Archive for April, 2012

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Avengers Assemble (Joss Whedon, 2012)

April 30, 2012

The-Avengers-Scarlett-Johansson

Originall written for Reel Time, now at Sound on Sight

Following four years of films establishing the majority of its protagonists, Marvel Studios’ superhero ensemble film finally arrives. The Avengers teams up Captain America, Iron Man, Thor and the Hulk, all established cinematic leads, as well as some agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., fronted by Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury, who have made teasing appearances in the previous five films. Despite some appealing moments and casting, none of the previous lead-in features proved particularly exceptional, with Kenneth Branagh’s Thor perhaps being the best thanks to some Shakespearian motifs and genuinely funny comedic leanings. Additionally, the first Iron Man and the awful The Incredible Hulk aside, most of the films have felt hindered by their content specifically designed to link into the big team-up, lending them an unsatisfactory feel as stand-alone stories in their own right. A huge step forward quality-wise, the final result of The Avengers doesn’t retroactively make Iron Man 2 any better, but Joss Whedon’s film compellingly weaves characters and narrative elements from this cinematic universe to great effect, and, crucially, both compliments the other films and stands alone as an accessible, hugely entertaining blockbuster with a distinct personality. Read the rest of this entry ?

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Clash of the Titanics: Two Restored Re-releases Compared

April 15, 2012

Marking the 100th anniversary of the disaster, the two most famous films about the Titanic sinking have received the restoration and re-release treatment, albeit one of them on a much grander scale. The 1958 British production A Night to Remember, from director Roy Ward Baker, has been given a new digital restoration, receiving blu-ray treatment in North America courtesy of The Criterion Collection and a limited theatrical run in select cities in the United Kingdom. James Cameron’s Titanic, meanwhile, has been converted into 3D for a worldwide re-release. This revival of the world’s previous highest grossing film allows for re-evaluation on the part of its critics, re-familiarisation for its fans, and a chance for those who missed it on the big screen the first time round, like this writer, to see it through the means in which it most thrives, with or without 3D immersion.

Upon revisiting Titanic, the most striking thing is just how well the film has held up and improved over time. Cameron’s much maligned screenplay, for instance, gets a lot more right than it does wrong. The sections with the contemporary framing device are quite bad, some of the supporting characters are poorly realised archetypes, and there’s a fair few instances of problematic exposition. The love story, however, is actually very strong, successfully aping David O. Selznick’s brand of grand, sweeping melodrama to great effect and easily surviving any damage caused by some of Cameron’s occasional dialogue issues. Furthermore, as manipulative as the film is, the depiction of the disaster is nonetheless highly effective on an emotional level: the montage of the doomed set to the strings of the ship’s band, and the lone returning lifeboat’s wafting through the frozen dead, remain absolutely devastating sequences. Avoiding exploitation of the tragedy, the ballad of Jack and Rose acts as just a gateway into a story of history and human disaster; their journey throughout the ship, as well as those of minor characters, allowing for the depiction of each facet of the catastrophe that is suitably horrific and draining…

Full comparative review at Sound on Sight

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Wild Bill (Dexter Fletcher, 2011)

April 8, 2012

Originally written for Reel Time, now at Sound on Sight

Two recurring tropes for many directorial debuts from established actors are to, firstly, work within the constraints of a genre you may already be associated with, and, secondly, enlist a few of your famous thespian friends to work for you. A screen presence since his debut in 1976’s Bugsy Malone, Dexter Fletcher has perhaps been best known during the last fourteen years for his work in the films of Guy Ritchie and Matthew Vaughn, directors that have moved on to American blockbuster fare but are still closely associated with the revival of the British gangster film. Involving East End London crime, Fletcher’s directorial debut Wild Bill certainly resembles Ritchie, in particular, on a superficial level; in regards to featuring famous faces, he has even enlisted Lock Stock co-star Jason Flemyng, alongside the likes of Olivia Williams, Andy Serkis, Sean Pertwee and Jaime Winstone. Wild Bill is, most pleasantly, a subversion of any expectations one may bring to it. Those cited performers are relegated to small roles, the star of the film being character actor Charlie Creed-Miles, and its Cockney crime genre characteristics are actually background dressing for an engaging family drama in possession of a sweet sentiment amidst its grim trappings. Read the rest of this entry ?

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My Month in Films: March 2012

April 1, 2012

20 films, 13 first time viewings

Best first time viewings
1. The Seventh Seal (Ingmar Bergman, 1957, Sweden)
2. Margaret (Kenneth Lonergan, 2011, USA)
3. Who Are You, Polly Maggoo? (William Klein, 1966, France)
4. Climates (Nuri Bilge Ceylan, 2006, Turkey/France)
5. Wild Bill (Dexter Fletcher, 2011, UK)
6. The Hunger Games (Gary Ross, 2012, USA)
7. In Darkness (Agnieszka Holland, 2011, Poland/Germany/Canada)
8. John Carter (Andrew Stanton, 2012, USA)

Best rewatches
Dazed and Confused (Richard Linklater, 1993, USA)
Back to the Future (Robert Zemeckis, 1985, USA)
Gremlins 2: The New Batch (Joe Dante, 1990, USA)
Synecdoche, New York (Charlie Kaufman, 2008, USA)
The Secret of NIMH (Don Bluth, 1982, USA)
Laura (Otto Preminger, 1944, USA)
Godzilla (Ishirô Honda, 1954, Japan)

Worst
A Man’s Story (Varon Bonicos, 2010, UK)
Trishna (Michael Winterbottom, 2011, UK)