Friday, 27 July 2012

10 things that are better than The Lorax...

Dr. Suess' The Lorax is out today in 'Tree-D' as the poster gags and like virtually every big-screen adaptation of Suess' novels, it's total dogshit. It's not The Cat in the Hat-bad but it's certainly rivals The Grinch that Stole Christmas and any Remaining Dignity Jim Carrey's Career had left During the Late 1990s and Early 2000s

 Rather than battering Wall.E's god-awful, poorly constructed premature third cousin, here are ten things which are better for you than this movie.











Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Thank you Ice-T.

If you love rap and hip-hop as much as I do then Ice-T has given you one of the best gifts you'll receive all year. Something from Nothing: The Art of Rap is a highly intelligent, respectful and enlightening documentary about the rise of the genres and how rappers put pen to paper to create some of the most timeless tracks in recent years.

 This is a staggering, often amusing and wonderful celebration for the music that is so often misconceived and unfairly damned.

Friday, 20 July 2012

'The Dark Knight Rises' Review

The Dark Knight Rises (dir: Christopher Nolan, 2012) Cert: 12A

After four long years of waiting, wondering and hoping, the final chapter in Christopher Nolan's Batman saga is here and boy is it a welcome arrival. With anticipations and expectations set to a sickeningly high level, The Dark Knight Rises has it's work cut out in order to top it's masterful predecessor and to complete the best comic book trilogy ever captured on film, but can the film and the team behind it deliver despite the dramatic weight?

 8 years after the death of District Attorney Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart), Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) is nothing more than a recluse hiding from the world and Gotham City, however his absence is disrupted by two new faces appearing - Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway); a seductive cat bugler and Bane (Tom Hardy); a terrorist leader who aims to bring Gotham to ashes. Wayne knows that in order to defeat this cruel and calculated villain he must become the Caped Crusader once more but loved ones around him fear for his safety whilst the people of the city still believe he is responsible for the chaos and murder than reigned the streets nearly a decade ago.

 The main thing audiences will be expecting upon entering TDKR is whether the film will offer another 'Heath Ledger'. Before his untimely death, Ledger blew the world away with his portrayal as The Joker and since then his role has become one of the most beloved and respected in any Hollywood production. In answer to the above question, no this film does not have another 'Heath Ledger' but does that really matter? Never is there any point where viewers will be wishing The Joker would turn up, nor is there enough time for any such thought to spring to mind. For a film that clocks 164 minutes in length, TDKR absolutely flies by and will take the breath from your lungs in the process. 

 Nolan's latest is staggering on so many levels that it's difficult which to document first. Like always the film is captured with such skill and artistry that it's a genuine pleasure to watch and absorb. Nolan's direction is so accurate and précised; every detail is rendered and framed with the same amount of attention as say a large set piece or a CGI-heavy sequence. The sheer scale and vision Nolan provides is astonishing; the film is an undeniably grand affair that's budget has been spent sensibly and knowingly. Considering this is an all-out big budget Hollywood blockbuster, underneath the armour and the gadgets lies an art film with a heart beating vibrantly. Never does Nolan allow the film to feel overstretched or unwillingly supported, instead his camera and eye for craftsmanship carries the project with finesse and effortlessness.

 Nolan's last Batman outing The Dark Knight was a Film Noir Crime Drama rather than a Superhero tale and the same efforts arise here. The characters within the world of Gotham are mere mortals; a flying bullet to the chest will injure them, a twisted wrist will break and blood will spill. There is no Marvel powers here, only flesh and bone. For the majority of the film, Bruce Wayne is Bruce Wayne, not Batman. Selina Kyle is Selina Kyle, in fact I don't even think she is called Catwoman once. They may be draped in all-black, sport quirky gadgets and flying vehicles but that's as super as TDKR gets and it's all the better for it. 

Still from The Dark Knight Rises (dir: Christopher Nolan, 2012)
 Knowing that each character has limitations opens so many doors for emotional resonance with the viewer; the film's introductory 30 minutes are littered with foul lies about Wayne and Commissioner Jim Gordon (Gary Oldman), bleak colour pallets soak up the skyscraper-laden streets and a portrait of a city in sheer desperation is painted. There may not be much crime on the bitter streets but a sordid, lifeless atmosphere parades. It comments on our economic climate, our obsession with wealth and our longing to put faith in something bigger than ourselves. Gotham is a broken home and it's residents are tarnished with it. The film's themes, characterisation and ideals make for some often sombre viewing. Nolan's world is a cold, unwelcoming and distinctive setting which only further embeds it in reality.

 Audiences might be surprised to actually feel moved throughout TDKR too - sequences between Bruce and Alfred (Michael Caine) and good-willed cop John Blake (a simply scene-stealing Joseph Gordon-Levitt) are often profoundly affecting and give the film's drama a razor-sharp edge. However despite this being a particualarly chilling and often shocking picture, Jonathan and Christopher Nolan's screenplay does offer some comic relief with some great gags from Wayne and particularly Kyle.

 Much like The Dark Knight, this is an extremely violent film in content but more importantly tone - in the 2008 feature, many were shocked by the sheer deviance of The Joker's actions rather than the body-count making for pitch-black and often distressing viewing. Here we are presented with Bane who is the polar-opposite to Ledger's maniac. Bane is a giant bulk who uses intelligence and brute force to cause chaos and hysteria - his actions are far more psychical than mental and consequently this means a lot of people get hurt and many meet their demise. TDKR is at the top-end of it's 12A rating and should probably be a 15 but all those entering are well aware of Nolan's Gotham so nothing should offend or disgrace - just be prepared to squirm in your seat occasionally and get ready to feel every blow from Bane's thrashing fists.

 Wally Pfister's cinematography is utterly majestic; his close work with Nolan on projects truly shows his artistic nature and abilities to frame, compose and construct an image. Swooping aerials, star-soaked skies, dusted rubble and rain-soaked reflections add authenticity, style and depth to the visual field as well as complimenting the tone and setting Nolan aims to formulate. Add Hans Zimmer's surging, menacing score into the barrel and you have yourself an unbeatable movie-going experience. The music is crushing, bruising and apocalyptic; shaking every scene and keeping the hairs stood firmly upright on your neck. 

 The performances are a universal success - Bale gives his finest screen turn in the franchise by added such great depth and layers to Wayne. His performance is hinged by an overpowering sense of melancholy and dread; he faces a much stronger opponent, both psychically and mentally, he carries the burden of a nation and the crippling likelihood of failure. All these elements add up and create the most realistic, grounded and emotionally challenged Dark Knight to ever be filmed. Bale is nothing short of sensational.  

 Morgan Freeman, Oldman, and Caine are all excellent in their reprised roles with the latter two offering deep and traumatic ordeals with Wayne and the city of Gotham. Hardy is brilliant as Bane and people should really stop comparing him to Ledger. Bane is an entirely different breed of villain and these are shoes that Hardy thrives within. Those who saw the 6-minute preview last year will quickly recognise the voice alteration too which is a great asset; if you can't understand him now then there is simply no hope for you. 

Still from The Dark Knight Rises (dir: Christopher Nolan, 2012)
 Marion Cotillard is staggering as always here playing Miranda Tate; a Wayne Enterprises investor who has operated a machine enabling clean energy resources for Gotham, but the film's stars are Gordon-Levitt and Hathaway. Blake is the one cop left in the city who is actually good willed and Gordon-Levitt offers a cavalcade of emotional depth with the role. Blake's eyes are those of the audience's; a spectator in Gotham who wants answers, who wants the Batman, who believes in the stories - it's a generally refreshing element to the already extraordinary mix, and then there's Kyle.

 So many doubted Hathaway dubbing her unfit for the role, well I bet their lips will be tightly sealed after watching the film. Admittedly I'm a huge fan of Hathaway but bias aside, there is no denying the gravity and effort she has put into this role. Never before has Kyle been so accurately performed and pitched - she's a femme fatale; she'll sob and want reassurance from you before sticking those heels where it hurts and snatching the wallet from your pocket. Hathaway dominates every single frame she enters with such bold energy, beautiful dialogue delivery and wonderful uses of body language. She's sexy, sly, seductive and manipulative - everything Kyle was designed to be. She is the film's performance highlight and deserves her own spin-off movie (Nolan should write/direct it though so we don't have another Halle Berry recap...)

 The film's closing 30 minutes are cinema at it's purest and most engrossing - everything comes together in such an explosive, detailed web that viewers can't help but be wrapped up in the action, drama and suspense. It's a thrilling, captivating and quite frankly perfect climax to a trilogy that's so consistent and balanced.  

 TDKR is why we go to the cinema; it offers everything that a spectator could possibly want - staggering direction, beautiful visuals, fantastic performances and a score that will rumble through to the bone. It's a celebration of narrative, character and artistic expression. Many say Nolan gets too much praise but this couldn't be further from the truth; the man crafts and shapes quality entertainment - films that restore your faith in Hollywood, films that show just how extravagant and magical 35mm can be. He is something of a treasure and his latest is yet another jewel in his diamond filmography. The Dark Knight Rises is without doubt the best film of 2012 so far.

It's simply cinematic bliss - powerful, intelligent, engrossing and gripping. The Dark Knight trilogy ends with a third masterpiece.

By Chris Haydon

Monday, 16 July 2012

This Week on DVD/Blu-Ray...

...two of the year's shittiest movies are released.

With added backwards lettering.
With added bad grammar. 'Breath-Taking'?


Christopher Nolan - Filmography Rated

As the days grow ever-so closer to the arrival of The Dark Knight Rises; arguably the most anticipated film of this decade, let alone year, I thought it was a perfect opportunity to rate every picture in Christopher Nolan's back catalogue. Early word from the US and now the UK regarding TDKR has been incredibly positive - pretty much 5 stars across the board bar one or two 4 star verdicts so everything on that front is dandy. Anyway, onto the list.

Following (1998)

Perhaps unbeknown by some, Following was not just Nolan's début feature, but also the DNA for his later work Inception. Characters share names, intrinsic ideas are presented and although clearly on a much smaller scale, themes and processes are mirrored. Following is a perfect example of brains meeting high-art; it offers the intuition and imagination of a complex novella aided with controlled craftsmanship. Sure it's not a dizzying spectacle, it's an art-house movie, but it's a fine starting point for Nolan's career.

Memento (2000)

Featuring a searing performance from Guy Pearce and a plot so complicated and delicately formulated, Memento was the movie that made audiences pay attention to Nolan. This reversal art-house crime thriller carries untold aces up it's tattooed sleeves making it often head-scratching, emotionally engaging and constantly surprising. Memento is directed with sheer precision, scored with true beauty and handled by weighted and believable screen portrayals. It may be Nolan's last true art movie but it's a masterpiece in whatever genre spectators choose to place it in.

Insomnia (2002)

To call Insomnia a bad film would be an appalling lie, it's actually a very good and competent feature but it's arguably the weakest entry in Nolan's Hollywood filmography ballot. This lingering and unsettled murder mystery is a cold and calculated affair but it lacks the experimentation and freedom we have become used to with Nolan's direction - perhaps this is due to the screenplay which is adapted from a 1997 novel. Insomnia is an engrossing and often disturbing drama captured with visceral, chilly beauty and performed with sheer dominance by Robin Williams, Al Pacino and Hilary Swank but underneath it all, the film never really feels like Nolan's; it lacks his signature stamp and consequently has difficulty adding to anything he's already achieved. 

Batman Begins (2005)

Taking hold of a franchise that was fundamentally murdered by it's previous outings (go fuck yourself Batman and Robin) was an extremely brave and audacious thing for a director to do, particularly one famed for playing with the audience's intelligence and interest. Nolan's first outing for Bruce Wayne/Batman put any issues or doubts to bed within the opening 15 minutes; this was not the Batman people were used to - the cheesy dialogue had gone, the cartoon-style action striped, the painful over-acting obliterated, Nolan's Batman really had begun and had been reborn in the ashes of it's past. 

 Batman Begins is a bleak, claustrophobic and menacing crime caper tied up in a superhero narrative. It has the brains of his art-house works, the visual flair expected of a Hollywood blockbuster and a screenplay as engrossing and believable like a high-brow cop picture. Christian Bale's Batman is a gruff, no-nonsense type grounded by society and reality and he thrives in the misty, unsettled playground that is Gotham City. Batman Begins is an incredible film, no question.

The Prestige (2006)

Nolan's next move was a go at a period mystery set in Nineteenth Century London and he decided to keep Christian Bale in front of his camera - good move. The Prestige is an impossibly twisty picture that plays out like an illusion; a rather fitting exposition for a film about magic. Bale, Hugh Jackman, Scarlett Johansson and Michael Caine all provide fantastic performances in this glossy, showy affair that still retains the signature intelligence we expect from Nolan and the complimenting pitch-perfect direction. The film looks the part; the sets, costume design, décor and lighting are undeniably sumptuous and aid the transportation back in time tremendously. The Prestige is a fantastic movie and another tick on Nolan's check-list.

The Dark Knight (2008)

Without a doubt, the film that defined comic books movies and showed audiences that they are not just for kids and geeks. The Dark Knight is an blackened, bruised and filthy Film Noir laden with plot-twists, untrustworthy characters and simply dazzling set pieces. It's a bold and beautiful crime epic that happens to be within the world of Batman - it's tones and themes are adult, it's political and social commentaries are frighteningly accurate and Nolan's ability to shift between genre and filmic processes makes for constantly exciting and riveting viewing. 

 Most will recall the late Heath Ledger's incredible performance as The Joker when thinking of The Dark Knight but the film has so much more to offer than that single performance. Aaron Eckhart's Harvey Dent/Two-Face is a revelation and Gary Oldman's Jim Gordon provides some of the film's most profoundly moving and compelling moments. Nolan's direction is simply astonishing here, as is Hans Zimmer's score and Wally Pfister's moon-soaked cinematography. The Dark Knight is a cultural, cinematic and metaphoric phenomena that will continue to dazzle and mind-blow audiences for years to come. Comic book movies don't get better than this.

Inception (2010)

By now on our tour through Nolan's previous films, we know that he can get great performances out of his actors and there is simply no better example of this than Inception which has the best use of an ensemble cast for years and years. Every single character has a point, a focus and a motive; every single detail is rendered and displayed with sheer velocity and presence. This is an incredible actor's film no doubt, but that is just one tiny portion of the cinematic labyrinth Nolan invites you into. 

 Inception is Nolan's most personal work; it's a film he wanted to make for many years and only because of the wild success of The Dark Knight was his dream (excuse the pun) made a reality. If there is one thing this movie proves it's that Hollywood doesn't have to be stupid, that audiences enjoy being challenged and stimulated by their cinema trips, that story, character and style are things that can be handled and distributed equally. For my money, Inception is Nolan's true masterpiece; it's the film that presents him as a filmmaker, as an auteur and as a man. It offers the passion, dedication and focus that he has worked into his career and screens it all with such beauty, intelligence and power. 

 In my opinion, there has yet to have been a better film released since Inception arrived two years ago - it's a Hollywood landmark, a cinematic milestone and a quintessentially perfect film. It's one of my all-time favourite features.

The Dark Knight Rises (2012)

It's going to be amazing isn't it?

Friday, 13 July 2012

'Magic Mike' Review

Robert Carlyle and a group of his mates including the fat bloke from the Tesco adverts decide they need a few more quid after being made redundant so they start stripping for the lucky ladies of Northern England. They have a laugh. We have a laugh. They get naked. Job well done.

Sorry, wrong film...

Channing Tatum is a custom furniture designer/roof tiler/stripper who decides to take Alex Pettyfer under his wing and make him part of his stripping act run by Matthew "I can finally fucking act" McConaughey. They have a laugh. We have a laugh. They get naked. Job well done.

That's better...

In reality though, Magic Mike is yet another fantastic entry from Steven Soderbergh; Hollywood's most prolific and hard-working filmmaker. It's frequently funny, often poignant and laden by wonderful performances (acting not stripping you saucy gits). Tatum, Pettyfer and McConaughey dominate the scenes they enter by providing heartfelt, rounded and dimensional screen roles. Soderbergh's direction is as précised and meticulous as viewers should expect - this may be about blokes getting their kits off and dry-humping the shit out of middle-age women but it's still a beautifully crafted and handled work.

 Men should embrace this film as much as women; in fact, it's probably aimed more at a male demographic anyway. Sure, you're wife/girlfriend will sit there thinking "why the hell doesn't my man look like him?" but the film's themes, tones and principles lie in the direction of male living and thinking. Don't be put off by Tatum's God-Bod guys, rush out and see Magic Mike - it's one of the year's best offerings and most enjoyable features. 


Monday, 2 July 2012

The Worst Films of 2012 So Far...

I've spoken about the best films so far from 2012 but I haven't offered you my five picks for the worst entries this year. I'm not a man to disappoint so here they are in all their ugly glory.


John Carter
(dir: Andrew Stanton - USA - 132 Mins - Walt Disney)

Good God. What an earth were Disney doing throwing $250 million at this mess. Horrible dialogue, one-dimensional characters, impossibly boring landscapes and an even more tedious narrative. No amount of brilliant CGI can stop John Carter from being a head-smacking, eye-gouging and mindlessly stupid affair. Stick with Pixar Andrew mate.


(dir: Maddona - UK - 119 Mins - Semtex Pictures)

Trust Madge to incorrectly document history, have characters that seem sympathetic with Hitler and still manage to work in some of her terrible, unfitting music in the process. Watching W.E. is a painful, itching and uncompromising experience; it's a film laden with poor performances, dodgy accents and even worse direction and scripting. I'd love to erase this tripe from my brain.


Act of Valour
(dirs: Mike McCoy/Scott Waugh - USA - 110 Mins - Bandito Brothers)

Easily the most unintentionally homosexual release of the year. If people are thinking Magic Mike is gay, watch this. Act of Valour provides audiences with 'real Navy Seals in real situations' which only means one thing - they cannot bloody act. This is snarlingly patriotic pap which borders on propaganda. It's noisy, messy, incoherent and above all else, unbearably boring.


The Devil Inside
(dir: William Brent Bell - USA - 83 Mins - Prototype Pictures)

There aren't enough words to explain how poor The Devil Inside is; it fails as a horror, as a 'documentary' and as a 'found-footage' feature. When you leave a screening with the audience booing, it's fairly clear the picture is a total dud. This is a baggy, predictable and an often laughably poor attempt to provoke jump scares when it could have actually told a relevant, believably and frightening story. Avoid like the plague. 


Jack and Jill
(dir: Dennis Dugan - USA - 91 Mins - Happy Madison Productions)

The world would be a happier, funnier and friendlier place if Adam Sandler and Dennis Dugan did not exist. I would rather watch The Human Centipede Part 2: Full Sequence on a loop for 100 days rather than sit through this again, and I psychically and mentally despised that film - that proves just how bad Jack and Jill is.