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Archive for May, 2012

“She stepped off the bus out into the city streets

Just a small town girl with her whole life packed

In a suitcase by her feet”

I tend to hate musicals but must admit I have a certain curiosity, all be it morbid, with Rock of Ages due out next month. It is clearly intentionally clichéd and cheesy, Tom Cruise, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Alec Baldwin and Russell Brand look like they are having a lot of fun. The main reason for my interest, however is the music. There was a certain style of music, a sort of Pop Rock sometimes know as Glam Metal or Hair Metal that was very much of its time in the 1980s. As a child of the 70’s my musical taste was very much formed from in the mid 80’s. Although I have a wide and varied taste, I often dip into my old 80s rock. So here is my Rock of Ages inspired top ten hair metal tracks from the 80’s*.

Back In Black by AC/DC from Back in Black (1980)

Don’t Stop Believin by Journey from Escape (1981)

Runaway by Bon Jovi from Bon Jovi (1984)

Here I Go Again by Whitesnake from 1987 aka Whitesnake (1987)

Sweet Child O’ Mine by Guns N’ Roses from Appetite for Destruction (1987)

Never Tear Us Apart by INXS from Kick (1987)

I Cry Myself to Sleep at Night by Romeo’s Daughter from Romeo’s Daughter (1988)

Fallen Angel by Poison from Open Up & Say… Ahh! (1988)

Janie’s Got A Gun by Aerosmith from Pump (1989)

Dr. Feelgood by Mötley Crüe from Dr. Feelgood (1989)

*this isn’t a list of my top ten 80’s records, but one that fit’s the genre, however I must admit I love them all! It is however worth mentioning that I have throw it together from memory with no research so have probably missed lots of great records.

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Legend is a word that is used too lightly but with a career that has spanned eight decades and a Guinness World Record of 275 films, Knighted for services to drama and charity in 2009 and receiving the BAFTA Fellowship in 2011, it is a title that fits Christopher Lee very well. As I mentioned a couple of years ago I was introduced to Christopher Lee when I was about ten years old, I had no idea who he was. A few months later Channel 4 started showing a series of old Hammer Horror movies starting with Dracula: Prince of Darkness. This is when I first got interested in horror movies. So today, his 90th birthday here is the briefest overview of his movies.

In the mid 1940’s Lee joined the Rank Organisation and was given a seven-year contract (as was the norm of the day), during this period he made numerous movies. His first significant roles came a decade later when in 1957 he played the monster in Terence Fisher’s The Curse of Frankenstein alongside Peter Cushing as Frankenstein. The following year Fisher made Dracula (1958), he cast Lee in his most iconic role Dracula and Cushing as Van Helsing. He reprised the role in sequels: Dracula Prince of Darkness in 1965, Dracula Has Risen from the Grave (1968), Taste the Blood of Dracula (1969), Scars of Dracula (1970), Dracula A.D. 1972 (1972) and The Satanic Rites of Dracula (1973). Lee’s other work for Hammer included The Mummy (1959), Rasputin, the Mad Monk and the little known classic Taste of Fear (1961). Possibly his best Hammer movie and one of his (and my) personal favourites was the occult adventure/horror/thriller The Devil Rides Out (1967) based on a novel by Dennis Wheatley. He also appeared in two versions of the Jekyll and Hyde story The Two Faces of Dr. Jekyll (1960) and I, Monster (1971) (only the former being made by Hammer).

Having already played Sir Henry Baskerville (to Cushing’s Sherlock Holmes) in The Hound of the Baskervilles (1959) Lee went on to play Sherlock Holmes in Sherlock Holmes and the Deadly Necklace (1962), and Mycroft Holmes (Sherlock’s smarter brother) in Billy Wilder’s The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes (1970). He played Holmes again in the TV movies: Incident at Victoria Falls (1991) and Sherlock Holmes and the Leading Lady (1992). A step-cousin of author Ian Fleming, he was rumoured to be in contention to play James Bond, he was offered the part of Dr. No in the movie of the same name (1962) but was vetoed by the movies producers. He did eventually play a Bond villain, Francisco Scaramanga in The Man with the Golden Gun (1974) and was the best thing about the movie. As cinema, particularly horror cinema changed in the 1970’s the gothic horror he was most famous for became outdated he appeared to be moving with the times making one of his best horror films The Wicker Man (1973). Sadly the quality of his roles dried up with a lot of TV movies and lesser work in the decades that followed.

More recently his career has gone through a renaissance with a small part in Sleepy Hollow (1999) leading to further collaborations with Tim Burton: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005), Corpse Bride (2005), Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007), Alice in Wonderland (2010) and Dark Shadows (2012). Following Peter Cushing and Alec Guinness who appeared in the original Star Wars (1977) Lee plays Sith Lord, Count Dooku in Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones (2002) and Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith (2005). But his most notable role in recent years came in The Lord of the Rings trilogy. A great fan of The Lord of the Rings Lee has stated that it was a life long dream to play Gandalf, the Peter Jackson film trilogy came too late for him to realise this ambition but he did get a significant part in the movies playing Saruman. Later this year he will be reprising the in the prequel film The Hobbit. Retuning to the studio that made his name Lee had a small part in the new Hammer movie The Resident (2011). More significantly for a actor who has made so many movies he appeared in Martin Scorsese’s love letter to cinema Hugo (2011).

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With all the buzz surrounding Skyfall I recently re-watched Casino Royale and enjoyed it so much I immediately watched Quantum of Solace. It was the first time I have seen the two movies back to back, I don’t know if it benefited from this or if it is just a better movie than I (and many others) have given it credit for, but something has caused me to re evaluate the underrated movie. While Ian Fleming’s books often followed on from each other, there has never before been a Bond movie that was a direct sequel.

Following Casino Royale was always a seemingly impossible task and just about any sequel would have suffered by comparison. It is easy to look back on Casino Royale as the benchmark for Bond, but back in 2006 it was a risky proposition. Daniel Craig wasn’t the first actor to take over the mantle of Bond, and it wasn’t the first time the character was taken in a new direction, but it was the first time the story had been completely rebooted. But it worked, what we got was a modern Bond, that fitted with the modern world, a post Jason Bourne world but who retained the characteristics of what had gone before in the previous movies, but more importantly the original books. It would have been very easy to walk away from the plot threads left by Casino Royale and create an entirely new movie, but that would have been a waste.

The Bond of Quantum of Solace is an emotionally broken man following the death of Vesper Lynd having made her a more sympathetic character than the one in the book. The Bond of the novels is a cold hard bastard, here we are seeing the creation of that character more like the Bond of You Only Live Twice (1964 novel) following the death of Bonds wife Contessa Teresa “Tracy” di Vicenzo in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. In his quest for revenge Bond forms an alliance with a similar goal Camille (Olga Kurylenko) whose quest for vengeance overlaps with his. Given the two characters and the place they find themselves in, there is a completely new dynamic to the Bond/“Bond Girl” relationship. This leaves Gemma Arterton’s Agent Fields (read the credits to discover her first name) to fulfil the more traditional Bond Girl role. It would be easy to dismiss her small role, but it is significant to the plot and has a telling nod to the earlier Bond films. The globetrotting nature of the movie is in line with what you would expect but is less important than it was in the earlier films. The problem with Bond in the modern day is how to work around the existence of modern communications technology, contrivances of the plot and the setting make great use of this and it really works. I would however say that this can not work every time and sooner or later it will have to find its place in the world again.

As movies become more bloated it was a brave decision to make a Bond movie lasting little more than a hundred minutes, but it really works. As a direct sequel Bond hit’s the ground running, or driving to be more precise. To the credit of the short running time and the tight concise plot the pre credit sequence is directly relevant to the plot (they aren’t always). Beginning where Casino Royale’s epilogue ended sees Bond’s Aston Martin is chassed along perilous mountain roads between Lake Como and Siena with Mr White (Jesper Christensen) locked in the boot. Many of the less positive reviews criticise the plot, this is unfair, the plot is sound if a little simple. Bent on revenge but also investigating the Quantum organisation (a modern day SPECTRE) Bond’s part in the plot works. The villains, Dominic Greene (Mathieu Amalric) and General Medrano (Joaquín Cosio) are suitably menacing and loathsome and walk the fine line between caricatures and believable characters. Their intentions, the control of water supplies seems a little low key in comparison to megalomaniacs set on word domination or destruction but is actually both a most timely and realistic one. The one thing that seems to have been overlooked, it is possibly the best looking Bond film. The design and photography is nothing short of stunning, from the old DC-3 plane to the desert landscapes. They also make great use of the Palio di Siena horse race and a performance of Tosca on the floating opera stage at Bregenz, Austria. You don’t watch Bond for the production design but it certainly does no harm to the overall movie.

An underrated and under-appreciated movie that its detractors really should give a second chance. Like me I would recommend you watch it back to back with Casino Royale to best appreciate it in context.

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Skyfall

Country?
England
Gun?
Shot
Agent?
Provocateur
Murder?
Employment
Skyfall?
[no reply]
Skyfall?
Done!

I’m not normally one to get excited about trailers, and I very rarely write about them but as a fan of Bond movies I couldn’t help myself.

So what is Skyfall? Not a clue! What do we learn from the trailer? Not a lot! Ther is no sign of Albert Finney or Javier Bardem and only a brief glimpse of someone who could be Bérénice Marlohe. What we do get is this:

Bond is having some kind of evaluation we see (what appears to be) flashbacks of a mission. The evaluation is observed by M (Judi Dench) and Mallory (Ralph Fiennes) (who the hell is Mallory? I got the name from IMDB). Bond walks out and we get a series of brief images including a row of coffins draped in Union Flags, is this the result of the rumoured attack on MI6? Eve (Naomie Harris) shaves Bond with a straight razor in an intimate looking scene. Most of the shots are too brief that it is possible to make out what is going on without context, a terrorist attack? Then we see Bond and M (and Bond’s DB5) looking off into the distance in what looks like the Scottish Highlands. A burning building, Skyfall Manor? Then we get the killer line: “Some men are coming to kill us. We’re going to kill them first”.

Skyfall will be released in the UK on 26th October, mainland Europe 1st November and North America 6th November. We get it fist for once!

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I have mentioned on many occasions the link between cinema and cars, but what is a car without a driver? Mel Gibson’s “man with no name” in How I Spent My Summer Vacation (aka Get the Gringo) is credited as Driver, but he is not the first or the best Driver; here are my top five characters called Driver (or The Driver):

FIVE: Driver (Dwayne Johnson) in Faster (2010): A throwback to both car and revenge movies from the 70’s. Dwayne Johnson is an archetypal antihero like Gator McKlusky in White Lightning. A man of few words, on a mission for revenge, the movie is far better than you would expect as its star, Johnson. Mostly likely to be seen driving: 1970 Chevrolet Chevelle SS 

FOUR: The Driver, (Ryan O’Neal) in The Driver (1978): A minimalist classic about the best getaway driver in the business and the cop trying to catch him in the act. At its best in the chases and car related scenes notably the destruction of a Mercedes-Benz 280 S in a parking garage but not as cool or as slick as it thinks it is in the other scenes. It became the inspiration for many movies that followed as did Ryan O’Neal in the title role. Mostly likely to be seen driving: Anything with for wheels but notably: 1973 Chevrolet C-10 Pickup and 1977 Pontiac Firebird

THREE: The Driver (Clive Owen) in Ambush, Chosen, The Follow, Powder Keg, Star, Hostage, Beat the Devil, Ticker (2001-2002): Not actually a movie but well worth a place on the list. Along with Croupier (1998) this is where a lot of the Clive Owen for Bond talk came from. A series of web based BMW adverts with A list directors including: Tony Scott, John Woo, Guy Ritchie, Alejandro González Iñárritu, Kar Wai Wong, Ang Lee and John Frankenheimer. Aided by a supporting including Stellan Skarsgård, Gary Oldman, Danny Trejo and James Brown & Marilyn Manson (as themselves). With a great blend of action comedy and style they are that little bit more than just a series of car commercials. The idea is so good, so good that Luc Besson and Jason Statham took the idea and ran with it and thus, Frank Martin and the Transporter franchise began. Mostly likely to be seen driving: Various BMW’s from the early 2000’s

TWO: Driver (Ryan Gosling) in Drive (2011): When I first heard about Drive it was to be a Hugh Jackman action heist movie directed by Neil Marshall. While that could have been a great B movie, what we got from director Nicolas Winding Refn and star Ryan Gosling was so much more. Reminiscent of Michael Mann’s underrated classic Thief (1981). Violent rather than action packed, but the real pleasure is the way it manages to be retro and completely up to date at the same time, it is the star making turn Gosling has been waiting for. Mostly likely to be seen driving: a stolen getaway car or 1973 Chevrolet Chevelle Malibu

ONE: The Driver (James Taylor) in Two-Lane Blacktop (1971): A very different movie than the others on the list, where the others include violent action movies, Two-Lane Blacktop is an existential road movie, it is THE existential road movie. A time-capsule of the pre-Interstate Highway era and a metaphor for disaffected youth in a time when a nation and the world as a whole had lost its way and lost its innocence. This is life after Wyatt tells Billy “We blew it” in Easy Rider. The characters don’t have names in the true sense, they don’t need names! G.T.O (Warren Oates) drives a GTO, The Mechanic (Dennis Wilson) looks after the car, The Girl (Laurie Bird) is the girl they pick up along the way, The Driver (James Taylor) is just that, the driver. Mostly likely to be seen driving: 1955 Chevrolet One-Fifty Two-Door Sedan

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I miss Mel Gibson, when I say Mel Gibson, what I really mean Max Rockatansky and Martin Riggs. As a fan of his work I have always kind of hoped that his well published indiscretions are a symptom of his equally well published problems and not more deep-seated belief. How I Spent My Summer Vacation is his first movie playing his archetypical character for a long time, possibly since Payback (1999). This truly is a star vehicle, funded by Gibson, who produces and co wrote the movie. He also hand picked the director, Adrian Gruenberg (making his directorial debut) who had previously worked as assistant director on Apocalypto.

An American getaway driver (Mel Gibson) crashes into Mexico (literally) and is promptly arrested. In order to relive him of the proceeds of his crime (around $2million) the Mexican police dump him in an unusual jail. When he befriends a young boy with a unique value he is forced to think of more than just himself and his cash.

There is a scene towards the end of the movie where Gibson impersonates Clint Eastwood but long before that the film starts to resemble A Fistful of Dollars (1964)/Yojimbo (1961), I don’t think we ever learn what Gibson’s characters name is (from here on I will refer to him as Driver as he is credited on IMDB). The prison contains whole families and is run like a small town by a mob boss. There is even a wild west style shootout. Driver quickly learns who is in charge and what he needs to survive, all the time playing the angles to get out and get his money back. Although largely a likeable character Driver is at the end of the day a career criminal. Stealing from drug smuggling gangsters and helping others, he is given all the breaks when it comes to audience sympathy, not surprisingly when you consider Gibson is credited as both a writer and a producer.

Full of both the action and the dry whit you would expect from Martin Riggs, Gene Ryack and Porter, How I Spent My Summer Vacation is the story of man looking out for himself who finds a certain amount of redemption by thinking of others. Gibson’s own redemption can only be found in his personal life but attempting to get his career back on track and not disappearing to reclusive obscurity hints at a possible intention to do this. In the UK we get to see the movie on the big screen but in America it appears to have débuted on Video On Demand (under its original title Get the Gringo). This is a shame, while not a classic, it is good enough to deserve a theatrical release.

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With the long awaited, Sam Mendes directed James Bond movie less than six months away the internet is awash with images from the new film. Some official, some blurry grainy unofficial set shots. Below are a few of them along with some random thoughts.

In an early scene in In Dr. No. (1962) James Bond (Sean Connery) is forced to hand his beloved Beretta M1934 in to be replaced by 7.65 mm Walther PPK (the scene is taken almost verbatim from Ian Fleming’s novel after a readers recommendation that the Walther was a more suitable weapon for Bond). Bond continued to use his trusty PPK until Tomorrow Never Dies (1997) when he first got his hands on the new Walther P99. Keen eyed viewers may have noticed that in Quantum of Solace (2008) Bond (Daniel Craig) had reverted to the PPK. This and other images show him using the iconic old gun again in Skyfall.

First seen in Goldfinger (1964) the Aston Martin DB5 has become one of the most recognisable cars in movie history. Bond drove it again in Thunderball (1965). It didn’t appear again until Golden Eye (1995), where it appears to have become Bonds personal car where it is involved in a great scene involving a race with a Ferrari 355. A DB5 also had a brief appearance in Tomorrow Never Dies (1997) but made a more significant appearance in Casino Royale when Bond won one in a poker game. This image shows it will appear in Skyfall, and from the grey overcast sky I am guessing Bond has shipped his prize from the Bahamas to the UK.

When it was announced that Naomie Harris would appear in Skyfall, early speculation had her playing Moneypenny, it has since been announced that her character is called Eve. Little is known about the character but the description of her as “a field agent” suggests she will be far more than just eye candy. Images of her firing guns back this up.

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UK cinema goers may have noticed a change in the style of the certificate cards recently. These retro style cards are part of The British Board of Film Classification (BBFC)’s celebration of its centenary. Who are the BBFC? Put simply they are a none-profit organisation that is independent of film industry and more importantly the government. It is funded by the fees it charges for its services in classifying movies. As mentioned above, it has been in existence in one form or another for 100 years having been set up in 1912 as The British Board of Film Censors. Strictly speaking the true power lies with the local authorities throughout the UK but except a few exceptions always follow the guidance of the BBFC.

For a long time my feelings towards UK film censors were less than positive mainly due to the joke that was the Video Recordings Act 1984. In essence a harmless and sensible legislation that helped close a loophole bringing video recordings in line with cinema releases. Previously attempts had been made to prosecute under The Obscene Publications Act (1959 and 1964), this was clearly not fit for purpose and something was needed to clarify the issue. Unfortunately thanks to the ridicules and overblown “Video nasty” scare of the 1980’s it became a divisive law that pitted film fans against authority. Think of the misguided moral outcry against rock and roll music in the late 50’s and you get the idea. At the time I was too young to know anything about it, but just a few years later could not accept that there where films I could not see because of my age, and even worse that there were films that were banned outright. I’m not talking about the extremely gory horror movies but mainstream action films like the Arnold Schwarzenegger movies The Terminator (1984) and The Running Man (1987), the seminal action movie Die Hard (1988) and Mad Max (1979) to mention just a few. These came with 18 certificates preventing me from seeing them in the cinema or (legally) renting them on video.

Then in 1993 opinions were polarized by the murder of James Bulger. The horrendous crime was committed by two ten-year-old boys. There was some suggestion that the actions of the murderers were inspired or “encouraged” by video nasties with particular emphasis on Child’s Play 3. Despite Merseyside Police saying there was no connection, most people remembered the rhetoric of the tabloid press under the old adage don’t let the facts interfere with a good story. And thus begun the second age of the video nasty scare. In truth Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 clarified the rules rather than changed them and also gave The Secretary of State more power. It didn’t stop a tabloid led outcry that shamelessly used a tragedy for their own propaganda. At the time I had mixed feelings what was happening mainly because I was seventeen and had been able to pass for eighteen for some time and therefore could watch what I wanted. It was also around this time that I saw The Exorcist (1973) at the cinema, this was at a time when it was still not available on video and before its 1998 general re-release. This was my first experience of local independent cinema. I was back a week later to see Reservoir Dogs (1992). Two years after its original cinema release it was the only way to see it legally as BBFC initially refused to grant a home video certificate. Another hangover from Video Recordings Act 1984, UK releases are required to be certified separately for cinema and home viewing. My other memory from the time was of Natural Born Killers. Much anticipated as the release was delayed amid accusations that there had been copycat in countries that it had been shown. It was eventually shown in 1995 in the UK but not Ireland.

More recently there has been a new debate around the current 12A certificate. The Woman In Black was cut by the bbfc “to reduce moments of strong violence / horror” at the request of the distributor in order to achieve a 12A classification. The distributor for The Hunger Games showed an advanced cut of the movie to the BBFC and took advice on how to achieve a 12A classification. The finished film still strayed into the 15 category so a few alterations were made, digitally removing blood and “A number of cuts were made in one scene to reduce an emphasis on blood and injury”. The process of consulting the censor to achieve the desired classification shows a level of maturity and common sense that is a little saddening when compared to maverick filmmakers of the recent past who have pushed the boundaries of the medium. It is however in its own way an example of pushing boundaries and has resulted in its of criticism. Listeners to Kermode and Mayo’s Film Reviews on radio 5 have commented on the classification of both movies. Some horror fans resent The Lady in Black being cut to give a more child friendly rating. On the other hand The Hunger Games has been accused of being too violent for a 12A audience. There is a school of thought that the none violent killing seen in 12A movies is more dangerous to an audience in its formative years to the violent and bloody killings of Battle Royale (2000). Then I look back on the movies I mentioned above, is The Running Man much more violent than The Hunger Games? The answer is yes and no, it is no more violent but it is more graphic. To compare it to more contemporary films, If The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003) and 300 (2006) can achieve 12A and 15 classifications respectively, The Hunger Games looks about right.

It wasn’t until I hit thirty and started looking back at all the films I have seen when I realised the censors can be a positive thing. When you look at the Motion Picture Production Code and the inventiveness of movies like The Asphalt Jungle (1950) or the ambiguity of Detour (1945) used to work with in the rules. But more importantly than that we need to look at films that pushed the boundaries or even broke the rules like Otto Preminger’s The Man with the Golden Arm (1955), Billy Wilder’s Some Like It Hot (1959), Sidney Lumet’s The Pawnbroker (1964) and Arthur Penn’s Bonnie and Clyde (1967). While I am more on the side of those who break the rules, where would we be without the rule breakers?

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Already the most talked about movie of the year so far, the one thing we don’t need is another review of The Avengers. Therefore I am going to try and avoid reviewing the movie other than to say I have seen it, and I loved it. So what follows are just a ramblings and thoughts on the franchise and where it is going. To begin with, lets get one thing straight, the new UK title Marvel Avengers Assemble is a bit of a mouthful and is frankly crap so from this moment on I will refer to the movie as The Avengers.

Making a movie of The Avengers must have seemed like a good idea, but how do you bring together a disparate group of characters in a coherent story? By starting with a series of movies involving the individual characters gives a strong base and also solves the problem of protracted introductions of multiple characters. The problem, it builds expectations of the fans and risks alienating the uninitiated. The greatest challenge is probably containing Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark / Iron Man who could run away with the whole movie, but there is even more to it than that. How do you use Bruce Banner and The Hulk within the team? To add to this problem Mark Ruffalo is the third Bruce Banner in less than a decade, do you introduce him again or go with an assumed back story? Then you have Natasha Romanoff / Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and Clint Barton / Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) who have made fleeting appearances but have not had their own movies, they also seem to lack any supper abilities. Slotting the two fish out of water character, Steve Rogers / Captain America (Chris Evans) and Thor (Chris Hemsworth) into the mix also has its challenges. If you can solve all these problems you then need a suitable villain. The X-Men movies accomplish this by using multiple villains to pair off against the heroes, this works for them but The Avengers are a very different group to The X-Men. Loki (Tom Hiddleston) was a great choice, having already been introduced in Thor we already know his back story. He is also an interesting villain with a typically comic book agenda.

Where do you start a project like this? The director. It would have been easy to pick one of the successful directors of the earlier films: Jon Favreau (Iron Man), Joe Johnston (Captain America: The First Avenger), Kenneth Branagh (Thor), but the avengers needs to be its own movie not an Iron Man or Thor sequel. My interest certainly increased when Joss Whedon’s name was attached to the project. To put it simply, Whedon just gets it. Treating the group as a dysfunctional family whose personalities get in the way whenever they are put in a room together. This clash is what makes the movie funny, but it is also the basis that makes the team work as just that, a team. The key to the success is the relationships, as a group of individuals they are defined by the way they interact. Tony Stark and Steve Rogers are like bickering siblings, but Iron Man and Captain America are a proficient team. The biggest beneficiary of the Whedon effect is Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow who is promoted from little more than eye candy in Iron Man 2. She is funny and sexy and is a surprisingly deep character. There has to be some mileage in giving Black Widow an origin movie of her own or possible one shared with Hawkeye. Given his background of ass kicking female characters (Buffy/River/Echo), Joss Whedon would be the perfect director to take it on.

One of the first things I noticed about the film was the unusually narrow aspect ratio (1.85:1), the fact that I completely forgot this within a few minutes suggests it wasn’t important and the chosen format worked. I have read that Cinematographer Seamus McGarvey chose the ratio to help frame the unusually tall characters like The Hulk along side normal and short characters. It has also been mentioned that Joss Whedon favoured this ratio of the more normal wider ratios with his climatic Manhattan, sequence in mind.

Given the least back-story I wondered where Clint Barton / Hawkeye would fit in to the story. He is actually really important to the plot and along with Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow give the team and the movie a grounding. It all helps in the meteoric rise of Jeremy Renner, I had little idea who he was a few years ago, I vaguely remember him in 28 Weeks Later and S.W.A.T. and have no recollection of him in The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford. His breakthrough performance came in The Hurt Locker where he received a much deserved Oscar nomination. Clearly Hollywood was just as impressed as I was, he has found his way into three big franchises. As well as Hawkeye in The Avengers he also landed a part in Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol that is rumoured as a future replacement for Tom Cruise as the main star of the franchise. Later this year he will appear in The Bourne Legacy, possibly the first part of a new trilogy.

With a positive response from critics and a strong box-office this will not be the only time we see the Avengers assemble, but here dose the franchise go from here? Avengers 2, Iron Man 3, Captain America 2, Thor 2, The Hulk 3 (or rebooted)? Probably all of the above. As mentioned above I would also like to see a Black Widow and/or a Hawkeye prequel/origin. There is also space for a Nick Fury stand alone movie. Not to mention all the other Marvel Characters who could appear. The most obvious would be Spider-Man, this probably isn’t possible at them moment as Sony currently own the rights (along with Ghost Rider). A similar problem exists with Fox who hold: The X-Men, Daredevil and The Fantastic Four. This isn’t a bad thing as I am happy to see the Avengers and X-Men universes kept apart.

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Movies seen in April:

Mirror Mirror: miscast and poorly written but sumptuous looking with a great concept.

Wrath of the Titans: better than Clash of the Titans and benefits from actually having a titan in it. Its still pretty rubbish.

Headhunters: the latest Scandinavian crime thriller is a little lighter than the Millennium trilogy but engaging and enjoyable.

Cold Light of Day: flawed and unoriginal action thriller. It has some good moments but nothing you haven’t seen before.

Battleship: dumb action movie from the Transformers mould. Not as good as Transformers but better than its two sequels. It even includes a couple of laments of the board game.

The Cabin in the Woods: superior Meta-Horror best viewed with no prior knowledge. Even avoid the trailer if you can.

Lockout: another dumb action B movie but this one gets away with all its faults because it is great fun.

Marley: documentary exploring the life, love and most importantly the music of Bob Marley. It isn’t this years Senna, but it isn’t far off.

Gone: when the police don’t believe her a young woman takes matters into her own hands to find her missing sister. A thin implausible plot but Amanda Seyfried is good as always.

Marvel Avengers Assemble (re-titled in the UK to avoid confusion with The Avengers): Joss Whedon has done the impossible. Bringing a disparate group of characters together to create an exciting and entertaining movie with just the right blend of action and comedy.

Headhunters, The Avengers, Cabin In The Woods and Marley are all better films, but movie of the month is about more than just been the best. For being surprisingly good and being great fun, the movie of the month is: Lockout.

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