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Archive for June, 2013

Dead Man DownStar Trek Into DarknessMan of SteelFast and Furious 6The Great GatsbyOblivionMudByzantiumThe PurgeSpring Breakers

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A couple of days ago Ryan at The Matinee wrote an interesting article about George Lucas’ vision for the future of cinema. We seem to have a similar view on Lucas’ brave new world so I decided to write a comment; not for the first time in responding to one of Ryan’s articles a quick response suddenly became 600 word rant. Rather than post it I decided to publish it here.

As I have mentioned many times I am my local multiplex’s worst customer. I pay £15 per month for a pass allowing me to attend as often as I like. I go around ten times per month. I don’t buy confectionary or drinks (that’s where the cinema’s real profit is) and I take advantage of their three hours free parking. All in all I pay around £1.50 per film (that’s around $2.25) excluding the cost of travel. I sometimes go to my local independent cinema for around £7 to se a film that isn’t on at a multiplex. I am prepared to go to the extra effort and cost for a smaller independent film, I’m not sure I would bother for a bigger film if things were the other way around. If a big movie opens I often go and see the smaller releases first as I know they won’t be out for long. It also means when I do o and see the blockbusters the cinema won’t be quite as packed. This month I have seen the big releases like World War Z and Man of Steel, but the film I was most looking forward to was Before Midnight. To put it simply the big movie isn’t always the most appealing or to of my to see list.George lucas

As you may have guessed I think George Lucas has lost the plot. The only way I can see where he came up with this is if he truly has no idea how much $40 is to the man on the street in a regular job and a regular income. The multi billionaire appears to want to make the most inclusive and accessible visual art form into something exclusive. Given his history I wouldn’t expect an idea like this to come from a man like him for two reasons: 1 – He is the man who made a film that grossed 250 times its budget (American Graffiti not Star Wars); 2 – One of the reasons the Star Wars movies make so much money is the people who go back and see them for a second or a third time. american graffiti

The concept of changing prices between a bread and butter movie and an event movie isn’t that strange. English Premier League football clubs vary their ticket priced depending on who they are playing, however the price difference he is mentioning makes no sense. Forgetting any discounts a standard ticket is £7.70. if they were to drop that to £7.50 for most films put it up to £10 for “event movies” it would make a kind of sense. In a way they are already doing this with “event movies” often being in 3D and Imax, with the additional charges and the price of 3D glasses we are getting used to paying extra for certain films. They tend to be the most expensive to make but far from the best films. In that way we only have ourselves to blame if we are stupid enough to go and watch the 3D movies. In my defense I always go for the 2D version when I can, but there is often no 2D option or the time of the 3D is better for me.The Great 3D Swindle

Here is the interesting thing. How will distributors decide what is a $7 movie and what is $40 movie? If a studio makes a turkey like John Carter that gets panned by the critics do they hold out for the $40 a ticket to recoup their money or do they sell it cheep in the hope of getting bums on seats? If a movie has a large budget does it have to wear its $40 ticket as a badge of honour, anything cheaper would be an admission of weakness or lack of quality? I think there will be a time in the not too distant future where ticket prices will rise. There is a limit to how much the cinema’s can keep increasing the cost of food and beverages. It is unlikely that distributors will let cinemas take a larger cut so to keep on making money they will have to increase ticket prices. This is a very different thing to what Lucas has proposed.

The great successes of cinema is despite the rising prices it can still be a relatively cheep night out. That is why admissions have gone up during the recession the way they did during the great depression. By pricing a lot of people out of the cinema at a time when home systems are getting bigger and better would be counterproductive. Or to quote Ryan “Hollywood – your product makes you money because of one simple reason: you stack ‘em high and sell ‘em cheap. Don’t fuck with that.”

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When I mentioned to a friend that I was doing this Blind Spot Series, of all the classic movies he could have suggested he said something along the lines of “I bet you still haven’t seen Billy Elliot”, he was right. So why hadn’t I seen it? The aforementioned friend had seen the movie with his wife and recommended I see it. I wasn’t interested. I wouldn’t go as far as to say I am as small minded as the characters in the film, but in 2000 when it came out I had no interest in a movie about Ballet. So what’s changed? I still have no interest in Ballet, I have never been to a ballet (although I do own a couple of records of ballet music). I have now seen The Red Shoes (1948) and Black Swan (2010) that paint a darker and more interesting picture on the subject. In other words I am a little more open minded. Billy Elliot

Northeast England, Billy Elliot (Jamie Bell) is the eleven year old son of a coal miner during the 1984 strike. When the strike forces the local ballet class to share a hall with his boxing club Billy soon discovers he is more interested in dancing than fighting. Torn between his love of dancing a the gritty realism of daily life Billy is given direction by his ballet teacher (Julie Walters ) who sees something in him and encourages him to pursue greater things.

 The film is perfectly setup in the first scene, it possibly tells us all we need to know and all we will know at the end of the film:

Boucing on bed playing “I Love to Boogie” by T-Rex – Billy likes dancing
Billy caring for grandmother – One of his parents is missing
Riot Police on the hill in the background – Social unrest
Shares bedroom with much older brother –Social deprivation

Further into the movie Billy reads a letter from his late mother telling him to “Always be yourself”. this is the real story of the film. First Billy has to find himself before he can be himself, however he is family and the community what to keep him and everyone else in their place, in their box. This box is beautifully realised by Billy literally breaking out of the outdoor toilet. He is the angry young man we have seen countless times before, but he is an angry young man with an outlet. When Billy is given a pair of ballet shoes, he hides them under his mattress, the place in movies where adolescent boys hide porn! This perfectly demonstrates the conflict and embarrassment he feels about his dancing. He knows there is nothing wrong with it but he can’t share it with his family who won’t understand. The era is perfectly realised in the events and the look of the film. The background of the miners strike is gives it an extra dimension but doesn’t dwell on it. The coming out of a classmate plays well against the Billy’s constant explanation that dancers aren’t “puff’s”. A lot of the music is from the 70’s not the 80’s but fits perfectly. The glam of T-Rex against the anger of The Jam and The Clash not only sets the tone for the movie but also highlights the contrasts.billy elliot julie walters

What sets the film apart and makes it work is the heart, the humour and the realism. These are characters we believe in and more importantly and that care for. This is because of the faultless direction, but more importantly the actors playing them. At the heart of the movie is Jamie Bell in the title role, he deservedly won the Best Actor BAFTA beating Russell Crowe, Tom Hanks, Michael Douglas and Geoffrey Rush (all Oscar winners). Looking back now knowing what a great actor he has become this is no surprise, but we have to remember this was his debut film. Julie Walters (Oscar nominated for Best Actress in a Supporting Role) is fantastic as the ballet teacher, a mixture of Mr. Miyagi, Dr. Frank Bryant, John Keating and Mickey Goldmill in equal parts. The first and still possibly the most significant movie from director Stephen Daldry, but again looking back this is no great surprise. The notable thing about all his subsequent movies has been the acting.

The emotion of the film never feels forced or contrived, neither does the comedy.  But we have seen these things many times before.  the remakable simplicity and perfection of the story is the arc of the characters.  Not Billy, but the supporting characters he drags along for the ride.  for the change in attitudes to not be out of place in the context of the story and the setting is a great triumph from Daldry and for screenwriter Lee Hall.  billy elliot jamie bell

A very British film. Looking back it tells the story of a significant time in British history that wasn’t that long ago, but equally it was stepping stone in the rejuvenation of the British film industry. The film always falls more on the side of uplifting than grim social realism, this certainly helped the box-office, but surprisingly doesn’t devalue the film, it just makes it more accessible. I’m sorry I waited so long.

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When visiting my parents or talking to then on the telephone they often ask what movies I have seen, if I respond with the name of a film they haven’t heard of my mom, knowing I watch a lot of foreign language movies will ask “is it foreign”. On more than one occasion I have given the somewhat flippant and slightly rude response “yes, American”. It is funny that a movie made five thousand miles away in Hollywood is familiar and not foreign because it is in something similar to “The Queens English”, and yet something made across the channel in France, still on the same continent as England, is in some way foreign and exotic. Maybe we are two nations joined by a common language and not divided by it as George Bernard Shaw quipped. Whatever the reason, as we step below the surface of these idea we find an interesting thing, filmmaking does exist beyond the bright lights of Hollywood, both in Europe and in the rest of America.Mean Streets The Terminator Blood Simple Memento

When I talk about American independent cinema it isn’t just the obvious and seminal movies like Easy Rider (1969) (Dennis Hopper) or Two-Lane Blacktop (1971) (Monte Hellman) or the small no budget movies that you have never heard of. Think of some of the biggest name directors working today: Martin Scorsese, James Cameron, Ethan and Joel Coen, Christopher Nolan, then look at their independent films Mean Streets (1973), The Terminator (1984), Blood Simple (1984), Memento (2000) . Sam Raimi may be making money movies for Disney now but it all started with Evil Dead (1981) and Evil Dead II (1987). Would George Lucas have made Star Wars (1977), if he hadn’t already made THX-1138 (1971) or the hugely profitable American Graffiti (1973)? Then there are directors like David Lynch, Quentin Tarantino and Darren Aronofsky that are just more comfortable outside or on the edge of the system. There was a time before he started believing his own publicity that Kevin Smith was the darling of the indie scene thanks to the cult status of Clerks (1994), but before that came Richard Linklater’s Slacker (1991). A day in the life of various social outcasts and misfits held together by loose strands and an even looser narrative, the style and the realistic dialogue became a blueprint for a generation. Linklater wasn’t seduced by Hollywood instead he remained in Austin and two years later he came up with Dazed And Confused (1993).Dazed And Confused Clerks THX 1138 Evil Dead

The same can be said for foreign language cinema, it isn’t all about weird esoteric art house movies, there are many accessible movies not in the English language. Not that the weird esoteric art house movies are a bad thing, they are just not the best place to start. The test as to if a movie is accessible and worth seeing is simple, would you watch it if it were in English? If the answer is yes, it is worth a look. There were two movies that seemed to cross the language barrier that came out within a year of each other just over a decade ago: Ang Lee’s Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000) and Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s Amélie (2001). Many of the people who watched and enjoyed them wouldn’t normally have seen a movie in another language. There have been some interesting examples too; the French thriller Tell No One (2006) is very American in its style, no great surprise, it is based on an American novel (of the same name) by Harlan Coben. A Hollywood remake was supposed to have been made but it doesn’t appear to have materialised yet. The same can’t be said for Anything for Her (2008), it took just two years for the American remake The Next Three Days to hit cinema screens. Both Tell No One and Anything for Her benefited from the presence of actresses familiar to English speaking audiences Kristin Scott Thomas and Diane Kruger respectively. On the subject of remakes the terrible Queen Latifah movie Taxi (2004) is a remake of a great French movie also called Taxi (1998). It has spawned three sequels (the first of which is also really good) the movies are notable for lots of things including significant early roles for Marion Cotillard.Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon Amélie Tell No One Anything for Her

When I first saw Oldboy (2003) it immediately became one of my all time favourite films. I didn‘t expect it to have gained the following that it has, I also didn‘t think Hollywood would dare to touch it, but they have the American remake of Park Chan-wook’s vengeance movievis in production and is set for release later this year, it is directed by Spike Lee. The other movie that plays well to British and American audiences is Run Lola Run (1998). It put its German star Franka Potente and director and Tom Tykwer onto the international stage both have worked in American and their native Germany many times since. But I can trace my first experience of a foreign language movie back a little further than that. In 1990 I read a review of a film I really wanted to see Nikita (1990). At fourteen years old I didn’t have a chance of getting into see it at the cinema to see the eighteen certificate movie, but a couple of months later (when I was fifteen) renting the video was surprisingly easy. Its impact in America was such that it spawned a Hollywood remake and two television series. Its director Luc Besson’s next two films Léon (1994) and The Fifth Element (1997) were in English.Oldboy Run Lola Run Nikita Taxi

I have done little more than scratch the surface of independent and foreign langue movies, but I hope I have inspired at least one person to look below the tent-pole blockbuster and popcorn movie and towards the smaller films that don’t get all the publicity. Many of them will get limited runs in big multiplexes but others are harder to find, but if this means you are also helping to support your local independent cinema’s it’s an added bonus. As you grow to love them as much as I do you will look deeper and further back at older movies and a whole world of cinema will open up to you. I know that I am to a certain extent preaching to the converted as many readers are film fans and bloggers themselves and are far more cineliterate than me.

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Mixtape Movies

Mixtape Movies Image 2

“To me, making a tape is like writing a letter – there’s a lot of erasing and rethinking and starting again. A good compilation tape, like breaking up, is hard to do. You’ve got to kick off with a corker, to hold the attention, and then you’ve got to up it a notch, or cool it a notch, and…oh, there are loads of rules.” – Rob Gordon (John Cusack) in High Fidelity.  (Thanks to Toby for reminding me of this great quote)

“Over the last twenty-five years the mix tape has become a paradigmatic form of popular expression. It is one part Victorian flower album, one part commonplace book, one part collage, and one part recital. The maker dubs onto cassette or burns onto CD a group of songs by other hands, the selection and sequence intended to compose a billet-doux, score a dance party, prove a point, or simply demonstrate the compiler’s taste and expertise. It is a natural outcome of home-recording technology, and represents a back-porch, scaled-down amateur version of the highly competitive art of the DJ.” Luc Sante from Disco Dreams published in The New York Review of Books

I asked movie bloggers to to use this idea of a mixtape to create a list of movies that fit together in some way, in any way. This is what they came up with:

Toby from blahblahblahgay:
Mixtape 1 – A Tiny Flame to Cup One’s Hand Around and Protect From the Wind
Mixtape 2 – Home Sweet Home
Mixtape 3 – Dude, It’s A Volleyball!

Andrew from a fistful of films:
A trip to the movies with a Movie Mixtape

Anna from Defiant Success:
Mixtape 1
Mixtape 2
Mixtape 3
Mixtape 4
Mixtape 5
Mixtape 6 

Brittani from Rambling Film:
Mixtape – Rock Bottom

Alex from And So it Begin
Bergman Not By Bergman Mixtape

Brian Schuck from Films From Beyond the Time Barrier:
Mixtape

Sofia from Rörliga bilder och tryckta ord
Mixtape – The Unexpected Visit
I feel particularly honoured by this entry, It is the first time Sofia from Sweden has posted in English since the last time she participated in one of my blogathon.

Henrik from Fripps filmrevyer
80’s ActionMixtape

Alex from Boycotting Trends.
Childhood Portraits Mixtape

Nick from Cinema Romantico
Lovers on the lam Mixtape

Elwood from From The Depths of DVD Hell
The Suprise Badass Mixtape

Jess from French Toast Sunday 
Life Could be a Dream Mixtape 
Girls Mixtape
Nick from French Toast Sunday 
Captive(8ed Audience) Mixtape
Marc from French Toast Sunday 
Cold Hard B!#@h Mixtape
Does That Make Me Crazy? Mixtape

Rich from Wide Screen World
The Trek captains volume Mixtape

My own Mixtapes:
“Cover Songs” Mixtape
Trouble in Mind Mixtape
Fandango Mixtape

Anyone else who wishes to take part or if I have missed you off the list email me fandangogroovers@gmail.com or post a comment below.Mixtape Movie

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now you see me movie posterOn Monday evening I attended a preview screening of a mystery movie at the Birmingham branch of a large cinema chain. This wasn’t an opening this weekend cynical attempt to distort the box-office, but a genuine preview of a movie that doesn’t open until for another two and half weeks. I have done this in the past when I have been invited to a preview screening and have seen some great films that I knew little or nothing about including Intacto (2001), The Pianist (2002) and The History Boys (2006). I have also seen some terrible movies that I wish I hadn’t seen including Party Monster (2003) and Dreamgirls (2006). This was different, it wasn’t an invitation only event, it was a well publicised packed house. While waiting for the for the movie to start I got talking to the person next to me, it turned out he actually worked for the cinema and even he didn’t know what the movie would be. He found out about five minutes before the res of us but was sworn to secrecy. When the movie was revelled I did wonder if the man wearing the “Games Games Games” T shirt and the man in the Facebook T’shirt already knew or if it was a coincidence. I took my usual place in the centre of the first row of stadium seating and noticed the front rows were filling quicker than the back rows as you would expect for a big movie. A true sign of a movie geek/loving audience! The other noticeable thing about audience was how well the followed “the code of conduct” there was no talking during the movie and little, noise/smell of food distracting from the enjoyment of the movie. I did wonder when booking by tickets how many people would turn up to see an unknown movie at 8:15 on a Monday evening, especially given the fact the weather outside had begun to resemble the summer that we are allegedly nearing the middle of. The aforementioned near full house, in one of the cinemas largest screens answered my question. So the experience was a good one but was the movie?

In a word yes. Don’t get me wrong, Now You See Me  isn’t a masterpiece that will live long in the memory, but it was a fun crowd-pleasing movie that was perfect for the occasion:

Four stage magicians/illusionists calling themselves The Four Horsemen appear to rob a bank in Paris without leaving the stage during a live performance is Las Vegas. An FBI agent and an Interpol detective team up to track them down with the help of a man who has made his name and fortune revealing and debunking magic tricks.Now You See Me The Four Horsemen

It comes as no surprise that director Louis Leterrier made his name with action movies (The Transporter 1&2, Unleashed, The Incredible Hulk and Clash of the Titans). The movie only has a couple of ig set piece action scenes, but they are particularly well handled. The movie also plays out at a breakneck pace with its near tow hour running time flying buy. This has two effects, it keeps the audience interested but it also stops them thinking too much about the holes and implausibilities in the plot.now you see me Mark Ruffalo Mélanie Laurent

The cast is great with Jesse Eisenberg and Woody Harrelson having a lot of fun with the characters as does Mark Ruffalo. Mélanie Laurent is wasted but does what she can with in part that promises much but actually doesn’t do much. It’s a similar story with Isla Fisher and Dave (brother of James) Franco who only really have one good scene each away fro the stage shows. The supporting cast includes Morgan Freeman and Michael Caine who are perfect for there small but significant roles. The greatest issue with the movie is the fantastic cast; it helps highlight who thin and underwritten the characters are. The charisma and likeability of the actors prevents it form being a disaster. In lesser hands the audience would not buy into the movie of feel anything for the characters, however better characters could have resulted in a more memorable movie like The Sting (1973) or Oceans Eleven (2001 not 1960).Now You See Me Morgan Freeman and Michael Caine

As mentioned the plot is thin and implausible, but again it gets away with partly because of the cast, partly the pace but mainly because it packs so much into two hour. There are plenty of twists, turns and reveals, some you will see coming, others you probably won’t. This in itself is a clever metaphor for illusions and stage magic. The characters keep reminding us of distractions and illusions, so the overriding plot of the movie is a whodunit, that keeps reminding us that it is a whodunit.

How much you like the movie may depend of how much you saw coming, too much and it would be dull, too little and you just weren’t watching it, but ultimately it’s the performances particularly from Eisenberg and Harrelson that will win you over. I don’t give star rating any longer, if I did it would probably be a solid 3 out of 5. It isn’t the best movie I have seen this week, but it is one enjoyed and I will have no problem in recommending it to friends when it opens next month. And that can be the only reason for the preview screening. There were no questionnaires to be used for publicity purposes. The only reason I can see for the cinema previewing the movie is for word of mouth and to give something back to their most loyal customers, keeping them happy loyal.

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Do you remember Deep Impact and Armageddon in 1998, Dante’s Peak and Volcano in 1997 or Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves and Robin Hood in 1991? There are countless other examples, last year we had two takes on the Snow White fairytale with Mirror Mirror and Snow White and the Huntsman. Later in the year we will get to see how White House Down compares to Die Hard in the West Wing Olympus Has Fallen. Before that we have the recently released After Earth to pair up with Oblivion from earlier in the year:

The concept

Oblivion: In the future, one man (Tom Cruise) and his wife (Andrea Riseborough) remain on an abandoned earth to maintain the machines set to mine the planets natural resources.

After Earth: In the future, a man and his teenage son (Will Smith and Jaden Smith) crash land on an abandoned and inhospitable earth.

Oblivion and After Earth posters

The Talent

Oblivion: Despite a few missteps in recent years, Tom Cruise is still one of the biggest stars in the world as he has been since the late 80’s. the supporting cast includes Morgan Freeman, Olga Kurylenko and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (Jaime Lannister in Game of Thrones) , but the standout performance comes from Andrea Riseborough who is nothing short of amazing in a limited role.

After Earth: The film is book-ended and contains flashbacks with other characters the film is largely a two character movie. The two are played by superstar Will Smith and his son Jaden who you may remember from The Karate Kid. The girl in the flashbacks is played by Zoë (daughter of Lenny) Kravitz last seen in X-Men: First Class.Oblivion & After Earth The Talent

Whose behind the camera?

Oblivion: With just his second feature Joseph Kosinski again shows the visual flare he showed with TRON: Legacy, but again shows a lack of depth in his character development.

After Earth: Newsflash, the Emperor is but fucking naked. M.

Night Shyamalan is not a good director. The Sixth Sense (1999) is just about the most overrated movie of the last twenty years. The Village (2004) is okay and Unbreakable (2000) is a decent film. The rest of his output is forgettable at best.Joseph Kosinski and M Night Shyamalan

The Good

Oblivion: The movie is set within a believable Sci-Fi world. The film is shot largely on location this is enhanced by visual effects rather than dominated by them, this helps it look amazing. The acting is generally good and as mentioned above sometimes amazing.

After Earth: The film looks good and the action scenes are practically well handled.

The bad

Oblivion: The plot and the characters all feel a little thin and the twists and turns in the plot are telegraphed to the audience.

After Earth: The dialogue is terrible at best. The plot is thin and full of holes.

The Similarities

The two movies are both set on a largely abandoned earth and feature megastar actors with something to prove.

The differences

Oblivion is largely plot driven and plays out with a combination action adventure and mystery thriller. After Earth is more like a computer game where one character has to achieve a task within a timescale.Oblivion & After Earth

The Verdict

After Earth isn’t a terrible film and doesn’t deserve the critical pounding it has received. That isn’t to say it is a great film, it is deeply flawed and gets away with a lot thanks to its short running time and well choreographed action. Oblivion is surprisingly good, the end is either perfectly executed or a contrived cop-out depending on your point of view.

The best abandoned Earth movie from 2103 is:oblivion-movie-poster

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