Friday, 29 April 2011

Upcoming Releases - May '11

Here is a selection of films due out in UK cinemas next month.

Water For Elephants - 4th May
120 mins
12A certificate
Main cast: Robert Pattinson, Reese Witherspoon, Christoph Waltz
Director: Francis Lawrence

'Based on the acclaimed bestseller, Water For Elephants presents an unexpected romance in a uniquely compelling setting. Veterinary school student Jacob meets and falls in love with Marlena, a star performer in a circus of a bygone era. They discover beauty amidst the world of the Big Top, and come together through their compassion for a special elephant. Against all odds - including the wrath of Marlena's charismatic but dangerous husband, August - Jacob and Marlena find lifelong love.'

Official site:

Tree of Life - 4th May
Drama | Fantasy
138 mins
TBC certificate
Main cast: Brad Pitt, Sean Penn, Jessica Chastain
Director: Terrence Malick

'Tree of Life is a period piece centered around three boys in the 1950s. The eldest son of two characters (Brad Pitt and Jessica Chastain) witnesses the loss of innocence.'

Official site:

Hanna - 6th May
Action | Crime | Mystery
111 mins
12A certificate
Main cast: Saoirse Ronan, Eric Bana, Cate Blanchett, Tom Hollander, Olivia Williams
Director: Joe Wright

'Hanna (Ronan) is a teenage girl. Uniquely, she has the strength, the stamina, and the smarts of a solider; these come from being raised by her father (Bana), an ex-CIA man, in the wilds of Finland. Living a life unlike any other teenager, her upbringing and training have been one and the same, all geared to making her the perfect assassin. The turning point in her adolescence is a sharp one; sent into the world by her father on a mission, Hanna journeys stealthily across Europe while eluding agents dispatched after her by a ruthless intelligence operative with secrets of her own (Blanchett). As she nears her ultimate target, Hanna faces startling revelations about her existence and unexpected questions about her humanity.'

Official site:

Priest - 6th May
Action | Horror | Sci-Fi
87 mins
12A certificate
Main cast: Paul Bettany, Cam Gigandet, Karl Urban, Maggie Q
Director: Scott Charles Stewart

'A western-fused post-apocalyptic thriller set in an alternate world ravaged by centuries of war between man and vampires. The story revolves around a legendary Warrior Priest (Bettany) from the last Vampire War who now lives in obscurity among the other downtrodden human inhabitants in walled-in dystopian cities ruled by the Church. When his niece is abducted by a murderous pack of vampires, Priest breaks his sacred vows to venture out on an obsessive quest to find her before they turn her into one of them. He is joined on his crusade by his niece's boyfriend (Gigandet), a trigger-fingered young wasteland sheriff, and a former Warrior Priestess (Maggie Q) who possesses otherworldly fighting skills.'

Official site:

Take Me Home Tonight - 13th May
Comedy | Drama
97 mins
15 certificate
Main cast: Topher Grace, Anna Faris, Dan Fogler
Director: Michael Dowse

'It's the late 1980s, when Wall Street is riding high, and it seems as if the entire country is cashing in on the bumper profits. Matt Franklin, a brilliant young MIT graduate, has walked out on his well-paid position at a local lab and taken a low-level job as a video clerk, much to his father Bill's consternation. His best buddy Barry has just gotten fired from his job, his brainy sister Wendy is getting hitched to her vapid boyfriend Kyle, and the gorgeous Tori Frederking, long-time object of Matt's unattainable adoration, is suddenly back in the picture. Now, on one wild, woolly and irresponsible evening, everything is coming to a head, with explosive results.'

Official site:

The Way - 13th May
Action | Adventure | Comedy
128 mins
12A certificate
Main cast: Martin Sheen, Emilio Estevez, James Nesbitt
Director: Emilio Estevez

'The Way is set along the thousand-year-old Camino de Santiago pilgrimage route. It tells the moving story of Tom Avery, played by Sheen, an American father who travels to France to reclaim the body of his estranged son who died in a storm at the start of the famous route in the Pyrenees. Avery cremates his son's remains, placing them in his backpack, and starts off on the journey his son never made to Santiago.'

Official site:

Attack the Block - 13th May
Action | Sci-Fi
88 mins
15 certificate
Main cast: Nick Frost, Jodie Whittaker, Luke Treadaway, John Boyega
Director: Joe Cornish

'Attack the Block is a fast, funny, frightening action adventure movie that pits a teen gang against an alien invasion of savage alien monsters. It turns a London housing estate into a sci-fi playground, a tower block into a fortress under siege, and teenage street kids into heroes. It's inner city versus outer space.'

Official site:

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides - 18th May
Action | Adventure | Fantasy
141 mins
TBC certificate
Main cast: Johnny Depp, Penelope Cruz, Ian McShane, Geoffrey Rush
Director: Rob Marshall

'Johnny Depp returns to his iconic role of Captain Jack Sparrow in an action-packed adventure. Crossing paths with the enigmatic Angelica (Cruz), he's not sure if it's love - or if she's a ruthless con artist who's using him to find the fabled Fountain of Youth. When she forces him aboard the "Queen Anne's Revenge," the ship of the legendary pirate Blackbeard (McShane), Jack finds himself on an unexpected adventure in which he doesn't know whom to fear more: Blackbeard or Angelica, with whom he shares a mysterious past.'

Official site:

Win Win - 20th May
Comedy | Drama
106 mins
15 certificate
Main cast: Paul Giamatti, Amy Ryan, Jeffrey Tambor
Director: Thomas McCarthy

'Disheartened attorney Mike Flaherty (Giamatti), who moonlights as a high school wrestling coach, stumbles across a star athlete through some questionable business dealings while trying to support his family. Just as it looks like he will get a double payday, the boy's mother shows up fresh from rehab and flat broke, threatening to derail everything.'

Official site:

The Hangover Part II - 26th May
Running time and certificate: TBA
Main cast: Bradley Cooper, Zach Galifianakis, Ed Helms, Justin Bartha, Ken Jeong
Director: Todd Phillips

'In the follow-up to the record-breaking hit comedy "The Hangover," Phil (Cooper), Stu (Helms), Alan (Galifianakis) and Doug (Bartha) travel to exotic Thailand for Stu's wedding. After the unforgettable bachelor party in Las Vegas, Stu is taking no chances and has opted for a safe, subdued pre-wedding brunch. However, things don't always go as planned. What happens in Vegas may stay in Vegas, but what happens in Bangkok can't even be imagined.'

Official site:

Information obtained from IMDb, Rotten Tomatoes,, and the films' official websites.

Film as propaganda and the oppositions in a classic Western

Went the Day Well? is a wartime film that was used to help the Ministry of Information's campaign and warnings against complacency during the second World War. My article Went the Day Well? An Effective Propaganda Film examines the messages it gave to the public at a time when there was an ongoing threat of German invasion.

I have also written two articles about one of John Ford's classic Westerns, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance: Visual Oppositions and The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance: Thematic Oppositions look at the recurrence of opposites, both in elements of the films' mise en scรจne and its themes.

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Review: Louise-Michel

Louise-Michel begins with a sham of a cremation, culminating in the man in charge asking the grieving congregation if any of them have a light. This foreshadows the numerous botched attempts later in the film to take a man’s life. French filmmakers Gustave de Kervern and Benoit Delepine, who also co-wrote and directed Aaltra (2004) and Avida (2006) bring us an absurdist tale under a backdrop of harsh economic times.

In real life, Louise Michel was a French anarchist and militant activist who supported social revolution, spent time in prison and was deported. In the film, it is a man and a woman; Louise (Yolande Moreau) and Michel (Bouli Lanners), who are brought together by a twist of fate. Louise, a monosyllabic, illiterate woman (who used to be a man) has a job in a factory but one day, she turns up to work with her fellow employees only to find the factory completely empty. Everything has been cleared out without warning and there is no sign of their boss. Angry and frustrated, the factory workers decide to put the compensation money they get to good use and hire a hitman to murder the man responsible for them being made redundant.

Whilst trying to find the right man for the job, Louise bumps into Michel, who is so useless she has to return his gun to him. This ex-security guard-turned-contract killer is incompetent but Louise decides he’ll do. After many mishaps and a trip to Brussels and then Jersey, the unlikely pair finally find the man they’re looking for.

It is a subversive crime caper that isn’t for the sensitive as sometimes it is uncomfortable to watch. At one point the inept Michel asks his dying cousin to kill the factory boss, telling her she’s going to ‘croak’ soon anyway and saying it would make a fine exit, before smuggling her out of the hospital.

The film doesn’t make you feel involved or sympathetic towards the two main characters, just like you’re observing their antics at a safe distance. The people you feel sorry for are the ones around them who they drag into trouble.

There are however some funny moments in the film. Michel’s target practice in a field leads him to accidentally shoot a cow, the scene where he is trying to silence the small dog from barking, and the response he gives to the workers when they complain about the driving expenses: “Buy a Prius and whack the boss yourself! I’ve had enough. I’m not Robocop!”

There is also some good camerawork from the directing pair. The workers hold meetings about the hit in a small wooden hut. There is a nice repeated framing technique used in two different scenes, as we view the group through the window of the hut, with the outside and the surrounding field also in the shot.

The film includes cameo appearances from famous French stars. Mathieu Kassovitz, director of La Haine (1995) and Gothika (2003) and actor in Amelie (2001) and Munich (2005) plays a Bed & Breakfast owner obsessed with organic produce and green energy. He offers his guests equitable commerce coffee, organic aspartame, organic mini-fruits, and solar power but with a lack of sun. Benoit Poelvoorde, best known for Man Bites Dog (1992) and Coco Before Chanel (2009) appears as a conspiracy theorist fond of umbrellas that provide camouflage for him from anyone who might be spying.

Louise-Michel is a dark and strange French comedy that comments on the state of society and frustration at the economic situation. It’s not a film for everyone, but those who like the sound of a transgender crime movie/ road trip with a twisted sense of humour that could easily offend, should spend an hour and a half in the company of this very odd couple.

[DVD screener provided by flickfeast. Review originally posted here]

Thursday, 21 April 2011

Lately I've been distracted by... a Paddy Considine interview, a Wolverine t-shirt, movie barcodes, Game of Thrones, and more!

I get distracted very easily. When I'm writing a review, researching an article, or I'm supposed to be working, things catch my eye and tempt me away from what I should be doing. Most of the time, these distractions are interesting and movie-related so I decided I would start making a note of them and then write up a post every once in a while. That way, my distractions are actually being put to good use on my blog... unless I get distracted while writing up the post about my distractions, that might cause some sort of paradox! Anyway, I'll worry about that later. Here's what I've been distracted by lately:

Paddy Considine is an inspirational wonder, here he talks about being recently diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome:

Mmm Threadless, a place that earns lots of my pennies by constantly showing off great t-shirt designs. This one is of Wolverine going through the metal detector at the airport:

I know I should be throwing lots of hatred at Abduction for being just a Bourne-imitating, post-Twilight Taylor Lautner vehicle, but the supporting cast includes some of my favourite actors: Jason Isaacs, Alfred Molina, Michael Nyqvist and Sigourney Weaver!

This site compresses each frame of a movie and arranges them into a movie barcode:
Here's one for Jaws...

The Guardian has an interview with director Luc Besson:

Total Film looks at some of the best long takes in movies:

I watched the first episode of Game of Thrones this week. I want a wolf pup! I also get the feeling I'm going to become very confused with all the different houses, so Screen Rant's Infographic should help:

Empire takes a look at the best finishing moves in movies:

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Amitabh Bachchan's early career & movies

Indian actor Amitabh Bachchan is something of a legend and a superstar in Bollywood cinema. I have written two articles about the actor and his films. The first, Amitabh Bachchan's Star Persona, covers his early career in the 1970s and the reasons for his huge popularity. The second, Amitabh Bachchan in Zanjeer, Sholay & Amar Akbar Anthony, compares the different types of characters he played in his early films.

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Alt movie poster #3

Alternative movie posters pay homage to film as well as showcase artistic talent and creativity. Some are minimalist, some complex, some include in-jokes for those who have seen the movie. This feature celebrates the work of fans, artists and designers whose love of film is clear to see.

The Dark Knight
Created by: Brandon Schaefer

Have you seen any alternative movie posters you'd like to share, or created your own and would like it featured? Get in touch!

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Review: Barbarossa Siege Lord

Frederick I was emperor and leader of the Holy Roman Empire and also King of Germany. He led several campaigns into Italy in the 12th century and was given the name Barbarossa, which means “red beard” in Italian. This film details his attempts to gain power of Italy and the resistance he was met with. It also depicts his force’s clash with a group of men known as “The Company of Death” at the Battle of Legnano. Directed and co-written by Renzo Martinelli, it has been released under the title Sword of War for the North American DVD market.

In the opening scene of the film, a group of men on horseback are hunting a wild boar. After splitting up, one man skewers the boar with his spear but is then thrown from his horse. Charged down by the angry and wounded boar, he is saved by a boy with a crossbow. The boy is called Alberto and he is surprised when the man reveals himself to be Frederick I of Hohenstaufen, the Emperor, also known as Barbarossa (played by Rutger Hauer). The Emperor gives him a dagger as thanks and the pair go their separate ways.

Barbarossa marries a young French girl called Beatrice, who proves to be a confident and determined ally. Alberto grows up in the city of Milan with his father and brothers. He is in love with a beautiful but strange young woman called Eleonora, who has visions of the future.

Milan rebels against the Empire and Barbarossa takes an army to destroy the city. During the siege, Alberto sneaks out to the enemy camp. Barbarossa discovers him but seeing his dagger, remembers the young boy who saved him from the boar and spares his life.

Milan falls and Alberto suffers a great loss, thanks in large part to the machinations of Siniscalco Barozzi (F. Murray Abraham). Barbarossa orders the Milanese citizens to disperse in different directions and the city of Milan to be literally wiped off the map.

The Milanese start to regroup and Alberto creates a force called “The Company of Death”, young men from across Italy who will stop at nothing to defend their homeland. They believe it is better to be dead than a slave, and give Braveheart-esque shouts of “Freedom!” Together, they go to face Barbarossa’s mighty forces in what would become known as the Battle of Legnano.

This film caused a stir on its release in Italy, when it emerged that it had received backing from Umberto Bossi, leader of the far-right Northern League, and that he had been using the film as propaganda at rallies. French actress Cecile Cassel (sister of Vincent) said that she would not have accepted the part of Barbarossa’s wife Beatrice if she had known about the film’s “political ghosts”.

Barbarossa Siege Lord has some very nice cinematography, especially the wide shots of the vast landscapes. The battle scenes are good fun and bloody, if a little over-dramatic. However, the story feels long and drawn out and loses its momentum after the siege at the castle of Milan. There are also conflicting sympathies between the supposed protagonist Alberto and his rival, the title character played by the more well-known Rutger Hauer. I often found myself taking the side of Barbarossa and even Barozzi because these performances were much more convincing and enjoyable. Also, as an aside, some of the minor characters appear to have been dubbed as the audio is slightly out of sync with the picture.

That being said, this film has the makings of a good medieval war epic. 12th century Italian politics and the Holy Roman Empire may be a bit too obscure for most people who like their historical adventures but it is interesting and entertaining for the most part and is worth a watch, especially for fans of the brilliant Rutger Hauer, who commands attention and respect as the mighty Emperor.

[DVD screener provided by flickfeast. Review originally posted here]

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Film articles

Last month I applied to become a contributing writer on Suite 101. I wanted a site where I could join a community of writers, develop my skills and write articles about subjects I really enjoy.

I was accepted, and have submitted a couple of articles so far. I will post links to any film-related articles I write for Suite 101 here.

My first article was: Tom Hooper: a Short  Biography of the Oscar-Winning Director. It explores The King's Speech director's life and career leading up to his Oscar win for Best Achievement in Directing.

My second article was: Harry Potter: a Success Story for British Film. This examines the Harry Potter film franchise's triumph and the impact it has had on the British film industry.

Monday, 4 April 2011

Review: Demon Empire

First-time directors and co-writers Dong-oh Jo and Dong-oh Cho bring us the magical martial arts romance Demon Empire.

Under the rule of a corrupt royal family, the Royal Demon Slayers, called the ‘Chuyongdae’ carried out an unsuccessful rebellion to try to save the people. With most of their fighters wiped out, the desperate people began offering the living as a sacrifice to the demons. During this time of chaos, a mysterious young man rescues a woman bound to a post and kills the demons that came to claim her.

The townspeople rejoice and offer him food and wine for killing the evil creatures. It appears that all of the remaining Demon Slayers have been executed except for him; Yi Gwak, head soldier of the Chuyongdae (played by Woo-sung Jung; The Good, the Bad, the Weird, The Warrior, A Moment to Remember). Although he rescued their village, its people want the bounty on his head because they are poor and starving. They reveal that they drugged his food and he hurriedly escapes to the forest before he falls asleep.

On waking, he finds himself in a fantastic and strange place called Midheaven, which one man explains is where the spirits stay for 49 days before they are reincarnated. He doesn’t have a nameplate like the others, and can’t remember meeting the grim reaper. It soon transpires that he isn’t dead after all, but has somehow made his way to this place. In Midheaven he meets a young woman who announces herself as So-hwa (Tae-hee Kim). She is a ‘Chuneen’, a heavenly being with no memories of being human. Yi Gwak remembers her as Yon-hwa, his lost love who was accused of bringing demons to her village and burned.

Midheaven is under attack from the demons, and So-hwa has been given the mission to take her elder’s spirit to the Pool of Reflection to save the spirits. If Midheaven vanishes, the dead can’t get into Heaven and there will be no more births in the world. Ban-chu (Jun-ho Heo) is the one behind the attacks. He is building an unholy army ready for the time when the gates to the human realm are shattered and as that hour draws near, he sends his forces on the hunt for So-hwa, who is the only one with the power to stop him. Ban-chu and his allies have a connection to Yi Gwak that leads to some difficult experiences for both sides in the battle.

The film raises some interesting questions, such as whether a soldier’s duty is to protect the world or try to change it. It also asks what makes a person who they are and how big a part their memories play. So-hwa can’t remember her life with Yi Gwak but she finds herself falling in love with him all over again.

It won the Grand Bell Award in South Korea for Best Art Direction in 2007. The trio of Art Directors who worked on the film includes Ming Wu who previously worked on Hero (2002) and House of Flying Daggers (2004). Like those films, Demon Empire can be categorized in the Wuxia genre, popular in China and Korea. These martial arts fantasies are usually set in the past, star a chivalrous protagonist and include fight sequences where characters achieve superhuman feats, have lightning fast moves, fly, levitate, and show expert swordsmanship.

The film boasts some impressive special effects, such as So-hwa’s whirling flower petals she uses as a defence and the deaths of the demons. When they are defeated, they turn to ash, like an internal fire has spread from the fatal wound and they become only charred remnants. Bits of singed paper float down from where they stood.  

The supernatural apocalyptic storyline that is highlighted in the poster and other promotional material is often sidelined, while the more personal love story between Yi Gwak and Yon-hwa is focused upon. There are enjoyable and well-choreographed fight sequences but it isn’t end-to-end excitement. The emotional storyline is frequently at the forefront, which isn’t really a criticism because it is interesting and complex. However, those expecting a martial arts extravaganza that never lets up on fights and action may be a little disappointed.

[DVD screener provided by Flickering Myth. Review originally posted here]
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