Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Interview with Will Yun Lee

Sixth time for Hugh Jackman in his latest The Wolverine, first time for Will Yun Lee who’s an addition to the franchise in its Japanese culture take on the long-running story. He graciously gave up his time to talk with us about The Wolverine which had him running across a lot of rooftops. Seriously, a lot. When you see the film you’ll understand that it’s by no means an exaggeration. In fact, those scenes are the best in the film.
Yun Lee plays a character somewhat removed from the character portrayed in the comics – sorry purists – but one that is mysterious, never clear, never definitive until the end. After the jump we talk about The Wolverine, whether or not Hugh Jackman really is as nice as everyone says and plenty more…

My interview with Will Yun Lee is on Cinema Chords as well as my review of The Wolverine

Only God Forgives Review

After the success of Drive, Nicolas Winding Refn has moved into a more passionate of projects which was ready before taking the driving seat on The Driver. Refn is a director who has a divisive career with constant mixed receptions to his films which he welcomes with open arms rather than criticises or shies away from. Art is to penetrate, as he has said in interviews, and this Freudian piece is as penetrating as it can get. Drive may have received a standing ovation at Cannes but Only God Forgives mustered the complete opposite reaction of an audience booing its ultraviolence, many insulting it as a pretentious passion piece which is all style, no substance and pseudointellectual. Every frame is open to interpretation – it’s designed to have you questioning each detail within it and think about it. It’s an art piece that’s divided audiences but it’s a successful one because it gives you something to chomp on – whether or not those thoughts are positive or negative.

My Only God Forgives review on Cinema Chords. There's also my Nicolas Winding Refn interview.

Sunday, 28 July 2013

Dark Skies DVD Review

There are fewer scarier things than the feeling of being in an inescapable environment that relentlessly toys with you, playing with your surroundings, showing what they can do without showing how. It’s this feeling of inevitability, of being a victim in your own home, of complete lack of control – like a dream where you can’t run, you feel like you’re wading through water and are utterly defenceless – that is the type of horror in Dark Skies and it really resonates, lingering like the presence of something that you can’t see. It is utterly terrifying at times. The trailers, the adverts, the posters did not do this film justice when it was rounding cinemas to gain a bigger audience – an audience which it deserves. It enjoys mental scarring you into a catatonic state of dreadful paranoia. It’s exactly what you want from a horror film.

My Dark Skies DVD review on Cinema Chords

Saturday, 27 July 2013

The Wolverine Review

Repairing the damage created by spin-off, prequel, sequel X-Men Origins: Wolverine was quite necessary. Not as necessary hadn’t X-Men: First Class apologised for it with a brilliant one-liner cameo by the clawed crusader himself. This eased off the pressure a little bit but it still left a lot of work to be done by James Mangold and co. as there’s still the weight of expectation on a name this huge. Mangold has delivered, which is good news, but it seems only just. It’s that fine minute argument between the pizza deliverer and yourself for that free pizza if delivered late.

My The Wolverine Review on Cinema Chords. In fact there are TWO reviews of this film on the site. Take #2 The Wolverine review is written by Tony Black.

Thursday, 25 July 2013

Welcome to the Punch Blu-ray Review

Eran Creevy has wrangled a brilliant British cast for his second flick which was much more expensive than his debut, Shifty. With his script, he managed to get Ridley Scott on board as an executive producer and with a name of that calibre, everything else started to fall in place for the young Brit. The pitch must have been something like “let’s make a British gangster flick as cool as America” because London based crime actioners usually go for the gritty take on London. One of the film’s biggest strengths was lighting London up and making it look sleek, stylish and drop dead gorgeous all of the time. The collaborative work between Eran Creevy and DP Ed Wild is a fantastic partnership where they’ve made Britain looks as cool and as stunning as its American counterparts. That’s its true power, everything else is a little by the numbers from then on.

My Welcome to the Punch Blu-ray review on Cinema Chords.

Sunday, 21 July 2013

MTOS Questions on the Horror Genre - 28th of July 2013

Next Sunday, the 28th of July, I will be hosting Movie Talk on Sunday (#MTOS) for the first time on Twitter. If you're unsure what it is, it's basically taking to Twitter, using the hashtag and joining in on the questions from the host. At 8pm (in the UK which is BST at the moment), the host will ask the first question and continue to ask one every 10-15 minutes or so. There'll be a particular topic and theme that the questions will follow. There are ten questions and my theme will be the horror genre with quite an array of questions. Ranging from whether you love or hate it, your favourite one to a director that hasn't directly done a horror film that you'd love to see tackle the genre. You'll see below the ten questions I've chosen and I hope to see your tweets joining in with all the film lovers on Twitter. Remember to tag your questions with #MTOS so that we can all see your answers!

The format to answer is like this: "A1. Your answer to the question here. #MTOS"

Below are the questions. Feel free to look here and think up answers before Sunday!

1. What is your favourite horror film and why?

2. Now horror is a divisive genre. Some love it, some call it clich├ęd. What do you love and/or hate about the genre?

3. What's the best pre-'90s horror film? What's the best post-'90s horror film? Why did you pick those?

4. Who is, to you, the master of the horror genre?

5. Horror films lately get a pretty bad rap because of poor unnecessary remakes. What is broken about those films?

6. Horror has a stigma, a more populist genre rather than a revered one. Why? How do you view it?

7. Do you think the future is in indie horror with directors like James Wan, Ti West, etc.?

8. What scares you the most in a horror film?

9. What director that hasn't tackled horror do you think would be an ideal suit for the genre? What would you like them to do?

10. So that you have nightmares, what is the most terrifying scene you've ever witnessed or thought about? Let's scare! 

There are the questions, get ready to prepare and join us on Sunday night at 8pm as you wind down your chillout day. 

James Wan: A Retrospective

James Wan has been around for a while and started a long famous franchise that gave us a story that satiated everyone’s inherent need for gore. When you debut with Saw which turns into a seven film franchise that rakes in millions and millions then there’s obviously a talent there waiting to be harvested. After Insidious was released, Wan became a big name in horror along with writer Whannell who have now done a sequel due for release this year. Along with that, Wan has been snapped up by the Fast & Furious franchise after Justin Lin dropped out of the seventh one to have a break and focus on other projects. This is a huge deal for someone who’s only ever directed a small action film and mainly horrors. It’s all coming up Wan but why has it taken almost a decade for everyone to pay proper attention? Looking back at his back catalogue shows that he’s a talented indie director who looks to finally break into the top tier of blockbusting directing.

James Wan: A Retrospective is up on Next Projection. Read through his current career and his next ventures. Also read The Conjuring review written by Julian Wright.

The World's End Review

As the best piece of advertising Cornetto didn’t do rounds off its hilarious trilogy, we reach a climax that is befitting of the first two instalments that made the careers for three talents. It manages to be original yet hold the style of the two films before it. It’s clear that this is Edgar Wright behind the camera with exaggerated sounds, quick cutting, slow zooms and montage editing. Now the Spaced trio return in the final foray into a triple feature for the near future on a pub crawl to The World’s End while the world seemingly ends around them. A refreshing and fresh take on the world ending which has populated the summer so far.

My The World's End review is on Cinema Chords

The Killing of a Chinese Bookie Blu-ray Review

Here The Killing of a Chinese Bookie review is in snippet format in HeyUGuys's Blu-ray and DVD Round up 19th July 2013. Below is the review in full. 

BFI have been working hard on their Masters of Cinema collection, a British equivalent to the Criterion Collection. This is their fifth and final introduction into their John Cassavetes collection which includes Shadows, Faces, A Woman Under the Influence, Opening Night and now The Killing of a Chinese Bookie. The story of Cosmo Vitelli (mesmerising Ben Gazzara), a small strip-club owner who gets in too deep with some murky characters because of his consuming gambling addiction which leaves him $23,000 in the red. The mob then use this as a handle to blackmail him into murdering someone to wipe off some of his debt. It goes behind the scenes of a seemingly successful man living out the American dream when nightmarish darkness and bad deeds operate everything behind the red curtain of the stage. 

There are two versions to watch: the original 134 minute 1976 version or the shortened, recut 109 minute version. Both have the same story but they're dealt with in different ways with different scenes and even alternative takes to each other. There's even a change in characters with the shortened version making the Mafiosi seem much more menacing and threatening on the screen when they scam a doctor for files on her patients which shows how merciless and crippling they can and want to be. They're devious people are setting this character up to fail at the table for either the money or to be able to strong-arm him - and others - to do their dirty work to keep their hands clean. It's a brilliant depiction of the muddy background that tramples the idealistic view of appearances - one which Ben Gazzara soliloquises magnificently.

Sometimes the camera technology is too behind for this film by being too dark to see the details or too dark to even register what's on the screen as it's mostly at night. Other times the visuals are beautiful, there are moments when Cosmo is walking around the club, the stagelights bright and blaring, that are simply gorgeous. Shots in the streets have bokehs in the background surrounding the characters to make it look effortlessly pretty. It's simple visceral visuals are not dissimilar from Martin Scorsese's Mean Streets and Taxi Driver which was released the same year. John Cassavettes was an apparent influence which can be seen in Scorsese's early work as well as a direct reflection in The Killing of a Chinese Bookie.

It's a dark take on a talentless, obsessive entrepreneur who gets involved with the wrong people and gives a semblance of suave sophistication as well as the air of carefree, envious living.  Cassavettes is exploring something in this, whether it's the exhaustion of Hollywood which requires relentless obsession for financing or a self-reflection of questioning the worth of the hassle that he goes through; whatever is true, it's a fascinating thing to think about regardless - aided by the essays within the extras of this copy. The confession scene is a man spilling himself out finally revealing what's behind the limo and tuxedo. Enigmatic performances are throughout, especially from Timothy Carey and Seymour Cassel as two members of the mob shaking him down and the performance of Mr Sophistication by Meade Roberts as a self-involved performer believing he's the best of a show in a strip club. Ben Gazzara does steal the show with his pinpoint precision performance as Cosmo Vitelli that's captivating, enigmatic and poignant with every look and word. The entire film is captivating and different even though it's the kind of story that's familiar but it's told in a different way. It's most definitely a must see.

There are two editions: standard and special. The standard edition is a dual format two disc collection which features commentary by Al Ruban and Peter Bogdanovich on selected scenes. You also get both cuts in an illustrated booklet with an essay by Tom Charity and pieces by Al Ruban and John Pym. The Collector's Edition will feature a limited third disc as there are strictly only 1000 copies available. It has the two previous discs mentioned before as well as a third disc featuring a short starring John Cassavettes called The Haircut (1982) by Tamar Simon Hoffs. There's also a documentary called Anything for John (1993) by Doug Headline which is feature length running at 91 minutes. There is also an extra six-minute interview with Tamar Simon Hoffs.

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Now You See Me Review

Magic is a part of the movies; misdirection, tricks up the sleeves, things not turning out as they appear, being shown only what is allowed. That makes movies about magic perfect for the movie magic treatment. Now You See Me marks the second film about magic this year with the other being the comedy The Incredible Burt Wonderstone which wasn’t as successful as it wished to be nor that well received critically. So this marks the second in the calendar, one which should be supported as it features a strong cast of not exactly A-listers and is an original idea rather than a sequel or adaptation. Louis Letterier is at the helm after the not-so-great remake, Clash of the Titans, as well as the troubled, muddled The Incredible Hulk. The director does receive too much of a hard time considering his debut, Unleashed, is a fantastic action film.

My Now You See Me review is up on Cinema Chords

Monday, 15 July 2013

Pacific Rim Review

Comparisons with Michael Bay‘s Transformers franchise are inevitable and they’re legitimate too. It seems critics have been more forgiving of a film of this propensity because Guillermo del Toro is behind the camera. Complaining about the Transformers franchise then preaching and praising this one is perplexing when they’re much the same robot. Only this time it’s bigger robots piloted by humanity against Kaijus which have torn through a tectonic plate causing a portal from their world to ours. Transformers isn’t that bad, the second is dreadful but with good choreography and the third is better but still not perfect, granted. It suffers from dialogue issues, bad characters and stiff performances but is then adorned in mass CGI destruction. The only difference that can be seen here is there are giant alien monsters.

My Pacific Rim review on Cinema Chords

Monday, 8 July 2013

Why Shailene Woodley Should Not be Recast in The Amazing Spider-Man Franchise

It has now been confirmed that Shailene Woodley has been cut from The Amazing Spider-Man 2. What’s disappointing is that this may not be story-motivated but instead a buckle to the pressure of loud, misogynistic fanboys who furiously took to their keyboards to insult the actress’ appearance. Despicable enough that these comments existed in the first place, it led to a lot of people defending Shailene Woodley – her talent and her appearance. It seemed good had triumphed over evil but with this confirmation and possible recast rumours, it seems the evil may have consumed the film. Mary Jane’s recasting isn’t definite but with her cut from the second after all of the abuse from fraudulent “fans” of the franchise – in all of its incarnations – could the rumours floating around have some truth? It may be one of the lowest points of the film industry. Lower than when Mila Kunis had her career threatened for not wanting to shoot for a magazine cover.

My reasons on Why Shailene Woodley Should Not be Recast in The Amazing Spider-Man Franchise on HeyUGuys.

Friday, 5 July 2013

Spring in a Small Town Review

Post-war China is recovering, Communism is gaining traction and Chinese films made a lot of political statements at the time. Spring in a Small Town is the exception as it doesn’t focus on politics although it does show China’s need to recover. This lack of political side saw this film sidelined after the Communist revolution in 1949 but now – especially after the 2002 remake by Tian Zhuangzhuang – it’s getting recognition as one of the greatest Chinese films ever – something I couldn’t possibly comment on. Instead of picking a left or right side, it focuses on a story of people, one which it tells exceptionally well.

My Spring in a Small Town review is up on Next Projection. There's also a whole host of others as a part of "TIFF's A Century of Chinese Cinema".

Interview with Director Anthony Wilcox

 Anthony Wilcox has had a career in the film industry for over a decade now working on things like Terence Davies‘s The Deep Blue Sea to Hot Fuzz to Layer Cake, Pearl Harbour, W.E. and many others. Now he’s gotten his chance to lose the “assistant” tag and become a director. His first feature, Hello Carter, stars Jodie Whittaker, Paul Schneider and Charlie Cox with a great supporting cast of up-and-coming British actors. It’s too broad to define and wants to bring a unique voice to British storytelling. Anthony spoke to us while working on post-production for Hello Carter to tell us a little bit more about the film, himself and its influences.

My full Anthony Wilcox interview is on Cinema Chords