Sunday 18 March 2012

Trailer Park: Prometheus

Returning to his roots, visionary director Ridley Scott heads back to one of the film franchises that launched his career. Released in 1979, Scott's second big screen project Alien became an instant classic, thrilling millions of cinema goers since through its visionary style, unique sci-fi horror genre and the sequels and spin-offs that have been released since. With a cast including Swedish actress Noomi Rapace, Shame's Michael Fassbender and Hollywood starlet Charlize Theron, Scott has made a welcome return to the Alien franchise with Prometheus - a non-direct prequel set in the world of the Alien universe. Whilst I didn't care much for Scott's last film Robin Hood, it is very exciting to see him return to the impressive visual style of his original Alien film in the scenes from this trailer; and even though I still believe that the physical special effects and sets used in the likes of Alien and the original Star Wars trilogy are very special, it is exciting to see this unique world today with the additional use of advanced CGI technologies which should allow Scott to explore new territories and push the boundaries with this new film. Prepared to get your heart pulsing in this adrenaline pumping new trailer released this morning...

Prometheus is released in cinemas across the UK on 1st June 2012.

Are you excited to see Ridley Scott return to the Alien franchise? Do you think it will be a blockbuster or lacklustre? Leave your comments below!

Saturday 17 March 2012

Review: John Carter

Originally titled 'A Princess of Mars,' renamed (too girly) to 'John Carter of Mars,' then renamed again (too boyish) to 'John Carter' (by the DVD release it'll just be 'JC'!); the sci-fi fantasy that inspired them all has finally made it to the big screen!

Although from seeing the film and it's trailers you wouldn't be blamed for thinking that this film has been inspired by blockbuster sci-fi's such as the Star Wars franchise and Avatar; it's interesting to note that John Carter was actually the inspiration for them! Published in 1917, Edgar Rice Burroughs' novel 'A Princess of Mars' was the first novel in his Barsoom series - a series of books that have notably been a large source of inspiration for cinematic science fiction fantasy films; shaping the genre as we know it today. Now nearly a century after it was first published, the Earth and Mars based adventures of John Carter have lovingly been brought to the big screen in an epic film directed by long-time fan of the books, Andrew Stanton. Well know for his work at Pixar directing Finding Nemo and Wall-E, as well as writing for many of their other films right from the animation studio's inception, this is Stanton's first live-action feature, although not a huge change of style for him as a lot of the film and its characters are made via CGI anyway!

Rather surprisingly, the film itself opens to the setting of America in the late 1800s - both in the city and the far west. After a western style introduction to our sharp shooting, gun slinging hero John Carter (Taylor Kitsch), an unexpected turn leads to Carter being stranded on Mars - known to its inhabitants as Barsoom. From here on we are swept off into a science fiction fantasy adventure as John Carter must save the beautiful Princess Dejah Thoris (Lynn Collins), her people and the Thark population of Barsoom from a devious plot for domination by a shape shifting group known as the Holy Therns, lead by the deceptive Matai Shang (Mark Strong).

Matai Shang (Mark Strong) with an army of Tharks in John Carter

With a lot of poor press surrounding the film recently from its poor critical reception, John Carter is not actually as bad as you may go in expecting it to be. Stanton and his effects team do an incredible job in bringing the world of Barsoom and it's inhabitants to the big screen in a way that respects and stays true to the original novel, but adapts it to appeal and work with a modern audience and its expectations (the films that it once inspired seem to have now inspired it!) - but CGI effects do not make a film good. By no means is John Carter the best film ever made, but it's far from the worst; whilst the story is long in parts and can at times be lacking in action, the film features a number of fantastic action sequences and a unique and well executed dynamic with Carter's exciting jumping abilities which are smoothly executed. The plot of the film can at times drag, but it provides an interesting story steeped in history that is engaging and enjoyable to watch. Taylor Kitsch won't win an Oscar for his performance as the titular hero, but he successfully pulls off a tough guy hero with a warm heart that echoes back to western greats through the decades. The rest of the acting ensemble (both live and motion capture CGI) isn't ground breaking or attention grabbing (although it is good to see Mark Strong expand his acting credentials with a villain role for a change *end-of-sarcasm*), and with no real big star names to sell the film on either, they do a good job of bringing the fun and epic stories of Barsoom to life. Yes the film has it's flaws, but it's not setting out to be the best film ever made; director Stanton simply wanted to finally bring the world of Burroughs' cinematically inspiring novel to the big screen in a film that does it justice - and he has achieved this with John Carter.

So why is it that John Carter is expected to flop so badly then if it isn't that bad? The film had an estimated budget of $250 million and it is said that films need to make a return of double the budget to be classed as a success - meaning that JC would need to make back at least $500 million in the world wide box office; it won't! Since it's release a week ago John Carter has performed poorly to say the least in the US box office (failing to make it to the top of the weekend box office whilst 'The Lorax' retained the number 1 spot for a second week), but performing slightly better internationally - now the only hope for the films seems to be if it can break even - but the film's not that bad, and far worse films make much more money; so what's wrong with John Carter. Despite the genuinely poor (and in my opinion slightly unfair) reviews and word of mouth that critics given the film, John Carter's main flaw is not actually within the film itself: the underlying flaw is Disney's marketing strategy. I've said from the start that I didn't think the trailers would do the film justice (and they don't) as they almost appear to dumb down the selling of the film to attract people with 'shiney' CGI effects and cliched Star Wars-esque sci-fi, but outside of the trailers other sources of marketing have been ignored. With little in the way of posters, TV adverts, promotional tie-ins, and most shockingly of all for a film which should partly target a young male demographic (a market that could have turned this into a large franchise), no toys, books video game or other merchandise releases; for a film based on a century old book few people know anything about the film or franchise at all. This links nicely into the issue of the ever changing title (which as I pointed out at the start has seen many transformations); 'John Carter' says nothing about the film - for all intents and purposes it's just a random guy's name! The problem here is that it evokes nothing in the way of genre or themes for the film; it sets nothing in the way of expectations and it says nothing about what will happen in the film - at the end of the day it won't intrigue people, they just simply won't care. With a source material like Edgar Rice Burroughs' novel which inspired the likes of Star Wars, Disney simply marketed this film extremely poorly when it really shouldn't have.

Despite it's poor marketing from Disney (disappointing especially after the incredibly successful parody campaign recently created to market The Muppets which lead to it's great success), John Carter is a pleasant surprise and a very enjoyable and watchable film that stands out from some of today's other more lacklustre blockbuster franchises; a film which through a number of genre's creates the immersive world of the sci-fi fantasy epic that clearly inspired some of the cinematic greats that we love today. John Carter isn't the best film and it will flop; struggling to break-even - but it is worth a watch as certainly doesn't deserve to.

Verdict: 3/5

John Carter is showing in cinemas across the UK now.

Agree or Disagree? Leave your comments below!

Monday 12 March 2012

Trailer Park: Men in Black 3

The Men in Black are back... again! After having watched Agent J (Will Smith) and Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones) team up and save the world in the original sci-fi/comedy/adventure film and its sequel (released in 1997 and 2002 respectively), the duo return 10 years on for their next big screen outing in this franchise revival. When Agent K suddenly disappears and is announced to have been dead for the past 40 years, it is up the Agent J to travel back in time to solve the mystery, teaming up with Agent K's younger self (Josh Brolin) in the process. This new trailer released last week promises the old charm and humour that made the original films such a success; with the time travel twist adding a ballsy yet fun change to the originals, and what looks like a great performance from franchise newcomer Brolin. Here's hoping that MIB3 is more in line with its original, and not closer to the sequel which received a fairly negative universal reception - although I am personally expecting something in between the two...


10 years on and the Men in Black are back - but are they welcome? Did that trailer get you excited for MIB3? Do you think it will be a blockbuster or lacklustre? Leave your comments below!

Sunday 4 March 2012

Trailer Park: Avengers Assemble

This week's Trailer Park new film trailer of the week is Marvel's Avengers Assemble: presented to you this week through a little something I like to call the Good, the Bad and the Ugly list! We'll come back to that in a minute, but firstly let's start off with the basics. If you haven't already heard about this film, then what cave have you been living in for the last few years? Avengers Assemble sees some of Marvels biggest superheroes join forces to form a team known as The Avengers in order to defeat a great threat and save Earth and mankind. The superheroes in question are Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Captain America (Chris Evans), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner); all lead by Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) as they try to defeat the forces of the villainous Loki (Tom Hiddleston) - as you can clearly see, no expenses have been spared! The film is directed by Joss Whedon, who some people may recognise for his work on the very popular Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Firefly TV series' which have both generated their own large cult followings. With each of the previous Marvel Studio films all setting up and leaving us hints and clues for this epic scale film, when the Avengers finally Assemble later this year we should be in for a cinematic treat!

So let's get down to my Good, Bad and Ugly list - it's pretty self-explanatory so let's go...

The Good - New Trailer

Released earlier this week, this brand new full-length trailer features a ton of new footage from the film itself, and shows off the epic nature and scale that we have to look forward to. The trailer shows us some moments with the superhero characters meeting and allowing their diverse personalities and egos to clash and create tensions between one another - which I believe will be where the strength in the film will lie; within the interactions and friction that will inevitably occur between the group members.

The Bad - New UK Title: Avengers Assemble

To prevent any confusion being caused by the original title 'The Avengers' being the same as an old British television series and its big screen adaptation (would anyone really be confused from this though!?), the studios have decided to rename the film Avengers Assemble for the UK market only. Although it will have no impact upon the content of the film itself, unfortunately for us this name seems to the lack the ease and coolness that the original had, thus leaving us with a cheesy and cliched alliterative title that doesn't really live up to the epic hype of the film itself. Still, there are worse things in the world...

The Ugly - New Poster

Whilst the overall premise of this poster is good and shows off the film and what it's all about very well - re-introducing us to the characters and setting the scene for the action, it is the excruciatingly bad use any sort of basic photoshop skills that gives a cheap and unprofessional look to what could have and should have been a very cool and impressive looking poster design!

Avengers Assemble is released in cinemas across the UK on the 26th April 2012.

Did that trailer get you excited for the assembly of Marvel's Greatest? Do you think it will be a blockbuster or lacklustre? Do you agree with my Good, Bad and Ugly list? Leave your comments below!

Saturday 3 March 2012

Beyond Infinity Film Celebrates: The Artist!

I may have already reviewed the film back at the start of January (my first ever review no less!), but after its overwhelming and much deserved successes all award ceremonies including the big two; The BAFTAs and The Oscars, I feel it's only right to give some more attention to what is a truly remarkable film - The Artist.

Back at the start of January when I first saw and reviewed The Artist, very few people had heard about the film, and it's staggered release meant that many of those who had couldn't see it anyway. Now however is a very different picture. Riding off the back of its many award successes, The Artist is now playing in many cinemas up and down the country, and last week my local independent cinema (the fantastic Gulbenkian cinema in Canterbury) showed it all week, with sell out showings on a nightly basis! I decided this week to go and see the film again, and it has to be said that for me, this second viewing was a very special moment; in fact I'd probably go as far as to say the best cinema experience that I've ever had! Whilst the first time I saw it, there were only 5 to 7 people in the entire cinema, here the screening was sold-out. The handful of people in the cheap chain multiplex cinema who sat munching loud crisps in my ear throughout the film had been replaced by a large audience of cinema goers who all were enthralled by the magic of the film. And there I was - right in the audience scenes from the film itself! I spoke fondly of these moments in my review saying how I wish that cinema was a special today as it was back then, as seen in a number of the films scenes, and in a rare moment in modern cinema I was there. This for me was a truly amazing moment, with the entire audience laughing along and enjoying the film together; it was a true experience elevating the film up to something special. Back in 2009 with the release of Avatar, millions of people around the world flooded to cinemas to see what was an event film; The Artist is like this too, except the event for this is far superior than Avatar's gimmicky CGI/3D effects - it is the heart and soul of the film that by taking us back to its roots reminds us why we love cinema and why it is so special to us all.

 The cast and crew of The Artist celebrate their triumph at The Oscars

The Artist truly is a cinematic triumph on so many levels, and I am so proud to see it receive all of the attention and awards that it so rightfully deserves. I'd like to personally congratulate every single person involved in creating this film, especially the incredible works of director and screenwriter Michel Hazanavicius, and the wonderful lead performances of Jean Dujardin and Bérénice Bejo who drive forward the story and bring it to life - it's so rare to see a film as special as this, and so exciting to also see what is technically an almost silent French film in the 4:3 format and black and white achieving such success today!

Now let's celebrate The Artist with number of special videos! Firstly in case you missed it, here is the moment that The Artist became the first silent film to win the Oscar for best picture in 83 years!:


This next and very insightful video goes behind the scenes of the film and talks to the people behind it:

And now for a bit more fun - a very entertaining blooper reel from the film:

After winning the BAFTA and the Oscar for Best Leading Actor, Funny or Die asks what will Jean Dujardin do next in this hilarious sketch:

And finally, for many people the real star of the show was a very talented little dog named Uggie, and here he is on American chat show Ellen showing off some of his acting talents:

The Artist is still showing in cinemas across the UK - so catch it whilst you still can!

Have you seen The Artist? What did you think? Leave your comments below!