Wednesday, 30 March 2011

The Girl Who Leapt Through Time (時をかける少女) Review

The Girl Who Leapt Through Time (時をかける少女)

Japanese animated feature films have been brought to global audience through the likes of Hayao Miyazaki (Spirited Away) and Nozumu Sasaki (Akira). Subsequently, they have also raised the bar for animated productions in Japan and globally. Miyazaki, especially, has been seen as the ‘Godfather of Japanese animation’ and anything that doesn’t have the notorious Studio Ghibli trademark has found it tough to gain an audience outside the Asian continent. However, director Mamoru Hosada moves away from his previous works of Digimon: The Movie and One Piece: Baron Omatsuri and the Secret Island to create a refreshing and beautiful look into the concept of ‘time travel’ in a teenager’s world. The Girl Who Leapt Through Time adds much needed maturity into the general impression of Japanese animation without the need for gratuitous violence and nudity, as many others have attempted. The story, characters and art are all fantastic and created a film that can be enjoyed by all. 
The story focuses on the life of 17 year old tomboyish girl, Makoto (Riisa Naka) in the Shitamachi area of Tokyo. She lives a life of teenage simplicity; playing baseball with her two male friends Chiaki (Takuya Ishida) and Kousuke (Mitsutaka Itakura), going to high school...etc. However, after the ‘worst day of her life’, she accidently gains the ability to ‘Time Leap’. With her new power, she sets a course of improving her own fortune and correcting personal setbacks. However, like all ‘time-travelling’ stories, she soon realises that changing the past has drastic and dramatic consequences on the future. GREAT SCOTT!!! 
While of the plot, may come across as the typical Back to the Future ordeal, the story remains distinctive. Being set in a high-school environment, it is the changing attitudes and emotions within the 'atmosphere of youth' that really brings the story to life. The overall film changes its tone throughout the running time. The first act primarily focuses on slapstick-comedy, however we gradually explore the realms of life-and-death situations and a more philosophical and moral undertone. The film also incorporates the social issues of bullying and isolation which help to construct and facilitate the story and the characters, without being too distracting or too focused upon. However, the story isn’t perfect. The final act, which attempts to explain ‘everything’, is the weakest and is a bit rushed. But, while this may ruin the ending in many films, here the ending is bittersweet and satisfying.
Characters are key in any film and especially in animated cinema. Whilst many animated productions overlook this importance, portraying bland and uninspired characters, Mamorua Hosada has clearly taken care into his. Makoto is clumsy and cheeky, yet has an innocence to her. Her realisation of the damage her meddling is causing and her inability to accept her growing ‘romantic’ relationship with Chiaki, results in her character dramatically changing from her selfish self during the first act. She is a very likeable character, and this goes for all the personalities. You feel their pain, their love and their happiness which really creates an emotional attachment to them. The Japanese voice work is superb and never feels lacking or excessive in relation to the scenes. In comparison, the English voice work is sketchy as usual with any ‘Anime’, thus the Japanese audio track is the recommended one. 
Japanese ‘Anime’ has recently gained a stereotypical look and traits to its productions. From the various TV shows of Death Note to Minime-ke, only the stories and characters truly create a sense of individualism within the genre. Whilst The Girl Who Leapt Through Time has similar styles to 'Anime', it is quite refreshing to see a film that relies on a effective narrative and the voice acting to portray its story. This doesn’t mean that the animation itself is average, in fact it is just fantastic and a joy to look at. With one of Studio Ghibli’s art directors, Nizo Yamamoto, the film looks amazing. The characters, though simply designed, are fluid and have a unique touch to them. But it’s the backgrounds that really stand out in the film. They’re unbelievably detailed and beautiful. From the long vistas of dusk to the interior of buildings they give character to the picture. Each scene seems like a well crafted piece of art. 
Overall The Girl Who Leapt Through Time is a charming and beautiful film. The ‘time-travelling’ story line may be a cliché ridden genre, the light hearted, ‘coming of age’ drama gives a uniqueness to it all. The cutesy, childish nature of stereotypical Japanese animation has been swapped for a more mature story and art style. While the features of manga and ‘Anime’ are visible within the film; the over-the-top reactions and the ‘triangular’ noses, it still manages to feel distinctive and refreshing. This is helped by the brilliant voice acting and the truly magnificent animation and art. It has been made for a female audience, with its romantic, teenage girl ‘slice of life’ drama. However, it remains thoroughly enjoyable and heart-warming for the rest of the family. I strongly recommend it for those who have exhausted the Studio Ghibli collection. 
(Out on Blu-Ray and DVD)
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Sunday, 27 March 2011

13 Assassins (十三人の刺客) Review

13 Assassins (十三人の刺客)

Director Takashi Miike is well know for his Japanese cult, horror/ thriller cinema. Films such as the brilliant Ichi the Killer and Audition have gained a controversial, and taboo breaking nature to his films. Released in 2010, 13 Assassins sees him try his hand at a period samurai piece (Jidaigeki / Chanbara) and take a much more ‘realistic’ approach to his directing. Gone is the craziness, over-the-top violence and the black comedy, for a much more cinematic and action packed picture. Miike delivers a fantastic film that is well acted, well directed and thoroughly entertaining. 
Set in the early nineteenth century, Japan is in a period of malaise and unrest. The story follows the assassination attempt on a tyrant, Lord Naritsugu (Inagaki Goro) who is next in line to be Shogun. His recent acts of rape, murder and his dishonourable nature, have caused unease within the samurai establishment. With many failing to oppose the Lord,  fearing their positions and honor, it is up to Lord Shinzaemon (Yakusho Koji) to launch an attack on Naritsugu. 12 samurai and an forest dweller, join forces to accomplish this daunting and impossible feat. 13 vs 200, let the battle begin. The story is relatively simple in concept and is played out in a well structured and developed manner. The opening scenes contribute to a shocking and brutal impression of our villain, with scenes of rape, mutilation and the murder of the innocence. These play very close to Miike’s grotesque and disturbing directing nature. One shocking scene in particular has a familiarity to Audition ,involving a young women with no limbs and no tongue. From then on, the second act is much more relaxed and calming, giving much needed development to the 13 assassins, and preparing us for the final act, the epic battle. 
The cinematography is gorgeous and realistic. From the atmospheric scenes in the forests, to the 40 minute long battle scene, it is clear that much attention was given to the production values of the film. The final battle alone, has amazing choreography and well organised use of the practical effects. No slow motion and no CGI........YEAH!!! (except in one particular scene, but it’s understandable when you see it). It all leads to a furious and action packed final act that keeps the audiences attention throughout. Praise has to be given to the audio side of the production. From the slices, and movements of the samurai, to the explosive demolition of buildings, the sound is impressive. The opening scene of ‘seppuka’ is simply gut wrenching. The agony of the character as the blade enters into his stomach, slices and sprays, is all off screen, allowing for a much more violent and gory impression from the sound alone. It all contributes a real sense of immersion and atmosphere. 
The whole cast play their roles magnificently, with no actor leaving a bad impression. The main star is Yakusho Koji, playing Shinzaemon. His stern delivery and strong personality, form a very dramatic and well developed character. Inagaki Goro, who plays the tyrannical Lord Naritsugu, is another strong performance. He plays the character with a calm appearance yet a mentally unstable personality. He dreams of an 'era of war', stating that the sight of his men being sliced, decapitated and massacred is ‘stunning’. He has no mercy, and no sense of cruelty or wrong. One scene sees him practise archery on a family of children and women, with his reasoning for his actions being his ‘rank’. Another noteworthy performance is that of Takayuki Tamada. He plays Koyata the 13th assassin/ forest dweller and provides the comedic relief. He has a  ‘young Toshiro Mifune from Seven Samurai’ resonance to him with his excited personality and agile movement. Yet, he brings an atmosphere for mystery and obscurity to his character. Some actors are more memorable than others, particularly Tsuyoshi Ihara who plays the bad-ass Hirayama. But, while the sheer number of characters may be daunting to fully embrace and connect with, Miike gives enough time to satisfyingly develop each of them. 
From reviews I have read, many film critics have criticised the lack of Takashi Miike’s notorious style in the film. Ichi the Killer, Audition and the Dead or Alive series have gained him his cult status. His mixture of violence, comedy and taboo breaking subject matter have been staples of his directing. While, they are all toned down in 13 Assassins I still gained a sense that this was a ‘Miike’ film. His use of violence is constantly in practise in the film, to where it puzzles me how it only received a 15 rating in Britain. However, I find it insulting that critics have seen this as a problem, because it really isn’t a ‘problem’. A director has the freedom to produce any film he wants, in any style he wants. They don’t need to follow a strict pattern throughout their filmography, like Tarantino or Bay. I praise Miike’s bravery in changing his style and moving away from his ‘B-Movie’ compositions to a more mature and well rounded feature. Its a traditional samurai film but has the best traits of an amazing summer blockbuster. 
Overall, 13 Assassins is simply spectacular in every sense. The acting is memorable and natural, the cinematography is some of the best I’ve seen of recent, and the overall direction is brilliant. Many will criticise the length of the final battle scene. However though lasting more than 40 minutes, it still remained engrossing and dramatic. This is Takashi Miike’s most mature, well composed piece and it’s epic. 
UK Release Date: 9 May 2011
US Release Date: 26 March 2011 (Video on Demand) 
                                   29 April 2011
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Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Tokyo Gore Police Review

Tokyo Gore Police (2008)

One of modern Japan’s whackiest pieces of cinema, Tokyo Gore Police does everything it says on the ‘tin’. It’s set in Tokyo, it’s about the police and it has massive amounts of GORE!! As I stated in my Ichi the Killer review, Japanese cinema has recently focused on transferring styles and stories from ‘manga’ to the big screen. And Tokyo Gore Police, though not based on a manga, follows the recent trend and successfully goes beyond. The film is set in a the chaotic future, where a mad scientist, Key Man, has crafted a virus that mutates the citizens of Tokyo into monsters called ‘Engineers’. The police force has been privatised and has crafted a new special force known as the ‘Engineer Hunters’. These officers are very much like the ‘Judge Dredds’ of Japan, carrying samurai swords to dish out their own violent brand of justice. The film focuses on one of the infamous ‘Engineer Hunters’, Ruka (Eihi Shiina), and her personal mission to find the killer of her father. The plot is very basic, and doesn’t really require much attention. It was easy to forget that there was a ‘story’, in amongst the piles of dismembered bodies and gallons blood, as it is clear that this was the focus of the film.
The acting is very average. Eihi Shiina, famous for her brilliant performance in Audition, is the best member of the cast. But that isn’t saying much in a film with a man with a turret on his head or a guy with a ‘penis’ as a gun. She plays the role relatively well, but doesn’t bring anything memorable to her character. The same goes for the other actors and actresses, names are forgettable and they have no real personality. The other exception is Key Man (Itsujo Itao), but that is primarily because of the outlandish, stereotypical depiction of a wacky scientist. 
Overall, Tokyo Gore Police isn’t for everyone. The disturbing, violent and perverse nature of the film will put many people off. But the status of ‘most gory film of recent cinema’ will attract an audience. However, if you’re looking for a well or at least some developed plot and characters, look elsewhere. Yoshihiro Nishimura, clearly didn’t care about crafting a great story or memorable characters, but focused his attention on the action and gore. While the action is entertaining, it's nothing new or ground-breaking. Nishimura has clearly taken influence from the likes of David Cronenberg’s Robocop and Paul Verhoeven’s Starship Troopers. The blend of violence and comedy, and the random humorous ‘advert’ segments are present. But the film feels as if each scene has to out-shock the previous one. So from ‘simply’ decapitations, we eventually end up with a ‘human chair’. I certainly had a difficult time really enjoying this even though I have been accustomed to gory films such as Peter Jackson’s Brain Dead  (or Dead Alive) and Takeshi Miike’s Ichi the Killer. There was nothing that produced a reaction other than 'WTF!!', but with the title Tokyo Gore Police what do you expect? Saying that, the film has been well received by critics and will no doubt gain ‘cult’ status later on in its lifetime. It’s stupid, bloody, over-the-top, bizarre and ‘watchable’.

Thursday, 17 March 2011

Japanese Cinema Month

As a tribute to the victims of the earthquake and tsunami, I will be reviewing a Japanese film each week for the next month. I hope to raise your interest in Japanese cinema, as Japan has been the source of some of the best films over the last 60 year. This is also part of's and Cinema_Fanatic's 5 day: Japanese Cinema Blogathon which has numerous reviews and articles posts by fellow bloggers.

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Nobody Knows (誰も知らない) Review

Nobody Knows (誰も知らない)

Japanese cinema has become infamous for its portrayal of samurai, ‘anime’,psychological horrors and over-the-top gory spectacles. However, ‘Drama’ has been a genre that Japan has not remained gain global recognition. Tokyo Story is one pillar of Japanese drama cinema that remains present in many ‘Top 100’ lists of foreign films, however that was back in 1953. Departures in 2008, won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film and it thoroughly deserved its attention, showing that modern Japanese drama could be globally respected. Thus, I bring you Nobody Knows.
Released back in 2004, Nobody Knows is an engrossing human drama that is helped by some truly remarkable child performances. The film is based on the infamous true story that hit the Japanese headlines back in 1988, known as the ‘Sugamo child abandonment case’. Nobody Knows doesn’t follow the exact facts and events of that unfortunate incident, but remains a tragic tale told in an almost documentary style of film-making. The story follows four children and their single mother, Keiko, who have recently moved to a small apartment. The children have different fathers, don’t have any schooling and are restricted to the confinements of their home. Yet they live in a world of simplicity and comfort with their mother. However, this is turned upside down when she finds a new boyfriend. She subsequently leaves the children, gives some money and gives all the responsibility to the eldest son aged 12, Akira (Yagira Yuya). The children are thrust into the world of adulthood, in which they struggle to pay the bills and find sustenance. While the story is one of tragedy, the film realistically portrays the events though the eyes of the children. We experience their simplistic joy over the coming of spring, and planting flowers. However, we also see their growing frustration and confusion to why their mother left them. 
The acting is simple fantastic. It is truly inspirational that such young actors could carry out such mesmerising performances. Yagira Yuya, who plays Akira, was named ‘Best Actor’ in the 2004 Cannes Film Festival. His performance successfully shows his character’s personality change over time. From the start, he is the ‘father’ figure to the family, and acts as the leader. Yet when his mother disappears, his strong determination crumbles under the growing responsibility placed upon him. He tries to support the family, but yearns for a true childhood that he has failed to experience. The other child actors/actresses are similarly fantastic and create an sense of innocence to the film.  The two young children, Shigeru (Kimura Hiei) and Yuki (Shimuzu Momoko), are full of energy and spirit, but fail to fully understand and recognise the surrounding situation and happenings. We truly care about the characters through their turmoil and dire situation.
Nobody Knows is a fantastic example of modern Japanese drama cinema at its best. It’s true human drama that takes the audience through a voyage of emotions from youthful perspectives. Director Kore-eda Hirokazu’s ability to balance the various emotions given off by the performances and the story, is simple amazing. We experience our share of depressing events but are left with an ending that is heart-warming and somber. Simplistic and Pure. 

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Monday, 14 March 2011

Entertainingly Bad: The Room

Entertainingly Bad: The Room

The Room has gained cult status in recent cinema. This is not due to a complex and inspirational story, an amazing cast or brilliant production, its completely the opposite. The acting is a joke, the story is awful, and the post-production and editing is laughable. These factors all contribute to create a film that is simply hilarious to watch. 
The Story: The story is very simple. It follows a love triangle between Johnny (Tommy Wiseau), his fiancee Lisa (Juliette Danielle), and Johnny’s friend, Mark (Greg Sestero). Johnny loves Lisa, but Lisa loves Mark...... it’s one of those ‘romantic dramas’. The film then precedes to introduce various random character appearances such as Lisa’s Mum, Claudette (Carolyn Minnott), who pretty much says the same thing each encounter. And frequent visitor, Denny (Phillip Haldiman), who plays the couples neighbouring college student (?), who has a creepy interest in Lisa. These truly add nothing to the story or the film, except to seem awkward and humorously out of place. 
The Star: Tommy Wiseau: The actor, writer,  director, producer, and executive producer is clearly the star of The Room. His undefinable accent and nationality, only adds to his hilarious delivery. Every line he says is just awkward and almost extra-terrestrial (even his’s scary).  He clearly hasn’t grasped the concept of ‘speech’ and the English language. He puts emphasis on the wrong words, he laughs about disturbing subjects such as sexual abuse, and performs the shitest impression of a chicken ever. Even his attempt at sexual intercourse is horrifying, he looks like he’s fucking Lisa’s belly-button. His character and acting is just bad, yet comedically unique which I don't think was Wiseau's intention. 
Worst Actor: Greg Sestero: Playing the character of best friend, Mark isn’t a hard task to complete. He simply shows up every now and then, to sleep with Lisa and also confront Johnny near the end. Simple performance in the books, however Sestero just fails. His acting is stale and lacks emotion or personality. This isn’t helped by the dialogue he has been given. He come across as completely oblivious to the fact that Lisa likes him and only wants him for sex. Each time, she starts kissing him or undressing, and Mark pretty much states: ‘What the hell are you doing Lisa? 
DUDE, SHE WANTS SEX!!!!!!!!!!! GOD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Worst Actress: Juliette Danielle: Lisa is just a bad character and Danielle's attempt at 'acting' is dull and uninspiring. Again there isn’t any soul, emotion or personality to her. She constantly moans and whines about how she doesn’t like Johnny anymore to everyone, apart from Johnny. Boring, enough said!!!!
Best Line: There are so many: The film is notorious for its dreadful dialogue. ‘HEY!!!’ is constantly uttered by all the characters to an unbelievable degree, and inevitably and annoyingly embeds itself into you brain. 
Here are a few others: 
Johnny: ‘You are lying! I never hit you! You are tearing me apart, Lisa’ 
Johnny: ‘Everybody betrayed me! I fed up with this world!’ (not a typo) 
Johnny: ‘I did not hit her, it’s not true! It’s bullshit! I did not hit her! I did not...........Oh hi, Mark.’  
As you can see, the majority of great lines are Tommy Wiseau's. Like Schwarzenegger, it is his delivery and accent that makes all his dialogue hilarious. The line directly above, is one of the worst pieces of acting I've ever witnessed (and I have seen plenty). His attempts to express emotion, is terrible. The dubbing of 'I did not' doesn't fit with how Wiseau has  said the rest of the line. Then, he acts all calm and says 'Hey', like he has forgotten all about his frustration with Lisa. It's rubbish acting, but unforgettable comical. 
Claudette: ‘I got the results of the test back- I definitely have breast cancer.’ 
Now, if this line was in any half-decent drama film or even a soap opera (Eastenders), it would be a moment of horror and shock. However, how Carolyn Minnott delivers this line is just funny. It comes across as though she doesn’t care, or doesn’t understand the serious nature of the problem. This isn’t helped by how Lisa ‘brushes’ over the issue to further rant about how she doesn’t love Johnny anymore. 
Best Scene : The flower shop scene: Never has acting, dubbing, script and editing been so appalling in one scene. Watch it and you will just be amazed by the sheer misdirection and acting in the scene. 
Best Prop: The American Football: When the characters aren’t having a ‘shitty’ conversation or confrontation, they throw a bloody American football around. They don’t play the actual sport, they just play catch with the thing. In one scene, they’re wearing tuxedos to go to someone’s wedding (which isn’t explained), but then they start throwing the football about. This is then followed by a completely different scene, which has nothing to do with the wedding. Which makes the previous scene completely POINTLESS. Also, how many people dress up in tuxedos to play football? 
The Room is simply awful from a film critic’s standpoint. The acting, script and directing are all terrible, and is a disgrace to independent cinema. Yet, it is the goofiness and the claims of it being 'the Citizen Kane of bad movies' that has gained it cult fame. It has to be seen to be believed. It’s just hilarious.

Thursday, 10 March 2011


Confessions (告白)
I absolutely love Oldboy and love Japanese cinema. So when I read various reviews and articles about the 2010 Japanese thriller Confessions being called ‘The Japanese Oldboy’ , I was immediately interested. It then was short-listed for an Oscar for Best Foreign Film, therefore there was no excuse not to see it. And after seeing it, I have to say it is one of my favourite films of 2010. Director, Nakashima Tetsuya has created a film, that is horrifyingly violent and dark, but also changes our perceptions of the typical revenge thriller. 
Confessions’s plot is hard to summarise, due to its complex story structure. The back of the DVD case states ‘A grieving mother turns cold-blooded avenger with a twisted master plan to pay back those who are responsible for her daughter’s death’. This summary may present a stereotypical revenge plot on the surface, but Confessions is much more deeper. The first scene is simple astonishing, and certainly is different in its approach to typical revenge stories. Essentially, it is just the teacher, Yuko Moriguchi (Takako Matsu) announcing her resignation to her class. She then precedes to monologue about her reasons why, which result in the revelation that her 4 year old daughter, Manami, was murdered by two pupils in the class. Her subtle hints of the two individuals’ personalities and behaviour, soon results in the disclosure of their identities. She then reveals that she has laced the ‘murderers’ milk with her husband’s HIV infected blood. From then on, the film is told through the ‘confessions’ of various characters, from the mother of Student B, to one of the girls in the class. We experience the characters’ reflections on the events that have transpired, and descend into a world of madness, grief, revenge and obsession. Confessions also provides a powerful social commentary on various issues that have been prevalent in Japanese society and society in general; such as child abuse, bullying and suicide.
The acting is great, with much of the film focusing on the cast of teenagers. All the young performances are realistically portrayed, with Student B (Kaoru Fujiwara) really putting a terrifying show. His guilt and psychological breakdown, while may come across over-the-top to many, is simply frightening. The real star of the film however, is Matsu Takako ,who plays the revengeful teacher. She really left a strong impression and deserves the recognition for her role. Her calm exterior hides her inner turmoil of tragedy, revenge and even madness. But later on, she breaks her collected ‘shell’ and shows her true intent through the memorable confrontations with the various characters. 
My only gripe with the film, is its attempts to be too artistic. There are a lot of instances of slow-motion and the replaying of scenes, which while look impressive, eventually end up being tiresome. A scene near the end, while has spectacular CGI and is very cinematic, really seemed out of place. But these problems are merely minor when compared to the overall impression of the film.
Confessions is a very ‘Japanese’ film. What I mean by this, is that it is very stereotypical of modern Japanese cinema. Many will drawn comparisons to Battle Royale and Suicide Club due to the graphic violence and the portrayal of Japanese teenagers. But Confessions is very unique in its direction and its darkly dramatic story. The various twist keeps the audiences on its toes, while allowing a constant stream of shocking revelations. It is a fantastic film and a refreshing take on ‘revenge’ cinema. While the premise is disturbing and genuinely terrifying, the direction and acting is superb. Plus its soundtrack includes Radiohead’s ‘Lotus Flower’. 

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Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Crappy Film Clichés: THE DUMBASS TRIP

This cliché is very common in all genres of cinema. The scene: You’re being chased by the bad guy/s (again). All of a sudden, a conveniently placed item (rock, tree branch) trips you up. Sometimes the character just falls over for no apparent reason (Tired? But you’ve only been chased a couple of metres!!) you've tripped over, no problem there. Just simply get back up and continue running. But noooooooooooo...................., somehow the fall results in the character losing their ability to control their legs, meaning they never get back up again!!! Why? You’ve got legs use them!! Don’t crawl on the ground. Just get back up, give the guy the finger and fucking leg it. 
A recent example in which this cliché is present is The Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring. Remember when the hobbits and Aragorn camp at Weathertop, then the Ringwraiths came? Yeah? Well, just before Frodo gets stabbed with the ‘morgul blade’, he tries to run from one of the Ringwraiths, but falls over. Why didn’t be use his sword in the first place? Why doesn’t he get back up? How did he fall over anyway? WHO BLOODY KNOWS!!!

Next Week’s Cliché: ‘Why can’t you just say HELLO!!’ 

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Entertainingly Bad: Batman and Robin

Batman and Robin 

In my opinion, Adam West is Batman. Forget Bale, Keaton, and Kilmer, West is the man. From the infamous cheesy dialogue to the incredible fight scenes, my first ever experience of Batman was the 70s version from Batman: The Movie, on VHS. I was never able to see Tim Burton’s interpretation of Batman during my childhood, due to their ‘dark’ nature and my age. Therefore, my first cinema experience of Batman was Joel Schumacher’s film, Batman Forever. When comparing it to Nolan’s interpretation of Batman, Batman Forever is bad, but I still find it entertaining and quirky, due to its place in my childhood. However Schumacher’s sequel Batman and Robin is a different story. It tainted my whole perception of Batman as a superhero until Batman Begins. It was bad, but now looking back at it as a ‘film lover’, I have to admit that it is a guilty pleasure.
Here is my breakdown:
The Story: The dynamic duo, Batman (George Clooney) and Robin (Chris O’Donnell) attempt to stop Mr. Freeze (Arnold Schwarzenegger) and Poison Ivy (Uma Thurman) from taking over Gotham......then the world!!! Simple really. 
The Star:  Arnold Schwarzenegger: From his hilariously, unthreatening costume with glitter body paint, to his infamous dialogue which consists only of puns, what is there not to laugh at. With lines such as: ‘What killed the dinosaurs?.... The Ice Age!’ or ‘Ice to meet you’, you can’t help but just giggle. Schwarzenegger’s career is priceless. From killing millions of bad guys and the Devil (yeah believe it or not: End of Days), to being pregnant (Junior), his acting career is ‘brilliant’. Yet, it’s his deliver that is his trademark. The heavy Austrian accent, gives charm to his roles. From the ‘serious’ acting in Conan to the ‘comedic’ nature of Junior, it all creates a uniqueness to Arnold. And in Batman and Robin, its no different. Just epic, take a bow!!! 
Worst Actor (Bad and not funny): George Clooney: Precisely the reason he isn’t in my list of ‘Batmen’. God, why did they cast him as Batman?. He brings nothing but dullness to the characters of Bruce Wayne and Batman. Clooney just came across as being out of place. His deliver of the dreadful script was boring and uninspiring, he seemed to moan though his lines in a mono-toned manner. Just terrible. 
Worst Actress: Alicia Silverstone: Not only is she playing Batgirl , who I always thought was a useless character. Batgirl just seemed like a character that was implemented only to connect with the female demographic (if there was one). But was also there to bring another female character into the comics for geeks to drool over, along side Catwomen (ehhhh...right). She just seemed like a joke, and consequently took away the serious tragedy and pain that we felt for Bruce Wayne and Batman, in the comics. Now, in Batman and Robin, she really doesn’t add anything to the plot and the film in general. Batgirl only appears three quarters into the film, and then she does nothing ,except pose. One thing that really pissed me off with Alicia Silverstone's performance was her 'English Accent', as she is the niece of Alfred. Try and identify which part of the UK she is from. Its no British accent I’ve heard of!
Best Line: There are too many: Here are a few: 
Cop: ‘Please show some mercy!’
Mr Freeze: ‘Mercy? I’m afraid my condition has left me cold to your pleas of mercy’ 
Mr Freeze: ‘Tonight, hell freezes over!’
Mr Freeze: ‘If revenge is a dish best served cold, then put on your Sunday finest. It’s time to feast!’ 
As you can see, all of them are from Schwarzenegger’s performance. But that’s why they’re great. His stern deliver, just makes the dialogue fantastically hilarious. I bet you that after you watch it, you’ll be quoting his lines endlessly. 
Worst Line: The First Bloody Lines: 
Robin: ‘I want a car. Chicks dig the car’
Batman: ‘That’s why Superman works alone’
A good opening to a film is one of the most important aspects of a film. From the opening, you need to convey the surroundings, the nature of the film and the characters. Batman and Robin got it terribly wrong. Not only showing costumes that had Bat Nipples and asses, but opening on an awful line. Obviously a reference to the DC Universe, but was it necessary? No! Was it funny? No! SO WHAT WAS THE POINT OF IT! 
This piece of dialogue is also a great summary of Robin’s dialogue. For the vast majority of the film, he is complaining about how Batman is better, how he should have saved the day, how he should get the girl...... etc. And it’s terrible. Its like a whiny child who wants constant attention from his parents, and keeps crying and whining. They should have brought back Burt Ward!  
Best Prop: BAT CREDIT CARD: The Nostalgia Critic’s rant about this particular item is hilarious, go watch his review. The technicalities of this prop in relation to BATMAN, are fascinating. Just think about it: You have to give various personal details including: NAME, ADDRESS , PHONE NUMBER, SOCIAL SECURITY NUMBERS, and would need to show some sort of I.D (PASSPORT OR DRIVING LICENCE) etc. 

Bank Account Details:

Bat Cave, 
Underneath Wayne Manor, 
Phone Number
The Bat Signal? 

Bruce Wa....... I mean BATMAN
Plus, why would Batman ever need money when fighting a bad guy. And why does Batman need a credit card? Bruce Wayne is a rich businessman worth millions, why would he need to borrow money?
Batman and Robin, is just terrible. There isn’t a good thing about it. The dialogue is terrible, the action scenes are more camp than the 70s version (seriously) and it has GEORGE CLOONEY as Batman, what more is there to add. But, whilst in a critical perception Batman and Robin is terrible, just watching it is hilarious. All you can do is laugh. I suggest watching again with a bunch of mate, crate of beers at the end of a week. Maybe create a ‘Batman and Robin Drinking Game’, there's enough there to play with. 

Thursday, 3 March 2011

The Fighter

The Fighter
The Fighter is the best film, so far, of 2011. I am yet to see True Grit  but I don’t think it could top this masterpiece of cinema. Friends and family had praised the film, and even before it came out I was excited. It was only until last week when I got to see it, in the deluxe screening room of Cineworld, and it just blew me away. The story, script, acting and direction are fantastic. Everything about this film is amazing and certainly deserves the various nominations and the critical acclaim. Director David O Russell has been relatively unheard of in mainstream cinema. The only other films that I remember him directing were the acceptable Three Kings. However, that was released back in 1999. And I Heart Huckabees, which was another average film, but it is The Fighter which really shows his talent as a director. 
The Fighter follows the professional life of boxer Micky Ward (Mark Wahlberg), but also focuses on his relationship with his older brother Dick Eklund (Christian Bale) and their family, in particular their mother, Alice (Melissa Leo). The ‘Ward family’ are a close knit ‘community’, that just want the best for Micky, in their own way. But when a romantic relationship builds between Micky and bartender Charlene ( Amy Adams), he truly realises the nature of his family; Dick has become a crack addict, his mother and his sisters despise his love for the ‘invasive’ Charlene. A ‘tug of war’ develops between the two sides, in which Micky has no idea what he wants. 
It is important to note that while this is a biographical film about boxing, it isn’t a boxing film. I’ve heard many say ‘its about boxing, I hate boxing’, and then talk about on the endless rubbish Rocky sequels (expect 3) and how they have tainted their image of boxing films. While I admit I am no fan of the Rocky Series, and of the sport in general, there have been some great films surrounding boxing; Raging Bull and Million Dollar Baby. The Fighter is another to add to this list.  I was really agitated that the film was being advertised with: ‘It’s the best boxing film since Rocky’, because the rubbishy magazine, most likely Heat, had missed the entire point and focus of the film. This is not to suggest that there isn’t any boxing. There are numerous scenes of Wahlberg in the ring, but they were well-executed and never came across as intrusive or hindrances to the film. These scenes were filmed using the actual cameras used back in the 90s to film sport events, so they had a real authentic feel to them.
The true premise and focus of The Fighter’s is showing Micky and his relationship between his family and his relationship with Charlene. As explained before, the film really pushes this idea of a ‘tug of war’. His family on one side, and Charlene and his step-father on the other, while Micky is in the middle. One scene in particular that showed the complex relationship between Micky and his family, was when Alice and her daughters arrive at Charlene’s apartment. Abuse and threats are being hurled between Alice’s ‘crew’ and Charlene. It was terrifying to see the emotional hatred between the two sides. Then, CATFIGHT!!, but it is one of the most brutal ones I’ve ever seen, with Charlene breaking one of the sisters’ noses. Yet, Micky remains in a conflict between what to do. Does he follow his mother? or Charlene? It really shows the ‘war’ between the characters and the effect on Micky. His relationship between Dick and himself is very complex. On one hand, Dick told him everything about boxing, and still remains his true inspiration for entering the sport. But after various incidents with the law and Dick’s growing addiction, the brotherly relationship is weakening. David Russell, the writers and the cast, truly make these powerful and dramatic relationships the centre of the story. And they pull it off, forming some of the most engrossing scenes in recent cinema. I really cared for the characters and that’s what a film should evoke in an audience. 
The drama created within The Fighter would only be possible by an amazing cast. And this is where the film truly shines. Christian Bale, who won the Oscar for Best Supporting Role thoroughly deserves his award. Though he says that he isn’t a method actor, his talent to truly grasp a role given to him is amazing. Physically, he has toned down from his recent roles as Batman, but not to the grotesque state of The Machinist. Yet, it is really surprising to see him transform from this hulking masked vigilante to a crack addict. His scrawny appearance, fidgety body language, mixed with a unpredictable personality truly made the addiction side to his character seem very realistic. Bale’s delivery and presence really give a uniqueness to his character, that whilst entering the wrongs of society, still remained charming and engrossing. After the final scene, the credits role and there is a small segment of film with the actual two brothers talking about the Micky’s success. What was truly amazing was to actually see how very similar Bale’s performance and the real Dick Eklund were. He really nailed it. 
Melissa Leo also gave an Oscar winning performance. She played Alice Ward, the mother of both the fighters. She comes across as a mental individual, with some serious emotional problems. It is truly scary that in one scene she’s the stereotypical caring mother, then we see her really shows her true aggressive and serious personality. Alice clearly wants the best for both Micky and Dick. But she suffers from emotional pain when she finds out about the extent of Dick’s addiction and Micky getting a new manager. I felt sympathetic towards Leo’s character in these scenes . But then felt a hatred towards her because of her attitude towards Charlene and the endless ploys and excuses to get Micky back. Melissa Leo pulls a magnificent performance that whilst seems villainous on the surface, has a certain humanity to her. She truly deserves her award.  
Amy Adams is also fantastic in the film, and really pulls off the character of Charlene. She plays Micky’s sexy love interest and moral advisor/ supporter, who really develops Micky’s character. She really has a strong personality that has the ability to stand against his family, whilst also showing her romantic and caring nature. Mark Wahlberg’s acting was surprisingly good. However, his previous work never left a good impression on his acting ability. Max Payne, Shooter and Planet of the Apes are films that failed to show his ‘acting’ ability, as well as being terrible. But I’m glad he really proved his talent in The Fighter, seen as though he is playing the main character. His deliver and performance was great. To be honest, the rest of the cast were fantastic. There wasn’t an actor/ actress that failed to impress. 
Gritty and very emotional, The Fighter has a fantastic story that is brilliantly portrayed by the cast, the writing and the director. While Inception took my personal favourite of 2010, The Fighter truly surprised and left me in awe. It is my 2011 film of the year, so far, and should have taken Best Picture at the Oscars. But I haven’t seen The Kings Speech so that could be debated later. The Fighter is a masterpiece of recent cinema. Its got heart, its got soul and it is bloody amazing.