Luke’s Top 5 Superhero Movies

Written by Luke Riley

Greetings to all geeks, nerds and superhero fans. The time is finally upon us and Batman and Superman have come together on the silver screen. Many of us have finally witnessed two of the most iconic heroes battling it out in ‘Batman v Superman’, a pre-cursor to what will be the Justice League and the DC Universe. To celebrate this, I bring you my (very subjective) top 5 superhero/comic book movies. I personally like these comic book movies as they represent what I like to see in terms of action, characters and the stories. Please feel free to comment below, whether it be to tell me what a great list I’ve put together, or that I’ve made a huge mistake.


Hellboy-II-

5. Hellboy 2: The Golden Army

The first ‘Hellboy’ film is a visual feast for the eyes, with an intriguing story and awesome characters, and the lovable red devil returns in this sequel. Guillmero del Toro turns it up to 11, and this is absolutely his movie. This sequel solidifies the universe that was set up in the first, with an amazing animated flashback in the intro to set up the motives of the villain, The Elven Prince Nuada. ‘Hellboy 2’ is so true to itself, everything is believable within the context it is presented. While we still haven’t seen a third in the franchise, this continuation brings it full speed to the conclusive, amazingly choreographed final fight. This movie proves that Guillermo del Toro can take source material and translate it well to the screen. Now, let’s pray for the trilogy to be completed.


AA

4. Avengers Assemble

The massively popular Marvel Cinematic Universe hinged on the success of 2008’s ‘Iron-Man’ – if that movie wasn’t a hit, we would never have seen an Avengers film. However, in 2012 we saw our beloved team come together to battle Thor’s adopted brother, Loki (played fantastically by Tom Hiddleston). The initial worry was whether each of these huge characters would be given enough screen time, but those worries were quickly slapped aside as each character was given their time in the spotlight in ‘Avengers Assemble’.

In one movie, we get; Iron-Man fighting Thor, Thor fighting Hulk, New York getting invaded by an alien army from another dimension and hints at the impending arrival of Thanos. Read that sentence again and remember that it all happened! What a world it is, that this material is given credence, presented authentically and respects source material as well as the audience. In Joss Whedon we trusted, and he truly delivered what is now a favourite of many comic book fans.


MAN OF STEEL

3. Man Of Steel

Following on from ‘Superman Returns’ – a movie which I actually enjoyed – the man in blue was to be given a fresh reboot. ‘Superman Returns’ wasn’t enjoyed by many, and whilst it was set to have two sequels, those plans were shelved so that Warner Bros could re-adjust. If ‘Superman Returns’ was an evening of peaceful and reflective classical music, then ‘Man Of Steel’ is a night of sweat-inducing heavy metal. From the first frame, the pace of this movie does not stop, the first 20 minutes being a krypton-based civil war. We also get a never-before-seen fighting Jor-el (Russell Crowe) as he has a brief encounter with Zod.

When we go to earth, we see Clark Kent as an adult, trying to find out who is he is. From the moment Clark finds a crashed Kryptonian ship to the final fight, the movie is quite literally a comic book on the big screen. It’s not just the conflict between Superman and Zod that has divided audiences, with this film being highly polarising and widely panned. I love it though, and the sequel, ‘Batman v Superman’, which has also divided audiences. Both films are full of action and beautifully pay homage to their comic book counterparts, which is a big tick for me.


Batman_Begins_poster6

2. Batman Begins

Warner Bros wisely put our Dark Knight on the shelf after the dreadful ‘Batman & Robin’, and it seemed like the caped crusader was done with. However, a hero would appear in the form of Christopher Nolan, a man who would strip away the needless cliches to reveal a very well-crafted story in a real world setting. Not only is this movie on an almost CGI-free diet, we are introduced for the first time to a live action R’as Al Ghul. While ‘The Dark Knight’ builds on the strength of ‘Batman Begins’, this is where the origins are so beautifully crafted. With a grimy colour palette, strong performances and a satisfying story, this is a worthy mantle for Batman to stand on high. It also comes with a bombastic soundtrack composed by Hans Zimmer; not only does the music fit the tone, it enhances it ten fold. For me this is the essential solo Batman movie, as I enjoy a villain who is lordly yet able to beat some fool into the ground if needed. I do enjoy ‘The Dark Knight’, but this first in the trilogy really hits a home run for me.


x-men

1. X-Men

“Mututation, it is the key to our evolution” – Professor Charles Xavier

This is an opening quote that shows this movie will have intelligence and a respect for the source material. The first scene is particularly interesting as we see a young Magneto being taken away from his parents, as well as the origin of his power. His power is born of hatred and from being persecuted for being different and also the love for his parents. In his adult years, his motives are to protect his fellow mutants, but he also sees humans as inferior; he believes they should become mutant or die if they aren’t worthy. He becomes the things he hated, the reason why he is who is and also what created him. This hate is countered by the gentle yet determined Professor X, who believes the two species can co-exist. While we have characters such as Wolverine, Cyclops and Storm, my enjoyment stems from the conflict of Xavier and Magneto. These former friends with opposing ideologies have several conversations throughout this film which, because of their combined acting abilities, have more excitement than any fist fight. The first movie in the ‘X-Men’ series signified that Hollywood was ready to take comic books seriously, and I am thankful it began with The Children of the Atom.

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Which Alfred Is The Best?

Written by Patrick Alexander

Much hullabaloo has been made in the recent weeks, months and years as to where Ben Affleck does, has and will stack up in the overall Batman role sphere. Is he better than Christian Bale? Probably not. He’s got to be better than Michael Keaton, right? A push, maybe. Yeah, but he kicks Val Kilmer’s butt? Definitely. However, forget being caught up in the endless debate over Affleck’s position on Mt. Batmore, inevitably carved out of the wet walls of the Batcave. We’re here today to talk about the butler of all butlers, Albert Thaddeus Crane Pennyworth, and where his various portrayals in film and television stack up. 

First, a little history about Alfred. As any comic book nerd will tell you, Albert hails from Great Britain, having been a highly skilled British Intelligence Operative, making him the perfect guardian to protect young Bruce Wayne from the cruelties of a dark Gotham City. Outside of being the most overqualified babysitter and tea-man in the world – from his expertise in domestic sciences to his proficiency with mechanical and computer systems – Alfred always had Batman’s back, even putting his emergency medical acumen to work numerous times to save Master Wayne’s life. So where do the representations of the legendary chamberlain stack up? Let’s find out.


 

bvsalfred

5. Jeremy Irons 
Films: Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice

The latest enactment of Alfred left much to be desired. While his role is scant in the new DC universe picture, Irons does flex his proficiency with mechanical and computer operating systems, helping Batfleck out several times, such as taking control of the Batplane whilst Batman has to skydive smash through a wall to go kick some criminal butts. Irons certainly looked the part as an aged and tired Alfred, ready to give up the reins to his care of Wayne Manor, finding his role rather diminished as Master Bruce had aged gracefully into a Kryptonite induced mid-life crisis. However, there is hope yet for Mr. Irons with ‘Wonder Woman’ and ‘Justice League’ pictures in production, and the possibility of appearing in solo Batfleck movies, we could still see Irons and his Alfred ascend this list.


 

Batman_1989_-_Alfred

4. Michael Gough
Films: Batman, Batman Returns, Batman Forever, Batman & Robin

Gough carried nearly a decade’s worth of the Alfred torch, spanning the runs of Keaton, Kilmer, and lastly, George Clooney. Whilst Gough never portrayed the more tactical and eternally youthful former military man version of Alfred, Gough served his role as Batman’s foremost confidant in an ever-changing Gotham universe. The most dapper of this list, Gough seemed to always be there with a joke, or to light up a smoke when Master Wayne needed it most. Despite a heralded four film run, spanning three different Batmen, Gough’s finest hour, perhaps, might have been this 1990’s Diet Coke advert


alfred_batphone

3. Alan Napier
TV Series: Batman 

A throwback to the 1960s live action television series that any older American male can remember watching, spliced into the Saturday morning cartoons. Napier’s portrayal might well have been the most savvy in the pre-super-darkness era of Gotham. Napier’s lighthearted portrayal – before Batman got uber-techie – won hearts as Batman and Robin’s main man (servant). During a storied, three season, 120 episode run, Napier had the Batphone on lock down, always promptly answering and alerting Batman to the dangers of Gotham. Indubitably things got easier once they invented sonar tracking devices and advanced communication platforms, including computers, so it’s hard to say if Napier’s Alfred would have made it in the modern era.


Sean Pertwee

2. Sean Pertwee
TV Series: Gotham

Pertwee makes a strong case for the title belt here, combatting his way onto the Alfred scene. The youngest Alfred to date, known for protecting the young Bruce Wayne in the immediate aftermath of his parent’s demise, Pertwee’s protective instincts for young Bruce and his knack for continuously felling the villains of Gotham come in handy, as Bruce has yet to fully realise or actualise his future as the bodyguard of Gotham. The ‘Gotham’ TV series has been praised as a hot new show from Fox, and it’s casting of Pertwee really delivers, from Wayne Manor brawls with former British Intelligence Operative pals (psychopaths), to always putting himself in harm’s way to shield Master Wayne from the lurking evils of Gotham’s craziest menaces.


Michael Caine

1. Michael Caine
Films: Batman Begins, The Dark Knight, The Dark Knight Rises

Let’s be honest though, we all know Michael Caine is the greatest of all time when it comes to Alfred. Readily beside Christian Bale’s side through the best installment of the Batman franchise, his fame through association certainly buffers his ranking. Competent in (all too often) medical procedures, Alfred never wavers in his faith of Master Wayne as mainly a confidant and ally in his later years. Despite lacking the fighting ability other Alfreds reveal, Caine had perhaps the most quotable Alfred because he understood his role in Wayne’s life as a father figure better than any other. In ‘Batman Begins’, after the house burns down, Wayne belittles Alfred in a rough way saying: “why do you give a damn, Alfred? It’s not your family”. Caine replies in a manner representative of the Alfred who got it most, “I give a damn, because a good man once made me responsible for what was most precious to him in the whole world”. Beautiful, Michael.

Top 5 Movie Dance Scenes

Written by Jakob Lewis Barnes

We all love a good boogie, right? Even better when there’s a touch of comedy to the dance moves, and these five dance sequences from the movies are equally entertaining as they are oddly impressive. 


5. Ben Mendelsohn (Lost River)

I only recently saw this film, and to be honest this dance sequence is probably the one which gave me the idea to put together this list. I loved this part of the film, mainly because I had no idea it was coming and it was so out of the blue in the context of the film. Ben Mendelsohn’s moves here are extremely creepy and sinister, yet you can’t help but have a wry smile on your face when you watch this scene.


4. Ben Stiller (Starsky and Hutch)

This one took quite a bit of pondering to come up with, but as soon as I remembered this sequence I just had to include it in the list. I’m not the biggest fan of Ben Stiller, but ‘Starsky and Hutch’ was, for me, one of his best films, and this hilarious dance-off scene is the highlight of the whole film. Stiller busts out some classic moves, and let’s be honest, he had Dancin’ Rick beat all over. 


3. Uma Thurman and John Travolta (Pulp Fiction)

This is probably the most iconic dance scene of all time, and I’m not disputing that at all. Uma Thurman and John Travolta’s legendary dance scene in ‘Pulp Fiction’ is the most recognisable and famous of them all, but that doesn’t make it the best. It is however, a magical moment in cinematic history and a real stroke of genius from Quentin Tarantino. 


2. Oscar Isaac (Ex Machina)

Now this is the ultimate in dark comedy! Oscar Isaac, who plays the mysterious, rather detestable genius Nathan in this sci-fi flick, comes out of nowhere to drop an incredibly synchronised dance sequence which took the film world by storm last year. This is arguably the best moment of one of 2015’s top films; so good, that I just had to recreate it for the JumpCut UK Film Awards (watch this and skip to 27:43, or watch the whole thing, your call).


1. Jon Heder (Napoleon Dynamite)

Only one dance scene could beat that masterclass from Oscar Isaac, and that is, of course, the awkward yet endearing display from Jon Heder in ‘Napoleon Dynamite’. Not only is this a sequence which cracks me up every time, but it’s actually pretty impressive too. Jamiroquai’s ‘Canned Heat’ track is used perfectly, and Heder nails every step. Confession time: I’ve also mastered the moves to this one too.


So there we have it. Have I missed any movie dance moments out? Let us know in the comments section or hit us up on Twitter @jumpcutUK or @jumpcutjakob.

Top 10 Movie Characters of All Time

Written by Daniel Chadwick

It’s the age old debate – who is the best character to ever grace the silver screen. In my introduction to JumpCut UK, I will try to tackle this tricky question and offer some insight into the ultimate form of art. For every Han Solo, there is also an Atticus Finch, and this list tries to find the balance between the nerdy and the dramatic. So here we go…


nightcrawler

10. Lou Bloom (Nightcrawler) – Jake Gyllenhaal

Jake Gyllenhaal is without a doubt one of the greatest actors of our time. It’s honestly a shock that the man only has one Oscar nomination, especially considering his turn in this underrated crime-noir masterpiece. In ‘Nightcrawler’, Gyllenhaal stars as Lou Bloom, an ambitious man who will do whatever it takes to find success in this crazy world. So he decides to become a nightcrawler; filming crimes and accidents, and delivering them to the local news station for a sweet fee. Gyllenhaal not only transformed drastically for the role, but completely captures the sociopathic tendencies of this character. He’s creepy, darkly funny and delivers the performance of his career. For us, he was much more deserving of an Oscar win than Eddie Redmayne, and worse still, he didn’t even get nominated for this performance.


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9. Tony Stark AKA Iron-Man (Marvel Cinematic Universe) – Robert Downey Jr.

Iron-Man is pretty much the reason the Marvel Cinematic Universe exists and thrives today. This special character is the reason so many comic book movies have been made, and studios have taken risks on movies like ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ and ‘Deadpool’ have been made. This character also jump-started Robert Downey Jr.’s career. As Tony Stark, he’s suave, charming, funny and a lot of the time is the best part of any Marvel movie. We have a lot to thank Iron-Man for, and he definitely earns his spot in this top 10 movie characters of all time.


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8. Mr. White (Reservoir Dogs) – Harvey Keitel

Quentin Tarantino writes so many instantly memorable characters, that the perpetual debate as to which is the best still rages on today. Some cite Hans Landa (Christoph Waltz) from ‘Inglorious Basterds’, others might say The Bride from ‘Kill Bill’. But for me the one character that always stands out is Mr. White from Tarantino’s first (and in my opinion his best) film, ‘Reservoir Dogs’. Harvey Keitel portrays a cool, collected criminal and is by far the stand-out star of a movie filled with talent. Somehow he makes Tarantino’s script even better and that’s no mean feat. He’s one of the only Dogs that you connect to, considering most of them are sociopaths (or psychopaths) and his father-like love for Tim Roth’s Mr. Orange is visibly moving.


s.connery

7. James Bond (Bond Series) – Sean Connery

People constantly argue about who the best James Bond is, with many millennials claiming that Daniel Craig’s Bond is the best, but that’s far from the truth. The man who brought Bond to life on the screen for the first time, Sean Connery, was the definitive Bond and is by far the most faithful adaptation of the ultimate spy. Bond was always supposed to be a little corny, and Connery embraced that completely. He had an abundance of fantastic one-liners – way before Arnold Schwarzenegger came along – and he completely captured the cool, suave characteristics of the greatest spy to ever grace the screen. Long live the one true Bond.


HAN-SOLO

6. Han Solo (Star Wars Franchise) – Harrison Ford

Han Solo has slowly but surely become the epitome of ‘Star Wars’ nerdendom. Fans, whether they be nerds or just part of the mainstream audience, adore Harrison Ford’s iconic character, and the beloved character is one of the major factors in ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ being so popular. He’s the ultimate hero, has quotes that are so memorable they are immortalised on posters and t-shirts the world over, and is just an all-round awesome movie character. If there’s one thing you can thank George Lucas for, besides bringing us ‘Star Wars’, it is creating this loveable rogue.


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5.  Sarah Connor (Terminator Franchise) – Linda Hamilton

Sarah Connor lives on in action folklore as one of the most kick-ass women to ever hit the big screen. James Cameron created a character that was not only good with a gun, but also interesting, layered and brave. There’s a lot of people who would not even consider fighting a Terminator on this list, but she is not one of them, that’s for sure. Forget ‘Terminator Genysis’, if you want the real Sarah Connor go no further than Linda Hamilton in the first two ‘Terminator’ movies.


The Joker

4. The Joker (The Dark Knight) – Heath Ledger

With Jared Leto starring in ‘Suicide Squad’ as the Joker, it’s inevitable that everyone is talking about how he’ll compare to Heath Ledger and Jack Nicholson. I’m going to come out and say the honest truth that we are all thinking – no one will ever come close to Ledger. His bloody, crazy performance as the Joker will never be topped ,and I stand by that fully. He may be a full-on psychopath, but that doesn’t mean he’s not a seriously cool depiction of the most infamous comic book villain. Ledger completely transforms in the role in a way that I’ve never seen before on film (and I doubt I will ever see again). Rest in peace Heath Ledger, because you will be remembered for decades to come.


Indy

3. Indiana Jones (Indiana Jones Franchise) – Harrison Ford

There are probably some of you in shock right now, wondering how Indy is not sitting pretty at number one on the list. ‘Indiana Jones’ is one of the best adventure stories out there, and the leading man would easily have been number one on the list if it hadn’t been for the pretty average ‘Kingdom of the Crystal Skull’. Indy is smooth with the ladies, knows how to use his whip and beats Nazis like it’s nobodies business. Here’s hoping for a brilliant ‘Indiana Jones 5’.


Gandalf

2. Gandalf (The Lord of the Rings & The Hobbit Trilogies) – Ian McKellen

It was always going to be hard to find an actor who could live up to the greatness of Gandalf in ‘The Lord of the Rings’ adaptations. But in Sir Ian McKellen, they found a brilliant Gandalf and someone who did so well with the character that he got an Oscar nomination for his portrayal. This wizard is as mysterious as he is awesome, and McKellen translates that perfectly. He’s also brilliant in ‘The Hobbit’ series, even though those movies were not close to the brilliance of ‘The Lord of the Rings’.


Gregory-Peck-as-Atticus-Finch

1. Atticus Finch (To Kill a Mockingbird) – Gregory Peck

The great Gregory Peck played many brilliant characters throughout his legendary career, but none as effective and brilliant as Atticus Finch, a man who fought for what was right, even when it meant going against the norm. This character is firm, righteous and has so many memorable monologues that it’s hard to keep track. It’s unbelievable to think that Peck’s performance made Finch even better in the movie than he was in the book; a worthy winner for me.


hon mentions

Honourable mentions have to be given to Neo (Keanu Reeves) in ‘The Matrix’ and Patrick Bateman (Christian Bale) in ‘American Psycho’; close, but no cigar guys. What do you think of my list? If you think I missed anyone out, or just want to congratulate me on a job well done, find me on Twitter @GetReelMovies and let’s have a good ol’ debate.

Will Game To Movie Adaptations Ever Work?

Written by Luke Riley

“There have been valiant attempts (Mortal Kombat, Hitman) and there are upcoming releases that should do the trick (Warcraft, Assassin’s Creed) but the inherent problem is translating an interactive medium to a passive one. What makes games fun is playing them not just watching them. A ‘Gears of War’ movie would rock though…”

Carlos Ferro

Carlos Ferro

I was fortunate enough to be able to contact Carlos Ferro – voice of Dom from ‘Gears of War’ and Da Vinci from ‘Assassin’s Creed’ – who raised a very good point. He highlights the obvious thing that Hollywood seems to forget. The objective is for two different mediums to tell the same story or evoke the same feelings to remind you why you’re a fan.

The easy example – for it is one of the very few good examples – is ‘Mortal Kombat’. Released in 1995, this wasn’t made to be a fighting video game with real actors but a fighting movie based on a video game. As an eight year old in 1995, this movie was the dream. Endless fighting, four armed warriors and a final fight above a floor of spikes. Also let us not forget the amazing theme tune, which is the perfect accompaniment to any gym session. If we’re counting animated movies then ‘Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within’ and ‘Final Fantasy: Advent Children’ can also be counted among the well made adaptions from video games.

What these movies have done well was to be a movie, not just a video game thrown onto the silver screen. Not to discredit video games, as I am a huge fan of gaming, but certain things quite simply don’t translate effectively. Video games are notorious for badly scripted dialogue, cliche male characters and female characters who don’t represent women very well. Actually, a lot of movies, particularly action movies, do these things as well, but there’s a reason games have the reputation they do. ‘Lara Croft’ was originally little more than a 90s pin-up, sprawled over countless magazines in various poses. She wasn’t the strong survivor of the recent ‘Tomb Raider’ video game reboots. This is the reason we get movies like ‘Resident Evil’, another series of bad adaptions. A movie franchise in which the female lead is very often scantily-clad and objectified is a clear sign that Hollywood presumed that their target audience was teenage virgins who live in their parents basement who’ve never seen a woman in real life.

This article is discussing why video games have rarely enjoyed successful adaptions into films, and the answer is simple; it’s because the creators have not understood or respected their audience. I have played video games for nearly 30 years now, and while the confused teen-in-denial version of myself may have enjoyed Angelina Jolie as ‘Lara Croft’, the adult me does not. It’s just a poorly made film, and if you count the even more dreadful sequel, then you have a double whammy of awful game to film translations. The reason is almost solely down to misunderstanding the audience. We have played the games, we know them, so what we want is a faithful adaption of that.

‘Lord of the Rings’ and ‘Harry Potter’, while these were adaptions of books, they were movies adapted from another medium and are evidence of just how successful and accomplished an adaptation can be. Video games deserve that same talent and passion behind their silver screen counterparts.

However, all is not lost, and to quote Gandalf, “Hope is kindled”. This being in the form of the upcoming ‘Assassin’s Creed’ and ‘Warcraft’ films. With stars Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard at the fore – actors who seem to attach themselves exclusively to movies of merit – ‘Assassin’s Creed’ should be a success. It’s also written by Bill Collage and Adam Cooper, who have previously worked on ‘Exodus: Gods and Kings’.

This humble writer enjoyed ‘Exodus’ quite a lot, and these writers seem like a good fit for me. Justin Kurzel is the director of the critically acclaimed ‘Macbeth’, which also stars Fassbender and Cotillard, so with this collaboration there seems to be a level of trust and all things point to a positive movie going experience. There is also news that the film will rely more on practical effects rather than CGI, which will give ‘Assassin’s Creed’ a level of authenticity rarely seen in historically-based movies.

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Then there is ‘Warcraft’, a movie that looks as epic as the video game and it seems nothing is being held back in order to recreate this. Duncan Jones is directing, and with credits including ‘Source Code’ and ‘Moon’, we know he understands action and more importantly characters. While the movie is CGI-laden, it looks like it will be character focused and give meaning behind their motives. It also looks like an adaption of a video game, which is the most important thing. As previously said, it’s not just a video game thrown onto the silver screen. Check out the trailer for ‘Warcraft’ here.

The future looks good for video game adaptions, but we’ll have to see how ‘Assassin’s Creed’ and ‘Warcraft’ fare. It feels like all hope hinges on these two adaptions of beloved franchises. Can anyone unlock the secret to successfully adapting a video game onto the big screen? Only time will tell…

Netflix Highlights: February

So it’s March already, crazy right? But let’s not forget about February just yet! Our Netflix expert, Mark Blakeway, has put together this handy list of all the best new films which were added to the site last month.


LOVE

Love
Gasper Noé has some incredible films to his name (Irreversible, Enter The Void are personal favourites), but unfortunately for him he has set a standard so impeccably high that it was inevitable this would eventually lead to disappointment. His 3D film ‘Love’ may not meet the credible artistic heights of his previous work, but it’s now available on Netflix for you to enjoy. With the up-close-and-personal money shots you would expect when the words “3D” and “sex” are thrown together, his largely unloved ‘Love’ is for those looking for something a little different.


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Django Unchained
If you’ve not been out to see Tarantino’s newest feature ‘The Hateful Eight’ yet, perhaps you can find the time (all 160+ minutes of it) to catch up one of his previous films, ‘Django Unchained’. Set in the Deep South, Jamie Foxx stars as Django – a slave looking to find his wife who was also sold off into slavery. Immensely violent, with a great script brought to life by a fantastic cast (Samuel L. Jackson, Leonardo DiCaprio, Kerri Washington, Christoph Waltz), ‘Django Unchained’ is completely over-the-top and self-indulgent, but would you expect anything less from Tarantino.


departures

Departures
A tale of a man who leaves his dream job in an orchestra and becomes a nōkanshi – a traditional Japanese ritual mortician. The social and emotional effects of this decision and the impact on his life are explored in great detail, and at times it can be a little melodramatic. However, this 2009 Academy Award-winning Japanese film has an abundance of style, a score to match and a fantastic cast, so it’s difficult not to be captivated by this story. At just over two hours long – and the bulk of the film about death – it’s not for those easily trigged by long drawn out upsetting scenes backed by classical music.


Lone-Survivor

Lone Survivor
‘Lone Survivor’ details the events that took place while four Navy Seals attempted to carry out a counter-insurgency mission to take down one of the key Taliban targets.  Even though the title of the film essentially gives the game away, it does not detract from the sheer intensity of this war film. Set to epic music by Explosions In The Sky, this is a bloody, fast-paced and action-packed story based on real events. Some may deem it to be extremely dramatic, while others may find the violence obscene, but it is a remarkable tale that gets the heart racing.


Liar Liar

Liar Liar
Everyone should have seen this movie by now, ‘Liar Liar’ is an absolute comedy classic that deserves to be watched over and over again, and chances are you will have done so considering the amount of times it has been on TV. It is by no means groundbreaking; it is just a man who cannot help but tell the truth for a bit, but with Jim Carrey’s completely over-the-top style (as seen in the likes of Ace Ventura and Bruce Almighty) this film has been a comedy favourite for decades. They don’t make ’em like they used to.


TENURED

Tenured
Gil Zabarksy stars as Ethan, a teacher with the added perk of having “tenure”, which in his head means he can do pretty much anything and can’t be fired. He swears in class, lets the kids do whatever they want, and generally dosses about achieving nothing. A sudden change in his life, combined with a Principle who hates him, results in him directing the school play – and everything comes under threat. It is a formulaic, easy-going, predictable comedy with a bunch of good performances, but the laughs keep on coming, unlike many other indie comedies that try to get sentimental.  Perfect viewing when you don’t want to pay too much attention to anything.

Why SING Is Going To Rock

Written by Dalton Brown

Scrolling through the “Upcoming Releases” section on IMDb, I came across a movie that looked very promising. The thing that caught my eye was not the title, but instead the leading actress; Scarlett Johansson. I guess you could say I’m a fan of her and the movies she’s in. I was particularly impressed with her performance in ‘Under The Skin’ and she also kills it as the Operating System in ‘Her’. Hell, even her character in ‘The Spongebob Squarepants Movie’ is entertaining. Needless to say, I like her and I think she could be one of the best actresses around today. I also think she’s very attractive too, so there’s that.

Getting back on track, she’s going to star in an upcoming movie alongside Taron Egerton, Matthew McConaughey, Reese Witherspoon, and Nick Offerman. The movie is titled ‘Sing’ and it’s an animated musical. Although plot details are kind of limited at present, it’s about anthropomorphic animals trying to help a koala save his beloved theatre. As you may have guessed, the plot didn’t exactly get my attention, but the cast certainly did.

Ever since I saw Taron Egerton in the awesome ‘Kingsman: The Secret Service’ movie, I’ve been rooting for him to star in more shit and it looks like my dream came true, as he’s not only going to be in ‘Sing’, but ‘Eddie The Eagle’ as well (both of which are coming out this year). ‘Eddie the Eagle’ comes out sometime in March, whereas ‘Sing’ releases later in the year, amid the festive frenzy in December.

The only thing I’m wary about is the fact that ‘Sing’ is an animated musical…but I’m also kinda excited about that too. I have rarely seen a good animated musical; most of them are pure garbage. No, I wasn’t a fan of ‘Happy Feet’, nor was I a fan of ‘Happy Feet 2’ either. Come to think of it, I don’t think I even saw ‘Happy Feet 2’. I don’t remember, there’s too many penguin musicals out there, like ‘The Pebble and The Penguin’, which was absolutely atrocious. Needless to say, animated musicals seem to bore me because I feel as if they’re missing that “charm” that makes musicals like ‘Willy Wonka and The Chocolate Factory’ so entertaining and lovable.

I seriously think that ‘Sing’ will break the trend of bad animated musicals though, because the character designs look cool. There’s an elephant character in there, and when I saw that, I was sold (mainly because I love elephants). I’m just hoping that Egerton will be voicing the elephant because that would be a dream come true; a dream that I didn’t even know I had until five minutes ago, when I first heard about ‘Sing’. The other reason I think ‘Sing’ will be a success is because of the plot. It’s odd, for sure, but there’s potential for a great movie there. The poster, too, really caught my eye. Resembling the exterior of a Broadway theatre, with the names of the cast on the marquee; it’s simple, but I find it aesthetically pleasing.

To wrap this up, I think that this year is a very good year for movies, especially when it comes to animated films. 2015 was a pretty shitty year for animation, but with Disney’s ‘Moana’, Laika’s ‘Kubo and The Two Strings’ and an all-star cast lending their voices to ‘The Little Prince’, this year looks set to be a big improvement. I just hope that all of these movies deliver some fun, and I especially hope that ‘Sing’ is as phenomenal as it promises to be. Bring it on 2016, I’m ready!

Netflix Highlights: January

As we say goodbye to January, we welcome in February with a look back at all the best films added to Netflix at the start of this year. Our Netflix expert, Mark Blakeway, has put together this handy list so you can binge and chill.


TWOWS

The Wolf Of Wall Street

“HOW DID HE NOT WIN AN OSCAR!?”

In what will surely go down as one of the biggest injustices of the Academy Awards, Leo DiCaprio gives arguably a career-best performance, starring as Jordan Belfort.

“HOW DID THIS FILM NOT WIN ANY OSCARS?”

That’s a tougher question, but the fact it was up for five Oscars is a clear indication as to just how good this movie is. DiCaprio plays a stockbroker on Wall Street, swimming in money but with a career based on fraud, his life is completely unpredictable. With Martin Scorcese at the reins, this story of a man we should probably hate, becomes one of the most entertaining and dare I say it, hilarious, films to ever grace our screens.

All Is Lost

If too much happened in ‘Captain Phillips’ for you, and you thought, “I wish there was a film where it was just a man on a boat”, then look no further. ‘All Is Lost’ showcases a powerful performance by Robert Redford, by quite literally being the only person in the entire film, as a man who utters only a few sentences throughout. He is faced with adversity and daunting isolation and the film is incredibly bleak. I think the only words he says once the film gets going is “fuck” and “help”… that says it all. For all the bleakness, this is one not to be missed.

CITY OF GOD

City Of God

Most people have seen this film, but if you haven’t, now presents a great time to watch it. Set within the slums of Rio De Janeiro, this is a shocking look at what life is like for those growing up with nothing but crime around them. As far as world cinema goes, this is a very accessible film and one that has gone down as a crime classic. Filled with unflinching violence and raw emotion, but always captivating, ‘City of God’ is an incredible example of expert storytelling.

Haywire

It’s quite rare that you find a film capable of building up a female action-hero to be such a bad-ass, without succumbing to all the typical, sexist traits. ‘Haywire’ allows MMA fighter Gina Carano – in her first ever acting role – to exploit her physical dominance in a role that sees her take on those who she used to work for. Previously a special government contract killer, now she is the one who needs to be killed? We’ve seen it before, but few have done it this well as of late.

The Hunter

A slow, but brooding drama, where Willem Dafoe treks about in beautiful scenery with a gun waiting to kill a tiger. He’s a bit of a loner, until he befriends a local family who are also on the hunt for one of their family members who has gone missing, and his simple mission to retrieve the animal becomes a little more complicated. For some, this may be a bit boring, but if you’re a fan of minimalist drama and nice landscape views, then you can’t go far wrong.

WNTTAK

We Need To Talk About Kevin

A mortifying thriller, which leans more towards a horror than your typical drama-with-an-edge. Based on the novel of the same name, and presumably based on any number of high-school massacres in the US, this is an important and intriguing look at what the mindset is of someone compelled to commit such atrocities. It’s a little sensationalised, but it needs to be in order to carry the more important message. A truly chilling film with fantastic performances all around, including a star turn from Ezra Miller (the guy set to play The Flash in the DCEU).

Battle Royale

Netflix keep removing and then adding this title for some reason (maybe it’s to keep putting it at the top of the new additions list). While the concept may sound a bit stale, what with all the “sole-survivor” styled films out there in recent years, but ‘Battle Royale’ was arguably the first one to hit our screens with such originality and ferocity. Based on the novel of the same name, this controversial and bloody thriller is not easy to stomach. Those looking for an intense viewing experience need look no further.

Timbuktu

A slow-paced film, made up of many individual stories that come together with one overriding and timely theme, and that is the theme of oppression in the name of religion. Sickening, infuriating and above all else, haunting, this depiction of Muslims under the rule of other Muslims is a message that cannot be taken lightly. Perhaps too quiet and slow for some, but one that is worth sticking with until the end.

Uncle Buck

Drugs? Fraud? Death? Religion? Those topics are a bit bleak! Lets lighten the mood. ‘Uncle Buck’ anyone? An easy-going comedy from the late 80’s starring John Candy, as a haphazard, unemployed babysitter for his brothers kids. Seemingly incapable of being the responsible adult, with your typical irresponsible kids, it’s a recipe for disaster. But still, it’s a happy, heartwarming comedy too. One to watch if you are completely bummed out by the other suggestions.

The Best Documentaries Of 2015

Written by Mark Blakeway

As noted in my Top Films of 2015, the year for documentaries was especially strong. So much so that I have decided to give them their own list, and I urge you all to seek these out when possible.

In no particular order, here are my top documentaries of 2015…

Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief

Alex Gibney delves deep into The Church of Scientology – looking at its links with the celebrities who openly endorse, support and fund it – and takes time to interview those who have left the church for a variety of reasons. As with most documentaries, it clearly has an agenda from the off, and treads a fine line between sensationalist and investigative, but in terms of a catch-all documentary about the church, this is as succinct as it gets.

Cartel Land

I haven’t put these in any order, but if there was going to be a number one spot, it would go to ‘Cartel Land’. Matthew Heineman puts himself in the heart of the action as he looks to showcase those taking on the Mexican drug cartels. This is grass-roots documentary making at its finest, quite often getting caught in the firing line, offering nothing but the most brutal and honest depiction of horrendous violence that takes place on a daily basis. ‘Narcos’ and ‘Sicario‘ may have caught your attention, but there is no substitute for the real thing.

Amy

I wasn’t hugely into Amy Winehouse’s music when she was alive, but you couldn’t deny her talent and originality when you heard it. She was an incredible presence, but the unfair treatment of her in the press was disgusting and sickening. I was lucky enough to see Asif Kapadia’s excellent documentary at Glastonbury last year and while ‘Amy’ was shrouded in contention upon release due to some unfavourable depictions of certain individuals, I feel that the Winehouse story is almost too personal to get completely right. This may be the closest thing we get to a definitive picture of Amy. Read my full review here.

Ecstasy of Wilko Johnson

Stumbling into the tent at Glastonbury to see ‘Amy’ nice and early to get a good position, meant that I caught this documentary too. A surprisingly upbeat tale of the super-talented guitarist from the band Dr. Feelgood, who, when diagnosed with terminal cancer, decides to ignore it. Johnson comes to terms with the eventuality before him and just gets on with his life the only way he knew how. It’s an extraordinary tale, impeccably produced and told in a truly unique style; as Johnson openly reflects on his impending death, spliced with archival footage and longing shots of his hometown of Canvey Island, it creates something immensely profound.

A Syrian Love Story

Sean McAllister’s documentary about a Syrian family, who struggle to keep everything together while fleeing the country they love is simply remarkable. Filmed over the course of five years, it’s difficult to think that the heartbreaking reality of Syria as we now know it could have been foreseen, and serves as a parallel for this refugee tale. This is a sympathetic project, although they would not want you to see it that way, because these particular refugees are not looking for handouts. They do not even want to leave, but for fear of their safety and their children’s safety, they have to. This was and still is, an incredibly important documentary.

The Look of Silence

Joshua Oppenheimer’s ‘Act of Killing’ showed the mortifying reenactments of the executions of suspected communists that took place in 1960’s Indonesia. The people who carried out these horrific acts are celebrated heroes, feared in their local villages, and it’s within Oppenheimer’s ‘Act of Killing’ that we meet the people responsible as they carry out the reenactments. In ‘The Look of Silence’, an optician who has a direct link to the genocide through a deceased family member, is shown watching the first doc, then interviewing the men himself under the pretense of an eye exam. Probing personal questions add another layer of sheer disbelief to the previous installment, in this simple yet fascinating documentary.

The Jinx

In mid-2015, HBO did a ‘Making a Murderer’ before Netflix did it, and its name was ‘The Jinx’. Don’t be fooled by this story though, while it has similarities, it is for the most part, entirely different. Robert Durst was accused of murder in 1982, and again in 2000, and again in 2001 – each time for a different crime. The story was so enthralling that it was made into a film titled ‘All Good Things’ in 2010 by director Andrew Jarecki, the same director who is at the helm for this particular mini-series. Off the back of the film, Durst offers to be interviewed by Jarecki in what turns out to be a process over several years, and the results are jaw-dropping. It looks sharp, it’s well compiled, and the line of questioning is raw and intrusive; this is one of the most compelling documentaries you can watch.

The Wolfpack

It’s almost like an odd experiment, in which six young boys are locked away in an apartment in Manhattan with no access to the outside world for their whole lives. They’re not there by force, it’s just how they have been brought up by two parents who fear for their safety. The only knowledge they gain is the homeschooling from their mother, but also their continuous passion for movies. Nicknamed “The Wolfpack”, they don ‘Reservoir Dogs’ styled attire, talk with Italian-American gangster accents, and that’s when they’re not acting out their favourite movies in their entirety. There are a few unanswered questions, and it’s not shown in a chronological order for some odd reason, but it’s interesting. No doubt this won’t be the last time we see The Wolfpack.

He Named Me Malala

A young girl called Malala Yousafzai was shot in the head by the Taliban, but survived. The reasons for her shooting were simply that she wanted to speak out against the tyranny the Taliban were inflicting on the regions education for girls. The sheer fact that she is alive is incredible, but what trauma does that bring with it? Many would be too scared to continue to speak out for further fear of retaliation, but not Malala. This inspiring documentary showcases the unbelievable story of Malala very effectively, but in terms of a target audience this is better positioned for people with no prior knowledge of the story of Malala, as it offers little more than that – a story. For those that know her, this appears more like a 90-minute-long advert for Unicef; very high-level, avoiding any real hard-hitting questions. If you want something a bit more in-depth, I hear her book is fantastic.

Meru

‘Everest’ was a huge disappointment for me personally. It wasn’t nearly scary enough and it didn’t look or sound good. It was just an average film. Part of the reason I chose to watch it was that I wanted to be scared. Scared of the unpredictability of the elements, in awe of the achievements of the men who did it, and not knowing what on earth was going to happen next. Thankfully, ‘Meru’ stepped in to fill this void. A documentary about three elite climbers who try to tackle Mount Meru via the “Shark Fin” route; a route nobody has ever done before. Worrying, scary and gripping – and it doesn’t look half bad either.

Cobain: Montage of Heck

Prolific, inspiring and absolutely game-changing; Kurt Cobain’s life and influence is one that cannot be replicated easily, if at all. Director Brett Morgen’s ‘Montage of Heck’ puts the focus on the infamous Nirvana frontman, attempting to tell his story through home videos, clever transitional animations, recordings and interviews with surviving family members.  This feels truly fresh, and much like the Amy Winehouse documentary mentioned earlier, as close to a definitive film we will probably get.

Gascoigne

Paul, Gazza, Gascoigne – whether you are a fan of football or not, you will be familiar with this football icon. He has been the subject of intense media scrutiny over the years, from his early rise to fame to his eventual fall from grace; it seems a story all too familiar when the media are involved. Unfortunately it fails to really dig deeper into this aspect, perhaps he did not want to delve into it, maybe it was too much for him to do, and a mainly positive look back at his career might be the final confidence push he needed to not relapse. Avid football fans will enjoy this documentary; even if you were too young, seeing some context to that World Cup run, the Euro ’96 goal and that free kick, you will find plenty to love. It’s a remarkable story, and for nostalgia alone it’s worth a watch.