30 October 2010

The Expendables but real actors!

Red – Robert Schwentke

Based on a very famous graphic novel series, which i haven’t read, Red sees a group of retired but extremely dangerous people going on one last heave-ho to dispel the facts about being “out of the game”. That’s where RED comes from, Retired Extremely Dangerous, and it stars a wonderful array of stars, which would make The Expendables blush because of the quality. With leads from Bruce Willis, Morgan Freeman, John Malkovich, Helen Mirren and Brian Cox, it’s an epic line up which feels like a summer action film but released in October. It doesn’t quite fit and nor does the film. The feel of the film is something along the same lines of The Losers, over-the-top action, some great actors staring but it seems to be falling back on their past history, not pushing themselves into new heights like most comic books have done. And i think that’s the difference between a graphic novel and a comic book. A comic book has many series with one character, changing its form, its history and its future but with a graphic novel, just a small series with a linear narrative as their isn’t many copies of the same story but changed, there is only one. And with the images being the vivid and strange that is, it’s hard to get those images and place them into moving ones. Look at 300 and The Watchmen for instance, to try and stay close to the source material is crazy so the films come off jaded and feeling shallow. Red has the same error but luckily the shallowness doesn’t stop me from enjoying the film.

Following Frank Moses, an ex-CIA agent who after going into retirement is attacked by men who are openly trying to kill him and he goes on a search to find out who has been trying to kill him and if people who near back in the service are dead too. After finding a connection with a woman through phone calls, he goes to meet her and they soon find a bond which sees them going to find out how each of Frank’s friends are doing. With Mirren, Freeman, Malkovich and Cox providing interesting characters with Malkovich stealing every scene he is in. A quality actor who i could watch for hours and hours and he steals the show from Willis who is Bruce Willis, he doesn’t play anyone else and i enjoy him for that. Throw in action scenes, shoot outs, and interesting fight sequences and you’ve got a good action film for the summer, not great, but good. It does better than The Losers in not being too over the top and comical with its action but it does the job.

I enjoyed several aspects about the film but you will feel empty after watching it as it has nothing going for it. Oh and for the trekkie fans, the doctor McCoy is the villain. Yes, he actually plays it well.


Simon Childs

Dan Stafford Reviews:

The Xcerts:

Murray Mcleod – Guitar/Vocals
Jordan Smith – Bass
Tom Heron – Drums

The Xcerts are a promising new indie band from Aberdeen. Since their formation in 2001, they have been making music that they describe as ‘distorted pop’ – a kind of music that blends the fun sound of mainstream indie with the crunch of heavier rock.

Their 2010 album, Scatterbrain, seamlessly plugs of the gap between faceless indie pop and carefree, edgy alt rock. This is perhaps best demonstrated by infectious yet frantic guitarwork of the lead single Slackerpop, and the atmospheric excess of the title track, Scatterbrain. While both songs are typically what you would expect from a band trying to appeal to a wide fanbase, it would be a mistake to say that The Xcerts’ only merit lies in having an ear for a catchy tune – there is enough quality and variation in the songwriting to mean that the disc is good for more than one spin, and the band remains credible enough for the most part to be more than just a guilty pleasure. The credit for this undoubtedly goes to guitarist Murray Mcleod, whose trademark guitarwork makes for the hook filled yet pleasantly heavy listening experience found in songs like Carnival Time or Hurt With Me. Perhaps the most noteworthy aspect of his playing is the ability to weave soft chords and leads into his rhythm playing to create a satisfyingly full sound, which is often a challenge for bands with no second guitarist. This edge is reinforced by his passionate, accented vocal delivery which owes as much to Brand New as it sounds like Biffy Clyro. Nevertheless, he proves to be a versatile vocalist, making use of screams and effects to add to the band’s heavier moments while retaining the influence of chart indie in his voice. This is best shown in the melancholic Distant Memories which contains several long, soft passages, allowing crooning to take precedence over the distorted screams of other songs.

Unfortunately the vocal style is not is not the only comparison to Brand New that can be made– one major criticism of the album is that many of the songs sound like they could reasonably have been b-sides from the Daisy sessions – highlighting the band’s inability to merge their influences into a unique sound. This is perhaps most obvious in songs like Scatterbrain and He Sinks, He Sleeps - he could easily be mistaken for a Scottish Jessie Lacey in either.

Similarly, the bass playing of Jordan Smith follows this pattern. His use of overdrive at times lends a heavy nod to Brand New’s sound which does nothing to differentiate The Xcerts from their competition. It would good to hear him take the lead, as he does in Gum, which would add an extra dimension to the band’s overall sound. On the contrary, drummer Tom Heron’s contribution is powerful but dancey, reinforcing the band’s indie roots but emphasising a considerable rock influence, and perhaps should gain far more recognition for his work in the band than he does at present.

This album is remarkable in the way it manages to retain both a pop and heavy rock influence without compromising the positive aspects of either sound. As such it is a good album, showcasing an able band with plenty of potential. However this is all. The band has yet to carve themselves a niche (which doesn’t sound like Brand New) which will allow them to become more than just ‘promising youngersters.’

The Xcerts’ Scatterbrain – 3.5/5

Dan Stafford

26 October 2010

The Harry Potter Retrospective: Part III

The Prisoner of Azkaban – Alfonso CuarĂ³n

Here the retrospective starts to get interesting as we hit the first film that really launched the series from being just a money making machine for children into a decent film series with great direction and taking the source material and making a piece of art. Cuaron’s direction here is sublime and you really feel the sense of danger and the pacing of the film that sets it off compared to the past two films. The first two films were the bases of the whole franchise, they needed to draw the audience and numbers in and then just make them purr with delight, here they take what they know and what they’ve seen and put into a bin. They abandon the traits of the first two and just make a really decent film that would be a standalone product. Of course using parts from the Chamber of Secrets like the location, the characters, the humour, but the art style, the editing, the camerawork, even the lighting here is darker and sleeker. More money being pumped into production? Perhaps. Writers finally figuring out to place the best parts into the film to please the fans? Maybe. Having a better director with a sense of style and flair that takes the best parts and moves them into a new starting level for the series? Defiantly. Also being one of my favourite books of the collection, the team have done well to keep to the source material, and when it’s the best, you kinda have to. The dark plot, the villains and the twists give it a fresh look and feel but at the same time still has the childish sensibility in its characters, placing mere children in great danger and somehow succeeding through growing intelligence and sometimes luck. Plus throw in one of the best characters of the whole series, Sirius Black, who may become your favourite too.

The plot is great compared to the standard and obtuse affair with the first two with the gang finding themselves being surrounded by Death Eaters, the dementors of the Harry Potter series, who literally suck the life out of you. A killer from the high-level security wizard prison Azkaban has escaped, and everyone is on high alert, considering his connection to being on the same side as Lord Voldemort. His connection to Harry is clouded in mystery in the beginning but by the end of it, you’ll realise his significance in the whole series. Along the way, he meets a new defence against the dark arts teacher, Remus Lupin, a friend of James Potter and the gang, who is also a werewolf. The end twenty minutes is wonderful, with a great twist and a great pace which never lets up. Everything leading up to it feels right, with Potter being both torn in how he is treated and how he wants to be treated. To be the boy who lived is a hard feat and to be famous for something he can’t undo is beginning to show. All of the main characters, and some sub characters show they sign of growth in hair and face, but the attitudes still hold the same. Harry still is lost in a world he only knew about two years ago, Ron is still picked on for his heritage and his hormones begin to trouble him, plus his jealously issues, and then we have Hermione, the know-it-all who is hell-bent on doing every class and succeeding whilst at the same time, having her friends back and saving their lives, on more than one occasion.

A great film with some great sequences and wonderful art direction, this is one of my favourites and probably is yours too, but don’t hold your horses just yet, as the action packed next film, The Goblet of Fire is one of the best all rounded piece of the series, so look forward to that soon.

Simon Childs

Double cross the double cross

The Disappearance of Alice Creed – J Blakeson

An original idea sometimes comes rarely at the movies, with rehashed scripts and films that are either sequels, prequels, remakes or all of that jazz so when a film comes along with an idea they you may have not seen in a long time or something new entirely, it’s a breath of fresh air. Along with this, imagine it to be relatively interesting with some good performances and a good pace and you’ve got The Disappearance of Alice Creed. A British, thriller film starring the beautiful Gemma Arterton, and the surprisingly psycho and weird Martin Compston and Eddie Marsan who kidnap the wonderful Arterton. It’s a rare mix of excitement and terrifying to think if this really happened, what you would really do, you throw yourself into the main character role and imagine what you would do. Once i had seen the trailer, it did have me interested in how this would end up, and when it finally arrived on DVD, i knew i had to find it out and watch it. And thankfully, i was right, it’s a decent watch with a good story, it may be predictable where you think you’ll know where it will go and it does seem at times similar to other films you’ve seen but the way it’s shot and the script it gives it a push into a great British film. The performances will be remembered, and you’ll remember these actors who will probably go onto massive things like Arterton has done staring in Prince of Persia and The Clash of the Titans.

The plot revolves around Alice Creed, the girl from the title of the film who is kidnapped by Danny and Vic who use Alice to get a large amount of money from Alice’s father. But unfortunately the plan doesn’t quite go to plan with Danny and Alice having a past even though Vic and Danny are lovers. It’s complicated but in a good way in how these relationships unfolds throughout the film through little instances. Starring only three people, each character is fleshed out well through small mannerisms and the detail there is very cool and you’ll notice the looks, the little movement patterns and you’ll appreciate it. All set in one flat, the grimy look of the flat works well with the story and some of the actions that Alice is made to do will make you squirm in your seat.

Don’t watch with loved ones, there are sex scenes and nudity. It will make you feel uncomfortable. I will now, every film i review give you a heads up if it’s okay to watch with family or not, because i hate when films just pop up with a rape scene or something worse. It ruins the mood. And i’m looking at you, The Pacific!


Simon Childs

May the force be with you!

Fanboys – Kyle Newman

The original trilogy of the famous Space Opera epic Star Wars has induced some of the best memories for many people from wearing the ridiculous outfits at Halloween to watching the films in a marathon night drinking away with friends. We all have our favourite bits and favourite characters; some may know certain lines or sequences in particularly. But i promise you, everyone enjoys Star Wars episodes 4 to 6. It’s a shame that can’t be said for episodes 1 to 3, the new trilogy. Featuring some of the worst acting, the worst action sequences and a large amount of off putting CGI effects, it lost its heart whilst stabbing the old fans in the back. Many of you may say that Revenge of the Sith was much better than the rest, and i totally agree but it’s nowhere near the quality of the original trilogy. And some of the memories are bad such as Jar-Jar Binks, the “death” like figure who came into the film and touched stuff which instantly made it shit. Or you could blame Lucas for thinking of money or profit and many other reasons. But looking at the excitement of the Star Wars clan making a new film about the franchise, many were hungry to find out more about the characters we love and to know about the origins of some of them. So here we are. Fanboys, a film about a group of friends who go on a trek to Lucas’s home to find an early copy of Phantom Menace. Throw in great comedic characters, some awesome Star Wars references, strange but hilarious cameos and a multi-character job by Seth Rogen, and you’ve got a great funny but hearty film about friendship without being too over-the-top.

Following the story of Eric, Linus, Hutch, Windows and Zoe as they take a trip across the country towards the Skywalker ranch to watch The Phantom Menace early copy. Eric, following given his Father’s car lot business and turning into an adult decides to join Linus, Hutch and Windows as they pull together to plan the trip because of Linus being diagnosed by cancer. Along the way Zoe and Windows realise their romance whilst they hopelessly make it to Skywalker ranch. Throw in loads of cameos from Carrie Fisher and Billy Dee Williams from the original Star Wars films that will make you laugh along with well known actors and celebrities such as Jason Mewes, Kevin Smith, Danny R. McBride, Ray Park, Craig Robinson, Ethan Suplee, Lou Taylor Pucci, Will Forte, Danny Trejo and William Shatner, all contributing to a hilarious film that deserves your viewing.

And even having Seth Rogen play a couple of characters, he really shows how funny he can be just tearing up scenes and going along with the costumes and make up he’s clearly been made to wear. Defiantly a good watch with friends which will make you remember those Star Wars moments.


Simon Childs

The Killer that needs to kill the inside of me...

The Killer Inside Me – Michael Winterbottom

A film that appears in your face ready to punch you the fuck out, The Killer Inside Me is pure brutality, some realistic shit that just goes to show what a human is capable of. Starting off quite innocently, it slowly turns into something entirely different, which will catch you off guard but it may sway you to turn it off. And i recommend you do, it’s a horrible, over-the-top murderous film where rape and the beating of woman are justified because a man had a bad upbringing and he may be a little unsettled. It has some decent performances but because of how dark and low the film continually is, there’s no hope, just darkness. Directed by the famous Michael Winterbottom, a man not shy from showing honest and truthful stories, a man remembered for the film, 9 Songs showing real sexual intercourse, here Winterbottom explores the human mind through violence and sexuality. But this seems he’s Hollywood start of his career, mostly making British films before to smaller audiences, it seems as though this was his break through effort and sadly it doesn’t work. As mentioned before, the performances are okay, with Casey Affleck being stone cold fucking strange, as creepy as he slowly progresses through the film covering up his mistakes.

Casey Affleck plays Sheriff Lou Ford in a small Texas town where he seems to lead a very normal and boring life until his, what he calls, “sickness” reappears which leads to Ford becoming a sociopath, killing and raping anyone who gets in his way. Through the use of flashbacks, we see where this illness comes from, where the fucked up childhood might have had something to do with it. Along the way, the more he kills and rapes, the more he must cover up leading to leaks and suspicions about his behaviour. The film steadily builds up, throwing more tension and more anguish when all i really want is the film to end and for Ford to be killed. It’s only rare i want this to happen, but here, i want it to happen within the first 20 minutes of the film. Just someone kill him, please!

It lacks heart and soul which literally slowly takes away from yours, only watch in a depressing mood and don’t watch with loved ones or on a date. It will ruin any relationship you have. I promise!


Simon Childs