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Monday, May 30, 2011

Trailer - "The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo"

I wouldn't usually put up a leaked trailer but something about this is different. Firstly it's picture is kept pretty clear throughout and secondly it's sound is near perfect. Now, the added fact that this trailer has been up for over a day now and has not been taken down by Sony, seems to me like it is an intentional release from them. Either way, there is no denying that the trailer is pretty fantastic, sampling Karen O and Trent Reznor's cover of Led Zepplin's 'Immigrant Song' to fantastic effect. Director David Fincher is hot off his mega success with "The Social Network" so there's plenty to suggest here that he will following that film up with style in the genre that made his name in the first place. My only problems with this film stems from the fact that the original Swedish film was only released in 2009. There really is no need for a remake so soon for a film that was already a huge success, catapulting star Noomi Rapace to International stardom. My second problem is that small bit more worrying: I simply did not think the original film was anything special at all in the first place. Don't get me wrong, it was a perfectly serviceable thriller with a fantastic heroine but nothing truly remarkable at all by any means, and is something that to me at least seems far below Fincher's prowess. Let's hope I am proven wrong - The film is released on December 26th this year.
Sony have pulled the shaky cam leak and have released an official green band trailer in its place. Much of what made that last trailer so great remains, albeit with no violence or nudity. File under 'more than intrigued' for now....

Saturday, May 28, 2011

The Hangover Part II

Sequels to huge film successes are not easy. How to you satiate that appetite for the audience? All audiences want from a sequel is more of the same, only different. Easy right?! Now while there has been plenty of sequels that are worthy or even better than the original, it seems that most others are a dreadful retread of everything that had gone before. Which brings me to "The Hangover 2". Of course, the stellar business the first one achieved was nothing short of miraculous and it went on to break all sorts of box office records. In short, that a sequel would get made was a no brainer. When it was announced not long after the original release, I thought to myself one specific thing: 'As long as the plot doesn't hinge on waking up from a binge and having to piece together the lost night of debauchery, then everything will be fine'. The first films success relied very strongly on that surprise factor. The audience were complicit with the three main guys, in learning about how their madcap exploits had got them to where they are on the following day. It felt like we were taking that journey together with them. Which is were the second one goes astray, in something that had it immediately doomed out of the gate. It moves too close to the original, exact beat for exact beat. Basically, the same things happen in this film, and in the same order as they happened last time. The only thing that has changed is the location from Las Vegas to Bangkok. Either this is an experiment in seeing whether or not audiences will lap up the exact same product twice, or it is extremely lazy film making. Upon seeing that first trailer my biggest fears immediately came through, and the film only expands on them. In a film that relies so strongly on that surprise factor, how did the makers and cast think that an exact repeat of formula was the way to go? Whether or not, the film is funny, is irrelevant -(it's not incidentally) what is relevant is how ignorant did the writers have to be to shovel out the same thing twice, and charge people to see it? I am not a fan of this film to say the least.

Back in 2009, "The Hangover" was a fantastic breath of fresh air in comedy. It was lewd and rowdy, and did not come from the Apatow Camp, as most around that time seemed to be. It's director was a proven talent for delivering 'immature men behave like children and do irresponsible things' material -a sub-genre in which there are far worse ones than good. What gave the film its backbone was its cast. All three were on the rise of very big things, and it was evident that they each shared fantastic chemistry and knew how to bring the laughs with each wonderfully inhabiting their respective parts perfectly. Each of the three was crucial in getting that balance right, so when things got more and more out of hand later, we could follow, and imagine ourselves in that same position. Well thankfully, the cast somehow manage to avoid most of the blame second time around. Sure Bradley Cooper's Phil is a little more of a dick, Ed Helms' Stu does little more than scream very annoyingly at every new challenge faced his way, and Zach Galifianakis' Alan has crossed over from loveably irritating, to just irritating in his borderline sociopathic behaviour. But, for all their flaws, the cast try as hard as they can to make it all work. The action picks up in much the same way as the original: An expectant wedding looms as a Bride looks nervously at her family, ferverishly awaiting her late Groom. One phone call later from Phil to his wife, and we see that yes, somehow again these three men-boys have managed to get themselves in serious trouble and that they won't be making the wedding. Cut back to a week prior and the film begins to bring us up to speed on what got us to this stage. What struck me about this one, is how eager it is to wring laughs straight away. Whereas it's older sibling took time in building up the characters and earning it's later comic situations, this one just wants to drop you straight in and laugh at something it didn't earn, much like the rest of the film. While I did enjoy the beginning more than later scenes, this stemmed from the fact that it was something different we had not seen before; with that brief look inside Alan's room a pleasing addition to the character. From there on in, it is business as usual. Going to Thailand to celebrate Stu's wedding, the guys and Stu's future brother in law each decide to have to have one drink at the beach. Before we know it, we wake up in a seedy hotel in Bangkok with no recollection of how we got there and missing a member. Remember how funny this was last time? Those first few moments waking up, groaning, with a splitting headache after the previous nights escapades, was achingly relatable. This time it just provokes groans. Substitute finding a lost baby in their room with a lost monkey, a missing tooth with a huge face tattoo and it is clear that all the writers did when honing this script, was wipe out key nouns in the plot and scribble back in something slightly different in it's place. This is script writing via mad libs. The following could be a spoiler, but since most of you have already seen the first one, the whole sequel is a spoiler in itself. So, crowbarred in there for absolutely no good reason in a way that doesn't make sense to the plot is such 'favourite' moments from the first one as: Stu's song, Mr Chow's (Ken Jeong) very small private parts, a run in with a prostitute, those camera snaps from the night before (complete with one potentially being a step too far, as far as controversial and sickening goes) and Mike Tyson. Yes, Mike Tyson, for some reason along with everything else is in Thailand. It doesn't matter to the writers whether or not it works, rather a 'hey, this was funny last time, let's do it again'.

So shame on everyone involved on pilfering their first film so blatantly, but shame on me for paying to see it in the first place. With the sequel being the success it is then why wouldn't Warner Bros. churn these things out, with minimal care or attention to what they are actually doing? We are giving them all a reason to knock these things out as fast as they can. This is one of the reasons I refused to see the latest "Pirates of the Caribbean" film. If these studios think they can keep giving us the same product with little thought going into making it worthwhile, then the only thing we can do is not see them. Not that my little hissy fit of boycotting will make any sort of difference to box-office; nontheless the sooner audiences realise that they don't have to see the latest sequel that nobody asked for, just because it exists then the better. Anyone laughing at this I suspect is laughing out of reminiscence for the first film, not because they find it genuinely funny. I mean how funny is the same joke told to you twice? The first time around, this felt like you and all your friends going on a mission to piece together the drunken escapades of the night before. The second time, it feels as if you are hearing your friends tell that same story about that one night for the umpteenth time to you. And then charging you money to do so.

Verdict: 3/10
Although the film is stuffed full of dark outrageous behaviour, it seems that the law of diminishing returns has never applied so perfectly, as to this film here. The boys get in real danger, events carry more shock value and everyone shouts 'I can't believe this is happening again' a lot, but at the end of the day, all that is remembered is how great the first one was when it was released. This tries it's best to soil it. Useless characters (remember Doug anyone?), loud noises, and a glaring sense of cashing in spoil everything that made the first one so fun. Either way, it makes no difference, as Part 3 is on it's way. Let's hope somebody puts the wolf pack down after this.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

"Hanna" - OST

A cut from the the "Hanna" soundtrack which of course, was composed by The Chemical Brothers.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Trailer - "Green With Envy"

Jason Segal and Amy Adams star in this romantic comedy that, I think you will agree, has a bit more going on, than initially meets the eye. It's out on November 23rd........

Friday, May 20, 2011

First Look - "The Dark Knight Rises" - Bane

In an incredibly exciting bit of news, the first image of Tom Hardy's character from the new Batman film has gone online. Fitting suitably in with Christopher Nolan's take on the Bat Universe, this is a more gritty and menacing version of Bane than we've ever seen before and looks as if Hardy has put back on all that muscle he had in "Bronson". Principle production has been under way for a few weeks now, so expect more information and possibly even a glimpse of Anne Hathaways's 'Catwoman' in the coming weeks/months. However, as is tradition with Nolan at this stage, security on the film is tighter than that at Arkham Asylam, so don't hold your breath on any more big reveals for now. That however is one of the reasons Nolan is as successful as he is. In this business, marketing a film means showing as much of it as possible in the run up to its release, in an attempt to drum up interest. Nolan and also JJ Abrams (as this years "Super 8" has attested to) have proven that keeping more hidden does far more for both the film and in getting audiences interested in it. With any reveals made by the studio from here, you can be guaranteed that they won't be at the risk of spoiling the overall film. The only downside to this is that "The Dark Knight Rises" is not set for release until July 20th next year.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Trailer - "The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret Of The Unicorn"

With a collection of nearly everybody I love in film right now assembling for these two ground breaking 'Tintin' films, it is odd that I feel curiously muted on the whole affair. With Steven Spielberg directing one, Peter Jackson directing the other and the two films being written by none other than Joe Cornish and Edgar Wright - it also starring Simon Pegg and Nick Frost along with Daniel Craig, Andy Serkis and Jamie Bell (as the titular character), then I really should be more excited about this. It might be the fact that I was just never a fan of 'Tintin' growing up. Talent involved is great and the snippet of footage here is impressive, falling somewhere in between "Avatar" and Robert Zemeckis' recent motion capture features (hopefully minus the dead eyes that plagued those films), so maybe it should be time that I raise my excitement bar on this. The new US and Europe posters have also debuted, with both curiously enough, dropping The Secret of the Unicorn from its title. Whether or not this an official title change remains to be seen, but for now we have Spielberg's effort up first, in it's release on October 26th.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Attack The Block

It seems appropriate that Joe Cornish made his name on late night Channel 4, hilariously parodying various famous films through the means of fluffy animals. In a sense those sketches on the 'The Adam & Joe Show' all those years ago were his true directorial debut. Of course, toys and action figures are a lot easier to control and govern than real people. And yet all these influences can be seen in his true debut "Attack The Block". Substitute the toy figurines for an ensemble cast of first timers, homaging films instead of spoofing them and fluffy toys for 'big alien gorilla wolf mother fuckers' and you get a sense of what he set out to achieve in "Attack The Block". This is fitting that the man made his name on late night TV on the sort of show you had to stumble across yourself, before falling instantly in love with it. "Attack The Block" could easily be one of those films you would find in the early hours on a Saturday night. A film you might stumble upon, and find yourself growing ever more entertained by, before fighting away the yawns to see it to it's exciting conclusion. Well thankfully you don't need to stay up until unreasonable hours of the early morning to see it, as Joe Cornish has released a uniformly confidant and original debut, that you can see in most multiplexes over Ireland and the UK from last Friday. Whether or not audiences will appreciate the retro-homaging on display and its vying for 'cult status' charms remains to be seen. What is undeniable, is that along with Richard Ayoade's "Submarine" a few months ago, British TV seems to be harboring more and more interesting and original talent just waiting to break out.

Borne out of a real life mugging that happened to Cornish, it quickly set him to wonder about his attackers and how they might handle themselves in increasingly fantastical and far fetched situations. This in turn led to a beautifully simple idea. What would happen if a South London council estate found itself under attack from alien invaders. So before we have "Cowboys Vs. Aliens" we have 'inner city vs. outer space', as it's tag line beautifully puts it. What Cornish achieves so well with this, is in finding time amidst it's ever escalating action to develop it's gang of hoodlums. Initially beginning as quite an unlikeable group we get to know them more (mainly the silent but strong leader Moses, cheeky boy Pest and brains of the group Jerome) as they find themselves increasingly outmatched and out of their depth against the alien marauders. With recent 'ASBO youth of today gone wrong' films like "Eden Lake", "Harry Brown" and "KiDULTHOOD" it was beginning to seem like the UK were on some sort of vendetta against their adolescent offspring. "Attack The Block" refreshingly paints its central characters as misunderstood hoods defending their home turf by way of eventual action heroes that you'll be cheering along come the end. Although trailers and TV spots have painted the film as a comedy, it actually is an unashamedly sci-fi cum home invasion picture; except here, it's invasion comes from another world. Just because Cornish includes frequent witty dialogue throughout, does not mean that the aliens themselves are any less of a threat. Completely jet black ('blacker than my cousin' one of the group hilariously observes) apart from their glowing green fangs, they are an original and effective design fully in keeping with Cornish's low budget DIY roots. The distinctive electronic roar they give off is sure to be remembered in cult science fiction circles for years to come. All the no name cast are fantastic. Painting an instant picture of camaraderie, the gang all fully convince as street hoodlums who are all too quick to stand up to anybody on their turf, whether they be police or alien. Along for the ride is Luke Treadaway as an hilarious wannabe hoodlum but instead posh toff caught up in the action and Emily Browning as a young nurse (re: the audience) who slowly and reluctantly begins to trust the boys as the threat escalates.

For a first time director, Cornish shows genuine chops behind the camera. Of course having Edgar Wright (who Executive Produces) as a friend certainly helps. However as obvious as his influences are, he shows real flair here, managing to deliver on his original idea. He builds his film nicely, starting rather low-key before you find yourself getting more and more drawn into proceedings. So while his sci-fi leanings (everything from "ET", to "Aliens", to "Predator") are obvious from the outset, what is surprising is where he takes his more urban undertones from ("The Warriors", and mainly "Assault on Precinct 13") which is where the film truly gets it's unique feel from. In fact he shows here what a true progenitor he is to John Carpenters throne in how he builds tension and plays against audience expectations of characters. It's score also owes more than a lot to the great master, as the Basement Jaxx take a few leaves out of his song book in developing their electronic soundscapes. Along the way he litters his film with laughs which only add to the pure escapism on display. It may have taken the man more years than expected to deliver his feature film debut, but his late blooming shows how he developed and learned his craft as best he could before applying himself to it. On the evidence here, Edgar Wright should be looking over his shoulder; there's another director for the nerds in town.

Verdict: 8/10
Excellent escapist fun from start to finish. Joe Cornish may have made his name in no budget spoofery, but here he steps up to the plate and delivers one of the sure to be favourites of the year, and a genuine cult classic for the ages. Betta believe bruv.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Trailer - "Horrible Bosses"

The new poster and trailer have been unveiled for director Seth Gordon's new comedy. Featuring a pretty great ensemble cast, this just might be the comedy underdog of the year. Gordon so far has not delivered on the promising name he made for himself after "The King of Kong" in 2007. Hopefully, this looks set to change all that. The film is set for release on 22nd of July.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Fight For Your Right Revisited

The Anniversary of the Beastie Boys breakthrough single mixed with greatest cast you will see all year adds to surreal comedy hijinks.

Those featured here include (deep breath): Adam Scott, Danny McBride, Will Ferrell, Elijah Wood, John C. Reilly, David Cross, Seth Rogen, Orlando Bloom, Ted Danson, Susan Sarandon, Stanley Tucci, Rashida Jones, Will Arnett, Rainn Wilson, Steve Buscemi, Amy Poehler, Mary Steenburgen, Alicia Silverstone, Laura Dern, Jason Schwartzman, Chloƫ Sevigny, Kirsten Dunst, Maya Rudolph, Martin Starr and the original Beastie Boys themselves.


Refreshingly and somewhat misleadingly, Focus Features decided to release this film at the very start of the Summer Blockbuster Season. I had settled myself into the notion that the next few months would find me becoming ever more disillusioned with the studio system and grow more and more tired of CG effects. Which is fine by me; you have to take the bad with the good as they say. The last thing I was expecting was a film like this. For all of the things I had resigned myself to that I would not see on screens for the next three to four months, I found suddenly alive on screen in front of me. This was the breath of fresh air I didn't know I needed and far and away, the most original film I have seen this year so far. That it also packs in great action, stunning performances and great directing only proves that when a film like this comes along, it must be savoured. I knew the plot of "Hanna" and knew that director Joe Wright was stepping out of his comfort zone of period melodramas, along with it's very interesting cast. Somewhat unfairly though, I did not really register the film on my radar. This is such a shame, as it is a fantastic and ready made cult classic, just waiting to take on extra resonance in the coming years. This is a film that will get better the more it is watched I imagine. For all the things that the film had going against it, so too does it's titular hero. Hanna was the underdog everybody underestimated.

Events kick off in the wilderness of Finland. We are introduced to our heroine and her father Eric (Eric Bana) as she is rigorously trained as a killing machine. Completely shut off from the world, Hanna is someone who knows so much and so little all at once. Everything about the world she knows has only been experienced or read in a book. And yet, this is one who knows how to hit a small animal from miles away with a handgun and can speak over a dozen languages. As Hanna suddenly finds herself out in the world, chased by Cate Blanchetts wonderfully evil and corrupt CIA agent Marissa Wiegler, she must learn to adapt to her new surroundings. Along the way she meets a travelling and liberal British family who take her in. For as much as Hanna knows how to take care of herself, she cannot look after herself. It is in these scenes that the film truly reveals itself. Beginning as a cold and very odd Jason Bourne meets Fairytale of sorts, the film soon softens as our understanding of Hanna, and her to the world grows. Wright makes this progression wonderfully; the many varied locations throughout the film could serve as an insight into what our heroine is feeling at that moment. As Hanna's personality thaws, so too does her background; moving from the wastes of Finland to the warm and crowded streets of Morocco and so forth. Throughout, Wright manages to mix subtle and sometimes humorous character detail with fantastic action. The film features two of the most heart stopping action scenes to be beaten this year; in one Hanna must elude those on her trail at a ship container factory and in another, Eric Bana faces off with agents in a stunning six minute tracking shot. As our lead the sixteen year old Ronan does an incredible job. With her snow white locks, pale face and piercing blue eyes, she is a ready made icon. She handles Hanna's uncertainty and growing interest in the real world excellently while still believably beating the crap out of anyone who gets in her way. Bana provides steely reserve and strength and Blanchett is the 'boo-hiss' evil queen, of the fairytale. However, most impressive of all is Tom Hollander as the camp, yet psychopathic Isaacs whom Wiegler hires to go after Hanna. With his two skin head neo nazi subordinates, dressed in tight 70's tennis shorts and peroxide blonde hair, he somehow manages to cut a very imposing figure.

Wright films all the action in a very European manner; this is not some glossy American action free for all extravaganza as it might have been. Events and pacing are measured accordingly to what the story needs. Some might bemoan the slow mid section, but it is here where the film truly worked its wonders for me and brings to mind just what a good job Wright et al did. The film might sound preposterous, but after a few moments alone with Hanna in the wilderness you will know that Wright has a vision for the film and that shines through in every scene. What caught me off guard was that I was not expecting a film to carry any trademark personality or grit, nothing to get my teeth into. Wright takes full advantage of the films idiosyncrasies and turns out something that is part "Run Lola Run", last years "The American" (with a genuine plot it is only fair to point out) and the previously mentioned Bourne films mixed with Hans Christian Andersons best tales. What the interesting thing is, is that it is fruitless to compare the film to many others as it is the rarest of rare: a truly original Summer action film. The action crackles, the music (by The Chemical Brothers no less) pulsates and the bravado of original vision is on full display as Joe Wright officially steps up to the plate, as one of the most interesting directors working today.

Verdict: 8/10
At times both odd and enthralling, director Wright turns in his most accomplished film so far, and the most unconventional action genre mash up you may see all year.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Top 10: Jump Scares

Jump scenes are incredibly effective when they land. To make an audience jump at something that is not real or even happening in the same space as them is quite difficult when you think about it. But when jump scenes happen the results can either range from laughter at having been 'got' or adding to the dread or terror on display. I unashamedly let myself get into these types of films and never try and control any shocks I might get throughout; the film is far more fun that way and diluting any effect it is having on you would only take away from it. As a result I am very hardened against them and can spot them a mile off. My choices here were picked based on just how original and effective they were; I certainly was not expecting anything to happen that would make me jump five feet in the air as some of the scenes here have, and yet doing so only added to my enjoyment of proceedings. Also, the dreaded 'fake-scare' will not be present among any of my selections. If there is anything more annoying than the endless cliches of cats jumping out at our heroes then its the figure suddenly appearing behind our characters in a mirror, behind a closed fridge door and most annoyingly, our heroes own friends suddenly grabbing their shoulder. The more unexpected the jump is, the more effective it will be. So in no order, here are my own favourite jump scenes of all time. Needless to say that if you have not seen any of the films in question, their respective scares will hardly work out of context. Spoilers follow.

"The Exorcist III"
A very underrated horror film, most people don't seem to know that while it's first sequel was uniformly terrible, the second almost beat the classic original when it came to the scares. The sheer beauty of this seen is director William Peter Blatty's framing of his hallway. It's first jump, just before that seen here, while a fake-scare, nontheless sets the audience up even further for when the true unexpected threat is suddenly revealed.

"The Eye"
For a few years at the start of the 2000's, it seemed that the only place in the world that knew how to do horror right, was Asia. The first time I saw "The Eye" it was this short moment here that made my blood run cold. While there are creepier moments in the film (that lift scene) this is the moment that will have most clutching at their arm rests. The suddenness mixed with the sheer unnaturalness of the ghost all add to the scare factor.

"The Descent"
OK, so nowadays it has become the norm to use night vision when you want something to be scary. But back in 2005 it was less overused, hence me losing all bowel control when I first saw this scene. Director Neil Marshall effectively and effortlessly spends the first half of the film with the characters, building up tension in the group and in their terrifying situation. There have been glimpses of something always on the edge of frame throughout, but it is in this scene that we finally see what is stalking our heroines in their underground maze. The scene in question begins at 1:10.

"The Descent" Crawlers First Appearance

"Don't Look Now"
For most of Nicholas Roeg's atmospheric exercise in restraint, we have been mostly following recently bereaved parents Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie as they escape to Venice to deal with their childs untimely death. A haunting study of grief follows that relies more on atmospherics than all out shocks to unnerve its audience. That is until the end of the film that features something as unexpected as it is hideous, when Sutherland mistakes what he thinks is the ghost of his daughter, as something altogether more vicious.

"The Devil's Backbone"
Featuring one of the best screen ghosts in recent years, this haunting Guillermo Del Toro directed chiller is one of the classiest horrors ever. The scares take place at an orphanage for children during the Spanish Civil War in 1939. When the kids face a possible threat from a recently missing and presumed dead fellow student, it sets off a chain reaction of events that leads to unforseen and tragic conclusions. Del Toro shows us his ghost almost straight away, so the fact that he continues to make it as scary as it is for the entire running time, is a tribute to his film making. The first time we see the ghost Santi happens near the start, as two of the boys go to fetch water after hours as an initiation test. The scene occurs at 4:55.

Sticking with Spanish horror, this 2007 chiller breathed new life into the zombie sub-genre. It's found footage format does a great service to the story in putting the audience front and center of the terror. In a sense it is a true roller coaster ride of horror. The whole climax of the film features scare after scare, until that genuinely unnerving attic scene. With only two characters left surviving they must look for any way out.

Dario Argento's influential supernatural slasher film begins as it means to go. Wasting no time, we are introduced to surreal and hypnotically violent moments of terror. It's elaborate first death scenes only truly work after the shock of that anonymous hand impossibly crashing through the window, many stories off the ground to claim its victims.

"The Texas Chainsaw Massacre"
What really gets me about this film, is the fact that despite its reputation, it features very little blood or gore. Here is it's first major death scene and reveal of the great 'Leatherface'. What always got me however, was that after the initial shock of Kirk's murder hits, it lands a sickly feeling seeing his dead body squirm and convulse like a stuck pig. When Leatherface loudly slums shut a heavy metal door, you see it was actually the entrance to his kitchen, where he prepares his other victims for supper later, which gives the biggest shock.

After the stunning bloodbath of the high school massacre sequence we assume Carrie is dead. The only survivor of the night goes to visit the rubble of Carrie's old house. In other words, that ending. In a nice bit of trivia, actress Sissy Spacek actually buried herself underneath that rubble so the hand would indeed belong to her, and not a stunt double as director Brian DePalma originally wanted.

The beauty of this scene, is Spielberg's timing is so incredibly perfect, that it will get you nearly every time. Upon viewing an initial cut, Spielberg felt his film needed another shock and so shot that scene of Ben Gardners head in his own swimming pool at home. Quite possibly, the best jump in cinema history.

"Jaws" Ben Gardner's Boat