Mitchel Waite © 2020

Category : Film, TV & Music

‘The Dark Knight’ Epic Trilogy Trailer

As you may have guessed from rummaging around my website, The Dark Knight is a pretty big deal in my DVD collection. I started playing around with iMovie on my MacBook for the first time, and was surprised at how well it ran compared to Adobe Premiere running on the same machine. Zero lag when scrolling through HD clips. I guess that’s one of the benefits of the entire hardware and software coming from one developer.

None the less, here’s the result of my first use of iMovie. Sure does beat my previous efforts using Windows Movie Maker on my old PC :p

Secret Cinema Presents… Back To The Future

Back To The Future, to me, is undoubtedly one of the best trilogies to come out of Hollywood. It has comedy, action, an eccentric scientist, time travel disruption, and car sounds effects that anyone would want in their Renault Clio. On Amazon I saw an in car flux capacitor that lights up when plugged in to the cigarette lighter, and I needed it (immediately skipped over “wanted it”). As a kid I had white Nike’s with a red swoosh because they were a character as much as the DeLorean. Ultimately it’s a film that captures its time, and it still holds up in 2014. So when Secret Cinema announced summer performances of the Back To The Future (part I), I had to try and find myself a new pair of Nikes….

Right from the outset, this sounded more ambitious than prior Secret or Future Cinema events. I previously attended ‘Secret Cinema presents The Third Man’ in Barbican and ‘Future Cinema presents Ghostbusters’ at The Troxy. So I wasn’t really shocked by the opening week cancellations. I suspected this to be down to ticking the right boxes for health & safety sign-off, being in the Olympic Park grounds at Stratford and all.

This was more akin to the Future Cinema events, as you knew what film you were purchasing a ticket for. There were none of the cryptic email clues of Secret Cinema, which is really good fun during the build up. But, there has to be trade offs if you are paying £55 a ticket. Prior to the day itself I checked out the Hill Valley Store in Shoreditch, and you could buy a complete 1950s outfit there and have your hair styled too. I bought a £10 T-shirt and a pair of 3D glasses instead! (hey, I already had the Converse, rolled up jeans and leather jacket). On the day, I have to say we did go in too early. We passed through the queue at Peabody Farm in under 10 minutes, and after that we were walking up through the empty Hill Valley ‘burbs. It had an eery abandoned theme park feeling to it. None the less, within the hour, the head count quadrupled and Hill Valley was a bustling town. A gas station, travel agent, TV store, high school and of course, a bar. The film screen was in front of the clock tower centre piece, and everyone congregated on the grass in front of it to watch the film. Actors in character were working the crowds, and we had the pleasure of being labelled ‘slackers’ by Mr. Strickland.

Come performance time, the atmosphere in the crowd was booming. The screening was accompanied by actors playing out key scenes. There were cheers when the DeLorean screeched through town, Marty scaled over Biff’s car and George McFly’s punch. The highlight was Doc Brown zip-lining from the top of the clock tower in the final act.

Overall I absolutely enjoyed it. It’s a crowd of people that actually want to be there and have an equal appreciation for the film. No distractions from talking or texting, the simultaneous live performances immerse you so much it felt like watching it again for the first time. Even on the journey home, the grin was still sprawled across my face. Then the next day, the Part II and III DVDs were fired up! The only disappointment was the quality of the disposable cameras that were on sale (so most of it will stay a secret!).

Zack Snyder Reveals New Batmobile and Batsuit

O-M-G! (regulate breathing). Zack Snyder has revealed the new Batmobile and Ben Affleck’s Batman on Twitter. Both are different to the Frank Miller grey/black suit and tank I was expecting, but the Nolan/Burton combination that it appears to be looks awesome! There even seems to be a drop of Schumacher’s Batman Forever in the vehicle too. The suit looks less reliant on armour now and more fabric, suggesting a physically stronger Batman this time around. This makes sense given he will be going toe-to-toe with the Man of Steel. Batfleck looks mean and moody too.

 

 

As an avid Burton and Nolan Batman fan, everything so far looks positively exciting. I still have some hesitation over Wonder Woman and Cyborg being thrown in to the mix for the Justice League link. However, based on these updates I’m warming to the idea.

Shooting with the cast has been rumoured to have kicked-off this week. May 2016 couldn’t come round any sooner.

Captain America The Winter Soldier

Captain America: The Winter Soldier [2014]

So, the hangover from The Avengers has kicked in (or Avengers Assemble, but come on we all know what movie ticket we’re buying here), and Iron Man 3 and Thor 2 have come along to sooth our heads and rehydrate us for Marvel’s Phase 2. Just before audiences are served something new with The Guardians Of The Galaxy landing this summer, the Cap just wants to grab our attention with BOTH FISTS.

The First Avenger received a small amount of criticism in 2011 for being nothing other than a stepping stone for Marvel to set up The Avengers the following year. I’m not going to sit here and write against this point, but I think that it had more of its own good merits to be a stand alone superhero movie. With Iron Man, Thor, The Hulk, Spider-Man and the DC Universe all fighting in contemporary times, it was refreshing to see the 1940s ‘romantic’ era of comic books. Steve Rogers is a good ol’ fashioned patriot fighting for freedom, charging in like Sir Galahad, and Johnny Storm (ahem, sorry) Chris Evans fit the bill perfectly. I also really enjoyed the introduction of HYDRA; a Nazi faction obsessed with the occult and dark sciences, it had an Indiana Jones-esque feel to it, along with video games like Wolfenstein. I didn’t really think Red Skull had the charisma of other villains in the Marvel Cinematic Universe in its writing, which is a shame when you have Hugo Weaving in the driving seat. The First Avenger had its fair share of down points, but overall I enjoyed it.

Fast forward to 2014 and The Winter Soldier has dominated the top of my Twitter trend list for a solid week, and is still there. This is a darker and somewhat grittier Captain America in terms of its style. Instead of the romantic and colourfully rich 1940s setting we are now in shaky-cam modern urban streets and military sites. The Russo brothers have directed this without relying on the CGI fallback of most blockbusters, and that pays off immensely for me. Yes, shaky-cam action sequences are present but the sequences are choreographed so well that you can actually tell what’s going on. It’s used to heighten the tension rather than induce nausea from Bourne copycats. When Black Widow is trapped or the Cap bleeds, we’re right there with them. The famous shield also gets put to more purposeful use here, being thrown like a frisbee and knocking out enemies and jet engines a hell of lot more. As you can see, I liked this!

The Cold War cloak and dagger elements (such as Redford’s deception) wasn’t really sold to me, you could kind of see them coming. But the darker elements such as when we meet Zola’s transcendence into a big super computer was a surprise for me and quite eerie (in a good way). Pleased to see the return of arch nemesis HYDRA too.

The characters in The Winter Soldier are all given a great amount of screen time too. Supporting characters aren’t shoved into the background so the producers can tick another Marvel character off the list. The chemistry balance between Captain America and Black Widow works surprisingly well too; his moral ideals bounces off of her “do what is necessary” nature. In all of Scarlett Johansson’s outings in the the Marvel films, this was her finest yet. Even Nick Fury had some time to develop (in a BIG way too). All in all it gave a sense of community to previously silo’d characters. I really liked the Winter Soldier as a villain too. Menacing, dangerous and looking damn-right cool. He wasn’t sidelined as a cog-in-the-wheel thug like Bane unfortunately turned out to be in The Dark Knight Rises. Whilst Robert Redford turned out to be the one pulling the strings, Bucky still remained an equal threat. Anthony Mackie’s Falcon was a brilliant and integral part of the team too, who didn’t seem sidelined like Hawkeye.

If I haven’t given away many spoilers so far, this is the part where it gets big. The Winter Soldier shakes up the Marvel Cinematic Universe big time. Nick Fury fakes his death, escapes to Europe and burns his eye patch (gasp, already!), and then SHIELD collapses! (OMG). This ultimately proves that the Captain America movies aren’t just stepping stones for the big ensemble pieces, and Marvel aren’t afraid to quit while they’re ahead. SHIELD has been around since Iron Man and has lingered in post-credit sequences since. There’s going to be a lot of internet chatter on the direction of the series before the next instalment. Hopefully The Guardians Of The Galaxy will shed some more light? (I’m not sure if it’s possible in the timeline, as I’ve never read any of these).

Captain America 2: The Winter Soldier is a hugely enjoyable entry in the Marvel series. Lots of good action, explosions and shield-throwing make the obligatory comic book movie lines welcomed (“If they’re shooting at you, they’re bad!”). Some say it’s the best entry yet. It’s certainly at the top of my list at the moment. But there will always be a need for some Hulk-smashing or Tony Stark charisma on those Netflix nights.

Martin-Scorsese

Martin Scorsese: The Wolf Of Western Cinema

Martin Scorsese’s latest entry into his stellar filmography, The Wolf Of Wall Street, has hit cinemas this month. Before seeing it this Friday, I’ve been re-watching his back catalogue at any given opportunity. Ever since I watched the VHS of Goodfellas, I was hooked on the frantic, overwhelming and lacerating method of storytelling. I can’t think of any other filmmaker that can craft a feature pushing close to the 180 minute needle that barely gives the viewer time to take a breath. Each shot length seems meticulously planned and every bit intentional, and the way he brings New York City to life is mesmerising. He seems to capture each American time period perfectly. Along with the bluesy soundtracks and fast editing (thanks to long term collaborator, Thelma Schoonmaker) there’s common themes of family, alienation, compulsion, ambition, temptation, redemption, identity and even surrogate fathers (who turn out to do more harm than good). Each are driven with such intensity and high emotion that it actually becomes somewhat cathartic to watch. If movies can be about escapism to another world, Scorsese takes us into other personas. Countless other filmmakers have vocally sited him as an influence on their work. Marty (I’m definitely not there yet, but hey, it’s certainly worth a shot), your movies have comforted me through the good times and bad. Here’s a few words of insight on the chapters that I’ve revisited over the past fortnight.

 

The Aviator (2004)

the-aviator

This is one of the Scorsese movies that I have to fully admit, didn’t appreciate back in 2004. I’d only scratched the surface with the turbulent Goodfellas, Casino, Taxi Driver and Raging Bull; the The Aviator seemed more like a movie that was chasing an Oscar. However, DiCaprio smashes through his Titanic persona and delivers an incredible iteration of eccentric and OCD-ridden billionaire Howard Hughes, right down to the tiny nuances. The time period appears beautiful and glamorous on screen. The way the film was coloured in post-production, reflecting the technology available during each era (most noticeably the purple peas on Hughes’ plate), was a very impressive touch. The extent to which the crippling OCDs affected Hughes’ life was profound and emotional.

 

Casino (1995)

Casino

Some might say that this is just “Goodfellas redux”, but there isn’t really any way to tell a story about the 1970s glitz and glamour hey-day of Las Vegas. There are some incredible and powerful scenes in this movie, such as when Sam and Ginger’s relationship breaks down, and it manages to stand toe-to-toe with Goodfellas every step of the way. I imagine there are some fans that would actually be able to pick a side and stand proudly on the Casino one. Sharon Stone’s performance has quite rightfully been praised and influential ever since.

 

Goodfellas (1990)

Goodfellas

For me, Goodfellas is Scorsese’s magnum opus; pure and utterly perfect (intentional and perhaps non-intentional). From the Copacabana long take to Frankie Carbone getting that coffee “to go”, Goodfellas is one of the reasons I fell in love with cinema and is my all-time favourite film. Less operatic than The Godfather, it showcases the everyday and blue-collar side of the mafia, which in turn gave birth to The Sopranos. It displays true-to-life characters who go from rags to riches and then tumble back down again. Even the soundtrack is so perfectly implemented; starting off with the playful and innocent 50s music and then finishing on the Sex Pistols’ punk version of Sinatra’s “My Way”, reflecting Henry’s drug-fuelled state of mind. Everyone is perfectly cast and pulls in a powerhouse performance. Ray Liotta is perfect as Henry Hill, and needless to say De Niro and Pesci bring so much gravitas to Jimmy Conway and psychopath Tommy DeVito. Thelma Schoomaker’s editing is key in this film too (“He was pushing me into the car, then pulling me out.”). Even if certain key moments weren’t planned and came off by mistake, the gods were surely shining down on this one. Words cannot describe the cinematic inspirational effect that this movie has had on me.

 

The Color Of Money (1986)

The Color of Money

This movie is worth seeing for Paul Newman’s heart-felt revist to American pool hustler “Fast” Eddie Felson. Acting as a cautionary mentor to Tom Cruise’s cocksure rookie, even without seeing 1961’s ‘The Hustler’ you can feel the regret that Newman’s character feels from its consequences. There are some great shots (!) featured in The Color Of Money, and this movie has its critics too (one of the few Scorsese “thumbs down” from Siskel and Ebert), but overall it has a lot more merits than failures.

 

Bringing Out The Dead (1999)

Bringing Out The Dead

Another entry that I didn’t fully appreciate upon it’s release. I initially watched this just so I could tick another Scorsese movie off of my list, but after a first revisit to it this week, it’s now actually one of my favourites. The dark humour and subject matter may turn some people off, but there is still the classic director/editor footprint of a rocky-blues soundtrack and punky editing. Nicolas Cage’s burnt-out and alcoholic paramedic echoes Travis Bickle and New York City looks stunningly noir-ish at 2am (the book was screaming for Paul Schrader to adapt). It has some great moments that are fused with it’s soundtrack, from it’s Van Morrison ‘TB Sheets’ opening titles to REM’s ‘What’s The Frequency Kenneth’. If Scorsese failed to convey dark humour in The King Of Comedy, the lessons learnt have certainly been made up for in Bringing Out The Dead.

 

The King Of Comedy (1983)

The King Of Comedy

Whilst this may not be a revolutionary entry into the filmography, De Niro turns in a subtly outstanding performance as delusional wannabe stand-up comic Rupert Pupkin. Scenes in Rupert’s basement “studio” and when he’s performing in front of the poster wall audience a both amusing and disturbing. The film was misunderstood during its original release but has since received cult status on home video. “But, look, I figure it this way. Better to be king for a night than schmuck for a lifetime.”

 

The Wolf Of Wall Street (2013)

The Wolf Of Wall Street

Clocking in slightly longer than Casino at a 3 hour run time, I could have happily sat there for another 30 minutes during The Wolf Of Wall Street. I had read the book before going into the cinema screen, but I had no worries of boredom during a Scorsese movie, and I wasn’t disappointed. I was hesitant about Leonardo DiCaprio playing drug-fuelled stock broker Jordan Belfort, but I was so pleasantly surprised. Yet another powerhouse performance. The movie was actually very amusing too, and I know comedy has been a bit of a struggle for Scorsese. The book was without doubt written with Scorsese in mind, it can almost be labelled “Casino on Wall Street”. It will cause absolute outrage to some, but overall the message screams that this is a cautionary tale of excess.

Other honourable mentions in the filmography are of course Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, The Departed, Shutter Island and Mean Streets. Check back soon for a follow up article soon where these will be covered.

The_Sopranos_S4

The Sopranos. The Greatest TV Series Ever ‘Made’.

Just like the sudden finale of the last episode, James Gandolfini was sadly taken from our lives earlier this year and has since made me think of one thing; “…focus on the little things. Try to remember the times that were good.” It wasn’t until I saw Gandolfini act in something else that I appreciated how gifted an actor he was. I assumed he spoke like Tony, but in reality he seemed to be more like the humble Kevin Finnerty.

The first time I was introduced to Tony Soprano and his family was when I scraped together £20 to pick up the season 1 DVD from HMV in 2006. I’ll put it on the table now, I didn’t like them at first. Being a student who looked for action and cliffhangers like in 24, I wasn’t used to what good TV could be like just yet. I took a vacation from New Jersey for a brief period and returned to the final disc. The power cut at Vesuvio’s during the Soprano family dinner put it all into perspective for me from then on. One word loomed with me ever since; family. Just like Mad Men isn’t just about the sharp 60’s suits, The Sopranos isn’t just about wise guys squaring off.

Tony Soprano is a complicated guy; someone we can relate and not relate to at the same time. He has a family to provide for, bills to pay and worries about his legacy. He’s running a business (not the waste management kid) that is severely struggling to adapt to 21st century America. Then he also has the FBI and rival mobsters to watch out for and collections to be made. He is unique in the fact that he has two families to nurture and manage; his own and his illegitimate work one. Both highly demanding and with a very tight rope to walk on in between. As with any TV drama there are main characters that represent a different part of our psyches that we potentially relate to. Christopher is the frustrated youngster that’s hot-tempered and wants all the recognition now, there’s Paulie who’s the one of crew’s veterans who feels his limelight has gone, Artie who is frustrated by the seemingly lack of glory in an honest day’s work, and Carmella who is sometimes asking ‘what if?’.

Then there’s the therapy part. I always saw these scenes as a separate segment to show as it was a time for reflection, and Dr. Melfi didn’t have any real interaction with the rest of the cast. It would be interesting if all the therapy clips were compiled together and shown to someone who hasn’t seen the show before, and then ask for their interpretation of Tony. Coinciding with the therapy are he dream sequences. The most ambitious and powerful one was the Kevin Finnerty coma-induced dream after Tony was shot in season 6, which questioned themes such as, “where am I going?” and “who am I?”.

The show doesn’t hold back the punches either; there are some painful and shocking scenes to watch such as Ralph killing one of the Bing girls outside the club. Of all the main character deaths toward each season finale, Adriana’s shocked me the most, even more than Christopher’s. David Chase and his team really didn’t hold anything back. This show couldn’t have gone to a network that had to align with commercial breaks and advertisers for finance. HBO was its home and it wouldn’t have been what it was without it. It paved the way for other shows in a TV writing renaissance, and provided story and character arcs that cinema couldn’t offer.

I find myself going to pick up the Goodfellas or The Godfather DVD and I always talk myself into picking up this box set instead. Even years down the line since its finale, the family is the one thing I can trust that will be there. It has all of the humour, drama and achievements that runs in any family. Just like family, The Sopranos will never be replaced, and nor will James Gandolfini/Tony Soprano. Only imitated.

 

Tony Soprano_pool

 

Here’s some of the stand out quotes for me from the series:

“No risk, no reward.” Season 6, episode 13.

“A wrong decision is better than indecision.” Season 4, episode 13.

“There’s an old Italian saying: you f*** up once, you lose two teeth.” Season 2, episode 6.

“Someday you’ll have families of your own. And if you’re lucky you’ll remember the little moments, like this.” Season 1, episode 13.

“The Autoclub? We change tires at our house. Watch and learn.” Season 1, episode 7.

“It’s good to be in something from the ground floor. I came too late for that and I know. But lately, I’m getting the feeling that I came in at the end. The best is over.” Season 1, pilot.

“Well, when you’re married, you’ll understand the importance of fresh produce.” Season 2, episode 7.

“‘Remember when’ is the lowest form of conversation.” Season 6, episode 15.

“Those who want respect, give respect.” Season 2, episode 12.

ArtFX OFFICIEL // Thousandth Street

Blade Runner with a slice of Minority Report…..what’s not to like!?!

Man Of Steel

Man Of Steel [2013]

Why the world needs Superman.

Krypton’s greatest son has dropped back into our box offices this weekend with an almighty sonic boom. Zack Snyder is behind the lens, along with Christopher Nolan and David S. Goyer on executive producing and writing duties. Whilst the film takes a much more darker and sombre tone to it’s predecessors, what it loses in bravado it certainly makes up for in scale. Right from the very moment to opening titles dissolve we are thrown into a doomed distant planet of Krypton. Jor-El (Russell Crowe) realises his people’s fate and decides to launch his newly born son, the first natural birth on Krypton in centuries, to the distant safety of Earth. Along with baby Kal-El he includes the planet’s genetic codex, an item which General Zod (Michael Shannon) seeks to acquire for his own gain once he escapes the destructing planet. Zod and his team are apprehended as they watch Kal-El’s pod launch and are banished to the Phantom Zone. The pod escapes as Krypton implodes and hurtles toward Earth, crash landing in Kansas to be found by Jonathan and Martha Kent (Kevin Costner and Diane Lane) and, well, you know the rest…

This films starts very strong. Other directors of summer blockbusters have attempted to throw the audience in without a chance to breathe, but Zack Snyder achieves this effortlessly. No stranger to the action or comic book adaptation, he presents glimpse of Krypton not given the right amount of screen time it deserves before in the Hollywood exports. Every child of Krypton is genetically created with a pre-determined purpose in an organic chamber, but Kal-El is the first natural birth to occur on the planet in centuries. He is free to determine his own path and have a luxury that no other Kryptonian has; choice. We get a chance to understand where the Man of Steel hails from and what he seeks to understand, and it’s a thrilling and emotional sequence by the time he leaves the doomed fate of his parents behind. However, Snyder only likes to allow the audience a brief amount of screen time to try and catch their breath.

The non-linear plot that follows certainly has the benefit of avoiding all of the rudimentary origin stories that we’ve seen before. Screen time isn’t wasted with the Kent’s discovering Kal-El’s crashed pod once again. I’m a big fan of this method of story telling as it engages the audience so much more; we’re given pieces of a puzzle to put together. Clark Kent/Superman is such a fascinating character to study. He’s torn between two personas from two very different, but good willed, father figures. The Clark side has been raised as a farm boy with high moral values and to hide his superhuman powers for the greater good, whilst the undiscovered Kal-El side is intriguing but advised to use the god-like powers to lead mankind. It’s nature versus nurture. Which father figure does he lean toward more? Was his real father a good character or bad, and is his DNA coded for the same future? Clark seeks to know himself and whilst roaming the earth as a nomad, he feels that finding his people will answer the questions that have been plaguing him for so long. For me, the heart strings were tugged when Jor-El made the hard decision of letting Kal-El go, and Jonathan Kent doing the same during the tornado sequence. This film is as much about ‘what a father is’ as well as discovering who you are. It’s quite fitting that the film was released on the same weekend as Father’s Day here in the UK.

Henry Cavill brings the gravitas and responsibility that the role requires. He stands tall and you can sense his goodwill and empathy, and he physically embodies the Superman physique. Hats off to his dedication and the fact that no smoke and mirror “ab suits” were needed. The suit itself looks great in the muted dark colours, with notable influences from the Action Comics style. Amy Adams shines as Lois Lane, playing here as ballsy as the character has always been. I was really disappointed with the character in Superman Returns, I thought she was more Mary-Jane Watson than a go-getter Pulitzer prize-winning reporter. Although the real stand out performance is Michael Shannon as General Zod, whom he plays with pure and absolute conviction. Every line spoken by Shannon has a feeling of serious intent behind it. His message demanding the surrender of Kal-El was a brief switch in genre to horror and very effective. Antje Traue is also beautifully menacing as Zod’s second in command, Faora, and is reminiscent of Blade Runner’s Pris and X-Men’s Mystique as statuesquely dangerous.

The Terence Malick-inspired macro shots work beautifully during Clark’s early years and really ground the character. There’s also an echo of the Dr. Manhattan imagery from Watchmen (Snyder’s 2009 superhero magnum opus), when Lois and Kal-El are standing opposite each in the desert. Man of Steel is also action-heavy as you’d quite rightly expect from Zack Snyder, and there is a slight feeling of CGI overdose as you near the end of the 148 minutes. The scale of this movie is HUGE and quite rightly so. I wasn’t keen on seeing yet another finale of a city under attack but it somehow manages to create more destruction. Think of the formula for the Metropolis showdown as Matrix Revolutions + Transformers 3 + Avengers Assemble. Kal-El is thrown through an entire block of skyscrapers and the screen is painted with rubble and explosions. As for the somewhat controversial ending with instead Zod kneeling before Superman, I thought it was surprising and intriguing. Superman doesn’t kill, but why? He was forced into a corner by Zod and is immediately haunted by the decision.

I was worried that the pressure of a DC Universe film would intrude on the individualistic story of the film. I prayed to God that there wouldn’t be an end credits sequence like the Marvel films, but I thought the subtle DC easter eggs were well placed (such as the Wayne Enterprises satellite and the Lex Corp tanker/building). The closing scenes of the Kent’s proudly watching a young Clark play around in a red cape, and present day Clark embarking on his induction at the Daily Planet (along with the perfect “Welcome to the Planet” line) was inspiring with Hans Zimmer’s score pounding in the background. Man Of Steel isn’t quite the in-depth character and morality study a lot of us hoped for, but it is a valiant entry amongst the ocean of Superman interpretations. I’m already looking forward to the sequel.

Trance 2013

Trance [2013]

How does a man top the feat of masterminding of the London 2012 Opening Ceremony? Not easily. That’s why I feel critics have been too harsh on Danny Boyle’s lastest feature film, Trance. Hype can be a dangerous thing if it spirals out of control, especially if you’re Britain’s golden boy and all eyes are on your next move. However, I like to go into a Danny Boyle film with a casual feeling and, I hate to say it, not expecting much. I love the visceral images he projects on to the 40ft high screen and the smashing together of genres unexpectedly. Sunshine is a great example of this; I went in with the pretense of a disaster film and I was literally clinging to my seat for dear life when it switched to a survival horror. Everything the reviewers seem to hate, I actually really enjoy the most.

James McAvoy (echoing Ewan McGregor 2.0) is a fine art auctioneer who is mixed up as the inside man of Vincent Cassel’s £25m heist. After Cassel ends up with nothing more than a bag containing an empty frame, he employs Rosario Dawson’s hypnotherapist to delve into McAvoy’s amnesiac mind to recover it. Over the course of the 101 minute running time you really are throwing the dice of which of the 3 central characters to trust. It’s so engaging that I was constantly questioning everything while at the same time keeping track of what was real or not. It starts as a heist movie and then evolves into a psychological thriller. Everyone delivers a marvellous performance, and Cassel oozes with Parisian cool whilst showing a menacing side too. Some viewers may find the characters to be two dimensional as we are just thrusted into their situation. But if we spent screen time viewing their daily routines and getting to know them, the toeing and throwing of trust is lost.

Anthony Dod Mantle’s visuals are mesmerising, and appropriately so. The multiple reflections suggest a world that can’t be trusted and the neon glows show the sinisterness of this London noir. Each digital frame is crisp with rich detail with calculated camera movements to back it up. The transitions are slick and seamless keeping the pace of the film constantly high. This film can get quite graphic at times, especially when Vincent Cassel emerges from behind the kitchen counter with half a head missing in one of the trance sequences. Underworld’s Rick Smith is on techno soundtrack duty, but in my opinion John Murphy’s Sunshine score can never be beaten. The film has all the DNA of Boyle’s early 90s features compiled with the new techniques he’s developed along the way to the Oscars with Slumdog Millionaire.

I didn’t deconstruct Trance straight away after walking out of the cinema. But a great film will stay with you hours/days/weeks after the screening. Maybe it’s not meant to make sense. Not every single has to be a number one, but this definitely reaches the top 10.

Die Hard 5

A Good Day To Die Hard [2013]

Die Hard has returned with a fifth installment  and this time McClane gets entangled up in a terrorist plot whilst tracking down his estranged son in Moscow. A Good Day To Die Hard is not a good film, even as a standalone action film (that was painful to say). Director John Moore and screenwriter Skip Woods have turned John McClane into a cranky, 2D, “I told you so” character, and completely left out the wise-cracking and quick thinking blue-collared hero elements that made the character iconic. They have clearly not studied their source material well enough. I was pretty uninspired by the direction the producers were taking during its production, and some of Skip Woods’ dialogue is pure cheese (“Damn you, John. Damn you.”). I thought it was strange to hire John Moore, who, for me, wasted a fantastic opportunity with Max Payne to take a great video game adaptation and break the curse. This is a director who, with the slight exception of Behind Enemy Lines (which makes me think the producers picked him purely because he was the only one on the table who has filmed in Russia before), currently has a CV of poor remakes and adaptations. But as always I trusted the producers and thought innocent until proven guilty.

Then again, this is an action film, so ‘best screenplay’ from the Academy isn’t where the filmmakers are looking to get recognition. It’s meant to be an engaging roller coaster ride for the Saturday night multiplex. But even from the start, it doesn’t excite. Shaky-cam and Die Hard just doesn’t gel. It’s not meant to be as gritty as Bourne; it’s meant to be OTT balls-to-the-wall action. Even Bruce Willis seems bored to be there with the script he’s been given. Where has the physical improvisation of using a fire hose to jump off an exploding skyscraper, or using the airport moving walkway to get your gun back gone to? The action is still ambitious in this film (such as the car chase), but it paints a picture that Moscow is like rebel-controlled downtown Mogadishu. The bad guys drive around the city in their armoured truck, changing the architecture as they please whilst firing off random RPGs. Sitting through this, I felt exactly how some people must have felt watching 4.0 (such as my girlfriend :p). Skip Woods has just rehashed the broken family card with this installment  and even now I can’t remember what was at stake for McClane aside from protecting the prisoner. The villains didn’t really have any intention, or at least it wasn’t that clear.

Nakatomi Plaza, Dulles Airport, New York City, the United States…… and Russia. The stakes rise every time as the Die Hard series progresses. However, with A Good Day To Die Hard they seem to have regressed somehow (what actually is the imminent threat?). I just hope John McClane doesn’t end up in space next time. If Die Hard 4.0 was meant to right the wrongs that Die Hard With A Vengeance made (a film that I feel is actually great), then they’re back at square one. I’m sorry, Bruce, but this film just didn’t feel like Die Hard to me. I was checking my watch way too many times during the screening.