Planning my Best Movie Year Ever

Okay, so maybe 2016 isn’t going to be my best ever movie year. I can’t be in full control of that. I am, like all of us, largely at the mercy of the film makers creating the movies I go to see, and no one can predict the amount of drivel we have to wade through in the year to come. But I am always hopelessly optimistic at the start of the year, when my mind is abuzz with all the award contenders from last year, conveniently forgetting the movies I couldn’t even finish.

What I am not always, however, is organised. I really don’t have much time to go to the cinema, and with movies going out of circulation quicker and quicker, I often miss out on great films and then have to wait many months before I am able to view them on my own small screen at home. I am also a tad lazy when it comes to leaving the comforts of my home in the evenings, and the fluorescent lights, mopey staff, depressing concession stand offerings and all around plasticky, germ-ridden feel of the nearest multiplex really doesn’t help my determination to watch more movies on the big screen.

However, this year is the year when that will change! My resolutions for 2016 are almost exclusively to do with film, and they can be divided into 3 steps.

See More Movies in the Cinema

I do love a neatly organised plan, so I have made a note of the release dates of the movies I am most looking forward to in the next few months. It’s a bit tricky, as the release dates for my part of the world aren’t always readily available and many movies are released in cinemas even months after they are released on iTunes, DVD, etc elsewhere. Yes, I know, I feel sorry for me too!

Originally, I had wanted to do this plan/calendar for the whole year, but it’s simply too difficult as some of them don’t even have release dates yet, and certainly no local release date or distributor. But I will keep revising and updating as the months go by.

There are also many movies I have not scheduled in, as I am not yet sure they are MUST SEE in the cinema, but that may change as more is revealed about them. I have to be realistic, I am not going to be able to go to the cinema every week, so priorities have to be made. But at least, this way, I should avoid missing out on the ones that really matter to me.

For planning purposes, I made use of these lists in particular:

http://blogs.indiewire.com/theplaylist/the-100-most-anticipated-films-of-2016-20160104?page=1

The 12 Movies We’re Most Excited to See in 2016

So, with a bit of help from my fairy babysitters (in-laws), in the next few weeks alone I should be able to catch both The Big Short, The Revenant, Spotlight, Deadpool and Zoolander 2. Later on, I particularly hope to see Midnight Special. Other than that, March and April look like pretty quiet months on the movie front, but let me know if I’ve missed something unmissable.

Eliminate Blind Spots

If you follow film aficionados on Twitter you may have come across #blindspots (careful, it’s also an unrelated TV series). Basically, it refers to those movies that are supposed to be masterpieces that you have somehow managed to miss yourself. They can be old classics or newer films, it doesn’t matter.

I only came across this recently, as I saw others set out a plan for a set amount of blindspot movies they were going to try to watch over the next year. Living in what sometimes feel like a cinematic wasteland, I was envious of other people’s access to this kind of variety. But then I remembered the TCM channel and that we had a magazine lying around with the TV programmes for the whole of Jan. So, after just a quick flick through that magazine I realised I can catch up on the following classics, in just one month:

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  • A Streetcar Named Desire
  • Silent Running
  • Carlito’s Way
  • Singin’ In the Rain
  • Casablanca (yes, yes, I know, calm yourselves)
  • The Big Sleep
  • Rebel Without a Cause
  • Meet Me in St. Louis
  • East of Eden
  • The Philadelphia Story

I’m so excited by this step in particular. I think it’s easy to get caught up in the newest releases, and they often seem more accessible on many levels. But it’s hugely beneficial, if not essential, for any fan of cinema to go back in time and explore the rich history of film and discover how those films influence what we watch today.

I think I was about 14 or 15 when I started educating myself in earnest, watching stuff like Psycho, Apocalypse Now, Some Like it Hot, Citizen Kane, The Shining, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, The Birds…for a timid teenage girl I really did watch some rather violent stuff…and those movies had a huge impact in helping me understand different ways of seeing as well as broadening my taste in film. Like a kid who learns to enjoy strong, complex flavours.

Take Notes

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This is in extension of this blog that I have started, but I want to start taking notes either during or shortly after movies I watch. I may not write and publish a full review of every movie I watch, but I would love to look back on each year and see exactly what movies I have watched and how they made me feel. I so often end up not being able to remember what I watched during the year, each year seeming to blend with the previous ones. Ah, old age! “Notes, or it didn’t happen” is going to be my 2016 motto.

So there you have it, folks, my steps to approaching movie watching in a more purposeful manner, while still retaining all the enjoyment and fun. I think this is going to be a good year. How about you, what are you looking forward to watching in the coming year? Are there any golden oldies you’re planning on finally catching up on?

 

 

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Review – Goodnight Mommy

We’ve made it into 2016 so cheers to that! I’m excited for the year ahead in film and hope we’ll get to see some real masterpieces in the year ahead.

If you’re looking for something cheerful and upbeat to keep the festive season going, I’m afraid today’s movie isn’t going to help you. But you may take something else of value from it. As a warning, I just want to say that it’s difficult to discuss this movie and its themes without possibly revealing some spoilers, so if you want to watch this with absolutely no knowledge of it, better read this review after you’ve had a chance to see the movie.

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Goodnight Mommy is an Austrian movie which takes place in a modern country house and the surrounding countryside. We meet the twin brothers, Lukas and Elias, who seem to spend their days playing in the woods and fields largely unsupervised. Their mother returns to the house to recover from plastic surgery, her head and face bandaged completely, making her difficult to recognise. The boys seem disturbed by their mother’s new appearance and start to observe behaviour from her which doesn’t fit with the mother they know. They become suspicious and start to explore the possibility that the person behind the bandage may not be their mother at all. Testing her in ways that become increasingly disturbing, Goodnight Mommy leaves you wondering who you need to fear; masked adult with bloodshot eyes or the freckle-faced young boys.

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It’s a common theme in horror movies to use evil children to scare the living daylights out of you; The Omen, Children of the Corn, Mean Girls…okay, that last one is a stretch, but only by a little bit. Recently, however, I feel like I’ve seen a change towards a more realistic portrayal of disturbed children, children who do not fit our society’s expectations of normal behaviour, rather than your more common Spawn of the Devil/possessed by evil spirits-child.

One of the best horror movies of recent years was the sublime The Babadook. The horror in that film is not so much to do with the titular boogey man character but rather to do with the fraught relationship between mother and child. Another movie, The Orphanage, also explores some more than challenging aspects of parenthood that are far scarier than the ghostly apparitions in the film. Goodnight Mommy explores some of these same areas to chilling effect.

I wonder if this could be a whole genre of its own; Parental Horror? The fear that parents, particularly mothers, have of having to deal with a challenging child and being branded as an incompetent parent when you fail is not to be downplayed. It is an alienating, identity-anihilating experience not unlike having a bucket of pig’s blood dropped on you in front of your peers.

I will say, though, that I am not sure this movie can be correctly classified as a horror movie. Yes, the last third is unequivocally a horror, with some incredibly hard to watch scenes of violence. But leading up to that it is a very slow exploration of the dynamic in this secluded household, and I think many who might go into this expecting thrills and scares will feel disappointed. It fits maybe somewhere between a psychological thriller and a horror, but a slow version.

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Similarly to The Gift, which I reviewed recently , the house in Goodnight Mommy is like a character in its own right, offering us clues and setting the mood for the film.

Throughout the house, we glimpse huge canvas photos of a person we can only assume to be the mother, but all the photos are blurry, so that she is out of focus. These canvases help us piece together a picture of the boys’ mother as someone whose sense of self is anchored strongly in her appearance. But the blurriness adds a disturbing feel to the photos, taking them beyond your standard narcissistic celebrations of female beauty. There are also some candid snapshots of the mother before her surgery which leave you wondering: why did she feel the need for surgery in the first place? Nothing is directly spelled out in this movie, but there are plenty of elements which leave you puzzling with pieces of the story, trying to figure out how they fit together.

In short, Goodnight Mommy is not afraid to explore some really dark themes, pushing us towards the uncomfortable. It doesn’t handle these themes as entertainingly as some other movies, but it is a worthwhile addition to a growing collection of films that seek to scare us not with horrors that come from another world but with horrors that we fear most right here in our own world.

As always, I’d love to hear your opinions in the comments section. Much obliged.

Review – Brooklyn (2015)

Merry merry and good cheer all around, I hope you’ve had a lovely few days if you celebrated Christmas. I’ve got a real gem of a movie for you to catch during the holidays, one that makes you feel the range of emotions from sadness to joy without having to succumb to the smarminess of Love Actually and other seasonal staples.

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Brooklyn is the story of Eilis, a young Irish girl going nowhere fast in a small town in 1950’s Ireland. With the help of her sister, she manages to secure a job and a place to live in Brooklyn, New York, so she packs up what little is left of her life and travels by boat to New York. Although she has a boarding house to live in and a decent job, her first few months are marred by an unrelenting homesickness. She corresponds with her sister via letters and each one reminds her of what she left behind, even if it didn’t seem like much at the time.

The local Irish priest enrols her in bookkeeping classes, where she excels and begins to find some of her own identity, separate from who she was in Ireland. Then, one evening, she meets Tony, an Italian-American, and with this meeting her life in Brooklyn really begins to change. However, just as their relationship seems to come into itself, tragedy strikes at home and Eilis is forced to return to Ireland for a period. Here, she finds she now has the opportunities she never had before she left and she must decide where to make a life for herself.

Not long in to the movie, one of my companions asked me “I wonder where this story is going?” The thing is, Brooklyn is not a movie with a high concept plot that has you at the edge of your seat. If that is the kind of story you are after, you should be prepared to be disappointed. But I urge you to watch it nonetheless.

If you do give it a go, rather than at the edge of your seat, you should find yourself completely immersed in a certain, critical period of time in a young person’s life. With outstanding performances by Saoirse Ronan (Eilis) and Emory Cohen (Tony) you feel so invested in these characters that you are at a bit of a loss when the movie finishes. I already knew Ronan to be a formidable actress, with a face that’s like a canvas for emotions, but Cohen really came out of nowhere. He plays Tony with just the right amount of charm, yet there is also an awkwardness and sincerity to him which makes him endearingly vulnerable. I lost count of the amount of times I just wanted to reach through the screen and hug both of them.

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And before you think this is “just” a love story, let me correct you straight away. Brooklyn is a highly relatable portrayal of what it means to leave behind the place you came from and create a life for yourself elsewhere. As someone who has lived outside of my own country of birth for almost half my life, and have had to start over in different countries several times, Eilis’ anguish was like a stab in the heart to me. The confusion you feel when you move some place new, the rootlessness, the loneliness; Brooklyn brings all of these aspects beautifully to the screen thanks to its measured script and engaging performances. I imagine that people will relate even if they only ever moved from a small town to the nearest big city.

Lastly, the film is absolutely stunning in its cinematography (DP is Yves Bélanger, also known for Wild and Dallas Buyers Club), art direction, costume design and make-up. It will leave you aching for the 1950’s, even if it means giving up your iPhone, Ben & Jerry’s ice cream and various civil and human rights you take for granted now.

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Brooklyn is a true delight, the kind of film you will happily watch again and again, just to spend some more time with its characters. If you come away from this movie with anything less than a broad smile and a warm fuzzy feeling inside, I’d love to hear from you and confirm you aren’t, in actual fact, some grumpy unicorn.

Trailer Tuesdays – The Legend of Tarzan; The BFG

Trailer Tuesdays is a regular feature where I look at recent trailers to get an idea of what we can expect of movie releases in the future. Today, as it’s almost Christmas, I thought: “Why not two, instead of one?” – the same attitude I have towards mince pies, roast potatoes and glasses of mulled wine.

So we shall start off with The Legend of Tarzan; a sizeable blockbuster coming out in summer 2016.

There is a lot going on in this trailer, but very little of it is storyline. A quick Google search reveals that this movie takes place some time after Tarzan has moved to England with Jane. He goes back to the Congo on a trade mission but things don’t go as planned due to the interference of the film’s villain, a Belgian Captain played by Christoph Waltz.

Did you get any of that from the trailer? Yeah, me neither. Never mind, the trailer does look gorgeous, ditto Alexander Skarsgård as Tarzan.

The director is David Yates who is most famous for having directed several Harry Potter movies. I myself have little to no knowledge of the Harry Potter movies, so I don’t know what to expect from him. I am a bit concerned that Yates has another big movie on the cards for next year, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, as that’s a lot of work for any director.

My other main concern, as with anything Tarzan-related, is will they be able to avoid the blatant racism of the source material? I’m getting some Heart of Darkness vibes with the masses of ominous, faceless  “natives”  and I hope that’s just due to the trailer being so superficial.

One of the best books I read recently was King Leopold’s Ghost, which covers the atrocities of the Belgians in the Congo, and it would be truly amazing if Waltz character isn’t just some moustache-twirling movie villain, but a factually based representation of the numerous Belgian officials who managed to completely de-humanise a people.

If the movie is able to follow through on the stunning visuals, recognise the ludicrousness of its own roots and portray its African characters with depth and multitudes, I think this has the opportunity to be a rip-roaring ride.

Next up is the film adaptation of Roald Dahl’s The BFG:

If you don’t know the story then, firstly, shame on you. Secondly, it’s about a little girl living in an orphanage, who happens to see a giant one night and is then abducted by him to his homeland, Giant Country.

We’re big fans of The BFG in our household and have tackled some long road trips giggling along to the story’s “whizzpopping”, “snozzcumber” and “frobscottle” all the way, so this is one I’m already emotionally invested in.

The BFG is directed by Steven Spielberg and I believe I have seen a film or two by this young upstart before. Although I haven’t adored every single Spielberg film, you can’t deny the man’s experience and craft, so this movie already has a great foundation.

And from what we see in the trailer, I’m really excited. The short glimpses of the giant are breathtaking; I think it’s a real challenge to make a character like him come to life on screen. We’ll have to wait and see what he looks like in full. It’s only a teaser trailer, so there unfortunately isn’t much material to judge it on. However, knowing the special touch that Spielberg has with movies which focus on good old fashioned adventure and childhood wonder – I’m thinking more E.T. than Hook here – I’m rather optimistic.

That’s it for today! Let me know what trailers you’ve seen recently that have left you giddy or groaning.

 

 

Review – The Gift (2015)

A few months ago, I wrote about my love of trailers and the ability they have to build a movie up or sometimes tear it down, before we’ve even seen the finished product. At the time, I was particularly interested in the reaction I had had to watching the trailer for The Gift and the reviews I had read that suggested my initial reaction was way off.

Well, I have now finally watched The Gift and, yes, the trailer does not adequately represent the quality of the movie, whether by design or accident I don’t know.

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The movie introduces us to the married couple Simon and Robyn, who have recently moved back to Simon’s hometown of Los Angeles due to a Simon’s new job. Shortly after moving in to their beautiful new home, they bump into an old class mate of Simon’s, Gordon or “Gordo”. Gordon seems really excited to have reconnected with Simon, Simon seems superficially friendly and not terribly interested, and Robyn, who from the get go has an air of loneliness and melancholy around her, seems pleased to have met a friendly soul in a new place.

Gordon begins dropping by their house unannounced, always bringing gifts. These visits leave Simon increasingly agitated, which only befuddles Robyn. She sees Gordon as kind but misunderstood, Simon relishes in telling her stories of how he was called “Gordo the Weirdo” in school and gets annoyed when Robyn doesn’t find these stories amusing. There is tension in this marriage already and it only gets exasperated by their differing reactions to Gordon’s visits.

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Finally, during one awkward night when they have been invited to have dinner with Gordon, Simon loses patience and tells Gordon in no uncertain terms to stay away from them. At this point, we’ve all watched enough of these thrillers to think “Ooooooh, you’ve gone ‘n done it now Simon!”

Sure enough, after that, weird and disturbing things start happening in and around their house.

I’m not going to say too much more about the plot in order to save some of the mystery and enjoyment of watching it. Safe to say is that what follows is a depiction of a deeply flawed and unequal marriage, and an interesting if somewhat superficial look at how the misdeeds we commit against others can have far reaching, long lasting effects.

The movie is really well crafted and far better than you would expect for a first time director. Joel Edgerton wrote and directed the film and took on the role of Gordon. That’s some serious multi-tasking! His portrayal of Gordon is spot-on, treading a very fine balance between benign awkwardness and creepy, leaning ever so slightly towards either of those qualities whenever the script calls for it.

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The cinematography is superb, not a total surprise as the DP is Eduard Grau, who also worked on A Single Man and other great movies. There’s is a certain aesthetic throughout the film and particularly the scenes shot in and outside of Robyn and Simon’s house are so well composed. There are lines dividing the screen in key scenes, panes of glass suggesting the presence of someone looking in, it looks beautiful but cold and lonely too; the whole house is a physical embodiment of the physiological issues the characters are going through.

This also brings me to one of the other excellent qualities of the movie; it is surprisingly scary! We were four people watching it, and three of us jumped in our seats and YELPED several times during the movie. It got my heart racing more than any horror movie I’ve watched this year.

Now I’m going to say some things about the storyline I didn’t enjoy so much, and it may get mildly spoiler, very mildly.

The less successful aspect of The Gift, for me, is to do with the Simon’s character and his past with Gordon.

Simon is a really terrible person. We see glimpses of this from early on, and when it is revealed later on just how awful he is, it’s no big surprise. However, the fact that he is clearly just rotten to the core takes the edge off the story for me a bit. I think the plot would have worked better had Simon been someone more relatable. Not a good man, but a flawed one who had done things that were just close enough to our own lapses that we would cringe. It may not be the intention of the movie to make us look inwards and reflect on the small (and big) cruelties we may have committed ourselves, I just think the movie would have been more powerful had it tried to. Without it, the story is really more a story of a bad man being really bad and finally having bad things happen to him.

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I know a lot of people didn’t like the ending, found it exploitative and unnecessary. Personally, I think the ending worked. I did not see it coming and it left me thinking for a while afterwards about what I believed had happened, what seemed the more likely scenario, where the characters would go after that etc. I enjoy movies where the last five minutes forces you to rethink the whole movie and run through scenes in your mind. Did you see what you think you saw? What did you leave out because you were focusing elsewhere? You have to go back and pick up the trail of breadcrumbs because you walked straight past them the first time.

The Gift gets a resounding thumbs up from me, and I’m looking forward to seeing what Joel Egerton comes up with next. If this is his beginning, I think he will have really great things to show us in the future.

Trailer Tuesdays – Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

Despite having proclaimed my love of trailers a million times before, both here and elsewhere, it still amazes me that we have reached a stage where trailers get trailers of their own, sneak peaks, world premieres, sequels and what have you. I’m not complaining, I just thought I was the only one crazy enough to enjoy trailers that much.

And so we have been presented with trailer #2 for Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, after a teaser trailer was released a few days previously.

I’ll be the first to admit that the prospect of sitting through a Zack Snyder movie isn’t really something that excites me. I followed the steady stream of news about the production of the movie with a mix of disinterest and pity: “Aw, look at those folks trying to simultaneously outdo Marvel AND recapture the greatness that was Nolan’s Batman, cute!” Although it was refreshing to hear of the inclusion of Wonder Woman, I had little hope for her story getting the treatment it deserves.

All that being said…..Holy sh*t Batman, this trailer looks amazing!

Firstly, we have Clark Kent and Bruce Wayne having a little verbal sparring match, which I found delightfully bitchy. The short clips of their heroic acts also sets the scene nicely for their differences so there’s an instant understanding of how these two could end up disliking each other so much.

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Is it me or are Super’s nostrils flaring?

Then we meet Lex Luthor and start to see how he plays a part in orchestrating the animosity between Superman and Batman. He seems nervous, bordering on unhinged, but you have moments of him talking  that suggests he has a plan and he’s in control. There’s a lot of scowling from our superheroes, explosions, chases and general epicness.

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Okay, guess Superman’s in da house!

Essentially, what has given me hope for this movie is that it seems like it might be funny; witty even. It’s refreshing as Man of Steel left little room for laughs. Yes, Marvel has done the funny super hero thing for ages now, so it probably won’t be long before that’s as unpopular as the ubiquitous origin story. But I can only take so much action before I need a good chuckle, so I say keep it coming. I look forward to seeing two big, strong men squabbling, it reminds me of some of the most enjoyable scenes from that other recent Henry Cavill movie, Man From U.N.C.L.E.

And then, of course, when the two enemies find themselves in a spot of bother, and it looks like they are both about to be obliterated, BOOM:

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Wonder Woman saves the day! I love this part of the trailer and the little exchange Batman and Superman have afterwards to try to make sense of what has just happened. I don’t for one minute think this means Wonder Woman will be a truly awesome female superhero, but I will at least refrain from writing her, and the movie, off as I had already started to do.

I don’t know yet if this will be a masterpiece, but I will watch it and that is all the work a trailer needs to do right?

Review – The Walk 3D

There are a lot of movies out at the moment I want to watch. But when you are a busy person like me with a job – that sadly doesn’t entail watching movies for a living – and a family and a multitude of other interests and responsibilities, it quickly becomes difficult to find time to get to the cinema. In those times, I find myself having to prioritise, and it often comes down to asking myself: “Will this movie be significantly less enjoyable if viewed on the small screen at home in a few months?” If the answer is yes, then I try my darnedest to make time for that one before others. I’ll often do this even if I feel the other movies I’m considering will likely be better movies. Am I the only one with a method for choosing from a cornucopia of films?

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First world problems

So this is how I found myself in the cinema last week, watching “The Walk” in 3D, directed by Robert Zemeckis and starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt. I had already watched the 2008 documentary, “Man on Wire”, of the same story. For those of you who do not know already, both movies deal with the story of Philippe Petit and his highly dangerous – and highly illegal – wire walk between the Twin Towers in 1974, just as these iconic buildings were being completed. Petit, and his accomplices, managed to infiltrate the buildings and rig the wire in the dead of night, before pulling off the hair-raising stunt which saw Petit virtually dance between the towers for an hour. To say that it’s a compelling story is a bit like saying that the new Star Wars trailer has received quite a few views on Youtube.

Original footage of Philippe Petit doing his wire walk.

Original footage of Philippe Petit doing his wire walk.

To be frank, when I first heard of “The Walk”, I had no desire to watch it. I’ll watch Josep Gordon-Levitt peel an orange, but I just didn’t see what this movie could do that the documentary hadn’t already done. Man on Wire was a multi-award winning documentary, why now go and taint the story with some cheap CGI tricks? And then hiring an American actor like Gordon-Levitt to play a Frenchman? Nuh-uh.

However, as “The Walk” was released, I started hearing the stories of people clutching their seats and feeling faint during the wire walking scenes and an urge to go watch it started seeping into my veins. A huge part of why I am a cinephile is because of the opportunities for intellectual and emotional exploration that movies offer. I feel strongly that film is a subject worthy of all the academic scrutiny it comes under and that movies can help you view the world more clearly and experience life more deeply. On the other hand, I also feel that there isn’t necessarily something wrong with movies that are purely visceral in nature; they can be a highly enjoyable palate cleanser in the buffet of cinema. As mentioned previously, I am a fan of horror, and not just the critically approved stuff, I like whatever scares the crap out of me, so I am no stranger to watching something just for the sheer thrill of it.

So I was lured into the cinema with the promise of vertigo and nail biting. And did the movie deliver?

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Well, let me get some of the bad things out of the way. Firstly, no amount of affection I have for Gordon-Levitt can make up for the fact that his accent is bad. I’m sorry JGL, don’t be mad! Call me! As a French man speaking English he flounders, and, although his French is excellent, there is no denying when you hear him speaking French that he is not French. It doesn’t work and it’s jarring because you are constantly reminded “THIS IS NOT REAL, WE ARE PRETENDING”. In a similar vein, his narration of the story, from the top of the Statue of Liberty, seems incredibly cheesy. It reminded me of Jacquimo from Don Bluth’s “Thumbelina” (I actually love that movie but hot damn that swallow is annoying!).

Just another tiresome French cliché

Just another tiresome French cliché

“The Walk” doesn’t come close to touching on a deeper understanding of Petit, and this is something that is particularly evident when you’ve seen the documentary. In “The Walk”, he never quite seems to move beyond the rascally juggler cliché, however much Zemeckis tries to add moments of depth, and the movies shies away from some of Petit’s less likeable traits.

But – and there is a big but – I came away feeling “The Walk” is a unmissable companion piece to “Man on Wire”. The thing is, “Man on Wire” had no video footage of the wire walk. You understand and appreciate Petite’s feat on a sort of detached, intellectual level. “The Walk”, however, is the closest you will really get to understanding what it meant to walk out on a wire 412 metres in the air. The wire walking scenes and, indeed, the scenes showing the frantic preparations to secure the wire between the towers, had me crumbling together in my seat, uttering a steady stream of profanities. It really was not unlike going on a rollercoaster ride that you immediately start to regret the moment you start climbing that first massive hill. The technical skill involved in achieving this, considering there is nothing there, it’s all green screen, is beyond me. But I applaud it.

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There is also a certain additional emotional punch added with the knowledge that these towers no longer stand. As you watch, you can’t help but think about how the World Trade Center became the vehicle for this one man’s dream, yet decades later became the site of the destruction of thousands of others’ dreams. At the time of construction, these buildings were just that, buildings, but Petit somehow christened them in such a way that they came to mean more to New Yorkers. They would stand for only 28 years.

Will I remember this movie for years to come? I’m not sure. But I will remember the walk it celebrates till I am very, very old.

Ho, ho, horror

Hey, it’s October now and that means Halloween is around the corner, so I’m in the mood to talk about horror. Until this weekend, it had been entirely too long since I had watched a good horror movie. I saw, and enjoyed, “It Follows” a few months ago and it was without a doubt the best horror of 2015 for me.  But how long does one have to wait for a decent horror to come along?

There might be light at the end of the tunnel though.  “Crimson Peak” is out next week, and as it has A) Guillermo del Toro as a director and B) Tom Hiddleston starring, my hopes are sky-high. Don’t fail me now del Toro!

Then, a couple of weeks ago, the trailer for the new Christmas themed horror-comedy “Krampus” was released. I watched the trailer desperately hoping to feel some level of excitement. And, I’m sorry to say, I’m not really feeling it. I love comedy, I love horror, I love Adam Scott and Toni Colette but this one left me feeling little more than “meh”.

The mythical figure of Krampus has the potential to be seriously frightening and unsettling, but I would prefer to see something closer to the wiry, black goat creature seen on many old postcards instead of this massive, hulking beast in a robe. In fact, Beast from Disney’s “Beauty & the Beast” is who I first thought of when I saw the trailer.

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Seriously, I’d just go with him hoping he would show me his amazing library.

However, I wanted to find out more about who was behind “Krampus” and started reading about the director Michael Dougherty. And that’s how I came across “Trick ‘r Treat”, Dougherty’s 2007 movie. If you are looking for something to get you in the mood for Halloween or just feel like watching a really solid horror, I’d highly recommend it. It’s a compilation of a few different stories taking place in the same town on Halloween. The movie manages to be both funny and scary and also cleverly handles various horror tropes. I felt genuinely delighted after watching the movie, which is a fairly strange thing to say when you’ve watched whole chunks of it through your fingers.

“Sam” from Trick ‘r Treat. If this kid came to my door for Halloween, all he would get is a whole lot of nope.

So, if nothing else, I now have a Halloween classic I can return to year after year when I need to get my fright fix. I’d love to hear your horror recommendations in the comments section.

Review – Mad Max: Fury Road

Listen, I’m hardly writing a huge scoop here. Half the world has seen Mad Max: Fury Road by now and I’m well aware that I’m the dopey late comer to the party; busting out the champagne long after all the other guests have passed out drunk and oblivious on the couches.

The story of Mad Max: Fury Road  is this: Max Rockatansky is struggling to survive in a post-apocalyptic desert landscape where water and fuel is in short supply.  He finds himself captured and held captive by the heinous cult leader Immortan Joe and his army of war boys who use him as a “blood bag”.  Meanwhile, Imperator Furiosa, one of Immortan Joe’s high-ranking warriors, has plans to smuggle Joe’s five wives in a war rig to the “Green Place” in the hopes of freeing them from a life as breeding machines. Max is taken along on the multi-vehicle hunt for Furiosa but ends up joining forces with her and thus begins a high-octane chase across the desert . The plot is simple, but the end result is pretty spectacular, for a variety of reasons.

At this point, is Tom Hardy contractually obliged to wear something over his mouth in every movie?

At this point, is Tom Hardy contractually obligated to wear something over his mouth in every movie?

Mad Max: Fury Road was released in May of this year, 36 years after the original Mad Max came out. I just want to touch on this for a moment. George Miller directed Mad Max in 1979, from wholly original material that he co-wrote with Byron Kennedy and James McCausland. In 1979, there were roughly 4.3 billion people in the world, Jimmy Carter was POTUS and Margaret Thatcher was the UK Prime Minister. Zimbabwe was still called Rhodesia and Rod Stewart was topping the charts. In short, it was a very different world than the one we know now.

The movie cost about $400,000 and ended up earning $100million. Two other movies followed, in 1981 and 1985, both of which were critical successes. That leaves 20 years between the release of Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdrome and Mad Max: Fury Road, so George Miller had some time to kill. What did he do with that time? Why, the only natural progression after three hugely successful action movies depicting a post-apocalyptic desert wasteland populated by morally corrupt and hyper violent people. He directed Babe and Happy Feet (and their sequels):

Let's face it, Immortan Joe would make bacon out of this guy before you could say "That'll do pig, that'll do"

Let’s face it, Immortan Joe would make bacon out of this guy before you could say “That’ll do pig, that’ll do”

Not a sandstorm in sight here

Not a sandstorm in sight here

These were excellent movies in their own right but it does leave you doing a bit of a double take when you read George Miller’s IMDB page.  After making those cuddly wuddly films  you might expect Miller would have released Mad Max: Furry Road; about a roaming band of fluffy kittens who try their darndest to catch a ball of yarn without tripping over their teeny tiny paws in the process. No shame in that, I would have been first in line.

Instead, George Miller created a masterpiece which blew all other action movies from this year  the 21st century out of the water. Using mainly real effects, he has crafted a world which feels real, yet boggles the mind in its surrealness. I have absolutely nothing against CGI and am grateful for what it has added to cinema, but there is no denying that the effects  in Mad Max: Fury Road get under your skin in a different way and make contemporary blockbusters look like early 90s cartoons by comparison.

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I am going to be this guy for Halloween, for sure.

This feels like the action movie I have been waiting for all my life, one where I do not have to switch off my brain to be able to enjoy the stunts. Much has been discussed about the movie’s feminist themes, and while some may disagree, I believe this movie has done a huge service to promote feminist viewpoints in mainstream movies. It does this in  both the glaringly obvious ways – hey, it’s a movie about freeing a group of women who have been kept as property by a man – and in much more subtle ways.

The real protagonist is the awe-inspiring Furiosa, who is allowed to be both kick-ass and vunerable, victim and victor, violent and caring. I am so tired of seeing “tough chicks” who cartwheels around in hyper-sexualised outfits and look at the camera with a “come-hither” look. Furiosa is a real person, with her own motivations and desires that are in no way related to her male companion. And she’s an amputee, but that’s no biggie either in this movie. It’s such a beautiful thing to behold and left me practically jumping on the couch and wanting to shout “See Hollywood, this is how you do it! It’s not that hard!!”

And don’t even get me started on the Vuvalini tribe of hardened old women warriors.  Women with wrinkles and grey hair allowed screen time, and doing something other than sitting in a corner on a rocking chair and mumbling? Come one now George Miller, Christmas is still months away. Rather than being the typical older, white, male director and telling the kids to get off his lawn, Miller has kept in tune with the times and breathed fresh air into his franchise.

Photo from the brilliant feministmadmax tumblr

Photo from the brilliant feministmadmax tumblr

Aside from all the gender politics stuff, which bore a lot of people to death, Mad Max: Fury Road is just damn good fun. Engrossing, fast paced, scored perfectly; this is how you do entertainment, guys.

I also recommend anyone to go and do a bit of reading about what it took to get the movie made. You may have heard about the term development hell, and the process of making this movie ticks all the boxes for that definition and then some. The idea for the film actually started in 1998 and then went through countless setbacks. Miller even considered making it as an animated feature at one point. I have huge admiration for a film maker like Miller who has gone through so much over his career to make his vision come to life so that we, the lucky audience, can share in it. Is Mad Max: Fury Road perfect? No, but it’s close, and that’s good enough for me. Now excuse me while I go look for a flame throwing guitar.

Surprise Me

If trailer viewing counted as a hobby, I would list in on my CV. I am addicted to trailers and always keep up with the latest. For me, it’s like getting a peek at a Christmas present. If what I see looks good, I keep having to peek over and over again. Sometimes, what I see is a disappointment and I end up never opening the damn thing.

Me, when I find a new trailer I haven't seen yet.

Me, when I find a new trailer I haven’t seen yet.

A trailer is something a bit like the cover and blurb of a book. It’s meant to whet your appetite and set the tone for the movie viewing experience. But the trailer you’re watching can end up being nothing like the movie you watch months later. It’s all too easy to make an exciting trailer even if you don’t have enough material to make a decent movie. We all know those trailers for comedies where all the actual jokes worth even the shortest of chortles are in the trailer. The movie itself is left scraping the barrel of laughs, so to speak.

More often than not, I have been excited by a trailer only to be let down by the actual movie. I’m not going to lie, when it comes to trailers I am probably easily amused. I seem to remember watching the Troy trailer on repeat back in 2004. And the movie, well, we all know how that went.

Sometimes, though, a trailer can leave you going “meh” when the the movie is actually wonderful. I find this a really puzzling phenomenon. I have been thinking about it lately after the release of  The Gift. I watched the trailer when it came out a few months ago and just found the trailer so underwhelming. I felt like I knew the whole story already and there was no need to see the movie.

But  the reviews are out and are overwhelmingly positive. What I have heard so far is that the trailer almost deliberately misleads you so that you can be surprised by what you see in the movie. This is hard to pull off and an intriguing strategy, so now I am of course desperate to see the movie. And it’s made me wonder how many other movies I have missed out on, because the trailer didn’t catch my attention.

Do you have any examples of a rubbish trailer coming before an amazing movie? And what does make a bad trailer and a good trailer anyway? I hope to explore trailers often on this blog and I’d love your feedback.