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Archive for April, 2016

To be……….

Today is the 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare (and possibly the 452nd anniversary of his birth).  It is amazing to think that his words are still spoken today, but when you hear them it soon becomes how they have stood the test of time.  I was going to write something to mark the day and was torn between an article on the best movies to take their plot from Shakespeare plays or best movies of his plays.  In the end I decided against either.  I hated Shakespeare at school! I couldn’t stand reading stupid old plays that I barely understood, they may as well have been in a foreign language.  It wasn’t until I went to university and a friend convinced me to watch a film of one of his plays, Henry V as I remember, that it clicked.  Plays are not to there to be read like a book, they are to be performed by actors.  That’s why I decided to post a few clips of performances of the Bards work.  I was planning to pick clips from different plays but couldn’t decide which version of his most famous Soliloquy so I decided to go with multiple versions of it.

I couldn’t find a version of Nicol Williamson from Tony Richardson’s adaptation, except bizarrely one dubbed into Russian.  I didn’t include that but did use Grigori Kozintsev’s Russian adaptation.  I haven’t seen any version for several years, from memory, the Kenneth Branagh version looks amazing and the Franco Zeffirelli/ Mel Gibson one is better than you would expect it to be.

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It was a brave move for Marvel to reboot Daredevil as a TV show rather than a movie, but having just binge watched the second series it is increasingly looking like a good one.  A few years ago the idea of a studio relegating one of its major properties to the small screen would have been unthinkable.  The newly found status of TV helps but on its own isn’t enough for the gamble to pay off, the content has to be good too.  A point proven by the fact that I gave up on Gotham and The Arrow after a few episodes each and haven’t seen any of the other DC, TV shows. The ongoing sagas of comic books do lend themselves to TV but there is something else.  Daredevil is a better fit for TV than film.  Where The Avengers work on a global scale Daredevil and his alter ego, Matt Murdock are firmly rooted in their Hell’s Kitchen home.  This is problem that DC are going to have to contend with as they move Batman out of Gotham and  into the world of the Justice League.daredevil

With a far darker tone than Agents of Shield and Agent Carter the series exists on the edge of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and is the better for it.  The beauty of its execution, there is no need to see any other MCU property to make sense of it, and likewise, you don’t need to see it to complete the story told in the movies.  Like the rest of the universe the odds have gone up as time has gone on.  Although there hints a bigger story in season one, Wilson Fisk (Vincent D’Onofrio) was largely a local villain.  Season two moves things onto a whole new level, introducing an outside threat.  It is however careful with its introduction of new characters.  Elektra Natchios (Elodie Yung) and Frank Castle aka The Punisher (Jon Bernthal) are the most notable additions.elektra

We know that The Defenders is on its way, a new series where Daredevil will hook-up with Jessica Jones, Luke Cage and the yet to be introduced Iron Fist.  To its credit, Daredevil resists the temptation of introducing the new characters.  The only overlap being a cameo from Jeri Hogarth (Carrie-Anne Moss) from Jessica Jones and Rosario Dawson’s Claire Temple who has appeared in both shows.  Elektra and The Punisher are better served than in any of their big screen outings with real motivations.  The plot is well served giving character arc’s for all the main protagonists, both new and old.  The new story both is tied up nicely and left open for future development.The Punisher

TV will never replace cinema for me and I still expect to see the bigger stories on the big screen but some stories belong on TV, and good TV is better than second rate movies. 

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Video may have Killed the Radio Star, but the internet certainly killed the video shop!

My love of movies wasn’t born in the cinema, I have mentioned more than one occasion on this site that I didn’t visit the cinema very often as a kid.  I grew up in the 80’s, so like so many of my generation I grew up with video, and I watched a hell of a lot of them.  Back in the 80’s video’s were very expensive to buy and weren’t available for purchase until years after cinema release.  When you could eventually buy a movie it would cost at least £9.99, that’s about £38 in today’s money when adjusted for inflation.  So the only option was to rent a video for £1 (nearly £4 adjusted for inflation).  The first film I remember watching was  Superman (1978).  After that my parents would bring films home from a mythical place called a video shop.  I am sure I must have had some input towards some of the films we watched but there was one time I remember picking a film myself. Possibly my first experience of choosing films myself, it came when our local newsagent stated having a small selection of films available to rent.  As a huge Star Wars fan the first film I remember choosing myself was Dune (1984).  Very different to Star Wars and my first experience of David Lynch, at the age of nine.  My entire family hated it.  I loved it, and still do to this day.superman

A few years later, we had moved house and had a video shop walking distance from home.   By the age of around the age of around twelve or thirteen, the owner of said establishment informed me I could have my own account and rent videos myself, I didn’t need my parents to do it for me.   He insisted I only took age appropriate films, but never thought to ask my age.  I went straight for the 15 certificate films.  I still needed my mom to rent 18 certificate films, things like Mad Max, The Terminator, and the better horror films for me.Mad Max (1979) 1

My obsession with video continued until I went to university and started visiting the cinema at least once a week.  I continued to rent videos from time to time after this.  By then the smaller independent shops had disappeared and been replaced by chains like Choices, Titles and Blockbuster, they too have also since vanished.   I still rent DVD’s from a well known mail order company, and also use their streaming service.  It isn’t the same as browsing the through the a video shop, looking at the covers, reading the blurb and picking a movie.   Sometimes picking a new release that I had heard Barry Norman talk about six months earlier at the time of the cinema release; other times going for an unseen classic or an older genre film that caught my eye.

Had I not been struck by the cover photo of Nikita I would never have seen the film (not the cover seen below that is an American one).  A film that proved my gateway into European and then world cinema.  I remember walking to the counter clutching the empty box hoping they didn’t ask me for ID, it was an 18 certificate film and I was two or three years too young to be renting it.  I got to the counter, the woman took the case from me and went to look for the tape.  She came back tape in hand and was about to put it in the case, and paused.  I was waiting for her to point out the 18 certificate.  Instead of asking for ID, she asked if I realised the film was subtitled.  I had no idea that the film was in French and that I would have to read subtitles, but still liked the look of it and replied, yes.  I think I said something about Luc Besson the director of The Big Blue and Subway, films I had never heard of but had read about in the blurb on the back of the box.  I walked out with the video and went home and watched it immediately.  I think I saw it another twice before returning the tape.nikita

That was twenty-five years ago and things have changed.  I watch two or more movies a week at the cinema (30 in the first three months of this year) and am convinced that it is and will remain the best way to see a film.  However, miss video shops.  You could argue that a video shop offered more choice than the cinema, but that argument falls flat with the various streaming services and readily available illegal streaming/downloads.  The quality argument goes out the window, with Smart HD TV’s  and superfast broadband, picture quality is much better than VHS ever was.  But that isn’t the  point.  Video shops are from a place in time that offered so much more than was available to us in a time of three TV channels.

Then we have the people who work in video shops.  By the time the big chains had taken over, they were staffed by spotty teens or middle aged women, all working part time and none having no knowledge or interest in the films.  But the independent shops were owned often and run by people with a knowledge and love of film, they could often recommend films and were always willing to reserve titles for regular customers.  If you happened to be a customer of a certain video store in Manhattan Beach, California you may have been served by Quentin Tarantino!  Like with so many people, it was a video shop owner that recommended The Thing and Blade Runner to me years before they gained their cult status, it was these people that made cult hits out of movies.

I probably have an overly romanticised memory of what video shops were, but they served me well in my formative years and I will always have fond memories of them.

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A couple of questionable movie rub shoulders with five great contenders for movie of the month, they are:

Hail Caesar: The Coen Brothers most Coen Brothers movie in years.  The film looks great and the ensemble cast is fantastic.  As cleaver as it is funny.Hail Caesar

How to be Single: Dakota Johnson is engaging and Rebel Wilson is devastatingly funny in this surprisingly good comedy.How to be Single

The Witch: Horror thriller tale of an English family in 17th century New England.  As bleak as it is beautiful, the films greatest achievement is the way it makes the viewer doubt and question what  they see.  It’s hard to believe it is Robert Eggers’ directorial début.The Witch

The Divergent Series: Allegiant: Half of the weakest book in the Divergent Series is the basis for what is by far the weakest movie in the series so far.  Shailene Woodley deserves better.The Divergent Series Allegiant

Anomalisa: Stunning use of stop motion and an intriguing concept are hampered by dull storytelling.

10 Cloverfield Lane: Claustrophobic thriller that very different from Cloverfield.  Depending on your point of view the title is either a great benefit or significance hindrance to the plot.  Either way hugely enjoyable film with great turns from Mary Elizabeth Winstead and John Goodman.10 Cloverfield Lane

High-Rise: Ben Wheatley’s adaptation of J.G. Ballard’s novel about society condensed into an apartment block. Not without flaws but ultimately stunning and thought provoking.High-Rise

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice: There are lots of good things about DC’s attempts to catch up with Marvel, most notably Ben Affleck’s Bruce Wayne / Batman but ultimately it is disappointing and a little dull.Batman v Superman Dawn of Justice

Disorder: Moody and French.  Matthias Schoenaerts is excellent.  What on the surface is a home invasion thriller is really a deeper story of PTSD. Worth looking out.Disorder

There are five genuine contenders for movie of the month: Hail Caesar is fun, How to be Single is funny, The Witch is thought provoking, 10 Cloverfield Lane is riveting, High-Rise is bonkers.  It seems unfair to pick such small margins from so diverse movies, however, there can be only one, thus High-Rise is my movie of the month by a whisker.High-Rise movie poster

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