Friday, 18 January 2013

Gangster Squad - The film even Gosling couldn't save

Oh Gangster Squad, you promised so much, but I just don’t feel like you delivered… Yes there was (plenty of) blood, yes there was a briefly topless Gosling, and yes Emma Stone looked exquisite; but there was almost no substance to this pulpy attempt at the classic film noir genre.

The film opens with the ultra-violent ripping apart of a man at the hands of a hilariously hammy Sean Penn as real-life LA based mobster Micky Cohen. On that level never really lets up, throwing shoot-outs, punch-ups and car-crashes into the mix every time your ears have recovered from the last blast of bullets. In fact, the film is so comic-book-esque in it’s take on violence I’m surprised it’s not a graphic novel adaptation. It reminded me immensely of Sin City, shot to look similarly epic, and narrated at times by a gravel-voiced violence veteran who speaks of the need to fight for the sake of innocents and the salvation of a city that may already be lost – oh so familiar, right?

Well in this case, battle lines are drawn between a hand-picked squad of the LA police department’s finest led by Josh Brolin’s good cop O’Mara, and including Gosling’s squeaky-voiced and amusingly named “Wooters” amongst others, who wage war against Cohen and his cronies. Penn, smothered in prosthetics, chews out spiel about how owning LA is his destiny, blah, blah, blah, while the cops get their shoot-on and indulge in some sneaky lady-love, well if you're Gosling's character anyway.

Who's afraid of Sean Penn? Erm, me!

The plot beyond this is largely irrelevant, it plays out almost exactly as you’d expect and there wasn’t one development you couldn’t guess at long beforehand. I found it incredibly hard to care what happened to any of them, even the delectable Gosling-Stone pairing whose chemistry lit up “Crazy, Stupid Love” a couple of years back. In fact, Stone’s character is so woefully underdeveloped you wonder why Fleisher cast someone so talented when she had little more to do than look gorgeous and wear her amazing 40’s wardrobe like a supermodel.

Beautiful people, being beautiful

To give this film it’s dues, it does look amazing; I want to drink in the bars, drive the cars, and would stop eating for a year to wear Stone’s dresses. The styling is sharp and spot on for the era, and it’s no surprise that Gosling looks really rather good in a zoot suit and fedora (can you sense a Gosling-is-God theme here?) Plus there are some great one-liners and well choreographed action scenes, but it doesn’t disguise the fact that this gang of talented actors haven’t been given enough to make it pop.

In a nutshell, if you’ve got 2 hours to kill you could probably do worse, and if you like your films riddled with bullet holes, dripping in wise-cracks and styled to the max then it’s for you, but for me it just didn’t hit the mark.

From their promo interviews - just because... Enjoy!

Monday, 14 January 2013

The awards which aren't the Oscars...

Oh to live in the US! It's quite hard to comment on the results of the Golden Globes when a number of the nominated films haven't even been released here in the UK, but that's not going to stop me posting the winners in the film categories though, oh no!

No real upsets this year, and without Ricky Gervais to offend the stars I imagine it was quite a civil evening with people getting drunk for all the right reasons, how dull! But anyway, enough of my rambling, winners below....

Picture, Drama: Argo

Seriously, only 2 of the 5 nominated have been released here, how are us Brits expected to get behind it?! *Breathes* Ok, well, Argo is a valid winner I think, it held my attention for 2 hours and managed to create tension when I knew the outcome, fair play. It also helped that the legendary Bryan Cranston lent his acting genius to the film.
Picture, Musical or Comedy: Les Misérables
Was anything else ever going to get this? Poor Moonrise Kingdom, my personal favourite film from 2o12, it never stood a chance against the all-singing, all-tragic Les Mis.
Actor, Drama: Daniel Day-Lewis, Lincoln
I wonder how Method he went for this one... I hope he left the prosthetics on for the duration of filming...
Actress, Drama: Jessica Chastain, Zero Dark Thirty
Director: Ben Affleck, Argo
Ang Lee for Life of Pi would have got my vote for this one, an absolutely visionary. Damn you Affleck!
Actor, Musical or Comedy: Hugh Jackman, Les Misérables
Ahh, Huge-Ackman (it works phonetically, trust me), my Mum's movie crush. I'm expecting big things when I get around to watching this!
Actress, Musical or Comedy: Jennifer Lawrence, Silver Linings Playbook
Have I mentioned I've got a huge girl crush on this lovely lady? Hurrah for the Lawrence!
Just. So. Beautiful. And incredible dress. Wow.
Supporting Actor: Christoph Waltz, Django Unchained
Supporting Actress: Anne Hathaway, Les Misérables
Foreign Language: Amour
Animated Film: Brave
Screenplay: Quentin Tarantino, Django Unchained
Cannot wait to see this one, particularly after *that* interview with KGM on Ch4 news, click here for 8 mins of awkward!
Original Score: Mychael Danna, Life of Pi
Original Song: "Skyfall" (music and lyrics by Adele and Paul Epworth), Skyfall
Just as well really, poor Adele had a shocking 2012, thank goodness 2013 is giving her a break! Nah, just kidding, "Skyfall" was pretty good really wasn't it? 

Sunday, 13 January 2013

Life of Pi: mustn't cry, dammit..

Artist's impression of Richard Parker

Just a quick post to supplement what the other half's already written.

I read Yann Martel's Life Of Pi a few years ago. It tells the story of a shipwrecked Indian boy's struggle to survive, lost at sea with a Bengal tiger. It's pretty fantastical, and is very much open to interpretation (I went full-Narnia and swallowed the whole thing). I think the interpretation of the story is pretty faithful, with a few Tom Bombadil edits* where scenes wouldn't make the leap to film well. The book paints very vivid pictures - not least of Pi himself - yet most of it takes place on a lifeboat, alone in an endless ocean. It's easy to see why the book has been called unfilmable.

But good news: it isn't! And the cinematography is amazing. It's treated like a play with one set, where the set is illuminated and decorated differently for different scenes, but the illumination and decoration takes brilliant advantage of millions of dollar's worth of CG and 3D. I'm a fan of the latest wave of 3D (especially for animated films), but it can still be gimmicky. Not so here - this was clearly a film made for it, rather than just jumping on the bandwagon. Anything involving water looked incredible (and a good thing too, given that the set was made of it), but the animals were the piece de resistance. Richard Parker the tiger (who either represents man's animal side, or, well, a tiger) could have fooled Attenborough. When CG is done right, you shouldn't know it's there, and I think there was only one occasion where I noticed that something wasn't quite as it should be

This film is a reminder that the cinema is still about fantasy and escapism.

*. Tom Bombadil edits
Tom Bombadil is a pillock from Lord of the Rings. He adds little to the book other than irritating verse and his weird, sylvan Stepford Wife and he would have trashed the films by his mere presence - imagine Ian Anderson running onstage at a Mastodon gig for a jam. Therefore, cutting him out was a necessary change for the leap to film. Some stuff just doesn't translate.

Friday, 11 January 2013

Life of Pi - Unfilmable my arse...

As the latest in the raft of “unfilmable” books that’ve recently been adapted for the big screen I was a little dubious about Life of Pi, however, if I were to sum it up in one word, that word would be “spectacular”.  And as a fan of Yan Martel’s novel I can honestly say I wasn’t at all disappointed; David Magee has done a fantastic job in adapting it for film.

For those of you who don’t know the story, Pi is a Piscine Patel, a sensitive yet bold and inquisitive boy whose life is turned upside down (quite literally), when the container ship he, his family and their zoo-load of animals are travelling from India to Canada on, dramatically sinks in a storm in the Pacific. Our hero finds himself on the only lifeboat with some unlikely company including a ravenous Bengal tiger, brilliantly named “Richard Parker” after an administrative mix-up.  From this point on, it’s an incredible study of humanity, explored through faith (Pi is Christian, Hindu and Muslim) and the intrinsic human drive to survive.

I have to admit I’m glad I didn’t read the book recently and chose not to revisit the story before seeing the film, as for me nothing was missing, and the essence of the tale was true to my memory of the book. And while it seems many have felt letdown by the ending, I challenge you not to leave the cinema pondering the story’s twist, just as the reporter adult Pi is recounting his experience to does.

Technically this film is far beyond anything I’ve seen before, streets ahead of the likes of Avatar and the Hobbit. I simply don’t want to believe that the tiger on screen was almost entirely CGI, as I bought every tension-fuelled second of it. 

Seriously, this is a CGI tiger. Mental.

In fact, it was an utter feast for the eyes from start to finish, and I found myself greedily eating up every scene, whether sea-scape, tangled island, zoo life or charmingly run-down French India. The sea-scapes in particular were mind-blowing; the sight of endless skies reflected in vast, still ocean is happily etched in my mind like a brain screen-saver. 

My new sky-sea brain screensaver.

If Ang Lee and his team don’t get nominated for every technical award going this season then he’s been robbed, as his achievement truly is incredible.

If there was one slight weak point, I’m inclined to say that Suraj Sharma as teenage Pi, was possibly a little lacking in gravitas to carry such a bulk of the story. An unknown until this film, his life will undoubtedly be forever changed after a chance audition while accompanying his brother to the casting, and he showed huge potential; but I found myself wondering what a more experienced actor could have bought to the role. It is entirely to his credit however, that it’s hard to think he wasn’t acting opposite a genuine mass of fur, teeth and claws, so I heartily hi-five him for that!

If you were on the fence about seeing Life of Pi, or reluctant as a lover of the novel, I would truly recommend giving it a chance and please fork out for the 3D. It’s an enthralling emotional rollercoaster of a story, and the most visually impressive film to date by my book.

Thursday, 3 January 2013

First post, fashionably late

In case you haven't read the first post, I am my girlfriend's boyfriend and this is our film blog. To kick things off, we've each done our top 15 cinema releases of 2012. Here we go:

15. The Perks Of Being A Wallflower It started off looking like a glossy celebration of all things hipster, but as the veneer cracked, the depth showed and I started to get interested. It took on subjects I haven't seen in the mainstream before, and I really appreciated it's honesty.

14. Hunger Games It's Battle Royale without the subtitles (or years of Japanese lessons)! And with Jennifer Lawrence! And a sense of righteous indignation on behalf of oppressed minorities! And with Jennifer Lawrence!

13. Looper What have they done to his FACE??? Ok. Now I've got that off my chest, well done looper. I love chewing over a good time travel paradox, and this one had some ideas I haven't seen before (and I'm a huge nerd).

12. Promethius My 3D moment of the year was the shot of stars with depth perspective - something humans could never experience with the naked eye. Those few seconds summarise the whole film. Action and visuals so cool that you don't notice the nonsense plot and wall-to-wall bullshit science.

11. Jeff Who Lives At Home Jason Segel is awesome and I'm sorry to say that this is his only entry in this list. I liked that things work out for Jeff, but also not knowing why – fate or fluke?

10. Skyfall Despite mucking up my favourite fan theory about Bond, Skyfall was a great celebration of the franchise to date. I liked the feeling of the series assessing itself and modernising, hidden in a cracking Bond movie.

9. Moonrise Kingdom I don't like twee films, I said. It looks really hipster, I said. *Facepalm*.

8. The Dark Knight Rises I have had entire conversations with my sister through the medium of Bane impressions. A hero movie is only as good as its bad guy and I just want to know more and more about Bane.

7. The Descendants So, your dead wife was cheating on you and your kids hate you. Good luck, George Clooney!

6. Cabin In The Woods Looks like a typical teen horror film, doesn't it? Nope. Whedon answers the question "why do the kids have to die so horribly?" with ancient Gods and elevator after elevator full of bloodthirsty monsters.

5. Avengers Assemble “Genius billionaire playboy philanthropist” is where I want to be in five year's time. I like my superheroes fallible and my violence comic book-style.

4. End Of Watch Walking in, I expected forgetable guns 'n' glory type-stuff. The film draws you in, shows a partnership developing, then emotionally blindsides you right at the end. So much more than I expected.

3. Argo Knowing how it ends might have made it less engaging, but knowing it was all REAL kept the atmosphere piano-string tense until the last second.

2. Silver Linings Playbook While obviously asking "who are the real crazies here?", it doesn't hit you around the head with the question. It's a psychiatric safari that finds humour and fun in the character's various situation without making fun. Also, maybe I didn't mention, but I love Jennifer Lawrence. It's the least rom-com rom-com I've ever seen and I loved it.

1. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey Martin Freeman was great as Bilbo (just as he was great as Arthur Dent and Tim Canterbury, without really having to change much. Sensible tea-junkies seem to be his niche). I loved the whole film because it was FUN. It did for me what fantasy is meant to do – take my out of myself and away from the real world. I didn't even notice that I needed a pee until the very end!

His bag is full of tea

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

The tricky first post...

Here's me making good on one of my "action points" (definitely not resolutions...) for 2013 - starting a website with my man. Ok, so it's just a film blog, but it's a start! And as today is the very first of 2013, it seems fitting to count down our films of 2012 (separately that is). Eventually we'll hopefully use this blog to write regular reviews - the idea being the male and female perspective might in some way provide an interesting comparison... Who knows? But for now, here are my top 15 films of 2012 - enjoy!

15. The Amazing Spiderman / Dark Knight Rises (I can't split them, plus it's a sneaky away to add a 16th film, shhhuushh..) - Brilliant Spiderman reboot and the Garfield-Stone chemistry was wonderful. Dark Knight spawned so many terrible Bane impressions from my man that I had to seriously debate adding it, and Catwoman was unfortunately underdeveloped, but let's face it, still a great film.
14. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey - So, so, long, but so, so, beautiful. Worth it for the scene between Bilbo and Gollum alone.
13. Prometheus - More unanswered questions than answered, but what did we expect? Doesn't matter really because what we got was more scene-stealing from Fassbender, the quickest recovery from caesarian in history and some inspired 3D. Awesome.
12. Looper - Despite being completely distracted the whole time by GJL's melty Bruce Wills-esque stroke-face, I still think this film rocked. A neat twist on time-travel and loved seeing Emily Blunt in a grittier role.
11. End of Watch - Can be summed up thus: "the best film I never want to see ever again'.
10. 21 Jump Street - Actually funny, like, properly funny, wonder if it'll age well as a lot of the jokes are so era sensitive, but great light relief, and the Depp cameo was just brilliant.
9. Skyfall - I should confess that this is only the second Bond I've watched in full, but I loved it. Hoped there'd be more from his Bond Girls, but perhaps the point was for M to be his girl here.. Either way, Bardem managed to make camp terrifying, and the wonderful Mr Fiennes was superb, think he'll be a great addition. Looking forward to the next one already.
8. The Muppets - Not just because I'm in love with Jason Segel, but because it was warm, funny, smart and had Sheldon in it. Fancy travel by map anyone?
7. Silver Linings Playbook - Ahhh Jennifer Lawrence, you are lovely... First of 2 entries for Jennifer in this RomCom with a twist, featuring the best dance scene of 2012 and the welcome return of De Niro.
6. Avengers Assemble - When you can't decide on your favourite character, the film's probably doing something right. Of course Iron Man got all the best laughs, but Whedon gave everyone space to shine and is just what the world of comic adaptations needed.
5. Cabin in the Woods - More Whedon action here with probably the funniest horror I've ever seen. Naturally it's not a horror-by-numbers, but knowing and demonstrative of a real love of the genre whilst turning it on it's head. Love, love, loved it.
4. Hunger Games - I wasn't even sure I wanted to see this, I hadn't read the books and didn't get the hype. I'm so glad I did though, I actually ran to the bookshop the minute it finished to buy all 3 on the strength of the film, which I think says it all.
3. The Descendants - I'd almost forgotten this was a 2012 release, but I do remember loving it, particularly Clooney awkwardly running in slippy shoes, classic.
2. Argo - So everyone has already raved about this, and I doubt I can add anything new suffice to say, Affleck done good.
1. Moonrise Kingdom - I've never been the biggest Wes Anderson fan, but this one was different. Gorgeous story, gorgeous performances from Jared Gilman and Kara Haywood, and it looked pretty gorgeous too. Loved that despite the stellar adult cast, it was the kids who really shone. I urge you to check Moonrise Kingdom out if you missed it, you won't regret it.

So, there you are. I should say, we haven't seen Life of Pi yet, and doubtless I'd try to sneak in a 17th film if I had, so it's probably a blessing in disguise... There are also a few films I wanted to see but missed this year: Frankenweenie, Killing Them Softly, The Raid, Sightseers and Martha, Marcy, May, Marlene - who knows what the list could have looked like?

Watch this space for the other half's list - I genuinely don't know what's in his, so even if you're not intrigued, I am! Bye for now!