Happy New Year!

Posted on December 31, 2010. Filed under: News | Tags: , , , , , , , , |

Did anyone see where 2010 went? I appear to have missed it.

This is the second new year’s post I’ve written, which must mean my blog has somehow made it to two years old. Wow, wasn’t expecting that.

At the start of this year I was anxiously waiting on an interview to find out what I was going to be doing for the rest of my life.  I’ve now survived my first term at med school and am only 3 months away from my fourth opera with my much missed music society.   Things are going pretty good for the blog too.  We made it past 100,000 hits, 150 posts and 800 comments.  Not bad going for the poorly typed ramblings of someone who doesn’t really know what they are talking about.

I haven’t made it to the cinema as much as I would like this year (as usual), but highlights have included Iron Man 2, Sherlock Holmes and the almighty Avatar. I am now the proud owner of a DVD of Inception, meaning I can finally catch up with the rest of the universe, and I managed to watch Toy Story 3 over the holidays, which was brilliant as expected.  I am also now one of the (probably) hundreds of people who (thanks to the DVD) have seen the full alternate opening to Iron Man 2 and think Favreau totally missed a trick there.

So what’s coming up in 2011?  Well, as the last post shows, I’m a little bit excited about Thor making it to our screens at last and in May you will find me camping in Leicester Square waiting for the premiere of Pirates 4. Not to mention the new Sherlock film I’ve got to look forward to.  June and July are all about the comic books, with provisional releases dates for X Men: First Class, The Green Lantern and Captain America. It’s gonna be a busy Summer.

Looks like I’m going to have a lot to be writing about.  Thanks again to all of you out there in the blogosphere who take the time to read and comment.  I’ll do my best to keep it worth the visit.

Have a great New Years Eve everyone, see you in 2011.

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Avatar is coming out in the cinema….again….

Posted on August 23, 2010. Filed under: News | Tags: , , |

Less than a year after Avatar hit the big screens and tried to prove that 3D wasn’t all naff gimmicks and balloon like people, it’s coming back with a “Special Edition.”  And, of course, it’s returning in 3D.

“The biggest adventure of all time.” Well, I’m taking issue with that for starters.  But, is it just me or does this smack of “let’s squeeze as much money as we can out of this one  before something bigger and better comes along?” Don’t get me wrong, I’m one of the few bloggers who didn’t trash Avatar, but having recently decided that I actually prefer it in 2D, the part of me that wont stop ranting about why 3D technology is ruining cinema is getting all agitated again.

If Avatar wasn’t a 3D movie there is no way it would be getting a second cinema release.  It just wouldn’t happen.  I’ve got nothing against Special Editions, Director’s Cuts or whatever you want to call them, in fact I have a few of them on my DVD shelf, but that’s where the re-jigged versions belong.  They’re made for the uber-fans who will actually notice that a particular character stayed on screen for 3 seconds longer than before and raised his eyebrow in a slightly different way to how he did in the original cut.  These people tend to remain indoors, where they have the safety of other important geek tools: slo-mo, pause and zoom.

Which brings me back to my point.  Avatar isn’t getting a second coming because this new version is so spectacular it needs to be seen on the big screen.  For starters it doesn’t have that kind of fanbase.  It’s going back on the big screen because they can charge twice as much to sit you there in a pair of those Carl Fredrickson glasses, and if they whip the hype up again like they did before then some people just might do it. (Incidently, if you take the glasses of during the showing, the screen looks very similar to how it would look if I take my own glasses off during any 2D movie).

Call me cynical, but this isn’t about bringing a new interpretation to a movie which would benefit from a few extra scenes.  It’s about greedily squeezing even more money out of the highest grossing film in cinema history.

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Avatar (2D)

Posted on June 27, 2010. Filed under: Ramblings | Tags: , , |

When I first saw Avatar, like pretty much everyone else on the planet, I saw it in 3D.  Like I said in my review, Avatar is at the moment the only film I’ve seen in 3D where I thought it added rather than detracted from the film, but I was still anxious to see it in 2D and play spot the difference.

So, did losing a dimension make the film less enjoyable? In a word: No.

Before we’d even made it through the first bit of dialogue I’d completely forgotten the film had ever been made in 3D.  The wide-angle shots still had the same depth and I actually preferred the look in the “human” scenes because it seemed more real.  There weren’t any points where I thought a section had looked better in 3D, not even the flying scenes.

It’s the incredible CGI effects that make Avatar an amazing feat of movie making, not the 3D technology.  While in the cinema it did add to the experience and was a fairly cool added extra, it really had no effect on the overall enjoyment of the film.

I’ve said many times on here, and on other people’s blogs, that I’m not a fan of the 3D revolution.  I truly believe that it is just a cheap studio tack, trying to make more people go out to the cinema in a time when home cinema systems can equal the theatrical experience.  Avatar is so far the only film I’ve seen where the 3D didn’t get in the way, but nothing is lost when you watch it in 2D.  As far as I can tell it’s just a gimmick.

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BAFTAs vs Oscars

Posted on February 4, 2010. Filed under: News | Tags: , , , , , , , , , |

Nominations are out for two of the biggest award cermonies on each side of the pond and I’m sure the designers are already getting over excited. There’s always a few interesting differences between the choices which highlight some taste variations between us Brits and our cousins across the Atlantic so I thought it might be worth taking a look.  So far the biggest difference I’ve noticed is that all the Academy awards have ridiculously over the top names. I mean what the hell is “achievement in music written for motion picture?”  What’s wrong with Best Original Score?  That and the fact that we haven’t had some of the Oscar movies released over hear yet.
My movie hit count is appalling this year, so most of my opinions here are based on hearsay, gossip, rumour and psychic ability, just so you know 😉

Going through all the awards would take me way to long so I’m just doing the biggies. No offence to all you make up artists, editors and short film makers out there.

Best Movie

An Education
The Hurt Locker
Up in the Air

The Blind Side
District 9
An Education
The Hurt Locker
Inglourious Basterds
Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire (The Americans love to use that full title)
A Serious Man
Up in the Air

No surprises that Avatar, Up in the Air and Precious make it onto both lists. I’m thinking it’s a shoe in for Avatar. There’s a lot more nominees for the Academy, including Up, which interestingly makes it onto the list for Best Film as well as Best Animated. Not often that a cartoon breaks through, and it’s well deserving of it’s nomination. It wont win this category though.

Best Actor
Jeff Bridges (Crazy Heart)
George Clooney (Up in the Air)
Colin Firth (A Single Man)
Jeremy Renner (The Hurt Locker)
Andy Serkis (Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll)

Jeff Bridges
George Clooney
Colin Firth
Morgan Freeman(Invictus)
Jeremy Renner

Poor Andy Serkis. Never gets awards from the Academy, despite being robbed outrageously at the Oscars back in 02/03. OK, so Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll isn’t out in the US. And a biopic about Ian Drury isn’t exactly going to capture the Yankee imagination but he has to win an Oscar some day!
Other than that the only difference is Invictus which is only just coming out over here. As for predictions, I’ve got my fingers crossed for Andy over here, I’m not sure about America but ‘m thinking wither Renner or Freeman.

Best Actress
Carey Mulligan (An Education)
Saoirse Ronan (The Lovely Bones)
Gabourey Sidibe (Precious)
Meryl Streep (Julie & Julia)
Audrey Tautou (Coco Before Chanel)

Sandra Bullock (The Blind Side)
Helen Mirren (The Last Station)
Carey Mulligan
Gabourey Sidibe
Meryl Streep

I think my feelings for Sandra Bullock have been made quite clear so I’m gonna gloss over that one.
I reckon Sidibe has got both here from what I’m hearing about her performance. If not possibly Mulligan over here because An Education got a lot of very positive reviews.

Supporting Actor
Alec Baldwin (It’s Complicated)
Christian McKay (Me and Orson Welles)
Alfred Molina (An Education)
Stanley Tucci (The Lovely Bones)
Christoph Waltz (Inglourious Basterds)

Matt Damon (Invictus)
Woody Harrelson (The Messenger)
Christopher Plummer (The Last Station)
Stanley Tucci
Christoph Waltz

Quite a few differences here. I’m wondering if Christian McKay might win over here. Gotta say I’m shocked that Alec Bladwin is in there since everything I’ve heard about that movie is bad. I don’t think Matt damon is going to win an Oscar, but I’m not sure who is…

Supporting Actress
Anne-Marie Duff (Nowhere Boy)
Vera Farmiga (Up in the Air)
Anna Kendrick (Up in the Air)
Mo’Nique (Precious)
Kristin Scott Thomas (Nowhere Boy)

Penélope Cruz (Nine)
Vera Farmiga
Maggie Gyllenhaal (Crazy Heart)
Anna Kendrick

Again, I’m thinking Precious is taking this one. Two nominatons for Up in the Air from the Brits suggest one of those might get it if Mo’Nique doesn’t. Possibly an Oscar for Penelope Cruz…but I think she’s already had one right?

Best Director
James Cameron (Avatar)
Neill Blomkamp (District 9)
Lone Scherfig (An Education)
Kathryn Bigelow (The Hurt Locker)
Quentin Tarantino (Inglourious Basterds)

James Cameron
Kathryn Bigelow
Quentin Tarantino
Lee Daniels (Precious)
Jason Reitman (Up in the Air)

Another unsurprising list. I think James Cameron will probably get the Oscar, and is quite likely to get the BAFTA too, but he might just be pipped by someone like Blomkamp.  No BAFTA nod for Precious….

Fantastic Mr Fox

Fantastic Mr. Fox
The Princess and the Frog
The Secret of Kells

The Princess and the Frog is only just coming out over here so that explains it’s absence from the BAFTA list. Although I’m not sure it’s Oscar material from the few clips I’ve seen. Probably quite good, and about time Disney had a black heroine, but maybe that’s more the reason it’s getting nominated.  I would like Up to win both.

Avatar (James Horner)
Crazy Heart (T-Bone Burnett, Stephen Bruton)
Fantastic Mr Fox (Alexandre Desplat)
Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll (Chaz Jankel)
Up (Michael Giacchino)

James Horner
Alexandre Desplat
The Hurt Locker (Marco Beltrami and Buck Sanders)
Sherlock Holmes (Hans Zimmer)

I do remember the music from Up being particularly good, and it’s taken a Globe already. Strangely, the score for Avatar left no impression on me and as someone who usually notices these kind of things that suggests it wasn’t that amazing.  Having not seen the other films I can’t comment. The nominations seem to vary quite a bit between countries, but the same few films are popping up again and again.

District 9
The Hurt Locker
Inglourious Basterds
The Road

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
The Hurt Locker
Inglourious Basterds
The White Ribbon

This one really has to be Avatar. The whole point of that film is the cinematography and special effects.  Interesting choice of Harry Potter by the Academy while once again over here we give a nod to District 9 which seems so far to be missing out across the pond.

Special visual effects
District 9
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
The Hurt Locker
Star Trek

District 9
Star Trek

Avatar has this one all tied up.  I thoguth the effects were really good in Star Trek but apparently BAFTA don’t agree with me.

And that’s all folks. Let me know your thoughts on the nominations.  I’m thinking if Avatar doesn’t sweep then we’ll be seeing big wins from Precious and The Hurt Locker in both ceremonies and Inglourious in America.

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Avatar (3D)

Posted on January 24, 2010. Filed under: Movies to see before you die, Reviews | Tags: , , , |

The last two films I’ve seen in the cinema have been in 3D. (That’s right folks, I’ve finally made it back!)  Last time I wrote about how I wasn’t entirely convinced by the 3D revolution and I’m still not completely there.  There’s a worrying trend for films being made solely because they’ll look good in 3D; and the fact that this showing was prefixed by a trailer for “Streetdance 3D” only served to confirm that fear.  With the coming of HD DVD and the impressive quality of home cinema systems nowadays, the theatres need something that will pull the people in and at the moment 3D is that key selling point.  I definitely think too many films are being made in 3D just for the sake of it, Alice In Wonderland for instance, doesn’t need to be in 3D, and I fear it will detract from the classic Burton look (Go ahead RossvRoss, take your shots)


Avatar is the film that might just change my mind on the whole subject.  Unlike with Up, I didn’t find the 3D distracting (except for a few times), instead it added a lot to the already stunning visuals.  And with that, I’ll get on with the review.

**Beware spoilers**

I went in to Avatar with lowered expectations, having heard from many friends and bloggers that while it looked amazing, the plot wasn’t up to much.  I’m going to go out on a limb here, and say that I really loved it!  Yes, it is basically Pocahontas with blue people, but just because a story has been told before doesn’t mean it’s not worth telling. How many classic battles of good versus evil are there out there, or  tales of unrequited love? Yet we’ll still go and watch them if they are told well enough.  The idea of technology and man made products destroying what is good and natural and then being overcome by a so-called primitive race has been done time and again ( The Ewoks in Return of the Jedi, The Ents in Two Towers, even the infamous Gunguns in Phantom Menace) so in a way it is getting tired, but the fact that they get made shows that people will still lap it up, especially in a time when we’re worrying about the effect we have on out planet..  Movies of this genre always have an underlying political statement and apart from the obvious, Avatar has the added a comment on current affairs summed up neatly in the line: “This is how it works, when people are sitting on something you want, you make them the enemy.”

The beginning is slow.  It takes a while for everything to really get going, which is strange since not a lot of time is given over to explaining what is actually going on.  We know that our leads brother is dead, and that for some reason we all live in space and are after a ridiculously named rock called “Unobtanium” (ouch) which can only be found on the planet of Pandora.  That’s about it for back story, and while that can rankle some, for someone like me who wants the action to get going as soon as possible, I don’t mind having to figure some of it out for myself.  Having said that, not very much happens early on, and for a film with a running time of 2 hours and 42 minutes you do start to drift off, but once it gets going, it keeps your attention till the end.

It's pretty, but what does it do?

The plot can be predictable, but it’s still engaging, owed in no small part to the world that Cameron has created for the indigenous Na’vi.  It simply is beautiful.  The film would look just as awe-inspiring in 2D, but the scenes in the forest really do come alive with the help of the extra dimension.  I particularly liked the UV glow that both the Na’vi and all  other Pandoran  life took on at night, giving an amazing backdrop of colour to the action. (You can tell just how much I liked the look of it by the amount of pictures on this post!)

Of course, everyone talks about the visual effects in this film, and for good reason. It’s flawless. MoCap has come a long way since Gollum, and with Richard Taylor’s Weta Workshop on board it was always going to be brilliant, but it surpassed  my expectations in the reality they managed to create. There was no point where I thought, “this bits real, she’s been put in later,” even in the interactions between humans and Na’vi, where there is no hint of the huge amounts of post production behind every frame.

I’d argue that a lot of the tech in this movie has been borrowed from The Matrix.  The way that the humans link up with their Avatars is kind of familiar (although in this version, if you die in the Matrix, you can still come back) and the Iron Man style robot suits were very familiar for any one who’s seen the final battle in Revolutions.  There were some new ideas too though. I really liked the look of the helicopter/planes that the army guys fly, and the psychic style link the Na’vi have with the creatures via their hair sounds completely ridiculous on paper but works surprisingly well on screen.

As for the characters, there’s isn’t a particularly deep characterisation but you do care, and when things start to go bad for the Na’vi I did find myself getting involved.  Probably my only criticism of the film is that is doesn’t quite have the heart of some of it’s predecessors; a bit too much time spent on the visuals and maybe not enough on the story arc, but it doesn’t fall into the trap as far as Reign of Fire did, and our two lead characters are sympathetic enough to keeps us locked in.

I am a fantasy junkie, and I can see how this film might not appeal to a wider market, but even with it’s flaws I think Avatar really is a film that has to be seen.  A colleague at work said that it reminded her of when she first saw Jurassic Park, which I think is a fair comment. A decade ago we wouldn’t have been able to make a film like this, but special effects are now moving at such a pace that nothing is impossible anymore.  It might not go down in history as one of the best stories ever told, but it will be remembered for being told in a way that was unlike anything we’d seen before.

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The Theory of Second Viewing

Posted on January 7, 2010. Filed under: Ramblings | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , |

Sounds clever doesn’t it? Don’t worry, it’s not.

Basically, I am of the belief that you cannot form a proper opinion about a movie until you’ve seen it twice.  Case in point: if you look back you’ll see that when I watched Iron Man for the first time I said that I liked it but probably wouldn’t put it on the movies to see before you die list, and didn’t rate it too highly amongst the other Marvel films.  However, now I’ve watched it again (a couple of times) I’ve pretty much completely changed my mind! Definitely a firm favourite for me now and making it’s way onto the list.  There’s also been films I wasn’t too sure about first time around but having seen them again I think I misjudged them. Sin City springs to mind. Twelve Monkeys takes most people a couple of goes too, but that’s mainly to get your head round it.

I think part of it is that the first time you see a movie you’re trying to keep up with the plot and the characters and so you can miss little things like throw away one liners or cool set design that you’ll pick up second time around.  Of course some times though, you’ve got to trust your instincts.  You will have to pay me a whole lot of money to make me sit through the  Mamma Mia or Lost In Translation again, while at the same time it didn’t take me more than one viewing to realise that Lord of the Rings was a brilliant film.

More often than not I find that films I thought were only OK to begin with get better the more you watch them, but things can go the other way too.  The sequels to The Matrix and the Pirates follow ups both came out in a wave of PR and special effects that had you going in the cinema, but the plot holes get wider once you get the DVD back to your sofa. Not that I dislike any of those films, just perhaps not as into them as I was the first time.  I’ve already written about how hype can affect your opinion of a movie with The Dark Knight, and from what I hear of Avatar so far, it seems like that will be another one which loses some of the magic once it’s out of the cinema, especially since so much stock is tied up in the effects.

There’s more than a few places on this blog where I’ve written I need to see a movie again before completely making my mind up (The Eternal Sunshine debate rages on).  It’s not so much for the films you either love or hate, it’s the ones where at the end you can’t quite decide how much you like it.  My advice is watch it again.  You’ll probably find it’s better than you think.

…unless it’s Mamma Mia 😛

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Reasons to be cheerful….

Posted on October 13, 2009. Filed under: Trailers | Tags: , , , |

I’ve had quite a lot going on recently, which has been stressful to put it mildly. Plus its been cold and rainy and I haven’t been to the cinema in months. But let’s have some reason’s to be cheerful; the sun’s come back and the trees are all turning into pretty colours, plus there’s some great films on the way which (if I ever make it back to the cinema) will definitely keep me going for a while.

I’ve already written about the awesome Parnassus which comes out next week, and way back in Summer I started getting excited about Up which comes out at the same time.

Following them we have Fantastic Mr Fox, which has an unbelievable voice cast including George Clooney, Owen Wilson, Adrien Brody, Meryl Streep, Willem Dafoe, Jason Schwartzman…

It’s looking like the next big hit in the kids-film-not-strictly-aimed-at-kids category and showcases some brilliant stop motion animation that holds up really well against its computerised rivals.  I actually did read the book for this one back in primary school (although I can’t remember much) but its nice to have another airing of a Roald Dahl classic that isn’t all about chocolate. Out on the 23rd.

If you can hang on ’till December then Avatar is out on the 18th.  not to be confused with Avatar: the last airbender, which is a completely different thing with an annoyingly similar name (also looks kinda good by the way).  The premise is sort of hard to explain, so really the best thing to do is watch the trailer.  James Cameron is directing, and the visual effects are clearly going to be stunning. I reckon it’s definitely one to catch on the big screen if you can.

And if you need to have something to look forward to for next year, the full Toy Story 3 trailer is finally out (thanks Saam). Enjoy. I can’t wait.

I’ll try to get the balance back soon so that trailers don’t outnumber reviews, someone take me to the cinema!

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