July 23, 2012


DIRECTOR: Martin Campbell

May Contain Spoilers!

With Die Another Day signing off on Pearce Brosnan’s Bond on a low note, well as fans were concerned (though I as not being a particular fan, I found this to be good fun), Casino Royale had the responsibility of refreshing the franchise. Some may remember the controversy of the new “Blond Bond” as well as the campaigns which were launched against Daniel Craig as being the wrong choice for the role.

Well, they couldn’t have been more wrong. Daniel Craig is not the most versatile actor, as playing cold characters is his forte, but for this new, or more authentic James Bond, he seemed to be born for this now, post-Bourne part. Based on the first 007 novel by Ian Flemming, Casino Royale introduced the MI6 Agent as a sociopathic shovanist, who in the book, was a top-notch poker player.

The film does the same but adds the usual action set-pieces which come part and parcel with a Bond opus. But it is the action in the Casino itself which is where the film works best for me. The Casino Royale segment is probably the middle hour of the film, but in that hour we focus on the relationships between him and his Bond-girl, Eva Green, as she is MI6’s money-man as it were, the introduction of CIA Agent Felix Leiter, and where he not only played the key poker game, but is also almost hacked to death with a machete and poisoned!

And both of those scenes rank as the best action in the movie, besides the opening free-running sequence, which whilst spectacular, is a bit redundant we all is said and done. But again, the logic behind the poker game is solid, making you wonder how many international matters are dealt with in this manner?

Casino Royale is clearly Bond’s response to Jason Bourne, and this was the right direction to go in and was certainly in keeping of the reboots of the day, again, with Batman Begins springing to mind just, a year earlier. Grit was to replace flamboyance but this manages to blend to two together, still retaining what it is to be Bond whilst looking more into the physical world of Bourne. The film’s heart is espionage and character, rather than comedic turns and action for action’s sake.

This is the best Bond film in decades…

A sad day…

July 20, 2012

I have personally been one of the tens of thousands of film fans waiting for this day for four years, after The Dark Knight ended, back in 2008. But the honorific events in Denver, Colorado, in which a gunman has murdered at least 14 12 people and left 50 38 59 injured during the midnight screening of The Dark Knight Rises, has cast a long and disturbing shadow over not only the film in question, but cinema as a whole.

Rest in peace to all those who has lost their lives and our best wishes to all those who have been affected by the this needless and cowardly attack.


July 20, 2012

The 20th July has finally arrived. To celebrate the concluding part of Christopher Nolan’s Batman Trilogy finally making its way into cinemas across the globe today, I’m taking a look at Batman’s long love affair with cinema.

  • BATMAN (1966) (Leslie H. Martinson) 6/10 Though not technically cinema’s first encounter with The Caped Crusader, as the earlier serials would still have being shown in theatres, (along with a Looney Tunes cartoon and a Movietone newsreel, no doubt), this is a classic adaptation of the popular TV series. For all of its campness and faults, Adam West and Bert Wards, Batman and Robin was good fun and is still worth a watch today. The film, which I must admit, I haven’t seen in something like twenty years, was equally so, if my memory serves. But, as long as you don’t expect Citizen Kane, then you won’t be disappointed.
  • BATMAN (1989) (Tim Burton) 9/10 Re-inventing Batman as The Dark Knight which we all know so well, Tim Burton created cinematic gold here. Jack Nicholson’s turn as The Joker is still one of the best and Keaton’s, Bruce Wayne/Batman is good too. The Gothic feel and dark Burton sense of humour, all work well to create a phenomenon at the time, and a classic comic book adaptation which must surly still stand as one of the best ever made.

  • BATMAN RETURNS (1992) (Tim Burton) 7/10 Burton dropped the ball a bit with this one as far as I’m concerned. Following in the Gothic style of Edward Scissorhands, which was made the year after Batman, the production design was excellent, though too dark and morbid for a superhero film. DeVito’s, Penguin was simply too depressing but Michelle Pfeiffer’s, Catwoman has endured and has become legendary in her own right. But Michael Keaton was still sidelined here and is never given the credit that he deserves.

  • BATMAN FOREVER (1995) (Joel Schumacher) 5/10 The darkest chapters begin here, ironically with neon lights and comic book production designs which took the franchise from one extreme to another. But that’s not say that there weren’t some high, or at least, higher points, such as Jim Carey’s, Riddler, who wasn’t bad. But Val Kilmer as Batman; No thanks and Tommy Lee Jones’ Two Face were just too much to bear!  But there was nothing about the Schumacher years which would serve the legacy but it was still a Box Office success and this led to…
  • BATMAN & ROBIN (1997) (Joel Schumacher) 3/10 …The END of the Batman saga, couldn’t have been any more destructive to the franchise than this. Dubbed “Neon and Nipples”, Batman & Robin went all out, with Schwarzenegger, Mr. Freeze, Uma Thurman’s, Poison Ivy, which was probably the best character in the film and the introduction of Alecia Silverstone’s, Batgirl. Oh dear… This finished Batman more effectively than any villain ever could, and this may well stand as one of the worst films ever made.
  • BATMAN BEGINS (2005) (Christopher Nolan) 10/10 My feelings on Christopher Nolan’s reboot are well documented. Currently number 4 on my Top Ten, This is the first film to take a solid interest in Bruce Wayne, establishing a realistic world and identifiable motivations for his crusade. First rate but the this masterwork was about to be trumped.

  • THE DARK KNIGHT (2008) (Christopher Nolan) 10/10 Now to number 3 on my Top Ten, this was Batman meets Michael Mann’s, Heat. A crime thriller at heart, Nolan had taken this a far away from comic book frivolousness as possible, instead turning into an epic melodrama, were action serves a purpose and the plotting is complex, from characters to diabolical schemes. The villains are believable and the Batman is a symbol that we can all get behind.

So, with the prospect of another reboot in the next few years with the proposed Justice League movie, in response to Marvel’s successful Avenger Assemble, I doubt that we’ve seen the last of Batman, but even if Nolan’s finale isn’t all that I’d hoped, there’s no doubt that his universe is the best to date, certainly as were film is concerned, but lets not forget the impact of Tim Burton’s Batman. Without it, the superhero movie scene would be somewhat different today…


July 20, 2012


DIRECTOR: Ryan Johnson

May Contain Spoilers!

I can remember back in 2005, reading about this new, breakout film which was redefining the high school genre. The film was Brick. It passed me by in the end and I came across it again this year. The quotes were great, saying that it was a “one of kind” and “unique take on the genre”, blending film noir with modern kids etc…

The concept really intrigued me as I do like SOME noir, but not all. I got through the first 27 minutes and it was gruelling. Very rarely does a film which I set out to watch drive to turn it off or walk out before the end but I just couldn’t take any more! It just didn’t work for me. The noir dialogue was fine, very apt for Humphry Bogart but not so much for Joseph Gordon-Levitt constantly banging on about who eats with who and where!

I do intend to return to this film sooner rather than later and I still don’t know what the whole Brick thing is all about, but this a Marmite film if ever there was one. Love it or hate it, Brick is not for everyone and actually irritated me beyond my tolerances.

A real shame as I had high hopes for this one.

This review will be updated when or IF, I finish watching the enitre film.


July 19, 2012


DIRECTOR: Peter Jackson

May Contain Spoilers!

Completely underrated. This was, in my opinion, the best of the trilogy. We’d sat for an arse numbing 214 mins of intro, via the Fellowship, and now we get to it.

It has often been criticised for being the middle part and therefore dragging, but for my money, the first two movies make a nice story of their own, and in many ways it’s The Return Of The King that is tagged on.

Short of seven hours of story had rolled on by the time we get to the end of this movie, and though you certainly feel it, I believe that is in fact the gem of this often criticised trilogy.

It is in many ways overly long but I feel that it’s just about paced correctly not to strain the audience to much. A problem which plagues this trilogy are its drawn out sequences which could easily be shortened without losing the impact.

The camera work is also a problem for me. Jackson WILL NOT keep his camera still for 5 minutes. Whenever there’s an epic introduction of a hill, mountain, boat or horse, the camera is flying around, usually on a plane or helicopter.

It’s simply tells me that Jackson had no faith in these stunning environments conveying their own beauty without help form his over direction.

Otherwise this was a well conceived trilogy, and this was its underrated jewel in the crown.

(Originally published 5th January 2010)


July 19, 2012


DIRECTOR: Peter Jackson

May Contain Spoilers!

As the final chapter of The Lord Of The Rings trilogy begins, we finally see Gollum as he really was, Smeagol. By Christmas, 2003, the mania surrounding this franchise had reached fever pitch, as after two brilliant and epic outings, the long-awaited conclusion of Frodo’s journey to Mordor to dispose of the Ring was almost complete.

This was it. This had to not only meet all the expectations of the fans, old and new alike, but it also needed to meet a more cynical criteria, that of meeting the demands of a trilogy closer. This issue is all to apparent this week,  the week that The Dark Knight Rises finally arrives in theatres, concluding its own trilogy. The problem with finales, whether it be TV or film is that they must amp it up, as anything normal simply won’t satisfy.

This is of course true, as once you’ve seen one battle, you kinda seen them all, but the question here is does this film blow it or not? Well, no, it doesn’t, though there are parts which come close. The Frodo and Sam plot does meander and by the end, seems to lose credibility as to exactly how they can physically endure the land of Mordor, let alone climb Mount Doom, but the conclusion within the volcano itself well makes up for this, and is defiantly a suitable conclusion.

But speaking of conclusions, there were so many to choose from. On early viewings, this seemed to end, and end, and end, but I must admit, after ten years, the endings do seem to carry more poignancy than I first thought. Yes, there are too many but having said that, I don’t know which ones I would cut. But on the way to this ending, was an epic journey which high point was most defiantly the battle of Minas Tirith, the Gondorian capital city.

The set designs were magnificent and the action, drama and emotional essence were all well captured to not only conclude this saga, but to crown it as one of the best movie trilogies of all time. The saga as a whole lends a lot to many other films and genres, including Star Wars, Dungeons And Dragons and unfortunately, the last few Harry Potter books/films, most notably the inclusion of the Hocruxes, which bear a striking resemblance to the master ring, certainly in its effects on the people who have contact with it.

The extended cut is not quite as successful as the previous two in adding more significant plotting to the film, with the most notable addition being the restoration of Christopher Lee’s final scene. It does change a few things, but it does literally change the flow of some sequences and I’m not sure if I liked that to be honest but I would still recommend this version over the theatrical cut as it does include more explanation and detailed plotting which is at the heart of the story telling.


July 18, 2012


DIRECTOR: Peter Jackson

May Contain Spoilers!

The Fellowship Of The Ring was the long, long-awaited first installment of the legendary Lord Of the Rings trilogy to be committed to celluloid. But, unless you were a fantasy geek, who cared?

I can’t say that I was too bothered at the time, and was often left baffled by the amount of time which was being lavished upon the film in magazines and other media of the day. I’m more into Sci-fi than fantasy but that didn’t stop me taking an interest and a pew at the local multiplex to see what all the fuss was  about.

Well, after 172 minutes and a numb bum, I wasn’t too impressed. This was a three-hour, ‘part 1’ of a trilogy, rather than a film in its own right. ‘What a jip!’ I thought as I regained the use of my legs and made my way out of the auditorium. But, I liked it enough to watch it again when it came out on DVD, and it fared a little better but was far from the masterpiece which everyone was talking about.

But that November, 2002, New Line released the first of the Extended Editions, now pushing the running past the three and half hour mark but that only served to encourage me. So, a year later and after something like 220 minutes, I was a changed man, certainly as where Lord Of The Rings were concerned. Finally, I began to get it. It took the extra material to flesh out the story even more for me to appreciate that it was the story that was the story.

The plot is relatively simple. An evil lord (Sauron) has forged a pile of magical rings, passed them out to the leaders of Middle Earth and has kept the Master Ring to rule the rest and in turn, taken over the world. But, the world has risen up against him, killed him, took his ring to be destroyed but the human king failed, and was seduced not only by the power of the ring, but by its supernatural soul as it were, as it was bonded with the Dark Lord, Sauron.

So, 3000 years later and the ring needs to be destroyed as Sauron is almost ready to return and wreak havoc on the world once again. The Ring tough, is now in the hands of a Hobbit named Frodo Baggins, a member of a peaceful race of little people who are drawn into the conflict and a journey which will take him far from comfort of his home to the darkest regions of the world.

After that, it all down to the details, and there are details up on details here. This is one of the most well crafted worlds that I have ever seen, with almost nothing left to chance. The effects are brilliant, with Weta Digital, more recently famous for their work on Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes, skillfully blending CGI, Live action and Model Effects to create the perfect world.

At times though, the pacing can seem long-winded and plodding, but the more you watch it, the faster it becomes but that’s no excuse really. This long-windedness does put some people off and especially so with children who would normally be lapping up fantasy such as this. I do feel that it would have been possible to compromise a little without comprising the story in a real way, but saying that, it stands as a testament to real film-making, blending action, pacing and narrative to the maximum effect, translating a long saga into a definitive film series.

The cast are superb and the direction equally so, as were the production team at every level who got this right, and the results are right there on the screen for every to see and enjoy. This is how to make a blockbuster movie adaptation and with The Hobbit, (the prequel) due out later this year, we can only hope for more of the same.


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