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Archive for July, 2013

When picking a blind spot movie what better recommendation than one from the series organiser, that is sort of what I have done. Back in June, Ryan and his guest Matthew Price spoke about The Iron Giant on the Man of Steel episode of The Matineecast.the iron giant poster

Small town America 1957, Hogarth Hughes a young boy living with his mom discovers a giant robot that has crash landed from space. Due to his need to eat metal the giant is sure to be discovered as he leaves a trail of destruction behind him. Hogarth, helps him and hides him in a nearby scrap yard. But soon government agent Kent is on their trail.

iron giant diner scene

I was aware of the movie from its initial release but didn’t bother watching it because it is animated and as mentioned previously I have never been particularly interested in animation. I had read the 1968 novel The Iron Man by Ted Hughes as a kid and remember enjoying it. It turns out plot of the film is very different from the one in the book, but it does share a lot of themes and ideas. At the heart of the movie is the character of the giant who appears to be some sort of weapon, a war machine, but he chooses to be good, he chooses not to kill. Set in what is to the modern eye a is a more innocent time, a time when the world was in a post war boom the cold war was still relatively cold. But the red scare and the fear of nuclear war was real. In the mist of this the essance of death and killing, a weapon learns the beauty of the world, the importance of friendship and possibly the meaning of life. The beauty of it, is the purity, he learns it froma child with the innocence and optimism of a child. To top all this off the film doesn’t fall into all the usual clichéd problems of animation: cute animal sidekicks, impromptu song and dance numbers, innuendo filled comedy to keep the adults entertained.MCDIRGI EC011

I am not one to wax lyrical about look of animation, it doesn’t interest or excite me in the same way as cinematography, having said that The Iron Giant is both interesting and strangely pretty to look at. I’m told it employs a mixture of traditional and computer generated animation, but I really don’t care, how they achieved is insignificant, what they achieved is what matters. What they have achieved is a genuine family film. It isn’t a kids film with nods to adults, or an adults film watered down for kids, it is a film that can hold the interested of kids and adults alike, and one that parents can happily show to kids knowing it won’t be in any way unsuitable. It is a modern-day fairytale, a fairytale for a generation that doesn’t believe in fairytales. The voice cast includes Jennifer Aniston, Harry Connick Jr. and Vin Diesel, but this really isn’t that important. The delivery of the cast is good as is there comic timing, but there is nothing showy or ostentatious about it. A cynical person may suggest the 53 words spoken by the giant represents a larger vocabulary than Vin Diesel is used to delivering in a movie. However you look at it the cast do their job to great effect.The iron giant scrapyard

This is the second animated movie I have seen in the Blind Spot series, and while I sort of enjoyed Princess Mononoke and could see what others like about it, I actually liked and enjoyed The Iron Giant and will probably watch it again some day.

See the rest of the Blind Spot films for July HERE

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2009 X-Men origin: Wolverine was a mess; it suffered from too many characters and an incoherent plot.  Previous X-Men movies have handled the character well revelling parts of his mysterious back story in flashbacks and exposition.  An origin story is just that, taking the character back to the origins and exploring how he became the charter we know.  With the back-story out the way how does a second Wolverine movie stand up?the-wolverine

Set some time after the events of X-Men: The Last Stand (2006), haunted by the death of Jean Grey, Logan (Hugh Jackman) has dropped the moniker Wolverine and is living a solitary existence in the woods.  He is tracked down by a young woman whose employer is keen for him to visit Japan.

A notably better movie than Origins or The Last Stand but it still lacks the magic of the other X-Men movies.  The most notable thing about the story is the scale and subtext.  While the X-Men movies are concerned with global issues and have social subtext, The Wolverine is concerned with a story more personal to the character and subtext (if there is one) that is more existential. This helps the movie survive on its own merits away from a big franchise.  There is enough exposition to allow a newcomer enjoy the movie without being bogged down with the back-story.  The Wolverine

The mutant level is also kept to a minimum with just a couple of other “gifted” characters.  These include the villain, Viper (Svetlana Khodchenkova), who like lots of other characters in the movie are based on characters from the comic books.  We get a version of Mariko (Tao Okamoto) Yukio (Rila Fukushima) and Silver Samurai, comic book purists may not like them, but they do work within the context of the movie.  Viper is well used both orchestrating the henchmen and getting involved with the action herself, although her first appearance in a movie she seems very familiar, coming across as a combination of Poison Ivy (Uma Thurman) from Batman & Robin (1997) and Typhoid Mary (Natassia Malthe) from Elektra (2005). As with the comic book character she is based on Viper goes back to the traditions of the early days of the comic book villains she dresses in green.  She is interestingly the only character in the movie who dresses in what can be described as a comic book costume. Viper and Mariko in the wolverine

The action scenes are well handled when they involve Logan fighting with sword or claws but fall down when CGI gets involved.  A case in point is a fight seen on a bullet train, there are elements of it that are really good but others that are ludicrous.  This kind of sums the whole film up, some of it works some of it doesn’t.  The final showdown could have been better but it does neatly tie up the story and leaves us wanting more.  As you would expect for a comic book movie, there is a “stinger” a short way into the credits.  Without spoiling it too much I will say it appears to relate to the forthcoming X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014).  For the first time in an X-Men movie they have managed in the one scene to achieve what the Avengers movies do, creating excitement for the next film.Rila Fukushima

Although different in tone the movie does fit in with the other movies in the series with one exception: Unless I am missing something, there is a huge continuity error, Logan lost his memory towards the end of Origins (it appears to be 1979), and yet in the present day he appears to have memories of 1945.  As mentioned in a previous article, we still have more than 20 years of Logan’s life that is unaccounted for between the end Origins and his first appearance in X-men, so there is lots of space for another stand alone story. 

It doesn’t always feel like an X-Men movie and it is flawed, but it is largely a fun and enjoyable.  It has its charms and some great moments marks a great improvement on Wolverines other solo outing.

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It is relatively easy for a main character in a TV show to be a perfectly cast well drawn and rounded character, but the best shows can claim the same in the supporting roles. There are many of them: Katey Sagal in Sons of Anarchy, Peter Dinklage (one of an ensemble rather than a supporting character) in Game of Thrones and Kelly Macdonald in Boardwalk Empire, but there are two that really stand out for me: Ruth Wilson as Alice Morgan in Luther and Walton Goggins as Boyd Crowder in Justified.Ruth Wilson and Walton Goggins

We first met Alice Morgan (Ruth Wilson) in the first episode of Luther back in 2010. Fresh back from seven month suspension, DCI John Luther (Idris Elba) returns to investigate a home invasion/double murder. After interviewing Alice, the victims daughter he soon realises that she killed them but can’t prove it. In any normal show that would be the end of it but Luther is far from a normal show. A genius, sociopath, narcissist and serial killer she should be a detestably character but is strangely alluring for both Luther and viewers of the show.Alice Morgan

The great thing about Boyd Crowder is that he is both ambiguous and morally ambiguous. We first meet him as a white supremacist who doesn’t appear to be a racist (unless there is money in it). He reinvents himself as a preacher but appears to atheist. A reluctant war hero, he is highly intelligent and well read but most likely self taught. Every sentence he utters contains about three times more words than needed and often contains quotes from scripture and literature. On top of this he is a childhood friend of the shows main character U.S. Deputy Marshal Raylan Givens (Timothy Olyphant), it is often mentioned the pair dug coal together as teenagers. Originally appearing as favour to his friend, Timothy Olyphant, Boyd was shot in the first episode “Fire in the Hole”. Rumour has it that the character was supposed to die, however after a positive reception from the test audience became a recurring and main character. A career criminal and reprehensible character you just can’t help liking.boyd-crowder

Perfectly written, but it goes deeper than that the two characters are so perfectly cast, it is quite possible that no other actor could play then half as well Ruth Wilson and Walton Goggins. If you aren’t familiar with the two shows, go back and watch them from the start, they are worth seeing on their own merits as well as for these tow great characters.

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Last week saw the release of Ben Wheatley’s fourth feature, A Field in England. A thriller, horror, historical drama? I’m not sure what you would call it. Set during a period of history largely overlooked in cinema in the last few decades, the English Civil War, the film sees a small group of deserting soldiers who are forced to search a field for an unnamed treasure. 

A Field in England

More interesting than the film itself, is the way it was released in the UK. On 5 July 2013 it had a simultaneous multiple platform release, being made available on DVD, video on demand, in cinemas, and screened on Film4 that evening. When interviewed on BBC radio, director, Ben Wheatley compared the multi platform release to the “Pay what you want” release of Radiohead’s In Rainbows album. The idea isn’t completely new, back in 2010 the horror/thriller Frozen was release in cinemas and video on demand at the same time. A filed in England is yet to receive a North American release but it is expected that distributor Drafthouse Films will opt for a similar structure showing the film in theatres and through video on demand. Radiohead In Rainbows album cover

Is this the future of film release? Its hard to say. It is clear that the way we consume movies is changing. Hopefully not in the way George Lucas has suggested. Given the chance to see a movie in the comfort of our own homes at the same time as in cinemas will create an interesting question. Do we choose to watch the big event movies on the big screen and the smaller releases at home? Will this result in falling cinema attendances? Will it drive prices up, down or will they stay the same? Will it encourage or stamp out piracy? It is hard to say.George lucas

An lot will depend on the individual in question, although people will react to the changes their character and opinions won’t. I once had a conversation with someone who watches as many films as me but in a very different way. He tends to watch pirate DVDs. When I asked what the last movie he saw in a cinema he said it was Batman movie but couldn’t remember the name. “Batman Begins or The Dark Knight” I asked (it was shortly before the release of The Dark Knight Rises). “No” he responded “The one with Val Kilmer”. That was the day I thought there was a future for multi platform releases. If there is a way to get a regular film watcher who hasn’t seen the inside of a cinema since John Major was prime minister to pay for his movie consumption in a way that sees some of the money going back into the film industry and not into the hands of criminals it has to be a good thing.val kilmer batman

My fear is independent cinemas. I am loyal to one particular cinema chain, not because they are any better than anyone else, but because they have a pass scheme that results in me paying around £1.50 per film and not the usual £5-10. I do however visit an independent cinema from time to time to watch films that don’t make it into a multiplex. I’m sure many other people do the same thing. Are these smaller release the ones that will receive multi platform releases making it harder for independent cinemas to survive? That stands a good chance. However I don’t anticipate many films to be released on all these platforms. It is more likely that films will be released in cinemas and on another platform such as video on demand or DVD. If they go down the video on demand route that creates a further question; will some providers pursue exclusive rights to some movies?

Whatever happens, it is clear that we are at the start of a period of change. How long will it take and what will the situation be at the end? I don’t know, but one thing is clear, The cinema is still the best and by far my favourite way of watching movies and for the foreseeable future I still intend to watch an average of two movies a week in the cinema.

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When I received a DVD in the post from the rental company I subscribe to I was a little disappointed as I didn’t remember adding it to my watch list, however I was pleasantly surprised by The Tall Man resulting in the question: why didn’t it get a cinema release? So for the first time in two and half years I give you an entry into my “DVD Gems”.

A small mining town in Washington State is slowly dying since the mine closed. Amidst the desolation the towns children are slowly disappearing one by one, the police and the community have no idea what is happening beyond the presence as a mythical “tall Man”. Everyone appears to have given up and the local police are inept, only Seattle detective, Lieutenant Dodd (Stephen McHattie) and young nurse (Jessica Biel) have any life or vigour remaining. Beyond that it wouldn’t be fair to spoil any of the plot.the tall man

There was a time during The Tall Man that I thought of Martyrs (2008). Having sat down to watch the movie with no prior knowledge or expectations I didn’t realise at the time that the two movies share a writer and director in the shape of the darling of the New French Extreme, Pascal Laugier. With this in mind it is even more surprising that the movie didn’t find its way into UK cinema’s. Not as good as Martyrs but more accessible and less extreme it could have easily found an audience amongst horror fans, however it isn’t actually a horror movie although it shares many themes and tropes of the genre. It is a well paced and well constructed atmospheric thriller far from a horror shocker. For fans of the genre, it is a perfect case of “bait and switch” but I won’t say how, that would ruin it. There are twists and turns in the plot, the most daring of them isn’t necessarily daring in its reveal as much as how early in the movie it happens. To its credit, it keeps you hooked beyond this point and keeps you asking questions about what is going on. It has its problems, chief amongst them is the stereotypical and clichéd small town setting with its stereotypical clichéd characters. This however is integral to the plot and as distracting as it can not be avoided.the tall man jessica biel

Director Pascal Laugier and director of photography Kamal Derkaoui have created a stunning looking movie. The photography if very dark, even in the daytime, this helps evoke a feeling of desperation and despair in the dying town. The sets perfectly give the impression of a setting a generation shy of becoming a ghost town. This fits well both with the thriller aspects of the movie as well as the underlying social commentary. The cast is perfect with Jessica Biel giving a suitably intense and low key performance. Stephen McHattie plays a suitably grizzled detective. Jodelle Ferland (who looks more like horror/thriller queen Danielle Harris every time I see her) acts as narrator but also plays a part that strings the elements of the story together, she does a great job.Tall-Man Jodelle Ferland

The film is at its best and its greatest achievement is when it expects audiences to think about what they have seen and how they feel about them. It leaves its conclusion open. I don’t mean unfinished or even ambiguous, just open. This isn’t a David Lynch movie where we question what we have seen and what it means, It gives us a series of events that by the end, the facts are clear and without question, however the morality and meaning are left for the viewer to decide. The overriding theme and the question it poses were asked a few years ago in a very different movie (I won’t name it as it will give too much away), while the other movie in question was better, it was also more closed in its opinion. As with the other movie most people will draw one of two conclusions, however it is possible to like or dislike the film on its own merits regardless of which camp you are into, the movie isn’t preaching one idea or the other, it is asking a question. This along with the plot twists may be what is putting some people off. If you feel cheated by plot twists of like being told what to think avoid this film.the tall man Stephen McHattie

If you reed the numerous (and somewhat mixed) reviews on Rotten Tomatoes or IMDB you would be forgiven for thinking the movie is incoherent thanks to the plot twists, I am happy to report they are wrong! There are twists and turns in the plot, while they may or may not be surprising, but they are never incoherent or hard to follow. Far from a classic but certainly a memorable entry into the genre and far better than many that get a cinema/theatrical release.

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The cinema has been awash with sequels in recent years some good, many bad! But are there any characters you would like to see again? Here are a few I would like to see:

Eden Sinclair – Played by Rhona Mitra – Doomsday (2008): A cynical and wisecracking, hardcore but emotionally detached soldier. Essentially she is a female Snake Plissken, when she says “if he touches me one more time, I will kill him where he stands” you know its true. With the character left open at the end of Doomsday, a sequel could follow, but only if written and directed by Neil Marshall, anything would be a mistake.Eden Sinclair Rhona Mitra

Dirk Pitt – Played by Matthew McConaughey – Sahara (2005): We have seen Dirk Pitt before, played by Richard Jordan in Raise the Titanic (1980), but that’s best forgotten. Sahara is an underrated and fun action adventure, the closest anyone has ever come to emulating Indiana Jones. The right blend of hero and comedian Matthew McConaughey was perfectly cast and had great chemistry with co-stars Penélope Cruz and Steve Zahn. Sadly the film “underperformed” at the box-office and was beset with legal issues mainly involving author Clive Cussler making a sequel unlikely but we can hope.Dirk Pitt Matthew McConaughey

The Bride – Played by Uma Thurman – Kill Bill: Vol. 1 (2003) & Vol. 2 (2004): The Bride aka Beatrix Kiddo codename Black Mamba is the character created by Thurman and writer/director Quentin Tarantino. A member of the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad, a group of female assassins with a striking resemblance to “Fox Force Five” the group that Mia Wallace (played by Uma Thurman) describes in Pulp Fiction when talking about the TV pilot that she was in. There has been a lot of speculation about a Kill Bill 3, but who knows what Tarantino is thinking. Will we see a grownup Nikki Bell (Ambrosia Kelley) tracking down the bride?The Bride Uma Thurman

Wesley – Played by James McAvoy – Wanted (2008): When Russian director Timur Bekmambetov (The man responsible for Night Watch (2004) and Day Watch (2006)) made Wanted, James McAvoy was an unlikely action stat , but he really pulls it off. There has been talk of a sequel since before the release of the original film, but it has never happened. Their have been reports that both McAvoy and Bekmambetov are interested so it could happen.

Wesley James McAvoy

Nikita – Played by Anne Parillaud – Nikita (1990): We have already seen a lot of Nikita, there has been an American remake and two TV series, but what I would really like to see is a new movie written and directed by Luc Besson and starring Anne Parillaud. The plot possibilities are endless but one thing that could be interesting, Parillaud and Besson have a daughter, Juliette Besson who is in her mid twenties.

Anne Parillaud as Nikita and her daughter Juliette Besson

Anne Parillaud as Nikita and her daughter Juliette Besson

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Populaire: Lightweight and light-hearted comedy drama about competitive typing in 1950’s France. Fun but forgettable.Populaire

The Ice Man: Based on the true story of a mafia hitman; it isn’t a bad film but Michael Shannon’s fantastic performance deserved a better one.The Ice Man

After Earth: Farther and son Will and Jaden Smith play farther and son in M. Night Shyamalan’s sci-fi movie. Set in the future on an abandoned and inhospitable earth, it isn’t as bad as has been reported but isn’t as good as similar themed Oblivion.After Earth

Behind the Candelabra: Steven Soderbergh’s story of the relationship between Liberace and his young lover, Scott Thorson was made by HBO for American TV but gets a cinema release her in the UK. ‘m not sure what all the fuss is about, the acting is first rate but the movie is a little dull and uneventful.Behind the Candelabra

Now You See Me: (released in July but seen in a preview screening) A group of stage magicians/illusionists appear to rob a bank in Paris without leaving the stage during a live performance is Las Vegas. A great cast and breakneck pace help gloss over an implausible plot and under developed characters. Flawed but fun.Now You See Me The Four Horsemen

Man of Steel: Zack Snyder’s reboot of the superman franchise has its problems but on the whole is a success. The build up and character development is better than the all action conclusion. Henry Cavill and Amy Adams are perfectly cast.Man of Steel

Before Midnight: Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy are back for part three of Richard Linklater’s “before” series. Nine years after the events in Paris we find them married with twin daughters, on the last day of a holiday at a writers retreat in Greece. It’s basically more of the same as we saw in the first two movies. In other words it is sensational.Before Midnight

World War Z: Brad Pitt plays a UN investigator who travels the world looking for the origin of a zombie like pandemic in the hope of finding a cure. It has its problems, mainly a lack of horror but it is a largely enjoyable movie.World War Z

Snitch: Rather than the all action thriller the trailer depicts Snitch is actually a family drama set against the backdrop of Americas drug policy. Dwayne Johnson is surprisingly good (but miscast) and is well supported by Susan Sarandon, Barry Pepper and a few recognisable TV stars.snitch

There have been some good films this month, but only one great one; movie of the month is: Before Midnightbefore-midnight-poster

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