Sunday, 30 January 2011

Man of Many Roles - Jon Voight

It's hard not to like Jon Voight. Runaway Train ranks alongside Passenger 57 as the best film ever to be shown past 11pm on terrestial TV.

However since his train driving days appear to be over, he's made a career out of playing "high-level-government-agency-director-type-who-seems-good-but-look-at-his-face!He-must-be-corrupt-but-nah-he's-probably-alright" in recent years.

Let's have a look.

1997 - Most Wanted

Teaming up with the greatest actor of his (family's) generation, Keenen Ivory Wayans, old man Voight plays a military man in charge of a secret special operations team or is he?!

1998 - Enemy Of The State

Angelina Jolie Snr takes on the Fresh Prince. This time in the guise of a National Security Agent. Surely he must be trustworthy this time? No. Do not trust Jon Voight with anything.

2004 - The Manchurian Candidate

Moving away from the civil service and directly into government, Voight becomes a senator in the 2004 Jonathan Demme remake. His transformation is effortless and suggests that he has clearly been practising in front of a mirror for some time.

2007 - Transformers

After rising from the ranks of a lowly Lieutenant Colonel just 10 years previous, Voight climbs the greasy pole like a Nepalese sherpa with experience in climbing the greasiest poles around. Unsatisfied by merely occupying a seat in government, he gives himself the position of Secretary of Defence as he defends the Earth from rock-em sock-em robots. Notice how he hasn't changed out of his suit for the duration of this period in his career.

So what is Hollywood trying to say? Well, clearly that Mr Voight deserves some sort of senior government position. But at the same time, don't be surprised if he turns out not to be very good at handling his power. His forays into actual politics haven't been successful as can be seen with his support of John McCain's presidential campaign. The question many ask would be "Is there a lesson to be learnt here?"...well yes - Hollywood stop forcing the Voight political agenda. His time will come.

Thursday, 27 January 2011

Trailer Trash - Gulliver's Travels

Trailers seem to be getting longer and longer. Far from teasing the audience and igniting curiousity, they show a concentrated version of the movie and reveal practically everything.

The trailer for Gulliver's Travels goes on for bloody ages and pissed off countless people over the Christmas period waiting....waiting....waiting for the main feature to begin. It is a shining example of the new breed of preview. The film itself only runs for 85 minutes (probably 8 of those minutes are credits) - meaning the trailer is 1/34th of the film or essentially 3% of it. However, it seems to contain every moment of note. It's unclear whether there is anything worthwhile in the other 82 minutes but judging from reviews probably not.

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Parlez Vous Foreign?

The release of The Next Three Days continues the current Hollywood trend of films “remade for the English language”. In recent years major studios have started to churn out remakes at an alarming rate with the turnaround times between the original and duplicate becoming increasingly efficient with as little as 18 months now separating the two. But why remake films in the English language? Last year’s Let Me In suggested that they may simply be an elaborate and rather expensive lesson in directing by numbers. With some scenes replicated shot for shot, there seemed to be little reason for it other than the fact the actors were speaking English. Unlike the critically lauded Swedish original, Let The Right One In, the remake received lacklustre reviews. Financially it produced a poor box-office return which suggests the argument that remakes appeal to a broader audience appears to be a limited one.

Many remakes seem to garner greater critical praise in their original format and perhaps this is down to how foreign language films are perceived. Commonly shunned from the multiplexes, foreign films find themselves forcefully positioned into the all together different demographic of independent cinemas. Within the confines of the “art-house” atmosphere, foreign cinema is assigned an almost inherent sense of artistic credibility. Audiences and critics can, on occasion, be wrong footed by the surroundings and subtitles which allow flaws to be overlooked in a desire to appear cine-literate. However there must be more than egos and hipster sensibilities that create the divide between praised original and panned copy.

Certain aspects of a film are easier to digest when removed from the Hollywood framework. Audiences are less inclined to question the motivation or abilities of the protagonist and the actions of other characters in response. This is particularly evident in the French original of The Next Three Days – Pour Elle (English title: Anything For Her). In the original the lead is played by Vincent Lindon, a well known face in French media, but relatively unknown to the rest of the world. It is entirely plausible therefore to see him as an everyday man struggling to come to terms with the incarceration of his wife and his desire to break her out of prison. His journey into the underworld is made convincing and more thrilling by us believing entirely that he is far from a typical action hero. The choice of Russell Crowe as the lead in the remake is therefore problematic. The question of whether an ordinary man could break the woman he loves out of prison that was the driving force behind the original fails to exist in the remake. That is because the ordinary man happens to be both Robin Hood and a Gladiator – and thus a prison break should be a walk in the park.

The financial implications for Hollywood studios must also be considered for the spate of remakes. Unlike original productions that require developing an idea worthy of the screen, films that are “remade for the English language” are an attractive get-rich-quick scheme for studios. They do not require an original concept or numerous hours of script writing, revising and editing. The blueprint is already there and the drawings still pinned to the storyboard. It is simply a case of inserting a credible director, cast and crew then wait for the money to roll in. Vanilla Sky made a return of over $200m from a budget of just under $70m whilst The Departed made over $290m from a budget of $90m. Japanese horror has provided a veritable goldmine for studios with The Ring making $249m from a budget of $45m and The Grudge taking $187m from an original $10m budget. With the yard stick of success usually being to double the budget then it is fair to say these films performed exceedingly well financially. But the stunted returns of recent remakes such as Let Me In (scraping a $2m profit) and The Next Three Days ($11m profit) suggests the scheme might have been rumbled by a cinema going public increasingly happy to broaden their cinematic horizons in the search for celluloid joy. Hollywood must now consider more carefully what and how it chooses to regurgitate foreign cinema in the future.

Monday, 24 January 2011

Review - 127 Hours

The unexpected success of Slumdog Millionaire brought with it many benefits for Danny Boyle. After the mountain of awards, kudos, job offers and financial success, he found that he had been awarded a prize that many directors can only dream of - creative freedom. With this luxury, he joined forces again with Simon Beaufoy and pushed ahead with his vision to bring the story of Aron Ralston to the screen.

The story being that of a young climber who had cut his own arm off with a blunt multitool after it became trapped. It featured on almost every news channel across the world back in 2003. Beyond the incredible tale of human survival and will, it begged the question in pubs up and down the nation "Would you cut your own arm off to survive?". Somewhere amidst the beer soaked carpets and sticky tables there was Mr Boyle, with a packet of scampi fries and a pint of Black Sheep ale, thinking "Could I film this?". It turns out yes...yes you can but there are a few issues.

The very nature of the problem is the same that beset Ralston in the first place. He's stuck and he's stuck in between rocks (not impressive rocks but fairly standard rocks) in a dimly lit bit of canyon. Lesser directors may have panicked and written in extensive subplots involving family members or work colleagues but Boyle knows this is not what this story is about. The solution to gain a brief respite from the lithic environment is through imagination, hallucination and premonition. With these tools the audience come to understand Ralston, his failings, his fears and ultimately share in his triumph. Each vision letting us in on the selfish, care-free attitude that led him to his prison and the redemption that it offers to him. Driving along relentlessly, it is directed to the very limits and it is hard to see just how much further it could be taken. But Boyle extracts great value from every shot, every scream and every movement.

However, these flights of fantasy would be just another narrative device if it wasn't for James Franco in the lead. He plays Ralston exceptionally well - combining just the right level of charm, compassion, outdoorsy oddball with just a touch of selfish douchebag for good measure. It is a testament to his ability that he is able to turn the traits of an unlikeable fella into a enthralling screen presence. The handheld camera acting as his confession box, a line of communication with the world he escaped but more importantly an outlet for Franco's ability. If he ever decides to leave acting behind (or writing, academia, painting etc) then he can rest assured that he will make a rather excellent radio talk show host.

scene about which so much horror has been expressed is down to him. Regular viewers of Holby City, 999 or anyone with an internet connection will have seen worse before in the fake blood and guts department. Franco brings it to life though with contorted grimaces, breathless personal reassurances and chilling screams of agony. Hands instinctively squeezing the top of forearms as eyes look on. It puts the extras on Casualty to shame. It would be a great shame though if the gore albatross were hung round it's neck as well as doing a disservice to the work of those who put the film together.

Both Boyle and Franco milk every frame for all that it is worth. You can't hold it against them though. It lasts 94 minutes and it is difficult to see what else could possibly be included but near impossible to suggest something that the film could do without. It will be interesting to see what Boyle is mulling his pint over next.

Friday, 21 January 2011

Review - Blue Valentine

It is often hard to put into words sufficient and eloquent enough to describe the joy of art when, even if just for a few moments, it captures true emotion. The shared experience of the cinema means that when this rare feat is achieved it is obvious to all in attendance. It is remarkable therefore that director Derek Cianfrance takes crushingly beautiful performances from his two leads Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams and delivers them to the screen untainted. The credits roll and yet no-one moves - taking the extended time in the darkness to gather thoughts and composure for entering the brightly lit box office.

Blue Valentine
tells the story of love found and lost as it flicks between the past and present. Dean (Gosling) is a warm, gentle man and old fashion romantic strolling through life with ukulele in hand and finding himself in Brooklyn. While Cindy (Williams), bruised by her upbringing in a loveless home, desperately grabs affection but has yet to feel love. The present shows Cindy, now a mother to 6 year old Frankie, burnt out from the routine of family life and a hectic work schedule. Whilst beneath a receding hairline, glasses and a cigarette, the ever-loving playful Dean is a fragile shell of his former self following daily doses of emotional and physical rejection from his spouse.

On the surface it seems irrational that a woman could reject such a loving husband and devoted father. Yet at the same time in his growing need for her affection and a frustrating lack of ambition, we are able to understand why Cindy could fall out of love with that man that won her heart. It examines the key to happiness and what we all seek in our own relationships. What we hope for and what we get, our ambitions and emotional bonds are all put under the glare of the spotlight. A themed motel acts as the blue lit background to the breaking point. It is here that a drunken night in "The Future Room" leads the pair to the bathroom floor where on either side of the divide is crushing rejection whilst the other skin crawling disgust. It is achingly painful to witness but brilliantly realised by both Gosling and Williams.

At times it is hard to see past a series of sombre and particular raw scenes but Gosling adds a lighthearted edge that make the darker moments bearable. "We're inside a robot's vagina" quickly establishing itself as a front runner for line of the year. Where he demonstrates unerring warmth, Williams shows great vulnerability throughout and the chemistry between the pair is as beautiful as it is melancholic. Both fully deserve Oscar nominations which are no doubt assured.

A soundtrack by Grizzly Bear works perfectly - providing both a harmonius warmth to the past whilst a shadowy glumness hangs over the present. Interspersed with the odd ukulele solo, it melds seemlessly with the downfall of the relationship.

It may not be an easy watch at times and leaving as emotionally drained as the characters would not be surprising. However, it is a revelation in terms of capturing the joy and pain of love.

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Actors Against Gravity - How You Can Help!

If you've ever seen a romcom poster and thought "I love the look of those two actors just leaning against each other!". Stop. These poses are not the result of months of discussion between a photographer, studio executives and group of image consultants wondering how to make their weak rehashed lighthearted love story look fresh, laidback, original or even cool.

These stances are the result of a problem endemic to Hollywood thespians. Gravity. Some have too much gravity whilst others have none at all.

As can be seen from the evidence above, Richard Gere is just one of Hollywood's big names struggling to manage equilibrium in his profession.

If you spot an actor struggling with their balance then email us at:

Together we can overcome gravity.

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Review - Catfish

With the tagline "Don't let anyone tell you what it is", Catfish has made itself the bane of many reviewers existence. Revealing what it isn't would in turn give too much away and so the middle ground seems to be letting the curious potential audience in on the bare essentials.

Those essentials being that filmmakers Ariel Schulman and Henry Joost decide to document the blossoming relationship between Ariel's photographer brother Nev and the family of an 8 year old art protégé called Abby with contact being almost exclusively through Facebook.

With The Social Network seemingly taking all the plaudits for capturing the zeitgeist of the latter half of the decade, Catfish must be seen as the unnerving little brother. The sibling that has been ushered into the shadows and away from mainstream sensibilities and concerns. However, where Fincher and co failed was making any of their characters remotely likeable. Who cares for the trodden on friends when they all become millionaires anyway? Acting as an ambivalent document of the events that led to the most powerful social tool of our time but only looking at the repercussions for human relationships on a superficial level. The moment when Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg) realises the missing piece of his puzzle is the "relationship status" information is treated comically - as if he were Archimedes stepping into a bath of baked beans.

in contrast shows the faces behind the profile pictures. The trio of filmmakers on their voyage of discovery make for an engaging watch as they become more involved with the young artist. Nev, in particular, makes for a charismatic and often amusing lead in the improvised movie of his life. His developing relationship with Abby's older sister purely via modern means of communication is an accepted and increasingly common sign of the times. The film expertly details the dichotomy of the internet's effect on our social lives. It documents the void of loneliness that technology has created in our wi-fi connected world. The growing distance between everyday human contact and anonymous online interactions with photos, likes, dislikes and status updates. However, Catfish demonstrates the ability of technology to connect not only with other people but emotions, imagination and fantasy. It is this confusion of masked interaction and intense emotional involvement that means that the internet has not just become a powerful social device but an equally powerful method of escapism.

In the age of the faux documentary, it is not unreasonable to have suspicions over the truthfulness of the story. It seems to fall neatly into place though that is what editing studios are for. Similarly accusations of a sleazy and condescending feel to the final cut of the film have been made. These words though overlook the fact that the filmmakers always act with grace, good humour and compassion throughout. A poignant human story for our emotionally detached social network.

Monday, 17 January 2011

Actors Against Gravity - Another Helpless Victim

And so gravity has another victim. This time in the shape of Steve Carell.

Before the promotional material for the 2007 film Dan In Real Life was released, Carell apparently begged that the poster for this film be sent out in landscape format in order to disguise his trouble with Newton's most famous discovery.

Sadly marketing executives decided that the sympathy dollar was too hard to resist and ran with the original much to the annoyance of Carell.

If you see an actor struggling with gravity, support them to an adequate angle and then call the national Actors Against Gravity helpline to make a donation.

Just £2 a month is enough to provide a gravity stricken actor with a supporting cast strong enough to carry them through their next film.

Sunday, 16 January 2011

Review - eXistenZ

eXistenZ - capital x, capital z.

A virtual world made reality through the use of living Playstations known as biopods connected to their user via an umbilical cord. A reality in which both desire and fear act as the creative force in the imaginary world. Leading those inside it to the darkest realms of their imagination and to question where their real lives end and the game begins.

Allegra Geller (Jennifer Jason Leigh) is a world famous games designer, a hero to those jaded by the limits of the everyday and a target for extremists who fear the significance of the waking world is being devalued by her creations. Following an attempt on her life at a promotional event for her latest construction of fantasy, her safety is entrusted to a trainee marketing man moonlighting as a security guard in the form of Ted Pikul (Jude Law). Initially reluctant, Geller persuades game virgin Pikul to join her in eXistenZ to see whether her biopod has survived the stress of the assassination attempt. And thus begins a journey through different levels of reality as the pair descend deeper into the game.

Law for all of the tabloid attention that he attracts is often overlooked in terms of his acting ability. His performance as Pikul shows great subtlety as he moves between video game avatar and the anxious reluctant hero - ushering the audience away from the solid groundings of reality until finding themselves as lost in the void as he appears to be. For all the flak he seems to take, there is no doubting his ability in front of the camera.

The film, written and directed by David Cronenberg, is full of his usual relish for blood and throbbing guts. The alternative reality providing the perfect foundation for creative and extravagant use of his favoured splatter. As ever though, he displays vision beyond the gore that makes for a darkly involving and entertaining experience. A puzzle that requires attention for the duration but highly rewarding. For a film that is now over a decade old, the themes seem as relevant now as ever and ahead of the time in terms of concept. Looking at the nature of our reality whilst also questioning human fervour for escapism via virtual worlds - simply illustrated by the umbilical cords used by game users. With the release of Inception last year, it is difficult not to see this film as precursor with the levels of reality similarly broken down into clear stages before slowly blurring into one. Cronenberg brings his concept to life with the craft and execution one would expect from the Canadian director. Worth seeing on the ideas alone, the style with which it is depicted comes as a real bonus.

Actors Against Gravity - Matthew McConaughey Update

After a whipround amongst Hollywood's A-list, enough funds have been cobbled together to devise this ingenius and practical acting aide modelled by the elegantly equine Sarah Jessica Parker.

A special thank you must go to Emilio Estevez, Cuba Gooding Jnr, Jamie Foxx and Kate Hudson who between them contributed £7.42. It is because of them that one of Hollywood's brightest stars is given the chance to shine once more.

Actors Against Gravity will be holding future benefits. The next is to be held in Woodseats Working Mens Club, Sheffield. It's likely to be £4 in - cheese and pineapple hedgehog, sausage rolls and sandwiches included. With at least 8% of all profits going towards other actors in their struggle with their greatest foe.

Date to be finalised.

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Acrostic Review - Mission To Mars

Martians form the basis of this daft sci-fi romp;
in the depths of outer space
stars of Hollywood collide,
seemingly doomed to fail
in both mission and box-office alike;
only De Palma's career goes beyond the point of
no return.

Tim Robbins et al
onwards go to act another day.

Many launched scathing attacks
at the time of release but
rainy Sunday afternoons suit this film,
Sinise - well he got another ride.

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

Haiku Review - Love and Other Drugs

He sells Viagra
Hathaway has Parkinson's
Film tolerable.

The Many Stances of Matthew McConaughey

Matthew McConaughey is clearly too proud a man to ask for help and his ability to overcome his disability is admirable. At one point in his career he was edging towards living permanently at 45 degrees. Jennifer Garner has brought that closer to 10 degrees with stealthy use of a scarf but the demands of her schedule mean that she can't be there for him round the clock. Will someone please buy this man a crutch to save his co-stars the effort of carrying him through yet another below average rom-com?

Bad Casting or Bad Writing? Unbelievable Careers in Movies

The local cinema - a place of escape.

For the visionaries of the world to transport their audience to fantastical lands of wonderment far from the humdrum of waiting for buses, office fax machines and overdue water bills. The brain convinced that reason, logic and science are all meaningless as the trailers begin.



Is that Meg Ryan as a helicopter pilot?

The illusion of the impossible broken as the cold draught of reality seeps into the dark warmth of the screening room. All is lost.

Here are just a few examples where the casting department undermine credibility:
  • Kate Hudson playing a high-powered city lawyer in Bride Wars. It is difficult to argue that anything in this film was remotely enjoyable. Aside from being utterly hateful to seemingly everything. Oddly the level of misogny is tantamount to misandry in this film. The overwhelming memory is the confused gasp that rose to the ceiling of the theatre as Hudson revealed her implausible vocation.
  • Ben Affleck as a man who writes the blurb on the back of hardback book sleeves in Forces of Nature.
  • Sandra Bullock as a crossword puzzle compiler for a local newspaper in All About Steve.
  • Woody Harrelson plays a successful yoghurt mogul in Management. Somewhere in a dimly lit room, a man possibly with a university education and a respectable family background thought that this would be a perfectly plausible plot line.
  • Meg Ryan as a helicopter pilot in the film Courage Under Fire. This does not require any explaining at all. The fact that these words are aligned next to each other in that order should seem daft enough - who was responsible for that decision?
  • Sarah Jessica Parker as an emergency room doctor in Smart People. "Scalpel, towel, suction, forceps...GUCCI SHOES!"

Sunday, 9 January 2011

Review - Splice

Always able and at times outstanding when impressing in films off the beaten track such as The Brothers Bloom and Hollywoodland but often entirely forgettable in big budget affairs such as King Kong. Adrien Brody, the youngest winner of the Academy Award for Best Actor, has found himself in somewhat of a rut in recent times and seemingly unable to cement his place as one of Hollywood's big hitters. The past few years then must have truly frustrated him. A court case preventing the use of his image and name from Dario Argento's Giallo due to unpaid work being the most publicity the film received. Whilst his participation in the revival of the Predator series was received with such a lacklustre meh that even the "meh" seemed like too much effort when describing the response.

The chance to work with Vincenzo Natali of Cube cult status in a horror/thriller film about a pair of moral-boundary pushing biochemists messing around with odd homemade creatures that closely resemble infected bell-ends then can only have seemed an entirely reasonable idea. To quote the mantra of the film "What's the worst that could happen?".

Scientist couple Clive (Brody) and Elsa (Sarah Polley) sick of playing with french-kissing blobs decide to spice things up by whacking a bit of human DNA into the equation. The result is Dren who is part-human, part-supermodel and part-kangaroo. Family drama ensues as Elsa takes to Dren as one of her own but as she grows rapidly the film turns from scientific horror satire to the downright hilarious.

"You never told me you own a farm?!" cries Clive to his girlfriend of 7 years as the Frankensteins decide where to hide their little monster. In an attempt to keep their offspring entertained during the lonely days the couple give her a few crayons and like most children she seems pretty happy drawing pictures of Adrien Brody all day. It is unclear how Freud would describe the issues contained in this film though it would be fair to say Oedipus and Electra have nothing on Dren. Desperately trying to bring back the scares, Natali includes moonlit forest pursuits and a touch more gore but the audience had been lost in the laughter long before.

Both Brody and Polley put in a decent enough shift where they are able to but are let down by the freefall in rationality their characters partake in. The film does have a select few moments that make it worth a watch and at least some sort of vision is there beneath the poorly devised script.

Hopefully for Brody it won't be a case of looking back on his career and thinking "What's the worse that could have happened?...Oh right, Splice"

Friday, 7 January 2011

Why Kick-Ass Sucked Ass...

Reading over plenty of top 10/20/25 best film lists of 2010 it's been hard to disagree with some of the selections that have commonly made those lists. Some gain a thumbs up, the majority gain a nod of approval or even a wink of agreement whilst others get a shrug of acceptance. However the only film that that raises my left eyebrow in a similar fashion to that of a quietly frustrated Carlo Ancelotti before lowering my right eyebrow to pour scorn in a manner akin to Werner Herzog witnessing a Care Bear picnic is Matthew Vaughn's Kick-Ass.

The comedian Stewart Lee once stressed that the key to successful comedy was to maintain a consistent point of view. It is precisely this that undermines the adaptation of Mark Millar and John Romita Jnr's graphic novel. The pseudo-reality of the Kick-Ass world which works so successfully in the graphic novel genre fails to translate onto the screen. With the first act spent convincing the audience that superhero fantasies are strangled by the reality of consequences and physics - aptly demonstrated by a colourfully suited wannabe falling to his death. It seems odd that the denouement of the film contains a rocket launcher, jet pack with machine gun and a kill count to rival Total Recall. It was hard not to think of the henchman death scene of Austin Powers whenever an extra took a bullet or lost an arm as the reality of the fictional world began to ignore the foundations on which it was built.

The script aims for edgy and tries too hard. The geekish/laddish mates who churp in with "bantah!" at opportune moments particularly making me want to dip my balls in blamanche and have gerbils nibble it off. The Daily Mail hysteria surrounding Hit-Girl and her use of the C word probably did more for this film than any positive review. It gave it credibility and a buzz amongst the target audience that can only come with a Mail "stay away" campaign. Sadly what film critics of a certain generation and particularly right wing papers failed to understand that a young girl saying the C word isn't remotely shocking to our generation but a misjudged attempt at being so.

When the posters were plastered onto buses and the media hype was beginning to build - it seemed obvious that the film was going to receive generous praise. Why? The film was independently financed with the wealthy and influential players of the British media no doubt with a finger in the pie. Add into that the popularity of Matthew Vaughn (a British boy dun gud) and Mrs Jonathan Ross co-writing the script it seems understandable that it got a better press on this side of the Atlantic.

Underneath the hype and tween girls with filthy mouths it was a less than ordinary film that frustrated when overstepping the self proclaimed boundaries and convictions.

What's Coming Up in 2011?

Last year ended with an underwhelming blockbuster extravaganza. Harry on Camping and Tron putting bums on seats before eventually numbing them. Luckily with award season on the way it usually means the year begins with a few films with eyes on Oscar nominations.

The hype from over the tectonic divide seems to be that the Coen Brothers are making a strong case with their remake of the classic True Grit which has already garnered a vast amount of critical praise. The brothers already having Oscar pedigree with No Country for Old Men in 2007 as well as Fargo in 1996. The remake sees Jeff Bridges playing the infamous role of Rooster Cogburn tracking down the murderer of a young girl's father. Bridges fresh from his triumph at last year's Academy Awards looks set to possibly earn himself another nomination here.

With similar award winning form is Danny Boyle who follows up the acclaimed Slumdog Millionaire with the eagerly awaited 127 Hours. The true story of Aron Ralston already comes with a sack full of nominations and awards so don't be surprised to see James Franco and Boyle both getting Oscar nods.

The film I'm most looking forward to is Darren Aronofsky's Black Swan. Described by Mark Kermode as "like Argento on crack" it has already whet my appetite. It's hard to not be extremely excited by the grouping of Aronofsky, Portman and Cassel. Furthermore another soundtrack by Clint Mansell who most certainly deserves some credit for his brilliant scores over the past decade. Having been a massive fan of Aronofsky's entire body of work, including The Fountain which I wholeheartedly believe to be a work of unmatched vision, beauty and ambition, this is the one that I'm busting a gut to see.

Judging from the critical buzz alone it seems as those these three films will be putting their hands out for the awards rationing to begin. It wouldn't surprise me at all to see them split fairly equally between these films as well as Toy Story 3 and The Social Network. With internal politics probably deciding the outcome in the case of the Oscars and going the way of The Social Network.

Best and Worst Films of 2010

Slightly late but had to let the year end before seeing if there were any final stinkers or classics to be added in. Sadly I never got round to seeing Fred: The Movie.

Best Films of 2010:
  • Toy Story 3
  • Un prophète (technically 2009 but released in the UK in 2010)
  • Dog Tooth
  • Four Lions
Worst Films of 2010:
  • Kick-Ass
  • Valentine's Day
  • Alice In Wonderland
  • MacGruber
Some are self-explanatory but others will have people up in arms.

Thursday, 6 January 2011

Review - Tron: Legacy

After a gap of 28 years, Disney decided to take us back to the world of Tron and his blue comrades. But why? The original whilst
achieving moderate box office success and critical praise when released in 1982 had confounded itself to life as a cult classic mentioned only in circles geeky enough not to fear ridicule. However, following test footage fashioned into a teaser trailer shown at a comic book convention the green light for a sequel was given. It seemed as much a financial exercise as a technical one.

The film sees Sam Flynn (Garrett Hedlund) haunted by the mysterious disappearance of his video-game developing father some 20 years earlier. A message from out of the blue leads him back to the his father's old video arcade where he stumbles upon more than just outdated Pong machines.

The world of Tron seems to act as a visual metaphor for the attitude of the big studios towards the modern blockbuster. The cold logic of "The Grid" and the many programmes that inhabit it produce a visually groundbreaking but dramatically turgid 2 hours. That is not to say the film is entirely without merit. The first third of the film is well constructed. It teases fans with knowing nods to the original and builds well to the arrival of Flynn Jnr in the virtual world. The Light Cycle sequence, the basis of the original teaser footage, is geniunely enthralling. The director, Joseph Kosinski, previously best known for his work on adverts for Halo 3 and Gears of War is clearly at home creating stunning but succint pieces of ocular candy. However, the film as a whole suffers from slow sequences in which flashing lights and CGI Jeff Bridges paper over the cracks of a lacklustre and hastily stitched together narrative.

Bridges does a decent job as the elder zen-like Flynn. Though it's hard not to imagine that it isn't The Dude having somehow found himself stuck in a hard drive. To be honest little attention is paid to the nuances of acting when $200m of graphic imagination is flying about the screen.

Fittingly for the subject material Tron: Legacy is much like finally buying a video game having read about it for months. Reading the back of the box on the bus home, flicking through the manual and eagerly awaiting the adventure it holds. Sadly after the initial excitement of the first couple of levels you've found that the game is really dragging and you are essentially smacking the same two buttons for the majority of the time as it plays out in a similar fashion to the games before it.