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Archive for January, 2014

It is nearly quarter of a century since the first Jack Ryan movie The Hunt for Red October (1990) with Ryan played by Alec Baldwin, and more than a decade since the most recent The Sum of All Fears (2002) played by Ben Affleck. For many people the actor most associated with the role is Harrison Ford having played the character twice; Patriot Games (1992) and Clear and Present Danger (1994). Back in 2010 when talking about the best versions of a few iconic characters I suggested that Alec Baldwin was the best Jack Ryan. Appearing in just one film, The Hunt For Red October Baldwin had the right balance of swagger and cynicism. Made in the aftermath of Die Hard (1988) Baldwin’s Jack Ryan was in the wisecracking mode of Bruce Willis’ John McClane, no (great surprise, the two movies share a director, John McTiernan), but backs it up as you always get a sence that he is the cleverest person in the room. Like McClane, Ryan finds himself in the middle of a situation that forces him to adapt to survive. Ryan also conforms to the standard movie trope of a fish out of water, her keeps reminding us “ I’m not an agent, I just write books for the CIA”.jack ryan

Patriot Games and Clear and Present Danger were both decent films, and Ford made a decent Jack Ryan, but whenever I see one of them I cant help thinking I would rather be watching Alec Baldwin. Retaining James Earl Jones in the role of Admiral Greer, the Ford films are direct sequels to The Hunt for Red October with an older more world weary character. The Sum of All Fears is a reboot, taking the story back to a young Ryan (Ben Affleck) but also bringing it into the 21st century. Just like bond who had been conceived in the cold war Ryan had to find a new relevance, he finds it in a post 9-11 world were terrorism is the new global enemy. Although I seem to remember enjoying the film I can actually remember very little about it.jack-ryan-shadow-recruit-keira-knightley-kenneth-branagh-600x400

When I read “Kevin Costner confirmed for Jack Ryan reboot” on IMDB I thought it was great casting. I then read the full story and realised that he wasn’t going to be playing Ryan. That part had already gone to Chris Pine. Costner’s Thomas Harper takes on the boss/mentor role of James Greer (James Earl Jones) from the first three movies and William Cabot (Morgan Freeman) from The Sum of All Fears. Although not greatly used he is actually the best character in the movie and perfectly played. Keira Knightley gives a spirited performance as Cathy Muller (not yet married to Ryan) and is given a larger part than previous incarnations. Director Kenneth Branagh also takes on the part of the movies villain, Russian oligarch Viktor Cheverin.jack-ryan-shadow-chris-pine-kevin-costner-bench-600-370

Given the story arcs of Clear and Present Danger and Patriot Games and the grandeur of the plots of The Hunt for Red October and The Sum of All Fears, the Shadow Recruit plot seems a little thin and simple. However it is also very timely, a combination of terrorism and economic collapse is both relevant and realistic and more grounded and believable than GoldenEye (1995). It also has a toe in the truth, being reminiscent of irregular trading that was reported after 9-11. But relevance and believability doesn’t necessarily equal good. A true reboot, the film has lost a lot of the character that has been developed over previous movies, but with that, it also sheds the baggage that comes with a franchise. There are couple of action set pieces including a couple of car chases and fight, however the heart of the film and the best scene centres around Cathy Muller (Keira Knightley) having dinner with Viktor Cherevin (Kenneth Branagh) while Ryan tries to break into his office to hack a computer. Along with meetings on park benches and dark cinemas give the film an old fashioned feel to it. It may not have the tension of Notorious (1946) or the action of Mission: Impossible (1998) but it is a welcome return to a cold war style movie. With all baggage that has been shed, it does feel like an introduction to franchise. As a reboot is isn’t as successful as Casino Royale (2006), but does show enough promise to deserve a another film or two. That is something that will be decided by the box-office.jack-ryan-shadow-recruit-poster-cast

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The long playing record better know as the LP is the definition of restraint. Limited to around twenty two and half minutes on each side there is no room for fillers and no opportunity add a few more minutes on a whim.  Film does not have an equivalent, whether digital or film there is no limit to the potential length, Modern Times Forever (Stora Enso Building, Helsinki) (2011) runs for ten days, yes I di say days. The term epic seems to be tagged onto films simply because they are long. Even the longest of movies can not compete with television for length and yet television until recently was always the poor relation to the cinema. When talking about two movies that came out around the same time the critic Mark Kermode made a very salient point; Killing Them Softly benefits for it relatively short 97 minute run time but within the 131 minute Savages there is probably a good 90 minute movie trying to get out.mark kermode

I had carried this thought around in the back of my mind for over a year without thinking too much about it until Christmas. I watched the Lord of the Rings trilogy over two days, in the case of the final film, The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King it was the first time I had seen the film since seeing it at the cinema on release. Despite coming in at a whopping 201 minutes (that’s more than three hours) it never felt that long. Even the bizarre sense that the film doesn’t want to end doesn’t drag out as much as I remember it. However, I wasn’t watching a 201 minute version, I was watching the a 251 minute extended edition. I understand there is an even longer version on Blu-Ray clocking in an arse-numbing 263 minutes, that’s the best part of four and half hours. To be perfectly honest I can’t remember how it differs from the original cut, but know I enjoyed watching both.The Lord of the Rings The Return of the King

This leads to the big question, what is the point of extended versions of movies? I kind of understand directors cuts where a film maker who didn’t have final cut returning to a movie to re-cut it in line with his original vision. However extended cuts are a very different beast, but what is the reason for it? A vanity project of a director who believes his movie is so great and so important that it deserves a longer version. A cynical money making exercise of a studio who promise extra footage or a more explicit cut to temp people to buy the DVD/Blue-Ray.The Godfather Part II

It would be understandable if length equated to quality, but it very often does not. Many films would benefit from a trim not an extended edition. King Kong (2005) is a perfect example, sorry to pick on Peter Jackson, I do like his movies. The original film is 187 minutes long and to be honest too long, so what did Jackson do? He added another fifteen minutes to the special extended DVD edition. The original 1933 movie directed by Merian C. Cooper and Ernest B. Schoedsack (both uncredited) is less than a hundred minutes and is a far better film. Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a campaign for short movies, I don’t think there is a wasted second in the 200 minutes of The Godfather: Part II (1974). Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom (2013) is actually too short, running through the 95 years of Nelson Mandela’s life in 141 minutes. It plays life a movie version of CliffsNotes. On the other hand Steven Soderbergh’s Che (2008) splits its four and half hours into to distinct movies.Che

I’m not sure there is any right answer, Martin Scorsese films are often long but never too long. Films should be the length they need to be, I just can’t help thinking that they often should be shorter than they are. I would also go as far as to say they should also always be the same cut whether they are being shown in cinemas, on DVD or on TV. I know this won’t happen, as long as filmmakers believe their own bullshit the length of films will be dictated by directors ego’s and producers wallets and not the way they should be, by the art.

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We Are the Night isn’t a particularly original take on the vampire movie and falls into the too cool for school trap of not using the word vampire. It does however have a certain charm that makes it worth watching. A stylish look and a suitably melancholic tone reminiscent The Hunger (1983) make it an enjoyable watch.we-are-the-night-movie-poster

The opening credits feature a montage of images starting with from colour photographs then black-and-white ones and finally paintings. The pictures depict key moments throughout the history of Germany going back three hundred years. Each image features the same blond woman who has witnessed it all through the ages. Cut to present day, three female vampires are on their way home to Berlin from Paris living out a decadent, hedonistic and bloody but ultimately empty lifestyle. Louise (Nina Hoss) the leader of the group is looking for something, more precisely she is looking for someone. She thinks she has found that in young petty criminal Lena (Karoline Herfurth).Karoline Herfurth We Are the Night

In a lot of ways Charlotte (Jennifer Ulrich) is the most interesting character (An actress from the silent era, she appears to have appeared in Dr. Mabuse: The Gambler (1922)) who has grown tied of the lifestyle and longs for the daughter she had to abandon when she became a vampire. It is however a character we have seen many times before, most notably Louise (Brad Pitt) in Interview with the Vampire (1994). She doesn’t provide the same conscience that Louise does in Interview with the Vampire, but does help ground the characters and with it the film. According director to Dennis Gansel, the three initial vampires each represent a time key times in German history: Louise, the lat 1700’s, Charlotte the 1920’s (the golden age of German cinema) and Nora the 1990’s after the fall of the Berlin wall. The era they are all from is mentioned, but it goes beyond this, the characters retain.Jennifer Ulrichwe are the night

Like The Lost Boys and Near Dark (1987) the movie introduces an established “family” of vampires just as a new member is reluctantly recruited. The rebellious nature of the character belies her humanity, as this manifests itself she threatens the existence of the family. Although all the usual ideas are explored, Ultimately the potential downfall of the characters isn’t a noble redemption or the despair folly of unrequited love, it is simply the emptiness of their lives. This is as bigger message about today’s modern disposable society as any of the historical ideas in the movie.Nina Hoss we are the night

With its lack of original ideas and the fact it is subtitled means that it is never going to be a film for everyone, however for fans of the genre it is better than a lot of the English langue vampire movies that have jumped on the Twilight/Underworld bandwagon.

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As previously reported I am struggling to come up with a top ten movies of 2013. The problem, there are four 2012 films that didn’t get a UK release until 2013 that are in contention. There are also half dozen big 2013 movies that haven’t been released here yet. Therefore I am forgoing my top ten in favour of a top five (sort of).

  1. Stoker (dir. Chan-wook Park): Its no secret that Oldboy is one of my all-time favourite movies, it therefore comes as no surprise that I have been eagerly anticipating the English language debut of its director, Chan-wook Park. It isn’t Oldboy but I was far from disappointed. Sumptuous and beautiful to look at and suitably weird and unnerving.stoker
  2. Before Midnight (dir. Richard Linklater): Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy are back for part three of Richard Linklater’s “before” series. Nine years after the events in Paris and the magic is still there. It’s basically more of the same as we saw in the first two movies. In other words it is sensational.Before Midnight
  3. Gravity (dir. Alfonso Cuarón): Generally I hate 3D but once in a while it works, once in a very long while, it really, really works, this is that film. To call it stunning is an understatement. My one reservation, it just won’t be the same on TV as it was in IMAX 3D.GRAVITY
  4. Captain Phillips (dir. Paul Greengrass): Pauld Greengrass lends his signature style and flair to the true story of Somali pirates. Full of visual style and unbelievable tension, Greengrass’ direction is sublime and Tom Hanks gives the performance of his career.Tom Hanks
  5. Rush (dir. Ron Howard): Chris Hemsworth and Daniel Brühl are excellent as James Hunt and Niki Lauda in this true story of their rivalry particularly during the 1976 F1 season. But ultimately it is a story about people not about racing and like the Documentary Senna (2010) it should still hold the interest of audiences who are not racing fans.Rush

Also recommended:

Nebraska
Prisoners
Mud
The EastNebraska Prisoners Mud The East

The best of 2012 released in 2013 in the UK:

Zero Dark Thirty 
Cloud Atlas 
Django Unchained 
Amour Zero Dark Thirty Cloud Atlas Django Unchained Amour

Look out for my redux list later in the year once I have seen all 2013 movies.

Ryan at The Matinee has compiled a list of other bloggers best of lists HERE

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I am struggling to decide on my top ten movies of 2013.  In the meantime, here are the 119 contenders, all the films I saw at the cinema in 2013. 

QuartetQuartet
The ImpossibleThe Impossible
Les MisérablesLes Misérables
Gangster SquadGangster Squad
Django UnchainedDjango Unchained
The Last StandThe Last Stand
Zero Dark ThirtyZero Dark Thirty
SepSep
Hyde Park on HudsonHyde Park on Hudson
Hitchcock Hitchcock
LincolnDaniel Day Lewis as Lincoln
Flightflight
Beautiful CreaturesBeautiful Creatures
Bullet to the HeadBullet to the Head
A Good Day to Die HardA Good Day to Die Hard
Warm BodiesWarm Bodies
AmourAmour
Hansel & Gretel: Witch HuntersHansel & Gretel Witch Hunters
MamaMama
Cloud AtlasCloud Atlas
Stokerstoker
ArbitrageArbitrage
Side EffectsSide Effects
Oz the Great and Powerful Oz the Great and Powerful
ParkerParker
Welcome to the PunchWelcome to the Punch
In the HouseIn The House
The PaperboyThe Paperboy
VinylVinyl
ComplianceCompliance
TranceTrance
StolenStolen
G.I. Joe: RetaliationG I Joe Retaliation
The HostThe Host
Jack the Giant SlayerJack the Giant Slayer
Dark SkiesDark Skies
Spring BreakersSpring Breakers
Papadopoulos & SonsPapadopoulos & Sons
OblivionOblivion
The Place Beyond the PinesThe Place Beyond the Pines
Olympus Has FallenOlympus Has Fallen aaron eckhart and gerard butler
Evil DeadEvil Dead
Iron Man 3Iron Man 3
I’m So ExcitedI’m So Excited The Look Of LoveThe Look Of Love
Dead Man DownDead Man Down
Star Trek Into DarknessStar Trek Into Darkness
MudMud
The Great GatsbyThe Great Gatsby
Fast and Furious 6Fast and Furious 6
ByzantiumByzantium
The PurgeThe Purge
PopulairePopulaire
The Ice ManThe Ice Man
After EarthAfter Earth
Behind the CandelabraBehind the Candelabra
Now You See MeNow You See Me The Four Horsemen
Man of SteelMan of Steel
Before MidnightBefore Midnight World War ZWorld War Z
Snitchsnitch
The EastThe East
The Bling Ringthe bling ring
Chasing MavericksChasing Mavericks
Pacific RimPACIFIC RIM
The Frozen GroundThe Frozen Ground
The Worlds EndThe Worlds End
The WolverineThe Wolverine
Frances HaFrances Ha
Only God ForgivesOnly God Forgives
The ConjuringThe Conjuring
RED 2RED 2
Alan Partridge: Alpha PapaAlan Partridge Alpha Papa
Percy Jackson: Sea of MonstersPercy Jackson Sea of Monsters
The Lone RangerTHE LONE RANGER
2 Guns2 Guns 10
About TimeAbout Time
Kick Ass 2Film Title: Kick-Ass 2
The Mortal Instruments: City of BonesThe Mortal Instruments City of Bones
ElysiumElysium
RushRush
You’re NextYou’re Next
RiddickRiddick
White House DownWhite House Down
Ain’t Them Bodies SaintsAin't Them Bodies Saints
The CallThe Call
PrisonersPrisoners
Blue JasmineBlue Jasmine
Runner RunnerRunner Runner
Girl Most LikelyGirl Most Likely
How I Live NowHow I Live Now
Metallica Through The NeverMetallica Through The Never
Rurouni KenshinRurouni Kenshin
FilthJames McAvoy and Eddie Marsan in Filth - Jul 2013
Captain PhillipsTom Hanks
Sunshine on LeithFILM Fletcher 4
Machete KillsMachete Kills
Prince AvalanchePrince Avalanche
Escape PlanTHE TOMB
Ender’s GameEnders Game
A Nightmare on Elm Streeta nightmare on elm street
Thor: The Dark WorldThor-The-Dark-World
PhilomenaPhilomena
Gravitygravity
In Fearin fear
The CounsellorThe Counsellor
FluFlu
The Hunger Games: Catching FireThe Hunger Games Catching Fire
Saving Mr. BanksSAVING MR BANKS
CarrieCarrie
Kill Your DarlingsKill Your Darlings
NebraskaNebraska
HomefrontHomefront
GetawayGETAWAY

OldboyOldboy
The Hobbit: The Desolation of SmaugTHE HOBBIT: THE DESOLATION OF SMAUG
47 Ronin47 Ronin
All Is Lostall is lost
The Secret Life of Walter Mittythe secret life of walter mitty

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Happy new year. As always, the first post of the month is the review of the previous month and the Movie of the Month award that goes with it:

Saving Mr. Banks: The true story of Walt Disney’s battle to make Mary Poppins despite the objections of author P.L. Travers. Most notable for fantastic acting and less sentimental than you would expect.

SAVING MR BANKS

Carrie: Remake of Brian De Palma’s classic horror movie based on Stephen King’s novel. Julianne Moore does a good job, Chloë Grace Moretz gives a good performance but is miscast. There is nothing really wrong with it but it’s a shadow of the original movie.Carrie

Kill Your Darlings: Daniel Radcliffe plays Allen Ginsberg in this story of the origins of the “Beat Generation”. Well made and well acted but probably one for fans of beat literature and not casual moviegoers.Kill Your Darlings

Nebraska: Alexander Payne’s family drama disguised as a road movie. Bruce Dern is perfectly cast and gives the performance of a lifetime. Look out for the Oscar nomination.NEBRASKA

Homefront: Jason Statham stars in this revenge action thriller written by his Expendables co star Sylvester Stallone (screenplay). Not a great film but Statham does what Statham does making for a fun film. James Franco, Kate Bosworth and Winona Ryder appear to be having fun. Based on a novel by Chuck Logan, there are another four films in the series, sequel?Homefront

Getaway: Ethan Hawke plays a former race-car driver tasked with driving around an unnamed eastern European city causing traffic chaos in order to save his kidnapped wife. Selena Gomez and a customised Shelby Mustang provide support. It isn’t much good but like Homefront its good fun.GETAWAY

Oldboy: If you saw this movie in isolation you would probably think it was an original and interesting thriller. However Spike Lee’s movie just doesn’t work when compared to Chan-wook Park’s original masterpiece. Josh Brolin, Elizabeth Olsen and Michael Imperioli are all good but Sharlto Copley and Samuel L. Jackson look like they have stepped in from a different movie.Oldboy

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug: after being underwhelmed by The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, I was pleasantly surprised by this second outing. Jumping straight into the action and not letting up for most of 161minute runtime.THE HOBBIT: THE DESOLATION OF SMAUG

47 Ronin: A surprisingly good retelling of the legendry tale of the 47 Ronin (as depicted in the 1941 movie of the same name) with the addition of Keanu Reeves. Despite the high fantasy trailer, this is actually a traditional samurai movie with a couple of fantasy elements added for modern taste. It is surprisingly good.47 Ronin

All Is Lost: did you see last months movie of the month Gravity? Imagine the same story set at see instead of in space and you have All Is Lost. It isn’t as good as Gravity, but Robert Redford’s performance is sensational.all is lost

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty: Star/Director Ben Stiller and Writer: Steve Conrad retell James Thurber’s short story in the modern age. Stiller is both unusually restrained and funny. A surprisingly good movie that I enjoyed far more than I thought I would.the secret life of walter mitty

I could have changed my movie over the month with virtually every film I have seen this month. Although not terrible, Carrie and Oldboy were a waste of time and you would be better off watching the original movies. Homefront and Gateway were the most fun and Nebraska was the best film. But those who have read previous examples of this post will know being the best isn’t always enough to be Movie of the Month. The movie of the month is the uplifting and surprisingly good (and funny) The Secret Life of Walter Mitty:The Secret Life of Walter Mitty Poster

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