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Archive for December, 2014

AAvengers: Captain America: The Winter Soldier set the Avengers franchise in a new direction and Marvel announced phase Three schedule covering films up to 2019.marvel-avengers

B  – Boyhood: What could have been a gimmick turned out to be the best film of the year.boyhood poster

CNick Cave: 20,000 Days on Earth was neither documentary or a narrative film, but was one of the best movies of the year.20,000 Days on Earth

DDoug Liman: Edge of Tomorrow was the enigma of 2014.  The Doug Liman directed movie received solid reviews and great word of mouth but underperformed at the box-office.edge of tomorrow

EEgypt & Exodus: Gods and Kings – Ridley Scott’s biblical epic was released on Boxing Day in the UK and few weeks earlier in some countries.  The film has been banned in Egypt as the courtiers censors are unhappy with “historical inaccuracies”.Exodus Gods and Kings

FFincher & Flynn: Director David Fincher turned Gillian Flynn’s bestselling Novel Gone Girl into an excellent movie.Gone Girl

GGuardians of the Galaxy –  Made up of a cast of largely unknown characters, it was considered a risk for the franchise.  Not only was the film great fun but was the Highest grossing film at the US box-office (and 2nd highest worldwide) for the year.Guardians-of-the-Galaxy

HThe Hobbit: After more than 20 hours screen time, The Battle of the Five Armies brings Peter Jackson’s time in Middle Earth to an end.Peter_Jackson_Hobbit

IThe Interview:  The release for the movie The interview was cancelled following threats from hackers.  Barack Obama and George Clooney joined the debate and the film received a limited Christmas day release earning $1million from 331 scenes in independent theatres.the-interview-poster

JJennifer Lawrence: With an Oscar win and two other nominations as well as a starring role in two of the biggest movie franchises, Jennifer Lawrence is probably the biggest young star in Hollywood.  She was also the most outspoken victim of hackers who stole nude images and posted them online.jennifer-lawrence

KKickstarter: the big names to come from kickstarter in 2014 were the Veronica Mars movie and Zach Braff’s ;Wish I Was Here.  Blue Ruin and Obvious Child also raised a little to help get them released.veronica-mars-movie

L Luc Besson & Lucy: After numerous movies with his name attached as a writer or producer Besson is back in the director’s chair with the surprise hit Lucy.  Making back its $40million budget back in its opening weekend.Lucy

MMcConaissance: Matthew McConaughey’s resurgence was completed with a best actor Oscar for Dallas Buyers Club.Matthew McConaughey for Dallas Buyers Club

NNightcrawler: Jake Gyllenhaal gives the performance of his career in Dan Gilroy’s feature debut.Nightcrawler Jake Gyllenhaal

OOprah Winfrey: as well as producing two movies: Selma and The Hundred-Foot Journey Winfrey proved her Hollywood power by lending her support to the independent British film Belle.Oprah Winfrey

PPaddington: What could have been a disaster turned out to be charming and funny.paddington

Q – Quvenzhané Wallis: The young star of Beasts of the Southern Wild retuned with a small part in 12 Years a Slave and starring role in the remake of Annie.Quvenzhané Wallis

RThe Rover: After his début feature, Animal Kingdom in 2010 David Michôd is back with The Rover, a movie full of subtext, foreboding and great acting from Guy Pearce, Robert Pattinson and Scoot McNairy. The Rover

SScarlett Johansson: It’s been a busy year for Johansson with the UK release of: Her, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Chef, Under the Skin and the surprise hit of the year Lucy.Scarlett Johansson under the skin

TAlan Turing: The imitation Game finally told the long overdue story of war hero and farther of computing, Alan Turing.the imitation game

UUnreleased: A region 2 DVD of Snowpiercer is available from a well know online retailer but the film is still yet to receive a UK release.Snowpiercer

VVampire: Forget Twilight, with Only Lovers Left Alive and What We Do in the Shadows there are two original ideas to kick-start the genre.Only Lovers Left Alive

W – Mia Wasikowska: After appearing in Stoker my favourite film of 2013 Mia Wasikowska is rapidly becoming one of my favourite actresses with appearances in Maps to the Stars, The Double, Only Lovers Left Alive and Tracks in 2014.Mia Wasikowska

X – X-Men: Days of Future Past: Bryan Singer returned to the X-Men franchise with a seminal story form the 80’s. It beat Captain America: The Winter Soldier at the world box-office, dragging the franchise from the shadow of Marvel Studios.X-Men-Days-of-Future-Past-chess-game

Y – 12 Years A Slave: Winner of Oscars for Best picture, Best Adapted Screenplay and best supporting actress for Lupita Nyong’o in her first feature film.Lupita Nyongo

ZThe Zero Theorem: Terry Gilliam is back after five years, and back to what he does best, making interesting films that look like the cost a lot more to make than they actually did.The Zero Theorem

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miracle on 34th street Richard Attenboroughmiracle on 34th street Edmund GwennTrading PlacesRare-Exportsget-santasilent night deadly nightpolar expressThe Chronicles of Narnia The Lion  the Witch and the WardrobeSanta-Jack-nightmare-before-christmasbad santa

 

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The Anomaly posterBack in August I wrote about The Machine, an excellent low budget British Sci-Fi movie.  I have finally managed to catch up with The Anomaly, another entry in the same genre.  The reason I started with the comparison is both movies suffer with the same problem.  a lack of distribution.  Don’t get me wrong, it isn’t going to change the world or appear on your all time to ten list, it isn’t Star Wars or Blade Runner but it is a solid entertaining low budget movie. The Anomaly Noel Clarke

Set in an undisclosed date in the near future Ryan (Noel Clarke) a former soldier suffering PTSD wakes up in the back of a van with a kidnapped child and a huge gap in his memory.  He tries to help the boy but soon discovers there is far more going on than he comprehend.  He slowly discover what is going on and what his part in it is.  I have chosen not to giving away the plot so can’t say much more. The Anomaly

Directed, co-produced and starring one man film industry Noel Clarke.  The main support comes from Ian Somerhalder and Alexis Knapp with a small part for the legendry Brian Cox, also look out for Luke (older brother of Chris and Liam) Hemsworth.  Eagle-eyed viewers will spot Clarke’s Doctor Who co-star Freema Agyeman who appears as his wife in a photograph.The Anomaly Alexis Knapp

As you would expect of a low budget Sci-Fi movie the plot isn’t without holes, but none of them are significant and are soon forgotten as you root for the noble and likeable hero.  The action scenes are notable,  made on a budget the film employs well choreographed action shot with real visual flare.  It was reported at the time of release that Clarke did his own fight scenes without the use of a double, this really helps the action, as does the fighting style.  Employing the hard brutality of the real world with just a hint of The Matrix and Equilibrium style fantasy the action is fresh and entertaining.  This coupled with a mystery that unfolds slowly but without any real surprises makes for an enjoyable movie.The Anomaly  Ian Somerhalder

The film was shown at the Edinburgh Film Festival in June this year and supposedly receded a general release in the UK the following month.  Despite living in a major city (40 cinemas within a short drive), I was unable to find a local cinema showing the film.  Had the film been a no budget direct to video affair with a one cinema release to raise its profile, I could understand it, but that isn’t the case.  Although the actors are not A list, they are certainly recognisable.  That is why I cannot understand why  distributor Universal didn’t make more of it.  To exacerbate this, the film doesn’t appear to have made its way to North America in any format yet.  I don’t expect Hunger Games or Hobbit size releases, but I do think a British film deserves just a little time on the big screen over hear, if nothing else it may give it a fighting chance in other markets.

If you get the chance, to pick up a copy or see it on demand, give it a chance. 

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Joe Cocker 1944 – 2014

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the-interview-posterThe interview started out as the type of film that I would watch if there was nothing better to see, and not one I would rush to see on the day it came out.  For those who live under a stone, here is the synopsis from IMDB:

Dave Skylark and producer Aaron Rapoport run the celebrity tabloid show “Skylark Tonight.” When they land an interview with a surprise fan, North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un, they are recruited by the CIA to turn their trip to Pyongyang into an assassination mission.

The funny thing, the population of North Korea are probably unaware of the film or the fuss it is causing .  A brief overview, also courtesy of IMDB

On June 25, 2014, North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency condemned the film (without naming it), promising a “merciless” retaliation if the film is released. “Making and releasing a film on a plot to hurt our top-level leadership is the most blatant act of terrorism and war and will absolutely not be tolerated,” KCNA said, citing a government spokesman.”

Then last month, the computer systems at Sony Pictures was hacked and information regarding The Interview and other films were made available online.  Soon after this a rumour started that the North Korean government was responsible for the hack in response to the films plot to kill Kim Jong-un, the North Korean leader.  Then earlier this week, a group calling themselves GOP (Guardians of Peace) claimed responsibility and threatened attacks against theatres/cinemas who show the film.  As various cinema chains pulled the film, Sony announced that the Christmas day release had been cancelled.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

As things all unfolded on Friday some people were quick to suggest that Sony had used the attack as a convenient excuse to pull the film and claim on the insurance.  The suggestion being that the insurance payout would be greeter than the films likely box-office return.  I am cynical enough to believe this is a possibility but don’t even know if the studio is in fact insured against such eventualities.  Another theory that is just as likely is that they plan to release the film at a later date using the publicity to drum up some interest in a film that I am led to believe has not been well received by test audiences. One person who has made it clear that Sony “made a mistake” in cancelling the film is US President Barack Obama, he was quick to speak out against the decision, stating

“We cannot have a society in which some dictator someplace can start imposing censorship here in the United States”. 

In a interview with CNN Sony’s CEO Michael Lynton seems now to have made something of a U-turn, suggesting they only pulled the release because no one would show the film, and that they would show it somehow in future.  At the same time North Korea’s foreign ministry accused the US of “spreading groundless allegations”, and has suggested joint inquiry to refute them.ap_obama_presser_01_lb_141219_16x9_992

So where does all this leave us?  The first thing that comes to mind is where all this started.  A comedy film about the assassination of a real life world leader is in bad taste at best, but then comedy is often about pushing to the limit of what is acceptable.  Having not seen the film, I don’t know what the outcome or tone of it is.  Sorry for spoiling a 40 year old plot, but if I can refer to The Day of the Jackal (1973).  Had the plot to kill Charles de Gaulle been successful, it would have been a very different story.  The context of the interview is important, if the trailer and plot synopsis are to be believed The CIA are the antagonists of the plot.  As viewed by a country who fiercely entertainment output it would be easy for a North Korean to see the film as coming from the American government and not a film studio.  The voice of reason in all this seems to have come from George Clooney in an interview with Deadline,

“The South Park guys did it. They blew up his father’s head. The truth of the matter is, of course you should be able to make any movie you want. And, you should take the ramifications for it. Meaning, people can boycott the movie and not go see your film. They can say they’ll never see a Sony movie again. That’s all fine. That’s the risk you take for the decision you make. But to say we’re going to make you pull it. We’re going to censor you. That’s a whole other game. That is playing in some serious waters and it’s a very dangerous pool.” 

Clooney had previously attempted without much success to start a petition to get the film screened.  Putting all this aside, the response whether perpetrated by the North Korean or a twelve year old in his bedroom is terrorism.  While not as devastating as real world terrorism, cyber terrorism is equally as unacceptable, and as we become ever more reliant on the internet, the line between terrorism and cyber terrorism may disappear very soon.  And that is where I believe Barack Obama’s fears lie, have Sony opened the doors and encouraged other cyber attacks?

To return to the title of this article, can free speech survive cyber terrorism?  As I alluded to above attack has come from a country that has no freedom of speech and whose population is probably unaware of both the film and the fuss it is causing.  The irony doesn’t stop there, the internet is probably the greatest advance in freedom of speech since the Caxton Press over 500 years ago, and yet in this instance it is the weapon used to prevent freedom of speech.  The fact that people like Obama are beginning to speak out and Sony don’t have to stand alone in this situation is a glimmer of hope for freedom.  You then have the old adage “There’s no such thing as bad publicity”, I am now more interested in seeing the film based on fuss that it has caused than for artistic reasons.  This, as well as the millions of smaller voices that populate the internet is why I believe free speech can survive cyber terrorism.

And on a side not, The interview seems to have gone around 5/10 to 10/10 on the IMDB rating.  Hacking, IMDB having fun with us or users showing their support for the film? the interview imdb

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Bond 24 has a title: SPECTRE. For those new to the franchise (the Daniel Craig era has certainly created new fans) SPECTRE (SPecial Executive for Counter-intelligence, Terrorism, Revenge and Extortion) is a criminal organisation that first appeared in Thunderball (1961), Ian Fleming’s eighth full length Bond novel. They appeared in the film sereies form the start replacing SMERSH (fictional Soviet counter-intelligence agency whose name is a portmanteau of Směrt Špionam meaning Death to Spies) as the antagonist in Dr. No (1962) and From Russia with Love (1963).  Check out the new title card.  The way the glass has cracked is no coincidence, if you don’t know what I am talking about check out the old SPECTRE logo. SPECTRE

A few extra names have been added to the cast along with their characters names. Little else has been said about them but a few of them fit Bond archetypes: The 29 year old French actress Léa Seydoux  is playing Madeleine Swann she is most likely the main “Bond Girl” a versatile actress who has already worked with Woody Allen, Wes Anderson, Quentin Tarantino and Ridley Scott. Her most impressive performance was in Blue Is the Warmest Colour (2013), but she can also do action as we saw in the great fight scene with Paula Patton in Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol (2011).

Christoph Waltz is playing Oberhauser. He has to be the main villain, there has been speculation that he will be revealed to be Ernst Stavro Blofeld. For all his great work he will always be associated with the character that introduced him to most audiences Col. Hans Landa in Inglourious Basterds, that is why he has to be a villain, and a particularly menacing one. Or does he? The only problem with this is the name. Hans Oberhauser is a character from a Bond story, Octopussy (the book is nothing like the film). Oberhauser is a mountain guide who is killed by a former British soldier and war hero to conceal his crime, stealing Nazi gold. Oberhauser was a friend and farther figure to Bond who had taught him how to ski before the war. Bond is sent to Jamaica to arrest Major Smyth, the British soldier. If you want to find out what he actually does, read the book.

Dave Bautista from Guardians Of The Galaxy has henchman written all over him, the character name Mr Hinx seals that one!

Monica Bellucci is possibly the most interesting name on the list. An actress that seems to have been linked with just about every Bond movie since the late 90’s has finally been cast. She could be on either side, good or bad, or as is often the case with the second female character in a Bond film she may cross the line between the two. Her character name, Lucia Sciarra gives nothing away. I don’t remember it from a novel and a quick search online reveals nothing.SPECTER cast

The films synopsis: “A cryptic message from Bond’s past sends him on a trail to uncover a sinister organization. While M battles political forces to keep the secret service alive, Bond peels back the layers of deceit to reveal the terrible truth behind SPECTRE.”

This gives little away and asks as many questions as it answers. Does “Bond’s past” refer to a n earlier film, Quantum? Or Bonds refere to when he was much younger, going back to Hanns Oberhauser mentioned above. Or even Bonds parents Andrew Bond and Monique Delacroix-Bond, killed in a climbing accident in the French Alps when Bond was 11. Carte Blanche the 2011 Bond Novel written by Jeffery Deaver was set in the modern day and rebooted giving the character a tweaked back-story to fit the modern setting. The most interesting part of the story was a sub plot that revealed the possibility that Bonds mother was a spy-hunter tasked with identifying Soviet moles until she was killed by the KGB. I suggested at the time this would make make an intesting sub plot for a movie. Is this what they are thinking?

The other thing revealed today was Bond’s new car. The yet to be released Aston Martin BD10:James-Bond-24-Spectre-Aston-Martin-DB10

SPECTRE will be released on 23 October 2015 in the United Kingdom and and two weeks later in the United States. I’m excited already!

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I haven’t been writing much over the past month, it isn’t because I have been busy watching films with only nine visits to the cinema all month.

Mr. Turner: Mike Leigh’s portrait of J. M. W. Turner is loving without being sentimental.  It is beautiful without being twee, but most surprising is just how funny it is mainly thanks  to Timothy Spall.  The 150 minute running time flies by.Mr. Turner

The Necessary Death of Charlie Countryman: I’m surprised by the mixed to negative reviews it has received, I really enjoyed it.  A trashy Euro thriller with a American lead, it is surprising Luc Besson’s name isn’t attached!  Shia LaBeouf, is finally showing some of the promise of his early films such as A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints, Evan Rachel Wood is always worth watching even with a wafer thin character to work with.The Necessary Death of Charlie Countryman

Say When (released as Laggies in other countries): Introducing the idea of a “quarter-life crisis” as twenty-something Keira Knightley takes time off from her normal life by hanging out with teenager Chloë Grace Moretz.  Knightley is choosing some interesting roles and Moretz is proving there is more to her than Hit Girl.  The film is at its best when Sam Rockwell is in it, that sadly isn’t often enough.  Knightley was cast as a replacement for Anne Hathaway who was busy filming Interstellar, speaking of which:Say When aka Laggies

Interstellar: Astronauts travel through a wormhole looking for a habitable planet to replace the dying earth.   A more personal and emotional film than we are used to from Christopher Nolan, but far from his most accessible.  The cast are all excellent particularly Mackenzie Foy as Matthew McConaughey’s 10 year old daughter.  The photography is stunning (Hoyte Van Hoytema in for Nolan’s regular Wally Pfister).  The end is sure to divide opinion.Interstellar

The Drop: A low key crime thriller based on a Dennis Lehane novel, notable as James Gandolfini’s final film.  A film that seems to have divided critical opinion, it does have its flaws, but on the whole it is a very good film elevated by a great performance by Tom Hardy and a killer ending.The Drop

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1: To take the weakest book in the trilogy and split it into two movie is a cynical commercial move top extract as much money as possible out of a profitable franchise.  That said the film is quite good, the tone is different to the first two.  The only real downside it doesn’t work as a complete film, it is part one.  This may not matter when it can be enjoyed with part two.The Hunger Games Mockingjay  Part 1

The Homesman: Tommy Lee Jones second feature as a director sees him return to the west, but he refuses to call the movie a western.  A harsh and sombre film, but one that is lifted by great performances from Jones and Hilary Swank.The Homesman

Get On Up: The James Brown bio-pic seems to be earning praise for Chadwick Boseman’s fantastic performance but criticism for confusing chronology.  I agree with the former but actually think the disjointed chronology helps not hinders the narrative.Get On Up

What We Do In The Shadows: Vampires get the mockumentary treatment thanks to the Flight of the Conchords team.  The deadpan Spinal Tap style delivery takes a little time to get into but when you adjust to it, it is very funny.What We Do In The Shadows

Some really good movies but there can be only one movie of the month, and there was only one real contender:interstellar poster

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