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Showing posts from 2015

The Force Awakens (No Spoilers)

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NO SPOILERS OR ANY PLOT DETAILS

10 years ago, George Lucas put what we thought was the final nail in the Star Wars coffin with Revenge of the Sith, the culmination of the hugely disappointing prequels that laid waste to all that Star Wars was in the first place. Simply put, the series is best known for its fun factor, providing numerous breathtaking sequences with an expansive universe of lore and some of the most imaginative design ever seen. Who better then to resurrect Star Wars than JJ Abrams, fresh from his successful rebirth of Star Trek (though let's not dwell on its sequel, Into Darkness, for too long). 


With The Force Awakens, Abrams brings back to the series what Lucas had been trying to do for years: pure, unadulterated fun. The directing style is ambitious in the best possible way, drawing the viewer right into the heart of every scene and amplifying the impact of every exchange and battle. What really stands out from the very first scene too is the vibrancy of the film,…

Battleship

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Thank you all for 6000 views, very grateful for all the positive feedback recently! 


Off all the well known brands waiting to be turned into a film franchise, Hasbro's board game Battleship was certainly an odd choice. The game, which revolves around a mixture of luck and tactics, was adapted into 2012's blustering blockbuster to much head-scratching and mirth. So was Battleship doomed to sink from the start or is it a behemoth with a surprising amount of bravado? 
It wasn't much of a surprise to learn that the plot is scant at best, with an opening that revolves around central character Alex Hopper's (Taylor Kitsch) quest for a chicken burrito providing the instant indication of the choppy waters that Battleship is heading towards right from the off. It is clear that the writers put in as little effort as Kitsch does in the central role, with both being bland and clearly drawing inspiration from Michael Bay's Transformers and Shia LaBeouf's laughably poor centra…

Laurel & Hardy Remastered

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For two of the greatest comedy minds in film history, there has been sadly very little at all about Laurel and Hardy in past years. It seemed that the pair had been tossed into obscurity, instead of being universally celebrated like figures such as Charlie Chaplin still are today. 

Step forward the Laurel & Hardy Roadshow, who have been leading the "Laurel & Hardy Revival of 2015/16" which has involved re-releasing a number of their films in beautiful HD for the first time.

Seeing two of their films The Music Box and Block-Heads on the big screen in beautiful quality felt like the perfect treatment for a duo who were pretty much at the pinnacle of the entertainment industry for several years during the 1920s and whose combination of smart, snappy writing and pure, inventive slapstick was completely unmatched. 

What really struck me was how well their material still stands up today. Every joke felt fresh and new while the chemistry between the two is undeniably perfect. …

A Nightmare on Elm Street

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Wes Craven's 1984 classic holds a very similar place in the horror hall of fame to my last reviewed film, Halloween. Craven's creation is equally as terrifying and nightmarish, with the killer Freddy Krueger being a highly disturbing figure whose inescapable reach increasingly takes ahold of the viewer in a way few characters do.


The central idea is that Krueger manifests himself in the dreams of teens Tina, Nancy, Rod and Glen (which happens to be young Johnny Depp's first role). They soon become aware of the connection between their dreams and fear falling asleep, as Krueger draws further and further out of their dreams and into the real world itself. The idea allows for unsettling moments where it is not certain whether scenes are taking place in their dreams or not.
The blurred line between real and imaginary is well explored by Craven, with the dubious parents and police grounding their suspicions firmly in reality while the teenagers fear the supernatural Freddie ever …

Halloween

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John Carpenter's horror classic remains as sickeningly brutal today as ever and is considered quite rightly as a highly influential film by many. Halloween is paced almost sickeningly slowly, with the tension climbing to ghastly levels for over an hour before unleashing the ever mysterious but brilliantly realised Michael Myers.

Jamie Lee Curtis plays the terrified teen Laurie to perfection, depicting the perfect balance between sheer terror and bravery, but the real star is of course Myers who we ironically see very little of for most of the film. Foreboding shots of him from a distance combined with the subtly chilling soundtrack, composed by Carpenter himself, and Myers' heavy breathing are enough to haunt many a bold viewer. 
Halloween succeeds largely through its subtle nature, with a simplistic plot and an unexplained killer creating more and more unease as Myers edges ever closer towards Laurie. As mentioned, the soundtrack plays a large part, and, as with the plot, is ch…

Spectre

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The conclusion to the Daniel Craig helmed reinvention of the 007 series looks to end the series on a high. So is it full of British bravado or just brainless Bond bluster?

The narrative begins with the typical efficiency that the series has become known for, with Craig's pursuits centered around locating the elusive Franz Oberhauser (Christoph Waltz). However the film soon escalates rapidly into an expansive plot that involves characters both new and old. It was pleasantly surprising how well Spectre drew together the previous three films and it often felt like a greatest hits compilation of the modern reincarnation of Bond in the best possible way. 

The combat is just as brutal and Borne-inspired as ever courtesy of Dave Bautista's Mr Hinx, who is essentially Oberhauser's one man team of henchmen. Action sequences were never dull or overly familiar, with a well struck balance between vehicular and on foot action. 

The return of Skyfall director Sam Mendes means that these sc…

Countdown to Spectre

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Late last year, the next James Bond film was announced at Pinewood Studios in the UK and the wait since has been agonising. Finally, after almost a year of set news and teaser trailers, the latest in the long-running spy thriller series is days away from release. So what will make Spectre worth the anticipation?

Hopes have been high for the series since the last installment Skyfall which impressed with its breathtaking action set pieces (including an excellent introductory sequence), impressive cast and all-round fast-paced directing. If Spectreis anywhere as good as the previous film then it will have achieved highly. Considering that much of the same team worked on both films, my hopes are high. 

The vital difference between Skyfall and 2008's Quantum of Solace, it's highly disappointing precursor, was that the latter lacked any real pace aside from a small handful of moments. It felt largely disjointed, with a collection of action scenes held together by dull and convoluted s…

Blumhouse and the Death of Modern Horror

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Cast your mind back to 2009 when a tiny horror movie on a shoestring budget of $15,000 named Paranormal Activity shocked the film world by making over $190 million through an ingenious marketing campaign and going on to become the most profitable film of all time. The original was an incredible success and a welcome spin on the horror formula but no-one could have predicted the impact it would have on the genre.

Skip forward to now and producers of the original movie Blumhouse Productions have overseen the creation of five more Paranormal Activity films, turning them into almost yearly releases. By completely over-saturating the series of the original, the studio have completely lost touch with the reason why the first movie was such a success.

Found footage was still relatively untouched, having been first made famous by the Blair Witch Projectway back in 1999, and the idea of a CCTV style/camcorder film had never been done before. The fact that the spirits that tormented the lives of…

The Highs and Lows of the new Dad's Army Trailer

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The recent news that a film remake of the famous British comedy series Dad's Army was in the works sparked equal amounts of optimism and fear. TV series adapted to the big screen have had a long history of failures, with recent examples including Entourage and The Inbetweeners 2. Even more worrying is the fact that Dad's Army hasn't been touched for well over 40 years and makes it more likely that the new film may completely lose touch with the comedy of the original series.

The new trailer is filled with promising moments and some fairly excruciating parts too. The cast is impressive on paper, with Toby Jones and Michael Gambon very similar to the character's of the original. Gambon provided many of the high points of the 2 minute trailer, portraying the hapless Godfrey with near identical mannerisms to Arnold Ridley in the original. Jones is also one of the finest British actors at the moment and hopefully is given enough material to work one as Capt. Mainwaring.

More …

Crimson Peak

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Crimson Peak often feels more like a play than a film. The settings outgrow the screen with their incredibly imaginative design and at times awe-inspiring scale, characters confront the camera and are thrust right to the center of the piece while the ghosts and apparitions lurch terrifyingly towards the audience. Director Guillermo del Toro, whose works are known for their unsettling atmosphere and meticulous attention to detail, has crafted a masterpiece that draws upon often covered ideas to create a piece so equally enticing, nightmarish and eerie that it left me breathless.

Tom Hiddleston and Mia Wasikowska portray the lovers Thomas Sharpe and Edith Cushing (a reference to the Hammer Horror star Peter Cushing, the first of many homages) and their relationship is very convincing, with the chemistry between the two spot on. 

Following the death of her father, Edith is whisked away to England by Thomas to live in his family home, a sprawling place that is once both enchanting and haunt…

Quick Flick: Youth in Revolt

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Michael Cera has for years been dangerously close to being typecast as the "awkward, quirky teen" that he has played in Juno, Scott Pilgrim and Superbad, to name just a handful. But Cera is so good in these roles it is easy to see why he has been so often cast in them. Youth in Revolt is perhaps the best example of the prime Cera role: Nick, a lonely teenager who meets the "perfect girl" Sheeni, and is on a relentless quest to ensure they are together forever. It may not sound like the most original plot but Youth in Revolt is so deliciously quirky and often downright hilarious that it presents itself as a fresh and untouched idea. The central idea of the film is that Nick adopts a French alter ego named Francois, which perfectly shows off the surprising scope of Cera's talents, and it works well, providing a centre point for much of the film's humour. 



The amount of ideas contained within Youth in Revolt can be seen as both what sets it apart from other sim…

The Visit

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To say I was disappointed by an M. Night Shyamalan film may seem like an unlikely statement. The Sixth Sense and Unbreakable director has been on a notorious bad streak for at least ten years and has never been able to drag his reputation out of the gutter, despite his unrelenting and often painful efforts. However, the Visit seemed to have some promise behind it, the trailers hinting at a creepy horror that looked like it had none of the intolerable sci-fi elements that Shyamalan had become worryingly obsessed with, After Earth being the prime example. The film had also built up some excitement among horror fans and it looked like many were ready to give the infamous director another chance. 

So was the hype justified? Well, no. In fact, the Visit is by far one of the worst films I have ever seen. It is Shyamalan's cinematic cyanide, the proof that this man has pushed his luck and emptied our wallets too many times. Obnoxious and utterly unconvincing characters and a rancid and ex…

The Gamechangers

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Recent news that the BBC were producing a dramatization of the battle between Rockstar Games, creators of the Grand Theft Auto series, and infamous lawyer Jack Thompson had many worried, as TV and film have never exactly understood the video game industry. Just take a look at the recent episode of Law and Order that attempted to cover the GamerGate controversy and ended up doing a lot more damage to the reputation of the community. Rockstar themselves are suing the BBC over the depiction of the company and they slammed the film on twitter, asking "Was Basil Brush busy?" and branding it "made up bollocks" which actually just provided further evidence of the company's volatile reputation, as depicted in the Gamechangers.

Daniel Radcliffe was the surprise highlight of the film, portraying Sam Houser, president and co-founder of Rockstar. At first, he seemed worryingly awkward in the role, sounding unaccustomed to the industry jargon. The back and forth between brot…

Jimmy Kimmel Backlash Highlights the Gaming Community's Anger Problem

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You can find my new piece here, an opinion article on the gaming community. Something a little different!

Mistress America

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Hello everyone! You can find my new review at culturedvultures.com. Also thank you for 4000 views, I hope you are all enjoying the reviews!

The Gift

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To be honest, I expected little from the Gift. This was mostly due to it being produced by Blumhouse, whose previous work includes "masterpieces" such as Insidious, the Purge and Sinister. However, I was pleasantly surprised by Joel Edgerton's directorial debut, which neatly twisted from a standard horror flick to an intense psychological thriller. Jason Bateman, from Arrested Development fame, delivers a surprisingly convincing performance as Simon, who moves to LA with wife Robyn (Rebecca Hall, excellent) for a "fresh start." They meet Gordo (Edgerton), an old school friend of Simon's, who catches them off guard with his hospitality, stopping by at their house regularly to deliver gifts and have dinner with them. Simon is disturbed by Gordo's persistent presence and asks him to stay away, which is where the trouble begins. 


Edgerton delivers a standout performance, playing the socially awkward Gordo subtly enough to create doubt among the viewer as to …

Legend: what real life crime films reveal about popular culture

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In Epping forest, a horse race between Reggie and Ronnie Kray ends in a violent display of bad sportsmanship. “He felled it with one almighty blow,” Tom Mangold described in the Times, referring to Reggie’s horse that Ronnie lost to. This rather unorthodox reaction reflects the personalities of the Kray twins, the infamous leaders of “The Firm”, a London gang which oversaw a large network of organised crime in the 1960’s East End. The unpredictable and explosive brothers, with Ronnie dying in 1995 and Reggie in 2000, have been cast back into the spotlight by new film Legend, releasing this September, which follows their path to becoming notorious gangsters, with Tom Hardy portraying both figures. Mangold complimented his performance (or performances), describing them as “uncannily accurate.” The film depicts them as sharply dressed gentlemen, with one image showing them shrouded in cigarette smoke as they cruise through the streets in a leather seated car.
Having both been given life …

Inside Out

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It seems that nearly every film that Pixar creates is greeted with excitement and praise and Inside Out is no different. Following a two year hiatus, the studio has emerged with another unique and emotional film that has once again been met with rave reviews. The central idea in Inside Out is that every person has a "team" of emotions in their mind who work to navigate them through life: Joy, Sadness, Anger, Fear and Disgust. Eleven year old Riley is a happy loving-life kid, primarily controlled by Joy (Amy Poehler) but when they move from Minnesota to San Francisco, Joy and Riley's other emotions struggle to cope with the change. Sadness (Phyllis Smith) begins to turn Riley's memories negative and her key life moments escape, with Joy and Sadness venturing to recover them. The main strength of Inside Out is the characters and the voice acting. Riley's emotions are all entertaining and very likeable and are what keep the whole film together. Poehler is a definite…

Quick Flick: We Need to Talk About Kevin

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Eva (Tilda Swinton) struggles with motherhood, becoming increasingly estranged from her son Kevin (Ezra Miller, in a brilliantly understated performance equalled only by Swinton), who becomes more and more destructive to his mother. While he "bonds" with his father Franklin (John C. Reilly), his chilling remarks to Eva and disturbing actions begin to send her into madness, as she struggles to maintain her love for her son. The story is well told, switching between the past and the present, where Eva is struggling to cope with the aftermath. Every incident between Kevin and Eva is exaggerated and the effect as perturbing as an act of violence, emphasised by the probing directing style which digs deep into Eva's psyche. The soundtrack is used brilliantly to juxtapose with what we see on screen, with lighthearted country music accompanying Eva's breakdown to haunting effect. The eerie ambient soundscapes that emerge towards the end are no doubt thanks to Jonny Greenwood…