Tuesday 22 January 2013

Review: Les Misérables

Based on the world renowned West End musical, which in turn is based on the novel by Victor Hugo, based upon the events of the 19th Century French Revolution, the inspired and inspiring film adaptation of Les Misérables has made quite an impact on cinema audiences since its release. Undoubtedly you'll be aware of the film which stars the acting and musical talents of Hugh Jackman, Anne Hathaway, Russell Crowe, Amanda Seyfried, Helena Bonham Carter, Sacha Baron Cohen and Eddie Redmayne; in particular the tear inducing effect that it has had on vast numbers of its spell-bound cinema audiences, and understandably so...

The posters all define the film as 'the musical phenomenon' and boy they weren't kidding. The music, as anyone familiar with the musical will already know, is the film's biggest asset, with a lot of the numbers being incredibly powerful and moving; 'I Dreamed a Dream' particularly so. Anne Hathaway, who steals the show and buys herself an Oscar, is absolutely mesmerising and heart-wrenching in every scene that she is in, and the simple one shot rendition of the iconic 'Dreamed a Dream' song epitomises this and is far and away the defining scene of the film. After watching him play Wolverine for the best part of thirteen years, Hugh Jackman when thrust into the leading man role reminds us just how much of a musical talent he really as Jean Valjean, and Russell Crowe who makes up the other part of this two man rivalry, Javert, remarkably manages to defy all expectations and hold his own impressively well up against the heavy weight singing talents of the film - especially when in duet. Whilst it may be easy to dismiss them in a film that is supposed to be so, well, 'Misérable,' Bonham Carter and Baron Cohen deserve as much recognition for their parts as the comic relief, with their main song 'Master of the House' also being one of the highlights for me.

Not to be overlooked: Helena Bonham Carter brings a much needed comic relief to a Misérable film.

Having not seen the musical or having a huge amount of knowledge about it prior to seeing the film, I was unaware of just how musical the film was - I just expected the usual musical format of the occasional song and dance. In fact the film is essentially one giant song, with each song flowing into the next and all dialogue being delivered lyrically. It really is an impressive feat, and this combined with the epic scale of the story creating the feeling that the film you are watching really is something extraordinary and a real cinematic event. It's unlike any musical that I have ever seen before, and certainly puts in a strong case for 'the musical phenomenon' title that the film has awarded itself.

But there's a problem; clearly I have a lot of admiration for the film, why then is it that I didn't find myself sobbing at it like the rest of the audience?

My big problem with Les Misérables can be summed down to just one word: theatricality. There are a number of elements of the film that evoke a sense of theatricality, including the melodrama of the musical element, although as this is a musical film that isn't the issue here; in fact it is the film's greatest asset, although it does help to highlight this problem as you are watching what is essentially a near 3 hour long song! Whilst I still believe that Hooper is a very good and promising film director, his decision to focus on the faces of the characters a lot (including shots that track them face-on as they move and sing) evokes a sense of the stage show with the characters always singing out into the crowd. This paired with the heavy use hand-held camera shots gives the film a sense of realism that doesn't make you feel like you're in real-world 19th century France, rather more like a high budget filming of the stage show itself (just with a fully realised environment).

Even in such a melodramatic film, the sublime Anne Hathaway never gets carried away - well, except here...

Production design also adds to this issue, with some of the albeit amazing set designs feeling like the stylised sets of false wonky building designs that you would in fact see as the backdrop of a stage musical - watching the barricade scenes feels closer to being in the courtyard of the Dickens World attraction than a French town itself. I wasn't transported to the real 19th Century France; I was transported to a stylised fibreglass set piece. The problem with the production design isn't aided by its own inconsistency, with the reality of the on-location shot scenes, the non-reality of the occasional CGI heavy shot (and often blatant CGI backdrops), and the theatricality of the set designs never gelling together to create a coherent, immersive world. This also goes the same somewhat for the make-up that make the grimy prostitutes look more like pantomime dames!

Taking up the best part of 3 hours (with its 157 minute run time), I will also argue that the film is too long (Although truth be told I'm just thankful that Peter Jackson didn't direct it as it would have taken two films to get through!). Although it is difficult to condense a film that is on such an epic scale, it could have been tightened up at parts to adapt it to the big screen. This in turn ties nicely back into my problem with the film's theatricality, as if you were to watch Les Misérables on the west end stage you would have an interval mid-way through, which you no longer get when watching a film at the cinema. Apart from the lack of an interval though, the film does naturally follow a stage show structure, with typical stage ploys such as the two comic relief characters appearing on cue just as they might as a large set change happens behind the curtains on the stage version. It's minor things like this that subconsciously evoke the feeling of watching a stage show performance.

Russell Crowe on location at Dickens World - no, wait a minute... 

Now these are minor issues, some of which may not even be considered an issue at all, however it all works towards a strong sense that all I was watching was just the musical on the big screen - which for fans of the musical may sound like a dream I dreamed come true, however in being adapted to the big screen I want to see Les Misérables the film, not Les Misérables the stage show. Regardless, the main issue hasn't even come to light yet! The sum is greater than the parts of the whole, and all of these small elements combined to create this notion of theatricality that had me constantly thinking of the film as a performance. Despite the fact I was sat thinking 'blimey, this is a ruddy amazing performance,' the fact of the matter remains that I was thinking of it as a performance nonetheless, rather than being enveloped in the drama of it all. Even though I loved the performances, I never felt that I was watching Jean Valjean, it was always Hugh Jackman playing Jean Valjean, albeit incredibly well, but it's a feeling that takes the edge of the drama and emotion off of the film through a loss of immersion and believability. And in a film called Les Misérables I think you can imagine why that sense of drama is an important one. Unfortunately, Anne Hathaway's Fantine aside, I never felt the full extent of this 'Misérable' element.

Despite feeling like I was watching something really epic and special whilst watching Les Misérables, with the exception of the show-stealing scenes with Anne Hathaway I simply struggled to get as misty eyed as everyone else did after failing to completely connect with the story and its characters. When all was done and the final shot cut to black, the entire sobbing audience of the filled theatre went up in a round of applause, and I felt the urge to do so as well, but not in emotional admiration at what I had seen. The theatrical elements and structure that made the film feel like a large budget shooting of the stage show made me feel the compulsion to clap as one would at the end of a stage performance; if I had wanted that I would have just gone to see it on stage instead! Les Misérables is still a remarkable piece of filmmaking, and is certainly a must see, but for me at least it is let down by a sense of performance and artificiality that prevents it from being the masterpiece that it could have, and perhaps even should have been.


Les Misérables (certificate 12A) is now showing in cinemas across the UK.

Have you seen Les Misérables? What did you think of 'The Musical Phenomenon!?' Leave your thoughts and opinions in the comments section below!

Thursday 10 January 2013

12 of '12! Part 2.

Welcome back to my list of the top 12 films that I saw in 2012! So far I've counted down from 12 to 6, which leaves us with just five more to go - my favourite films of 2012. So let's not waste any more time, cue the Top of the Pops jingle because here are my top five films of 2012...

Pioneers of cinema itself, and previous Best Picture winner at the BAFTAs and Oscars last year (for my favourite film of 2011, The Artist), the French are at it again, with touching comedy Untouchable (original title: Intouchables). The film, which after becoming the second highest grossing film in the French box office experienced a warm reception overseas too, tells the story of a wealthy paraplegic who decides to hire a less well-off young man to be his carer, as he is the only person to show him the one thing he desires: no sympathy. There isn't an awful lot to not like about Untouchable; it is effortlessly the funniest comedy of the year, has a touching and thoughtful story at its centre, the beautiful setting of France, and a close buddy movie relationship at its heart that makes the film a real feel-good treat. It may be predictable from the outset to see how each of the characters will learn from one another as their relationship blooms, but any flaws become significantly less problematic as the film is such a joy to watch. When placed next to a mainstream comedy such as Ted which is equally predictable, the laughs in Untouchable feel honest and genuine when compared to a film that in comparison seems to try too hard to make its audience laugh. Once again the French prove that they really are the fathers of film!

Michael Fassbender proves that he has the balls (literally) to take on a very challenging film in Steve McQueen's hauntingly beautiful film Shame. This harrowing art film about sex addiction tackles a very difficult subject matter and makes it accessible to all through the undeniably human them of addiction as a whole. With its flawless cinematography, stunning performances from Fassbender and Mulligan, and superb direction, Shame allows you to step inside the mind of a man battling his inner demons, in a mesmerising and powerful way. Heavily snubbed at last year's awards ceremonies, this is a tour de force piece of filmmaking that blew me away. Click here to read the full review.

Easily the most inventive and unique films of the year, Berberian Sound Studio was also one of my personal favourites! Toby Jones proves how he is one of the best and perhaps overlooked British acting talents, in a film about the creation of horror sound effects in film itself. Whilst the first half of the film gives us an insight into the construction of film (rest in pieces melons and cabbages), the second half turns art house as the film then goes on to deconstruct itself, as the lines between ours, Gilderoy's and the horror film's diegeses begin to blur as reality and film merge. A remarkable piece of filmmaking that will leave you thinking, but more importantly entertained as what starts out as a normal drama soon turns into a very unique horror.

Sam Mendes Took a stab at the tried and tested 50 year old Bond formulae and well and truly proved that nobody does it better! Reinvented for a newer generation of cinema goers, Skyfall took the classic conventions of every Bond film, all of the elements that made them so enjoyable, and updated them to create an instant Bond classic... and then some! With a narrative that storms along at a pace like nothing else, some of the most extraordinary action set pieces in recent film history, stunning settings, skilful cinematography, a classic Bond song, and a modern and engaging character driven narrative, Skyfall was much more than just a good Bond film, it was a fantastic film full stop, and one that dared to offer more to those looking for it. Immensely fun, enjoyable and tirelessly exciting, Skyfall was one of the most satisfying films that I saw this year, and more than ticked all of the boxes. Click here to read the full review.

There's a great irony to the fact that I am posting this article on the day that the 2013 Oscar nominations were announced, as my film of the year rather shockingly garnered a total of 0 nominations (and just 1 for the BAFTAs yesterday), despite vast critical acclaim, approval from waves of cinema goers and fans alike, and for concluding one of the greatest film trilogies of all time. I am of course talking about Christopher Nolan's epic Bat-Finale, The Dark Knight Rises. This sudden backlash of accolade for the film comes as a shock to me, as I am in nothing short of complete admiration for Nolan's work in this remarkable film. Where to begin? It's a comic book action film, that's intelligent and engaging, relevant and poignant, entertaining and moving - a Hollywood blockbuster of art house quality. It has a tremendous cast playing deep characters in a film which is in essence a character piece that focusses not on Batman, but on the broken shadow of a man behind the mask. It contains some of the best moments of cinema of all time within a film that I discover more and more within every time I see it. It is traditionally shot on film (which holds a certain special quality to me compared to digital), and more impressively on IMAX, which in my eyes remains the most impressive technical advancement in film - and seeing the entire IMAX print on the grand canvas of an IMAX screen made for one of, if not the single greatest cinema experiences that I have ever seen. Heavy use of CGI is put aside (and see if you can notice when it's used anyway!) in favour for real visual effects, creating a more impressive aesthetic experience for us cinema goers. All of which Nolan implements in most of his films, and to which I admire greatly, but what makes The Dark Knight Rises stand out is the epic scale that it encompasses within all of these areas, really pushing the limits in what can be done in film - they dropped an actual plane out of the sky in the film's opening scene for Pete's sake! I adored Nolan's work on this incredible finale of a film and the entire Dark Knight Trilogy as a whole, and whilst the Oscars may refuse to acknowledge it, I give it the title of my film of 2012. Click here to read the full review.

Of course it wouldn't be a best of list without a few honourable mentions, and 2012 gave us so many good films that I just couldn't fit them all into my top 12 list. In fact I could probably even do an honourable mentions list for my honourable mentions with so many enjoyable releases! So are just a few of the films that narrowly missed out on places in my 12 of '12:

  • The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey: A fun outing that made for a much welcome return to the realms of Middle Earth, yet without the rose tinted glasses the over long running time (and we're only a third of the way through!) meant that the film was Baggins at times, resulting in it being more ummin' and aahin' than Balin and Dwalin; less Thorin and more borin' and snorin'! Yet as soon as Gollum steps onto the scene, everything suddenly comes alive, and the film well and truly begun. (Full Review)
  • Lawless: a great modern gangster film that I enjoyed immensely. Shia LaBeouf was actually good in the role, and Tom Hardy (along with his role as Bane in The Dark Knight Rises) proved that he can convey the raw animalistic intensity of a character with just his eyes and a grunt! A fun film that I struggled to keep out of my list.
  • Brave: Pixar's latest offering was a visual treat that had a touching mother/daughter story at the centre of it. Whilst it wasn't the studio's best piece due to the strict confines of the fairytale genre, it was certainly a lot of fun, with a refreshing female lead, and the clans and the triplets bringing a great comic relief to the animated proceedings. (Full Review)
  • Prometheus: fair to say that this was a film that divided people; I actually very much enjoyed Sir Ridley's return to the Alien universe, and even almost gave it a spot in my top 12! Perhaps it did ask more questions than it did answer, but is that really such a bad thing? Whilst I admire the stylistic qualities of the old fashioned sci-fi immensely, each time I watch it I find more and more thing to think about within the narrative, which leaves me enjoying it all the more. (Full Review)
  • Frankenweenie: Tim Burton returned to classic stop-motion animation in great style with his pastiche of the monster movie genre. Not only was it crammed with references and a lot of fun, it was also the only film that I have seen that seemed to purposefully use its 3D effect to add to its narrative. Yes that's right folks; it made me fleetingly believe in 3D! What more can I say!? (Full Review)
  • The Descendants: A big contender for awards season last year, the George Clooney starring film was mostly just an alright film, which elevated itself to a very emotional and poignant piece at times. There is nothing more heartbreaking than a shot of a young girl being told that she will never get to see her dying mother again - I haven't teared up this much since Toy Story 3!
Well there you have it folks, my cinematic highlights of 2012 (out of the films that I actually managed to see); I hope that you enjoyed this read, and now it's your turn to get involved too! I'd love to hear what your top films of the year were too, so be sure to let me know in the comments section below. Or perhaps you want to give me a telling off for forgetting one of your favourite films of the year; maybe you just cannot stand my taste in film!? Whatever it maybe I always love to hear from you guys too, so make sure to leave a message below.

Here's to 2013 being just as good a year for film!

Tuesday 8 January 2013

12 of '12! Part 1.

2012 was an incredible year in cinema, making it one of the most successful years on record! Of course that'll come as no surprise in a year when Avengers assembled, skies fell, Dark Knights rose, games were hungry, Pixar were Brave, journeys were unexpected and the folks at Disney were a bunch of Muppets! The other day I looked back over the year in my list of the worst 10 films that I (rather unfortunately) saw, but now it's time to be a bit more positive at the past year in film, as I begin my look back over my top 12 films of 2012 (that I managed to see!)...

Not necessarily a film that was lapped up by the masses, The Cabin in the Wood was certainly one that film and horror lovers enjoyed immensely. A unique horror comedy that combined the two genres expertly to create a film for cinephiles the world over, The Cabin in the Woods was simply a lot of fun from start to finish, with its Scream-like post-modern concept that attempted to explain why the clichés of the horror genre exist through its somewhat self-aware narrative. A lot of the best films recently have been films about cinema and film itself (take a look back to The Artist and Hugo just last awards season), and this hilariously fun film continues that trend and compliments them perfectly. Click here to read the full review.

It's the film the put the 'AAARGH' into Aardman - and if you thought that was a pun too far, you must have missed this film! The humour of The Pirates is a rich as the detailed stop-motion animated models and sets are themselves. Half of the fun in fact comes from looking at the signs in the background, for stores such as 'Man Ke Laundry' and 'D.K.Ying Dentistry,' one shop even claimed to have their 'Biggest Ever Sail!' As with all of the Bristol based Aardman studio pieces, the film epitomises that unique British sense of humour that may not have gone down as well overseas, but leaves all the more for us to enjoy. Enormously witty and filled with charm, The Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists is a film for all, and another clay gem in Aardman's chest of cinematic treasures. It has to be said that meeting some of The Pirates themselves was a pretty awesome experience too - those clay puppets are amazing!

Heavily tipped for awards season glory, I initially didn't quite get what all of the hype surrounding Paul Thomas Anderson's The Master was all about. The performances were fantastic, the characters fascinating, each shot beautifully presented like a 1950s postcard, and the story was an interesting one, but I wasn't blown away by it by any means. Yet the film slowly began to sink in after leaving the theatre, and after a while I found myself wanting more over time, in a similar way to how I felt the first time I saw Scorsese's Taxi Driver - and let's face it if I'm comparing the film to that then it's hardly a bad thing! It's the extraordinary characters played by Joaquin Phoenix, Amy Adams and Philip Seymour Hoffman that truly make the film what it is: addictive. As one character accuses Hoffman's Master of hypnotising his followers, I too feel almost entranced by the film itself, as if I too have been inducted into its cult. A mesmerising and fascinating piece of modern cinema.

Putting this film ahead of The Master might be a controversial decision, but it's my list so I can do what I like with it! They really are two very different ends of the spectrum, but Marvel's Avengers Assemble does deserve some recognition for its achievements. Not only was it the years highest grossing film (which doesn't say anything in terms of quality), but it marked the first of what I like to call the mega-franchise. For the first time, four individual established film franchises came together to make one Goliath blockbuster, and a lot of fun. The likes of Hulk and Loki well and truly stole the show in a big budget blockbuster that took the time to focus on its characters. The film had its fair share of problems, and is by no means perfect, but some ambitious and exciting action set-pieces and a load of well-scripted humour made Avengers Assemble a film for all to enjoy, and I for one just wanted to go back in and watch it again! Click here to read the full review.

There's always the risk with Wes Anderson that his overly stylistic sensibility and 'unique' sense of humor can come across as self-indulgent and rather too smart-ass (and we'll soon see if a certain Mr. Tarantino does the same with Django Unchained...), but Moonrise Kingdom was a simple delight. Anderson's stripped down innocent tale about two young misfits finding one another and their place in a world that doesn't fully understand them is full of heart, charm and wit, with his sense of humour and narrative both engaging and entertaining. The unique Anderson sense of style is here used to add to the narrative setting, making this fantasy-like world feel like a painting perhaps created by a character within the film itself. The cast is solid, and the second Edward Norton steps into the film it fully kicks into the high gear. Moonrise Kingdom proves that in a world of grand cinematic events that are as epic as their overblown budgets, it's the simpler things that affect us the most.

Yup, at number 7 it's 'that film with the tiger in a boat' - Life of Pi. Whilst I'm certain some people will not be overly fussed about this film (the same kind of people that weren't all that bothered about The Artist last year), I can't help but admire what Ang Lee has created with this wonderful piece of filmmaking. It's a grand, ambitious, expensive CGI fuelled epic film, depicting a very simple story. At its heart is the tale of a confused young man trying to discover the meaning to life and the answers to his confused way of looking at the many differing and contradicting religions. At the same time the film tells a story about storytelling itself and asks how much one can and should believe; perhaps you can see the link developing between the two already? Many of the heavily computer generated shots look like works of art that I could just admire for hours, and really work together to create a grand, mystical and inspiring world that is much more rewarding than your average big budget blockbuster. Click here to read the full review.

Disney threw open the year with the return of everyone's favourite puppets, those oh so loveable misfits The Muppets. Anyone who knows me will know that I love the Muppets, and what was not to love about their big return to the big screen. More in line with the original Henson era Muppet films and The Muppet Show itself, this reboot for a new generation saw the Muppets return to their roots whilst reinventing themselves for a new generation, making one of the best films of the year in the process. The humour was right up my street, the cameos were fresh, the characters were as good as us older fans could remember, and the music was absolutely genius! It was a film event that everyone of every gender and age could sit and laugh along with, all together at the same time - and not every family film can actually achieve that. Yes folks, watching a family film never felt so good. Click here to read the full review.


Oh I'm just too cruel aren't I, ending my list here like that? Well if Peter Jackson can have three films for The Hobbit, then I can have two articles for my top 12! Besides you're all probably tired from reading through the first seven entries anyway. So keep your eyes peeled on Beyond Infinity Film over the next few days for the concluding article in this two part extravaganza of 2012's finest - who will come top? You'll just have to wait to find out...

Oh, and as always I love to hear your thoughts and opinions, so be sure to leave a message in the comments section below. What have been your favourite films of 2012? Perhaps some of your least favourites have made my list so far? Whatever it may be, leave it below.

Sunday 6 January 2013

Review: Gangster Squad

The 1940's Avengers Assemble in a Classic Warner Brothers Gangster film for a new generation!

In 1949, as Mafia Crime Lord Mickey Cohen's (Sean Penn) wave of terror continues to grow throughout Los Angeles, a special unit of L.A.P.D's finest, lead by Sgt. John O'Mara (Josh Brolin), are assembled  to end Cohen's reign once and for all. Can the newly conceived 'Gangster Squad' get the job done by cleansing the streets of the criminal underworld and all making it out alive?

Many moons ago, the folks at Warner Bros. Studios were well known for their output of Gangster films, through the 1930s especially with the films that helped to make the likes of James Cagney and Humphrey Bogart stars. Based on true crime stories of speakeasies and Capone Era Gangster movements that were happening at the time (as well as working as a deterrent to stop people committing the crimes), the studio's Gangster cycle became less significant and ultimately ended with the age of the gangster, bar the odd exception, like... oh I dunno... Gangster Squad! Yes folks, those iconic men in long coats, fedora hats, smoky rooms, exotic nightclubs and big shoot-outs are back! The question remains, is it a welcome return?...

Mickey Cohen handing himself over to the police? If only it were that simple...

As someone who loves watching those old black and white films featuring the sharp talking and even sharper shooting gangsters, it's a mixed bag for me. There is a nagging part of the back of my mind saying that this isn't what I want to see, mainly because of the modern filmmaking techniques used; It's odd seeing this very familiar world through the lens of a dynamic moving camera and the occassional Guy Ritchie Sherlock Holmes inspired slow motion shots. It also feels a lot less authentic being shown through a digital projector rather than on film, and strangely enough, in colour! Being shot in 3D would have been a big nail in the coffin for me, so I'm very glad that the filmmakers and the studio chose not to do that. Apart from that though the film gets it pretty much right, delivering exactly what I wanted to see (although I have a few mixed feelings about the ending, I'll leave them out to avoid spoilers).

With the focus being on good ol' fashioned characters, the cast also does a fantastic job, with an ensemble of modern acting greats taking on the classic style approach and pulling it off. Sean Penn gives a menacing performance as Mickey Cohen, a man who through Penn comes across as a very wild and dangerous presence. Josh Brolin leads the squad very well and feels very much at home in this environment, as if he were from the era himself. The ever-wonderful Emma Stone looks the part as the stunning female presence, but it's not a character that is explored too much, understandably so within the time frame of the film however (albeit a lot more developed and significant than you may expect). Heartthrob Ryan Gosling continues to break hearts as the quintessential pretty-faced cool guy, playing a character somewhere between his roles in Crazy, Stupid Love and Drive - an expert in women and violence! He plays the role well and provides a great screen presence, but would have benefited if he only had a bit more Drive to his performance, especially for in this sort of film.

Ryan Gosling charms the pants off of Emma Stone, and everyone else (admit it men, even you!).

Speaking of not having enough Drive, the film on the whole does play it a bit too safe for my liking, especially in terms of the narrative - the story on the whole is too simple and generic. I'd have perhaps liked something a bit more ambitious to really make the film stand out as something special, however having said that, sometimes there is nothing wrong with being completely average! In being a film that is so generic, Gangster Squad does become a loving tribute to those gangster films, and the fact of the matter is that that is what I wanted to see. Had the film strayed away from that then I'd have probably felt even more disappointed, because what I really wanted to see was those 1940s men, in their 1940s cars, with their 1940s suits, in their 1940s world! From that perspective the film delivers in being very aesthetically pleasing big time, and spending time in that world is just a pleasure and a hell of a lot of fun. At the end of the day the film is nothing new, and it certainly won't change your world, but it's not trying to; it's a very enjoyable romp, and for those who love this period and genre they will love it even more-so for it.

What's very interesting about this film's historical context aside from it's 1940s 'based on true events' story, is the more recent history of the film itself that makes it a significant piece of our time. For those who don't already know, Gangster Squad was initially set for release last September, with a pivotal scene featuring a shoot-out in a cinema. However being a Warner Brothers film, as was The Dark Knight Rises, in the wake of the tragic cinema shooting in Colorado, America last summer the scene was cut and rewrote, with all trailers featuring footage from the scene immediately retracted. It's a sad piece of history that won't soon be forgotten, and this film will last as a reminder of it. The scene re-shot in question is now set in Chinatown instead, and provides one of the more cinematic and extravagant settings of the film - in fact if I wasn't any the wiser I'd have mistaken it for a scene intended to be there from the start. The sad truth of it all is that Gangster Squad will go down in cinema history, but for all the wrong reasons.

The Chinatown scene won't soon be forgotten in the greater context.

Gangster Squad takes the old Warner Brothers classic Gangster film formulae and reinvents and updates it for a new generation. It may not be a perfect film but it is certainly a lot of fun, and what the film lacks originality it more than makes up for in satisfying expectations by delivering everything that you'd possibly want and expect from the Gangster piece. 1940's sounds and surroundings, a great ensemble of actors, Thompson submachine guns, shoot-outs, dancing girls, booze, cars, suits, fedoras, gangsters and squads - what more could you possibly ask for in a film like this!?


Gangster Squad (certificate 15) is released in cinemas across the UK on January 10th.

Are you looking forward to Gangster Squad? Have you already seen it? Agree or disagree with my review? Leave your thoughts and opinions in the comments section below!

Tuesday 1 January 2013

2012's Cinema Nightmares!

2012 has come and gone, and as we welcome in 2013 and build up to my imminent Top 12 of '12 list, as well as the First Annual Beyond Infinity Film Awards later in the month, here's something a little bit different. There's no denying the 2012 was a great year for film, but there were a number of releases that were a little less satisfying; in short, that sucked! So here it is, my 10 least favourite films of 2012 out of the all of the films that I had the displeasure of watching - brace yourself folks, here we go...

Daniel Radcliffe's first big screen project since the end of the gargantuan Harry Potter franchise set the actor his biggest challenge yet; shaking off the weight of the franchise that made his name and to break away from it before becoming stereotyped into the part. So did he do it? No, of course not. I know this may sound like I'm just bullying Radcliffe by badmouthing his career, yet it is this performance that drags down what could have been a special horror film that opted for a more traditional style instead of the tiring Paranormal Activity and Saw films that have plagued the cinema in recent years. Not only did I never believe that the young actor was a widowed father and a successful lawyer, the big problem was that I never saw a character at all, just a performance - or rather an attempt at one. Failing to get behind the lead character meant that the film failed to get an emotional response from me, making The Woman in Black lose all sense of peril and credibility as a result. Click here to read the full review.

I've actually been a strong defender of John Carter, making it known that I believe that the film is no-where near as bad as all of the negative press surrounding it made it out to be - there are far worse films out there that deserve such bad publicity a lot more. In fact John Carter was actually a rather interesting film in context, just as long as you consider the fact that it is adapted from a book published in 1917, then you can see how it was such a strong source of inspiration for most science fiction pieces since, including the likes of Star Wars and Avatar. Yet the film certainly isn't perfect - the performances and storytelling aren't groundbreaking, and I often find the heavy use of CGI somewhat off-putting - but it certainly isn't the worst film released this year... Click here to read the full review.

Despite Meryl Streep's much deserved award winning performance, The Iron Lady was a film that didn't quite get it all right. Whilst the scenes set in the past were engaging and well done, the constant jumps back to the present day Thatcher became a nuisance to me, destroying the flow and the entertainment of the whole film in order to attempt an emotional punch, which I hardly felt as a result. Had the film opted for a simpler narrative looking at Thatcher's incredible historic story - rather than focussing so much on the rather controversial and uncomfortable themes of the dementia of a woman who is still alive and suffering today - the film would have been a much better product as a result. Click here to read the full review.

This one might turn a few heads as Seth MacFarlane's Ted was one of the most popular films of the Summer for a lot of people, but I really didn't think it was all that it is cracked up to be. A new film by the creator of hit TV show Family Guy promised a fresh new inventive comedy, but failed to deliver - there was nothing new or interesting about the film at all. That's not the problem though, the problem is that bar a few moments of great humour, the film wasn't even that funny, which was not helped either by the completely predictable and unengaging plot, and the two-dimensional characters that I just didn't care about at all. The gag is that the teddy bear is alive, and is grown up so swears, does drugs and drinks, etc; the problem is that the joke lasts for 105 minutes longer than it needs to (and yes, the running time was 106 minutes long).  In all honesty Ted bored me more than it entertained me, which is a real shame because someone like MacFarlane has got the talent to create something a lot better than this. Click here to read the full review.

What could have been a wonderful family film adaptation of a book from the genius of Dr. Suess in fact turned out to miss the demographic by a long shot, featuring a ton of entertainment for anyone under five, and very little for anyone else. It is commendable for trying to push its environmental message to the young audience; I just wish that it did it a little more subtly rather than clubbing me around the head with it for the duration of the running time. The songs were pretty fun though. Click here to read the full review.

Just as many people loved Ted, a lot of critics seemed to go wild for the Charlize Theron starring film Young Adult. Yet there is a lot that is fundamentally wrong with the film. Theron's character, an adult still acting as if she's in her teens, is entirely unlikable and although it is arguable that she is not meant to be, the point still stands that I just cannot sympathise with her; especially when the film goes no-where by the end of it! There is no character development, nor any conclusion to her story, by the film's climax she simply fails in her warped plan, sleeps with someone for pity and then uses those who she continues to look down upon for an ego-boost, before going back to what she was doing at the start. Completely anti-climatic and not nearly as funny or clever as it thinks it is, Young Adult is not as good as some critics make it out to be.

While the original was fun, The Expendable 2 is mostly anything but. Tedious, loud, and void of any plot or characters, the explosive sequel goes bigger, but by no means better. Whilst it is redeemed slightly by the big finale which manages to hit the nail on the head and provide the tongue in cheek action fun promised by the packed cast, it is not worth watching the previous hour and a half of the film that takes itself far too seriously to get there. Click here to read the full review.

If John Carter and The Expendables 2 had a baby, it might look like Wrath of the Titans. Soulless and even more two dimensional than the film's 3D effects, watching Wrath of the Titans is about as much fun as smashing your own face in with a large rock. A lot of the expensive CGI-heavy budget is put towards creating not a lot of action at all, as nothing really actually happens in the film. Even the great Liam Neeson spends his time in the film standing there and doing nothing, literally! To think that the film features two of the leading actors from Schindler's List and completely wastes them says an awful lot about this awful film. Whilst Clash of the Titans infamously featured no Titans clashing, this sequel does feature a Titan, but nothing in the way of any wrath, nor enjoyment, excitement or entertainment. Click here to read the full review.

Tom Hardy is a very talented actor, and has starred in two fantastic films this year in two fantastic, menacing, brilliant roles. These films are The Dark Knight Rises and Lawless, because unfortunately even someone as great as Hardy couldn't save the abysmal This Means War. I don't even know where to begin, the film is just stupid. Two spies using their tech and skill to spy on a girl that they are both seeing, and to sabotage each other's dates with her, whilst at the same time the evil villain that they are meant to be stopping is completely forgotten about just like that - ya know, 'cause this is way more important! It's a film that tells people that it's alright to cheat on others and go behind their backs. Formulaic, unfunny, bland, tedious, irritating and terribly cynical, the feeling that you get when watching this film is not unlike the vile after-taste of vomit at the back of your throat. Tom Hardy can do better films than this, and judging by the expression void of any enthusiasm that he shows throughout the film, he knows it too.

I love film. I think that's pretty clear to everyone who knows me or reads this blog. I can't get enough of film, so much so that I'm currently dedicating my life to it. But on a very rare occasion I do have wonder why, especially if I see a film so repugnant and horrible as The Watch. I can't remember ever walking out of a film that was genuinely so bad that it actually gave me a headache! It's ridiculous, stupid, vulgar and not even slightly funny or enjoyable at all. I sat in a screening full of teenagers (who the film is targeting) and I don't remember the film getting a single laugh from anyone. The cast are irritating beyond belief; Ben Stiller is void of humour as the straight man, Vince Vaughn is one of the most unbearable screen presences in film, the recently Oscar nominated Jonah Hill plays an imitation of Zach Galifianakis in The Hangover (and seemingly every other one of his films), and the talents of Richard Ayoade are completely wasted as he gets pushed to the back. This film is a soulless, money grabbing machine designed only to take the money out of your pocket rather than to entertain even slightly - I guarantee that no-one making The Watch thought that it was a good idea, and no-one involved will be proud of it. A film so horrifyingly bad that, The Watch made me so angry that I almost lost faith in film - avoid it like the plague, even if you have to catch the plague to avoid it! Click here to read the full review. 

So there it is, my 10 least favourite films of the 2012, but what were yours? Perhaps some of your favourites are even in my list? Leave your thoughts and lists in the comments section below, as always I'd love to hear what you think. Oh, and Happy New Year everyone - let's hope that 2013 doesn't have many films as bad as these!