Friday, 25 January 2013
Quentin Tarantino is back with another star-studded cast for Django Unchained, the visionary directors take on a Spaghetti Western with a twist- its setting in the Deep South during the antellebum era, most notable for the brutal slavery of African-Americans. Django, played by Jamie Foxx, is one such slave, who is freed by bounty hunter Dr. King Schultz (Christopher Waltz) in order to locate a gang of villians that Schultz has been tracking. Eventually the duo form a partnership and begin searching for Django's enslaved wife Broomhilda (Kerry Washington), who is being held by enigmatic plantation owner Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio).
The obvious comparison to be made with Django Unchained is Tarantino's previous work Inglorious Basterds. It would seem that the director has acquired a taste for epic period pieces with a particular blend of fact and fiction, so Django certainly had a lot to live upto in following the historically inaccurate WWII spoof, for my money Tarantino's best effort since 1994's Pulp Fiction. Thankfully, Django Unchained is equal to its predecessor, and makes for another qualified Tarantino masterpiece largely due to the same factors that made Inglorious Basterds so memorable- wonderfully stylised production and design, memorable dialogue and several outstanding individual performances.
It's hard to know where to start with praising members of the cast but the obvious one for critics has been Christoper Waltz, who once again delivers an engaging, often hilarious performance that easily rivals his acclaimed turn as Nazi officer Hans Landa for which he took home the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor in 2009. DiCaprio is in equal parts menacing and delightfully witty as the charasmatic Candie, while Washington makes a true emotive connection with the audience as the tortured Broomhilda.
The stand-out role for me however was not Waltz despite his heroics but Foxx as the quiet centerpiece of the film with a masterful portrayal of Django that is developed skillfully over the course of the 165 minutes running time. Beginning as a broken down, fragile soul lost in the brutal slave trade, Foxx gracefully manages to transform the main character into a fully fledged ''bad ass muthafucka'' in the words of Samuel L Jackson (another excellent addition to the cast as Stephen, the hysterically loyal servant of Candie). The gradual manner in which Foxx develops the protagonist makes Django's redemption all the more satisfying for the audience and the actor deserves real credit for the role.
While the usual Tarantino quirks are here in abundance (the graphic violence, outrageous one-liners, exceptional soundtrack), the director opts not to use his typically wayward structuring this time around. In contrast to past favourites, Django is a relatively straightforward experience which makes no use of the infamous time shifting style of Tarantino and this works against the plot, creating a slight lull mid way through the near 3 hour running time (a small criticism and my only one).
Ultimately, Tarantino has taken another dark historical setting and transformed it to suit his bizarre imagination. The result is pure entertainment, and Django Unchained is yet another Quentin Tarantino masterpiece.
Monday, 21 January 2013
It's a story that could have been taken straight from a Hollywood script, so it's no surprise that there are already plans for a film documenting disgraced cyclist Lance Armstrong's incredible fall from grace. Less than a week later than Armstrong's confession on Oprah regarding his use of banned substances throughout his career, JJ Abrams has secured the rights to forthcoming biography ''Cycle Of Lies: The Fall Of Lance Armstrong'' by Juliet Macur, according to Deadline.
Macur has covered Armstrong's career in detail, from his rise as a sporting great with 7 Tour De France titles, through to the regular allegations of doping which eventually came to light last year. The biopic will be produced by Abrams own production company Bad Robot and Paramount Studios.
Prior to evidence of Armstrong's cheating, Sony were in the works with a biopic casting the cyclist in a heroic light as he battled his way to victory following cancer with Jake Gyllenhaal in the lead. It's unclear whether Gyllenhaal will be considered again, but my proposed list of candidates would go as follows:
Drop a comment if you have any suggestions of your own.
Friday, 18 January 2013
Irish games retailer Game has expressed an interest in purchasing troubled music chain HMV following its collapse earlier this week. Game, however, is one among ''at least 50 parties'' to have shown interest in taking over the entertainment chain.
HMV administrator Deloitte has claimed that the other competitors for the takeover include individual businessmen, other retail chains and investment/private equity firms. Game CEO Martyn Gibbs confirmed the reports, stating that the company had contacted Deloitte regarding an ''unspecified number'' of stores.
HMV's collapse was confirmed on Tuesday following disappointing Christmas sales which led to the company's eventual downfall. The fallout has left over 4,000 jobs at risk and staff in Limerick have taken to a sit-in outside the store in an attempt to secure wages owed to them since before Christmas.
Nick Edwards of Deloitte said that while it's ''too early'' to say whether a deal can be made to rescue HMV from total annihilation, the large amount of interest is promising. However, there are no plans to begin redeeming vouchers for customers which has caused outrage throughout the country with many claiming the retailer has committed theft by selling shop credit which they were aware could not be used in the near future.
Game is certainly an interesting contender in the race to snap up the retailer, as the game company found itself in serious trouble last year, only to be saved by investment firm OpCapita moments before its demise and turned around successfully.
Tuesday, 15 January 2013
''I didn't go mainstream... Mainstream came to me.'' And it's true- Kendrick Lamar hasn't compromised for his fame, he's earned it with widely acclaimed debut 'Section 80' and the soon to be classic 'good kid, m.A.A.d city', released last October. The Compton prodigy's first show in Dublin is quite possibly one that will be remembered long after last night for its intimate nature, the fact being that his next one will surely be in the O2 and Lamar's fame is only going to grow further towards legendary status over the course of the next decade.
The possiblity of thousands gathering just to hear ''Swimming Pools'' was quickly dismissed as the crowd faithfully chanted every lyric Lamar had to spit early on, and it was easy to tell even he was a little surprised by cries of ''Ken-drick, Ken-drick'' upon his arrival on stage. Kicking off with 'Section 80' hits such as ''Hol Up'', ''Tammy's Song'' and ''A.D.H.D'', the Irish audience were bouncing and rapping back every word to Lamar, while DJ Ali made a point of cutting the beat during nearly every song just to hear the deafening crowd shouting ryhmes up at the stage. Lamar's on-stage presence was messiah-like mid-song but in-between his tales of song origin, growing up in Compton and interactions with fans (especially of the female variety) were an absolute delight to the crowd who responded by making a serious amount of noise for his insightful, comical remarks.
Around half-way through Lamar stopped to ask if ''anyone know of an album called good kid, maad city? I duuno if y'all got that over here'' before blasting into a series of fan favourites such as ''Backseat Freestlye'', ''Money Trees'', ''Bitch Don't Kill My Vibe'' and ''Poetic Justic'' to an explosive audience, before ending with ''Swimming Pools'' as cries of ''Drank!'' rang around the venue. A short encore followed and chants of ''Ole, ole, ole, ole'' probably confused the hip hop star, but one thing was clear to him: the devotion and loyalty of the Irish audience, a fact he acknowleged several times, saying ''Man I am so glad to be finally be up in this motherfucker.''
Expectations were set high for a great night but it's true to say they were exceeded as Lamar demonstrated first hand why he is currently being touted as the new king of hip-hop. It's not hard to imagine that in 10-20 years the name Kendrick Lamar will stand alongside Tupac Shakur, The Notorious B.I.G and Jay Z, so the chance to see a potential legend in as intimate and personal a venue as Vicar Street will be remembered as a truly unique occasion, and one that will be recalled by Irish fans for a long time. He knows it too, ending with a perfect message that everyone took to heart: ''Y'all been with me since the beginning. And if this thing gets big for me, I'm not gonna forget it, and you all know you were here tonight.''
Without a shadow of a doubt one of the finest live performances I've ever seen and something that we were all privileged to witness.
The Art of Peer Pressure (Intro)
Westside, Right On Time
Bitch, Don't Kill My Vibe
Cut You Off
Swimming Pools (Drank)
Pussy & Patron
Sunday, 13 January 2013
Boasting a superstar cast featuring Sean Penn, Josh Brolin, Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone and Nick Nolte, Gangster Squad eventually hit our screens on Friday following lengthy delays caused by a questionable scene which bared resemblence to the Aurora shooting in the US this past July. Directed by relative newcomer Rueben Fleischer (Zombieland, 30 Minutes Or Less), Gangster Squad finds its setting in the late 1940's LA following the conclusion of the war. Mob boss Mickey Cohen (Penn) rules the city and his enterprise shows no sign of slowing down, due mostly to the fact that the police force have been bought onto Cohen's side. When police chief Bill Parker (Nolte) witnesses the vigilante style of lone ranger John O Mara (Brolin), he assigns the Sergeant the task of recruiting a secret police unit to sabotage Cohen, forming the eponymous 'gangster squad'.
While Gangster Squad claims itself to be ''based on true events'', it becomes evident pretty quickly that these events are more fantasy than fact as we are introduced to Mickey Cohen executing a rival gang member in bizarre fashion. As the victim is ripped in half and feasted upon by wolves no less, it's clear from this point onwards that there will not be much deep thought involved over the course of the 113 minutes running time, and the remainder of the film is consistent with it's opening, providing comically exaggerated action sequences that may look impressive but threaten to downgrade Gangster Squad to the spoof genre rather than a film worth taking seriously.
And that is the main problem Gangster Squad faces throughout- it really cannot decide whether it wants to take a sincere look at the 1940's criminal underworld or mock the very genre it's attempting to portray. More often than not with it's over the top action scenes, overwrought dialogue and offbeat humour, Gangster Squad feels like an unconcious parody of itself and this messy, half hearted cariciture of crime drama fails to engage the viewer as perhaps it would have if the director had decided which direction he wanted to take the film in and stuck to it rather than the half-serious, half-satire outcome.
The most impressive thing about Gangster Squad is obvious: the production of it's setting in 1940's LA is terrific, and in terms of costume design, visual effects, cinematography, soundtrack and editing, Gangster Squad is an absolute hit on every level. The wonderfully conveyed style of the era is a saving grace for the film and even in it's most cringeworthy moments, the set has to be admired.
However, it must be said that cringeworthy moments are provided in force throughout, as several cast members take a quick paycheck in return for lame, lazy performances. Guilty parties include Nick Nolte with a preposterous, stereotypical police chief character with an impossibly overdone gravel voice. The man sounds like he's been eating rocks. Sean Penn has been acclaimed for his performance by some, but I must admit I found it laughable at times. While he suceeds in showcasing the volatile nature of Cohen as his crimnal enterprise nears its end, a poor attempt at a gangster accent and a terrible make up job don't help, rendering Penn hard to take seriously throughout. Brolin is run of the mill as the hero cop protagonist of the story, while several members of his aforementioned squad are criminally underused, particularly the talented Anthony Mackie and the eternally underrated Giovanni Ribisi who are wasted in their respective roles.
As a huge fan of Ryan Gosling, I was genuinely surprised at his decision to take such an undemanding, cash in hand role as the womanizing Jerry Wooters. I suppose Gosling feels that his usual penchant for challenging work (Blue Valentine, Half Nelson) has bought him at least one quick payday and that's all this is for the man of the moment- despite the effortless cool and snappy one liners, Gosling is obviously not particularly committed to the project and it seems more like a fashion show than a film for the most part for him. And as for his damsel in distress girlriend character played by Emma Stone... Well, there's not much to say other than she looks great.
In conclusion, Gangster Squad is demeaned by the fact that it doesn't know whether it wants to be farfetched action shoot 'em up or a gangster period drama. The often extravagent, overdone result is not helped by a lacklustre cast and if not for the stylish design of its set, Gangster Squad would be reduced to a laughably weak production. The best thing I can say about Gangster Squad is that it is decent action flick for cinema-goers, but be ready to turn your brain off.
Saturday, 12 January 2013
Quentin Tarantino has refused to answer questions regarding movie violence in a Channel 4 Interview while promoting his new film Django Unchained. In an arrogant move, the Pulp Fiction director snubbed the question asked to him by interviewer Krishnan Guru-Murphy, telling him ''Don't ask me a question like that. I'm not biting. I refuse your question.''
Guru-Murphy enquired further but Tarantino continued to dodge the reporter, stating: ''I'm not your slave and you're not my master. You can't make me dance to your tune. I'm not a monkey.”
Tarantino is obviously a a central figure regarding the topic of violence in film, with past movies such as Resevoir Dogs, Inglorious Bastards and Kill Bill featuring particularly gory scenes. But Tarantino says that he has already spoken enough on the matter. “The reason I don’t want to talk about it is because I’ve said everything I have to say about it. If anyone cares what I have to say about it they can Google me. And they can look for 20 years what I have to say about it. I haven’t changed my opinion one iota.”
Guru-Murphy was perplexed by Tarantino's attitude, telling The Telegraph “I would have thought if you invite somebody to interview you it is better to try to answer the questions rather than not. No interviewee has ever said ‘I'm not your slave...I'm not a monkey’ to me before.”
Django Unchained is set for release in Irish and UK screens on 18 January and was recently nominated for Best Picture at the Academy Awards 2013.
Friday, 11 January 2013
Argo scooped an impressive double at the Broadcast Film Critics Association Critic's Choice Awards last night in Santa Monica, as the political drama took home Best Picture while Ben Affleck was named Best Director, in spite of his shunning yesterday morning by the Academy for the same award.
Silver Linings Playbook took home the most gold however, picking up Best Ensemble, Best Comedy, Best Actor in a Comedy (Bradley Cooper) and Best Actress in a Comedy (Jenifer Lawrence). Daniel Day Lewis received Best Actor for his potrayal of Abraham Lincoln, a performance that many believe will result in another Oscar for Englishman, while Jessica Chastain went home with Best Actress for her role in Kathryn Bigelow's Zero Dark Thirty.
The Critics' Choice Movie Awards are often seen as a precursor to the Academy Awards, and the BFCA prides itself on it's ability to predict forthcoming winners. While Affleck may not be in with a shout for Best Director come February, it'll be interesting to see if the BFCA have gotten Best Picture right again with Argo and other high profile categories.
Here's a full list of the winners:
BEST PICTURE Argo
Ben Affleck - Argo
Daniel Day-Lewis - Lincoln
Jessica Chastain - Zero Dark Thirty
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Philip Seymour Hoffman - The Master
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Anne Hathaway - Les Misérables
BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
Quentin Tarantino - Django Unchained
BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
Tony Kushner - Lincoln
BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM
BEST ANIMATED FILM
Searching for Sugar Man
Silver Linings Playbook
BEST YOUNG ACTOR
Quvenzhané Wallis - Beasts Of The Southern Wild
Claudio Miranda - Life Of Pi
BEST ART DIRECTION
Sarah Greenwood - Anna Karenina
BEST COSTUME DESIGN
Jacqueline Durran - Anna Karenina
BEST FILM EDITING
William Goldenberg and Dylan Tichenor - Zero Dark Thirty
BEST VISUAL EFFECTS
Life Of Pi
BEST ORIGINAL SCORE
John Williams - Lincoln
BEST ORIGINAL SONG
Adele and Paul Epworth – Skyfall, Skyfall
Silver Linings Playbook
BEST ACTOR IN A COMEDY
Bradley Cooper - Silver Linings Playbook
BEST ACTRESS IN A COMEDY
Jennifer Lawrence - Silver Linings Playbook
BEST SCI-FI OR HORROR FILM
BEST ACTION FILM
BEST ACTOR IN AN ACTION FILM
Daniel Craig - Skyfall
BEST ACTRESS IN AN ACTION FILM
Jennifer Lawrence - The Hunger Games
From Academy Award winning director Ang Lee (Brokeback Mountain) comes the long awaited adaption of Yann Martel's 2001 novel Life Of Pi, bringing us the story of Piscine or 'Pi', a 16 year old boy stranded on a lifeboat in the Pacific Ocean following a tragic shipwreck that claims the life of his family. To make matters worse for Pi, the family owned zoo which the sinking ship was transporting has produced a number of survivors of the wreck aboard the boat, most notably a Bengal tiger named Richard Parker as well as a gentle orangutan, injured zebra and a nasty hyena.
Much had been made of the visual effects, design and cinematography for Pi as early as the first trailers witnessed by the public, and it's easy to see why- quite simply, Life of Pi is a visual masterpiece, beautiful to watch and absorbing through it's majestic, delicate imagery. It is rare that I would recommend viewers to see a film in 3D but Life of Pi is an exception to the rule, a spectacle that demands the 3D experience due to it's wonderfully constructed setting, the like of which is rivaled only by James Cameron's Avatar in recent times.
So enough about how the film, what about the rest? Well the character of Pi is skillfully potrayed by Suraj Sharma, in his debut film appearance. The fact that for the majority of the film Sharma is the only actor present onscreen means that his ability to forge a believable, emotionally satisfying bond with Richard Parker is all the more impressive. Sharma is the dominant force throughout the film, rendering the rest of the cast a formality for the most part (with the possible exception of Adil Hussain as Pi's father in a reserved, well delivered peformance). It's not that the actors in Pi are doing anything wrong, rather they fail to stand out as their screen time is limited and insignificant.
At this point I must confess that I haven't read the book so I can't offer an opinion on how the source material of Pi was translated to a screen adaption, but I felt that the film began in an unusually slow manner, detailing Pi's childhood in an overlong fashion that delayed the true beginning of the film with our protagonist stranded at sea. Surely readers of the book will disagree but I admit to feeling a sense of boredom at times during Pi's travels, as he continually attempts to conquer the Bengal tiger inhabiting the raft and repeatedly clashes with his only companion aboard the boat.
It might look excellent even when nothing's happening, but the lack action or progress for the entire mid section of the film is slightly draining and fails to pay off. My best guess is that the slow paced suffering of Pi is translated better by text than on screen, and combined with the decidedly exotic location of the books setting, likely the reason Lee has constructed such an artistic, extravagant vison of the novel.
It is difficult to write about Pi without mentioning the infamous twist ending that left some viewers baffled and confused while others declared it a brilliantly unexpected alternate take on Pi's experience. Personally I felt it was an excellent ending to the film, providing a deeper meaning to the story and extending the need for analysis and debate following it's ambiguous conclusion, even if many will leave the cinema questioning what they just saw from start to finish.
Ultimately, Life of Pi is an incredible viewing experience that demands to be seen by any self respecting film buff, but it's universal reception and Academy approval (11 nominations) is slightly baffling to me and possibly more to do with Ang Lee's reputable status and previous relationship with the awards cermony than the actual work itself. Conclusion: visually stunning, but not a whole lot underneath the surface.
Sunday, 6 January 2013
Liam Gallagher is up to his old antics and causing a stir by declaring an Oasis reunion is out of the question, stating: ''Fuck Oasis and fuck Noel Gallagher.''
The Beady Eye frontman is no stranger to controversy and did not hold back when questioned about rumours of the legendary Manchester act reforming in the next few years, claiming that it was in fact Noel who started talk of a reunion himself.
''It was Noel who started that rumour, I’ve never said a fucking dicky bird. Fuck Oasis as far as I’m concerned and fuck Noel Gallagher. The thought of going onstage with that fucking idiot and hanging out with his daft mates, the pretend drug addicts and all his snobs from Sloane Street. Fuck that, not interested, mate. We’re Beady Eye all the fucking way.''
Beady Eye are set to release their second album in 2013 and Liam spoke about the experimental nature of the new record, going on to say he was ''buzzing off it''.
His anger towards his estranged brother didn't end there though, as he was quizzed about his happiness for Noel's newfound success with The High Flying Birds. "Was I pleased for him? What, for splitting up my fucking band? I'm not pleased for him, no! I hope he's fucking happy but he doesn't look it."
Ewan McGregor has stated that he would be willing to return to a Trainspotting sequel following claims in the past that he would be against making an inferior product to the Danny Boyle classic. Trainspotting, based on the novel of the same name by Irvine Welsh, was released in 1996 and has achevied cult status and huge critical acclaim since.
Welsh has released a sequel entitled ''Porno'' which transports the charcters of the original to the porn industry in Amsterdam and Boyle has stated in the past that he intended to wait until the characters had aged properly in order to shoot a film version of the novel.
McGregor and Boyle were rumoured to have fallen out in the years since Trainspotting due to a dispute regarding the casting of Boyle's The Beach, in which he chose Leonardo DiCaprio for the lead role over McGregor, who has starred in his previous three films.
However, speaking to The Daily Record, McGregor stated: "I know in the past I always said I wouldn't do anything that would damage the reputation of the movie Trainspotting because I wouldn't want to do a poor sequel, but at the same time, I would always read it if I was sent it. I was never in the position where they've asked me to do it."
Knowing the combined talent of Boyle, McGregor and author Welsh, a sequel sounds pretty good to me.
Following a lenthy, prolonged process which included a switch in director and several delays in its release, we have finally returned to Middle Earth with the beginning of another highly anticipated trilogy in the form of The Hobbit. Peter Jackson takes the helm yet again after Guillermo Del Toro's departure in May 2010 due to ongoing delays in the film making process, however his two year stint as head of the project means he is still credited for his work previous to his resignation. In any matter, the fact remains that despite the overlong manner in which it arrived, The Hobbit is here and ready for review. So, does it live up to expectation?
Well, depending on who you ask, that's a very polarized question at the moment. Reception to the first of the trilogy has been largely mixed, mainly I believe due to the enormous weight of expectation which was obviously a factor following the record breaking Lord Of The Rings trilogy which Jackson dealt us previously, however this is a slightly unfair way to look at things. It was always unlikely that a franchise such as LOTR would be repeated and those criticizing The Hobbit for not living up to it's standards are missing the point, as The Hobbit deserves an objective viewing, and one not preceded by its incredible reputation.
Long story short for anyone who hasn't read the books, 60 years before the events of The Fellowship we find ourselves back in The Shire with Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman), who is tricked by Gandalf The Grey (Ian McKellen) into accompanying a pack of Dwarves led by Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage) in a quest to reclaim the Lonely Mountain back from Smaug the dragon.
Much has been made of the fact that Jackson has decided to transform a 310 page novel into 3 parts and undoubtedly this is a decision provoked by the financial benefit of 3 films as opposed to a single retelling, however the director deserves credit for translating the first half of the story at a gentle, yet never dull pace. Our introduction to the group of Dwarves is a lengthy scene, yet a warm and often hilarious one which does not outstay its welcome, although the same cannot be said of the Dwarves as far as Bilbo is concerned.
Armitage is excellent as the proud and determined Thorin, while Ken Stott as Balin is another Dwarf who should be commended, however James Nesbitt's performance as Bofur sticks out like a sore thumb, and causes me to wonder how he ever got so close to such a large scale project as this.
Speaking of cast members however, the the potrayal of Bilbo by Freeman must be highlighted as one of effortless brilliance. The Englishman is perfectly suited as the baffled, often afraid yet always kind hearted Bilbo and he embodies the character with a familiarity that immediatley warms us to our hero. Another stand out aspect of casting is of course Andy Serkis, who once again thrills audiences with his scene stealing act as Gollum. The interaction between Bilbo and Smeagol is by far the finest moment of the films 169 minute running time and provides as much laughter as it does suspense, with Bilbo attempting to riddle his way out of trouble with the unpredictable creature.
It may seem like I have nothing for praise for the film up to now, but obviously there are flaws within The Hobbit. It would have to said that the film is brought to a close in an anti-climatic manner, and perhaps this is not surprising given the fact that the film finishes where the novel is only half-way through, a problem that was always going to be a feature of adapting a small book on such an epic scale.
Another issue I had is the absolute lack of Del Toro's presence anywhere in the film; I had expected that his two years of work on the film and the fact he was still credited as a screenwriter meant that we would be provided with some form of his vision for Middle Earth, an aspect I was quite looking forward to but alas, his creative presence is nowhere to be found, although it mus be said that Jackson has once again provided a fantasy world of stunning beauty, which looks wonderful in a 3D setting and I must admit I failed to see a major difference in the controversial 48 frame rate which was discussed so heatedly in recent months.
Overall, while there will be naysayers who claim The Hobbit has failed following years of expectation, this is far from the truth. Of course Jackson's prequel is inferior to the previous films but this should not define the quality of An Unexpected Journey itself, which stands alone as a well executed, stylish and epic exercise in film-making.