Summer 2014: Top 10 To See – No. 10

6 Apr sin-city-dame-to-kill-for-banner

No.10 – Sin City: A Dame to Kill For (Aug 29th)

It’s been 9 years since Robert Rodriguez, Frank Miller and guest director Quentin Tarantino bestowed a new noir classic upon film going audiences. The first film was met with wide critical and commercial success, quickly generating calls for a sequel.

This summer finally sees the release of that sequel, a film which has been carefully curated again by Miller and Rodriguez and sees the return of Jessica Alba, Mickey Rourke, Bruce Willis and Jaime King, as well as an impressive host of new talent that includes Joseph Gordon Levitt, Josh Brolin, Eva Green, Ray Liotta and… Lady Gaga?

The basic narrative will echo the previous film; there will be several intersecting storylines based on stories found in the original graphic novels, driven largely by a femme fatale and the men who either seek her or protect her, and there will be a lot of violence, blood and gore. Albeit beautiful violence, blood and gore, as the film will once again utilise the stylised digital black-and-white look of the first film, with touches of colour that will stand to tell it’s audience something about each character (e.g. the dame that everyone in the film is killing for has red lipstick and bright green eyes to highlight how desirable and dangerous she is).

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The contrast between the pops of colour and black-and-white is a spectacle on-screen and brings the visceral world of Sin City to life in a way rarely seen outside of the pages of a comic book. With 9 years of work behind it, we can hope that Sin City: A Dame to Kill For will be a worthy sequel to one of the last decade’s most unique cinematic works.

Whilst the morals of Sin City won’t be to everyone’s taste (most characters are driven by either sex, money or power – or all three in some cases), there’s no doubt that this will be one of the more visually stunning films to hit screens in the latter half of summer 2014!

Super Bowl 2014: Which Movies Scored a Touchdown with Social Users?

4 Feb QuintEvents-NFL-On-Location-Super-Bowl-XLVIII-2014-New-York-New-Jersey

The Super Bowl saw several of 2014’s biggest movies go head to head with new trailers broadcast during the Big Game’s commercial breaks. These trailers soon appeared online and gave social users the chance to show their appreciation and excitement for movies such as Transformers: Age of Extinction, Captain America: The Winter Soldier and The Amazing Spider-Man 2.

So which trailer got social audiences most excited? And which film generated the sort of buzz that indicates an actual intention to view the film? Way To Blue conducted research which compared the overall number of social mentions and the ‘intent to view’ mentions for each of the 10 films one day pre-game and then on Big Game day itself.

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Unsurprisingly Transformers: Age of Extinction, which was the only film which hadn’t released any content prior to the Super Bowl, was the big winner in terms of overall buzz and intent to view. The Michael Bay film is the 4th in the Transformers franchise and stars Mark Wahlberg and promises audiences all the usual action  and explosions, as well as the debut of DINOBOTS!

Also unsurprisingly the big loser of the day was poor old Kevin Costner, who had 2 different trailers for new movies featured during the Super Bowl, however 3 Days to Kill and Draft Day ranked in 9th and 10th place respectively in both overall buzz and intent to view. It seems Costner isn’t as big a draw as he used to be in the days of Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves….

The biggest surprise of the day came in the form of Darren Aronofsky’s Noah, which managed to generate the biggest rise in Facebook likes for its dedicated movie page, despite only ranking 6th in terms of intent to view.

Review: The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

10 Dec the-secret-header-of-walter-mitty

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty  is a film for anyone who has fallen prey to the seductress known as ‘the daydream’. Directed by and starring Ben Stiller, a man known more for his outlandish characters than his delicate acting prowess, Mitty is a pleasant surprise of a film which reminds its audience that daydreams don’t always just have to be dreams.

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Based on James Thurber’s 1939 short story, the eponymous Walter Mitty begins the film as a normal, average guy who wiles away his mundane, unremarkable days in elaborate fantasies that largely revolve around him wooing his crush Cheryl (Kristen Wiig) in unique and exciting ways. The fantasy sequences are fantastically over-the-top, ranging from Walter jumping into a burning building to rescue a 3 legged dog, to him beating up his new douchebag boss (played brilliantly by Adam Scott) over a Stretch Armstrong doll. The CGI effects are excellent and all involved really ham it up to the perfect degree during these snippets.

However, one day Walter is forced to start living his adventures for real, and that is when the film really starts to matter. The sort of sequences that used to be part of Walter’s fantasies suddenly become all too real, and Stiller and his crew have really done well to give these moments a sudden sense of reality despite their fundamentally astounding nature. It really starts to hit home that you can do anything you set your mind to if you are brave enough, and as Walter’s journey to find Sean Penn’s mysterious photographer continues, so too does his growth as a human being. Walter finds release in his quest and he starts to become the man that he always wanted to be.

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Perhaps the story is a little predictable in places, and at times you may wonder how much of the film is just in Walter’s mind (which somewhat questions the film’s whole point), however the execution and pacing of what is arguably a familiar tale is near perfect and the variety of filming locations is a feast for the senses. This film will appeal to fans of journey films like Into The Wild, The Way or any Michael Palin television series charting his travels around some exotic land, however it’s Stiller’s light touches of comedy which make Mitty more accessible that many journey films which can take themselves a little too seriously at times.

Essentially what makes Mitty so successful is the fact that Walter is every single commuter on a tube train or every single bored office worker desperately searching for something to give their mundane lives meaning again. It’s this everyman mentality that makes Walter a likeable and relatable character from the opening scene right through to the very final frame of the movie, which is beautifully understated. Walter’s journey is in part about taking a leap of faith and embracing every opportunity, no matter how big or scary, but it is also about learning to really appreciate the simple things amongst all the drama. What Mitty demonstrates is that life isn’t just meant to be an unremarkable, repetitive day in the office or a big CGI action-adventure; it’s about finding a balance between the big and small things that really give life its meaning. Walter starts the film as one sort of everyman, and despite his boundary-breaking adventures he still comes out the other side as an everyman. He is, of course, a different sort of everyman, who has learned how to be truly happy in his own skin, but he is still an everyman all the same.

You’ll either come out of this movie wanting to take your own leap of faith onto the next plane to Greenland or the Himalayas or you’ll come out just wanting to give your parent/partner/best friend a big hug, but either way you’ll come out smiling at the world. And you’ll probably definitely want Walter Mitty to be your new best friend.

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The Secret Life of Walter Mitty is released nationwide on 26th December.

Stevie Nicks: In Your Dreams UK Premiere

17 Sep stevenicks-IN-YOUR-DREAMS-COVER-560

Last night I sat in a room with Stevie Nicks, Mick Fleetwood and Dave Stewart. I had to pinch myself several times because if you had told me 18 months ago when I was sat playing Fleetwood Mac and Eurythmics songs on student radio that I would be sitting less than 3 metres from some of my musical heroes, I would have probably thought you were on crack.

Being my first experience of a premiere you can well imagine my excitement at finally being one of the people walking up the red carpet, not just one of the mere mortals standing on the wrong side of a metal barrier clamouring for the chance to meet their idols. Once inside and safely installed in my front row seat, I cracked open the goodie bag which included a much appreciated cocktail and bag of popcorn and awaited the start of proceedings. When Stevie, Dave and Nick entered the room the audience went wild, demonstrating that this was not an ordinary premiere full of slightly indifferent industry moguls just there for the free night out, this was a room full of fans much like little old me who just lucked into the chance to spend the evening with Stevie and Dave.

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Once Stevie and co had taken their seats, the film, Stevie Nicks: In You Dreams, began. This film tells the story of how Stevie and Dave made her 2011 solo album In Your Dreams, which was Stevie’s first solo recording in over a decade and arguably the best collection of songs she has released since the early 80s. Dave Stewart filmed the entire 9 month process, which largely took place in Stevie’s Southern California home. Stewart begins the film by informing the audience that he compulsively films everything that happens in his life, on any cameras that he can get his hands on. This film was largely filmed on ‘flip-cameras’, often just mounted around the living room and staircase in Stevie’s house where most of the writing and recording took place. The effect of using these everyday cameras is that the film has a charming home-movie quality that only furthers the privileged feeling to be gaining an insight into Stevie’s psyche.

The film is enchanting but at the same time is entirely real. It is at times heart aching, at others funny, but always charming. This is the real Stevie Nicks, without the tambourine and flowing scarves otherworldly stage persona. This film is a portrait of an incredibly strong and talented woman, a warm insight into how she creates and crafts every song around a certain event or feeling. It’s no secret that Stevie Nicks is one of the most accomplished and moving song writers of her generation, and this film perfectly charts the history and situations that allow her to write some of the most inspiring lyrics in music history.

Stevie Nick’s has an unparalleled ability to reach out to her fans, something that not only came through in segments of the film where fans were interviewed about their responses to certain songs, but in the room as a whole. Anyone who has ever sat and really listened to the lyrics of songs like ‘Landslide’ or ‘Edge of Seventeen’ can attest to feeling like Stevie Nicks is speaking entirely from the soul, trying to vocalise feelings that most people have felt at some point in their lives. It is this quality that makes her music so universal and gives it the ability to still inspire new generations of music fans.

The film goes through each of the album’s 14 songs and outlines how they were conceived, recorded and how they fit into the album’s fabric as a whole. A number of musical collaborators appear throughout the film, but Stevie and Dave remain a constant, symbolising their strong and unyielding friendship. Among those who helped the pair complete their journey are Fleetwood Mac band-mates Mick Fleetwood and Lindsey Buckingham, Mike Campbell of Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers and, somewhat randomly, Reese Witherspoon.

The film highlights centre around the tracks ‘You May Be The One’, ‘Soldier’s Angel’ and ‘New Orleans’. In particular the story around ‘Soldier’s Angel’ and how asking Lindsey Buckingham to play guitar on the song ended their 20 year war is particularly poignant. With Fleetwood Mac performing again on tour next week in the U.K, the ceasefire is a welcome sight and sound. The chemistry between the two is still undeniable, but Stevie is still very much wearing the trousers! The ‘New Orleans’ segment which focuses on how the Hurricane Katrina disaster inspired the song is also incredibly moving, with the song serving as a tribute to the city’s everlasting connection to music and its ability to bounce back from even the toughest of times.

The film is well edited considering that there was nearly a year’s worth of footage to cut down to a running length of just over 90 minutes. The Dave Stewart recorded footage, coupled with talking-heads style interviews, snippets from music videos and archival footage all comes together perfectly to construct a picture of Stevie Nicks as she is today. Stevie is the original creator of girl power. Wearing her signature platform boots, she commanded the stage during the Q&A, really demonstrating her creative intellect when it comes to music and the industry as it is today. Poor Dave Stewart could barely get a word in, but I suspect that is something Dave has come to accept from life with Stevie Nicks.

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The film itself stands up with the best music documentaries out there. It is more than a vanity project aimed at bringing in mountains of cash like recent blockbuster music documentaries (I’m looking at you One Direction). For fans of Fleetwood Mac and Stevie Nicks, this film is an enjoyable voyage through a life that is usually kept quite guarded outside of the lyrics of her songs. For those who aren’t well acquainted with Fleetwood Mac, this film is still relevant. Anyone who appreciates a good story and great music will be entertained here. Moreover it might just inspire you to order yourself a copy of In Your Dreams or Fleetwood’s Rumours and let your musical education begin…

 

Review: The Bling Ring

21 Aug the-bling-ring-600x337

Inspired by true life events explored in the Vanity Fair article “The Suspects Wore Louboutins”, Sofia Coppola’s The Bling Ring follows a group of teenagers as they track down the homes of the celebrities they read and hear about on a daily basis, with the aim of – to put it bluntly – stealing their shit.

This is Coppola’s first major outing since 2006’s Marie Antoinettewith her 2010 film Somewhere largely falling under the radar. The Bling RIng’s star-billing of Emma ‘I act with my eyebrows’ Watson however, has guaranteed this film a certain degree of media attention, mainly because good old Hermione plays a little bit of a, *gasp*, naughty girl and gets her pole-dance on in Paris Hilton’s nightclub bedroom…

The film’s main group, led by ringleaders Rebecca and Marc, desperately want to live the celebrity lifestyle that has been thrust into our 21st century lives by the countless MTV reality shows, the Perez Hilton’s of the blogosphere and the stalker-friendly ease of social media.  So this young group of modern day ‘Robin Hoods’ take what they want and ‘need’ from those they think won’t miss it. The relative ease with with they complete their crimes is one of the films more amusing points – why the hell doesn’t anyone lock their door in Hollywood?!

For the rebellious group, reading style mags and gossip blogs is no longer an innocent teenage hobby. Weekend by weekend it progresses to ‘research’ to find the hottest items and track which stars are out of town with a walk-in-wardrobe ready to be raided back home. The film is purposefully as shallow and vapid as it’s protagonists – we all know what will come to pass so the plot is thin and airy, interspersed with scenes of pretty young things taking ‘selfies’ to upload to Facebook. These ‘social media’ segments are particularly effective and prevalent, as ultimately it is Rebecca & Co’s downfall as their peers begin to recognise stolen items in the group’s painfully hip Facebook photos. It highlights the ever popular question of how much of our lives we should really share on Facebook.

Bling Ring (2013)Katie Chang and Israel Broussard

There is nothing outstanding about any of the performances in The Bling Ring. But again, that kind of feels like the point. The characters are as airbrushed and two dimensional as the runway photo shoots they covet. Watson in particular does a very good impression of someone struggling to find 2 brain cells to rub together but who has dreams of ‘running the country one day’. With a here today gone tomorrow music video vibe to most of the proceedings, there is no concern or even care felt when these guys are caught. No tension is built at any point, and it’s hard to feel anything for anyone, except some serious respect for whoever chose the songs for the film’s soundtrack.

It all looks gorgeous, and shiny, and slick and is definitely an enjoyable enough diversion for it’s 95 minute running time. It is possible to see deeper meaning in this film, but making any sort of intelligent statement about this film kind of feels against the point…

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It’s been a while but…

28 Mar

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Review: Seven Psychopaths

15 Dec movies_seven_psychopaths_still_2

Seven Psychopaths

After success with the brilliant In Bruges back in 2008, Martin McDonagh is back this year with a film about a struggling writer (played brilliantly by Colin Farrell) who is having trouble finishing his script, when he gets caught up in a whirlwind of violence all because some psycho’s precious shih-tzu gets dog-napped. Given that Farrell’s struggling writer is called ‘Marty’, there is evidently something of autobiography about this film for McDonagh, but struggling is the last adjective I would use for this Anglo-Irish genius.

Seven Psychopaths

It may have taken him some time, but McDonagh definitely doesn’t disappoint with this follow up. The film laments in many ways the fact that it’s sometimes difficult to be taken seriously in Hollywood. However, it doesn’t do this with a moan, but with blood splattering, dog-napping and, as the title might suggest, properly psychotic characters who have more than a whiff of Tarantino about them. McDonagh’s film plays on the stereotypes of mindless male action movies to make it’s points, and the result is a film full of memorable one-liners and a great narrative that may not be as iconic as Pulp Fiction but is definitely one of the better action-crime plots of the year (not that it really has much competition in a year which has seen us blessed with such turkeys as The Expendables 2). Also, it features a host of very cute dogs.

What really stands out here is the cast. Many of the big names give what are quite possibly their best performances of recent years. Big man Christopher Walken is better than he has been in years (possibly since his turn in Fat Boy Slim’s music video for ‘Weapon of Choice’..), Sam Rockwell really impresses as Marty’s unemployed, dog-napping best friend, and Woody Harrelson is enticing as the rage-blackout gangster with a heart, whose precious dog is napped by Rockwell’s Billy. It is Colin Farrell that really impresses here though. I think Farrell is an actor who is seriously under-rated, possibly because he does know how to pick some stinkers to star in. However, in these lower profile character pieces, Farrell always shines.

This is a wonderfully mad film, which I’m sure will become one of those classic ‘quotable cult-movies’ within a few years and definitely deserves a place on any Top 10 list of  2012.

Marty, keep ‘em coming lad.

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