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Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen

(2009)
48 days ago via Rotten Tomatoes

Whilst I enjoyed the first 'Transformers' this is cinematic torture. It is utter, utter rubbish. I cannot clearly express in words my utter hatred for this film. I despise everything about it from the racist robots to the exploitative special effects. I know Michael Bay makes 'films for teenage boys' but as a filmmaker he has a moral duty to create a plot. Yet again he has failed abysmally. Spare yourself from this.

Dr. Strangelove Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb

Dr. Strangelove Or How I Learned to Stop Worr...

(1964)
48 days ago via Rotten Tomatoes

Dr Strangelove is part of the vast collection of Stanley Kubrick's greatest films, and goes down, as the greatest film about the cold war and nuclear scare, which the world has ever seen, combining comedy and a real fright perfectly.

Strangelove, or, "How I learned to stop worrying and love the bomb", tells the story of what could happen if the US nuclear programme went wrong. Based around the fears of many Americans, and much of the Western World, at the height of the cold war, a US air force general, who is the only one who has the codes to launch and bring back a fleet of planes carrying nuclear weapons, goes mad, and orders his entire fleet to attack the Soviet Union.

As the story unfolds we see the pure exceptional talents of Sellers in three characters, the bumbling British RAF pilot, Lionel Mandrake, the worried and hysterical US President, and the former, (perhaps still), Nazi weapon specialist, Dr Strangelove.

Through each of these characters, alongside marvellous acting from George C. Scott and Peter Bull, we see the fleet of H-Bombs draw closer to the USSR from four different perspectives, as the possibility of a nuclear war draws ever closer.

Released to cinemas just a year after the Cuban Missile Crisis, where the world came closer to nuclear war than ever before, Kubrick, in all his wit and talent, took a very real possibility, exposing the weaknesses of the safeguards of nuclear warfare, and made audiences laugh with joy, despite the fact the event could have happened just later that afternoon.

With Peter Sellers, George C. Scott, and the direction of Stanley Kubrick, the film makes for an incredibly entertaining ride, where we are taken along with each of the characters, and allowing us to look right into the weaknesses of the nuclear programme.

The acting of each and every character is purely fantastic, and a quality which most people would find hard to top. The cinematography, in the style of a documentary like handheld camera, adds to the realism, whilst at the same time, adding to the ridiculous and humorous connotations of a nuclear war breaking out.

The script, based on a serious novel called Red Alert, was adapted perfectly for the funny and sharp style Kubrick was aiming for, balancing moments of serious action and tension, with the laugh out loud moments following straight after.

It is hard not to laugh at the fantastic film which Kubrick has produced. Whilst it may be more than 50 years old, and the cold war has come to an end many years ago, Dr Strangelove still impacts on audiences today, in the same way it did in 1964. A fantastically funny, brilliantly acted, and exceptionally directed story, which only the master team of Sellers, Scott and Kubrick could achieve.

Frozen

Frozen

(2013)
48 days ago via Rotten Tomatoes

I should start out with a disclaimer that before watching this film I did watch another review online which highlighted some problematic flaws. You could therefore say I was biased when I viewed it, but that doesn't take away from the simply poor nature of the film which whilst has some touching moments and songs is one of the worst of Disney's usually good pictures.

Telling the story of Elsa, a princess turned Queen with unexplained magical snow powers, and her annoying younger sister Anna, the film also includes the standard Disney side characters of: Prince who appears to have good intentions but surprisingly doesn't, lower social class ruffian who initially responds apprehensively to the damsel in distress but soon grows to love her, animal pet who becomes irritated at arrival of non-human sidekick and non-human sidekick who joins established animal pet. With her parent's both dying tragically Elsa must become Queen and also control her magical snow powers, which are still not and never are explained. Unfortunately she loses control of these powers because her sheltered sister decides to marry the Prince and all hell breaks loose...

The plot is pretty standard for a Disney film of this sort, as it should be. It is a kid's film and it's designed for that market. Thus whilst there are no great surprises or twists it doesn't particularly matter. The meat of the film is with the characters, most importantly the two sisters. And surprisingly the acting is not too bad. I wouldn't go as far as to say I was emotionally invested in the character's or their personal outcomes-it was only the reindeer, as an innocent animal, who's welfare I cared for, but both Kristen Bell, who is not exactly one of my favourite actors, and Idina Menzel delivered decent performances, as did Josh Gad as Olaf despite the sickly sweet nature of the role.

Unfortunately what lets 'Frozen' down seems to be where it derives all of its hype from-the songs. In comparison to other Disney animations which have had a range of hits and genuinely touching pieces the 'Frozen' songs were nagging, boring and dull. 'Do you want to build a snowman', was not touching or heartwarming but repetitively irritating and infuriating. The apparent consensus that 'Frozen' has delivered some of the best Disney songs for years is a lie.

To give its dues in beating stereotypes and genre cliches the two 'disney princesses' at least appear independent and free spirited, the traditional role of the prince being relegated to something of a b-story. But that message seems to be wrecked at the end of the film as Anna inevitably gets together with Kristoff. At least Elsa remains a strong Queen ruling alone in a somewhat Elizabethean like way.

Regardless the endless hype for this film does not live up to its actual qualities. It is a good kid's film as far as they go but there are far better on offer both from Disney and from others.

Vanishing Point

Vanishing Point

(1971)
3 months ago via Rotten Tomatoes

For a film whose entire premise is the fact that some driver on drugs has been given a bet to drive a car across a couple of US states it's surprisingly entertaining. And whilst the background of the main anti-hero Kowalski screams cliche and a lack of belonging in a world that just doesn't get him, you know, the film's director pulls off a surprisingly impressive portrayal and leaves you rooting for the guy to complete his futile drive, which is, in a way what the whole film is about.

Let's be honest here, 'Vanishing Point', despite its existential consideration of life and the injustice of the world, is not a masterpiece. But it does convey the various themes its set out to convey well, despite some dodgy flashbacks and acting from Barry Newman who carries the whole thing. Kowalski's odd encounters with random strangers as he drives along slowly gains him the status of an anti-establishment hero and the support of the public and the really over the top but genuinely cool DJ, who helps him out.

It's a difficult way of telling the audience what the film is about but that's part of the point. As Kowalski searches for a message or purpose to his existence he realises there isn't one. Then comes his existential fuel for the film's 90 minute long car chase as his pursuit from the police becomes the meaning his life lacked.

Yet regardless of the thematic bulk of the film the real enjoyment is gained from watching Kowalski drive his car, usually with police hot on his tail. I'm not much of a car person but I can understand the appeal of a Dodge Challenger. Although the film screams late 60s early 70s American counter-culture it draws parallels with earlier 1950s films about outlaws in the American west. Newman plays this modern day hero well, a nihilist for much of the time he is onscreen, alienated from a mainstream society which is closing in on him.

The cinematography and images of the beautiful barren desert are striking and the music which accompanies the hero as he attempts to fulfil his mission is excellent. If it wasn't for these things the film would, I fear, be a tad boring. There's only so many times a man looking directly ahead at a road from within a car can be found interesting and despite a provision of interesting characters, snake catcher, hippies, gay stickup men and naked women on motorbikes, it's the car chase which makes the film what it is.

It's far from perfect but 'Vanishing Point' is a nice little cult piece from the 1970s which deserves far more attention that it gets. It avoids stuffing the theme and meaning down the audience's collective throats whilst setting up an excellent series of car chase set pieces and delivering a film, which despite its numerous flaws, is very entertaining.

12 Years a Slave

12 Years a Slave

(2013)
6 months ago via Rotten Tomatoes

Brutally realistic, brutally difficult to watch, brilliantly constructed and superbly acted, '12 Years A Slave' is an incredible film. Although the subject and theme of slavery and black rights has been explored increasingly in recent years with the likes of 'Django Unchained' and 'The Help'-both excellent films, '12 Years' avoids the possibility of being a film on the subject which will fade into obscurity by breaking the boundaries of its subjects and delivering a masterpiece onto our screens.

Telling the story of Solomon Northrup, a freeborn black man in pre-civil war America, who is kidnapped and sold into slavery it is clear from the start that the film is hardly going to be an easy sit down and tune out film. I cannot recall many other films which have left me feeling physically sick after some sequences and uncomfortable to watch. Yet those sequences are essential to creating the experience of viewing the film, showing the audience just a tiny snapshot of the lives of slaves and the horrors they suffered.

Although certain brutal sequences stand out the overall feeling and tone of the film is steeped in a dark, sombre and menacing mood, created perfectly by the incredible acting abilities of Chiwetel Eijofor who, along with McQueen regular Fassbender, steals the show. There is no doubt that Eijofor deserves the Oscar for his efforts and constructing a real life character whose experiences would be hard to recreate without insulting his memory. Fassbender's tyrannical and psychotic portrayal of slave owner Epps is physically terrifying, whilst the supporting cast give fantastic performances in the vast variety of roles they perform-especially Lupita Nyong'o's devastating portrayal of Patsey which left me in anguish and sorrow as her character experiences life at the hands of Epps and his mistress.

McQueen's directing abilities have already been well established with both 'Hunger' and 'Shame', productions which have pushed the limits of independent dramas and shown that McQueen is, even after three films, one of the best British and global directors of his generation. '12 Years' pushes his dramatic boundaries further, creating the gutwrenching picture which thoroughly deserved the BAFTAs for Best Film and Best Actor for Ejifor. With a supposed HBO series in the works I look forward to more from McQueen.

To say that I enjoyed '12 Years A Slave' would be an unfitting word to the horrific experience it was to watch. Although the ending of the film is somewhat obvious and some inspiration is expected, the film follows a downbeat ending, offering little hope nor shedding any light (in keeping with Northrup's book), of the lives of Patsey and the other slaves following Northrup's departure. Inspiration is muted to say the least. Yet the purpose of '12 Years A Slave' is not to offer inspiration but to realistically explore the life of an American slave. It is tragic and hard to watch but it is a film which should and must be watched, not just for the technical and creative achievements it makes, but for the story it tells.

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Intel Hollywood Star Program (July 2012 - December 2012)
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