to take her to the lantern show. His name is Flynn Rider (voiced by Zachary Levi); a brave and cocky young man who whisks Rapunzel away so she can truly find out who she is.
 Disney has that special touch when it comes to re-telling fairy tales. They twist and tweak each part to make what starts out as a fairly dark and destructive story into a family friendly extravaganza laced with beautiful imagery, hilarious jokes and memorable songs, and they have hit the ball out of the park with ‘Tangled’.
 Everything seems perfect; the animation is jaw-dropping, the characters are emotional, side-splitting and dimensional, and the story is as timeless as the Grimm’s original. This is a truly stunning feat of animated filmmaking, and they deserve a great pat on the back, as well as an Oscar nomination for Best Animated for which they didn’t get.
Still from 'Tangled' (dir/s: Nathan Greno/Bryon Howard, 2010/2011)
 ‘Tangled’ finds that lovely balance between classic and ironic storytelling; all the original cogs are there and continue to turn; a romance ensues and challenges have to be overcome, but then there’s a fresh approach with witty dialogue and fun poked at certain ideologies of characters and people of that era. In a way, little parts feel like ‘Shrek’ (2001) in how they express comedy through traditional folklore, but ‘Tangled’ never tries to enforce comedy for adults like the DreamWorks picture. It understands comic timing and expression which makes it funny for all ages without having to be risqué to keep older viewers entertained.
 This film is also in 3D which I didn’t see, I watched it in 2D and found it just as enriching and incredible as I’m sure the 3D version was meant to be. I can imagine certain scenes being magical in 3D such as the goosebump-enducing lantern sequence but it was still utterly beautiful in two dimensions. As I said earlier, the songs are wonderful too making this modern picture feel like a true Disney classic, and I’m certain in a few years time, many will be referring to it as just that.
 I found the voice casting rather odd considering how big the film’s budget was but every cast member provides perfectly suited and great voicing. Moore is a very capable singer and she truly expresses that through these brilliantly original songs. Murphy sounds perfectly chilling as she sings her songs too making Mother Gothel a traditional and proper Disney villain.
 For me however, the stars of this movie didn’t sing, in fact they didn’t even talk. They are Pascal the Chameleon and Maximus the Horse. Usually Disney animals talk and provide verbal comedy but these two reminded me of the best silent comedian of all, Gromit. The pair has such gorgeous facial expressions and mannerisms that left me and fellow viewers in stitches. They are absurdly charming, heart-warming and will leave you consistently smiling. These two can provide more laughs in one look that Adam Sandler can in an entire movie.
 So yes, Disney has really ended an era with a bang, and a mighty big one at that. ‘Tangled’ is a modern masterpiece and other animated films this year are going to have to be incredible to be better than this.

A perfect film for all audiences of all ages. An exquisite movie that blossoms in beauty, creativity and that classic Disney magic.
By Chris Haydon

'Just Go with It' Review

'Just Go with It' (dir: Dennis Dugan, 2011), Cert: 12A

There is just no stopping some actors; a small minority will keep on churning out numerous films annually that rarely break tradition, and one of those actors is Adam Sandler: adored by many, despised by me. But regardless of my feelings towards Sandler, I still watched his latest film ‘Just Go with It’, directed by his favourite partner in crime, Dennis Dugan. The film is an adaptation of the classic ‘Cactus Flower’ (1969) which won an Oscar, and also stars Jennifer Aniston and ‘Sports Illustrated’ model Brooklyn Decker.

Danny (Sandler) is a plastic surgeon who falls in love with the extravagantly beautiful Palmer (Decker) after a brief meeting at a party. Danny uses a wedding ring as a means to lure women in by telling them false sob stories about his ‘marriage’. When Palmer finds the ring, alarm bells go off and she immediately wants to know that he is no longer married. Danny asks his work assistant Katherine (Aniston) to pretend to be his ex-wife and asks her children to pretend to be his too. After a few awkward meetings, the group then head on a bizarre vacation to Hawaii when more outrageous things ensue.
 As I said earlier, I can’t stand Adam Sandler, I find his comedy so bland and vacant, and I find him as an actor utterly infuriating so I was hardly the target audience for this film. However, I think even Sandler’s biggest fans will struggle with this one because it is unbelievably terrible. This is not a film, it’s an arrogant parade of attractive people filled with mind-numbingly awful gags about waving beards and being head-butted in the testicles.
 The laughs are so few and far between I found myself grinding my teeth throughout. The only remotely funny character is Danny’s friend/relative Eddy (Nick Swardson) who pretends to be German and is causally renamed as ‘Dolph Lundgren’, and even he only made me properly laugh once. The problem with Sandler and his movies is that he doesn’t understand comedy, he just recycles loads of old jokes that might have been amusing the first time around, but surprisingly lose their charm after 30 times. Every film he gets hit in the privates, every film he does a terrible impression of someone and every film he becomes more repugnant and hateful.
 The truly horrible thing about ‘Just Go with It’ however is it’s treatment of women. It’s vile and exploitive how Dugan and Sandler put females on the screen. Hurdles of barely dressed ladies stride across the screen because they know many men will be watching reluctantly as their girlfriends have dragged them along so every 10 minutes us lucky lads get a quick Nuts magazine shoot. Worse than that however is it’s treatment of not so perfect women, if they are larger than a size 8, the audience are meant to find them disgusting. In one sequence, Aniston is in a hula competition with Nicole Kidman who makes a random cameo. They are clearly the beautiful ones who we are supposed to look at, but either side of them is an old lady and a large lady who are presented as grotesque. The audience in the cinema were actually verbally expressing their disgust at the fact an older women or a bigger woman was dancing. Not only did this make me feel terribly uncomfortable, but also rather sad.
 The performances aren’t worth mentioning because they don’t exist. Sandler is unfunny and hugely irritating, Aniston has as much charisma as toilet paper and needs to stop ‘acting’, Decker is just there with here breasts dancing around for nearly two hours, and Kidman may make some smile but she doesn’t make much of an impact.
 So, as you’ve probably guessed by now, I couldn’t stand this movie. These are the type of films that give comedy a bad name, and make all men look like deceitful sex maniacs.

I think ‘Just Go Away and Burn’ would have been a more appropriate title. Dull, pointless and utterly terrible.
By Chris Haydon

Sunday, 13 February 2011

'True Grit' Review

'True Grit' (dir/s: Joel & Ethan Coen, 2010/2011), Cert: 15

When is a remake not a remake? This is question that has baffled the film industry, and indeed film critics for decades. In an era of recycled and repeated cinema releases, it seems like a privilege when something original actually comes along, or at an even further stretch, when a good remake hits our screens. Well now we have ‘True Grit’, the latest film from the incredible Coen Brothers which is being labelled as a screen adaptation of Charles Portis’ classic novel, not a remake of the 1969 film directed by Henry Hathaway and starring John Wayne which won him his Oscar. The new film sports a strong cast including Jeff Bridges, Matt Damon, Josh Brolin and sees the introduction of Hailee Steinfeld, plus the film has also been nominated for barrels of awards including 10 Oscar and 8 BAFTA nods, so it has a lot of hype to live up to. So let’s say goodbye to the Duke, and say hello to the Dude...
 14 year-old Mattie Ross (Steinfeld) is out to seek revenge for her father’s murder. Frank Ross was killed in cold blood by the vicious crook Tom Chaney (Brolin) who robbed him of his horse, money and gold coins, as well as his life. Mattie seeks a U.S Marshal to track Chaney down and bring him to justice, and she finds that marshal in Rooster Cogburn (Bridges); a binge-drinking, slurred-talking man who sports an eye patch and is the best at bringing back criminals, more often dead than alive. Cogburn has ‘grit’ and isn’t afraid to get his hands dirty. He and Mattie set out to find Chaney along with LeBeouf (Damon); a Texas Ranger whose been tracking the criminal for other reasons. He has fire in his belly and his eyes set on claiming a healthy reward. The group ride their horses out for the epic adventure that’s about to begin.  
 For me, this has been one of the anticipation films of 2011 so far. I adore Portis’ novel and am a huge fan of the Wayne original so I had very high expectations for the Coens update, and I certainly wasn’t disappointed, in fact, I was gob-smacked. All the labelling was right; the Coens have presented a screen version of the book, not a remake of the ’69 picture, and it has created an outstanding piece of cinema. The Coens are up with the finest directors of our generation and yet again they fail to let us down. The direction is précised, crisp and fluent making this a spectacular visual treat, and in addition to this already sweet recipe sees Roger Deakin’s breathtaking cinematography. The vast and vacant open spaces are dotted with weather-beaten foliage and dust-smothered stores and saloons which compliments the tone and feel of the feature dramatically. This really is a feast for the eyes and a gorgeous example of how artistic and awe-inspiring cinema can be.
 The film is also a stunning Western that mirrors such works as ‘Unforgiven’ (dir: Clint Eastwood, 1992) in style and cinematic tone. Its colour pallet is beautiful; the oaky browns and the golden soot are illuminated by the burning sun and then soaked in a quilt of lush white snow which swallows the screen. Many aren’t fans of Westerns, but this is an exception to the rule and I’m certain that many will be pleasantly surprised.

Hailee Steinfeld as Mattie Ross in True Grit (2010)
Still from 'True Grit' (dir/s: Joel & Ethan Coen, 2010/2011)

 As well as being visually dazzling, ‘True Grit’ also sports a wonderful score that sweeps through the scenes and merges into the constantly present atmosphere. It works beautifully alongside the drama, and indeed the humour which is more frequent than many may imagine. The character’s chemistry provides plenty of bitter-sweet material to keep the viewer chuckling as well as being emotionally connected to the story of murder, betrayal and revenge.
 The performances are incredible with every cast member pulling out all the stops. Bridges is wonderful as Cogburn; he doesn’t imitate or even try and replicate Wayne’s performance, he makes the character his own and in doing that, presents a far more accurate version of the novel’s anti-hero. At points, Bridges slurs and mumbles his words so much it just sounds like Southern noises are dripping from his tightly pressed lips, but this doesn’t matter, Bridges performs with such class and cool; he could have said nothing and still been fantastic. He is a tremendous actor and this is a marvellous performance. Damon is also perfect as LeBeouf (pronounced ‘LeBeef’); he is on the money with the novel’s depiction of the character, he’s often funny but he bears a foul temper and methods which seem unjust. Damon is an incredibly diverse actor and he’s put his heart and soul into this brilliant performance. Brolin is also great as Chaney and although his screen time is brief, he makes a big impact on arrival. For me however, the star of the show is Steinfeld. She gives an utterly intoxicating performance as Mattie taking each and every scene in her stride. She is the heart of the story and the body of this picture. At the tender age of 14, she is ripping scenes from Bridges and Damon’s hands and acting like a veteran of the industry. Mattie Ross has become one of my favourite book characters after reading the novel and her screen version impressed me way beyond my expectation. In an ideal world, she would win an Oscar and a BAFTA because she completely deserves them but she’s unfortunate to be up against mighty strong competition. Still, she’ll probably be my actress of the year.
‘True Grit’ may be considered a remake in one respect, but what the Coens and this terrific cast do with this classic tale is far more than just to make a fast buck. This is a triumphant piece of cinema which will be respected and remembered for generations to come. Some might not like to hear it but this is better than the ’69 version and for me, this is the best film of 2011 so far.

An utter masterpiece. Not only is it a great adaptation, it’s a great Western, a great drama, and an utterly stunning picture overall. Joel and Ethan strike gold once again.
By Chris Haydon

Monday, 7 February 2011


Haydon's Movie House's Top 5 Sports Films


After last night's epic Super Bowl between the Green Bay Packers and the Pittsburgh Steelers (congrats Packers!), and with the recent release of David O. Russell's 'The Fighter', I thought it would be the perfect time to share my top 5 Sports movies with you, so take a timeout and have a look!
5. ‘When We Were Kings’ (dir: Leon Gast, 1996)
This stunning documentary follows the infamous Muhammad Ali as he heads to the ‘Rumble in the Jungle’ fight with current champion George Foreman in 1974. ‘When We Were Kings’ combines archive footage of the challengers and of the match along with interviews from boxing and film fans across the globe including Spike Lee, Don King and James Brown.

4. ‘Remember the Titans’ (dir: Boaz Yakin, 2000)
A hugely underrated film starring Denzel Washington as a newly appointed coach to a racially integrated football team. ‘Remember the Titans’ is moving, socially motivated and most importantly, uplifting. Washington gives a great performance in this emotionally powerful drama. Many haven’t seen nor heard of this movie so check it out.

3. ‘White Men Can’t Jump’ (dir: Ron Shelton, 1992)
A fantastic basketball film and another movie involving racial identity. ‘White Men Can’t Jump’ is a frequently funny and smart movie about two players who are too big for their boots so they team up to make the ultimate pair, but unfortunately, their biggest rivals are each other. Wesley Snipes and Woody Harrelson give great performances.

2. ‘Cool Runnings’ (dir: Jon Turteltaub, 1993)
The true story of the first ever Jamaican bobsleigh team is still the most enjoyable sports movie to date. It’s side-splittingly funny, sports a wonderful soundtrack and sees John Candy give a marvellous performance. ‘Cool Runnings’ has that rare element of being completely original and that’s why it’s still as fresh, heart-warming and entertaining 18 years on.

1. ‘Raging Bull’ (dir: Martin Scorsese, 1980)
Sorry ‘Rocky’, you’re great, but not great enough. Scorsese’s telling of Jake Le Motta’s tale is the finest example of boxing, and indeed sporting cinema. Captured in beautiful black and white, intricately directed by Marty and complimented by Robert De Niro’s incredible performance; this really is a masterclass in filmmaking. Le Motta’s story is as equally intriguing as it is soul-destroying; as he becomes stronger in the ring, he becomes weaker outside in real life. If you see just one sports film, make it this one. 

Friday, 4 February 2011

Oops, it's the Oscars!

Oops, it’s the Oscars!
As many of you know, the Oscar nominations for this year have been released, and despite a few pleasing and surprising nods, it’s mainly been a catalogue of errors. Now the Academy is famous for making mistakes at the ceremony; the most famous case being Frank Darabont’s ‘The Shawshank Redemption’ (1994), which was nominated for 7 Oscars and won zero, but at least the film was recognised. This year however, not only have crucial figures and films been snubbed completely or in certain categories, but some of the nominations selected are a joke too. So I’m going to rant about it for you...
Firstly let’s talk about the ridiculous nominations:
·         Mark Ruffalo – Best Supporting Actor for ‘The Kids are Alright’ – A performance so painstaking average it seems criminal he was nominated. If it was for the far superior ‘Shutter Island’, I wouldn’t have minded as much.

·         Michelle Williams – Best Lead Actress for ‘Blue Valentine’ – She spends two hours moaning and groaning, not acting. Ryan Gosling deserves the nomination over her, but in an ideal world, this film wouldn’t even been on the Academy’s minds.

·         ‘The Kids are Alright’ for Best Picture – The title sums this film up perfectly; it’s alright, hardly anything to get excited over. A ludicrous nomination.

·         David O. Russell – Best Director for ‘The Fighter’ – Although this film is totally brilliant, O. Russell’s camerawork is the least important factor. The performances really make this film, not him and his camera.

·         ‘Barney’s Version’ for Best Make-Up – Who the heck cares? Simple as that. It's just lots of beards.

Now let’s discuss the appalling amount of whom and what was failed to be nominated and in which category:
·         Christopher Nolan – Best Director for ‘Inception’ – Without a doubt the BIGGEST travesty of the year and the worst mistake the Academy has made for probably 5 years. Nolan’s direction is flawless, technically immaculate and utterly précised. I hope everyone on the Oscar board hangs their sorry heads in shame.

·         Danny Boyle – Best Director for ‘127 Hours’ – Boyle’s eye for detail and incredible camera trickery made this film a nerve-shredding visual feast. A truly boneheaded mistake leaving him out here.

·         Daft Punk – Best Score for ‘TRON: Legacy’ – I find it baffling why the amazing French electronic duo didn’t grab a nomination. Their music keeps the film progressing and alive. It’s a masterful score that consistently impresses.

·         Sylvain Chomet – Best Score for ‘The Illusionist’ – Thankfully this incredible film did get a nomination, but it’s breathtaking and heart-wrenching score didn’t. A huge shame and a big mistake.

·         ‘The Town’ for Best Picture – It could have happily squeezed in instead of ‘The Kids are Alright’. Affleck’s astonishing crime drama has everything the Academy loves in a feature and it’s worthy of further recognition than just Renner’s outstanding performance.

·         Barbara Hershey – Best Supporting Actress for ‘Black Swan’ – An almighty performance that chills the audience and makes you cringe more frequently than Morris Dancers on Mayday.

·         ‘The Illusionist’ for Best Foreign Film – It did get a nomination, but it deserved at least two more. This exquisite and irrevocably beautiful animation is the best foreign film of the year, hands down.

So there’s my rant. Apart from these problems, there are some very worthy nominations here and I’m looking forward to seeing the right awards being given to the correct reciprocates. I just hope the Coen Brothers or Darren Aronofsky takes home the Best Director award, because they are the only others who really deserve it apart from Nolan.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this year’s Oscars; let me know what you like and dislike about the nominations and send me your feedback on my choices. Post a comment below!