Cinema City Film Quiz #64

[29 January 2012]

Winning Team:
10 Things I Don’t Know About Joseph Gordon-Levitt

Genre – Quiz Documentary

Runners Up:
(Arbitrary) Brackets Make This Look Like A Song Title
Genre – When Harry Met Sally meets Time’s Aarow
500 Days Of Donna Summer
Genre – Disco rom-com
10 Things I Hate About U2
Genre – Harrowing documentary detailing The Edge’s fever dreams
500/50 Days Of Inception
Genre – A film about not really bothering
J. Gordon
Genre – A biopic of Joseph Gordon-Levitt co-starring Leonardo DiCaprio, following JGL’s rise to power and awkward relationship with LDC

ROUND I: Pre-Production
1. Which US city has been turned into a national prison in John Carpenter’s Escape From L.A.?
2. What was the title of the third Godfather film? [bonus point for its year of release]
3. Which actress won an Academy Award for the lead role in Erin Brokovich?
4. Which sport is the central focus of Caddyshack?
5. Cliffhanger was released in which decade?
6. What is the first film in the Three Colours trilogy?
7. Jim Sheridan’s In America is set in which US city?
8. Who directed 2006’s Inside Man?
9. Which two actors said following quote from The Cider House Rules, “Good night you princes of Maine, you kings of New England”? (one point per correct answer)
10. Which Johnny Depp film features a cameo by author Hunter S. Thompson?

ROUND II: Filming [Joseph Gordon-Levitt Special]
1. Which actor played the lead role in last year’s 50/50? [bonus point for spelling and hyphenating correctly]
2. Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays a minor role in which Halloween film? Halloween? Halloween 3? Halloween H:20?
3. The movie Brick belongs to which genre? Film Noir? War Drama? Romantic Comedy?
4. Joseph Gordon-Levitt provided the voice for the lead character in which animated film? Brother Bear? Treasure Planet? Atlantis?
5. Which of the following was the character played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt in 10 Things I Hate About You? Cameron James? Patrick Verona? Michael Eckman?
6. What was the first film to feature both Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Zooey Deschanel? (500) Days Of Summer? Mysterious Skin? Manic?
7. Unable to film in Paris, which European city was used as a location double in G.I. Joe? Prague? Amsterdam? Frankfurt?
8. What is the name of Summer’s cat in (500) Days Of Summer? Millie? Sid? Bruce?
9. According to the film posters, what was Arthur’s (played by JGL) role in Inception? The Point Man? The Extractor? The Forger?
10. To get in the mindset of a brain-damaged individual, in The Lookout, Joseph Gordon-Levitt would deprive himself of sleep and do excessive gym routines right before filming to appear disorientated. True or False?

ROUND III: Post-Production
1. At the start of Field Of Dreams, Ray Kinsella hears the classic (often misquoted) line, “If you build it, he will come” Who is ‘he’?
2. The following films were all directed by which individual: Chimes At Midnight, The Stranger and Mr. Arkadin?
3. “What we do in life, echoes in eternity” is a quote from which film?
4. The following titles were used during the advertising campaign for which 1972 Wes Craven film: Sex Crime Of The Century, The Men’s Room and Krug And Company?
5. Constantine (released in 2005) is based on which comic series?
6. Henry Hill, Jimmy Conway and Tommy DeVito are the lead characters in which film?
7. What is the name of Jock’s snake featured at the start of Raiders Of The Lost Ark?
8. What age is Nicholas Van Orton turning when he’s presented the voucher for Consumer Recreation Services, in The Game?
9. Which epic 60s film tells the story of a Thracian slave working in Libya who is bought and trained by Lentulus Batiatus, then goes on to incite an uprising?
10. In Overboard, how does Dean (Kurt Russell) identify Joanna (Goldie Hawn) to convince the hospital staff that they are married?

ROUND IV: Promotion & Release
1. Who played Pinkie Brown in 1947’s Brighton Rock? Richard Attenborough? Richard Harris? Peter O’Toole?
2. Which Liza Minnelli film features the songs Maybe This Time, Tomorrow Belongs To Me and Two Ladies? Lucky Lady? New York, New York? Cabaret?
3. What was the title of the first and only silent film to win the Oscar for best picture? Four Horsemen Of The Apocalypse? Wings? Intolerance?
4. What was the title of Brian De Palma’s Veitnam film starring Michael J. Fox and Sean Penn? Tigerland? Rolling Thunder? Casualties Of War?
5. The Wind That Shakes The Barley is about the civil war in which country? United States? Ireland? Spain?
6. Which character narrates the 1945 version of Mildred Pierce? Mildred? Wally? Ida?
7. Which Alfred Hitchcock film heavily features the Cuban missile crisis? Secret Agent? Foreign Correspondent? Topaz?
8. Which of the following lines is not from Mae West’s I’m No Angel? I only like two kinds of men, domestic and imported? When women go wrong, men go right after them? Peel me a grape?
9. How many times has Gentlemen Prefer Blondes been adapted for film? Once? Twice? Three Times?
TWICE (1928 – lost / 1953)
10. During filming of the last scene of Leon, a thief robbed a nearby store, saw all the ‘police’ set up outside a nearby building and decided to surrender.. to extras. True or False?


Nature Teaches Beasts To Know Their Friends

Ralph Fiennes

Ralph Fiennes
Gerard Butler
Brian Cox
Vanessa Redgrave
James Nesbitt

There’s a lot to be said for contemporary adaptations of Shakespeare. Granted off-stage they’re almost always a complete flop and due to antiquated dialect and prejudices, finding an audience can be particularly brutal. Even if a popular one is made it’s almost impossible to critique owing to the classic retort of “you didn’t appreciate it because you have no culture.” Thankfully, for me at least, I thoroughly enjoyed Coriolanus, so there’s no such worry for me. Oh, and as an additional side note: I am, somewhat, a rather pretentious snob, so please take that into consideration when reading the following.

Despite the play’s setting of ancient Rome, the opening news reports and title cards explain that the derelict, almost Soviet looking tower blocks are Fiennes’ contemporary equivalent. From inside the rundown houses, the poor are starving and rally to march on the grain mill. Upon arrival they storm the gates and are instantly confronted by the military/police and Caius Martius [Fiennes] himself. Martius is a soldier, through-and-through, without the gift of silver tongued oratory. As such, his only response is to disperse the rabble, denying them bread which has been reserved for the army, for those who serve Rome. Shortly after this, Tullus Aufidius [Butler], the leader of the Volscian army, executes a Roman and as was customary, the Romans instantly retaliate. After storming the city of Corioles, Martius pursues the insurgents alone, ending in a face-to-face knife fight with Aufidius. The Volscians are forced to retreat and Martius is welcomed home a proud victor and awarded the cognomen Coriolanus. Furthermore, for his actions he is persuaded to accept the role of consul. After much debate he eventually accepts this role but through the words of Brutus [Paul Jesson] and Sicinius [Nesbitt], the people turn on Martius and he is banished. After wandering the wilderness, Martius finds himself in Antium and forges an alliance with Aufidius to seek vengeance on Rome.

The directorial style jumps from claustrophobic handheld shots, smothering the screen with snarling faces to long static shots as heartfelt speeches are rolled off with poise and (often) venom. In actual fact, the camera rarely pans back and Fiennes has insisted on a very aggressive, close-quarters approach. I imagine this will be a point of great contention for some people, namely because it can often be stifling, suffocating and a little much to really absorb. Having said that, certain monologues are cut and interspersed with transitionary developments and so much more is said in silence than with eloquent soliloquies. Of course, all this is possible solely due to the presence of exceptionally strong performances – both lead and supporting. Unlike many adaptations of this nature, Fiennes has surrounded himself with immense talent and some very interesting choices for his secondary cast – all of which pays off, in my eyes. From the editing to the casting, everything about this film is an attack on presuppositions of Shakespearean plays. The cinematography is gritty, the score rife with guttural tension, the malevolence is ever present and antiquated methods of delivering news or speaking to the audience have been replaced with our own contemporary answer (namely television). Through its method and style, Coriolanus strives to bring Shakespeare to the Call Of Duty generation – as if to goad them by saying, we have blood and violence and conflict and betrayal all here.. and furthermore, it’s Shakespeare.

Naturally, it’s not without fault and there are a few elements that niggled at me. First off, the heightened performances and moments of extreme passion quickly veer into hammy territory. Even without a knowledge of the Harry Potter series, it’s desperately hard not to re-edit the film in your head, depicting Coriolanus screaming and spitting all over a terrified looking Daniel Radcliffe before shooting him in the face. It shouldn’t even be a factor but if I can’t help shake it, I doubt your average cinemagoer is going to resist the opportunity to repeatedly rasp “Harry Potter” to themselves. Then there’s that horrific final shot that I didn’t overly care for.. almost ruined it. I have no intention of spoiling the story – it’s Shakespeare, so you should be able to guess the ending – but the last shot felt wholly unnecessary and a bit of a thumbing to Olivier’s dramatic close to his performance of Coriolanus in the late fifties (don’t quote me on that, I’m a film critic not a theatre aficionado). Outside of that, I felt the whole film was spectacular, stunning, gripping, visceral and bloody entertaining.

Release Date:
20th January 2012

The Scene To Look Out For:
There are two moments in particular I would like to expand on. The first follows Martius’ debate with the public (in this case on live television) and having bitten his tongue for so long he finally snaps, vehemently spewing insults at the commoners for their insolence and ignorant treatment of him. I think I enjoyed it partly because it’s a phenomenally powerful monologue delivered extremely well (albeit with overwhelming gusto) but also because I kind of agree with the man. He speaks his mind and the people are flippant flip-flopping scum who are too easily swayed by carefully placed words. Secondly, having been accepted into Aufidius’ group, Martius’ presence begins to undermine the Volscian general and soon his men are shaving their beards and hair to emulate their newly appointed general. It’s a simple development but having the barber’s chair symbolically painted gold, while the soldiers drink and dance around it in hypnotic worship of Martius, as if it were a throne was a nice touch.

Notable Characters:
Without question, everyone performs magnificently but the two standout figures are notably Ralph Fiennes (for obvious reasons) and Vanessa Redgrave as Martius’ mother. Redgrave offers us passion, manipulation, despair, spite, patience and pride – all of which we have come to expect from matriarchal Roman titans. For someone who has been on the fringe for quite some time now, it’s nice to be reminded of how stunning an actress she can be.

Highlighted Quote:
“Like an eagle in a dove cote I fluttered your Volscians in Corioles. Alone I did it, boy!”

In A Few Words:
“Olivier made Shakespeare intelligible; Fiennes has made it more so, translated through contemporary culture. Simply astounding”

Total Score:



Re-Clarify The Difference Between Hero And Villain

Clint Eastwood

Leonardo DiCaprio
Armie Hammer
Judy Dench
Naomi Watts

I must confess, I have immense respect for Clint Eastwood and as such, I harbour an equally immense personal bias for his work. Every critic strives for impartiality but when faced with an average/awful film by someone we admire, we cannot help but emphasise the positive and bitterly defend the weaker elements. So despite the fact that I am an ardent fan of Eastwood and convinced that DiCaprio is one of the finest acting talents of his generation, I will try to keep this review balanced. The film opens on J. Edgar Hoover [DiCaprio], head of the FBI, chronicling his career and the inception of the bureau he helped found. With the assistance of several agents, he begins to dictate key events in his working life with the occasional cut-away to more personal elements. From here we discover Hoover’s committed drive and lack of social skills stem from the overbearing and smothering nature of his mother. We are also introduced to Helen Gandy [Watts], his lifelong PA and his second in command, Clyde Tolson [Hammer]. The plot neatly divides its time between personal interactions and innovations in forensic science, without overly losing itself or bogging us down in one particular case: so much so that key elements in Hoover’s life – such as the 20s communist raids, the prohibition policing, the Lindbergh baby, the infamous political files and supposed cross-dressing homosexuality – are given equal treatment.

Ultimately, I’m not entirely sure this film actually works. Considering the sheer magnitude of speculation surrounding the individual in question, there’s a great deal of care taken not to over-embellish or exaggerate what audiences may expect and offer a well-acted story about a controversial figure. But with a career that spans five or six decades and a personal live shrouded in mystery, a film can only analyse so much and I cannot help but think that a film (albeit nearly two and a half hours long) is not appropriate for Hoover. Outside of the man himself, we also have the supporting roles of implied lover, Clyde Tolson and the vigilant, ever-present personal assistant, Ms. Gandy, neither of whom are fully explored or ever realised outside of just that. Clyde clearly has feelings for Edgar that are never openly reciprocated and Helen Gandy goes from a bubbly young, career-hungry woman to a long-faced subservient desk jockey. Had the script been longer and afforded us a chance to see how these three individuals changed so radically, we may have a more enjoyable film; without it, J. Edgar feels rather tepid.

From a technical standpoint, there’s a great deal to praise and a fair amount to critique. I actually liked the cinematography, with its heavy use of shadows and washed-out colour palate to denote which era we were watching but at times the curious lighting only served to highlight one of this film’s weakest elements: the make-up. I don’t know what it is about aged make-up but sometimes it works beautifully and other times it can be terribly jarring. I don’t know if they were trying to depict an aged DiCaprio and Hammer or model the make-up to resemble their real-life counterpart but it didn’t work. What we were treated to was a cheesy rubber mess, detrimentally afflicting the genuine age-acting taking place. With such heavy criticism on the key factors (visuals and a meandering flow) it’s quite easy to forget the several decent supporting qualities. First off, the script wonderfully illustrates that no matter how flawed the man was, he instigated a countrywide overhaul of how crime scenes are treated and how criminals are caught. On top of that, the treatment of Hoover’s homosexuality (closet, chaste or otherwise) was well handled without ever resorting to pejorative stereotypes, force-fed assumptions or ridiculous over-the-top campy/hammy acting. And then there’s Clint Eastwood’s simple and elegant piano-based score which sits gently over the on-screen drama.

Despite any negative thoughts, I cannot help but remain positive about this release, largely when in comparison to The Iron Lady. Rather than run through a montage of achievements, we focus on key events, all the suggestions about Hoover’s personal life were within the realm of credibility and despite straddling the fence of impartiality, the script never leads you to one conclusion or the other about the man himself, you make that decision for yourself. But alas, such minor points fall to the side of the road when considering that the film itself does not suit the cinematic medium. If I’m honest, I am starting to doubt whether cinema is really right for epic biopics such as this. Sure, it can handle the rise and fall of a musician rather well or the trials and tribulations of a limited term official such as a President but only when focusing on specific periods or events. Outside of that, you’re either lost in expositive narrative, disorientated by pacing or overwhelmed with a crammed story – much like J. Edgar.

Release Date:
20th January 2012

The Scene To Look Out For:
Two scenes in particular struck me. The first and most important is the semi-confrontational discussion between Hoover and his mother about a young boy Edgar grew up with, who was teased for possible homosexual curiosity and ended up commiting suicide. Hoover’s mother then goes on to maliciously add that she would rather have a dead son than a daffodil for a son. Heartbreaking writing and gloriously acted. Secondly, as Hoover recalls his experiences during a raid on a communist printing hideout, he notes how the police trample the scene, brutally beat suspects and throw out crucial evidence – all of which is neatly depicted on screen – before openly admitting that this was not due to sloppy police work, that it was simply a different time and little importance was placed on forensics. It’s a very small part of a large release but a critical segment nevertheless.

Notable Characters:
As with most biopics, anyone outside of the central focus is as good as dismissible. Granted, Judi Dench and Armie Hammer do a decent enough job of it but Leonardo DiCaprio is by far the greatest touch to this release. However, no matter how much praise or approval I could bestow upon him, his performance will be forever tarnished by that crippling make-up.

Highlighted Quote:
“All the admiration in the world can’t fill the spot where love goes”

In A Few Words:
“A valiant effort but severely let down by various technical aspects and structural devices”

Total Score:


Cinema City Film Quiz #63

[15 January 2012]

Winning Team:
Scrutiny On The Bounty
Genre – Captain Bligh is quality controller at the mars factory and due to a coconut shortage finds himself in the middle of a full-scale industrial revolution

Runners Up:
Free Willy 4: Seriously Willy, Stay Away From The Shore Line!

Genre – Exasperated sea-life adventure
The Iron Lady-Boy
Genre – Harrowing political transexual Taiwanese drama
Deep Blue Sea Biscuit
Genre – Adventure of a killer sea horse
Where Uggie Dares
Genre – Uggie prepares his next bid for an Oscar in this tale of a daring WW2 raid
The Love Boat That Rocked (A Lot)
Genre – Harrowing erotic thriller – director’s cut
She Sells Sea Shells: On The Sea Shore
Genre – A maritime musical starring a washed-up Meryl Streep
The Da Vinci Cod
Genre – Roman Catholic conspiracy with Captain Birdseye

ROUND I: Pre-Production
1. Which Leonardo DiCaprio film is about blood diamond trafficking in Africa?
2. Who played the title character in The Cable Guy?
3. Spell Scorsese.
4. The following is the poster tagline from which film: “His goal was freedom for India, his strategy was peace, his weapon was humanity”?
5. Run Lola Run was filmed in which country?
6. Which 1987 thriller starred Michael Douglas and Glenn Close as a New York attorney and an editor who have an affair?
7. What are the names of the three musketeers from the 1973 release of the same name? (one point per correct answer)
8. Animal House, Vacation, Loaded Weapon and Van Wilder were all produced by which US comedy group?
9. Which 1950 and 1991 films share the same name and plot, the first starring Spencer Tracey and the second Steve Martin?
10. Which personal item/heirloom does Captain Vidal repair throughout Pan’s Labyrinth?

ROUND II: Filming [Films set at sea (at least 70%) Special]
1. Waterworld is set on which planet?
2. Das Boot takes place during which war?
3. Two scuba divers are left adrift and attempt to survive in which 2004 release?
4. Which disaster film was made in 1972 and remade in 2005?
5. In The Abyss the NTI probe takes the form of a column of what?
6. Who plays the title role in 1935’s Captain Blood?
7. Who directed White Squall?
8. What was Peter Weir’s only film of the 2000’s (2000-2009)?
MASTER AND COMMANDER: THE FAR SIDE OF THE WORLD (one point for correct answer, second point for full answer)
9. Who actually sketched the infamous nude image of Rose in Titanic?
10. Twenty thousand dollars was spent on Sean Connery’s wig in The Hunt For Red October. True or False?

ROUND III: Post-Production
1. Excluding The Sphinx, name all 6 Mystery Men in the film of the same name. (one point per correct answer)
2. What are the subtitles of the Che Guevara two parter, starring Benecio Del Toro? (one point per correct answer)
3. What was the name of the neo-western starring Salma Hayek and Penelope Cruz?
4. Apocalypto features which Mesoamerican civilisation?
5. In One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, what is Nurse Ratched’s first name?
6. Who directed Michael Douglas and Sean Penn in The Game?
7. How many films featured both Walter Matthau and Jack Lemmon?
8. In what year is Children Of Men set?
9. Daniel Day-Lewis won Oscars for his performances in which two films? (one point per correct answer)
10. How is iconic 80’s character Frances Houseman better known?

ROUND IV: Promotion & Release
1. What type of crime scene is first investigated in Bad Lieutenant? Arson? Homicide? Robbery?
2. What is the name of the leader of the Jets in West Side Story? Riff? Tiger? Action?
3. Which Akira Kurosawa film tells the story of a man who infiltrates a corrupt company to investigate his father’s death? The Lower Depths? The Bad Sleep Well? Scandal?
4. The opening scene of Persepolis takes place where? School in Tehran? Hospital in Vienna? French airport?
5. Who played the villainous Sir Brack in 1954’s Prince Valiant? James Mason? Laurence Olivier? Claude Rains?
6. Which of the following tells the story of a woman who returns to her family after being shipwrecked on a tropical island for several years? Dream Wife? My Favourite Wife? Long Lost Wife?
7. In which film does John Wayne play Sergeant John Stryker? Sands Of Iwo Jima? The Longest Day? The Green Berets?
8. Which of the following starred alongside Robert Redford in Barefoot In The Park? Goldie Hawn? Ingrid Bergman? Jane Fonda?
9. Glengarry Glen Ross takes place over how many days? Two? Four? Six?
10. Jack Nicholson was originally cast in the lead role of Oliver Stone’s Nixon but was quickly fired after insisting on wearing a false nose and playing the role as a stereotyped caricature. True or False?


Be First, Be Smarter Or Cheat

J.C. Chandor

Kevin Spacey
Zachary Quinto
Paul Bettany
Jeremy Irons
Demi Moore

Margin Call opens on an unnamed Goldman Sachs style investment bank, as they execute mass layoffs, culling eighty per cent of their current staff. One unfortunate is Eric Gale [Stanley Tucci], who is informed that not only is he being let go but his company phone, car, email and building access is instantly revoked and he must leave the property immediately. Before he is escorted away one of his junior risk analysts, Peter Sullivan [Quinto], offers his sympathies and Gale asks him to look at the work he was unable to finish. Out of some sense of duty, Sullivan finishes piecing together the project and quickly realises that the projection models used to forecast volatility levels are completely incorrect and the firm is currently sitting on worthless assets. Furthermore a decrease in twenty five per cent would equate to a loss greater than the value of the firm. Over the next few hours this information is pushed through key supervisors, all of whom have the exact same reaction: denial, disbelief, despair, panic. Eventually the CEO’s private helicopter arrives and a roundtable discussion of how to quickly unload the toxic stocks quickly escalates. And that’s really all there is to it. This film does not try to explain the 2007-08 meltdown or even justify it, it simply demonstrates a roomful of people wondering how it got so out of hand, while simultaneously trying to pin the blame on each other and save their own arses. As such it’ll feel confusing as hell to anyone unfamiliar with how the economic world operates and incredibly simplistic and naïve to anyone with any degree of financial knowledge.

The key to this film’s success is the sheer powerhouse of acting talent and the almost theatrical style formatting. Technically, Margin Call is perfectly sound, lots of tight close-ups to capture every ounce of tension, coated in slick but subtle scoring by Nathan Larson. Without a doubt, we witness some of the best performances by the likes of Kevin Spacey, Paul Bettany and Jeremy Irons in years ..I’d add Stanley Tucci to that list but the man rarely puts a foot wrong. In a way, the acting also presents an unfortunate problem for Margin Call’s merits as a film. This time of year, audiences will be subjected to two types of award touts, the first being mediocre biopics with phenomenal lead performances and the second being heavyweight acting showcases on some contemporarily pertinent matter. This is obviously one of the latter, a slew of great actors vying for that one key emotional monologue amid a sea of expressive standalone static-shots. If anything, it proves that if actors are actually willing to make a statement, they will happily slash their fees and allow filmmakers to produce a solid body of work for the slender budget of 3.5 million dollars.

There will undoubtedly be comparisons with Wall Street but without Oliver Stone’s force-fed message or Glengarry Glen Ross minus David Mamet’s gift for oratory and ultimately, it’s a little of both and a lot of neither. Whereas it’s easy to compare the two, Margin Call’s well-acted snippet of a crisis will eventually fail in the long-run for its lack of focus. To explain, I wasn’t exactly sure what this film was trying to say, being a snapshot I was unable to tell whether I was supposed to sympathise with these corporate bastards or if they were being demonised. The only two individuals I actually felt bad for were Stanley Tucci (but only because he’s fired in the first five minutes) and Kevin Spacey because his dog died. Outside of that, these are stupidly intelligent people shifting numbers around for devious individuals and not one of them does the ‘right’ thing by performing seppuku. Furthermore, without clear protagonists or antagonists we’re left with an analysis of unscrupulous survival tactics employed by the powerful with a sly, suggestive undertone implying that in their position you would do exactly the same.

If I was feeling particularly malicious, I would say that this entire film boils down to little more than a handful of incredibly well delivered conversations. The very fact that said conversations are so well delivered, is the only reason I don’t hold that as a detrimental point. However, after walking away from the film with a disparaging outlook and momentarily worrying about your bills and mortgages and whatever, you remember that this is how capitalism works and that the film did little more than to remind you of something you already knew – the rich get richer and everyone else gets screwed over. That’s it, no more no less and it will never change. Personally, I didn’t need a film to tell me that.

Overall, it’s an incredible narrative debut for Mr. Chandor and worth watching for the performances alone but if you really want some insight into what happened with the financial crisis, you might want to watch Inside Job instead.

Release Date:
13th January 2012

The Scene To Look Out For:
Less of a scene this time and more of a feeling – bugger it, it’s my review and I can say what I want. One aspect that was used increasingly doubled as a ploy for audience members to understand the severity of the plot but also to highlight management incompetence. Every time someone is asked to explain why the firm has found itself in the position it’s in, someone has to dream up a colourful analogy. At first they start out with financial jargon but as we travel up the hierarchy, the explanations for the upper-echelons are almost farcically simplistic. At times I found it amusing, other times, cheap.. but it worked all the same.

Notable Characters:
As stated above, this really feels like a muscle flexing exercise by several generations of acting talent and the opportunity for this cast to work together. Having said that, Paul Bettany – despite his weird, shifting accent – offers something hitherto unseen from the likes of him and a really commendable (albeit blunt) and honest portrayal of frustrated middle-management.

Highlighted Quote:
“It’s just money, it’s made up. Pieces of paper with pictures on it so we don’t have to kill each other just to get something to eat”

In A Few Words:
“Poignant and well acted but without a clear message feels little more than a brilliant theatrical sparring session”

Total Score:



Never Compromise

Phyllida Lloyd

Meryl Sterep
Jim Broadbent
Olivia Colman

Before I begin, I will open with a confession. This entire review is going to be an expansive look at two very simple points. The first is that the lead performance is astounding and the second is that the film itself is incredibly mediocre and messy. So if I sound like I’m retreading the same conclusions over-and-over, I’m well aware. Opening with a rather slow and stunted build, The Iron Lady offers a glimpse into the life of Baroness Margaret Thatcher’s later years, coping with rising dementia, various social functions and pandering assistants. As she goes back-and-forth between procrastinating and agreeing to donate her husband’s possessions (deceased seven years) she contemplates the key events of her life. From her early days as a shopkeeper’s daughter in Grantham to the first female Prime Minister of Great Britain, Thatcher’s actions are briefly paraded past and momentarily studied in the form of key conversations.

What should have been a progressive story of one woman’s struggle to enter the world of politics and make a difference, whilst dealing with wildly popular and unpopular public opinion, The Iron Lady’s opening scenes surprised the hell out of me: a very aged and frail Margaret Thatcher standing in a contemporary newsagent shocked that a pint of milk costs 49 pence. The first half an hour primarily deals with an eighty-something, dementia riddled woman running around her own house chasing memories, ghosts and hallucinations. As such, from a British perspective, the audience was quite stunned – to the extent that someone two rows back muttered, “Are you sure it’s about Thatcher?” Using the flashback method is rather novel and the portrayal of such a powerful figure reduced to such a frail state separates this film from several other biopics. However, using it so heavily while skating over her highs and lows (namely the Falklands War and.. well.. everything else) was a colossal mistake. I’m not sure if this was an attempt to humanise a very caricatured figure or offer insight into private confessions but it really misses the mark.

This botched structure also means that you’re desperately waiting for the political stands, speeches and fights (whether as a detractor, supporter or someone with next to no knowledge of the subject) whilst the story insists you feel sorry for this tired old lady, before finally dipping its toe and offering a glimpse of Thatcher’s motives, drives and challenges. But it’s not just the overall architecture of the story that buckles, several technical aspects fail too. The cinematography is reasonable enough but at times the similarities between several shots leave a stale taste – namely peering through a car window as unemployed men shout and bang on the car; I’m convinced I saw that shot at least five times in the space of twenty minutes. Furthermore, Thomas Newman’s score flounders around, trying to catch-up and make sense of what tone the narrative is striving for. Finally, outside of the central role, several decent actors fall to waste as little more than cheap caricatures and look-alikes.

In all brutal honesty, the only thing that saves this film from a mediocre TV bio-flick is Meryl Streep. The woman is an acting powerhouse and her portrayal of Thatcher may not be what everyone was expecting but from a theatrical standpoint, it’s a damn fine performance. During her years as Prime Minister, there are inclinations and hints of the venom, authority and arrogance that Thatcher exuded but without being fully explored, it never fully develops to the level one would expect. And the rest of the time, Streep’s portrayal of an elderly lady of great significance who has stepped away from public attention and is slowly slipping into senility is incredibly moving. Were it any other individual or any other story, the film would be a marvel, centred by a breathtakingly transformative performance. Instead, it’s a brilliant centre piece sullied by the sheer amount of crapola it has to wade through.

The problem is people have their own unwavering opinions of Thatcher. As such, any major film would have been either too pro or too anti, there is no cinematic middle ground because there is no middle ground of opinion. In a way, it’s very similar to Oliver Stone’s W. Stone tried to make a film about a man who went from alcoholic nobody to leader of the free world but in doing so, he created a limp, convoluted effort littered with hit-and-miss impersonations. Much like Stone’s mistake, he released W. during Bush’s presidency and without hindsight and insight, it felt lost and without conclusion – literally everything about The Iron Lady feels like a funereal dirge, looking back on the life of someone long/recently deceased, despite the fact she’s not actually dead yet. So, to summate, praiseworthy acting, confused editing, tedious focus and no real resolve. Ultimately, a horrid misfire.

Release Date:
6th January 2012

The Scene To Look Out For:
One would think with this kind of release that the most significant scene would be some rousing speech followed by roars of support (and there is one, albeit brief) but I think most people will be impressed by the late 80’s Thatcher berating her cabinet for cowardice and, of all things, spelling mistakes. If only for the comparison between that boldness and the opinionated Minister For Education some twenty years earlier. But what the film should have been exploring is how she went from someone who simply wanted to get things done to a publicly hated tyrant. That is the film the public wanted to see and that is the story they were denied. To my mind, the only two films surrounding highly controversial political figures that worked well without submitting to stereotypes and popular opinion were Hirschbiegel’s Der Untergang and Oliver Stone’s Nixon. If The Iron Lady was even halfway close to either of these, it would have been an astonishing release.

Notable Characters:
There’s literally nothing I can say other than this is a truly spectacular effort by Streep. The very fact that the film fails to support her is almost irrelevant and people will go to see this film on her merits alone. It does, however, raise a curious point. Does a fantastic part in a dire film deserve awarding? In this case, I would say yes but without Streep this entire project would reek of disaster.

Highlighted Quote:
“The problem these days is that everyone asks how you’re feeling. When we should be asking what one is thinking. That’s what interests me. Now, ask me what I’m thinking”

In A Few Words:
“Phenomenally immersive lead performance but the film itself felt like one long muddled montage about someone else entirely”

Total Score:


Cinema City Film Quiz #62

[01 January 2012]

Winning Team:
Josef Conrad’s The Fart Of Darkness: The Search For Colonel Burps

Genre – Flatulent adaptation

Runners Up:
The Godmother
Genre – Brando stars in a Mrs. Doubtfire remake but his punishments are far more severe than the original
Mind The Oranges, Marlon
Genre – 3D tale of green grocery
I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter
Genre – A dairy-free sex drama

ROUND I: Pre-Production
1. What was the name of the book that Requiem For A Dream was adapted from?
2. Jane Eyre is based on the novel by which author?
3. What animal was Dumbo, in the Disney film of the same name?
4. What colour is ET?
5. John Travolta, Olivia Newton-John, Stockard Channing and Jeff Conaway all featured in which film?
6. Who plays the role of Al Capone in 1987’s The Untouchables? [bonus point for stating who wrote the screenplay]
ROBERT DE NIRO [David Mamet]
7. What type of toy is Woody in Toy Story?
COWBOY [half ponus point for pull-string doll]
8. Randy ‘The Ram’ Robinson is a wrestler in which film? [bonus point for naming the actor who played him]
THE WRESTLER [Micky Rourke]
9. Which Danny Boyle film starred Peter Mullan, Robert Carlyle and Ewan McGregor?
10. Who plays the title role in King Ralph?

ROUND II: Filming [Marlon Brando Special]
1. Who played Don Vito Corleone in The Godfather? **3000th question asked!**
2. Brando plays Johnny Strabler, leader of the Black Rebel Motorcycle Club in which film? The Young Lions? One-Eyed Jacks? The Wild One?
3. Brando won his first Oscar for his role in which film? Julius Caesar? Desiree? On The Waterfront?
4. How old was Brando when he starred in A Streetcar Named Desire? 24? 27? 30?
5. Who starred alongside Brando in Last Tango In Paris? Vivien Leigh? Maria Schneider? Sandra Church?
6. In what year was Apocalypse Now released? 1968? 1974? 1979?
7. What was the name of Brando’s debut film? Sayonara? The Men? Guys And Dolls?
8. Following the success of A Streetcar Named Desire, Kazan and Brando reunited in 1952 for which film? The Arrangement? A Dry White Season? Viva Zapata?
9. The following is a quote from which film, “Live as one of them to discover where your strength and your power are needed. Always hold in your heart the pride of your special heritage”? Bedtime Story? The Island Of Dr. Moreau? Superman?
10. Marlon Brando refused to smile in the final scene of his final movie, The Score, believing it was out of place for the character. Subsequently, the director added a CGI smile to Brando’s face. True or False?

ROUND III: Post-Production
1. How many different characters does Peter Sellers play in Dr. Strangelove?
2. In what film do Christian Slater and Winona Ryder play a teenage couple?
3. What breed of snakes does Sallah state are in the Well Of Souls in Raiders Of The Lost Ark?
4. What was the name of the organ player in Kill Bill, played by Samuel L. Jackson?
5. The stoning scene in Life Of Brian takes place over the use of what word?
6. Up until the start of 2011, how many films has Adam Sandler appeared in (excluding documentaries and cameos)?
7. Of Captain Miller’s six-man-squad, in Saving Private Ryan, how many men survive until the end of the film?
ONE (Reiben / Horvath, Mellish, Jackson, Wade, Caparzo)
8. Who directed 1959’s Plan 9 From Outer Space?
9. Who played the lead role of Brian Flanagan, a man who leaves the US army, moves to New York and becomes a bartender, in 1988?
TOM CRUISE (in Cocktail)
10. Which film featured the following quote: “How should I know where we are? I feel like a pig shat in my head!”?

ROUND IV: Promotion & Release
1. Which of the following did not feature Elizabeth Taylor? National Velvet? Tonight And Every Night? Suddenly, Last Summer?
2. Which of Macaulay Culkin’s brothers co-starred alongside him in Home Alone 1 + 2? Kieran? Rory? Quinn? [bonus point for the character’s name]
KIERAN [Fuller]
3. Which of the following is not a gang in West Side Story? Blades? Jets? Sharks?
4. What is the name of Class B’s teacher, in Battle Royale? Kitano? Kawada? Chigusa?
5. How many composers worked on the score for 1995’s Rob Roy? [bonus point for naming Michael Caton-Jones’ most recent release] Three? Four? Five?
FOUR (Carter Burwell / Jerry Goldsmith / Michael Tavera / Christopher Young) [Basic Instinct 2]
6. What is the name of Dewey Finn’s band in School Of Rock? No Vacancy? No Way Out? No Limit?
7. Which of the following did not star in Muppet Treasure Island? Billy Connolly? Jennifer Saunders? Dawn French?
8. What did Jonathan Demme direct before Philadelphia? Married To The Mob? The Manchurian Candidate? The Silence Of The Lambs?
9. Richard Harris played which Roman emperor in Gladiator? Lucius Verus? Marcus Aurelius? Septimius Severus?
10. During filming of Girl With A Pearl Earring, Colin Firth had to sign a contract stipulating he couldn’t smoke, after setting fire to half of the prop portraits. True or False?

Reviews 2012

[19 December 2012] Life Of Pi (2012)

[13 December 2012] The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012)

[05 December 2012] Seven Psychopaths (2012)

[28 November 2012] Rise Of The Guardians (2012)

[19 November 2012] Silver Linings Playbook (2012)

[14 November 2012] Twilight: Breaking Dawn – Part II (2012)

[06 November 2012] The Master (2012)

[30 October 2012] Argo (2012)

[29 October 2012] Silent Hill: Revelation (2012)

[24 October 2012] Skyfall (2012)

[26 September 2012] Looper (2012)

[20 September 2012] To Rome With Love (2012)

[18 September 2012] Killing Them Softly (2012)

[06 September 2012] Anna Karenina (2012)

[05 September 2012] Dredd (2012)

[02 September 2012] Lawless (2012)

[13 August 2012] Brave (2012)

[19 July 2012] The Dark Knight Rises (2012)

[17 July 2012] Ted (2012)

[02 July 2012] The Amazing Spider-Man (2012)

[19 June 2012] Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (2012)

[18 June 2012] Cosmopolis (2011)

[11 June 2012] Rock Of Ages (2012)

[30 May 2012] Prometheus (2012)

[28 May 2012] Snow White And The Huntsman (2012)

[21 May 2012] Men In Black III (2012)

[30 April 2012] Jeff, Who Lives At Home (2012)

[19 April 2012] The Avengers (2012)

[27 March 2012] The Cabin In The Woods (2012)

[22 March 2012] The Hunger Games (2012)

[05 March 2012] 21 Jump Street (2012)

[29 February 2012] John Carter (2012)

[28 February 2012] This Means War (2012)

[20 February 2012] The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (2011)

[14 February 2012] Ghost Rider: Spirit Of Vengeance (2012)

[08 February 2012] The Woman In Black (2012)

[01 February 2012] The Muppets (2011)

[17 January 2012] Coriolanus (2011)

[16 January 2012] J. Edgar (2011)

[05 January 2012] Margin Call (2011)

[02 January 2012] The Iron Lady (2011)