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JE T’AIME CINEMA by PAUL LAIGHT

JE T’AIME CINEMA by PAUL LAIGHT

I have a confession to make. I am a love cheat.  I love the cinema but, of late, I have been cheating on it with Television.  I couldn’t help myself. TV used to be cinema’s bastard child but now it’s all grown up and wow, has it matured! Gone are the past memories of four channels with some programmes of high quality yet limited choice. Now we have four thousand channels to choose from and while much of it is light bum-fluffery there has been some great product, notably dramas such as:  Game of Thrones, The Walking Dead, 24, The Sopranos, Hannibal, Boardwalk Empire, Breaking Bad, The Fall, Daredevil, Peaky Blinders, Doctor Who, True Detective, Band of Brothers and many more I have forgotten or just haven’t had time to watch. But never fear cinema I still love you.

old-skool-3d-cinema-audience

The moment I purchase a cinema ticket, in fact even before I leave the front door knowing I am about to leave for the cinema I get the charge, the buzz and the anticipation of getting a movie fix. Because for me going to the cinema does what television cannot: it takes me out of my home. It takes me off the street. It takes me out of THIS world. It takes me to a dark secluded spot sat staring at a gigantic silver screen waiting for the moment the projectionist feeds celluloid through light, well digital files though a computer and then a lens or something; anyway, you get the picture. Then the movie starts and for the next few hours I’m transported to another world featuring: places, times, characters, sounds, images, events etc. that are beyond my imagination. And when the movie ends there’s a rush of excitement, a reaction to the cinematic assault on the senses. But, alas, the fix cannot last. Reality is soon knocking on my door.

Cinema offers a wide-screen visual delight. Indeed, when television first came into people’s homes film producers were frightened that this new-fangled ‘radio with pictures’ would steal away audiences so Hollywood made bigger, though not necessarily better, movies; epics such as: The Robe (1953), The Ten Commandments (1956), Ben Hur (1959) and Cleopatra (1963). Obviously, the epics just keep coming notably in the raft of summer blockbusters which infest the screen. This year has been no different with films such as:  Ant-Man (2015), Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015), Jurassic World (2015), Fast and Furious 7 (2015), Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation etc. delivering with spectacular monsters, crashes and stunts.

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While such blockbusters may lack depth of character than many TV dramas it’s the spectacle I crave at the cinema. That moment where you go giddy because you haven’t breathed for a minute until all the air rushes from your mouth as one simultaneously pushes your jaw back shut.  Good old TV cannot do this though. The television set traditionally occupies a foremost place in the ‘living room’; it’s small compared to the cinema screen and has kind of replaced the hearth that used to provide heat and light. The TV glows and is reminiscent of the old-fashioned campsite fire where families or scouts swap ghost stories while capturing the heat from the flames.

Cinema offer a short, sharp hit compared to TV.  Often, a longer running drama series on TV will require a six, ten, thirteen or even longer week commitment. Of course, the introduction of streaming or binge-watching has hacked this idea down to size but movies are still economical and quicker-paced, affording little in the way of fat to the storytelling. Cinema characteristically adopts a tight narrative organised around a particular problem or disruption that is resolved at the denouement where some TV shows, while resolving some plots, will hook us in with shocks to keep us watching and sometimes this can be frustrating as the two-hour or so closure and resolution that cinema offers is very satisfying to me. One of my favourite films Jaws (1975) is a great case in point. Here a shark terrorizes a local community in the United States and the cause-effect narrative takes us through a series of conflicts involving: shark attacks, pursuit of the shark and ultimately the killing of the shark. Thus, film is able to offer a satisfying conclusion to a thrilling story. Ultimately, film offers catharsis and the endings of films such as: Fight Club (1999), Chinatown (1974), The Godfather (1970) and Planet of the Apes (1968) all build to unforgettable climaxes.

jaws

Yet, the major concern I have with committing to a new TV drama is the length of time required to get in AND out of the story. I think long and hard about such a commitment but with film one knows it’s not going to be as such. Indeed, one of the reasons I have not watched Mad Men yet is the amount of seasons ahead of me. I’ve been married and I know how much hard work it is. I just don’t feel ready to commit just yet to Don Draper and his “crew”. Plus, with TV shows designed with advertisers in mind adverts can get on the nerves when in the midst of the narrative although the set-top box and Netflix revolution has put that issue aside as has the DVD box-set.  Despite this though Cinema is still the preferred mode of voyeuristic, narcissistic and vicarious pleasure though as you sit in a comfy seat eating over-priced confectionery and have a non-stop viewing experience with all adverts before the main presentation.  Of course, most films do have multiple examples of product placement, especially Tom “Dorian Gray” Cruise’s M:I franchise but that’s subliminally secreted within the narrative and action and thus not an issue for me.   Overall, TV’s episodic form lends itself perfectly to advertisers yet once the movie has started it remains a satisfying whole and is never interrupted with a word from the sponsor.

While I admit that TV stories are gaining more and more complexity notably in regard to depth of characterisation and emotional power they are intrinsically “talking heads” and dialogue lead. TV is still anchored by a lack of screen-size and scope. Rarely does the action on a TV show reach the heights of the cinema although in recent times 24 and Daredevil have featured some spectacular set-pieces and fight scenes. Moreover, Hannibal has to be the most exquisitely edited TV show I have ever seen.  But is it better than the cinema?  Boardwalk Empire showed flashes of narrative genius with its parallel storytelling from past and present but does it reach the stunning narrative expertise of say Memento (2000);the story of Leonard Shelby (Guy Pearce) – a man with no short-term memory – which presents the complex plot BACKWARDS!  Moreover cinema, unlike TV, is also able to breach huge temporal and spatial differences through editing. Perhaps the most famous single cut in cinema history appears in Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968). Opening with the “Dawn of man”, apelike hominids learn how to use tools. As the ape/man smashes down the bone he then launches it into the air. One cut later and the audience are thrown thousands of years into the future and thousands of miles into space. Such vision demonstrates the power of cinema and takes the breath away.

2001

The arch edict screenwriters should follow when writing for the screen is one should: “Show don’t tell.”  Dialogue is also a vital tool in the screenwriter’s box as filmmaker’s such as Quentin Tarantino and The Coen Brothers have demonstrated in movies such as: Reservoir Dogs (1991), Pulp Fiction (1994), The Big Lebowski (1997) and Fargo (1996). Nonetheless they have married quirky, stylish dialogue with strong visual flair. Indeed, the screenwriter must be aware that cinema represents a marriage of sound and vision. While TV traditionally favours dialogue to further the story and action, cinema uses a whole host of devices to tell the story including: cuts, dissolves, wipes, flash-cuts, voice-over, overlapping dialogue, close-ups, point-of-view shots, shot-reverse-shot, Steadicam shots, crane shots, moving shots, dolly shots, wide-screen panoramic views, black-and-white film, colour film, and use of diegetic and non-diegetic music. Indeed, for me there is nothing more cinematic than great music being placed over fantastic images. Filmmakers such as Tarantino, the Coens, and Martin Scorcese are all aware of this. Tarantino uses non-diegetic music expertly in the infamous ear-slicing scene in Reservoir Dogs (1991).
And so I conclude with a mild apology to cinema. I have been seeing a lot of Television these days I DO STILL LOVE YOU! I love your form, style and content and the way they combine to move me emotionally and physically in a way television cannot.  Movies will always reach the parts Television cannot. Something magical occurs when watching a film. A whole new world develops before my very eyes; heroes and heroines are thrown into adventure and conflict with events changing their lives forever. Be it falling in love, falling out of love, fighting for their lives or the lives of the ones they love, struggling against the odds to achieve their greatest desires or, tragically failing at the last obstacle. That for me is cinema.  It’s an escape from reality the moment one leaves the house. Saying goodbye to the box, not only knowing it will be there when one comes back home but also knowing that it will rarely change my life. While its heat may keep the living room warm at night it cannot compete with film. I have seen the light. Je t’aime cinema!

bluesbros

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MOCKINGJAY – THE HUNGER GAMES – PART 1 (2014) – FILM REVIEW BY PAUL LAIGHT

MOCKINGJAY – THE HUNGER GAMES – PART 1 (2014)
FILM REVIEW BY PAUL LAIGHT

Dear Hunger Games Franchisers,

I really liked the first two films for the following reasons:

1)  Jennifer Lawrence – a wonderfully talented actress who proved her natural actoring ability in Winter’s Bone (2010),  was perfectly cast in the lead and has proven star quality.

2) Katniss Everdeen is a formidable character with great physical and emotional power as well as fight and determination. She is brave, loyal and it doesn’t hurt that she resembles a young goddess like Artemis (not the Kebab place on Garratt Lane.)

3) The films adhered to a convincing formula which built believable characters, trained them up and then pit them against each other in gladiatorial combat.

4) Powerful drama as children are exploited for the purposes of political purposes by an dictatorial capitalist machine.

5) Social commentary on the nature of “reality television” or physical sports such as boxing where humanity takes vicarious pleasure in watching individuals destroy themselves

6) The games’ themselves are exciting with theme of individual glory being pitted against the notion of teamwork acting as a microcosm for the District as a whole.

7) Capital City (i.e. Capitalism) being shown to be a nefarious force ruling over and exploiting the working classes for their own ends and thus the communistic ideals proffered appealed to my socialist  leanings.

8) The narcissistic and vain city dwellers shown to be preening peacocks only interested in themselves versus the noble working classes struggling against the richer scum.  The idea of revolution also appealed to my Bolshie side.

So, while Hunger Games – Mockinjay Part 1 is a very well constructed film you’ve ruined the franchise with a piss-taking split-into-two-parts-narrative which has completely lost all momentum to the story.  When you rest your head on your pillows stuffed with cash I hope — Hunger Games Franchisers — you sleep well because I feel like I’ve had to endure TWO HOURS at the cinema of fluffing. Because aside from a bit of action this film was very boring. It was ALL fluff and no money shots!

As your servant brushes your teeth with diamond encrusted toothbrush I note the excellent performances of Lawrence, Julianne Moore, Philip Seymour Hoffman (RIP), Jeffrey Wright and I completely get the political and social satire of using Katniss and Peter (excellent Josh Hutcherson) as propaganda tools BUT you made that point over and over again. There was not enough drama for me. It was all fluff and set-up and I want more for my money.

The film speaks of socialist values and revolution all the while the capitalist machine rakes in the dough. But I felt cheated I tell you – cheated.  The character of Katniss was kept in a hospital bed or underground and generally a bystander in the action. I don’t usually complain that a blockbuster is too cerebral but the first two films were great and set-up certain expectations in my mind; so it’s probably MY fault.  Of course I’m not stupid I realise you’re keeping something back for the finale but it had better be good guys – it better be good!!

 

 

FAVOURITE MOVIE MOMENTS OF 2013!

FAVOURITE MOVIE MOMENTS OF 2013!

To accompany the list of my most entertaining films I saw last year I’ve also compiled a few nominations for best this and that!

**** CONTAINS MASSIVE SPOILERS  ****


BEST PHOTOGRAPHY
ONLY GOD FORGIVES (2013)
What it lacks in plot it makes up with one incredibly designed scene after another.  And the violence is something else!


MOST HEART-WRENCHING SCENE – FLIGHT (2012)
The film opens with a tremendously staged plane crash. However, the scene where Denzil battles a miniature bottle of booze has almost more riding on it dramatically.  Tension, suspense and the agony of human frailty are all in this scene.  The moment we’ve all been through where we are battling our demons and trying to do the right thing is centre to the scene. Will Denzil pick up the bottle?  Will the angels or demons win out?


BEST CINEMATIC EXPERIENCE – GRAVITY (2013)
All I can say is wow!  This film was just wow! Some have criticized a lack of plot and characterisation but this is a movie which just takes your breath away. As I said, wow!


MOST BEAUTIFUL SCENE – RUST &
BONE (2012)
Marion Cotillard’s Killer Whale trainer reconnects with nature in this serene moment from a compelling drama. It’s a beautiful moment for the audience visually and also the character.


BEST ENDING/BEST CAST – CAPTAIN PHILLIPS (2013)
Whether the film is truth or fiction Tom Hanks’ acting throughout is superb. He’s none better than in the final scene when he reaches the medical bay. The way he releases the tension it so memorable. His co-star Barkhad Abdi has to get an Oscar nod too for Best Supporting Actor.


BEST MOVIE PLOT + TWIST – SIDE EFFECTS (2013)
This film genuinely pulls the rug from underneath your feet!  Fantastic storytelling!  It starts seemingly as a critique of the pharmaceutical industry but then becomes a nasty, lurid Hitchcockian thriller with great performances from Jude Law and Rooney Mara.


BEST BRITISH FILM – BERBERIAN SOUND STUDIO (2012)
Both a tribute to Italian Horror and the Foley Artist this is a disturbing arthouse horror which generates its’ scares through the sound. You think you’ve seen something scary but haven’t. Incredibly constructed and recommended for cinephiles all over.


BEST GAG – ANCHORMAN 2

I couldn’t find a clip but Brian Fantana’s  gag was the funniest joke I heard at the cinema all year. The News Team’s attempt at 24 hour News has seemingly failed and in the scene Brian is asked what he will do next.  He replies:

“I’m going to cruise round with my friends O.J. Simpson, Robert Burke and Phil Spector.  We call ourselves the LadyKillers!”


BEST MOVIE SOUNDTRACK – WORLD’S END
(2013)
Pegg and Wright’s highly entertaining apocalyptic comedy is touching, action-packed and amusing. It gets a bit silly by the end but there’s a great energy and some funny dialogue and physical humour throughout. The soundtrack is a cracker featuring the Stone Roses, Primal Scream, Sisters Of Mercy and the Soup Dragons to name just a few. It’s like the perfect Indie Disco in the cinema!


BIGGEST MOVIE LET-DOWN – MAN OF STEEL (2013)
A great cast and stupendous effects could not save the broken-backed Superman story crash and burn. Henry Cavill was a terrific Kal-El but the filmmakers ruined the whole piece by cramming too much into a few hours of screen time and not allowing the cast, characters or story to breathe.   It was sensory overload and bogged down with too much exposition.  The Batman v. Superman film under Zack Snyder’s direction could possibly signal the end of the comic book boom of recent time.  The bubble is going to burst at some point I tells ya!


FILM MOST F*CKED BY THE CRITICS  – LONE RANGER (2013)
This mega-budget update of the old radio/TV show from yesteryear was nowhere near as bad as the critics made out. It followed the ‘PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN’ template but perhaps the problem was Johnny Depp playing deadpan rather than drunken Pirate.  The critics didn’t go for it and nor did the audience as it kind of bombed as well.  However, Gore Verbinski directed with verve and energy and the final set-piece on the train is one of the best action sequences of the year.


BEST SCREEN CHEMISTRY – SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK (2012)

I was tempted to say BREAKING BAD but Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence were electric in David O. Russell’s bipolar romantic drama/comedy.  The whole cast were great in fact including Robert DeNiro as the bookie father and Chris Tucker as a friend of Cooper’s character. But Cooper and Lawrence made the film their own with their portrayals of damaged but very human couple finding each other in a crazy world.


BEST MOVIE WITHOUT A SCRIPT – WORLD WAR Z – (2013)
Brad Pitt’s travelogue around the World avoiding a zombie plague was actually really entertaining in places with some great set-pieces but it had a lousy script with essentially no story or plot.  They genuinely feel like they’re making it up as they’re going along. Having said all that I really enjoyed it at the cinema even though Pitt was miscast and this really needed a decent action-hero like Schwarzenegger in his prime to really boost the movie.

BEST FEMALE ARCHER – THE HOBBIT 2 (2013)
I love an action women especially one with a bow and arrow and this award came down to a toss-up between Jennifer Lawrence in HUNGER GAMES 2 and Evangeline Lilly.  In the end I came down on the side of Tauriel the Elf in Peter Jackson’s behemoth production of THE DESOLATION OF SMAUG.  Jumping, spinning and diving about firing and killing Orcs for breakfast, lunch and dinner.  What a woman!


BEST DOUBLE ACT – RUSH (2013)
RUSH was indeed a big rush cinematically but the casting of Daniel Bruehl as cool Nikki Lauda and Chris Hemsworth as fiery James Hunt motored this movie along off the track too. The characterizations dealt solely in binary but provided much entertainment along the way. Of course Ron Howard and his creative team served up some wicked action as well.


BAD-ASSEST REVENGE – DJANGO UNCHAINED (2012)
Tarantino’s fantasy Western saw Jamie’s Foxx’s eponymous hero rise from that of a chained-in-pain slave to a kill-crazy-bounty-hunting-dancing-horse-riding-bad-ass-mutha-fuKKKa!   Everything about this film was a hoot and so entertaining!  It also has arguably the funniest scene I saw all year too with the racists on horseback including Jonah Hill arguing about the quality of their hoods.


BEST VILLAIN – DJANGO UNCHAINED (2012)
Calvin Candie was a horrific character and played with genuine charm by the masterful Leonardo DiCaprio. HE should have won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor in my view as Christophe Waltz already had one!  Candie’s character was not only a vain, insane, murdering slave trader but there was a sense of an incestuous relationship with his sister. He got his just desserts in the end but alas DiCaprio didn’t from the Academy.


BEST FRANCHISE SEQUEL – IRON MAN 3 (2013)
2013 was big on Franchise equals, sequels and prequels including FAST & FURIOUS 6, THOR 2, HUNGER GAMES 2, STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS and THE HOBBIT 2.  They were all really really entertaining but my favourite was the ever dependable Robert Downey Jnr as Tony Stark.  It had some cracking one-liners and decent villains plus a lovely little twist which had all the fanboys up in arms because of Director Shane Black’s irreverent treatment of the Mandarin character.

20 WORD MOVIE REVIEWS by Paul Laight

20 WORD MOVIE REVIEWS by Paul Laight

20 WORD MOVIE REVIEWS by Paul Laight

I watch A LOT of films (and TV)! Here are some I’ve watched in the last few months. And for those people with goldfishesque attention spans or really busy lives I’ve summed up my critiques in no more than 20 words!

2 GUNS (2013)

Loud-brash-half-brained-actioner with heightened watchability down to great chemistry between Washington and Wahlberg!

BAD EDUCATION – SEASON 1 (2012)

Jack Whitehall – as overgrown Man-Child-come-Teacher Alfie Wickers – stars and co-wrote this generic but very funny BBC sitcom.

BROKEN CITY – (2013)

Disappointing political thriller with not much politics or thrills. Has its’ moments but wastes a great cast including Crowe, Wahlberg etc.

COMPLIANCE (2012)

Well directed low-budget thriller. Gripping yet difficult to believe people would be so stupid but it REALLY happened. Dumb Americans!

GANGSTER SQUAD (2013)

Beautiful looking yet hollow drama with excessive budget for little narrative satisfaction. Watch LA CONFIDENTIAL instead! Same story; different class.

THE LAST STAND (2013)

Schwarzenegger’s career is more Dutch Elm disease than Austrian Oak now as this fun-but-moronic actioner proves.

LES MISERABLES (2012)

Musical for people, like me, who hate musicals. Crowe, Jackman and Hathaway yank the heartstrings in this sprawling, epic masterpiece!

THE LOOK OF LOVE (2013)

Michael Winterbottom’s surprisingly touching biopic of pornographer Paul Raymond is anchored superbly by Steve Coogan’s best cinematic performance yet.

THE MASTER (2012)

Fun’s NOT a word you’d use to describe this weighty, intense black-belt drama infected by Hoffman and Phoenix’s incredible performances.

OZ THE GREAT & POWERFUL (2013)

Raimi’s queer epic updates the OZ universe for modern days. With Kunis, Weisz, Williams starring – witches’ve never been so hot!

PLACE BEYOND THE PINES (2012)

Tri-polar crime drama which throws its’ best asset away 45 minutes but holds dramatic court via fine direction and committed performances.

RUST & BONE (2012)

Cotillard and Schoenaerts fizz with passion and brute sexuality in this opposites-attract adult drama from directorial genius Jacques Audiard.

SEVEN PSYCHOPATHS (2013)

Fraudulent waste of stellar cast as seven characters search for a plot in this pointless drama. It’s no IN BRUGES!

SIDE EFFECTS (2013)

Neat thriller which wrong foots at every turn. Begins as serio-critique of the pharmaceutical industry but genre-curves into something more sinister.

SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK (2013)

Beautiful, crazy, romantic drama with sensational ensemble cast. Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence catch fire and burn the silver screen.

SPRING BREAKERS (2013)

Amoral wankfest which has its’ tits and eats them in satirical movie con-trick. James Franco is great as plastic-wigga-gangster though!

THIS IS THE END (2013)

Apocalyptic comedy with Rogen, Franco, Hill, McBride, Baruchal etc. playing themselves! Rollicking, silly, side-splitter full of fun cameos.

TROUBLE WITH THE CURVE (2012)

Eastwood grizzles and Amy Adams sizzles in by-the-numbers yet appealing sports drama that drifts along pleasantly enough.

THE WEE MAN (2013)

Great little actor Martin Compston is the main appeal in this low-budget Scottish crime drama based on a true story.

WORLD’S END (2013)

Hilarious and touching conclusion to Cornetto Trilogy as Pegg/Frost combat alien marauders on a pub crawl. Spiffing 90s soundtrack to boot!