Ridley Scott

Christian Bale
Joel Edgerton

Sitting down to pen my thoughts on Exodus: Gods And Kings it became quickly apparent that this review was going to heavily mirror my analysis of Ridley Scott’s Robin Hood. Promising subject matter given a revisionist treatment with decent directing and wonderful production design but obscure casting and a complete lack of cohesive pacing. In truth, Mr. Scott has been in a bit of a directorial funk, punching out average releases but somehow missing the mark – but then one could argue that Scott’s career has always been a sea of ups-and-downs and it’s only a matter of time before he produces something truly exceptional in every regard. Unfortunately, this is most definitely not it.

It’s hard to know how much is worth going over in a brief synopsis. If you are unfamiliar with the biblical story of Moses, the key points to note are that the Hebrew people are slaves for the Egyptian empire and have been for the last four hundred years. While still a baby, Moses is smuggled away from his family and adopted by the Egyptian royal family and raised as one of them. When he comes of age, his true heritage is revealed and he must stand up against his effectively adoptive brother, the newly appointed ruler of Egypt, to demand the instant release of all Hebrew slaves. Moses, acting as a messenger from God, then performs several acts which torment the pharaoh and bring great suffering to his people. These plagues reach a head when the first born child of every family who has not marked their door is killed in the night. Grief stricken, the pharaoh releases the slaves, only to chase them down intent on slaughtering them all. But he and his army are wiped out after the miracle of the parting of the Red Sea is restored to normality and the waves wash away the oppressors, leading the Hebrews to settle their own community. That’s the bible version, this variant takes the above blueprints and applies several rationales to the plagues and reinterprets most of the climactic encounters into more plausible acts of guerrilla resistance.

With so much to cover and only two and a half hours of runtime, the timeline is immensely confusing; which is marked solely by the yo-yoing length of Moses’ hair and beard. But this isn’t simply limited to the passage of time from the start of the film to the end, the ambiguity even appears in small sections of key character developments. Having been banished from the palace, Moses wanders through the desert only to come across a nomadic tribe (the Kenites). A few shots later, he’s married. So, to break that down, Moses meets the Kenite nomads, introduces himself to one in particular (Zipporah, played by Maria Valverde), then he watches her weaving a rug and all of a sudden we get a wedding-and-bedding scene. It’s not even enough footage to constitute a montage! Then they have a seven or eight year old son – mercifully an on-screen subtitle informs us that nine years have passed. In truth, the whole film feels like it’s ‘rushing to get to the good bits’ and when it finally gets to the plagues, it rushes to get past them too. This leaves the entire storytelling hollow and with everyone racing from development-to-development with no time to gestate over what’s happened, there’s no actual conflict or consequence. If you haven’t seen the film, the notion of a fairly long movie about sibling rivalry, royal and political scandal, love, redemption, persecution, punishment, slavery and death being without conflict or consequence must be baffling but that’s exactly how it’s left. No doubt, as this is a Ridley Scott release, there is probably an additional hour or two’s worth of footage lying around somewhere waiting for some immense director’s cut that will improve the film tenfold but that’s not good enough. I love extended/director’s cuts but if we’re at the stage where studio interference is crippling cinema to the degree that it downgrades a good film to a subpar one, with the promise that they’ll fix it with a DVD/Blu-Ray release, we really need to start questioning whether these people have a clue as to what they’re doing – laughing to myself because I already know that studios have no fucking idea what good cinema is.

In addition to the odd pacing and lack of conflict there’s also no direct confrontation between Moses [Bale] and Ramses [Edgerton]. I know there’s a lot of underhand tension between the two (set up very early) and one scene in which Moses confesses to being a Hebrew only to reject that entirely in the next scene but outside of that there’s just a few surreptitious requests to let the Hebrews go. Moses never openly takes credit for the plagues and never explains the full terms and conditions to the consequences if he does not release the slaves immediately. Some could argue that would be because a.) Moses didn’t know the extent of God’s plan or b.) Moses suffered a head injury and he has no idea what’s going on. But that only highlights another issue. In a curious quest to sort of quantify or argue the credibility of the story from a revisionist perspective, the story of Moses leading the Hebrews out of Egypt requires even greater suspension of disbelief. As stated earlier, the script opts for a bit of a plausible, explainable, revisionist workaround for anything remotely divine or supernatural, so Moses is a bit atheistic until he suffers a head injury and starts seeing visions of a small boy who he believes to be either a messenger of or the direct voice of a single ruling god. The plagues themselves are given a “well I guess that makes sense” origin rewrite in the form of thrashing crocodiles, leading to frogs leaving the polluted water, leading to a pestilent amount of flies, which then in turn spread disease. But after that they sort of give up with the remaining three and seemingly shrug their shoulders. So the swarm of locust turn up.. just because and the blotting out of the sun isn’t even given the half-arsed eclipse bit, we just see a flash of lightning and then everything is set at night (for an indeterminate amount of time). But it’s the death of the firstborns that really kicks the audience. Without the ability to credibly argue why every single firstborn child of varying ages dies suddenly one night, unless their doorframe was marked with lamb’s blood, the story just moves quickly to the parting of the Red Sea and what it believes to be the ace up its sleeve: comet tsunami. Moses reaches the shore with a vast number of newly freed Hebrews (that I swear changes in quantity every time we see them) just as a comet crashes to the earth, sending a ripple through the sea which creates a temporary causeway – consequently followed by a thunderous and devastating tsunami wave that decimates all in its path.. sort of (see my highlighted scene below). Now, I’m not bitching as a Catholic because I genuinely hold myself to be impartial, my complaints are steeped in cinematic analysis. I have no qualms with the idea of seeing a different interpretation of this story, I just don’t feel the changes made were big or clever enough to warrant this feature being produced. No matter what your belief system, it’s distinctly easier to say a higher power brought about the plagues of Egypt than a series of well-placed coincidences. And I’m not saying, “take this route because it’s easy, established and/or unchallenging” but impartiality doesn’t benefit this film and by never picking a side between God is righteous / God is vicious, the story leaves the audience a little lost and bewildered, unsure of what exactly was accomplished.

Concerning the cast, I don’t want to give the whole skin-tone thing a great deal of credence, any more than I would in a review for the recent adaptation of Annie. I very much share the RSC mindset which implies that characters as written almost never need to be played by the ethnicity or gender that people assume they are. In my opinion, it should be the right actor for the right role – as such I think the casting of Christian Bale as Moses (rather than someone of either Egyptian or Jewish decent) is perfectly acceptable but as his personality and interpretation of the character almost constantly feels amiss, he is very much the wrong casting choice. Everyone, from the leads to the supports, to the faceless mass of extras are grossly undeveloped. So many individuals come and go with little impact on the story or the character’s emotional arc. Moses learns he is in fact of Hebrew descent and his adopted mother and genuine sister are sent into exile. Does he do anything about that? Nope, they’re just absent from two thirds of the film. Move on. The rivalry between Ramses and Moses is sown by both the deceased former pharaoh and Ramses’ mother but even then their influence seems minimal. You’ll probably notice that I haven’t actually mentioned at great length who portrays who, this is because there’s not much point going into any great detail about the supporting roles (played by John Turturro, Ben Kingsley, Sigourney Weaver and Aaron Paul) as they are completely overlooked and seem to only serve the purpose of audiences later muttering “he/she was in that?” To my mind only one actor seems to not only escape this release unscathed but gives a pleasing performance at the same time – which is why I have expanded on their presence in my highlighted character section below.

On a more positive note (as so heavily marketed in the trailers), the visual spectacle of this film is marvellous. The production design is rich and textural paralleling extremely well between the life of luxury and the commonplace squalor of the less fortunate. The sets, costumes, hair and make-up are all pooled together wonderfully and make for a very vibrant and real environment. Building on top of that, the glorious sweeping vistas and lavish computer generated effects, detailing these vast ancient kingdoms really captures a sense of wonder and might. Admittedly the score doesn’t really know what to do with itself and Alberto Iglesias’ musical accompaniment ranges from dismissive ambient filler to emotionally soaring tones which wane and rail against the visuals. It’s a very mixed bag aurally but one I would say finds itself on the more positive side of the spectrum.

All-in-all, Exodus: Gods And Kings is severely disappointing, yet people (critics, cinemagoers, etc) are generally agreeing that it was still better than Darren Aronofsky’s Noah – the other big budget Old Testament adaptation. Personally, I couldn’t disagree more. It is my belief that the liberties taken with the Noah story were bold, radical and paid off very well. It was a very mature and haunting release set in what can only be described as a different world/dimension/existence, to allow itself to say and do as it pleases. But audiences were unsure how to process this and wanted something more generic and by the book. Enter Exodus. Despite being what they supposedly want it’s labelled boring and hammy. In truth, somewhere in between Cecil B. DeMille’s The Ten Commandments and DreamWorks’ The Prince Of Egypt lies the perfect Moses adaptation but whatever Scott’s intentions, he became severely engulfed in this release and forgot all notion of how decent cinema is produced. I can only hope this means he will force his own epiphany and his next feature will excel beyond all expectation. We can but hope.

Release Date:
26th December 2014

The Scene To Look Out For:
So without the direct divine intervention angle, several of the films plot points and developments make little sense and extravagant moments are shrouded in absurdity. None more so than the heavily advertised destructive tidal wave of the Red Sea. I get the comet bit, I understand how it would create an impact chasm that would immediately affect the waterway in place, I even understand the water coming straight back and crashing through everything but what I can’t grasp is the way the wave individually selects who survives and who dies. Specifically that everyone dies except for Moses and Ramses. They are at the very centre of the causeway, riding hard, the wave has indiscriminately taken out most (if not all) of Ramses’ army and even several unfortunate Hebrews who were too close to the shoreline and the wave thunders down from 30-40 feet directly onto the two leads. After the spectacle finishes enjoying its screen time, both Moses and Ramses wash up on opposite shores alive and pretty much unscathed (bar another slight head injury for Moses). Of all the adaptations of this encounter, I’ve never seen it done as brazenly as this. Whether you want to portray a religious story or a purportedly realistic one, this is just utter nonsense.

Notable Characters:
I was going to talk about Joel Egerton and his arguably impressive performance which fleshes out a rather two dimensional character but instead the film belongs to Malak. Malak is an old Jewish word for messenger and is often interpreted to mean angel. In this case, Malak is a young boy who is either meant to be an angel or the voice of God or God itself, played by the incredibly talented Isaac Andrews. Child actors are always difficult to come by and usually fall into three categories of awkward, arrogant or adult. In other words, they’re either scared kids doing their best, upstart little shits that think they’re God’s gift or they give sardonic deliveries that sound cynical beyond their years. However, every now-and-then a child actor appears who doesn’t need to simply impersonate adult emotions and conversations but delivers them naturally – in the same way that Laurence Olivier could make Shakespeare sound contemporary and (for lack of a better word) real. Mr. Andrews is one such actor and although he only shares the screen with Christian Bale, he puts the veteran actor to shame.

Highlighted Quote:
“Is this your God; killer of children?”

In A Few Words:
“As with a lot of recent Scott releases, a lot of substance and spectacle but absolutely no soul or sincerity to the story that’s simply thrown at audiences”

Total Score:


Cinema City Film Quiz #134

[21 December 2014]

Winning Team:
Thy Womb With A View

Genre – E.M. Forster’s birth in Thailand

Runners Up:
Dangerously Banging Cock.. With Sexy Results
Genre – Pixar animation featuring voice talent of Rob Schneider
A Tale Of Two Fisters
Genre – A ghoftly tale of fiblings who are scary
Nick Menage A Tree
Genre – A sexy Christmas tree, two lovers, one hell of an orgy; starring Nicki Minaj

ROUND I: Pre-Production
1. The Italian Stallion is the nickname of which boxer, in Rocky?
2. Alistair Sim, Albert Finney, Michael Caine, Tim Curry, George C Scott, Patrick Stewart, Kelsey Grammer and Jim Carrey have all played which character?
3. What two colours make up Buddy’s outfit in Elf? (one point per correct answer)
4. What is the subtitle to Home Alone 2?
5. Who played the title role of the deceased musician resurrected as a snowman in the 1997 family film, Jack Frost?
6. Bill Murray starred in which 1988 Christmas film, directed by Richard Donner?
7. Crash is set over two days in which US city?
8. What is the name of the lead character in The Nightmare Before Christmas?
9. In what type of building is Die Hard 2 predominantly set?
10. Christian Bale starred in the adaptation of which Bret Easton Ellis novel?

ROUND II: Filming [South East Asian Cinema]
1. Ang Lee was born in which Asian sovereign state? Cambodia? Malaysia? Taiwan?
2. Toho Studio’s Godzilla was released in which year? 1950? 1954? 1959?
3. What was the first Western film to be publically screened in North Korea (albeit heavily edited)? Spider-Man? Bend It Like Beckham? Die Another Day?
4. Raise The Red Lantern is set in which decade? 1920’s? 1930’s? 1940’s?
5. Bong Joon-ho, Kim Ji-woon and Lee Chang-dong are all directors from which country? South Korea? Hong Kong? Vietnam?
6. In addition to being revered by critics, which film was named the greatest Chinese language film ever made at the Hong Kong Film Awards? Blood On Wolf Mountain? Spring In A Small Town? Ashes Of Time?
7. Which of the following Ozu films is about a young lady finding a husband and coming to terms with the notion of her widowed father remarrying? Late Spring? Brothers And Sisters Of The Toda Family? Floating Weeds?
8. What did Akira Kurosawa direct in between Seven Samurai and Throne Of Blood? I Live In Fear? The Lower Depths? The Idiot?
9. Who does Sung Tse-Ho work for in A Better Tomorrow? The Triad? The Hong Kong Police Force? The People’s Liberation Army, Hong Kong Garrison?
10. The 2002 biopic Chi-hwa-seon is also known as Fly High Run Far, I’ll Never Cry Again and Thunder Sword. True or False?
FALSE (Painted Fire / Drunk On Women And Poetry)

ROUND III: Post-Production
1. In Rise Of The Guardians, what is the name of the Father Christmas character?
2. Which 2006 film features the following couples forming a relationship: a Hollywood composer and a Daily Telegraph columnist; a book editor and an owner of a movie trailer advertising company?
3. In the alternate version of his life, in The Family Man, how many children does Jack Campbell have?
4. Which two actors play the lead roles of the 1983 John Landis film, Trading Places? (one point per correct answer)
5. Which Disney animated film opens and closes around Christmas?
6. Dudley Moore, John Lithgow and Burgess Meredith appeared in which film?
7. Sam Lowry is the lead character in which film?
8. In Eastern Promises, what type of business does Semyon as a front for his Russian mafia dealings?
9. How many years pass between the opening scene of Just Friends and the rest of the story?
10. What was the title of the Christmas film Doug Liman directed in between Swingers and The Bourne Identity?

ROUND IV: Promotion & Release
1. What is the name of the baby in Tokyo Godfathers? Kiyoko? Miyuki? Hana?
2. Which character gives Charles a sled for Christmas in Citizen Kane? Mary Kane? Walter Parks Thatcher? Jim Gettys?
3. Which Christmas film did Catherine Hardwicke direct before Twilight? Black Christmas? The Family Stone? The Nativity Story?
4. Which of the following Christmas films is set during the first world war? Joyeux Noel? I’ll Be Seeing You? Remember The Night?
5. In The Lemon Drop Kid, Bob Hope’s character has three weeks to raise how much money? $5,000? $10,000? $15,000?
6. In the John Ford/John Wayne film 3 Godfathers, how many of the title characters live until the end of the film? 3? 2? 1?
ONE (John Wayne’s character Robert.. who is then arrested)
7. What is Fran’s (Shirley MacLaine) job in The Apartment? Elevator operator? Bus conductor? Singing telegram?
8. The last line of It Happened On Fifth Avenue starts “Remind me to nail up the board in the back fence.” How does the quote end? Don’t want the dog running away? He’s coming through the front door next winter? You know where the toolbox is?
9. Which of the following celebrations does not feature in Holiday Inn? Lincoln’s birthday? Independence day? Labour day?
10. The father/son roles of Pietari and Rauno in Rare Exports are played by actual father/son actors. True or False?
TRUE (Onni and Jorma Tommila)

Screenshots: Santa Clause / Jingle All The Way / Miracle On 34th Street
Poster: Kiss Kiss Bang Bang
Actor: Richard Attenborough


Witness The Defining Chapter

Peter Jackson

Martin Freeman
Richard Armitage
Ian McKellen

Re-reading my review for An Unexpected Journey, my hopes were high as I was immensely surprised by how much I enjoyed the first instalment of a Hobbit adaptation. This quickly dissipated as we reach The Desolation Of Smaug and the niggles and frustrations from the first film were magnified while all the positive elements shrank into a background of frankly questionable CGI. Which leads us here, to The Battle Of The Five Armies and like many of the main characters, I’m drained, defeated and mourning somewhat. What little hope that was planted by the first film has been quickly smothered and failed to blossom. All I’m left with now is a sense of disappointment.

The story once again picks up the second the previous film closed. Smaug circles Laketown and reigns down fire and death on the small populace. Then Bard kills him. No spoiler there, it’s dealt with so very, very quickly (as it is in the book, to be fair). With Erebor secured, Thorin [Armitage] and his company search the vast halls of gold for the arkenstone, the king’s jewel. Roaming the corridors, Thorin slowly grows mad with greed and mistrust. All the while, Bilbo [Freeman] is in possession of the jewel Thorin desires. Outside of the mountain’s keep, Bard [Luke Evans] is hailed as a hero and those that survived the attack look to him for leadership and guidance. He takes his people to the ruins of Dale and they do their best to thrive on what little they can forage. Thankfully Thranduil [Lee Pace] arrives with supplies and an army set on storming the mountain and reclaiming personal effects. As this army masses outside the mountain walls, Thorin sends word to his cousin for re-enforcements and two arms of an orc/goblin army are marching their way to one of the key strategic positions of Middle Earth.

One of the overriding strengths of this series was the quality of acting talent assembled. Aside from the call-backs, everyone who was given a role to perform did so with passion and vigour. Up until a point. While I praised the inclusion of the elf Tauriel [Evangeline Lilly], her relationship with Kili [Aidan Turner] fizzled and faded to a lot of staring and single-tear moments. With so much already going on, the conclusion to this relationship felt more bloated and clichéd than ever. Luke Evans returned to the role of Bard and ensured that despite the several similarities, it wasn’t simply a discount Aragorn and instead felt like a decent and rounded character – even if his stature and prowess seemed to stand out amongst his fellow Laketowners. Once again, Armitage and Freeman carry so much of these films on their sizeable shoulders, ranging their respective deliveries with precision and skill. But in this final outing, the real weight of their character development is glossed over all too quickly; all that malice and addiction Bilbo was combatting in the second film is all but gone. The ring is dismissed and any parallel between his coveting of the ring and Thorin’s dragon sickness is just glazed over and conquered with relative ease. Incidentally, I have some questions (no doubt answered in an extended DVD/blu-ray release but I don’t have time for that), firstly did Thranduil get his gems back? Where did those armoured goats come from? Were the orcs not able to command the Dune worms to involve themselves in the battle, or why not just burrow up through the mountain for that matter? Why did Bilbo start chucking rocks in the final battle, rather than using his short-sword? When Bard is using his son as a sight for his cobbled-together longbow, why did the force of the string not whip the boy in the face? What exactly is up with Galadriel’s powers? That woman makes no sense to me. But the biggest question I have is one which I’ve asked since the first film: rather than introducing characters who were not present in the book, would it be too much to ask to develop the dwarves? I mean, they’re only the central characters in the source material and as the film wound down, I looked across their faces and thought, “Who the hell are you? Have you been here the whole time?” I had hoped that we would spend more time with these largely unknown heroes with each passing film and the only thing I can tell you is that one of them looks like a badger, one of them is a simple young guy, one of them is a big fat ginger and the other.. er.. three? Four? They’re just extra dwarves. After spending nearly eight hours with these characters, you’d think I’d at least be able to identify who’s who. Their side-lining will forever be the bane of these movies.

But as good as the acting is, the Hobbit films have really been about the technical aspects and with a focus on 3D, advanced spinning panoramic shots of CGI backdrops and a higher frame-rate, much of the majesty of location has been lost. Gone are the iconic shots that defined The Lord Of The Rings with rolling mountains, hills and actual locations enhanced by spectacular set building and simple computer generated effects. In other words, despite being a defining quality, New Zealand feels largely missing from these movies. And it’s not just the backdrops that suffer, the mounting adversaries and advancing forces feel diminished. For example, Orcs are just the worst fodder. Despite marching in formation and obeying orders, they’re the easiest enemies to confound and defeat, felled by skilled warriors and novice children alike. Yet we’re supposed to believe that due to their number, they are a reckonable force. Even key supporting characters aren’t safe. Before the eponymous battle begins, the Ironfoot dwarves appear, led by Thorin’s cousin, portrayed by Billy Connolly. Now, I have no actual knowledge of this, so the following is just speculation based on the final result but excluding his eyes, I’m quietly convinced that Connolly’s entire performance was motion capture rather than make-up; which is such a baffling decision. Yet all of this could be partly forgivable if the score really rallied the audience and drew them in for one last charge. Unfortunately, the only identifiable moments of Howard Shore’s score were the Lord Of The Rings themes. I know the solemnity of the Misty Mountain theme from An Unexpected Journey may not have fit once they claimed Erebor but would that not be the running theme of the characters and their plight? I find it flat-out stupid that the strongest element of this new score was absent from this final instalment.

Having previously complimented Jackson on his decision to leave the meat of the dragon attack until this film, I’m bitterly disappointed that the encounter was done and dusted before the opening title card. Narratively speaking it would make sense: how long would a wooden town last against a dragon, especially when they only have one black arrow to stop it? But to have the confrontation end so quickly was just a bit of a shock. And what was with all those Laketown survivors whinging about not having any food? There’s a huge fucking dragon in the lake, just cut him up and feast for a bloody lifetime! I am willing to forego a movie’s stumbling if it is saved by a later instalment. Case in point, Casino Royale was amazing, Qauntum Of Solace was ok but rather flat, then Skyfall managed to set an interesting tone that not only provided a decent film but elevated Quantum Of Solace to ‘necessary character development’ rather than ‘botched sequel.’ I was desperately hoping for the same thing here. To my mind, The Hobbit opened well and then started to lose its way a bit but if the third instalment answered the necessary questions and delivered the finale we were all expecting and hoping for, everything would work. You could watch all three back-to-back in a marathon and they’d work beautifully. Only it doesn’t. And as the film closes in pretty much the same way Revenge Of The Sith did, you can’t help but sigh and mutter, “Not again.” One praiseworthy element (that other prequels have never been able to do) is the nature of legacy. If you introduce a child to Star Wars using the prequels first and then the sequels, all the call-backs don’t make any sense and the twists of the original films are all but ruined. If, on the other hand, you were to show a child The Hobbit films first and then Lord Of The Rings, there are very few reveals that are haphazardly spoiled. Legolas goes off to find Strider, whose real name is not revealed; Saruman’s treachery is never properly shown; Bilbo’s magic ring is never explicitly identified as the one ring; I was half-expecting Balin to wave goodbye to Bilbo and then find a map and say to himself, “Hmm.. the Mines of Moria, eh? Maybe I’ll go take a look at them..” but he didn’t. Not even referenced. It’s just a nice touch of restraint.

So at the end of things, how has The Hobbit fared? Averagely, I think is the honest answer. It’s a pretty commendable prequel trilogy but one which felt like too much was injected and the conclusions of these new elements were simply unsatisfactory. Portraying a relatively small children’s tale as a three part blockbuster epic was always an ambitious challenge and Lord Of The Rings comparisons were always going to be drawn but whether or not Jackson failed or succeeded, I think we can all agree that in lesser hands, the final outcome could have been much worse. A small modicum of positivity and possibly heavily optimistic but true nonetheless.

Release Date:
12th December 2014

The Scene To Look Out For:
Tolkien has always spoken fondly of Hobbits and held them in high regard. At almost any opportunity in his books, Hobbits are the honest folk who just go about their business and keep themselves to themselves. I know this is some sort of allegory for rural folk at the turn of the twentieth century but I fucking hate Hobbits, they’re bloody awful. As a man who grew up in a city and moved to a rural setting, I find Hobbits to be backward, racist, ignorant, lazy, selfish and stubborn. Say what you will of the other fictional races, at least their defining traits aren’t limited to getting drunk, high, eating or sleeping. Nowhere is this more cemented than Bilbo’s return from his quest. Tired and emotionally exhausted, he arrives in the Shire to find his home ransacked and his items being auctioned off. Furthermore, he is required to prove his identity in order to retain his own possessions. It’s a fucking harrowing image and highlights Hobbits as the true detestable villains of Middle Earth. Piss on Hobbits. And before you start blathering on about Frodo saving the world, he didn’t. He put the ring on and tried to escape, it was only because Gollum jumped on him that the ring was destroyed. Bugger the lot of them.

Notable Characters:
Rather than choosing a positive standout performance, I’m going to prey upon a negative one. I don’t have anything against Orlando Bloom, the guy has his roles and has proven himself in several releases but returning to the role of Legolas always felt odd. Not because of his inclusion but because of the performance. I can accept that his face has aged ten years, I don’t care about that, what annoys me is his manner. The Lord Of The Rings was a breakout role for Bloom and with everything new and wondrous to him, it came across in his portrayal of the elf. Here, he’s older, more arrogant, aggressive, poised and composed. The reason it annoys me is it doesn’t work with the continuity. If it were another actor, you could forgive and even understand their interpretation but as the same individual has returned to the role but can no longer channel that same pitch.. I dunno.. it feels like attending a reunion concert and the lead singer’s voice is just warped and alien.

Highlighted Quote:
“If you don’t mind, I have a wee proposition. Would you all mind just sodding off?”

In A Few Words:
“A rather sullen close to a potentially promising series. Acceptable but Jackson is capable of so much more”

Total Score:


Cinema City Film Quiz #133

[07 December 2014]

Winning Team:
Over The Topless

Genre – Sylvester Stallone arm wrestles a group of strippers

Runners Up:
The Four Amigos
Genre – Magic realism
Naked Topless Gun
Genre – Leslie Nielson and Tom Cruise team up for allegedly non-homoerotic times
Bras’d Off
Genre – Miley Cyrus gets her bangers out in a mining town
Les Quizerables
Genre – Sad quiz revolution musical (with people getting their heads chopped off.. topless)

ROUND I: Pre-Production
1. 2000’s Dungeons & Dragons was an adaptation of which RPG franchise?
2. The Jim Carrey film Liar Liar is part of which genre?
3. What colour are the Terminator’s eyes (the endoskeleton of the T101 model)?
4. Emmet Brickowski, Vitruvius and Batman are characters from which film?
5. The Lost World: Jurassic Park was released how many years after Jurassic Park?
6. Which John Wayne film was remade by the Coen Brothers?
7. What is the name of Drew Barrymore’s character in The Wedding Singer?
8. How old is Kevin McCallister in Home Alone?
9. Who stars in the lead role in the 1980 film, Private Benjamin?
10. Don’t Lose Your Head and Follow That Camel are part of which franchise?

ROUND II: Filming [Topless scenes in film]
1. What is the name of Ariel’s father in The Little Mermaid? Poseidon? Triton? Neptune?
2. In Cast Away, Chuck Noland works for which courier service? FedEx? UPS? Royal Mail?
3. X-Men Was released in which year? 1999? 2000? 2001?
4. Who played the role of Frankenstein’s father in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein? Ian McKellen? Bernard Hill? Ian Holm?
5. The following quote is from which film, “Pardon me, my good sir, but I demand you release that young lady”? Hercules? The Hunchback Of Notre Dame? Pocahontas?
6. What is the name of the governing vampire coven introduced in Twilight: New Moon? Spezia? Volturi? Anatra?
7. How many astronauts are part of Taylor’s crew in Planet Of The Apes (including Taylor)? 4? 5? 6?
8. How many songs feature in South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut? 11? 14? 18?
9. Which studio distributed The Incredible Hulk? Universal? Sony? MGM?
10. While filming The Passion Of The Christ Jim Caviezel suffered hypothermia on the cross, separated his shoulder and was struck by lightning. True or False?

ROUND III: Post-Production
1. Which three Terry Gilliam films make up his Orwellian Triptych? (one point per correct answer)
2. The following films are mostly set in which year: Bobby, The Deer Hunter, Made In Dagenham and Girl, Interrupted?
3. Complete the title of this film: The Englishman Who..
4. What did Ivan Reitman direct in between Ghostbusters II and Dave?
5. What was the budget on Django Unchained?
6. Tucker and Esther are the names of the parents of which character in the Batman franchise?
7. Who directed the 2003 film, Elf?
8. When imitating a Nakatomi employee, in Die Hard, what alias does Hans Gruber adopt?
9. The majority of Schindler’s List takes place in which country?
10. The following quote is from which film, “Better a silly girl with a flower, than a silly boy with a horse and a stick”

ROUND IV: Promotion & Release
1. How many of Seven Psychopaths’ cast feature in the Marvel film adaptations? 3? 4? 5?
THREE (Colin Farrell, Sam Rockwell, Harry Dean Stanton)
2. What is the name of the ancient blood god in Blade? La Magra? Il Sangue? Da Blutgott?
3. The following is the poster tagline for which film, “It was the deltas against the rules.. the rules lost”? Animal House? Monsters University? Old School?
4. The Polar Express is set in which decade? 1950’s? 1960’s? 1970’s?
5. Bill Harford’s mask in Eyes Wide Shut is predominantly white, with what colour decoration/trimmings? Gold? Silver? Red?
6. What is the running time of It’s A Wonderful Life? 110 minutes? 120 minutes? 130 minutes?
7. Who received top billing on the poster for LA Confidential? Kevin Spacey? Russell Crowe? Danny DeVito?
8. How many years pass between Ghostbusters and Ghostbusters 2? 3? 5? 7?
9. Which Lethal Weapon film opens with Riggs, Murtaugh and a cat attempting to disarm a bomb? Lethal Weapon 2? Lethal Weapon 3? Lethal Weapon 4?
10. Kingston Falls (Gremlins) and Hill Valley (Back To The Future) were the same set on the Universal backlot. True or False?

Screenshots: Indiana Jones & The Temple Of Doom / Casper / Grosse Point Blank
Poster: Evolution
Actor: Dan Aykroyd


Not Everyone Has What It Takes To Be Great

Damien Chazelle

Miles Teller
JK Simmons
Melissa Benoist
Paul Reiser

Set in the fictional Shaffer Conservatory music academy in New York, we are introduced to Andrew Neiman [Teller], a 19 year old drum student with a significant degree of talent. One night while rehearsing, Andrew is overheard by a ruthless teacher, Terence Fletcher [Simmons]. He demands Neiman play several styles for brief intervals, pauses and then leaves. A few days later Neiman is asked for another impromptu audition and manages to get into Fletcher’s personal band; an elite group of exceptionally gifted musicians. Before the first rehearsal, Fletcher takes Andrew to one side and calms his nerves by asking about him and his drumming. As the practice begins however, Fletcher immediately morphs into a terrifying and frankly monstrous tutor who belittles his students, emotionally batters them and physically assaults them. Despite his talk with Andrew, Fletcher hurls insults and abuse at the drummer demanding he play pitch perfect without error. As far as story goes, there’s not much to convey, Andrew increases his training and Fletcher remains unimpressed. They battle back-and-forth and any sort of life outside of the school is lost for Andrew. In all honesty, this brutal method of coaching has been seen many times before but rarely with this much intensity outside of sporting or war dramas.

There are several similarities between Whiplash and 2013’s Grand Piano, also written by Damien Chazelle. Both feature talented musicians who require the proper incentive to give an outstanding performance and both of their motivators are malicious torturers (to a degree). The difference really comes down to the direction and the performances. Grand Piano felt more like a mainstream thriller that a studio had warped and adapted into something they could market and sell. Whereas everything about Whiplash screams independent cinema; the cinematography, the direction, the editing, the almost invisible peripheral performances, the overwhelming emotional tension thrust upon the audience, in these areas, the film thrives.

As with most independent films, this feature is predominantly about character, more than the story, more than the music, character is paramount. Unfortunately, it only really has scope for two characters: Andrew and Terence. Anywhere else this could be a massively detrimental point but for a movie rooted so deeply in the nature of obsession, it makes perfect sense. And yet, I can’t help but feel the supporting roles were just as important but criminally neglected, specifically, the Nicole character, whose entire presence felt underdeveloped and unnecessary, and Andrew’s father Jim, who has two key moments throughout the film but is largely only wheeled out to give Andrew a nurturing coddling.. which is apparently the wrong kind of support. But even Andrew himself, with all his drive, devotion and energy is shadowed by Terence Fletcher. Not because he’s louder or more flamboyant but because he has more depth and charm (if that’s the right word). Andrew is focused with such blinkered vision that it makes his choices difficult to identify with, whereas the mystery and tyranny of Fletcher intrigue the audience. Subsequently, the film becomes more about him and his motivation. But to understand this character we need to question the nature of bullying and abuse. Does abuse for the sake of a ‘purpose’ constitute as passionate drive or just abuse? Are we to believe that because Fletcher is under the impression that his brow-beating method works, he is justified in his treatment of young people? Like a blacksmith taking a rod of iron and after continually immersing it in fire and beating it mercilessly, forges it into a sharply edged, perfectly crafted steel sword – but nothing of the original form remains (I appreciate that’s not entirely accurate but humour me). Fletcher isn’t honing musicians, he’s crafting living instruments. I’m not saying the film portrays this positively or encourages it, merely illustrates the journey to success that this musician underwent and that without the drums, his life was a vacuum.

Yet I’m still torn by the method. If an extroverted individual goes into a shop and is greeted by a friendly extrovert, they feel invited and their shopping experience is well received. Maybe they stay longer, maybe they buy more than they initially would and perhaps they walk away thinking fondly of the experience, pledging to return again. If, on the other hand, that very same extrovert greets an introverted customer, they could feel the entire shopping experience was unpleasant and leave before making a purchase or even browsing. This was touched upon in the notion that one of Fletcher’s former protégés, who had achieved great success, suffered from immense anxiety and killed himself. This is a clear example that Fletcher’s abuse didn’t work, even when it seemingly did. But the movie bats this away with the reaffirmation that if you fail at any point, you were never destined to succeed in the first place. Now, I don’t believe this observation is necessarily a fault of the film and I wouldn’t mark the film down for this development, primarily because the characters delivering the dialogue are in themselves contorted and biased narrators.. but it’s still an uncomfortable message. As I left the cinema, I couldn’t help but wonder if this film ended incorrectly. Arguably it ended the only way it could and elicited the perfect emotional response from the audience but from a personal perspective, it was far too upbeat. Music is an obsessive artistic pursuit unlike most any other and this film purports that practice makes perfect but that simply isn’t the case. If anything, that goes against the very nature of what Jazz is, which I believe to be the spontaneous and fluid movement of music, not the exact repetition and rehearsal of set composition. It felt almost as if someone remade Full Metal Jacket and after the first half decided that R. Lee Ermey’s motivation of Vincent D’Onofrio’s character would inspire the young man and he goes on to win the fucking Vietnam war. To my mind that kind of artistic drive can only end one way: death. As such, films like The Red Shoes, Black Swan and Control are superior because they act as a warning. That kind of devotion, commitment and exertion comes at a price. Maybe I’m wrong, maybe Whiplash tries to tell us something different, maybe the message is that the music and the performance are eternal, the musician is merely the honed instrument, the catalyst. But as a human, shouldn’t there be something more? To my mind, the movie responds, what more do you want? And with that, every flaw and fault of the film seemingly melts away.

Release Date:
16th January 2015

The Scene To Look Out For:
This movie is less an unfolding story and more a sequence of beautiful shots and memorable interactions. There are plenty of standout moments and visuals that both crush and elevate the audience. If anything in particular stood out to me, it was something that felt so curiously out of place. Andrew has only just started with the band and acts as the core drummer’s reserve (essentially, he tunes the drums and turns the pages). The core drummer walks off stage and hands the playbook to Andrew to look after. In order to purchase a drink from a vending machine, Andrew places the folder on a chair behind him and enjoys his drink. A few seconds later the core drummer returns and demands his playbook, which is now mysteriously gone. There. Right there. That’s my problem. At the start of the scene, Fletcher specifically says if he sees a playbook simply lying around there will be hell to pay. So, you know someone is going to lose their book. But there’s no logical explanation as to what happened to the book, it’s just gone and the idea that Fletcher saw it and took it is beyond far-fetched considering the length of the corridor and the amount of time it was unguarded. It’s just a bit cheap. And with brilliant direction and amazing performances, this kind of sloppiness stands out like a sore thumb.

Notable Characters:
As stated earlier, there really only are two performances in this film and depending on the kind of person you are, you’ll either see Miles Teller or J.K. Simmons as the dominant presence. Some will say that the energy levels are equal in both but the ferocity in Simmons’ performance is more captivating, others will say that Teller’s robotic one-track obsession is more spellbinding, especially when you consider he’s actually playing the instrument. Personally, it comes down to the Amadeus argument for me. I can’t choose which of the two is more important or impressive because without one, you wouldn’t have the other. And as far as acting is concerned, both deliver career highs that will no doubt garner them unmitigated levels of praise.

Highlighted Quote:
“Either you’re deliberately out of tune and sabotaging my band, or you don’t know you’re out of tune and that’s even worse”

In A Few Words:
“A very powerful and gripping exploration of obsession and dedication with clearly impressive performances but left an unpleasant aftertaste that didn’t sit right with me”

Total Score: