Thursday, 19 December 2013

Comedy Special: Bo Burnham And The Battle Of Art VS Comedy

A little while ago, I wrote a special feature on comedies for an online magazine called Splendid Fred. It focused on why comedy films are not considered good films - why jokes are not considered art. Obviously, I am not the only one who has been involved in the art versus comedy argument but I feel like a recent creation brings the two together in a glorious collision of music and laughs. That creation is Bo Burnham's recent stand up show, what. (Available in full on Youtube and Netflix) But this is not the first time Bo has proved himself a master of art and comedy.


Bo started on Youtube with songs such as 'My Whole Family' and '3.14 Apple Pi' in 2006. He then went on to release an EP entitled 'Bo Fo Sho' in 2008, followed by a full length album, 'Bo Burnham', in 2009. From there, it was strength to strength for Burnham as he filmed his own Comedy Central, had small roles in films such as American Virgin and Funny People, released his own live special and album, Words, Words, Words, and secured a TV deal with MTV to air in 2013. This TV series turned out to be the horribly underrated and prematurely cancelled Zach Stone Is Gonna Be Famous, a show that I personally recommend. Despite Zach Stone's cancellation, Bo stayed strong and wrote a poetry book called Egghead: Or, You Can't Survive On Ideas Alone. Most recently, Bo toured with his new show, what., which he then released, for free, online.


Bo's success is undoubtedly thanks to his universal, but ultimately niche, appeal.  This is an oxymoron, a paradox of demographic. His jokes are sometimes as mainstream as they come but they are always, always, layered with heaps of intellect and it is this that pigeon holes him. It is this reason that Zach Stone did not strike well with the contemporary audience that Bo's dick jokes go so well with. The crude side of his jokes, even without the layering of intelligence, still have a basic comedy value but as Burnham has moved forward, he has developed his style so that the crude jokes are now the side bit, the superficial top layer. His social commentary that the jokes cover has moved more into the foreground and his clever wit and performance style has highlighted the satirical nature of his work. But this mainstream/niche appeal leaves him in a perfect position to create a discourse (or blend) between 'art' and comedy.


Words, Words, Words was Bo tipping his toes into the world of the battle of art and comedy. The majority of the show was a combination of clever gags and his usual subversive music, both delving more into the world of politics and social commentary. However, there are two songs that stand out in this debate: 'What's Funny' and ' Art Is Dead'. Their titles even spotlight their insight into the argument. The former simply parodies how easy it is to create comedy and why such simple things are funny, while the latter suggests that it is exactly this attitude that has killed art. He points out that comedians are just the kids who wanted attention and are now being paid to do just that, and can call themselves artists because of it. But this is where Bo is so clever: he is using an art form to criticise the nature of art itself , he uses comedy to point out how easy it is. This meta-comedy routine makes us question our own thoughts on the subject, brings the debate into full-view, and provides a paradoxical answer. This is where what. comes in.


what. is almost a full fledged dedication to art versus comedy. There is still his normal subversive songs and his could-be offensive brand of jokes, but from the very opening of the show he is commenting on the nature of 'art'. After a bit in which he sings about his natural voice whilst heavily auto-tuned, he knocks a bottle of water over followed promptly by a track that says, 'he meant to knock the water over ... art is a lie, nothing is real'. He then goes on to prove that 'art' is a lie with a, crudely beautiful, poem entitled 'I Fuck Sluts'. A masterfully constructed piece of spoken word, an indisputable art form, comically written with highly misogynistic language, the contrast of which brings the humour. It is not the only time that Bo uses this form in what. as he returns to poetry later on to continue what he started in 'I Fuck Sluts' - to completely juxtapose the art form he uses, a lot like 'Art Is Dead' from Words, Words, Words.


But the peak of the debate comes in the form of a skit that, in audio alone sounds like a piece of art, but in visuals alone looks like a very crude, and tasteless, joke. The song is very bluntly titled 'Beating Off In A Minor', which Bo clarifies as the key and not the felony. The music is a delightful, joyous piece of music consisting of a flute, piano, and violin before turning into electric rock, and then after a pause turns to a haunting, harsh keyboard. On stage, we see Bo mime typing on a computer, before seeming content and pulling his trousers down, and the joke becomes clear. To the electro-rock, Bo masturbates furiously, to the haunting track, Bo shamefully washes his hands of his deed. Masturbation jokes are, arguably, one of the lowest forms of comedy but Burnham turns it entirely on its head by combining it with a well composed segment of music creating an intriguing piece of performance. Is it art or is it crass? Or is it both - is comedy art? Who would have thought a young man mime-masturbating would raise such questions?


Finally in what., is 'Repeat Stuff' and 'We Think We Know You', two songs which point out the fickle nature of the music industry, supposedly an industry of art. 'Repeat Stuff' is a song about the production and creation of pop hits, the idea that they must appeal to everyone and be immediately memorable leading the art within to suffer. 'We Think We Know You' carries this on with a conversation between Bo and three others, an agent, a bimbo, and a jock. The bimbo and jock highlight that change that fame can bring, both socially and within the self, whilst the agent shows the corrupting influence the industry can have on the content and quality of art. 'We Think We Know You' ends with Bo remixing the voices, adding a layer of synth and drums, until the audience are completely absorbed into a musical trance. Art made out of the commentary of art - how much more meta can you get?

So in the argument of art versus comedy, or comedy versus quality, Bo Burnham excels in contrasting the two to raise the point, the same point I raised in my last feature on the topic: why can comedy not be considered art or quality? Bo simply answers it can be. He plays with people's expectations of art and makes it hilarious. The majority of Bo Burnham's work can be found on his Youtube, and it is highly recommended by myself and critics alike. what. is available on Netflix and Youtube worldwide and Words, Words, Words is available on UK Netflix or to buy.

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Timey-Wimey Stuff

The 'un-filmable', when referring to books, seems to be considered more of a challenge these days than a suggestion. We have seen it time and time again. Think American Psycho or Life Of Pi. In fact, 2012 also saw the release today's film, also deemed 'un-filmable'. This is Cloud Atlas.


Where to start?
At its essence, Cloud Atlas is six tales of six people throughout time. Across the six tales, there are, primarily, thirteen actors covering all of the main characters. Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Hugo Weaving, and Hugh Grant play seven characters each. Jim Broadbent, Jim Sturgess, and Doona Bae play six each. Ben Whishaw, Keith David, James D'Arcy, Xun Zhou, David Gyasi, and Susan Sarandon also all play several important roles over most of the stories. The stories consist of a man saving a slave and vice-versa in the 1800s, a young composer trying to create a masterpiece in the 1936, a reporter trying to reveal something huge in the 70s, a publisher getting in lots of trouble with his brother, a nursing home, and thugs in the present day, a Korean clone made purely to serve food longing for more meaning in life in the far future, and a tribal man in post-apocalyptic Hawaii.  All the stories interlink in some way, as Sonmi-451, the Korean clone, says: 'Our lives are not our own. From womb to tomb, we are bound to others, past and present. And by each crime and every kindness, we birth our future.'

Smashing 

There is one thing that is almost a certainty with Cloud Atlas: you will be surprised in the credits when the images of all the characters are shown with the actors names. The versatility of all of the performers is simply astounding. It is hard to pick a stand out amongst such a variety of performances and it is hard to dive into too much depth on such a wide topic. What is also worthy of high praise here is the make-up, hair, and costume departments on the film for making everyone almost unrecognisable across the six storylines. These, often horribly overlooked, departments were clearly a huge catalyst in developing the way in which the actors developed their characters; they were literally transformed into someone else. This is a whole new league of multi-roles and will take some work to top in years to come.

Well this sucks.

But Cloud Atlas' indescribable nature does not end with the acting. Trying to explain Cloud Atlas to someone is a lot like trying to theoretical physics to a seven year old; you can describe it perfectly, but it still will not quite make sense. But when all the stories link and tie together, it is masterful. Wonderfully adapted from David Mitchell's novel by Tom Tykwer and the Wachowski siblings, Cloud Atlas skilfully blends the six stories with such grace and brilliant editing that one cannot help but be sucked simultaneously into each one. The near three hour runtime seems like half that as climaxes come periodically throughout the film, releasing catharsis and then building up to the next one. A mix of all genres, stretching from period drama to sci-fi action, and all in between to create something truly unique.

Philosophical, dramatic, action packed, and touching. Cloud Atlas is a truly spectacular piece of cinema that will no doubt be a talking point for years to come. Some of the best performances in years, though focus is required. Set aside a solid three hours with snacks and drinks, and enjoy.


Best Bit? Jim Broadbent's Timothy Cavendish's story line goes from strength to strength but climaxes with one of the most entertaining escapes in years as some O.A.P.s and himself have to break out of a nursing home and, naturally, go to a pub straight after.











Monday, 2 December 2013

SeaWorld

At the moment, this blog is dedicated to opening people's eyes to the great range of films out there. From classics like Sherlock Jr, to modern day masterpieces like Gravity. From foreign films like Amour, to small indie miracles like Beasts Of The Southern Wild. And recently, documentaries. Today's film landed at number 19 on Empire Magazine's top 50 films of 2013. That's above Les Miserables, A Field In England, and Trance. Could it be that documentaries truly are an equally entertaining and enjoyable (as well as educational) genre of film as all our other favourites? But what is causing such a splash? This is Blackfish.

Blackfish, directed by Gabriela Cowperthwaite, is the primarily the story of Tilikum, a killer whale, otherwise known as an orca, that performs in SeaWorld. The documentary takes us through his tale from capture as a calf, to his performances in Sealand and onwards. However, Tilikum is a whale that lives up to his species' name. After killing a trainer in Sealand, causing its closure, Tilikum moved to SeaWorld and, as they all say, history is doomed to repeat itself. But along the way, we are enlightened by fascinating interviews with former SeaWorld trainers who explain the experience of working with the mammoth mammals. They also talk about the darker side of the industry. The lies, the cover ups, the lack of information, the danger they were never informed of. Accompanying this are side stories about other whales and other trainers and even other theme parks in which whales perform. This is far more than a story of a single killer whale; this is a documentary about the nature of the creatures. How gentle they can be but also how violent. How intelligent they are, how emotional, how heartbreaking. The story of Tilikum just links it all together. 

SeaWorld's representatives were flipping out over the film.

Despite SeaWorld claiming that the information portrayed within in the documentary is false or misleading, Cowperthwaite seems to have done her research. Every point the film makes is backed up with either hard evidence such as videos and audio from the courts, or interviews about personal experience in the profession. The latter of which are sometimes jaw-droppingly shocking. One former trainer, Samantha Berg, points out the countless incidents of harm caused by the whales in captivity, and that she was never informed of any of them before her employment. (A shocking list of incidents involving killer whales in the wild versus captivity is available here, on good ol' Wikipedia) Eventually, the evidence is piled up against the treatment of killer whales in captivity and event heir trainers. It becomes somewhat of a horror in the truest sense of the word: what it presents can only be described as horrifying.

They just have a whale of a time.

What Blackfish excels in is its editing. It masterfully paces the way it reveals information throughout its runtime. Revealing its main premise early on and then going back to the beginning, the shocking story of a trainer killing killer whale becomes a terrifying tale of the mistreatment of animals and a new insight into the corruption of greed and power. What seems like a 'look how scary nature is' documentary turns out to ask a bigger question: who is the real monster - man or beast? Cowperthwaite includes video footage that documents the incredible abilities of the trainers and their professionalism around the animals, but also the beautiful and majestic nature of the whales, from their friendliness, to their grief, to their aggression, even in front of an audience. They are used to tell stories and emphasise points, and, in both instances, they help develop the grand scale of shocking information that gets presented.

If Super Size Me put you off McDonalds, Blackfish will likely taint the childhood memories you have of seeing Shamu diving into the air, trainer standing on her nose. Your inner Greenpeace warrior will come out, if only to go after the SeaWorld cooperation that so willingly risked human and animal wellbeing for a few more dollars. A terrifyingly shocking piece of cinema. A real eye opener.


Best Bit? Perhaps should be called worst bit. There is plenty of video footage of orca 'accidents' happening. These moments you simply pray for the trainers, but also feel sorry for the whales.

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Documentary Day 2! McDonalds

A while ago I did a Documentary Day (Catfish, Exit Through The Gift Shop). Since then, besides Fahrenheit 9/11, I've hardly touched the genre here. So I thought I'd do it again! Documentary Day 2!

Food. It is one of the few things that humans NEED to survive. It is something that can be done in so many different varieties, that business that are completely dedicated to food are some of the most loved and most profitable in the world. The need for food opened a spot on the market for the meal for the person on the move. Some fast food, if you will. But how bad really is fast food for you? Morgan Spurlock investigates in Super Size Me.

Morgan is a healthy man with a vegan chef girlfriend and a good exercise routine. Not all Americans are like Morgan. Some Americans eat McDonalds once a day or more. When McDonalds was sued for making two teenage girls extremely overweight, Morgan asks, how bad can it really be. Spoiler alert. Pretty bad. But we knew that right? Morgan sets himself a challenge to eat McDonalds for every breakfast, lunch, and dinner every day for thirty days. He will only go for the super size if he is offered it. He gets himself checked out by all the relevant doctors and dieticians before ploughing ahead, confidently, into his challenge. What follows is a little shocking but thoroughly enjoyable ride into one of the largest health problems in the world, let alone America.

Shocking enough to make your heart stop. 

Released in 2004, Super Size Me remains extremely relevant even today. With confident doctors on his side, Morgan's diet seems not to be a worry. But, after building a relationship with Morgan, the audience begin to see him deteriorate in health - from him throwing up his first super sized meal, to chest pains. It, honestly, is scary. This food that is everywhere takes Morgan, his girlfriends, the doctors, the dietician, and the audience by surprise. Not only this, but Morgan looks into obesity in other aspects of American society as well, such as school dinners and the actual running of individual McDonalds' branches. What he discovers along the way is bound to make you shiver and gasp as his realisations get made known to us. However, it may still make you hungry. 

The Last (Healthy) Supper

What is it about the fast food world that is so addictive? Morgan explains his feelings and emotions at relevant stages in his investigation, keeping the audience in total understanding of his own body, as well as the general public of America with statistics and facts. He slams the organisation of McDonalds and even leaves your mouth hanging open at the end, not with drool, but with shock. Is the McSalad a healthy option? Do not be so sure, Super Size Me claims. Try and find the nutritional information in your local McDonalds next time you pop in (if you dare) and if you can find it, take it in. Realise this film presents a scary reality that surrounds us all, no matter where you are. The probability is there is a McDonalds within walking distance from you right now. Think of the Happy Meal, aimed at kids, to get them eating the McDonalds food from a young age, bribing them with toys, and sometimes, play parks.

A shocking and absorbing documentary. It takes you on an uncomfortable, but arguably needed, journey. Will you stop eating McDonalds forever? Probably not. It is still very tasty, a fact that Morgan never denies. But after the release of the film, the Super Size option vanished from McDonalds. If that does not suggest the importance of this film, I do not know what would.


Best Bit? Meeting Don, the man who has eaten nearly 20,000 Big Macs. Passion like his is unparalleled. 


Documentary Day 2! The Art Of Trolling

A while ago I did a Documentary Day (Catfish, Exit Through The Gift Shop). Since then, besides Fahrenheit 9/11, I've hardly touched the genre here. So I thought I'd do it again! Documentary Day 2!

As this blog, every critical reviewer, every film fan, and... well... everyone can tell you, there are good films and there are bad films. Then there is the grey area. There are some films that are so bad they are good, if that is possible. How do these films make it into creation? How does something so bad become a cult favourite. Say, perhaps, The Room, or Troll 2. This documentary takes the latter and tries to find an answer. This is Best Worst Movie.

Troll 2 was, at the time the documentary was filmed, positioned at #1 on IMDb's bottom 100 films - essentially the worst film ever made. It has since moved up to #99, but that is still not a great deal. It has a 0% rating on Rotten Tomatoes and is widely regarded as the worst film ever made. And yet it has screenings and parties dedicated to it across the USA. Why? Michael Stephenson (Joshua in Troll 2) sought to find an answer. Along with George Hardy (Michael in Troll 2), he travels around the country looking for Troll 2's fan base and is overwhelmed by the response. Hardy, almost completely unaware of the films fame, becomes an instant cult celebrity along with his co-stars, yelling about pissing on hospitality time and time again. Together, they look back at the film and where it went so wrong. The lack of English spoken by the crew? Perhaps. The lack of acting experience from the cast? Perhaps. The terrible, terrible script? Perhaps. Or perhaps all of these. Best Worst Movie aims to find out.

I really thinks this speaks for itself.
George Hardy, as the opening section emphasises, is the nicest guy, seemingly, ever. A dentist that helps those in need and provides entertainment in the community. We travel on his journey to minor stardom and see the true meaning of the phrase 'cult following'. As we go, George's chemistry with everyone he comes across would bring a smile to everyone's face as he finds out of his fame. We are also given a very good idea of the films flaws and how they happened as the cast attempt to act through a couple of scenes on the original set, all the while, director of Troll 2, Claudio Fragasso, yells at them to be sensible as they are 'actors'. The clear divide between a director proud of his work and actors who have seen the funny side is clear and is one part hilarious, and one part saddening. 


With Troll 2's success, Claudio had to ask, 'is it real?'

There is a real heart to the documentary. It is more than nostalgia; it is community. The communities built through love of the film and the community that was built in making the film. At parts, it is honestly touching - mostly involving Fragasso as he talks about his dedication to his work, and as fans tell him how much they adore the film, seeming totally unaware they are talking to the director. For the cast, primarily those who did not care for a career in acting, the film is a blip in their past. For Claudio, it is his impression left on the film world. Whilst seeing the inner workings of bad film-making is very interesting, the documentary is not without its flaws. We see several of the screenings which all end up being very similar. Whilst it is nice to see the cast loving their cult fame, it is dull once all the cast have been met. The film does not have enough material within it to lose those repetitive scenes, but it feels like too much of the film is taken up on it. The best moments are when we find out about the craziness of the past, not the normality of the present. 

Overall a fun documentary. A really interesting view into 'so-bad-it's-good' films and why you can never purposefully make one. There has to be passion and heart in the driving force and Best Worst Movie shows that passion in its joyful communities. 


Best Bit? Whenever the cast re-enact a scene from the film, they break down into contagious fits of laughter and it is impossible not to join in, even with Claudio calling them 'dog actors' from the side.

Documentary Day 2! Let It Shine

A while ago I did a Documentary Day (Catfish, Exit Through The Gift Shop). Since then, besides Fahrenheit 9/11, I've hardly touched the genre here. So I thought I'd do it again! Documentary Day 2!

Stanley Kubrick, the master of film. A man who created masterpiece after masterpiece after masterpiece. A man who was so well known for his attention to detail and his obsession for his film making precision, that there have been television specials detailing the boxes he kept. But what happens when you put five critical theorists together and let them analyse one of the man's masterpieces? Rodney Ascher seeks to find out. This is Room 237.

Bill Blakemore, Geoffrey Cocks, Juli Kearns, John Fell Ryan, and Jay Weidner each have an opinion on what Kubrick's The Shining really means. Sure, it is advertised as a horror film, a psychological thrill ride into the terrifying state of the human psyche, but is that what it actually portrays? These five professionals argue no and with a bit of pointing out, that becomes obvious. They each present a theory. They stretch from the understandable metaphor of destruction and genocide of Native Americans and their land to the absurdity of proof of Kubrick's heavy involvement in faking the moon landing. There is also a wonderful middle ground that demonstrates the impossibility of the hotel, the labyrinth of it, as Kearns suggests constantly. This is not five people swaying you to their views; this is five people presenting their own personal obsession with analysing details.

This can really be that important.

Each theory is fascinating in its own manner, however ridiculous it is. We hear the theory develop and are given frame by frame break downs of important details. Each theorist describes even the smallest factor with passion for their own personal logic. A poster of a skier - or is it a Minotaur? The chair that vanishes - a continuity error or parody of horror? The window that cannot be - simple construction error or elaborate design element? These questions seem absurd, like an English teacher that reads too much in the poetry the class are studying, but with detail, they become genuine points of interest. A director that pays so much attention to detail making continuity errors? They make valid points and you cannot help but get sucked into the obsession that the theorists share and that, no doubt, Kubrick himself had in his own films.

The theorists thought Wendy was too transparent. 

There is a truth in the film that verbatim materials often lack. The interviewees deliver their thought process step by step, analysing the film with the audience alongside - pausing on important frames. One interviewee even pauses to quieten his son before returning to the analysis and the frame by frame breakdown. All points are backed up with heavy evidence. Particular positioning of objects and camera shots are analysed in detail. Most interestingly, maps are created of the overlook to emphasis points surrounding the architecture. Danny's tricycle rides are plotted with a line in regards to his location in the hotel and the way in which the three differ becomes a key point in one argument. This is a detailed critical analysis of a great film. Is it too detailed? That is up to the viewer. One interviewee makes the crucial point that author intent is only part of the story. The rest is the viewers reception. The main flaw, and arguably the only serious one, is the truth of the interviews meaning a lot of 'um's, 'erm's, and 'ah's, left in the final cut which can often detract from a point. Apart from this, the only complaint is when they do not point out a supposed face in the clouds. It seems, from the IMDb message boards, that I was not the only person who saw squat. 

A fascinating documentary for those who love The Shining, Kubrick in general, or just plain ol' film theories. It almost felt like five people taking turns at guessing what would be said in a director's commentary of the film. A solid film. 


Best Bit? The most intriguing moment is a segment about the way in which the film is meant to be seen: both forwards and backwards at the same time. Evidence of this, one superimposed on the other, creates a eerily exciting effect. Scenes contrast each other perfectly causing you to sit upright, jaw dropped, awe in your expression. Was Kubrick that clever? Probably not, but it is fascinating all the same. 

Thursday, 14 November 2013

Space

In space no one can hear you scream... or talk... or do much of anything which is why communication technology is a really important thing when working in space. But what happens when things do not go right and neither screaming, nor talking, nor much of anything can help? This is Gravity.

Up above the atmosphere, Dr Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock), Matt Kowalski (George Clooney), and the team of the Explorer shuttle are working on some repairs and updates on the Hubble Telescope. They tell stories and fun jokes whilst Stone works hard with the space technology and Kowalski floats around on his jet-pack, enjoying his last mission before returning to Earth. Suddenly, Houston aborts the mission as a satellite that the Russians have blown up has become debris rocketing through space at lethal speeds and the shuttle is right in the middle of its path. Stone is not fast enough and gets separated from the ship, spinning away into the abyss of space. Breathing heavily, fearfully flying, she tries to orientate herself so that Kowalski can catch up to her. What follows is ninety minutes of two astronauts going against every challenge (low oxygen, low fuel, flying killer debris etc) to preserve their own lives.

What's got ya down, Stone?

There may be no sound in space, but there is the opportunity to put in a fantastic with little more than your face and voice and both Clooney and Bullock do just that. There was no use of zero gravity in the production of the film, all the weightlessness is simulated with extremely clever choreographed sequences memorised by the actors. These were sometimes extremely long sequences too, the first scene alone is ten minutes or so without a cut. Bullock should be particularly praised. It is her that the audience build a connection with through the story telling and cinematography of the film, and it is her that is thrown into space alone. She is completely moving as the innocent, newcomer to the world of space, her only crime being over-enthusiasm for her work.  Several times she resigns herself to the fate of the universe before being inspired by Kowalski, or a Chinese lullaby, or whatever. We see the process of a human brain contemplating life's worth with the back drop of a sci-fi thriller through Bullock's performance - often with the smallest visual of her face or just her voice. Clooney gets to do what Clooney does best. A smart, charismatic man, who truly emulates kind arrogance as the mission commander and always puts the safety of Stone before himself. Delightful.

A-door-able. 

Fantastic performance aside, no film such as this would be a success without a stunning technical side. Throughout film history, the most critically acclaimed science fiction films have been just as technically astounding as they have been well performed. Look at 2001: A Space Odyssey, Moon, or even Avatar. Like 2001 and Moon, Gravity puts emphasis on the size of the universe and how small and alone a person can be compared to something that incomprehensibly huge. But unlike those films, Gravity rockets through with adrenaline and suspense at a speed to rival a Die Hard film. Constantly on the edge of your seat as one thing goes wrong after another, continuously putting the innocent astronauts in life threatening situations through no fault of their own. But it is not just the writing that makes this film, it is the way in which we, the viewer, get to experience it. We get put inside the helmet of Dr Stone on multiple occasions and see the disaster as she sees it. We spin with her and are made dizzy and delusional. We are essentially placed in the situation with her through a roller coaster like journey with the camera, enhanced brilliantly by Steven Prices score and the choice of soundtrack. This is a true success by Alfonso Cuarón and will go down in the books as an essential sci-fi.

An emotional, heart pumping, and suspenseful piece of cinema. What else do you expect from the director of Children of Men and the best film in the Harry Potter franchise (Prisoner of Azkaban)? Clooney and Bullock are phenomenal, and the film is a brilliant creation with 3D so perfectly utilised to create the depth of space and the minuscule nature of humans. A must see and one of the films of the year.



Best Bit? There are a lot of cracking moments but a moment that stood out was just after Stone had survived yet another life threatening challenge, she curled up into the foetal position whilst floating in an airlock with the sunlight shining brightly through the window behind her. Why did it stand out? It was the moment that said, this film is more than a sci-fi thriller, this is a story that contemplates life. This is the rebirth of someone who just escaped death. Complex stuff below surface level.

Sunday, 3 November 2013

English Pastures

Art is a word that gets bounced around a lot in the creative industries. Cinema is no exception. Of course, there will always be arguments over what actually constitutes 'art' and many will dispute items that are supposed to be 'art'. Well today we look at a film that has been labelled under this particular term, but what actually is it? This is A Field In England.

It's the English Civil War. An assistant to an alchemist, Whitehead (Reece Shearsmith), clambers over/ through a bush to escape the prying eyes of his master. Further down the bush line, a man, Friend (Richard Glover), crawls through the growth only to collapse on the other side, the life leaving his body. A third solider, Cutler (Ryan Pope), appears and checks the lifeless body before running to try and help Whitehead. Finally, a fourth man, Jacob (Peter Ferdinando), a deserter, shows up, checks the dead body - who turns out to not be dead - and swears a lot. The four of them decide to head for an alehouse but along the way they pull a man through to the world with a piece of rope. The man is O'Neil (Michael Smiley), an Irish alchemist with great power and intent on finding a treasure in the field they are in. He utilises Whitehead's abilities in order to hunt and as they go along, the group have to perform some surreal tasks in order to get the treasure.

Some describe the film as a thriller.

With only a five man cast - well, pretty much - all of the performers need to give brilliant performances. Fortunately they do. In some ways, it is a wonderful achievement in writing as the characters on screen create a perfect balance of emotions and atmosphere between them - something that is especially difficult in the world of the abstract. Shearsmith's Whitehead is a level headed, intelligent man that is somewhat more accessible than the others. He questions the abnormal and objects to things he deems morally unsuitable. A point of view in which the audience can adapt to. Ferdinando and Glover's deserter characters bring comedy release to what is, on the large scale, a dark film. Glover's friend, particularly, is wonderfully entertaining with his slow nature and impeccable timing. His speech about his wife is a particular highlight of this. Ryan Pope, is the adaptable Cutler. He lures both the audience and the other deserters into a false sense of security, knowing of the darkness ahead, and yet he never seems to falter in charm or authority. Finally, Smiley's O'Neil is a horrible character. Powerful, charming, and yet completely detestable. Perhaps it is Shearsmith's likeability clashing with O'Neil's evil that emphasises how undesirable the character truly is but either way, nothing can be taken away from Smiley's dominating, engaging, and captivating performance.

Well, they look like a civil bunch.

There is something about A Field In England's production that is extremely interesting. Perhaps it is the actors standing in tableau at the beginning of important scenes or the long drawn out slow motion sequences, or the strobe like hallucinations, but there is definitely something that makes A Field In England truly unique. In a similar way, Ben Wheatley creates a haunting picture. The frantic editing contrasting with the slow scenes combined with a ominous score build an atmosphere of mystery and fear. The fear of the unknown is arguably the most universal of all fears. Wheatley immerses the audience and characters in this with hundreds of unanswered questions. However, it is important to note that the questions do not, in fact, need answers. We accept the reality that Wheatley presents us with, even if we do not understand it. The decision to shoot in black and white only adds to this world of maniacal magic within the fairy circle and really emphasises the hallucinogenic sequences. A truly spectacular exploration of the human mind in some respects, even if you do not truly follow what actually happens in the film.

An exciting and interesting piece of cinema. Some may call it art, some may not, but it is certainly an interesting film and one well worth a watch. It will definitely bend your mind and give your brain a good work out. It will, no doubt, make you feel highly uncomfortable at some points as well. Wheatley's world is not exclusive to on screen. Its presence fills the room you are in and chills you.


Best Bit? There are several exciting sequences. Some would say the tent scene, others would say the tug-of-war. I personally feel that The strobe scene was the most powerful. The most haunting, certainly, and a really intriguingly edited sequence that raises questions of deeper meaning within the film.

Thursday, 31 October 2013

Keep It Classic Part 3: Silent Justice

There were some big names back in the olden days of film. On posters you would see BORIS KARLOFF or CHARLIE CHAPLIN taking up half the poster. Films like 'The Artist' or 'Sunset Blvd.' looks at a stars just like these and sum up one thing: to be a star in the days of silent movies was a glorious experience - even if the fall from fame was not. Today we look at one of these big names in, arguably, his most famous role. This is Buster Keaton's Sherlock Jr.

The film opens with a lowly projectionist (Keaton) reading a book named 'How To Be A Detective' whilst sitting in a rather filthy theatre. Soon, though, the nameless projectionist is told to begin cleaning which he, reluctantly, does. We see Keaton's character as an unlucky soul. Finding dollars that will help him buy chocolate only to have people claim the money, being falsely claimed as the thief of a watch, proving unimpressive to the girl (Kathryn McGuire) he intends to marry. Naturally, he wants to clear his name and show himself as a great detective and begins working on the case of the stolen watch. But alas, his poor luck follows him and he ends up back in his projection booth with nothing. He dozes off and thus begins the greatest dream of all time as the projectionist becomes Sherlock Jr. and starts work on the case of the stolen pearls.

Keaton had to train hard for his stunts.

Keaton was famous for a reason. His name is well known because of the things he did. He would not be remembered still if there was nothing notable about his performances. What more needs to be said? Well, let us see. Keaton is from an elite class of performer that hardly exists in the modern age. He not only directed and starred in Sherlock Jr., but he also did all of his own stunts - even unknowingly fracturing his neck along the way. There is an athleticism to Keaton's performance as he jumps left right and centre, perfectly timing a walking skit as he shadows a man, or even falling out of a cinema screen, over a piano, and through a railing. Only a few others had a mind like Keaton. (See Larry Griswald and Harold Lloyd). He is undoubtedly one of the most naturally hilarious men to grace the screen but also to be behind the camera. His own dedication to performance clearly rubs off on his surrounding cast. The antagonists' continued failed attempts to assassinate him often backfire causing roaring laughter due to the way in which Keaton has clearly directed the scenes. A masterful achievement.

You should be able to see right through Keaton impersonators.

As well as directing the performance to a high standard, he also controls every aspect of the film with authority and ingenuity. He uses some incredible camera techniques, even for today, in order to create the beginning of the dream sequence in which he teleports from location to location at unfortunately timed moments. There are scenes in which he is almost hit by trains, scenes where he tangles from water pipes and gets drenched, and a moment where he jumps through a window and literally into a disguise. One of the most visually incredible scenes is when his assistant, Gillette (Ford West), opens a suitcase in front of his body and Sherlock Jr. dives through both the case and the body, and through the wall, and then Gillette simply walks away. (Clip can be found here) A completely visually captivating film. Of course, this is how a silent film should be. The score to accompany the film is also outstanding and, during the motorcycle chase, sounds like an inspiration to the music of James Bond - whether there is any truth in that is speculative, there is no evidence of it.

A truly hilarious piece of cinema in the most universal of ways. Visual comedy will assuredly never die even if it is now combined with verbal humour. Keaton is a screen legend for certain and Sherlock Jr. is a masterpiece.


Best Bit? There are many moments to choose from. It would probably be when Sherlock Jr. first leaps through a window into a dress of some form, and then leaps through Gillette's body. Or the pool trick shots. Thse are extremely impressive and took five days of filming.

(Note, the whole film can be found on Youtube, or, for a higher quality version, on Netflix)

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Keep It Classic Part 2: German Gangs

Germany, 1931. Only three years after the first full length 'talkie' film is opening into a whole new world of sound and languages. The foreign film becomes a fully fledged genre with the necessity for subtitles - or commonly shudder inducing dubbing - and today's film is one of these early spoken pieces of cinema that remains highly regarded by critics worldwide. But is it the masterpiece they all believe it is? This is M.

In a German city, children are going missing and turning up dead later on. The police have absolutely no leads to follow in order to capture the killer and they show no sign of being able to stop the killings. The city is getting more and more anxious every day. Parents watch their children intently and riots break out in the streets whenever someone is accused of being the child killer. The criminal underworld are also disgusted by the actions of the killer. They decide to conduct their own investigation, with access to a lot of options the police cannot use - and, of course, the police would not provide a harsh enough punishment for such a despicable human being, leaving the criminal boss Schränker (Gustaf Gründgens) feeling that justice needs to be taken into his own hands.

'My daughter is lovely, nein?'

Peter Lorre, the villainous killer, is a stand-out performance. Being little more than ominous footsteps and a whistle for around half the film, Lorre creates an undeniably menacing presence. But in glorious juxtaposition, he performs with a gentle softness that raises all kinds of questions of morality. Can such a disgusting murderer actually also be a victim and should he have a chance at redemption. Similarly, mob leader Schränker, played by Gustaf Gründgens, suggests that those who live through crime also have an ethical principle that they stand solidly by which is, arguably, more honest than the law enforcement as Schränker is not held back by protocols and rules. Despite this more humane view of criminals, Gründgens is definitely the most intimidating figure in the film. Dressed in a large leather coat and bowler hat, Gründgens looms over the crime underworld and even over Lorre, again raising questions of who the real antagonist: the constant crime underworld or the short term true evil that brought a city to its knees.

'Oh man, my Westside symbol went all wrong...'
A revolutionary film in so many ways and is still an inspiration to this very day for crime thriller around the world. Firstly, it is incredibly well written despite having no real antagonist or protagonist. The film forces the audience to engage with the failed efforts of the police, the investigation conducted by the criminal world, and the experiences of the murderer himself, creating a constant feeling of suspense as the three words overlap and the manhunt becomes a race as well. Then there is the technicality of the whole thing. Techniques of M are used commonly in almost all genres. Playing with shadows, jumping to silence, relating a single character to piece of music - in this case 'In the Hall of the Mountain King' from Edvard Grieg's 'Peer Gynt Suite No. 1', to introduce the killer. It is all so wonderfully created and incredibly ahead of its time. Also, as previously mentioned, it pressures the audience to consider their stance on crime, morality, and issues such as the death sentence. Do you side with the criminals and believe that such a gruesome killer should be executed, or do you agree with the notion of him claiming insanity and being locked away for life? Or is there a middle ground? M encourages you to think about these things.

A wonderful thriller that leaves you fully engaged until the very last second. It revived Fritz Lang's career and influenced generations of films for decades to come. It is worth the hype, having made it very rightly to #212 in Empire Magazne's Top 500 and #50 IMDb's top 250 #. A must see for all.


Best Bit? Watching the criminals track down the killer to a single building and the tense section of the film that follows as the criminals run ow on time to find him as the police rush towards the scene.

Friday, 30 August 2013

Ghostbusters

Popularity is a curse in film making. The necessity to be unique but do exactly what the audience want creates a near impossible challenge. So when something like handheld video films became popular, how do you make your self stand out? Paranormal Activity did it by scaring audiences senseless and blowing up bank accounts, Chronicle did it with kids with super powers, and Blair Witch Project did it before it was cool. But can today's film do it? This is Grave Encounters.

Grave Encounters starts with a typical cliché for the film style: a television executive claims they have got their hands on the footage about to be shown but little is known about it. But it all soon becomes clear. We are introduced to an amateur film team desperately trying to make a hip, cool, ghost hunting TV show. We see the out-takes, the behind the scenes, and the spooky, but completely fake, world that these hunters present. They lock themselves in an abandoned mental hospital with some horrific past with the intention of staying the night. They set up their cameras and go to explore. However, it seems ghosts are not as fake as they have believed and it seems that the paranormal entities within the hospital are more intent on keeping the crew within the walls than even the chains on the doors. At least it will give them good footage right?

At least the ghosts are polite...

There is no doubt that the acting in all forms of this particular sub-section of horror often falls short of critically acclaimed. Trying to present real life realistically whilst searching for invisible monsters can often come across as cheesy but Grave Encounters cast do not fear this, they revel in it. All of their performances are meant to be parodying shows like Most Haunted UK and the like with their overtly dramatic introductions to a very mundane location. Ben Wilkinson - as team leader Jerry - really emulates this with several takes of the simple introduction with exasperated sighs as tiny things go wrong. Paying off groundsmen to tell stories of ghosts in windows shows the ridiculous nature of these 'totally real' television shows. And their entire personalities change when things start becoming too real. The parody is dropped and, though the cheesiness remains, we feel the fear of the characters showing through.

Welcome to the Criss Angel of ghost shows.

As previously stated, this is a wonderful parody of ghost hunting television shows. It highlights the absurdity of these shows and how they are undoubtedly created. The scares, when they come, vary between the psychological and jumps. There are haunting images, dramatic irony, and a powerful use of the universal human fear of the unknown. Yes, it is cheesy, and yes it is nothing revolutionary but it will no doubt cause a chill down your spine like few other handheld horrors do. The characters are not likeable. Truth be told, they are sleazy but the audience are never encouraged to dislike them. They are human, totally accessible, and we can easily sympathise, even if we recognise their hubris.

A good horror. An old idea executed with authority and command. It will not haunt you forever but it may well make you uncomfortable when watching.


Best Bit? Possibly one of the more well known images of this unknown film, a girl cries in a corner and, when approached by the crew, turns to reveal an uncomfortably dark face which transforms horrifyingly before our eyes. A strong image and a scary moment.

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Darkness, Dolls, And Demons.

James Wan. The modern master of horror. With such films as Saw, Dead Silence, and Insidious to his name, there is no doubt that he knows how to get people sitting in cinemas waiting to be scared. But with the announcement that he is leaving horror behind him, it may seem these days are soon to be gone. So how is he bowing out of the horror genre? Let us see. This is The Conjuring.

The year is 1971. Carolyn (Lili Taylor) and Roger Perron (Ron Livingston) and their five daughters - Andrea, Nancy, Christine, Cindy, and April (Shanley Caswell, Hayley McFarland, Joey King, Mackenzie Foy, and Kyla Deaver respectively) - move into an old farm house. Their dog, Sadie, refuses to enter the house and the next day, after the discovery of a boarded up basement, Sadie is found dead in the garden. During the nights, the kids experience some peculiar events. Cindy sleep walks and slams her head into a wardrobe, and something keeps grabbing at Christine's feet. Carolyn eventually seeks help from paranormal investigators Ed (Patrick Wilson) and Lorraine Warren (Vera Farmiga) who agree, reluctantly, to perform an investigation. Despite initial thoughts that there is a very simple explanation for the family's experiences in the house, the happenings get worse and soon the investigating team are not looking to find the problem, but get rid of it.

'THIS WAS MY BEST BED SHEET!'

Patrick Wilson, now working with Wan for the second time (excluding the upcoming Insidious: Chapter 2), and Vera Farmiga are really the main focus of the film. While the build up towards their inclusion in the Perron family's situation is wonderfully chilling, it is only once the investigation is under-way that any real plot begins to settle. Much of the attention is on Famiga's Lorraine from all angles. Wilson's Ed shows a true affection and care for her well being as she approaches the danger, becoming transfixed in horrifying visions and nightmarish scenarios. Fear is possibly the hardest emotion to present with authenticity with Hollywood horror's often over doing it and all subtlety thrown away but Famiga commonly has beautiful moments when you can essentially feel her muscles tense up and her heart stop. There is a realism in that that is regularly missed in horror nowadays. In terms of the child actors, young Joey King, playing Christine, excels over her film siblings. A look of sheer terror into the darkness, seeing something we have not, but her eyes tell us it is there. A fantastic performance from such a young actress.

'Is THAT what I look like today?!'

But The Conjuring is not without its flaws. Like Wan's last outing, Insidious, The Conjuring starts with some absolutely fantastic moments in horror. Suspenseful build up with a terrifying pay off and revisiting of innocent material from earlier in the film makes for some good scares, however, these dwindle out when a complex plot is introduced. That is what happened here. The mindless scares were thoroughly engaging, playing with the unknown, the most universal of human fears, but once more context was added, the fear stopped. Once a threat is understood, a solution is closer and The Conjuring introduced the hope of a resolution far too early. Though, it must be emphasised that the first half is fantastic cinematic horror, there is just nothing revolutionary in the latter half. It is not bad horror, just not special. Of course, it could be argued that the horror, while not revolutionary, is based on fact and that is where true fear should be derived from. This would also explain the unneeded side plot of the Annabelle doll, a murderous possessed toy that is introduced at the beginning of the film as if it were the main evil of the film only to be simply pointed at constantly in the film with exasperated mentions of 'Don't touch that'.

A wonderfully thrilling first half with some genuinely chilling moments, it is just a pity the second act does not reflect the first. An almost impossible fight to win in horror film-making, though. Too many scares and no plot is classed as superficial, too much plot and not enough scares is simply not scary enough. The balance is extremely hard to strike. The Conjuring is, however, still a better horror than many other films that try to slip into that genre, there is just too few moments of brilliance - another thing that only gets harder to complete with every new horror.

Best Bit? It is, sadly, also in the first trailer. Upon checking out the newly found basement, Carolyn strikes a match to see into the silent dark. An eerie pair of hands appear over her shoulder and clap twice. A simple but extremely striking moment of horror cinema.

Saturday, 10 August 2013

On The Airplane - Part 3: Hypnosis

The world loves films about the psychological nature of humans. Things like psychotic episodes, dreams, even psychopathic killers. Look at the popularity of Inception a few years ago. So let us explore the human mind all over again. This is Trance.

'Anyone can steal a piece of art,' we are told immediately. Simon (James McAvoy) works at an art auctioneers and the first rule, should a robbery take place, is do not try to be a hero. But when criminal Franck (Vincent Cassel) attempts to steal a £20 million piece of art, Simon breaks that rule. He rescues the painting and storing it somewhere but he is beaten into a state of amnesia directly afterwards. Simon finds himself in hot water when he can no longer remember the paintings location  but maybe with help from hypno-therapist, Elizabeth (Rosario Dawson), all the secrets will be revealed. Perhaps too many secrets. 

Question reality...

Trance's cast is one of the bravest, boldest, and most brilliant of recent years. Cassel, known mostly for his harsh ballet teaching in Black Swan, is a triumph here as Franck. His character portrayal is so shady that it impossible to tell when Franck is truthful and when he is not. A charming antagonist and a wonderfully wicked character to watch. Dawson portrays Elizabeth such unnerving calm, again, raising questions about how trustworthy she is. Why unnerving? When you cannot trust your therapist, who can you trust? And McAvoy. A truly fantastic actor putting forward a truly fantastic performance as the lost, dazed, and confused Simon. His slow descent into madness (or possibly ascent to sanity) as his mind is manipulated until breaking point. Fear, anger, aggression, confusion, love; McAvoy gets it all spot on. 

What is real?

Danny Boyle is no stranger to making great films. He is the rare breed of director that can seem to do no wrong. He even directed the Olympic Opening Ceremony! Where is this man's flaw? Trance is not it. Firstly, it is visually gorgeous. The colour palette is tremendous, bringing out the most vibrant aspects of the rainbow. It is also extremely bold and brave, like the cast. Lots of sex and violence. The latter will cause fearful, squeamish cringing, the former may cause drooling. Another hit for Boyle, though the film itself is not without its issues. The problem with the a film with a complex plot as daring and mind boggling as Trance is that it does not come without its fair share of confusion. The plot twists will excite all the audience, but on the way, they will find themselves questioning what is really happening. No one wants to be made to feel slow by a film. 



It is smart, sexy, and completely psychotic. Hold on to your hats and keep your attention up. It needs is, but by golly is it worth it. A fast paced trip through the human mind. 


Best Bit?  As the film twists more than a roller coaster, it is difficult to say too much without spoiling anything. Go see it and find your own best bit. 

 

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

On The Airplane - Part 2: Russia Explodes

With four films leading up to this (reviewed here and here), the first being one of the greatest Christmas movies of all time, there will forever be a sceptical frame of mind towards a franchise on its fifth adventure. But can this prove all those cynics wrong? This is A Good Day To Die Hard.

The unlucky, unusual, and downright unfortunate police officer John McClane (Bruce Willis) is on the search for his son, Jack (Jai Courtney), who has just turned up in prison in Moscow. John takes a vacation to see what is up and accidentally interrupts his son's CIA mission. Oops. Whilst trying to get a file from government whistle-blower Yuri Komarov (Sebastian Koch), John slows the CIA down, with good intentions, of course, but causes them to miss their extraction. Having to move to plan B, which also goes sour, the CIA have little choice but to allow John's involvement, but who can the McClane duo trust, and who will turn against them?

You may think this scene is unnecessary...
You would be completely right.
There is no doubt that Willis is still the same Mclane that he has always been, though slightly more chirpy than the fourth instalment. The constant yells of, 'I'm on vacation!', before doing something extremely stupid remind us that, whilst he is still an awesome badass, he is getting old. His son, played by Jai Courtney, brings the youthful spirit into the film, leaping around n slow motion but showing no positivity for his father. Unexplored trauma that no one dares develop much. Really, all of the performances feel a bit forced like there is no passion in anything. The bad guys do not seem to evil, there is no evidence that John has done enough to make Jack hate him, and Willis is simply resorting back to an old recipe that has always worked. It is rare to expect an Oscar worthy performance in a Die Hard film, but at least in the past there has been some notion that all the cast members are trying. Here, everyone seems to have rolled out of bed, read their lines, and gone home.

John was very proud of his son's ninth Doctor cosplay...

Of course, these are not the only issues with the film. One thing that is critically underdeveloped is a small little thing commonly known as the plot. After half an hour of thoroughly enjoyable action packed mayhem, the audience are left with a question: what was it for? The antagonist switches more than a strobe light turns on, and none of them are developed in any shape or form - their motives extremely vague. There is plenty of father and son bonding and lots of things explode but questions are raised and never answered. It is like the creative team thought the only worthwhile thing in Die Hard was the explosive violence and so simply discarded the story this time round. Even the badly received Die Hard 4.0 had a solid story line, even if it was ridiculous. Maybe the franchise should take some advice from the film's title.

The action is fantastic, even if it has no real purpose, but, sadly, the film does not explode off the screen in the same way the cars do. Maybe it is time for McClane to finally retire.


Best Bit? The first half an hour of mayhem. At that point in the film, an explanation simply is not needed. Mindless carnage with some of Willis best lines and some genuinely inventive destruction.

Friday, 19 July 2013

Invasion Of The Beer Snatchers

Back in 2004 the world was introduced to the film stylings of Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, and Edgar Wright with zombie comedy, Shaun of the Dead. Three years later they were back with police caper, Hot Fuzz. After six years of waiting, the third instalment of the Cornetto Trilogy is here. This is The World's End.

In June 1990, on the last day of school, five friends went out to celebrate. Their aim? To get through the golden mile - a selection of twelve pubs in one night. The group is made up of Andy, Oliver, Steven, peter, and their old leader, Gary. However, they only managed to make it through ten pubs. Jump forward to 2013 and Gary is adamant that the boys give it another go, though this time there may be more to worry about than just being sick or passing out. It seems a larger threat is present in the small town and the guys are going to have fight together, through all of their personal strife, to get to the last pub... Or even to survive!

'What happened last night?'

The only real way to understand the acting abilities of Frost and Pegg is to watch all three films in the Cornetto Trilogy back to back. The World's  End provides a complete role reversal for the two of them with Pegg becoming substance abusing screw up, Gary, who is obsessed with the legend he once was, and Frost playing a serious lawyer with a wife, job, and a seventeen year long sober spell. But with no context of their previous roles, you would believe this was their natural home. Pegg is completely reckless, stained by his disillusionment and does not show any real care for his friends, but somehow is still has a power over them. Frost is almost like your friend's dad. He seems nice enough and when he is mad, he still plays it fairly cool. The rest of the five musketeers are great as well. Freeman, an estate agent, is sensible and smart, often falling at the butt of jokes, but not afraid to fight back unlike Peter, played by Eddie Marsan. Peter is the weed. He hides from fights, but you get protective over him. His brief back story will no doubt hit home in many hearts through his wonderfully powerful, if not simple, performance. And Paddy Considine, as Steven, flicks on the line of the prick of the group and the most logical, perhaps because the audience are encouraged to view him from Gary's perspective - a rival for the ladies. 

'Fuck it'

Edgar Wright has proved time and time again that he knows what he is doing in film. Pegg and himself know no limits when it comes to writing a comedy that is completely a genre film, but also hilarious. The fight scenes, much like Wright's Scott Pilgrim, are beautifully orchestrated and choreographed in every detail. One particularly funny fight has Gary attempting just to get through his pint but constantly getting interrupted. The jokes work in every way conceivable. The physical comedy is the stuff of legend, the sight gags are extremely clever, and there is some inventive swearing that would make Malcolm Tucker proud. All this being said, it starts of a bit slow. Having five characters to introduce clearly proved to be a challenge. Once they get going on the adventure, it is constant fun, but it feels like the film needed to shift up a gear just a little sooner.

Despite leaving the already twice successful routine and heading in a different direction, The World's End has everything you could hope for from the final part of the Cornetto Trilogy. Comedy, the beating heart of friendship, barbie doll like creatures that splurt blue blood. It is a wonderful creation. And for drama nerds, keep an eye out for the scene that gets a bit Brecht.


Best Bit? All the fight scenes are wonderful. They're like watching painstakingly rehearsed dances.

Sunday, 14 July 2013

On The Airplane - Part 1: A.I.

There is almost a limitless supply of films in which artificial intelligence has reached a point bordering on humanity. Mostly, this does not have a good outcome. But what if robots did  not plan an uprising and instead served their purpose of assisting their owner and fulfilling their basic purpose. This is Robot & Frank.

Frank (Frank Langella) is a retired jewel thief. He has done his time in the slammer and now his memory is failing him. he can barely see his daughter Madison (Liv Tyler) and his son, Hunter (James Marsden), is always nagging him. Frank enjoys going to his local library to his friend Jennifer (Susan Sarandon) and he often shoplifts from a local store. That is until Hunter insists on buying him a robot companion to look after him. Frank, naturally, claims he needs no such help and wants nothing more than to get rid of the thing. However after Hunter gives him no choice, he finds the Robot (voiced by Peter Sarsgaard) has skills that will provide Frank with joy, assistance, and trouble.

The future of libraries... All digital.

With any film like this, there is a real challenge presented to the protagonist: the majority of their interaction is with an object. Langella pulls this off with absolutely no flaws. Advertised as a comedy, but Langella's performance is truly touching as well as side splitting. His comic timing is impeccable; every single gesture is planned and precise. This also applies to the more heart wrenching moments. We get an insight to all the aspects of old age from the enjoyable cynicism to the outright isolation and loneliness that comes with it. For Langella, it is something as simple as a swallow or a blink to portray every thought that crosses his mind. Almost a one man show that breaks every aspect of the emotional spectrum. A phenomenal performance.

'Well aren't we an odd couple!'

As a whole, the film is made incredibly. Visually, it is a joy; a beautiful blend of colourful comedy with dark, dismal drama. The soundtrack perfectly compliments the film, as it should do. The score is meant to emphasise emotions, not create them. But what prevails most here is the writing. Not just a well crafted script with a host of great dialogues, it is also one that evokes a range of emotional reaction from the audience.Grab a hankie, this comedy draws tears.

A wonderful piece of cinema that hits all the right spots. Touching, hilarious, and extremely well created. Open a spot on your favourite films list.


Best Bit? Watching two robots try to converse like normal humans is one of the funniest moments in cinema in a while.