IN THE HEART OF THE SEA

Based On The Incredible True Story That Inspired Moby Dick

Director
Ron Howard

Starring
Chris Hemsworth
Benjamin Walker
Tom Holland
Brendan Gleeson
Ben Whishaw



Despite a crippling fear of whales (seriously) I have actually read Moby Dick and quite frankly it’s boring as hell; heavy with the trivialities of the whaling business. Subsequently, not a great starting point. But Moby Dick itself is based on true events and as is always the case, the real life story is more gripping and far-fetched than fiction.

In The Heart Of The Sea opens in 1850 with author Herman Melville [Whishaw] seeking out the last living survivor of a doomed whaling ship. Melville tracks down Thomas Nickerson [Gleeson] and pays him everything he has to hear the real story of the Essex’s fateful final voyage. Nickerson is hesitant but finally acquiesces. The story then shifts to 1820’s Nantucket (an island off the coast of mainland Massachusetts) and we are introduced to the very capable seaman Owen Chase [Hemsworth] as he is assigned the position of first officer under the inexperienced Captain George Pollard [Walker]. Friction between the two is immediately expressed as jibes about entitlement, lineage and achievement are exchanged. The Essex is put to sea and we meet Nickerson aged fourteen [Holland]. Not long after embarking, the crew encounter a squall and conflicting orders between Chase and Pollard leave the ship battered by the storm. After several months of sparse results, the officers hear a tale of a monstrously huge bull Sperm whale which protects a school of hundreds of unfished whales. Desperate for a good haul, the men set further to sea than is generally preferred and happen across their prize. However, as warned, the whales are protected by a battle-scarred alpha which dispatches one of the rowboats before targeting the ship itself. With lives lost and miles from any known shore, the crew’s nerves are shot and it isn’t long before supplies wane and alternative food sources need to be addressed. I’ve missed a huge section of the story there but this is just a synopsis of the key points, so you’ll have to forgive me.

So much works for this film, the production design is richly detailed from the costumes, hair and make-up to the living, breathing Nantucket port town. The cinematography also lends an extra layer with its cloudy lenses, vignetting and colour aberration to imitate 19th century photography. In fact, from a technical standpoint, the film is decently proficient. I’ve heard several complaints about the visual effects but if I’m honest they weren’t nearly as bad as they could have been and apart from a few fast-paced rowing sequences, everything looked acceptable. On top of all that, Roque Banos’ score is fitting, producing elation, tension and despair. But for a high budgeted period drama, these are the elements we sort of expect to succeed effortlessly and sure enough there are a few standout problems that effectively scuttle the entire release.

First of all, the acting is not bad. From all involved no one actor can be highlighted as a weak element. Having said that, no one actor conjures anything of merit to standout from the rest and for a film dealing with desperation, suffering, animal attack, cannibalism, death and survival, that simply isn’t good enough. A lack of supporting character development means that when the crewmembers start to perish and are later consumed, next to no connection has been made. Thusly, any empathy for these men is purely surface level and their strife is marked by the audience but not felt. This brings us down to five key roles: that of Chase, Pollard, young and old Nickerson and Melville. All five of them perform dutifully and as actors, I think each is incredibly talented but any truly memorable moments are only gleaned and each stumbles predictably through their character’s arc. Chase is steadfast from start to finish and his stoic nature can easily be misconstrued as underperforming from Hemsworth but I don’t think that’s the case. Benjamin Walker is an extremely underrated actor and while he holds himself well as the ill-fated captain, his stubbornness and misfortune is regrettably almost abandoned in the second half. Gleeson and Holland as Nickerson give admirable performances but as stated, nothing befitting the plight they are enduring/have endured and Ben Whishaw’s Melville is curiously keen but I didn’t believe his motivation enough; as the film wound to its conclusion I didn’t really care for the briefly touched upon home life or the fear that his work wouldn’t do the tale justice. But of course, all of this is irrelevant because for many audiences, the only real talking point is the accents. As stated earlier, Nantucket is an island off the state of Massachusetts and as such isn’t exactly a Boston accent as several have claimed it to be. I can’t attest with any authority that the accents I heard were accurate in any manner of speaking but they in no way impeded my enjoyment of the film. Once you aurally tune yourself to the unusual vowel usage you just adapt and watch the film – but for certain cinemagoers, this is not possible and they like to hear simple contemporary accents. Poor bastards.

In truth, it’s the pacing that utterly kills the film. Bound to the source material (except when it comes to the framing device which, to my understanding, is entirely fictional) In The Heart Of The Sea opens well, setting the tone and historical period for uninformed audiences, only to peter out for the second hour. Unfortunately, this is somewhat unavoidable as once the crew are without ship and stranded at sea there is little for them to do but survive with few day-to-day developments. But while we could be forgiving, this is Ron Howard we’re talking about. He’s effectively executed a very similar release in the form of Apollo 13 and that worked perfectly from start to end. On top of that Life Of Pi managed it but I think that’d be considerably unfair owing to the vastly superior source material. Even still, the film bolts out of the gate from the off but then loses both heading and speed, leaving us with a sort of listing affair that drifts aimlessly to an anti-climactically handled moral conclusion.

Interestingly, the whale hunting itself is handled quite tastefully, skilfully avoiding glorification and anachronistic self-doubt. I genuinely believe there’s no sense in rewriting our history just because we have evolved (to a degree) to understand this kind of act is wrong. But in addition to the split pacing, the film’s biggest downfall is that it doesn’t know whether it’s a heroic feat of human endurance or a warning of man’s petulance, arrogance and violent nature. Subsequently, I’m not sure if Ron Howard was the right director for this project. What this movie needed was someone who respects nature (without being a bleeding heart about it) and absolutely hates humans. Sure, it’s hard to root for the villains to survive but that’s essentially what we’re talking about here and with Howard’s favouring of straight forward emotionally driven stories, he doesn’t seem to get what this film could have been. In real life, the crew were doing a high demand job out of necessity but they were also miscreants – the script neatly omits a sequence wherein the real-life Essex crew started a fire as a prank and burned down an entire island. The whale should have been the personification of nature’s vengeance, a terror borne to bring balance. What I’m trying to say here is that this film should really have been Godzilla.. but about oil farming instead of nuclear weapons. In summation, while it’s not perfect, it’s pleasing enough and an average winter release but nowhere near worthy of the cast, crew or subject matter involved.


Release Date:
26th December 2015

The Scene To Look Out For:
Everything about this film hinges on the whale attack. But this is very much a double-edged sword for after the blockbuster sequence the film has nothing left in its bag of tricks. There is a smattering of interesting scenes and encounters but overall the film is spent and audiences quickly feel the same fatigue.

Notable Characters:
As I said before, there is no one standout performance in this film and I genuinely stand by that. I can think of a performance that was agreeable or disagreeable. Or even that memorable if I’m honest. The only one who came close was Frank Dillane as Pollard’s cousin, the overly outspoken and entitled, Henry Coffin (in real life Owen Coffin but renamed to avoid confusion).

Highlighted Quote:
“The story of the Essex is the story of two men; Captain George Pollard and first mate Owen Chase”

In A Few Words:
“An acceptable nautical period film but lacking a clear message and steady pacing it suffers horribly”

Total Score:

3/5

Cinema City Film Quiz #157

[20 December 2015]


Winning Team:
Johnny Depp-ending On Your Point Of View
Genre – Surreal drama

Runners Up:
Fear And Loathing In Chapelfield
Genre – Johnny Depp goes last minute Christmas shopping and has a bad acid trip outside Clas Ohlsen
Festive Cheer And Loving In Las Vegas
Genre – Instead of a drug binge, Hunter S Thompson just sings some carols and that
Depp The Halls
Genre – Christmas horror comedy in which Johnny Depp decorates his house with Holly (Hunter)
Bodybuilders Clit
Genre – Google it
Fucking A Corpse Bride: Necrophilia Is Dead Exciting
Genre – A festive tale for the kids – stop dead animation at its best
The Jolly Stormtroopers
Genre – A long time ago in a galaxy far far away


ROUND I: Pre-Production
1. National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation takes place during which holiday?
CHRISTMAS
2. What type of transport is The Polar Express in the film of the same name?
TRAIN
3. In Home Alone 2 Kevin finds himself in which city?
NEW YORK CITY
4. Scrooged is an adaptation of which short story?
A CHRISTMAS CAROL
5. Who plays the role of Scott Calvin/Santa in The Santa Clause?
TIM ALLEN
6. Which Monty Python film features a nativity scene?
LIFE OF BRIAN
7. How many Nativity films have been made to date (the first being a Martin Freeman comedy released in 2009)?
THREE (Danger In The Manger starring David Tennant and Dude, Where’s My Donkey starring Martin Clunes)
8. Elf was released in which year?
2003
9. Along with Max Shreck, which two characters are the lead villains in Batman Returns?
PENGUIN / CATWOMAN
10. Which film is the story of two Irish hitmen hiding in Belgium after an assassination job goes wrong?
IN BRUGES


ROUND II: Filming [Johnny Depp special]
1. The following is a quote from which film, “A drug person can learn to cope with things like seeing their dead grandmother crawling up their leg with a knife in her teeth but nobody should be asked to handle this trip”? Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas? Blow? The Rum Diary?
FEAR AND LOATHING IN LAS VEGAS
2. What was the first film Depp and Tim Burton worked on? Edward Scissorhands? Ed Wood? Benny & Joon?
EDWARD SCISSORHANDS
3. How many children win tickets in Charlie And The Chocolate Factory? Five? Six? Seven?
FIVE
4. What was the title of cinematographer Wally Pfister’s directorial debut? Transcendence? Into The Woods? Mortdecai?
TRANSCENDENCE
5. What was the name of Depp’s character in From Hell? William Gull? Peter Godley? Frank Aberline?
FRANK ABERLINE
6. The settlers in Sleepy Hollow originated from which European country? Germany? Belgium? Netherlands?
NETHERLANDS
7. Jack Sparrow’s debt with Davy Jones in Pirates Of The Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest is to be paid off if Jack can produce how many souls? 50 100? 200?
ONE HUNDRED
8. Depp’s debut was A Nightmare On Elm Street but he cameoed in one of the sequels. Which one? Dream Warriors? Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare? Freddy’s Revenge?
FREDDY’S DEAD: THE FINAL NIGHTMARE
9. Which of the following did not appear in Cry Baby? Willem Dafoe? Iggy Pop? Alfred Molina?
ALFRED MOLINA
10. In Donnie Brasco, Al Pacino’s character has a pet tiger as a reference to his character in Scarface. True or False?
FALSE (it was a lion)


ROUND III: Post-Production
1. Which Christmas film stars Kevin Spacey, Rachel Weisz, Paul Giamatti and Vince Vaughn?
FRED CLAUS
2. Which Muppet character plays the role of Scrooge’s schoolmaster in The Muppets Christmas Carol?
SAM EAGLE
3. What is the title of the Christmas film directed by Ron Howard?
THE GRINCH / HOW THE GRINCH STOLE CHRISTMAS
4. How many CIA agents are assigned by Conklin to take down Jason Bourne in The Bourne Identity?
THREE
5. The following quote is from which film, “Oh McClane. John McClane. The policeman hero who saved the Nakatomi hostages. I read about you in People Magazine. You seemed a bit out of your league on Nightline, I thought”?
DIE HARD 2
6. The following is the poster tagline for which film, “Cute, clever, mischievous, intelligent, dangerous”?
GREMLINS
7. How many roles did Jim Carrey play in Robert Zemeckis’ animated motion capture adaptation of A Christmas Carol?
FOUR (Scrooge and the three ghosts)
8. How many Lethal Weapon films are set at Christmas?
ONE
9. Who directed A Nightmare Before Christmas?
HENRY SELICK
10. In the 1994 remake of Miracle On 34th Street, Susan asks Kris Kringle for three things for Christmas. What are they? (one point per correct answer)
A FATHER / A HOUSE / A BABY BROTHER


ROUND IV: Promotion & Release
1. If Ant-Man is the twelfth instalment in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, what is Iron Man 3? 7th? 8th? 9th?
SEVENTH
2. Sleepless In Seattle starts on Christmas Eve but ends on which day? New Year’s Eve? Valentine’s Day? Christmas Day?
VALENTINE’S DAY
3. The song White Christmas was written for which film? Holiday Inn? 3 Godfathers? Meet Me In St Louis?
HOLIDAY INN
4. Brazil was released in which year? 1985? 1988? 1991?
1985
5. In Eyes Wide Shut, Bill hears about the orgy party from Nick Nightingale, who has been hired to play what instrument? Piano? Double Bass? Drums?
PIANO
6. What is the name of the elf played by Dudley Moore in Santa Claus: The Movie? Bernard? Buddy? Patch?
PATCH
7. Who directed It’s A Wonderful Life? Michael Curtiz? Frank Capra? George Seaton?
FRANK CAPRA
8. At the start of Rare Exports, the digging crew are given instructions including No Smoking, No Cursing, etc. How many points are listed? Six? Seven? Eight?
SIX
9. The opening narration of Love, Actually is provided by which actor? Liam Neeson? Hugh Grant? Alan Rickman?
HUGH GRANT
10. The director of 1983’s A Christmas Story also directed 1974’s Black Christmas. True or False?
TRUE


BOUNS IMAGE ROUND
Screenshots: The Incredibles / O Brother, Where Art Thou? / Raising Arizona
Poster: The Piano
Actor: Holly Hunter


STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS

Every Generation Has A Story

Director
JJ Abrams

Starring
Daisy Ridley
John Boyega
Oscar Isaac
Adam Driver
Harrison Ford
Carrie Fisher
Mark Hamill



Regular readers will know that my reviews tend to be analytical breakdowns intended to be read after watching the release. The Force Awakens is a prime example of required viewing before reading this review. To be blunt, I’m going to talk about every aspect of this film so if you haven’t seen it, the story will be absolutely ruined for you. Clear? Good. With that little disclaimer out of the way, let’s commence a very long, very one-way discussion.

Set some thirty years after the close of Return Of The Jedi, the universe is still struggling with the presence of the evil Empire; this time in the form of its ruthless off-shoot, The First Order. The original cast have gone their separate ways and the Rebels are now the Resistance and the force and the Jedi have slipped into obscurity and legend. On the desert planet Jakku, suave Resistance pilot Poe Dameron [Isaac] and his droid BB-8 have finally found a clue to the whereabouts of Luke Skywalker [Hamill], who disappeared into self-imposed exile years ago. Before Poe can return to the Resistance, he is set upon by the First Order’s key henchman, force-user Kylo Ren [Driver] but not before BB-8 escapes with the map. At the same time we’re introduced to Stormtrooper FN-2187 (later dubbed Finn) [Boyega] who isn’t cut out for the brutal nature of his conscription and aids Poe in his escape. Back on Jakku, lone scavenger Rey [Ridley] scratches out a meagre existence and barely survives by selling parts from wreckages of spaceships; the work is gruelling and the reward minimal. During his escape, Finn runs into Rey and both take to the stars to meet up with the Resistance. And a whole mess of other stuff happens which I won’t even start to get into here.

2009’s revitalisation of Star Trek by Abrams was admittedly brilliant, it breathed fresh life into a frankly hopeless cause and reminded audience worldwide how cool Star Trek could be. Except it didn’t. It took the material that worked and ditched a huge amount in favour of basically making it Star Wars, which pissed off a lot of devout Trek fans. But it undeniably worked and managed to make a fun, engaging, blockbuster franchise out of a lifeless corpse (in the same way Quentin Tarantino revives careers of people like John Travolta). In essence, he’s done the exact same thing here. He took what wasn’t working, analysed the blueprint of what failed and why then produced something the fans wanted. In the industry it’s called “fan service” and while it’s cheap, it’s also sometimes really effective. Littered throughout this two hour beast are so many subtle nods, props, characters and phrases which immediately reignite a passion in those who buried it so deep for so long. Leaving the cinema, while people may feel an internal conflict (*insert a “there is no conflict” gag here*) 95% of the audience will be reminded why Star Wars is such a big part of cinema and people’s lives. But it’s not perfect. It’s not a life-altering experience and for some people, the fact this is a really good film might not be enough. So first, the gushing praise then we’ll get onto the unspooling complaints.

I don’t know the exact number but after you’ve seen a specific amount of films you become savvy to the formulas. Every genre has differing rules but the overall combination remains the same. Base writers will employ these mercilessly making a bad movie boring, successful writers will utilise them well but you can still read the signs and exceptional writers will play up to expectations then turn the formula on its head. The Force Awakens is the middle ground but thankfully adheres to the formula without feeling formulaic. This is how I knew Han Solo would die. The amount of screen-time given to Solo and watching him seemingly make peace with everyone as well as being the guide for the new characters, not to mention his connection with Kylo Ren, it became very obvious very quickly. Having said that, it was also extremely well executed and despite the heavy-handed symbolism, the whole film was such a wonderful send off to his character that you completely forgive the obvious breadcrumbs. It’s also how I knew that Luke wouldn’t show up until the very last second and how the entire film is essentially a rehash of all the parts people liked about the first film – but more on that later.

A very bold and wonderful decision must have been made early on to include original cast members as little and as late as possible. And I can’t praise them enough for that. The first third of the film is devoted to the new cast and while it’s cool when Han Solo and Chewbacca make their entrance, their presence feels almost like an unnecessary bonus. By that point you’re so caught up in the captivating lives of these newcomers that you have to pause and say “Oh yeah, those guys.” They’re richly drawn, affable and compelling: Kylo is the conflicted and complicated villain, Poe is the cocksure hero with genuine charisma, Finn is the brave and charming audience surrogate and Rey is easily one of the best strong female characters in a very long time and most importantly none of their traits or deliveries feel forced and the chemistry between them all is phenomenal. But that’s not to say the original cast members have been relegated to cameo status, on the contrary, their personalities are the same but have evolved in the way one would expect after three decades (in a way I’m reminded of the treatment of the Avatar characters in Legend Of Korra). Leia and Han’s falling out over their son feels very real and mature and Luke running away and hiding holds weight with his whiney boy origins. That and Admiral Ackbar seems to pitch the same plan over-and-over but has learned to stay at the base in case of traps.

The direction is on point, the writing is pastiche but heightens the elements we love, the acting is superb, the practical effects are mind-blowing, the costumes are great, the cinematography is wonderful (apologies if you saw it in 3D, I can guarantee you 2D was superior), the production value was wonderful, the hair and makeup felt period appropriate and the editing was nicely handled; all of which combines to produce a really well made sequel. As such, this film is going to make stupid amounts of money and will be critically revered as achieving the impossible. And this success is a big ‘fuck you’ to George Lucas; like getting cheated on and finally dumped before finding the perfect partner while your ex circles the same drain they threw themselves in. George Lucas has said many times that in his eyes Star Wars is a soap opera and is all about people standing around talking, the space battles are just action bits in between ‘the good stuff.’ Subsequently, Lucas has no idea what he’s talking about and I’m glad him and his made-for-tv drama and trade dispute storylines are no longer welcome or present. Lucas also had a rule for the extended canon about killing off original cast, specifically that you weren’t allowed to and I’m glad the decision to off Solo was taken because rather than just being a sensational execution for headlines and shock factor, it was a natural step with emotional resonance.

But this is by no means the film of the year. It’s a great movie but it’s so far from perfect. First of all and probably everyone’s biggest bugbear is that it follows the structure and premise of the first Star Wars film pretty closely: droid with plans being hunted by an evil empire, a young person with a mysterious past lifted out of obscurity, luck and coincidence abound, people get captured and rescued repeatedly, an individual only just introduced to the force seems to get really good at it really quickly, a huge spherical space weapon is unveiled but thankfully has a small weak point which can be exploited, a main character dies, good overcomes evil mostly, everyone goes their separate ways and while the film ends on a positive point many questions remain. But admittedly, that’s what every Star Wars fan wanted anyway, so it’s difficult to explain the negative connotations. My key frustration is that nothing new has been achieved and that will be the responsibility of the next torchbearer, which means this reignition of excitement could be a short lived one. See, the changing of directors from film to film is both a nice touch (mirroring the original trilogy and avoiding stagnation) but also a huge risk. Abrams has reinvigorated this franchise and reminded us all why we love this universe but at the same time, he’s running off. An executive producer is not a director and if early reactions to Star Trek Beyond are any indication, there’s still a potential that the next director won’t be able to deliver to this degree. Just so you know I’m not talking about Rian Johnson, that man’s amazing, I’m talking about Jurassic World director Colin Tervorrow.

Then there were other little things that just quietly pissed me off. I know you can explain characters running into each other as a.) the intention of the force or b.) an homage to the original but George Lucas isn’t a good writer, he genuinely seemed to think people just stumble into pivotal roles haphazardly (in Star Wars, Han and Luke find Leia shortly after walking around a PLANET SIZED base. That’s kinda mental). As I’ve said previously, films that mimic their inspirations so closely also inherit the flaws; The Force Awakens is no exception. Secondly, for a universe filled with characters, aliens and strange worlds, everything seems to revolve around this one fucking family, to the degree that you start looking at any new addition with an analytical squint trying to surmise who their original trilogy forebears are – as if such a thing was even mathematically possible. And even when people are introduced, there are unresolved issues with things like the underused Captain Phasma and her fate after only a small handful of scenes, Kylo being able to sense when his father is on the same planet but not in the same room, how depriving a sun of its energy wouldn’t cause the Starkiller base to effectively explode.. or implode, Rey’s immediate deftness with the force and the list goes on. Some of the CGI looks like average uncanny-valley CGI. With the strong utilisation of practical effects, it only serves to highlight the weak spots of computer generated effects. Case in point, Supreme Leader Snoke, who sort of resembled that alien at the end of Indiana Jones And The Crystal Skull. And a point I didn’t even think would be a problem was the music. John Williams’ score swells with familiar themes but I’ll have to pay close attention through a re-watch to pick up on any really impressive or memorable new themes. Say what you will about the prequels but the music was bloody amazing. Admittedly, the more I think back on these points, the less I care about them. Sure, they’re frustrating but in light of how much was achieved, it’s small fry.

In summary, The Force Awakens is a great film and a nice reintroduction to a world full of potential and wonder. With a whole raft of sequels and spin-offs planned, the future of the Star Wars universe has kicked off to a spectacular start and unless it completely falls on its face at the next hurdle, should inspire countless children and adults to run around the garden making whooshing noises with sticks or piloting spacecraft from the safety of a cardboard box. And if that isn’t the objective of blockbuster cinema it bloody well should be.


Release Date:
18th December 2015

The Scene To Look Out For:
I’ll admit Rey’s mastering of the force so quickly was a bit irritating (admittedly Luke mastered that training orb thing after two attempts) but her encounter with the Stormtrooper was rather hilarious. And on top of that, discovering that said Stormtrooper was played by none other than Daniel Craig only serves to elevate the amusement. Either that or the BB-8 thumbs up. Easily the biggest laugh.

Notable Characters:
Picking between the new characters is really difficult. They’re all so well written that they each bring something thrilling to the table. Having said that, Kylo Ren is easily the most fascinating character. The son of Han Solo and Leia Organa [Fisher], he’s got all of the best and worst qualities of his parents but also his grandfather’s (Darth Vader) malice. The conflict in this kid is kinda heart-breaking but so well portrayed. All the presence of Vader, the rash unpredictable outbursts, the evil acts, the misdirected ambition, they all culminate to bring this rounded character to life in a truly memorable way. Additionally his almost sibling-rivalry with General Hux [Domhnall Gleeson], scrapping it out, vying for power and approval on the same dark path is a nice new element to this setting. Brilliant stuff.

Highlighted Quote:
“I know how to run without you holding my hand”

In A Few Words:
“Spectacle with substance”

Total Score:

4/5

ROOM

Love Knows No Boundaries

Director
Lenny Abrahamson

Starring
Brie Larson
Jacob Tremblay
Sean Bridgers



Room opens in a single location and introduces us to the two individuals who inhabit it. The first is five year old Jack [Tremblay] and the second is Joy [Larson], his mother. Told from the Jack’s perspective, he narrates about his experience of the world, specifically this cell. As the story progresses it quickly becomes apparent that seven years ago Joy was kidnapped by a man (nicknamed Old Nick) who repeatedly visits and rapes her; Jack is a product of these regular visits. Whenever Old Nick [Bridgers] enters the room, Jack is secured in the wardrobe where he waits until he is allowed out again. During one of these visits, Joy learns that Old Nick is being laid off from work and it quickly dawns on her that her captor would likely kill them both than release them; as such, she tries her best to educate Jack to the truth of their predicament and enlist him in an escape attempt. It is truly unfortunate that this subject has so much inspirational material to draw upon. This isn’t some fantastical hypothetical, it’s something that happens on a disturbingly regular basis. Subsequently, Room is not the easiest of films to watch and yet to brand it as a straight-forward crime thriller would be a great disservice.

Lenny Abrahamson continues his fine, bold and confident direction demonstrated in Frank and manages to achieve what so many thrillers set out to do but often fall short of: be both a harrowing yet somehow uplifting experience. What’s more the actual developments of the narrative contain several tropes that we’ve seen rehashed many times in the past but Room manages to earns those saccharine moments, you find yourself desperately wanting to protect this child from harm. Choosing to keep the narrative contained to Jack’s experiences and seldom deviating from his point of view was a very good choice and expertly carried over from the book. Another fine choice was to ensure that the rape and violence, while both exceedingly tense, are never sensationalised. They are presented as mundane facts of life for these two captives yet all of it seems almost tolerable because they are living for each other – admittedly, this is under the grace of Joy choosing what to reveal to Jack and the manner in which she has raised him. All of which, of course, comes back to the brilliant source material and Emma Donoghue’s screenplay. With references to Alice In Wonderland and The Count Of Monte Cristo, Donoghue creates a credible world for this child to be ‘raised’ in and immediately you applaud both the effort and patience put forth by Joy, wondering how she has managed to survive this long. Furthermore, Jack has the interesting characteristic of a unique dialect, a mixture of grammatical accuracy and televisual understanding; sort of reminiscent of Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome.

Thanks to the engrossing and utterly believable lead performances, every development (and there are a few textbook ones) is horribly realistic. So much so that we end up with a film that feels so real to the degree you don’t want it to be real because the world can’t be this awful. Larson is phenomenal. The evolution of Joy and even the unspoken/suggested things that she would have had to undergo to get to that point in the story is a testament to the human spirit and psychological endurance. Then there’s the young Tremblay who manages to come across convincingly without ever grating on audiences. The worst thing a child actor can do is imitate adults so closely that they become these fictional beings that solely exist on-screen. Instead, Jack is a very character brought to life through both an amazing performance and collaboration with Larson. I don’t know what lengths these two took to bond in this way but it feels so natural and convincing that there are times when you forget the fictional/forced connection between these two effective real-life strangers.

To my mind, cinema is not about entertainment, it’s about experience. A lot of people will slight films or avoid them all together because they won’t be entertained. But thrillers and horror films operate on the blanket of safety, presenting a story for you to voyeuristically immerse yourself in while assured you are in a safe place; it’s not real. So with precision editing, wonderful scoring, gorgeous cinematography, masterful directing and powerful acting, it’s hard to slight this film at all; except for the fact that the subject matter is very unpleasant. As stated above, Room is one of those releases that takes something awful that has been/is happening all over the world and forces you to watch but thankfully guides to a place of hope and for that it’s an absolutely wondrous movie.


Release Date:
15th January 2016

The Scene To Look Out For:
I’ve seen films that set out exploitative moments aplenty hoping to evoke some sort of emotional response from the audience. While some of them access certain people, you never really feel you have generated the connection with the characters necessary to care about them. Jack’s escape attempt flies in the face of that. Having worked solidly for the better part of an hour to show you this innocent boy, you desperately clench your fists, muttering to yourself, yearning him to just get away. It’s heart pounding, gripping and frankly exhausting but my God, it’s fantastic cinema.

Notable Characters:
**Major spoilers within, avoid until you’ve seen the film**
Very little is seen of the world outside of ‘room’ – except that which is broadcast on television. After Joy explains how the world actually is (“unlying” as she calls it) and the escape attempt is in full swing, it would have been very easy to make this a short release ending on the emotional high of liberation. Instead this only takes us to the halfway point and we then learn how Jack copes in this brave new world and equally how Joy has trouble being around Jack and trying to adjust to her new surroundings. Two of the most supportive characters take the form of Joy’s mother Nancy [Joan Allen] and her new partner Leo [Tom McCamus]. I really liked these two and loved even more that the film stayed with the family through squabbles showing how hard it is for everyone to communicate after this horrific ordeal. Brilliantly performed and ensures that the film doesn’t slum halfway through.

Highlighted Quote:
“Tell her she can have my strong, she needs it”

In A Few Words:
“Draining, powerful, crushing and unspeakably tender, Room is an amazing example of using independent cinema to illustrate some of the worst elements of mankind and some of the best”

Total Score:

5/5

THE RIDICULOUS SIX

A Netflix Original Film

Director
Frank Coraci

Starring
Adam Sandler
Nick Nolte
Rob Schneider
Taylor Lautner
Jorge Garcia
Terry Crews
Luke Wilson



The comedy western is not the most successful of genres. After the 1950s there’s only really been Blazing Saddles, Three Amigos, Back To The Future: Part 3, Rango and Django Unchained.. sort of. So why Netflix thought that Adam Sandler could be the one to buck the trend and produce something of note and quality is completely beyond me.

The Ridiculous 6 is the story of Tommy Stockburn/White Knife [Sandler], a Caucasian child raised by Native Americans. Growing up with the apache, he shuns the ways of the white man and will soon be wed to his betrothed. At that point, his long-lost father, Frank Stockburn [Nolte] turns up, explaining that he is dying. Before he and his son have a chance to make their peace, Frank’s old gang catches up with him and drags him away to dig up a stolen treasure. Tommy, aware that his newly reunited father has led the gang away to spare “the injuns,” sets out to steal the sum of $50,000 and exchange it for his father’s freedom. Along the way, he learns more about his old man’s exploits and encounters five half-brothers – Ramon [Schneider], Lil Pete [Lautner], Herm [Garcia], Danny [Wilson] and Chico [Crews] – all of whom enlist to help rescue their dad.

Let’s get the positive out of the way first. The production value is spectacular. For a period film, they’ve gone all out in terms of costumes, locations, sets, props; everything is littered with the kind of detail that independent filmmakers can only dream of. The cinematography isn’t bad either, utilising the stunning scenery and iconic landscapes. But that’s it. The rest is utter dross.

Netflix have stated this is a “ridiculous film which satires the stereotypes of the western genre.” If that’s true, it’s a shockingly lazy parody written by someone who half remembers westerns or has only experienced them through description. With Adam Sandler on writing duty you know exactly how this story will be composed and where it will go. Falling back on his usual repertoire of bullied kid turned exceptionally talented badass, the plot is railroaded from A to B with such precision that the inclusion of new characters goes beyond coincidental and becomes mystically preordained. It also has the obligatory song scene that Happy Madison (Sandler’s production company) films are known for plus a wealth of sexist, racist and frankly stupid observations. But The Ridiculous 6’s biggest crime is that it simply isn’t funny. There are no jokes to speak of and the humour seems to rely heavily on silly names, accents or base grotesquery. And it’s two hours long! To top it off, the direction from Frank Coraci is very vanilla and uninspired, favouring straight shots and simple back-and-forth shot-reverse-shots. Considering this is the man who directed The Wedding Singer, The Waterboy and Click (arguably the top end of Sandler’s oeuvre) I was disappointed, to say the least.

As with every Sandler film, the cast gathered are exceptionally impressive, encompassing a broad range of talent: from Oscar nominees to DAVID FUCKING SPADE EVERY BLOODY TIME! But everyone is pretty much typecast and the only actors bringing anything remotely outside of their comfort zones are limited to accents and poor slapstick. Case in point, Rob Schneider plays a Mexican (although mercifully not as offensively as he could) while they have the Latin American Jorge Garcia playing some weird mountain man. And I know Taylor Lautner is about as Native American as Johnny Depp is but that’s still infinitely more than someone like Adam Sandler’s flipping wife who plays the hilariously monikered Never Wears Bra – another Sandler trophy for all his childhood bullies to swallow. Personally, I think Nick Nolte’s presence was a rather absurd one, helping knowing audience members predict exactly how the narrative was going to “twist” – did that man learn nothing from Hulk?

Initially I was hesitant to review this turd. I tend to avoid both documentaries (as I find myself reviewing the subject matter, rather than its presentation) and straight-to-DVD releases as they are either cheap, awful or unheard of. While I make the odd exception for certain independent/festival pieces, I felt that Netflix has made such a valid contribution to the television format that I could maybe review one or two of their “cinematic” catalogue. An action I now thoroughly regret. Overall I was quite surprised The Ridiculous 6 wasn’t nearly as offensive as I was expecting but that’s hardly a good thing. Overly long, unoriginal, lacking in humour and insultingly predictable, it’s.. it’s vapour. The kind of dismissible nonsense that Sandler usually involves himself in but thankfully I didn’t have to pay for it and it freed up cinema screens for something of worth (hopefully).


Release Date:
11th December 2015

The Scene To Look Out For:
On their way from town-to-town the brothers meet up with several eccentric characters from history, like an anachronistic unfunny version of The Odyssey. One such individual is Abner Doubleday, played by John Tuturro. I don’t care about baseball but an entire segment of the story is devoted to this individual effectively coming up with the rules for baseball on the fly, largely in his favour. In other words, someone has sat in a writer’s room and said, “Who invented baseball? Why.. why would be able to steal base? Can you imagine that? Suggesting the rule for the first time? That’s hilarious, right?” Only it’s not. It’s dumb and even if you like baseball, I’m sure it’s still quite dumb. And it’s shit like this, which fails to further the plot, that has the runtime racked up to nearly two hours.

Notable Characters:
Mark Twain.. played by Vanilla Ice. It’s not remotely funny; it’s just as fucking moronic as it sounds.

Highlighted Quote:
“Gall dang”

In A Few Words:
“Pixels was a piss poor CGI-driven nightmare unleashed upon cinemas everywhere but now Sandler has a contractual agreement to create the same dull experience streamed directly into your home! We truly live in wondrous times”

Total Score:

1/5

Cinema City Film Quiz #156

[06 December 2015]


Winning Team:
Seamen Of The Pequod
Genre – A pod of mariners have a whale of a time

Runners Up:
Call Me.. Quiz-shmael
Genre – It’s just a film about a man who hates a fish
Three Willeys Minus One
Genre – One Willey down but we are still going for it!
Willy’s Whale Probe Dick
Genre – A whale travels back in time to seek revenge on the aliens who probed his blow hole and probe them back
Whale-cum To The Jungle
Genre – A documentary following exotic mating patterns of whales migrating to the Amazon
Free Willy (But Not In Public)
Genre – Science Affliction


ROUND I: Pre-Production
1. Dallas Buyers Club is predominantly set in which US city?
DALLAS
2. The Rocky franchise focuses on which sport?
BOXING
3. Wayne Campbell and Garth Algar are the lead characters in which comedy series?
WAYNE’S WORLD
4. Which film features Arnold Schwarzenegger trying to acquire a Turbo Man doll for his young son?
JINGLE ALL THE WAY
5. Hugh Jackman plays a former boxer who works with fighting robots in which film?
REAL STEEL
6. Clueless was released in which year? [bonus point for naming the Jane Austen novel it’s based on]
1995 [Emma]
7. The following songs are from which film: What’s This, Making Christmas and Kidnap The Sandy Claws?
THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS
8. Gone Baby Gone was which director’s debut?
BEN AFFLECK
9. Which actor played the lead role in Mighty Ducks?
EMILIO ESTEVEZ
10. What is the title of Spielberg’s only World War I film?
WAR HORSE


ROUND II: Filming [Whales & Dolphins special]
1. In Free Willy, what type of animal is the title character? Sperm Whale? Beluga Whale? Orca/Killer Whale?
ORCA / KILLER WHALE
2. Which actor played the role of Captain Ahab in 1956’s Moby Dick? Rock Hudson? Gregory Peck? William Holden?
GREGORY PECK
3. Which Star Trek film is centred around humpback whales? The Voyage Home? The Final Frontier? Generations?
THE VOYAGE HOME
4. Finding Nemo was released in which year? 2008? 2005? 2003?
2003
5. What is the name of the hammerhead shark, nemesis of the title character, in Flipper? Hammer? Scar? Fin?
SCAR
6. Whale Rider, the story of a 12 year old girl who wants to become chief of her tribe, is set in which country? New Zealand? Hawaii? Fiji?
NEW ZEALAND
7. In Disney’s Pinocchio, Honest John and Gideon sell Pinocchio to a coachman who takes him to a place where he can drink, smoke and gamble. What is this name of this place? Land Of Fun? Magic Kingdom? Pleasure Island?
PLEASURE ISLAND
8. What is the name of the family franchise that stars Harry Connick Jr, Kris Kristofferson, Ashley Judd and Morgan Freeman? Whale Tale? Dolphin Tale? Shark Tale?
DOLPHIN TALE
9. Finish the following quote from The Pirates! In An Adventure With Scientists, “Some of you are as ugly as a sea cucumber, some of you are closer to being a chair or coat rack than a pirate and..”? Some of you are fish I’ve just dressed up in a hat? Some of you might be figments of my imagination? Some of you can’t even swim?
SOME OF YOU ARE FISH I’VE JUST DRESSED UP IN A HAT
10. Johnny Mnemonic features a digital battle between a whale and a dolphin, who are both trained computer hackers. True of False?
FALSE (although there is a hacker dolphin)


ROUND III: Post-Production
1. The following films were all produced by which country: I Saw The Devil, The Host, Brotherhood and The Throne?
SOUTH KOREA
2. What is the name of the Tom Hardy film that takes place solely inside a car?
LOCKE
3. Which film starred James McAvoy, Terence Stamp, Chris Pratt and Morgan Freeman?
WANTED
4. The factory that Lars and Ernie inherit, in Gore Verbinski’s MouseHunt, produces what?
STRING
5. How many Herbie films have been made to date (excluding the Bruce Campbell made-for-TV one)?
FIVE (The Love Bug, Herbie Rides Again, Herbie Goes To Monte Carlo, Herbie Goes Bananas, Herbie: Fully Loaded)
6. In The Raid, Rama and his unit make it up how many floors before they are detected by the crime lord running the tower block?
SIX
7. The Rippers in Tank Girl are supersoldiers spliced with the genes of which animal?
KANGAROO
8. What colour uniforms are worn by the Hurl Scouts in Whip It?
GREEN
9. What is the ‘terrible awful’ story that Minny submits for Skeeter’s book in The Help?
MADE HILLY HOLBROOK CONSUME TWO SLICES OF CHOCOLATE CAKE LACED WITH EXCREMENT
10. Who directed Vera Drake?
MIKE LEIGH


ROUND IV: Promotion & Release
1. What was the first film to feature the Beatles? Magical Mystery Tour? Help? A Hard Day’s Night?
A HARD DAY’S NIGHT
2. Which of the following actors has appeared in the most films to date (incl. cameos)? Benedict Cumberbatch? Danny Dyer? Simon Pegg?
DANNY DYER (Dyer-37, Pegg-31, Cumberbatch-23)
3. Sean Connery and Donald Sutherland have only appeared in the same film once. Which one? The Great Train Robbery? Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within? Time Bandits?
THE GREAT TRAIN ROBBERY
4. What is the name of the old man who lives next door to Kevin in Home Alone? Ebenezer? Cratchit? Marley?
MARLEY
5. Steve McQueen and Faye Dunaway appeared in which 1968 film? The Towering Inferno? The Thomas Crown Affair? The Cincinnati Kid?
THE THOMAS CROWN AFFAIR
6. The following quote is from which film, “That’s Rachael and that’s a fucking filthy Jesus-looking motherfucker and they’re kissing. I did it! I fucking nailed you! I’ve hated you for months and now I have fucking evidence that you suck as a person!”? 50/50? (500) Days Of Summer? 10 Things I Hate About You?
50/50
7. The following quote is from which film, “I just don’t see the sense of killing people to say that killing people’s wrong”? The Green Mile? 12 Angry Men? Dead Man Walking?
DEAD MAN WALKING
8. The Great Outdoors starred which two actors in the leading male roles? Martin Short and Steve Martin? Dan Aykroyd and John Candy? Tom Hanks and Danny DeVito?
DAN AYKROYD AND JOHN CANDY
9. Which flower plays an important role in 1979’s Escape From Alcatraz? Chrysanthemum? Hyacinth? Iris?
CHRYSANTHEMUM
10. Before directing Star Wars, JJ Abrams only has four cinematic directorial credits to his name. True or False?
TRUE (M:I-III, Star Trek, Super 8, Star Trek Into Darkness)


BOUNS IMAGE ROUND
Screenshots: Mulan / The Nutty Professor / Beverley Hills Cop
Poster: Vampire In Brooklyn
Actor: Eddie Murphy