Tuesday, 4 August 2015

I've Moved Kinda

I've moved all my gear to Letterboxd cus the setup is peng. Here I am: http://letterboxd.com/Russellreviews/

I'll still post on here for big reviews or rants or something but mostly i've put all my things down over there. 

Saturday, 21 March 2015

Scraping the bottom of the barrel- You're back in the Room

The red telephone box, the black taxi, Buckingham palace, Phillip Schofield, sometimes you just feel proud to be British. Where normally the hugely popular ‘X-Factor’ or ‘Britain’s Got Talent’ graces our screens, at that magic Saturday evening 8 o’clock spot, this week the men, woman and children of this great country were introduced to ‘You’re Back in the Room’.

Led by our great leader Mr Schofield, the gameshow revolves around five contestants completing challenges for money all whilst (here comes that familiar ITV twist) being under hypnosis, forced into doing silly things for the misery of the general public. All this mess-making, play-acting and vomit-inducing shenanigans results in possibly the worst piece of TV to ever grace our screens since Dale Winton forced dying celebrities to wear Lycra for his own twisted entertainment in BBC’s ‘Hole in the Wall’.

Only the bravest of gameshows begins with a title sequence which feels like a sickening nightmare before showing Phillip Schofield adjacent to a ticking clock, reminding you of your impending death as you waste an hour of your precious life glaring into the abyss that is the charismatic star of ‘This Morning’.

‘We are going to override their brains’ Schofield says as he paces across the stage, a line made popular from our deepest sexual fantasies, at this moment a flurry of moral concerns arise. Quite how this gameshow came to inhabit our screens, we will probably never know, but it seems as though ITV are a little desperate for material. What with great shows like ‘Heartbeat’, ‘Tipping Point’ and ‘Take Me Out’, one would wonder why…

The fact that this show quite explicably exploits innocent members of the public is outrageous in itself, and that’s before they’ve even done any of the puerile challenges Schofield and his primary school posse have come up with. Criticism has surrounded the show about whether they’re normal people at all, or actors, but this is beside the point.

Making crude models out of clay, immaturely falling in love with the presenter and made to think there’s a horrific, life threatening storm inside the studio, this juvenile nonsense is reserved for only the worst non-commissioned TV, but even they would turn it down for being too low-brow.  
It was after the horrific pottery-making challenge that we were treated to an advert break, desperately finding refuge in the patriotic pleasures of British Gas whilst your mind digests what you just saw. The TV had just sprayed out 20 minutes worth of excrement and now the audience sat there in their own squalor, unable to move, just accepting the fact that they will never experience anything quite as embarrassing as what they just saw.

The flashing lights of primary colours, the goofy music, the helium inhaling, it’s all too much, feeling a lot of the time like a kids TV show, respecting the intelligence of the audience just as much as one . ITV may as well have draped a bib over your belly and forced fed you baby food, by all means give us family-friendly fun, however a family includes adults and also children over the age of 2 months , none of whom would find this atrocity funny.

Feeling a lot like a satire of contemporary day-time gameshows, ‘You’re Back in the Room’ made the general public wish they really weren’t. With lines like ‘meet the man who will be hacking their brains’, you’d find it hard to prove this programme really has the intelligence and respect of the general public in mind. All this from a TV broadcaster who will very soon be hosting a live electoral debate…wow.

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Top 20 Films of 2014

I remember at the start of the year thinking 2014 was an annoying stepping stone to 2015, where I was awaiting these huge blockbusters, reading to come out, and in all honesty I wasn't particularly looking forward to the 2014 cinematic year. Ironic now that, in 2015, I'm really not that excited for the upcoming huge releases after possibly one of the best years in cinema for a very long time.

We got big blockbuster releases in a relatively small dose with Guardians of the Galaxy being a nice little surprise as well as the Hunger Games being surprisingly OK considering the stupid choice to split the final book into 2 parts. But I feel as though, this year, more than any other we've seen smaller and better movies share the limelight with the big franchises, proven in the awards race which includes some absolute corkers, though I am saying this before any of the Nominees are announced, so for all I know, they could all be atrocious.

To show the absolute quality of this years releases I'm not doing any honourable mentions, cus there were 10 of them...so I thought a top 20. 20 very solid films in one year and some films of the awards season haven't come out here yet (e.g. Whiplash, Birdman, Foxcatcher). It's been a pretty staple year, here it is...

20. The Guest

From Adam Wingard, director of 2011's brilliant 'You're Next', comes his second and more superior film, 'The Guest', which although falted is held up by some truly outstanding aspects.

The film follows 'David', who as a promise to his deceased friend, visits their family home to comfort them. Mysterious goings on start to happen and for the first 45 minutes or so the tension is palpable, supported by the terrifying performance of Dan Stevens as the protagonist. The Mystery is set up for a big conclusion however, which never really comes to a satisfying peak, almost just withering away. That said, the rest of the film is so creepy and so gripping that it's ultimately well worth your time, if not for the breathtaking cinematography and a soundtrack which gets my vote for best of the year.

19. Next Goal Wins 

This neat little documentary surrounds the trials, tribulations and general life of the statistically worst national football team in the world, American Samoa. The film follows the team from their notorious 31-0 loss to Australia, to the present day as they struggle to climb the international rankings.

Up there with some of the best sports films I've ever seen, Next Goal Wins takes you into the genuine and thoughtful minds of these 11+ footballers, all of whom are pinned down by a multitude of other jobs, as well as one vibrant player being a male transvestite. The simplicity of the documentary works heavily in its favour, veering away from fancy edits and camera work to set itself apart from any other film of its type. It's a motivational and genuinely thought provoking documentary on the limits of the human spirit, reminding viewers of the true beauty of the game.

18. The Babadook

If you'd asked me pre-October what my favourite film of the year would be I would've probably guessed that it would be the (then upcoming) Babadook. However as a result of my overhyped excitement that this would be the scariest film ever ultimately made me enjoy it less than I should've.

Now don't get me wrong this is a fantastic Horror film, from a country which continues to gain mad respect as real cinematic shakers. But if you go into this film expecting to absolutely scare yourself shitless ( like I did) you just won't love it as whilst it is certainly creepy throughout building a considerable amount of tension, it doesn't have a lot of 'scares' in the traditional sense, with the real Horror being a metaphorical message (which I won't spoil). This message is ultimately an extremely disturbing and haunting one which will remain with you, sunken in your brain, for many days after seeing it. The figure of the Babadook is masterfully designed, opting for practical makeup, and as a result supplies for some of the biggest frights you'll see in modern day horror cinema. All of this is supported by the terrific performance of Essie Davis who makes this fictional character wholly believable in the real world.

17. Blue Ruin

I saw this one way back at the start of the year, yet the story has remained to resonate with me ever since. Blue Ruin concerns a man fixated upon taking revenge on a recently released criminal who killed a member of his family.

Though it sounds like a stereotypical revenge thriller, it's really anything but with a fantastic stand out performance from Macon Blair as the deranged but inarguably relatable killer himself. Brutal and unapologetic Blue Ruin pulls some hefty punches and reflects the protagonists heartless Ideology, in the best way possible. The films conclusion truly ties the film together after it wonders slightly throughout the middle, in a telling and thoughtful.

16. Stretch 

I feel as though this is a really personal top 20, but I guess it is my top 20, so that should make some sense. Stretch is directed by Joe Carnahan, director of one of my favourite and most criminally underrated films of the last few years, 2011's 'The Grey'. So as a result I already had a stupid smile on my face before It had even started but none the less. Carnahan fan or not, you'll be hard pressed to find anyone who doesn't find this entertaining.

 Masterpiece it is not. If someone asked me whether it should be hung up in the Louvre I would vomit in their face. No, Stretch is quite simply the most fast-paced and thoroughly entertaining films you've likely ever seen. Oddly enough though the best thing about the film isn't the fast paced action and fight scenes or whatever, its the truly unexpected character arc of Patrick Wilson's character, who through mimicking famous movie idols comes out of his nervous skin in a desperate attempt to pay back a drug dealer a large sum of money by the end of the night. Wilsons insanity carries the film and makes it an unbelievable amount of fun as you tag-along for the ride- in yet another crazy good performance within a great year for acting displays. Some crazy twists and turns and frequent hilarious moments makes this film my biggest surprise of the year. With far too much to cover when talking about this film, if I tell you one thing its don't watch any of the trailers for the love of fuck, you will regret, go in blind and you'll have no idea what's going to happen next and it's 10x more thrilling for that.

15. The Lego Movie

From one unbelievably fast movie to another, actually in many ways, thinking about it The Lego Movie and Stretch are in terms of genre very similar, fast-paced, action-packed, ingenious and full of wit. But really, no one thought this film was going to be any good, if I'm honest I kind of have no idea why as it's directed by Phil Lord and Chris Miller, who also directed and penned the scripts for both 21 Jump Street and Cloudy with a chance of Meatballs, two creative and hilarious releases.

In terms of witty banter I think The Lego Movie has beaten 'Dave' to the top spot with jokes littered throughout the film, some blatantly obvious and some hidden in the very blocks in which the film is constructed, but all are utterly ingenious. I don't think any other director (or directors) could have achieved a similar result for a film about Lego's, Lord and Miller have the perfect balance of childishness and creativity, which neatly and bizarrely balance out into intelligent comedy. I also believe they successfully veered away from making the film a straight out advert for the product, which it quite easily could've been with the final act certainly promoting creativity but not necessarily the product. A long-awaited childrens film to match the originality, charm and brilliance of the original Toy Story.

14. Frank 

Eyup, the first British film on the list is an absolute belter. Based on the real life comedian/musician Frank Sidebottom who performed with a huge papier mache mask over his face. Here Michael Fassbender does the same, wearing the mask for practically the whole film, in yet another brilliant performance from possibly one of the best actors currently working.

Consistently charming and thoroughly entertaining  the film follows Frank and his alternative rock band who are quite happy recording an album in the secluded countryside, that is until national interest prompts them to travel to America to perform. Despite it being hard to avert your eyes from the terrific Fassbender, It is Domhnall Gleeson's character Jon who we mostly follow, who being rather irritating at some points, is a hugely relatable character for anyone who is trying to have a breakthrough in an artistic field. Where it seems as though the film is loosing track towards the end, it always knows it's course, ending on an absolutely perfect, if a little bleak note.

13. 22 Jump Street

I'm calling it, Lord and Miller are going to become absolute comedy leviathans with two hilarious and inventive films out this year which crave your attention. 22 Jump Street is even funnier than its sleeper hit predecessor, with Channing Tatum and Jonah hill once again displaying a fantastic on screen chemistry, unchallenged by anyone of this year or any other recently for that matter. Despite the fact that little was changed in the film from the first, they made this a consistent running gag, constantly referencing the similarities both films share, and somehow, I don't know how, this makes the film feel fresh.

Perhaps it's the fact that no other Hollywood movie is prepared to ridicule it's own production and the movie business in general, but this honesty was not only refreshing but also pain-inducingly hilarious; providing for perhaps the best post-credits scene of all time.

12. Nymphomaniac 

You'd be surprised to know how long it took me to find an appropriate picture to accompany this summary... So this is Lars Von Trier, doing what Lars does best, shock. However where Lars in the past has perhaps gone a little overboard with 75% shock and 25% actual meaningful story, oddly enough I think here he gets the balance pretty spot on.

That doesn't mean you can go into this film and expect not to see either a minute montage of different varieties of penis or pretty hardcore scenes of sex which borderline on pornography, because both these things are present in the film. But, it is all backed up by the actually quite thought-provoking tale of a woman's issue from childhood to adolescence as attitudes towards sex and life in general change. Does it have to be 4 hours long? No it doesn't and this is perhaps the films biggest fault and a lot of that time is filled with gratuitous 'shock' scenes, but not so much that it becomes boring or unnecessary

Don't mistake this film for being seedy and too 'arthouse' it's a truly brilliant drama with some absolutely fantastic performances across the board (Uma Thurman's short appearance especially) and a shocking 'slap-in-the-face' ending.

This would be the most awkward film ever to watch with parents, so don't even consider it.

11. Calvary 

Just missing out from the top 10 is Calvary, John Michael McDonagh stellar Drama about a priest who is threatened with murder in an anonymous confession booth. The film follows his travels around the small parish to try and figure out the potential murderer, visiting each member individually to reveal a bleak truth about the town. 

Brendan Gleeson gets better and better with each performance and thus proves himself as one of the best actors currently working in the business, but whom no one gives recognition. His performance here is certainly award worthy, portraying a broken character, wary of his trust.

Not to be overlooked however is Aidan Gillen's performance as one of the mysterious townsmen, who in one scene in particular portrays so much fear and bitterness that it's truly terrifying. A technically beautiful film with brilliant performances and an unquestionably bleak final message. 


How do you make one man in a car for 90 minutes interesting? Stick Tom Hardy in the from seat.

This pretty much sums up the whole of Locke, being very much an acting showcase, where Tom Hardy can just chomp through the script. Although this is true, Locke is, more than any other film this year wrapped in an uncomfortable air of truth and honesty that this person feels so unbelievably real. Although this is partly due to Hardy's fantastic performance, it is also down to the incredible writing, who literally make a 90 minute car journey gripping from start to finish. Furthermore the cinematography, you would assume to be restricted is anything but, confined to the limits of a car interior, it does very well to keep you engaged.

I'm a huge fan of the film, but in all honesty it's general simplicity and realism makes it hard to discuss without spoiling it, so just go out to your home video dvd rental warehouse and grab a copy.

9. The Raid 2

Despite coming out early in the year, it wasn't until December when I finally watched the Raid 2 on DVD and after a whole year of hearing it was good, but not as good as the first, I really didn't have the highest of hopes.

...If you're a fan of action movies, kung-fu movies, heck thrillers in general you must watch this film, even if it's for the stunning choreography alone. This is a weird one though, as I don't think I would've enjoyed it as much if it wasn't for the abundance of Hollywood action releases which use copious amounts of CGI and badly constructed fight sequences, two things which the Raid 2 puts a fat foot in the face to.

But seriously, these actors are real with real fighting experience, in a real fight sequence, and as a result the film feels so intense with every punch to the chest blowing wind out of you.

The film tries to build on its predecessors story with an interesting follow up which involves the main character going undercover in a criminal business which whilst for the most part works incredibly well, is ultimately too complicated. Not so much that the film becomes incomprehensible, but so much so that a press of the pause button would not go protested.

8. Starred Up 

I'd actually be pretty annoyed if Jack O'Connell gets any recognition for Unbroken, just for the fact that this film is a) better and b) his performance is better. There is no doubt in my mind that this man will one day be an acting great. Despite the small personality of his character, in comparison to the other inmates, O'Connell commands the screen as a younger, less mental version of Tom Hardy's Bronson.

But truly, this film defines British grittiness, every shot looks dirty and depressing in the best possible way as we follow Eric Love, O'Connell's mentally confused character. As much as the film presents itself as a loud and brutal prison drama, it's actually a lot more, being a gripping story on the mindset of the criminal as well as the actual function of such an institute.

A strong, thought provoking film, just don't go in with a huge bag of popcorn...it ain't very pleasant.

7. The Borderlands 

There seems to be a theme this year of just criminally underrated movies, this is a very significant one, being not only the best horror film of the year but the best for a couple of years. This small british release, which got a miniature release early in 2014 is the definition of a hidden gem.

The film follows a pair of paranormal investigators working for the church, who travel to a secluded village to see if their churches claim of a miracle was in fact genuine. I know, I know you're probably hurling your own shit at the screen at the sight of 'paranormal investigators' but seriously give it a chance and that shit will not be on the screen...

The films real success is taking its time to formulate two highly believable, relatable and intriguing characters. By throwing in glimpses of comedy we start to grow an instant connection to the protagonists as they enter into a village which instantly rejects them. Although it follows the story of the paranormal, it  does so in a religious context, something we haven't really seen, at least not to the effect that this film pulls off.

As the paranormal starts to get even more aggressive the protagonists thoughts on God and everything surrounding it are questioned to terrifying effect come the brutal finale which will have you shaken to the core. What an ending.

Don't. watch. the. trailer

6. Two Days, One Night

After I had reservations for 2011's critically loved 'The Kid with a bike' I was a little skeptical about going into this one, The premise is certainly a whole lot more interesting however following Sandra who upon discovering her work colleagues voted for a bonus in exchange for her dismissal, asks for a revote and spends the weekend trying to convince them all otherwise.

This idea is so ingenious and so clever, that it makes you go ' why has no one made it before' it's so simple, asking a multitude of questions about individual morals and selfishness. Although it's a cliche, I feel as though the phrase ' you'll see people differently after watching this film' applies in great depth to Two days, one night, wondering what they would vote for when given the option between greed and humanity. That said however we are put in a very selfish position behind Sandra, seeing the situation through her eyes, finding it hard to accept the decisions of those who need the money despite their reasons being wholly legitimate. Two Days, one night is morally fascinating as is a source for endless debate and thought, great performances all round in this great achievement from the Dardenne brothers.

5. The Grand Budapest Hotel 

Say the name Wes Anderson and heads will immediately turn, he's without doubt one of the best filmmakers of our time, yet to put a foot wrong, and his newest film is certainly no exception, being up there with his very best. The Grand Budapest hotel is just as interesting and unique as any of Anderson's other films following Gustave H, and his trusty lobby boy, Zero, who embark on a great adventure when Gustave discovers he's heir to a grand painting.

Despite being pretty much completely different to anything Ralph Fiennes has ever done, this is possibly his most enjoyable performance ever, being allowed almost total thespian freedom to depict the eccentric concierge. As always Andersons eyes for fantastic cinematography continues with a fantastic looking film, vibrant and interesting in every frame.

The Grand Budapest hotel is a crime-caper like no other, complete with copious cameos, a prison breakout and traditional ski-chase.

4. Miss Violence  

From here, any of these films could be number one to be honest, there all so unique that to compare them is almost impossible, but anyway.

This film is without doubt one of the most disturbing films I think I've ever seen. From the unbelievably outstanding opening scene where an 11 year old girl, on her birthday goes to the balcony smiles to the camera and commits suicide,  this film wakes you up and grips you tight, right until the final credits.

The film pretty much follows, why she kills herself and in the process exposes a family evidently hiding some mysterious secret. No doubt, much of this film is extremely hard to take, (don't even consider watching it with the whole family) but it's also so gripping that I guarantee you won't be able to peel your eyes, fixated on what on earth is going on with the family. As the grim truth becomes clear, the film only ramps up the gears, totally unapologetic at what it's showing until the final act which will leave you open mouthed in shock.

The whole film is however held together by the fantastic acting performances who make the story as sinister as it is, leading it away from being a gratuitous horror, into instead a psychological, drama which totally messes with your head. I know for a fact he won't but Themis Panou should seriously be considered for a best actor nomination.

Watch this film.

3. Palo Alto

Continuing the theme of criminally ununderratedovies, Palo Alto has seemingly been left in the shadows as Boyhood takes home the prize for best coming of age film of the year (undeservingly), as Palo Alto is probably the most accurate depiction of young people ever put to screen.

This sub-genre of coming-of-age is one of my favourites and one of my pet hates is unrealistic characters (something which Boyhood is full of...), so many films get this wrong, and Palo Alto got it so right. The story is based on a collection of short stories written by James Franco which all surround the complications of love for all ages, with the film focusing on that of April who is torn between falling for her good friend, Teddy or her football coach, Mr B.

This idea of a girl falling in love with her teacher is one which in real life would be highly frowned upon, but here, we not only understand the actions of both people in the relationship but we also almost encourage it. Without even a lot of characterisation for Mr B we already understand his position as he's portrayed as such a real person. However due to the well developed and again accurately portrayed character of Teddy we are conflicted into who we want to protagonist to be with, reflecting the thoughts of April, therefore showing just how well this film works.

I can't sing this films praises enough, everything about it works, even the short story aspect which is certainly a risk, covering multiple stories over a 90 minute period, but each one is given sufficient time, and where some are shoe-horned in a little it does oddly give a sense of universality, where we feel as though every character has some sort of relationship conflict.

This films writing is impeccable.

2. Under The Skin

Jonathan Glazer, remember the name. Director of the brilliant 'Sexy Beast' comes his fantastic and terrifying new film Under the Skin.

The film follows a nameless woman, played terrifically be Scarlett Johansson, who seduces men in the early hours of the morning, taking them back to her lair, whereupon she...well who knows. No film has ever had me open mouthed for such a long time, the scene depicted by the image above in particularly showcases one of the most disturbing scenes of the film and the past few years as a man disintegrates in goo to an amazing score by Mica Levi.

Questioning the ethics and psychological workings of the human mind, Under the Skin will truly get to you, even if you don't know why, it will. This is certainly partially down to the cinematography which throughout depicts the world we think we know, as some sort of horrific wasteland, questioning the morals of contemporary society.

It will leave you speechless, terrified and unable to see Johansson in the same light.

1. Nightcrawler  

I pretty much knew, the moment I'd finished watching this film, that It would be my favourite of the whole year. 

This film defines the genre thriller, seriously it will rock your seat, rattle your brain and make you cower in terror, it has everything. More than any other film on this list (except maybe Locke) this film relies on its acting from Jake Gyllenhaal as Louis Bloom, and ffuucckk does he deliver. This is for me the best performance of the year and by far the best performance of Gyllenhaal's career, being so unbelievably intimidating, I'm going to throw out another overused cliche but I truly never saw Gyllenhaal, I always saw Louis Bloom. I've said that for a lot of performances but I was probably just overreacting, this is the first time I can honestly say that. He pretty much grabs you by your face and screams at you for 90 minutes that he deserves to win best actor, every scene he's in he's doing something fascinating and memorable.

Not to be overlooked is the performance of his sideman Rick, played by British actor, Riz Ahmed, who stakes a claim for a new awards category- best fake accent- convincing me for pretty much the whole film that he was American until I was forced to google it once the film ended. 

The writing is genius, showing the character arc of a madman obsessed with power and the American dream, every line Gyllenhaal delivers feels in character and totally insane. 

Nightcrawler works on every level, both technically and narratively. Best film of 2014.

But yeah to be honest this year has been so good for film that every one on this list is the best in it's own right, I mean how can I compare Nymphomaniac and The Lego Movie, it's just not going to happen. All 20 of these films are brilliant, and are all worth watching, without the trailers by the way! Don't watch any of these 20 films' trailers as every single film has a bunch of surprises, and if you awaiting something to happen, well then it aint a surprise, is it dummy. Annoyingly I doubt any of these films will get praised at the Oscars, bar one or two, so I mean this list is pretty much pointless...    

Saturday, 8 November 2014

Toy Story...4

Pixar stands tall next to Studio Ghibli as the best two animation studios their have ever been, with the former producing countless greats from Bugs life to Wall-E to Ratatouille etc. etc. etc. Yes they've had their downfalls with Cars and Cars 2, their blatant cash grabs, but overall they've been loyal to their morals- producing thoughtful and imaginative animations for the whole family. Despite both of their films coming out next year being totally original they do have a slate of upcoming films which include a few sequels, Incredibles 2 and 'Finding Dory' included, both of which, though arguably unnecessary, do hold purpose as necessary sequels to a world we will willingly be transcended back into. But yesterday Pixar did something nobody was hoping for, something I never thought they would have to the heart to do, yesterday Pixar effectively put a middle finger up to their morals and were hypnotised by the green legal tender, announcing to the world, 'Toy Story 4'.

Here's why this is the biggest disappointment since Indiana Jones 4.

The Perfect trilogy

One fact of cinema I believe you can say without debate is that Toy Story is one of the best, if not the best trilogy of all time. Not only does it follow the imaginative and fun adventures of a young lads toys when he's out the house, but it overplays this narrative with a back-story of growing-up that is so brutally real that it puts most coming of age films to shame.

To go into more detail about this, the Toy Story trilogy follows three crucial stages of growing up, from the early stages of development seen in the first film to the departure to university seen in the 3rd, and this story is neatly wrapped within the trilogy through these bookends. It's been strongly rumoured that the story will have nothing to do with Andy, and therefore I really don't care about the story. This announcement of the 4th film feels like throwing a boulder into a ball pit, it doesn't fit, it doesn't mesh, ultimately it doesn't work on any level. Why the heck would I want to see a story about Woody, Buzz etc. without the strong story of Andy backing it up, if they want to do a whole new Toy Story film, give me a whole new roster of Toys and I'll be happy. 

I mean the end of Toy Story 3 literally has most viewers in tears! In tears you hear! The legacy and power that those three films hold is immense and every viewer sees something unique in it, be it the story of acceptance seen in Jesse's tale in the 2nd film, the story of a battling friendship in the 1st or simply the whole notion of change and 'moving on' seen throughout the trilogy. 

We know, Woody, Buzz and the rest of the gang, in the fictional world of the film, have moved on and have accepted change (something which as previously mentioned is integral to the whole theme of the trilogy) we don't need to see them carrying on their lives. In fact its nicer to make it up ourselves, just like you do when you're young playing with toys, you make up crazy stories in which your characters act out.

The fact is, I couldn't care less about Toy Story 4, even if it's is amazing, a fourth film tarnishes the rest of the trilogy and will make us see them differently whether we like it or not.

Cash-Grab 101

It's wildly obvious that the Toy Story trilogy was and is Pixars biggest achievement both critically and commercially. The fact that they are continuing on past the 'perfect trilogy' despite it ending so well is a blatant cash-grab in my eyes and also a shame as it truly shows Pixar abandoning their artistic intentions for the temptation of extra cash.

We know Pixar have loads of original ideas flouting about, all you have to do is look at their next two coming movies as well as their extensive and highly regarded writing team. BUT, of course original films don't make as much money as sequels so instead of trying to create art, Pixar has now made the leap to create cash instead.

Speaking of the writing team, perhaps the worst news is yet to come. In the past three Toy Story films Pixar has been very good in using their in house talent as well as quality external writers in cohesive harmony to create fantastic screenplays. The first film used Andrew Stanton and Joss Wheadon, the second used Andrew Stanton and Rita Hsiao, the writer of the original (and great) Mulan, and the final film after setting the grounds of a fantastic story hired Michael Arndt to work on the screenplay alone after writing the amazing, Little Miss Sunshine.

So what exciting new talent has Pixar hired this time!... Rashida Jones of course!!!

This might be a personal problem, and perhaps fans of the TV comedy Parks and Recreation will disagree, but personally this choice is woeful and just another example of Pixar trying to milk the cash cow.

This name is by far the most well known external talent that they have ever hired for any of their Toy Story releases, she's pretty much a well-known celebrity, which subsequently means even more publicity, which means even more cash!!! For us however this will most likely mean a worse movie overall. The only film she's ever written was the wildly average Celeste and Jesse Forever, which shares little narrative relevance to the films of Toy Story in terms of imagination, fun and heart. At least both previous external writers had great and relevant films under their belt, with Little miss sunshine being an amazingly fun and sweet film and Mulan being one of Disney's many master-classes in animation.

Ultimately I feel let down and hugely disappointed in Pixars recent decision to release a fourth Toy Story film, in my eyes this decision is just as bad as their past announcement of Cars 2, which is inadvertently their worst film to date. This fourth film is evidence to the world that Pixar just doesn't care about the art any more, and if their not careful this fourth addition to their beloved trilogy could destroy their reputation forever.

Thursday, 6 November 2014


Blimey, I haven't been to the cinema for a while, the last film I saw was blooming Guardians of the Galaxy back in August, which is pretty shameful. That said I went to see Nightcrawler on Friday night in wild anticipation after watching the crazy good trailer back in whenever it came out. That was pretty much all that was making me go and see the film, I mean I'd heard the reviews were good but if you IMDB the writer/director (Dan Gilroy) you'll see his last two films were The Bourne Legacy and Real Steel...just bare in mind whilst I tell you how bloody amazing this film is.

The story concerns Lou Bloom (Jake Gyllenhaal) an unemployed man who feels empowered to get involved in the world of crime journalism after seeing a roadside crash, from here he becomes obsessed with getting to the top. I know this is the talking point of the whole film, and I know this isn't all the films about but when I think about Nightcrawler it's very hard not to immediately scream the praises of Gyllenhaal's performance. The best thing I can say about him is that throughout the film I never saw the character as Gyllenhaal, I saw him as Lou Bloom, an man driven to insanity through his own broken psychology. I mean seriously, more than any horror film I've seen all year (so far) Gyllenhaals performance is truly terrifying, as his overwhelming screen presence grabs you by the neck and heaves you into the film.

As said previously his performance is of course not the only positive of the film, by no means, the fantastic screenplay makes the events of the film both constantly gripping but also hugely detestable. The plot itself, once certain facts are uncovered and the film comes to a conclusion, is truly disturbing, discussing the ethics of showing such acts on TV news, and the subsequent state of a modern society who would watch such footage. Perhaps the screenplays most impressive achievement however it's relationship with the protagonist, working to manipulate the audiences feelings in order to make us like such a disgusting man, something that we feel empowered to do, despite the fact that we knowingly hate him. This only disperses further talking points in how our good relationship with the bad protagonist affects our sanity as viewers who perhaps 'only want to see the gory stuff'. The screenplays only downfall is a minor one, as after such a big climactic crescendo, it doens't know hwo to calm down and conclude on a good note, as a result it flatlines a little before ending sufficiently

Working in conjunction with the screenplay is the cinematography, making the streets of LA look dark and uninviting but also glamorous and beautiful, so much effort has gone into the framing of shots and it seriously pays off. The ultimate product is a film which honestly makes you see TV news in a new light, now seeming tasteless and untrustworthy after the harrowing and dramatically gripping events of Nightcrawler, which proves hard to shake from your mind.

9.5/10- Gyllenhaal's best performance from the director who brought you Hugh Jackman as a boxing robot's coach (I still can't believe it)

Shocktober Days 26, 27, 28, 29, 30 & 31

#26- Event horizon (1997)

 I never even really saw this as a horror film when I saw it on Netflix, but the many recommendations from various forums showed me otherwise, with many claiming it to be truly terrifying. Whilst it may be more of a thriller than anything else it certainly has some creepy horror elements.

The film surrounds a group of astronauts who are sent to investigate the mysterious event horizon- a spaceship in which all of its passengers mysteriously disappear. Event Horizons problem is, being a thriller, it doesn’t really know where to start and finish with its horror elements. Grand, mysterious theories on how the passengers disappeared are deeply unsettling on their own- the mystery surrounding them only making it all the more freaky. But when the film should’ve stopped there, it instead continued to show us nearly exactly what happened to them- whereby little was left to the imagination. That said the films raw horror element in the form of a machine which creates black holes letting anything through from another dimension comes into its own in the films finale to truly terrifying effects.

The performances are pretty standard but some are just outright unenthusiastic- most notably that of the films mysterious passenger Mr Weir, played by Sam Neil. His performance is however good enough to see the film through. A film which ultimately proves to be a lot of fun, even if it isn’t all horror centred.

6.5/10- A fun fun space adventure, both bleak and unsettling.

#27- Zombie flesh eaters (1979)

So this is one of those video nasty movies of the *date* including some lovely gruesome scene of zombies being ripped apart etc. That is however pretty much all the movie has to offer.

The stories pretty generic following the daughter of a mysteriously murdered father and an intrigued scientist as they travel to a faraway island to investigate the recent discovery of zombies. The film takes a long while to get going, with horror elements included in this, not truly becoming anything scary until around the halfway mark. There are however some classic scenes in the film in which the video nasty genre is truly encapsulated. The most notable of which shows a woman’s eye being shoved through a wooden splint, shown through goofy practical effects of the time, despite looking quite unrealistic however this scene showed to encapsulate all which is fun and gruesome about the genre.

Zombie flesh eaters is unfortunately not as exciting as it sounds with bland performances and a plot which takes a while to truly begin.

6/10- Standard fun zombie affair once the film finally begins to start.

#28- The Bay (2012)

Made on a shoestring budget, the bay is a small film set in Maryland concerning the invasion of bug-like parasites hiding in the water

Unlike Zombie flesh eaters the bay is actually a lot more interesting than it sounds, and certainly a lot more unsettling. Filmed in a found footage/documentary type style the film chronicles the invasion from the outbreak to the conclusion, focusing in on no real constant protagonist. Instead the films main character is the town itself and humanity in general, giving a very realistic overview of what such an event would cause. The creatures themselves are truly unsettling, small round and generally revolting, especially when considering that they enter a person’s body through an open orifice. This, as one can imagine, creates for some utterly disgusting body horror moments as the parasites invade the human body.

The Bay is a neat little horror which works on primal fears of humanity, and thus has a similar effect to jaws, don’t think about the bay when you’re anywhere near the sea.

8/10- A creepy horror which slides under your skin

#29- Carrie (2013)

The original Carrie’s is a classic for multiple reasons, the characterisation of the terrifying daughter /mother relationship, the fantastic performances of both, the list goes on. The remake of Carrie is exactly the same in nearly every way and thus is utterly pointless.

Certain plot points in the film are arguably dated so a remake isn’t necessarily a terrible idea but it is when you don’t intend to change anything. Chloe Grace Moretz is a great actor in the right role, here as a result of the story she is horribly miscast, supposed to be playing a timid and lonely girl but her looks are just too strong to think in such a way. Julianne Moore is much the same, she’s better in the role but looks pitiful in comparison to the original performance of Piper Laurie.

I think some of the only things they changed from the original is the use of cell phones in the opening shower scene and the larger use of special effects, the former of which a pitiful attempt at making the story ‘contemporary’ the latter totally irrelevant when considering the larger story of the character of Carrie at the films heart.

4/10- Just watch the original

#30- Children of the corn (1984)

There are certain film titles that for whatever reason carry a certain amount of prestige, and for some reason I thought children of the corn was supposed to be good. It isn’t. It’s good awful.

So a city couple looking for a retreat fall upon a strange town where the kids have become possessed and rule the town. Here, an obvious arises, this plot subsequently means that a large majority of the cast must be children, and are children good actors…no…no there all shit. One standout performance comes from child antagonist Isaac played by John Franklin, providing perhaps the best worst performance of all time as the little shit who for some reason all these kids obey.

There are one or two moments which are pretty neat and eerie but the scene really isn’t worth the 90 minutes of hurt. But above all, apart from the fact that the film isn’t scary, is poorly acted and is paced unbelievably poorly, not once does it explain why the adults don’t just overpower the little shits and charge them down. One kick to issac’s fat head would flatten him.

3/10- Truly terrible, character of Isaac makes it watchable due to how laughably bad he is

#31- Annabelle (2014)

Alright, so I was supposed to finish this Shocktober thing with a grand cinema trip to see the latest (good) horror, all signs were pointing to me watching the Babadook and to put a long story short I didn’t. I watched Anabelle instead…sigh.

So Annabelle is a spin-off from last year’s successful horror the Conjuring, following the creepy doll which made people squirm in their seats. Now they’ve drawn out a huge unnecessary story for the porcelain character and her many victims, a story which is as boring as it is totally not scary. The story is pretty simple following a man and wife, who receive a gift of an old doll, and instead of stamping on it and burning it like many others would do, instead they keep it on display in their kids bedroom…wha?!
I feel as though Amnabelle is just a prime example of the state of modern horror films, less interested in the story but far more interested in giving the audience a momentary fright in the form of a plethora of jump scares, each one as ineffective as the last. These scares aren’t even well integrated any more, you can tell them from a mile off, any moment when the sound is turned right down and the camera lingers on a certain spot you can be certain a jump scare is on their way therefore it doesn’t make you jump, therefore the most simple of scares becomes useless.

Annabelle’s only good features come as references to its better older brother, ‘the Conjuring’ in which the creepy music box tune is cleverly placed in the film, as well as one or two appreciated nods. There are also some unique intelligent scares thrown in occasionally such as when the protagonist follows a trail of mysterious drawings falling in order from the top if the staircase, this wasn’t terrifying, but it was a refreshing break from the constant jump scares that bog the film down so much.

4/10- Defines modern horrors- just fecking stupid.

Sunday, 26 October 2014

Shocktober Days 23, 24 & 25

#23- Evil Dead 2- (1987)

Quite famously the movie Sam Raimi really wanted to make after being tied down to studio pressures in the first film, Evil Dead 2 is a crazy often horrifying and constantly entertaining.

Vastly different from its predecessor Evil Dead 2 is unique in every way and truly unplaceable in amongst a genre of constantly recycled ideas. Seriously, in what other film will you see a man turning stir-crazy whilst the ornaments and furniture of the room begin cackling at him. As a result these constant scenes of juxtaposition between horror and bizarre humour, Evil Dead 2 actually produces some truly unnerving scenes, as seemingly innocent  things turn creepy.

The script is clearly purposely daft with dialogue now famous in the genre, the majority of these lines are given to Bruce Campbell's comedic character who ignites the film with energy and fun, largely down to the enthusiastic performance by Campbell.

Evil Dead 2 is far different to what I was expecting but in hindsight, all signs were pointing to a more comedic than horrifying film, but with gruesome practical effects and terrifically delivered deadpan humour, the film shows to be great fun.

8.5/10- Groovy gory fun

#24- Inside- (2007)

So this pregnant woman whose husband has recently died has started to become tormented by a sadistic woman who is obsessed with claiming the woman's unborn child for her own...yooo that's actually messed up.

Agh man, some of the shit you see in this film I swear like, arguably shouldn't be on the shelves of Blockbusters' worldwide. Like the film isn't even that bad, with a neat little twist at the end, I think it's just the relentless violence and gore which drowns everything out. It's weird saying this but although gratuitous violence is what it's going for, the film straight up has so much that it just kills everything else it was going for. Saying that, it's nice to see some fantastic practical effects instead of crappy CGI, even when it is replicating such bodily organs which should never see sunlight.

The performances were pretty good, but unfortunately I couldn't grab a copy which didn't have dubbed dialogue which really sucks, often making scenes unintentionally funny as it is clear the words are out of synch with the mouth movements. That said, the acting is good enough to make the scenes of violence seem so horrifying and real that really it ends up being quite effective and oddly entertaining for gore fans.

7/10- Truly disgusting but if that rocks your boat then dig in

#25- Laddaland- (2011)

Aside from having one of the worst names of any film I've ever seen, taking a strong second place next to 'Superbabies: Baby Geniuses 2', Laddaland is a pretty conventional, nothing to see here, move along, this is pretty bad affair.

The plot is oh so forgettable, and despite seeing it fairly recently I have little idea of what it was actually about, really- when you got down to the heart of it I mean. So, you've got a small family who move to a new housing development, and who would've guessed it, the neighbourhood isn't as conventional as they thought and soon people begin to mysteriously die in a neighbouring house. As previously said, Laddaland is pretty forgettable so I'll keep it brief, as horror films go, Laddaland goes slap bang in the middle, it isn't that bad with some scary moments, but in the end it's just a rehash of old ideas.

The ghost itself in the film, despite being recreated poorly in CGI, is one of those cases where it looks so bad and unrealistic that it actually becomes oddly scary and alien-like. Therefore in a shocking turn of events, Laddaland has some kinda scary moments due to making their main monster look unintentionally shit. The child acting is quite predictably, pretty bad, their reactions to proceedings are hardly convincing an therefore the viewer aint to scared.

Despite the ending picking the quality of the film up a little with a neat, bleak event, Laddaland is nothing we haven't seen before.

5.5/10- Laddaland is an unbelievably bad name for a film.