Thursday, December 06, 2012

Great Expectations (2012)

Source: Wikipedia
A little over three months ago, I was required to watch the 1946 version of a Charles Dickens novel I ashamedly knew very little about. I had stupidly missed out on educating myself on any of the bucketfuls of previous adaptations - including last year's television series.

Of course, I had to watch it as Empire had awarded it 5 stars, but on my first viewing I really didn't understand what all the fuss was about. I figured that maybe everyone was wrong; perhaps Dickens didn't know how to use a quill and the film's director David Lean was really a misguided fool, mistaken for a genius by some film critics at the world's best selling movie magazine. I mean, what do they know anyway? I watched it again to reaffirm my stone crafted belief - only to find that someone had blunted my chisel. It was I who was the fool, as misguided as Pip and tripping over my ego in the process.

While I'm in confession I didn't realise that a 2012 remake was in the pipeline until a couple of months ago as my eyes were opened once more by the pages of Empire with a little help from the British Film Institute (Great Expectations was the star at the close of the London Film Festival). It is a film I wouldn't have given a second glance to until I understood the majesty of Lean's version. As I read further into it, I found that a dark fantasy was about to come true. Helena Bonham Carter was cast to play perhaps the scattiest and most isolated character in literary history. A role she was born for.

Thanks to Odeon's 25% off Tuesday deals for its Premiere Card customers, I caught a perfectly quiet viewing with the cinema almost empty. No children, rustling popcorn or Nokia ring tones to spoil the viewing pleasure. The film kicks off just as its most famous predecessor did on the lonely marshes where Magwich (Ralph Fiennes), an escaped convict, runs free. The atmosphere isn't up there with Lean's, with a discerning lack of fog occasionally making the film look like a running scene from Chariots of Fire.

Helena Bonham Carter as Miss Havisham
At this point I realised that many of my views on the film would be impared by the obligatory comparisons. Regardless, I sat back, munched some ice cream and watched Pip finally meet a certain Miss Havisham. Bizarrely, Bonham Carter didn't fit the role as much as I expected her to. Sure, she's the standout, but I had personally hyped her to perhaps be the saviour of a film that was always going to struggle in the shadows of history. Alas, she was not. Quirky, lonely, scatty and creepy, yes. Miss Havisham, oddly no. It's not her acting - it's the fact there there is very little dust in a room littered with cobwebs and age. The small amounts of detail that make Miss Havisham were sadly lacking.

Where the film does succeed is in its use of colour (a technology that was commercially unviable in the 1940's). The contrast between Estella and the rest of the scene is often breathtaking as her beauty is enhanced by the bright blue tones in her dress offset against the muggy browns of the City. The garden scenes around Miss Havisham's house reflect vibrant greens offset by the lonely dull tones of her house - really emphasising on the life that she is missing out on.

This isn't the only factor that will draw the Christmas crowds in, as Mike Newell's 2012 version also features a stellar cast ranging from the consistent Robbie Coltrane as the pompous lawyer Jaggers to the comical bumblings of David Walliams as the aspiring Pumblechook. Despite what initially looks like an irregular mismatch of celebrities, it is clear that they have been well-casted for their roles.

It is also easier to understand than the 1940's version and more accessible in the way that it hand-feeds the audience much of Dicken's story - while Lean's gives more detail, there is an air about it that assumes you know the characters at the very least.

There is no real benefit to seeing it in the cinema, but if you are looking for films to watch this Christmas then give it a whirl. Just don't go in with the same misguided Great Expectations as I did.

Wednesday, December 05, 2012


Hello, Bienvenue, Wilkommen and 'Allo 'Allo.

Holy macaroni, this is my first post in over a month. Time flies when you're refurbishing a house in an attempt to move in to stop your parents complaining that you've had said house for over six months and are still living rent free under their nose having fun.

As a result, I haven't watched a film in over six weeks. For someone that is used to reaching for the popcorn on an almost nightly basis, this hiatus has been horrible as I've spent my time running from wire cutters to plasterers trowel in a futile attempt to not spend any money overhauling the house. On the plus side, the bedroom is finished. Except the curtains. And the floor.

Regardless, last weekend I moved in. I powered up my television for the first time in over a month and realised that while most of the channels were still spewing out their non-primetime crap, there was a saving grace in that I'm A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here had just finished and ITV could return to more sane scheduling - combined with their annual competition with Channel 5 for Corniest-Christmas-Film Of The Year*.

There is another positive in that the cinematic Christmas schedule looks very appetising this year (and I'm not just talking about Samantha Barks in Les Misérables). I have Great Expectations for a modern remake of the Dickens classic, and I'm hoping that The Life of Pi will be awarded more than 3.14 stars. Then there is the small matter of the start of a Peter Jackson trilogy that makes me wish it was 2001 all over again. Maybe not - 12 years ago I was a Hobbit myself, joining up with my Dwarf friends and attempting to quest my way through school.

You can probably tell my humour has become a lot darker since I last wrote - possibly in preparation for Seven Psychopaths - and this means that there will be some changes around. Gone is the standard template of Summary, Storyline, Review and in comes something far more original; Put-Stuff-Where-It-Sounds-Good.

I went to the cinema last night. Let the reviewing commence. Again.

* American Translation: "... The X Factor has nearly finished and Fox can almost return to more sane scheduling - combined with their annual competition with CBS for Corniest-Christmas-Film Of The Year."

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

209 - High Noon (1952)

Played out in real time, High Noon tells the story of a man unwilling to run from a fight.

Will Kane (Gary Cooper) is the long serving sheriff of Hadleyville. On the day of his wedding to Amy (Grace Kelly), a quaker and a pacifist, he learns of the forthcoming return of Frank Miller (Ian McDonald) on the high noon train - a man whom Kane had sentenced to hanging, but who had escaped on a legal technicality.

The townsfolk encourage Kane to escape with his bride while he still can, but Kane insists on staying. As he tries to recruit deputies for his cause, however, he finds himself increasingly isolated as the clock ticks down to high noon.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Painless (2012)

Theatrical Poster
Source: uniFrance films
A group of children who can't feel pain are isolated.

In present times, David (Àlex Brendemühl) is travelling down a mountain road when his car flips, killing his pregnant wife and critically injuring David. David and his 3-month premature child are saved, but the subsequent tests reveal David has little time to live unless he has a bone marrow transplant. When he goes to tell his parents about his situation, they reveal his past is not all it seems.

In the 1930's, a group of children who do not feel pain are discovered and they are taken into an asylum in order for them to be rehabilitated. One such child, Benigno, reveals a strange talent that both helps and hinders him in his time at the asylum over the next 30 years.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

208 - Heat (1995)

Theatrical Poster
Source: IMP Awards
Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear. The schedule is out the window. That's not for want of trying though. I blame other commitments such as trying to renovate a house (I write this while cosying up to a 50-year-old Rayburn surrounded by power tools and a mismash of new house and neglected 1950's house) - all this while running my standard full time job. I know, throw me a pity party.

Having experienced a number of fantastic gangster films on the Empire 5-star list, I was very much looking forward to Heat. Be warned though - anyone expecting a Godfather-esque Pacino/De Niro gangster movie will be vastly disappointed. Heat is a crime film, with De Niro as Neil McCauley, the bad guy with a good life and Pacino as Lt. Vincent Hanna, the good cop with a bad life.

It opens to a wondrously clockwork robbery with Val Kilmer getting in on the gung-ho action. Naturally it doesn't go without a hitch, leaving De Niro forced to outcast a member of his crew. So, while he continues to watch his back in case Pacino shows up to bust him, he now needs to keep a beady eye out for the ostracised member of the gang who is seeking revenge.

The criminal plans are laid out well throughout and this certainly helps to get across the cool persona of McCauley - this is a role which Robert De Niro plays throughout his career and it is interesting to think that both him and Pacino could have played either of the protagonist roles.

Overall though, I was disappointed with Heat. I'd set a high bar for a film containing Empire's two highest rated actors (ranked by number of 5-star films), and perhaps this didn't help. In places it drags on considerably and the nigh on three hour run time could easily have been shortened. Halfway through the film, a scene which feels like the final gunfight is played out and from then on, much of the film just feels like an alternate ending.

It is then, with great regret that I have to rank Heat with disappointment. Michael Mann's films will crop up later on in the 500 with Public Enemies and Last of the Mohicans so maybe he can regain some lost credibility.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

BFI Top 100 British Films

84 Remaining
In 1999 the British Film Institute polled 1,000 people from British film in order to compile the 100 greatest films that are seen as culturally British. These needn't be created partly or wholly by British companies, but must be seen as significantly British.

The list is as follows:
  1. The Third Man (1949)
  2. Brief Encounter (1945)
  3. Lawrence of Arabia (1962)
  4. The 39 Steps (1935)
  5. ✓ see review ★★★★★ Great Expectations (1946)
  6. Kind Hearts and Coronets (1949)
  7. Kes (1969)
  8. ✓ see review ★★★★★ Don't Look Now (1973)
  9. The Red Shoes (1948)
  10. Trainspotting (1996)
  11. ✓ see review ★★★★★ The Bridge On The River Kwai (1957)
  12. If.... (1968)
  13. The Ladykillers (1955)
  14. Saturday Night and Sunday Morning (1960)
  15. Brighton Rock (1947)
  16. ✓ see review ★★★★★ Get Carter (1971)
  17. The Lavender Hill Mob (1951)
  18. Henry V (1944)
  19. ✓ see review ★★★★ Chariots Of Fire (1981)
  20. A Matter of Life and Death (1946)
  21. The Long Good Friday (1980)
  22. The Servant (1963)
  23. Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994)
  24. Whisky Galore! (1949)
  25. The Full Monty (1997)
  26. The Crying Game (1992)
  27. ✓ see review ★★★★ Doctor Zhivago (1965)
  28. Monty Python's Life of Brian (1979)
  29. Withnail and I (1987)
  30. Gregory's Girl (1980)
  31. ✓ see review ★★★★ Zulu (1969)
  32. Room at the Top (1958)
  33. Alfie (1966)
  34. Gandhi (1982)
  35. The Lady Vanishes (1938)
  36. The Italian Job (1969)
  37. Local Hero (1983)
  38. The Commitments (1991)
  39. A Fish Called Wanda (1988)
  40. Secrets & Lies (1996)
  41. ✓ see review ★★★★★ Dr. No (1962)
  42. The Madness of King George (1994)
  43. A Man for All Seasons (1966)
  44. ✓ see review ★★★★ Black Narcissus (1947)
  45. The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp (1943)
  46. Oliver Twist (1948)
  47. I'm All Right Jack (1959)
  48. Performance (1970)
  49. Shakespeare in Love (1998)
  50. My Beautiful Laundrette (1985)
  51. Tom Jones (1963)
  52. This Sporting Life (1963)
  53. My Left Foot (1989)
  54. ✓ see review ★★★★★ Brazil (1985)
  55. The English Patient (1996)
  56. A Taste of Honey (1961)
  57. The Go-Between (1971)
  58. The Man in the White Suit (1951)
  59. The Ipcress File (1965)
  60. ✓ see review ★★★★ Blow-Up (1966)
  61. The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner (1962)
  62. Sense and Sensibility (1995)
  63. Passport to Pimlico (1949)
  64. The Remains of the Day (1993)
  65. Sunday Bloody Sunday (1971)
  66. The Railway Children (1970)
  67. Mona Lisa (1986)
  68. The Dam Busters (1955)
  69. Hamlet (1948)
  70. ✓ see review ★★★★★ Goldfinger (1964)
  71. Elizabeth (1998)
  72. ✓ see review ★★★★ Goodbye, Mr. Chips (1939)
  73. A Room with a View (1985)
  74. The Day of the Jackal (1973)
  75. The Cruel Sea (1952)
  76. Billy Liar (1963)
  77. Oliver! (1968)
  78. Peeping Tom (1960)
  79. Far from the Madding Crowd (1967)
  80. The Draughtsman's Contract (1982)
  81. ✓ see review ★★★★ A Clockwork Orange (1971)
  82. Distant Voices, Still Lives (1988)
  83. Darling (1965)
  84. Educating Rita (1983)
  85. Brassed Off (1996)
  86. Genevieve (1953)
  87. Women in Love (1969)
  88. ✓ see review ★★★★★ A Hard Day's Night (1964)
  89. Fires Were Started (1943)
  90. Hope and Glory (1987)
  91. My Name Is Joe (1998)
  92. In Which We Serve (1942)
  93. Caravaggio (1986)
  94. ✓ see review ★★★★★ The Belles Of St. Trinians (1954)
  95. Life is Sweet (1990)
  96. The Wicker Man (1973)
  97. Nil by Mouth (1997)
  98. Small Faces (1995)
  99. ✓ see review ★★★★ Carry On... Up The Khyber (1968)
  100. The Killing Fields (1984)

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Room 237 (2012)

Theatrical Poster
A documentary looking at hidden meanings behind The Shining.

When Stanley Kubrick directed The Shining, he had other things on his mind than just directing a standard horror film.

This documentary suggests that the film had other connotations including many references to American Indians, the faked footage of the lunar landings and continuity errors that may have been intentional.

Friday, October 12, 2012

British Film Institute - London Film Festival

Between October 10th and October 22nd, the British Film Institute are hosting their 56th annual London Film Festival, featuring movies that are shown before their UK release date and films that will probably never get a UK release date or distribution. It was officially opened with the animated film Frankenweenie 3D, and will end with the UK premiere of Great Expectations featuring Helena Bonham Carter and Ralph Fiennes.

56th BFI London Film Fesitval logo - Source: BFI

As a film fan, as soon as I heard about this year's festival, I was on the BFI's website and shortlisting films I wanted to see. As a reader of Empire Magazine, I was pleased to see the appearance of Room 237, a documentary on Kubrick's The Shining, which Empire had rated 5-stars. That was the first film added to my shortlist. Having watched the 1946 version, I was also keen to watch Great Expectations, but alas with this being the premiere and all, it was sold out.

Also on my shortlist was the Italian film The Interval, the thriller Blood, and one I thought looked particularly interesting - the South Korean film Helpless. I asked my girlfriend to write her own list of films too, and interestingly both of our lists contained 12 films - although they were varied somewhat. We had both picked out Seven Psychopaths, the follow-up to my favourite black comedy, In Bruges. She was also keen to push Blancanieves, which looked an interesting mix as it was declared to be Tim Burton meets The Artist.

In the end the list had to be shortened down to two or three films that we could see on the same day (living a while away from London causes logistical issues). Tying up which films were being shown sequentially narrowed down the choices, until I finally settled on Room 237 and Painless - a Spanish thriller/drama about children who do not feel pain.

I feel it has a certain air of sophistication to be going to a 'film festival', but I just told my work colleagues that I was effectively going to London to go to the cinema twice. After leaving the screening for Room 237 this is exactly what it felt like. I'd sweated on the London Underground, dodged rain and avoided a school trip on my way to the Leicester Square showing - there was little more to it than that, except for a pleasing lack of adverts before the show.

We'd previously travelled to the second cinema to get an idea of where it was. Ciné Lumière was a single screen literally surrounded by French culture in the Institut français du Royaume-Uni (French Institute in London) and is more renowned for showing French films that the British are largely ignorant of. The building also houses a cafe and a mediatheque - something far more charming and quaint than the big-screen multiplexes common in leisure parks up and down the country.

The cinema didn't have allocated seating, so we were keen to get in quick to get our seats and happily ended up in our favourite place - our view placed firmly in the centre of the screen. We were pleasantly surprised by the announcement before the show that director Juan Carlos Medina would be on stage afterwards for a short question and answer session which provided a unique insight into this film including his experiences of working with the actors and his personal background showing why the film was special to him.

Call me naive, but I knew very little about the Spanish civil war and didn't even realise that Painless touched on this era. The post-film interview with Juan Carlos Medina opened my eyes on a very recent and rarely covered piece of Spanish history. Medina himself said with brutal honesty that "no-one talks about it... because the bad guys won".

The most harrowing part of it all was that it - along with many of this year's festival - will probably never see a UK release or distribution. At this point I realised that it was this reason that make film festivals around the world so special. There isn't a big fanfare before or after the showings and neither should there be. They are films like any other - but often without the budget or studio backing of the blockbusters that dominate the other 90% of cinemas up and down the country.

Big conglomerates should give these smaller films a chance to share their culture - if only for one showing per week. Without smaller, personal cinemas like Ciné Lumière we are forgetting the heritage of films and leaving it to Hollywood to dominate our screens with repetitive tales of comic book heroes.

Thank you, BFI and the London Film Fesitval for opening my eyes and I look forward to next year!

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Looper (2012)

Theatrical Poster
Source: Wikipedia
A hitman fails to kill his future self.

In 2044, following the economic collapse of the USA and the rise of the Chinese Yuan, Joe Simmons (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) works in Kansas City as a Looper, performing hits for the mob on people sent back in time from 2074.

At the end of a looper's contract, their future self is sent back to be killed by their past self, but when Joe's older self (Bruce Willis) escapes, Joe must hunt him down or risk the wrath of the mob.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

207 - The Haunting (1963)

Four people visit a haunted house.

An allegedly haunted house, built 90 years ago, has claimed numerous lives and created the fear surrounding it. In the modern day, Hill House has been inherited through its original family, but now remains uninhabited.

Dr. John Markway (Richard Johnson) is determined to find out the source of the haunting behind the house. He invites numerous people who have already had experiences with the supernatural, but only two show up - Eleanor Lance (Julie Harris) and Theodora (Claire Bloom). They are accompanied by another potential heir Luke Sanderson (Russ Tamblyn).

After spending a few nights in the house, Markway is convinced of the haunting, but his experiment appears to be having a bad effect on Eleanor.

Monday, September 17, 2012

206 - A Hard Day's Night (1964)

Following The Beatles in an irreverent day in their lives.

As the Fab Four (Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, George Harrison, John Lennon - all as themselves) gear up for an important television appearance they consistently get themselves into trouble much to the dismay of their manager (Norman Rossington).

Paul's Granddad (Wilfrid Brambell) tags along for the ride, and causes yet more mischief. Can the quartet arrive on time for their performance?

Saturday, September 15, 2012

205 - Happiness (1998)

Following many people in their quest for Happiness.

After a disasterous first date, Joy Jordan (Jane Adams) finds her luck with men running out. Her dead end job and lack of a love life is consistently under scrutiny from her sisters, Helen (Lara Flynn Boyle) and Trish (Cynthia Stevenson).

Their lives aren't much better though as Helen finds herself the subject of a creepy telephone call from her neighbour, Allen (Philip Seymour Hoffman). Allen meanwhile is the subject of another neighbours affections.

Trish lives a standard housewife's life with her two children and doting husband, Bill (Dylan Baker). Bill, though fantasises about killing people and has an unnatural fascination with his 11-year-old son's friend.

If that wasn't bad enough, the sisters' parents are going through a messy breakup.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

204 - Hamlet (1996)

The Prince of Denmark seeks revenge for his father's murder.

After the death of the King of Denmark (Brian Blessed), Prince Hamlet (Kenneth Branagh) is visited by the spirit of his father. He is told that the King's death was by no means an accident and that the King's brother Claudius (Derek Jacobi) carried out the murder to gain control of the throne. Hamlet vows to avenge his father's death.

Meanwhile, Claudius has married the late King's wife, Gertrude (Julie Christie), and is enjoying parading as the King. After Hamlet's occasional lover Ophelia (Kate Winslet) tells Claudius of Hamlet's changing attitude, Claudius worries that Hamlet is on to him.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

203 - Halloween (1978)

A psychotic killer escapes from hospital and returns to his home.

As a 6-year-old child, Michael Myers kills his sister which results in him being committed to Smith's Grove Sanitarium for the insane. Years later, Myers is routinely visited by his doctor, Sam Loomis (Donald Pleasance), and he escapes, returning back to his home town.

Loomis, understanding this, attempts to warn the police about Michael's escape, but as Michael starts to stalk high school student Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis), it seems he may be too late.

Sunday, September 09, 2012

202 - La Haine (1995)

Following three friends in a 24 hour period after a Parisian riot.

Vinz (Vincent Cassel) styles himself of a typical gangster. He hates the police, and when his friend Abdel Ichaha is beaten up by the police shortly before a riot he vows to kill a policeman if he dies from his injuries.

Hubert (Hubert Koundé) is a black boxer who often disagrees with Vinz, but finds himself dragged into the violent world despite his desperation to escape. He has his mother and sister to look after, but won't flee from a fight.

Saïd (Saïd Taghmaoui) often finds himself stuck between Vinz and Hubert and their bickering. He has friends within the police who occasionally bail him from trouble much to Vinz disgust. A lot of people owe him money and favours, and he calls upon his friends to help recover the debt.

Friday, September 07, 2012

201 - Guys And Dolls (1955)

One guy bets another that he can't take a missionary to dinner.

Finding himself short of cash to organise the next big illegal craps game, Nathan Detroit (Frank Sinatra) realises the only way he can raise the money quick enough is to wager a bet. When Sky Masterson (Marlon Brando), a gambler willing to bet on almost anything, shows up, Detroit bets Sky that he can't take a girl of Detroit's choosing out.

The girl that Detroit chooses is a cold missionary (Jean Simmons) and Sky gets to work on asking her out for a date. Meanwhile, Detroit needs to sort out his own life. Desperately short of money and under pressure from a lot of people, he also finds his fiancee of 14 years pressuring him for marriage.

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Films 201 - 210

The next ten films in the Empire 5-star challenge are:
  1. Guys And Dolls (1955)
  2. La Haine (1995)
  3. Halloween (1978)
  4. Hamlet (1996)
  5. Happiness (1998)
  6. A Hard Day's Night (1964)
  7. The Haunting (1963)
  8. Heat (1995)
  9. High Noon (1952)
  10. Hiroshima, Mon Amour (1959)
Firstly, apologies for the triple scheduled Groundhog Day over the past three days. I just have an appaulling sense of humour.

As for the rest of the previous ten, there wasn't a film that I thought was below 4 stars which goes to show the strength of the films that I'm currently watching. The biggest surprise was The Gospel According to St. Matthew which was far better than I thought it was going to be. With a run of 5-star films including Grease and The Great Escape towards the end I have been thoroughly spoilt.

On the next ten, hmm. I haven't seen any of them before. I've seen parts of Hamlet which I watched when I was 14 years old for secondary school English, but other than that I'm a five-star-films-beginning-with-H virgin. The film I'm looking forward to the least is Halloween which may well cause many sleepless nights waiting for Michael Myers to arrive. I'm looking forward to Heat (everyone loves a gangster movie, right?) and I know that A Hard Day's Night is about The Beatles should be interesting.

Finally, keep an eye on the "Schedule" module at the bottom which notes the next ten posts coming up, including review dates. This will also include several new film reviews on movies that have just been released so watch this space!

Until next time!

Monday, September 03, 2012

200 - Groundhog Day (1993)

A man finds himself reliving the same day over and over.

Cynical weatherman Phil Connors (Bill Murray) is off to his fourth annual Groundhog Day in Punxsutawney where the groundhog predicts how much of winter remains. With him in Punxsutawney are his news producer Rita (Andie MacDowell) and cameraman Larry (Chris Elliott).

The problem is Phil doesn't want to be there and when a blizzard keeps him in the city, he finds himself in a time loop reliving the same day over and over again. After numerous inconsequential flings and verging on going insane, Phil needs to reassess his life.

Saturday, September 01, 2012

199 - Great Expectations (1946)

A big screen adaptation of the Charles Dickens classic.

As an orphan boy who is looked after by his sister and her blacksmith husband (Bernard Miles), Phillip 'Pip' Pirrip helps an escaped convict 'Magwitch' (Finlay Currie) by stealing food and drink from his sister. Soon afterwards, Magwitch is caught and sent back to prison.

Pip is summoned by the odd Miss Havisham (Martita Hunt) as a plaything for her daughter, Estella. He soon finds out that Estella seems to dispise him and is only out to hurt him.

Later, as a young man, Pip (John Mills) comes into money from an unknown benefactor who wishes him to live a rich life in London. Pip, however, can't get thoughts of Estella (Valerie Hobson) out of his mind.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Bonus Post! 33 Questions

OK, so I was nominated for the Liebster award on the 22nd July (LifeVsFilm) which I had all filled out and then promptly deleted when I realised I had no time in my posting schedule to release it. Having been nominated twice more (Stills of My Life & Beauty etc....), I figured I'd just answer all 33 questions and be done with it. So, without further ado:

From Jay at Life vs. Film:
  1. At a movie theatre, what snacks do you buy? Or do you sneak them in? If money were no object, what would be your movie theatre snack of choice?
    More often than not I buy a drink. I don't really enjoy popcorn. If money were no object, I would have a waiter with a full blown three course meal consisting of tomato soup, lasagne and anything with chocolate. All separately, mind.
  2. What's the first movie that really scared you?
    Hide and Seek (starring Robert de Niro). Actually, there was a time in my youth where I would go and watch scary films to impress the ladies. There's nothing romantic about crapped pants though.
  3. The television show/book/graphic novel/other thing I would really love to see adapted to film is _______________________.
    Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child - their series on Aloysius Pendergast. He is cool character with an awesome name.
  4. If you like horror movies, why do you like them? If not, why not?
    Hell, no. That said, The Trilogy of the Dead by George A. Romero is brilliant - although it has a certain element of comedy so I don't know whether it counts. The 5-star 500 has helped alleviate my fears though.
  5. If you could be any movie character, who would you be, and why?
    Difficult one. Neo from The Matrix. Or Morpheus. Being Lawrence 'Larry' Fishburne for a day would be amazing. He has to be the coolest man in Hollywood.
  6. Which movie character are you most like?
    Who knows. Winnie the Pooh? I like honey and not wearing trousers, so maybe.
  7. What is it about films that interests you? What got you started?
    The biggest thing that interests me is how so many amazing minds can come together to make something brilliant and how one person's vision can be realised in front of millions around the globe in a single moment.
  8. Why did you start blogging? What keeps you going?
    I originally started blogging to get my frustrations with the world down in writing. Now I blog because I love movies and want to share that with the world.
  9. What movie would you most like to see again for the first time with no prior knowledge?
    Shutter Island. Once you've seen it once you have a completely different outlook on it any subsequent times. That initial confusion and mystery would be great to relive.
  10. If you could have worked on any film in history, which would it be, and in what role?
    I would love to have worked alongside the genius of John Williams. I love the epic feeling that movie music brings and listen to it in the car sometimes. I wish my car was pulled into battle by unicorns.
  11. What song will play over the closing credits of your life?
    End Credits - Chase and Status feat. Plan B. Corny song title I know, but the lyrics are meaningful.
Thanks, Jay.

Next up, Stacey (my girlfriend, go visit her) at Stills of My Life:
  1. What's your favourite food?
    Everything. I'm a human vacuum cleaner when it comes to food. Just keep yellow food away from me - sweetcorn, bananas and custard are a big no-no. Especially if they're mixed together.
  2. What's at the top of your wishlist at the moment?
    My house, and therefore my home cinema, to be finished. I'm fed up of travelling back and forth to keep renovating.
  3. What's your favourite movie, and why?
    Based on the 500 I'm watching, I've loved Amelie, The Crucible and so many more. Just check out all my reviews! Before the 500 I would have said Shawshank, and I decided I've watched Grease the most so that has to be up there.
  4. If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be?
    Australia. I love the people, climate and the accent.
  5. If you had lots of money, what's the first thing you would spend it on?
    Films. If I had enough, I'd hire someone to make a movie for me.
  6. Where would you most like to go as a holiday destination?
    Norway. The northern lights and cruising up the West coast? Yes please. Not permanently though, it's far too cold.
  7. Do you have any celebrity crushes? Particularly embarrassing ones?
    Who doesn't? Stacey would be the first to inform you that Samantha Barks (who is appearing in the upcoming Les Miserables adaptation, having appeared on the stage) would be high up there. Embarrassing ones? Pauses to think. Not that I can think of. Everyone has different tastes anyway.
  8. If there was a film of your life, who would you want to play you?
    Larry (Lawrence Fishburne), Gary (Oldman) or Leo (Leonardo Di Caprio). They all are brilliant actors. None would suit me though. I'd be more of a Jesse Eisenberg kind of man.
  9. What's your favourite season, and why?
    Summer. It's warm. Although not in Britain.
  10. If you had to be an animal (real or mythical), what would you be?
    Phoenix. It has a cool name. Just say it out loud. Then, imagine a bird on fire soaring above your head as you trundle into battle clad from head to toe in armour, feeling the slight give of the moist ground beneath your leather boots. Did I mention that the enemy were orcs and ogres?
  11. If you could choose a sense to be heightened, which one would you choose?
    Hearing. Sight would be too one-directional. Hearing you would be able to figure out everything that is going on around you.
Thanks, Stace.

Next up, Kyra from Beauty etc....:
  1. What's your favourite TV show?
    I loved Lost when it was on. I love Family Guy too. I don't really watch too much TV, but I love game shows too. It boosts my self esteem, or something along those lines.
  2. Do you have any really annoying habits?
    Lazily ignoring the 24th question of any questionnaire.
  3. How many colours have you dyed your hair?
  4. Do/ did your parents/friends have any embarrassing nicknames for you?
    Basically anything that Stacey calls me. It's just not English.
  5. If you could keep one object (that is currently in your room) for the rest of your life, what would it be?
    I'm not really a very clingy person. I very quickly lose interest with everything.
  6. Do you have any collections, if so, what are they?
    Considering I'm watching 500 films and they all have to be on DVD... I guess you could say I have a collection of DVD storage units.
  7. Which meal would you say you are a pro at cooking?
    Microwave meals. Ding, meal is done.
  8. Whats the coolest thing you've been for Halloween?
    Me. I have never tricked nor treated anyone.
  9. If you worked for yourself and money was no object, what would you be doing?
    The easy answer would be to stop working if money was no object but I would get bored very quickly. As a result I'd just keep working but I'd choose my own working hours. At other times I'd trek off to see the world.
  10. Who is your favourite author and why?
    Terry Pratchett, and Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child. Terry Pratchett is a master of comedy and storytelling, while Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child have invented one of the most intresting characters in literary history.
  11. What specialist subject would you choose on Mastermind?
    Vexillology or the study of Flags of the World. I can identify at least 150, and know such interesting facts such as "Paraguay is the only country with a double sided flag" and "Vexillology is the study of Flags of the World".
Thanks, Kyra.

Thanks guys for your interesting questions, and if you're reading this, thanks for getting to the bottom of the post!

Thursday, August 30, 2012

198 - The Great Escape (1963)

Captured airmen try to escape from a prisoner of war camp.

After countless escape attempts, several hundred Allied airmen are sent to a Luftwaffe-controlled prisoner of war camp that is deemed one of the most secure in the country. Each of the prisoners already has his role, from The Scrounger (James Garner) to The Forger (Donald Pleasence) and The Cooler King (Steve McQueen) to the Big X (Richard Attenborough) who controls all escape attempts.

While putting that many ingenious minds in one camp may mean fewer escapes in other camps, the prisoners are quick to hatch a plan to escape the inescapable.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

197 - Grease (1978)

Two summer lovers are surprised to find themselves in the same high school.

Danny Zuko (John Travolta) and Sandy Dee (Olivia Newton John) find themselves at the end of summer with Sandy having to return to Australia while Danny must return to High School. When the new term comes around and Danny learns that Sandy is at the same school, he becomes a different person to be around.

The two of them are joined by Danny's greaser friends, The T-Birds, and Sandy's new friends, The Pink Ladies. Danny must change the way he acts in front of his friends if he is to land to the girl he loved over summer.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

196 - The Grapes of Wrath (1940)

A family is forced to move from Oklahoma to California during the Great Depression.

Having just been released from prison, Tom Joad (Henry Fonda) returned home to Oklahoma to find his family's farm deserted. He is told by Muley (a family friend) that his family had been forced from their home by the deed holders of the land.

Eventually he finds his family at his uncle's house which is also soon to be taken over by the deed holders. There they decide to act upon a leaflet declaring that there is much work as fruit pickers in California.

Along the way to California in their dilapidated truck, the family struggles against many setbacks that face them in the Great Depression.

Friday, August 24, 2012

195 - La Grande Illusion (1937)

Following the movements of a group of escapees in the First World War.

After their plane is shot down in the First World War, Captain de Boeldieu (played by Pierre Fresnay) and Lieutenant Maréchal (Jean Gabin) are sent to a concentration camp in Germany. Both come from different backgrounds - Boeldieu an aristocrat and Maréchal a working class man.

Their repeated escape attempts with fellow prisoner Rosenthal (Marcel Dalio) mean they are sent on to a seemingly impenetrable camp run by aristocrat von Rauffenstein (Erich von Stroheim).

There de Boeldieu strikes up a friendship with von Rauffenstein because of their shared backgrounds until a further escape attempt has tragic consequences for the pair.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The Bourne Franchise

By now, Jason Bourne is almost as well known as James Bond or Mission Impossible's Ethan Hunt as a staple fictional spy character. He was created by Robert Ludlum in 1980, and first appeared in The Bourne Identity.

The Bourne Identity
Theatrical Poster
In Ludlum's novel, we are introduced to a mysterious character who was found alone at sea by a group of fishermen. He lost his memory in an unknown accident and appears to possess remarkable fighting and puzzle solving skills. Later, we find that the US Government has an international warrant out for his arrest.

Director Doug Liman secured the rights for The Bourne Identity after becoming a fan of the books once he'd read them in high school. He enlisted the help of Tony Gilroy for the screenwriting. In 2002, a year after Ludlum's death, it was released on the big screen with Matt Damon cast as Jason Bourne (aiding his rise to fame from The Man That Wrote Good Will Hunting and One Of The More Famous Ones From Ocean's Eleven).

The script for Identity was the film that was closest related to the books with an almost identical beginning. With the exclusion of Bourne's nemesis Carlos the Jackal from the big screen adaptations, the first Bourne film laid down the foundations for the series becoming more political and less about the man himself than the book counterparts.

Identity opened to positive reviews and it still holds a 7.9 rating on the Internet Movie Database. It made over $20,000,000 on release and a sequel was announced a year later as a result of further success - something that no-one on the first film had really anticipated.

The Bourne Supremacy
Theatrical Poster
Due to the disagreements that Liman had had with Universal executives through the making of Identity, Paul Greengrass was signed up to direct a sequel - entitled The Bourne Supremacy. Matt Damon reprised his role as Bourne.

Once again, Tony Gilroy handled the scriptwriting. The story continued with Bourne's reappearance from hiding after an attempt on his life - Eric Van Lustbader used a similar tactic when he revitalised the books in 2004. Other than that small connection (and the shared name), the book and film versions seemed to go their own separate ways.

The Bourne Supremacy was released in the middle of 2004, grossing a similar amount to the first film. It currently holds a 7.7 rating on the Internet Movie Database. Soon afterwards, The Bourne Ultimatum was announced.

The Bourne Ultimatum
Theatrical Poster
Despite the feeling that Supremacy had not got across the message that he had intended, Tony Gilroy penned a draft for The Bourne Ultimatum. Unlike the transition from Identity to Supremacy, the move to Ultimatum was more of a flow from its predecessor with Bourne already being active, rather than having to release him once again from a settled life.

Once again, Damon played Bourne, and Ultimatum saw more of the minor characters taking a bigger role. Julia Stiles as Bourne's informant in Treadstone, Joan Allen as Pamela Landy, the unconvinced CIA Deputy Director who is unsure whether to side with Bourne and David Strathairn as the CIA deputy director who acts as the main antagonist in the film. By offering these three more screen time, the series became far more politically oriented than anything James Bond or Mission Impossible offered.

On release in 2007, Ultimatum became a rare film where a sequel was considered better than any of its predecessors - it is currently rated 8.1 on the Internet Movie Database, and it was the only one of the original trilogy to earn a prestigious 5-star rating from Empire Magazine. It also grossed far more than Identity or Supremacy, earning nearly $70,000,000 in its opening weekend alone.

The Bourne Legacy
Theatrical Poster
Despite the rumour mill going into overdrive regarding a fourth film (will Greengrass direct? Will Damon star? Will it feature Bourne at all?), it was three years after Ultimatum when it was finally announced to the world. Despite taking the Bourne name that Van Lustbader had penned for the fourth book in the series, it was announced that The Bourne Legacy was the first film in the series to not contain the series' protagonist - instead focusing on a flash sideways to the bigger picture.

On announcement of the film, it was also confirmed that Gilroy would be writing the script and also directing. Jeremy Renner (another actor on the rise following his success as Hawkeye in Thor/The Avengers) was cast to play Aaron Cross, an agent similar to those we are introduced to in Bourne who is also trying to find out exactly what "the programme" is.

Alongside Renner was Edward Norton (also following his superhero journey as The Hulk) as the political motivation and Rachel Weisz (far more famous for her older films such as The Mummy) as the scientist who is a long way out of her depth.

As a result of the flash sideways storyline, the film recycled footage from its predecessors. It also had the effect of enhancing the Bourne universe to show the bigger picture going on away from Bourne's scenes in the original trilogy. This storyline is perhaps the biggest differential from the book series which continues to feature Bourne in his struggle.

Legacy was released in August 2012,  amassing a little over half of that of Ultimatum in its opening weekend. It currently holds a 7.2 rating on the Internet Movie Database, the lowest of the series, and the critical response echoed this with a few outlets enjoying the varied storyline while others were very critical.

But where now for the Bourne franchise? Undoubtedly there is more scope to expand the Aaron Cross, and Matt Damon hasn't explicitly ruled out a return for Jason Bourne. Perhaps we will enjoy their inevitable meeting in the not too distant future.

Monday, August 20, 2012

The Bourne Legacy (2012)

Theatrical Poster
Source: Wikipedia
An agent must try to survive when his program is shut down.

As the events of the previous Bourne movies unfold, Ezra Kramer (Scott Glenn) calls upon the help of Eric Byer (Edward Norton) to help keep the research garnered from Treadstone a secret. A result of this is to destroy everything connected with Treadstone and including all agents involved with Treadstone's sister project, Operation Outcome.

Aaron Cross (Jeremy Renner) is one such agent, and narrowly avoids being killed  on a snowy Alaskan mountain. After finding himself low on life-saving drugs he then decides to hunt down those responsible.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

194 - The Gospel According To St. Matthew (1964)

Blu-ray Box
The birth, life and death of Jesus Christ.

Born in a stable to a virgin mother and a carpenter father, Jesus Christ (Enrique Irazoqui) - the self proclaimed Son of God - travels the world spreading the word of God before dying a martyr.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

193 - GoodFellas (1990)

Following the rise of three men in the mob.

Henry Hill (Ray Liotta) - a small time gangster - has the backing of one of the most respected big fish in the gang community. As a result he is able to work his way up through the mob as he organises various robberies.

When he gets wind of a plan to rob a large bank, he invites his two friends Tommy (Joe Pesci) and Jimmy (Robert de Niro) along. After the robbery they start to become increasingly paranoid, killing off anyone who dares to make a mistake.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

192 - Goodbye, Mr Chips (1939)

A teacher looks back on his life.

After spending more than 60 years at Brookfield Public School, Mr. Chipping (Robert Donat) reflects on his time at the school.

He remembers his nervous first day at a teacher, and how he gradually rose up the ranks at the school. He also remembers his late wife and how she gave him the confidence to handle his pupils in a manner that meant he could earn their friendship.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

191 - Good Will Hunting (1997)

A gifted janitor needs direction.

Will Hunting (Matt Damon) is a janitor at MIT and has a gift for being able to decipher the most difficult of mathematics challenges. A lecturer at the University, Prof. Gerald Lambeau (Stellen Skarsgård), notices Will's talent and tries to mould Will into the ideal pupil.

Will is forced to attend Lambeau's lectures and attend sessions with psychologist Dr. Sean Maguire (Robin Williams) as part of his reform having been caught fighting. Will pushes back against the system that abandoned him as a child, but Sean doesn't want to give up so easily.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Films 191 - 200

The next ten films in the Empire 500 5-star challenge are:
  1. Good Will Hunting (1997)
  2. Goodbye, Mr. Chips (1939)
  3. GoodFellas (1990)
  4. The Gospel According To St. Matthew (1964)
  5. La Grande Illusion (1937)
  6. The Grapes of Wrath (1940)
  7. Grease (1978)
  8. The Great Escape (1963)
  9. Great Expectations (1946)
  10. Groundhog Day (1993)

Wow, it's been a long time coming. There was a lot of films watched since the previous 'next ten films' post. In addition to all the franchises mentioned, I've also ensured that all the films have been watched, along with a summary of the series at the end. I had to find room for the Marvel/DC face-off in the middle of July too with Spider-Man and Batman.

There were a lot of highlights over the last six weeks. I love The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo trilogy, so for the first film to be on the list it was a treat. For me, they weren't five star films because of how and where they ended, but I still enjoyed the story. Of course, The Godfather & Part II and Gone with the Wind are instant classics.

For me, the most disappointing were The Gold Rush and Ghostbusters. The Gold Rush because after praising old films a few weeks ago on my hijack of Arlee Bird's blog, it just didn't live up to my high expectations. As for Ghostbusters, well with all the hype I guess I just expected far too much. It was funny, but I just didn't really see the point.

As for the next ten, well I must confess I've already watched some of them and have reviews scheduled (see below!), but for the purposes of this I'll pretend that I haven't! I'm looking forward to Good Will Hunting because it has Robin Williams in it (one of my favourite actors). Following the crime in the last ten, GoodFellas should be a hoot too. Although it's not the oldest on the list, I hope that Grapes of Wrath can restore my faith in the pre-Second-World-War era, coming with high recommendations from my Grandfather.

Also, let's not forget the fourth Bourne film. Although Matt Damon won't be included, I don't doubt that the film will follow its predecessor's greatness. A review for that will be out later this month, along with a summary of the Bourne franchise, including Robert Ludlum's books.

Finally, I've switched to scheduling posts for every other day. I found that posting every day was just too much work, but I watch too many films to not post regularly! It also enables me to work on those posts that aren't review-related nice and early. Work on this post began in early July so that I'm not too bogged down in the future.

So until next time!

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

The Dollars Trilogy (Sergio Leone)

The Dollars Trilogy is a group of three films by director Sergio Leone - A Fistful Of Dollars, For A Few Dollars More and The Good, The Bad And The Ugly. It is often heralded for the birth of the Spaghetti Western, redefining the ageing Western genre and merging it with an Italian influence (such Westerns would also include Spanish influence). As a result, The Dollars Trilogy is often referred to as The Spaghetti Western Trilogy as Sergio Leone's films are by far the most well known.

Clint Eastwood as The Man With No Name
'The Good'
Source: Wikipedia
In actual fact, European 'Spaghetti' Westerns had been around since the beginning of cinema, and typically featured a low budget combined with a completely different view on the traditional American Western. Because of their small funding, they relied on a small profit to create the next film, and the market was very saturated.

An upstart called Sergio Leone fancied a piece of the market and, having previously worked as an assistant on the Italian drama Bicycle Thieves, he penned A Fistful Of Dollars. The story is often compared to Yojimbo, a Japanese story about one man setting crime lords off against each other for his financial reward (Leone later faced a legal challenge from Yojimbo's director for his efforts).

Nowadays, Clint Eastwood would be seen as a coup for the upstart Leone but back in 1964, however, Eastwood had only a handful of minor films and a series of Rawhide to show for his brief acting career. Despite his co-star on Rawhide being offered the job before him (and rejecting it), Eastwood was hired for filming in a remote region of Spain in 1963.

Lee van Cleef as The Man In Black
'The Bad'

Despite very much being Sergio Leone's film, Clint Eastwood was instrumental in creating his character including the design of the clothing and his quirks. It was agreed that Eastwood's character would never be referred to by name and only became known as "Joe". He would later go on to be referred to as The Man With No Name - the protagonist anti-hero central to all of the trilogy.

A Fistful of Dollars was released in 1964 to huge critical acclaim throughout Europe but it would take another three years for the film to reach the other side of the Atlantic. In the USA it was greeted with surprise from officials for the violent content and a prologue was filmed in order to justify Joe's actions.

Following the somewhat surprise success of A Fistful Of Dollars, Sergio Leone turned his mind to creating a second film. It is worth noting that Leone never intended to create a trilogy, but wanted to continue developing separate films. He was thoroughly aware that Eastwood was the outstanding on screen star and knew he had to secure his signature for a second film and it was Eastwood's character that the film studios managed to link to each film so that they could be marketed together.

Eli Wallach as Tuco
'The Ugly'
Source: Notes of a film fanatic
Also drafted in to A Fistful Of Dollars was Lee van Cleef (following Eastwood's Rawhide co-star rejection again) as Eastwood's on-screen bounty rival and Gian Maria Volonté as the bank-robbing Indio.

For A Few Dollars More was released in Europe a year after its predecessor and, due to the delay on A Fistful of Dollars, four months after its predecessor in the United States. Once again, it was critically acclaimed and the arrival of Lee van Cleef was a welcome addition.

Now that he had two outstanding films under his belt, Leone began to be approached by studios in America for a third instalment. United Artists managed to persuade him to direct the third film - albeit this time with a far higher budget that the other two Dollars films.

Once again, Eastwood and van Cleef were signed up as "The Good" and "The Bad" - neither character had a name and were referred to as Blondie and Angel Eyes respectively. Eli Wallach was also signed as the third member of the gang, Tuco "The Ugly".

The name of the film (and thus the characters alternative names) was not thought up until halfway through production, with United Artists hoping for a nod to The Man With No Name. Leone, meanwhile, was working under the name The Two Magnificent Tramps - referring to Blondie and Tuco's financial deal. Eventually, Luciano Vincenzoni, the film's screenwriter, mentioned The Good, The Ugly, The Bad - a concept which Leone loved.

Once again, The Good, The Bad And The Ugly was released a year after its predecessor in Europe and a few months later than For A Few Dollars More in the United States. Initially it was ridiculed for being overly violent and was generally not received very well. Views have changed over time (especially in regards to violence), and The Good, The Bad And The Ugly now regularly features in top movie lists worldwide.

As for the main people connected with the films, Eli Wallach moved into minor roles which he still fulfills to this day (he is currently 96 years old!). Lee van Cleef also went back into obscurity - although his life changed so that he became well known for the number of spaghetti westerns he was cast in. A year after his trilogy, Sergio Leone was asked to direct Once Upon A Time In The West for Paramount Pictures. He later returned with Once Upon A Time In America but other than that he also moved into general obscurity.

As for Clint Eastwood? Let's just say he made a few dollars more.

Monday, August 06, 2012

190 - The Good, The Bad And The Ugly (1966)

The Man With No Name hunts for $200,000 with double competition.

After cutting short a bounty hunting scam, The Man With No Name 'The Good' (Clint Eastwood) - this time called Blondie - leaves Tuco 'The Ugly' (Eli Wallach) for dead in the harsh desert. However when both men learn a different piece of information leading to a $200,000 treasure, they are forced to work together again for the money.

On their journey they are both hampered and aided by a third party - Sentenza 'The Bad' (Lee van Cleef) - who also wants his share of the reward. The whole story takes place against the background of the American civil war.

Saturday, August 04, 2012

For A Few Dollars More (1965)

Theatrical Poster
Source: Wikipedia
The Man With No Name meets the Man in Black to fight for a bounty killing.

While The Man In Black (Lee Van Cleef) is out hunting for a $1,000 bounty killing, The Man With No Name (Clint Eastwood) is searching for his $2,000 bounty suspect. They both return to collect their reward, and end up taking on a new job - chasing the most ruthless gangster in the West.

Indio (Gian Maria Volonté) is wanted for numerous bank robberies along with a string of other violence charges, and this has lead to a bounty of $10,000 being put over his head. Unbeknownst to him, two experienced bounty killers after him, but Indio has a plan to rob the most secure bank in El Paso.

Thursday, August 02, 2012

189 - Gone With The Wind (1939)

A woman fawns over a married man during the American Civil War.

Scarlett (Vivien Leigh) wishes she could be with Ashley (Leslie Howard), but learns that he is to marry his cousin, Melanie (Olivia de Havilland). The American Civil War hits soon after and Ashley is sent to war while Scarlett looks after Melanie.

During the War, Scarlett continues several love affairs with various men to keep her beloved home, Tara, safe. All the while though she pines for the one man she can't have.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

188 - Goldfinger (1964)

Bond is back to investigate a potentially illegal gold trade.

Auric Goldfinger (Gert Fröbe) has had an obsession with gold since he was young and this has led him to acquire a vast fortune in the precious metal. His latest plan is to increase the value of his own stock.

Bond (Sean Connery) must thwart Goldfinger's plan while dodging Goldfinger's Korean chauffeur, Oddjob (Harold Sakata), and his personal pilot Pussy Galore (Honor Blackman).

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Dr. No (1962)

Theatrical Poster
Source: Wikipedia
James Bond debuts against a scientist who destroys American rockets.

After the British Intelligence chief in Kingston, Jamaica is killed, James Bond (Sean Connery), a British secret agent for MI6, is sent to investigate.

As he digs deeper, he begins to realise that a mysterious island surrounded in local myth might have something to do with it. He teams up with Felix Leiter (Jack Lord), a CIA operative and various local people to help solve the crime.

Friday, July 27, 2012

187 - The Gold Rush (1925)

Blu-Ray Box
The tramp looks for gold.

It's 1898 and the height of the Klondike Gold Rush. The tramp (Charlie Chaplin) heads for Alaska to join the hunt but finds himself stranded in a cabin with a prospector known as a Big Jim (Mack Swain) and a dangerous criminal (Tom Murray) who is on the run.

Later, he finds himself in the nearest town where he attempts to woo Georgia (Georgia Hale) but consistently misreads her signals.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

186 - Gods and Monsters (1998)

The controversial life of Frankenstein's director, James Whale.

James Whale (Ian McKellen), director of Frankenstein, has long since retired from film and is now living at home cared for by his housekeeper, Hanna (Lynn Redgrave). Following a stroke he frequently has flashbacks to moments in his life, triggered by significant present day events.

He regularly entertains young gentlemen who wish to discuss Frankenstein with him, but it is his bizarre relationship with the new gardener, Clayton Boone (Brendan Fraser) that concerns Hanna the most.

Monday, July 23, 2012

The Batman Trilogy (Christopher Nolan)

On the 20th of July 2012 The Dark Knight Rises was released, finishing Christopher Nolan's Batman trilogy. He is rumoured to be involved with a film based around the Justice League - DC's attempt to compete with Marvel's The Avengers - but for now, Nolan can put to bed the series that he was hired to direct all the way back in January 2003.

Christian Bale as Batman
The series appropriately begins with Batman Begins, detailing the origins of how Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) became Batman. The opening few scenes showing Wayne's phobia of bats and how he later embraced his fear really encompassed the series in terms of effect and emotional impact.

Along with Bale as Batman, other long term stars were recruited. Michael Caine signed up as Wayne's butler Alfred, Morgan Freeman as loyal tech guru Lucius Fox, Gary Oldman as police sergeant James Gordon and Katie Holmes as love interest Rachel Dawes. All of these form the backbone of the cast, but they were joined by other well known faces as the series progressed.

Despite a stellar cast, Nolan's opening film didn't release to a huge fanfare, but it did go on to take nearly $50 million in its opening weekend. Not bad seeing as the Marvel train hadn't yet started rolling and films based around comic books were not yet all the rage.

Nolan soldiered on to create his next film, The Dark Knight. He drew on the success of Brokeback Mountain and brought in Heath Ledger to play the Joker, along with retaining Cillian Murphy's services as Scarecrow. Aaron Eckhart joined the line-up as Harvey Dent, Gotham's district attorney. Katie Holmes was replaced by Maggie Gyllenhaal - keeping the Rachel Dawes character as part of the famous lineup.

The Dark Knight promised to be far darker than the original, with the destruction of parts of Gotham in Batman Begins opening the door to transform the city. It was also more heavily marketed that its predecessor, but before its release it would gain yet more publicity.

Heath Ledger as Joker
All variants of superlatives have described Heath Ledger's disturbing performance as The Joker and some have even speculated that it was this mindset that caused Ledger's demise. Ledger was tragically found dead on the 22nd of January 2008 - 6 months before the release of The Dark Knight. Overnight, even casual moviegoers knew that The Dark Knight was a film they needed to see, even to get a glimpse at Ledger's final hurrah. Ledger - rightly - went on to win the Academy Award for Best Actor posthumously.

With all the extra publicity, The Dark Knight created its own record book for highest grossing film, quickest grossing film and most amounts of theatres showing the film on release. To say it was a success would be to do it an injustice. It took a ludicrous amount of money and earned Nolan a free passage to do what he wanted with the third film.

Nolan finished writing the basic story for The Dark Knight Rises in 2008, shortly after The Dark Knight's release. He moved on to other projects including the critically acclaimed Inception, while his scriptwriters polished off the screenplay.

Tom Hardy as Bane
He continued to use strong actors - from Inception, Nolan took Tom Hardy and used him as another of Batman's nemeses, Bane. Anne Hathaway was also brought on board as Selina Kyle, alias Catwoman.

On July 20th 2012, The Dark Knight Rises was released. Empire Magazine made Nolan's trilogy only their fifth star film series, following Apu, Lord of the Rings, Toy Story and the Trilogy of the Dead into the echelons of cinematic greatness. Despite the hype, the film's opening weekend results suffered because of a shooting in Colorado.

While it didn't receive the same critical reception as The Dark Knight, The Dark Knight Rises was given mostly positive reviews. Bane was praised for being the psychical and mental opposite of The Joker. Of course, it is too early to be talking about the award season for the final part of the trilogy, but undoubtedly it will be nominated for some - even if it falls short.

All that can be said for certain is that the entire series - as a whole - set a new bar for comic book adaptations. Nolan rewrote Batman's past in the original reboot, and battered all similar films into oblivion with The Dark Knight before ending the series in an acceptable and sombre note.

A truly remarkable trilogy.