Tuesday 30 June 2015

EPISODE 31 - Minions, Knock Knock - 1.7.15

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Emma Platt hosts alongside guests Chris Haigh & Chris Byrne, as they chow down on the current UK Box Office as well as... ...digesting the latest NEWS, including sad RIP's to Patrick Macnee & James Horner, plus chatter about the big new SPIDER-MAN casting revelation. Also find out which retro TV star Emma is named after! Chris B then lends his lukewarm thoughts about Eli Roth's twisted thriller KNOCK KNOCK, while Chris H & Emma both reveal how MINIONS disappointed them - seems the critters may need to find a new master! Finally, 'They' arrive as Emma presents DEAD MEAT: THE ALIENS ARE COMING! The second of her educational forays into the horror genre, this time talking about the genesis of the 50's alien invasion picture and its influence on such diverse films as ALIEN, THE THING and ATTACK THE BLOCK...

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Thursday 25 June 2015

EPISODE 30 - Entourage, Mr. Holmes - 24.6.15

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Dan Taylor hosts and is joined by Matt Latham & Tony Black, to discuss the latest UK Box Office Top Ten, plus: -- This weeks NEWS, including Sony's controversial leaked SPIDER-MAN memo & the US success of Pixar feature INSIDE OUT... Latham has mixed feelings toward the big screen adaptation of TV show ENTOURAGE... Tony gets the game afoot by discussing the classy MR. HOLMES... And finally, in a brand new fun section called OSCAR HALL OF FAME, Dan asks the lads to name their best actors never to have won an Oscar...

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Wednesday 24 June 2015

Review: Entourage: The Movie

Year: 2015
Director: Doug Ellin
Screenplay: Doug Ellin
Starring: Kevin Connolly, Adrian Grenier, Kevin Dillon, Jerry Ferrara, Jeremy Piven

Synopsis is here

“Do you actually think that way about movies?” The voice queried at the end of the line. I was left stumped. A brief exchange from a friend in Wales had my mind in a particular conflict.

“If I had to think like that about movies” He continued; “My head would just hurt.”

My friend was talking about an article I shared about the strange, extravagant death which featured in Jurassic World. He was quite astonished that someone would place such thought into something which in the grander scheme of things, is so trivial. He claimed that he meant the writer of the article, but the tone clearly included me, the sharer, the cohort.

I smiled, but for a brief second, I was mildly stumped. While I often challenge my own thoughts on the films I watch, the sheer simplicity of how the question was put across to me, along with a long conversation with friends over Jurassic World and Entourage, had my eyebrow well and truly raised To quote Heath’s Joker: “Why so serious?”

Am I Dothery, believing in the hologram, while Toto is there to show me there’s not much behind the curtain? Am I over thinking these blockbusters, which are only out to entertain? Should one just sit there and mindlessly soak in whatever images that you’ve just happened to pay for? Such questions, don’t keep me up at night, but they do catch me every so often while I do my day job. Movies are just movies, see? And despite nearly everything we watch, read and listen to holding a certain amount influence over us, we should just quieten down and just take it in. The real important stuff is in what you do.

This brings me, in a roundabout way to Entourage, a movie in which the four lead characters do very little and are heavily rewarded. So while the nameless audience should work hard and pay good money to sit down, shut up and take in whatever the entertainment says it is, Entourage is more happy to state that these guys, do nothing get rewarded more and fuck you, because dudebros.
That’s actually quite harsh of me. I was actually pretty fond of the antics of Vince and his crew. The TV show, despite some of its baser elements, was an entertaining romp about Hollywood. The boys were juvenile, but they were mostly harmless. What these guys lacked in airs and graces, they made up for in knock around charm and comrade. The Hollywood namechecking and film scheming were slick and glossy enough to make fans feel like they were “in” with the boys. The always sunny, totally money, world view held by these Hollywood homeboys was never one I could fully subscribe to. But I would quite happily spend 22 minutes engaging a cringe worthy Johnny Drama meltdown or a ball busting Ari Gold tirade. Guilty pleasure? No, just an effectively fluffy time waster.  

In the four years that Entourage came off the air, a lot has changed. TV has now entered a new so-called golden age and the audiences’ demands have been raised to match the quality. The (pop culture) world has now become even more aware of and engaged in gender politics. Argument and debate have spread across sword and sandals sex in Game of Thrones through to Gamergate. Whether you were a feminist before the Twitter landscape shifted or a newly pledged member of the mens rights club. It’s safe to say that the conversation has become louder since 2011.

This makes the Entourage movie feel only a tad less prehistoric than the Jurassic World Dino’s in the screen next to it. A barrage of think-pieces and caustic reviews have had the cast fighting back with exclamations of: “It’s not Citizen Kane!” This is true, but in my eyes, lines like that only really suggest that the film in question is pretty rubbish.

Despite some of the shrillness of the think-pieces and twitter attacks from the internet abyss aimed at Entourage. They’re not completely incorrect. While not the sleaziest film I’ve seen, Entourage has some moments that do make you question the thought process and reasoning on why such elements had to be in the film. It’s more gratuitous moments are the most noticeable and senseless. A pivotal moment involving two prostitutes happily pleasuring themselves orally while two characters converse would perhaps fare better in an exploitation film than a mainstream summer movie. Same goes for Johnna Drama (Dillon), whose constant juvenile chatter about “banging” was far less distracting, when A: he had actual story arcs to navigate in the series. B: He gained more comeuppance.

The fact is Entourage is pretty much what one would have expected from the TV show. Which isn’t great considering that this is a movie. We’re now in a world in which the likes of Game of Thrones can be happily screened on cinema screens. With good reason. Entourage, much like the How I Met Your Mother finale, tries too hard to shove a season’s worth of plot into an extended episode of the series. Unfortunately, rather than the scale, the only thing that feels bigger is the obnoxiousness of the characters. Once you realise that the stakes have never been lower with nothing truly at risk the film’s outcome is uninteresting. With no decent story to speak of, the only thing to observe is the indulgent (and fun) cameos and just how the crass these guys actually are.

To make matters worse, the film’s main cast (Piven aside), lack any command on the big screen in comparison to the home monitors they co-opted in the past. The flaccid four’s weak performances (along with the televisual set ups) help demonstrate the differences between films and TV that some of the stronger television shows have been fighting to blur.

As the film’s box office return slowly claws back its budget (marketing budget unknown), it’s pretty clear that Entourage, much like recent TV-movie adaptations, only really attracted its core fans and that the many articles attacking it, will probably get one or two more tickets through the door. To me, the volume of the Kermode rants and articles hint at a slow release week more than anything. Not that many people gave a damn when Entourage finished. The amount of time past and the change of scope have given a forgettable film slightly more prominence. Yet while the film works in short bursts – the odd funny line, an amusing situation or two – Entourage does very little to show that it’s more than it’s worse faculties. Much like The Sex in the City Movies, the film’s focus on the most facile elements, in a far more socially aware environment, has provided a disappointed outcome. That said, the films musical choices, which have always been well picked for the lifestyle that it’s showcasing, still made my head nod.

The friend I mentioned at the beginning of this piece once asked me to pick a film for him as he was taking someone out on a date. I forget what I suggested, but he took my advice. He married the same girl soon after. He’s thanked me for the choice I made and jokingly stated that I helped solidify the relationship. Yes, at times the way I watch films hurts my head. However, the outcome can be stories like how he met his wife. Something I found more enjoyable than Entourage the movie.

Monday 22 June 2015

DVD Review: The Devil’s Violinist

Year: 2013 (UK DVD release: 2015)
Director: Bernard Rose
Screenplay: Bernard Rose
Starring: David Garrett, Jared Harris

Synopsis is here:

Niccolò Paganini was one of the most celebrated violin virtuosos of his time and considered as one of the pillars of modern violin technique. A man of such stature, has of course been dramatized in cinema before, with his most famous being Klaus Kinski’s Paganini (1989). The ferocious Kinski, who played Paganini, seemed like a perfect fit for a womanising violinist who was allegedly in cahoots with the devil. It must be said however that an update by Bernard Rose (Immortal Beloved), is an attractive prospect.

Rose; whose work has shown interest in self-destructive egos before (Ivans XTC), seems like a good fit for the material on the surface. The addition of German violinist David Garrett as Paganini, ensures handsome looks as well as playing. Much more of a turn on than the bug eyed mania of Kinski.

The problem is that The Devil’s Violinist never strikes the same intensity that someone like Kinski could pull off on even an off day. Quickly glossing over Paganini’s childhood, as well as his mysterious alliance with a Papa Lazarou-like manager named Urbani (Jared Harris), the film quickly settles on the main meat of the story, Paganini’s first concerts in London. Here he takes advantage of far too trusting promoter John Watson (Christian McKay), before setting his sights on Watson’s attractive young daughter Charlotte (Andrea Deck).

With its conservative protests, swooning crowds and indulgent drug taking, Rose takes the approach of comparing Paganini to the likes of a modern rock star. It’s an angle that could bode well for music history teachers looking at fitting parallels of more contemporary artists for students. However, for all the films poetic license (I doubt Paganini had management as sinister as Urbani), it is a little sad that Paganini’s conflicts and demons boil down to uncooked daddy issues. This may have been more effective if David Garrett was a more convincing lead. His long hair and sublime playing show that Garrett looks the part. Yet we never truly get under the skin of Paganini or his relationship with either Urbani or Charlotte.

This doesn’t stop Rose from shooting a rather rich and lavish production on a modest budget. Nor does it prevent enjoyable performances from McKay, Harris or Joely Richardson. All three performers slaver relish over the scenery before chowing down greedily in every scene they crop up in.

Then, of course, there’s the music that features. Garrett revels in showing his talent with some truly wonderful playing, including a small yet gorgeous rendition of God Save the King. One may wish that other aspects of the film were as sweetly portrayed, but there’s still more than enough silver linings to weather the darker clouds. 

Sunday 21 June 2015

Review: Jurassic World

Year: 2015
Director: Colin Trevorrow
Screenplay: Rick Jaffa, Amanda Silver, Derek Connolly, Colin Trevorrow
Starring: Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Vincent D'Onofrio, Ty Simpkins, Nick Robinson, Omar Sy, B. D. Wong, Irrfan Khan

Synopsis is here

"You know, you're right. This truly was the best vacation ever. Now let us never speak of it again." – Marge Simpson - The Simpsons - Itchy and Scratchy Land episode.

It was funny to watch twitter bat their opinions back and forth while Jurassic World took the weekend/summer/year financially. Was the film Good or bad? Brilliant or Dumb? An extravagant thrill ride, or a muddled pile of murky gender politics and decades old nostalgia. I lean towards the negative choice to all of those preferences, and yet most of the entertainment I gained from Jurassic World was in wondering just how dubious it would become. By the time we reach a climax slavered in deus ex Machina plot devices. I felt a decision had been reached. Jurassic World had jumped the Mosasaurus, but audiences seem to be ok to see just how high the film would fly.

Observing the audience I watched it with, as well as the reactions from friends in my social feeds who don’t view everything in the same critical prism, it was clear that many didn’t care that the jokes missed more than they hit. Nor did they care that the film’s gender politics were less progressive than Jurassic Park (22 years old). When the Dino’s stomped and chomped, people felt there was something there. Even I got caught up in the thrill of it all. For a moment.

Jurassic World is stupid. Many have argued that it’s “meant” to be stupid. But I disagree. Implausibility and stupidity are not the same thing, although they can coincide. Jurassic World is implausible because it’s a movie about a dinosaur theme park. Fine. Yet unlike the franchises’ first entry, the piecemeal screenplay and mishandled gives us a lot of idiotic incident. On the surface, it’s “great” because Chris Pratt is handsome, the CGI is pretty and we remember the score. But while one doesn’t go to Jurassic World for debate of Cark Sagan proportions, I do dislike watching a film which takes me out of the world because mindlessness is considered the same as self-importance.

One thing I gleamed from rewatching the original Jurassic Park, is how characters faced trouble through the actions of others. Not only this, but how, said actions never felt dimly written. Dennis Nerdy’s selfishness causes major issues with the park first time round, but it never feels like a half assed script point. Two decades on, the writers can’t even be bothered to invest in decent cause and effect within the universe. In a place so vast and clearly dangerous, young kids can wander around in gyrospheres on their own.  I spent most of the film’s second half, brow furrowed, trying to figure out which imbecile considered the “plan” to take out the main threat to be a sound one. The sketchily drawn characters make hilarious dialogue exchanges the belay the hacking and slashing of the film’s patchwork screenplay.

“Do you still have those matches?” A character asks.

A memorable moment as the matches were never introduced in the first place. This is actually new information masquerading as something we the audience should have previously been told. In the grand scheme of things this is a small moment. However, it is the type of lapse that the film enjoys displaying.

Such weak control of the elements actually becomes amusing after a while. Sub-plots are picked up and dropped so quickly and heavily, that the films already shaky premise begins to quiver even more. Director Colin Trevorrow constantly reaches for Spielberg-like reverence, but seems to lack the understanding of how the man operates. Throwbacks to the previous films ring hollow and lack the detail that Spielberg would place to give the spectacle the layer of texture. Much like Super 8, we’re watching diluted imitation. It almost tastes the same, but it’s missing the ingredients.

Jurassic World does have a truckload of product placement to make in-jokes about, before realising who the real canny operators are, and falling into line like the owners of a franchise piece feel it should. This is something that the film labours with constantly. Much has been stated about the films infamous high heels, worn by a plucky, but hampered Bryce Dallas Howard. But I don’t think people would have been so bothered with this element if Trevorrow didn’t spend so much time emphasising them. It certainly doesn’t help that Trevorrow’s does this while killing another female character in an oddly extravagant and mean spirited way.  Then again, for a film that makes jokes about people wanting bigger thrills, it misses the chance to actually illustrate the vast scale of this theme park at such a critical point of crisis. What the film chooses to focus on and at what point often borders on the absurd.

For a film so dumb, it was still smart enough to take my money, I guess. Chris Pratt continues his meteoric rise to stardom. Managing to be watchable here, even when he’s not even close to second gear. Trevorrow also shows that as a director, he does handle set-piece spectacle better than many would have expected. Although the thrills and spills shown here, made me miss the earnestness of his debut; Safety Not Guaranteed. It’s a good thing that Jack Johnson is cast to help smooth things over somewhat. The cast as a whole, clearly show that they’re having a good time salting the scenery and having a good chew. Although let’s not make the likes of Irrfan Khan have a character that flip flops erratically next time yeah?

Not that such things bother the rest of the audience whose love of creature features/nostalgia (delete as appropriate) had Jurassic World become one of the highest grossing films of not only the year, but of all time. Something that leaves me conflicted. Happy to see more butts on seats at the local multiplex, but pained to see so many flock to something more boneheaded than a Pachycephalosaurus. For me, while it’s nice to see Raptors and T-Rex make another outing, wide eyed nostalgia can only take me so far. The moment Jurassic World finished. Marge’s quote was the first thing that came to my mind. I had to alter it slightly though: "You know, you're right. This film has truly made a lot of box office bank. Now let me never speak of it again."

Wednesday 17 June 2015

JURASSIC SPECIAL - Jurassic Park, The Lost World: Jurassic Park, Jurassic Park III, Jurassic World - 17.6.15

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Tony Black hosts this Jurassic Special and is joined by Luke Asquith & Pete D. Gaskell to chew over the latest UK Box Office Top Ten, plus: -- This weeks NEWS, including an interesting new male cast member joining the all female GHOSTBUSTERS, and a tribute to the late, great Sir Christopher Lee & Ron Moody... Tony begins a look back at Steven Spielberg's legendary 1993 blockbuster JURASSIC PARK... Pete discusses the divisive Steven Spielberg sequel, 1997's THE LOST WORLD: JURASSIC PARK... Luke gives his thoughts on the uneven Joe Johnston third entry, 2001's JURASSIC PARK III... Everyone chips in with discussion of Colin Trevorrow's franchise revival, JURASSIC WORLD... And finally, in a brand new semi-regular section called DIRECTOR'S CORNER, Tony aptly picks through the filmography of Steven Spielberg, discussing his impact on late 20th century cinema & pop culture...

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Thursday 11 June 2015

EPISODE 29 - Spy, Insidious: Chapter 3 - 11.6.15

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Emma Platt hosts and is joined by Chris Haigh, Ian Austin & Tony Black, to discuss the latest UK Box Office Top Ten, plus: -- This weeks NEWS, including responses to controversial FIFA biopic UNITED PASSIONS, the truth about Eddie the Eagle's biopic, and why Josh Trank *really* quit Star Wars Anthology 2... Ian--possibly possessed by Pazuzu--gives his scathing thoughts about INSIDIOUS: CHAPTER 3... Chris & Tony both chat about how much they enjoyed Paul Feig's action comedy SPY... And finally, in an exciting new semi-regular section called DEAD MEAT, all about the horror genre, Emma gives us a fascinating semiotic insight into the foundations & origins of cinematic horror, plus asks the boys - what is their favourite scary movie?

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Sunday 7 June 2015

BLACK HOLE CLASSICS #2 - 2001: A Space Odyssey - 7.6.15

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Tony Black hosts another Classic special, focusing on the greatest movies as chosen by special guests. This time around, Owen Hughes of Failed Critics discusses 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY, the seminal and groundbreaking 1968 science-fiction film from Stanley Kubrick, and why it's a serious contender for the greatest motion picture ever made...

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Review: Spring

Year: 2014 (U.K Release 2015)
Directors: Justin Benson, Aaron Moorhead.
Screenplay: Justin Benson
Starring: Lou Taylor Pucci, Nadia Hilker

Synopsis is here

The most revealing I took away from Spring; the sophomore effort from directors Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead, was its romance. When I say this, I do not mean romanticising. A currently popular horror trend at the moment are doe eyed tributes to the good old days. These entries are sometimes remakes, but often pastiches of past flavours that worked out previously before. As enjoyable as many of these films can be, it’s fascinating to see a horror film take as an acute left turn. If Spring takes anything from horror films from the past, it’s the emotional elements which lie bubbling underneath the surface of the likes of An American Werewolf in London (1981) or Don’t Look Now (1973). Benson and Moorhead do want their characters to feel fear, although the cause may not be the reason an audience may expect.

As with their debut Resolution (2012) Benson and Moorhead we are once again dropped into a world of slackers with their lives in personal freefall. Evan; a young man who has recently lost both parents, decides to take a trip away from America to Europe. This is partly to clear his mind, but also to avoid both the lowlifes and authorities who are looking for him. He finds himself in a remote part of Italy and in a presence of the beautiful Louise. Her hard-to-get behavior, only means Evan is more drawn towards her.  She’s smart, challenging and holds a keen sense of wit. Why is it that she seems to be hiding something from him?

What makes Benson and Moorhead stand out from the horror crowd is their disciplined focus on character. In both Resolution and Spring, the films never neglect who we’re watching and how they feel. It’s a strange turn of events when we consider the genre is now more often or not about how we watch people die. Spring is deeply concerned with Evan and Louise sentiments. Set over a five day period, the film plays out like an extended version of Before Sunrise (1995), concentrating and developing the couple’s courtship into a tender early relationship. So deliberately paced is this nurturing, one may ask where the horror actually is.

The dread does seep through. Like contamination. Spring is punctuated by short moments of beastly goings on. All of which build to a fascinating concept of genetic anxiety. But what Spring (and its creators) excel at, is the fear of nothingness. The youthful slackers they track stare into the abyss, only to have it stare back at them.  Throughout the story, the abject imagery of rotting corpses follows Evan. The film’s opening is of him witnessing his mother wasting away to cancer. Almost a call back to Chris’ junkie self-destruction, which is the catalyst of Resolution. In a modern world in which our mainstream young (super) heroes have no real sense of death, Spring carefully deconstructs the fear of the finite for those not destined for greatness. As the film progresses we gain a clear sense of what Evan has lost and what Louise (through a wonderfully controlled physical performance by Nadia Hilker) may lose.

This may feel problematic for some who are more in tune to the cattle prodded jolts of The Conjuring (2013). Even in its aesthetic; Spring’s gorgeously hazy, sun kissed cinematography betrays it’s horror underpinnings. I’m certainly sure the film's pacing of the horror will be irksome to some. Yet Spring’s investment in its characters, the sweetness of its central relationship and intelligent modern focus on universal fears that we of a younger age should hold, makes Spring an engaging and tender romantic horror film who those who are looking for something a little different.

Wednesday 3 June 2015

EPISODE 28 - Poltergeist, Tomorrowland, Man Up, San Andreas - 3.6.15

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Emma Platt hosts and is joined by guests Chris Byrne & Leslie Byron Pitt to give their thoughts on the weeks new movies including: The remake of 1982 classic horror POLTERGEIST... Brad Bird & Damon Lindelof's new Disney adventure TOMORROWLAND... MAN UP, a romantic comedy with Simon Pegg & Lake Bell... And finally Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson vs an earthquake in SAN ANDREAS...

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