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Posts Tagged ‘Hugo’

In the past I have been vocal about my hatred of 3D, but I may have come to accept its place in cinema. The reason I have seen it working twice in recent years.Jaws 3d

When I was a kid 3D meant red and green lensed glasses with cardboard frames. My first experience of what was then branded Real D was in 2007 with the motion capture Beowulf. To the best of my memory I didn’t see another 3D movie until the end of 2009, that was James Cameron’s giant Smurfs epic Avatar, this again was a largely animated movie. From there things went downhill fast. The biggest problem comes when movies are retrofitted with 3D purely for profit. Apologists for 3D will tell you it is immersive and gives depth to the image and that it has moved a long way from the pointy gimmick of 3D horror movies. The truth the gimmicks are what worked and 3D movies have no depth, just foreground, background and a void in the middle. The low points came with movies like Alice in Wonderland (2010) where the best thing I can say about them is that I forgot they were in 3D. Or Drive Angry (2011) and the last two Resident Evil movies (2010 and 2012) that did not have a 2D option. The odd example of 3D being effective involved a hatched, bucket and a bolt flying out of the screen towards the audience.Hugo

After boycotting 3D for a year, this time last year I went to see Hugo. Fully intending to go for the 2D option I had a last minute change of heart. I’m not sure exactly what my thought process was at the time but remember thinking that if Martin Scorsese had made a movie in 3D he had earned the right for me to see it in 3D. One of very few directors who have earned the right to do whatever the fuck they like, I’m glad I went on the journey with Scorsese. Not only was Hugo my favourite film of 2011 but also demonstrated that 3D can work. Many 3D movies, especially retrofitted ones have foreground and background split by a gaping void. Hugo has real depth.Life Of Pi

Since seeing Hugo I have seen a few more 3D movies, they have renewed my prejudice towards the medium. Until now! Life of Pi is not only stunning to look at but like Hugo it has real depth in its 3D images. It is also so bright and vibrant that I never thought about 30% light loss. I have come to accept 3D but not to love it. I accept that in exception circumstances in the hands of true artists and auteurs it can work and can add to the cinema experience. It doesn’t mean I will be rushing to see the next 3D movie but I will be less likely to dismiss it as a pointless gimmick.

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Legend is a word that is used too lightly but with a career that has spanned eight decades and a Guinness World Record of 275 films, Knighted for services to drama and charity in 2009 and receiving the BAFTA Fellowship in 2011, it is a title that fits Christopher Lee very well. As I mentioned a couple of years ago I was introduced to Christopher Lee when I was about ten years old, I had no idea who he was. A few months later Channel 4 started showing a series of old Hammer Horror movies starting with Dracula: Prince of Darkness. This is when I first got interested in horror movies. So today, his 90th birthday here is the briefest overview of his movies.

In the mid 1940’s Lee joined the Rank Organisation and was given a seven-year contract (as was the norm of the day), during this period he made numerous movies. His first significant roles came a decade later when in 1957 he played the monster in Terence Fisher’s The Curse of Frankenstein alongside Peter Cushing as Frankenstein. The following year Fisher made Dracula (1958), he cast Lee in his most iconic role Dracula and Cushing as Van Helsing. He reprised the role in sequels: Dracula Prince of Darkness in 1965, Dracula Has Risen from the Grave (1968), Taste the Blood of Dracula (1969), Scars of Dracula (1970), Dracula A.D. 1972 (1972) and The Satanic Rites of Dracula (1973). Lee’s other work for Hammer included The Mummy (1959), Rasputin, the Mad Monk and the little known classic Taste of Fear (1961). Possibly his best Hammer movie and one of his (and my) personal favourites was the occult adventure/horror/thriller The Devil Rides Out (1967) based on a novel by Dennis Wheatley. He also appeared in two versions of the Jekyll and Hyde story The Two Faces of Dr. Jekyll (1960) and I, Monster (1971) (only the former being made by Hammer).

Having already played Sir Henry Baskerville (to Cushing’s Sherlock Holmes) in The Hound of the Baskervilles (1959) Lee went on to play Sherlock Holmes in Sherlock Holmes and the Deadly Necklace (1962), and Mycroft Holmes (Sherlock’s smarter brother) in Billy Wilder’s The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes (1970). He played Holmes again in the TV movies: Incident at Victoria Falls (1991) and Sherlock Holmes and the Leading Lady (1992). A step-cousin of author Ian Fleming, he was rumoured to be in contention to play James Bond, he was offered the part of Dr. No in the movie of the same name (1962) but was vetoed by the movies producers. He did eventually play a Bond villain, Francisco Scaramanga in The Man with the Golden Gun (1974) and was the best thing about the movie. As cinema, particularly horror cinema changed in the 1970’s the gothic horror he was most famous for became outdated he appeared to be moving with the times making one of his best horror films The Wicker Man (1973). Sadly the quality of his roles dried up with a lot of TV movies and lesser work in the decades that followed.

More recently his career has gone through a renaissance with a small part in Sleepy Hollow (1999) leading to further collaborations with Tim Burton: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005), Corpse Bride (2005), Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007), Alice in Wonderland (2010) and Dark Shadows (2012). Following Peter Cushing and Alec Guinness who appeared in the original Star Wars (1977) Lee plays Sith Lord, Count Dooku in Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones (2002) and Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith (2005). But his most notable role in recent years came in The Lord of the Rings trilogy. A great fan of The Lord of the Rings Lee has stated that it was a life long dream to play Gandalf, the Peter Jackson film trilogy came too late for him to realise this ambition but he did get a significant part in the movies playing Saruman. Later this year he will be reprising the in the prequel film The Hobbit. Retuning to the studio that made his name Lee had a small part in the new Hammer movie The Resident (2011). More significantly for a actor who has made so many movies he appeared in Martin Scorsese’s love letter to cinema Hugo (2011).

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I see a lot of movies at the cinema, on average two a week. I know for many people DVD (and now Brue-ray) is their first experience of many movies. With this in mind here are ten recommendations of films set for release in the next few months.

12 March 2012

My Week with Marilyn: The true story of 23-year-old Colin Clark’s experience on the set of The Prince And The Showgirl starring Marilyn Monroe and Sir Laurence Olivier (who also directed the movie). Directed with a light touch reminiscent of the best of Monroe’s movies but the best thing about it is the fantastic acting, Kenneth Branagh is brilliant as Olivier, Michelle Williams is even better as Monroe.

19 March 2012

Moneyball: With a screenplay by Steven Zaillian and Aaron Sorkin, Brad Pitt’s second great performance of last year does for sports movies what The Social Network did for Facebook. A true testament to the quality of the movie is that it is equally as enjoyable regardless of if you are a baseball fan or not.

Take Shelter: As a regular family man starts having apocalyptic visions he prepares for the impending doom and questions his own sanity in equal measure. A haunting movie that will stay with you long after it ends, elevated by the performances of Michael Shannon and Jessica Chastain.

26 March 2012

The Awakening: An old-fashioned ghost story, if you know my thoughts on horror, you will know that “old-fashioned” is a compliment not an insult. There are a few twists and turns in the plot but nothing spectacular, the real draw is Rebecca Hall who caries the movie virtually on her own proving her star credentials.

50/50: Joseph Gordon-Levitt stars as a young man who is given a 50% chance of surviving his recently diagnosed cancer. A touching and funny movie inspired by a true story and having a perfect blend of genres and styles. The whole cast is great with a special mention for Anna Kendrick who makes every movie she is in a little bit better including the Twilight movies.

2 April 2012

Hugo: Martin Scorsese’s love letter to cinema is quite possibly his best movie since Casino (1995). The young stars are fantastic and the movie looks amazing.

30 April 2012

Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol: Tom Cruise is back for a fourth impossible mission. The surprising thing, it could possibly be the best movie in the franchise so far. It has been suggested that Jeremy Renner’s character Brandt is intended as a replacement for Ethan Hunt when Tom Cruise retires the character.

7 May 2012

The Artist: The black and white, (largely) silent movie has just picked up five well deserved Oscars including best picture. With two months to go until its video release there is still time to catch it at the cinema, something I highly recommend you do if you haven’t already.

21 May 2012

Shame: Beautifully shot and brilliantly acted tale of sex addiction. Michael Fassbender and Carey Mulligan are devastatingly good.

28 May 2012

Haywire: Steven Soderbergh’s version of a revenge B thriller stars former cage fighter Gina Carano and is amazingly the second best movie I have seen this year (after The Artist). 

TV

The five disc box set of season one of HBO’s epic Game Of Thrones is set for release tomorrow (5th March). Based on George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series of fantasy novels about the seven kingdoms of the mythical land of Westeros and the families who fight for control of them. With the second season set to premier in America next month what better time to catch up on one of the best new shows of recent years.

A note on the selection: I have no knowledge or interest in the special features these discs contain (I usually purchase “vanilla” versions), my recommendations are based purely on the movies.
All dates refer to UK release dates are are correct to the best of my knowledge.

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There has been much debate for the reasons and merits of having ten nominees in the best picture category. Having any number between five and ten makes a certain sense in the event there are no more than five suitable movies. The selection of nine when many worthy movies have been overlooked does however seem bizarre. Here are the nominated movies ranked in order of my preference (*denotes unranked as I haven’t seen the film):

The Artist
Hugo
Midnight in Paris
The Descendants
Moneyball
The Tree of Life
The Help
War Horse
Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close*

Had there been ten nominations which would be the tenth selection? Here are my suggestions, many of which would be ranked above the nominated films:

Drive
The Guard
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
We Need to Talk About Kevin
The Skin I live in
Shame

Which would you chosen as the tenth nomination?

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Three years to the day after my first ever post (incidentally about the upcoming Oscars) I am here to announce the 1st Annual Groovers Movie Awards. No nominations, just winners. Ten categories, most of which are the same or similar to those in other awards. The award itself named the “Dom” is modelled after a Dom Pérignon bottle (you need to watch Fandango to understand the relevance) and will remain virtual unless Moët want to step in as a sponsor me.

Best Movie:

The Artist: A virtually silent black and white movie with a 1.37:1 aspect ratio about the end of the silent movie era doesn’t sound very exciting. The result is totally stunning, charming and funny. The overwhelming favourite for the pest picture Oscar. 

Best Director:

Martin Scorsese for Hugo: Martin Scorsese’s love letter to cinema is a stunning film beautifully made and even achieving the seemingly impossible task of making 3D work. 

Best Actress:

Tilda Swinton for We Need to Talk About Kevin: Missing out to Meryl Streep at the BAFTAs and completely overlooked by the Oscars, Tilda Swinton was my only contender for best actress.

Best Actor:

Brendan Gleeson for The Guard: Missing out to Jean Dujardin for The Artist in Golden Globes and pretty much overlooked by other awards, Brendan Gleeson reminded us what a great actor he is.

Best Screenplay:

Lynne Ramsay & Rory Kinnear for We Need to Talk About Kevin: Notable not only for how well written it is, but for what a tough job it must have been given the unusual structure of the source novel.

Best Foreign Language Film:

The Skin I live in: Winner of the BAFTA for Best Film Not in the English Language but not submitted for the equivalent Oscar (Spain chose to submit the as yet not released in the UK, Black Bread) sees Auteur Pedro Almodóvar at his bizarre best.

Best Documentary:

Senna: Not only the best documentary of the year, but the best documentary I have seen in many years.

Best Looking Movie:

Melancholia: An amalgam of many awards including Cinematography, Production Design and Art Direction. Melancholia wins the award for being the most beautiful looking movie of the year.

Movie Stars of the year:

Best actor and actress awards age given for the for individual outstanding performances but the movie star of the year award is given for an outstanding performances in multiple films in a year:

Jessica Chastain (The Help, The Tree of Life, The Debt, Take Shelter)

Michael Fassbender (Shame, X-Men: First Class, A Dangerous Method, Jane Eyre)

Fandango Award:

Fandango was writer/director Kevin Reynolds debut (and best) feature, and the first notable movie for star Kevin Costner. It gives its name to this award for the best breakout filmmakers of the year. The award is shared between two movies that interestingly were both co-written by their director and star:

Nick Damici and Jim Mickle for Stake Land

Mike Cahill and Brit Marling for Another Earth

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During a review film critic Mark Kermode has suggested the cinematic nostalgia of Hugo and The Artist would make a great double bill. With this in mind here are a weeks worth of double bills from last years movies (UK release):

Monday: Psychological Thrillers

Thematically very different but stylistically similar: Black Swan and The Skin I live in, two great psychological thrillers that both owe a debt to 70’s European horror.

Tuesday: Female assassins

Two very different takes on an idea. Hanna is the better movie but I don’t think it is as good as the reviews have suggested. On the other hand Colombiana isn’t a great movie but I enjoyed it a lot more than I thought I would.

Wednesday: Kooky Teens

Take a teenager who doesn’t quite fit in to school and society in general and throw into the mix a first relationship and you have a kooky teen movie. There have been two great examples one British and one American: Submarine and The Art of Getting By

Thursday: Girls in asylums

Although they look very different Sucker Punch and John Carpenter’s The Ward are actually very similar films. The Ward has sadly been overlooked and Sucker Punch unfairly slated, I know I am in a minority but I like both movies.

Friday: Vampires

Vampire movies are still coming out thick and fast, the best of from this year are the surprisingly good Priest (don’t bother with the 3D version) and the original and innovative Stake Land.

Saturday: Rocky for the 21st century

Using fighting robots and cage fighting but Warrior and Real Steel are essentially still sports movies like Rocky with all the same themes and messages and like Rock Both are very watchable.

Sunday: Classic Horror

Hammer is yet to recapture the eerie brilliance of its original gothic horror in its absence comes two brilliant chillers, Julia’s Eyes and The Awakening.

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When I first published my top ten movies of 2011 I chose to do it a little differently to previous years by selecting films by their original release date and not the UK release date. This in theory should bring my selections in line with other top ten lists, however it presents a problem, in the UK we don’t get a some of the best movies until January. With this in mind I present my Redux Top Ten. It only has one change but it is a significant one:

  1. The Artist – Telling the story of the transition from silent cinema to “talkies” isn’t a completely original one, but it is one that hasn’t been successfully told in a long time. The ingenious thing about The Artist is the way the story is told as a mainly silent film. With charismatic leading actors and a story that is both funny and touching it is a film I couldn’t help loving.
  2. Hugo – To be called a family film these days usually means a silly kids films with a few in-jokes for older viewers but Hugo really is a film for all ages and will remain so for generations to come. A film for lovers of film by a director who truly loves his medium, he even made 3D work.
  3. Drive – This is a movie that really shouldn’t work, there isn’t much plot, its old fashioned, overly violent, the leading man doesn’t have much dialogue. For some reason it does all work and like all the best movies it will haunt your memories long after you have seen it. It missed out to Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy as my movie of the month back in September but on reflection it is a better movie.
  4. The Guard – What could easily have been yet another fish out water tale is elevated by prospective. Instead of focusing on Don Cheadle’s FBI agent the film is centred around Brendan Gleeson’s wiser than he first appears Irish policeman. The real star however is the script and more importantly the dialogue.
  5. Senna – The first documentary to make my top ten of the year list. A fantastic and moving story of Ayrton Senna, a man who was possibly the greatest racing driver of all time, the true greatness of the film is the number of none F1 fans who also enjoyed it.
  6. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy – The BBC adaptation of John le Carré’s Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is possibly the best spy thriller I have ever seen, I think the movie may just be better.
  7. We Need to Talk About Kevin – Not the easiest movie to watch but well worth the effort. Confidently directed and superbly acted (Tilda Swinton deserves an Oscar) but the real strength lies in the screenplay. Adapted from a novel with a near un-filmable format, it’s a miracle any film was made let alone such a good one.
  8. Midnight In Paris – The premise is silly and clichéd but the execution is so charming and amusing that it gets away with all its potential faults. Especially rewarding for fans of Hemingway, Fitzgerald and the “Lost Generation” but entertaining and enjoyable for any film fan. Woody Allen’s best movie in a very long time.
  9. The Skin I live in – Beautifully shot, perfectly cast and brilliantly acted but most importantly Pedro Almodóvar back to his weird, bizarre best. Antonio Banderas is also back to his best and Elena Anaya deserves more roles like this.
  10. Moneyball – with a screenplay by Steven Zaillian and Aaron Sorkin you expect a compelling story and snappy dialogue, I am happy to report both are present and are helped by Brad Pitt’s second great performance of the year. Reminiscent in part to The Social Network (also written by Sorkin) and that has to be a good thing.
You can see my original list HERE.

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