Casino Royale

November 21, 2006 at 6:01 pm | Posted in Reviews | 11 Comments

The New Bond

“…I understand that double-0s have very short life expectancy, so your mistake will be short-lived”

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The Good: Top of the range acting, fantastic script, great action sequences and fantastically made from start to finish.
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The Bad: Some Bond enthusiasts may not like the very innovative feel. Plot feels very slightly rushed toward the end.
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The Bond franchise as everyone knows it has come to an end. It’s the truth. What started as a film about a psychotic guy with one arm being chased by Sean Connery all those years ago has come to an end in 2006. It’s finished. It’s over. The franchise is dead…but Bond is very much alive and kicking. I think it would be wise to introduce a few words here, that will be repeated throughout: “rough, edgy, gritty, realistic”

Casino Royale brings it back to basics. Bond’s first 2 kills to give him a double-0 status, and his first ever mission as 007. Obviously, this makes it the first book ever written, and since all the other ones have been expended, who knows what they’re going to do with Bond 22? But, let’s put that aside for just now, and focus on the new Bond. Because that’s what it is. This is no longer Sean Connery’s “positively shocking’ character, nor is it Pierce Brosnan’s ‘Sorry! Forgot to knock!’; this is the new Bond. This is Daniel Craig’s “rough, edgy, gritty and, at times, disconcertingly realistic” MI6 agent, who puts his life on the line.

Casino Royale sees Daniel Craig as James Bond, attempting to win a game of poker (£10 million buy-in) with the help of treasury official, Vesper Lynd (fantastic performance here from Eva Green) in order to try and hem international terrorist, Le Chiffre (brilliantly portrayed by Madds Mikkelsen), into co-operating with British security services. The plot seems plain at first, but by the end has twisted itself in a few circles, ultimately cilminating in an emotionally polished fifteen minutes, and a truly emphatic ending. I have, in fact, played the last 2 minutes over in my head several times, just to enjoy it again.

I think it’s unfair to compare Craig’s performance to any of the 0ther Bonds’, simply because they are fulfilling different roles. Connery, Moore, Dalton, Brosnan and…that other one all played the suave English gentleman-of-steel who melted women’s hearts and pulled off insane stunts to classy music. Gone is that character, in is the new take. “Rough, edgy, gritty and realistic”.
Craig is absolutely fantastic. I think they’d have had one hell of a job finding someone as infinitely suited to the role as he is. Absolutely brilliant stuff here. From the very opening scene, the look in his eye, his robust little stature, his whole demeanour just oozes with that unique charisma that is inferred by all the previous Bonds…Yet this is a new take on it. He’s not dark haired, he doesn’t have a smooth-as-silk smile; he’s “rough, edgy, gritty and realistic”. It’s in this new take that Bond is lost, but in that charisma that he is found again. He’s a different Bond, but he still has the aura that is unique to Bond, and it is that which stops Casino Royale from not being a Bond movie, and just ‘some spy film’.
The other performances are, to say the least, note-worthy. Madds Mikkelsen is fantastic as the man of numbers, Le Chiffre. His logical plain of thinking isn’t only expressed in his poker playing (“You have a 17.2% chance of a straight”), but also his outlook on things. His blood-weeping eye is just a defect of the tear duct, “Nothing sinister”; and he doesn’t believe in God, but in a ‘reasonable rate of return’. Sure, it’s quite two-dimensional, but it’s a massive step up from “I want to take over the world”. He’s in it for money, and keeping himself out of trouble, to him, everything else is collateral. Eva Green is equally excellent as the more fleshed out character if Vesper Lynd. Yes, she’s the Bond girl, but she’s not a one night stand, and the slow-building love interest between Bond and her makes you well aware of it.

Speaking of which, upmost kudos to the writers. Casino Royale‘s script is another major factor that sets it apart. The odd tongue-in-cheek nod to the older Bond films (watch for him being asked how he likes his Martini) is there, but so is characterisation of Bond that goes beyond all the other films put together…multiplied by ten. They really dissected him pretty damn well in this one, exploiting him externally as a rough-n-tough secret agent, but exposing his internal vulnerability as well, the likes of which was only really prodded at when his wife is killed in Her Majesty’s Secret Service…Even then though, you’d be over stating the point if you said they were character building; since getting him to marry someone, then making him sad when they’re shot dead is a little bit cheaper than the devices used in this film.
Bond just wouldn’t be complete solely with this emotionally-provoking edge however, and there’s explosions and chases a-plenty (as well as a down-right disturbing torture scene) all of which are just as, if not better than anything seen before in a Bond movie…most likely because they have that slight hint of the fact that the people are in genuine peril. Unlike the other films, you’ll noticeably see Bond’s appearance getting beat up; bruised knuckles, scratches, cuts…all of them show up, contrasting the constantly prestine presentation of the older films.

Is it really that different? Yes. This is the new generation of Bond. “Rough, edgy, gritty and realistic”. It’s the biggest trasnformation from Die Another Day, not just because it isn’t absolutely abomnible, but it is an entire new take on the same character. The last 20 minutes set up fantastically for just about every aspect of Bond you’ve come to know, and for that already-announced 22nd film. Frankly, if Casino Royale is anything to go by, I can’t wait.

HitHitHitHitGreen-white-half
—Out of Five—

The Departed

October 23, 2006 at 11:07 pm | Posted in Reviews | Leave a comment

The Departed

“When I was young they used to say you could become a cop or a criminal…What I’m saying is this: when you’re facing a loaded gun, what’s the difference?”

It’s been a while since I’ve been to the cinema. A series of unfortunate engagements and events had not allowed me to visit my favourite place for a while, but I’m proud to say that my first venture back was to see Scorsese’s new film, The Departed. After The Aviator, he was obviously on form, but he didn’t exactly have big shoes to fill. Sure, The Aviator was good, but it wasn’t incredible, and whilst it did deserve the Oscar, it was only because it was going up against Million Dollar Baby.

The Departed revolves around the tale of two men. One of them a cop, the other a criminal. However, it isn’t long into the film until the roles are reversed. The cop is in fact a mole, and the criminal is an undercover cop. It sounds pretty simple, but the story is very much fleshed out, and ends up being one of the biggest positives about the film as a whole. Scorsese can’t claim this however, since the story is that of the Trilogy of Hong Kong gang films: Infernal Affairs.

Scorsese certainly pulled no punches when it came to casting. Kate Winslet, Hillary Swank and Robert De Niro are some of the actors who didn’t make the film. Scorses stuck with his poster boy of late, Leonardo Di Caprio, who, with every film he makes, is losing more and more of that boyish charm that was created with his establishing role in Titanic, and is gaining more and more of a rugged, realistic edge. It’s far from the truth to claim that this is the same actor who was in the Aviator, his skills at varying his performances are improving vastly. This is by far his best played role to date…Probably his best written role as well.
Jack Nicholson returns as the ‘bad guy’, only in this film he’s certainly more than that. In a film where the characters are portrayed quite realistically (although not entirely fleshed out), the character’s malice is amplified even more. He himself said that he wanted to get back into the bad guy role, and saw Costello as the embodiment of evil. Nicholson plays him in a way that only Nicholson can, bringing that almost unique psychotic feel to the character; obvious enough to notice, but subtle enough to disturb you that little bit.
Among the rest of the all-star cast is the ever magnificent Matt Damon, Martin Sheen, Mark Wahlberg, Alec Baldwin and a relative new-comer, Lera Farmiga all of whom fulfill their roles to the quality you’d expect from a film of this calibre. No surprises in the acting department.

The way the plot weaves, as I have said, is one of the most satisfying aspects of the film. In fact, the plot seems to take precedence over character development, since even at the end of the film, all you really have is a set of 2 dimensional characters, who’s thinking you never really get into. There is some development, Matt Damon’s character shows change over the duration, eventually wanting to be more than Costello’s rat in the force, symbolised by the Golden dome facing his apartment. However characters like those belonging to Nicholson and DiCaprio seem to, in the end, be the same as where they started off. Perhaps this wasn’t totally incidental, since one of the films main themes is that we all end up the same when we’re on death’s doorstep. The most apt quotation would probably be the one at the start of this review:

“When I was young they used to say you could become a cop or a
criminal…what I’m saying is this: when you’re facing a loaded gun, what’s the
difference?”

Whilst it’s said at the start of the film, the idea is maintained throughout. It’s not giving much away to say that there is more than one departmental funeral, obviously for different people, but all of them the same. Take into account the fact that in the end it winds up almost everyone is a rat of some kind, and you once again have the parallels drawn between characters, mainly toward the end of their lives.

The Departed isn’t perfect. Brilliant acting, brilliant direction, brilliant story, brilliant script…But it’s almost a shallow feeling that you’ll leave with when the shows over, feeling like the film could have gone that little bit deeper. You get the feeling that you have seen a great film. You get the feeling Scorsese has done it yet again…But there’s a lack of something. Whether it be character development, or even style, the gap is there; and regrettably, it’s noticeable.

Superman Returns

September 1, 2006 at 6:46 pm | Posted in Reviews | 2 Comments

Supermanreturns

“I hear everything. You wrote that the world doesn’t need a saviour, but every day I hear people crying for one.”

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The Good: Visually stunning. Extremely high entertainment value, but not cheap. Goes deeper than most superhero films…
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The Bad: …But can take itself a little seriously at times. Relied a tad on the older films and background knowledge.
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In its closing days at the cinema, Superman Returns remained among my highest priorities. It was my hunch that it was the kind of film you need to see at the cinema…this time I was right for once. Superman Returns tells the tale of many people’s favourite superhero returning from the ruins of his home-planet: Krypton. When he returns, the world seems to have gone to pot (probably the only political statement of the whole film), and Superman takes it upon himself to not only try and do his best to make it (mainly the city he lives in, Metropolis) a better place once more, but also to re-unite himself with the now married Lois Lane.

Brandon Routh who takes Christopher Reeves’s role up in the big, red cape, does an extremely convincing job; it would be easy to argue that he does a far more realistic job than his predecessor…However, this seems to be running parallel with the new feel of the film compared to the originals. Kate Bosworth who plays Lois Lane satisfies the role, but not much more, and we see yet another true-to-form performance from the awesome Kevin Spacey. As I said, the film’s acting complements its new, modern and more realistic feel. Whilst Spacey’s performance is certainly over-blown at times (he plays Lex Luther after all), he maintains a certain, eerie feel about his acting which keeps his character within the realms of reality; you feel Lex Luther is legitamitely a criminal, as opposed to the ‘bad guy’, bent on world domination and killing Superman.

Almost certainly the best thing about the film (and the reason why it’s a really bad thing a lot of you may have missed it at the cinema) is that visually it is nothing less than stunning. Really, really immense. I would pay for a whole new ticket just to get in to see the opening credits again and watch the Supernova. Whilst this is partially down to the fact that CGI is now photo-realistic (just wait till you see the plane scene), it’s also the magnificent colours and camera angles that are used. You’ll probably find it hard to forget the long shot of the hero slowly floating up into the path of the glowing sun, or him soaring up into the icy cold void of Space. However, not all the pivotal scenes are only beautiful to look at, but many carry some nice imagery in the form of the characters. Without giving anything away, you’ll no doubt notice Superman sacraficing himself (he does it quite a lot don’t you know?), then falling back down to Earth arms outstretched, as if on the cross…It would seem that the whole ‘Saviour’ themes don’t really stop here. One collation of phrases in particular seems to suggest not only some kind of life cycle, but almost definitely a Jesus-like, ‘Saviour and Son of the Father’ theme (note the parts in bold):

” Live as one of them, Kal-El, to discover where your strength and your power are needed. Always hold in your heart the pride of your special heritage. They can be a great people, Kal-El, they wish to be. They only lack the light to show the way. For this reason above all, their capacity for good, I have sent them you… my only son…
…You will travel far, my little Kal-El, but we will never leave you-even in the face of our deaths.You will make my strength your own. You will see my life through your eyes, as your life will be seen through mine.
The son becomes the father. And the father, the son.”

Sure, you could say that it was just supposed to give the idea of them passing on their genes and continuing the heritage, but given “My only son” and “…the father the son”, it’s easy to argue the religious ambiguity of the quotes…and given that the whole idea of Superman is that he’s a saviour, anyone arguing against little biblical references wouldn’t have a leg to stand on…or even an argument.
Superman Returns does of course, have all you’d expect from this kind of mainstream film. Explosions, action sequences, comic relief and a good plot are all there, but it’s nice to give the film that little bit more depth as well, which makes it something more. It’s not only in the thematic qualities, but also emotionally the film engages the viewer much more than your average action blockbuster, almost to the degree where you could sub-title it a drama.

As I said having these little motifs is no bad thing, it adds a little depth to what is already quite an emotionally sound film…But you can’t help getting the feeling that at times it feels like the writers and Singer are taking the mainstream film they’re making a little seriously, and on the odd occasion you feel as if some lines and shots could have just been done without. The only other way that you could fault the film is by saying that some very basic background knowledge is needed. Also that it would appear some of the lines are taken from the older films (Marlon Brando is credited)…but that’s nothing that should or would put you off.

It would seem that, save certain mishaps like Hulk and Dare Devil, all of the superhero re-make films have been thouroughly enjoyable, and a booming success. Superman Returns can now, without doubt, be added to the list. It has everything you’d expect from this type of film, with plenty more on the side for the people who are looking for it. Empire says that “Superman doesn’t fly, he soars”…I couldn’t have put it better myself.

4from5
–Out of Five–

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest

August 21, 2006 at 8:21 am | Posted in Reviews | Leave a comment

(SPOILER FREE)

“If we don’t have the key, we can’t open whatever it is we don’t have that it unlocks. So what purpose would be served in finding whatever need be unlocked, which we don’t have, without first having found the key what unlocks it?”

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The Good: Funny, sometimes clever, and a very nice little plot. Not your average Disney sequel. Magnificent soundtrack.
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The Bad: Can get a little too…childish. Shockingly bad acting. Not as good as its predecessor.
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It was going to be Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest or Snakes on a Plane. The choice was more than obvious, see why here. So Pirates it was; I still wasn’t expecting much. Your average Disney sequel often consists of constantly regurgitated jokes that are only funny once, and the usual, boring 2-D characters that are only there for the plot. Pirates breaks that rule to a satisfying degree…surprisingly enough.

The film sees us continue on from Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, with Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) at the helm of the Black Pearl, and Will Turner (Orlando Bloom) and Elizabeth Swan (Keira Knightley) getting ready to be married. However, it’s not long until things go wrong, and soon all three are deeply involved in a tantalising plot, involving Davy Jones (Bill Nighy) and his fabled “Dead Man’s Chest”.

It’s important to establish that the first film was good. Not just funny, but well directed with a brilliant script and soundtrack and a brilliant performance from Depp. It’s also important to note that if this were the usual Disney sequel, the director and writer would have no motivation, the composer would have moved on, and the actor would just be doing it for the money. Luckily, that is not the case. Verbinsky sits comfertably in the director’s chair, Elliot and Rossio team up once more and write another very amusing script. The ever ingenious Hanz Zimmer has composed a few more classic scores, and Depp is on top form, and delivers yet another spectacular performance.
A lot of the film is in its plot, but since the review is spoiler-free, I wont go into it with you, but the cliffhanger ending will have anyone who saw this watching the 3rd that is currently being filmed.

Of course, the most central piece in the puzzle has to be the humour. Probably the best thing about the humour is like that of the Simpsons: there’s plenty for the main target audience (children), but just as much for any older person going to see it. It can get a little too childish at points, and it does try to re-live the jokes of the first film sometimes, but the writers have come up with plenty of new material, and they don’t over-emphasise or labour the running jokes in the series. “Snip-snip Unic” comes to mind…Stupidly funny.

Surprisingly, the film can actually get quite dreary and dark at times. Another surprising element is that it seems some seeds were planted for character development in Davy Jones…yes, character development! Sparrow also seems to undergo some personality revealing moments, but mainly he’s the same hyper-camp but totally respectable pirate…but is it with a heart of gold, instead of for it? We shall see.

Whilst it’s taken for granted nowadays, it’s worth highlighting that the CGI is pretty much photo-realistic. It’s used frequently throughout the film, and if asked, you’d be hard pressed to differenciate between that and a real image…and whilst you’d also be hard-pressed to find a real image of someone with a beard of tentacles, you get the idea. It’s getting to the point now where the photo-realism of CGI is starting to be literally that: photographically realistic. It almost looks real, and no doubt the huge amounts of 12 year olds who probably went to see this film will take this amazing technological feat for granted, I only hope that it’s respected and appreciated by studios who wish to use it.

On par with the images, the music, as composed by Hanz Zimmer, is truly fantastic. Bringing back a lot of the classics from the original film, he throws in a whole load of new mixes, and even a couple of brand new toe-tapping tunes that really make you want to go out and buy the soundtrack. It does make the film genuinely more enjoyable when the action on screen is accompanied by this enthralling music.

It’s not all good; predominantly because Bloom or Knightley haven’t learned how to act yet… although it would appear Bloom has improved his People’s Eyebrow and Knightley continues to speak like an aggrivated dog; teeth bared. Apart from those two, the rest of the cast are more than satisfactory, and leave you with more of a feeling that they didn’t just go there for the cheque. Startlingly good as well is the vocal performance from Bill Nighy, who plays the evil but deeply troubled Davy Jones. It’s tough to act well when you’re not actually on set, interacting with everyone else. It was his first time doing this, but you wouldn’t be able to tell.

Also, more generally, it isn’t supposed to be a really good film, it’s supposed to be just generally ‘good’ all round, and at that it succeeds, but not as much as its predecessor…It’s difficult to put the finger on why that is true, but it is, perhaps just because the first one was so fresh.

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest is really enjoyable and not too much else. It’s not crap by any means, and it can be quite a clever little thinker at points, but when it comes down to it, its only aim is to entertain and leave you wanting more; and in this goal it succeeds. The third is yet to come, but judging by Dead Man’s Chest, this line of films is shaping up to be a neat little trilogy.

3from5
–Out of Five–

Miami Vice

August 15, 2006 at 10:42 am | Posted in Reviews | Leave a comment


“No one has tread before where we are now. We’re seeing their operations from the inside.”

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The Good: Direction, acting, writing…everything is sublime. Possibly the best professional relationship portrayed in a film of this genre, with a magnificent soundtrack to boot.
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The Bad: A few lines are incomprehensible due to somewhat exaggerated accents.
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The Insider, Heat, Collateral. All of these saw Michael Mann taking the helm both in writing and direction. All of these see some kind of break from the normal in characterisation. The Insider sees a sheepish yet headstrong informant. Heat sees the what would be ‘baddy with a heart of gold’ show where his true loyalties lie, not in love, but in crime; and Collateral sees the cliched assassin with a troubled background become a far more realistic portrayal of the man behind the gun. Miami Vice is no different. It takes a break from the mundane normality of most detective films and delivers a fresh, captivating experience.

Miami Vice follows the two detectives, Tubbs (Jamie Foxx) and Crockett (Colin Farrell), as they go deep undercover in a drug’s trafficing ring. As their relationships come under stress in a variety of ways, they slowly become deeply embroiled in the underworld. Soon, ‘which way is up’ comes under question and they have to makes some tough decisions, which ultimately results in a climactic and intensely shot gun battle. It’s not quite enough to say that Michael Mann has ‘done it again’, and it’s totally inaccurate to say this is an updated, modern version of Heat. What you have here is an example of how a film of this type should be made.

As the type of film it’s supposed to be it’s impossible to fault it, if you ignore the trivial problem of there being seven or so lines that are difficult to understand. Everything about Miami Vice seems to be spot on. An invaluable aspect of the film is obviously the relationship between the two detectives; Tubbs and Crockett. They are of course essential to the plot, as is the bond between them; and it is the way this bond is dealt with that makes Vice that little bit special. We don’t see the detectives sitting over a beer in a bar, having a laugh and talking about their inner most feelings. We don’t see the detectives cracking inside jokes and exchanging friendly banter; these are professionals, they don’t joke, they don’t laugh, they don’t fool around…and they don’t meet for beers. Sure, their relationship is personal and not totally cold hearted, but at the end of the day it’s about the job, and they know it and each other better than anything. They don’t need to meet for beers because they exchange thoughts, feelings and opinions with two words, even just a look. In fact, this is more literal than I’d let on, since not 30 lines are passed between the two in the entire film; they simply aren’t necessary. The relationship doesn’t build, you just get the distinct feeling that it’s there from the get-go. It is there and it is solid, there’s no need for the stereotypical template you’ll see most films build upon.

It is for this same reason that there is not a huge amount of character development in either man; they are professionals, they do what they do. The film does enough to round them off, humanise them, but there’s no need for in depth discussion of their background or their goals, again, it just isn’t required for the film to fulfill its targets. Foxx pulls off as convincing a performance as ever, and Farrell is close on his heels; proving that he can act when provided with a role that has some substance to it. Whilst they both deliver, you could argue that there isn’t much of a stretch required in that delivery. It’s not in the writing, but more their characters that results in this lack of facial animation; they’re not really the type to run into a corner crying, and with that aspect of their character comes the inhibition of emotion that results in their somewhat vacant expressions. The film is not totally emotionally void however. At certain points the characters naturally come under stress (it’s all part fo the job I’d assume), and it is at these points that Foxx and Farrell demonstrate that they weren’t picked just because they look good in a suit. If there was to be a gripe anywhere, it would certainly not be in the acting. Even the more subsidiary performances do more than enough to maintain the feeling of reality…Which brings me on to another point.

Perhaps the most invigorating part of the film is its gritty realism. The fantastic (and quite frequent use) of a handheld camera gives that ever effective feeling that you’re watching from somebody’s viewpoint, as opposed to being an omniscient spectator of the events. Of course, Mann knows better than to rely soley on a camera style to bring the realism home. Instead he broadcasts the feeling with an array of techniques, probably the most effective ones among them being the grainy picture; the almost uncomfertable acting, as the characters don’t sit down and stay pristinely seated, but shift about and look around as if uncomfertable. The magnificent variety of blue colours that man uses throughout the film (much like in Heat and The Last of the Mohicans) are his trademark, but is his magnificent shots of the city’s skyline and environment (images of the expansive blue of the sea come to mind) amplify the feeling that you aren’t God looking down on the events, but like you’re in the city, there and with the film. It’s a really vivid feeling, and a rare one at that. People may say all the time ‘It felt like you were in the film’, but this time they’d actually be telling the truth.

Miami Vice is nothing less than you’d expect from a film of its type. In fact, it’s a good cut above the average. Much like Heat, it takes the genre it’s dedicated to and revamps it, then delivers it in a fresh and innovative style. If you’re looking for universal messages and moral lessons, go elsewhere. However, if you want to see an example of how a relationship should be established and how a detective film should be made, look no further, Miami Vice is your man. 

5outof5
–Out of Five–

The Wind That Shakes The Barley

July 6, 2006 at 7:03 pm | Posted in Reviews | 1 Comment

Thewindthatshakes

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The Good: Excellently shot in beautiful locations with magnificent acting to boot. A history lesson that many do need.
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The Bad: Can get a little preachy at times. Drags on towards the end.
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United 93 will probably retain its title of ‘Most Controversial Film’ throughout this year; but Ken Loach’s Palm D’Or winning The Wind That Shakes The Barley seems to have caused far more uproar that Greengrass’s Docu-drama. This confuses me, since the films are so similar to eachother. They both give a balanced view, they pull few punches, and more importantly, both films are only stating historical facts. Nothing more. Its content however has been on the butt of many a British film critics, even if they (self admitedly) have not seen the film itself.

The film details the rise of the Irish people to contend the Imperial British forces that have taken residence there; or, to summarise, the early days of the IRA. More than this though, it is an assault on the savage and unjust British occupation that cost many lives and many more debates.

Looking at it first as a film in itself, it’s more than commendable. It boasts an excellent cast, the leading man being Batman Begins star, Cillian Murphy; and a good choice he was too. He plays Damien, a young Irishmen bound for England until his friend is brutally murdered by the Black and Tans, which sends him into the life of an Irish rebel. Padraic Delaney makes his first film appearance and does a fantastic job as Teddy, Damien’s brother and fellow republican.
Harrowingly realistic performances are given throughout, and whilst the film isn’t exactly rife with character development, we are given the information that’s required, enabling us to understand different individuals’ decisions at any given moment in the plot.
Whilst the acting is well above the standard, it isn’t what makes the film truly shine, although it does make it glimmer a bit to start off.

Where the film’s true heart lies is in its story. It is a much needed history lesson for many a person in Britain who, if asked, would probably not be able to say why there was a Northern and Republic of Ireland. Not only that, but the way in which it’s told, whilst preachy at points, is brutally realistic and ruthless in its nature. You’ll want to wince as you see the Black and Tans (an infantry unit of the British occupation forces) assaulting and mutilating innocent Irishmen and women, not just because it’s generally unpleasant, but because the film goes a long way to make sure you know that it isn’t exaggerating: these things actually happened. By bringing in the politics and grim reality of the whole situation, Loach firmly implants that thought in our head: “It did happen”. Little surprise then that it’s getting so much negative attention: it’s a diatribe of the British ‘Empire’ in Ireland; the fact that they hung (and are hanging still) on to the country soley for their own benefit with no care for its citezins or the opposing political parties who were democratically winning elections.
Hopefully it will go some way to putting down those who ignorantly say “The IRA are just murderers”, since the film shows that they were in fact people fighting for the freedom which the majority of the country wanted in the first place. And it’s no coincedence that this rings true with another set of current events: A country that Britain illegally invaded and is now in occupation of? Iraq anyone? Ken Loach has in fact pointed out the link his film draws with these new set of circumstances; and how it condemns them.

The funny thing about the film, and yet another positive point, is that it isn’t all one way, otherwise it wouldn’t be as credible as it is. The film clearly demonstrates the hypocracy within some of the Republican rebels; one of the main examples of this is when they kill a fellow republican, then preach about the Irish hired soldiers killing their own countrymen. Without this balance, the film would certainly be marked down in my books, since bias in a film that should be as objective as possible never really helps it along the way.

The Wind That Shakes The Barley is a great film. Not only because of the way it administers its well balanced and historically solid tirade, but the technical aspects are solidly in place as well. If you go in prepared to be lectured a bit, and for the slightly drawn out and ragged ending, you’ll most likely thoroughly enjoy this award winning piece of cinema…unless you’re a British film critic of course.

4from5
Out of Five–

Spiderman 3 – Teaser

June 30, 2006 at 8:37 am | Posted in Reviews | 1 Comment

Any fans, hardcore or otherwise of the Spiderman franchise can finally allow a big grin reach round their faces, after the teaser trailer was released earlier this week.

The teaser picture which was launched out as a desktop theme earlier this year showed Spidey kitted out in an all-black outfit. Any fans of the series will know that this might have suggested a symbiote storyline, involving everyone’s favourite villain: Venom. The teaser, which can be seen on Apple Trailers, doesn’t reveal Venom as the villain of the film, even although it confirms the appearance of the black, slimy symbiote costume…The costume with which Venom walks hand in hand.

The symbiote storyline (from the cartoon) sees a black goo being returned from outer space; however, the shuttle it is being returned in crashes, and when Spiderman helps out at the wreckage, the symbiote takes a ride home with him. It’s not long before he realises that when it bonds with his suit, the symbiote increases his powers tenfold…at the expense of his own conscience and morality.

spiderman3alt
It’s a good storyline for a film, and I’ve no doubt, especially looking at the trailer, that the symbiote will be used to bring Spiderman’s inner demons to the surface…and probably relate it to the inner demons we all have: jealousy, greed etc.
In the more than capable hands of Sam Raimi, the very man who crafted the previous two films, I don’t think this one could go far wrong.

Whilst it’s still unclear whether or not Venom will actually appear, from the trailer confirmed villains appear to be Sandman, and the return of the Green Goblin in the form of Harry Osbourne; that much was obvious from the end of Spiderman 2 however.
Regardless, it seems that come May 2007, we’ll have yet another massive blockbuster on our hands, one that has a lot to live up to not only in the film industry, but in its storyline’s background as well.

United 93

June 4, 2006 at 9:30 pm | Posted in Reviews | Leave a comment

flight93

"United 93? Do you hear Cleveland centre? United 93"Dir.: Paul Greengrass
Cast: Christian Clemenson, Opal Aladin, Polly Adams

—————
The Good: Thought provoking, realistic and harrowing. Fantastically made and as objective as was possible. Doesn't glamorise or pull on heart strings.
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The Bad: Takes a while to settle down. Obviously has the potential to seriously distress/offend some people
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Despite the trailer opening to heckles of 'too soon!' in America, and its inherent, controversial nature, the already critically acclaimed United 93 opened on general release in the UK this Friday. The film takes up the touchy subject of the 9/11 flight 93 that was re-taken by the passengers on board and ultimately didn't reach its goal. The film could have easily tip-toed around and been sensitive about the topic, but let me tell you, this film doesn't pull a single punch.

The film's opening is perhaps its strongest point, if you ignore the fact that it does take a little bit of time to settle down into the main body of the screenplay. It makes it clear from the start that it's not about to be a Islamic, political or any other sort of satire. We see the future hijackers praying to timeless and universal backdrops, totally contrasted then by the billboards of 'God Bless America' and the industrial scenes of highways and skyscrapers. It's a clever method used to open the film, reminding us that the hijackers had a goal and that the reasons were there; of course, the rest of the film is deticated to unconditionally condemning the way in which they went about it, and rightly so. However, the film maintains its objective stance by never de-humanising the attackers, making them sweat, get stressed and show fear. Had Greengrass decided to make the hijackers a group of souless monsters, soley driven by their interpretation of their religion, the film would have undoubtably lost all credibility, and failed miserably.

Another way in which Greengrass maintains this feeling of realism is by keeping the cast low-key, using actors that are basically not known at all. In this case it wasn't just a clever method, it was an entirely essential element; had he gone the path of Oliver Stone and his absolutely atrocious looking World Trade Centre, the film, again, would have utterly fallen on its face.

But less about how it stayed good, and more about how it got that way. With Paul Greengrass (The Bourne Supremacy, The Bourne Ultimatum (preproduction)) in the director's chair, I was expecting a very fast paced film, and certainly one that kept you on the edge. If you don't feel butterflies at any point then you're missing something, because the tension both inside and outside the plane is so heart-pounding it seems impossible not to. The film is brutally realistic, the epitomy of 'emotionally raw'. When the hijackers take the plane, stabbing at random and screaming it's probably the closest feeling to the actual situation that you could get sitting in a cinema.

Perhaps one of the most relieving parts of the way the film is made is that it is totally void of any kind of overpowering music sounding in the background as they stand up to face the hijackers or American flags fluttering in the background at the film's credits. The film doesn't even put a huge emotional emphasis on the passengers' saying their goodbyes, something it could have very easily done to try and force the tears from the viewer; the film's great like that, it never tries to patronise or cliche its way into your mind. It doesn't need to.

United 93 is a truly over-powering film, even without use of any obvious attempts to evoke a response. Why it would be pulled from any cinema is beyond me; sure, it has the potential to seriously upset some people, but then again that's part of the point. All it is doing is telling the story, dedicating it to their memory, but without pointing any fingers or telling anyone off. If you could overlook the slightly slow beginning, this is a true demostration of how a film should be made. Fantastic in almost every way, and you'll be realising it when it's shaking you to the very core.

4from5
–Out of Five–

X-Men: The Last Stand

May 31, 2006 at 8:29 am | Posted in Reviews | Leave a comment

"They wish to cure us! Well I say we are the cure!"——————–
The Good: Predictably amazing effects, along with some nice set pieces to boot….
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The Bad: …Which never seem to merge into a comfertable whole. Horrible script, and one that never settles down. Brian Singer is certainly missed in the directing chair.
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X-Men: The Last Stand is unlikely to be the final installment of the X-Men film franchise. With a Wolverine spin-off already announced and it smashing the box office (absolutely obliterating The Da Vinci Code), Fox are certainly more than likely to fund a fourth.

It takes up almost exactly where X-Men II left off with Jean Grey, the psychic love interest of
Logan, still buried under 40 tonnes of water, and Cyclops still mourning her apparent demise. Professor Xavier is also still trying to thwart Magneto’s attempts at harming the human race. Now however, the tide is turning. A mutant ‘cure’ has been developed, and Jean Grey lives again as ‘The Phoenix’, a mutant with ‘fury that this world has never witnessed’. It’s up to the X-Men to stop Magneto from using her power against the human race.

The whole team’s back, Hugh Jackman as Wolverine, Halle Berry playing storm, Patrick Stewart’s back in the wheel-chair as Xavier, and Magneto is played by the ever grand Iain McKellen. A fine cast, star studded you could say, yet it’s useless having a competent cast when they’re reading from a script that appears as if it was written by an infant on Ritalin. The script takes off early on, with a couple of flashbacks and phony action sequence, and it never, ever settles. The whole film feels like a series of set pieces and emphatic events thrown together in an attempt to amaze. Whilst it does do so quite frequently, with some lines that just get away with not being cheesy and the odd subtly thrilling moment, it never accomplishes a sense of entirety, and ultimately fails.

Don’t get me wrong though, the performances are generally admirable; the characters are given a satisfying comic-book aura as they are in the other X-Men films, but you can’t help but feel it was partially due to the previous films, and not down to the characterisation in this one. On the subject of characterisation, there were areas where some interesting development would have been possible (mainly in the mutant, Angel), but the horribly disorientated script doesn’t allow for it.

But that’s enough bashing of the film, because as a whole it isn’t that bad. At the base it’s very entertaining, and at the end of the day, that’s the film’s ultimate goal. There’s also a fair bit of decent discussion in it, but nothing that goes past what’s already been set out by the other two films.

With a really, really bad script, the only thing that salvages the film is the fact that there have been two before it, and that the actors are able to sustain the constant action. This film feels like the end of a story, not a tale in itself. Perhaps that was the aim. but with the finale of the film, and with the immense box office success it’s achieved, it’s almost certainly not going to be the last stand after all.


–Out of Five–

Re-Assessments: Bond

May 6, 2006 at 9:47 am | Posted in Reviews | 6 Comments

I hadn't spared many thought for the new Bond film. Upon news of the saga's supposed 're-invention' and Daniel Craig taking up the role I abandoned all hope. I remained in this status of semi-mourning over a ruined franchise…Until recently…and then it hit me.

The franchise has not been ruined by the new film that is coming out. It was older films like Tomorrow Never Dies and Die Another Day that desecrated the series that many have come to know and love. I've actually decided I was quite hypocritical in complaining about their apparent new style, when the old formula took a run and jump so long ago.

So it is in the year of the 'New Bond' (even although the film is a re-make of Casino Royale) that I have a new outlook. But why you ask? It was this morning on the TV when the new teaser caught my eye; not having seen it all, I went to the ever trusty Google which threw up an official site with the teaser tagged to it. After watching fully, it would be a plain lie to say that I didn't like it.

However, it would also be a plain lie to say that, despite all my disparaging comments and snide remarks, Daniel Craig isn't as much as a misfit as I first thought. Looking at films such as Munich and Road to Perdition you could forgive anyone for saying he's not a Bond…But in the new trailer it's not so bad…In fact, I might even be pressured into saying that he does look the part. Call me a hypocrit…but opinions change.
Perhaps it was the 're-invention' statement being a bit bold. Whilst they say no to gadgets and one liners, the music is still there, apparently the Bond girl is too (tut-tut, he should really get married), so the series should retain at least part of its solidarity.

What I think is an excellent teaser can be viewed from the official site on Media Player or Quicktime. Give it a go.

Film hits the cinema November 17th, 2006.

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P.S. You will seldom see me eat my own words as much as you have in this post.

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