Cinema City Film Quiz #132

[23 November 2014]

Winning Team:
The Ascending Magic Side Effect Of Stepping Up Jupiter

Genre – Four explorers go to outer space to learn dance moves

Runners Up:
Magic Dike On Humpy Pumpy Street
Genre – Tale of a wizard stripper
Genre – A plane load of lager is split through a black hole in Inter Milan. Chaos ensues
Frenching Tatum
Genre – Romance.. and a little more

ROUND I: Pre-Production
1. What was the title of the 1998 remake of Psycho?
2. What colour is Gandalf’s beard in The Lord Of The Rings: Return Of The King?
3. The film Moonraker is part of which franchise?
4. Alan Grant, Ellie Sattler and John Hammond are characters in which film?
5. Who directed The Usual Suspects?
6. Toothless is the name of the dragon in which film?
7. The following is the poster tagline for which film, “They’re here”?
8. Which ballet is the central focus of Black Swan?
9. The adaptation of Othello starring Laurence Fishburne and Kenneth Branagh was released in which year?
10. Who plays the lead role in Shakespeare In Love?

ROUND II: Filming [Channing Tatum]
1. What is the title of the sequel to 21 Jump Street? 21 Jump Street 2? 22 Jump Street? 2 Jump 2 Street?
2. What was the name of Tatum’s character in G.I. Joe: The Rise Of Cobra? Duke? Ripcord? Heavy Duty?
3. Which actor voices the role of the villain in The Lego Movie? Will Ferrell? Steve Carell? Jim Carrey?
4. Who directed Magic Mike? Mike Nichols? Steven Soderbergh? Rob Reiner?
5. In which of the following films does Tatum make a brief cameo? Batman Begins? Milk? Public Enemies?
6. Excluding Emma Watson, how many celebrities take refuge in James Franco’s house, in This Is The End? 5? 6? 7?
SIX (Franco, Hill, Rogen, Baruchel, McBride, Robinson)
7. In Dear John, John’s father is obsessed with his collection of what? Comics? Stamps? Coins?
8. What is the name of the drug circulating the high school in 21 Jump Street? HFS? WTF? TFIT?
9. In which year does Marcus Flavius Aquila arrive in England, in The Eagle? 140? 160? 180?
140 AD
10. Channing Tatum married his Step Up co-star Jenna Dewan. True or False?

ROUND III: Post-Production
1. Complete the title of this film: Dr Strangelove?
2. How many sisters make up the March family in Little Women?
3. Speed, True Romance and Apocalypse Now all starred which actor?
4. Who played the title role in the 2004 adaptation of The Phantom Of The Opera?
5. The King And I, The Lone Ranger, Yojimbo and Gone With The Wind are all set in which decade?
6. Which film featured Hugh Grant, David Tennant, Martin Freeman and Salma Hayek?
7. Where is the Empire’s shield generator (protecting the second Death Star) located in Return Of The Jedi?
8. The following is the synopsis for which film, “A wanted man agrees to convince a company head to dissolve his corporation, in exchange for all charges against him being dropped”?
9. What is the name of the Prince in Cinderella?
10. Inglourious Basterds is divided into how many chapters?

ROUND IV: Promotion & Release
1. The following quote is from which film, “Don’t give me that. I’m sick and tired of facts! You can twist ’em anyway you like!”? Memento? Heat? 12 Angry Men?
2. Who composed the score for the 1999 adaptation of The End Of The Affair? Elliot Goldenthal? Dario Marianelli? Michael Nyman?
3. How many superheroes make up the second incarnation of the Watchmen, in the film of the same name? Six? Seven? Eight?
4. In The Day The Earth Stood Still, Klaatu’s ship lands in which US city? New York? Washington? Chicago?
5. Who directed Starman, Memoirs Of An Invisible Man and The Ward? John Carpenter? Francis Ford Coppola? Ron Howard?
6. In Shutter Island, what is Teddy’s response to the following line, “If I was to sink my teeth into your eye right now, would you be able to stop me before I blinded you”? Give it a try? Not if I break your jaw? You haven’t got the balls?
7. The 1988 anime Akira is set in which year? 2014? 2017? 2019?
8. How many films has Terrence Malick directed (excluding the upcoming untitled film and Knight Of Cups)? 4? 5? 6?
9. Which actor wrote the script for Sam Raimi’s The Gift, based on his own mother’s reputed psychic abilities? Mel Gibson? Billy Bob Thornton? John Travolta?
10. The Godfather: Part II is the only sequel to have won the Best Picture Oscar. True or False?
FALSE (The Lord Of The Rings: Return Of The King)

Screenshots: Tombstone / Sideways / Spider-Man 3
Poster: 3000 Miles To Graceland
Actor: Thomas Haden Church


Fire Burns Brighter In The Darkness

Francis Lawrence

Jennifer Lawrence
Josh Hutcherson

Asking me to review a story in two halves is like asking me to review a Marvel film at this point: you’re going to get a bit of a rehash review. Sorry. The story, scenery and actors change but the positives/negatives are exactly the same and The Mockingjay: Part I crashes headfirst into every pitfall; all setup, no payoff. The ultimate problem with the split is the notion of having a glorious three course meal prepared and beautifully laid out before you, only to then wait a year before a burly Frenchman violently force feeds you for two hours like a foie gras goose; neither experience is overly satisfying and you’re left a little shell-shocked.

At the close of Catching Fire Katniss [Lawrence] is rescued by a group of rebels operating out of District 13, who are preparing a revolutionary uprising against the oppressive rule of the Capitol. The story opens deep underground, where the citizens of District 13 have been residing. Under the watchful eye of the cold President Coin [Julianne Moore], Katniss is reluctantly coached and prompted to be the inspirational face of the resistance. Unfortunately, all attempts to portray the teenager as a heroic figurehead ring false and it’s only when Katniss witnesses President Snow’s [Donald Sutherland] destructive retaliation first-hand that she is able to channel the rage, frustration and horror that she has experienced. To add to the emotional turmoil, Peeta [Hutcherson] is still being held by the Captiol and is being used as a puppet to spout propaganda that directly conflicts with Katniss’ rebellious agenda.

The kneejerk reaction is probably the most inaccurate one. Many people will leave the cinema saying the story was boring or that nothing happened. This simply isn’t the case. Most cinemagoers believe the meat of a film is the spectacle, whether it’s a big action scene, an emotional confrontation or a song about letting things go. But as films like Transformers: Age Of Extinction prove, all spectacle and no development does not a film make. What we have here are the necessary components to build character, generate worlds and drive the story to the climactic finale but before we can get to the spectacle element, we’re ushered out and told to wait until next year. Admittedly, on occasion, this can work quite well but in the case of a novel that relies on the beginning-middle-end structure to properly function, having the formula tampered with only ensures lacklustre pacing. To digress just a little, I also feel that whether or not the one novel split works hinges largely on the content of the book. Things like Harry Potter & The Deathly Hallows has so much going on in the last volume that you can effectively make a reasonable film out of the first and last half (rather than sacrificing a significant amount of plot detail) and The Hobbit which draws on external annotations and expansions to fill out what is a relatively small tale.

On the whole, it’s a bit of a jumbled confused narrative. The opening setting for the film (the red lit pipes and hospital beds) seem to contradict the closing shots of Catching Fire, the respective reintroductions to the other victors are somewhat out-of-character and slowly revealing the inner workings of District13 is a tad disorientating. So after this stumbling ground of establishment, we’re supposed to be thrust into the story but without the expected structure of ‘the games’ the audience is sold on the pending revolution – which has yet to actually rear its head. Taking the story out of the games and into the real world should ensure that the story feels fresh (and it does) but in the process they lost some of the terror and suspense in exchange for political intrigue and subterfuge. While trading a thunderdome style battle royale for Stalingrad style guerrilla warfare is a commendable transition, it largely felt like the staged promos rather than an actual resistance – equally, staying with Katniss and having the audience discover the state of the world as she does is a nice touch but leaves a lot of unanswered questions – both of which are side effects of the ‘half a story’ issue.

One of the Hunger Games franchise’s strongest elements is the quality of acting talent; specifically the front-and-centre presence of Jennifer Lawrence. Where the franchise falters, however, is peripheral returning characters – but what would you expect from a series of films about killing off 80% of the cast. Every time Peeta turns up, I want to slap his stupid helpless face, Gail gets a bit more screen time but it ultimately amounts to more of the same moping, Finnick has lost all sense of his confidence and swagger and a few other familiar faces pop up but they are mostly glazed over in favour of the new characters, such as the rigid President Coin and filmmaking Capitol defectors, Cressida, Pollox and Troy and.. some other guys, I don’t remember. The only ones who seem to come out unscathed from film-to-film are Snow and Haymitch.. but even then they don’t get enough lines or presence to really stretch their legs. Speaking of Cressida and her crew, the whole documenting thing fell flat with me. I liked the forced propaganda failing but when you finally see Katniss’ emotional outpouring it was so perfectly worded and without pause, hesitation or stumbling that rather than feeling passionate and from-the-heart, it simply came off as scripted. But despite the stellar central acting I still stand by a gripe that I had from the first film, whereby no matter how powerful and independent Katniss becomes, she’s still sitting on the fence of ‘which boy do I choose?’ despite the answer being blatantly obvious to the other characters and the audience. I’m sorry, if Twilight can’t get away with it, neither can The Hunger Games. It’s a cheap romantic gimmick and it’s never been very well executed. Lawrence manages to sell us the internal division but no matter how well she presents it, it’s still a tired uninspired development.

Stepping away from the pacing, storytelling and acting for a second, the film is just as technically commendable as its predecessors. Gone are the flamboyant extravagant flourishes of life in the Capitol and the focus is very much aimed at the death and destruction of the average District citizen. The CGI is used sparingly but utilised well, the costume design is fairly basic but this reflects the nature of the narrative, the score continues to maintain a reasonable level of flare and function throughout and the direction is fairly impressive considering the heavily retreaded scenarios and interactions. I imagine if one were to spend an entire day watching all four Hunger Games films at home (obviously this hypothetical situation is set in the future, so.. just picture hoverboards and jetpacks) this instalment would work well as a lead-in to the second part but at this point, it’s just not enough. Lacking in resolution, closure and finality (somewhat like the close of Catching Fire actually), The Mockingjay: Part One is entertaining but a touch disappointing.

Release Date:
20th November 2014

The Scene To Look Out For:
It’s no secret that this movie substitutes action for political machinations; which is a bold move for this type of release. One of the best examples of this, is the PR team brainstorming perpetrated by the District 13 cadre. Haymitch poses the question ‘what are the most moving moments of Katniss’ life’ which are then reeled off and listed on a board – almost like a TV panel rating a show of clearly deep and traumatic moments for this young woman, torn apart and displayed as if they were merely points to highlight and promote. The story desperately tries to convey this element that the figurehead they’ve concocted to spearhead their revolution is in actuality a real teenage girl and all the demands, expectations and manipulation only serves to distance her from the cause. If they succeed with that message anywhere, it’s here.

Notable Characters:
As I’ve said, this entire franchise is carried by Ms. Lawrence’s acting ability. However, without a villain, she wouldn’t be worth watching. It’s my opinion that Donald Sutherland has been delivering some of his finest performances of the last few decades in his short reoccurring scenes within these films. His President Snow is a ruthless, opportunistic, devious individual of the best kind and everything an audience would want from a heel.

Highlighted Quote:
“If we burn, you burn with us”

In A Few Words:
“Despite a few solid core elements, The Mockingjay: Part I flails wildly to generate some momentum and when it finally does, it closes”

Total Score:


Cinema City Film Quiz #131

[09 November 2014]

Winning Team:
Wedding Crashers 2: Quiz Crashers

Genre – After weddings dry up, the ‘crashers’ find new ways to meet women

Runners Up:
Bride And Gloom
Genre – Horror
The Sanctity Of Mawwiage
Genre – Arnie dresses as The Terminator and slays adulterers, whilst using a corny lisp
Mr Turner & Smooch
Genre – Artistic documentary about the first interspecies marriage

ROUND I: Pre-Production
1. What was the title of the sequel to Wayne’s World?
2. Who directed the 2000 film, Gladiator?
3. Ted, Fozzie and Little John are all what type of animal?
4. Which actor played the title role in Peter Jackson’s King Kong?
5. Timur Bekmembatov’s Night Watch is predominantly set in which city?
6. The following songs are from which film: Summer Nights, Hopelessly Devoted To You and You’re The One That I Want?
7. What rating was given to Harry Potter And The Prisoner Of Azkaban by the BBFC?
8. What was the subtitles of the third X-Men film?
9. Conan The Barbarian was released in which year?
10. Draw a xenomorph, from the Alien saga.
One point if distinguishable, two points if drawn well

ROUND II: Filming [Wedding Films]
1. 1950’s Father Of The Bride, starring Spencer Tracy and Elizabeth Taylor was remade in 1990 with which actor in the leading role? Tom Selleck? Joe Pesci? Steve Martin?
2. In addition to Annie, the maid of honour, how many bridesmaids does Lillian have, in Bridesmaids? Three? Four? Five?
3. Which of the following Tim Burton films does not feature a wedding? Corpse Bride? Edward Scissorhands? Beetlejuice?
4. The eponymous funeral in Four Weddings And A Funeral, is for which character? Matthew? Angus? Gareth?
5. Which of the following was a producer for My Big Fat Greek Wedding? Adrien Brody? Nicolas Cage? Tom Hanks?
6. Who is Connie marrying at the start of The Godfather: Part I? Carlo Rizzi? Salvatore Tessio? Emilio Barzini?
7. Christopher Walken’s character in Wedding Crashers, William Cleary, is passionate about what pastime? Sailing? Rock Climbing? Polo?
8. In Muriel’s Wedding, Muriel Heslop is obsessed with which musical group? Queen? The Beatles? ABBA?
9. Not included the uncredited Meg Ryan, how many producers worked on The Wedding Planner? 10? 12? 14?
10. In 2009’s Bride Wars, Kate Hudson and Anne Hathaway acted with their actual husbands. True or False?

ROUND III: Post-Production
1. Sean Bean, Peter O’Toole, Orlando Bloom and Brendan Gleeson all starred in which film?
2. The Omen, Maverick and Lethal Weapon 4 were all directed by whom?
3. What is the title of the fourth film in The Fast And The Furious franchise?
4. The town of Sleepy Hollow, in the Tim Burton film of the same name, was settled by colonials from which European country?
5. Who does the opening narration for the Disney animated film, Hercules?
CHARLTON HESTON (one of his lines includes ‘You go girl’)
6. How many films has Tarsem Singh directed?
7. What was the budget for the 2007 film, Stardust?
8. The following is the poster tagline for which film, “Once, they made history. Now, they are history”?
9. What was the title of the 2003 Michael Crichton novel adaptation about time travel, featuring Paul Walker, Gerard Butler, Michael Sheen and Billy Connolly?
10. The following is a quote from which Disney film, “It is not what things are, it is what they seem to be. Is that not so, madam”?

ROUND IV: Promotion & Release
1. Which of the following is not a Percy Jackson film? The Lightning Thief? The Sea Of Monsters? The Titan’s Curse?
THE TITAN’S CURSE (correct as of Nov 2014)
2. Charles Laughton and Maureen O’Hara starred in the 1939 adaptation of which Victor Hugo novel? The Man Who Laughs? The Hunchback Of Notre Dame? Les Miserables?
3. Which of the following is not a real film? Rockula? Phffft? How many times do I have to tell you, get out of my way?
4. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey was nominated for how many Academy Awards? Three? Four? Five?
5. The 1996 film, The Crucible was distributed by which studio? 20th Century Fox? Lionsgate? United Artists?
6. What is the name of the lead couple in the first Paranormal Activity film? Kirsti and Daniel? Katie and Micah? Dennis and Julie?
7. Which of the following did not appear in the 2008 remake of The Day The Earth Stood Still? John Cleese? Jon Hamm? John Cusack?
8. What is the name of Athena’s mechanical owl in Clash Of The Titans? Thetis? Calibos? Bubo?
9. In Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, what is the make of Cameron’s father’s car? Porsche? Ferrari? Lamborghini?
10. American Beauty’s title is a reference to a type of rose that rots from the root up. True or False?

Screenshots: Green Lantern / Blade Trinity / Smokin’ Aces
Poster: The Nines
Actor: Ryan Reynolds


Mankind Was Born On Earth, It Was Never Meant To Die Here

Christopher Nolan

Matthew McConaughey
Anne Hathaway

Due to the tone of this review, many may feel that I am being overly critical of this movie. The truth is, I think Interstellar is a powerful example of spectacle cinema but it’s also a very pretentious arrogant release which could have been a deeply better and shorter film. In other words, Interstellar is the thinking audience’s Avatar.

In an unidentified year in the not too distant future, the Earth is ravaged and dying. Those that remain in the dustbowl environment have become a caretaker generation, prioritising farming over artistic, athletic and scientific feats; survival is all that matters. Enter ex-pilot Cooper (it’s only really made clear later in the film that this is his surname) played by Matthew McConaughey. Much like everyone else, he has been forced to give up the very thing he was good at in order to perform farming duties for the preservation of the species and to provide a home for his aging father-in-law and two young children. After a particularly violent dust-cloud covers their house, Cooper’s daughter Murphy discovers a message in long strips of dust. Cooper deciphers the code as binary for co-ordinates, which leads him to a secret facility. Yeah, I know, just.. just stay with me for a second. The facility itself is run by the remnants of NASA who are concocting a Plan A / Plan B last hope scenario, which Cooper is hurriedly put in charge to pilot. Plan A is to take readings from a wormhole that has just opened, figure out how to harness gravity and transport all of humanity to a new habitat. Plan B is to colonise embryos on a new planet but has no escape plan for those who are still on Earth. So, Cooper and a small team of scientists and two robots set out to the unknown depths of space in an attempt to save the human race, in one form or another.

So, why am I so irked by this film? I’ve already explained that it’s a very well made film but it’s just as much schlock as other fantastical blockbusters but we inexplicably give it a pass because a.) it’s Nolan and b.) it’s very intelligent sounding. The best analogy I can come up with is gourmet fast food. Interstellar is a new restaurant that has opened up with a celebrity chef running the place, the décor is vibrant and interesting, the ingredients are the best possibly sourced and the staff are wonderfully pleasant. And as you look down the menu, you notice the only three items on sale are burgers, hotdogs and fried chicken. Suddenly there’s a wash of humility and all the pretentiousness and outwardly imposing elements of the restaurant fall away as you order fried chicken. It arrives in a container shaped like a bucket (but ironically) and tastes amazing. Yet no one eating in the restaurant will acknowledge that it’s effectively the same as eating at KFC, it’s just packaged better. The film has 1970s production design, 1990s writing and 2010s CGI. Five years ago, Moon was released using the same formula but with 1970’s writing, leading to one of the greatest science fiction stories of the last decade. Interstellar tries so hard to do the same but somewhat fails and settles on above average commendable filmmaking.

**spoilers within**
I should add, the above wasn’t a conclusion I came to lightly. It was only at a specific turning point that the film started to reveal what it truly was under the surface. Assessing their options, the crew identify three potentially habitable worlds and set out to recover any data. The first mission is a complete disaster, with loss of life, fuel and (thanks to the effects of the black-hole’s gravitational pull) time. Running out of options, the remaining crew members cannot visit both planets and are only able to stop off at one. The first (and closest) was discovered by Dr Mann, leader of the initial planet finding project and heralded by every character as the finest example of mankind. The second is further afield and was discovered by a scientist whom Dr Brand happens to be in love with. So the three remaining scientists begin a discussion as to which of the two planets is the more viable, which quickly devolves into Anne Hathaway giving an emotionally impassionate speech (which largely boils down to “I just want to”) and culminates with “Love is the one thing that transcends time and space” aaaand you’ve lost me. And then I started looking back at how the story had got us this far. McConaughey is playing a single father who provides the audience with an orgy of exposition: hacking a drone to show he’s clever, confronting the teacher about the Apollo mission to show he believes in science so much, more than enough examples that he’s just a regular guy trying to protect his kids, claiming the Earth is dying but no one seems to be able to explain exactly why, getting NASA to hire him to fly their last-chance rocket at the last possible minute because “you’re the best pilot we ever had” despite crashing his ship and ‘going off radar’… a few hour’s drive down the road!? And they even used the folding of space/time analogy from Event Horizon! I swear this could have been a late 90’s/early 2000’s Roland Emmerich script with the lead character being played by Owen Wilson. And now we’re being told that the daughter of one of humanity’s greatest scientists, a pioneering astronaut and brave physicist is only really in space to see her fucking boyfriend!? Goddamn it Nolan! Every bloody film! If there’s one area of cinema you don’t excel at (and there aren’t many) it’s the actions, motivations and dialogue of your female characters. And remember, despite all this, I still think this is a good film.

Furthermore, both my wife and I called the film’s plot twist (if that’s the correct terminology) right from the start, meaning that the movie instantly sullied itself by laying too many clues and threads. I wasn’t surprised, nor was I overwhelmed – which is what I had hoped for. Now, that’s not saying that I’m smarter than anyone who didn’t predict the finale, it’s just a statement that I’ve seen SO many films and in their various forms/genres, these tropes now act as hazard signals to me. Subsequently, seeds being sown for the audience to catch up stand out as warning signs to me and I end up muttering, “Oh they better not be going where I think they are with this.” But that’s one of the many reasons why studios love Nolan. He’s a high-brow director with deep thoughts and concepts that he has somehow been able to produce and market to the masses. Not only that, he comes from an independent background, so he also completes his work early and comes in under budget. But if we put all these negative aspersions to one side for just a minute, I have neglected one of the key elements of this release. From a technical standpoint, Interstellar is very very good. The CGI is incredibly impressive, the production value of the costumes and sets are wonderful and the overall feeling of isolation and desperation are brilliantly conveyed through the sound design. On top of that, Hans Zimmer’s score was gargantuan and overbearing – utilising a simple reoccurring theme and an exceptionally loud final output volume. As I viewed this release in IMAX, the experience is increased, combining the roar of the rockets with the thundering chords of the organ, to rattle and shake the entire room, as if Hans Zimmer was screaming from the recording booth, “GIVE ME ALL THE BASS YOU HAVE!”

As with all troublesome films, I maintain it’s worth a watch. There are those that will love every second of it and praise it as the greatest explorative science fiction release of our time, whereas others will say it follows in the footsteps of giants and remains stuck firmly in their shadow. I wouldn’t say it’s definitely either but it’s a solid release that is thought provoking, tense and thrilling but happily trips into the pitfalls of countless other mindless blockbusters while shouting out, “I meant to do that!” Which is certainly not what I was hoping for.

Release Date:
7th November 2014

The Scene To Look Out For:
**spoilers again**
I have found that the best science fiction is presented as bold-faced fact by directors who have very little interest in telling a typical science fiction story. And the best deep space stories aren’t things like Star Trek or Star Wars but effectively adaptations of fifteenth century naval exploration. But this movie shouldn’t have had the multiple happy endings, it should have ended like Aguirre: The Wrath Of God. Before bedding down for the first of their deep sleeps, Cooper and Brand discuss the nature of evil, the concept that nature is just a powerful frightening force but there is no malice within it. To which Cooper adds, “Only what we take with us.” Which is a crucial argument of this film that is glossed over far too quickly. I know it sort of returns when Mann and Cooper are wrestling in the wilderness, wondering which will prevail but that becomes a bit on the nose. And naming the character who is supposed to represent the best of us but turns out to represent the very worst of us, Mann? Come on Nolan, that’s just a little blunt, even for you.

Notable Characters:
I appreciate a lot of people won’t like the design of the robots TARS and CASE (and admittedly, I can’t really figure out if I like them or not) but I greatly enjoyed the personalities. With his humour and honestly levels boosted, TARS acts as the comic relief, while CASE is the more temperate sardonic cynic – yet both are distinctly different and I felt more for them than I did someone like Doyle [Wes Bentley] or (to a lesser degree) Romilly [David Gyasi].

Highlighted Quote:
“Once you’re a parent, you become the ghost of your children’s future”

In A Few Words:
“Much like Prometheus, there’s a plethora of interesting and truly wonderful elements but the reach overall whole exceeds its grasp and reveals itself to be deceptively stupid”

Total Score: