It has been a busy few weeks, so unfortunately I have neglected this blog quite badly, so my first post in almost a month is a tribute to some of the people of the industry to pass away last month.
Shirley Temple (April 23 1928-February 10 2014)
Shirley Temple was the first major child star, who began acting aged 3 and continued until aged 37. Temple was talented in many areas, not just a good actress, but somebody with dancing and singing abilities too. While she may have given up her acting career in 1965 before beginning a 23 year political career in 1969, Temple remained a Hollywood legend, an icon of child acting for the rest of her life, and will no doubt continue to do so for many years to come. Her ultimate claim to fame is the fact that she was the youngest ever Oscar winner, picking up the now defunct Juvenile Academy Award at aged 6 for her outstanding contributions to child acting in the year 1934.
John Henson (April 25 1965-February 14 2014)
Son of The Muppets creator Jim Henson, John passed away tragically of a heart attack on Valentine’s Day. While quite unknown in Hollywood, he was a puppeteer for several Muppets films and other media productions, bringing the wonderful character Sweetums to screen.
Christopher Malcolm (August 19 1946-February 15 2014)
The name seem unfamiliar, but Malcolm, who died tragically from cancer, was a solid supporting star from Scotland with a number of notable productions under his belt in film, TV and theatre. His most notable film credit is Rogue 2 (Zev Senesca) in Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back (1980).
Malcolm Tierney (February 25 1938-February 19 2014)
English actor Tierney may not be a very familiar name, but you have probably seen him in something. A prolific supporting actor, his film credits included Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope (1977), In the Name of the Father (1993) and Braveheart (1994).
Harold Ramis (November 21 1944-February 24 2014)
In a career that spanned over 40 years, Ramis became one of the biggest names to grace Hollywood comedy, and if you’ve not see him on screen before then you really don’t know your comedies that well. An actor, director and writer, his film credits included Caddyshack (1980), National Lampoon’s Vacation (1983), Groundhog Day (1993) and Analyze This (1999). The role he will always be best known for is Dr Egon Spencer in the Ghostbusters films (1984-9). Ramis was a man who always took his art seriously, and truly embodied every role he played with subtlety and pleasure in what he was doing. I remember seeing the countless R.I.P. Tweets on the day he died, and it is truly an understatement to say that comedy suffered a loss that day.
Postman Pat: The Movie (2014)
Being a kid in Britain Postman Pat (1981, 1996, 2004-8) was one of those shows I grew up watching, and my goodness did I enjoy watching it. As a British kid of the 90s it was the kind of show I’d watch alongside Thomas & Friends (1984-6, 1991-8, 2002-) and Fireman Sam (1987-94, 2005-13). Postman Pat got off the air in time as those other classic kids’ stop motion animations got computer animated a few years ago, which robbed them of their charm, like it did for Mickey Mouse. To see that Postman Pat is now going computer animated to a frankly not very good level, and to see an awful looking plot that looks an awful combination of sci-fi, action and reality TV, leaves me thinking that this film will be on a par with the Alvin & the Chipmunks films (2007-) and Horrid Henry (2011).
A Million Ways to Die in the West (2014)
Seth MacFarlane is a champion of both postmodernism and satire, and this censored version of the trailer features both. It will likely be hilarious as Ted (2012) was, but will push some boundaries no doubt. I have to say though, I’m just glad to see that some directors are still happy to make Spaghetti Westerns.
Transformers: Age of Extinction (2014)
Just when everyone thought that Transformers: Dark of the Moon (2011) was the end of it, a year later a fourth film was announced and we all wondered what more could be done. We’d forgotten about the Dinobots. Ridiculous amounts of robots fighting robots, metal grinding metal. Visually it will be a great cinema experience. Other than that I hold little hope for the film, it’s just Michael Bay wanting to put a conservatory on his money mansion.
Need for Speed (2014)
Visually it looks like a terrific film, and one which genuinely captures the grit, adrenaline fuelled mayhem of the game franchise (1994-). However, one has to question though whether a film would have been made were The Fast and the Furious franchise (2001-) not that successful, and to make a film which is so similar in many ways to The Fast and the Furious franchise, despite having a more original, popular source, isn’t the wisest move I’ve ever seen done.
Muppets Most Wanted (2014)
I’ve seen some stupid trailers in my time but this takes the biscuit. A mocking of social media and jokey comments on formulas often found in The Muppets films (1979-), such as the celebrity cameos. Muppets Most Wanted doesn’t excite me that much as it will unlikely reach the standard of The Muppets (2011).
The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014)
This looks like a tense, gritty and hugely exciting follow up to The Amazing Spider-Man (2012), with what look set to be some excellent performances, and the trailer does leave us questioning one thing – will Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone) die as she did in the comics?
Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)
Marvel Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015) is just over a year away, and this gritty, action-packed blockbuster looks set to be very exciting, and playing a big part in building up the anticipation for the next coming together of the various heroes. I certainly look forward to it.
RoboCop‘s Super Bowl spot hasn’t made me reconsider my opinion/expectations for the film. I still expect it to be action over narrative, but with some tense, exciting scenes. Give me the original (1987) any day.
Predicted quality order:
But I guess that like with all things we’ll just have to wait and see.
To mark post number 500 on this blog I decided to put together the list of my top 10 films from 2010. My reason for choosing 2010 – it was the year I decided I wanted to be a film critic. There are a large number of 2010 films I haven’t seen, but also a large number which I have seen, so here’s my top 10.
10) Shutter Island (Dir. Martin Scorsese)
Scorsese’s fourth film in a row with Leonardo DiCaprio as the lead is a dark, tense piece of cinema that explores mental illness and man’s natural self-denial abilities. DiCaprio gives a terrific performance, and gets solid support from Mark Ruffalo and Ben Kingsley. And the twist towards the end is terrific.
9) Animal Kingdom (Dir. David Michôd)
The sole Australian film on the list, Michôd has created a clever crime drama, which explores in good depth family loyalty and the impact of underground crime, with sensitive performances by James Frecheville, Guy Pearce and Jackie Weaver.
8) 127 Hours (Dir. Danny Boyle)
The first time Boyle has made a biopic, and it proves to be one of his best films to date, the quality surpassing all previous Boyle films bar Trainspotting (1996). Outstanding editing and cinematography, and a performance from James Franco easily on a par with Colin Firth’s multi-award winning turn as King George VI in The King’s Speech (2010), it is a must watch film.
7) Exit Through the Gift Shop (Dir. Banksy)
No, this was not Banksy’s way of finally unveiling his real identity to the world, rather a relatively anonymous insight into the world of street art. A genius combination of two people’s explorations of the world, two people’s experiences, the second documentary on this list, is a clever insight into the world of street art, highlighting the wonders and problems of it.
6) Black Swan (Dir. Darren Aronofsky)
Darren Aronofsky’s fourth film is a dark, beautifully detailed look at mental illness. A visual stunner, with beautifully choreographed dance sequences, and an outstanding cast, including Natalie Portman giving the performance of her career.
5) Senna (Dir. Asif Kapadia)
Kapadia creates an outstanding documentary which gives a sensitive insight into the life and career of the legendary F1 driver Ayrton Senna. From finding out about his humble origins in working class Brazil to the footage of that fatal crash and interviews about the aftermath of it. It brings a tear to the eye and raises a real desire to watch some F1.
4) Inception (Dir. Christopher Nolan)
A rich, multi-layered screenplay, another outstanding performance by DiCaprio, a solid supporting cast including Tom Hardy, Ken Wanatabe, Ellen Page, Marion Cotillard, Cillian Murphy, Michael Caine and Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Inception is a very clever film which leaves the viewer questioning what’s fact and what’s fiction. Add to this mixture the finest visual effects of the year and you have one outstanding film on your hands.
3) Toy Story 3 (Dir. Lee Unkrich)
For over a decade we who remember seeing Toy Story 2 (1999) in the cinemas waited with baited breath for another Toy Story film to come to the big screen, and my goodness was it worth the wait. Gorgeous animation, a terrific voice cast, some great new characters, and moving themes of growing up and moving on in life, brought to big screen reality by a screenplay that is both emotional and highly amusing at times. Four years later I still have no idea how I managed to hold back the tears.
2) The Social Network (Dir. David Fincher)
Another biopic on this list, Fincher brought to the big screen the story of how Facebook came to be, and does a terrific job. A screenplay that has humour, but a heck of a lot of drama, Jesse Eisenberg gives an excellent turn as Mark Zuckerburg and the screenplay provides an interesting insight into man’s desire for success and naturally greedy, selfish attitude.
1) The King’s Speech (Dir. Tom Hooper)
I suppose it is a bit of a cliche, but the multi-award winning biopic of King George VI is an outstandingly created period piece, with a sensitive insight into speech impediment and shell shock among other other things. The screenplay is a very sensitive, rather moving piece of writing, leaving the viewer fully sympathising for the monarch. Colin Firth, Geoffrey Rush and Helena Bonham Carter are all at their best, and my Dad and I found ourselves moved as we watched this film in the cinema three years ago.
The guys who chieftain the Youtube channel Cinema Sins found they had too much free time on their hands and calculated the expense of everything used, damaged or broken in The Blues Brothers (1980). If you’ve seen the film then you no doubt remember the amount of destruction and chaos the brothers caused in their mission for God. With all those millions in damage they caused, just be glad that 30 odd years ago you weren’t the head of an insurance company. Watch the damage, watch the maths, all below.
Yesterday Philip Seymour Hoffman was found dead in his Manhattan office apartment, with the reported cause of death being drugs overdose. He has passed away tragically young, aged 46. Hoffman was easily one of the best actors of his generation, with an huge list of critically acclaimed roles in film and television. He won the Oscar, BAFTA, Golden Globe and many other awards for Best Actor for his role as Truman Capote in biopic Capote (2005). Hoffman is also notable for his work with director Paul Thomas Anderson, having appeared in five of Anderson’s six films to date, most recently The Master (2012) earning him many awards and nominations for Best Supporting Actor. Hoffman was a true talent, very versatile and humble too, never letting the fame and success go to his head, preferring the slightly more rumpled unkempt look of an out of work actor to that of a big film star. Whether you remember him as the antagonist in Mission: Impossible III (2006); or his work with Anderson, or his various role in critically acclaimed films, including Capote, Charlie Wilson’s War (2007), Doubt (2008) and The Ides of March (2011); or you only learned his name for the first time when you went to see The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013), I can almost guarantee you know who he was, and what a talent he was. A true talent, his tragic death is a massive loss to the film industry. To be released posthumously are A Most Wanted Man (2014), God’s Pocket (2014), The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 (2014) and The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2 (2015).
To mark yesterday (January 30) being Christian Bale’s 40th birthday I thought it would be nice to take a brief look at his career to date. The Welsh-born actor first came to prominence as Jim Graham in Empire of the Sun (1987), and since then his career has become legendary within Britain, as he has had a number of starring roles in outstanding films such as American Psycho (2000), The Machinist (2004) and The Dark Knight trilogy (2005-12). These films are examples of how Bale is a method actor, as one notable attribute to his acting style is the fact that he will often lose tremendous amounts of weight or gain multiple kilos of muscle for his roles. Bale has also worked with a number of acclaimed directors, including Steven Spielberg, Christopher Nolan, Terrence Malick and David O. Russell. Bale is a huge talent, an excellent asset to Hollywood, and may that Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for The Fighter (2011) be joined by more in the years to come.
Staying in a cabin in the mountains of Norway, eight medical students realise that nightmares do come true as the zombies of Nazis, slain in combat of 60 years ago arise from the ground and pick off the youngsters one by one.
Nazi zombies as a sub-genre is one that has become quite popular in recent years, both with films such as Outpost (2008) and video games, including several Call of Duty games since 2008. In many ways it is a sub-genre which confronts the world’s political past and to an extent basically says “this is what’s happened, these guys are dangerous, we are going to remind people of how dangerous they were, and to an extent mock it.” The zombies are very dangerous with a great blood lust and are very persistent hunters. However, a number of them are taken out in quite comical fashion indeed, including accidental self-impaling and being steered into a low tree branch by a snowmobile.
Tommy Wirkola is a director who embraces postmodernism indeed, and his variety of inspirational sources varies from classic zombie films such as Night of the Living Dead (1968), contemporary slashers such as Saw (2004), and even swashbucklers such as Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003). It is this mesh of different sub-genres, however, which contributes greatly to the film’s downfall, as the film screenplay lacks consistency and most certainly comes across as unsure as to which direction it should take. It is a zombie film pure and simple? Is it a slasher? A mystery/detective film? An action film? As the film flirts with each of these genres an inconsistent screenplay is what us the viewers are offered. The screenplay also proves predictable in places, as once we the viewer know roughly what genre we will be watching for the next few minutes we can guess what will happen, particularly those of us who are film buffs.
This is a shame as there are moments where the film shows potential, particularly in some moments of role reversal and some of the moments of more hand to hand combat with the zombies. And as a gruesome gore fest the film does not disappoint with much blood shed, murder and general red brought to the screen. And while there is nothing particularly special about the cast there is nothing awful about them either. The only cast members who stand out are Charlotte Frogner as Hanna, and Lasse Valdal as Vegard. Frogner and Valdal give the grittiest, most determined performances of the lot and successfully make Hanna and Vegard the only two characters who are genuinely engaging to watch.
Dead Snow is not a bad film. However, it is not a good film. Instead it is a film which had some potential to be a good piece of Norwegian horror, but instead lacks direction and consistency, with a confused outcome as the final product.