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fatpie42 -

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    Excellent article on Io9 explains the different styles that the Doctor Who show came to have over the course of its history.

    It makes a lot of sense and it's really interesting to think how these different elements came to be mixed and matched in order to shape the show as we see it today. It's also good to see some recognition given to the quality of storytelling during Ace's run as the Doctor's companion.

    Dalek: "Small human female sighted on level three."
    Ace: "Who are you calling small?"
    *Smashes up Dalek with baseball bat enhanced by the power of the Hand of Omega*

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    Roger Ebert has some seriously weird views on movies. I just discovered yesterday that he is one of only two reviewers who disliked "Priscilla, Queen of the Desert". On top of that, while he liked Submarine, he seems to have rather disturbingly decided that we are supposed to like the obnoxious main character. I was annoyed that a few reviewers disliked the movie because the main character was horrible, but I'm frankly disturbed that someone should like the movie because they think the main character is endearing and loveable.

    Just to confim that I'm not off the mark with my description of the main character, here are some selections from the wikipedia article on the movie:

    Oliver Tate (Roberts) is a 15 year-old Swansea boy who is convinced that he is an unrivaled genius who is widely loved by his classmates, when in fact he is pretentious and socially alienated.
    And further down:
    an example of his unintentionally cruel and incompetent social methods
    Oliver Tate isn't evil. He's just weak-willed, selfish and generally pathetic. Now let's look at what Ebert had to say:
    True, he rather mistreats Jordana Bevan (Yasmin Paige), a girl in his school, but he immediately regrets that pushing incident, and besides, awkward boys sometimes mask tenderness with roughhouse.
    The only excuse for his mistreatment of Jordana (and sucky one at that) is the horrible way she treats him beforehand. The two of them work together to bully a girl at their school.

    [Edit: When Ebert refers to "the pushing incident" he is referring to something that happened to a completely different girl to Jordana. He is talking about Zoe, a girl that Oliver and Jordana bully together. Can Ebert not tell characters apart in the movies he watches, because that's a pretty major error he's made there?]

    It turns out that Ebert has excuses for Jordana's actions too:
    Jordana understands this, and a great many other things about adolescent boys. For example, she knows some of them need leadership. or they will stew forever in self-doubt.
    So the way she sadistically burns the protagonist's leg hairs or the way she intentionally gets him beaten up as part of a plan to piss off her ex, should be interpreted as a reaction to our protagonist's need for leadership. Goodness knows he might be overcome by self-doubt if her ex didn't put him in a headlock and force him to call himself a "gaylord" in front of a mob of his peers.
    She isn't a tart, nor is she any more experienced than Oliver, but she's more confident.
    I think this is supposed to be a compliment, but it's a little worrying how "tart" in this context appears to translate to "someone who has already had sex". I need to highlight a few bits from this next quote in bold:
    [The] purpose I think is to capture that delicate moment in some adolescent lives when idealism and trust lead to tentative experiments. Because Craig Roberts and Yasmin Paige are enormously likable in their roles, they win our sympathy and make us realize that too many movies about younger teenagers are filtered through the sensibility of more weathered minds.
    I cannot believe that we could possibly have watched the same movie.

    Other Reviewers
    Most other reviewers do seem to recognise that Oliver Tate is being intentionally depicted with major character flaws, but a few seem to rather underplay this aspect. For example one reviewer describes Oliver as "a vulnerable, fallible soul" and talks of how he "receives a potent education on the nuances of life, challenging his insular ways when real emotions invade his privacy". I'm not sure what is behind this desire to dress Oliver up as some kind of victim.
    This next reviewer is similarly subtle on the point. This quote suggests that they might have actually bought into Oliver's unreliable narration, but yet the way they phrase it makes it hard to see how they could have missed the significance:
    "Oliver is a clever-enough lad, which means he’s bullied. But he’s not among the ranks of the unpopular at his school in Wales. It’s just that “In many ways, I prefer my own company.”"
    "I prefer my own company" naturally translates as "I have trouble making friends". As does, they only bully me because I'm clever. Though actually the amount of bullying we see Oliver succumbing to is pretty limited. This last review from William Goss seems rather vague on whether they recognise how horrible the main characters are until they describe the ending. Unsurprisingly this is a SPOILER so if you click scroll further down you will see my SPOILER quote from them.

    SPOILER below:

    ______________________SPOILER for Submarine below this line _______________________________SPOILER

    The film ends with a tender moment between two characters on a beach, as each decides whether they’re looking into the face of someone willing to hold their hand and venture into the depths of whatever lies ahead.
    That's quite an odd way to describe a girl daring a boy to get his legs absolutely drenched in freezing cold water while she stands with the water line comfortably above her wellies. The only reason this indicates that they are going to be staying together is because Jordana remembers how much she likes to torment Oliver. Describing that as a "tender moment" preparing to "venture into the depths of whatever lies ahead" is misleading at best.

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    The promise of ‘Ghostbusters 3′ is that we get to hand the equipment and the franchise down to new blood -because my character, Ray, is now blind in one eye, can’t drive the Cadillac, has a bad hip, a bad knee, can’t pick up the [proton pack] – Egon is too large to get into the harness – so we need young blood. And that’s the promise: we’re going to hand it to a new generation.
    Sorry hang on, that's not a promise you make to me. That's promise you make to the studios who want tons more Ghostbusters sequels with a new cast. The people asking for a Ghostbusters 3 don't want to see "a new generation". They want to see the old cast back at it.

    What kind of promise is it, to tell us that our beloved characters are going to be unable to use the Ghostbusting equipment? To me that's the equivalent of saying "hey, don't bother".

    And it gets worse:
    Ah yes, we will be doing the movie, and hopefully with Mr. Murray – that is our hope. We have an excellent script, and what we have to remember is that Ghostbusters is kind of bigger than any one component. ...the concept is bigger than an individual role.
    In other words, Bill Murray might be thinking the same thing I am. And I'm sorry, but without Bill Murray you might as well cancel the whole thing. Ernie Hudson seems fed up with being asked about Ghostbusters 3, though he wants to be involved. Ernie still isn't convinced it's happening since apparently he hasn't seen anyone putting up the money (by which I presume he means that the acting contracts haven't been sorted out yet).

    (Via Screenrant)

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  • 08/26/11--13:30: Well that was a surprise...

  • The Shadow Line - Episode 1

    I thought this was supposed to be fantastic British TV? A while back I was rather unimpressed by the series Luther, but the writing didn't feel as hackneyed in that and the characters were far more engaging than anything in this.

    Here are some of the elements that bugged me:
    - Bad guys who speak like they're in a bad Guy Ritchie movie.
    - A female character who gives another officer a seriously hard time for simply doing his job (he was checking an ID ffs!) because she's "feisty".
    - Dialogue that sounds like its intended for the audience rather than a genuine conversation.
    - Mother of a murder victim who spells out the obvious slowly and clearly for us, presumably to show how distraut she finds the news. This comes across as annoying rather than heart-wrenching.
    - Information provided disorientatingly slowly at some points and condescendingly quickly at others.
    - The most ridiculously unrealistic press conference I have ever seen. When "Sherlock" seems more realistic than your ultra-serious gritty police drama, it might be time to rethink things a bit.
    - Christopher Ecclestone. Look we all remember how good he was in "Cracker" and "Shallow Grave", but that was a long time ago and I think he might have lost it. Sure he was alright in Doctor Who, but he wasn't anything special. I think the really bad moment for his career was when Nicolas Cage out-acted him in "Gone in Sixty Seconds".

    Okay, to be quite frank I think the main problem with this series is the writing. Whoever wrote this cannot do dialogue. And please tell me this isn't getting another series. I want Chiwetel Ejiofor to make better use of his time. He's wasted in this.

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  • 08/26/11--16:29: "Great Scott!"
  • Apparently this is an advert for an Argentinian electronics chain called Garbarino, but that's not really what interest me in this video. Check it out!

    Yes, that's really Christopher Lloyd.

    (Video link)

    (Via Topless Robot)

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    Edit: On Moviebuffs Myrrhmade posted a really good article on this issue, so I thought I'd include a link here.

    Statement from the Association of Black Women Historians:
    On behalf of the Association of Black Women Historians (ABWH), this statement provides historical context to address widespread stereotyping presented in both the film and novel version of The Help. The book has sold over three million copies, and heavy promotion of the movie will ensure its success at the box office. Despite efforts to market the book and the film as a progressive story of triumph over racial injustice, The Help distorts, ignores, and trivializes the experiences of black domestic workers. We are specifically concerned about the representations of black life and the lack of attention given to sexual harassment and civil rights activism.

    During the 1960s, the era covered in The Help, legal segregation and economic inequalities limited black women's employment opportunities. Up to 90 per cent of working black women in the South labored as domestic servants in white homes. The Help’s representation of these women is a disappointing resurrection of Mammy—a mythical stereotype of black women who were compelled, either by slavery or segregation, to serve white families. Portrayed as asexual, loyal, and contented caretakers of whites, the caricature of Mammy allowed mainstream America to ignore the systemic racism that bound black women to back-breaking, low paying jobs where employers routinely exploited them. The popularity of this most recent iteration is troubling because it reveals a contemporary nostalgia for the days when a black woman could only hope to clean the White House rather than reside in it.

    Both versions of The Help also misrepresent African American speech and culture. Set in the South, the appropriate regional accent gives way to a child-like, over-exaggerated “black” dialect. In the  film, for example, the primary character, Aibileen, reassures a young white child that, “You is smat, you is kind, you is important.” In the book, black women refer to the Lord as the “Law,” an irreverent depiction of black vernacular. For centuries, black women and men have drawn strength from their community institutions. The black family, in particular provided support and the validation of personhood necessary to stand against adversity. We do not recognize the black community described in The Help where most of the black male characters are depicted as drunkards, abusive, or absent. Such distorted images are misleading and do not represent the historical realities of black masculinity and manhood.

    Furthermore, African American domestic workers often suffered sexual harassment as well as physical and verbal abuse in the homes of white employers. For example, a recently discovered letter written by Civil Rights activist Rosa Parks indicates that she, like many black domestic workers, lived under the threat and sometimes reality of sexual assault. The film, on the other hand, makes light of black women’s fears and vulnerabilities turning them into moments of comic relief.

    Similarly, the film is woefully silent on the rich and vibrant history of black Civil Rights activists in Mississippi. Granted, the assassination of Medgar Evers, the first Mississippi based field secretary of the NAACP, gets some attention. However, Evers’ assassination sends Jackson’s black community frantically scurrying into the streets in utter chaos and disorganized confusion—a far cry from the courage demonstrated by the black men and women who continued his fight. Portraying the most dangerous racists in 1960s Mississippi as a group of attractive, well dressed, society women, while ignoring the  reign of terror perpetuated by the Ku Klux Klan and the White Citizens Council, limits racial injustice to individual acts of meanness.

    We respect the stellar performances of the African American actresses in this film. Indeed, this statement is in no way a criticism of their talent. It is, however, an attempt to provide context for this popular rendition of black life in the Jim Crow South. In the end, The Help is not a story about the millions of hardworking and dignified black women who labored in white homes to support their families and communities. Rather, it is the coming-of-age story of a white protagonist, who uses myths about the lives of black women to make sense of her own. The Association of Black Women Historians finds it unacceptable for either this book or this film to strip black women’s lives of historical accuracy for the sake of entertainment.

    Ida E. Jones is National Director of ABWH and Assistant Curator at Howard University.
    Daina Ramey Berry, Tiffany M. Gill, and Kali Nicole Gross are Lifetime Members of ABWH and Associate Professors at the University of Texas at Austin.
    Janice Sumler-Edmond is a Lifetime Member of ABWH and is a Professorat Huston-Tillotson University.

    (Via "And We Shall March")
    X- posted to moviebuffs
    Another article for more information on this issue.

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    Every time I complain that a blockbuster movie is directorially dumb, or insultingly scripted, or crappily acted, or artistically barren, I get a torrent of emails from alleged mainstream-movie lovers complaining that I (as a snotty critic) am applying highbrow criteria that cannot and should not be applied to good old undemanding blockbuster entertainment. I am not alone in this; every critic worth their salt has been lectured about their distance from the demands of "popular cinema", or has been told that their views are somehow elitist and out of touch (and if you haven't been told this then you are not a critic, you are a "showbiz correspondent"). This has become the shrieking refrain of 21st-century film (anti)culture – the idea that critics are just too clever for their own good, have seen too many movies to know what the average punter wants, and are therefore sorely unqualified to pass judgment on the popcorn fodder that "real" cinema-goers demand from the movies.

    This is baloney – and worse, it is pernicious baloney peddled by people who are only interested in money and don't give a damn about cinema. The problem with movies today is not that "real" cinema-goers love garbage while critics only like poncy foreign language arthouse fare. The problem is that we've all learned to tolerate a level of overpaid, institutionalised corporate dreadfulness that no one actually likes but everyone meekly accepts because we've all been told that blockbuster movies have to be stupid to survive. Being intelligent will cause them to become unpopular. Duh! The more money you spend, the dumb and dumberer you have to be. You know the drill: no one went broke underestimating the public intelligence. That's just how it is, OK?

    Well, actually, no.

    Click here for the full article

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    The basic gist of the year so far is that the only films I've thought were absolutely fantastic are "Source Code", "Submarine" and "Kung Fu
    Panda 2". Which one do you think will win "Best Picture" at the Oscars? :P

    Okay, so the real contenders don't come until later, so I thought I'd check out what was still to come. I was surprised to
    see that I'm actually really excited about a lot of different movies which are all coming to cinemas in the UK this year. Unfortunately I'm

    not sure that this is going to make me terribly pleased with the year as a whole.

    Then again, there are 18 titles on this list (though the last three are kind of "honourable mentions" since they don't actually have a release date for the UK yet). See what you think. The full list is on imdb here if you want links.)

    The Troll Hunter
    : 09/09/2011

    The trailer reminds me of the trailer for "Rare Exports" which a lot of people seemed pretty impressed with. It just looks like great fun, if not high art.

    Oscar? Hardly. Wrong sort of movie, I'd have thought.

    Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy
    : 16/09/2011

    Absolutely massive cast of fantastic British actors and the director of "Let The Right One In".

    Oscar? Very possibly!

    : 23/09/2011

    The director of the Pusher trilogy. His previous film was the rather overly arty "Valhalla Rising" about Vikings who sail to America. However, "Drive" seems to be a return to form. Ryan Gosling, star of "Lars and the Real Girl", is in the starring role. "Drive" is currently on a 9.0 on imdb which is a pretty promising sign. I'm hearing very excitingly positive stuff about this one and I can't wait. The Pusher movie series just seemed to get better and better, so if this is Nicolas Winding Refn on a good day, it's worth keeping your eyes peeled.

    Oscar? Very possibly!

    Red State
    : 30/09/2011

    Okay, I wasn't at all sure about this. Kevin Smith has seemed to be going massively downhill as a director for a while now. However, when the trailer turned out to be pretty much an action movie with John Goodman shouting "you wanted simple sir? Well simple just s**t itself!", I strangely found myself interested all of a sudden. Apparently Tarantino loves this movie. Admittedly Kevin Smith did once say that films like Reservoir Dogs inspired him to believe that he could make movies, so perhaps it isn't so surprising to see him doing something with some echoes of Tarantino to it. The trailer makes me excited, but trailers are often misleading. Still, not much more to go on right now.

    Oscar? Probably not, but who knows?

    : 07/10/2011

    Paddy Considine has a go at directing. I've loved Paddy Considine for a while now. He's probably best known as the Guardian journalist who gets himself killed in The Bourne Ultimatum. I absolutely loved his leading performance in the Shane Meadows movie "Dead Man's Shoes" and his recent comedic performance in "Submarine" was incredible. Now he's trying his hand at directing with the talents of Olivia Colman and Eddie Marsan to draw from and I can't help but feel that this is going to be incredible. The bad side? It's about a woman who's being domestically abused. Still, it's about how she's going to get herself out of it, so hopefully it won't just leave us completely stuck with gloom and doom (but then again, with this subject matter isn't that inevitable?).

    Oscar? Well...
    Positive: It's about a serious topic and it's most likely very very good.
    Negative: No one's heard of it.
    ....yeah, probably no Oscar.

    Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark
    : 07/10/2011

    Guillermo's involved in the creature stuff and this is getting hyped up quite a bit. However, it's not Guillermo directing and his involvement doesn't guarantee a good movie. There've already been some reviews and they aren't really glowing. Still, I'm really intrigued by this.

    Oscar? I doubt it.

    Another Earth
    : 07/12/2011

    I'm not so sure about this release date, but as a science fiction fan I'm intrigued by the premise. An identical Earth suddenly appears and issues are raised. That's about all I know and all I need to know right now. Still, while I'm hearing good things, the preference seems to be for the other Brit Marling movie (further down the list) "Sound Of My Voice". Still, after loving "Source Code" so much, I think I'm ready for another intelligent sci-fi movie.

    Oscar? Presumably as much chance as Source Code if it's good. How much chance does Source Code have though?

    The Adventures of Tintin
    : 26/10/2011

    Less impressed because of the Tintin character of Spielberg directing and more impressed by the "fantasy writing team" of Stephen Moffat (Coupling, Sherlock, Doctor Who) Edgar Wright (Spaced, Hot Fuzz, Shaun of the Dead) and Joe Cornish (Attack The Block). Wow. Just wow. Also with Jamie Bell (Billy Elliot, The Eagle) in the starring role and Andy Serkis, Daniel Craig and Simon Pegg also starring, I doubt I'll be able to stay away from this one.

    Oscar? Well, Pixar has been failing to win an Oscar with films like Wall-E and Up in previous years, but if the competition isn't up to much and the writing is as good as it promises to be this could be in with a chance. Perhaps.

    In Time
    : 01/11/2011

    After Justin Timberlake proved himself by being pretty much the best thing in "The Social Network", perhaps it wasn't surprising to see him getting signed up for a starring role. Andrew Niccol is no stranger to quality sci-fi having written "The Truman Show" and "Gattaca" (the latter of which he directed). While "S1m0ne" is a spectacularly horrendous blight on his record, the same cannot be said for "Lord of War" which knocked my socks off. It's been widely noted that the "In Time" trailer appears to give away rather more details than we might want it to, but the basic gist is that this is a science fiction Robin Hood story. In a future where people no longer age past 25 and from then on trade their lifespan rather than money, Justin Timberlake decides to try to infiltrate an elite who wish to make themselves immortal at the expense of the rest of humanity. Other actors in this include: Vincent Kartheiser (Connor from "Angel"), Johnny Galecki (Leonard from "The Big Bang Theory") and Cillian Murphy (Batman Begins, 28 Days Later).

    Oscar? Probably the wrong sort of movie. Looks a bit too action-y.

    : 11/11/2011

    From the director Tarsem Singh. His first movie had a very interesting visual style and involved a strange new sci-fi psychology where special technology allows an individual to explore inside someone's mind. The technique was being used on a serial killer's mind. The movie was probably most held back because it starred Jennifer Lopez, but I remember it being pretty impressive overall. More recently he made the excellent "The Fall" which involved bringing the inside of a child's mind to life as she is told a story by a manipulative patient in the same hospital.

    Now finally he is producing an epic based on Greek mythology and everyone's saying that it looks like a copy of 300. Ironically "300" was based on Tarsem Singh's own style. Still, asides from Mickey Rourke as the bad guy, I can't say that the cast is really jumping out at me. Also, this is frankly looking like Tarsem Singh's least visually interesting movie (though that's still pretty visually impressive all the same). I'm probably more excited than the marketing so far really warrants, but I can't help it. Not only am I actually really impressed by the trailer, but this isn't a director who I'm expecting to let me down.

    Oscar? Tarsem Singh's movies have consistently failed to gain wide appreciation and with its current reputation as a "300" clone, this is likely to follow a similar path. That's even ignoring that this is an action movie. I don't think it has a hope in hell, but I think I'm going to love this all the same.

    The Deep Blue Sea
    : 11/11/2011

    A while back Mark Kermode recommended a movie called "Of Time and the City". I don't think I'll ever watch it. The suggestion seemed to be that you need to care about the history of Liverpool and I simply don't. Plus it's a documentary and it's always harder to convince me to watch a documentary. Still, the director was Terence Davies and the recommendation of his previous movie served as sufficient to turn my head towards this more recent production. "The Deep Blue Sea" stars Tom Hiddlestone (Loki from "Thor) and Rachel Weisz (The Constant Gardener, The Fountain, Agora, About A Boy, The Mummy Returns). Okay so admittedly my main reason for being interested is Rachel Weisz who has proven more recently to be quite incredibly talented.

    Oscar? Who knows? Possibly. Then again, no one has heard of this thing!

    The Thing
    : 02/12/2011

    Okay, I'll admit it. The only reason I'm excited about this one is because I loved the original so much. Now we've seen a trailer, this does at least look like it'll be similar in style to the original. Sure, it looks like we'll be pretty much watching the exact same movie all over again (and probably not quite as well done), but the original was so fantastic that I'm not sure I'll mind watching a slightly impressive version of the same thing done all over again. (I won't be surprised to find myself eating those words in the not-so-distant future.) The director has done bugger all, the writer wrote the "Nighmare on Elm Street" remake and "Final Destination 5" ('nuff said), and frankly Mary Elizabeth Winstead's performance in "Scott Pilgrim" didn't give me the impression that, outside of playing characters who are distant, dismissive and condescending, she had a particular shiny acting career ahead of her. But yeah, it could surprise me....

    Oscar? Lol!

    The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo

    Following David Fincher's career has turned out to be a bit of a punishing experience of late, with "Social Network" leaving me with a bit of a "meh" feeling and "Zodiac" being impressively forgettable. To be honest, the bigger draw for this movie is probably Daniel Craig in an adaptation of Stieg Larsson's novel.

    Oscar? David Fincher has got close before. Yeah, probably.

    : 20/01/2012

    Ralph Fiennes directing. Film about Rome (apparently). Um, yeah sure. Looks cool. :)

    Oscar? No one's heard of it so, um, perhaps?

    : 20/01/2012

    Stephen Soderbergh does an action movie with a female heroine. Female action stars haven't been doing great recently. "Colombiana" already has some pretty poor responses. As much as I loved "Tomb Raider", "Mr and Mrs Smith" and "Salt" Angelina Jolie doesn't seem to be convincing audiences for the most part. Milla Jovovich's work seems to have turned into the female equivalent of Jean Claude Van Damme, starring mainly in the kind of schlock which only appears to have avoided going straight-to-DVD by some kind of miracle. (I actually really like Milla Jovovich as an actress, but that just makes it all the sadder to see her appearing in nonsense like "The Fourth Kind".) Still, this time the action hero is an actress with a background in martial arts: Gina Carano. Backed up by Ewan McGregor and , Michael Fassbender and Michael Douglas, this is shaping up to be pretty impressive. As far as Soderbergh projects go, I'm much more keen on checking this out rather than Soderbergh's other project: "Contagion".

    Oscar? An action movie, so probably not.

    "Honourable Mentions"

    Sound Of My Voice

    The other Brit Marling movie (other than "Another Earth" mentioned above). A story about journalists who try to infiltrate a bizarre cult. From what I've heard, it's the better Brit Marling movie, but it's also the Brit Marling movie we may never see. *sulks*


    I mainly want to see this because it sounds bizarre. Opinions seem to be quite strongly divided on this one, but so far it only seems to have been shown at film festivals. Two friends are fitting out a special weaponised car and waiting for a global apocalypse so they can use it (seems to be the basic gist). Please let me see it!

    J. Edgar

    The latest movie from Clint Eastwood and starring Matt Damon, so I'm sure we'll hear about it eventually. But why haven't I heard about this
    already. Biopics aren't always great, but Clint Eastwood normally gives us something a little bit special so I think there's reason to be hopeful. But when will the marketing start eh?

    So... anyone got any other movie recommendations?
    What do you think about this selection?

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    The Guard (2011)

    While I was intrigued by claims that this was somehow linked with "In Bruges", possibly the best movie of 2008, it turns out the link is somewhat tenuous. The writer and director is the brother of the guy who wrote and directed "In Bruges". Nevertheless, that means that they have similar influences.

    Also, "The Guard" has a leading actor in common with "In Bruges" and that is, of course, the wonderful Brendan Gleeson. Brendan Gleeson is one of those actors who can't really put a foot wrong. In Perrier's Bounty, he seemed to be the only actor who could transcend the by-the-numbers plodding material he was working despite having co-stars like Cillian Murphy and Jim Broadbent. In 28 Days Later, the movie goes downhill pretty much the moment his character disappears from the scene. Coincidence? I think not! And let's also not forget that Gleeson was by far the best thing in the fourth Harry Potter movie.

    But who else is in this movie then? Well there's Mark Strong, Liam Cunningham and Fionnula Flanagan (even if you don't recognise these names, you are sure to know them when you see them). However, there's also an American actor here: Don Cheadle. I love Don Cheadle. As well as starring in "Traffic" and "Hotel Rwanda" and having a neat little cameo in "Rush Hour 2", I also found he provided the only bearable performances in "Boogie Nights" and "Crash". Don cheadle unsurprisingly plays a 'fish out of water' character as the FBI agent who is unfamiliar with the workings of the Irish "Garda" (or "Guard").

    Don Cheadle plays an FBI officer who has come to Galway in Ireland to make a massive drugs bust. Unfortunately he's underestimated cultural differences and corruption, not to mention general apathy. Like with Edgar Wright's "Hot Fuzz", ideas about to handle major crimes mainly seem to come from movies. Gleeson plays Sergeant Boyle in the Galway Garda, a policeman who has become particularly apathetic about his job. Boyle's ideals are far more limited than those of Don Cheadle's FBI agent, but they find themselves working together all the same. That's about all of the plot I can really afford to reveal, but trust me there's a great deal more to the story than that.

    Stylistically you can expect something pretty similar to "In Bruges". There's dark humour right from the start and the setting is put to excellent use both in the filming and in the storyline. (Though I do wonder how people who actually live in Galway feel about this film.) Jokes are made liberally about police corruption, racism, bestiality and so on, without a dud in the bunch. The movie even draws on the IRA for humour, with Pat Shortt (the guy from "Father Ted" with the 'I shot Jr' t-shirt) turning up as a former IRA man.

    The plot ends up coming together rather nicely and this is a fantastic piece of entertainment. So I guess the question now is: Which is better? "In Bruges" or "The Guard". I'd have to say that "In Bruges" is a rather more beautiful film. However, in terms of humour I actually think that "The Guard" is funnier. There was a seriousness to "In Bruges" which is missing here which on the one hand allows "The Guard" to pack in more laughs, but on the other hand makes it a little less soulful. That being said, "The Guard" still has some really heartfelt and touching moments all the same.

    Heck, comparing "The Guard" to "In Bruges" is somewhat like comparing "Schindler's List" to "Lawrence of Arabia". There comes a point where a comparison is just unfair. They're both brilliant movies which with emotional depth and the kind of black humour that'll have you laughing your head off. After a while of feeling rather down-hearted about this year's movies I think the tide may have turned because, as of right now, this is my favourite movie of 2011.

    A+ (Excellent)

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    "The Power Is Mine, Bitches!"

    (Video link)

    Anyone Not Seen This Amazing "Portal" Movie Yet?

    (Video link)

    "Are You Man Enough For All This F***ing Tea?!"

    (Video link)

    I Love Zombie Musicals :)

    (Video link)

    Best Powerpuff Girls Episode Ever...

    (Video link)

    "If You Don't Want To Piss Off God Remember..."

    (Video link)

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    The Extraordinary Adventures of Adele Blanc-Sec (2010)

    First of all, this is best described as "Amelie" meets "Raiders of the Lost Ark". Nevertheless, I think all viewers of this need to be prepared for the nearly alienating insanity of this movie.

    Put it this way, within the early stages of the movie you will see a pterodactyl egg hatching. Sounds pretty cool right? Well then you'll discover that it's linked to a scientist whose research concerned the possibility of life after death. So what, it's a zombie pterodactyl? Well yeah, essentially. And yes, if you think about it you'll realise that there wouldn't be anything left of the pterodactyl to act as a zombie and it looks far too healthy considering its age. This is the sort of thing that is going to bug you for the entire runtime if you worry about it too much.

    But don't be too concerned, the movie does eventually sort out some kind of internal logic. On a second watch the movie is improved because the audience has a better idea of how they ought to best approach the movie and thankfully the fun bits are still just as fun a second time around. You might then not be so concerned as to why a tomb would expect to have an entrance and an exit, why all animals seem to understand arabic or why a pterodactyl would become emotional over the eating of a chicken egg.

    Another reason this movie benefits from a second watch is that it decides to introduce about seven different characters briskly and in quite a lot of detail, one after the other in the opening scene, before finally coming to introduce our eponymous protagonist. As we know from Tetris, that's pretty much as many different items as our brain is really going to manage and with a coach driver to worry about too, you are likely to find yourself forgetting many of the details. Fortunately the characters are all charismatic enough to make themselves quite well-known when they turn up properly a fair bit later on.

    So, the movie is exciting, funny, pretty, sweet and just generally good fun. I've already read off pretty much all the negative points I can. (Well actually I could list more logic jumps but, as I said, that would be somewhat missing the point.) The lead actress is really sweet while also being a commanding and charismatic figure, like a female Sherlock Holmes.

    I've been a big fan of Luc Besson for a while now and it's a big relief to find that he's returned to his old style. His latest movie prior to this was "Angel-A"; a very self-involved film with a contrived plot and a deus ex machina ending. That said, "Adele Blanc-Sec" isn't as dark as his movies in the past. "Leon" had Gary Oldman's ultra-malicious figure, "The Fifth Element" had a ball of pure evil and "Joan of Arc: The Messenger" had some ultra-ruthless English soldiers, the fickle French royalty and Joan of Arc's own personal demons embodied in the form of Dustin Hoffman. Luc Besson's perhaps most fondly remembered movie is "Nikita" which begins with a bunch of criminals, one of whom is casually dragging a dead body. So yes, this is a more happy and jolly movie than perhaps Besson's previous work was, but this isn't obviously a bad thing.

    You'll laugh, you'll gasp and you'll often scratch your head, but one thing you most certainly won't be is bored. Apparently this was released in the cinema, but I can't say I saw it anywhere near me (which perhaps explains why the DVD is already available to rent). However, in a year filled with spectacular blockbusters, this manages to be that little bit more satisfying than most.

    A-   (Excellent, but possibly not quite the best)

    Meek's Cutoff (2010)

    Gorgeously shot. Always a bad sign when that's one of the main things to say about a movie. If you are admiring the scenery, the likelihood is that you are bored. "Lawrence of Arabia" isn't exactly fast-paced, but it still has a great deal more to focus on than the scenery.

    The story is that a guide called "Meek" appears to be lost and the rest of those travelling with him are considering killing him because his guidance seems little better than guesswork they could do themselves. Part way through the journey they come across an Indian (i.e. native American) and questions are posed about what the Indian might want with them and how they should respond to him.

    Not only is all of this ridiculously slow paced with little in the way of background music to keep the audience from falling asleep, but the camera often doesn't even bother to capture the face of the particular character who is mumbling their lines at any one point. As such, I found it quite hard to keep a track of who was saying what to whom, never mind what any of it actually meant.

    Until the Indian turns up, the movie is deathly dull. When he turns up the movie starts to become somewhat watchable, but the pacing doesn't really quicken at that stage.

    Oh and the image on the poster of a woman hefting a shotgun menacingly which gives the impression that this might be somewhat interesting comes about ten minutes before the end of the movie. It is probably the most interesting part of the whole movie, but the build-up is simply not worth it.

    The ending of the movie feels abrupt, but this is mainly because so little actually happened during the movie's run-time. In a rather more engaging movie this might have been a really impressive ending, but in this movie I just felt like it hadn't done enough to earn it.

    Y'know how some movies have a really bad ending that let's them down? Well this has a really bad start and middle which let's down an otherwise excellent ending.

    D-   (Not good and not at all entertaining)

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    Troll Hunter (2010)

    I had to make a special effort to find a cinema that was showing this one, but it was well worth it. "Troll Hunter" is Norwegian movie from the "found footage" genre. A group of students decide to make a documentary about the rise in bear deaths blamed on poachers. They follow a mysterious man who appears to be setting traps around the Norwegian valleys, trying to discover whether he is the poacher.

    It doesn't take a genius to work out what he's really setting traps for, what with having to pay for a ticket before seeing the movie. However, there are other aspects to this. How come no one believes in trolls? How do you go about hunting trolls in the first place? And are the trolls responsible for the bear deaths?

    Troll Hunter put me somewhat in mind of Gareth Edwards' movie "Monsters". The effects are simple and effective, yet mostly in the background. While the trolls don't look ultra convincing, that's part of the point really. They fully understand that when it comes to effects, a little can go a long way. BBC critic Mark Kermode has already compared the trolls in "Troll Hunter" to muppets, which is unsurprising when you consider what trolls are generally thought to look like:

    Left: A statue of a troll in Norway. Right: Typical picture of trolls.

    I do wonder about the more subtle effects than the CGI trolls (which I won't post here). I presume they weren't allowed to start chopping trees down for this movie, for example.

    "Troll Hunter" isn't simply about terrifying the audience (though you do fear for the characters quite often). It inevitably has a comedic element. The main character to be developed is the troll hunter himself, a rather stoic figure with hidden depths. The students are rather less developed though they are all clearly defined individuals. No matter how much or how little character each of them has, there's a great chemistry between them all.

    Unlike in "Monsters" where the monsters were barely ever on screen, here we see the trolls fairly often. Still, the dialogue in between the troll sightings ensures that the mythology is consistently built up and we are always excited about the next appearance.

    With scientific explanations for the behaviour of trolls (such as turning to stone in sunlight), some neat gadgets and tools used in troll hunting (such as a suit of armour) and some odd working practices (like using a bucket full of Christian blood to lure out the troll) make for very fun movie. As good as the effects and the actors are, perhaps the most impressive thing about the movie is the level of invention that has gone into it. You couldn't replace the trolls with giants or goblins. The story centres around the troll mythology of Norway and turns out to be fertile ground for mythology-building.

    I amused myself after the showing with the idea that Americans might make a remake of this, because the idea seemed absurd. If American tourists or journalists discover the troll hunter rather than a group of local students, it doesn't seem clear how the story could play out the same way. What's more, if you relocate the story to an English speaking country then the troll mythology will be misplaced. The location of the story is vital to the whole concept. Yet this hasn't stopped plans for an English-language remake by Chris Columbus. I suppose when there are trailers for "Troll Hunter" that seem to deliberately avoid including dialogue, it just goes to show that subtitles are seen as film marketing poison.

    Finally one more thing I ought to mention is that as well as being the home of troll mythology, the Norwegian setting is also absolutely gorgeous. The valleys in which the troll hunting take place are absolutely stunning. Sometimes in the aftermath of a troll attack there are periods in the film where we get more of a chance to observe the scenery, after all the trolls only come out at night. Still, this isn't a case where you notice the scenery because the plot isn't sufficiently engaging. The views are so gorgeous that they would be difficult to ignore and as the movie progresses you find yourself looking at them more and more as the habitat of these mythological monsters rather than as cold empty landscapes.

    "Troll Hunter" is certainly one of the best 'found-footage' movies I've seen. It makes full use of its setting, it has endearing characters, the comedy gives a knowing wink to the audience and the CGI effects are used effectively in the story to full dramatic effect. It's simply wonderful.

    A+ (Excellent)

    Other movies in the "found footage" genre.

    Actually I'm not sure why this is considered to be part of the genre. While its use of effects gives it a similar feel to "Troll Hunter", the only 'found footage' in the movie is in the first five minutes. Most of the story is told in typical filming style. Nevertheless, using real life damage from natural disasters and minimalistic effects, we get a very real foreboding sense of the (mostly unseen) monsters in the movie.

    A found-footage version of Godzilla set in New York with echoes of 9/11. Effects play a pretty big part in this movie and it's a good thing too, since we need something to distract us from the hugely irritating central characters. There's something rather special about the way the monster remains in the background for the most part and this really makes the movie stick with you. With some more endearing characters this could have been an all-time favourite.

    The Blair Witch Project
    While widely maligned, particularly after the initial buzz went away, this still remains the movie most associated with the 'found footage' genre in people's minds. 'Found footage' doesn't mean a lot to people, whereas 'in the style of The Blair Witch Project' tends to get rather more attention. I can't help but think of "Blair Witch Project" as a comedy, since it involves watching a bunch of people cr***ing themselves in fear in a wood. While the intention was probably for the audience to share rather more of the fear themselves, there are a few points, such as the leaf-eating scene, where the comedy must have been intentional. Also, I must admit that the ending scared me, even if didn't quite seem to justify the rest of the movie.

    Diary of the Dead
    George Romero decided to have a go at the found footage genre, but with a seemingly non-existent budget and a script written by an 8 year old this was a massive let down for Romero's fans. Amongst all the other problems, this also shared with Cloverfield the issue of "why are you still holding the camera?". Troll Hunter actually seems to have dealt with this quite well, though the camera seems to focus on other people's reactions rather a lot when personally I'd be rather more fixated on the monsters themselves. But back to "Diary of the Dead": If I was wandering around in a dark abandoned building in the middle of a zombie outbreak I might feel it was time to put down the camera. When I then run into a random guy looting the place who threatens me, I might think that having a camera in my hands is putting me at a distinct disadvantage. There's a big problem when making horror-themed "found footage" movies of explaining why anyone would still be carrying a camera when they are scared out of their minds. And with that in mind...

    As you can see in the trailer for REC2, some of the cameras are attached to helmets. However, the first REC movie has the camera being held by an ordinary journalist, so why does he keep filming when things get desperate? Well, it turns out that the camera can be a rather neat survival tool. It has it's own light so when the lights go out the camera can still light the way. And of course, when the worst comes to the worst, there's the night vision option. Still, now that REC2 has been released there's rather more reason to stick with the REC franchise than simply the found footage aspect. The REC movies have their own mythology and provide us with the most original take on the zombie genre since 28 days later. The difference being that while there isn't a lot of excitement at the possibility of a "28 Years Later" movie (what with neither Alex Garland or Danny Boyle playing any part in the first sequel), the original creators were still signed on for REC2 and had some interesting new directions to take the story. With REC Genesis and REC Apocalypsis on the way, this is probably the most exciting horror movie franchise out right now.

    Cannibal Holocaust
    Part of the video nasties scandal and widely recognised as being absolutely horrible, the "found footage" style actually got the director in trouble. The creators of the movie were brought into court and had to convince the jury that the footage in the movie wasn't depicting real life murder.That right there is both the reason to be interested in the movie and the reason not to ever watch it. Clearly not for the fait-hearted (and I'm pretty sure that includes me).

    Paranormal Activity
    Looks like a real 'whistle and bang' movie to me, but then again I'm basing that on the trailer which has several loud bangs at the same time as showing an audience freaking out. Add to that my general dislike of movies where ghosts seem to be able to do anything they want with no real rules or reason and I'm fairly convinced this isn't my sort of movie. That said, it's been hugely successful. Have I misjudged it?

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    The Descent (2005)

    I'd heard this recommended all over the place and I finally decided it was time to check it out. I guess that means we can call this a cult hit. The story involves several girls on a caving trip and... stuff goes wrong... to say the least.

    To be honest, I've always presumed that this would be one of those ones with whistling noises followed by bangs with that ARE YOU SCARED YET? style of horror. Also, though this was four years after "The Hole" I still couldn't help but compare them. Stupid kids get stuck down a hole and die. (I've admittedly never seen "The Hole" because I was put off by the horrific "teaser" trailer where one character outlines the various symptoms experienced during starvation while showing us the various trapped teenagers throwing up and groaning.)

    I don't know whether it's because my tastes have changed or whether it's because this didn't sink into that style. I suspect it's a mixture of the two. Certainly it had "made you jump!" scenes and there were screechy "you're scared aren't you?" noises, however not at the same time. The screechy noises purely for mood and not building up in the whistle-and-bang style. Also the bits that made me jump appeared to be caused by camera cuts rather than additional sound effects.

    I'd been told that the film had claustrophic effects, but then again I was told that about "Buried" and I really didn't have that issue with "Buried" at all. "The Descent" however, really has you squirming in your seat as you watch some of the scenes of them in the caves. I was seriously squirming as I watched them make their way through tiny gaps in the cave.

    Another thing was that the way the characters are developed. I was worried that this was going to be one of those movies where the most interesting thing about these characters is the order in which they die. As it was, they felt like real people. Sure some were more recognisable than others, but all of them interacted in a realistic way.

    It's at this point I need to make a little proviso. The beginning of the movie is not great. In order to push some of the drama later on we have a rather overly extravagant set-up when we could have had the same drama done much more simply. I'm realising that this paragraph must sound pretty odd to people who haven't seen the movie, but I don't want to give this away even if it does happen in the first ten minutes. Let's just say that something bad happens early on that might put some viewers in mind of the "Final Destination" movies. However, you shouldn't judge too quickly. Things get back on track soon enough.

    So what have I mentioned so far? Dodgy beginning, good character interaction and development, effective claustrophobic atmosphere, scary sound effects and camera cuts used without cheating. I'm not really sure what else to add, but let's put it this way: "The Thing" is one of my favourite horror movies because it created this amazing atmosphere of unease. Ironically it was criticised at the time for showing too much, but it wasn't what was onscreen that was scary. It was the general feel of the movie that got to me. I'd say that "The Descent" acheives the same effect and I think I'd actually put this on the same level as "The Thing".

    There's a reason that people keep mentioning this movie. It's one of the best horror movies of all time. A true classic.

    A+ (Excellent)

    (cross-posted to [info]candycorncomm)

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    There are two sides to every story, but sometimes one of those sides is mainly BS.

    With the recent story about France banning Muslim prayer my first reaction was that it was absurd. But then I thought about it...

    Sometimes people follow a particular route legally because it's an easier way to solve an issue. For example, if a particular area has a lot of drunken violence, the solution may be to limit the availability of late night drinking in the area. Pubs and bars might get upset because it isn't the simple selling of drink that caused the problem, but the fact is that limiting the movement and providing extra policing is a logistical nightmare whereas limiting the availability of alcohol in the area will provide a similar, or even better, resolution to the issue.

    So what's the practical issue that might be invovled with Muslim prayer? Well, it happens five times a day and here's an example of what's been happening due to insufficient space in a mosque:

    The no entry sign makes clear that they are doing this in the road. As such, it's no inconceivable that, at some time during the five occasions each day, five days a week, someone might be inconvenienced. It also might not be considered entirely helpful by local shop owners to have a crowd of men bent over outside several times each day.

    So why didn't the legislation reflect this? Well, I'll start off by admitting that I'm no law expert. However, I can imagine that finding specific people inconvenienced might make for a pretty flimsy case. With each case being judged in isolation, it would be unlikely to tackle the overall difficulty. Naturally you are on a slippery slope making laws against spending too long in the middle of the road. People inevitably have to cross the road on foot and sometimes getting out of the road isn't all that easy (such as if you've been hit by a car).

    So perhaps this is just a reasonable request by local shop owners and road users to deal with what they see as a rather absurd state of affairs?


    First of all, if that was the case, it's credibility is not helped by websites making comments like this.

    Hey France - How you like all those Mohammedans and their enormous families you let in? Great, huh? They sure do assimilate! I guess it'll be less than a century before your country is France-istan!
    (horrible link)

    get the flame throwers out, burn the stinkin murdering bastards while praying all at once – besides the prayer is all about death to the infidels anyway – give the rat a BBQ , allbeit rotten
    (horrible link)

    Would Christians be allowed to pray in the strrets of a MUSLIM Country?VIVA LA FRANCE.If Muslims don't like the LAWS in FRANCE. LEAVE
    (fairly horrible link - Daily Fail)

    ALL muslims that come on the streets to pray should be considered as a provocation to French society and we should deport them each back to their rat infested hell hole countries. LEAVE OUR BEAUTIFUL COUNTRIES ALONE AND GO BACK TO YOUR RAT INFESTED BREEDING GROUNDS, you losers...
    (nice link but horrible comment)

    In fact it's been rather difficult to find a view in support of this ban that doesn't sound like it comes from a member of Stormfront.

    Then there's a few other points to note:

    1) The ban appears to have come at short notice, suggesting a lack of engagement with the Muslim community on the issue.

    “We didn't receive any letters. We negotiated with the Paris Govenor's Office before June. But we didn't know that the ban would be put into effect this soon,” Mohamed Salah Hamza said, adding that most Muslims in France still do not know that they are not supposed to pray on the street ahead of this week's Friday prayer. He underscored that Muslims do not want to pray on streets and have demanded larger mosques.

    2) Barriers have been put in place to prevent Muslims from building places of worship to cater for their membership.

    French politicians use the country’s 1905 secularism law as reasoning why Muslims cannot be financially assisted by the government to build mosques. Right-wing mayors also allegedly refuse issuing construction permits to those who have the money.

    Then finally and most importantly:

    3) The French Muslim population keep bending over backwards to avoid a conflict. When Islamic dress (and, in the case of Christianity, "large crosses" *facepalm*) was banned from schools, Muslims had a hotline people could call if they were worried. They were reminded that following the law on the land was an important requirement for Muslims. Now that the nikab has been banned there hasn't been a violent backlash against that either. Now there's an effort to shove all the local Muslims into a disused fire station and make them pay a hefty sum for the privilege (with that space only available on Fridays) and the response has been (I kid you not) for the Imam to welcome people of all faiths.

    “I can say that all prayers outside the mosques are over. We have undertaken a commitment to the authorities that prayers in the streets are over, and that this room is open to everyone without excluding anybody from other religions,” said a local imam, Mohamed Saleh Hamza.

    Yes, Muslims are the only ones being banned from public prayer, but they happy to make their new private space a multi-faith zone. Now that's how you highlight injustice. Not integrating properly? Then how come they are sharing their worship space with non-Muslims in their community?

    Meanwhile far-right French politician Le Pen has described Muslim prayers in the streets as "an occupation". A term which suggests that he is comparing it to the Nazi occupation during the Second World War. Overreacting much?
    (Main Source: EuroNews)

    Muslims using the new space provided after the recent French ban on Muslim prayer.

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    Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (2011)

    What to say about this movie then? It's always awkward to review good movies and this one is tougher than most. There's so much involved and so many facets to it that I ended the movie wanting to watch it all over again. No mean feat for a movie with a running time stretching over 2 hours. However, the problem is that I really could do with having that second viewing before this review, but certainly don't have the income to justify it. Perhaps if I'd read the book from John Le Carre on which it is based or seen the TV adaptation starring Alec Guiness then perhaps I'd have followed the plot that little bit easier. On the other hand, I'd be going in with a lot of preconceptions which I was probably better off without.

    Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is a cold war spy story adapted from a novel by John Le Carre. While James Bond stories are escapist, this is much more true to life. If the spies are involved in car chases, they've failed. The focus is not on big action sequences, but on the deep levels of deception and mistrust involved in the job. What's more, much of the story takes place within Britain because the focus is on a mole amongst those in charge of British intelligence. The intelligence organisation is referred to as 'the circus'.

    Towards the beginning of the movie "Control" (played by John Hurt) is leaving the cirus and informs everyone that "Smiley" (played by Gary Oldman) will be leaving too. It's not clear that this has been decided in advance, so this seems to be essentially Smiley going into forced retirement. They leave the building in silence and as the other members of "the circus" are taking various positions on rooftops and the like, it seems like their departure is being carefully monitored. When they are outside Control and Smiley look at one another and I was expecting them to say something, but they just look in silence. Silent looks play a big part in this movie and when I re-watch this I have no doubt that those looks will take on a great deal more significance.

    Having left the circus, Smiley is asked by the government to investigate accusations of a mole in the circus. Smiley is reluctant to take on the role, but comes to realise the level of concern it had caused for Control because, in spite of being considered the one closest to Control, Smiley had never once been informed of his boss' suspicions.

    Needless to say, the cast is brilliant. It's needless to say because it's a major selling point on every single poster. What's perhaps more surprising is how prominently Benedict Cumberbatch (from "Sherlock") holds up amongst the arguably more heavyweight co-stars. While Gary Oldman is giving a more emotionally reserved performance, Benedict Cumberpatch, playing a younger and possibly somewhat less age-hardened spy, represents the heart of the film (at least initially). He has one of the more heart-breaking scenes in the piece, as well as a particularly tense scene where he steals files.

    I think it's important to mention some of the great appearances from figures not mentioned on the poster. Stephen Graham makes a pretty good impression. He uses his normal Liverpudlian accent, which was odd because it's probably the first time I've heard it. He's played a cockney in "Snatch" (as Tommy, Jason Statham's dim-witted sidekick), he has a regional midlands accent in "This Is England" (as a nationalist skinhead) and most recently a New Yorker accent in Martin Scorcese's "Boardwalk Empire" (playing Al Capone).  He doesn't have a big role, but he plays the part brilliantly.

    A lot of people on forums seem to be very pleased to see the return of Kathy Burke, probably best known for her work with Harry Enfield. She has a small serious role (though she still managed to make me laugh out loud with one humourous line). As one of the main stars of "Nil By Mouth", which Gary Oldman directed, the actors have a certain chemistry which makes it easy to imagine that they are old close friends.

    A much much smaller role which nevertheless had me gasping in surprise, was Konstantin Khabenskiy as Russian informant Polyakov. Khabenskiy starred as Anton in the movie adaptation of Segei Lukanenko's "Nightwatch". He's not on screen very long, but I think one of the benefits of the superb cast of TTSS is actors who can make a big impression in a slim timeframe.

    Meanwhile Tom Hardy and Mark Strong have a lot of screen time and do some great work in their positions outside of the upper echelons of the circus. But Colin Firth, Ciaran Hinds, David Dencik and Toby Jones are in a position where they are mainly out of reach and a lot of their acting has to be a great deal more subtle. A lot of their performances take place within flashbacks to times where the threat of a mole is not yet known. During these scenes every small glance can strike the audience as conspiratorial and, as you'd expect with the cold war, there is a sense of mistrust as a result of this too.

    Still, it's not all gloom and doom. They make interesting use of an old George Formby song "Mr. Wu's a window cleaner now" in a key bit of spy work. There's also a rather amusing scene at a Christmas(?) office party where the spies let off steam in a way that is particularly risque considering their role in the cold war against the Soviet Union. (Yep, I'm sticking to my "no spoilers" policy.)

    That said, the atmosphere is palpable. There is a almost grainy look to the film to give it a dated feel, but what's particularly interesting is how so many of the scenes seem to be filmed as if the audience is observing the action from the next room and it often made me wonder what person's eyeview we might be seeing it from. In some cases, there probably isn't any actual person who could be viewing the scene from that angle, but that doesn't really matter. In a sense, the audience are spying on these events.

    Atmosphere was a big factor in "Let The Right One In" as were subtle but effective performances. Another thing TTSS shares in common with LTROI is it's slow intro. The various aspects of the plot are put forward and it takes a while for it to come together, but Tomas Alfredson is not about to rush things. Alfredson describes the original novel as being like a crossword puzzle and the movie unfolds in a similar kind of way. There's a moment part way through the film where you suddenly realise that you are caught up with the story and the characters. This moment comes out of nowhere, slowly building from complete bafflement as the various story elements are slowly revealed.

    Alfredson knows when to march on with the story and when he can afford to slowly tease out the atmosphere. People who have seen LTROI and read the original book by John Lindqvist will know how Alfredson recognised that the most important thing to include in his adaption was the central relationship. In TTSS there are a lot of people relating to one another and once again Alfredson is keen to make clear the tensions between the characters.

    The film can feel confusing at times, it's not an "action-packed" spy movie and there's a lot of subtle detail to try to keep track of. However, the performances are as great as you would expect, the style is guaranteed to be unlike anything else you've seen this year, the confusing elements do resolve themselves by the end and this is undoubtedly a unique cinema-going experience. You are going to need to check this out and, if you are like me, you are definitely going to want to see it again on DVD.

    A+ (Excellent)

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  • 09/20/11--13:51: The Thing (2011 Prequel)

  • (video link)

    Okay, I'm actually really excited now. All the news about this movie has been pretty dismissive, but as each new trailer has given us more and more glimpses of the effects I'm been getting more and more interested. It looks like the new CGI is actually capturing the right look for the Thing. Sure, it probably won't be better than John Carpenter's version, but seeing as that is one of my favourite movies of all time, am I surprised?

    The fact is that The Thing really captured my imagination and the promise that I could get more of that magic is really hard for me to ignore.

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    Below are my reviews of "Fair Game", "Rango" and "A Screaming Man". Check it out.

    Fair Game (2010)

    Sean Penn's an odd sort of actor. I admittedly really enjoyed his performance in Milk, but I still reckon that he was upstaged by Dakota Fanning in "I am Sam". Here he's playing alongside Naomi Watts and she is clearly the better actor of the two, but she's never allowed to be the main character. Sean Penn is playing a politician and Naomi Watts is playing an Intelligence Operative. Her job sounds cooler, her performance is better, but for some reason the focus of the story is on the politician. Why? Well, because in the end this film is all about the politics. Basically, if you thought the politics was heavy-handed in "Green Zone", you ain't seen nothing yet.

    So now I'll try to be fair. There's nothing wrong with the performances, even if I don't think Sean Penn deserves to be the lead. Naomi Watts is brilliant and I really wish she had a bit more to actually do. A notably effective performance was from David Andrews playing the part of Scooter Libby. He's possibly most well-known for being Catherine Brewster's military commander father in "Terminator 3: Rise Of The Machines", though some might also recognise him as the cancer sufferer in "Fight Club" coming to terms with his wife having left him. In the role of Scooter Libby he makes very clear the political pressure being put on the CIA in regards to the Iraq War.

    Another positive I should probably mention is that they do actually have something new to say about the Iraq War. There's a very specific case of a suspicion of arms being transported in a particular country which Sean Penn's politician is asked to check out. The problem is that the end result is rather too vague. When they are explaining why the transportation of arms was impossible in the quantities claimed, that is interesting. However, later on they seem to do nothing much other than complain about government lies. It's like they expect us to be shocked. I'm afraid discovering that Bush's government lied about Iraq War is not a big shocking reveal, yet this film spends most of the run time beating me over the head with it, while never having anything new to add.

    It turns out that the big payoff is supposed to be some real life footage of the CIA operative that Naomi Watts was playing. (She and Sean Penn -and Scooter Libby, of course- are actually telling the story of actual people.) This would be rather more interesting if the film had spent rather more time letting us know who she was before all this happened. Since the film doesn't take the time build that up and since she doesn't decide to go all Evelyn Salt on their asses after she's betrayed, instead we have a film that has mainly focussed on her politician husband.

    In the trailer there's a bit where Sean Penn is saying "if I shout a million times louder than the government, does that make me right?" The problem is that in the actual movie he's shouting all this at his wife and he comes across as a complete dick. Not only does this movie keep trying to hammer home a familiar position as if its a shocking revelation, but it over-sentimentalises it, often in ways which are ineffective or even irritating.

    This movie features too much of Sean Penn being self-righteous and not enough of Naomi Watts being conflicted. And no, shifting that emphasis would not be overly fair to the government. And even if the movie makers argue that Sean Penn's story was supposed to be the main focus of the film, I found him remarkably unsympathetic. If you think you might be irritated by a tirade against the Iraq War (and "tirade" is exactly the right term) then skip this one. If, on the other hand, a tirade against the Iraq War sounds right up your alley, watch "Green Zone".

    D+ (Not good, but with some good elements)

    Rango (2011)

    Gore Verbinski's previous directorial work was the first three "Pirates of the Caribbean" movies, however he started off in special effects. Perhaps it's not entirely surprising then that he had now chosen to make a computer generated cartoon. The level of detail in the animation is far greater than I had expected from early promotions. (I looked up the website where I originally saw this promotion and unfortunately I can't confirm whether the original promotion had less detailed CGI because youtube has taken that video down.)

    The film is absolutely visually stunning. I mean look at the detail on this:

    (click here for the image at full size)

    So the film begins by introducing us to Rango, a chameleon who appears to be familiar with a range of films. In this opening scene he is trying to arrange his own film production with a bunch of inanimate objects. While this seems random when you first see it, don't worry, it all becomes clear soon enough. However, once that bizarre intro is cleared up, the really genuinely bizarre stuff starts. Rango finds himself wandering through the desert with songs of his imminent demise being sung by a group of mariachi owls.

    (full size image)

    Before you know it, Rango is in the middle of the typical western setting, only he's surrounded by talking animals. He now has only one strength to draw from in this bizarre new scenario and that's his knowledge of movies. He suddenly launches into this tough guy persona straight out of the "Fistful of Dollars" movies, but seeing as he's winging it, a lot of his lines are plain old weird.

    Our chameleon protagonist struggles for acceptance with his storytelling abilities. Meanwhile there's a problem facing the people in this "western with talking animals" setting and that's the massive water shortages.

    Rango is especially entertaining because of its unpredictability. However, this is also a major weakness. As the movie throws plenty of randomness into the mix, not all the jokes are funny and not all the randomness works. Still, I can't deny that I was pretty consistently entertained. However, the amount of random stuff thrown in often detracts from the main storyline. The plot resolution isn't that great because the mystery has been built up so much and the actual solution is a little too obvious. I was convinced upon writing this review that the runtime must be around 2 hours, but it's actually 1 hour 47. Still, it just feels too long. To keep the audience's attention for that long, tons of ideas wasn't enough. Those ideas needed to be clearly tied together by the plot and unfortunately the plot seems like mostly an afterthought.

    Perhaps I'm contradicting myself now, because I'm going to say that the movie gets a lot of points for being creative and throwing ideas at you. It does this very well and some of the ideas are really REALLY good. If you are a fan of movies like "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly" you'll have a tough time not being charmed by "Rango". As much as the plot might not be wholly satisfying and may meander a little too much, I don't think that is a massive criticism. It's major enough, however, to stop this getting an A grade.

    Rango is great fun, has a good heart, is stylish and visually gorgeous and will have you in tears of laughter at points. A more consistent plot would have been helpful though.

    B+ (Very good, but not excellent.)

    A Screaming Man (2010)

    I picked this one solely because of the Rotten Tomatoes score. 88% fresh is a pretty impressive rating. Still, I was confused by the vague synopsis. It's about a pool attendant and that seemed to be pretty much the extent of the information. It didn't sound exactly thrilling and, at the start of the film, I worried that it really would be as dull as that sounds.

    As it turns out, the man works as a pool attendant in a posh foreign-owned hotel in Chad. The country is plagued by civil war and our protagonist's main passions seem to be his role at the hotel and keeping up to date with the political situation (though the latter may be more a matter of necessity than a personal interest).There's a balance between these two aspects of the scenario. Our protagonist's working life on the one hand and the troubles taking place out of sight.

    This is not a war movie. We are not shown the horrors of civil war by following soldiers fighting. Instead the horror is shown from the perspective of those who remain at home, generally far away from the actual bloodshed. This is actually rather effective because we can only imagine what might be happening in the war and the performances of the characters make it clear that the war is horrible even though we don't see it happening (just as they don't).

    There's a certain beauty to the film. What is shown to us isn't exactly pretty, but the way it is shot has a certain beauty to it. The emotions of the characters are very real and the character interactions are done well. All this being said, this is quite a slow paced film and you do feel like you are twiddling your thumbs at times waiting for the story to get a move on. Also, the end of the film doesn't quite seem to have the same emotional force as earlier scenes. Eventually we are told the meaning of the title. It's from a poem by Aimé Césaire and the full sentence is "A screaming man is not a dancing bear". The idea seems to be that we shouldn't take entertainment from other people's suffering. That's all very well, but I'm not sure it acts as an excuse for the disappointing resolution to this film or the slow pacing. That said, I don't think the ending ruins the film, but it's a bit abrupt and I think the film could just as easily have ended quite a while earlier (or perhaps the final section could have been a bit shorter).

    If you want something arty and emotionally stirring you could do a lot worse. I have been known to dismiss things like this for lacking drama in the past, but I think, by comparison to things like "White Material", "Summer Hours" or "Meek's Cutoff" this actually has plenty to get your teeth into.

    B- (Solidly good movie)

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