September 2, 2011 § 3 Comments
Judd Apatow first started writing and performing stand up comedy at the age of 17, he has since admitted that his act was well written, but he wasn’t much of a performer.Therefore, he began writing jokes for others including up and coming comics like Roseanne Barr, Ben Stiller and Adam Sandler. He enjoyed little success in the 1990s as a producer on The Cable Guy and he was hired to re-write The Wedding Singer, he also produced two short-lived television series’, Freeks and Geeks and Undeclared. It seemed he was destined to slip into an unknown pit of oblivion and join the rest of the could’ve beens.
However, it seemed Hollywood-land had other plans for Judd Apatow, it began with a certain movie called Anchorman: The Legend Of Ron Burgundy and thus started the Apatow Revolution in mainstream comedy. For the next 7 years, he produced and or wrote 19 motion pictures and built a huge reputation for prolific and consistently funny films. Apatow’s work was dominated by socially awkward characters that seem to have the worst luck, who share dialogue laced with a crude and offensive je ne sais quoi usually revolving around masturbation, the relationship you have with your cock, trying to get laid and failing to get laid.
2009’s Funny People was different. Apatow’s trademark dialogue was still there and it is still full of humour, however this film has heart and is sensationally moving. This is Apatow’s most mature offering to date and it feels like it is the movie he has been wanting to make for a long time and all his other films were purely stepping-stones to get to this moment. An almost semi-autobiographical look at stand up comedy, Apatow runs the rough with the smooth. Making you laugh with one hand and then twisting your heart-strings with the other. As we follow Adam Sandler’s soul-searching journey through his life as he tries to figure out what kind of legacy he wants to leave in his wake.
Judd Apatow’s resident collaborators are like a repertory theatre company, that continue to work well together and continue to make great movies. It’s funny that every actor in the film are playing cariacture’s of themselves and doing very little work in the way of character or even acting, but still the cast bring out some real and honest performances, especially Adam Sandler who gives a career defining performance, since he decided to dip his toes into playing it more straight.
Funny People may suffer from being about half an hour too long, but it is an interesting, funny, honest and genuinely moving look at the world of stand up comedy. Apatow’s enthusiam and sheer enjoyment about making movies with his friends and with his keen eye for detail and story makes him a true revelation in comedy. Funny People is a great movie that cements Apatow’s place in cinema history, not just as a comic writer, but as a film maker. Plus, casting Eric Bana was a moment of sheer brilliance. “Big fuckers! Smack ‘Em!”
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September 1, 2011 § Leave a comment
Genius is a word that gets thrown around far too often, I myself am a serial misuser of the word. And the more you use a word, the more its true meaning is forgotten. Therefore, the word genius should be reserved only for when used to describe Charlie Chaplin.
Never has one man reached so many people with his comedy, undoubtedly the most famous icon in cinema history. Charlie Chaplin was the people’s comic, a tale of rags to supreme wealth and he deserved every penny and every ounce of acclaim. Chaplin’s original blend of slapstick, mime and political and social satire was years ahead of its time and his dominace of the silent film era made him the most famous man in the world.
Chaplin’s anti-establishment comedy appealed most to the poor and deprived, who found great joy and comfort in Chaplin’s antics that continually poked fun and stuck two fingers up at authority, wether it be kicking over an immigration office in The Immigrant or pulling pranks on a policeman in The Kid. Chaplin’s films were a great form of escapism for the poor audience who for an hour or so at the cinema had something to feel happy about, something to look forward to.
Each of Chaplin’s films are sincerely remarkable, the right mix of laughter and sadness, laugh out loud hysterical one moment, then heart breaking the next, poignantly and beautifully directed with Chaplin’s trademark clownish sense of humour. Charlie Chaplin wasn’t just the greatest man in cinema, but also the most hardworking. His work got in the way of at least one of his marriages, he was not just an actor, he produced, directed and composed the music for every one of his motion pictures. Each frame on each reel, was meticulously hand-crafted by Chaplin himself.
He was the charming, loveable rogue who stole the hearts of millions. It’s testimony enough that today, nearly a century since The Tramp was first seen on celluloid, we are still watching his films. George Bernard Shaw called Charlie Chaplin ‘the only genius to ever come out of movie industry’ and he couldn’t be more right. There will never be another Charlie Chaplin, no one will ever come even close to his talent, his vision, his ability, his genius. Charlie Chaplin is the greatest actor and film maker of all time. I will continue to watch and cherish his films with a smile on my face and laughter in my heart until it doesn’t beat anymore. Chaplin said he would want to be remembered most for his film Gold Rush. His big, beautiful eyes that told a thousand stories matched with a vacant expression that brought you to tears. As he does the dance with the bread rolls. Absolute genius.
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September 1, 2011 § Leave a comment
Another member of seemingly untouchable films, is Quentin Tarantino’s love letter to the criminal underworld, the highly quotable Pulp Fiction. Like many others I was initially blow away by Pulp Fiction’s originality and brilliance, Tarantino’s use of the non-linear narrative to an extremely high standard, heavily influenced the way people made films after its release in 1994. And for the next 17 years, cinema-goers enjoyed and sometimes merely survived the thousands of Tarantino imitators. But, it is just Tarantino who is a great imitator?
I am in two-minds about my overall opinion of Pulp Fiction and indeed Tarantino’s work as a whole, is the man a complete cinematic genius or a complete cinematic fraud. Tarantino has repeatidly commented on how cinema is his life and his enthusiasm for movies is unparalled. Taking this fact into the equation, I am slowly coming to the conclusion that his original and pioneering post-modern directing style, isn’t original at all, but a clear amalgamation of the styles of others. A bit of Scorsese, Leone, Godard, Kubrick and De Palma, multiply them all together and you’ve got yourself Quentin Tarantino. You can’t help who your influences are and they are always going to show up in your work, we all need a blueprint to work off. However, Tarantino’s work borders on the line between orignality and imitation. Tarantino’s blatant homage to cinema and his constant subtle references are only pleasing one man, Tarantino. Tarantino is a selfish and narcissitic film maker, he is a cinematic kleptomaniac, who picks his favourite moments, techniques, songs, plotlines, images, anything and eveything from film and incorporates them into his own work, as if he was Burglar Bill. Pulp Fiction and indeed some of other films such as Jackie Brown and the Kill Bill series are just a patch work quilt of his cinematic influences and have thus become a film studies student’s holy grail. As Tarantino’s work continues to be over-analysed by students wanting to be put him on a pedestal, and hail Pulp Fiction as his Citizen Kane, we will be bombarded with brand new film makers with this same recycled style and not establish themselves with a directing style of their own, they will just be a shoddy copy of the guy before them. Like Tarantino? Maybe so.
Tarantino’s real talent lies in is his writing. He wholeheartedly deserved his Academy Award for the screenplay for Pulp Fiction. Even with its flaws, Pulp Fiction’s storyline and dialogue are extremely exciting, slick and it’s because of this exciting and fresh dialogue, its what makes Pulp Fiction highly quotable. Even though the conversations in Pulp Fiction are extremely un-realistic, I mean who talks like any of the characters, nobody, nobody talks like that, but its because of the ridiculous nature of the dialogue that makes it wonderfully quotable, as if you were singing one of your favourite songs. Although Tarantino’s awkard and embarrasing attempt at pillow talk and romance about pot bellies and oral sex and his ceremonial soliloquies that seem endless ruin the joie de vivre of his script, we are rewarded with such brilliance as Winston Wolf and The Bonnie Situation, which is just a marvellous moment that seems to lift the story at the point where you think it’s getting a bit slow and the opening ten minutes from Tim Roth is the best thing in the whole film, I usually zone out after that moment. Pulp Fiction is a great black comedy, not a drama, not a thriller. But the blackest of comedies because of its cartoon like characters, ridiculous dialogue and Tarantino’s razor sharp wit and his unexpected comedy and sense of humor is all over this film, when Bruce Willis is considering his weapon of choice to dispatch of the two redknecks and Marvin getting his head blown clean off, that is comedy at its darkest. I can’t knock his brilliance as a writer.
Quentin Tarantino, love him or hate him. You can’t deny the fact that he is a sincerely important film maker. He opened the door for movie lovers to make their own movies. He’s evidence to the fact that all you really need to know about film making is in films. But contrary to popular belief, Pulp Fiction is not flawless, it is not the greatest film ever made, it’s not even the greatest film of the 1990’s and its not even Tarantino’s best for that matter. Quentin Tarantino continues get better with each film he makes and he is still an exciting and pioneering, working film maker and he seems to have learnt the lesson on why he shouldn’t cast himself in his motion pictures, he’s no Woody Allen. On that note I’m going for a Big Kahuna burger and a Red Apple cigarette.
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August 31, 2011 § Leave a comment
There are many moments in cinema that will forever be iconic, that will go down in history. Marlon Brando pleading that he coulda been a contender. Clark Gable not giving a damn. Bogart and Bergman having Paris and of course, Bruce Lee stalking the mysterious Han through the hall of mirrors in his seminal, Enter The Dragon.
His athleticism was unparalleled, his dedication and conviction were mesmerising and he was a movie star like no other. Enter The Dragon was not just Lee’s first film to be produced by a major Hollywood studio, but it was the also the first Chinese martial arts film to be produced by a major Hollywood studio and it still culturally significant today as it ever was.
Heavily influenced by the exploitation movies of the 1960s and 70s and James Bond, Enter The Dragon was monumental in laying the groundwork for the Martial Arts film genre. Enter The Dragon’s influence is not only seen in film but also in fashion, music, video games and Martial Arts itself.
Bruce Lee is just wonderful to watch, even for someone with little knowledge of martial arts, you can’t help but appreciate the man’s genius and overwhelming passion for his art. Bruce Lee was a truly awesome and dedicated performer. He is not just a fighter, but a ballet dancer, with grace and poise, he has a Charlie Chaplin-esque sense of humour and bags of acting ability. No body doubts Bruce Lee’s ability as a Martial Artist, but he was an extremely talented actor also.
Enter The Dragon is a masterful Martial Arts film, Robert Clouse’s use of the first person persective was years ahead of its time and with beautifully choreographed action sequences that stand up to those of today, even with all their wire work and special effects. Enter The Dragon is still one of the greatest Martial Arts films ever , it still looks as bright and as bold as he did almost 40 years ago, Enter The Dragon will continue to influence and boys and men alike, will rush to the shop to buy some nunchuks or make their own like I did, running around the park in your pyjamas, shrieking and wailing like Bruce Lee as you attempt to flying kick your brother.
Image courtesy of dvdbeaver.com
August 30, 2011 § Leave a comment
There are certain things that I consider to be as close to perfection as possible. Scrambled eggs on toast. Paolo Di Canio’s scissor kick against Wimbledon. Bruce Springsteen’s Asbury Park album. Original recipe Sailor Jerry’s spiced rum and most possibly Martin Scorsese’s The Departed.
Scorsese is not just one of the greatest auteur film makers of his generation, but he is certainly the most consistent. But Scorsese’s brilliance has very little to do with consistency, Scorsese’s brilliance comes directly from his willingness to break new ground in film making and test the waters of how a movie should look. Scorsese’s stylised directing style, aggressive camera-work, rapid editing, complex tracking shots, the importance of soundtrack and score and montage are all consistent in Scorsese’s films, you could probably create a check list and tick them off one by one. But his trademark directing style doesn’t make his films predictable, Scorsese is anything but that. He is a magician. An architect. An artist, and The Departed is Scorsese’s Sistine Chapel.
Scorsese’s genius, partnered with William Monohan’s wonderful script, magnificently brought to life by probably one of the greatest ensemble casts ever. DiCaprio and Damon’s battle to see who is more macho, Jack Nicholson’s Satan incarnate, Marky Mark’s beautiful foul mouthed sarcasm alongside Martin Sheen’s calm voice of reason, Alec Baldwin’s fierce Glengarry Glenn Ross-esque delivery, mixed in a pot and simmered gently for two and a half hours make for a stunning, thrilling, tense, slick, relentless visceral tale of crime, human relationships and identity.
The Departed will lead you down one path, slap you in the face and then send you down another. And not since The Usual Suspects have I felt like applauding what I have just witnessed. The Departed is a masterpiece in cinema. And it may go down in cinema history as the only remake to obliterate it’s original. The Departed is a wonderfully crafted motion picture that might be, just might be, as close to perfection as possible.
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August 30, 2011 § Leave a comment
There’s something remarkably comforting about a really good story. The pure self-indulgence of escapism, the feeling of joy and wonderment that welcomes you with the turn of each page, being staggered by your own imagination as each brand new sentence invigorates your very core and you shake your head in disbelief as you don’t believe your eyes as you read on and on and on. Books stimulate your own independent imagination and thought and a film will always fail to encapsulate that. And as time moves on and years pass, people grow extremely close to these stories, people grow to love them to near obsessive levels. So what happens when a stout yet brave Hobbit-like gentleman from New Zealand attempts to make a trilogy of motion pictures adapted from the greatest story ever told, the greatest series of books ever written.
Peter Jackson’s Lord Of The Rings revolutionised to way we experience film. His meticulous attention to detail and sheer passion for this story is like no other, his contagious willingness to suceed, inhabits a cast and crew that like their director just want to do this story the justice it deserves. They want the films to sit alongside the novels, to be a part of the mythology and not just a by-product . This series is not about accolade or revenue, it’s not about acclaim or spotlight, its not about one person or nine, it is about Tolkien’s vision, life’s work and his world being immortalised in a representation that would be faithful to each of those 1137 pages of Tolkien’s heart, soul and imagination.
The Lord Of The Rings is not just the greatest story ever told, it is now arguably the greatest film trilogy of all time. The films give you that same comfort, expectation and that glorious sense of adventure scene after scene that the books delivered on each page. Howard Shore’s relenting, distrurbing, romantic near perfect score shares every twist and turn with you like a character itself . The ensemble cast bring Tolkien’s words and action to life with a genuine emotion, passion and conviction, a willingness to give all they can for the project, which is truly remarkable to see from such a huge cast, they embody the reality of each and evey one of Tokien’s characters. Peter Jackson brings this fantasy to life, as if fantasy had become reality, as if you’d visited the Shire and Middle-Earth before, as if this story was not one of pure fantasy and imagination but of reality. There can only be one lord of the rings, but I’m sure Tolkien and Jackson don’t mind sharing the top spot.
Image courtesy of thehobbitole.co.uk
August 29, 2011 § Leave a comment
Christmas is such a hectic time of year. The stress around searching for the right gifts for people, the endless stream of cards from forgotten members of your extended family, the pounding your wallet takes on tacky, useless, god-awful festive neccesities like tinsel, dancing electronic Santa Clauses and reindeer enbedded jumpers. Christmas Day itself has been known to drive people to insanity, the days revolves around relentess gastronomic over indulgence, all washed down with a ferocious amount of liquor and as you tear yourself away from your drunk relatives, surounded by a mass of wrapping paper, don’t reach for that excessive amount of prescription drugs with a side order of 15 year old single malt Scotch, reach for the remote and spend some well earned time for a different form of indulgence, the joy of Christmas television and more than likely amongst the classics and family favourites, will be the this little gem of a movie.
A charming, touching and incredibly funny motion picture, that has continued to make us laugh for the past 20 years. A wonderfully penned screenplay from his royal greatness Mr. John Hughes, who’s films of childhood and teen rebellion will continue to make children and teenagers laugh and cry for decades to come. However, this film will always be remebered because of a certain 10 year old. Macaulay Culkin’s performance in Home Alone is a one of great comic merit that equals that of his co-stars, the brilliant Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern. He’s cheeky, hilarious and frankly adorable. Culkin was the poster boy for pre teen rebellion and to the bane of many parents he gave those young children a voice and an attitude. He was destined for greatness and for all the wrong reasons Macaulay Culkin slipped into the baron wasteland to join many a fallen child star. Culkin may never make a memorable film again, but he will always be remembered as that little boy in Home Alone.
Full of wisecracking humour and glorious comic violence, Home Alone is not just a great Christmas film, but a great film. That shouldn’t just be wedged into an already bursting Christmas schedule in between Doctor Who and a repeats of Only Fools and Horses.
“Keep The Change You Filthy Animal!”
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