It takes a while for Thomas Lawes’ documentary The Last Projectionist to tap the melancholy undertones inherent in the title. For the most part, it’s an ambling, amiable and fascinating examination of Birmingham’s Electric Cinema, the oldest working cinema in the UK (it first opened in 1909). As the documentary proceeds, the history of The Electric effectively acts as a microcosm for the birth of cinema in the UK.
Critically, Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins (Nolan, 2005) was received rather well and despite its slow momentum at the box office, a sequel was soon announced. However, the question hanging over production wasn’t whether Christian Bale would return, or who would be the film’s bad guy -that was obvious -the real question was whether or not Nolan would be back. And return he did.
Bachir Lazhar (Mohamed Fellag) is a refugee seeking asylum in Montreal, Canada, after his wife and children were murdered by terrorists in Algeria. The former restaurateur decides to pass himself off as a teacher -a profession he observed his wife in for many years -and when Martine, a teacher at a local school hangs herself, the perfect opportunity presents itself.
In 2005, after an eight-year hiatus the Dark Knight rose from the ashes. In those intervening years, since Joel Schumacher’s terrible debacle Batman & Robin (Schumacher, 1997), MARVEL’s films had radically changed the Hollywood Blockbuster landscape. Action cinema is arguably dead; replaced by skin-tight spandex and tales of woe and responsibility.
You’d be hard pushed to find someone at the moment who isn’t aware of the Avengers movie. Everywhere you look, from the IMDb top 250 to the sides of buses, you will see the Avengers. In truth, it was a little hard to know what to expect; on the one hand, this could be the same but bigger, with Iron Man, Thor, et al just doing their individual bit and leaving. On the other hand, this could have been something a bit more complex, a film that explores relationships within the group and ditches the recent Blockbuster conventions to deliver something deeper, that does justice to the decades of character that sprung from this film’s source, the Stan Lee Marvel comics.
Fair play to Matthew McConaughey. If he wanted to ditch his image as the star of innumerable crap rom-coms, then the decision to appear as a silver-tongued, dead-eyed psycho in Killer Joe is one of the smartest he’s ever made.
Presumably, a lot of eyes were rolled when this film was released onto the unsuspecting public. Taking a well-known historical figure and placing him in a film with some kind of contemporary twist has never, ever ended well for anyone (take Churchill, The Hollywood Years).
Defying the cynical circumstances under which it was made, The Amazing Spider-Man brings a refreshing sense of intimacy to the superhero genre. It’s been 10 years since Sam Raimi first introduced us to Tobey Maguire as the iconic webslinger, eight years since the excellent second installment and five years since the sub-standard third.
The fifth and final film in the Picturehouse’s Made in Britain season was Hammer’s Quatermass and the Pit, which was directed by Roy Ward Baker -a director who had an extensive career in both film and television. Anyway, I popped along to Exeter’s Picturehouse for a busy screening of a beautifully restored digital-print.
The actor turned director Bobcat Goldthwait is most famous for screeching his way through the Police Academy films. But as a director he first caught my attention with his 2006 film Sleeping Dogs, which is about a young woman who confesses to her fiancÃ©e that she once experimented with bestiality. Then in 2009 he did the relatively impossible and coaxed a decent performance from Robin Williams in World’s Greatest Dad. And now, America is firmly in Bobcat’s sights, so let’s see what he makes of his country in this satirical black comedy God Bless America.
JAWS, was unquestionably Steven Spielberg’s breakthrough film, launching the director’s career into the stratosphere, while simultaneously introducing the world to the summer Blockbuster. As part of Universal’s centenary they decided to digitally restore, 13 of their ‘classics’, and unsurprisingly JAWS was a no-brainer. Prior to the film’s release on Blu-Ray (later this year), Universal reissued the film in cinemas, for a brief theatrical run, and I had the pleasure of watching what is, the definitive, tent-pole summer film.
Gareth Huw Evans’ The Raid isn’t just an action film. It is the action film. In fact, it’s difficult to remember a film with so many bone-crunching sequences, and so, equipped with my emergency germolene and bandages, I was ready to face the assault, as I headed down to Dartington’s, Barn Cinema.
Tuesday just gone, I popped along to Exeter’s Picturehouse, to check-out the latest film in their Made in Britain season, David Lean’s 1954 film, Hobson’s Choice.
‘If she were President, she’d be Baberaham Lincoln’. That joke from Wayne’s World is shorter, punchier and wittier than the whole of Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, the latest revisionist history/mash-up movie.
The Man Who Fell To Earth is the third film in the Picturehouse’s Made in Britain season and testament to the Picturehouse it screened a glorious, digitally restored print, which beautifully showed off Roeg’s follow-up to his seminal horror film, Don’t Look Now.
Jaws was very nearly a movie destroyed by self-doubt. Adrift on his first big production following the taut thriller Duel, then fledgling director Steven Spielberg was up to his neck in it. In adapting Peter Benchley’s novel about a giant Great White Shark which terrorizes the American community of Amity, Spielberg was beginning to understand the challenges that came with filming a blockbuster in and around the water.
It doesn’t exactly crowd-surf on a wave of good-will, but the latest jukebox musical Rock of Ages at least remains a watchable oddity. This $70 million adaptation of the 1980s-themed stage musical has an advantage over its predecessor Mamma Mia, in that the cast do make a passable effort to sing, namely ace-in-the-hole Tom Cruise. Compare that to the sight of Pierce Brosnan butchering Abba’s hit SOS, a scene which seemed to extend a subliminal challenge to the audience: how far would you go to accept an actor who can’t carry a tune?
Everybody should have at least one favourite Wes Anderson film. Mine is The Royal Tenenbaums, however, after the terribly self-indulgent The Darjeeling Express and prior to that the good, but underwhelming Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, I must admit, I had become rather jaded with Anderson’s output. His unique adaptation of Roald Dahl’s Fantastic Mr Fox was a step in the right direction, but it wasn’t quite the return to form I secretly yearned for. So, is Anderson’s first live action film since 2007, any good? Well, put it like this, Moonrise Kingdom is officially my second favourite, Wes Anderson film. Here’s why
Mia Hansen-LÃ¸ve’s third film does at least one very important thing, it reaffirms her as one of her generation’s most competent directors, proving without doubt that the magnificent Father of My Children was no fluke. With my most pretentious shoes on, I strutted down to Dartington Hall’s, Barn Cinema to check out the French director’s newest film.
You can’t say you weren’t warned. Throughout the past year, during the production of his new science-fiction epic Prometheus, Ridley Scott has been prepping viewers on what to expect: not a straightforward prequel to his groundbreaking Alien but a new entity with slimy, tentacled connections to that 1979 classic.
Ti West’s 1980s horror homage House of The Devil (2009) was a spectacular throw back to a time before horror descended into the murky waters of ‘gorno’. Ti West’s slow-burn film appeared from nowhere and was promptly watched by no one. HOTD placed an emphasis upon character development and plotting. Sure it had moments of violence, but most importantly West had crafted a protagonist that we actually cared about and, therefore, we were praying for her survival, instead of gleefully anticipating her gruesome demise, which seems to be the number one trend in contemporary horror films.
Tim Burton and his silver-screen partner Johnny Depp shuffle before us once again with their newest collaboration, Dark Shadows -to entertain us with their niche in ‘quirky’ cinema. However, Burton’s ‘glory days’ during the late-1980s and 1990s are long-gone. The director’s recent films demonstrate a once formidable, artistic-vision, a vision which has become a pale reflection of his most creative period.
Lena Dunham’s feature-length film is a confident debut, it’s about a 20-something who has recently graduated and is unsure of what to do next. After breaking-up with her ‘feminist-conscious boyfriend’, she decides to move back-in with her mother and sister, in New York, while she works ‘stuff’ out.
The only thing bigger than the box office for James Cameron’s Titanic, is the director’s ego -that and the bloated snooze fest which was Avatar. Honestly, the man needs a decent editor, because none of his films have any right to last longer than two hours. But enough about the undersea-adventurer, this weekend I watched the lovingly restored classic A Night to Remember, which was directed by Roy Ward Baker, in 1958, at Pinewood Studios.
Baker’s film -like the book it’s based upon -charts the ultimately doomed, maiden voyage of the RMS Titanic. The film’s sophisticated narrative and plot were woven from actual testimonies from Titanic survivors, including the Titanic’s fourth officer, Joseph Boxhall, who was hired as a technical advisor. The director also secured access to the ship’s original blue-prints, which ensured the film’s grandly designed sets were as accurate as possible.
While the craftsmanship of the film’s sets is still evident, some of the SFXs have dated. If one was inclined, it would be easy to criticise these SFXs, which are reliant upon miniatures. But it’s important to remember that Baker had none of the technical wizardry which Cameron had at his disposable in 1997. However, on the whole, the SFXs hold up rather magnificently, the scenes on the lifeboats which depict the Titanic sinking are particularly iconic and act as a testament to the British film industry during the late 1950s.
Fortunately, Baker’s film isn’t reliant upon tawdry dialogue or risible performances from Kate Winslet or Leonardo DiCaprio. In fact, A Night to Remember understands that its real star is the ship and its mythos itself, and therefore Baker weaves a narrative based upon facts, with multiple characters and strands. Baker does so with relative ease, not once is the narrative muddled or confused. The film’s most natural protagonist is Second Officer Charles Herbert Lightoller, played by Kenneth More, but fortunately he never has to suffer the indignity of a corny, romantic plot device.
The 1958 film looks beautiful being projected and it’s far better to see this on the big screen, rather than re-watching it on DVD or on TV, on a wet bank holiday Monday. It is a film which demonstrates the once majestic British film industry. A Night to Remember might not be the technical marvel that Cameron’s Titanic is, but Roy Ward Baker’s film far surpasses Cameron’s in almost every other way. And let’s not forget, neither does it feature the undead warblings from the Canadian banshee, Celine Dion. Now, surely that alone secures its status as the definitive Titanic film.
Tim Burton’s Dark Shadows has an insurmountable hurdle to overcome. An adaptation of a kitschy 60s/70s TV show, simultaneously beloved by millions and yet unfamiliar to millions of others, how does Burton go about the big screen version? In short, he tries to appease both camps, both playing the material straight for the fans and sending it up for laughs to keep the uninitiated happy. On paper, Burton gets credit for attempting to balance both sides, but the movie itself is a mess.