8 January 2010

An Acid trip whilst watching The Blue Man Group

Avatar - James Cameron

Just to start off I did watch Avatar a few weeks ago and I’ve just come around to reviewing it so it’s gonna sound a little off in places. But overall, it’s outstanding. A film that will revolutionise cinema. And recently, entertainment, with news that TV’s made in 2010 will all be 3-D possible. An achievement along the lines of the first film with sound, colour and widescreen. It’s up there with HD viewing. All thanks to James Cameron and his dream. Many years it took to make Avatar, inventing new types of filmmaking equipment to produce a quality piece of cinema. And many years to come before a big film like Avatar will be made.

The story is complex and for that Cameron gives the audience the courtesy of knowing this. He doesn’t hold back, he doesn’t dumb down. It’s something unseen recently with big action films, even science fiction action like this. The story takes place in the future where valuable sources are running thin and a company, the one owned by Parker Selfridge, the corporate administrator for the RDA mining operation (played by Giovanni Ribisi), has led an army and scientists to Pandora, a huge planet with the habitable creatures named the Na’vi. The homeland of these creatures contains invaluable material which the company want and need but the Na’vi will not give up. Throughout the years, scientists have tried to integrate with these creatures but have failed until they produce an avatar. A body which a human can control that’s in the form of a Na’vi. Sam Worthington plays one of these avatars’, Jake Sully, a former marine, who after the loss of his legs and brother, takes over the duties of being the controller of a Na’vi and begins to integrate with the creatures to help them move away from the invaluable materials and not cause any harm. After Sam falls in love with one of the Na’vi, he begins to understand their way of life, whilst Miles Quaritch, a security contractor who heads the mining operation's security detail, wants to blow the whole place up just to grab what is his, his fat pay-check. After some lovely action sequences with wild creatures, and Sam learning to become “one” of the them, shit hits the fan when the army general bombs
the city centre of the Na’vi, killing thousands. Sam must then decide if he is a part of the Na’vi or on the army’s side. I won’t give away the ending, but it’s pretty obvious what happens.

One gripe I have with it, which I can’t give it it’s 9, is its lead actor Sam Worthington. A great actor perhaps, but seeing him in both Terminator Salvation and Avatar, I don’t think he is ready to lead a film. In the scale of actors who can front a film, he is closely behind Chris Pine, someone on the cusp of stardom, a little push, more range involved, he can be the next Christian Bale or Jake Gyllenhaal. The film does have an emotional pull which does draw you in, certain scenes near the end with deaths of main characters, it shocks and it pulls at the heart strings. This film changed cinema, and I think that’s great, but on the scale of science fiction films, looking at this and District 9, for the amount of money spent on District 9 compared to Avatar, I still believe that District 9 is a better film. More enjoyable. But the 3-D aspect of Avatar is worthwhile, I would defiantly check it out for something you’ve never seen before and the way the detail in every shot astounds the experience, you can almost hear the gasp of the shots of Pandora.


If you like this, you'll love this: District 9, Titantic, Alien, Star Wars, The Dark Knight, Star Trek

Simon Childs

7 January 2010

Little Girls with Guns and Certifiably Insane Teenagers with Delusions of Grandeur: An Early Review of “Kick-Ass”

In the early days of November 2009 I received a phone call from a friend of mine, who was enthusiastically telling me that he had just received two tickets to a special preview screening of this year’s latest comic book adaptation, “Kick-Ass”. My friend, knowing full well a) how much I love comic books, b) how much I enjoy Mark Millar’s work (the writer of the Kick-Ass comic book) and c) how much I love the Kick-Ass comic book, decided to invite me along with him to the screening after he was approached in Forbidden Planet (the branch in Central London is the veritable mother ship of comic book stores in the UK) by a man with a clipboard simply giving the aforementioned tickets away. It appears my friend owes me a debt of gratitude after I immersed him into the world of comics, a debt that has now been paid in full! Even though I was at University at the time, mid-week, I still got a train over to London to see this bad boy – and man, was it worth it. Escorted into a BAFTA screening room near Piccadilly Circus, seated with around 70 of the similarly-approached public, with Hollywood execs being escorted in behind us, I was thoroughly gripped by the excitement of it all – this being my first preview screening.

Before I go into my opinion of the almost-finished cut of the film I saw, let me first introduce the brief history of the co
mic book, its writer and its fast track to the big screen. Currently only on it’s 7th issue, the first issue of Kick-Ass was released in April 2008 – for a comic this young to already be a feature film is unheard of. Unless, of course, the writer of the comic is Mark Millar, a Scottish-born writer whose other creator-owned work, Wanted, has been turned into the very successful film starring Angelina Jolie. When “Wanted” was a hit at the box office, Hollywood started going crazy for a number of other Mark Millar projects – the first to be completed, “Kick-Ass”.

Directed by Matthew Vaughn, of “Layer Cake” and “Stardust” fame, and starring relative newcomer Aaron Johnson (who can currently be seen in the John Lennon in-his-youth film “Nowhere Boy”, garnering rave reviews) alongside Nicholas Cage and a current favourite of mine, Mark Strong – this film knocked my ruddy socks off. The story centers around your average comic book reading American teenager, Dave Lizewski. Dave has suddenly found himself asking why no one has ever tried to be a superhero like in the comics, to which his answer is to buy a wetsuitand start prowling the streets dealing out his own brand of justice. His name? “Kick-Ass”. Of course, the irony of the situation is that it is he who gets his ass kicked, more often than not, what with having no training or outstanding physical strength. Along the way he gets caught up in the dealings of a mobster (Mark Strong) and his son (Christopher Mintz-Plasse), and two other vigilantes, named Big Daddy (Nicholas Cage) and Hit-Girl (the revelation that is Chloe Moretz). Violence, hilarity and genuine awesomeness ensue. I won’t give away too much of the story, as I don’t really need to.

What I will tell you is that Aaron Johnson is one to watch. Unlike a lot of other British teenagers, he can actually act – and not only that, but he can put on a thoroughly convincing American accent. Not an easy feat, as even Ray Winstone had trouble with that in “The Departed”. Johnson is entirely believable as one of those archetypal, Peter Parker high school nobodies, which makes for a nice change of pace when one of those archetypal, Peter Parker
high school nobodies finally gets fed up and decides to stop being a victim. Of course, the results are less than desirable for the character, but as entertainment, it’s, well... entertaining! It was also an easy pill for me to swallow – there’s got to be someone out there crazy enough to put on a costume and go out there and get his ass kicked.

Nicholas Cage turns in one of his better roles in recent years, as the certifiable ex-cop out for vengeance against the mob, but the real star of the show is Chloe Moretz as Hit-Girl, Cage’s character’s 11-year old daughter who he trains to fight crime alongside him. She has a lot of attitude, uses a lot of bad language, and kicks a lot of ass. It’s just insanely fun to watch a little girl kick, stab, shoot and punch her way through an endless supply of generic gangsters. Trust me, she’s probably the best bit of the film. Moretz is an insanely talented actor – I recently rewatched “(500) Days of Summer”, where she popped up as Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s wise-beyond-her-years little sister, a role she was great in.

There isn’t really anything more to say of the directing than the fact that it’s just good. Nothing really special; Vaughn does the job and does it well. Although, the use of a
lot of bright colours really gives the whole affair a very tongue-in-cheek feel. There is one standout scene that I won’t ruin here, but it is very well constructed, in which Hit-Girl is attempting to rescue Big Daddy and Kick-Ass – I can say no more, but it’s awesomely done (even if Cage slightly hams up the acting).

The interesting thing I found about this not-as-yet-finished cut of the film was the soundtrack. I wasn’t sure if the soundtrack had not yet been composed, or if this was the way the film was meant to be – but instead of its own score, it had the well-known theme songs of a lot of other superhero and genre films. I recognised the themes from “Superman”, “Spider-Man”, “The Dark Knight”, and “28 Days Later”. The thing is, it worked really, really well. Because of the idea that this kid is so influenced by the comic books that he reads that he decides to become one, so too is the film so influenced by other superhero/genre films that it uses the well-known songs from them too. It’s awesome to watch Hit-Girl jump around killing bad guys to the Hans Zimmer “Dark Knight” theme. I’m hoping they keep it that way when the release date rolls around in April.

The story moves along at a breakneck pace, culminating in a very cool shootout in the mobster’s penthouse apartment that needs to be seen to be believed. What’s notable is the animated origin story of Big Daddy and Hit-Girl, drawn in the style of John Romita, Jr – the legendary comic book artist who pencils the comic. Clearly influenced by the scene in “Kill Bill” before it, the version I saw was not yet completed (probably the only part of the film that didn’t look finished) so I can’t really comment. It did, however, look awesome, even in its principle stages.

One distraction was Christopher Mintz-Plasse (Fogel/McLovin from “Superbad”). The character he plays, Chris D’Amico, is v
ery different from his iteration from the comics. In the film, he is very slapsticky; almost a joke character. Which, I guess I kinda expect as it is McLovin. I would’ve liked to see whoever plays Chris D’Amico (and his alter ego... Red Mist) be a little bit more badass, a better foil for Dave Lizewski. But at this stage, it’s nitpicking, as the character still kind of works in the context of the film. It just works better in the comics.

As for fans of the comics, you have nothing to worry about – the film is very faithful, up to a point, and the point at which they take it in another direction works. Let’s not forget, this is a film – not a comic. It can’t be exactly the same, and the creative liberties they have taken (which Mark Millar signed off on) are entirely understandable. They’re not even that drastic – I mean, we still have Hit-Girl calling some hoodlums “c*nts” and then killing them all with samurai swords, for chrissakes.

VERDICT: 4 asses kicked out of 5! Check it out when it’s released all over the world on the 16th of April! Don’t take your kids.

ALSO SEE: Any comic book movie ever made. “Kick-Ass” is, after all, a loving tribute to all of them.


Dan Woburn

6 January 2010

This Is Sparta!...wait, no, it isn't, it's more like Brixton

The Ugly Truth - Robert Luketic

The truth hurts, and for this film, the truth about to told may hurt as much as it did to watch. First and foremost, I’m partial to certain romance films, The Notebook for instance, a brilliantly told story which is funny and enjoyable, most recently, unusual romantic films like (500) Days of Summer and Lars and The Real Girl, different in their approach, but great. This film hurts so much it made me want to actually go out, find a pack of sharks, place lasers on their heads (very similar to the scene in Austin Powers) and dump pretty much all of the people involved into the tank, to see them get ripped limb from limb. Yes, it hurt that much. Well except for Gerald Butler. He seems kinda badass. I like him, but not in this film. His terrible accent does not go down well.

It was obvious from the start, two good looking leads, both on the different spectrum of relationships, one more about sex, the other about love. Butler plays a man who talks about the “truth” of relationships with women and about how to be treated; Heigl plays a producer on the show, who at first hates him, but then uses his advice to woo a man. Simple as. It was clear that these two would end up together, it would of really changed everything if Butler just turned into his character in 300 right at the end and rampaged everyone on screen. Now I would personally fund that film, just Butler crashing through walls, killing people with his bare hands as everyone is crying and screaming for help. With maybe the soundtrack of Katy Perry in the background. As the lyrics for Hot N’ Cold match up with the action, it would send me into a fit of happiness.

Now the soundtrack also hurt me alot. It’s a simple formula, include tracks people know, gain interest, and in the romantic scenes have slower indie songs that emit emotions like The Fray or One Republic. I was surprised no James Morrison, James Blunt or Paolo Nutini was played. I was expecting it. And even worse, the song for the credits. Now imp a music fan, I like to think I’m “with” it, but seriously, Flo-rida? That song come out like two years or something ridiculous, been used in countless films and televisions shows. It almost made me throw up in anger.

Overall, this film is dreadful. I would suggest watching it though for laughs, it’s so bad it’s good. Many films don’t do that, but this is bad. I can see it instantly being on sale for £3 in HMV. Buy it for girlfriends or ex-girlfriends. If she says she loves it, dump her, please. She needs to learn about good cinema and good filmmaking. Heigl and Butler are good actors, no doubt, Heigl did great in Knocked Up, and Grey’s Anatomy, and Butler with 300, even Reign of Fire, plus I’m looking forward to seeing Gamer and Law Abiding Citizen, I like Butler as the action hero, not the guy in romance films, the rugged fella who woos the stuck ladies by being rude. It doesn’t suit him. So please, stay away from this film, only if you want to use it as a way to get into your unlucky girlfriends dirty knickers, then all means, plough through.


If you like this, you'll love: A Cinderella Story, Cruel Intentions, any modern day romantic film staring reasonable decent actors who do the film for money only.


Simon Childs

5 January 2010

Trailer Watch II

6th January - 13th January

Here are another batch of trailers that have been released recently. Check them out.

1. Robin Hood

2. Legion

3. Princess and the Frog

4. Kick-ass

5. Greenberg

Simon Childs

Letters From The Film Front

Sherlock Holmes - Guy Ritchie

What have we come to expect from Hollywood’s remakes of classic characters? Often we shield our eyes, and close our ears, lest our favourite literary characters be torn asunder by the wham, bam, thank you maam ways of glittering west coast producers. Since this film is full of A list celebrities and a range of window leaping, exploding, punching action you could be expected to write Sherlock Holmes off as bland and unimaginative. But you’d be wrong.

Sure, stuff explodes and they spend a lot of the film talking about magic and the mystery solution is wrapped up in about 2 minutes, but for sheer eccentric, full body acting you cannot beat Robert Downey Jr’s portrayal of Holmes. Armed with a thick accent and a wardrobe full of white rags, Downey Jr steps into the role of arrogant genius, both flawed with fragility and strengthened by his rationality and plays it throughout. It is however, a shame that Jude Law stepped into the role of John Watson, who, though an excellent foil for Holmes, could have been played by anyone really.

Also disappointing was the epilogue, essentially the ending 10 minutes of the film, which see’s Holmes’ introduction to the malevolent Professor Moriarty (Who became Holmes’ rival throughout the book series). In an industry where sequels seem inevitable, it still seems hackneyed to insist on such a blatant set up and gives the film a clumsy feeling at the finish. Upon leaving the cinema, the feeling of closure that comes with the mystery’s solution fade, only to be left with impatience for the next film which, rather than being titillating, is irritating.

Likewise is the relationship between Holmes and his criminal ex-fiancé (Irene Adler), played by Rachel Mcadams; Once again a character as large and elaborate as Holmes seems to overshadow Adler even more so than Watson, which is unfortunate because her acting (for what the character demands) works.

The jokes, while mainly slapstick or insulting one liners are enhanced by Holmes’ arrogance, and my one complaint is that Downey sometimes speaks his lines so fast it made my brain hurt. The fight scenes are imaginative and, frankly, plentiful. And for what it’s worth, the voice over narration of Holmes’ process made the whole experience believable and human. It allowed for Guy Richie’s fighting, biting Holmes to mix with Conan Doyle’s methodical genius.

Let’s wrap things up. It’s a good film; the acting is carried by Downey Jr, the writing is witty enough to be engaging, and smart enough to feel authentic. It’s no Oscar winner and it won’t make you feel like you’re in Victorian London, but if you fancy a break from vampires in love or blue people at war then it’s a good way to spend an evening.

Rating (if you’re into that kind of thing) – 7.5/10



4 January 2010

Coming Soon: District 10 - Now It’s Personal!

District 9 – Neill Blomkamp

It would be pretty easy to make several South African jokes about the accent and try to put quotes in about the way he speaks, but I’m not going to swoop to that level now. I loved this film, along with many others who have made it their top of the year and given it great reviews. It beat a lot of massive budget films to top prizes and it deserves to. Made for a small amount of money ($30 million), it has helped the film industry to once again realise, that money can’t buy success, much like the Manchester City football club (zing).

Set around the ups and downs of Wikus, a human set in the world where aliens exist and have landed in South Africa, where after many years have lived in a boxed off area named District 9. Following Wikus as he works for a company named MMU, he sets about trying to evict the aliens from their slums into a new area, but unfortunately for him becomes diseased from a black spray which rapidly turns him into one of the creatures ,or “prawns”. The performance by the unknown actor Sharlto Copley is brilliant because of his likeability, he isn’t some dick who thinks he owns the film and all the attention must be on him. And considering all of his dialogue is not scripted and improvised its real acting and real cinema.

The movie starts off with a mockumentary style we’ve all seen, almost like an alien version of spinal tap. The MMU members joking around are intercut with interviews with various fake people with high positions. This style quickly changes once Wikus is attacked by the black spray. It becomes a science fiction-heavy, action-loaded movie with a spectacular shift in pace which I was first dazed by but feel in love with. You’ll quickly become in affection for the aliens, once you lose the whole, face like a prawn, weirdness about them. In this film, they are not the bad guys; they are not spitting acid at pregnant people, or ripping through people in jungles or make small children ride bicycles all day long.

What I also quite enjoy about the film is the themes of racism and xenophobia. It’s not done in a tacky way which makes you hate the film even more; it’s down in a sensible, emotional way, which does affect the audience, especially with the abuse to Christopher, the creature who helps Wikus throughout the film. The connections between this and Cloverfield are going to happen with science fiction films being lead into a different path. This was bound to happen, using the same linear structure, using the same techniques have become boring, three films that have changed this is Star Trek, Cloverfield and District 9. The lead up to the ending is some of the best cinema I’ve seen for years, I defiantly recommend checking it out. I hope there is a sequel, just not called District 10.


If you like this, you'll love: Cloverfield, Star Trek, Aliens, Them


Simon Childs