Sunday, 27 February 2011


Yes that's right, I've decided to show up the Oscars with my very own awards ceremony. The only problem being that I haven't yet been able to see The Social Network or others such as Of Gods And Men or The Kids Are Alright... So instead I shall shamelessly rip off the Kermode awards and only have winners that haven't been nominated for an Oscar for that particular film, except with the additional caveat of being lucky enough to have been seen by me. So here goes!

Best Actress
Honourable mentions:
Chloe Moretz, Kick-Ass
Marion Cotillard, Inception

Noomi Rapace, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (well, everyone else seems to be pretending it came out last year...)

Best Actor
Honourable mentions:
Tom Hardy, Inception
Tahar Rahim, A Prophet

Casey Affleck, The Killer Inside Me

Best Director
Honourable mentions:
Martin Scorsese, Shutter Island
Jacques Audiard, A Prophet

Christopher Nolan, Inception

Best Film
Honourable mentions:
Shutter Island

A Prophet

Biggest Pile Of Dogshit Masquerading As A Film:
Sex And The City 2

Well, there we have it, 2010 in the films I've seen, that haven't been nominated. Perhaps I shall do a proper one of everything if I see the outstanding films soon enough, but I wouldn't get my hopes up...

Sunday, 13 February 2011

Paranormal Activity

Don't see it alone? Don't see it at all...
Having recently set up an account at a postal movie rental service, I have decided to try and catch up on a few films I missed when they were released to cinemas, wether caused by not being born, inability to go to the cinema, or laziness. The first of these was Paranormal Activity (I think one of the latter two was responsible for missing this). Since I am over a year late on this particular movie I would expect most of you to know the general gist of the story, but for those who don't I shall quickly run through it. Basically an entity of some kind has followed Katie around since she was about 8. Now sometime in her 20s she is living with Micah and the entity is becoming increasingly badly behaved. The disbelieving Micah buys a camera so they can see what happens during the night. It is the footage from this camera that we see.

Now, I have been getting into horror movies a lot of late (mostly, it has to be said, dating back from the 30s through to the 70s) so I was really quite looking forward to it. It's been a while since I've been so disappointed by a movie. I was expecting a suspenseful tale of which Hitchcock himself would have been proud. I was hoping for a film to prove to the purveyors of torture-porn that gore isn't as scary as mood. Unfortunately, the filmmakers had only read a small part of the A-Z Guide to Creating Suspense deciding that the handheld camera would be enough to put people on edge. In modern cinema there seems to be just two kinds of horror movie, the ones where gore is thrown at you (Saw and the slasher remakes etc.), and ones where absolutely nothing happens till the last five minutes (this and all films in thrall to this). I'm sorry, but there's building suspense and then there's just boredom. The scare tactics consist of doors moving on their own and that kind of thing. That's all well and good, but there is no sense of menace or terror to accompany these small things. At no point did I feel at all scared. The Haunting is now almost 50 years old, yet is far more scary on every possible level. Speaking of which, this film is totally unimaginative. There are portions taken from The Haunting, there's the camera technique from Blair Witch, there are a few possession elements that are more than a little Excorcist-like as well as (SPOILER coming up now) more than a little of Ringu and the other Japanese avenging ghosts at the end.

And we haven't even talked about the characters yet. Initially Micah is the sceptic, whilst Katie believes. So why, then, do they swap roles on more than one occasion during the 90 minute run-time? Also, they are just unbelievably, unforgivably and unsympathetically stupid. Not only do they wander around for half the film trying to find the ghost/demon/whatever having already discovered that it cannot be seen, but they do so with the lights turned off. I mean, I don't know about you, but the first thing I do when I'm scared is turn all the lights on. At another point, they call a professional in and he advises them to see a demonologist. Micah decides that he can do a far better job, despite not knowing anything about this subject. But what's worse, is that he continues to do take this line despite the blindingly obvious fact that he is doing nothing but making it angrier.

I suppose the acting from Katie Featherston and Micah Sloat is perfectly acceptable, though nothing spectacular. And the Oren Peli's direction doesn't get in the way at all, it's just a really uninspired, overhyped 90 minutes of a door opening and closing and a couple running around with a camera around a massive house.


Thursday, 13 January 2011

The King's Speech

Yes! You're beloved guide to the world of films is making a glorious return to the world of film reviewing! The first film to be reviewed this time around, is the new release The King's Speech. Colin Firth stars as King George VI who has a chronic stammer which makes his Royal duties difficult to perform. Attempting to rid himself of this he hires common Australian man Lionel Laugh portrayed excellently by Geoffrey Rush. Alongside the two excellent performances from the leads (more on this later), the supporting cast is stronger than a student's breath on a saturday night featuring Helena Bonham-Carter, Guy Pearce, Michael Gambon, Timothy Spall, Derek Jacobi and the little girl from Outnumbered.

Many may write the film off as 'just another period film about a British monarch', but these people are idiots who are missing out on one of the best dramas from the last few years. While some elements of the story are a little predictable - the required altercation and subsequent reunion between the two leads for example - but the energetic performances and direction are always enough to keep you entertained. It was Tom Hooper's direction that surprised me the most. I had heard much about Firth and Rush's performances, but was expecting just the normal camera positions and movements. The words 'functionable' were words I was expecting to be using to describe it. I could not have been more wrong. The previously used 'energetic', or perhaps 'kinetic' are infintely more appropriate. Let's return again (for the third time now...) to Colin Firth. If his name isn't written on an Oscar in a month and a half's time then I shall lose what little faith I still have in the Academy. It is nothing short of astounding. To capture not only this man's problems with speech, but also his other, deeper flaws such as a quick temper and chronic lack of self-belief so completely is some of the finest acting I've seen since... probably since Daniel Day-Lewis in There Will Be Blood.

I realise that this is all more than a little bit gushing, but I really like this film. The worst thing about the whole experience was having to sit in the worst cinema in the western hemisphere (Odeon Dumfries, by the way) to see it. I couldn't recommend this film more if it sprouted legs, wondered out of the projector as the credits rolled and pressed a £50 note in my hand. Utterly superb.


Wednesday, 18 August 2010


Director: Christopher Nolan. Writer: Christopher Nolan Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Ellen Page, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Cillian Murphy, Tom Hardy, Marion Cotillard, Ken Watanabe, and Michael Caine.

Well. I have finally got round to reviewing possibly the biggest, most highly anticipated film of the year. Go me. I'm not going to even bother trying to explain the intricate plot here. You'll either know it already or you can just use wikipedia, like I would have done. And this way I don't have to put it in my own words so everybody wins. Of course, whilst you're there you could look at what real reviewers think, but I'm sure you're all happy with the cheery amateur...

But I digress. Coming from the mind of Christopher Nolan, Inception is a summer film that doesn't look down on its audience, but treats them with respect and assumes that they have a brain. Unlike most blockbusters these days (ahem, Transformers). As you'd expect from a Nolan picture the cinematography (from long-time Nolan collaborator Wally Pfister) is excellent. Some may argue that it is still a little cold and unemotional at times, but I think that it works rather well, warm and muted tones would not have sat well with the rest of the picture. The special effects were outstanding, and the acting from the all-star cast strong all round. However, the plot is where this film really needed to be strong to live up to the pre-release hype. I'm relieved to say that it is more than adequate for the task. Many have reported the need to see the film twice to understand what was going on, but neither my friends nor I had any trouble at all decyphering the complex - but not overly convoluted - plot and ideas.

I cannot recommend this film enough. This is the must-see film of the year so far for me, despite the excellent Toy Story 3 (reviewed here soon - sorry, bit of self-promoting never hurt anyone!). If nothing else see this film to show Hollywood that people will see a film that isn't in 3D and doesn't patronize its audience.


Friday, 2 July 2010

Something entirely non-film related...

Max’s Trip To Wimbledon

Having foolishly agreed to look after Max while Paul was experimenting with Microsoft Paint, I decided to treat him by taking him to Wimbledon. Whilst there, Max was struck on the head by a flying bowl of strawberries and cream (don’t ask. It was a typically ridiculous occurence, however, I can assure you). When he regained consciousness several minutes later he came to the conclusion that he was at wimbledon so, therefore, must be a tennis racquet. He then insisted that two very scared and confused twelve year-olds use him instead of their traditional metal and string jobs. Unfortunately, their nearby parents saw only a strange man asking their children if he could hit their balls. This, as you can perhaps imagine, did not go down well. I imagine the situation could have been rescued were it not for Max’s decision to wear assless chaps to ‘upset the traditional order of Wimbledon’. As it was I could only look on as the fathers grabbed him by his dog collar (again, I have no idea why he was wearing one) and proceeded to beat him up till they got bored and went home. Nearing dusk Max finally awoke from his second trip into unconsciousness. Before we left I popped to the toilet. Upon my return I could see a large hairy thing on the grass some way in the distance, but no sign of Max. Becoming worried that I would have to explain to poor Paul that his fictional creation had been eaten by a bear in South London, I decided to look closer at the hairy thing. It was Max. Picking up rubbish. In a womble suit. Growing tired of his antics I forced him into the car and went home. I felt womble was significantly better than tennis racquet so I didn’t bother taking him to hospital, but dropped him off at Paul’s house glad to be rid of the strange man. I never did get to see any of the tennis…

Friday, 14 May 2010

Robin Hood

Director: Sir Ridley Scott. Starring: Russell Crowe, Cate Blanchett, Mark Strong, Oscar Isaac, William Hurt, Danny Huston, Kevin Durand, Scott Grimes, Alan Doyle, Max Von Sydow.

The latest flick from Russ'n'Rid is a retelling of the origins of the British legend Robin Hood. Here, he is an archer in King Richard's (Huston) army named Robin Longstride (Crowe). Following the death of his King he and his men return to England, where Robin takes on the identity of Robert Loxley. Meanwhile Sir Godfrey (Strong) is plotting with the King of France to seize England.

Many have complained about the story not being the traditional Robin Hood vs. the Sheriff of Nottingham (indeed the Sheriff appears only a handful of times). To which I say 'bollocks'. Why should we have to watch effectively the same story over, and over again. I, for one, found this story engaging and a nice change from the traditional story everyone is so familiar with. Perhaps if there is a sequel that tackles Robin's fight against the Sheriff and King John people will be happy, but I imagine they will attack the film for being 'unoriginal'...

Anyway, moving back to the review, Russell Crowe gives a good performance. Though his accent does wander around somewhat (and, yes, there are Irish hints in there). Blanchett also does well as a tough, working Marion. I particularly enjoyed Max Von Sydow's turn as Sir Walter Loxley. The film also contains much humour, especially from the Merry Men-to-be (Durand, Grimes and Doyle).

In short, then, Robin Hood is an enjoyable film. It perhaps doesn't have the heart of 'Gladiator', the film it will always be compared with rightly or wrongly, but is good nonetheless.


Thursday, 29 April 2010

Iron Man 2

Right, seeing as it's been so very, very long since my last post I thought I'd make it a biggy. Iron Man 2 is one of the summer's most anticipated films, and a sure-fire blockbuster. But is it any good?

Yes. Yes it is. Again directed by Jon Favreau, the film, while not as light-hearted and witty as it's predecessor, is equally good. The story, not lumbered with an origin story for the titular character means there is more time to further the plot and character development. Following on from Tony Stark's (the ever-superb Robert Downey Jr.) admission to the world's press that he is Iron Man, the opening sees Ivan Vanko (Mickey Rourke) creating his own power suit and weapons. Sam Rockwell, who was once considered for the title role before RDJ claimed it, as Tony Stark's corporate rival Justin Hammer provides much of the comic relief. Also featuring are Gwyneth Paltrow, Samuel L. Jackson, Scarlett Johansson, Don Cheadle and Jon Favreau himself (oh, not forgetting there is the continuation of the traditional Marvel film game of 'spot-the-Stan', this time as Larry King).

The film moves along quite quickly, with a laugh every now and again. The set-pieces are well shot by Favreau and cinematographer Matthew Libatique and don't have the quick cuts that seem to be so prevalent these days, so it is very easy to tell what actually is happening. The characters move along nicely too, without any overly-sentimental moments while still developing the characters in the right directions. The acting ranges from solid (Rourke, Johansson) to the excellent (RDJ and Rockwell). Stark still has the same humour and wit, though I personally found Rourke's Whiplash hard to understand at times due to the Russian accent. The only major flaw I can find with the film is with Whiplash. With his power-armour he seems rather similar to the first film's Iron Monger. Perhaps a different kind of villain next time? Not being overly familiar with the Iron Man comics' world I can't even speculate as to what will happen in the final chapter of the proposed trilogy.

Iron Man 2 then, is a very good continuation of the original, and is still the opposite side of the coin to Chris Nolan and DC's Dark Knight. Which is as it should be. The Iron Man films have set the bar high for the Marvel films scheduled for the next few years, starting with Thor and Captain America: The First Avenger next year, leading up to the Avengers team-up in 2012.