Wednesday, 19 December 2012

The Holiday

Iris (Kate Winslet), a London-based journalist, has just had her heart destroyed by her colleague Jasper, who she has longed after for many years, but he's just got engaged to someone else. Meanwhile Amanda (Cameron Diaz), the owner of a hugely successful L.A. movie trailer company, has just discovered her boyfriend Ethan (Edward Burns) is cheating on her. Both women decide they need to get away from everything for a few weeks, so opt for a house swap, trading homes for a fortnight over the Christmas period. But when they had originally hoped to get away from love, they each end up finding it in the most unexpected of places.

Christmas Carol: The Movie

Ebenezer Scrooge, a miserly debt collector in 19th century London, is something of a git. He shuns all those around him, choosing to spend Christmas alone instead of with his nephew, his only living relative. He is cruel to his clients and staff, rude to charity collectors and has no qualms with ordering people to be locked up and their furniture repossessed on Christmas Eve. Oh, and he pours a bucket of cold water onto Tiny Tim, a sickly carol singer, who also happens to be the son of Scrooge's secretary, Bob Cratchit. After finishing work on Christmas Eve, Scrooge is visited by the spirit of his former business partner, Jacob Marley, who warns him that he will be visited by three more ghosts before the morning, in the hope that Scrooge will change his miserly ways and live a better life, or face the same fate as Marley.

Thursday, 13 December 2012

Seven Psychopaths

Marty (Colin Farrell) is an alcoholic writer (otherwise known as just a writer) who has the title of his latest screenplay - Seven Psychopaths - but is struggling for anything after that. His best friend Billy Bickle (Sam Rockwell) is desperate to help, and posts an advert in a newspaper, calling for any psychopathic characters to get in touch as inspiration. Meanwhile, Billy and Hans (Christopher Walken) run a dog-napping business, in which Billy 'borrows' the dogs from unsuspecting owners, only for Hans to return them a few days later and collect the reward. This all goes a little awry when Billy's latest victim, Bonny the ShihTzu, is owned by ruthless mob boss Charlie (Woody Harrelson), and he really loves that dog.

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

The Day The Earth Stood Still

An alien ship lands in Washington D.C., and from it emerges Klaatu (Michael Rennie), a humanoid from a neighbouring planet, who brings with him a message he wishes to convey to the various leaders of Earth. When they squabble pettily over where the meeting should be held, Klaatu instead decides to meet with the general public, so he rents a room in a boarding house, under the name Mr. Carpenter. There he meets the other lodgers, including Helen (Patricia Neal) and her young space-obsessed son Bobby (Billy Gray), and eventually he meets with Professor Barnhardt (Sam Jaffe), a learned scientist, in the hopes of discovering something worthwhile about Earth and mankind. Oh, and one other thing. Klaatu has a giant, omnipotent robot guardian called Gort, who has an eye-laser capable of disintegrating anything.

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Enigma

Bletchley Park, 60 miles outside London during the Second World War. The Germans have just changed the codes they use for their military communications, so the English bring in Tom Jericho (Dougray Scott), their former code breaking prodigy who was the only one able to crack the codes last time around. The problem is, Jericho went a little bit insane after some business involving his former lover Claire (Saffron Burrows), who has recently disappeared. On top of all this, there's a rumour of a mole inside Bletchley Park, and when Tom investigates Claire's disappearance with her room mate Hester (Kate Winslet), Tom finds incriminating evidence that could point towards Claire being the culprit, and he even finds himself under suspicion. Oh, and of course he's working against the clock, as there's a flotilla of US supply ships heading directly towards a cluster of German U-boats, and only his code-cracking skills can possible save them.

Monday, 3 December 2012

Pather Panchali

The story of a very poor family struggling to make ends meet in a Bengali village in the 1920s. Harihar (Kanu Bannerjee) must cope with looking after an elderly relative, kleptomaniacal daughter, carefree infant son and her clueless husband as he does his best to provide for a family that never seems to catch any breaks.

There are many films in the 1001 list that, when watching, I can't really see why they've been included, and it isn't until afterwards (or during, if it's really boring) when I read up on the film a little, that I discover there is some cultural significance or historical context within which the film can usually be appreciated as an achievement, but not necessarily enjoyed. Such is the case with Pather Panchali, for as I now know it is the first film of director Satyajit Ray, who would go on to direct various other films also included within the 1001 book: The Music Room, Aparajito and The World of Apu, with the latter two completing the Apu Trilogy, begun with this film. Pather Panchali also marks the first independent Indian film to garner international acclaim, so that at least answers the question of why it was in here.

So what was wrong with it? Well, nothing really, it just didn't really feature a great deal in terms of plot or anything to engage my attention. Its just a rather plodding depiction of an Indian family's life, and the sporadic ups amidst mostly downs that they endure. There are some nice moments - the joy cracking across the wizened face of the elderly relative when Harihar's daughter Durga gives her a guava stolen from the neighbour's orchard, Durga and her younger brother Apu encountering a train - but once again I'm getting rather tired of watching depressing films. As such, I really don't have that much to discuss about the film.

The most annoying aspect of this film is that its the start of a trilogy, all of which appear on the 1001 list (and the Empire 5-star 500 List, for reasons that will hopefully become clear once I've seen the rest of the trilogy). Before watching, all I knew about Pather Panchali was that it was the start of this trilogy, titled the Apu Trilogy, so I was expecting it to be about someone called Apu. Therefore, once he was born, I expected him to be the central figure of the story, but was surprised when he was kept mostly to the sidelines. I'm sure he'll become more prominent in the later films, but I'll try not to anticipate that, just in case he doesn't and I become even more disappointed later. Aparajito and The World of Apu are the next two films in my LoveFilm queue, so I should be getting to them fairly soon, as long as I can bring myself to actually watch them.

In short, I'm chalking this film up alongside the likes of The Jazz Singer, Battleship Potemkin and Olympia as being a historical moment in cinema, but one that I'm not keen to repeat, and definitely cannot recommend.

Choose life 5/10

Thursday, 29 November 2012

Argo

In the last days of the 70s, Iranian militants take over the US Embassy in Tehran taking everyone inside hostage. Unbeknownst to them, six Americans managed to escape, and were able to covertly make their way to the Canadian ambassador's house (after being turned away by the New Zealanders and those pesky Brits). After hiding out their for weeks, never going outside for fear of being seen and executed on sight, it soon becomes clear that the CIA must make a move to 'exfiltrate' these citizens. Tony Mendez (Ben Affleck), their top exfiltration specialist, comes up with a plan to pull them out, by pretending to be a Canadian film crew scouting locations for a new sci-fi B-movie called Argo, and to make the story more convincing, Hollywood needs to get involved.

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Quills

The Marquis de Sade (Geoffrey Rush) has been imprisoned by Napoleon for writing sexually explicit novels Justine and Juliette. Whilst in prisoned at the Charenton Insane Asylum, de Sade uses a laundry maid (Kate Winslet) to smuggle out his scripts. The Abbe de Coulmier (Joaquin Phoenix), who runs the asylum, battles constantly with the rebellious de Sade, until eventually Dr. Royer-Collard (Michael Caine), a conditioning expert, is brought in to 'cure' the man.

Friday, 23 November 2012

Top 5... Movie Cars

 Two weeks ago, Aisha and I bought a car. It's her second, but it the first one I've ever put some money towards, and it's our largest joint purchase to date, so it's something of a noteworthy milestone. It would have inspired last week's Top 5, but then my sister went and got engaged, so I had to postpone this one a week, but in tribute to our new powder blue Nissan Micra (named Ellie after the wife/house from Up), here is my list of the Top 5 Movie Cars. Now, I'm not much of a car guy, so don't expect long diatribes about how fast Cameron's Dad's Ferrari 250 GT from Ferris Bueller's Day Off can go, or just how sexy Bruce Wayne's Lamborghini MurciĆ©lago is, because I had to look up what both of those cars were, and I'm still doubting the spelling of Lamborghini. Instead, these are the cars that, for whatever reason, are generally my favourite, be it due to character, coolness or how much I'd like to own one.

Thursday, 22 November 2012

The Graduate

Ben Braddock (Dustin Hoffman) has returned home from university a star scholar, with his parents and all their friends keen to voice their high hopes for him and his future, but Ben is more uncertain with what he wants to do. Amidst this despondency, Ben finds himself the reluctant object of the affections of Mrs. Robinson (Anne Bancroft), the wife of his father's business partner, and the pair begin a secret and sordid affair, which becomes complicated when Mrs. Robinson's husband (Murray Hamilton) has plans to set Ben up with his daughter Elaine (Katharine Ross), obviously against the wishes of Mrs. Robinson.

Saturday, 17 November 2012

Top 5... Movie Proposals

Earlier this week, I discovered I was going to become a brother-in-law, as my sister's former-boyfriend-now-fiance finally popped the question atop Edinburgh castle. My tribute to them (congratulations Rachel and Sparrow!) is this little rundown of the top proposals in the movies. I'd also like to give a special mention to this video here, which had it appeared in a film would probably be on my list. Anyway, it turns out that a majority of movie proposals happen in rom-coms (I was shocked too), most of which I unfortunately (or fortunately?) haven't seen, so this is list is far from complete. Just like all my other Top 5s really. Oh, and not all of these are strictly proposal scenes, but that's the general gist, so let me off on a couple, OK?

Thursday, 15 November 2012

The Wicker Man

Devout Christian police officer Sergeant Howie (Edward Woodward) receives an anonymous letter telling him that a young girl, 12 year old Rowan Morrison, went missing a year ago and hasn't been seen since. Armed only with the letter, a photo and his unbreakable religious beliefs, Howie sets out to the secluded island of Summerisle, where he is met by hostility from the locals, who do not approve of a mainlander on their soil, and all deny any knowledge of Rowan's existence. As Howie investigates further, he is met by obstructions at every turn, and discovers the islands inhabitant's rituals and ideology may have a more sinister cause for Rowan's disappearance than the policeman could ever have imagined.

Monday, 12 November 2012

3-Iron

Tae-suk (Hyun-Kyoon Lee) has no home, few belongings and leaves no mark on the world. Essentially, he has no life, but why would he need one, when he can borrow other people's for a few days at a time? Leaving pizza menus taped to the front doors of houses and apartments, he establishes who is away for a while, breaks in and makes himself quite literally at home, making a quick exit before the inhabitants come home. But in his latest domestic intrusion, Tae-suk neglected to ensure the house was empty, as abused housewife Sun-hwa (Seung-yeon Lee) is still home, and when she discovers him he flees, but he returns to find her husband not being overly kind to her. Tae-suk lures him outside and pelts him with golf balls, prompting Sun-hwa to run away with Tae-suk, joining him on his adventures.

Sunday, 11 November 2012

Gangs of New York

New York, 1846. Priest Vallon (Liam Neeson), the leader of a group of Irishmen going by the name of the Dead Rabbits, has roused other rival gangs to join together and fight Bill 'The Butcher' Cutting (Daniel Day-Lewis), the leader of the tyrannical New York Natives, over ownership of the Five Points. When Neeson is slain, his son escapes and leaves the city, returning sixteen years later as Leonardo DiCaprio, who understandably has a score to settle with Bill over his father's murder.

Saturday, 10 November 2012

Top 5... Directors For The New Star Wars Films

As I'm sure you're aware by now, Disney recently bought LucasFilm, and are currently planning on releasing the next trilogy of Star Wars films, starting in 2015 (which is looking like a pretty damn good year for movies so far, what with Avengers 2 and the Justice League movie). Currently nothing has been set in stone other than a frankly ridiculous amount of rumours over cast and crew, so I'm going to throw my hat into the already over-hatted ring as to whom I believe would make a decent director for what proves to be one of the most eagerly, yet cautiously, anticipated films of the next few years. As I like to do sometimes, I've made two lists, one of a safe pair of hands to kick off the trilogy, and another list of film-makers who could add an interesting spin on the series that I'd quite like to see.

Friday, 9 November 2012

Zombie Mania!

Recent days have seen the release of not one, not three, but two trailers for zombie-related films that I'm really looking forward to. I've not had much of a chance to say quite how much I like zombies on this here blog'o'mine, but they appear in some of my favourite horror films and/or films in general, and I've been eagerly awaiting both of these trailers.

Thursday, 8 November 2012

Brief Encounter

Laura and Alec (Celia Johnson and Trevor Howard) meet every Thursday in town - he after work, and she to do the weekly grocery shopping. At first their regular meetings are nothing more than a newfound friendship, but it is not long before they fall for one another. The problem is, Alec will soon be leaving to work in Africa. Oh, and they're both married, with families at home.

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Murder!

A member of a travelling theatre company has been murdered in the lounge of the guesthouse in which she is staying, with only a fellow company-member, a discarded poker and an absence of brandy nearby. The trial is quickly over, with the jury swung by the overwhelming evidence pointing towards the defendant's guilt, but after the verdict has been cast and death has been sentenced, one of the jury members begins to have doubts over their decision.

Monday, 5 November 2012

Sullivan's Travels

John Lloyd Sullivan (Joel McCrea) is a big time director of screwball Hollywood comedies, but wants to make something real. Something with a message. Something for the common man. The only problem is Sullivan has never experienced life amongst the common men, so he sets out, against the wishes of his producers, disguised as a hobo and with nothing but 10 cents in his pocket, to see how the other half survives.

Sunday, 4 November 2012

Skyfall

A hard drive containing the identities of MI6 undercover agents is at risk of going missing, so James Bond (Daniel Craig) is trying to catch the thief in Istanbul, with the assistance of field agent Eve (Naomie Harris). When Bond is shot and presumed dead, his superior, M (Judi Dench), takes the blame, but when Bond returns from the grave, he must track down the files to save not only his country, but his boss.

Saturday, 3 November 2012

Hugo

Hugo Cabret (Asa Butterfield, one of the kids from Nanny McPhee and the Big Bang) lives inside the clockwork at a train station in 1930s Paris. He spends his days maintaining and fixing the clocks, stealing only the pastries and milk that he needs to survive and avoiding the child-hunting station inspector (Sacha Baron Cohen). A run-in with station shop-worker Georges (Sir Ben Kinglsey) results in Hugo having to work for the toymaker, all the while building a bond between Jugo and Georges god-daughter, Isabelle (Chloe Grace Moretz). 

Friday, 2 November 2012

Top 5... 'Friends' Movies

It's David Schwimmer's birthday today, and with the imminent release of the complete Friends boxset on Blu-Ray (available in the UK on November 12th), this seemed to be the perfect time to have a look through the filmographies of the six leads of that great show. That is, until I got severely depressed by just how bad most of the films they'd made were. So bad, in fact, that amongst six successful actors, I could barely find 20 films that I'd willingly sat down and watched. This was a tough list to find five good films from.

5. Lost in Space
I'm fully aware that this is a terrible film, but it belongs on a list with the likes of Godzilla, Deep Blue Sea and The Day After Tomorrow as films that don't really have a lot going for them other than being largely entertaining. Lost in Space features a fairly terrible performance from Matt LeBlanc as Major Don West, the captain of a spaceship transporting the Robinson family to a new colony in an attempt to begin the salvation of humanity, but of course problems arise, most notably a hoard of alien spiders that eat through the ship's hull. Is there anything worth watching about the film? Yes. Gary Oldman is terrific as the evil Dr. Zachary Smith (and a slightly more spidery version later on). The rest of the Robinsons are OK too, particularly William Hurt as the father. And there's a robot! Now, I've never seen the 60s TV show on which this is based, but I'm pretty sure that if they had implemented a weird sucker-fingered alien monkey, the CGI may have looked slightly better than in this film , made 30 years later.

Thursday, 1 November 2012

November 2012 Update

Welcome to November everyone! Unfortunately, October was not as successful post-wise as September, as my write-a-post-a-day plan stumbled and fell, but I did managed to put up 18 reviews and 4 top 5s, so it wasn't too bad I suppose.

Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Superman Returns

Superman, the last surviving alien from the planet Krypton with god-like powers, has left the city of Metropolis that he has protected for decades to return to the last known whereabouts of his destroyed planet. Upon discovering nothing to be found where his planet used to be, he returns back to Earth, and re-assumes his alter ego of Clark Kent, a mild-mannered journalist for The Daily Planet. He attempts to rebuild his relationship with Pulitzer-prize winning co-journo Lois Lane (Kate Bosworth), but is annoyed to discover that not only is she engaged to their boss' nephew (James Marsden), but she has a son, Jason (Tristan Lake Leabu). Meanwhile, having recently been released from prison, Superman's former nemesis Lex Luthor (Kevin Spacey) is busy hatching a plan involving crystals found in Supe's mysterious Fortress of Solitude.

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Gimme Shelter

I was quite looking forward to this film. Although I'm not a massive Rolling Stones fan, I can often be found listening to their greatest hits, amongst which there are many songs I'm rather partial to, in particular Paint It Black, You Can't Always Get What You Want and Honky Tonk Women, and I haven't heard too many of their songs that I've particularly disliked. Also, the only music documentary I'd seen prior to this was Anvil, which is pretty good if you ask me. 

Monday, 29 October 2012

The Shining

Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson) is a writer suffering from writer's block. He takes a job as an off-season caretaker at the Overlook Hotel, deep in the Colorado Rockies, where he will stay for five months with just his wife Wendy (Shelley Duvall) and their son, Jake (Danny Lloyd). Whilst at the hotel, all three members of the Torrance family experience otherworldly visions that slowly send Jack insane. Meanwhile, Danny's 'gift' of the shining - the ability to see and hear things that haven't happened yet or that happened a long time ago - grows stronger.

Sunday, 28 October 2012

Nosferatu: Phantom der Nacht

As opening shots go, footage of dead, decomposed babies and children, their faces contorted into richtuses of terror and howls of pain is probably one of the clearest projections for the tone of the ensuing film that I've ever come across. Couple this with slow motion shots of bats flying in the dark (used repeatedly throughout the entire film whenever director Werner Herzog takes his fancy, regardless of it's relevance to the plot) and a woman (Isabelle Adjani) waking up screaming to said bat flying around her window and you're left with no uncertainty that this isn't quite your average vampire film.

Saturday, 27 October 2012

Top 5... Dinosaur Movies

Dinosaurs! It's no surprise to anyone that I love me some prehistoric beasties. I can probably trace my love of dinosaurs back to the child I've never really stopped being, but there's something about the fact that these giant, terrifying creatures once ruled the very land we walk upon that captures my imagination. Sadly, dinosaurs have become somewhat scarce out in the real world in recent millenia, so the best place to see them at their finest is in the movies. This list is probably one of my least surprising, especially the top 2, as they're films I rarely go a day without mentioning, but the list was an inevitable one, and I was at a loss for what else to do this week, so here it is:

5. Ice Age 3: Dawn of the Dinosaurs
I think the Ice Age movies have been cruelly ignored, deemed 'lesser animation,' and basically dismissed by many people who haven't seen them. Whilst they're certainly nowhere near as good as most of Pixar's output (but then, what is?), the Ice Ages are actually worth your time. Part three, The Dawn of the Dinosaurs, though not technically historically accurate, is probably my favourite of the bunch (I've not seen part four, Continental Drift, yet), and whilst including dinosaurs probably didn't hurt it's cause, the main reason I like it most is Simon Pegg's deranged one-eyed ferret Buck. I'd also like to use this opportunity to complain about Ice Age 2: The Meltdown. At one point, the herd (comprised of Ray Romano's Manny the mammoth, John Leguizamo's Sid the sloth, Denis Leary's Diego the sabre-tooth tiger, Josh Peck and Seann William Scott's possums Eddie and Crash and Queen Latifah's Ellie the mammoth-who-thinks-she's-a-possum) encounters an expanse littered with erupting geysers. Manny wants to cross, but Diego warns him that "It's a minefield out there!" The one part of this film's suspension of disbelief - of which quite a lot is required - that I just cannot overcome is how exactly does Diego know what a minefield is? Small gripe, I know, but it never stops annoying me whenever the film is on TV.

Thursday, 25 October 2012

Hell Is For Heroes

1944, Montigny, France. At a rest area near the Siegfreid Line, Sergeant Larkin (Harry Guardino) is desperately trying to find a pen amongst his small band of men. Everyone is either using theirs, sees no need for one, sells dodgy ones or are in a similar state of searching for a writing implement. This scene, which does a good job of introducing the main characters and their various skills, roles and personalities, is one of very few scenes that sets it apart from essentially every other war film ever made.

Monday, 22 October 2012

North By Northwest

This is the last review I've got left unposted from the recent reviewing competition at the Lamb, I hope you enjoy it.

Is it really possible for North by Northwest to live up to its hype? It’s rare to find a Top Films list deprived of its inclusion, it features scenes that have become the stuff of legend, that also tend to top Best Scene lists, and it’s one of the greatest movies ever made by one of the greatest directors who ever lived.

If you haven’t seen it yet, then I strongly advise you to stop reading anything about it and go and watch it now, for North by Northwest is truly a tremendous film that is best enjoyed with as little outside knowledge as possible. When Cary Grant’s Roger O. Thornhill quips shortly after being kidnapped into the back of a car, “Don’t tell me where we’re going, surprise me,” this is not merely Hitchcock’s intentions for Thornhill, but for all of us watching as well.

Sunday, 21 October 2012

Top 5... Time Travel Films

After my recent cinematic adventures with Looper, this list was going to be my Top 5... Fainting Scenes, however I couldn't think of any good ones outside of Sleepy Hollow. So, to celebrate Looper and my finally remaining conscious throughout its entirety, here's my Top 5... Time Travel Films. Also, apologies for posting a day late, I wanted to sort out my thoughts on Looper to see if it would be on the list, and I was out last night, sorry about that.

Time travel in films has always had one major problem - paradoxes. To my knowledge, no film or franchise has successfully made an entirely plausible and plot-hole-free time travel story. They either travel through parallel universes in ways they shouldn't be able to (Back to the Future Part II), ignore ways in which the present/future would change because of events in the past/present (Deja Vu), or conveniently forget the existence of the time travel device when it could be incredibly useful elsewhere (Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban). This is generally the most important aspect I look for in a good time travel film, although occasionally sheer entertainment value can often outweigh this.

Friday, 19 October 2012

Looper

Regular readers will know I've had a tumultuous relationship with Looper, the third film from writer/director Rian Johnson. I loved Brick, and even wrote a post expressing my excitement and fears for the upcoming film, but alas when I went to see the film the first time around I passed out half an hour in, for reasons as yet undetermined. There's an entire team of doctors and medical students currently scratching each others heads just trying to work out what - or rather, how many things - are wrong with me. But failing to fully see the film first time around gave me an opportunity to see The Brothers Bloom, Johnson's second film, before watching the rest of his third. I have now managed to successfully see the entire film, in one sitting, having paid for a total of four cinema tickets (me + girlfriend first time around, me + friend second time around, Aisha didn't want to see it again). And, personally, I think it was worth it.

Thursday, 18 October 2012

Top Gun

There are some films out there that seem to be universally adored, so much so that were someone to come along and start slagging them off they'd automatically be written off as hipsterring, pretending not to like something incredibly popular to appear cool or ironic. Now, I'm fairly sure I'm not a hipster, even though I ride a bike and own a scarf (that I very rarely wear, and even then when its freezing), but I just can't get behind Top Gun, a film that as far as I can tell everyone else seems to generally love.

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

The Magnificent Seven


A small farming community is being terrorised by a band of thieves and murderers, led by the charismatic but ruthless Calvera (Eli Wallach, previously only known to my girlfriend as the elderly neighbour in The Holiday). He and his gang steal almost everything worth taking from the villagers, leaving them just enough to carry on farming for another year, at which point Calvera will return and repeat the process over again. Sick of this injustice, three villagers head to the nearest saloon and recruit someone to either train or protect them, finding Yul Brynner's Chris as the perfect fit for the role after he volunteers for something that could get him killed, and offers no reward - a situation very similar to that of defending the village. Chris then goes about assembling a team - you can probably guess how many - of similarly minded men based on Chris' previous dealings with them or their reputations. 

Monday, 15 October 2012

Holy Smoke

Hurrah, another Jane Campion film. I can't say I was much of a fan of The Piano, so I wasn't much looking forward to this, the next available film featuring Kate Winslet (Hideous Kinky and Faeries are as yet out of my reach).

Winslet plays Ruth, a young Australian girl (with a distinctly English accent) who has travelled to India to find herself. As well as finding that, she discovers and becomes willingly entangled in a mass marriage/suicide cult, and her understandably concerned family would rather she just came home. After Ruth's mother (Julie Hamilton) manages to persuade her daughter to come back to Sydney with her, utilising a fake illness for her father and a very real asthma attack for her mother, the family bring in P. J. Waters (Harvey Keitel), a professional 'exit counsellor,' an expert at convincing people to give up their new found cultish beliefs and return to their previous lives.

Sunday, 14 October 2012

Guaranteed Happiness: Kiss Kiss Bang Bang

Kiss Kiss Bang Bang is a film I've loved since the fist time I watched it, and always proves to be an enjoyable experience, yet I fear that from now on I won't enjoy it any more, because I will have horrific, Vietnam-style flashbacks to my latest viewing, or rather the repercussions from it. You see, I volunteered to appear on The Lamb's weekly podcast, The Lambcast, for their Movie Of The Month segment, and I was overjoyed to discover that said movie was Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. Granted, I may have voted 7 or 8 times for it and hoped that one of the primaries would drop out so I could discuss such a great film with some similarly-minded individuals, so I can't say I was overly surprised when it won. However, this was my first ever podcast (recorded last Sunday), and I was so horrifically bad in it that I'm not sure I'll ever be able to enjoy said film again. The episode has now dropped, and is available on iTunes (search Lambcast in podcasts) or via this link. I urge you to listen to it more for the scintillating discussion between Dan Heaton, Justin Gott, Kristen Lopez and Nick Jobe  than for my dismal contribution, however if I've ever wronged you in the past (a list longer than I'd like), then you may also enjoy the podcast, for different reasons. If you could just ignore my horribly grating, nasally drone whenever it aggravates your eardrums and pretend instead it was just a four-way chat then I'd appreciate it.

Maybe it was because I'm a first timer and everyone else there seemed far more experienced at it than I, probably because they are and some of them regularly hold podcasts of their own, or maybe it's that I'm genuinely not very good at talking about films with real live actual people without using a keyboard (it doesn't happen very often), but I'd like to issue an apology to Dan, Justin, Kristen and Nick for lowering the quality of the podcast, and for relentlessly interrupting and talking over them when I had nothing very interesting to say. I was nervous, and it's never been more abundantly clear that when talking about films, I truly do not know what I'm talking about. Also, I hate public speaking, so signing up for a podcast was probably a pretty dumb thing to do. Don't worry, I won't do it again.

Saturday, 13 October 2012

Blackmail

Hitchcock, now with added sound! Yes, we've moved on from Hitch's silent pictures (until I can find the ones I've had to skip) and onto his first to use audible dialogue, as well as the first I've seen that doesn't appear to have been filmed entirely on a set, although knowing the director built the entire apartment block set of Rear Window inside a studio, you never can tell with Hitchcock.

Blackmail focuses on a young couple, John Longden's Frank, a Scotland Yard detective, and Anny Ondra (yep, her again) as Alice, the daughter of a shop owner. Alice has become bored of Frank's obsession with his career, and has eyes for another man, the irrationally posh artist Mr. Crewe (Cyril Ritchard). Crewe invites Alice back to his studio apartment one evening, and things don't necessarily plan out how either of them would have expected, so Frank gets involved to try and help Alice out of the sticky situation she finds herself in.

Friday, 12 October 2012

Top 5... Films Aisha Loves That I Don't Hate

 I've been lacking inspiration for a Top 5 this week, with the best I could come up with being Hugh Jackman films, as its his birthday, but I've missed too many of his films for it to be a very conclusive list. So, in my desperation, I turned to my girlfriend, something I only ever do in the direst of situations film-wise. I've discussed her frankly laughable taste of films in passing before, but I believe I may have been unnecessarily harsh on some of the films she likes, so here's my Top 5 list of the films she loves that I don't necessarily hate. Apologies for any extravagant soppiness, it won't happen again. And yes, Aisha got to choose the pictures.

5. Marley and Me
Now, I wouldn't like this film if I were to watch it on my own, but at present it's Aisha's favourite film, and it makes me happy to see her happy, so technically I must like it. But it can't be any higher than number 5 on this list because a) it's a terrible film, and b) she cannot watch it without almost drowning in the flood of dears she seeps towards the end. For you see, Aisha is a dog-person (I'm a no-animals-person, at best a fish-person), so any film featuring dogs, especially [spoiler] the dying of a pet dog, something she has lived through, result in an unquantifiable amount of sadness. But guess who's around with a shoulder to cry on? That'd be me. Which is another reason I don't hate the film, it's made us closer as a couple.

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Songs From The Second Floor

I never knew there were quite so many films out there without plots, and how highly regarded some of them were. I'd heard of Bunuel's surrealist so-called 'masterpieces', though I'm not a fan of them myself, and given their notoriety it was no surprise to find them on the List, but this cine-poem, based on the works of Peruvian poet Cesar Vallejo and directed by Swede Roy Andersson, is a film of which I've never heard, and finding it voted the 213th greatest film of all time by Empire readers came as something of a surprise.

Sunday, 7 October 2012

The Brothers Bloom

There is one benefit to my passing out during Looper last weekend, I've now managed to see director Rian Johnson's second feature before seeing all of his third. It's streaming on LoveFilm at the moment, so if you're a member, go forth and watch it now, post haste. All being well, I'll be seeing Looper before this time next week, and next Sunday should see my review.

The Brothers Bloom seems on the surface to be far more straightforward than the high-school-noir Brick and time-travel-brain-twister Looper, but in reality its just as subversive as those two. Mark Ruffalo and Adrien Brody are brothers Stephen and Bloom, two con men who have been running scams since their early teens. Stephen (Ruffalo) is the brains of the outfit, and Bloom (Brody) always takes the leading role in the con. Roughly twenty five years after their first con, Bloom wants to quit, but Stephen ropes him in to one last job, conning Rachel Weisz's ludicrously wealthy yet decidedly eccentric heiress Penelope from some money she'd probably never miss. Along with their near-mute accomplice Bang Bang (Rinko Kikuchi), the brothers set out to dupe Penelope from her riches, but who exactly is the victim in this game?

Red Surf

Well, we're still in George Clooney's pre-E.R. days, so even if this film has a few more recognisable faces in some of the main roles, the fact that a then-no-name Clooney headlines this film should be some clue of how terrible it is. There's still a few films to go before I get to From Dusk Til Dawn, the first film on his list that I know I like, so my hopes aren't high for the films inbetween, but hopefully they'll be better than this one.

Friday, 5 October 2012

Top 5 Bond Actors

Today is the 50th anniversary of the release of the first Bond film, Dr. No. Also, I reviewed Casino Royale earlier this week (undeservedly voted the 56th greatest film of all time by Empire readers in 2008), and Skyfall, the 23rd official Bond film, is released soon, so this seemed to be the perfect time to do a Top 5 list related to Bond in some way. As much as I would have liked to have done a comprehensive list of my five favourite Bond films, villains, girls, gadgets, cars, locations, henchmen, lairs, guns and kills, I'm afraid I don't know nearly enough about the series to do that, seeing as I've seen quite a few of the films only once, and many of them I can't remember. I do know that my favourite film is Goldfinger, which also features my favourite henchman, Oddjob. Scaramanga is probably the best villain I can remember, or perhaps Max Zorin, but that's mainly for the actors playing them. So instead of any of those lists, I've compiled my top 5 of the actors who have portrayed Bond onscreen in the main series (I've not seen the 1967 David Niven-starring Casino Royale). Seeing as there's only six actors currently in the series, this was a pretty straightforward list to compile.


Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Hamlet

There are some films on the List that I've no idea when I'll get to them. These films fall into three categories - the ones I absolutely adore but have no clue how I'll even start writing about them, the ones I desperately do not want to watch (but am too much of an anal completist to ignore) and the really long ones. This four-hour-plus cut of Hamlet obviously falls into the latter, but fortunately for me, my girlfriend opted for Kate Winslet as her Film-Maker of choice, and seeing as I've reached that point in Winslet's career in which she appeared in Hamlet as Ophelia, I can cross off Kenneth Branagh's opus from the Empire 5-Star 500. As for the unspeakable films I don't want to see, whenever LoveFilm drop Salo through my letterbox it shall not be a good day, though I could pull an In The Realm Of The Senses and bottle it when I've taken as much as I can stand.


Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Casino Royale

With the imminent release of Daniel Craig's third outing as James Bond, Sam Mendes' Skyfall (UK release October 26th), it seems like the perfect time to cross the film ranked 56th greatest film of all time by Empire readers a few years ago, Craig's first Bond outing, Casino Royale.


Now, if you ask me, #56 is pretty high up, especially when you consider that Goldfinger, my favourite Bond movie, is 110 places lower at #166, and no other Bond movies made it onto that list (You Only Live Twice appears in the Empire 5-star 500). Even if you take into account Casino Royale's proximity to the release of the list, made just two years later, it's still pretty damn high. Apparently, it's better than Lawrence of Arabia, Annie Hall, 12 Angry Men, The Great Escape and literally hundreds of other films that, in my opinion, are far superior. But then I didn't compile the list (though I did vote on it, and not for this film), so who am I to voice the opinions of others?

1001 Additions

So, the new 1001 book is out, and thanks to Joachim over at Listology, here's the new additions:

Monday, 1 October 2012

The Manxman

Pete Quillam (Carl Brisson from The Ring) is a penniless fisherman. His best friend, Philip Christian (Malcolm Keen), is a hot-shot lawyer. The two have been inseparable since birth, being raised as essentially brothers despite their wildly different lifestyles. They've even found a way to combine their various career paths, with Philip pushing through a petition that will prevent steam trawlers from encroaching on the fishermen's haul, but when they meet Kate Cregeen (Anny Ondra), the barmaid daughter of the local pub The Manx Fairy, they both instantly fall for her. Pete, the more headstrong and forward of the pair, is the first to make a move, so the loyal Philip hides his feelings for the sake of his pal. But when Pete heads to Africa to make his fortune to win over Kate's father (Randle Ayrton), things get complicated when Philip is asked to look after Kate in his absence. 

October 2012 Update

Farewell September, we hardly knew ye, and hello to the frankly awful weather of October. September was a bumper month blog-wise, as I set myself the challenge of posting every god damn day, and I'm pleased to say I achieved this goal, even if four of the posts were written during August, which I'm allowing because I had two busy weekends away this month. As you may be aware, the four aforementioned pre-written posts were for the LAMB's So You Think You Can Review tournament, in which I came second, and I promise that's the last time I mention it until I post my North By Northwest review, when I get to that stage in my Alfred Hitchcock run through.

Sunday, 30 September 2012

Return of the Killer Tomatoes

There are some films where it's impossible to go in with a completely open mind. Whether it's because it's a sequel to a film you've seen a hundred times, it's the work of a director or actor you're very familiar with or you've been bombarded with a relentless marketing campaign, there are many factors that can influence your opinion of a film before you go and see it. And, of course, there's the title. The one inescapable truth about this film is that it's called Return of the Killer Tomatoes, and is therefore not going to be anything even close to highbrow or arthouse, and might just about scrape the underbelly of being entertaining.

Saturday, 29 September 2012

Clueless

Is this the most 90s movie ever? If not, it must certainly crack the top 10, for though it is based on a novel written 180 years earlier, everything about Clueless, from the slang, the opinions and most vehemently the fashions positively scream 1990s. Upon release, this may have been topical and timely, but now it severely dates the film, and is mostly comical. Although saying that, there is a chance that it may have been funny at the time (I can't remember, I was 8 in 1995), as I can't imagine any time period in which a two-piece yellow plaid suit jacket and skirt were ever in fashion, even amongst teenage girls.

Friday, 28 September 2012

Top 5... Movies That Should Be In 1001 (2012 Edition)

Monday sees the release of the next edition of the 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die book, which sees my recently reviewed Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy on the cover. This release got me thinking, what films would I most like to be added in this edition? As usual, my first instinct regarded efficiency and time-saving, so of course the films I'd post want to be added would be ones that I'd already reviewed, so I wouldn't have to review them again. But then I thought no, that's not really what I want. I want to watch new films, experience new things and write about them, that's why I'm writing a blog in the first place; to discuss movies. Why would I want an excuse to do that less? So as well as my already-reviewed list there's another for films that not only have I not reviewed, but that I haven't even seen, and I think should probably be on the List. Thirdly, because it's a super-bumper-bonus day, there's a final top 5 for the films that haven't appeared on either list, but will most likely be on the actual list, for which I haven't been consulted. What films do you all think will be on there?

Thursday, 27 September 2012

Never So Few

A Steve McQueen film set during World War 2 where at one point he talks about brewing his own alcohol? No, sadly I've not yet reached The Great Escape (one of my consistently top 5 films of all time), I'm onto Never So Few, the Frank Sinatra-starring final obstacle before I get to watch The Magnificent Seven again, when I'll actually start to enjoy going through all of Steve McQueen's films.

Never So Few sees Sinatra as Captain Tom Reynolds in North Burma during the Second World War. He and his band of highly trained men, including Peter Lawford's be-monocled Captain Grey Travis and Charles Bronson's Seargeant Danforth, are training the native Kachins to defend their land against their attackers, but the hardships of jungle warfare and the difficulties posed by his commanding officers - particularly the lack of an assigned doctor in his troop - begin to weigh on Reynolds.

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Battle Royale

There are some films where you hear about the concept and think "Yes, this will be a truly amazing film." Battle Royale is such a film, with the premise being a class of 42 schoolkids are kidnapped, dropped onto an island and given weaponry and basic provisions. They are told that they have three days to kill all of their fellow classmates until only one survives, and if they fail, they'll all be killed. Sounds pretty awesome, right? Well that's what I thought the first time I watched it too, about 5 years ago, and since then I'd kind of forgotten a lot of it, and thought to myself that surely that film but have been amazing, because how can you go wrong with a concept like that? There's endless possibility for inventive deaths and character drama, what with these kids now having to kill their best friends or even their boyfriends and girlfriends, but unfortunately there were perhaps some reasons as to why I'd forgotten it.

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Jude

I had a discussion with my girlfriend recently about The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, instigated by my viewing of the unimpressive trailer for the new remake (in 3D, of course). When I explained the basic premise - a group of kids run into a family of skin-wearing cannibals - she was appalled at A) why someone would watch such a film, B) why someone would make it, and C) what kind of depraved soul would own such a monstrosity. I then answered questions A and C (she wouldn't have cared that Tobe Hooper made it) by pointing to the copy of the film on my DVD shelf. Why do I bring this up? Well, though I'm not a massive fan of horror (I haven't seen The Texas Chain Saw Massacre since I bought it), I will occasionally watch a film for the same reasons I go on rollercoasters; they add a certain element of thrill and excitement - and terror - otherwise missing from my humdrum existence on this Earth. My question is, who would watch, make or own a film like Jude?

Monday, 24 September 2012

Man on Wire

Another film I reviewed for the So You Think You Can Review tournament at the Lamb, this also sees the start of my attempting to review at least one documentary a month for this site. 

I’ve had the debate many times with various people as to whether a documentary can really be considered as a film. This usually happens when I use the phrase “I watched a great film last night; it was a documentary about...” The conversation’s other participant invariably glazes over at the ‘D’ word, as how could anything compiled entirely from archive footage and talking-head interviews be seen as entertaining? After all, there’s the danger they might actually learn something. I feel that if there was ever going to be a documentary that could sway the naysayers, then that film is Man on Wire. Even though it is very much a true story, told by those involved with the aid of photographs, footage and re-enactments, this tale of a man attempting to infiltrate the World Trade Centre and walk a tightrope between the towers is compelling, nail-biting stuff, and for the most part feels like a work of fiction.

Sunday, 23 September 2012

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

Seeing as the cover of the next edition of the 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die has been announced (the book is due to be released next month), I thought it'd be a good time to review the film on said cover, as it's a certainty to become a member of the hallowed list in the imminent future. So, without further ado, I present Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, a film that I was very surprised to see on the cover, as personally I don't think I'd have included it in the book at all, giving the cover space instead to probably The Artist, even if the Tinker Tailor poster is better.

Saturday, 22 September 2012

Champagne

There are some films that are just difficult to like, mainly because the lead is so detestable. Recent examples I've seen include Napoleon Dynamite, Vagabond and Transformers, and Champagne joins that far from hallowed list, although this time I feel that the lead, Betty Balfour's simply named The Girl, is meant to be unlikable as she's a spoilt little brat who only comes to realise she can be a good person when her father (Gordon Harker, Hitchcock alumnus from The Ring and The Farmer's Wife) loses all his money and she is forced to take care of him.

Friday, 21 September 2012

Top 5... Bill Murray Films

It's Bill Murray's birthday! The guy is a prime contender for a future Film-Makers Career Review, but until I see all of his work, here's my favourite of his films. Now, in my looking back at his career I noticed Murray has tended towards two kinds of roles, leads/major parts, or brief cameos, so I've made two lists to celebrate this fact:


5a. Caddyshack
I'm fairly sure the main reason this film is remembered as a comedy classic - by me at least - is because of Murray's breakthrough role as the deranged gopher-hunting groundskeeper Carl Spackler. His scene in his shed, talking to the little clay models of squirrels and rabbits he intends to use to destroy the golf course terrorising rodent is just wonderful, even if the gopher himself looks like one of the worst puppets ever put on screen.

5b. Get Smart
OK, so the film is pretty terrible, but Murray's cameo as the tree-dwelling lonely sad sack Agent 13 in this lacklustre spy reboot is one of the few watchable moments, and came as such a surprise to me when I watched the film that it almost made the experience worthwhile. Almost.

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Winchester '73

The first things I have to say about this film are that it features one of the earliest credits for Tony Curtis, and that Rock Hudson is buried in the cast, and he plays an Indian. Right, now that's out of the way, let's talk about the film.

I like this kind of film. Now, that statement's not much good to you without knowing what kind of film it is, but regardless of that I like it anyway. It's the kind of film where several smaller stories are all tied together through coincidence, or an object being passed from one to another, as is the case here. There are some exceptions - I wasn't wild about Au Hasard Balthazar or Babel - but these types of collective narratives, like Magnolia, Short Cuts, Crash and Traffic, usually appeal to me, and having a great ensemble cast never hurts either. Here, the element that ties the stories together is a rifle.