Marking the first of few belated reviews that will be hitting the page soon is Aronofsky’s Biblical epic, Noah. The films received some varied reviews, and I did approach slightly apprehensively. Though I’m a huge fan of Aronofsky, the sword-and-sandal historical epic starring Russell Crowe has had more than its fair share of duds, but boring casting aside I entered with an open mind and came out pleased with what had been produced.
Telling the famous story was never going to be an easy task, not least because of the minuscule length of its source material. Obstacle one would be to stretch this short story into a two-hour screen epic. What’s been added is a battle between two groups of humans, one led by Noah and including some giant rock monsters formed by angels and the other headed by Ray Winstone and a load a sinful heathens against the destruction of the entire planet. It is, as you’d expect, absurd and slightly mad but it manages to pull it off. The characters are very well drawn particularly Noah himself who is not shown as a holier than thou know-it-all but a troubled man battling internally with what he believes he must to for his God and what he feels is right for his family. He is far from perfect and as the plot bears on it becomes more and more apparent that he may, in fact, not be the hero his family once believed him to be. He’s held in place though by his wife, Naameh (Jennifer Connelly) who provides the films standout performance in a challenging role. Emma Watson also performs as would be expected and the rest of the cast, though not brilliant, just about hold things together. I found though that what gives Noah is real quality is the pacing and build of tension which is kept throughout its run time. The fight scenes are given a sense of urgency from Mansell’s score which is repetitive but highly effective.
When every other blockbuster is a superhero movie and the ones that aren’t a sci-fi it makes for a nice change to have something Biblical and Aronofsky does a good job of keeping the action alive while honouring one of history’s oldest stories and injecting it with a style not many other directors would be capable of. While Aronofsky purist will be pining for a more artistic affair this delivers on the levels you would expect of something on this scale.
Following Raising Arizona, Wild at Heart is only the second film on Cage’s filmography that I’d seen before starting this project so going in for a second viewing I knew what I was going to be facing. And simply I couldn’t wait to get back into David Lynch’s Bonnie and Clyde-like road movie. Wild at Heart follows Sailor (Cage) a convicted killed who brutally beats a man to death in the opening scene after having a knife pulled on him and his girl, Lula (Laura Dern). After serving his sentence Lula comes rushing back to him against her mothers demands and the pair of love birds go on a wild escapade across the vast plains of America in what seems to be a particularly strange, Lynchian interpretation of our modern day world.
This film is one of the reasons why I love Lynch so much, its packed to the brim with his unique, stylish, yet awkward and uncomfortable hyper-realistic style. Wild at Heart has a more understandable plot than other Lynch films but that’s not to say its normal by any stretch. There are a number of scenes that don’t seem to have any bearing on the actual storyline, and lots of cryptic lines and shots that are difficult to read and understand. Out of these cryptic tendencies comes one of the films most intriguing themes, the constant reference to The Wizard of Oz, of course, this is partly a nod to one of cinema’s greatest achievements but it’s also an acute and incredibly well thought-out metaphor for what’s going on with these bizarre central characters. As they spiral out of control in a burst of sex, violence and crime it’s as if they’re trapped in this strange new world with larger than life characters. As the film goes on the references become more explicit to the point where Lula even taps her red heels together three times and wishes to go home. There is no escape for her though and she is trapped in this chaotic and haunting place, stuck in a particularly unusual relationship with Sailor. Before going into Cage’s performance it’s important to mention just how brilliant Willem Dafoe is in this movie as Bobby Peru, a slimy wheeler dealer who isn’t introduced till late in the proceedings. He has a habit of saying particularly disturbing stuff before laughing it all off as a joke, but his yellow-stubby braced teeth and crazed eyes show us a bubbling insanity and a dark core at the centre of another strange metaphorical character in Lynch’s vision. Cage is simply exceptional in this film, too. He is perfect casting for Lynch’s over-the-top and almost cartoony world. Every move cage makes, every line and every action is just a bit more hammy than you’d expect and it really gives Wild at Heart it’s all-important mood.
In terms of Cage Rage rating this film has to get top marks, with a scene of hideous violence at the hands of Cage to kick things off the insanity doesn’t let up throughout. While this may not be Lynch at his absolute finest Cage is a perfect match for the director and it’s a real shame the two haven’t worked together since. A great watch and the second 5/5 rating.
Wings of the Apache is perhaps one of the most dreaded films on the Cage list, with a score of 4.5 on iMDB and the most bland set up for a film you could imagine. Basically the government has offered its services to other countries that need help in the war on drugs, Cage who is training as an Apache pilot is considered one of the best potential fliers in the business and is set to work to learn to fly the Apache and take down an evil drug baron who also flies a fighter helicopter. Cage stars alongside Tommy Lee Jones.
Also known as Fire Birds this Cage outing is a copy cat affair. Following in the footsteps of Top Gun and blatantly attempting to recreate pretty much everything in that movie this film is devoid of any kind of originality. The script is one of the most dire things you could possibly imagine and the majority of it is taken over by a hideous cliched romance btween cage and the only other woman in the Apache school. It becomes apparent that the pair have some previous but that Cage is not going to take no for answer so for many of the scenes in the mid-point he simply reels off hideous chat up lines and innuendos in an attempt to woo her. It’s pretty creepy really until there’s one scene were suddenly he just wins her over with no real explanation. The only other major plot point is to do with Cage having a dominant left eye which means he has trouble guiding the helicopters as you can only view through your right with the aid of an eye piece. However this issue which for much of the film appears to threaten his chances of ever getting to fly for real, is solved in one five minute exercise that involves Cage driving a Jeep with a pair of pants on his head. And that’s not even a joke. Tommy Lee Jones is distinctly average with some dreadful dialogue that he proceeds to just spit out in his monotone voice. Despite all this horror when it comes down to the final action sequence I found that actually hadn’t hated the film at all. It had been awful but there was something really fun about it. Objectively awful but subjectively actually not bad.
Cage is pretty average throughout with a couple of odd moments of shimmering madness and some bubblegum popping cheese that make this an enjoyable if not exceptional performance.
After the gripping end of series two this third series was a long time coming. One of my most anticipated series of recent times after being left in wake for over a year to find out how Sherlock managed to fake his own death. Series three progresses the crime fighting partnership of Holmes and Watson by focussing on Watson’s marriage which throws a bit of a curve ball into the duo’s relationship. Sticking to the shows unique three episode structure each lasting ninety minutes but could it live up to the previous series’ heights?
Series three is another strong, well-thought out collection of adventures that sees threat levels for the lives of the central pair reach new levels. Despite this rising threat, particularly on Watson’s life, the series never quite reaches the tension and excitement provided by series two. The first two episodes are perfectly watchable and well written adventures but it did feel as though they had lost a bit of the bite that previous episodes have had. The third episode is the stand out of the series providing us with a satisfyingly big plot twist and putting Watson in his biggest predicament yet and giving Freeman the chance to really steal the show from under Cumberbatch’s nose. Also pleasing is the teasing of things to come at the end of episode three hinting towards what will surely be an exciting fourth series.
While series three never quite gets as good as series two did the show may have set it’s own bar slightly too high. That said, this is another great collection of adventures that don’t flop in any way and point towards a new series that has the potential to reach the same brilliance it once found in series 2. If you haven’t got into this show yet don’t leave it any longer!
The blogs been a bit rejected of late, due to a hectic final few weeks of term but what better way to get things back up and running than with one of my most anticipated movies of the year. Part two of Jackson’s prequel trilogy takes us right to the climax of Tolkien’s book but opts to change much of the story in favour of a more action packed, crowd-pleasing adventure that can be stretched out to three two-and-a-half-hour films. I was pleasantly surprised with the first offering, An Unexpected Journey, and had every reason to believe that The Desolation of Smaug would be even better. Unfortunately, though I found it to be a much more flawed affair.
One of the main issues with the first movie was the sheer amount of dwarves none of which we had a long enough time with to get to know and understand, this issue remains throughout this second movie the only dwarf I can remember the name of is Thorin and then there’s James Nesbitt and the handsome one, which brings me to my next point. The films worst moments came from ‘the handsome ones’ love story with the new female elf, Tauriel, an entirely new character invented by Jackson and his team to make up for the lack of women in the story. Tauriel herself isn’t a bad character but the corniness of the pairs romance reaches levels of corniness that the original trilogy never even came close to (OK, maybe the original’s did come quite close, but it was a bit acceptable when they weren’t major parts of the plot). I was sceptical going in about the return of Legolas, who also doesn’t feature in the book in order to give the film some sex appeal, but I was pleasantly surprised by his role, very few lines for Bloom and lots of stunningly choreographed fight scene which inject the movie with some much-needed adrenaline. It did seem a slight cop out, however, that whenever Bilbo and his gang found themselves in trouble it just so happened that their pointy-eared friend was just round the corner to come and save them. Legolas’ prominence in the action scenes also means that we see very little of Gandalf, something that could well be fixed in the extended version, but nonetheless left me feeling like there was something missing here. The films strongest moments come in the final half an hour or so when Bilbo confronts Smaug, the effects used to design the formidable dragon are simply astounding, by far the most impressive CG rendered creature you’ll see this year and the film picks up some pace and really starts to hit stride in any scene the dragon is involved in.
Overall, I may be being slightly harsh about The Desolation of Smaug and perhaps after repeat viewing the film will grow on me somewhat. But after first viewing it must be said that it was a slight disappointment. That said it certainly sets up the final part well, and my buzz for the series is still flickering away inside.
The big blockbuster of the moment is sci-fi epic Gravity. The hype surrounding the movie is some of the biggest we’ve seen all year, with five-star review pouring out and money stacking up at the box office it was impossible not to feel the excitement for Alfonso Cuaron’s lost in space drama. Starring George Clooney and Sandra Bullock the film, set almost entirely in space, follows the two as they become abandoned in space with their ship destroyed and the rest of their crew dead.
What’s interesting about Cuaron’s film is that he takes sci-fi very much back to basics, forget what you’ve been reading about how new and fresh this is that doesn’t fit. What Gravity is a taking sci-fi back to the drawing board. Rather than upping the concept Cuaron opts for a simple story but one that is full very dread and tension. This is easily one of the most realistic sci-fi’s you will see this year (bar the ridiculous ending that I won’t give away) and what it does so well is capture the sense of being in space. Instead of bombarding you with aliens, galaxies and laser guns this is about two everyday people stuck in a bit of a jam. The strengths of the film come in it’s depiction of space itself, with the only worthwhile 3D since Avatar you genuinely feel for moments like you’re floating through space with them. Within the first ten minutes this is utilised to great effect as Bullock’s character becomes separated from the space craft and goes spiralling off into open space. While the first half of the film flawless depicts this horrific ordeal I felt the movie let itself down in the second. As the film goes on there’s less and less of the loneliness, less and less of the silence that works so effectively to create this feeling of isolation and the movie instead turns to a soppy, unnecessary back story delivered through bland and uninventive dialogue. While the film never drifts from it’s entertainment value it’s lame attempt at a plot falls well short of the mark and is ultimately just not needed.
Gravity deserves a huge amount of credit because in many ways it has revolutionised the sci-fi genre, it has brought us probably the most accurate depiction of space ever seen in a movie. And it does an excellent job of taking the audience with it on the journey but I don’t think it deserves quite the praise it has received when it’s back story and dialogue are so badly put together. A great film that unfortunately lets itself down.