Tag Archives: Cinema

THE PRESTIGE – CLASSIC FILM REVIEW

THE PRESTIGE (2006) – CLASSIC FILM REVIEW

**YOU KNOW THE DRILL – SPOILERS!**

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With Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar (2014) orbiting the cinemas this week I thought I’d look back at the film which he made in between breathing life into the Batman franchise.   No doubt Nolan is an important genre filmmaker and as his budgets have got more grandiose then so have his ideas.  I just love that he is interested in attempting to make intelligent blockbusters where ideas, character and theme lead the story rather than rely simply on action, explosions and special effects (no offence Michael Bay.)

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Memento (2000) was a stunning and complex low-budget noir which dealt with obsession, murder and memory and Nolan continued these themes in superior cop thriller Insomnia (2002). Having delivered a cracking origins film in Batman Begins (2005) the director followed this up with a story about battling magicians based on Christopher Priest’s novel called The Prestige (2006).  For me it confirmed him as a force-to-be-reckoned with director. Following on the themes and tropes established in his prior films, The Prestige is centred around two obsessives brilliantly portrayed by the always excellent Christian Bale as Alfred Borden and the never-been-better (until Prisoners (2013), Hugh Jackman, playing his bitter rival, Robert Angier. The story starts at the end with Borden facing the hangman for Angier’s murder. After which the narrative flashes back to a time when the pair were freshman trick-smiths learning the ropes from mentor Cutter (always solid Michael Caine). When the cockney and cocky Bordens’ actions accidentally lead to the death of Angiers’ wife (Piper Perabo) – during a particularly complex and dangerous trick – the two go their separate ways. This sets in motion a story full of bitter twists of active and reactive vengeance. Each protagonist becomes so obsessed outdoing the other –  with the ultimate trick – they are prepared to sacrifice the ones they love in doing so.

The film is rich in plot, character and theme and investigates thoroughly the very human aspects of obsession and revenge. The double or doppleganger trope is also integral to the story as the writers Jonathan and Christopher Nolan literally dissect the characters’ souls. The gritty, dirty period of Victorian London is wonderfully evoked and the fascinating world of magicians and their mysterious secrets is expertly represented. At it’s heart the story begins by showing us the cons of the magicians and the lengths they will go to amaze and astound an audience. By the end though the film becomes something much different with a chilling and fantastic turn which you think you see but ultimately don’t see coming.

Brilliantly directed by Christopher Nolan The Prestige is inventive, intelligent and ingenious. His cast does not let the magical screenplay down with the gorgeous Scarlett Johannson and – albeit briefly – pretty Piper Perabo bringing some glamour to the gritty proceedings. Rebecca Hall is also on commanding form bringing a subtle pain to the role of Borden’s wife.

Overall, it’s a challenging big-budget tale in which you never quite know what is real or what is a con. It keeps you guessing to the end, leaving you with a jaw-dropping final act as the story moves from sleight-of-hand tricks to science fact and finally science fiction. Ultimately, the film successfully combines fantastical, existential, and scientific elements. The film gives us a kind of magic but asks whether it’s worth the damage it causes to lives? THAT, for me, is The Prestige’s greatest trick.

TRUE DETECTIVE – POETIC REVIEW

TRUE DETECTIVE – POETIC  REVIEW

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Set in the picturesque Bayou from the stable HBO,
Dead as night; black as a murder of crows,
Southern Gothic of the police procedural persuasion,
True Detective’s a compelling, gripping, televisual sensation,

Sacrificial kill of a woman begins the murky plots,
As past and present collides, grips and clots,
A gloopy broth ensues of which there’s little filler,
As Louisiana cops pursue a nefarious serial-killer,

True Detective dials many a pulp-fictional cliché,
Yet we’re always wrong-numbered by Harrelson and McConaughey, Portraying mis-matched partners both with darker sides,
Suffering addictions, obsessions and existential slides,

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Writer Nic Pizzolatto delivers a corrupt vision of humanity,
Amidst the Cajun swamps we’re in David Fincher territory,
Standard cop stuff like the Chief screaming “you’re off the case!”,
Is deftly masked by Cary Fukunaga’s directorial style and pace,

McConaughey’s Rust Cohle is post-modern Sherlock,
He will never cease until the mystery is unlocked,
Allied with Harrelson’s Watson the two just won’t stop,
Title may say True Detective but it should be Existential Cop,

Meth-head rednecks, biker gangs, Southern whores all feature, Alongside pederasts, tattooed maniacs and crazy preachers,
All travelling together down a path undoubtedly well-worn,
Nonetheless it’s a delicious slice of murder porn.

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DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES (2014) – FILM REVIEW

DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APESFILM REVIEW BY PAUL LAIGHT

**SPOILERS AHOY**

Film great. Humans crap.

In my last review I compared going to the cinema like going to a restaurant.  For this review I am going to use another tenuous analogy and say going to the cinema is my equivalent of going to Church.  The director/writer/filmmakers are in my eyes GOD!  The actors are the Priests spreading the word while the popcorn is the body of Christ with Tango or Coca-Cola as the blood. Not that I drink fizzy drinks or sugary  any more as I am currently winning an ongoing dispute between my will power and several unhealthy food addictions.

Anyway, what I’m saying is the Cinema is my holy sanctuary — it means THAT much to me. So if you want to use your phone (texting or going online) or talk about something on your phone such as the latest photo of your own arsehole then I will strike down upon thee with furious vengeance! Well I will ask you to shut up or get out!

In the war between humans’ and apes I was already on the Apes’ side following the excellent blockbuster Rise of the Planet of the Apes  (2011) and even more so after witnessing its’ superlative sequel. Indeed, with the insane ongoing wars, environmental issues, pollution, fracking, plane crashes, arms dealing, dodgy press, corrupt governments, genocide and other disasters such as selfish phone wankers talking at the cinema perhaps it’s time for a change on Earth; a clean slate maybe?  Maybe the apes and other animals deserve a chance of owning this planet and giving peace a chance; something humanity seems incapable of sustaining.

If you didn’t know the Planet of the Apes franchise originated from Pierre Boulle’s wonderfully conceived 1963 novel La Planete des singes  and spawned a plethora of films, merchandise, TV shows, comics, novelisations, comic books, posters and even an animated series.  In the late 60s and 70s they didn’t just milk the cash cow they drained the blood and sold off its’ organs and body parts to an ever hungry audience thirsty for another instalment.

Irrespective of the sloping quality of the various guises it took the intelligence raised in the original source and gave us some serious action and brain-food encompassing themes and historical events such as: Darwinism; dystopic and apocalyptic future visions; civil and social unrest; slavery; man’s inhumanity to animals; medical experimentation; the Vietnam and Cold war; civilisation versus savagery; anthropology; The Frankenstein myth; space and time travel; and many other socio-political and science fictional motifs.  It’s a conceptual and cultural phenomenon. And Dawn of the Planet is a wonderful addition to the series.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes begins a few years AFTER Caesar led the apes’ escape from captivity depicted so entertainingly in Rise of the Planet of the Apes. He, his wife and children are now living in reasonable harmony in a huge commune of orang-u-tan, gorillas and chimpanzees.  As suggested at the end of the first movie humans have succumbed to a virus which has wiped them off the planet leaving only those with vascular immunity still alive.  These are lead by family man Malcolm (Jason Clarke) and Gary Oldman’s Dreyfus; a man — who like many others — has lost his family to the virus and subsequent societal breakdown. The dramatic meat of the story begins to cook when the apes are disturbed by a party of humans looking for a new energy source via a Dam in the forest.

The film is a real slow-burner as it establishes the rivalry between the apes and humans as they initially form an uneasy truce before outright war eventually begins.  Indeed the first hour or so is very much given to establishing character dynamics with Caesar’s (phenomenal Andy Serkis) leadership of the apes questioned by the scarred Koba (brilliant Toby Kebbell).  This too is reflected in the more peaceful Malcolm seeking to avoid war and co-exist with the apes as opposed to Dreyfus who sees them as nothing more than savage beasts.  Thus the four main protagonists are very rounded and keenly drawn although one criticism of the film is the lack of a powerful female character and one may say, Oldman aside, the humans are a little bland overall. An accusation I cannot say about the apes who are rendered incredibly by the massive special effect team at WETA.

By allowing the slow build up characters, spiked by some in-fighting in each of the camps, the tension rises and anticipation of the battle rises to fever pitch.  It is Koba who precipitates the war as he is driven by his anger at being experimented on by humans’ years before.  While Caesar leads with majesty and quiet authority, Koba is driven by revenge, pain and hate and this passion drives him to attack the humans with full ape force.  What follows is one of the most memorable set-pieces I have seen at the cinema this year with apes smashing down the human compound with violent abandon.  The image of a dual-gunned Koba rampaging on horseback as fire burns behind him is a cinematic moment which will stay in my memory for sometime.

Matt Reeves is an excellent genre filmmaker and he maintains the great standard set by Rupert Wyatt from Rise of the Planet of the Apes. Reeves, the writers, cast and his battalion of special effects people have produced an intelligent blockbuster which keeps the drama burning throughout culminating in a stupendous battle sequence at the end.  The film is a portent telling us once again that humans will reap suffering if they continue to tamper with nature in the name of progress.  It also reflects the importance of family, acceptance and tolerance of others in order find peace; war and in particular gorilla warfare (sorry) is not the way forward.  There’s one soppy and jarring bit of script coincidence where Caesar goes back to the house he grew up in but that was not enough to ruin another excellent film inspired by Boulle’s literary classic. Those still haunted by Tim Burton’s atrocious 2001 effort will be very grateful for this entry in the franchise. Altogether now: Hail Caesar! Hail Caesar!

BRICK MANSIONS (2014) – FILM REVIEW

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Now, I probably should explain that my rule for this blog is to review EVERY film I see at the CINEMA!   So, why did I go to see this ridiculous excuse for a film at the picture house? Well, mainly because I am an addict and I was getting cold turkey because I hadn’t been to the cinema in a while (10 days) and needed a fix.  But rather than getting the good gear I ended up with a pale shadow of a hit from D-movie BRICK MANSIONS.

It’s my own fault I was tired and chose something that wouldn’t test my intelligence too much. And while it’s a well-edited, pacy film with some okay plot twists throughout there is no way I could recommend this to anyone with one-tenth of a brain and still retain the incredible respect my fans have for me.

It’s a remake of an earlier Luc Besson written/produced movie called District 13 (2004); the kind of unpretentious, slickly crafted and brainless film  Besson’s production arm has been churning out with regular abandon for years.  Arguably the best of these are The Transporter and Taken series which rely on the ample talents of Jason Statham and Liam Neeson to propel the action and narratives.  Paul Walker, alas, is no Statham as he doesn’t have the former diver’s brutish personality or scrapping skills and neither does he have Neeson’s actorial stature, style or  power for smashing up generic bad guys.

Ultimately Paul Walker is such a generic an actor the best way to describe him would be like that of a poor man’s Paul Walker. My favourite film of his was a fun Tarantino knock-off called Running Scared (2006). I urge you to see Running Scared as it is a brilliant twisty-turny, explosive GTA-esque little thriller also starring under-rated Vera Farmiga.  Of course, Walker’s star shines well in the American  movie version of Top Gear; the cash-making-franchise-behemoth-Fast-and-Furious series.

Having said that Walker is/was very likeable, good looking and while lacking in personality his bright blue-eyes carry Brick Mansions along at but overall fail to mask the execrable direction, embarrassing dialogue over-dubs and dreadful acting of his co-stars, notably the RZA who is so wooden his next role should be <insert wooden furniture based pun/analogy here>.  The film does have a plot which is pretty much lifted from Escape From New York (1981).   But it’s nowhere nearly as good as the Carpenter classic although it does feature some fine parkouring skills from master of the physical art David Belle;here playing a nippy career criminal at odds with the RZA’s ridiculous mob boss. These various characters fight, jump over, run, get handcuffed and strap bombs to each other in the deprived, urine-soaked hell-hole called Brick Mansions; a segregated part of Detroit which homes just criminals and lower-runged members of American society.   There’s a piss-poor attempt at social commentary and critique of corrupt officials and politicians but basically it’s laughable.

Walker plays another in a long line of maverick cops but what lets this film down is he has no code or specific set of skills (like Statham/Neeson) or even characterisation and it’s left to the parkour-man Belle to give the action some oomph. I mean it’s entertaining enough, has some crunching violence and fun fight scenes but I was laughing unintentionally at times especially when the RZA was trying to play the tough guy.   The film’s biggest crime is it has no suspense or defined look and the whole thing had all the visual flair of a daytime soap opera.  It would have benefited (like Escape From New York) from some stylish noir night scenes but alas there are little or none

As epitaphs go to the sadly departed Paul Walker, Brick Mansions, is a desperately poor excuse for a movie. Thankfully the James Wan-helmed Fast and Furious 7 will somehow repair Walker’s mixed-bag of a CV.  Which probably tells you how bad Brick Mansions is.