Archive for February, 2012

February 29, 2012

Nuovo Cinema Paradiso (1988 – DVD)

Whatever you end up doing, love it… the way you loved the projection booth when you were a little squirt”

Somehow I just managed to pick up ‘Nuovo Cinema Paradiso’ in a super-deluxe four-disc boxset featuring two cuts of the film, an extras stuffed bonus disc and even the soundtrack… for £4!  I elected to view the 174 Minute director’s cut of Giuseppe Tornatore’s 1988 film. It’s a movie about growing up, growing old, love, death, community and of course the joy of cinema itself.  The movie feels down-to-earth and honest but also filled with magical moments like only celluloid can capture.  It reminded me most of Sergio Leone’s ‘Once Upon A Time In America’, although this is a much warmer film, it does share a similar flashback time structure. Like that film, the score is by the master Ennio Morricone and is of course exquisite and heartbreakingly emotional.  Finally I can see what all the fuss has been about, I want to go straight back and spend another 3 hours in the company of this beautiful movie.

February 29, 2012

Attack The Block (2011 – DVD)

“This is too much madness to explain in one text!”

One of my favourite programs of the nineties was the Adam & Joe show on C4 and because I was under 18 at the time I often saw their cuddly-toy based spoofs of movies before I saw the actual films.  ‘Attack The Block’ is Joe Cornish’s directorial debut and he impresses from the start by pulling off a huge feat with his characters. Because he introduces these main players in a scene where they are robbing a defenceless girl at knife point, but somehow you kinda love them by the end.

The film is massively inspired by the films of John Carpenter (‘Assault On Precinct 13’ in particular) as well as daring 80s entertainments like ‘Gremlins’, ‘The Goonies’ and ‘Predator’. The film takes place across one night as a tower block is invaded by monsters from space. The central joke is that even though the aliens are huge black mutant Gorilla/Wolves with glowing blue fangs they’ve met their match in a bunch of council estate kids from South London.  Cornish’s young cast of (Mostly) unknowns are uniformly brilliant and his script has some interesting things to say about the society we live in. I can’t wait to see what Cornish does for his next film!

Here’s the trailer:

Also here’s a classic Adam & Joe spoof of ‘Trainspotting’:

February 26, 2012

Prince Charles Cinema’s Charlie Awards 2012

“For the rest of your life will be looking over your shoulder”

I’ve been a bit excited about attending ‘The Charlie Awards’ at the Prince Charles Cinema. The idea is to be an Alt-Oscars with two categories; Best old film Screened By The PCC in 2011 and best new film Of 2011.  The audience was invited to vote on-line from a short list and turn up on the night for a surprise Double-Bill. Just for the record, I voted for ‘Army Of Darkness’ and ‘The Artist’. On Sunday at around 6.15pm, party poppers were handed out anda brief introduction was given. An actual ‘Charlie’ statuette was handed to the girl with the best frock, and then the lights dimmed and the first film began.

The poppers all went off as the BBFC card came up with the words ‘Back To The Future’. I started grinning as you can never watch 1985’s BTTF too many times. When I was a kid I thought Marty McFly was the coolest guy ever and I dressed head to toe like him. Jeans, Denim jacket (with sleeves rolled up), check shirt, trainers, shades, Sony Walkman and even the hair style. I never stretched to the braces and actually learning how to hang onto the back of a car while skateboarding though.  It never ceases to amaze me the way Robert Zemeckis pulled all his elements together to create one of the greatest Popcorn thrill rides ever.

After a quick breather to stretch legs and refill Colas the lights went down again for the PCC’s best film of 2011 (Drum roll)… ‘Drive’. Now the first time I saw ‘Drive’ I hated it. The pacing, the acting, the cinematography, the casting, the effects and the script all irritated me but I did think the Electro soundtrack was fantastic. I must have been in a cranky mood at that first screening, as this time I loved it. I loved the staccato pacing, the wonderful subtlety of the acting, the neon look of the lighting, the excellent cast and the daring minimalism of the script. The cartoonish gore effects are still a bit laughable although the film’s sudden violent moments audibly shocked many others in the cinema. The first time I thought it was all style over substance but now I think it’s still achingly stylish but with passionate depths beneath. By god I’m gonna have to go get that soundtrack now, it’s still ringing in my ears… “You have proved to be… a real human being… and a real hero”.

 

February 26, 2012

The Big Sleep (1946 – DVD)

My, my, my… such a lot of guns around town and so few brains”

Howard Hawks’ ‘The Big Sleep’ is a legendary classic but somehow I’ve totally failed to ever see it… finally time to remedy that situation. The convoluted plot is frankly incomprehensible and the razor-sharp dialogue spills out of the characters mouths so fast your ears can barely keep up.  The dialogue is particularly good in the sizzling scene where Bogart and Bacall are trading sexually suggestive lines about horseracing like “A lot depends on who’s in the saddle”, it’s amazing it got past the censors.

The plot follows Private-Eye Philip Marlowe (Humphrey Bogart) as he is hired to investigate a disappearance involving a rich family including femme fatale Lauren Bacall and somehow he becomes mixed up in a seedy world of pornographers, cops, gangsters and double/triple crosses.  The makers would’ve probably squeezed in a subplot about Nazi-War-Gold if they’d had jus one more foot of film! At the end I had enjoyed the experience but couldn’t really piece it all together in my head.  To fully enjoy ‘The Big Sleep’ I imagine you need to watch and re-watch it until the plot becomes immaterial and you can just wallow in the brooding Noir atmosphere.  This is definitely something I’m planning on doing!

February 26, 2012

Danny, The Champion Of The World (1989 – DVD)

“Trouble is, no one could poach six or seven hundred Pheasants… it’s impossible”

Somehow a lot of my most cherished childhood Film, TV and Radio memories seem to have involved the voice of Sir Michael Hordern.  He was (And still is) the definitive Gandalf for BBC Radio, the voice of god in ‘Watership Down’, Badger in ‘The Wind In The Willows’ and a little later “Danny Boy” in ‘Where Eagles Dare’ and the narrator in Kubrick’s ‘Barry Lyndon’.  To me his gravelly voice somehow evokes late summer evenings, dusty old libraries and leather armchairs.  Indeed he has a small part in 1989’s adaptation of Roald Dahl’s ‘Danny, The Champion Of The World’ a film that I taped off TV in back in ’89 and re-watched it so many times that every frame was etched on my brain.

However I’ve not seen it in nigh on 20 years, so I was giddy with excitement when I spotted it second-hand the other day.  The central father and son performances by Jeremy Irons and his actual son Samuel Irons are wonderfully warm and natural.  This family atmosphere is further enhanced by the inclusion of Cyril Cusack who is Jeremy’s father-in-law and of course Samuel’s grandpa.  The cast is rounded out by Robbie Coltrane (Clearly having enormous fun) as the wicked landowner Victor Hazell and Ronald Pickup as Captain Lancaster, the evil Schoolmaster incarnate.  The scenes involving plucky little Danny coming to the rescue in his Dad’s car, sneaking about at night, confounding his teachers and conspiring in a mass Pheasant drugging while still being an ace Car Mechanic is one glorious big boys adventure.  For me it’s still got the magic after all these years.

You can watch the whole film on YouTube here (In less than perfect quality):

February 26, 2012

Metropolis (2001 – DVD)

“Well, if you are a human… who’s your father?”

I’ve wanted to watch the 2001 Anime ‘Metropolis’ for some time but hearing how gorgeous the visuals were, I thought I’d wait for a release on Blu-Ray.  However, the other day I saw a Double DVD copy in my local CEX store for a mere £4 and before I knew it I was walking home with it in my bag. The image quality is good but in need of the HD treatment’ while the extra on disc two features are excellent. Metropolis’ is a loose adaption of Osamu Tezuka’s 1949 Manga, by Director Rintaro and writer Katsuhiro Otomo (Of ‘Akira’ fame).

The movie draws inspiration from a number of sources Ridley Scott’s ‘Blade Runner’, Fritz Lang’s own ‘Metropolis’ and most noticeably Otomo’s own ‘Akira’.  Like ‘Akira’ the plot revolves around the idea of a childlike supreme being, who shadowy forces seek to use to rule the world but are heedless of its frightening power.  Seemingly lost amidst the teeming triple level city are a foreign Detective and his nephew who get caught between the competing political forces.  Along the way they are helped by various Robot slaves who show more humanity that most of the other characters.

The Steam-Punk look of the Art-Direction is indeed beautiful which is complimented by a wonderful New Orleans Jazz soundtrack.  State-of-the-art (For the time) CGI is blended almost seamlessly with traditionally animated characters and techniques to create a unique look.  Overall, while I found the similarities to Akira detracted from my complete enjoyment, I was greatly moved by the life and death struggles of the characters.  So now I’m left waiting for the Blu-Ray with even more anticipation.

Here is the heart-breaking finale (Spoiler Alert!):

February 26, 2012

The Kid (1921 – DVD)

“A picture with a smile and perhaps a tear”

After watching The Artist, I’ve decided to make an effort to see more silent films.  So why not start with the master himself Charlie Chaplin. Fortunately the fine team at Park Circus have just released a gorgeous 12 Disc DVD boxset comprising restored presentations of all of Chaplin’s greatest long-films, a selection of shorts, a 25 minute making-of for every movie and a treasure trove of other assorted extras.

I’ve only seen a few silent films and I’ve usually found the bizarre, mannered and melodramatic acting a big turn off.  However one that I saw on telly when I was young was Chaplin’s first long-form movie 1921’s ‘The Kid’ which I remember fondly.  So I couldn’t resist slipping it into my PS3 first before exploring the less familiar parts of the box set (No doubt more posts to follow).

It was a deeply personal film intertwined with Chaplin’s own life. He was suffering a creative block when two things seem to of inspired him to make ‘The Kid’, one was the death of his first child at just 3 days old and the other was seeing a captivating Musichall performance by the 4-year-old Jackie Coogan.  Of course coming from Musichall himself he cast Jackie in the title role of the abandoned kid and his own loveable tramp character as the surrogate father.  What was intended as another short feature became so precious to Chaplin that he expanded it to an hour and went on to shoot 53 hours of footage in a quest for perfection that lasted a whole year.  Knowing that Chaplin was separated from his own mother at seven and placed in a workhouse, gives added power to the scenes where the tramp fights off officials trying to take the kid.

There is only a very small amount of dated acting in evidence here and Chaplin’s tragic-comic performance is wonderful.  But it’s young Coogan’s naturalistic turn as the sweet mischievous kid that breaks your heart and in fact hasn’t aged a day.

February 24, 2012

Super (2011 – Blu-Ray)

You don’t butt in line! You don’t sell drugs! You don’t molest little children! You don’t profit off the misery of others! The rules were set a long time ago! They don’t change!”

I’ve been interested in seeing James Gunn’s ‘Super’ for a while but have read a lot of mixed reviews.  Some of them have focused on its similar plot elements to the much more successful ‘Kick-Ass’ (Released shortly before ‘Super’).  But this is tonaly quite different, if ‘Kick-Ass’ was an evil twisted grin, then ‘Super’ is a disturbing maniacal laugh.  It follows the crushing humiliations and small triumphs in the life of Diner chef Frank D’Arbo (Rainn Wilson) as he sets out Batman style, to quote his characters catchphrase “Shut Up Crime!”.

The film was made on a miniscule budget with the actors agreeing to appear for the minimum SAG wage.  They must have made one hell of pitch as the cast includes stars like Ellen Page, Liv Tyler, Nathan Fillion, Kevin Bacon, Michael Rooker and even Andre Royo from HBO’s ‘The Wire’. Ellen Page’s turn as Frank’s all to eager young side-kick is outstanding. The film is worth watching just for the spoof TV ads featuring Nathan Fillion’s performance as the evangelist superhero ‘The Holy Avenger’.

It’s easy to see why it’s garnered a few bad reviews and much scratching of heads.  It leaps all over the place between dark brooding introspection, sweet character comedy, black humour and ultra-violence.  There’s a memorable scene where Frank is irritated by two people who butt in line at the Cinema.  So you are cheering him on as he zips up his ‘Crimson Bolt’ costume and walks up to confront them, and you are expecting lines like “Thanks Crimson Bolt!” and “Only in a days work citizens”.  But then you are shocked when he actually beats the couple so violently that they need an ambulance if not a hearse, and the Film-goers run away screaming.  This and other scenes had me thinking much less about ‘Kick-Ass’ and much more about Martin Scorsese’s ‘Taxi Driver’.  ‘Super’ has left me shocked, confused and itching to watch it again.

Here’s the trailer:

And here’s a little SXSW comedy nugget:

February 19, 2012

OSS 117: Cairo, Nest Of Spies (2006 – DVD)

My sole purpose here is increase my chicken sales”

I couldn’t resist picking up DVDs of Michel Hazanavicius’ last two films, the hit French OSS 117 comedies.  The first is 2006’s ‘OSS 117: Cairo, Nest Of Spies’ featuring Jean Dujardin as incompetent yet charming Spy OSS 117.  The movie pokes fun at the spy Genre and satires patronising and ill-informed colonialist views of both the past and unfortunately the present too.

It doesn’t have the emotional power of ‘The Artist’ (It’s a straight comedy) but it has just as many spot on jokes.  The best moments had me howling with laughter, in particular a clever one involving a clichéd camera move and a vase of roses.  The movie is also full of running gags involving squawking chickens and mysterious Veal stews.  But the best running gag is that we the audience can work out the plot in the first 5 minutes but OSS 117 is clueless at every turn.  Like ‘The Artist’, ‘Nest Of Spies’ also co-stars the jaw-droppingly gorgeous Bérénice Bejo playing the straight-woman/love-interest foil to Jean Dujardin’s inept secret-agent.  The disaproving and bewildered looks she gives OSS 117 every time he says something idiotic, are some of the funniest bits.  I’m hoping the sequel ‘OSS 117: Lost In Rio’ is just as good.

February 19, 2012

Aguirre, The Wrath Of God (1972 – DVD)

That is no arrow… we just imagine the arrows because we fear them”

1972’s ‘Aguirre, The Wrath Of God’ is the fictionalised story of the Spanish Conquistador expedition deep into the Amazon to find the legendary city of El Dorado.  Klaus Kinski plays the title role Aguirre who instigates a mutiny and is ultimately driven insane by the oppressive darkness of the Jungle.

I was expecting great things from ‘Aguirre, The Wrath Of God’ for a number of reasons.  Namely, I’ve recently watched a fascinating documentary chronicling its turbulent production, people often cite it as one of the greatest films ever, it’s the primary influence on one of my favourite films ‘Apocalypse Now’ and I’ve loved everything else by the director Werner Herzog.  So I was surprised to find the film slow-paced, unengaging and actually aching boring.  Klaus Kinski’s deranged performance is electric but it felt like he was only in it for about 15 mins and he’s the title character!  Most of the running time consisted of obviously first-time actors sitting in silence looking bored.  Portraying a descent in to madness is hampered by the fact that Kinski looks insane from the outset (The same problem that Jack Nicholson has in ‘The Shining’).  I am reserving some judgement as the DVD I watched was an appallingly bad transfer bringing back memories of VHS quality!  When the film is given a proper Blu-Ray based restoration I will definitely give it another go.