Haunted By Your Future, Hunted By Your Past

Rian Johnson

Joseph Gordon-Levitt
Bruce Willis
Emily Blunt

Looper opens in a moderately dystopian 2044. People are far from a Mad Max style environment but everywhere you look, crime, drugs and poverty run rampant. The only country that seems to have survived (or will survive) this economic downfall is China. On top of this, around ten per cent of the population suffer from a mutation commonly known as TK. The general public assumes this will give rise to superheroes but the limit of these powers seems to be levitating very small metallic objects. Thirty years into the future (2074), time travel has been invented and instantly outlawed. As such, the only individuals using it are criminal organisations to transport gagged and bound targets to the past, to be disposed of by young hitmen called loopers. The pay is good but the employment contract comes with a very clear expiry date, after one particular execution a looper will receive a large pay packet which will mean the person they have just executed is a future version of themselves. At which point, the looper is cut loose and lives their remaining thirty years whatever way they see fit, knowing the obvious outcome. This entire experience is called ‘closing one’s loop’. The story follows the actions of one particular looper, Joe [Gordon-Levitt] whose life is dramatically disrupted when his future self [Willis] appears and knocks him out cold. Joe, convinced that if he simply executes future Joe everything will revert to normal, hunts himself down. What he is not aware of is the life Joe led up until the point he is transported back for execution and the reign of terror a telekinetic called the Rainmaker is wreaking on the world. Future Joe believes that if he finds and kills this individual in the past, he can have his life back and ‘save’ the future. Ok, if I say anything outside of that I’ll probably ruin the film.

The first and most obvious point to observe is the wondrous acting. And while this plot has the scope and scale for big, screamy, overly dramatic encounters, it’s the little aspects that seem to be the most impressive – a hardened killer dealing with the reality of murdering a child for ‘the greater good’ proving he still possess a conscience being a particular highlight. While Bruce Willis clearly has a lot of fun here and actually earns his paycheque in the first decent film he’s been involved in for ten years, Joseph Gordon-Levitt really shines here. Any other production would probably opt for simply replicating or mimicking a young Bruce Willis, suppressing any aspect of Gordon-Levitt’s performance, which would have been a mistake (a mistake I’ve seen in several films before). Instead they sculpt Willis’ key affectations and mannerisms to produce a youthful hybrid of both actors. At times it’s disorientating but ultimately, it makes for a very rewarding acting experience. Then there’s the supporting cast, everyone present embraces their roles with open arms and delivers something wholly believable in such a ridiculous environment.

Accompanying this acting delight are gloriously grimy visuals, both in terms of effects and set dressing, creating this 80’s vision of the future, wherein the populace are poor and happy to gun down vagrants in the street. If you told me this universe was similar, if not the same as, the one illustrated in Children Of Men or Blade Runner, I could easily believe it. On top of that, Nathan Johnson’s score, similar to the one used in Dredd, sounds both aesthetically fitting and creates a steady drive. None of which would work if the writing was spot-on. Unlike most big budget sci-fi action thrillers, Looper is intelligent, well acted, patient and rewarding as well as a lavish spectacle. One of the key aspects to this is instantly dismissing the effects of time travel. The audience doesn’t need to be bogged down in exposition or speculative theory, we just need to know time travel is possible. Forget physics, forget previously established ‘rules’ in other works of fiction, this is it how it works here, now let’s move on with the story because at the end of the day, the story is what matters and this story is certainly worth telling.

Rian Johnson is the thinking audience’s independent director. Brick was a phenomenal take on Film Noir that baffled the general public but won praise at festivals and The Brothers Bloom was a brilliant light hearted con flick that somehow failed to impress both cinemagoers and (most) critics. While his last two releases have been very different, Johnson’s main attributable trait seems to be the intelligence of his writing. Looper may be the best example of this, clever enough to astound, comprehendible enough to approach. Granted, not everyone’s is going to get or appreciate the finer points but if you want to dig deeper, there’s a wealth of layers and substance to analyse. The story hinges more on character development than shoot-outs, conscious decisions over physical actions. That we gain wisdom with age but also bitter determinedness; which is better, arrogance of youth or the stubbornness of old age? Sacrifice, clarity, control, compassion, atonement and the nature of parental influence play more prominent roles than the nature of time travel.. providing you want to think about these things. If not, it’s just a cool film with a neat story. And at the end of the day, that’s the best kind of science-fiction any artist can produce.

Release Date:
28th September 2012

The Scene To Look Out For:
I think most people will highlight the first full conversation between the present and future incarnations of Joe as one of the film’s finest points. There’s no answered questions about the nature of time travel, no fuzzy egotistical nostalgia and none of that look at me/look at you crap. There’s just an old bitter man frustrated with an impetuous younger version of himself and a young hothead who sees nothing but weakness in his decaying counterpart. To my mind, this is exactly how a conversation between a previous and past self should sound: an argument. Everyone goes through life with scarring and hopes of who they will become and nothing irritates us more than a long hard look at who we are/will become. It’s an incredibly impressive scene executed with delightful subtlety.

Notable Characters:
Bruce Willis is great, Emily Blunt is great, Pierce Gagnon is great, Jeff Daniels is great, Noah Segan is great, Piper Perabo is.. unrecognisable frankly but Joseph Gordon-Levitt combines the acting weight of Lon Chaney and Daniel Day Lewis to the extent that the role transcends simple imitation of another popular actor and he creates an altogether new being. Strange comment, I know but a valid one. Acting is about embodying different lives and stories but most of the time, actors simply play variations of themselves. Only a handful have the skill and ability to escape that, Gordon-Levitt is one of them.

Highlighted Quote:
“We both know how this has to go down, so why don’t you do what old men do and die”

In A Few Words:
“Imagine the greatest manga ever written and the greatest time travel story ever told. That’s Looper

Total Score:


Cinema City Film Quiz #80

[23 September 2012]

Winning Team:
Fudge Bread 3D

Genre – It’s probably delicious.. and chewy

Runners Up:
Dawn Of The Dredd
Genre – Romero and Snyder team up in Dredd/Zombie crossover
A Doodlebug’s Life
Genre – Harrowing, animated bug-based wartime drama
Birth Of A Vertical Integration
Genre – The rise and fall of Hollywood in cinemascope and technicolor
At The Waterfront
Genre – We could have been a contender (for best team name)
Wake Me Up Before You Vertigo Go
Genre – N/A
Apocalypse Yesterday
Genre – Period action drama

ROUND I: Pre-Production
1. Roland Emmerich’s 2012 is set in which year?
2. How many Harry Potter films were released in total?
3. Ted, Fozzie and Baloo are all what type of animal?
4. Which musical adapted from Charles Dickens’ novel won the Oscar for best picture in 1968?
5. What is the name of Captain Jack Sparrow’ ship in the Pirates Of The Caribbean series?
6. Who played Popeye in the 1980 live-action film?
7. What year was P.J. Hogan’s live-action Peter Pan film released?
8. Which member of Cliffhanger’s cast also received a writing credit?
9. Which individual directed the top two highest grossing films to date? [bonus point for naming the director of the third]
10. Mel Brooks directed three films in the nineties, the first was Life Stinks, what were the other two? (one point per correct answer)

ROUND II: Filming [40’s/50’s Special]
1. How was Marilyn Monroe’s character in The Seven Year Itch credited? The girl? Some dame? Marilyn obviously?
2. Who plays the title role in Father Of The Bride? William Holden? Dean Martin? Spencer Tracy?
3. Two films titled Julius Caesar were released in the fifties, which of the following actors did not play Mark Anthony? Marlon Brando? Charlton Heston? Richard Burton?
4. What is Sergeant York’s first name, in Sergeant York? Buck? Alvin? Bert? [bonus point for naming the actor who played him]
ALVIN [Gary Cooper]
5. Mildred Pierce was distributed by which studio? Paramount? Warner Brothers? MGM?
6. What was the top grossing film of 1943? This Is The Army? For Whom The Bell Tolls? Casablanca?
7. What was the title of the 1947 film that starred Robert Young, Robert Mitchum and Robert Ryan? Crossfire? The Bishop’s Wife? Road To Rio?
8. Rock Hudson plays the role of Jordan Benedict in Giant. What is Benedict’s nickname? Jett? Benny? Bick?
9. What reason did Paul Newman give for turning down the lead role in Ben-Hur? It belittled Christianity? He didn’t have the legs for a tunic? He thought the script was boring?
HE DIDN’T HAVE THE LEGS FOR A TUNIC (the other reasons were given by Burt Lancaster)
10. Vivien Leigh had bi-polar disorder and as such, had problems separating her life from that of Blanche DuBois in A Streetcar Named Desire. True or False?

ROUND III: Post-Production
1. At the start of Ghostbusters II, the title characters have been barred from investigating supernatural occurrences. Winston and Ray are children’s entertainers and Egon works in a University lab. What was Peter doing?
2. Orion pictures operated to and from which years (one point per correct answer)
1978 / 1998
3. The Adventures Of Baron Munchausen was made for £47 million dollars. How much did it make at the box office?
4. 1988’s Vice Versa was an adaptation of the 1882 novel of the same name. How many times has the book been adapted for cinema?
FOUR [1916 / 1937 / 1948 / 1988]
5. Who wrote and directed 1995’s The American President? (one point per correct answer)
6. Alec Baldwin, James Woods, Donald Sutherland, Ving Rhames and Steve Buscemi all starred in which animated film?
7. The following is a quote from which Mike Nichols film “Have you ever seen a human heart? It looks like a fist wrapped in blood!”?
8. How many years pass between the release of Bad Boys and Bad Boys II?
9. The inclusion of a painting of Kim Novak and the use of spirals in Run, Lola, Run is an homage to which Hitchcock film?
10. Who starred in the lead role in 1974’s Death Wish?

ROUND IV: Promotion & Release
1. What was the title of Will Ferrell’s first major film appearance? Austin Powers: International Man Of Mystery? The Thin Pink Line? Zoolander?
2. Who played the role of Gus Gorman in Superman III? Richard Pryor? Robert Vaughn? Jackie Cooper?
3. Who composed the score for Philadelphia? David Arnold? Howard Shore? Thomas Newman?
4. Don Chaffey’s Jason And The Argonauts was released in which year? 1960? 1963? 1966?
5. In 1996 Steven Spielberg purchased which Oscar for It Happened One Night? Best Picture? Leading Actor? Leading Actress?
6. What was the title of Roland Emmerich’s 1992 breakthrough film? Stargate? Moon 44? Universal Soldier?
7. Who/what was Travis Bickle’s original target before shooting up the brothel, in Taxi Driver? A police station? Corner shop owner? A senator?
8. Who directed 1984’s A Passage To India? Milos Forman? Richard Attenborough? David Lean?
9. The following was the poster tagline for which film “They stole his mind. Now he wants it back. Get ready for the ride of your life”? Minority Report? A Scanner Darkly? Total Recall?
10. Whilst preparing for his role in Moscow On The Hudson, Robin Williams learned both Russian and how to play a saxophone to a proficient level. True or False?


Life In The Eternal City

Woody Allen

Judy Davis
Roberto Benigni
Alec Baldwin
Alessandro Tiberi
Alessandra Mastronardi

Set in a very romanticised version of Rome (anyone who’s actually been there can attest to this) akin to Rome of fifties and sixties cinema, we are introduced to four distinct but unconnected stories. In the first, American tourist, Hayley [Alison Pill] meets and falls in love with Italian lawyer, Michelangelo [Flavio Parenti] and the day arrives for the respective parents to meet one another. Hayley’s father, Jerry [Allen] equates retirement with death and is fighting it every step of the way. Meeting Michelangelo’s father, Giancarlo [Fabio Armiliato], Jerry is taken aback by the power and beauty of his operatic talents. Jerry, having a history with theatrical and opera productions, convinces Giancarlo to audition. It is soon discovered that despite his amazing voice, Giancarlo can only sing to perfection while showering. Naturally, Jerry pairs the two and decides to put on a production of several arias being sung from a portable shower, much to the distress and chagrin of Michelangelo. The second tale introduces us to a newlywed couple who are hoping to make a new start in Rome, the bumbling timid Antonio [Tiberi] and the wide-eyed seemingly naïve Milly [Mastronardi]. A great deal of importance is put upon introducing Milly to Antonio’s aunts and uncles to ensure he gets a respectable job opening. Convinced she looks like a small town teacher, Milly ventures out to get her hair done, getting lost and losing her mobile phone in the process. At the same time, Antonio is visited by Anna [Penelope Cruz], a prostitute who has been paid to show the occupant of room 504 a good time. Granted, Antonio is clearly not the correct recipient of this ‘gift’ but Anna seems unfazed. Whilst trying to get Anna to leave, Antonio’s aunts and uncles arrive and simply assume that Anna is his wife, Milly. At the same time, Milly stumbles onto a film set and is star struck by one of the lead actors. The third story is one of the simplest, based on the absurd concept that regular people are sometimes famous for being famous. Leopoldo [Benigni] is an average middle-class citizen in an average job when suddenly he finds himself swamped by reporters and booked for television shows to answer banal questions about his life. Cursed by this sudden and apparently unjustified attention, Leopoldo has a hard time coping. The fourth story involves renowned architect John Foye [Baldwin] who meets an architecture student, Jack [Jesse Eisenberg] living in the same building he used to occupy decades ago. Jack lives with his girlfriend Sally [Greta Gerwig] but the relationship grows complicated when her highly sexual and mercurial best friend Monica [Ellen Page] appears. John offers wisdom, guidance and council throughout.

Ultimately these are very simple roles in a very predictable story with no real surprise – especially if you’re familiar with Woody Allen’s work – but the performances and the farcical melodrama of the scenarios is enough to hold your attention and warrant praise. See, in my opinion, the key to enjoying Woody Allen’s comedies is immersing yourself in the unabashed ludicrousness of it all; that and having some sort of interest in the key features Allen tends to focus on: death, love, infidelity, success, sex, happiness, psychoanalysis, etc. The dramas are usually easier to market and contain fewer traits and signatures but a Woody Allen comedy is an acquired taste. Subsequently, audiences and fans alike are far too harsh on the man. He punches out a film a year, sometimes two and while not every single one is a winner, most have been incredibly well crafted cinematic tales. The main complaint I’m hearing is that To Rome With Love isn’t as good as Midnight In Paris.. which it isn’t. But then it shouldn’t be. This is a different film and while it’s not of the same calibre, it’s an entertaining escape.

As stated earlier, this is a very romanticised view of Italian life full of wine, food, sex, love, passionate arguments, shouting, arms waving around, all set against this gorgeous amber backdrop, populated with some of the finest architecture the world has to offer. As such, the direction is perfectly pleasing, the editing is smooth and coordinated, the cinematography is lush and inviting and the score is atypically fitting despite its stereotypical qualities. But apart from being a decently constructed movie, it’s an amusing paint-by-numbers affair. Sure, the characters aren’t the most fleshed out, the resolutions are implausibly neat, the developments are absurd and the stories aren’t the most inspired but for a relaxed escapist medley, it works.

I’ve become very fearful of late of the number seven. Seven out of ten seems to be the critics’ safe option, neither overly praising nor damning a film. But this feels like a seven to. I was captivated while the film was on and the story and characters resonated with me for the remainder of my evening. Granted, I doubt I’ll be seeking out for regular viewings but I’d happily recommend it and while it’s not exceptional groundbreaking cinema, it’s light, thoroughly pleasant and rather fun. So there, justification of a seven out of ten. Now hop it.

Release Date:
21st September 2012

The Scene To Look Out For:
No matter how many times the joke was rehashed, seeing Italian tenor Fabio Armiliato in the shower singing various arias had me in fits of giggles. In particular, I found it difficult to compose myself while Giancarlo was smearing white paint on his face, singing Vesti la giubba from Pagliacci. As a fan of opera, it’s always nice seeing a writer/director calling on some of the most timeless and haunting pieces.. especially for comedic purposes.

Notable Characters:

Highlighted Quote:
“Don’t psychoanalyse me. Many have tried, all have failed”

In A Few Words:
“Not exactly Woody Allen’s finest work but a pleasing rehash postcard of familiar themes with a myriad of fine performances and lavish locations”

Total Score:



Pay The Price

Andrew Dominik

Brad Pitt
Scoot McNairy
Ray Liotta

Set in New Orleans, four years ago, Killing Them Softly tells the story of two small time, inept crooks, Frankie [McNairy] and Russell [Ben Mendelsohn], who are contracted to blag a mafia protected card game. Usually robbing one of the these games is a suicide run but this particular game has been turned over before by the gangster running it, Markie Trattman [Liotta]. This way, if the game is robbed in the same manner it was previously, everyone will place the blame on Markie and no one will think to look for Frankie or Russell. Everything goes pretty much according to plan, the game is hijacked, money stolen and Markie held accountable. At this point an unnamed character who organises all the corporate aspects of the criminal underworld (played by [Richard Jenkins) contacts a hitman of sorts to clean up; the individual in question being Jackie Cogan [Pitt]. At which point it becomes evident that this is in fact not Frankie’s story but Jackie’s.

Much like Dominik’s previous works, this film is a technical wonder. The shots are beautifully crafted and arranged with care and precision. Everything on-screen has a specific purpose and place in the dreary, rundown sets and locations. Equally, the editing is neatly orchestrated, favouring a calm, steady slow-burn over manic fast-paced unnecessary action sets or screamy-shouty confrontations. In a way, I was reminded of Get Carter and many other crime dramas of the seventies: slow, moody pacing, intimidating dialogue, bleak surroundings and brief moments of intense violence. A story set to a backdrop of criminal activity, showing us the truth to all criminal activity: there is no glamour. Even when flush you never get the feeling that any of the characters are ahead, always swindling and cheating each other, constantly looking over their shoulder for betrayal and comeuppance. But amidst all this realism, we have Jackie Cogan, a man sporting a muscle car, aviator sunglasses, leather jacket, dressed head-to-toe in black and not an ounce of hesitation or remorse; a man built for murder. This should come off as contradictory, we should be questioning this individual’s presence and existence in a tale of this nature but his disdain for beatings and torturous acts (seeing death as a mercy or necessary release) and professional precision simply highlight him as a soldier desensitised to the act of death.

But despite the compelling performances and series of exceptionally executed conversations, Killing Them Softly left me a little disorientated. Brilliantly crafted but as a story, wholly unsatisfying. Had the acting not been up to scratch, you would have ended up with a straight-to-DVD flop but if everything was harmoniously coordinated, if every aspect was cohesively bonding together, we would have got something similar to Drive. A friend of mine recently challenged my review for Lawless, stating that while she enjoyed the technical aspects of the film, the story wasn’t enough for her. Now, while I completely disagree with that example, that’s exactly how I feel about this film. One could argue that it’s a character film and the plot is simply there to further the interactions between memorable characters – almost like a Woody Allen movie – but with so many disposable cameos that seem to fizzle into nothing and a narrative that can be summed up in two sentences, it’s hard to ‘enjoy’ this film. Having said that, I know Andrew Dominik’s work has a tendency to spool on, Terrence Malick style, and because the original cut was around two and a half hours I imagine much of what I’m looking for is lying somewhere on the cutting room floor.

The constant sampling of political speeches are an interesting touch. Everyone involved probably thought they were being quite subtle and clever but the comparison between unregulated unlawful gambling losses and the economic crisis is rather blunt. Subtle or not, you cannot deny it makes a clear point: “Crime isn’t cool, it’s reckless, stupid and if you get involved in it, it will turn on you like a rabid dog and bite you on the fucking arse. What the fuck were you thinking? What did you think would happen!?” Let’s face it, the public does not understand basic economics or how the 2008 banking crisis happened, all they see is the base level fallout and wildly blame anyone they feel is deserving. Killing Them Softly draws a simple, relatable parable by stating these individuals stole from this individual and he let it happen, whether or not he could prevent it, he is responsible. This is what happened to you but on a much larger scale, way over your head. Get it?

In my opinion, this film is going to be incredibly divisive. There will be those who will perceive it as a dull boring affair due to its pace and others who will herald it as a return to credible gritty gangster flicks. Personally, I’m not convinced. Chopper was glorious, The Assassination Of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford was a marvel but Killing Them Softly is just very good. It’s not that it’s a bad film, I was simply expecting a lot more from Andrew Dominik.

Release Date:
21st September 2012

The Scene To Look Out For:
The two or three interactions between Brad Pitt and Richard Jenkins’ characters are some of the simplest yet resonate the most. The simplicity and understated corporate nature of the conversations is brilliant. If you weren’t paying attention, they could be bartering for any service/product, as opposed to ending a man’s life. Furthermore, the audience is able to instantly size-up Pitt’s character, a world-weary criminal who understands exactly how people operate and what is necessary to get things back on track and the money flowing.

Notable Characters:
As stated, it becomes quickly apparent that despite his late introduction, Pitt is the lead actor of this film and his performance confirms as much. Granted, it’s not his finest to date but he’s overdue immense praise, so I wouldn’t be surprised if people see more into the performance than is actually there.. but I digress. Each of the supporting roles results to little more than a cameo but each is wholly believable and distinctly memorable. If I’m honest, I was rather surprised by Ray Liotta, he only appears in a handful of scenes but in one he takes a severe roughing up that is so wincingly visceral, leaving him broken, beaten, bloody and blubbing on the concrete in the rain, that you can’t help but sneer at the unpleasantness of it all – which is exactly how an act of this nature should be viewed.

Highlighted Quote:
“America’s not a country, it’s a business. Now fucking pay me!”

In A Few Words:
“Propped up by terrific acting and beautiful direction, Killing Them Softly is not quite the masterpiece we were hoping for and expecting but a solid release nonetheless”

Total Score:


Cinema City Film Quiz #79

[09 September 2012]

Winning Team:
The Cob Of Eternal Stench

Genre – Docudrama about Bowie’s frustration at his inability to pass sweetcorn

Runners Up:
Space Jam Oddity
Genre – David Bowie and Michael Jordan team up to help Buggs Bunny and Co.
Full Metal Cardigan
Genre – Pixar J-Horror
2001: A Space Oddity
Genre – Sci-Fi Rom-Com
Kal Kara Sephare
Genre – Science Fiction
The Man Who Swelled His Girth
Genre – It’s nothing rude.. really it’s not

ROUND I: Pre-Production
1. What is the name of the corpse in Weekend At Bernie’s?
2. Who played the lead role in Never Been Kissed?
3. Who directed The Beach?
4. Moulin Rouge! is set in which city?
5. What is the only colour that features on posters for Trainspotting?
6. Which family member is John Matrix trying to save in Commando? [bonus point for his/her first name]
7. What type of animal is Shenzi, in Disney’s The Lion King?
8. Zoltar Speaks is a wishing/fortune telling machine in which 80’s family comedy?
9. I whistle a happy tune, Getting to know you and Song of the king are songs from which 1956 film?
10. Excluding The Three Stooges, how many films have the Farrelly Brothers directed?
TEN (Dumb & Dumber / Kingpin / There’s Something About Mary / Me, Myself & Irene / Osmosis Jones / Shallow Hal / Stuck On You / Fever Pitch / The Heartbreak Kid / Hall Pass)

ROUND II: Filming [Bowie Family Special]
1. Which film did Christopher Nolan direct before releasing The Prestige? Batman Begins? Memento? Insomnia?
2. What language does David Bowie speak throughout 1978’s Just A Gigolo? French? German? Spanish? [bonus point: this marked the last screen performance for which prominent actress]
GERMAN [Marlene Dietrich]
3. Who composed the score for Moon? Howard Blake? Philip Glass? Clint Mansell?
4. Who directed The Last Temptation Of Christ? Martin Scorsese? Francis Ford Coppola? Brian De Palma?
5. David Bowie portrayed which artist in Basquiat? Jackson Pollock? Andy Warhol? Saul Raskin?
6. The Man Who Fell To Earth was released in which year? 1959? 1963? 1976?
7. What is the name of the ‘new look’ that Derek reveals at the end of Zoolander? Magnum? Latigra? Blue Steel?
8. What was the title of the Tony Scott film starring David Bowie and Susan Sarandon? Loving Memory? The Hunger? One Of The Missing?
9. Other than Jareth, who is the first character Sarah meets in Labyrinth? Ludo? Sir Didymus? Hoggle?
10. In Source Code, Scott Bakula cameos as Colter Stevens’ father and his first line is “Oh boy.” True or False?

ROUND III: Post-Production
1. That Thing You Do! was the directorial debut for which actor?
2. Which Lawrence Olivier film was the first British movie to win the Oscar for best picture?
3. Despite being a commercial flop in the US and UK, Baby’s Day Out stayed in cinemas for a year before finally being remade in which country?
INDIA (remade in 1995 as Sisindri)
4. Which playing card can be seen on most, if not all, of the posters for 1997’s Suicide Kings?
5. Before Paul Newman was cast as Frank Galvin in The Verdict, which actor was set to play the role?
ROBERT REDFORD (he pulled out after the script couldn’t be reworked to exclude punching a female character in the face)
6. Crysta, Zak, Batty Koda and Hexxus are characters in which animated film?
7. What are the nicknames given to detectives James Doyle and Buddy Russo (played by Gene Hackman and Roy Scheider respectively) in The French Connection? (one point per correct answer)
8. Despite being filmed in North Carolina, The Last Of The Mohicans is set in which US state?
9. Jean Reno, Jonathan Pryce, Stellan Skarsgard, Sean Bean and Robert De Niro all starred in which film?
10. Alexandria’s parents pick which type of fruit, in The Fall?

ROUND IV: Promotion & Release
1. What was John Huston’s directorial debut? The Maltese Falcon? The Battle Of San Pietro? Key Largo?
2. What is the name given to the angel of death, played by Jessica Lange, in 1979’s All That Jazz? Angelique? Angela? Angelina?
3. Which of the following actors is the only one to request and be turned down for an appearance in Mel Funn’s movie, in Silent Movie? Paul Newman? Burt Reynolds? James Caan?
4. Hello, Dolly! is set in which year? 1870? 1880? 1890?
5. Which of the following actors did not appear in Jonathan Hensleigh’s Kill The Irishman? Val Kilmer? Christopher Walken? Joe Pesci?
6. Who plays the title role in 1967’s Dr. Dolittle? Richard Attenborough? Christopher Plummer? Rex Harrison? [bonus point for naming how many Dr. Dolittle (1998-) films were made]
REX HARRISON [5 – Dr. Dolittle / Dr. Dolittle 2 / Dr. Dolittle 3 / Dr. Dolittle: Tail To The Chief / Dr. Dolittle: Million Dollar Mutts]
7. 1958’s The Roots Of Heaven was filmed on location in which African country? Cameroon? Sudan? Chad? [bonus point for naming the top billed actor]
CHAD [Errol Flynn]
8. Which of the following did not appear in Sleuth? Lawrence Olivier? Anthony Hopkins? Michael Caine?
9. Where does Oliver meet Barbara in The War Of The Roses? At a health spa? At an auction? Whilst scuba diving?
10. Glen Close, Phil Collins, George Lucas and Carrie Fisher all have cameos in Hook. True or False?


You Can’t Ask Why About Love

Joe Wright

Keira Knightley
Aaron Taylor-Johnson
Jude Law

On occasion, directorial ego can overtake a film. I’m not talking about directorial signatures or traits, or even controlling or focused directors but those who inadvertently smother a story and their actor’s performances in order to sell the idea of the film. Baz Luhrmann is renowned for this. Having read the novel, Anna Karenina isn’t exactly the most adaptable story, with two heavy parallel threads, lots of travelling around Russia and Europe and several months (closer to years) passing, a lot of material would need to be discarded. And it has, much to the story’s detriment and the whole thing suffers accordingly.

Set in 19th Century Russia, the story opens with high society debutante Anna Karenina [Knightley] being called from St. Petersburg to Moscow to aid her brother Stepan ‘Stiva’ Oblonsky [Matthew Macfayden] whose indiscretions with the family governess have been discovered by his wife. Anna’s busy statesman husband, Alexei feels it is none of their business but permits her to go. On the train to Moscow, Anna speaks with Countess Vronskaya [Olivia Williams] who explains she is meeting her son, Count Alexei Vronsky [Taylor-Johnson], a young cavalry officer who is expected to propose to Anna’s sister in law, Ekaterina ‘Kitty’ Scherbatskaya [Alicia Vikander]. Following all this so far? Good. To add confusion to the matter, an old friend of Stiva’s, Konstantin Levin [Domhnall Gleeson] is visiting also intent on proposing to Kitty. Vronsky meets Anna and falls for her. Kitty rejects Levin’s proposal hoping Vronsky will ask. Vronsky doesn’t and makes a scene with Anna, a married woman. An affair between the two starts and spirals out of control but Russian divorce law stipulates that only the ‘innocent’ party can request a legal divorce, which Alexei Karenin will not allow for fear of scandal. Wracked with guilt, Anna descends into a jealous delirium and continuously fights with both her lover and her husband. Some other stuff happens. See, this is the problem, you can’t give a brief summation of a book nearly nine hundred pages long and the script can’t either, so it just fumbles around trying to cover the essentials.

First thing to analyse is the ‘theatre concept’. Neither a musical, nor a stage production, nor a film, Joe Wright has opted for something in between. As the movie opens we see an empty stage with a curtain slowly raised, followed by an overly theatrical shaving of Oblonsky’s moustache (or everything around it); in earnest, it’s actually quite funny. While this happens, we also witness Anna reading the letter from her brother, informing her of what we are seeing. The camera pans around behind the stage, in the rafters, into the audience pit (which is empty) and stagehands pop up bringing in set pieces and props – much like a theatrical production. Everything flows beautifully and the editing is absolutely pitch-perfect. But as this is spooling on, I couldn’t help but question why. Why set it in a quasi-theatre environment, why the elaborate timed movements in key with the music, why the ridiculousness? You’re detracting from the heart and soul of the story which is Russian family politics and the harsh nature of divorce for 1800’s Russians. You’re making sport out of a sombre tale that should be focused on betrayal, love, adultery, duty, vanity, composure, jealousy, bitterness, pettiness, vengeance, etc. And then, as if to make matters worse, Levin returns to his country estate and the back wall of the stage opens up to reveal a vast snow-covered horizon. The use of actual exteriors highlights the futility of this setting, this is an epic, sprawling Russian tale! We need big buildings, lavish interiors, exquisite jewels and costumes, vast harsh landscapes! So, when you get a glimpse of these, you can’t help but grind your teeth and mutter, “The whole movie should be like this”. Granted, I appreciate this is a novel way of getting around things like budgetary concerns and travel costs but unless you completely stick to your chosen premise, you ruin the overall aesthetic. Oddly enough, Sucker Punch sort of did the same thing.

Due to the nature of the rushed plot and the unusual production design, the acting varies from scene to scene. At times, the performances are wholly engrossing and intriguing to a breathtaking degree yet ten minutes later they delve into secondary school drama level, full of hammy lines, gurning faces and mediocre deliveries. The inconsistent acting quality is probably more disorientating than the mad “We’re in a theatre.. or are we?” bullshit. On top of that, without real exploration of Anna’s descent into madness, outside of one scene and a handful of lines, her transition seems obtuse and almost pathetic. What should be a portrayal of a strong woman broken by growing guilt and paranoia is just the hysterical ramblings of a weak-willed woman. As such, Levin’s story comes off as far more interesting but we’re only fed dribs-and-drabs so audiences are left wanting.

The production value is astounding and the attention to detail in costume, props interiors are very impressive but without the lavish backdrops something feels missing. As if watching Lawrence Of Arabia projected onto a wall six hundred yards away… with binoculars. It looks Russian, it sounds Russian but it doesn’t feel Russian. In going for this extravagant format, Wright has lost the heart and message of the book and created a largely forgettable mess. Kind of reminded me of the animated film Anastasia, big, colourful and arrogant but so very very wrong.

Release Date:
7th September 2012

The Scene To Look Out For:
**spoilers within**
I’m confused. I appreciate that with all adaptations certain details and plot threads must be culled for budgetary and time factors. In the novel, the story winds down and Anna throws herself under the train. This happens in the film too, no problem there. Unless I’m mistaken and was simply anxious to leave the cinema, I can’t remember what happened to Vronsky. In the book he can’t stand that Karenin forgives him, goes a bit mental and shoots himself but doesn’t die then he mopes about a lot and buggers off with his regiment to fight the Turks.. or something. Now I appreciate there was no time for all that but I can’t even remember what happened to his character. I don’t think anyone explained it, we just see Karenin in a field with ‘his’ two children.. then the film ends! So.. basically.. I didn’t like the ending. At all. It probably pissed me off the most.

Notable Characters:
Domhnall Gleeson was enjoyable as Levin and the scenes in which he takes council with Matthew Macfayden are both entertaining and amusing. Other than that, everyone else was too all over the place. Sometimes Keira Knightley would be wondrous to watch, other times I was rolling my eyes with as much theatrical exaggeration as I could muster. Jude Law, on the other hand was actually quite impressive but being so muted and subdued it was next to impossible to get behind his performance.

Highlighted Quote:
“It would be a sin to help you destroy yourself”

In A Few Words:
“A classic tome butchered, commendable performances lost and a reasonably novel concept squandered. Disappointing”

Total Score:



Judgement Is Coming

Pete Travis

Karl Urban
Olivia Thirlby
Lena Headey
Wood Harris

Trying to capture an entire comic book universe, especially one set in a dystopian future where half of the US east coast has been amalgamated into one huge sprawling crime-riddled city, is always difficult. Judge Dredd is one of those many properties that people claim to be unadaptable and unfit for cinema. Thankfully, Alex Garland’s script details a very stripped down approach with a two fold story. The opening sequence details the world of Mega-City One and the responsibility and authority of the Judges that police it but the real bulk of the narrative starts shortly after when Dredd investigates a simple homicide.

Shortly after the opening sequence, Judge Dredd [Urban] is assigned a trainee for assessment, Cassandra Anderson [Thirlby]. He notes that a fail is a fail, despite being only 3% below an acceptable pass rate and she should not be wearing a badge. Dredd’s supervisor explains that Anderson is in fact a mutant (after extreme radiation exposure since birth) and has developed telepathic powers, which they feel is of use. Going over the rules of the exercise, Dredd explains to Anderson that there are around sixteen thousand crimes reported every day, only six per cent of which can be responded to. As the exercise tests Anderson’s capabilities, he allows her to choose where to start. As such, they proceed to the 200 floor mega-block to investigate a triple homicide. The mega-block in question, Peach Trees, is a city in its own right and controlled by one gang, headed by scarred former prostitute, Ma-Ma [Headey]. It’s also the base of operations for the manufacturing and distribution of a new drug called slo-mo, which allows the user to experience the world at 1% its normal speed. Whilst investigating the three very public deaths, the Judges stumble across the existence of the Ma-Ma clan and the sway they hold over the building’s populace. As such, Ma-Ma locks the building down and orders everyone within to arm themselves and kill the Judges. With a cuffed suspect in tow, the Judges battle their way through the building both in an attempt to escape and exact justice.

Dredd is an unwavering fascist beacon of the law, operating without any consideration of a grey area. A man who doesn’t evolve as a character (not even over 35 years of comic book history) yet somehow inspires everyone around him. For lack of a better comparison, he’s a 1980’s action hero. So, when the comic was adapted in 1995, you can almost understand why they cast Sylvester Stallone in the lead role.. and to give that movie credit, the first five minutes are brilliant; everything after that is horse piss. Where this new adaptation succeeds is by stripping down to the basics of the comic and the character and simply showing us a day in the life of a Judge, whilst simultaneously feeding us an interesting narrative. That and it’s written by Alex Garland, who is a fan of 2000AD’s Judge Dredd comic. Utilising this basic structure, Dredd feels reminiscent of 80’s dystopian flicks, drawing heavily on Escape From New York, Die Hard, Dirty Harry, Mad Max and Robocop… not to mention the actual source material itself.

Visually, the film is extremely impressive, portraying a plausible future much like the one in Total Recall remake. Furthermore, the slo-mo effect offers both an enticing visual and actually replicates the concept of being on drugs, namely the analysis and fascination with minute details, experienced in over-saturated, high definition tones. This effect also produces a curious art form – aesthetically beautiful death. As a gimmick, it could have been forced down the audience’s throats or used excessively; the ultimate crime would have been to produce a scenario where Dredd would take the drug or some bollocks. Used sparingly, it creates fascinating imagery, dissects the destructive power of weaponry and allows us to experience a brief moment of horrific terror and pain as one of vibrant colour and visceral saturation. With so many studios paranoid about losing money and key audiences being children and teenagers, it’s a bit of a rarity to see a solid adult action film that isn’t marketed to thirteen year olds. If you’re going to make a film about a dystopian future where murder, rape and drugs run rampant, you need to show that world in all its scummy gritty glory. Much like the ’95 attempt, this film would never have worked in a dumbed down, muted way; equally, 300 could have only been as violent as it was and its success proved a point – if the film is good, people will watch it.

You may have noticed that when noting praise I have been quick to mention Garland and said nothing of Travis. This is largely due to the unorthodox collaboration between the two and the strange hybrid of talent that I think will probably see writer Alex Garland as the clear visionary, rather than director, Pete Travis. Speaking of talent, given the budget and setting the cast is fairly small but has individuals of significant note. Firstly, Urban embodies Dredd perfectly. His performance is utterly egoless and transformative yet still entertaining, rarely veering into absurd territory. Initially, Thirlby feels very out of place with her pristine looks and beaming innocence – a crime I usually berate Michael Bay for – but as the film progresses we realise that she is far from helpless and her growth and arc help make Dredd (and the other faceless Judges) a relatable character. Then we have the two key antagonists, Lena Headey and Wood Harris; two exceptional choices considering their respective successes in strong villainous roles – namely Cersei Lannister from Game Of Thrones and Avon Barksdale from The Wire. On top of all that, we have a sea of tattooed, pierced and grimy extras who really sell the brutal and hostile existence within the mega-blocks.

Finally, a word about Paul Leonard-Morgan’s score which draws on 80’s concepts and structures conditioned and processed with contemporary instruments and programmes to give a genuinely plausible futuristic soundtrack. Having said that, the inclusion of Matt Berry’s Snuff Box theme was a nice little nod to a little known British series (a series which I am a massive fan) but for that reason I found it incredibly jarring. But if you had no knowledge of the series, I doubt it would even register as out of place. Overall, the film is a surprisingly entertaining analysis of a possible future and I would happily welcome any number of sequels that Garland would care to pen, providing Urban returns to the lead role.

Release Date:
7th September 2012

The Scene To Look Out For:
Much like Die Hard, the real pay-off scenes are those in which one side lures the other into a trap or escalated fight leading to an exhilarating conclusion. Subsequently, trying to detail any of these without ruining the plot is pretty tricky. The real stand-out moments for me were the nods to the comics (the word Chopper graffiti’d on a wall, for example) or personality touches that struck true to the source material. Outside of that, I’m going to go with something simple. Having just apprehended Kay [Harris], Anderson reads his mind and informs Dredd that he plans to take Dredd’s firearm. Unfazed, Dredd simple grunts, “Yep.” She then pauses and explains he has now reconsidered. Again, Dredd coldly replies, “Yep.”

Notable Characters:
Karl Urban has proved himself over the years, having been introduced to the public eye thanks to Lord Of The Rings: The Two Towers. Despite the lack of character arc, no real moral lessons, developments or evolution, Urban conveys so much through one tiny, subtle change of perspective noted at the start and contradictorily at the close. It’s this kind of stoic icon that cinematic adaptations of video games have been trying to emulate and transfer to the screen, unsuccessfully. Essentially, Urban brings us Harry Callaghan using only his chin.

Highlighted Quote:
“Know what I think? If this is my fucked up mind against your fucked up mind, my fucked up mind is gonna win”

In A Few Words:
“A Judge Dredd film that looks and feels like Judge Dredd? Quite frankly, that’s an astonishing achievement!”

Total Score:



Brothers. Gangsters. Heroes.

John Hillcoat

Shia LaBeouf
Tom Hardy
Jason Clarke
Guy Pearce
Jessica Chastain
Mia Wasikowska
Gary Oldman

Set during the prohibition era, Lawless is the largely true story of three bootlegging brothers, Howard [Clarke], Forrest [Hardy] and Jack Bondurant [LaBeouf]. The first two are hardened survivors and deal with the production and distribution of illegal liquor, while Jack is considered significantly more delicate than his siblings and is restricted to simply driving the family jalopy. Whenever he finds himself in a compromising position, Jack reacts as most people would, he panics and trembles with fear; for this reason any attempt to get in on the family business is quickly batted away by the patriarchal Forrest. The simple country life of bootlegging is quickly upset by three key events, all of which take place around the same time. Firstly, Jack witnesses big city mobster, Floyd Banner [Oldman] keenly and calmly executing ATU officers in the middle of the street before walking back to his car and driving off. This event inspires Jack, who is attempting to brew his own moonshine with the help of the young Cricket Pane [Dane DeHaan]. Second is the arrival of Maggie Beauford [Chastain], a dancer from Chicago, who has cut-out from the city and is looking for a quiet country life. Finally, the bootleggers of Franklin County are visited by the Sheriff (who had been allowing them to operate) who introduces Special Agent Charlie Rakes [Pearce], also from Chicago. Rakes is a repugnant, egotistical and truly vicious character who is evidently more twisted and corrupt than the criminals. Rakes employs increasingly brutal methods of intimidation to break the bootleggers and soon, only the Bondurants remain. Running parallel to all this is Jack’s growing boldness as he openly makes a deal to trade with Floyd Banner and chases after a stern preacher’s daughter, Bertha Minnix [Wasikowska].

I don’t mind telling you right from the get-go that this review is going to be heavily biased. Prohibition era United States is one of my favourite points in time and to my mind, neither John Hillcoat or Nick Cave can put a foot wrong. Essentially, this is exactly my kind of film: long rolling shots, nerve shattering violence, keen dialogue, acting with immense visceral rawness, an immersive score, complex characters, troubled familial interactions, sly carefully used humour and gorgeous set production. Of Hillcoat’s films to date, this definitely has the most mainstream approachability. Arguably anyone could watch The Proposition or The Road but the nature of their pacing, subject matter and presentation have a deeply independent feel to them – don’t mistake me, that’s in no way an insult – and as such only a specific demographic would seek them out. Lawless on the other hand has a relatively epic feel. Despite the contained plot and tightly knit core group of characters, it still manages to feel vast in its scope and scale. A key factor to this could easily be Nick Cave’s adapted screenplay, which happily shies away from the violence and the drama in the cities and focuses on the personal relationships of those at the poorer end of the scale. The script is also littered with signature traits and scenarios that often appear in Cave’s work – see my highlighted scene below for a further explanation.

Following the rise and fall of the gangster narrative framing, the editing and pace mirror Jack’s story. So, the audience is drawn in and lulled by the beautiful cinematography, distinctive characters and lush production value before violence descends swiftly and without warning, taking you completely by surprise. Furthermore, despite the excruciating nature of the attacks and executions, they’re moderately tame by contemporary standards – much in the same way that so much press was generated about Reservoir Dogs even though you don’t ‘see’ a great deal in the infamous torture scene. The thing that really sells the urgency and horror of the violent encounters are the actors. Everyone plays their roles well and even relatively two dimensional characters whose back-stories aren’t really explored are captivating enough that you can overlook any flaws. Despite everyone being on form, the three standout performances come from Hardy, Pearce and surprisingly LaBeouf. Tom Hardy is a powerhouse of acting talent and embodies the grumpy, bitter and world weary Forrest whilst bringing so much more to the character with expert subtlety and distinctly croaky monosyllabic diction. Guy Pearce as Rakes is wonderfully unpleasant. I have no idea if Pearce has lost his eyebrows after all that make-up in Transformers LaBeouf. When he first turned up, he reminded me of that Savage kid from Boy Meets World and showed great potential. Then he flopped around on screen, screaming OPTIMUS! for a few years and everyone started to hate him.. understandably. Strangely enough, he’s actually a very talented individual in his own right and his energy and commitment to a role is evident. This will either mark a turning point for him or alternatively the only decent thing he’ll ever work on. Only time will tell.

With its raw soundtrack (fans of traditional bluegrass music will know what I’m talking about), praiseworthy performances and thrilling story, Lawless has everything I could want in a film. It lacks that golden quality that releases such as The Untouchables and Boardwalk Empire possess but it’s still a superb notch in Hillcoat’s belt and a reminder that Nick Cave is making an equally substantial contribution to cinema, as he has the music industry.

Release Date:
7th September 2012

The Scene To Look Out For:
A singular scene that clearly stuck out for me was one that was so very ‘Nick Cave’. In the process of courting Bertha Minnix, Jack gets drunk and attends her father’s church service. Sitting bedraggled in the front row, the combination of anxiety, alcohol, resonant singing and having his feet washed by a hesitant Bertha take hold of Jack and all he can do to save himself from throwing up or passing out is to jettison himself from the building, sprinting through the fields, minus one shoe.

Notable Characters:
As I’ve already discussed Hardy, Pearce and La Beouf, let’s talk about Gary Oldman. His role is so very minor that it could easily be considered a cameo and yet the impact he makes, has me hoping and praying for a Floyd Banner spin-off (though I’m fully aware how unnecessary that is). His presence, poise and ability to exude authority is compelling and it’s just a shame we couldn’t see more. Almost as if we had a brief glimpse of De Niro as Capone in The Untouchables but then he’s absent for the rest of the film.

Highlighted Quote:
“It’s not the violence that sets a man apart, it’s the distance that he is prepared to go”

In A Few Words:
“A fine addition to Hillcoat’s already sterling curriculum vitae – wonderful performances, spectacular production, a visual marvel and a thoroughly enthralling tale”

Total Score: