Lost In Our World, Found In Another

Andrew Stanton

Taylor Kitsch
Lynn Collins
Willem Dafoe
Dominic West
Mark Strong

Based on the 100 year old novel by lesser known SF author Edgar Rice Burroughs, John Carter caught me off guard. I’m not entirely sure what I was expecting but Stanton has somehow managed to rekindle the sprawling scope, scale and pacing of classic sword and sandals epics (which were dramatically altered with the release of Gladiator) while reminded us that science fiction films can be more than loud, in-your-face schlocky affairs.

The pre-title sequence explains that we have always viewed Mars as an arid, uninhabitable wasteland but that it is in fact teeming with different forms of life; two factions of which have been warring for decades but thanks to a new weapon, the outcome is radically shifting. The film then jumps to Earth in the late eighteen hundreds. Ex-Confederate cavalryman, Captain John Carter [Kitsch] has recently passed away and stated his nephew, Ned Burroughs, inherit his estate and watch over his tomb. The final note in Carter’s will specifically expresses that Ned (and only Ned) review his journal. As Burroughs reads, Carter narrates his story, which starts thirteen years prior, noting his discovery of a rich vein of gold while prospecting. From here the story quickly (and wholly accidentally) shifts back to the barren deserts of Mars – known as Barsoom to the natives. Once Carter acclimatises himself to the gravity, he encounters the four-limbed, green tribal aliens, the Tharks and their leader, Tars Tarkas [Dafoe]. Up until this point, Carter’s sole motivation has been escape and returning home but after the Tharks learn of Carter’s physical prowess (due to the atmospheric differences between Earth and Mars, pretty much like Superman), they hold him as their warrior champion. Slowly, Carter learns about the war between the humanoid factions (Helium and Zodanga) and is quickly manipulated by everyone, banded around as a weapon to be used for their cause. John Carter really is unabashed immersive escapism with a rich and lush mythology to draw upon but before you start making comparisons to Star Wars, Avatar and all the other sci-fi epics we’ve been force-fed, it should be noted that Lucas, Cameron and several prominent science-fiction authors have cited Burroughs work as direct inspiration. In other words, Burroughs wrote this story in 1912, Star Wars was released in 1977 …so shut it.

If we analyse the negative aspects first, we should start with the acting. The majority of the supporting roles were wholly commendable and the CGI characters were completely plausible and unique – I had severe doubts watching the trailers but they’re strangely impressive. My main frustrations were with Taylor Kitsch, growling and grunting his way through scenes and Lynn Collins, who appears to have lost all the charm, grace and skill demonstrated in The Merchant Of Venice. Having said that, both are still infinitely better than Sam Worthington in.. well.. anything really. Outside of the acting and the often ropey dialogue, the biggest flaw is an absence; problem is, I couldn’t tell you what was missing. In theory everything should work for this film but that spark of excitement isn’t present and even though you may be enjoying the film or greatly entertained throughout.

First and foremost, John Carter is visually stunning, especially when you consider that the setting is Mars and there isn’t a great deal you can feasibly add to that landscape. From the transports, to the cities, to the characters and the environment, everything is flawless and glorious to behold. I was a little pissed off with the 3D blurring up my view of the IMAX image but there’s nothing new there: I hate the 3D gimmick and genuinely believe that IMAX is the future of cinema. Complimenting the visuals is Giacchino’s tastefully classic score, combining soft melodies and vigorous tribal themes without muscling its way to the foreground. As far as the story and characters are concerned, Burroughs’ work is an incredibly rich well to draw from and the pace flows steadily, unsympathetic toward what contemporary audiences are used to. What we end up with is a piece with grand potential, lush visuals, memorable characters and typically trite dialogue; all of which add to the overall feel of something unseen for quite some time. An epic science fiction tale. That’s not to say it’s perfect, far from it. I still walked away decidedly unsure of my final opinion and really needed to mull it over before coming to a full conclusion but I felt the same way about Stargate, Dune and Planet Of The Apes and now I love those films. I would agree there is a crucial element missing and for that reason I have absolutely no idea how the public or fellow critics will receive it. But unlike Avatar, I find the more I think about this release, the more I enjoy it.

Release Date:
9th March 2012

The Scene To Look Out For:
There are many spectacularly memorable scenes but the one lodged clearly in my mind is one I’ve seen attempted countless times before. Plagued by the memory of the death of his family, Carter finally realises he must do the right thing but not in a typically heroic way, more a self-destructive, almost suicidal cathartic rage. As a horde of countless beasts race toward Carter, he channels all his misery and grief into a vicious, unending attack, massacring his opponents. The reason I’ve highlighted it is because everything comes together so well; the music rises neatly, the visual effects are sublime and the cuts between Carter’s memory of burying his family and striking blow-after-blow is keenly timed. As I said, I’ve seen it attempted many times before but so rarely is it as well executed as this.

Notable Characters:
Out of context (namely in the trailers) all the characters look stupid, sound stupid and act stupidly.. but that’s just unfortunate marketing. Within the film, the CGI fits, the characters are very real and the developments are gripping. If anyone stood out the most it would be Willem Dafoe as Tars Tarkas or Mark Strong as the manipulative Matai Shang, leader of the Therns. Mark Strong brings a naturally sinister nature to his character but importantly, a cynical wisdom often seen in comic books (this Ra’s Al Ghul). Controlling the events of the war through key manipulation, he is a quietly fascinating individual.

Highlighted Quote:
“We do not cause the destruction of a world, Captain Carter. We simply manage it, feed off it”

In A Few Words:
“All the adventure of Stargate with all the scope of Ben Hurr, in a movie the likes of which has long been absent from cinema”

Total Score:



It’s Spy Against Spy


Reese Witherspoon
Chris Pine
Tom Hardy
Til Schweiger
Chelsea Handler

CIA agents, FDR Foster [Pine] and Tucker Henson [Hardy] are dispatched to Hong Kong to scupper a arms deal between some nameless dudes and Heinrich.. er.. they didn’t give him a surname… Heinrich the German [Schweiger]. In the process of shooting up the penthouse location, they obtain ‘the weapon’ but accidentally manage to kill Heinrich’s younger brother. Naturally, Heinrich vows to make them pay for what they have done. But who cares about that!? That’s boring! You know what we need? We need a film about a blonde girl and two guys fighting over her! Well, thankfully McG has given you just that. Back in the States, Foster and Tuck get a bollocking and taken out of the field – which in McG’s mind means drumming on your desk and watching a gun spinning. During their R&R, Foster notes that it’s been a long time since Tuck’s been on a date and so, Tuck joins an online dating site. Simultaneously we’re introduced to Lauren Scott [Witherspoon], a single woman with a career in.. something to do with reviewing consumer products. After she runs into her ex-boyfriend and his new fiancée, she feels the need to find a man. Turning to her best friend, Trish, for advice (her best friend being the ridiculous Chelsea Handler) Lauren unwillingly joins a dating website and sets up a meet with Tuck. After an incredibly positive first meeting, Lauren leaves and bumps into Foster in a video store (’cause they still exist apparently) and acting on autopilot he aggressively pursues Lauren. Through random conversation, it becomes apparent to both men that they are in fact seeing the same person. Rather than being outraged by this woman’s actions, they decide to make a competition of it, allowing Lauren to choose which man is better for her. So begins an hour of absurd setups, a shocking amount of invasion of privacy and a few action pieces thrown in for good measure.

Overall, I found myself entertained by this film. Not engaged or amused but entertained. The runtime didn’t drag and despite all the horrific flaws and plot-holes, the chemistry between Hardy and Pine made the film bearable. Furthermore, the fact that This Means War revelled in its own ridiculousness almost pays off, ensuring you experience a modicum of enjoyment from start to finish. Now, despite all of what is to follow, that statement is incredibly important. Essentially, no matter how bad the writing, direction or supporting cast got, at least I didn’t walked away grinding my teeth.

Basically, this film is a fucking mess. The character’s names are absolutely stupid, as are their lives outside of work, considering the nature of their chosen profession. The plot is loose at best and the dialogue, scenarios and humour feel cheap, immature and beyond ridiculous. On top of that, the story completely forgets the main villain, only to have him remerge fifteen minutes before the film ends and disposed of just as quickly for a horrifically predictable and neat close. Then there’s the technical side of the movie, with the jarring directing hammering the last few nails into McG’s coffin, appalling editing littered with scandalous continuity errors and an atrocious amount of random black screens transitioning from one scene to the next. The score is fairly fitting but only in the sense that it’s sporadic and in your face without any distinctly memorable moments.

**Spoilers toward the end**
What grates on me the most is the strange moral compass driving the plot – namely that both males feel justified in taking cyber-stalking to a despicably criminal level and the female lead is quite happy to lead on two men simultaneously on the grounds that ‘men do it all the time’. I appreciate this is for comedic and entertainment value but a sense of right and wrong is never really brought into question and every character gets on their hypocritical-high-horse at one point or another. I think my other key frustration is that Lauren ends up picking the wrong guy. From the very get-go, it’s apparent that Tuck is a charming and sensitive individual, whose previous marriage didn’t work out because of the nature of his job; Foster on the other hand is a womaniser with a hidden tender side but needs to grow up. So, who does she pick? The womaniser. Why? Well, I have this theory about women on film, that they need to find someone they can change, batter and mould into what they want. As such, Lauren has no need for Tuck. That and she slept with Foster but not with Tuck.. so, you know, shallow too. Nice.

As I clearly stated earlier, very little actually works for this film but because of the interactions between Hardy and Pine, you can’t pretty much get through the film without wanting to stab your own eyes out.. so that’s something. Outside of that, it’s a bit of a waste of time and talent.

Release Date:
2nd March 2012

The Scene To Look Out For:
At the end of the first act, both Tuck and Foster place bugs, wires and concealed cameras around Lauren’s home. This is demonstrated in a long tracking shot around her kitchen. It’s a pretty nicely choreographed sting, if a little moronic but in all honesty, even that felt like it could have contained more. Oh, and it’s bookended with black screens either side. Yet that was one of the more memorable scenes… I think that sums up the entire release for you.

Notable Characters:
Chelsea Handler plays Trish, Lauren’s best friend.. for some reason. You’d be forgiven for having no clue who the hell Chelsea Handler is, the quick answer is that she’s nobody and can’t act, even when portraying herself. Her presence is ridiculous and nauseating, and her almost entirely ad-libbed dialogue is eye-rollingly banal. Having said that, her presence does spawn one of Chris Pine’s more amusing lines, “Why does she keep listening to that old man?”

Highlighted Quote:
“My boobs are sweating”

In A Few Words:
“Disappointing mess but curiously tolerable thanks to the chemistry between the two leads. Outside of that, a mark of shame for McG and he should take the hint – feature length films are not his forte”

Total Score:


Cinema City Film Quiz #66

[26 February 2012]

Winning Team:
Hot Fuzzy Felt

Genre – Porn/Muppet crossover starring Simon Pegg

Runners Up:
It’s Not Easy Being Greek
Genre – Kermit documentary on Eurozone crisis
Piggy And Kermy Make A Porno
Genre – Harrowing tale of how Ms. Piggy got a frog in her throat
Pigs In Space: 1999 Rods To Strings
Genre – Controversial documentary of Gerry Anderson’s attempt to get the Muppets rights
Green Velvet
Genre – Kermit-Lynchian drama
Silence Of The Hams
Genre – The fuzzy felty friends finally tire of Ms. Piggy
Midnight In (A) Yaris
Genre – A fantasy drama where, at midnight, people go back in time in a Toyota Yaris

ROUND I: Pre-Production
1. What is the method of intergalactic travel called in Stargate?
2. What type of creature attacks Bodega Bay in The Birds? [bonus point for the subtitle of the 1994 sequel]
BIRDS [Birds II: Land’s End]
3. Who directed The Godfather trilogy?
4. Who played the title role in Edward Scissorhands?
5. What colour is Bo’s car in Smokey And The Bandit?
6. Space Jam features which NBA star?
7. Draw the Ghostbusters logo.
(1 point for rough shape, 2 points for fully logo)
8. Duncan Jones’ Source Code is set on which mode of transport?
9. What is the name of Jennifer Connelly’s character in Labyrinth?
SARAH (surname never confirmed but possibly Sarah Williams)
10. Of Charles Bronson and James Garner, which character was recaptured in The Great Escape?

ROUND II: Filming [The Muppets Special]
1. Up until recently who voiced several characters including Fozzie Bear, Ms. Piggy and Animal? Frank Oz? Kirk Douglas? Buster Keaton?
2. Which character did Tim Curry play in Muppet Treasure Island? Billy Bones? Captain Flint? Long John Silver?
3. What instrument does Kermit play? Piano? Banjo? Harp?
4. The Great Muppet Caper was made how many years after The Muppet Movie? One? Two? Three?
5. What is the name of the new Muppet introduced in 2011’s The Muppets? Sam? Uncle Deadly? Walter?
6. ‘More entertaining than humanly possible’ was the poster tagline for which film? The Muppet Movie? The Great Muppet Caper? Muppets From Space?
7. Which was the only Muppet movie to be directed by Jim Henson? The Great Muppet Caper? The Muppets Take Manhattan? The Muppet Christmas Carol?
8. Which of the following did not cameo in The Muppets Take Manhattan? Liza Minnelli? Mel Brooks? Elliot Gould?
9. Who is the only director to direct more than one Muppet movie? Tim Hill? Frank Oz? Brian Henson?
10. Cameo actors Ray Liotta and Hulk Hogan were so angry with the constant changes to the script for Muppets From Space that they stole the Gonzo puppets and refused to release them until the rewrites stopped. True or False?

ROUND III: Post-Production
1. Name as many of the subtitles from the Police Academy series as you can. (one point per correct answer)
2. In My Girl, Thomas dies from an allergic reaction to what?
3. What are the Coen brothers first names? (one point per correct answer) [bonus point for stating which one is older]
JOEL / ETHAN [Joel – three years older]
4. Who played the lead roles in The Way We Were? (one point per correct answer)
5. At the start of Starship Troopers, Johnny Rico starts off as a private, what is he promoted to by the end of the film?
6. The following quote is from which film: “A drug person can learn to cope with things like seeing their dead grandmother crawling up their leg with a knife in her teeth but nobody should be asked to handle this trip”?
7. Which actor portrayed James Bond (in the official canon) in between Sean Connery and Sean Connery?
8. What was the number of the hotel room that Danny is told to stay out of in The Shining?
9. Name all five members of the Parr family in The Incredibles. (one point per correct answer)
10. According to Escape From New York, in what year was New York turned into a maximum security prison?

ROUND IV: Promotion & Release
1. Francis, Rosie and Molt are all characters in which animated film? Bee Movie? Antz? A Bug’s Life?
2. Josey Wales has a scar down which side of his face? Left? Right? Centre?
RIGHT (his right)
3. The Jonathan Lynn film, Clue, was released in cinemas with how many different endings? Two? Three? Four?
THREE (known as Ending A, B or C)
4. Who played the characters Seth Brundle, David Levinson and New Jersey? Jeff Goldblum? Sam Neill? Vince Vaughn?
5. Kevin Kline played the role of which actor in 1992’s Chaplin? Errol Flynn? Douglas Fairbanks? Clark Gable?
6. Serpico was filmed in all but one of New York’s five boroughs. Which one was not used? Brooklyn? Queens? Staten Island?
7. Who directed the following films: Tess, Bitter Moon and The Ninth Gate? Roman Polanski? Anthony Minghella? Milos Forman?
8. On which of the Mission Impossible films was Tom Cruise paid less than seventy million dollars? Mission Impossible? Mission Impossible III? Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol? [bonus point for stating how much he was paid]
9. Which of the following films was not set and filmed during World War II? Casablanca? From Here To Eternity? Sherlock Holmes And The Voice Of Terror?
10. Leonardo DiCaprio wore a wig throughout filming of Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet. True or False?
FALSE (but Claire Danes did)


Rooms Available 2012

John Madden

Maggie Smith
Bill Nighy
Judi Dench
Tom Wilkinson
Dev Patel

Based on the novel by Deborah Moggach, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel tells the story of seven unhappy British pensioners who are either forced or compelled to relocate to a residential home in India. First we’re introduced to the recently widowed Evelyn [Dench] who has discovered that her late husband had been keeping massive debts from her and she has been forced to sell her house. Tom Wilkinson plays Graham, a high court official who, unbeknownst to his colleagues, grew up in India but was forced to leave when his homosexual interracial relationship was discovered. Bill Nighy and Penelope Wilton play the only couple of the group, Douglas and Jean, who made a poor investment in their daughter’s fledgling internet company and have been forced to downsize their home. The roles of Madge and Norman are portrayed by Celia Imrie and Ronald Pickup but they’re pretty much the same character: lonely aging lover, looking for company. Finally, Muriel [Smith] is the only character who is actually forced to go to India. Desperate for a hip operation, Muriel is given two alternatives, either wait six months for an NHS operation or fly out to India for the procedure. The biggest downsize of this being that Muriel has incredibly racist tendencies and has no problem voicing them – what I like to call ‘old bastard racism’ which is just the same as regular racism but we’re supposed to tolerate it because “they’re from another generation”… sorry, pet peeve.

Upon arrival in India, we are introduced to Sonny [Patel], the youngest of three brothers, both of whom have had great success in life while Sonny is still holding on to his late father’s dream: the resurrection of the Marigold hotel. When the group arrive, they soon discover that the entire building is derelict and almost nothing works as it should. Despite all this, Sonny is both determined and optimistic that positive change is just around the corner. Each character displays a different attitude to their new surroundings, either utter immersion or complete disdain.

All-in-all, it’s not a bad release. The whole thing is pleasant escapism combining a mixture of typical scenarios involving Brits abroad and genuinely heartfelt analyses of OAP loving – couldn’t think of a better way to word that, sorry. Technically speaking the film is well executed, humming with energy and charm from the keen editing, to the steady pacing and the keen directorial control throughout. The cinematography is also impressively decent, avoiding the desire to paint England in a grey hue before upping the saturation to shout WE’VE FILMED THIS IN BLOODY INDIA! It may not sound much but a film like this needs a certain amount of subtlety to really work. A subtlety which is unfortunately absent from the phoned-in sitar driven score by Thomas Newman, which offers us nothing particularly unique or memorable. The real problems lie with the story and the fact that for an ensemble piece, there’s not nearly enough time to fully explore each character. Even now I cannot actually decide if I liked/enjoyed/agreed with the outcomes for each individual. Some felt rushed and far too neat to be plausible while others seem to go off on random tangents before arriving exactly where you expect.

**Spoilers within**
For example, the story about Marge and Norman is a little tedious. Old horny people but they’ve still got ‘that spark’, that’s pretty much it from start to finish. Muriel being a crotchety old racist who ends up being humbled by the local’s life and finding a semblance of commonality with them was.. well, brilliantly acted but bloody obvious from the second the film started. Graham’s search for a long lost partner and the stark revelation of his true intentions in India were probably the most interesting and the most fucking irritating for being swept away so bloody quickly. Presented with an honest love story between two men without a wealth of campy nonsense was genuinely refreshing, only to have the rug pulled out from under you with a cheap “and then he died” moment. Finally, there’s the relationship between Douglas and Jean with the complication of Evelyn the trophy wife going off to sample an independent life. Seeing Nighy and Wilton together took me a little while to get over, namely for the fact they’ve played a married couple before (in Shawn Of The Dead). After the initial tittering I found myself disliking Jean for so many reasons. She’s a very negative, embittered, selfish, rude and untrusting person and whereas I usually relate to that kind of attitude, it was executed with such subtle malice that I couldn’t help but hate her; I realise this was the point of the role but it’s horribly unforgiving. Even that would have been fine if one of the reasons for her manner wasn’t that Douglas was making friends with Evelyn. Over the weeks Douglas begins listening to her, as it was clearly evident that no one had done so in a long time but Jean becomes thoroughly jealous. Eventually Douglas and Jean have a confrontation and you find yourself muttering, “Yeah! He can be friends with her if he likes, it’s not like there’s anything underhand about it” and then by the end of the film, there’s the implication that there probably was something underhand about it! Which ruined it for me! Why couldn’t they just remain friends, why did there have to be anything closer. As the notion of friendship is so unsatisfying for audience closure that we insist on people either in a relationship or dead?

As previously stated, this film is pretty much paint-by-numbers, offering you an escapist look at the amusing trials of a group of elderly people convinced that it’s too late for anything new. The performances alone are worth watching but don’t expect anything other than a little bit of charm and fun.

Release Date:
24th February 2012

The Scene To Look Out For:
I’m afraid my highlighted scene is actually for the wrong reasons. At the start of the film Muriel is spouting all kinds of racist nonsense (“all brown skins and black hearts”) but still rather mild compared to some of the shit people actually come out with. The reason it bugged me wasn’t the character or what she was saying but the audience reaction. Rather than being shocked and whispering, “You can’t say that” there were murmurs of agreement and chuckling. And I bet not one of those bastards understood what the film actually meant. I’ll admit that some of what Muriel came out with was funny because it was shocking but to nod along and think, “Yep, hit the nail on the head there” annoys the hell out of me.

Notable Characters:
Bold choice for Maggie Smith and a commendable role for Wilkinson but these are too easy to highlight. Acting alongside such keen British talent is never easy but Dev Patel does a good job, even if you want to get back to the various tribulations of the aged, you can’t help but admire Sonny’s determination to succeed in reviving the hotel, winning his girlfriend’s heart and appeasing his family.

Highlighted Quote:
“We have a saying here in India: it will be alright in the end. If it is not alright, then it is not the end”

In A Few Words:
“Mediocre story with predictable results made all the more entertaining by the acting talent”

Total Score:



Vengeance Is Coming

Mark Neveldine
Brian Taylor

Nicolas Cage
Idris Elba
Johnny Whitworth
Ciaran Hinds
Violante Placido
Fergus Riordan

As an avid comic reader and a bit of a Marvel fanboy, I like the Ghost Rider comics (mostly the Ennis, Way and Aaron stuff) but despite the very simple premise, 2007 saw an extremely disappointing release which was universally panned. Five years later we’re getting a reboot.. sequel.. thing with a complete overhaul of story, visuals, cast and crew – bar Nicolas Cage reprising the lead role. Once again, I’m torn (much like my review for Silent Hill); personally, I really enjoyed this film but I will acknowledge on a comparative scale, it’s far from perfect.

Set some time after the events in Ghost Rider (all of which is briefly explained in the title sequence), Johnny Blaze [Cage] has found himself in Eastern Europe, trying to suppress the demon possessing him – the backlash of his Faustian bargain. At the same time, an alcoholic French monk, Moreau [Elba], is looking to secure a special child and take him to a secure location deep in the mountains. Just as he arrives, the monastery is attacked and the child, Danny [Riordan], narrowly escapes with his mother. We soon learn that the boy is being pursued by the devil, going under the alias of Roarke [Hinds], who intends to sacrifice Danny’s life and transfer his consciousness. Fearing this will grant the devil immense power over man, Moreau seeks out Blaze and tells him that he must release the rider in order to track and protect the child. In exchange, Moreau agrees to restore Johnny’s soul, lifting the curse. Plagued by the rider, Blaze agrees. Unfortunately, his initial encounter doesn’t go perfectly and it becomes apparent that Zarathos (the angel of justice/spirit of vengeance) deeply enjoys executing the guilty and sees no grey area between good and evil. The story then jumps around as we witness the fully destructive power of the rider, we’re introduced to Carrigan [Whitworth] the individual tasked with finding the boy and Moreau holding up his end of the deal, only for both he and Blaze to be betrayed.

Being a Neveldine/Taylor release, this movie thrives on its visual aspects. I think everyone will agree that the story is somewhat lacking and very two dimensional but if I’m being honest, it gets the job done. Furthermore, I wouldn’t say the plot is as expansive as it could be (even some character development would have been nice) but it’s very tightly woven, showing what it needs to without overly convoluting itself in order to tell a decent action-based story. Another point of contention will be the choice of directors. To date I don’t think there’s a single film that the Neveldine/Taylor combo have produced that I have enjoyed (bar this one), although I will admit that Crank had some pretty interesting ideas. Having said that, they are still keen visual directors and the lengths they go to obtain the shots they feel work best are incredibly commendable, guaranteeing an exceptionally unique looking finished product. What that ultimately means is, there’s a great deal of interesting camera work but mostly just for the hell of it and often far too much shaky-cam has been employed making certain scenes a tad nauseating. There is also the noteworthy use of animation but I’ve gone into greater detail about that below.

Then there’s the rider himself. Ghost Rider is no longer just portrayed by a stunt-man but by Cage and the performance is much more entertaining. Equally, the glorious CGI is an immense improvement over the white skulled, clean flamed affair in the last film. This rider violently erupts out with thick black smoke pluming off of crackling living flame, all of which crowns a charred skeleton adorned in burnt, blistering leather. It’s a fucking phenomenal look and chillingly brought to life for the first time. On top of that, the film’s main villain is Carrigan, imbued with the power to mould and decay anything he lays his hands on. It’s a beautiful (albeit grotesque) effect and his attacks are filmed in a rather novel manner… having said that, one does wonder how the steering wheel didn’t decay (I’m not explaining that).

Despite being a much more satisfying release, there’s little joy outside the visuals. The sound effects are fairly base and the score is predictably guitar-heavy but it felt wholly appropriate. As previously stated, there’s no real character development and I found it difficult to care about any of them. On top of that, any character outside of the lead was introduced and disposed of very quickly, if only to give way to a new and exciting visual sequence. But there’s no winning with a film like this! The first instalment was branded too light, cheesy and story-heavy whereas this sequel is supposedly too boldly manic and plotless. Furthermore, reaction to Cage’s acting has already ranged from too contained to over-the-top but if you ask me, this role is based on possession and needs a fair amount of madness. I still don’t know if Nicolas Cage is fit for Johnny Blaze but he makes the role his own and that’s all you can really ask an actor to do.

Personally, I couldn’t care less if other critics, comic book fans or the general public don’t get this film, I really don’t. It’s quite immature in places and will largely appeal to teenage boys but, honestly, who’s surprised by that? It’s a story about a motorcycle riding angel of vengeance with a flaming skull! Ghost Rider is supposed to be over-the-top and indulgent, if anything, this film should have been MORE over-the-top and indulgent. We’re not aiming for cutting edge dark drama with a hint of comedy, this isn’t an adaptation of Preacher or Hellblazer, it’s Ghost Rider and for a Ghost Rider film it’s certainly a step in the right direction.

Release Date:
17th February 2012

The Scene To Look Out For:
On four or five occasions, the film took a brief pause and discussed important expositive moments through animated sequences. A lot of people are going to marmite this and if you get common ground on Cage and the directors, it’ll be these points that finally divide you. Personally, I think sequences such as these are incredibly useful devices for narrating key elements without resorting to expensive effects shots or lengthy flashbacks. When done well, they can often prove to be a highlight of a film. I wouldn’t say the examples here are as memorably brilliant as others (the opening sequence of Hellboy 2: The Golden Army, for example) but they’re useful, sparingly used and vibrantly animated.

Notable Characters:
First things first, I like Nick Cage. But I like Nick Cage for all the reasons most people hate Nick Cage. The excess of personality, the unnecessary (and often poorly timed) exuberance, the wide-eyed screaming, it works for me. He’s just a silent movie actor who had the horrible misfortune of being born into the wrong decade. But, Cage as the rider is an entirely different matter. Suddenly, all the ridiculous movements and head-cocked flailing brings the CGI marionette to life. Nicolas Cage as Johnny Blaze may be a little ridiculous at times but Nicolas Cage as the rider was brilliant.

Highlighted Quote:
“There was a bee”

In A Few Words:
“Far from perfect but a visual delight and a completely colossal improvement over the last instalment”

Total Score:


Cinema City Film Quiz #65

[12 February 2012]

Winning Team:
The Quiz Team In Black

Genre – Mourning the loss of Team Name

Runners Up:
Genre – A day in the life of two fantasy priests, annoying devoters of their joy
Houston Had A Problem
Genre – Tom Hanks has to get Whitney down from a great high
Nothing Can Destroy The Grimace
Genre – Harrowing, gritty kitchen-sink drama focusing on everyone’s favourite milkshake monster.. makes Cathy Come Home look shit
Chasing Rami
Genre – Lesbian rom-com set in the woods
Jon & Sara Make A Porno
Genre – Harrowing comedy

ROUND I: Pre-Production
1. What is the name of Travis’ dog in 1957’s Old Yeller?
2. Which actor starred in Bachelor Party, Philadelphia and Cast Away?
3. In 300, Leonidas is king of which Greek nation?
4. Which plays is central to the script of Shakespeare In Love? [bonus point for the second play, which is drawn upon equally]
ROMEO & JULIET [Twelfth Night]
5. Which US president starred alongside Errol Flynn in Desperate Journey, in 1942?
6. Who played Detectives Tango and Cash in the film of the same name? (one point per correct answer) [bonus points for the Detective’s first names]
7. The Aristocats is set in which country? [bonus point for the year it’s set]
FRANCE [1910]
8. Which actor has played an archaeologist, an intergalactic smuggler, a president and a fugitive?
9. Which Star Wars film features the following quote, “Sir, the possibility of successfully navigating through an asteroid field is approximately 3,720 to one”?
10. What two digit number is printed on Herbie?

ROUND II: Filming [Joseph Gordon-Levitt Special]
1. Who directed last year’s horror, Red State? Kevin Smith? Alfred Hitchcock? Mel Gibson?
2. Which industry do Holden and Banky work for in Chasing Amy? Film? Comic book? Music?
3. Which Smith film features cameos by Gus Van Sant, Wes Craven, Judd Nelson and Mark Hamill? Chasing Amy? Jay & Silent Bob Strike Back? Dogma?
4. Bruce Willis instructed Smith to write a comedy film for him after meeting on which film set? Die Hard 4.0? Planet Terror? Over The Hedge? [bonus point for naming the film Smith wrote]
DIE HARD 4.0 [Cop Out]
5. What is the first change in the Catholicism Wow campaign, in Dogma? 3D Stained glass windows? Edible Rosary beads? Upbeat Statue of Jesus?
6. What is the name of the game show in Mallrats? Truth Or Date? Leap Of Faith? Single Setup?
7. Including cameos, how many of the Clerks cast return for Clerks II? Four? Six? Eight?
SIX [Dante, Randal, Jay, Silent Bob, Cigarettes Guy (Walt Flanagan) and Milk Lady (Grace Smith)]
8. Who plays Ollie’s (Affleck) wife, Gertrude, in Jersey Girl? Jennifer Garner? Jennifer Lopez? Jennifer Anniston?
9. Clerks is set in which New Jersey town? Lincroft? Navesink? Leonardo?
10. Despite their characters being the same age in Zack & Miri Make A Porno, Elizabeth Banks is actually ten years older than Seth Rogen. True or False?

ROUND III: Post-Production
1. What year was the first Muppet movie released?
2. Name the four friends/central characters in Lock, Stock & Two Smokin’ Barrels. (one point per correct answer)
3. Burnham, Raoul and Junior are the villains in which David Fincher film?
4. In which film does Claude Rains not show his face until the final scene, despite being the main character?
5. Since his debut in 1991, how many films has Japanese director Takashi Miike filmed?
6. In Die Hard, John McClane is barefoot because he was ‘making fists with his toes’. What was this in aid of?
7. During an interview in Lawrence Of Arabia, T.E. Lawrence is asked what attracts him to the desert. What is his response?
8. Who directed Little Shop Of Horrors, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels and The Indian In The Cupboard?
9. Captain Algren and Lord Katsumoto are the lead characters in which film?
10. Which actor had the nickname: The Man Of A Thousand Faces?
LON CHANEY [bonus point for writing Snr.]

ROUND IV: Promotion & Release
1. The Maltese Falcon is set in which US city? San Francisco? New York? Chicago? [bonus point for naming the lead actress]
2. What did Francis Ford Coppola direct in between The Cotton Club and Gardens Of Stone? Dracula? Peggy Sue Got Married? Rumble Fish?
3. Which of the following Howard Hawks releases is not a remake of Rio Bravo? El Dorado? Rio Lobo? Red River?
4. What is the name of the man that Harry Angel is looking for in Angel Heart? Johnny Favorite? Johnny Fontaine? Johnny Fortune?
5. The Way We Were was nominated for six Academy Awards. How many did it win? Two? Four? Six? [bonus point for naming the film’s director]
TWO [Sydney Pollack]
6. What was Alan Parrish’s playing piece in Jumanji? Lion? Monkey? Elephant?
7. What year was Buster Keaton’s The General released? 1921? 1926? 1931?
8. In Amelie, the title character meets her reclusive neighbour, who continually repaints Luncheon Of The Boating Party by which artist? Renoir? Degas? Manet?
9. How many astronomers go to the moon in Le Voyage Dans La Lune? Five? Six? Seven?
10. Despite the iconic poster and the genre, Jack Nicholson never actually smokes in Chinatown. True or False?


Do You Believe In Ghosts?

James Watkins

Daniel Radcliffe
Ciaran Hinds
Janet McTeer
Liz White

For those who have been reading my reviews since this site’s inception, you will notice a distinct lack of reviews for horror films. In truth, I’m really not a fan of horror, never have been. Having said that, I can appreciate the crafting of a decent horror story but I’m incredibly pedantic about what I watch when it comes to scary stuff. The Woman In Black is a prime example of why I don’t watch horror flicks; I can handle gore, suspense and supernatural occurrences but I simply relish little enjoyment from the actual ‘jumpy scares.’ With this in mind, it’s up to you to decide whether the following is a valid critique or the ramblings of a terrified idiot.

Set at the turn of the 20th century, the story introduces us to widower, Arthur Kipps [Radcliffe], a young solicitor who is struggling with the pressures of his occupation and the responsibility of being a single father. Offered a final chance to redeem himself, Arthur’s employer sends him to a rural town, to secure the estate of the recently deceased Alice Drablow. Upon arrival, Arthur is met with hostility from the locals, all except wealthy landowner Sam Daily [Hinds], who relishes the opportunity of seeing somebody new in town. Despite severe difficulty getting to the estate, Arthur manages to barter with a pony and trap rider to take him to Eel Marsh House, located at the end of a long causeway. Before the rider leaves he explains that the tide comes in and he will return at the end of the day. Arthur’s first visit to the house subtly expands the back-story of the previous tenants but he is interrupted by footsteps and other eerie noises emanating throughout the house. Carefully investigating, Arthur roams the corridors and rooms before finally catching a glimpse of the eponymous character, standing in the small graveyard outside the manor gates. Racing downstairs and outside, Arthur finds nobody but is suddenly plagued by sounds of distress and screaming in the mist. Later, back in the town, Arthur reports his concerns to the local constabulary who merely dismiss them. At the same time, a small group of children enter the police station and explain their sister has consumed lye. Following the death of the girl, Arthur learns that the locals believe that if anyone sees the woman in black, a child dies in a horrible manner and as such, he is being held personally responsible for the incident. Unfortunately, Arthur cannot simply return to London with superstitions and is forced to return to the house until his work is complete.

To my mind, The Woman In Black is a classic ghost story, much in the same vain as the works of M.R. James. The plot is incredibly straight forward but wholly engrossing with its simple premise and chillingly unwavering motive. The plot happily strides along without lagging too much, finding a neat divide between exposition and suspenseful encounters. The rising tension is decently executed, calling on genre classics such as keen use of sound, the unseen and first-rate performances. In addition to the fine plot work and gripping scares, the editing and pacing are exemplary, jolting audiences enough to petrify them and then allowing them a few scenes to catch their breath before immersing them once more. From a technical standpoint, this film is delightfully lush; from the revamped Hammer logo (much in the same style as the Marvel logo that first appeared a decade ago) to Marco Beltrami’s fittingly haunting score and the absolutely pitch-perfect cinematography and production design.

Having said all that, I scare easily and it’s possible that jaded and desensitised contemporary audiences may find it lacking in the over-the-top bloodbaths they are more accustomed to. On top of that, we have to address the whole Daniel Radcliffe thing. Personally, I would say opting for this film was an incredibly wise move but people are going to go into this either loving or hating this actor primarily due to his appearance in the Harry Potter series. I did it myself, as Arthur Kipps takes a train across England I was smirking and making Hogwarts jokes to myself but once the story really begins, it shakes any previous holdings you had on the image of Radcliffe as Potter and screams, “We’re not doing that! This guy is going to get fucked up! Dead kids! Whooo!” until you piss yourself. Which made me somewhat surprised the film managed to get away with a PG-13/12a certificate. Anyone expecting another Potter release is going to be severely freaked out.

Ultimately, I really enjoyed this film (without actually enjoying it because I was fucking scared 85% of the time) and I find it very refreshing that Hammer have returned to the public’s eye with such a strong opening release.

Release Date:
10th February 2012

The Scene To Look Out For:
Hard to say what my favourite scene was, largely because I spent the majority of the film covering my face and cowering like a little girl. I suppose one of the creepiest moments for me was during the night Kipps spends in the house and as he looks out of the window, he sees the a small figure pull itself out of the thick marsh before making its way toward the estate, rattling determinedly on the door handle.

Notable Characters:
I still think Radcliffe has a way to go before the public accept him as anything other than a typecast actor but this is certainly a step in the right direction. For a reasonably budgeted film, it’s a surprisingly small cast, (which is fitting for the period) and everyone performs diligently. As far as standout performance goes, I would probably say Ciaran Hinds (closely followed by Janet McTeer), if only because he portrays the minor elements of fear, dread and forlorn longing that Radcliffe has yet to master.

Highlighted Quote:
“I will never forgive.. never forgive.. never forgive”

In A Few Words:
“Watched through peripheral vision with gritted teeth, The Woman In Black is a brilliantly executed, terrifying classic ghost story”

Total Score:



Top 5 Motion Pictures of the Year

Attack The Block
Super 8
Midnight In Paris

Worst Film/Biggest Disappointment of the Year
No Award Issued, Instead The Director Receives A Rude Letter
The Adventures Of Tintin: The Secret Of The Unicorn

Most Under-Rated Films of the Year

Troll Hunter
Midnight In Paris

Most Over-Rated Films of the Year
No Award Issued, Instead The Director Receives A Rude Letter
My Week With Marilyn
The Adventures Of Tintin: The Secret Of The Unicorn
The Inbetweeners Movie

Best Leading Actor

Ezra Miller [We Need To Talk About Kevin]
Joseph Gordon-Levitt [50/50]
Owen Wilson [Midnight In Paris]

Best Leading Actress

Rooney Mara [The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo]
Carey Mulligan [Drive]
Elle Fanning [Super 8]

Best Director

Lynne Ramsay [We Need To Talk About Kevin]
Nicolas Winding Refn [Drive]
Martin Scorsese [Hugo]

Best Adapted Screenplay

Bridget O’Connor / Peter Straughan [Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy]
Steven Zaillian[The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo]
Steve Kloves[Harry Potter & The Deathly Hallows: Part II]

Best Original Screenplay

Will Reiser[50/50]
Woody Allen[Midnight In Paris]
Joe Cornish[Attack The Block]

Best Musical Score

Cliff Martinez [Drive]
Hans Zimmer [Rango]
Trent Reznor / Atticus Ross [The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo]

Best Newcomer

Ezra Miller


Best Motion Picture of the Year
Black Swan
The Kings Speech
True Grit
Harry Potter & The Deathly Hallows: Part II
X-Men: First Class

Worst Motion Picture of the Year
Twilight: Breaking Dawn
Conan The Barbarian
Green Lantern
The Hangover: Part II

Most Under-Rated Motion Picture of 2011
Attack The Block

Most Over-Rated Motion Picture of 2011

Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role
Joseph Gordon-Levitt [50/50]
Gary Oldman [Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy]
Colin Firth [The King’s Speech]

Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role
Natalie Portman [Black Swan]
Hailee Steinfeld [True Grit]
Rooney Mara [The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo]

Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role
Michael Fassbender [X-Men: First Class]
Ben Kingsley [Hugo]
Jared Harris [Sherlock Holmes: A Game Of Shadows]

Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role
Elle Fanning [Super 8]
Helena Bonham Carter [The King’s Speech]
Mila Kunis [Black Swan]

Best Achievement in Directing
Martin Scorsese [Hugo]
Darren Aronofsky [Black Swan]
David Yates [Harry Potter & The Deathly Hallows: Part II]

Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen
Will Reiser [50/50]
Mark Heyman [Black Swan]
Hossein Amini [Drive]

Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material Previously Produced or Published
Joel Coen / Ethan Coen [True Grit]
John Logan [Hugo]
Michele Mulroney / Kieran Mulroney [Sherlock Holmes: A Game Of Shadows]

Best Achievement for Original Musical Score
Trent Reznor / Atticus Ross [The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo]
Henry Jackman [X-Men: First Class]
Steven Price / Simon Ratcliffe / Felix Buxton [Attack The Block]

Best Achievement in Cinematography
Roger Deakins [True Grit]
Danny Cohen [The King’s Speech]
Brendan Galvin [Immortals]

Best Achievement in Editing
James Herbert [Sherlock Holmes: A Game Of Shadows]
Paul Hirsch [Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol]
Mark Day [Harry Potter & The Deathly Hallows: Part II]

Best Achievement in Set/Art Direction
Niall Moroney [Sherlock Holmes: A Game Of Shadows]
Stephane Cressend [Hugo]
Stephenie McMillan / Christian Huband [Harry Potter & The Deathly Hallows: Part II]

Best Achievement in Costume Design
Anna B. Sheppard [Captain America]
Jenny Beavan [Sherlock Holmes: A Game Of Shadows]
Penny Rose [Pirates Of The Caribbean: On Stranger Tides]

Best Achievement in Hair & Makeup
Kay Georgiou / Thomas Nellen [True Grit]
Michael Reitz / Deborah La Mia Denaver [Super 8]
Janice Alexander / Luisa Abel [Thor]

Best Achievement in Sound
Philip Stockton [Hugo]
John A. Larsen [Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes]
Scott Hecker [Sucker Punch]

Best Achievement in Visual Effects
Matt Aitken [The Adventures Of Tintin]
Tony Lazarowich [Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes]
Joel Whist [Sucker Punch]

Best Animated Feature Film
Kung Fu Panda 2

Best Foreign Language Film
Jusan-nin no shikaku [13 Assassins]
Jodaeiye Nader az Simin [A Separation]
Hors-la-loi [Outside The Law]

Best Feature-Length Documentary
George Harrison: Living In A Material World
Bobby Fischer Against The World
Life In A Day


Muppet Domination

James Bobin

Jason Segel
Amy Adams
Steve Whitmire
Eric Jacobson
Peter Linz
Chris Cooper

Following the relatively disastrous Muppets From Space, Jim Henson’s creations fell somewhat out of favour with the general public and remained absent from cinema for twelve years. As such, the entire film is less about The Muppets on some whacky adventure and more a life-affirming tale of acceptance, whilst still remaining loyal to the themes we’ve come to expect: simple yet touching humour, various musical numbers and pitch perfect celebrity cameos.

The film opens in Smalltown, detailing the childhood of Gary [Segel] and his Muppet brother, Walter [Linz] – don’t ask why a human would have a Muppet for a sibling, I’ll get to that later. Walter struggles to find his place in this crazy world but discovers a ray of hope watching the Muppets perform on TV. As he grows older, the world moves on and seemingly forgets about Walter’s heroes, even his brother, who has been in a relationship with elementary school teacher, Mary [Adams] for nearly ten years. To celebrate their anniversary, Gary is taking Mary to Los Angeles and they plan on taking Walter with them, to see The Muppet Studio. Upon arrival, the group find the studio abandoned and run-down. Sneaking away from the tour group, Walter investigates Kermit’s office, only to overhear a plan to tear down the studio and drill for oil by heartless millionaire, Tex Richman [Cooper]. Panicking, he does the only thing he can and locates Kermit. From there, it’s a race against time to get the old gang back together and raise ten million dollars to save the studio. Cue montages, cameos, familiar puppeted faces and a variety of well known and new songs in a way only a Muppet movie could pull off.

The Muppets feels like a genuine family film without resorting to the contemporary acceptance of overtly crass developments and double entendre heavy dialogue. Furthermore, the plot doesn’t try to rehash or replace the classic Muppet stories but explores the formula that made them so popular. Ultimately, Nicholas Stoller and Jason Segel have penned a sincere love letter to the Muppets franchise, interspersed with fitting songs by Bret McKenzie and subtle scoring by Christophe Beck. Having said that, there are quite a few gaping holes that need to be addressed. The first is the incredibly slow start and shocking pace. From the film’s opening, it takes quite some time to get the story rolling and even then, the Muppets played more of a supporting role to the Gary and Walter characters. I appreciate the script needed a certain amount of time to rebuild the Muppet group but as they only feature in half of the film, you walk away feeling like you’ve missed out – kinda like Jurassic Park, great film but needed more dinosaurs. Then after the slow build everything panned out brilliantly, the tension rose, the setups paid off and in the final moments we’re cheated with a hideously quick and neat resolve; despite the opportunity for a very clever and insightful finale, we’re treated with a simple throw away ending. But the biggest frustration was the unanswered question, why is Walter a Muppet? I was waiting for this big storyline to develop, explaining how/why Gary’s brother was the only Muppet in the world who wasn’t one of the actual Muppet troupe but no, he’s a Muppet, there’s nothing else to say, his mother didn’t mess around or anything, he’s just a Muppet.

Overall it’s a very entertaining, surprisingly heartfelt and sincere film, despite the often ridiculous premises. Will this release reignite a passion for the Muppets? Will another film or possible TV series follow? I honestly couldn’t tell you. The film seems to have done well with audiences and critics in the States but the general reaction over here seems to be, “Really? The Muppets?” No doubt, people’s opinions will change if they watch the film but that’s only if people actually go to see it. All I can say is that if fanboys Stoller and Segel remain at the helm, we can probably expect great things.

Release Date:
10th February 2012

The Scene To Look Out For:
Despite the many hilarious scenarios, I think the ‘Man Or Muppet’ song is one of the film’s key highlights. The song itself is an atypical McKenzie tune, combining an earnest ballad with an absurd twist and the accompanying cameo made by Jim Parsons cements its brilliance. Outside of that, it’s just little things that seem to tickle you the most, the Smells Like Teen Spirit barbershop quartet, Chris Cooper saying ‘maniacal laugh’, Walter running out of Kermit’s office screaming, kidnapping Jack Black, the Swedish chef blowtorching the fridge.. ah, good stuff.

Notable Characters:
Favourite character is actually quite difficult. As far as the actual Muppets are concerned, I only really like Gonzo and Sam Eagle.. and their presence was largely understated here. Equally, I think a great deal of praise and credit need to be lauded on Jason Segel but his character was actually a little trite and the relationship between Gary and Mary was far too… 1950’s. I actually don’t know if I had a favourite character or someone whose performance really stood out here. It was very much an ensemble effort and subsequently, this may be my first review in which I don’t award a highlighted character. Sorry.

Highlighted Quote:
“I make the baker make my bread out of dough. Oh no, don’t eat it though, it’ll make you ill; there ain’t no flour in a hundred dollar bill”

In A Few Words:
“A very welcome return to form and a surprisingly feel good sensation.. but something felt incredibly off about the finale”

Total Score: