2014 Review – Films, Music and Everything in Between

30

As the year comes to an end I’ve picked out my favourite moments from across twelve months, covering a number of different areas both good and bad. 

It only feels like yesterday I was writing up my review of 2013 and looking forward to another year. And now, in what can only be described as a time period that feels like half an hour, it would appear I am writing my end of term review for another year. Whether or not it is because I have enjoyed myself or simply because I feel older I’m not sure, but it’s safe to say a lot has happened across twelve months and through good times and bad we’re all still standing.

In a similar fashion to last year I have decided to produce a review for the year, with different awards for areas such as film, music, television etc. to provide a comprehensive overview of how the year was, to remember the bad points but also to celebrate the good points. And just to clarify when it comes to the film categories I am including films that were in the awards season, but I live in the UK so I am going based on their public release in the UK, thus for obvious reasons this does not cater for other countries or early showings at film festivals. So without any further delays, I present to you my end of term review for 2014.

Award for Best Film goes to… The Grand Budapest Hotel – It’s been a favourite of mine all year and it did look like it was going to be threatened by other films during the second half of the year, but nothing has stolen the title. It’s an all round fantastic film that is so tightly wound but runs like intricate clockwork. Fantastically written, laugh out loud funny, with a superb cast that is headed by Ralph Fiennes in his funniest role yet as Gustave H. In my opinion it is Wes Anderson’s finest work, with precise direction as always and excellent screenplay, all visually accompanied by another colour scheme and new fictional locations that I wish existed.

Award for Best Animated Film goes to… The Wind Rises – There were a couple of films that could have taken this award, until I watched this film about three weeks ago. It is utterly fantastic. The animation is beautiful, the historical context is important and it has a lot of heart. It is sad to know this could very well be Miyazaki’s last film but he has left us with his most beautiful film yet. I cried during the film and indeed afterwards however it is a film I would recommend to anybody and everybody.

Award for Best Acting Performance in a Film goes to… Joaquin Phoenix in Her – I’m counting this film because it wasn’t released in the UK until February, which is lucky because the lead performance is utterly fantastic. Phoenix manages to capture every angle of Theodore’s character, from the highs of being in love to the lows of being completely heartbroken and alone. It was a character that was just so human through their gentility and how events do not necessarily have a happy ending, and Phoenix captured this perfectly. It was a chilling performance on some levels also because it shows just how lonely someone can get in a world where technology removes a lot of human interaction.

“The Film I know I shouldn’t like but I do” Award goes to… The Double – I know a lot of people didn’t like it, they thought it was very much a classic case of style over substance, which it may very well be but I have to admit I liked it. I really admire Ayoade as a writer and so I think he did a good job with what can only be described as challenging source material in the form of the classic Dostoyevsky novella The Double. It was very much a dark turn for Ayoade after Submarine but I think he adapted his writing style quite nicely to create a film that was different from what we have previously seen.

Award for the Best Film Surprise goes to… The Lego Movie – I can’t actually think of a person that doesn’t like this film. I loved it. I sat down to watch it thinking it probably won’t be that good or funny, but it is genuinely fantastic. Impressive animation, intriguing plot and laugh out loud gags continuously. If you haven’t watched it then do it as soon as you can. It’s awesome. *snigger*

Award for the Film Let Down of the Year goes to… Maleficent – honestly I wanted this film to be good. I sat down to watch it having bought it the week it came out on DVD. Suffice to say this is the only time I genuinely considered returning a film and getting my money back for it. I like that it has some important messages in there and that is addresses some very serious topics, but honestly the film as a whole is bloody awful. A total lack of imagination and the non existent plot leaves the film feeling like a deflated balloon with an elephant stood on it.

Award for The Misunderstood Film of the Year goes to… Interstellar – Some people really hated it, critics were very mixed about the whole thing, but personally I really liked it. I’m not going to go on and on about it because obviously each to their own, but I think people got so bogged down in the complex nature of the plot that they were completely missing out on just how visually impressive the film is. I admire the film for being a big and bold science fiction film that was let loose on mainstream audiences so Chris Nolan is still very much in my good books for treating cinema audiences as intelligent beings. However, after a second viewing I think I’ll be able to say more about the film so watch this space.

Award for Best Score goes to… Interstellar by Hans Zimmer – I have to admit I have fallen out of touch with Hans Zimmer a bit but this film was different. In the past Zimmer has made such brilliant soundtracks that are loud, which this film has its fair share of, but for me it’s about the delicate parts of this score. It’s for the tracks that are slower and rack up the tension to leave you left in your seat feeling like absolutely anything could happen. It’s a score that very much reminded me of the score from Alien which was very quiet and unnerving. In particular for me the moments that stood out were when the musical accompaniment just suddenly cuts, leaving you with this shot of a tiny spacecraft in the vastness of space. It was chilling and unsettling but it’s undeniable that the score was utilised fantastically.

Award for Best Soundtrack goes to… Guardians of the Galaxy – this is a prime example of a time that I watched a film and bought the soundtrack immediately afterwards, it is just fantastic. Full of popular music from the seventies and eighties it’s the sort of soundtrack that reminded me of the soundtrack to Boogie Nights in which you just feel like putting on your dancing shoes and dancing as badly as that one friend you have who drinks too much and suddenly thinks they’re John Travolta. Fantastically uplifting but also well timed in terms of being used for comic purposes, well worth a listen.

Award for Best Song written for a film goes to… both The Last Goodbye by Billy Boyd (written for The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies) and Hikouki Gumo by Yumi Arai (written for The Wind Rises) – I could not decide between the two of these because they both for me symbolise the ending of a journey. The Last Goodbye obviously symbolises the end of this incredible tale through Middle Earth that Tolkien fans have been on for years now and it was really emotional to have a previous cast member return to write the song. And Hikouki Gumo signifies the end (supposedly) of Hayao Miyazaki’s career as a filmmaker. Both are beautifully written and moving so for me there is no way one can be picked as a winner.

Award for Best Television Programme goes to… Fargo – If ever there has been a show to completely grip me and make me want to keep watching in recent years, it’s Fargo. Breaking Bad did it to an extent, as did Sherlock originally but Fargo was an all round fantastic programme. The plot was perfectly on point, as was the screenplay and the cast were utilised fantastically to play such a diverse gang of misfits who you grow to love and hate over ten episodes. It was nice to see the Coen Brothers make the leap from film to television in such a stylish way, and I hope we see more of the show in the future. *fingers crosses the rumours of a second season are true*

Award for Best Television Moment goes to… The Mountain vs Viper fight scene in Game of Thrones – I cheered. Then I gasped. Then I cursed. Then I screamed. The scene is terrifying and the tension goes completely through the roof, but the whole thing is just fantastic. It is so brilliantly directed and the pace of it is pinpointed to perfection. I still watch this scene and think back to how scared I was when I first watched it.

Award for Television let down of the Year goes to… Doctor Who – I was looking forward to seeing what Moffat would do with such a talented actor as Capaldi and don’t get me wrong I think Capaldi is doing a fantastic job, but honestly, nothing excuses bad writing. Moffat claims to be a massive fan of the show so it’s high time he proved that by stopping his most consistent hobby of shitting on the show from a great height.

Award for Best Acting Performance in a Television Programme goes to… Natalie Dormer in Game of Thrones – I don’t know what it is about her. I know her character is crafty and slimey one moment but then all smiles and loyalty five minutes later, but she does it so well. I can’t tell if Natalie Dormer is a nice person in real life or not because she confuses the fuck out of me in GoT. She’s got the smile of someone who knows you’ve got a really big surprise coming on Christmas day and that they can break you just with the power of suggestion. Margery is a complex character but I think Dormer has consistently played her to such a high standard, incredible talent.

Television Event of the Year goes to… Black Mirror: White Christmas – It’s a late entry I know but honestly I have not been as excited for any element of television this year as I was for the one off special of Charlie Brooker’s phenomenal Black Mirror. It was the show I was most excited for and was the show that disappointed me the least. Well worth the wait and one that definitely had to be mentioned as a highlight of 2014’s television offerings.

Award for Best Song goes to… Moving on by James – There’s a lot of older acts still trying to recapture former glory. AC/DC are still clinging on, G’n’R are somehow still going, for some unknown reason KISS still exist, and it’s all becoming very tiresome. So it’s a nice surprise when an older band keeps it together and manages to still make such brilliant music. In the waves of music that doesn’t mean anything (I draw your attention to songs such as All about that Bass) James are still writing fantastic songs about love that have both heart and substance. The whole album was brilliant, but this song in particular stood out.

Award for Best Album goes to… Antemasque by Antemasque – this is the sort of album that you don’t really pick favourites from, because the whole thing is fantastic. It’s great to see Cedric Bixler Zavala and Omar Rodriguez Lopez working together again doing what they do best: writing amazing songs and going fucking nuts whenever they feel like it. It had a rough time due to early release and then being withdrawn for re-release and it seemed like for a while we wouldn’t see this album again. But then with the worldwide release in November meant anybody could listen to what is one of the best albums to have been released in recent years.

Award for Worst Song goes to… Shake it Out by Taylor Swift – it’s funny how some people talk without saying thing, and then people like Taylor Swift sing without saying anything. It’s a song that consists of the polystyrene shapes that come in a box when you first get a new washing machine. It lacks any form of substance and basically has a message that’s as strong as Russell Brand’s political opinions. It’s hard to say what the song is about really as it is so badly written that there isn’t a hope in hell of analysing it because it would be as a futile as trying to teach a fish how to climb a tree. The lyrics remind of the moment that happens every so often when a child spontaneously makes up a song and proceeds to dance to it. I have cousins under the age of eight, and right now they’re showing more of a talent than Miss Swift is managing. I feel less at risk to Ebola than I do to internal hemorrhaging after being bored to death by this trashy attempt at song writing. If only the people who have heard the song could shake it off and erase any trace of the stupid song ever being near them.

Award for Best Internet Moment of the Year goes to… the rumours surrounding Glastonbury – It was just fantastic to see all of the people on Twitter getting excited about rumoured acts like Kate Bush, Fleetwood Mac, Oasis (somehow), Foo Fighters, and then the big day came and Metallica were announced. The look on the faces of those I know that had tickets was that of a child who has their balloon popped right in front of them by some bastard with a pin. Priceless.

Favourite blog post of the year goes to… https://adamdlester17.wordpress.com/2014/06/27/leonardo-dicaprio-doesnt-need-an-oscar-no-one-does/ a short blog post I wrote earlier this year about how the Oscars don’t matter. It’s not just my favourite because it was well received, it’s because it meant the most to me. I listed some of the greatest film talents of all time who have never won Oscars just to show how films should not be made competitive in such a silly subjective fashion. If you haven’t read it then please give it a quick look, it would mean so much to me if more people read it and shared it.

Award for Best Film News of the Year goes to… Star Wars Episode VII being filmed literally ten minutes away from my house – yep. This happened.

All in all it was a busy year with a lot of ups and downs but overall it was an interesting experience. I hope it was a good year for everyone, but more importantly I hope this next year is even better. On a personal note I would just like to add that this blog is now two years old. After nearly stopping it altogether a couple of months ago I have to admit I’m glad I stuck with it and kept on writing. So really I just want to thank everyone who has ever read it, be it a loyal fan or a close friend or even a random viewing from another country, thank you for taking the time out of your day to sit and witness a young man pontificate. Thank you to those who have stayed loyal and thank you to those who have recently followed. 2015 should be a big year so I can’t wait to post more, including some bigger projects so keep your eyes peeled. ‘Blunt Reviews Presents’ was just the beginning.

I am aware there are things I have missed in this post so if there is anything you would like a judgement on then please feel free to leave a comment and I shall address it as soon as I can.

Happy new year to all, and a much awaited goodbye to 2014.

020513-fine-wine-rushmore_17

The Tim Burton Problem Continues

Thinking back to last year, one of the most popular posts I wrote was about Tim Burton and how I felt his Batman films weren’t as good as those created by Christopher Nolan. I made it clear that I liked Tim Burton’s films and I respect him as a director, but he is someone I can admit has somewhat deteriorated in his standard of film making.

The original post from last year was well received by the majority of people and still remains my most viewed piece of writing, but I was met with a small amount of negativity. I wasn’t bothered by it because people are entitled to their own opinion and I jump at any chance to discuss films and talk about different perspectives. In fact one of the best things about being interested in films is the number of opportunities available to talk about them in depth. Just recently however it did get me thinking about Tim Burton as a director and a writer and why I’m beginning to dislike him.

Don’t get me wrong I absolutely love some of Tim Burton’s work; I think he has proved on occasion that he has a really good eye for cinema and is capable of producing works of art. It’s clichéd but I do like ‘Edward Scissorhands’ but mainly because it’s a film I’ve grown up with. A lot of people will regard it as his best piece of film but I would argue that his genius lies in ‘Corpse Bride’, it took things back to a simple but artistic gothic style that really worked. The story worked well with the addition of musical numbers which made it entertaining, but what made it special was the deeper messages about what love actually is and how it effects people. This is what I admired and liked Tim Burton for, so where did it go?

I think most people hope that film directors get better with age, like Martin Scorsese. He went through the phase of making gritty films like ‘Taxi Driver’ and then of course ‘Goodfellas’ (which are both superb) and it seemed like he wasn’t going to settle down and was trying to keep the seventies alive, even if he was dragging it through to the nineties. But then he showed he was capable of making something like ‘Hugo’ in 2009 that was for a completely different cinema audience and showed how his directing abilities are broad. With Tim Burton he’s still stuck in the phase of trying to be different, and putting Johnny Depp in as many odd costumes as he can. I swear that man will wear anything as long as Burton pays him.

The thing with Burton is this, his approach to films was different in the nineties and it was entertaining, but the novelty has faded. He’s still trying to apply the same formula of visual technique and it’s not good enough. Take one of his latest pieces, ‘Dark Shadows’, the ill-advised venture into a gothic comedy. I saw the trailer and thought there could be something there, it made me laugh slightly to myself and looked like it could be sharply witty. So I sat down to watch it and found myself bitterly disappointed. I wanted it to be good, I really did, but it just lacked substance. If you take away the half decent visuals, silly wardrobe choice and hairstyles, the childish characters all you’re left with is a 113 minute period of dull dialogue, tedious set pieces, and gothic rubbish designed to make the film a little darker. It was an ill disciplined piece from someone who is capable of better.

The whole gothic approach to film is wearing thin, so people could argue that Burton is keeping this flare alive. But in actual fact he is clinging to this with every fibre of his being and trying not to let it slip away, and he is losing that battle. ‘Dark Shadows’ showed how far he had fallen from works such as ‘Beetlejuice’ because it showed a lack of imagination, and a ‘copy and paste’ approach to film, regurgitating Johnny Depp in a silly costume as a dark character, a family that have to accept a weird addition to the household, and a large gothic building that looks like it’s from an episode of Scooby Doo. Sound like ‘Edward Scissorhands’ much?

It’s not just ‘Dark Shadows’ that annoyed me though, I’ve had to sit through ‘Alice in Wonderland’ countless times and attempt to like it when I know that it’s bad. It took a classic novel and turned it up to eleven on the stupid scale, stuck Johnny Depp on screen in a silly costume and added visuals that would have looked impressive back in 2004. It’s disappointing because I expected a lot more from a director who can be good, and a novel that is beautifully constructed to be so intricate. That is why the film was unsatisfactory, because it didn’t feel like a Burton film. It felt like you’d taken bits of Burton and jumbled them together and I’m sorry, it just didn’t work. You can put a star studded cast on screen in silly outfits up against a green screen backdrop and it doesn’t make it a good film.

While on the topic of that film it’s worth mentioning that Tim Burton put film makers to shame during the making of that film. He showed exactly what is wrong with Hollywood and modern cinema. Now I don’t know if it was his decision because I am aware it was probably out of his hands, but accepting to have the film released in 3D showed how film makers are so fixed upon making money. It’s slowly slipping away from being an art form designed to entertain a mass audience and it’s moving more in to a business, where people in suits sit at the top of the pile and watch the money come tumbling in. As I said I don’t know if it was Burton’s decision personally because the matter may have been out of his hands, but it was annoying nonetheless because didn’t add anything to the film and is again showing how stupid cinema audiences can be by paying for such nonsense.

You could see the signs on Burton slipping slowly down the scale years ago though, having to sit through ‘Sweeney Todd’ you could see that his style is losing its touch. I don’t completely hate the film because there is some level of enjoyment, but as a whole it felt quite shambolic and disjointed because it didn’t run smoothly. It appeared that the gothic element and the musical element were constantly competing against each other so the film doesn’t settle in one camp or the other and that does bother me. Not because my OCD traits want my DVDs organised in to genres but because it means the tone of the film darts about and it never really finds itself. As soon as it feels like it’s going to settle, something ruins it and it begins to be very repetitive and makes me lose interest. It is a shame because again I wanted the film to be good, but I found myself disappointed.

I realise that this is the point in which Tim Burton fans will want to hit me, but as I have said before I do like him as a director, it’s just I prefer is old films to his new ones. He will always have classics such as ‘Beetlejuice’ that will remain classics and quite rightly so, but his new films are nowhere near as good as his old work. His old films were artistic and near perfect, his new films are annoying ill disciplined. I can only hope that he’s on his way to being as good as he once was. It may just be a case of him going through a bit a low point but then rising back up to former glory. I hope it’ll happen, but with the state of things how they are, it doesn’t look hopeful.

Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy is still better.

Fifty Shades of Dismay

Now it might be because I’m a film fanatic or because I have the tolerance level of an old man, but I am getting quite concerned that growing development of the ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ will lead to the release of a genuine film based on this atrocity. For a while it looked as though it was going to be scrapped completely, because they couldn’t settle on a cast or some issues with who was going to direct, but they’re all ignoring the obvious issue: the film doesn’t need to be made. 

You can put up any barriers you want to say that it’s going to be artistic and different, but I don’t care, it’s an appalling novel that should barely be considered for adapting for the big screen. It is a book that is fit for a small selection of purposes:

#1. For middle aged women to read on a sunbed in a hot country through sun glasses that they frequently have to lower in order to double check they read what was on the page properly 

#2. Propping open doors that are light and can be fixed in place easily

#3. Hitting a fly that enters your house unexpectedly when you’re trying to concentrate on something more important, like reading a good book

#4. Teaching people of an older audience how not to punctuate a piece of literature. Honestly, I don’t know who edited the book before it hit shelves but I think they need to re visit primary education and be taught effective use of punctuation

and most importantly

#5. Avoiding

I can’t see it as being a film that is going to be enjoyable for anybody, other than the person who wrote the book in the first place because it means their bank balance is going to be soaring through the roof and containing more digits than their mobile number. I don’t want to see a film based around a man who so rich that he think every woman is beneath him (yes, funny pun) and then a female character who adheres to his arrogance and expectations. 

On the other hand I am aware that some people think it will be a challenging film that has problematic themes and underlying messages about society and the human condition. I’m sorry have we not seen ‘Straw Dogs’? That’s a film that managed to chill audiences perfectly for a number of reasons without being bloody awful. 

If you want a film that was based on a problematic novel, go and watch ‘The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo’ because at least that is based on a novel that was well written. It had an actual plot line to stick with and linked in to a number of themes, such as the value of family and how obsessions effects the human mind. It’s difficult to watch, and to read for that matter, but at least it’s not ridden with dull characters, loose plot points and a fan club that claim it’s “sexy”. 

As I said on post about 500 Days of Summer just yesterday if a film has to be described as “sexy” it’s because there is nothing else to say about it. And they can’t even say that about this film. It’s going to be a dull sequence of uncomfortable close up shots and nauseating dialogue so badly written it makes Dappy look like bloody Shakespeare. 

Alternatively, it could be released and I find myself pleasantly surprised to find that in actual fact a good film. I would love for that to happen because one of the best things to happen to someone who loves films as much as I do is for them to be proved wrong. To come away from a film and to find that you have been surprised by how good it was is one of the best feelings you can have, but this won’t be the case. The media trail for it has been raging on for so long now and realistically it will reach number one spot at the box office. 

I won’t be happy if it reaches number on at the box office, I won’t even be annoyed. I’ll be disappointed. I will be disappointed that people will pay money to go and see a film that is based on a book so black of heart, so badly written and so utterly without merit. It will be the day I will lose hope for humanity and the future of cinema, because it will be the day that shows me money grabbers have won the battle of cinema. Never Christopher Nolan and Paul Thomas Anderson trying to keep the old artistic flare of cinema alive, all it takes is a film that is so dull and without substance to reel people in. 

It will be the sort of film that makes me think “actually the Hunger Games was a good film”.

500 Days of Summer Results in 500 Minutes of Over-Thinking

It’s only been four months since I turned eighteen and yet there are more signs appearing that I am a fifty four year old man trapped inside a young man’s body. I find myself feeling negative even after watching a film that’s meant to be funny. It’s not negative as in “everything is awful” or “I don’t like living” but it’s more just me thinking about why people are so annoying. 

I’m starting to consider the fact that it might not be films I dislike, but it’s the people in them that I dislike. It sounds silly because I know they’re not real, but I allow myself to get to immersed in to a film that for the time they’re on screen, they’re real people. It’s odd how I develop a bigger hatred over an hour and half running time for someone who doesn’t exist than I do for someone over a number of years who does exist. It’s the reason why films that are loved by everyone else are less enjoyable for me, as I found recently this is the case with the film ‘500 Days of Summer’. 

Don’t get me wrong, I like how the film is written and the style of it is very well delivered, it was a romantic comedy that I was able to sit through and find myself enjoying it, but it made me uncomfortable. It’s curious how romantic comedies are set up to make you like or dislike certain people, and even more curious how I can take this rule and turn it completely on it’s head. I’ve seen the film four times now and after each time my thoughts became more distorted, like so:

First viewing: “I dislike the female character. It was unfair for her to lead the man on and make him feel as bad as he did. It’s her fault that he ended up feeling so unhappy”

Second viewing: “Actually I dislike the male character. It’s his fault that he’s unhappy because she clearly stated at the beginning that she wasn’t looking for a relationship, so it’s his fault for jumping in too quickly and assuming it was a solid deal. His unhappiness is caused by his own stupidity”

Third viewing: “You know what? I dislike both of them. They’re not going to be happy together so there’s no point in them even trying to patch things up. I don’t think either of them actually know what they want because the line between friendship and having casual sex has been completely removed. If they’re going to string it out over a five hundred day period then they deserve to be unhappy quite frankly”

Fourth viewing: “I don’t like anyone in this film. The couple (if you can call them that) are just plain annoying because neither of them can look after themselves let alone another human being so they shouldn’t be trusted with the idea of a relationship, the friends are beyond useless because they’re written to be the stereotypical beer drinking, football watching guys that every American is supposed to know, I don’t even know why Chloe Grace Moretz is in this film because her character is about as important as the football she kicks around, and then the people that the guy works with are beyond irritating. Why do they care so much about stupid greetings cards? All of their ideas on love are so distorted, they just need to take a step back and think about their actions. Or are they all too busy singing Karaoke at the bar? I’m glad they’ve all stopped talking and don’t actually exist”

So when I said my thoughts became a little bit distorted, what I actually meant was that they spiralled out of control and lead to me not wanting to speak to anyone in case they annoyed me as much as people in the film did. It’s annoying how it went from being a film I actually quite liked the first time I watched it to being one that can easily irritate me when I think about it. 

It wasn’t just the whole relationship crisis that annoyed me in the film, it was the fact that Zoeey Deschanel plays the character that’s supposed to be different and mysterious…again. 

The word that is often used to describe the film, and Deschanel’s character in the film is “quirky”. It’s a word that annoys me beyond belief when describing a person, let alone a film. It’s a word that people use to justify being slightly odd, or dressing in a different way, or listening to music that others haven’t heard , or eating hummus in a onesie at three in the morning or blah blah blah. It’s a word that it used by so many people it completely negates the meaning of the word. Now to describe a film as that suggests to me that you haven’t got a lot else to say about it. It’s almost as bas as when a film is described as a “sexy comedy” because that suggests the best the writing team behind it could come up with was cleavage shots, a food fight and then a gag about male genitals.

Anyway getting back to the Deschanel’ issue, it was annoying how she was meant to be “quirky” because it made her character quite irritating, but then it was made worse by the fact they tried to link this behaviour to listening to the Smiths. Now I’m a big fan of the Smiths so it was annoying to see their name being used as another “quirky” interest for the young Summer. I like the Smiths but I’m not anything like Summer. I think the writing behind their lyrics is superb and it reflects so much about Morrissey, but I’m the sort of fan who knows that they have more songs than just “there is a light that never goes out”. 

I think it’s just one of those films that I like and dislike at the same time but I well never truly settle on one side of the argument. I will never go so far as to say I hate the film because it’s not that bad, but then equally I will never go so far as to say I love it because I admit it has flaws. I don’t know if I dislike it because I’m thinking about it too much or because it’s meant to be annoying, but either way it’s allowed the inner old man in me to moan, which shouldn’t be done on any occasion.

In summary the old man part of my mind doesn’t like female characters who flutter their eyelashes and have supposedly “cute” laughs, guys who don’t think properly about situatons, young people not appreciating old music, people who are named after seasons, greetings cards, and the word “quirky”.

After thinking about it for so long I’m worried what my thoughts on the film will be after watching it for a fifth time. 

 

Sex, Drugs, Swearing and Everything In Between – The Wolf of Wall Street Review

I assumed that my opinion of this film was always going to be biased from the outset seeing as though I’m a huge fan of Martin Scorsese as a director and indeed of Leonardo DiCaprio. If I’m honest I went in to the screening wanting this to be a good film. I’d waited nearly a year after seeing the first trailer which had me intrigued within the first couple of seconds, so I went in eager to see what the three hour picture had in store for me. I came out with mixed opinions. The only way I can describe is by quoting the chorus of ‘All My Life’ by Foo Fighters: I love it but I hate the taste, and that is exactly how I felt about the film; it was good but left me with a bitter taste.

The film, for those who don’t know, focuses around the life and exploits of Jordan Belfort, a stock broker who was involved in various illegal dealings after the Wall Street crash of 1987. The film details his exploits in the work place, his relationship with colleagues and his two wives, but the main focus of the film is his party lifestyle after working hours and indeed during working hours. There’s sex, drugs, violence, colourful language and just about everything in between. It is turned up to eleven from the opening minutes and does not back down for three hours. It was always going to be interesting for me because I find the man himself, Jordan Belfort, a fascinating person. He’s inspiring because of how he has turned his life around completely and because of his motivational speeches nowadays, and yet he is repellent because I can’t forgive him for the atrocities of the past. I think the film manages to show him as exactly who he was: a self-obsessed, misogynist, out of control arse and I am thankful that the film doesn’t ask you to forgive him at the end.

In case you don’t guess before you watch the film I’ll be direct about it; the acting in the film is superb. I can see that the film is shambolic, ill-disciplined and over indulgent but it’s the central performances by Leonardo DiCaprio and Jonah Hill who really hold this mess together. Their on screen chemistry is perfect and they bounce off of each other in quite a horribly enjoyable fashion. Both have been nominated for Academy Awards this year and it would be nice to see at least Leo receive the award but I think it’s unlikely. He is perfect as Belfort, showing the out of control idiot who we all hate, and you will hate him from the start, but then he equally manages to capture the intelligent business man who was incredibly clever with words. It is was an amazing experience to see DiCaprio give such an energised performance and I hope the odds are tipped in his favour during the award season.

There was always an issue with screenplay for this film, with articles all over the internet proudly showing how the film holds the record for the film with the most use of the ‘f’ word, featuring in the film 506 times over a three hour period. I don’t know why people are complaining about it, not only is it an accurate portrayal of how the people spoke in real life but also it’s a film with an 18 certificate, I think you should expect there to be profanity use throughout. I have to admit I do like the screenplay, I think Terence Winter has done a brilliant job managing to make it witty and intelligent but also quite informative. There are times in which you really have to keep your wits about you because it gets bogged down in jargon but it’s not necessarily a bad thing. What you hear in the film is just as important as what you see on screen. I would like to see the film win the award for adapted screenplay, but that’s a category in which my predictions are usually wrong.

As I said at the start I am a massive Scorsese fan and I love the majority of his films, and I know people have complained about the explicit nature of the film and some of the behaviour it shows, but I think Scorsese took a risk with making the film as gritty as it is and it’s a risk that paid off. There’s no point in making a film about such lifestyles without showing every element of them. I love how Scorsese is still treating cinema audiences as mature adults and not as children who need to be accompanied by their parents. It’s refreshing to see such a controversial film being made rather than playing it safe to up its chances of winning awards. It’s an accurate portrayal of events and they are put to the screen in an uncomfortably entertaining manner. Scorsese had a star studded cast for this one and he put them all to good use and executed the film in a rather slick manner. It’s not amazing and I can see that it is very poorly disciplined and nowhere near as good as other Scorsese pictures such as ‘Goodfellas’ so I hope Scorsese doesn’t hold too much hope of winning an Academy Award for his directing here.

I can’t really say much about cinematography for this film because there was so much happening I wasn’t really concentrating on how it was put to screen. Scorsese has always been good with camera angles, making sure the right image is on screen and focusing on facial expressions appropriately. His work for the large party sequences and orgy scenes was uncomfortable to say the least but it shows how his visual style is leaving an impact on the audience.

As ever with a Scorsese picture the soundtrack is incredible, a nice mixture of fitting musing that suits the time period and behaviour of the characters. It reminded me of the impact the ‘Goodfellas’ soundtrack had, which this film did not meet by a long shot, but it did make me realise just how well the soundtrack worked. It’s a long film and so the soundtrack contains a lot of songs but there was never a time in which I thought a song didn’t fit.

It’s quite a rare occasion when I leave a film and the first thing I’m thinking about is which way its moral compass is pointing. In the case of this film it was the main thing on my mind after leaving. I would warn anybody who is thinking of seeing the film that it is very explicit and you will hate Jordan Belfort by the end of it. His lifestyle of excessive wealth and partying is shown throughout the film which has caused many people to complain as they feel it promotes such deviant behaviour and even condones it. Personally I do not feel as though the film asks you to like this world or indeed to like Belfort himself, it merely depicts how his life was in as accurate a way as possible. I think the aim of the film is to show you just how horrible the behaviour is, not to make you accept it or even like it. In terms of the gender struggle within the film I’ll leave that as a topic for other people to discuss because I’m sure others can write a far more authoritative argument than I can, but just suffice to say some parts containing female characters made me feel both annoyed and uncomfortable.

It’s interesting to see how people have received the film and how people have reacted to the actual wolf of Wall Street himself but if I’m honest I can’t help but feel embarrassed because I know that in the end he represents all of us. He represents the greed that all of us have inside us and the lust for wealth most humans share, he’s just a grim look at what happens when our dreams are reached and how horrible our lust for money is when it’s allowed to manifest.

Overall I don’t know if I could give the film a rating because I have such mixed views on it. I’m remaining fairly neutral with it because if I had to sum it up for anyone who is thinking of seeing it I would simply say: it is an ill disciplined and over indulgent look into a world you will hate, a person you will hate, but you won’t be able to take your eyes off screen. I still maintain that DiCaprio holds the film together and puts on an incredible performance, but the film is still a mess. I will say that it is funny and entertaining but it’s odd how sometimes it’s the uncomfortable bits that are more entertaining and then there’s uncomfortable sequences that are a miss fire and left me feeling annoyed. I think a second viewing is in order before I can decide fully, but before that I think it’s best if I just shower my mind for a month and try to come to terms with what I have witnessed.

In short the film makes you hate people if you didn’t do so already.

2013 Review – from Music to Film and Everything In Between

It appears the end is nigh. As many customers at my weekend job have reminded me, yes it is nearly the end of the year, and yes I should have a happy new year. And yes they would like the receipt in the bag.

Seeing as though I have nearly had this blog for a year now and how much has happened this year I thought I’d take advantage of this opportunity and sum up all of the best elements of 2013 for me. It’s in the style of an award ceremony, and it branches from elements such as music and film to experiences I’ve had. My year would not have been the same without them.

Song of the year: Do I Wanna Know?, Arctic Monkeys – it was up there with ‘Four Simple Words’ by Frank Turner and Black Sabbath’s ‘God Is Dead?’ but being released in the middle of the year as the first song by the band in well over a year, it was always going to be something special. It was a nice surprise returning from a camping week to hear this song, a nice blend of heavy guitar and bass accompanied by Alex Turner’s incredible vocals. It is masterfully written and presents a clear and strong message based around the connection you have to someone. 

Album of the year: Evil Friends, Portugal. The Man – having not heard of the band before spending a weekend away in Southampton to visit my sister back in July, I was excited to hear what music was produced by the band. Their new album was released and instantly became a favourite of mine, every single song on it is brilliant and makes me want to keep listening. Sure ‘AM’ was brilliant but it didn’t have me as hooked as Portugal. The Man did. If you haven’t listened to them before then I would heavily recommend them. Their music is a little different but beautiful nonetheless.

Best Live Act: shared winners Arctic Monkeys and Fleetwood Mac- I know I’m cheating by choosing two, but despite Reading Festival in the summer nothing compares to either of these acts. Fleetwood Mac performed for three hours straight and were musically perfect whilst still putting on a good show. Then Arctic Monkeys differed from that, being more energetic and making me dance harder than I’ve ever danced before. A particular highlight for me was the blend of their song ‘Arabella’ and the Black Sabbath classic ‘War Pigs’. Both were completely different styles of performing, but either way I witnessed true titans of music.

Television Programme of the Year: Breaking Bad – I don’t think I need to elaborate here. It was insane and there was no Sherlock to compete. Next.

Film of the Year: Kings of Summer – A beautiful, charming, funny and heartwarming film that was probably missed by most people I know. An obscure comedy about three teenagers who decide to live in the forest, reminding us all of the times we wanted to be free when we were younger. It shows the value of friendship, challenges the value of family and makes you laugh out loud in between. It is a genuine treasure of the year and it’s a shame so many people missed it. I would heavily recommend this film to anyone that is human. 

Cinema Shock of the Year : Trance – I came out of the cinema screening and didn’t know what to think. It was how I imagine ‘Inception’ would be if it was directed by Quentin Tarantino. I’m not saying it wasn’t good because it was a very good film, it’s just not one for the faint hearted. Danny Boyle did a terrific job but it should not have a 15 certificate. 

Film Soundtrack of the Year : Silver Linings Playbook – I can’t really say a lot more than it’s a perfect soundtrack for a damn good film. A good blend of old and contemporary songs that link to the mindset of the characters so well. I love it. My review of the film can be found here: https://adamdlester17.wordpress.com/2013/09/15/rapid-reviews-silver-linings-playbook/

“I shouldn’t like it but I do” Film of the Year : The World’s End – those who are followers of my blog will know how much I thought of this film. Yes it was ill disciplined, yes it wasn’t as funny as ‘Hot Fuzz’, but I don’t care. The use of sci fi humour and the underlying theme of what it means to be a human, and furthermore being proud of being human were enough to make me very happy indeed. Again, my review of the film can be found here: https://adamdlester17.wordpress.com/2013/07/21/the-worlds-end-review-no-spoilers-the-cornetto-trilogys-worthy-last-installment/

Acting Performance of the Year : Joaquin Phoenix, The Master –  I know it was technically a 2012 film for some but it was nominated for the 2013 Academy Awards so I think it counts. Honestly I cannot give Mr Phoenix enough credit for this role, he was absolutely superb. The scenes that were improvised were chilling and gritty and then the scripted scenes were perfected. This award very nearly went to Jennifer Lawrence for ‘Silver Linings Playbook’ purely because of the shock factor but in the end Joaquin really put on a good show and showed us just how unstable a character can be.

Nerd Pleasing Moment of the Year : Doctor Who 50th Special – Star Trek didn’t get this award. Thor didn’t get this award. Superman definitely didn’t get this award. There was only going to be one winner, and that was indeed the anniversary special of Doctor Who back in November. The combination of David Tennant, John Hurt and careful writing (finally) made the episode as good as it was. I was overjoyed when it turned out to be as good as it was and I think it was a near perfect way of celebrating what is one of the best television programmes ever to be made.

I Told You So Award :  shared winners Man Of Steel and The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug – This is again an award that is shared between two films, and it is for the films that I warned people about before but they didn’t listen. What I mean by this is simple: ‘Man of Steel’ was ruined because Zack Snyder concentrates too much on visuals and so the film lacked substance. A secondly, ‘The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug’ is still too long and it doesn’t need to be that long. Both films could have been a lot better and it’s a shame because I wanted to enjoy them both a lot more than I did. Incidentally I reviewed the second installment of The Hobbit recently which can be found here: https://adamdlester17.wordpress.com/2013/12/24/the-hobbit-the-desolation-of-smaug-the-film-is-long-meaning-my-review-is/

Blog Post of the Year : “Tim Burton vs Christopher Nolan – The Batman Argument” – this was always going to be a favourite of mine. It took a long time to write due to the research behind it, but it was worth it. It was a lot of fun to write and to this day it still remains my most viewed blog post. It was my response to an article saying that Tim Burton made better Batman films than Christopher Nolan. In all fairness the article was very well written and they formed a strong argument, however I responded accordingly, and if you haven’t read it then it can be found here: https://adamdlester17.wordpress.com/2013/08/30/tim-burton-vs-christopher-nolan-the-batman-argument/

Runners up for my favourite blog post were:

Cloud Atlas review: https://adamdlester17.wordpress.com/2013/08/29/rapid-reviews-cloud-atlas-dvd/

Great Gatsby review: https://adamdlester17.wordpress.com/2013/06/05/the-could-be-better-gatsby-no-spoilers/

So there you have it, my review of different elements the year had to throw at us. Were they the best choices? Probably not but they were the ones that stood out to me and the ones that had the biggest impact.

On a side note I would just like to say a huge thank you to everybody who has followed my blog or indeed anybody who has read it. Even the one time means a lot to me and I’m grateful for anybody who takes the time to look at my work. I started this blog a year ago and didn’t even imagine it would be as well received as it has been so I would like to thank those who have supported me throughout the year. Thank you to everyone who has made this year so brilliant, and I wish everyone all the best for 2014.

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug – Review

I will apologise in advance for not making this one of my rapid reviews. I was going to make this a reasonably short review but I realised I did have quite a lot to say about the film. So it’s time to batten down the hatches and wait for the storm of comments from Tolkien fans like last time, but the most basic comment I could make about it is simply: it is better and I enjoyed it, but it is still too long.

I sat down in the afternoon screening, drink at my side, replica of the one ring around my neck (please don’t judge) and an open mind that was ready for a new cinema experience. I went in wanting this to be a really good film and to come out of it ranting and raving about how incredible it was and how right the mass audiences were. However my patience was tested somewhat after 160 minutes of footage.

I will say first of all that I do think it is good. Honestly, I thought it worked perfectly as an action film and delivered me a lot of pleasure in seeing some of my favourite sections of the book put to the big screen with delicacy. Peter Jackson clearly cares about the source material and respects it, which is why he takes so much care in making his films. Unlike the first film the pace is better, but I think that’s purely based on it’s timing in the novel, starting a point that is quite literally in the middle of the action and then delivering us a chunk of the events from the adventure. I still hold the belief that this will be the best film of the trilogy.

I have to say that one of my favourite elements of the film was how they put Mirkwood to the screen. I have never been so terrified of spiders in all my life, and to be honest the people who made the second Harry Potter film should really take note. It was brilliant. The huge landscape shots of this chilling environment were accompanied perfectly by the close up shots and attention to detail, to the point where you can honestly feel and smell the environment based on what’s on screen.

The acting is once again top notch, Bilbo is one of my favourite characters of all time and it is a real treat to see Martin Freeman playing the role perfectly. The dwarves are as funny as ever, lead of course by Richard Armitage who once again manages to portray a conflicted character longing for his home land but concerned for his own safety. The new star of the film for me personally was Benedict Cumberbatch who proved to be a very good choice as the voice of Smaug the dragon. I understand that his voice has been brutally edited to sound like it is coming from a creature rather than an actor in a studio, but I still think he has done a brilliant job and it is exactly the voice I heard in my head when reading his lines in the novel. The timing between words and sentences, the emphasis on certain words, and the times you can tell Cumberbatch wanted to sound menacing. He was fantastic.

Now I’m not a huge expert on visuals so I won’t pretend to be, but I feel I should address it nonetheless. Personally I didn’t like the visuals for some of the film, I feel as though they were too rushed and didn’t do the book justice. See the thing about the book is this, there is a lot of attention to detail, Tolkien is a fan of adding lots of detail so that the image in your head is as vivid as could possibly be. What you have in the case of the film is faced paced action sequences that are a little bit tricky to follow based on the head ache that develops each time an arrow is fired and the camera angle attempts to follow it. The dragon was always going to be an interesting element to the film, being an important character and a challenge for any visual team. The trailer earlier this year sparked some doubts among fans, but I don’t feel as though it was too bad. Smaug’s presence was intimidating and you could feel the weight of every step he took which was terrifying yet brilliant at the same time.But I would be lying if I said I thought it was perfect, because it was far from that. In fact there were times during Smaug’s appearance when I felt as though I was witnessing the final boss fight of a Playstation 2 game.

This is the bit where Tolkien fans will throw things at me and want to deliver fire upon my household, but I’m going to say it any way: the film is too long.

What annoyed me about the film was that the length was taken up by things we didn’t need to be added. All of the added plot lines surrounding the necromancer were not needed and took up screen time. There is a point also at which there are three different plot lines happening at once and it did make me feel quite irritated. I agree entirely with Mark Kermode in the sense that the film could be two hours long and still be a good film. I know that die hard Tolkien fans will think it’s brilliant because there’s elements added from The Silmarillion, but honestly we don’t need them. It pads out the film unnecessarily and derives the focus away from a book that has enough substance already. It was too long and it honestly didn’t need to be that long.

As if the fans didn’t hate me enough by this point I’m going to add to the reasons to dislike me by saying that I didn’t like the addition of Legolas to the proceedings. I know he added an element of action to the film. I know it an appearance from a character we all love. I know he was the most “bad ass” character in the film. But did we need it? No.

The pace of the film was, and I’m sorry this is the truth, what Kermode refers to as “turned up to eleventy-stupid” which was disappointing. Legolas added to the pace of the action scenes and showed that the second and first unit directors can handle a fast paced action sequence, but he added nothing to the plot. It annoys me that so much action was added to the film that wasn’t present in the book.  I know the film needs to be interesting and entertaining but what I loved most of all about the book is that it was clever. I love the character of Bilbo because he was clever with words and showed how intelligent he can be. For me this was not translated properly in the film, and the dwarves came charging in all too quickly. The parts of the book I enjoyed the most were when Bilbo was being clever, talking to Smaug for lengthy amounts of time which racked up the tension and added to the development of the characters. I realise I said earlier that the pace was better, but the problem is that the pace starts high and stays high, which for me took away the sense of adventure that the book and even the first film had and replaced it with an over emphasis on battle, which was a disappointment.

I know that different people get different things from films. Some people love it, some people hate it. Personally I hated it and loved it. I enjoyed it because it was made by someone who clearly respects the source material and someone who understands film. I disliked it because I’m too stubborn and I love the book with a passion. Of course I’m not right with what I’ve said about the film, it’s just how I felt after the cinema screening. I may need to review it again after a second viewing. It might be because I’m relying too much on the book and I’m comparing them too much, but the point still stands that it is too long.

Knowing what there is to come and what has already been, I don’t know if I should feel excited or worried about the last installment.

Some Good Scenes Require An Even Better Song Choice

After various discussions recently with a number of people I’ve realised how lucky I am to be at an age where I talk with an all manner of different people with different interests. I may be someone who is a fan of films but I would find it considerably dull if all I talked about all day was films and I would end up driving myself mad. But then by the same token it’s always interesting when two interests cross because it sparks off a very interesting debate indeed. Just recently I found myself engaged in quite an in depth conversation about music which lead on to the use of music in films. A topic I feel very strongly about.

The discussion turned eventually so we were talking about specific song choices for films and the songs we felt were placed at the perfect moment in a film. Having written about the topic of soundtracks a couple of months ago, it made me realise that it’s not just an entire soundtrack that can make a film good, sometimes the scene can be brilliant because of one specific song.

Thinking back to some of the songs used in films that really made me shiver because of what it added to the scene, one of the first that jumped out at me was the use of the remix by Jon Brion of ‘He Needs Me’ for the film ‘Punch Drunk Love’ one of my favourite films and a perfect display of Paul Thomas Anderson’s talent as a writer and director. The song was used to show the positivity that was flowing in to the life of Barry Egan, a character whom we see conflicted and targeted before to the point of instability. The music reflects the positive influence that love has had on a man who has experienced so much unhappiness previously. It made the scenes of Barry frantically rushing to Hawaii to see the woman he loves seem realistic and made me feel somewhat overjoyed. Aiding in the artistic development and character building of the film I feel it was perfectly utilised, and is still a song I hold close to me.

Whilst on the topic of songs that made me feel overjoyed when they appeared in a film, I still get shivers when I watch the Richard Curtis film ‘The Boat That Rocked’ and it reaches the scene in which ‘Dancing In The Street’ by Martha Reeves & The Vandellas plays. It’s a perfect reflection of the atmosphere of a film filled with young love, rock’n’roll spirit and having a good time. Seeing a montage of various people dancing to the song and having a good time made me feel both happy and uplifted. It was similar to the scene when ‘Lets Spend The Night Together’ by The Rolling Stones plays. It’s an uplifting, positive spirited song that makes people across the country (within the film) dance their feet off and leaves me with a smile on my face.

Dancing as some followers will know is quite an interest of mine when it comes to films. Just recently I posted an entry (entitled ‘the talent behind dance sequences in films’) about the use of dance sequences in films and how effective they can be if they are done well. Part of this for me is the song choices because it’s crucial when showing the different entities characters are when they dance, to have a song that expresses their emotions. Personally I feel that this was achieved in ‘Silver Linings Playbook’ during the end dance sequence at the competition. All of the song choices suited the scene well, but one of my favourites was ‘Fell In Love With A Girl’ by The White Stripes. It was a loud and vicious song that allowed the characters of Pat and Tiffany to express all of their anger they have towards the members of society that judge them and all of the people that have upset them, but then it also reflected the chaotic friendship they have where neither of them know where they stand. It added a different level to who they are as dancers as well which worked brilliantly.

Songs can be used for two different purposes in films, which works when they are contrasted against each other to show a change. An example of this is the use of ‘Shipping Up To Boston’ by Dropkick Murphys in Martin Scorsese’s ‘The Departed’ in which the song is used during the opening credits (seventeen minutes in incidentally) and then later when the film is drawing close to it’s conclusion. The pace and the volume of the song are used to show a contrast between the police unit and the mob being confident in their plan and comfortable in their position, to then later feeling exposed and concerned for their safety. Hearing the song play during a fast car journey while Jack Nicholson shouts at someone really left me feeling like his character was coming to the end of his tether and as though the king was getting his crown taken off of him so to speak. It developed a sense of excitement at the beginning with a feel that anything could happen but then was used to create tension later, with both working brilliantly from my perspective. How the song is used twice is also important to consider when you realise that much like the character of the mole with either party it has two different sides to it.

On the other hand of course you have to consider the fact that a song can have the opposite power on a film, it can make a scene feel awkward and stale when it’s out of place. I still feel that the soundtrack for ‘Shutter Island’ is very poor, being too loud and clangy for a film that is supposed to be tense and chilling. It was too loud and didn’t suit the idea of mystery and deception that the story was attempting to convey. Instead of large landscape shots of the prison accompanied by quiet and disturbing music, you have darkened shots of the island accompanied by the bursting of your eardrums.

However when I talking about out of place soundtracks I once again (for the third time) have to talk about the soundtrack to Baz Luhrmann’s recent adaptation of ‘The Great Gatsby’ which is filled with out of place songs. Set in the 1920s American party scene you’d expect it to be filled with heavy Jazz music with loud trumpets for dance numbers. Instead you’re watching scenes accompanied by Jay-Z and The XX? I don’t think so Mr Luhrmann. If you really loved the book as much as you say you did then you’d respect the source material and act accordingly. You don’t add too much of your own image to the point where the original image painted by F Scott Fitzgerald has been altered in to something quite ugly. You can try and be quirky with your party scenes but this isn’t ‘Moulin Rouge’ anymore, and you are not a teenager anymore! I addressed him directly in the hope that he might see this one day. I have doubts but it’s always worth trying.

I’m not suggesting that the songs and films mentioned are the best combinations, they’re just combinations that had an impact on me and sprang to mind when discussing the topic. There were a lot I could have mentioned but I assume that people have already lost interest by this point so I didn’t want to make it longer. If anyone is still reading by this point then thank you. I hope you’ve all had a pleasant day or are going to have a pleasant day, depending on where you are in the world.

I’m going to take pride in the fact that I’ve managed to talk about film soundtracks without mentioning ‘Submarine’ by Alex Turner!

Oh…

300 and Titanic Aren’t Good Films, Pirates Of The Caribbean Wasn’t Johnny Depp’s finest Moment, And Episodes I, II & III Killed Star Wars – Among Other Unpopular Opinions

In recent conversation with fellow film enthusiasts the subject of directors and writers caused quite a bit of stir, with blocking positions and take down moves being thrown about like a bad game of Street Fighter. It gets very annoying when a discussion gets turned into an argument when someone cannot accept an alternative opinion. I like to stay reasonably open minded when it comes to people’s opinions about films because obviously we all interpret them in different ways and get different things out of them. However, if I am faced, for example, with a situation where someone is ramming their opinion down my throat about how “House Bunny is one of the best films ever made” then I’m afraid it is a case of the feces and the fan. 

What people cannot seem to accept is that directors and writers have their off days. It happens with nearly all of them; the Coen brothers made ‘The Ladykillers’, Quentin Tarantino made ‘Death Proof’, Ridley Scott made ‘Robin Hood’, Francis Ford Coppola made ‘The Godfather Part III’, Zack Snyder made… films, but you can see my point that every once in a while they slip below standards. It just so happens that some people do it a lot more than others. 

As the title suggests there are films that other people consider to be “good” whereas I on the other hand disagree. If my opinions are labelled as being unpopular then so be it, I’ll stand by them. I come from a generation of teenage boys that would label ‘300’ and ‘Watchmen’ as “awesome” which makes me want to bury my head in the sand like an Ostrich. It just goes to show the mental age of directors like Zack Snyder that impresses young audience by overloading a film with visual effects a blood rather than substance. He does have a unique visual style and it does work well for films, but in terms of directing he couldn’t direct traffic let alone a decent film. Any director that makes a film where they ensure every actor has some stomach muscles present and then let’s Gerard Butler get away with not actually acting needs to be sat on the naughty step by Supernanny, have their camera taken off of them and left to think about what they have done wrong. By which point they’ll obviously have missed on their chances of gaining an award for lifetime achievement. People seem to think that there is a direct link between running time and substance, which clearly isn’t the case because ‘Watchmen’ rambles on for the best part of three hours and remains consistently average. The source material clearly wasn’t considered by Snyder enough, he was too distracted in making sure the latex outfits looked good. Which they didn’t. Both ‘Watchmen’ and ‘300’ poorly made films that lack real substance and interest, but you know something, they’re marketed perfectly for the audience they’re aimed at; bored teenagers who need violence to keep them awake.

It’s not just the young lads of my age group that annoy me though, the girls have their fair input as well, nearly deafening me by ranting about how good a film ‘Titanic’ is. Just for the record in case anyone hadn’t figured it out yet; it isn’t. James Cameron had the chance to make a big and bold film that was historically accurate but instead he turned it in to a romance film based on a fictitious couple. It ruined what could have been a good film, with elongated scenes of Jack and Rose talking aimlessly about things we don’t care about. I don’t know what James Cameron was thinking when he wrote the screenplay, but it must have been along the lines of “MONEY MONEY MONEY” which would explain why we have such painful scenes. For example, the most ridiculous scene of the entire film is when Jack and Rose are stood on the main deck with the ship slowly sinking and everyone screaming in fear, Rose turns to Jack and says “this is where we first met” which after nearly three hours of our lives wasted was not only an obvious statement but a stupid one too. Why did we need this repeated? To make us care about their relationship and to reinforce how strong their love is? If anything it made me care less about their relationship, I was feeling rather sorry for Jack being stuck with someone who can’t prioritise in a time of genuine panic.The montage of the different people that we see as the ship is sinking, such as the mother comforting her children, was of more interest. I cared more about them in thirty seconds of screen presence than I did after three hours of Jack and Rose face time. I wouldn’t say that it is a bad film, I would go so far as to say it is an awful film that was a wasted opportunity.

But it’s not just film makers I dislike that I have to slate sometimes, on the rare occasion I do have pick at the ones I do like. Those who try to start an argument with me by saying “Django Unchained was a bad film” never expect me to agree with them which is brilliant. It’s not that I think it’s a bad film, because it is excellently written and Tarantino deserved his Oscar for screenplay. but because it is very ill disciplined. The comic book style of blood splattering violence did become quite tiresome towards the end and there are tangents in the film that could have been avoided. Not one of Tarantino’s best films, but it is clearly one of his best scripts. It was funny, it was intelligent, it had a certain charm to it that made the characters interesting, it was well thought out and only ever dropped out during the tangents. 

It’s always interesting when people like an actor and so automatically defend their work regardless of their performance. For instance I know a lot of people who like Johnny Depp, which I can understand because he is a very talented actor, and yet they fail to see that his best performance is not in ‘Pirates Of The Caribbean’. His impression of Keith Richards is slightly funny to begin with but becomes quite tiresome and it is not his best acting role by far, however I do not blame Depp for his performance being tainted in the film, I blame the director. There was a famous story from the filming of the first ‘Pirates Of The Caribbean’ in which Johnny Depp came on stage and started acting like a drunk Keith Richards without being told to. The studio hated his performance and told Gore Verbinski as the director to tell him to change it, which he didn’t because he didn’t. That shows the directing capability of such a man, who cannot tell his leading actor how to act out of the fear that he may leave the film. The first Pirates film was a bit all over the place but it was enjoyable in places and Johnny Depp was alright in his role, but we didn’t need there to be sequels. This allowed Verbinski to indulge himself in this franchise that got out of control until even he didn’t want to direct the fourth film. Does it need to end now? Definitely. Is it going to end now? Of course not.

I’ve mentioned the next point before but only briefly so I will repeat it just for those who missed it; the Star Wars prequels are awful. Yes they may be visually pleasing and have a lot of action, but what’s that thing they’re lacking…that….what is it… oh yes substance. The original trilogy was fantastic, with three films that really set the bar for how science fiction films should be made, and then George Lucas decided he wanted another yacht, or he wanted money to power his golden fountain that shoots out hundred dollar bills or whatever, but either way he wanted more money and so made prequels we didn’t want and/ or need. They darted off in to random political scenes that weren’t actually intelligently written when you listen to them, they were just dull. The visual effects were clearly a high priority which is why we were overloaded with head banging chase sequences and quite poorly choreographed lightsaber duels, leaving us with a script that sounded like it was written in someone’s lunch break. None of the three prequels had any where near as much interest as the original three and the characters were so deflated they made R2-D2 sound like a complex and philosophically inspiring character. And what’s that sound we all heard at the beginning of last year? It was George Lucas rubbing his hands together after signing the contract for the 3D release of the prequels.

Arguments do arise frequently when I talk about films with friends and family but that’s only because I’m passionate about the art form. I’ve always said to myself that taking an interest in anything is about appreciating what you like, rather than settling for what other people like. I cannot think of any other way to describe being interested in films. If you have an opinion then stick by it no matter what people say. It’s what I have to do nearly on a daily basis, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. What’s life without a challenge every now and then?

Halloween Is Nigh – Time For The Best Horror Films

Seeing as though Halloween is nearly upon us and I am unable to post this on the actual night of Halloween, I felt it appropriate to talk about my favourite horror films. I should mention from the start as well that I mean horror films with substance, not trashy Hollywood slashers with a star studded cast, excessive budget and as much substance as a meringue. It’s interesting because I barely ever talk about horror films , mainly due to the fact people have different ways of splitting films into genres and it all becomes very confusing when opinions clash. So what I have compiled is a list of my favourite films that are widely accepted as being part of the horror genre.

First to kick us off I have to talk about Danny Boyle’s 2002 film ’28 Days Later’, one of the best zombie based films of the modern age. It’s very easy in the climate of modern mainstream cinema to make a loud and trashy zombie film that is in all honesty just plain awful and yet people will still throw money at it. What Boyle did in this case was make a film based around a zombie apocalypse and make it more human. By this I mean it had characters you cared about, ones that you follow on the journey, to the point where you genuinely care about what happens to them. Not only this but it explores the social impacts that are caused by such an event, not just the obvious flesh eating issues but the issues linked to how people respond and what happens to human behaviour. I will never forget one of the opening shots from the film in which you see this vast landscape of the streets of London completely empty. It was a huge achievement of cinema and a shot that shook me right to my bones and made me feel cold. Genius. 

Before starting this post I discussed it with some of my friends and followers on WordPress and they requested that I didn’t mention Ridley Scott’s sci fi horror classic ‘Alien’ because I have talked enough about it before in the past. I’m sorry to say that I have let those people down because I’m going to quickly reference it here. It is very near perfection, to put it bluntly. Intelligent, gritty, and beautifully designed. 

Next on the list, and one that arguably should be on anyone’s list for horrors and that’s Stanley Kubrick’s classic ‘The Shining’ which is a perfect display of how to make a true chiller that will scare the living daylights out of you. Some people would say it’s a cliche to like this film because it’s one that’s famous. My response to this is simple, in the words of David Mitchell “no people shouldn’t believe that, it’s b*****s”. Based on the novel by Stephen King the film is a very good adaption, with Diane Johnson and Kubrick himself doing a terrific job with the screenplay. The cast is famously knock out, with Jack Nicholson at the helm giving the performance of a life time, it was clear to see what everyone involved in the making of the film cared about the project and wanted it to be good. With stunning directing and vivid imagery you’ll never forget, I think we can all agree they succeeded?

With this next one I feel as though I should make myself completely clear; when I say I like ‘A Nightmare on Elm Street’ I am referring to the 1984 masterpiece by Wes Craven. Not Michael Bay’s insult to the film from three years ago. The original is one of the best horror films you will ever watch. Cleverly mastering the use of plastic in cinema, the film moves away from horrors being slashy and gory and turns it more towards being scary and absurd which works perfectly. Wes Craven spoke about the film before and even he himself referred to it as “surrealist cinema” because he wanted it to be an experience that the audience had not had before and one that would stand out. He wanted it to look so realistic that it would be obscure of the audience to witness, for example the scene with the telephone. Those who have seen the film will get the reference.

For me it’s special as a horror because it has a strong story with depths and meanings to it. The idea of Freddy Kreuger is crucial because essentially he is a representation of the sins of the parents coming back to haunt the children, it’s this whole idea of an eye for an eye wrapped in this underlying theme of parents having to accept they can’t protect their children forever. That is why I love the original so much. That is why the original is a piece of artistic genius. That is why the remake by Michael Bay is appalling because he couldn’t manage to see past the glove. He thought the main idea of Freddy was the spiky claw like glove and that he was violent which is so far from the truth, and I know I will sound like a grumpy old man for saying this but I would like a written apology from Michael Bay for making the film and ruining one of the greatest pieces of horror ever to be made.  

The final film I feel I should mention, and for me this the single greatest horror movie of all time is the 1960 masterpiece from Alfred Hitchcock himself ‘Psycho’. Now I know already that some would class it more as a horror-thriller, but essentially it is a horror film. If you were to look up the word ‘horror’ in a dictionary, and let’s assume for the sake of the argument you were stupid enough to need a dictionary that has pictures in it, the defining image you would see is a black and white still of a knife going into a shower. The film is as and I dare say it: perfection. The story is incredibly strong, along with the cast who all give amazing performances, but the essential element to the film is the Hitchcock touch. The tension, the attention to detail, the camera angles, the pace, it all works superbly to build one of the single greatest pieces of cinema you will ever see.

Again, some people will say it’s cliched to have this film on my list of favourites, and again these people show that their IQ can be found on the face of a dice. The trouble with people of my age is their impatience. Because we’re all still young and used to mainstream rubbish like ‘Saw’ people under the age of eighteen don’t have the patience to watch a black and white film. And that just makes me feel slightly ashamed of the generation I am from, because they are restricting their own cultural interests and preventing themselves from experiencing a piece of artistic genius from one of the greatest minds ever to have lived. Luckily I can appreciate what a huge achievement of cinema it is, with Hitchcock breaking the mold in the 60s and presenting a film that had nudity and blood in it, along with killing off his leading lady quite early in to the film. It was a huge movement for film and one that Hitchcock was daring enough to make. 

Apologies if you were expecting a list of modern slashers that are repeated every other friday on channel 5, but those are films I try to avoid like the plague. The reasons I don’t talk about horror very often is because I come from an age group that has grown up with such rubbish, and it’s made our understanding of what real horror is become somewhat warped. We see blood and guts splattered across the screen and think “that’s horror!” which isn’t what horror is about. It’s not about loud bangs, blood and gore and screaming american teenagers being decapitated during coitus in a shower. Horror is about having an experience that makes you uncomfortable, one that scares you, one that tests what you really know about the human condition and one that presents a story with substance and strong characters. It’s a diverse art form that can be done really but then can be ruined just as easily. It is about looking in to the abyss, and the abyss looking back at you. A good horror not only makes you feel sick, it makes you feel as though you have crawled through a sewer to reach the end of the film, but in a good way. 

So modern film makers can carry on creating mainstream rubbish that is about as complex as a game of Tetris, but quite frankly I will not be a part of. If Rob Zombie wants to ruin the classic ‘Halloween’ and turn it into a piece of loud nonsense that teenagers think is “awesome” then be my guest. I’ll be sat at the back of the cinema screening making notes and trying not to stab my own eyes out with a biro.