Thursday, 30 June 2011

100th Blog Post Competition!

Haydon's Movie House's 100th Blog Post!

It's not taken that long to reach 100 posts on Haydon's Movie House and I am very happy to of reached this mark! Here's to many more posts in the future! I just wanted to take the time to thank those who visit the site - I run this site for you as well as myself and I feel very thankful that people take the time out of their day to check what's happening! So thank you very much indeed!

As a special thank you (and an incentive to gain more visitors!), I'm throwing a celebratory competition in honour of the 100th post - so here's what's up for grabs and how to enter and win!


One lucky winner will claim a copy of Michael Haneke's masterpiece 'Code Unknown' (2000) on DVD! [RRP: £15.99] - Haneke is one of my favourite filmmakers and I feel more people should be exposed to his work so I figured this incredibly powerful and gripping picture would do nicely as a little treat for someone!

But that's not all...As well as the DVD, the winner of the competition will also receive a £10 cinema voucher for either Odeon/Cineworld so they can see a new movie for free and hopefully have enough for a snack or drink!


The best part however is after the winner has seen a film of their choice, I'd like them to have a go at reviewing it for me! There's no limit on length so feel free to write big or brief! It also doesn't matter if it's a film I've already reviewed or not - however it would probably be better if it's one I haven't! :) Once the review is written, the winner will send it along to me and I'll edit it if necessary before placing it on Haydon's Movie House for all to see!

To win this prize, all you have to do is this:

  • Post a comment below giving a review/statement about your favourite film in NO MORE than 100 words.
  • End the review with your name and e-mail address.
  • The competition will close at 8pm on Tuesday 5th July 2011.
  • The winner will be selected by me in which I will choose the person who I believe has written the most passionate/entertaining piece - it's your review so write it your way.
  • The winner will be contacted via e-mail within 24 hours of the competition closing time and will be asked to send me their address for the prizes to be sent as well as which cinema is closest to them - either Odeon or Cineworld.
  • That's it! :)

So thanks once again for the support and readership and get cracking on your 100 word reviews! 
Many thanks,
Chris Haydon - site owner

Wednesday, 29 June 2011

I was right...

If one man's opinion actually has an impact, it's Ebert's. On Monday, 'Transformers: Dark of the Moon' held a rather impressive 63% Fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes, however, now it's Wednesday (the film's release date), the rating has dropped dramatically to 37% Rotten. 

And of course, Dr, Mark Kermode has given the picture a traditional video review - I guess many anxiously await the live review on Friday with Simon Mayo...

Not everyone hates it though, thankfully...

Still, I really couldn't care less regarding fellow critics thoughts (sorry Roger) because I cannot wait to see the film and I really hope it will be a dizzying visual feast. Review should be up no later than Friday morning so keep checking and re-checking Haydon's Movie House!

Sunday, 26 June 2011

Autobots vs. Decepticons vs. Critics

It's fair to assume that the release of Michael Bay's third instalment in the 'Transformers' franchise will take a severe beating from film critics. As the release date for 'Dark of the Moon' gets closer, I can foresee the negativity that broadsheet journalists will have towards it.

 2009's sequel 'Revenge of the Fallen' was kicked repeatedly by critics, particularly by Mark Kermode who claimed the film had "a rotten heart" and compares Bay to 'Damien'/Satan. Eventually after the tyrant of hatred, Bay himself admitted the film wasn't good enough and lost it's way narratively by focusing too much on the action, but in all honestly, why should Bay apologise for being ambitious?

 The main argument is that the 'Transformers' movies treat their audiences with no respect and believe that robots hitting each other, blowing stuff up and hot women is enough to sustain and entertain them. The critics seem to take the moral high ground in 'telling' audiences what is 'acceptable' entertainment for them and apparently these films are not, but considering the amount of 'Transformers' fans there are out there and how well they perform at the box-office, Bay and Paramount are obviously doing something right aren't they?

 I think what many tend to forget is that these pictures are based on Hasbro action figures. Now apart from Pixar's 'Toy Story' franchise, it's unlikely that a film based on toy merchandise is going to present gripping drama, swooning romance or heavy sequences of intellectual dialogue spoken over a glass of Scotch (although there is no Scotch in 'Toy Story' - would be quite funny if there was though.) The main premise of the television show was based upon the never-ending war between the Autobots and the Decepticons so it makes sense for Bay's live-action updates to be filled with chaos and pyrotechnics. Many also say that if the films weren't directed by Bay, they would be better. Personally, I think that's ridiculous - if anyone can provide mind-blowing visuals and utterly uncontrollable action, it's Bay; hence the terminology 'Bayhem'.

Plus, before people actually judge Bay, they should see footage of him on-set. Yes, he is opinionated and frequently outspoken, but his energy and passion for making films is incredible to watch; he's a cyclone of ideas and practices and does what many directors dare not to do - he expects his actors to perform all their own stunts, he frequently bonds with the US military and uses real soldiers in his features as well as managing to use beautiful camera work amongst the riots of his sets.

 I do appreciate however that Bay is not the best storyteller ('Pearl Harbour' and 'Armageddon' are perfect examples of this, however both films do have beloved fans. I personally agree with Team America about the first), but his features are certainly entertaining - in fact, it's undeniable. Bay makes great blockbusters, simple as, and the man is a living success story. No matter how hard 'Dark of the Moon' gets smacked by critics across the globe, it will still top the US and the UK box-office and will gross a phenomenal amount of money. 

 My main problem with the negativity that surrounds the 'Transformers' pictures is not that they receive poor reviews, but the reviews read like attacks towards the audiences as well as Bay and co. The underlining argument regarding the second feature was that if one enjoyed it, something was seriously wrong and they themselves were wrong. How dare a critic objectify us like that; why do they believe they have the right to question one's intelligence or mental state because they like something. I cannot understand why anybody in their right mind would be interested or care about the Turner Prize but I certainly wouldn't accuse anyone who does like it of stupidity or illness - that's not my place to comment, and nor is it a snot-nosed critic's who believes the only worthy films are high-art or low-budget.

 Sometimes I wonder if I am just generally wrong about these things - whether I should just jump on the band wagon and agree that these pictures are just mindless, money-making parasites that feed off of our intelligence and turn our brain to a pink mush, but then I realise that the reason I don't join in is because I don't agree and am happy to stand up and put my two cents in. I couldn't care less about what critics feel towards a certain film - granted I will read the reviews and choose to agree or disagree, and I do certainly respect other film critics and I hope to be working for some of the magazines and papers they write for in the future, but I vow to never stoop to the level of ignorance and the 'crowd-following' mentality so many seem to possess. I suppose I too am being judgemental too now in thinking all critics will bash Bay's latest to kingdom come but after their track records, can anybody blame me for being sceptical? I sincerely hope I'm surprised and corrected and that 'Dark of the Moon' gets good or at least balanced reviews, but we will see...

 I will stand and praise any picture, particularly ones that need support. I believe more people should watch art-house or foreign language films and put aside their stereotypical views towards them, but I will also support films just because I like them, and no matter how much writers punch, kick and scratch at the 'Transformers' movies, I will still love them and I cannot wait to see 'Dark of the Moon'

Monday, 20 June 2011

'Green Lantern' Review

'Green Lantern' (dir: Martin Campbell, 2011), Cert: 12A

Our summer of superheroes has begun. After two entries from Marvel Studios (‘Thor’ and ‘X-Men: First Class’), DC Comics have snuck in and released their picture, ‘Green Lantern’ before Marvel returns with a third film in ‘Captain America: The First Avenger’. Although the Green Lantern is amongst the oldest and most famous DC Comics characters, it seems his reputation isn’t as prominent outside of America; I’ve heard plenty of people say “Who is that?” or “I’ve never heard of him” during trailers for the film. But as well as seeming fairly unknown to the British general public, it looks like the majority of film critics have got it in for him too with tons giving the picture poor reviews. Well I am a comic book geek and fully aware of the Green Lantern so does that mean I will like the film?

 Cocky test pilot Hal Jordan (Ryan Reynolds) has his life turned upside down when he is confronted by a dying alien bearing a glowing green ring. Hal is told that the ring chose him and that he now must fulfil his destiny as part of the Green Lantern Corps – a secret brotherhood located on the planet Oa who aim to serve and protect across the galaxies. The ring allows the chosen one to create anything that can be thought giving Hal unlimited potential to what he can now achieve. However, a threat is mounting in space and on Earth with Parallax; an alien that uses fear as its energy source causing devastating effects. Now Hal and the other Lanterns must fight for their survival against an impossible enemy.

 Firstly I want to address the critics; please get off your high-horses and learn to watch a film for what it is, rather than consistently comparing it to another usually superior feature. No, ‘Green Lantern’ does not have the emotional weight or the sociological grit of ‘The Dark Knight’ but it is not trying to achieve this. I am becoming increasingly irritated by the amount of irrationally poor reviews for films based upon bias and misjudgement.

 Anyway, onto the review – as you can probably gather from my outburst above, I did like ‘Green Lantern’; in fact, I enjoyed it tremendously for multiple reasons. Unlike some other superhero features, it stayed very true to the original tale of Hal Jordan and how he becomes the all-green but not mean being. Rather than filling every available space with sub-plot, the narrative of the film flows along nicely. Admittedly, the story isn’t mind-bogglingly good but it’s certainly prominent enough to prove that the Lantern’s outing isn’t just a CGI festival. The film also has decent dialogue although many have criticised the script which again I’m struggling to understand why. Yes there are a few one-liners but doesn’t every Hollywood movie sport some of these? The cast all work well with the material they are given and they project the script brilliantly through their performances.

 Now onto the CGI – I do agree that the film has a lot of computer imagery but I do not think this withdraws the narrative importance or the character fundamentals. Director Martin Campbell had to create a whole new world for the screen so it was fairly obvious Blue and Green-Screen technologies would be a vital asset to the big screen creation of Oa but why are people complaining about this? James Cameron had to use gallons of CGI in order to form Pandora and not many people moaned about that. But the ironic thing about ‘Green Lantern’ is that our visits to Oa are rather short so the only consistent CGI throughout the movie is plastered upon Reynolds’ chest which makes the wild complaints about the film’s spectacle even more bizarre.

Still from 'Green Lantern' (dir: Martin Campbell, 2011)
 The film looks outstanding; it’s brightly lit, impressively well constructed and some of its action sequences are simply astonishing. I’ve never been a big fan of CG-heavy films but this is certainly an exception to the rule. Hal’s adventure has to be witnessed on the biggest possible screen one can locate.

 Personally, the only rational explanation I can think of for the mass-hatred this film has suffered is due to the lack of knowledge. Unlike the majority of Marvel Heroes which every average Joe knows, DC characters need to be studied before they can be appreciated fully and understood thus giving a false impression  that Marvel is the ‘superior’ studio because they are more ‘accessible’. The Green Lantern operates through imagination, creativity and intrigue; Hal’s powers are an extension of himself rather than what defines him. If he can think it, he can create it, but he must be focused - he doesn’t just run around causing big green mayhem for the sake of it.

 But underneath the glowing green race tracks and giant fists lies a bunch of decent and faithful performances, particularly from Reynolds who has gone from zero to hero in my estimation after his recent cinematic outings. He’s proven his talents in ‘Buried’ and ‘Adventureland’ and he continues to impress as Hal. His confidence and boastful attitude is comic and strangely endearing rather than repugnant and he carries the film with ease. Peter Sarsgaard is surprisingly good as Dr. Hector Hammond; a professor who is poisoned by Parallax. His performance was the one I feared most - I like Sarsgaard being himself like in ‘An Education’ but actually he did a great job as the demented villain as well as providing a wonderful impersonation of the Elephant Man. Mark Strong is very good as Sinestro but lacks mass screen time – he spends his time public speaking. Tim Robbins was a nice casting choice as Senator Hammond but again he makes fairly little impact on the feature. Finally on to Blake Lively; personally I thought she was great. She may be a typical love interest in this genre but she and Hal share some lovely moments and it’s nice to see she does have her own backbone – she doesn’t rely on Hal, she just likes him around.

 I urge you not to listen to the negative reviews for ‘Green Lantern’ and see it for yourself. There’s no denying that comic books fans will gain more from Campbell’s screen adaptation, but there’s plenty to entertain all here. I found the film to be extremely exciting, action-packed and wonderfully performed, and I really couldn’t care less what Mr. Broadsheet thinks.

A perfect summer picture, a great comic book adaptation and above all else, a credible and massively entertaining Sci-Fi epic. Roll on a sequel.

By Chris Haydon

Also – make sure you stay and watch the credits as the sequel seems to be set up during them.

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

If you watch only one film this week...

Make it this one...

nil by mouth, baader meinhof, movie posters

Gary Oldman's incredible 'Nil by Mouth' (1997) is on TONIGHT at 11:05pm on Film 4 and you would be a fool to miss it.

 Unbelievably powerful, thought-provoking and emotional, Oldman's tale based on his own past experiences sheds light on a poverty stricken South East London council estate dominated by substance abuse, domestic violence and street crime. I won't lie - it's a tough watch, but it's immensely rewarding with it's pitch-perfect script, lashings of dark humour that compliment the brash violence and it's sheer intelligence. Many knock Ray Winstone but his performance here is phenomenal, as is the brilliant Kathy Burke's. 

 This is a 'proper' modern Social Realism film and it's one that any film fan should endure. 

Monday, 6 June 2011


Banning: Aren't We Past This?

If you didn't already know, this afternoon the BBFC (British Board of Film Classification) has decided to ban 'The Human Centipede II (Full Sequence)' because it is "sexually violent, potentially obscene and is likely to cause harm to viewers".

SPOILER ALERT! The film has been banned for three main reasons in particular:
  1. An early sequence in which the leading man wraps sandpaper around his penis and masturbates to the original 'Human Centipede' picture.
  2. The man gains psychically evident pleasure from watching the people 'attached' defecate in each other's mouths.
  3. The man wraps barbed wire around his penis and anally rapes the last person 'attached' to the centipede line.

 Now I can agree that these things are 'sexually violent' and certainly 'obscene' but is it just me or does the idea of banning films nowadays seem slightly silly? Although this film clearly presents 'graphic' content, it's hardly anything new in cinema and certainly not as 'extreme' as sequences in other films - particularly features from the Japanese studio, Tartan. To me, the content in 'THC2' seems to be only in placed to shock and appal, rather than engross viewers in the foul and terrifying scenario they should be in. Shocking people is one thing, but it's certainly not as affective nor 'damaging' as psychologically disturbing an audience. 

 Take a film like Gaspar Noe's 'Irreversible' (2002); a film so notorious for all the wrong reasons that 'morbid curiosity' makes so many more people want to watch it. The film should be viewed for it's cinematic merits, wonderfully weird storytelling and dizzying direction, not just because some bloke gets his face smashed to a pulp with a fire extinguisher or because a poor woman is brutally raped for 9 gruelling minutes. These are just small factors that add up to a dramatic conclusion - they are critical for the narrative progression.

 Now I find films like 'THC2' annoying; there's no brains behind the gore making it seem pointless - realistically, nobody 'needs' to see a barbed wire rape scene, but at least if it had a valid point to a narrative then it can be 'justifiably viewed' rather than just being stuck in there to get people talking. But even though I don't think highly of silly films about people who have their faces attached to another's anus, I still feel that it should be my choice to watch it if I please. I don't need some right-wing organisation to tell me I'm 'wrong' or 'sick' or 'strange' for wanting to watch something that another may not approve of. I don't particularly want to see the new 'Human Centipede' film, but if it was theatrically released, I'm sure I would have seen it with my mates and we would have laughed about how absurd it is. I don't believe the film-going public should have to put up with pictures being banned just because the BBFC thinks they may receive some complaints, or that one loony will think sewing a friend's face to their behind is 'funny'.

 We have moved on since Thatcher, since Mary Whitehouse and are now far more resilient to 'graphic' or 'extreme' content so why are the BBFC still stressing? I agree that censorship is great and certainly vital; films like these should only be viewed by those over 18, but I still feel that if I wanted to watch it, why can't I? Why should a collection of parents and politicians decide what is 'socially exceptable' for an average Joe like me to see? I've seen a lot of films - films that are far more 'poisionous' and 'dangerous' than this. I've sat through the 'August Underground' trilogy - some of the most depraved and sinister low-budget pictures that verge on 'Snuff' filmmaking, yet, I don't feel like replicating anything in these films, nor do I care about them in the slightest, but I was recommended them and out of intrigue I watched them and found them to be a fairly depressing and amateurish experience.

 But coming back onto point; to me, banning films seems so stone age - you rarely hear about books getting banned even though a large quantity of literature is filled with despicable content but that's because reading is still seen as an 'upper-class' activity and sadly, cinema is still seen as a fairly 'slobbish' activity. Also, you never hear people moaning about things that are actually dangerous like propaganda or 'spin-stories' in newspapers like The Daily Mail for example. You can still buy Nazi films on DVD and even watch 'Jud Suss' ('The Evil Jew') - the film that promoted Nazism, in full on YouTube. You can also be instantly subjected to stereotypes and false allegations in newspapers that promote hate and hysteria - It hardly seems fair to me but then again, maybe I'm just bias. Yes, I agree that 'THC2' isn't a film to be praised or promoted, but do people not have bigger things to worry about apart from a crappy low-budget Horror movie with a guy who have strange penis fetishes?

 Anyway, the point of this post was to put my two cents across about banning feature films, and I'd now like to pose the question to you. Please leave me a comment with you thoughts - whether you agree or disagree, please whack a comment below! :)

'X-Men: First Class Review'

'X-Men: First Class' (dir: Matthew Vaughn, 2011), Cert: 12A

Prequels are usually a bad idea. Trying to adapt a new ‘beginnings’ story to an already established franchise usually ends up being a baggy and dull affair- just look at the ‘Star Wars’ prequels, enough said. However, there have been a few good ones, particularly J.J. Abrams’ brilliant ‘Star Trek’ reboot in 2009 which invited new and old audiences into the franchise; I loved the film and I’m certainly not a ‘Trekkie’. Well now ‘Kick-Ass’ director Matthew Vaughn has had a stab at Marvel’s ‘X-Men’ franchise with ‘X-Men: First Class’; a film that presents the origins of Charles Xavier (Professor X) and Erik Lehnsherr (Magneto) and a friendship that turned into a bitter rivalry.

Set in 1962, Charles Xavier (James McAvoy); a gifted young man who possesses great intelligence as well as telepathy begins a schooling programme for ‘gifted young people’ who also have superhuman powers. Amongst them is his ‘sister’ Raven (Jennifer Lawrence) who is able to shape-shift and Erik Lehnsherr (Michael Fassbender); a Holocaust survivor who has the ability to control and manipulate metals. He and Xavier team up and lead the students of the academy to stop a global threat between the USA and Russia that is about to ensue, but Lehnsherr has another thing on his mind too – to find Sebastian Shaw (Kevin Bacon); the man responsible for his mother’s murder.

 Vaughn famously walked off the set of the franchise’s third picture, ‘X-Men: The Last Stand’ in 2006 during its pre-production because he claimed he wasn’t ready for such a large responsibility. But after tackling alternative superheroes in ‘Kick Ass’, which was one of my favourite films of 2010, it seems he has plucked up the courage to return to Marvel with a much stronger understanding of the genre. I think leaving the third film was the best decision he’s ever made as a filmmaker because ‘X-Men: First Class’ is absolutely fantastic.

Rather than bombarding the audience with gallons of CGI or ludicrously over-drawn fight sequences, Vaughn’s mutant picture builds and expands from a balanced and strong emotional core which furthers the action and suspense, as well as furthering character and narrative progression. This isn’t your average superhero movie or summer blockbuster – this is traditional storytelling with brains perfectly mixed with Hollywood brawl. It’s clear that although this film is a big studio project (unlike ‘Kick-Ass’ which was independently funded by MARV) and sports a giant budget of $160 million, Vaughn still hasn’t forgotten his English roots – he’s still the guy who made ‘Layer Cake’ (2004) and he doesn’t shy away from this. Story and character drives everything in cinema and this is perfectly demonstrated in his ‘X-Men’ adventure.

 The film’s narrative is embedded in history, particularly Nazi Germany and the Holocaust and yes, before you say it, this does appear in the first movie, but not to the same extent. Political, sociological and racial ideas and histories help to coordinate the film’s direction and actively engage with each individual character. It’s a very ‘grown-up’ narrative for a superhero picture and it’s executed with excellence.

 Some have criticised the movie in terms of its appeal to the masses because they feel prior knowledge of the franchise is essential – personally this doesn’t make much sense to me. The film is a prequel – as in before the stories began, hence why every character is introduced as if nobody has ever seen or heard of them before. I imagine the majority of people are aware who Professor X and Magneto are even if they’ve never seen or read ‘X-Men’ before but ‘First Class’ takes the time to establish and introduce every key character.

Still from 'X-Men: First Class' (dir: Matthew Vaughn, 2011)
 Another brilliant feature in the film is the exposure of a variety of ‘other’ characters from the franchise who haven’t had screen attention before such as Darwin (Edi Gathegi); a young man who can ‘adapt to survive’ which he demonstrates a number of times in the picture with my favourite being the gills he grows after sticking his head in a fish tank. Various other characters who have appeared feature too but obviously in much younger form such as Raven (who later becomes Mystique) and Beast (Nicholas Hoult); the blue-furred and aggressive creature who possesses dynamic strength.

 Even though I’ve stated that character and narrative is the key behind this movie’s success, there’s still plenty of action and adventure to enjoy. The climactic battle sequence with the missiles that’s teased in the trailer is mouth-wateringly epic; it bursts onto the screen with furious firepower, gorgeous colour and crashing percussion in the background. Also, if you are equipped with comic book knowledge, there are tons of in-jokes and perks that induce further smiles and aren’t a distraction from the film, or irritating for 'Mr. Smith' who's never even heard of a Marvel comic before.

The performances are knock-out all round; McAvoy is sensational as Xavier – he fizzes with charisma and charm, as well as sensitivity and understanding. Patrick Stewart’s shoes were pretty big to fill but the fabulous Scottish actor has squeezed very comfortable into them. It’s a tremendous and memorable performance. Lawrence is wonderful as Raven and embodies her character brilliantly. To those who don’t know much about her, she becomes Mystique later on, a super-villain in the franchise but Lawrence’s performance shades this and makes the character seem good-willed and honest; a task which seems almost impossible to ‘X-Men’ fans but heck, she convinced me, and I’m a huge fan. Bacon is great as Shaw; he’s a horrid villain with impossible powers. Bacon thrives with nasty characters and he pulls out all the stops here, plus he provides a very impressive German accent which shocked and pleased me further. However, the film’s star is Fassbender. I’d go as far as saying he is one of the best actors working currently – he is consistently brilliant in every picture and has such a diverse range; it’s beautiful to watch. He was the perfect casting choice for Lehnsherr/Magneto; he’s exciting, chilling and ruthless, yet is tormented by his disturbing past and the death of his mother. The sequences of high emotion between Xavier and Lehnsherr are breathtaking – each tear that trickles down Erik’s face is believable and touching. Considering this is a superhero film, to have emotional drama involved is brave, but to present it with such elegance and respectfulness is a grand achievement.

 So as you probably can tell, I adored ‘X-Men: First Class’ and I highly doubt any other summer blockbuster will be as engrossing, affecting and intelligent as this. Much like the fantastic ‘Source Code’ earlier in the year, it really does seem to take a Brit to show the Americans how blockbusters are done nowadays and I’m adamant that both of these films will feature in my favourite pictures of the year.

An absolute class act from start to finish – fantastic performances, storytelling and visuals make this picture the most essential prequel ever.

 By Chris Haydon