Wednesday, 29 June 2011

[Review] Transformers 3: Dark of the Moon (3D)

Michael Bay knows how to make an explosive, mind blowing, action-packed film. I can imagine if another director were to compete with his obvious love for this detail, they would be pretty hard done by. You can witness his work perfectly in the Transformer films - And this one is no different. But, if you are going to see the film for anything other than watching the screen fill with torn apart buildings and robots fighting in surprisingly impressive 3D (Plus, of course for some lingering eye-candy shots of a hot blonde) you will be massively disappointed. I want to say I was entertained, but I can't. However I also want to say I really disliked it, but I can't. 

What let the film down in my opinion was the length and the storyline of it. There were so many scenes, including the ridiculously long set up of the story in the first quarter, that could have been easily reduced and had a more quick, easily understood impact. As it was so drawn out, the focus to the story becomes hazed and the inevitable fight towards the end of the film is all you want to wait for. 

The dialogue seems to have lost its witty edge as well. The parents (Kevin Dunn and Julie White) are there as if to keep the fans happy without a real influence on the story, which is a shame because they were always a highlight to the scenes in the previous two. Shia LaBeouf (Sam Witwicky) still plays the scaredy-cat hero, but because he's got a knowledge of what the robots are, there's less surprise and more of a "LET'S GO!" attitude. 

There's no human character written into the story that really stands out in the film. Carly (Rosie Huntington-Whiteley) plays the new Megan Fox and does live up the the expectations, but doesn't have the bad girl image alongside it, so she falls under the damsel in distress category which leaves her passive to the story. If John Malkovich (Bruce Brazos) had more of a role in the film, I think he could have really lifted it, but he was a cameo for a fun few scenes. 

What is the saving grace of this whole film is the amazingly edited special effects. Even from the first Transformers film, I have always been amazed at the quality of the visuals. So much of this film is in slow motion as well, so you can fully be in awe of the minute aspects the editing team have created - Such as the Transformers changing from car to robot, and the way they fight and break each other. 

With this means the events are just so entertaining to sit and watch. So what if you've seen Bay destroy almost every landmark known to man! He'll always find some more and it will still be just good plain fun. And I think that's the whole point of these films - You're not there to be emotionally moved by the acting or the morals of the story, you're there to watch robots fight and things blow up. There's nothing wrong with that, and anyone who tells you otherwise, well, you can just class them uptight adults who want to neglect their inner immaturity rather than embrace it. 

As for the 3D? Well, this is one of the exceptions. It's the little details that should be in 3D, not just guns pointing towards the audience, and that's exactly what happens in this - Even sun light reflections. This film makes the war among inanimate objects quite beautiful, actually. 

Yes it's long, yes I was disappointed, but I still left the cinema thinking "Those fight scenes are bloody brilliant to watch."

Saturday, 11 June 2011

[Events] BBC Philharmonics presents Great Film Scores live on BBC 5Live

Thanks to the lovely people at BBC, I was invited to Salford's MediaCity to celebrate Simon Mayo and Mark Kermode's 10 year anniversary on radio by listening to the beautiful Philharmonic Orchestra perform several popular film scores live on 5Live. Now, obviously Salford is quite a distance from Brighton so I needed to figure out a way of getting there. Ben, from HeyUGuys, stepped up to the task of driving there and back in one day. Here's what happened, and why is it was truly special event to be a part of...

Getting on the train for 6am was quite a shock to the system considering I have been living the life of a student for the past year or so. But, as it's me I was beyond excited to be a part of this event, so that kept my energy levels up. When I reached Elstree and Borehamwood station, I was delighted to notice a big poster advertising Elstree studios - I hadn't put the 2 together and then it clicked. As Ben and I drove away from the station, posters were everywhere showing what films had been done there. This efficiently allowed us to geek out, and after we stocked up on considerably unhealthy snack food, our journey to the North really began.

If you were following me on Twitter, you would have been kept up to date with our journey and ridiculous conversation taking place. Ben discovered I am quite easily distracted when something looks exciting. To some it can be frustrating, but he found it highly amusing. We saw things like this:

A plane on the road?! Only when you spend a long distance on a motorway do you see things like this.

As we approached MediaCity, we discovered we were an hour earlier than expected because Ben hadn't changed the time on his SatNav. So, as we parked up and left the car, we found a Costa and had a lovely sit down and discovered what MediaCity was like - Very clean, new and odd. Odd because there was a man roaming around on a Segway just checking out the scenery. (We actually know he was a security guard, but how I described it is much more entertaining, in my opinion anyway)

We got to the BBC centre and had that little press panic of not being on the guest list, but alas we were. When we walked through the glass doors, we were reminded of why we were here:

The Philharmonics Orchestra are an amazing musical experience, and we were privileged enough to be invited to this event, not only to watch them, but to celebrate the much appreciated film critic Mark Kermode, and the as loved radio presenter Simon Mayo on their 10 year anniversary together.

As we were waiting, we saw this and realised we would have to be a bit sensible when sitting in the broadcast room. Also as we were waiting, I was lucky enough to catch a few words from Simon Mayo who seemed ready to start the show, saying how fantastic it sounded and how underdressed he was compared to the majority of the room.

Before we were allowed in, BBC asked us to fill in some questionnaires about the show and our personal choices when it came to film scores. They told us these would be used in the shows, and that they are encouraging audience participation. Us being us, when given the chance to film out a form, we tried to be as serious as possible.

Mine was this:

And Ben's was this:

Jokingly we laughed about what would happened if one of us were asked to go on 5Live radio to discuss our answers... But, rather than discuss further, we got taken into the broadcast room, with the greeting view being this:

A whole room full of musicians with the most intimate audience watching on. I think you'll agree it's quite an breathtaking sight. We listened as they started warming up, hearing what was going to be a fantastic sound for the show. Soon Mark Kermode and Simon Mayo entered the room. They greeted the audience, filling in the gaps before the live broadcast started. The cameras filming the show were gearing up, setting their places for the live streaming of it, and then suddenly show began.

To begin with, the orchestra played the famous music from Star Trek: The Next Generation. The excitement that filled the room was incredible. After this, each song was eagerly anticipated. We heard pieces from Taxi Driver, James Bond, The Mission, The Godfather and Blue Velvet. The score that seemed to get everybody bobbing their heads, including Kermode, was from Magnificent 7. The players seemed to really love what they were doing, and you could see how immersed in the music they became as their movements jolted with the sounds.

We were given a short break whilst the news and sport was announced. During this time, members of the audience were called up because of their responses on the questionnaires we had to fill out. Names were said, and when the final one was called, we heard "Ben Mortimer, we'd love you to come talk to us." It was such a great moment because for one, we both have a mutual disliking of being on camera, so the thought of Ben having to be filmed was quite entertaining for me. The second reason was because it was RADIO 5LIVE and Ben as going to be on it - How often does that happen?! He slowly made his way down, and the radio show began again.

Kermode and Mayo started their film review section and began 'interacting with the audience'. There were 4 people being asked questions, and when Ben got given a chance, he even managed to slip in a joke about being numb to the retrieval of bad news because of how good the orchestra were. They asked for his favourite film score to which he responded Ravenous. Now, I haven't seen this film but apparently the music is very hard to describe, and when they asked him to remind them of it, all of me wanted him to sing a little - But surprisingly he didn't.

As the orchestra began again, I reminded myself of how amazing it was to be sat in such a (relatively) small room with so many talented musicians playing music from some of the most brilliantly made films. What was extra special was that Kermode had been practising all week for his harmonica solo in the score from Midnight Cowboy. Needless to say he nailed it, surprising everyone at his efforts with a harmonica. After this, music from There Will Be Blood was heard. And also, we were given quite a mystery piece as it had rarely been heard before, but apparently Paloma Faith insisted it was played. It came from Wong Kar Wai's 2046 and immensely filled the room.

To end this fantastically entertaining show, it was the score from the one and only Raiders of the Lost Ark. As this piece came to an end, the audience were cheering with the full orchestra on their feet bowing. Mayo seemed especially grateful for their contribution to their show, as we watched in awe of them for most of the broadcast.

When we left the room, Ben and I realised how exceptional this show was. Going to red carpet events and screenings are exciting, but this was something completely new for the both of us. To sit and listen to your favourite film music for two hours, whilst being a part of one of the country's biggest radio film shows is an experience you can never quite take for granted or forget.

On our way out, we did spot this little guy:

It's not everyday you're in the company of an ACTUAL Dalek, so clearly we had to get a picture.

We made our way back to the car, both agreeing this event was brilliant and we drove home... Which took a very, very long time. But, as we did, we listened to the Radio 3 broadcast of more film scores being played. Ben said "It's weird to think we were in a room with them 2 hours ago." and then we reminisced. It just goes to show even if we do get to go to all these glamourous events, we're never unappreciative.

If you want to listen to this show, head over to BBC 5Live's website. You can hear it from beginning to end, and try and experience what we experience first hand - A magnificently entertaining musical performance and radio show.

Thursday, 9 June 2011

[Review] X-Men: First Class

Taking a film that's got a well loved cast and replacing it with young, new faces would be risky, especially when those films have been hugely successful in terms of audience following and critique. Now, imagine one of those characters was so popular that he got given a film based solely around him, and he's not in this new one? That would be extremely risky indeed. But, bold as it may be, it works - And works well. This adaptation of the X-Men comics takes us back in time, bringing light to fond characters and giving us the well needed dose of X-Men story magic. Move over Patrick Stewart, there's a new version of you on the block and he means business!

Matthew Vaughn (Kick-Ass, Stardust) steps up to the task of directing this gigantically action packed film, and most definitely brings a large visionary scale to it. The locations vary in almost every scene giving you something new and exciting to look at in the various parts of the film. When we come to the conflict, he doesn't shy away from showing pain, meaning all those details you'd rather not see (like a knife in someone's hand) are there. But this doesn't mean the whole film is gory. His filming of it is done in a way that makes it bearable to watch, almost to the point of not being able to take your eyes off the scene. He also does this through the extreme establishing and tracking shots. Particularly towards the end of the film, you are guaranteed to be thrilled by his interpretation of how a battle between super powers should be conducted.

As with any super-hero film, the audience need to feel a sense of the impossible being completed. This film shows just that with the brilliantly crafted special effects, but adds a bit of sentiment to the story, as we watch these incredible 'mutants' from previous films learn their trademark power. The development of the characters in this film fit perfectly to what's already been seen. If you're a true fan, you'll notice particular references that will make you smile. And I think this is what makes First Class quite charming, in a way. Nothing hides away from the fact that we are watching a prequel, which means it all fits in together smoothly.

Now for the big question - Are the cast any good? In my opinion, yes. They're not impersonating, which I think can be a big issue when it comes to prequels. The cast have their own sense of the characters, and are obviously well aware of their status in the film meaning the characters that are meant to shine do, and those who are companions stay as companions. James McAvoy (Charles Xavier) warned fans of the X-Men series not to watch this, but he fits into the role brilliantly, showing he can be quite powerful if he wants to be. Michael Fassbender (Erik Lehnsherr) brings the aggressive emotion that rivals the good intentions from Charles which makes the film flow effortlessly as they play off each other well. In fact, as a whole, the group of mutants hold the humour, anger, confusion, vulnerability and the race to win as much as the previous films do, coming together as a group accordingly.

This is a real summer blockbuster, filling the screen with exhilarating detail perfect for all sorts of audiences. Even if you've seen none of the previous films, that doesn't matter. The story holds its own and leads you into the other films as if you were reading a well drawn map.

Bloopers with actors in costume make it all the better to watch:

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

[Review] Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (3D)

You would think that after 3 films about a cheeky pirate, the plot couldn't really adapts itself much further, and your thoughts would be right. While this isn't a bad film, the storyline's just a bit mundane because we've seen everything before. It does, however, play a lot of focus to women, both human and otherwise which is very entertaining showing their competitive streak against the male domination of the previous films. Overall though, it's just Jack being Jack with a few extra lady-friends.

There's no denying the visual aspects of this film are incredible. Rob Marshall loves his spectacular shots, and as with this, they are definitely something to gaze at. The ridiculously big fight scenes are choreographed so well you can only get caught up in them, helpfully passing the time in this relatively long film. The scenery shots are not to be argued with either. We're given those gorgeous sweeping establishing shots that identify the enormity of this film, and bring with it that exciting element of location shooting giving the film it's proper pirate feel. The effects with water are also flawless. It almost looks real as the Fountain of Youth starts crawling up walls and surrounding various pirates.

However, because of the extremity in situation, the shots become cluttered. There's so much going on in each scene it becomes hard to focus on one element of the film, leaving you to be immersed in an intense action film which can be quite daunting, especially if you're wearing 3D glasses as that's even more claustrophobic. This combination of shouting, gun shots, sword fighting and quick cuts makes it quite a stressful experience to sit through. But obviously, as these films have progressed, their budget has got bigger, meaning these supreme fight scenes are about as dramatic and outrageously far-fetched as they can be.

The storyline just seems to progress effortlessly leading the pirates from A to B without any sort of disruption. There's no plank walking or discovery of new places. The characters know where they're going and what they need to do. Although this makes the plot easier to follow than the previous 2 films, the mystery element is gone, losing it's magic. Because we've become so accustomed to the settings, there's not really much else we can find exciting. The only thing that's good is that it sticks to what works for the films. It's got the loud and familiar soundtrack, the good humour and the brilliant locations.

A great bonus to this film is Penelope Cruz. She's sexy, charming and charismatic - A great rival to Jack. Having a lead like this makes up for the loss of Keira Knightley, and brings with it a whole new light to females. Mermaids, which also play a focal point to the story, are surprisingly scary. Forget pirates that are really ghosts, one kiss from these evil bitches and you're done for.  But, let's not forget why we all love (and apparently some hate) these films - Johnny Depp. He's everything you want him to be, but a little bit more tanned this time adding to his output of beauty. However, what's disappointing is that I think Geoffrey Rush has lost his bad guy appeal and become a commodity that brings all the films together - Controversial, I know.

So, how to sum my thoughts of this film? It's okay. If you enjoy the films you'll find it lightly entertaining, much like I did. The 3D element isn't necessary, as I find with most films. And there's also a short clip at the end. It doesn't add anything to the plot in my opinion, but if you're going to sit through the credits anyway, it's a nice way to end the film.

I wish I wrote him a letter...

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

[Review] Senna

My fear for this documentary is that it's only going to attract Formula 1 fans, and this just shouldn't be the case. From the beginning of this informative and emotional story focusing around the unjust short life of Ayrton Senna, we're taken through his trials and tribulations. We see his astonishing highs and his heartbreaking lows up until the end of his time. The feature length documentary is not only brilliantly edited together to capture emotion so hard to conjure up in a specialist film, but it uses footage that's interesting and probably not seen by fans and the general public, making it all together a superb piece of film-making.

Director Asif Kapadia seems to have put his heart and soul into this. His admiration for Senna is reflected in what occurs throughout the film. You're not taken from scene to scene, being fed regurgitated information heard several times before, but are shown a heartfelt life story with archival footage creating intense emotion. The range is taken from home videos to news footage and interviews from all around the world truly showing the effect this man had over Brazil and the Formula 1 following.

I have to admit, I take a vague interest in, what looks like to me, an expensive car race, but Senna was someone I knew very little about. After watching this documentary, you can't help but feel a total loss. I understand a documentary is made to effect you in a certain way, but the way his life is revealed to you, the courage you see him build and the determination he has just brings you to a stand still as the film ends. You witness his beginning and then dramatic death only to feel an emptiness as the film slowly begins to roll the credits and finish. This is how a feature-length documentary should be made.

The uncertainty of filling a two hour space with clips of a good car racer did cross my mind. But once it starts your eyes are transfixed on the screen. There are points of rage you feel for him, a need for celebration and a cause for mourning. What's most hurtful is the fact that this is his life you're watching. You can't shy away thinking it's all fake. You are watching a world famous man's life rise and fall in front of you.

The most fitting word for this film I can think of is "dedicated". The film is dedicated to Senna's life, dedicated to making a perfect viewing film, and Senna himself was dedicated to the world of racing. All three are met perfectly, paying a justified tribute to him, giving his fans a world-class reminder of who he was, and bringing a brand new respect for his life to new people.

What a cheeky man:

Saturday, 4 June 2011

[Feature] The King's Speech: After the hype.

After the, what seemed to be, endless months of praising, celebrating and encouraging this film, I still hadn't gone and seen The King's Speech at the cinema. For reasons I can't quite pin down, the fact of the matter is I just didn't buy a ticket. Not through some sort of pretentious rebelling, not allowing myself to get caught up in the hype, and not because I was SO busy I just didn't have the time of day to see it, I just didn't. 

But now I have. I sat down in front of the TV, put it in the DVD player and watched this film. I have to admit, I was so excited because this truly seemed to be a phenomenon when it was released. I didn't see a review lower than 4 stars, and whoever I spoke to about it seemed to rave. The award ceremonies didn't disagree with any of that either. So, all this expectation and what for? Quite a positive reaction actually. 

It's a thoroughly entertaining film on all accounts. The story is moving, the dialogue is witty and the acting is "just splendid", to quote the film. Adding to all this, I think my favourite thing about the whole movie was the direction of it. The movement of the camera, the editing of the shots and the framing is beautiful. I almost watched it again just to admire the gorgeousness of it. Tom Hooper deserves all the glory he received. 

What's pleasing after watching it is the fact that it's a genuinely good film, not one of those who gets caught up in the excitement and then forgotten about. You could watch this film over and over again and not get bored. The storyline isn't too intense, and I'm sure you'd notice new things in each scene every time you watched it. The fact that it stars Colin Firth, Geoffrey Rush and Helena Bonham Carter puts the cherry on top of the cake. Actually, what DID put the cherry on the cake was the little girl from Outnumbered, Ramona Marquez. That girl is lovely. 

You should remind yourself of this great feature and watch it again. It's a beautiful and heartwarming film, as you probably are well aware. It oozes Britishness and makes you proud to be a part of the nation this film belongs to. There's enough eccentricity in it to not make Britain seem to middle-class, but enough seriousness to keep our reserved nature flowing. 

[Feature] Lego Film Posters: The Funny and the Weird.

I love looking at other people's interpretations of film posters. It's really interesting to see what they do with the concept of the movie. Look at Olly Moss -  He completely redesigns the posters and features them in Empire magazine every month! When looking at these posters, I came across this ingenious one:

Jaws in Lego form is brilliant, right? So I found some more and created a whole post about it. (It's amazing what you can do when procrastinating)

American Beauty is definitely my favourite - Even though it is slightly disturbing.