Archive for the ‘Drama’ Category

The Great Gatsby

Wednesday, November 13th, 2013

2013-04-The-Great-Gatsby-Poster-7The Great Gastby offers a taste of the vibrant and lively 1920s, during the height of opportunities in the United States, shortly after WWI.

Amongst the glitter and glamour of the roaring 1920s, Gatsby (Leonardo DiCaprio), opens his home to New York revellers but has a hidden desire to win back his lover Daisy (Carey Mulligan). To keep their romance hidden from her husband, aspiring writer, Nick Carraway (Toby Maguire), gets involved in the turmoil that unfolds, within a higher class of society than his own.

Throughout the movie, the soundtrack provides a modern element to the film, mixing retro tunes to recognisable mainstream chart toppers. If anything, the soundtrack entices the younger generation to appreciate the film, which some may discard as ‘old-fashioned’.

It must be noted that Leonardo DiCaprio’s role is admirable, perfectly portraying a wealthy gentleman, whose millionaire status means little when it comes to his love for Daisy. It could be that the well-known actor could finally receive the long awaited Oscar for his role.

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iLL Manors

Friday, October 19th, 2012

Clearly not content with writing, performing and producing hugely successful multimillion-selling records, and adding acting to his CV when he’s not busy, Ben Drew, or Plan B, has chucked in filmmaking for good measure.

As a huge Tarantino fan (who isn’t?), Drew was always going to give linear, fluid storytelling a miss in favour of something more staggered and challenging. It’s a tricky feat; if it goes well then you feast with Pulp Fiction at the table of tasty treats, but if it goes badly then you eat from the bin with John Carpenter’s Ghosts of Mars.

Somewhat predictably, Drew has opted to tell an interweaving story based on the streets of London, specifically Forest Gate, where he grew up. iLL Manors examines the mindsets, morality and actions of several different characters, with plenty of grit and intensity, manifesting in both mental and physical form.

This might already sound a little similar to other Brit efforts such as Bullet Boy, Kidulthood and the sequel Adulthood, which featured Drew as a supporting actor, but there are plenty of issues to tackle and stories to tell on the streets and estates of London.
During the course of iLL Manors, we meet Kirby (Keith Coggins), a middle-aged drug dealer fresh from a prison term, and his former protégé Chris (Lee Allen), who now runs things around town, clearly possessing the intimidating physique to do so. The two are no longer allies, which has more than a little to do with Kirby’s treatment of Chris at a younger age.

Meanwhile, Ed (Ed Skrein), a drug dealer with a spiky temperament, and his friend Aaron (Riz Ahmed) are in search of the former’s phone, which seems to have been stolen by prostitute and crack-fanatic Michelle (Anouska Mond). As they hunt her down, it becomes clear that she will have to find another particularly grim and harrowing way to replace the cost of the phone, which she denies ever stealing in the first place.

On top of this we have Katya (Natalie Press), a new mother on the run from Russian mobsters who have been using her in a sickening sex trafficking scheme, whilst early teen Jake (Ryan De La Cruz) finds himself accepted into a violent gang, led by a criminal looking to test his young recruit’s immediate loyalty with a brutal task.

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Take Shelter – Heavy rain or crazy brain?

Wednesday, August 22nd, 2012

If you’ve seen the excellent Boardwalk Empire then you will probably be familiar with Michael Shannon. His performances in that, the award-winning adaptation of Revolutionary Road and a multitude of other films have more than demonstrated his outstanding talent, and he can be seen as the villain General Zod in the new Superman mega-budget film Man of Steel next year.

He has made great moves in his career, choosing roles that offer a genuine challenge and real test of talent. His decision to take on the role of Curtis LaForche in Jeff Nichols’ modestly-budgeted Take Shelter proved another masterstroke.

Set in Ohio, Take Shelter sees local family man LaForche develop an increasingly disturbing paranoia regarding storms. The intensity of his apocalyptic dreams begin to cause a rift in his family, and he starts focusing all his efforts on building an über-bomb shelter outside their home.

The fact that his mother was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia at his present age does not bode well, and as family, friends and employer all raise concerns regarding his peculiar behaviour, his dream drive his actions, and he stands firm on his belief that a storm of biblical proportions is heading their way.

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The Grey – Nesson goes howling mad

Wednesday, June 13th, 2012

Ah, Liam Neeson. The trusty Irish powerhouse is always a safe bet, and even in weaker films like The Phantom Menace, Clash of the Titans and Unknown, he still comes out as the star performer and a major redeeming quality of the movie.

His starring vehicles include the vastly underrated A-Team, as well as the excellent Michael Collins, superior thriller Taken and Kinsey, which saw him showered with well-deserved awards and nominations.

As for his smaller parts in films like Batman Begins and Gangs of New York, he serves to add some extra quality which heightens the overall excellence of the finished product.

In survival-thriller The Grey, Neeson plays John Ottway, a man hired by an oil firm to eliminate the threat of wolves to their drilling team in Alaska. We are introduced to him as he considers suicide, writing in quite poetic fashion to his wife to inform her of his general state of mind. He comes pretty close to blowing his head off, but in a nick of time he is needed to do his wolf-culling thing.

Once work is completed, Ottway and the drilling team hop on a flight, but the plane decides to take a short detour downwards, and crashes horribly leaving a handful of survivors.

As if a lack of food or drink, no real shelter, unlikely rescue, several corpses and a relentless blizzard weren’t enough to create a truly grim and challenging situation, a pack of savage wolves decide they don’t like their new neighbours, and begin picking off survivors at will.

Of course, Neeson’s Ottway, the man originally so close to suicide, takes it upon himself to try and guide the men through their predicament, making good use of his extensive wolf knowledge to try and fend off their would-be killers.

Neeson is excellent, embodying the struggle that is buried within a natural survivor who has considered taking his own life. His unflinching morals, impressive instincts and sheer will to fight make for a fascinating character, and help The Grey to become a triumph beyond other similarly-themed survival movies which fail to offer anything genuinely involving.

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The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011) – Remake or rehash?

Wednesday, June 6th, 2012

Steig Larssons’s Millennium Trilogy consisted of three novels which focused on Lisbeth Salander, a feisty computer hacker with a troubled past who helps a newspaper editor investigate and uncover some secretive and sinister goings-on in sunny Sweden.

The novels received Swedish-language remakes, and the first was particularly well received. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo was a fast-paced, thrilling and captivating piece of cinema, driven by Noomi Rapace (seen recently in Prometheus and Sherlock Holmes: Game of Shadows), who put in a stonking performance as Lisbeth.

In the first entry, Michael Blomqvist, the editor of Millennium magazine, is hired to find out what happened to a wealthy man’s grandniece some 40 years previous. Blomqvist, in turn, finds the legendary hacker Lisbeth, and convinces her to help him. She is under legal guardianship and has to report back regularly to a man who is basically hideous scum. As she copes with this grotty fellow, she also manages to unearth some fairly horrendous information which will help Michael in his quest for the truth.

Some scenes in the original made for uncomfortable viewing, but it was all there as a key part of Lisbeth’s motivation; the way she acts, with a cold, calculated and distant demeanour, as well as her attitudes towards sex and violence, were justified by story elements which occurred both on and off-screen. It was at times torturous to watch, but at the same time you really rooted for Lisbeth, and Rapace deserved all the acclaim she received and more.

So, with this film being awesome but in Swedish, those marvellous chaps at Colombia Pictures started the process of doing an English-language version. From this point onwards, scepticism shall be rife.

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DVD Rental – Top 10 Favourite Films

Friday, May 11th, 2012

Favourite FilmsWith some highly anticipated, potential mega-hits coming out this summer, including Alien semi-prequel Prometheus and The Dark Knight Rises, along with the recently released Avengers Assemble, we thought we would find the Top 10 Favourite Films of All Time, as voted by our readers.

We expected some people would dodge the obvious and somewhat clichéd classics, like Citizen Kane, Lawrence of Arabia and, of course, Piranha 3D. We didn’t expect such a great mix of movies, with horror, comedy, action and romance all getting a look-in.

Yes, the big winner is perhaps expected, but there are some surprises in there, and we think it shows the continued diversity of both modern cinema and the UK’s own film fanatics.

So without further rambling, here is the list, counting down from 10.

10. Blade Runner

Ridley Scott’s revolutionary sci-fi smash-hit, based on Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, saw Harrison Ford’s Deckard chase down replicants in a dystopian future. Rutger Hauer gave Han Solo a sound hiding, and Sean Young was great as reluctant replicant Rachael.

9. Alien

Ridley again, and with his success rate for sci-fi it seems guaranteed that upcoming Alien prequel-of-sorts Prometheus should be a classic. This 1979 game-changer is often credited with revolutionising the heroine character, as well as introducing the surprise-shock ending which has become a stalwart in horror. And who could forget that famous chest-burster scene? Grim.

8. The Goonies

The Goonies, helmed by Superman and Lethal Weapon director Richard Donner, featured a young Samwise Gamgee (also known as Sean Astin) and friends trying to find the lost fortune of One-Eyed Willie. You wouldn’t need three guesses to work out that Spielberg is heavily involved behind the scenes in this charming family adventure.

7. The Notebook

This surprise entry doesn’t so much tug at the heartstrings, as yank at them incessantly whilst showing you pictures of kittens. Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams do the unrequited, forbidden love thing, then mum gets angry, then the two separate for years only to stumble upon each other, both faced with a great decision to make. But who is telling the story?

6. Crash (2004)

Not to be mistaken with Cronenberg’s mid-nineties gag reflex test of the same name, Crash is an inventive, compelling and beautifully crafted examination of racial prejudices, told through several intertwining stories set in Los Angeles. It really is a modern classic; funny, gripping, engaging, unpredictable and original, Paul Haggis’ movies is simply a must-see, with stellar performances from the likes of Don Cheadle, Sandra Bullock, Chris ‘Ludacris’ Bridges, Matt Dillon, Ryan Phillippe and Thandie Newton.

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Game of Thrones – A Song of Ice and Fire

Tuesday, May 1st, 2012

gameofthronesposterBack in 2007, HBO made the potentially risky decision to fund a TV adaptation of George R.R. Martin’s insanely epic set of novels A Song of Ice and Fire. Named after the first book, Game of Thrones is a fantasy-action-drama packed full of twist, turns, chills, thrills and an array of fascinating characters.

The tricky aspect is that, in order to do it justice, you would need to launch millions of dollars into each episode, get an absolutely stellar cast from kids to kings, film in genuine settings, structure the story faithfully and brace the audience for something which doesn’t exactly pander to the usual TV conventions. Luckily HBO has embraced the challenge, and now this studio has the best thing on TV either side of the Atlantic.

Prepare for dragons, incest, violence, gore, prostitutes, swords, sorcery, zombies, wolves and a dizzying amount of sneaky deception within the dynastic struggle which serves as the show’s foundation. There is also a eunuch and a dwarf, who are both utterly compelling, genius characters.

King Robert Baratheon sits on the Iron Throne, ruling the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros. He is married to Cersei Lannister, uniting his royal family with riches. Their marriage is loveless, and as he drinks and eats his way to an early grave, she conducts a grim affair with her brother Jaime. Her other brother, Tyrion, is a dwarf, but neutralises any potential ridicule through his sparkling wit and intelligence.

King Robert’s closest friend is Ned Stark, and when the King’s Hand dies suspiciously, the King calls on his friend to serve in the role. This pretty much means Ned will run business whilst Robert gets drunk, sleeps with prostitutes and eats as much food as possible.

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The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Aching Yawn

Tuesday, March 20th, 2012

breakingdawnposterIt’s that time of year again, when we are subjected to a movie adaptation of one of the Twilight novels. Whether or not the books are good is irrelevant; the first film was a fine balance of grim and dull, the second was an absolute slog and full-on filmmaking disaster, and the third was a marginal improvement but still awful in a way that leaves searing pain coarsing throughout the central nervous system.

So, Breaking Dawn was unlikely to do much except for the fully committed and blinded-by-devotion fans of the series.

Breaking Dawn – Part I sees the eternally depressed Edward and the eternally depressing Bella get married on an island, sleep together and have a baby. There isn’t much more to squeeze out in terms of a premise; the marriage ceremony seems to drag on longer than a German opera, and then they finally have sex, but not without Edward whinging his pitiful way through the process, emanating about as much eroticism as a dead cat.

Bella gets a couple of bruises from their night of vampire-human playtime, and then Edward insists they play chess for the remainder of their honeymoon. Lucky Bella!

We are saved from this nonsense by her pregnancy, but the weird baby-human-vampire inside her is a bit much for her measly pelvis. Jacob is still really upset about her choice, and stumbles through the film looking miserable and being annoying. Much of the same ground is covered, and there is a meagre threat from some of Jacob’s clan.

The performances are abhorrent, with US daytime soap-style line delivery, and a total absence of charisma. Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson and Taylor Lautner are all terrible in slightly different ways, and their little triangle has somehow been stretched out over six hours of achingly dull cinema. The minor shining light is a cameo from the awesome Michael Sheen during a mid-end credits sequence. Too little too late, sadly.

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Drive – Bleed for Speed

Monday, March 12th, 2012

drive-poster1Danish director Nicolas Winding Refn was responsible for the offbeat, often surreal and grimy madness that was Bronson, starring an unrecognisable Tom Hardy as the eponymous hard case with a penchant for the savagery of solitary. The film gained well deserved widespread acclaim, and was regularly touted as a modern Clockwork Orange due to its inventive style, harsh violence and über-dry humour.

His follow-up was the abysmal Valhalla Rising; a slog of a mess of a movie, barely glued together by its only positive which was the cinematography. A few guys wander slowly through some scenery, stopping for the occasional grunt or bout of violence. It’s horrible, dull and pointless.

So, not sure what to expect next then, but his adaptation of 2005 James Sallis novel Drive has already developed cult status, earned numerous plaudits and nabbed the Best Director gong at Cannes.

Drive stars Ryan Gosling as a stunt driver and mechanic who earns extra cash by offering his services as a freelance getaway driver. He has strict rules; his clients have a five minute window beginning from the moment they leave his car for the heist, and during that time he accepts total involvement and shared responsibility, but anything outside of that time frame simply isn’t his problem. He will not carry a gun, and he will not be involved with any clients for a second time.

From the viewer’s perspective, he is known only as The Driver, and comes across as a shy but focused recluse with very little interest in socialising. His world takes a peculiar twist when he meets new neighbour Irene (Carey Mulligan), and her son Benicio. They quickly bond, whilst The Driver is also offered the opportunity to race pro, courtesy of local financier Bernie Rose.

As Drive coasts along with glorious fluidity, punctuated by a pounding, wonderfully intense 80s-style synth soundtrack, we all know that things must take a turn. Once we realise that Bernie and his partner Nino are more than a little dangerous, just as Irene’s husband makes a reappearance, the film kicks into top gear and we get an action-packed thrill ride all the way to the end.

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Battle: Los Angeles – Invading Private Ryan

Friday, August 5th, 2011

BLA_IT_1SHT_SLDRLK_3Billed as a cross between Saving Private Ryan and Independence Day, this latest alien invasion epic actually offered up one of the most impressive trailers of the last few years.

A few startling shots of an obliterated Los Angeles, a screaming Marine dragged away by an unseen menace, hordes of meteoric vessels striking Earth with such force that they blast rings through the sky, and of course large clusters of confused sheep-like people running around amidst the raging anarchy; all complimented by Icelandic composer Jóhann Jóhannsson’s beautiful, yet haunting and eerily mechanical piece ‘The Sun’s Gone Dim and the Sky’s Turned Black’.

It is, without doubt, an awesome movie teaser, with plenty to get excited about, and a real sense that maybe this could offer something a little different, whilst maintaining the essence of a summer sci-fi blockbuster.

Such a shame that Battle: Los Angeles is actually as bland as a beige Volvo.

That’s not to say it’s a terrible movie; there’s some remarkable visuals, and even a couple of rousing performances, but clichéd doesn’t even begin to describe this film and its by-the-numbers storyline, direction and dialogue.

As Battle: Los Angeles begins, no time is wasted in pointing out that the Earth is currently being pelted by strange objects from space, thought to be meteorites. All the well known cities are casually referenced in a half-hearted attempt to steer clear of ‘Roland Emmerich Syndrome’, which is a devastating virus that renders large scale disaster movies devoid of multicultural awareness (when the world is under attack, only the USA is affected, and only the USA can save us – sigh).

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