Hail, Caesar! (2016)

Eddie Mannix (Josh Brolin) is a put-upon movie producer for Capitol Pictures in 1951. Over the course of one 27-hour period he must deal with rival gossip columnist twins Thora and Thessaly Thacker (Tilda Swinton), a rising western star (Alden Ehrenreich) being reimagined as a dramatic actor, much to the chagrin of his new director (Ralph Fiennes), the unexpected pregnancy of a swimming starlet (Scarlett Johansson), offers for Mannix himself to change to a high powered position in another company, as well as the supposed kidnapping of major star Baird Whitlock (George Clooney) by a Communist cell calling themselves “The Future” and the fall-out from Whitlock’s disappearance, which is delaying the production of a lavish epic.
baird Continue reading

Advertisements

JFK

On November 22nd, 1963, President John F Kennedy was killed, supposedly by lone gunman Lee Harvey Oswald, who himself was killed by a man named Jack Ruby before the case could go to trial. Despite several other theories, the case was dropped for three years, until Jim Garrison, the District Attorney of New Orleans, picked it up again after noticing some discrepancies within the Warren Report, written to document the details of the assassination. Garrison and his team re-launch the investigation, certain that there is more to it than simply one man and his gun.
Rifle Continue reading

Dirty Dancing

We recently booked tickets to see this on stage at the Mayflower theatre in April (not my idea) and I’ve never seen the film. I know, shocking. I’ve seen Crazy, Stupid Love, so I figure I’d seen the important bit already, but enough goddamn Empire readers voted it onto the top 500 films list that I had to see it. Motherfuckers.

It’s the summer of 1963, and Wayne Knight is working as an entertainer at a holiday camp. He makes a deal to steal some dinosaur DNA hidden in a shaving foam can and smuggle it out during a storm, but doesn’t bank on a dilophosaurus with a penchant for fat, sweaty guys. Some kids nearly diea few times, Laura Dern gets terrified by Samuel L. Jackson’s disembodied hand and a T-Rex eats Patrick Swayze whilst he lifts Jennifer Grey up in the air. Well you can’t blame me for dreaming, can you?
Alas, all we have here is a rather tepid story of a girl getting it off with her rather ‘hands-on’ dance instructor at a summer holiday camp, whilst her parents would rather she dated a rich, boring guy instead. Before this film I’d only ever seen Swayze as a sinister paedophile in Donnie Darko, so to me he comes off as creepy and predatory, praying on the naive young dancer as they are forced together, Swayze’s sleeve-phobic Johnny Castle having to teach Grey’s Baby to dance professionally in a matter of days, so the relationship that built up between them may have appeared more Sordid than perhaps it was supposed to.
I’ll be the first to admit that I’m no dancer – mainly because that means I don’t have to dance – so any dancing seen on film is lost on me. I can’t tell when people are dancing well, or even in time, so showing long routines or montages of improvement have a similar effect as me listening to someone gradually improving their Cantonese.
Grey is a terrible actress – her miming to Mickey & Sylvia’s Loverboy is excruciating, and the most famous line in the film (some crap about a corner) is tossed away so haphazardly I doubt it would have been missed had it been cut.
Anyone want to buy a theatre ticket?
Choose life 3/10

Jurassic Park

Last week some friends and I started a Movie Night, an event that will hopefully become a regular occurrence, and should allow me to keep crossing off films, whilst also achieve something approaching a social life. We kicked off the soon-to-be tradition with a film that means a great deal to me, Jurassic Park. I have previously waxed lyrical about the virtues of this cinematic landmark, or rather the shortcomings of the third film in the series, but I’ll try not to repeat myself too much.
 
The plot, and I really hope that none of you need to know this, although one of the attendees at the movie night admitted ashamedly that this was his first ever viewing of Jurassic Park, concerns a group of people traveling to an island where an eccentric (you can’t be mad if you’re rich) scientist (Richard Attenborough) has discovered a way of cloning dinosaurs from DNA found in mosquitoes frozen in amber. Inevitably, not all goes to plan, and there’s much merriment to be had in the dinos vs. people aftermath.
 
Jurassic Park is a masterclass in efficient film-making, showing a lot with a little. This is shown early on, when an early velociraptor encounter is terrifying, yet only a couple of close-ups of the raptors eyes are seen. Shaking leaves, haunting sound effects and shots from the dinosaurs own point-of-view are enough to believe the presence of this creature. When shown, the Stan Winston-created dinosaur models and ILM-rendered CGI are on the whole impeccable and, even though they are obviously fake (obvious for lack of plausibility, not quality) the illusion is so well realised that you almost believe.
 
As with most Spielberg classics, the key is in casting ordinary, relatable characters in extraordinary situations. In this case, Sam Neill’s Dr. Alan Grant has a well rounded persona, a palaeontologist stuck firmly in the past, unable to touch a computer without breaking it and loathing children. Just watch him trying to let go of Lex’s hand after he helps her up, or how he probably scars a child for life with his raptor story at the start of the film. He is ably supported by Attenborough’s scientist and Laura Dern as a paleobotanist, as well as Jeff Goldblum’s excellent interpretation of rock-star chaotician Dr. Ian Malcolm, although I never really understood why he was invited onto the island. Wayne Knight’s Newman-esque bad guy (does he play anyone else? But then why should he, he’s so good at it) is also a joy to behold, especially his childlike glee at the Bond-style gadgetry he’s provided with to steal dinosaur embryos, causing the chaos that ensues.
 
We’re introduced to the dinosaurs gently, first meeting the gentle herbivores and baby dinosaurs, before building up to the more threatening velociraptors and tyrannosaurus rex. The plot is largely dealt with in the first half of the film, leading for the remainder to be made up of unforgettable set pieces, such as the electric fence, or raptor encounter in the kitchen. Greatest of all though must be the introduction of the T-rex. I don’t think I’ve ever seen ripples forming in a glass of water since without being concerned there is a giant dinosaur about to attack me.
 
It’s not just a monster disaster movie though, as there are genuinely hilarious moments of comedy (the blink and you’ll miss it rear view mirror gag is comic perfection), and the scenes are pitched perfectly, with the T-rex car chase immediately calmed by a gentler encounter with a herd of brachiosaurs. All in all, this is an example of movie perfection, and I look forward to enjoying it many more times in the future.


Choose film 10/10

Toy Story Trilogy

Today’s volatile weather conditions allowed for a productive afternoon film-wise, as a planned bike ride along the beaches of Bournemouth was cut short by sporadic torrential downpours, meaning I crossed a trilogy off the list; Toy Story 1-3.

Watching the original Toy Story, the first feature-length motion picture created entirely using computer animation, always send me back to my childhood, aged 8 years old, sat in the cinema watching in wide-eyed wonder as the pixels were brought to life before me, with my Dad sound asleep in the next seat. It’s one of my earliest film-related memories (my earliest cinema experience that I know of was the Lion King, but that’s another post).
Continue reading