Real Steel

Posted on October 21, 2011. Filed under: Movies to see before you die, Reviews | Tags: , , , |


First of all, a big thank you to the couple of hundred of you who’ve carried on visiting this site despite my appalling lack of updates. I won’t whine about my degree anymore.
Today I went to see Real Steel at the IMAX. This was a doubly exciting experience because a) It involves Hugh Jackman teaching robots how to punch each other and b) I’ve never been to the IMAX before.

When I first saw the trailer for Real Steel, my first thought was this looks like the one cool bit of Transformers but with very little chance of Shia LaBeouf and Megan Fox, which can only be a good thing.

Having just returned from the cinema all I have to say is this: YYYYYEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!

Real Steel is the cinematic equivalent of drinking 8 cans of Red Bull.  I am on such a buzz right now that I’ve completely forgotten about how earlier today I basically fell asleep trying to write-up my lecture notes.  A significant proportion of the film is given over to people yelling/cheering/screaming and one epic moment of Hugh Jackman shouting “BRING IT!” that it’s almost impossible to resist joining in. If I hadn’t been scared that I would be thrown out I probably would have been on my feet on numerous occasions.

It’s just the perfect adrenaline junkie movie. It opens with a robot fighting a bull. Seriously. Bot vs Bull. Who get’s away with that?! But it’s amazing. And every fight is so ramped up and energy fuelled that you can’t help but get sucked in. I think the IMAX’s epic screen definitely helped with that, and I strongly recommend you see this movie in a cinema on the biggest screen you can, but on top of that the camera angles put you right in there with the baying crowd so that you feel the full force of every mighty hydraulic assisted punch.

Scratch the surface of this film and you wont find much, but that’s exactly what makes it so good. I was a bit worried at first when Hollywood staple plot padding the good ol’ Daddy Issues were brought in to add some drive, but thanks to perhaps my favourite on screen kid ever (Dakota Goyo, who looks so much like baby Anakin Jake Lloyd I almost don’t believe he’s a different person) it never gets in the way of the steel crunching action that we all came to see.

At times the dialogue is so cheesy it’s practically painful.  But you don’t care. This is a film that doesn’t take itself seriously. Even Hugh Jackman plays most of it with a wry smile on his face that says, “Yes, I’m boxing with robots, but don’t pretend you wouldn’t rather be watching this than some deep and meaningful awards chaser.”  He’s not exactly stretching his acting muscles, but given how ripped the rest of him is in this movie I think we’ll let him off.  When it does get it right though, there are some really nice moments, my particular favourite being the exchange between father and son at the door, which has all the right sign posts for the classic redemption arc but with none of the saccharine.

Evangeline Lily is basically there to cry, cheer and wear shorts. She does all these things very well.  But this movie isn’t about her. Strip it down and you’ve got your basic underdog fighter claws his way to the top. The  twist being that our junkyard dog is literally a heap of scrap metal.  Huge kudos though for doing what Transformers never could and getting me to care about a lump of iron. I don’t know whether it was the blue doe eyes or the fact that he was serving as the personification of our estranged family, but I really wanted that little robot to keep swinging punches.

The plot is predictable as expected, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t engaging. The big final showdown fits pretty much to formula, but I was still holding my breath every time things took a turn for the worse and equally thrilled when Jackman step up for the big finish.  The one thing that did surprise me I don’t want to spoil, but for those who have seen it, the way they capture Atom’s “flair” is definitely the best thing to happen on a big screen in a long time. 😉

The look of the film is also impeccable. The CGI is seamless and interacts beautifully with the surrounding environment. The setting in the not-too-distant future is also good, with references to historic fights in the late 20-teens, allowing the super advanced tech to seem that little bit more plausible.

As you can probably tell from this stream of consciousness set of superlatives, I’m still on a pretty big high from this film, but I wanted to write this as soon as possible to try to get that feeling across to you. What we have in Real Steel is a flawlessly uplifting popcorn movie that I could happily watch on repeat without ever getting bored. It doesn’t try to be anything it’s not. It’s Hugh Jackman punching robots. And it’s fricking awesome.

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Ladies and Gentlemen of the class of ’99

Posted on May 24, 2009. Filed under: Movies to see before you die, Ramblings | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Following up on my Ramble about the genius of Tim Burton, I wanted to write another post about a director with an equally distinctive style, namely Baz Luhrmann.  Over the last month I’ve watched 3 out of 4 of his major hit movies, all of them linked by his trademark fast pace cinematography and hyper energetic story telling.

Luhrmann is best known for the Red Curtain Trilogy AKA Strictly Ballroom, Romeo and Juliet and Moulin Rouge.  All three begin with a red curtain rising, and the rules state that the end of the movie must be given away in the first scenes.  On top of this they’re all linked by some unusual form of expression, for Strictly its the dancing, Romeo and Juliet has Shakespeare’s words and Moulin Rouge, of course, has the music.

All three are great movies, but Strictly is slightly overshadowed by the other two, understandable since it was his directorial debut.  It’s another one on the list of films I need to see again, but its a genuinely funny film following a slightly obvious but still fun plotline about a national dance competition.  Made in 1992, it does show its age a bit when compared to the other films, but while it may not be the best film ever made, if you’re a fan of Baz you’ll definitely like it. (Calling a film made in 1992 old makes me feel ancient…)  Like many of his other films, Luhrmann shows his Aussie patriotism and both sets and casts the film in his home country.

I’m sure you don’t need me to tell you how good the other two parts of the trilogy are.  Romeo and Juliet is an absolute masterpiece.  Every scene of that film has been planned as meticulously as Shakespeare’s play, from the costumes at the ball (Romeo is a knight, while Tybalt is the Devil and Juliet is an Angel) to the overall design, which puts the Montagues in bright Hawaiin shirts while the Capulets (bar Juliet) dress almost exclusively in black and red.  It’s one of my all time favourite films, partly because as I’ve said before, I love Romeo and Juliet as a play, but more because I love what Luhrmann has done with it.  Keeping Shakespeare’s original text and placing it in a modern setting is brilliant, and the conversion of the scripted swordplay into stylistic gun play is a master stroke.  There’s a reason most kids have to study this film for GCSE; each scene is dripping with symbolism, as Luhrmann plays close attention to Shakespeare’s metaphors and combines them with his own to make the film visually stunning.  My only minor quarrel is the directorial license at the end, which sees Juliet waking up before Romeo dies, mainly because it’s crueler to the audience than Shakespeare would allow, but we’ll let him off.

Never was there a tale of more woe than this of Juliet and her Romeo

On to Moulin Rouge (I’m ignoring the superfluous exclamaton point in the title) another of my top ten movies.  My first reaction to this film was, “Oh my God Ewan McGregor can sing!”  My second was, rewind and watch again (I’ve since upgraded to DVD).  The rescoring of modern music is so perfect you’d think it had been written for the film, especially the epic Show Must Go On.  Music is something Luhrmann truly understands, with the score of Romeo and Juliet a perfect backdrop to the action.  In Moulin Rouge, it takes centre stage, with some knock-out performances from actors we never knew could sing.  The best part of the film, in my opinion, is the first whirlwind ride through the Moulin Rouge.  This scene exemplifies everything that makes Baz Luhrmann great, the camera twists and spins to capture the energy of the dance hall and every second is filled with vivid colours and flashes of the underworld (including a mermaid in a fish tank).  The music of this scene is also faultless, combining the FatBoy Slim remix Because We Can with Smells Like Teen Spirit, Lady Marmalade, Children of The Revolution and some original music for Jim Broadbent.  It’s dizzying and a complete assault on the senses, just as that first experience must have been for the naive Christian.

At the Moulin Rouge you'll have fun!

I could rave about the Red Curtain Trilogy for days, but what about Luhrmann’s latest offering, which steps outside his well known framework?  Austrailia may not quite hold up in comparison, but I think it perhaps needs a fairer chance than it’s been given.  It’s difficult to follow the two amazing films that have gone before, and perhaps the step away from his established format is what upset some critics, but Austrailia is a beautiful epic, with a realtively simple but still engaging stroyline.  The feel of the film is different to the Red Curtain, although there are enough Luhrmann quirks to let you know who directed the film, and the stunning scenery of the Austrailian outback could easily stand up against the words/music/dance that have gone before as the main device for this story.  Luhrmann recasts two of his Moulin Rouge stars (Nicole Kidman and David Wenham) rounding off the predominantly Aussie cast with Hugh Jackman.  Jackman seems to be the Marmite of Hollywood at the moment, but I think he’s good in the role, not that its much of a stretch for him (as he quipped at the Oscars).  Luhrmann, like many directors, definitely has favourite actors who turn up repeatedly in his films, with John Leguizamo also making repeat appearances as Tybalt in R+J and Toulouse-Lautrec in Moulin RougeAustrailia is long, and it does seems to be two films joined together, but it kept my interest and filled a rainy Sunday afternoon pretty well.  It might not match the standard of its predecessors, but this is Luhrmann’s first step away from very insular and tightly controlled settings into a historical epic in the real world.  It’s not nearly as easy to manipulate, yet he still manages to put his instantly recognisable stamp on it.  Again, music is a big part of it, with The Wizard of Oz making a repeat appearance.

Somewhere over the rainbow

Of course the one thing I haven’t mentioned is what exactly I’m on about in the title.  If you’re the same generation as me, I doubt it passed you by.  If it did, take a look.  Sometime after Romeo and Juliet, Luhrmann stumbled on the famous speech and remixed it with Everybody’s Free (written for the movie).  You may not agree with everything I’ve said, but I hope if you haven’t yet you’ll give Luhrmann a go.  But trust me on the sunscreen. 😉

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Posted on May 9, 2009. Filed under: Movies to see before you die | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , |

Well, it was worth the wait.  Wolverine was definitely one of the best films I’ve seen in a while.  The fight sequences are awesome (particularly when you’re sitting in the front row of a big screen) and everything moves at just the right pace.  The opening credit sequence was particularly good, reminiscent of Watchmen in its journey through the American Wars.  I also thought the actual story was good, and although the twist is guessable in part, the reveal did draw some breath in the cinema.

The continuity with the other 3 films is also not bad.  Yes, Sabretooth is played by Tyler Mane not Liev Shreiber in the first film, meaning he looks pretty different, but thats just about passable in the grand scheme of things (one could argue that since he was becoming more and more animal he turned into one….)  And while we’re on the subject of Sabre, Liev Shreiber definitely has a lot to do with what makes this movie great.  He’s the perfect foil for Jackman and makes a chracter that has been pretty much sidelined in the films so far into a memorable legend.


As for our other mutants, Wolverine falls into the same trap as Last Stand by introducing lots of exciting new powers and then not using them.  Dominic Monaghan’s Bradley (AKA Chris Bradley AKA Bolt-although we’re never told that) is in the film for less than five minutes, while Wraith (Will.I.Am) and Blob (Kevin Durand) get little more to do.  The most under used though, is Taylor Kitsch’s Gambit, a character there’s been much furore over in the lead up to the film and who could have been better used.  I didn’t think I was that bothered by Gambit, but Kitch’s charismatic performance meant I was sad not to have him on screen for longer.  Having said that, focussing on these other characters would have dragged the story away from its focus, and then we’d probably be criticising it for being to long.

One new addition who seems to have caused outrage across the comic book geek community is Deadpool (Ryan Reynolds)  I’m not close enough to the comics for the change to his character to really wind me up, and I actually thought the transition was kind of cool (minus the claws which were lame) but even I know that that’s not what was supposed to happen.  However, for those of you that are getting really worked up about it, you might be interested to read this, which explains how in the upcoming Deadpool spin off, he’ll be less Frankenstein and more the “Merc with a Mouth” we all know and love.  What I do find confusing is the ambiguity over who actually played Weapon XI, Ryan Reynolds says it was him, imdb begs to differ, so if anyone can clear that one up for me…


I have read a lot of criticism for Wolverine, but I’m yet to find any I can truly agree with.  I think Jackman is great in the role, and while the current film may have had less of the wisecracks that we’re used to, there were still enough to keep the audience laughing.  The whole point of the film is that this is the Logan before; the one we’ve seen in later films (and comics) is the one who has had to rebuild his life out of nothing, so of course the character will change slightly.  It’s been a while since I’ve seen a film and instantly wanted to start again, but that was true for Wolverine.  In fact, it’s worth going again, not only for the film but for the after-credit sequences of which I know there are at least two (I had the Wolverine one, I’ve not seen the Deadpool).

If you haven’t already, ignore the critics and go see Wolverine, it’s definitely worth it.  If you have, go again.  I know I want to.


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I’m finally going to see Wolverine!

Posted on May 8, 2009. Filed under: Ramblings | Tags: , , , , |

WOO! It’s taken way too long. And I don’t care about people badmouthing it all over the internet, I’m still excited.

Vue Leicester Sq

Also my first time in the Vue instead of the Odeon Leicester Square.  Review up ASAP. I still reckon its gonna be better than Star Trek which, incidently, I’ll probably be seeing next week…

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It’s finally here!

Posted on April 29, 2009. Filed under: Trailers | Tags: , , , |

I first heard about this film 3 years ago when there were rumours of two X Men prequels, one following the back story of Magneto, and one about Wolverine.  As a big fan of the films, I was hugely excited that The Last Stand was as much the end as a Stones farewell tour and even happier when I heard the Wolverine film was coming first.

X Men Origins:Wolverine opens in the UK today and I cannot wait to see it.  I’ve managed to resist the leaked version that’s been circulating on the internet, which took some restraint, but I’m really hoping it’s gonna be worth the wait.  I’m taking my sister to Leicester Sq next weekend for her birthday (she was the one who heard about it first) and I’ll be posting as soon as I’m back.  Until then, I’ll make do with the trailer….

PS. There’s been no more word on a Magneto film and the idea may have been shelved, but there is talk of a movie focusing on Ryan Reynold’s Deadpool who turns up for the first time in Wolverine.

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Just a quicke…

Posted on March 13, 2009. Filed under: News | Tags: , , , , |

OK I know I said I wasn’t going to write about X Men Origins, but there’s a new longer trailer and some clips up on the website that you need to see!

Comes out May 1st. Right in the middle of my exams. Dammit.

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