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Archive for January, 2011

Danny Boyle – Film by Film

With 127 Hours currently on general release in the UK I thought I would take a look back at the previous movies of one of the UK’s best directors Danny Boyle. The first thing of note is that he has never made a bad movie, almost as notable is the variety demonstrated in his choice of projects. The mixture of genres on display should not be mistaken for a lack of direction, his movies do all have certain themes running through them and all demonstrate his flair as a filmmaker. His characters often make life changing decisions that sometimes have a moral right vs. wrong theme. These characters are not typical movie stereotypes, they are complex and flawed just like real people. A director who always seems to get the most out of his casts, most of his movies feature fantastic performances from actors whether they are moviestars or unknowns.

 

Shallow Grave (1994)

Three friends have a decision to make when they find the dead body of their new flatmate along with a pile of cash. There actions and the consequences of them make for a superior crime thriller as well as a very dark comedy. In some ways it is Danny Boyle’s best movie and according to a recent radio interview it is his fathers favourite of Boyle’s movies. The movie also provided an early starring role for Ewan McGregor and certainly played a part in his future career.

 

Trainspotting (1996)

Based on the Irvine Welsh novel of the same name telling the story of a group of Scottish heroine addicts.  A stunning and totally flawless movie that could not be improved upon from its perfect casting (including Ewan McGregor again) to its amazing soundtrack.

 

A Life Less Ordinary (1997)

Ewan McGregor stars in his third (and final to date) collaboration with Boyle as a disgruntled employee who kidnaps his formed bosses daughter. Aided by two unlikely angels the pair fall in love. A slightly disjointed movie is my least favourite of the directors movies, but following Trainspotting was an impossible task.

 

The Beach (2000)

Adapted from Alex Garland’s novel of the same name that Nick Hornby described as “A Lord of the Flies for Generation X”. A misunderstood and underappreciated movie notable as the first collaboration between Boyle and novelist turned screenwriter Alex Garland. As with most Danny Boyle movies the acting is first rate and the movie is seamlessly constructed and above all highly entertaining.

 

28 Days Later (2002)

A group of animal rights activists release a chimp from a research lab, 28 days later a genetically engineered plague has engulfed the country. There has been a huge amount of debate as to if the “infected” people in the movie are zombies or not, putting this issue to one side and looking at the bigger picture, this is one of the best horror movies or recent years. Telling the story from the point of view of an ordinary person is nothing new but as with everything Danny Boyle does it is handled supremely well here.

 

Millions (2004)

seven year-old Anthony and his nine year old brother find a duffel bag containing a quarter of a million pounds, their situation is further complicated as the currency will cease to be legal tender in a few days. Never a director to do the predicable thing, moving from horror to family friendly comedy/drama. Probably Boyles least well know movies but one not to be missed.

 

Sunshine (2007)

Set in the near future the sun is about to die bringing an end to life on earth. A space ship has to transport a nuclear bomb into the sun to re-ignite it, when it fails another crew is sent to finish the job making them humanities last hope for survival. Moving from Danny Boyle’s least know to one of his least appreciated movies. A great thriller with a perfect blend of tension and action and an existential undertone. If you haven’t seen it you should, if you didn’t like it give it another go, it may just grow on you.

 

Slumdog Millionaire (2008)

Jamal a Mumbai teenager is arrested on suspicion of cheating on the Indian version of “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?” We are then treated to his life story told in flashback and explaining how he knows the answers. But the movie and Jamel have one last secret, the reason he is on the show in the first place. A triumph of filmmaking with a great story, brilliant acting, and a perfectly conceived structure but most importantly a lot of heart. A deserved Oscar winner.

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After reviewing over 100 movies last year I need a break, as I decide on the direction I am going to take my blog in 2011 here are shorter than usual reviews for the three new releases I have seen so far this year.

Season of the Witch

In the 14th century, after deserting the crusades a pair of disillusioned knights (Nicolas Cage and Ron Perlman) are forced to transport a young women (Claire Foy) suspected of being a witch.

As you would expect for a movie of this type it is total hokum. In its defence Cage is unusually understated in his performance and the movie is generally good fun. Don’t expect Cage to pick up his second Oscar for this movie but equally it is far from the worst movie he has made. It isn’t going to get any great reviews but it but don’t be put off if you enjoyed movies like last years Solomon Kane, Black Death and Legion you will probably like this too.

Two Stars out of Five

127 Hours

The true story of Aron Ralston (James Franco) who had difficult choice after getting stuck between a rock and a hard place, literally!

Last years berried offers a more pure example of the concept of a man trapped alone, but 127 Hours is the superior film. Brilliantly framed by a split-screen credit sequence that explains Ralston’s outlook on life and place in society as well as demonstrating the apparent ease with which Danny Boyle can craft a film. The sometimes wooden James Franco is a revelation giving a fantastic performance in a difficult part. Had it come out last year (as it did in other countries) it would have made my top ten.

Four Stars out of Five

The King’s Speech

The Duke of York (Colin Firth) suffers from a debilitating stammer. Encouraged by his wife (Helena Bonham Carter) he visits every reputable speech therapist in London, when they fail he turns to unconventional Australian Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush). Following the death of his farther and the his elder brothers relationship with a married woman, history conspires to make him King. With the Second World War looming his power of speech become more important then ever.

Taking a less well know piece of history that was going on in the background of the far more public abdication Edward VIII (Guy Pearce) and the rise of Nazism in Europe makes for a very personal story but surprisingly an interesting and entertaining one. The great surprise is just how light and funny the movie is at times. It may be unashamed Oscar bait, but for once it is actually a movie that actually deserves the hype especially for its actors.

Five Stars out of Five

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21 Jump Street Movie?

Movies based on defunct TV show are all the rage again; The A-Team, The Green Hornet, The Last Airbender and Yogi Bear all spring to mind. Unfortunately, more often than not they aren’t very good! One movie that has long been suggested but hasn’t seen the light of day yet is 21 Jump Street.

For those who too young to remember 21 Jump Street was an American crime drama that aired on Fox in America and Sky in the UK in the late 80’s early 90s. The premise was simple, a small team of youthful-looking cops work undercover in schools and colleges to fight youth related crimes. Looking back it is very 80’s, the plots are thin and predictable and the “messages” and “issues” discussed were less than subtle, but not without a sense of fun. The most notable thing about the show was its star Johnny Depp, having already appeared in a few movies including A Nightmare on Elm Street and Platoon he was far from a newcomer but not yet A list.

Information about the movie on the internet is a little sketchy but it looks like it will be directed by Phil Lord and Chris Miller, the duo responsible for Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs. The driving force behind the project is Jonah Hill, who is credited (on IMDB) as executive producer and one of the writers. Channing Tatum is down to co star and also gets a executive producer credit. Juno Temple is rumoured to be involved and Johnny Depp may have a cameo role.

One of the reasons the show worked was the casting, at 24 Johnny Depp could get away with playing a 21 year old who looked young enough to go undercover in high schools; the same goes for the rest of the cast. That’s the problem with the proposed movie, Jonah Hill (27) may just about get away with it but Channing Tatum (30) is far too old. With a plethora of actors around the correct age; Michael Cera, Robert Pattinson and Zac Efron (all under 25) all spring to mind, why look to older actors?

Will the movie be any good? Only time will tell.

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Last February I published an article called Rising Star: Olivia Wilde. If the number of hits that article gets (32,453 total views to date) is anything to go on she certainly was one of the rising stars of 2010, who are the others?

 

Noomi Rapace

The original Swedish adaptation of Stieg Larsson’s millennium trilogy was released in UK and American cinemas in 2010. Some viewers found The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo too brutal and graphic, I personally thought it was excellent and placed it on my top ten movies of the year list. The two sequels weren’t as good, they were bogged down by their plot and felt altogether less cinematic, not surprising considering their TV origins. One thing that few people can disagree with is how brilliant Noomi Rapace is as Lisbeth Salander. Catching the eye of Hollywood, she is set to appear in the Sherlock Holmes Sequel that is in production at the moment, she is also rumoured to be in the Alien Prequel set for release in a couple of years.

 

Aaron Johnson

Having appeared in movies and TV shows since he was about ten Aaron Johnson had drifted along under the radar for years until the release of Nowhere Boy at the back end of 2009; Johnson does a great job as a young John Lennon. Then came his biggerst role to date, Dave Lizewski aka Kick-Ass. He ended 2010 with Japanese horror maestro Hideo Nakata’s Chatroom. His future films include a Kick-Ass sequel.

 

Chloe Moretz

Having already made several movie and TV appearances I first remember seeing Chloe Moretz as Jo-Go’s “wise beyond her years” sister in 500 Days of Summer (2009). Then in 2010 she made an even more memorable appearance as Mindy Macready aka Hit-Girl in Kick-Ass. Probably the most memorable character in the movie, she was certainly the most controversial. She also starred in Let Me In, the remake of Let The Right One In. Although the film itself was a little pointless offering nothing new that we didn’t see in the original her performance was really good.

 

Kodi Smit-McPhee

2009’s The Road was released in the UK in 2010. With such a small cast the movie relies heavily on the interaction between its actors, Kodi Smit-McPhee and Viggo Mortensen as his farther are brilliant together. As mentioned above although Let Me In doesn’t’t completely work, its young stars are great. He also impressed in Romulus, My Father (2007 but released in the UK in 2010) based on the autobiography of Raimond Gaita

 

Whitney Able

The story goes that when casting Monsters, director Gareth Edwards was shown In Search of a Midnight Kiss (great indie-movie if you haven’t seen it) staring Scoot McNairy. Edwards liked the idea of using a real life couple, as luck would have it McNairy’s girlfriend (now wife) Whitney Able is an actress. Edwards was initially reluctant to cast them as he felt Able was too good looking for the part, fortunately after meeting them he was convinced and the pair gave a great performance.

 

Scoot McNairy

Having appeared in numerous movies over the past decade Scoot McNairy, is hardly a newcomer (see above) but his appearance in Monsters could and certainly should be the springboard to bigger and better roles in future.

 

Jennifer Lawrence

Six months ago I had never heard of Jennifer Lawrence now I think she deserves an Oscar for her portrayal of Ree Dolly in the bleak but brilliant Winter’s Bone. The Burning Plain (2008) is also worth a look. Coming up she will be playing a young version of Raven Darkholme / Mystique in X-Men: First Class later this year.

 

Tahar Rahim

Tahar Rahim seemed to come from nowhere to star in A Prophet, the French contender for the Best Foreign Language Oscar. His powerful performance made the movie truly memorable. He will be appearing in several French movies over the next few years but is already on the Hollywood radar with a part in The Eagle (another fictional account of the disappearance of the Ninth Legion). French World War II drama Free Men should also get some international attention.

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Having missed out on The Hollywood Fantasy Draft at Anomalous Material last year I was keen to take part in The Hollywood Fantasy Draft II. The Draft took place last week and for those who didn’t see it I can reveal my cast.

  • Colin Farrell
  • Sarah Polley
  • Yumiko Shaku
  • Gael García Bernal
  • Monica Bellucci
  • Jamie Bell
  • Alan Dale
  • Melissa George
  • Mark Strong
  • Neil Marshal (Director)

Look out for more information over the next few weeks.

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2011

With 2010 over with what are the movies I am looking forward to in the coming year and why?

  • Black Swan

  • UK release date: 11th Feb
  • Directed by: Darren Aronofsky
  • Stars: Natalie Portman, Mila Kunis and Vincent Cassel
  • Why I want to see it: Great word of moth from bloggers in America, great cast, great trailer and Aronofsky is always worth watching.
  • 127 Hours

  • UK release date: 7th Jan
  • Directed by: Danny Boyle
  • Stars: James Franco,
  • Why I want to see it: Danny Boyle has never made a bad movie and the trailer looks good.
  • The King’s Speech

  • UK release date: 7th Jan
  • Directed by: Tom Hooper
  • Stars: Colin Firth, Geoffrey Rush and Helena Bonham Carter
  • Why I want to see it: Great cast interesting true story I know little about.
  • Never Let Me Go

  • UK release date: 21st Jan
  • Directed by: Mark Romanek
  • Based on a novel by: Kazuo Ishiguro
  • Stars: Keira Knightley, Carey Mulligan and Andrew Garfield
  • Carey Mulligan and Andrew Garfield are two of the best young actors around these days and the trailer looks intriguing. I haven’t read the book but people I know who have speak highly of it. And a screenplay by Alex Garland.
  • Hereafter

  • UK release date: 28th Jan
  • Director: Clint Eastwood
  • Stars: Matt Damon, Cécile De France and Bryce Dallas Howard
  • Why I want to see it: Clint Eastwood, need I say more.
  • True Grit

  • UK release date: 14th Jan
  • Directed by: Ethan Coen and Joel Coen
  • Stars: Jeff Bridges, Matt Damon and Hailee Steinfeld
  • Why I want to see it: Jeff Bridges reunited with the Coen’s, I can’t wait.
  • The Fighter

  • UK release date: 4th Feb
  • Directed by: David O. Russell
  • Stars: Mark Wahlberg, Christian Bale and Amy Adams
  • Why I want to see it: Hearing great things about Christian Bale.
  • Red Riding Hood

  • UK release date: 11th March
  • Directed by: Catherine Hardwicke
  • Stars: Amanda Seyfried, Lukas Haas and Gary Oldman
  • Why I want to see it: An interesting take on an old story, Catherine Hardwicke movies are always worth watching (even Twilight is okay) and Amanda Sefried is in it.
  • Sucker Punch

  • UK release date: 25th March
  • Directed by: Zack Snyder
  • Stars: Emily Browning, Vanessa Hudgens and Abbie Cornish
  • Why I want to see it: I am a fan of the directors previous work and the posters look amazing.
  • X-Men: First Class

  • UK release date: 3rd June
  • Directoed by Matthew Vaughn
  • Stars: James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender and Jennifer Lawrence
  • Why I want to see it: The last two X-Men movies (The Last Stand and Wolverine) where rubbish but with an interesting cast, Matthew Vaughn onboard as director and Jane Goldman writing it should put the franchise back on track.
  • Cowboys & Aliens

  • UK release date: 12th August
  • Directed by: Jon Favreau
  • Stars:Daniel Craig, Harrison Ford and Olivia Wilde
  • Why I want to see it: The Title
  • Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy

  • UK release date: 16th September
  • Directed by: Tomas Alfredson
  • Stars: Tom Hardy, Colin Firth and Gary Oldman
  • Why I want to see it: I love the BBC TV mini series, I hope this movie lives up to it.
  • On the Road

  • UK release date: TBA
  • Directed by: Walter Salles
  • Stars: Garrett Hedlund, Sam Riley and Kristen Stewart
  • Why I want to see it: Based on the novel of the same name by Jack Kerouac that just happens to be one of my all-time favourite books.

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Jake Gyllenhaal, Anne Hathaway

For the first time I have decided to split my movie star of the month award, I was already considering doing this for Scoot McNairy and Whitney Able for their great performances in Monsters. Then the last movie I saw in December, Love and Other Drugs changed my mind. Although the movie was only average suffering from being formulaic and clichéd (and poorly marketed) it was largely enjoyable mainly because of its stars Jake Gyllenhaal, Anne Hathaway.

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