September 20, 2011 § Leave a comment
Director Luc Besson is one of the pioneers of Cinema du look, a French film movement of the 1980’s. Besson and a two other French film-makers, Jean-Jacques Beineix and Leos Carax, all shared this “look”, they were seen as the new Nouvelle Vague. Inspired by that new breed of Hollywood director like Coppola and Scorsese, music videos, commercials and fashion, Cinema du look favoured style over substance and spectacle over narrative.
Besson’s movies are indeed pretty and well-crafted and his narrative sometimes made way for his slick and stylish form of action that is similar to that of John Woo and that generation of Hong Kong action movies. However, his films have been criticised by way of being too commercial and interchangeable and for being too Hollywood for a pioneering French film maker. Nevertheless, Luc Besson deserves praise for refining and revolutionising the action film genre.
Besson’s look and style is seen in waves in his 1994 chef-d’oeuvre, Leon. Seen as an expansion on the Victor character from his 1990 film Nikita, Leon is graphically and balletically violent. Where Leon lacks in profound narrative, it makes up by way of highly stylised celestial action sequences, years before The Matrix was even a glint in the Wachowski Brothers’ eyes. Besson’s close concentration, intense framing and his important use of light and shadow are signs of a really unique film maker, his story and writing may be absent of a certain level of depth or humanity, yet it is not his plot that drives this film, but its action and the character’s that play out in front of us. I do not understand why Jean Reno doesn’t make more films. He is fantastic, a heated level of intensity and simmering emotion that adds the right amount of humanity to this character, a brilliant performance from a different type of action star. Gary Oldman is divinely psychotic and brilliantly over the top, his manic behaviour boils over in each moment he is on-screen, it is like watching a tsunami erupt. Sensational.
Besson’s abundance of style and severe lack of substance, is testament enough to his ability as a film maker. The fact that he can still make a succesful, unique and highly charged motion picture even with a insufficient narrative. He knows how he wants the film to look, his films will always have the certain glisten and spark and you are always visually drawn to his camerawork, the way he uses every inch of the frame to benefit the style of the motion picture and that is why he is a brilliant yet arguably underrated director.
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September 20, 2011 § 1 Comment
Similar to fashion, there are certain styles, practices and even people in film that can slip out of favour with the general public at the drop of a hat. Prolific and succesful one moment and then second-rate rejectamenta the next. This maybe because of a the release of a poor movie, poor personal decisions or just like fashion, audiences just don’t like them/it anymore.
Arguably one of the biggest movie stars of the 80’s and 90’s, Kevin Costner was a box-office success, double oscar winner and an all-American hero and then thanks to a couple a giant, steaming turds he disappeared into the abyss never to regain the same popularity and success he achieved at the top of his game. Which is a great personal shame to me, Kevin Costner and his films were my first introduction into cinema. It was his films of the 1990’s that established my love of film, repeated viewings of Field of Dreams, Tin Cup and even Waterworld, but especially Robin Hood Prince of Thieves. This glorious motion picture of 1991, to the 6 year old me was the greastest film ever made. It was gripping, action-packed, violent, funy, charming and bloody marvellous. And watching it back as an adult has opened many more doors to me.
For a family film, Robin Hood covers some rather serious ground, racial prejudice, dictatorship, Satanism, sexual harassment and abuse and it is incredibly violent. Yet, warrenting just a PG certificate, because of the right amount of Hollywood the harsher subject matter remains subtle. Robin Hood Prince of Thieves stays a remarkable motion picture, stunning imagery and cinematography complimented by a roaring and dramatic score makes this frankly un-faithul (did Robin Hood have an American accent? Maybe, not) adaptation of English folklore, the best adaptation of the Robin Hood story. Alan Rickman’s brilliantly, menancingly over the top pantomime villian Sheriff of Nottingham to Kevin Costner’s subdued, calm and yet full of emotion and power plays our wonderfully on screen. Director Kevin Reynolds mixes the right amount of action, drama, romance, humour and does it all very well, suprisingly so from an amateur. However, Robin Hood Prince of Thieves will always be remembered purely because of a certain song by Bryan Adams that topped the British chart for 16 consecutive weeks. Which again is a shame, because the film is definitely marvellous and I shall forever sing its praises.
I will always have the time of day for the film’s of Kevin Costner, may it be a genuine classic like Dances With Wolves or indeed a genuine insult on cinema such as The Postman, I will always give them a chance, because it was his films like Robin Hood and Field of Dreams that fed my initial love of cinema. And it seems Costner, our very own Captain America still has some life left in him, future projects include a role in Quentin Tarantino’s spaghetti western Django Unchained and he will even play Superman’s dad in the forthcoming Man of Steel. It seems the wiley old fox shall not be put out to pasture just yet…unless someone cuts his heart out with a spoon.
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September 8, 2011 § Leave a comment
You can argue the fact that the success and admiration of a film is completely relative and it purely comes down to time and it is certainly a generational thing. One generation’s Battlefield Earth, could be the next generation’s Casablanca. I think this all comes down to how a film is received on release, certain hidden gems may not have been given the appreciation it deserved first time round. I know critics and reviews don’t make our minds up for us, but they most definitely influence our decision to watch a certain film or not. Genuinely brilliant films may have suffered from a bad review or it may not have been understood at the time of its general release. I admit that this happens very rarely and you do indeed have to sieve through the shit to get to gold, but every once in a while, the critics will miss a trick and a film of astronomical brilliance would be destined for the bargain bin. In 1991, this happened and it really shouldn’t have and that film is Steven Spielberg’s Hook.
Hook was seen as bottom of the barrel Spielberg, that lacked imagination and failed to give anything new, fresh or urgent to the original Peter Pan story, critics couldn’t understand why Spielberg didn’t just decide to remake the original J.M Barrie story instead of creating this clumsy, mis-matched attempt that seemed to be stuck in a theme-park world and that it would take more than pixie dust to fly this overstuffed package into our dreams.
These people must have seen a different cut of the film or something, because the Hook, I have seen, know and love, is one of the most imaginative, exciting and heartfelt motion pictures I have ever seen. Spielberg continues to focus on subjects such as childhood, adulthood and loss of innocence that are indeed really important to him and he does have a clear and close personal attachment to this film and to all his films, and if there has to be only one Peter Pan, it is Steven Spielberg. Spielberg’s child-like innocence and vision creates a fabulous and brilliantly over the top version of Neverland, that injects new life into the well known story, from the height of a lost boy, telling the story through the eyes of a child. Hook is full of humour, theatrical performances, gloriously brilliant cast of lost boys and will make you cry as easy as it makes you laugh. Spectacular swashbukcling action through an even more spectacular set and you’re with them every step of the way and you too with fly, fight and crow. John Williams’ truly remarkable score is absolutely bangerang and it perfectly accentuates Spielberg’s emotions and you will never forget his brilliant overture that just dares you not to hum along and its makes you feel 5 years old again in a way that only John Williams can. This film is all about imagination, it calls on you to inhabit this wonderful world of a child’s imagination and as you dare to dream and be drawn into this motion picture of pure imagination, the images will be so thick you will have to wipe the food off your face and out off your eyes.
Hook was made for children, not for stuck up critics who grew up far too soon and have lost the ability to dream. As the generation of children who grew up with Hook, do indeed grow older, they will continue to admire and appreciate this film more and more. Much more than any grown up could ever do twenty years ago. Good form, Spielberg, good form.
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September 7, 2011 § Leave a comment
My ventures to the cinema recently have been rather disapponiting to say the least, I cannot remember the last time I was honestly excited about going to watch a film in the cinema. It seems like my trips to the cinema have just become a routine or going for the sake of going with little interest in the film itself. However, among the droves of blockbusters and money spinners that continue to plague our multiplexes like a giant shit storm there was a genuine film that I was extremely excited about, J.J Abrams’ Super 8.
A grown up film, exploring grown up subjects with a lead cast with an average age of 14. These young children are not just good child actors, but great actors. This group of 6 young children have some serious talent, they’re funny, intuitive, honest and they have the ability to hold us in a scene and really draw us in no matter what they are talking about, wether it be innocently nattering in a diner or scheming together to save the world, these young kids have indeed set the bar extremely high for performances from such a young cast and I am looking forward to watching these young actors in future motion pictures.
You can clearly see Steven Spielberg’s influence as the executive producer on this film, his figure prints are indeed all over it, its like a mix of The Goonies, E.T and Close Encounters. However, Super 8 is clearly all J.J Abrams’. His finest motion picture to date, Super 8 clearly demonstrates Abrams’ own autuer style of film making by way of his own trademark subtleties that continue to crop up in his work, his distinctive style is completely original and beautiful to watch. He too shares Spielberg’s penchant for small time charm and family, but done with his 21st Century and extremely cool style of directing. His action sequences are phenomenal, relentless, endearing and done with a pin point accuracy, the movie is exceptional for the train crash alone. Abrams’ writing is poignant, funny and full of heart, he seems to have come an extremely long way since his days of writing second rate 90s comedies such as Gone Fishin’ and The Pallbearer. J.J Abrams has established himself as one of the most genuine,important, humble and exciting film makers today, he has already resurrected two dying movie franchises in Star Trek and Mission Impossible and he hasn’t forgotten his roots in television as he continues to create, produce, direct and write prime time shows, it seems like the sky is indeed the limit for Jeffrey Jacob.
Super 8 is a genuine contendor for movie of the year, full of action, humour, conspiracy, genuine horror and emotion and with a beautifully nostalgic soundtrack. It is a authentic and honest film that keeps you on your toes and reminds us that you don’t need block buster movie stars, you don’t need to trade storyline for action, you don’t even need an expansive budget to make a really great motion picture. It’s films like Super 8 that restore my faith in the future of cinema and slowly but surely, film makers like J.J Abrams are prolonging the life of authentic, honest and real cinema. Cinema may not be dead after all, as long as we keep Michael Bay and Zack Snyder away from the camera and convince them to stop making Hangover sequels and other obnoxious motion pictures, there may be hope for us yet.
Image courtesy of filmofilia.com
September 6, 2011 § Leave a comment
You’ve just come in from a hard day at work, your boss has been on your case all day. Your feet are sore, your mind is numb. You order your favourite meal from your favourite take-away and as you wait for it to arrive, you have a long relaxing bath, bubbles, candles, the lot. You let yourself soak. Unwind after a long day. You dry and change into your bathrobe and pour yourself a drink. The doorbell rings. It’s your food. You sit. Exhale. You have your drink. Your food and the scene is now set…Die Hard.
If you are of a different disposition or of another inclination you may reach for the Devil Wears Prada or 27 Dresses to help you relax after a stressfull day at the grind stone. But I am not. I’d much rather watch Bruce Willis with a full head of hair and a white vest, cracking wise and shooting the shit out of some European terrorists for 2 hours.
It is the ultimate feel-good Christmas movie that has everything. Action, humour, heart, decent performances and an inventive yet simple storyline. After over 20 years, there is still nothing that holds a candle to Die Hard, by means of high-octane, heart racing, superbly crafted action. But the brilliance of Die Hard lies within a certain Mr. Willis. The brilliance is the fact, that he is just your average Joe, slightly overweight, unfit, early signs of male patterned baldness, distracted, vice ridden and he still manages to kill all the bad guys, save the day and get the girl. He is an inspiration to all men out there. Die Hard is Bruce Willis’ bread and butter and he does it so well, his brilliant wit, charm, brutish leading man style and all with no shoes on. Fantastic. Alan Rickman’s clocks in a trademark pantomime villain performance, that too became his bread and butter, and to see the two of them play cops and robbers against each other makes for cinematic ecstacy.
Die Hard is a classic and everytime I watch it I find something new to like about it, Al Powell, Dwayne T. Robinson, “Come out to the coast, we’ll get to together, have a few laughs!” I could go on. Die Hard is a cinematic gem, you can keep your Jason Bournes, your Ethan Hunts, your John Rambos, your Sgt Martin Riggs and maybe even your Casey Rybacks. Its Detective Lieutenant John McClane everyday of the fucking week. Yippee-Ki-Yay, motherfucker!!
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September 6, 2011 § Leave a comment
Films have a glorious power like no other performance or art medium in the entire world. They have the ability to transport you out of your humble seat in the cinema and take you on a fantastic journey through emotions and imagination and much more. They can ignite facets of your being that you didn’t even know you had. Film has the ability to make you feel old, young, happy, sad, innocent and powereful. Films are important, to a lot of people. However, for me, the thing that is the most important, are stories. Without truly great stories, motion pictures would cease to exist. And for me the greatest story and the most important to me is Maurice Sendak’s Where The Wild Things Are.
When I was young, no older than 5 0r 6. I would go to sleep and dream of being Max in Where The Wild Things Are and going on my own adventures with the wild things and then during the day I would imagine my own land, where I was king of the wild things, running and bounding, enjoying my own wild rumpus. I have a terrible memory and I astound myself sometimes by how bad it is and the fact I can remember all this makes the story that more important to me.
16 years later, I can still be transported to that world of my childhood and still act like a wild thing, by way of the joyous, beautiful and astonishing film adaptation from Spike Jonze. Jonze brings out the child in all of us by bringing this magnificent story of imagination, anger, love, friendship and childhood to life in such a beautiful, fun and unique way. Jonze’s imagery and vision is complimented brilliantly by Karen O’s perfect soundtrack and re-invigorates your imagination and love for this story and these characters.Where The Wild Things Are is funny, compelling, emotional and I am truly glad that the most important story to me, is also one the most important films for me. It reminded me of a time, where everything was a little simpler, where we could worry a little less and play a little more. LET THE WILD RUMPUS START!!
Image courtesy of suckerpunchcinema.com
September 2, 2011 § 1 Comment
Me and my brother share the same birthday, he is however 4 years older than me. When we were younger we used to alternate who would have a birthday party, one year I’d have my friends over and the next he would have his. My brother was celebrating probably his 11th or 12th birthday and as it got late for some reason him and his friends decided to watch The Shining, I don’t know if my dad had played a joke on them or they just did it willingly, nevertheless what happened, happened. Nobody slept that night or a few nights after for that matter. I was curious. What was this film all about and what was the big fuss about The Shining…..I found out and like my brother before me, I was unable to sleep.
Stanley Kubrick is the master of atmosphere and tension. He would build and build and build, sometimes to the edge of tedium and then the film would erupt. His masterful use of the steadicam can be seen in his long, drawn out, wide-angle tracking shots down the long corridors of The Overlook Hotel. The noise of Danny’s toy bike against the wooden floor and then being silenced as he drives over the carpet is all the soundtrack Kubrick needs to build the perfect atmosphere, which gives the motion picture this eerie and haunting calm throughout. Throughout all the unexplained super-natural goings on in this movie, Stanley Kubrick’s direction remains brilliantly calm, no abrupt or aggressive camera work, just these beautifully perfect tracking shots, using the space of each room to his full potential. At first feeling wide and open and slowly drawing itself in, until you feel claustrophobic. A real master at work.
Jack Nicholson’s performance is flawless, you are genuinely terrified of him, his fluctuating eyebrows and trademark stare and all this is aimed directly at us. Kubrick’s choice to have Jack look directly down to camera when he’s delivering these disturbing lines of dialogue as he rapidly loses his mind, is absolutely frightening and you genuinely fear for your life. However, there is a certain level of hinderance because of the casting of Jack Nicholson. The fact you have cast Nicholson, you as an audience already expect him to be slightly unhinged especially since we still remember his role in One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, but to be honest, even though we see it coming, he’s a real treat to watch and The Shining is Jack Nicholson’s movie as much as it is Kubrick’s.
The Shining is the greatest horror movie ever and nothing will come close to that level of tension that Kubrick composes. The Shining is a truly terrifying, psychological motion picture and I will never forget the first time I saw it, that sense of pure horror, fear and knowing that something awful is about to happen. You feel every axe swing, every heart beat.
The first time I visited London, I stayed in a hotel very much like The Overlook Hotel from The Shining. Similar carpets, similar wide corridors and two lifts side by side in the lobby. One night I accidentally found myself alone in one of those corridors. I didn’t stay there for long. Fucking terrifying.
Image Courtesy of thefilmstage.com