Movies

Old Time Religion: Contemplating Silence

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Note: the following is a discussion of themes and ideas within the film ‘Silence’, and thus will contain a number of plot details.

In exploring ‘silence’, eminent composer John Cage gave us four minutes and thirty three seconds of pretentious twoddle. Some might enjoy listening to literally nothing while a conductor floats a baton over an air of emptiness, but I personally think it’s just the sort of thing people did back in 1952 to appear cool and edgy, and a way for little Johnny to make a mint from, like I said, literally nothing. Sending off a blank piece of paper to an orchestra and pretending it’s all about contemplating silence might go down well with the artsy fartsy crowd (the sort that would mistake a pair of glasses for art), but I’d much prefer a 160-minute epic historical drama.

Yes, I’m talking about Silence, based on the 1966 Shūsaku Endō novel and in development by director Martin Scorcese for a whole quarter century. It’s a tremendously ambitious film, following the story of two 17th Century Christian missionaries (Andrew Garfield and Adam Driver) who travel to Japan to find their mentor (Liam Neeson), of whom they have heard rumours of apostasy. (more…)

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2016: The Year in Review, Part Three: Don’t Breathe to Rogue One

Disclaimer: the following post is physically and mentally challenging, and should under no circumstances be attempted if you have not read Parts One and Two first. Think of it like the end of the TV show Raven, where the kid has to walk along the path and dodge all the swinging axes and shit. Got that? I’ll be waiting here with the axes. You have been warned.

DON’T BREATHE, 13/09/2016

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Following Green Room earlier in the year, Don’t Breathe is another thriller that cranks up the tension so much that I was in physical discomfort throughout. In the film, a trio of house burglars break into the home of a blind, old man, hoping for an easy haul. Unfortunately things don’t go to plan, and they get more than they bargained for when said blind, old man turns out to be a hardened war veteran. Harbouring a dark secret, the certified badass proceeds to seal the intruders within the house and methodically hunt them down through hearing alone.

Long shots and painful usage of silence keep you at the edge of your seat with unrelenting suspense, and when that suspense is broken by intense panic and visceral violence, it’s like being jolted awake from one nightmare and into another. It’s intentionally hard work and unpleasant, but its craft is rather masterful, and if you want something to shake up your cold, dead heart, Don’t Breathe is one to watch. Just beware of the doggo – it’s no friendly little pupper, that’s for damn sure. (more…)

2016: The Year in Review, Part Two: Hardcore Henry to Kubo and the Two Strings

Haven’t read Part One yet? If not, you don’t deserve to be here. This is like a private club for the people who have already read my first ten reviews, and let me tell you, there’s some absolute gold in there if I do say so myself. Want to join this club and have some super fun times with even more tippety-top reviews? Well get back there and read ’em, and come back a changed person. No need to thank me, I’m just that nice a guy.

HARDCORE HENRY, 10/04/2016

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Shot entirely from a POV perspective, Hardcore Henry may well be the most accurate video game movie to date, and there’s no license to be seen. Taking inspiration directly from the dumb first person shooters that anyone who’s ever held a controller has surely played, the film is like a non-stop 80-minute journey through action game tropes, such as:

– a conveniently silent protagonist
– a villain with questionable motives (and inexplicable telekinesis)
– a series of clearly defined levels
– gameplay tutorials
– objectives marked on a map
– NPC allies
– boss battles
– a turret section
– an escort quest
– a sniper level
– skill-enhancing, self-administered syringes just left lying around
– a final showdown capped off with a quick time event

Reveling in its loud and over-the-top stupidity, Hardcore Henry’s relentless pace and breathless action never once lost my interest. It’s often hilarious too, whether it be the sheer ludicrousness of it all, or the smattering of well-handled comedic moments (one involving a horse and the theme to The Magnificent Seven had me laughing for minutes). Sharlto Copley particularly is a comic revelation in the film, perfectly embodying the video game spirit in the role of super-soldier Henry’s body-swapping guide.

Like The Matrix crossed with Call of Duty, it’s crazy, exciting and tons of fun, and is self-aware enough that its narrative shortcomings can be forgiven. Hardcore Henry is a blast. (more…)

2016: The Year in Review, Part One: The Hateful Eight to Batman v Superman

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As many people will tell you, often, everywhere, all over the internet, all the time, 2016 has been a brutal year. We’ve lost many great actors, artists and musicians, we decided to fuck off out of the EU, and a bumbling, racist idiot has been put in charge of one of the world’s superpowers. It’s also been a year in which pretty much nothing has happened on this blog, and for that you can blame muggins here’s futile skirmishes with motivation (or, more appropriately, lack thereof).

It can’t all be bad though, right? Even when we’re in the shit, there’s always entertainment to keep us chipper… right? Until recently, the pervasive doom and gloom of the year had me thinking that 2016 has been kind of a dud for films. Now though, the more I think back on the films I’ve seen over the past 12 months, the more I realise how great some of them have been.

I’ve faced the pitchforks for defending two of the most hated releases of the year, found a modern horror film that actually scared me, and had the pleasure of watching what is, I fully believe, the best sci-fi since 2001: A Space Odyssey. Perhaps most significantly, it was at the beginning of this year that I fully discovered my love for the films of Studio Ghibli, and getting to see their latest on the big screen, as well as going on a Ghibli adventure of my own, are memories I will keep with me for a long time. How are those for teasers?

Lo and behold, it’s time for me to crawl out of hiding and commence my annual tradition of reviewing every film I’ve seen in a cinema from January to December. Writing over 30 reviews in one go is a mammoth undertaking, and once again I regret not starting this earlier as it can be incredibly hard to remember a mediocre film seen almost a whole year ago. No battle is easily won, of course, and I shall power on for all that remains good in the world. There will inevitably be sacrifices, mostly the time that I could be spending playing Overwatch or watching One Piece, but I will write for what is right, and become legend.

As King Theoden once said:

Arise! Arise, Riders of Theoden! Spears shall be shaken, shields shall be splintered! A sword day… a red day… ‘ere the sun rises! Ride now! Ride now! Ride! Ride to ruin and the world’s ending! Death! Death! DEATH!

Forth, Eorlingas! (more…)

2015: The Year in Review, Part Two: Insidious to Star Wars

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Haven’t read Part One? If not, you’re trespassing! Fifty lashes of the whip! Get back there and read it now, or else it’s waterboarding for you!

Look what I’ve gone and done. Whereas last year’s post had some reviews that were only two sentences long, I’ve inadvertently spent far more hours and written a lot more for the films of 2015 in an attempt to do them justice. I’m sure this is a good thing though, because it will give all of you lovely people a better impression of what these films are really like, even though I’m a nobody whose opinion means fuck all in the grand scheme of things.

For fears of being TLDR, I decided to split the year into two halves to make things more manageable. This second part is a real emotional roller coaster, with as many soaring highs and plummeting lows as a moderate drug user. There’s disappointing dinosaurs, a couple of bad puns, a Satan reference, two Michael Fassbenders and even a certain science fiction film that is apparently a big deal. It’s riveting stuff, believe me.

I’d like to take the opportunity here to thank all of you who have ever read anything that I’ve written. Every time someone reads one of my posts, it really means a lot to me and makes all this work I put in worth it. If you like my content and agree with my arguments, great! If not, well, we’ll arrange a fight some time. I’ll probably lose, but my dignity will be intact.

Enough preamble, let’s get on with the show… (more…)

2015: The Year in Review, Part One: Birdman to Mad Max

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Well, well, well. 2015. It’s been a fantastic, multiple record-breaking year for movies, and there wasn’t a James Cameron in sight. It is also the year in which I – the lad who keeps banging on about how Transformers 4 is an excellent piece of cinema – was very sniffy about two super-successful blockbusters I by all accounts should have loved (more about those later). A handful of films that were released this year (and at the very end of last year) have already entered my pantheon of absolute favourites, heralded by trumpeting and angelic choruses, while a small few have plummeted to the dank, fecal depths of pure awfulness, heralded by a single insignificant fart, squeezed out and forgotten.

As with last year, I’ve been saving up my cinema tickets in the hope that I’ll fall off a toilet and have some eureka idea of something cool I can do with them, so I have a paper record of every film I’ve seen this year and when I saw it. With this, it is my intent to succinctly review each one of the blighters for your reading pleasure or displeasure. That’s 36 reviews, some of which are of movies I’ve seen almost a whole year ago. It’s going to be tough, like SAS boot camp, but it’s all for the good of humanity and, amazingly, that includes you.

Ready? We’re in for the long haul… (more…)

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies – Extended Edition Review

THE HOBBIT: THE DESOLATION OF SMAUG

I have no problems with the length of The Hobbit trilogy, or that one relatively short children’s book has been adapted into three relatively long films. Thanks to the massive amount of material written by Tolkein, the world of Middle-Earth is rich enough to expand this small story into a large-scale cinematic epic to accompany Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings. I understand that some viewers may have seen certain scenes as unnecessary filler, but I never felt that way, relishing every detail as a further insight and exploration into Tolkein’s universe. That, and the fact that it’s pure fantasy escapism at its most exciting.

While many reviewers commented positively about the shorter length of the third installment The Battle of the Five Armies (a ‘mere’ 144 minutes), I actually came out of the cinema immediately thinking it was too short. It seemed incomplete, as if scenes were chopped out in an attempt to appease the masses, who in general thought that An Unexpected Journey and The Desolation of Smaug were drawn too thin. For this reason, I eagerly anticipated the Extended Edition Blu-Ray (which is, of course, the only way to watch a Jackson Middle-Earth film) and snapped it up on the day of release, a painful eleven months after seeing it on the big screen.

Peter Jackson was determined to work hard on the Extended Edition of Armies in order to give fans the very best version of the film (supposedly he was disappointed with the theatrical cut), and so it arrives with a whole 20 minutes of additional footage. But how does it fare? (more…)