“You Have Been My Greatest Love. Be Careful, Diana. They Do Not Deserve You…”
Whilst many audiences could be forgiven for experiencing a somewhat turgid time at the cinema within the summer period, suffering from a duo hit of remakes and sequels amidst an air of superhero fatigue, particularly within a year in which the two major forces in the form of DC and Marvel Comics are warring face to face in a contest which rivals the Battle of Helms Deep for sheer epic eventfulness, with more films than ever being released which focus on big-screen adaptations of everyone’s favourite literary heroes. Whilst Marvel waits on hold for the time being, with Spider-Man: Homecoming set for release next month, the ball is currently in DC’s court this week with the release of Wonder Woman, the fourth entry in the so-far much maligned DC Universe, but more importantly, the first real big-screen adaptation of the Amazonian Queen and the first superhero film since Elektra to be solely focused on a leading female character. Adding to the winning formula, Patty Jenkins, director of the Oscar winning serial killer drama Monster, takes the lead of a movie which holds so much in attempting to add a sense of integrity into a franchise which has been slowly dwindling in the shadow of Marvel’s many successes. Thankfully, Wonder Woman is indeed a winning return to form for DC, taking a brilliantly cast leading star and working with a script which adds an element of fun and adventure back into a series which has been sinking into the shallow depths of despair.
Whilst her introduction within the mighty mess of Batman V. Superman was overly rushed and ineffective, Wonder Woman perfectly crafts a backstory for a character who to most audiences may be completely alien, with WW possibly being the first time understanding the nature and background of such an infamous leading comic character. With Gal Gadot in the leading role, the DC Universe has finally hit the first mark in terms of casting, putting to shame recent debacles such as Jesse Eisenberg’s Lex Luther and Jared Leto’s overly wasted Joker, with her physical ability and enviable natural screen presence adding organic depth to a character who is represented more than adequately in Gadot’s shoes. Pairing up with the always reliable Chris Pine, the narrative does reek somewhat of similarity at times however, using the first half of the movie to generate backstory whilst using the latter as a chance to once again conclude with a staggeringly dull CGI boss battle, yet the comedic element which rips throughout the dialogue is effective enough to combat a two hour plus running length, a decision perhaps primarily based upon Marvel’s successes in mixing action, drama and comedy within most of their many releases. If Wonder Woman is the direction in which the DC Universe is heading, sign me up for more, and whilst Jenkins doesn’t really offer anything particularly new to the superhero scene, the brilliance of Gadot in the leading role is the best thing DC has done since Nolan was around. No, it’s not The Dark Knight by a long shot, but Wonder Woman is still a success.
Overall Score: 7/10
“Look For What Is Special About Each Individual, Focus On That…”
When the name Charlie Kaufman is brought up in conversation amongst the many cinematic ramblings, films like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Being John Malkovich are the first that always spring to mind with the former being a particularly strange and wonderful feat of cinema featuring arguably Jim Carey in his best role to date. As for Duke Johnson, I’m afraid to say that this is a name that I was not aware of in the slightest before watching Anomalisa, a animated feature that brings together the wacky, surreal sensibility of Kaufman and morphs majestically with the stop-motion talents of Johnson (Thanks Wikipedia) creating a piece of art unlike anything else that will be released this year. Not only is the story wonderful, the ideas out-of-this-world and the stop-motion itself rather flawless, Anomalisa is a movie that speaks about the honest pains of the world’s oldest emotion; love. Just with puppets. Featuring David Thewlis as the voice of Michael Stone, the comically least motivated motivational speaker you have seen in film, Anomalisa follows Michael’s venture to Cincinnati and his stay at the local hotel wherein he meets the unique Lisa (Jennifer Jason Leigh) a woman whom he believes is the chance for a new beginning in life.
Carrying on the wonderful imaginings that originate from the mind of Kaufman, Anomalisa focuses solely on the POV of Michael, a man who seemingly realises his life is going nowhere, tent-poled by a marriage which bears similarities to Kevin Spacey’s Lester Burnham in American Beauty with both partnerships being there for show rather than for actuality on the basis of love, with even Michael’s son being more interested on the ownership of toys rather than his fathers’ affection, culminating in a rather hilarious scene in which Michael brings back his son a rather questionable Cincinnati present to play with. Boosting the notion of Michael’s loneliness in life is the way in which everyone around him sounds exactly the same, one that is rather monotone and ever-so slightly eerie masterminded by the voice of Tom Noonan. The constant familiar voice is intended to portray Michael’s singularity and depressive nature, a nature that is brought comfort by the discovery of Lisa whose voice, to the wonder of Michael, is inherently different, a soothing, comforting one in which Michael finds solace and can’t hear enough of, evidenced by a wonderful scene in which Lisa sings Cyndi Lauper’s “Girls Just Want To Have Fun”.
Amongst the wondrous joy of Anomalisa is the mandatory subverted strangeness, with Michael’s dream sequences being rather Lynchian to say the least, with one in particular exposing the puppetry of Michael’s orchestration, a nod to the film-maker’s decision to allow the design of the puppets to be seen clear-as-day on-screen, perhaps suggesting the life of Michael can be boiled down to that of the proverbial puppet on a string, one in which life and loneliness comes hand in hand except for that brief moment in which you find true happiness, happiness which goes all two quick for our titular Anomalisa. Much like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Kaufman has orchestrated a superbly imaginative piece of cinema, one in which should not forget the work of Duke Johnson in any sense, and one in which will stand up against anything else released this year. Superb.
Overall Score: 9/10
“All Hail Macbeth”
Wow. Style and substance hand in hand usually results in a magnum opus of a movie for a particular director, actor, screenwriter etc, etc., and with the perfect synchronisation and combination of all things great and where everything hits top form in regards to what really makes a movie tick, whether it be the screenplay, the acting, cinematography or whatever, usually such a cinematic experience is one that will live long in the memory of not only those that watch it, but those wholly involved in its’ creation. In the case of Macbeth therefore, director Justin Kurzel has developed something quite extraordinary on the face of it, a Shakespearean tragedy soaked two-fold in the dank, dark and deadly atmosphere of blood and fire, something of which could easily be mistaken for a work of art rather than a film, with it already being the first film of the year to make me watch consecutively in the space of two days or so with its’ sheer bravery and extraordinary execution being something remarkable and rather, out-of-this world.
Following the classical Shakespearean tragedy of Mr. Macbeth and his scorpion-filled mind to a T, Kurzel’s vision takes advantage of the blood-filled crazed tale of lust, power, greed and revenge by not only ramping up the violence to eleven, but also emphasising the eerie nature of the classic tale by use of picturesque cinematography which stylizes the film in an overly oppressive yet wholly magnanimous fashion, similar to that of Ben Wheatley’s Kill List, a film so dour and ominous in its’ nature that to sit through it is a rather pressing experience. Although Macbeth may fundamentally be a overtly depressing and tragic tale of traumatic proportions, Kurzel’s vision of such a tale seems to take such tragedy to levels of enraged extremity, resulting in a film that inevitably will not be for everyone but for me was a beautiful and enlightening experience that was not afraid to take its’ time or resort to slow-motion scenes of death and murder, all of which were signs of Macbeth’s deteriorating conscious and psyche.
At the heart of the movie is two spellbinding performances by Fassbender and Coltillard as Lord and Lady Macbeth respectively, with each bringing their A-Game truly to the acting table, with Fassbender’s pain-stricken King swiftly developing from the acclaimed war hero to the feared tyrannical madman in the space of just under two hours in superb fashion, whilst Coltillard’s Lady Macbeth can only sit back and revel in the crazed creation of her own doing, much to her inevitable downfall. Oscar nominations I hear you say? I would have thought so, especially with the superb acting, flawless directing, art-house esque cinematography, and obviously brilliant script all combining in bringing a 21st century take on the Shakespearean classic to the big screen in glorious fashion. One of the best films of the year? Most definitely. Go check it out.
Overall Score: 9/10
The Twin Dilemma
When looking at lists of the greatest movies ever made, films like The Godfather, The Godfather: Part Two, and Goodfellas always seem to be strongly cemented into such, with Francis Ford Coppola’s masterful crime epics particularly usually chopping and changing between who rules the cinematic world (The first one is the best one IMO). What links these movie masterpieces together? Gangsters. Lots of gangsters, a topic so undeniably infamous that it is no surprise some of the greatest films ever deal with mass murdering, foul mouthed, psychopaths for the sake of the gracious cinematic audience who seem to swoon at the sight of sharp suits and even sharper tongues. Whereas the syndicate of crime families in the US has been well and truly examined through such films like Goodfellas etc, the UK crime scene tends to be wholly seen as an afterthought in the terms of crime movies on the level of The Godfather etc. My own favourite UK gangster movie? Well, I undeniably have a huge soft spot for Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels’ dark comic humour and twisty plot, but Gangster No.1 also stands out as a solid cornerstone of UK crime films, and it is here where Brian Helgeland’s new crime biopic Legend seemingly takes solid ground from.
Following in the footsteps of actors such as Spandau Ballet’s Kemp brothers (Ha.) is Tom Hardy as the Kray Twins, the infamous crime-infused brothers who rise and fall in the 1960’s East-End has already been examined through a wide range of documentaries and fiction, no more so than in ITV’s Whitechapel which for me, was my introduction into the criminal enterprise of one of, if not, the, most notorious English gangsters ever. With Hardy already portraying one of the most notorious jailbirds in the form of Charles Bronson in the magnificent Bronson, Hardy’s famous motif for portraying characters of a more physical demeanor suits the role of Ronnie and Reggie to a T, with the differences between the two being strongly played upon by Hardy’s natural born talent whilst scenes in which we witness each brother lose their cool and unleash their violent streak undeniably terrifying, presenting the fear and hostility of the Krays’ criminal reign in the 1960’s. Where the film ultimately fails however is the criss-crossing between the fearfulness of the Krays’ and the emotional core between their relationships with each other and other external factors, resulting in a division of views from the filmmakers in whether sympathy or hate is the main response towards the actions of these notorious criminals.
Of these external factors is Emily Browning as Frances Shea who presents herself as the viewpoint of the audience by having a front-row seat into the world of guns and geezers that Reggie places upon her, much to her distaste, and although the film bases itself on the notoriety of the Krays, it almost feels as if Browning takes the lead with her own rise and fall at the hand of both Reggie and Ronnie Kray. Whilst more of Browning would have been more than sufficient due to her humanity and role as a walking conduit into the Krays’ livelihood, at least her screen presences is more than that of Christopher Ecclestone’s Leonard Nipper, whose presence as the hell-bent police detective seems overly shoe-horned in in order to examine they way in which there was an overly bad side to the workings of they Krays. Aside from Ecclestone, both Thewlis and Bettany both have roles that subside themselves with being utterly pointless on the face of it in terms of their pedigree as actors, with the only reason I can think of of their inclusion is their involvement in Gangster No.1, a film that although Legend takes a lot of solid ground from, ultimately doesn’t scratch the surface of in terms of quality and culty appeal. Legend does indeed deal with the violence and terror of the Krays in the 1960’s but it does it in a by-the-numbers approach with outbursts of quality which presents remorse at a version of a film which could have been much much more.
A follow up to Red, without Morgan Freeman!? This already seems like a mistake as he was one of the funniest characters to appear and it does leave a substantial hole in the film. Dropping into the movie, we find out that Frank (Bruce Willis) and Marvin (John Malkovich) have been put on the CIA/MI6 kill list because of a connection to an old cold war operation called “NightHawk” which is causing huge amounts of trouble between Russia, US and the UK due to its huge danger to national security. Frank, Marvin and Sarah (Mary-Louise Parker) are now on the run trying to solve the issue in the recklessly comical fashion that made the first such a wonderfully fun movie to watch.
So, you may be asking, does this movie follow the success of the last one? Personally, it’s a good follow-up but it does feel weak and a little slow at points. The actual filming was very basic and relied on a lot of CGI for many of the intense action scenes that stuck out like a monkey in the insect enclosure, wildly waving it’s hands about. A big budget film should at least be able to blend CGI with ease. Alongside a lack of visually extensive scenes, the cinematography was pretty terrible as it was generic and didn’t give you those stunning landscapes which are good at setting the scene and conveying the emotions. Yet the comic book transitions between countries was a cool addition that adds some colour and style.
For a movie which prides itself on action, there is a large quantity of it. With a collection of action superstars, the most technically advanced would be Byung-Hun Lee yet the majority of his scenes is so far over the top, it becomes annoying. Plus his hand to hand combat was actually really weak. It felt slow to watch with hits that weren’t even close to making contact. The rest of the action was interspersed with comedy one-liners that were pretty funny and got the whole crowd chuckling. The acting is also much the same, when Catherine Zeta-Jones is shot, she shows no emotion. Malkovich plays the psychotic bastard quite well, but his wardrobe makes him the highlight of the show, especially at the end with his fruit bowl hat. Bruce Willis is once again mediocre, born and raised in action does that to him I guess and finally we have Helen Mirren who is probably the best acted character.
The sound and music department should be crucified for their terrible work. Most notably is the use of a Linkin Park song which features a very strong scream that appears once in the song, so you shouldn’t use it twice within seconds of each other as it doesn’t mix well. Many of the other sounds were also extremely weak and obscure, the dog next door was crying in pain.
In total, I feel it is a 6/10. Its good fun, but there is a load of errors and annoyances throughout that drive you crazy. You just have to deal with mediocre acting from A list actors. Sorry again for another short review! Been very busy but got a few new things coming over the next week or so!