Monday, 19 December 2011

'Shame' in Single Words.

I reviewed Steve McQueen's latest picture back in October for a fellow publication when I saw it at the 55th BFI London Film Festival so I felt I'd take a new approach to cinematic criticism by explaining 'Shame' merely in single words. If you visit the site frequently, you will know that this film features very highly in my Top 10 films of 2011 so praising nouns and adjectives will not come as a surprise...

'Shame' is...
















Saturday, 17 December 2011

Massive Respect

As many of you may have already heard, the footage on the Burj Khalifa building in Brad Bird's 'Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol' is supposedly making audiences suffer from vertigo whilst watching, particularly in IMAX screenings. Well, imagine what it must have been like filming those scenes?

This short video shows Tom Cruise performing the building stunts and it's not only a terrifying watch, it's also refreshing to see such a big movie star performing in this uncertain circumstance. No stunt double for Tom today thanks...

'Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows' Review

'Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows' (dir: Guy Richie, 2011) Cert: 12A

2009's 'Sherlock Holmes' was a box-office sensation, a critical success and the film that made many sit up and take notice of Guy Richie - a filmmaker previously snubbed for only making Cockney Gangster movies. Being amongst those who loved Richie's last adaptation of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's classic character, one had high hopes for the rather inevitable sequel but has he managed to capture lightening in a bottle twice or has his franchise run out of steam?

 Sherlock Holmes (Robert Downey Jr.) and Dr. Watson (Jude Law) team up for a second adventure in which they must travel across Europe in order to stop and outwit Holmes' toughest and smartest adversary, Professor James Moriarty (Jared Harris) who is playing a vicious game which could lead to the brink of war. The heroic pair find a companion and ally in Simza Heron (Noomi Rapace); a fortune-teller who could have links that help unravel the truth behind Moriarty's intentions. 

 To an extent, Richie's latest is an example of the term "If it ain't broke, don't fix it" in that it shares many similarities with it's predecessor but seeing that the 2009 film was brilliant, this is hardly a criticism and unlike recent sequels (that's you 'The Hangover Part II'), 'A Game of Shadows' does what a follow-up should do - expand. 

 Everything is larger here, psychically and theoretically. Warner Bros. nerves regarding Richie tackling the classic literary characters have diminished, thus a bigger budget, promotion and distribution have been provided. The world of the film has grown in scale, detail and authenticity; 1800s London looked great in the first feature, but it looks extraordinary here - dark, hollow buildings that stand stark along the over-populated and poverty-stricken streets, gloomy Noir style cobbled-alleyways that bump and crack as horses and vehicles occupy them and paper-boys voice the lanes for cash. This is historical London and it screams with realism in design and execution. The same location accuracies continue as the group embrace wider Europe but it's the UK capital footage which is the most striking. 

 As well as the filmic space, Richie's direction has elevated too - both in skill and scale. His camera captures intimacy with the dialogue, intrigue with the mystery and mania with the action, but in all three conditions, his awareness of area and indeed variety impacts greatly on the cinematic spectacle. There are a few moments in 'A Game of Shadows' that prove able hands to the audience, particularly a woodland chase scene which is some of the most gripping and technically assured filmmaking of 2011. Balanced by smart and effective slow-motion, we see bullets zip by and brush past the characters, others colliding with trees causing the bark to beautifully splinter and dirt dancing in the sky as an explosion occurs before tumbling back to real-time and filmic reality. This scene alone is worthy of the admission price, plus the picture features at least 3 equally jaw-dropping sequences.

Still from 'Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows' (dir: Guy Richie, 2011)
 Much like in the first feature, a vast majority of the charm came from the relationship shared between Holmes and Watson, and thankfully this charm is still in tact. Admittedly the pair's banter has been turned up to 11 and at points they come across like a bickering married couple but this only adds dimension to the frequently silly comedy that surrounds the entire feature. But 'bromance' aside, it's clear Downey Jr. and Law enjoy each other's company and indeed their characters and this reflects onto the spectator when viewing. As well as the pair's wonderful deliveries, it's the scripting that provides the humour and the suspense for the tale and Michael and Kieran Mulroney offer a classy and witty screenplay.

 There are a couple of little problems with Richie's latest however, firstly Noomi Rapace, although good in her role, is given very little to do. Either is Kelly Reilly's Mary Watson. Perhaps this was a scripting decision so that no focus is taken away from Holmes and Watson but I for one would have liked more screen-time for these two supremely talent women. Also Eddie Marsan's Inspector Lestrade pops up for the sum total of 74 seconds which seemed a bit of a cop-out; as if at the last minute, Richie and co remembered his character and quickly shoved him in. However, for the most part, one enjoyed 'A Game of Shadows' massively and found much more to praise than to moan about. 

 The performances are top-class; Downey Jr. is magnetic and frantic as Holmes - he is impossible to take your eyes off, bursting with all the energy and genius we know the character has. Funnier, fuller and stronger than in the 2009 feature, Downey Jr. thrives in the action, charms in the comedy and surprises continuously. One recalls the doubt the world had when the American was cast as the all-famous Englishman but now it seems as though the role was made for him and his wacky behaviour. 

 Law is equally good and has too built on his earlier performance - Watson, used being the one cleaning up after Holmes' messes has his fair share of bite and grit here; wielding automatic weapons, dodging snipers and fighting with the detective in drag. Law is giddy yet composed in his role and it suits his performing style wonderfully. As mentioned, Repace is good but has a fairly static role as Simza. Stephan Fry is hilarious as Mycroft Holmes and he is unbelievable comfortable in a role that requires him to walk around naked for a prolonged amount of time. Mycroft provides a large amount of comedy in the film and Fry's intellectual charm only boosts his role, but the film's star is Harris.

 Finding somebody to play Moriarty so beautifully must have been a great challenge but Harris slots into the big shoes with ease. So calculated, so brilliant and so smart is Moriarty, making him the perfect match for our hero and Harris delivers with skill and ease. The best scenes with him are simply the dialogue battles with Holmes - constantly trying to '1-Up' each other without losing their cool is a gripping thing to watch. One doubted Harris in this role but those feelings have simply vanished - he is fantastic.

 'A Game of Shadows' proves that Richie is a competent director when handed the right work and shows audiences that he is clearly not a 'one-trick pony'. Frequently funny, action-packed and filled with great performances, this is the perfect film for a Sherlock Holmes fan or anyone who enjoys a rollicking roller-coaster movie.

Fast-paced, fun-filled and visually explosive - this sequel builds and improves on it's already strong original.

By Chris Haydon

Thursday, 15 December 2011


The Nominations Are IN

The nominations for the 2012 Golden Globe Awards have been released today and to one's surprise, they are actually pretty great. With my favourite film of the year 'The Artist' amazingly leading the pack with 6 nominations and a whole host of other worthy nods across the board, it seems the academies might be finally understanding about award-worthy features. 

The Golden Globes usually simulate what the Academy will selected when the Oscar nominations are considered so potentially bright things lie ahead. Here is the full list of nominations:

Best Film (Drama):
  • 'The Descendants'
  • 'The Help'
  • 'Hugo'
  • 'The Ides of March'
  • 'Moneyball'
  • 'War Horse'

Best Film (Musical or Comedy):
  • '50/50'
  • 'The Artist'
  • 'Bridesmaids'
  • 'My Week with Marilyn'
  • 'Midnight in Paris'

Best Actor (Drama):
  • George Clooney ('The Descendants')
  • Leonardo DiCaprio ('J.Edgar')
  • Michael Fassbender ('Shame')
  • Ryan Gosling ('The Ides of March')
  • Brad Pitt ('Moneyball')

Best Actor (Musical or Comedy):
  • Jean Dujardin ('The Artist')
  • Brendan Gleeson ('The Guard')
  • Joseph Gordon-Levitt ('50/50')
  • Ryan Gosling ('Crazy, Stupid, Love')
  • Owen Wilson ('Midnight in Paris')

Best Actress (Drama):
  • Glenn Close ('Albert Nobbs')
  • Viola Davis ('The Help')
  • Rooney Mara ('The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo')
  • Meryl Streep ('The Iron Lady')
  • Tilda Swinton ('We Need to Talk about Kevin')

Best Actress (Musical or Comedy):
  • Jodie Foster ('Carnage')
  • Kristen Wiig ('Bridesmaids')
  • Kate Winslet ('Carnage')
  • Michelle Williams ('My Week with Marilyn')
  • Charlize Theron ('Young Adult')

Best Director:
  • Woody Allen ('Midnight in Paris')
  • Michel Hazanavicius ('The Artist')
  • George Clooney ('The Ides of March')
  • Martin Scorsese ('Hugo')
  • Alexander Payne ('The Descendants')

Best Supporting Actor:
  • Albert Brooks ('Drive')
  • Kenneth Branagh ('My Week with Marilyn')
  • Jonah Hill ('Moneyball')
  • Christopher Pummer ('Beginners')
  • Viggo Mortensen ('A Dangerous Method')

Best Supporting Actress:
  • Berenice Bejo ('The Artist')
  • Octavia Spencer ('The Help')
  • Shailene Woodley ('The Descendants')
  • Jessica Chastian ('The Help')
  • Janet McTeer ('Albert Nobbs')

Best Screenplay:
  • Woody Allen ('Midnight in Paris')
  • Michel Hazanavicius ('The Artist')
  • George Clooney/Grant Heslov/Beau Willimon ('The Ides of March')
  • Alexander Payne ('The Descendants')
  • Steve Zallian/Aaron Sorkin ('Moneyball')

Best Foreign Language Film:
  • 'A Separation'
  • 'In the Land of Blood and Honey'
  • 'The Kid with a Bike'
  • 'The Skin I Live In'
  • 'The Flowers of War'

Best Animated Film:
  • 'Cars 2'
  • 'The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn'
  • 'Rango'
  • 'Arthur Christmas'
  • 'Puss in Boots'

Let's just hope this happens at the awards:

'The Dark Knight Rises' Prologue Review

I reviewed the six minute Prologue for Christopher Nolan's highly anticipated 'The Dark Knight Rises' for the awesome bunch at Filmoria. You can read the review by clicking above.

Thursday, 8 December 2011


Yes we all know you can see Rooney Mara's pierced nipple in the poster, so if that is getting you excited, wait until you see this. The lovely folk at Sony Pictures have put aside their embargo issues with David Denby and have presented us lucky Brits with an 8 MINUTE trailer for David Fincher's 'The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo'.

Just from the original trailers and promotion, Fincher's film looks dramatically better than the 'should-have-been-a-TV-drama' Swedish picture, but now with the arrival of this beauty, it looks like one of the year's best films and a great awards contender. View the trailer below and get excited for the release this Boxing Day.

The Best Movie Posters of 2011

One-Sheets, Quads, Teasers and Promos - whatever shape or form they come in, 2011 has had some sweet movie posters, and much like last year, I will now share with you my favourites. Cool.

And now....
The 'Attack the Block' Poster Montage!
(Every single poster is brilliant...)

Saturday, 3 December 2011

FILMCLUB 'Hugo' Interview

I'm sure you are all sick of me banging on about 'Hugo' and just how incredible it is, but here is the full interview from the fabulous FILMCLUB with stars Asa Butterfield and Chloe Grace Moretz where she answers my question. 
You can view the interview below:

Also if you missed my post about FILMCLUB, you can read it here.

Friday, 2 December 2011

'Hugo' Review

'Hugo' (dir: Martin Scorsese, 2011) Cert: U

It seems absurd that the auteur behind such ruthless pictures like 'Taxi Driver' (1976) and 'Goodfellas' (1990) could make such a youthful and magical picture like 'Hugo'; Martin Scorsese's big-screen adaptation of Brian Selznick's award-winning novel 'The Invention of Hugo Cabret', which is famous for it's blending of storytelling through words and illustrations. Not only is this Scorsese's first attempt at a family feature, it's also his first 3D project; a format which many have come to doubt, but if there's anyone who can shake it all up, it's Marty.

 Hugo (Asa Butterfield) is an orphan living in the walls of a Parisian train station in the 1930s. He spends his life secretly fixing the clocks and is fascinated by cogs, moving parts and machinery. He also is desperate to finish a project he and his late father (Jude Law) were working on together - fixing an automaton; a mechanical figure created by the gifted hands of a magician. When Hugo meets Papa Georges (Sir Ben Kingsley) and his god-daughter Isabelle (Chloe Grace Moretz), questions soon begin to arise about the history behind the automaton and soon an intrinsic link binds all involved together which unlocks fantastical secrets about the world of cinema. 

 Scorsese's latest is going to be a tough sell to it's desired family audience - a film about the beginnings of silent cinema with a two-hour running time is probably not something the youth of today are that interested in, plus it's released alongside 'Happy Feet Two' which will certainly gain larger audiences, but with this being said, those who do decide to pick this over dancing penguins are in for one of the year's biggest treats.

 To describe 'Hugo' in a single word, one would use 'labyrinth' - this film is a maze of wonders, a puzzle filled with turning cogs that whistle and tick with excitement; this is an example of sheer imaginative joy that makes the heart and soul sing. Much like the majority of Scorsese's filmography, this picture is utterly complete and strong in every department.

 The magic and awe that streams from 'Hugo' is undeniable - the adventure that the two lead children take is thrilling, dazzling and something that audiences truly feel a part of it. There is mischief, mayhem and laughs-a-plenty, but there are also frequent icy blows of sorrow, remorse and loneliness that consumes each character in a different way, and it's with this adult and purposeful movement that keeps the film exciting and unpredictable. 

 In regards to the 3D, this is one of the few films one would recommend paying extra for because it makes such an unbelievable difference. 3D should only be used by those filmmakers who 'know' cinema, who understand space, depth of field, composition. Directors like Scorsese who have been contributing to cinema since the late 60s have earned the right to try the format unlike the majority of others who ruin the technology. This being a film about the introduction of cinema, the 3D mirrors this beautifully and to an extent, ironically. 

 In a rather lovingly recreated scene, we get a glimpse of an 'audience' watching the Lumière Brothers' classic film 'The Arrival of a Train at La Ciotat Station' - a short film with a legend about viewers diving out of the way when the train pulls up as they believed it would come out the screen and hit them. This being 1895; a time where cinema did not exist and that these audiences were witnessing the very beginnings of the moving image, it isn't too hard to believe. With 'Hugo', Scorsese is almost playing the ringleader with the 3D format - he's bringing the past to the present and adding the supposed 'future' with the extra dimension. It's a simply brilliant and deeply effective contrast.

Still from 'Hugo' (dir: Martin Scorsese, 2011)
 As well as this, there are some moments in the film where the 3D truly takes your breath away - gentle snowflakes seamlessly float out of the screen, swinging pendulums shatter the fourth-wall and Sacha Baron Cohen's Train Inspector's menacing face slowly edging out at the viewers are all examples of how powerful and immersive the technology can be when used properly.

 The set design and cinematography is electric - the train station is hopelessly beautiful and classical in it's French aura and essence. It looks and feels traditional and delicately coordinated - in fact, it's so accurate, you can almost smell the warmth rising from the fresh croissants. Pay attention 'Spy Kids 4D' - this is how you create 'aroma-scope'.

 Scorsese applies some of the most technically difficult and simply spellbinding direction in his latest too - from the film's stunning opening sequence in which we are rushed through the station, along it's platforms and up into the clock-face where our homeless hero is hiding, to the spiralling and swerving through the network of tunnels and passages filled with smoke and steam. This is a masterclass in directorial filmmaking and one is certain many film students will be watching in later years. 

 Realistically 'Hugo', alongside my favourite film of the year, 'The Artist' could both be shown together rather than the entire first year of any film degree at any university. These two movies provide enough knowledge about silent cinema to get viewers interested and researching. 'The Artist' focuses on the transition from silent to sound in Hollywood's 'Golden Age' and Scorsese's film teaches viewers about the great Georges Melies - the cinematic magician who practically founded special effects and dazzled audiences around the world with his camera and editing trickery. 

 Amongst 'Hugo's impossible beauty, relentless imagination and joy lies an abundance of incredible performances. Butterfield is stunning as the eponymous hero who spends his life trying to fix what is broken (you'll get that reference upon viewing). The emotional weight, the burden and the pain that is consuming Hugo's existence would prove a challenge for any actor, but despite his young age, Butterfield handles all of these potential barriers with ease. He is an extremely likeable, engaging and greatly layered character and a presence that's pleasurable for the spectator. Butterfield is a wonderful actor and he will be appearing in much more soon. Guaranteed.  

 Moretz is as incredible as ever playing British girl Isabelle like a pro - her accent is pitch-perfect and her screen confidence is overwhelming. Moretz has become one of favourite young actresses and she is enigmatic in this feature. Isabelle is a smart and extremely mature young girl yet she has an apatite for mystery and thrills. Her balance between bookworm and excitable explorer is wonderful to experience and Moretz pulls out all the stops to win the audience over. The smaller, supporting cast are also great - Baron Cohen provides perfect comic relief and surprising grit as the Inspector who rounds up all the stray children and seals their fate at the local orphanage, Emily Mortimer is enchanting as the humble flower saleswoman, Lisette and Richard Griffith's Monsieur Frick and Frances del la Tour's Madame Emile share a utterly charming romance. 

 But the film's star is Kingsley as Papa Georges - Like a tough shell that needs constant whacking in order to crack, it almost seems visible to watch the layers peel back throughout his performance and we are subjected to a vast amount of different emotions, states and persona's. Kingsley is marvellous here - he thrives in the grumpy and miserable stages of Georges being and explodes with creativity and passion when we visit his secret cinematic past. This is truly a diverse and intricate performance, and much like the clockwork that surrounds the film, every individual piece of Kingsley's portrayal plays a part in making the entire machine function.

 It's probably quite clear from this review that I loved this film, better yet adored. It is one of the year's most spectacular, hopelessly beautiful and essential pictures, and much like 'The Artist', reminds me why I love cinema so dearly. Scorsese being a tremendous fan of silent cinema and a preserver of this content, provides viewers with his most unusual feature and yet it's easily his most personal project to date. This is a Christmas gift from Marty to those who care about the world of the moving image. Unwrap, whack on the silly specs and prepare for a magical Yuletide. 

'Hugo' is an example of how cinema should be - gracious, courageous and simply stunning. This isn't just a great Scorsese film, it's amongst his best. It's a masterpiece.

By Chris Haydon