A great chasm has opened between critics and film fans. Upon the release of ‘Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice’, critics gave the film a monumental kicking whereas fans seemed to be a lot more forgiving. With the release of ‘Suicide Squad’, audiences and critics were split once again. The cracks have re-emerged and the debate about the use of critics and fan-boy (and fan-girl) reactions is back at the forefront. Why is this? Why are there such differences of opinion when it comes to films? In particular, those films in which there is already a huge built-in fan base. From the outset, I want to make it clear that I have not seen ‘Suicide Squad’, so this article is not to pass judgement on the film, but to raise questions about the (almost) extreme reactions of those who are connected with it.
Interview by Jakob Lewis Barnes
Around this time last year, I had the pleasure of interviewing the writer/director/star of indie flick ‘A Dozen Summers’, Kenton Hall. In the year since that interview, Kenton Hall has seen his little independent film go from strength to strength – achieving festival circuit success and fighting a certain merc-with-a-mouth in the DVD charts. Coincidentally, I’ve also been lucky enough to work with the man himself on my upcoming short film ‘Harlequin’. So, I thought now would be the perfect time to ask Kenton some questions about his whirlwind of a year.
JLB: So, you’re pretty busy right now with the DVD release of ‘A Dozen Summers’ – how are you finding that particular rollercoaster?
KH: Exhausting? It’s been strange; Two years of hard slog and emotional turmoil. (Take note, young filmmakers, this game is not for the faint of heart.) I can’t pretend it’s not exciting to see my film on shelves – a physical item that people can take home – but I think rollercoaster is a pretty good word to describe it. In a way, the hard work has only just begun, because now we have a shot at a much larger audience and we need to let people know we’re there, and then march them to the till, or to press the button online. But I’m super proud of what our team accomplished. It was – as far as we can figure out – actually impossible. But there it is, all shiny and shrink-wrapped.
JLB: I remember you were chasing ‘Deadpool’ hard in the pre-order charts – did you end up beating that son of a bitch?
KH: You mean the OTHER part-Canadian fourth-wall-breaking movie? I’m afraid Mr. Reynolds and friends JUST held us off the top spot on Zavvi’s chart, but we snagged it as soon as ‘Deadpool’ was released into the wild. So, yeah, we got number 1 on the Zavvi DVD pre-order chart. That was…odd, but cool. I won’t pretend it wasn’t cool. Especially for a little film like ours, which probably cost about the same as Ryan Reynold’s assistant’s snack budget.
JLB: ‘A Dozen Summers’ has proved to be hugely popular and pretty successful – what kind of doors has this film open for you?
KH: Well, I’m going to stop you there. I want it to be made very clear that I didn’t say it’s been “hugely popular and pretty successful”, because that would make me insufferable. It’s great that it’s meant something to people though – and, hey, we’re human, we love to feel loved. And there have been some people that have not enjoyed it, which is their prerogative. But, overall, I think people “got” what we were trying to do, which was to make something a bit different, a film which had a little something for everybody, be they 12 years old or 12 at heart – and that’s a huge demographic, so it is a big ask. Those people who loved it, really loved it though – and it is films that did that to me when I was younger that started me on this path in the first place, so I can’t complain.
In terms of doors, I’m trying to stick my foot into a few that have opened a crack. There are a lot of stories I want to tell, and one or two that other people want me to help them tell. I don’t want to jinx anything. Genuinely, a lot depends on what happens over the next couple of weeks – an official chart placing would be useful. (Hint, hint, people. The next seven days are the time to give “A Dozen Summers” a shot. I’ll be ever so grateful. There may be dancing.)
JLB: Well, we all want to see Kenton dance, of course. Now, I’m going to be very selfish and veer the conversation towards ‘Harlequin’ for a while – how did you find that whole experience?
KH: Well, other than the fact that a lot of people I love are frightened to death by clowns, and therefore will probably never speak to me again, it was great to get back in front of a camera and do something different. And I love working with people like yourselves who are just trying to make something unique. Plus, short film is a real love of mine. Our producer on ‘A Dozen Summers’, Alexzandra Jackson, is the director of a film festival called The Short Cinema, which is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year and therefore I’m going to plug the hell out of it – it takes place in Leicester from August 24th to 27th and you can get tickets here. I expect to see you all there, having also bought ‘A Dozen Summers’ and being geared up for ‘Harlequin’.
JLB: Have you managed to get all the clown make up off yet? You really threw yourself into that character (which made my job a lot easier) – what was your process/preparation for becoming Charles the clown?
KH: I do bathe, you know. Although there is a tricky spot in the middle of my back. No, I’m back to what passes for normal in my universe now.
It’s very kind of you to say such nice things about my performance. Preparation? Like most actors, I have what might charitably be referred to as a fluid relationship with reality. There’s more of me around than there used to be – perils of being responsible for small humans – but it’s still relaxing to cast yourself off and slip into someone more comfortable for a while. Now I know, in this instance, that you wouldn’t think my character screamed “comfort”, but it’s an exorcism, of sorts. I may never have been exactly in Charles’ oversized shoes, but playing someone who is struggling with his identity, with his need for and abandonment by an audience? Hell, son, I’ve been preparing for that part for my entire life. Also, I like being made-up, so that was a win.
JLB: And we got your delightful daughters in on the act too, to play a couple of unimpressed audience members – do you enjoy working with the girls?
KH: At the risk of appearing sentimental, I would work with them all day, every day; I love their company. They can be challenging, but that’s kind of the beauty of those two. I like to see them grasp the idea that hard work brings rewards. Plus, they’re genuinely funny and genuinely kind, so it’s a pleasure. I’m proud of them, because they care about the world and they’re paying attention. That’s all any parent can ask.
I’m also counting on, if they do insist on remaining in the arts, them repaying me with work in my dotage, when my looks – such as they are – have faded and I’ve been reduced to making commercials for stair-lifts.
JLB: We’ve said it before but the success of your film really is quite inspiring for indie filmmakers – what role in the landscape of cinema do you think indie film plays?
KH: If we inspire anybody, that’s good news. Independent film is the lifeblood of the film industry. Low budgets mean having to concentrate on script and character to make a film work; You can’t hide behind spectacle. Production value, we all aspire to; Emotional value, however, is essential. Our film is flawed, and a lot of indie films are, technically, flawed. But what you’re seeing, in most cases, is an unvarnished view of the soul of the writer and/or director, and the result of the love and talent of a large group of people who couldn’t have been doing it for the money, because there wasn’t any. How can that not make it one of the most important threads in the filmmaking tapestry? Other opinions are available, but I’d have to hear a hell of an opposing argument before I stood down.
It is, however, up to all of us to make it work. Distributors, broadcasters and exhibitors need to take more chances, sure, but why should they, if we as an audience don’t? How can they make their living? We need to watch more indie films and talk about more indie films before we get to make more indie films.
(P.S. Did I mention that ‘A Dozen Summers’ is available now, wherever DVDs are sold? I did? Alright, then.)
JLB: And finally, where do you see yourself in five years’ time?
KH: I have a picture in my head that puts a smile on my face, let’s just leave it at that.
You can order your copy of the brilliant ‘A Dozen Summers’ here (and we really urge you to do so – our praise can even be found on the DVD cover). And if you’re itching to see what Kenton is up to next, check out the teaser trailer for our short film ‘Harlequin’ here.
Kristof Kiraly may not be a household name, but as a visual effects artist, Kiraly has played a part in making some of the biggest films of recent years. From ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ to ‘The Jungle Book’, mass explosions to vast landscapes, Kristof Kiraly is the man with the magic touch who, along with his team at Double Negative Visual Effects, gives your favourite films that extra kick.
Interview by Jakob Lewis Barnes
JLB: Working in visual effects seems like a very specific and technical field of filmmaking, was there a particular moment where you realised that was what you wanted to do?
KK: From a very early age, I was obsessed with creation. I spent hours drawing, sculpting or playing with Lego. I’ve always wanted to understand how things work under the surface. I think it’s this kind of curiosity which led me to the world of computer graphics.
Like many other artists, the big blockbusters were the real push for me; I remember watching behind-the-scenes documentaries of ‘Star Wars’, ‘Jurassic Park’ etc. and realising that people do this for a living was a life-changing experience. Of course I had no idea how I could break in to the industry, but I dived in deep and spent all my time learning VFX on my own (this was a time before YouTube tutorials). With that knowledge, I was fortunate enough to secure a job with a small VFX company where I really started growing, and after six years I got invited to MPC (Moving Picture Company) in London.
JLB: I imagine visual effects to be an extremely challenging and painstaking task, so what, in your opinion, does it take to be a top visual effects artist?
KK: In my opinion, a good VFX artist has to be a good problem solver, because that is essentially what we’re doing most of the time. In this very technical world, things go wrong all the time and you have to figure out how to fix them. The ability to work under pressure is a must-have skill too; time is always compressed and the number of tasks can often be overwhelming.
Also you have to be open to learning new things all the time, because the industry is rapidly evolving and if you stop learning you’ll get left behind. And finally, learn to leave your ego at home. A movie is a team effort where your work is always open to criticism, changes and sometimes it can even be completely thrown out. That’s the nature of the beast, but that is also why the end result is usually much better than the first version.
JLB: On IMDb you’re credited as “Environment Technical Director” – can you clarify exactly what that entails on a day-to-day basis, and on a larger scale in the filmmaking process?
KK: Environment Technical Directors are responsible for creating environment scenes, that match the photographic quality of the plates they are dealing with. In simpler terms, everything that isn’t a character, vehicle or prop is environment. Creating environments requires both technical and artistic knowledge, as it involves everything from matte-painting to modeling, texturing, projections, lighting, rendering and even composition. As I said earlier, it is creative problem solving on every level.
JLB: Your filmography includes quite a few superhero movies such as ‘Thor: The Dark World’ and ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’, but who is your favourite hero (or villain) and why?
KK: To be completely honest, I’m not a huge superhero or comics fan. I personally prefer movies that are closer to reality; I am more excited about everyday superheroes like the journalists of ‘Spotlight’, or the computer scientist Alan Turing, who helped Britain win WWII. But if I had to pick a superhero movie it would be Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy, with its dark atmosphere and Hans Zimmer’s unforgettable score.
JLB: Recently, films like ‘Mad Max: Fury Road’ and the upcoming ‘Assassins Creed’ have opted for more practical effects rather than CGI – can you see this becoming a common trend?
KK: I think everyone agrees that going practical is the proper way of approaching any shot. It gives the film crew a physicality they can relate to. The actors can feel that they are part of the environment, the DOP can set the lights up properly and figure out what lens and camera movement works. Of course, practical effects are very costly, harder to control and have their limitations. That’s where VFX comes into play – to extend those boundaries, but it should be used sensibly and be based on reality. That’s why it’s good when we have the practical elements.
To be honest, my only problem with this new wave of “practical effect based” movies is their marketing and the way they treat visual effects publicly – as though VFX is just a negligible thing, and practical effects is the holy grail. The fact is that these modern blockbusters have almost no frame which has not been digitally enhanced in some way.
JLB: Your company – Double Negative Visual Effects – was part of the VFX Oscar winning team this year for ‘Ex Machina’. Where would you say Ava – the artificial intelligence at the core of the story – ranks among your studio’s creations?
KK: I was extremely pleased to see ‘Ex Machina’ winning the Oscar for Best VFX. Especially since everyone was pretty sure that it would go to either ‘Star Wars’ or ‘Mad Max’. I think the movie in general was a massive achievement, and the effects served the story well; it wasn’t just a mindless visual orgy but a very organic piece. ‘Ex Machina’ is a great example of why I love to work for Double Negative – it is very much a technology-driven company with some insanely-talented artists.
JLB: For you personally, what is your proudest moment/favourite piece of work in the VFX industry?
KK: I’m extremely thankful that this is my nine-to-five. Working on movies that millions of people will go and see (and hopefully enjoy) is very rewarding. I’m proud of everything I’ve been working on, but my personal top three would be ‘The Jungle Book’, ‘Mission:Impossible – Rogue Nation’ and ‘Spectre’.
JLB: And finally, what is the best piece of advice you’ve been given throughout your career?
KK: I’ve been given lots of great advice throughout my career, but two of those stand out as the most influential. The first, is from my late grandfather who told me that you have to learn new things so you have more legs to stand on and that will give you stability.
The other is from my former MPC leader, mentor and friend, Marco G, who told me that in VFX you have to have three things to survive: reputation, connections, and savings.
Written by Daniel Chadwick
Big event movies aren’t dead yet…Sure, we live in a Golden Age of television right now; stretching from ‘Fargo’ to ‘The People vs O.J. Simpson’ through to the recently finished, iconic ‘Breaking Bad’ and ‘Mad Men’. But let’s not count out the blockbuster yet. There are so many exciting and thrilling movies on the horizon.
2016 alone has six superhero movies that stand out, alongside dozens of other big-budget extravaganzas. But this self-described movie nerd is here to highlight the best and brightest blockbusters of 2016.
10. Sausage Party
It’s been a while since we got an R-Rated animated movie (unless you count the likes of Anomalisa and South Park) and Seth Rogen’s latest venture looks like it might be a standout hit. I personally have loved some of the TV-MA shows on Netflix such as ‘Archer’ and ‘Bojack Horseman’ so I’m quite excited for this. After seeing that NSFW trailer count me in.
9. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
Many will find it shocking to find a Star Wars movie at the lower end of my top 10, but I’m still not convinced. Yes, ‘The Force Awakens’ was a step in the right direction, and far better than any of the prequel trilogy, but Star Wars still doesn’t have my complete trust back, especially considering this movie is rumoured to include no Jedi and is a spin off. For now I’m reservedly excited.
8. Finding Dory
The only kids movie on this list, ‘Finding Dory’ is the only sequel I’ve wanted from Pixar besides the follow up to ‘The Incredibles’. Dory is voiced brilliantly by Ellen Degeneres and seeing all the band back together for this sequel only gets me more excited. Finally we’ll get some insight into the standout star of ‘Finding Nemo’.
7. Assassin’s Creed
This, in my mind, will be the definitive video game to movie adaptation. Justin Kurzel has proven himself as a visually astounding director (see Macbeth, also with Fassbender and Cotillard) and he also knows his action set pieces. This franchise is rich for interpretation and Michael Fassbender can do no wrong in my book. Bring Marion Cotillard and Jeremy Irons in and I’m fully on board.
6. Suicide Squad
After the disappointment (for some) of ‘Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice’, ‘Suicide Squad’ carries huge responsibility for the DC Cinematic Universe now, and I think it will be a big winner for Warner Bros. The trailers have been fantastic and it looks like it could be the anti-hero movie that comic book fans have been waiting for. It also could be Jai Courtney’s first good role… ever, so that in itself makes this movie one to watch.
5. Star Trek: Beyond
I’m a massive fan of the new ‘Star Trek’ movie series and this new addition looks to be in the spirit of the rest of the series. ‘Star Trek’ used cool music from the 80’s long before ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ did, so screw the haters of the music in the ‘Star Trek: Beyond’ trailer. Bring on the man, the myth, the legend Idris Elba as the main antagonist of the movie. I can’t wait to get back together with the crew of the Enterprise.
4. Doctor Strange
Marvel’s first attempt at handling magic looks to be very unique, and the first origin story to come out of Marvel since ‘Captain America: The First Avenger’. It also dives deeper into the Quantum Realm which we were introduced to in ‘Ant-Man’. Throw in Benedict Cumberbatch as Stephen Strange, Tilda Swinton as The Ancient One, Rachel McAdams and Chiwetel Ejifor, and this movie promises to be one of the best Marvel ensembles seen in a standalone character film.
3. Jason Bourne
The return of Jason Bourne, the most bad-ass spy that has ever graced the silver screen. Matt Damon is back alongside Bourne extraordinaire Paul Greengrass to present the life of Jason Bourne years after the events of ‘The Bourne Ultimatum’. This offers a potentially interesting look into domestic surveillance and the big role surveillance now plays in spying on people. Will Bourne be out for justice? Does he finally remember everything as he said in the trailer? I can’t wait to find out!
Two of Hollywood’s biggest stars get together in this sci-fi epic about a man (Chris Pratt) who wakes up from cryosleep 60 years early on a trip to a distant colony. Faced with the prospect of growing old and dying alone he wakes up another crew member (Jennifer Lawrence). Directed by Morten Tyldum (The Imitation Game), this movie takes a unique look at space, this time offering us a romance in space. We haven’t even seen a picture yet, never mind a trailer but looks like a potential Oscar contender while being a movie with a huge budget.
1. Captain America: Civil War
There really couldn’t be any other. As a huge Marvel fan, this movie has been on my radar for years and after seeing the countless trailers I’m counting down the days. It’s been called ‘The Godfather’ of superhero movies and I believe that 100%. This movie is going to make me laugh, jump up and down and cry. Introducing us to Spider-Man and Black Panther, it wouldn’t be a surprise if ‘Civil War’ turns out to be Marvel’s best movie yet.
What do you think? Let’s start the debate in the comments below or hit us up on Twitter
It’s going to be an interesting year for Steven Spielberg, as his upcoming adaptation of ‘The BFG’ is due to be released to UK audiences on the 22nd July 2016, and I for one am very much looking forward to it. As a child, this Roald Dahl novel about nasty and nice giants was one of my favourites, so it will be interesting to see how Spielberg’s vision fairs. The novel is obviously aimed at younger audiences, yet it also holds a real sinister edge, which I absolutely love.
Spielberg is often criticised for being overly sentimental in his films (War Horse being a near-unbearable example of this), so I do hope Spielberg finds a perfect balance between the dark edge and family-friendly tone of the novel. With this and the recent announcement that Spielberg and Harrison Ford would be re-teaming to create a fifth instalment in the ‘Indiana Jones’ saga, I thought now would be a good to go through my favourite Spielberg films. Here’s my top 5.
5. Saving Private Ryan
Criticism of this film is levelled at its sentimentality, and its inability to improve on what is one of the most groundbreaking opening sequences in cinema history. The D-Day landings which open the film is as brutal, powerful and moving now as it was upon release in 1998. I agree that the rest of the film does not reach the dizzy heights of the opening, but for me, it remains one of Spielberg’s most accomplished technical achievements. I also agree that its sentimentality becomes a little cloying by the end, but there is no doubting the technical brilliance and moving story at the heart of this film. Also the acting is superb, particularly from Tom Hanks, who delivers one of the most interesting performances of his career. Hollywood’s treatment of battle sequences changed forever after this film and it’s clear that the technical achievements have inspired other filmmakers (Paul Greengrass for example). ‘Saving Private Ryan’ is undoubtedly one of the finest war films ever made.
4. Minority Report
This film really is an underrated gem. To tell the truth, my first viewing of ‘Minority Report’ left me uninspired; I thought it was just another middle of the road sci-fi movie. But one Christmas, I remember watching it on TV while flicking through the channels. Within seconds I was hooked and I saw a completely different movie than I did the first time around. I think this is one of Tom Cruise’s finest performances; he is so captivating and charismatic in this role it’s hard to think of another film where he is so watchable. Not to mention the beautiful cinematography which adds so much atmosphere. Where the special effects create a unique vision of the future, it is the oppressive light in the background that creates a heady mixture of noir and science fiction. The atmosphere is creepy, claustrophobic and strangely chilling. This overexposed light technique is something Spielberg has used quite often in his modern movies; he even used the technique in the recent ‘Bridge of Spies’ and it is clearly a device he will continue to use. The storytelling is also executed brilliantly and the set pieces are exhilarating.
3. E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial
A moving and expertly-crafted family story where, once again, Spielberg’s unquenchable thematic exploration of an absent father is at the film’s heart. Of course, it ends on a syrupy-sweet note but there is no doubting the films power and you would be hard pushed not to be swept up in the film’s majesty. This is a film that is as timeless as any, and E.T. himself is one of the most recognisable movie characters in history. A spellbinding performance from Henry Thomas who plays Elliot, Spielberg really did get the best from an incredibly young cast. One of the key quotes from E.T. is “I’ll be right here” and I’m sure he will be for many a year.
2. Jurassic Park
I personally think this is one of the finest films ever made. It is a rollercoaster ride that has all the thrills and spills you expect, as well as plenty of spectacle. But there are deep philosophical mutterings underneath the still gleaming surface, such as the fear of fatherhood and the morals of genetic engineering. This was a film long in the making for Spielberg; it is ‘Jaws’ on land and has some of the most iconic action sequences in recent cinema; the bloke on the toilet?! Wow. With strong performances throughout and Jeff Goldblum showing why he was one of the coolest actors of the ’90’s, this is one of Spielberg’s finest films and a movie that rewards repeat viewings.
Of course Spielberg’s finest film has to be ‘Jaws’. Films like ‘Jurassic Park’ would not have existed if it was not for this work of genius. With the now infamous production problems with the animatronic shark, the film is an example of how financial restrictions often spark the most interesting creativity. With recent big-budget superhero films being released – films which I believe fundamentally lack imagination and creativity – ‘Jaws’ is a lesson in how to stretch a budget and invent filmmaking techniques to achieve your cinematic goal. Not seeing the shark ultimately proved to be the greatest strength of this film, because it somehow amplified the scare-factor and cranked up the claustrophobia. It was also the first film to smash the box-office; word of mouth and large publicity meant this film was sold out for weeks. Now every big-budget blockbuster tries to emulate this feat and to be honest, it works – just look at ‘Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice’. Thanks to a carefully moulded marketing campaign, no amount of bad reviews can stop a juggernaut of this scale. It is, by far, Spielberg’s greatest achievement both technically and on a commercial level. The film has inspired so many of his colleagues and even himself in recent years and will continue to do so for many more.
April Fools’ Day has been and gone, but this is no joke. We take your Netflix viewing very seriously here at JumpCut UK, and that’s why we ask our resident Netflix expert Mark Blakeway to pinpoint the best films that the streaming service has to offer. Here’s what was added last month.
I Love You Phillip Morris
Jim Carrey stars as Steven Russell, a policeman turned con-man, made famous for his multiple prison escapes in this “based on true events” dark comedy-drama. It’s an enjoyable mix of unfortunate circumstances made funny by the sheer bluntness of it all, and heartfelt certainty of Russell’s unequivocal love for Phillip Morris (Ewan McGregor). It’s quick-paced, funny, sharp and witty, and shows how much depth and range Carrey can truly achieve when pushed to do something different.
The Ides Of March
An above-average political thriller starring George Clooney, Ryan Gosling and the late Phillip Seymour Hoffman. Packed with solid performances, a decent script and some very dark moments, albeit not quite to the lengths of ‘House of Cards’, it is enough to satisfy anyone with a vague political interest. While it doesn’t do much to break the mold, the typical story of a good guy in a bad system trying to do right still holds value. Predictable, but interesting nonetheless.
The Grand Budapest Hotel
A single performance by Ralph Fiennes is so good in this film, that it’s difficult to talk about anything else. Visually, it’s incredible. The typical dry wit you expect from Wes Anderson is there in abundance. It’s well-polished, finely composed, superbly acted and the dense script is executed perfectly. I’d go as far as saying it is my favourite Anderson film to date, and whether you’re already a fan of Anderson or not, I highly recommend this film. Here’s our review to persuade you further.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier
This is such a slick movie. While it does ultimately end in a mess of CGI, what gets you to that point is an intriguing storyline with some incredibly detailed actions scenes. This effort is truly a credit to the superhero genre. Whether or not you buy the whole “timely social commentary” angle, there is something undeniably very real about this film – this is more evident in the first half than the second, but this paranoia infused action movie exceeded my expectations. Here’s our review to persuade you further.
This is a powerful documentary showcased as part of the BBC Storyville series I keep harping on about. What spurred the making of this documentary, was the horrific gang rape that took place on a private bus in South Delhi, after which 23-year-old Jyoti Singh died from her injuries. The attack gained widespread visibility, with many major media outlets picking up the story, and the men were arrested for their crimes. The documentary takes a look at this particular case, and the wider attitudes towards women in India, piecing together news footage, protests and even an interview with one of the attackers. Released to mixed reactions, banned in India itself, it has been interpreted in many different ways by activists, politicians and friends close to Jyoti, but one thing you cannot deny is that the more people who know about these horrendous acts that take place, the quicker they can be stopped. That is only a good thing.
The Lives Of Others
Winner of the 2006 Academy Award for Best Foreign Language film, ‘The Lives of Others’ is a truly thought-provoking German drama. Set in a period of political uncertainty prior to the collapse of the Berlin Wall, it follows a member of the secret police becoming increasingly engrossed by the individuals he is supposed to be spying on. The tension is gradually ramped up as our protagonist uncovers more and more details, but it remains restrained in its no-frills approach to film-making, leaning on the simplicity, performances and apparent authenticity of it all, creating an engrossing and somewhat relatable thriller.
The New Girlfriend
The story of Claire (Anaïs Demoustier) and the widow of her best friend, David (Romain Duris). A friendship post-death is forged for reasons I’d rather not go into – the key component of the story was kept a surprise for me and I hope it remains a surprise for you. It tests your perceptions of gender, sexuality, grief, relationships and identity. It does not remain with a single theme, a single character or a single issue – this is a complicated film handled delicately, with great care and understanding. Suspenseful, ridiculous at times, but incredibly fun, this was one of my favourite films from 2015. Here’s Mark’s review to persuade you further.
Admittedly, the adventures of Wayne and Garth aren’t for everyone, but they are for me. A timeless classic, the perfect rainy day viewing, filled with quotable scenes, impeccable comedic timing and a flare for the ridiculous. Starring a young Mike Myers, Dana Carvey and Rob Lowe among many others, this is your not-so-typical oddball comedy about a couple of rock and roll loving friends who just want to apply their passion for music and babes, and make the most of whatever comes their way. Unfortunately for them, others have a different view as to how that should play out, whether it’s a TV show or a concert, and it’s up to Wayne and Garth to find a way to do what they do best. Party on Wayne. Party on Garth. You’ll also find ‘Wayne’s World 2’ on there. Here’s our review of the original to persuade you further.
‘Turbo Kid’ will be a delight to any one who was a fan of 80s action adventure films like ‘BMX Bandits’ and ‘Mad Max’, as it is a huge love letter to both of these. Set in the dystopian “future” of 1997, you follow the film’s hero with his customised NES power glove, paving the way for inventive gory kills on-screen (one particularly gruesome one involving a modified bike) all backed with a rocking 80s synth soundtrack. Theres so much to love about this movie from the scenery-chewing performance of Michael Ironside as the sadistic overlord Zeus, and Laurence Leboeuf who plays the love interest, Apple. It’s not often you get to see a film like this, and I loved every second of it.
N.B. Mark roped in the help of his friend Gary Joyce to discuss ‘Turbo Kid’. Here’s our review to persuade you further.
Written by Gillian Finklea
Like many movie purists, I used to despise the dreaded remake. As a believer in originality, I held out hope that we could do more than simply repeat the past. More than anything, it just seems like a waste to pay money to watch the exact same things that have already entertained me years before.
But now, I have learned to accept, and even enjoy movie remakes. Occasionally you get a delightful spin on a property you were never truly familiar with – such as ’21 Jump Street’ – or a modern twist on an old story like ‘You’ve Got Mail’. I’ve learned that remakes can be a welcome event or an unmitigated disaster, and now I’m able to look for signs as to how successful a remake is going to be.
Let’s use ’21 Jump Street’ as an example. The trailer for this movie was funny, light, and utilised two well-known actors. Compared to the trailer for the TV show, which takes itself very serious despite the outrageous plot, it seems like the two properties are barley related. The revitalised franchise doesn’t rely on similar plot lines or character relationships as foundations for the movie, instead it takes the general idea of undercover cops in high school and spins it out into a whole new world. We have one great cameo from the original television show, and then we don’t really think of it ever again. It is a remake that created its own universe and it’s certainly one worth exploring.
Now let’s look at the opposite end of the remake spectrum — Gus Van Sant’s almost shot-for-shot remake of the classic Hitchcock masterpiece ‘Psycho’. For the first 20 seconds, the trailer makes it seem like you are going to get a movie from Norman Bates’ perspective which, while that may not be everyone’s cup of tea, would at least be an interesting take. But then the trailer starts showing very familiar and famous scenes – Marion in the shower and Arbogast running on the stairs. But what else are we to expect? This is a very specific movie with a very specific twist. We get excited to see those famous shots in the trailer because we briefly think that maybe this would be a chance to see more of the the psychological turmoil and expand the horror universe. However, when the movie came out it was literally the exact same as the film which came 40 years prior. The best parts were shown in the trailer and those parts were obviously better in the original.
In order for a remake to work, it needs to be updated with its own sense of self and if possible, be better than the original. The trailer for the new ‘The Jungle Book’ movie appears to have its own ideas and themes, at least in the fact that it’s not animated and seems to take itself more serious than the Disney classic. It doesn’t completely rely on familiar songs and has an interesting enough cast that I think it may be a worthwhile remake.
The new ‘Ghostbusters’ trailer however, has left me a little suspicious. Now, I have been a champion of the ‘Ghostbuster’ remake because I don’t think the original is some kind of Holy Grail never to be altered, and I trust Paul Feig with most things relating to comedy. However, that trailer was way too close to 1998 ‘Psycho’ territory. In the trailer there’s a ghost in the library, a funky car and even Slimer; all of which we’ve seen before. And while the actresses seem to have developed fun and interesting characters, the overall feeling is too similar to the original movie and that’s a problem. Remakes that don’t forge their own path are doomed to make viewers wonder why there needs to be a remake at all.
So when you see a trailer for a remake and get an instant rush of nostalgia, take a pause. If the trailer just conjures up reminders of the previous movie or lifts from scenes beat-by-beat, you are probably destined for a disappointing trip down memory lane.
I had originally planned to make a list of films which inspired me in some way, or changed the way I look at movies in general. However, whilst making the list, I found that I wasn’t enjoying myself as much I probably should have been. Now, I’m still making a list of sorts, but I’m doing it in a non-traditional way; rather fitting for a list which credits the films that have changed my life in some way. This list is more specifically about some of the movies that taught me valuable life lessons and movies that taught me to look at things differently; to be more open-minded. So without further ado, let us begin.
Believe it or not, I wasn’t always that big a movie fan. Even more surprising, that all changed when I saw ‘Spring Breakers’ (2012); that’s the one that changed how I look at movies. It also got me into the arthouse/independent genre of film. Now, ‘Spring Breakers’ is pretty much what the title would suggest – a group of girls go on spring break. Then they get in to some trouble and that’s when they meet James Franco’s character, Alien; otherwise known as one of the best characters ever put on screen, in my opinion. Anyway, he helps them out of trouble only to get them into more trouble. And that is the plot in a nutshell.
The reason why I love ‘Spring Breakers’ as much as I do is because of Alien, honestly. Plus, there’s a lot of nostalgia tied to that film for me as well. To describe the way this film changed my perspective on film in general is not an easy task, and I’m honestly not exactly sure. I just remember seeing it for the first time and being floored by just how amazing it was. The “OFF” switch in the movie section of my mind suddenly tripped to the “ON” position and the rest is history. From that moment on, I was aware that movies are more than just mindless fun, they’re art.
Following in the same vein as ‘Spring Breakers’ is the creepy sci-fi flick ‘Under the Skin’ (2013), starring Scarlett Johansson. This is another film that made me realise that movies are indeed art, and also how unimportant dialogue is, showing me the value of visual storytelling. Lastly, ‘Under The Skin’ taught me the importance of having an imagination, and I cannot thank this crazy film enough for that.
Switching gears here, and breaking in to the more recent past, Disney’s ‘Inside Out’ (2015) impacted me way more than I thought it would. Ironically, this clever animated film made me want to give up reviewing movies altogether, because I didn’t want to scrutinise ‘Inside Out’ as much as I do with most other movies; I just wanted to enjoy it for what it was. Since then, I have learned how to figuratively “turn my brain off” with some movies, and I am perfectly fine with that. Some movies are meant to be enjoyed, not analysed.
With just a couple more films to go, the beautifully tragic ‘500 Days of Summer’ (2009) taught me to never give up. It also taught me that the person you’re with should make you happy, and if it becomes a struggle, then maybe they’re not the person for you. It also taught me that rom-coms can indeed be good (I know this is technically a film about a lack of romance, but non-rom-com doesn’t sound as catchy).
Lastly, there’s ‘Office Space’ (1999). After watching ‘Office Space’, I just wanted to be Ron Livingston’s character, Peter. So I did just that. I became more relaxed and I started doing what made me happy. I’ve felt better than ever since I’ve made that change, so I owe a huge debt to this sardonic comedy movie.
This list could go on forever, but I’ll stop here. I’ll be honest, I don’t really know what the point of this list is to those of you reading it, as this is a very personal list. But the more I think about it, the more I think that the point of movies is that they affect everyone in a different way. Movies are more important than they might seem to be on the surface; every movie, even the worst of the worst, has something to teach us.
Sports play a major part in the way the world works; from Superbowl Sunday to the World Cup final, pretty much everyone follows one sport or another. The problem is, the popularity of sports in general dictates that Hollywood tries and tries to churn out successful sporting movies, but sporting movies are notoriously hard to get right. That said, boxing seems to be one of the few sports that does work on film, and I’m here to prove it with 10 great boxing movies. Before we crack on with this list, I have to give some honorable mentions to a few films that didn’t quite make it into the top 10.
Rocky III (1982): When you think of boxing movies, you naturally think of the ‘Rocky’ franchise, but we can’t have seven ‘Rocky’ films in here can we? In this third film, the villain Clubber Lang (played by Mr. T) makes a strong case for himself and this is a great film, but not quite as good as some of the others in the series.
Cinderella Man (2005): One of Russell Crowe’s finest works, with a fantastic Paul Giamatti supporting role, but this film’s old-old-old school mentality lulls a hair too much to sneak into the top ten.
The Boxer (1997): Keeping it simple with the title, ‘The Boxer’ stars Daniel Day Lewis as a killer. But ‘The Boxer’ is not even his best film about being an Irish Revolutionary. I mean, come on Daniel; what kind of warped sequel to ‘In the Name of the Father’ is this?
Okay, on with the real winners…
10. Fat City (1972); Directed by John Huston; Starring Stacy Keach, Jeff Bridges
Synopsis: Two men, working as professional boxers, come to blows when their careers each begin to take opposite momentum.
Verdict: A real old school boxing flick and the godfather of all boxing movies, pre-dating both ‘Rocky’ and ‘Raging Bull’. Stacy Keach, as Tully, carries the film’s focus in his showdown with a young Jeff Bridges. ‘Fat City’ is everything you want it to be; non-formulaic, aware of its angle, full of classic 70s dialogue, and a rip-roaring bout that will keep you on the edge of your seat. Had the story aged better over time, ‘Fat City’ would, indubitably, deserve to be ranked higher.
9. The Fighter (2010); Directed by David O. Russell; Starring: Christian Bale, Mark Wahlberg
Synopsis: A look at the early years of boxer “Irish” Micky Ward, and his brother who helped train him before going pro in the mid 1980s.
Verdict: Micky Ward sure does come off as a prick, but with Bale and Wahlberg in tow, the director Russell actually makes you want to root for Ward by the end. Dysfunctional in nature, Dicky Eklund’s portrayal absolutely ties together what would have been a rather bland stint without him. Docked points for sub-par boxing scenes by Marky Mark, ‘The Fighter’ has a candor and a degree of authenticity which allows it to keep it’s head above water among the all-time boxing greats.
8. Ali (2001); Directed by Michael Mann; Starring Will Smith, Jamie Foxx
Synopsis: A biography of sports legend, Muhammad Ali, from his early days to his time in the ring.
Verdict: Will Smith brings to life the childhood hero of many, Muhammad Ali. We’ve all got posters on our walls of the man who could truly float like a butterfly and sting like a bee. From his “Thrilla in Manila” to his personal journeys stateside, Ali fought more powers than just Sonny Liston and Joe Frazier. Smith’s wily persona of the world-class champion lands a devastating blow on this list amongst the great boxing flicks of old.
7. Southpaw (2015); Directed by Antoine Fuqua; Starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Forest Whitaker
Synopsis: Boxer Billy Hope turns to trainer Tick Wills to help him get his life back on track after losing his wife in a tragic accident and his daughter to child protection services.
Verdict: A vociferously flashy, most glamorous, Eminem-infused battle blast, ‘Southpaw’ attacks both fast and strong. Gyllenhaal is so unbelievably ripped and his surreal training sequences totally make this film. Fighting Miguel ‘Magic’ Escobar, the fiery Colombian antagonist only makes you root for Billy Hope and his lost hope even more. Some may call ‘Southpaw’ formulaic and chalk this one up to bias based on its recent release, but Antoine Fuqua gets everything right from tight boxing sequences, to max-level grandeur, to a hard-hitting lefty landing a wonderful wallop into this top ten.
6. Rocky IV (1985); Directed by Sylvester Stallone; Starring Sylvester Stallone, Dolph Lundgren
Synopsis: After iron man Ivan Drago, a highly intimidating 6-foot-5, 261-pound Soviet athlete, kills Apollo Creed in an exhibition match, Rocky comes to the heart of Russia for 15 pile-driving boxing rounds of revenge.
Verdict: In the fight that single-handedly ended the Cold War, Rocky goes toe-to-toe with the juiced-up Russian cyborg machine, Ivan Drago, who inexplicably felled the great Apollo Creed. Rocky lights our hearts on fire by selecting the hard way out in defeating his Russian nemesis. Through snow-clogged sprints and intense cabin training, Rocky once again shows us that there are no demons out there incapable of being defeated. A 15-round packed-punch of emotion, passion, and defeating the Soviets lands ‘Rocky IV’ a place in the throes of greatness.
5. Undisputed (2002); Directed by Walter Hill; Starring Wesley Snipes, Ving Rhames
Synopsis: When heavyweight champion George ‘Iceman’ Chambers lands himself in prison, the resident gangster arranges a boxing match with the reigning prison champ.
Verdict: Outside of having, pound-for-pound, the greatest boxing sequence of all time in film history (and you can take that to the bank), ‘Undisputed’ brings the unique concept of prison boxing to the table, an advantage unbeknownst to any other of its contemporaries. Iceman Chambers vs. Monroe Hutchens is right up there with Balboa vs. Creed, in terms of strength of fighting skills plus high class drama. The total underdog of the list, ‘Undisputed’ will wow you with its technical, authentic feeling final round. A must-see for boxing fans everywhere.
4. Creed (2015); Directed by Ryan Coogler; Starring Michael B. Jordan, Sylvester Stallone
Synopsis: Everyone’s favourite former World Heavyweight Champion, Rocky Balboa, serves as trainer and mentor to Adonis Johnson, the son of his late friend and former rival Apollo Creed.
Verdict: After the abomination that was ‘Rocky Balboa’, ‘Creed’ gets the franchise right back in line with technically savvy, intense boxing, led by magnificently deft camera work throwing us into all angles of the ring. Throw in real life boxer, Tony Bellow, playing the indomitable ‘Pretty’ Ricky Conlon across the ring from Adonis Johnson (Creed), and the authenticity levels are unparalleled. With great training montages, including a dirt bike sidled run up the steps to victory, ‘Creed’ supplants not only Southpaw as the best boxing flick of 2015, but perhaps may be the #1 boxing picture of the past decade.
3. The Hurricane (1999); Directed by Norman Jewison; Starring Denzel Washington, Liev Schreiber
Synopsis: The story of Rubin “Hurricane” Carter, a boxer wrongly imprisoned for murder, and the people who aided in his fight to prove his innocence.
Verdict: One of the better “outside the ring” stories of the bunch, elevated by a Mt. Rushmore performance by Washington. Washington, as Rubin “Hurricane” Carter fights not only his weary opponents in the ring, but the racism and hate that imprisoned an innocent man, until love overflows to bust him out. A real knockout punch right into the sixteenth round, ‘The Hurricane’ will box a hole right into the throws of your heart.
2. Rocky (1976); Directed by John G. Avildsen; Starring Sylvester Stallone, Carl Stone
Synopsis: Rocky Balboa, a small-time boxer, gets a supremely rare chance to fight the heavy-weight champion, Apollo Creed, in a bout in which he strives to go the distance for his self-respect.
Verdict: The ultimate underdog story. The picture that made you believe you could conquer any obstacle in life by running up a few steps in front of a local museum. Bill Conti’s epic soundtrack, Rocky Balboa’s finest clash with Apollo Creed, and the city of Philadelphia’s soul combine to make ‘Rocky’ an all-timer. With Burgess Meredith, a world class stick man, and the darling Talia Shire along for the ride, Rocky conquers every mountain, both real and metaphorical on its climb to the top (well, nearly the top).
1. Raging Bull (1980); Directed by Martin Scorsese; Starring Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci
Synopsis: An emotionally self-destructive boxer’s journey through life, as the violence and temper that leads him to the top in the ring, destroys his life outside it.
Verdict: A legendary, poetic performance by the menace of a boxer, Robert De Niro playing Jack La Motta. This it the film that makes any young kid want to be a boxer and perhaps evokes a raging bull inside all of us. ‘Raging Bull’ is filled with demons, relief, and a pleasantly insane narrative. Viciously brutal boxing sequences mixing slow beating and frenetic flurries of blows, plus a heart of gold, mean Scorsese’s finest work tops this list.