The Theory Of Everything


Viewed – 16 May 2015  Pay-per-view

I don’t think there are many people in the world who haven’t heard of acclaimed Astrophysicist Stephen Hawking.  The Cambridge University graduate turned Professor has gained numerous awards through a lengthy career specializing in the theory of time and the universe and how it all began etc., whilst at the same time battling the muscle wasting neurological disorder motor neuron disease or Lou Gehrig’s disease.  He has certainly become a huge inspiration to many, finding fame and achieving many things whilst battling the impossible.

the theory of everything

So a movie of his life has been long overdue and with an Oscar nod for Eddie Redmayne for his portrayal, going into this my expectations were high.  The story focuses on his latter years at Cambridge University and around the time he first began to experience the symptoms of the disease whilst also meeting and falling in love with his first wife Jane (Felicity Jones).  I was surprised how quickly the movie portrays the disease. It goes from a hand not working, to falling down to being on sticks to being in a wheelchair incredibly fast, and it has to be said my emotional investment took a hit as a result.  I’d expected more of a gradual deterioration which I’m sure would have been the case.  Add to this a slightly unflattering turn from Felicity Jones causing Jane occasionally to seem cold and put-out rather than the loving, yet struggling spouse I’d imagine she was.  Her friendship / affection for an organist at her church however does at least add some depth.  So we come to Redmayne, who is nothing short of superb; his deeply affecting performance right on the nail, to the point of being uncanny, capturing much of the real man’s quirks and charm as well as his agony.  It reminded me of Daniel Day Lewis in My Left Foot.

Shortcomings aside, director James Marsh has made a very elegant and quite beautiful movie out of a difficult subject.  Although glossing over much of the darker times, he delivers a gentle, yet no less moving and engrossing story that does the famed Professor a real honour.

Verdict:  4 /5

An update and stuff


So what have I been up to lately?  Well I managed to complete Assassin’s Creed Unity on the PS4, the first AC game I have ever kept interested in until the end.  Why?  I think setting was key.  Of the previous games in the series I have played, most have been set either in medieval (AC 1 & 2) or around the time of the crusades (AC 3) and well, the pirating of AC4 never appealed so I didn’t play that one.  However this one was set in Paris, during the revolution, the time of Napoleon etc. and it was a brilliantly atmospheric setting I personally have plenty of interest in. 

Secondly I have been playing Grand Theft Auto V.  Now eagle-eyed readers of this blog may recall me posting about it a while back when I got it on the Xbox 360.  Well, for one reason or another I didn’t play it all that much of it, and since jumping to the next-generation with the PS4 and Xbox One, I thought it was high time I took a second look following it’s revamped re-release on these consoles.  I picked it up on PS4, and must say for what is technically a last-gen title, the detail (with improved textures, lighting, effects as well as an enhanced array of music on the various radio stations) it’s one of the best looking games I have played to date.  GTA V is a fantastic game following the exploits of three characters; Michael the former gangster now in witness protection, Franklin the stereotypical gang-banger hoodlum and Trevor the meth-dealing lunatic.  The missions are cinematic and the world is alive and complex and massive.  There are a ton of things to see and do and it never feels boring.  I’m loving it.  Check out a few screenshots I took with the PS4 to show off how damn gorgeous this next-gen version looks in the flesh:

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On the gaming horizon (next Tuesday to be specific) is The Witcher 3 Wild Hunt.  A heavily hyped and very well reviewed game that I have pre-ordered for my Xbox One.  From everything I have read and seen, it’s sounding like it will be a mammoth RPG adventure to rival the likes of The Elder Scrolls and Final Fantasy, with you as a bad-ass monster hunter known as Garalt, who inhabits a huge world that is one of the biggest apparently ever made and full of detail, missions, characters and true next-gen visuals.  I have watched some gameplay and read several reviews, and suffice to say I am VERY excited.  Roll on May 19th … I’ll do an early impressions some time in the week.

geralt

In other news, I’ve sadly not managed to secure a trip to the cinema to see The Avengers: Age Of Ultron yet and can see it being a Blu-ray review later in the year.  The same might go for Mad Max Fury Road, but I’m still optimistic about getting to see that one, so watch this space (and no, going by myself doesn’t appeal all that much).  I have a few movies on the agenda however, the names of which I’ll keep to myself for now and let you be surprised when I post the reviews.  Yeah, I’m all about the tease.

On the TV watching front I have been pretty addicted to Better Call Saul, that breaking Bad spin-off starring everyone’s favourite crooked attorney Saul Goodman (or Jimmy Magill as he’s currently known).  It seems to have all the polish and great writing of Breaking Bad (well, it is by Vince Gilligan after all) and just keeps getting better and better.  I’m also watching The Following season 3 (yeah, yeah I know…we’re not getting a season 4…boo hiss) which has again been brilliant this year.  Clearly there is no accounting for taste, so another show hits the skids.  Talking of TV, I’m also looking forward to season 3 of Orange Is The New Black, a show at first I wasn’t entirely sure was me … the first series was good but a little lightweight, but with an excellent and gripping season 2, I am now officially a fan.  Damn Netflix just keeps on giving, doesn’t it?  I am also watching Brit drama Luther on it at the moment which stars popular actor Idris Elba as a tough Police detective who specialises in catching serial killers – right up my alley.

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So other than the above, and getting over some man-flu and a tickly cough that just won’t quit … it’s been all about work, which is going very well.  I am learning some new stuff to do more with secretarial tasks and finding it challenging and educational.  Love it when my job gives me those opportunities to learn new skills and I think it helps build a real profile and shape me for the future.  I’m also of course still looking forward to finally seeing my favourite band Garbage in November when they appear at Brixton Academy in London.  It’s going to be such a once in a life time experience for me, someone who doesn’t really get such opportunities.  I have my big brother to thank for making this happen and with my 40th birthday very much right after, November is looking to be a real belter.

Well, enough from me for now.  Hope you’re all having fun in whatever you’re all up to and continue to check in on me and this blog regularly for more updates, reviews and gaming impressions.

Craig.

Casino


Viewed – 08 May 2015  Blu-ray

20th Anniversary Special Edition

I first saw this acclaimed mob drama a number of year’s ago, and even though I knew it was based on a true story, only recently have I learned about the real-life events the story follows.  Robert DeNiro plays professional gambler Sam ‘Ace’ Rothstein who gets the opportunity to run the Tangier’s Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas in the late seventies.  He makes a big pil o’ cash for the mob ‘back home’ and attracts former childhood friend Nicky Santoro (Joe Pesci) who also has ideas of making a killing on the strip…literally and figuratively.  Meanwhile Ace falls for glamorous hustler Ginger (Sharon Stone) who soon complicates everyone’s lives.

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A spiritual successor to director Martin Scorsese’s other famed mob classic Goodfellas, reuniting DeNiro with Pesci … who pretty much plays the same type of unhinged psycho that nabbed him an Oscar in ‘Fellas.    DeNiro however, despite his character’s connections to the mob, is more the straight guy trying to avoid any sort of ‘heat’ – and his presence here commands the movie from beginning to end.  Stone is a welcome inclusion to the Scorsese mob-movie fold and adds her usual sexy sass and grit in a role that pretty much enables this movie to have it’s own voice.  At a butt-numbing three hours it can sometimes drag, yet the situations, strong performances and the whole glitz of the setting (not to mention a stellar soundtrack) make for great entertainment.  It’s incredibly violent at times, to the point of being gratuitous (especially towards the end) and the story isn’t as engrossing as it thinks it is.  Also some of the ‘artistic licence’ with the facts remain puzzling (Tangiers is fictional, based on the famed Stardust hotel) and DeNiro and Pesci’s character names are made up, but based on Frank Rosenthal and Anthony Spilotro respectively.  Yet to quibble at this is to do the movie a disservice, as it remains another decent, if familiar mob drama from the true master of the subject.

The Blu-ray, re-issued for the movie’s 20th anniversary has a very nice image quality, retaining grain and detail even if some shots (especially in door and night time scenes) get a little fuzzy.  The sound in DTS HD Master Audio, which is very dialogue-driven is mostly excellent and the fantastic soundtrack really brings this one to life.  Vegas looks incredible also.  The extras consist of a ‘moments with the cast & crew’ option which has pop up interviews as the movie plays.  We also get a couple of detailed documentaries, as well as a few deleted scenes.  However, there doesn’t seem anything here that wasn’t on previous releases … making for a bit of a cash-in.

Verdict:

(the movie)  3.5 /5

(the Blu-ray)  4 /5

Birdman


Viewed – 05 May 2015  Online Rental

It’s nice to go into a movie with no other expectation than the thought it might be good.  This Oscar winning drama stars (where has he been?) Michael Keaton as a former super hero movie actor turned has-been struggling to make a name for himself in Theatre.  As opening night looms, he is plagued with various problems and misfortunes, such as a recovered drug addict daughter (Emma Stone), actors butting heads with each other (Naomi Watts & Edward Norton) as well as his own issues with being haunted by the presence of his Birdman alter-ego who is constantly telling him to get back to what he was famous for.

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This is very much a come back vehicle for Keaton who’s own career seems to be purposely imitated here and he is superb, complex and bonkers in all the ways that made him a perfect Beetlejuice or Bruce Wayne.  Aided well by a solid supporting cast who all get their moment, with an almost-upstaging Norton and a believably fragile Watts, not to mention a decent turn by the ever likeable Stone.  Yet beyond the decent performances, this is also about the trials and tribulations of being a star, being a has-been or trying to stay relevant without making a fool of yourself.  It’s scarily convincing.  Add to this a script that juggles realism with fantastical surrealism (has Keaton’s character really got super powers?) and excellent direction by Alejandro González Iñárritu backed up by highly creative ‘how did they do that?’ camera work – and I’d say this is one of the most thought-provoking studies of celebrity and celeb-culture I’ve seen in a long time.

This is also a movie that should get people talking.  The ending will get you talking.  The whole fly-on-a-wall structuring leads you to certain conclusions and then still makes you question things (at least it did me).  And I love that sort thing; clever but doesn’t try and be pretentious about it.  Oh and yes, I’d love to see Keaton play Batman again.

Verdict:  5 /5

Scenes that make the movie


I’ve been thinking about this idea for a post.  Ten memorable scenes from some of my favourite movies of all time, or simply great moments that make a particular movie going experience stick in my head.  This may become a continuing series as I recall other great moments…but for now, here are ten stand out moments from great movies:  Minor spoilers.

Akira

Teddy bears & hallucinations.

Akira Gif

As a telepathic Kaneda post-brush with an infected child of the Akira experiment, recovers in hospital, he begins to experience terrifying hallucinations where teddy bears and toys comes to life as his powers start to manifest in horrifying ways.  One of the defining moments of this complex and ground-breaking Anime.

An America Werewolf In London

Stick to the road

AAWIL Moores

Two back packers after stumbling into local watering hole The Slaughtered Lamb are ushered back out into the night, with simply the warning of ‘stay on the road, keep clear of the moores’ – which they subsequently ignore and are soon stalked by a blood thirsty werewolf in John Landis’ still superb 1984 horror classic.

Blue Velvet

In Dreams

Blue Dean

Amateur detective Kyle MacLachlan gets a little too close to nut-job mobster Dennis Hopper who takes him for a visit to his cross-dressing neighbourhood friend Dean Stockwell, who lip-syncs to Roy Orbinson’s timeless classic in possibly one of David Lynch’s most freaky and brilliant scenes.

Boogie Nights

Disco montage

Boogie Nights

As former nobody Dirk Diggler (Mark Wahlberg) rises to infamy in the seventies porn movie industry, we are treated to this fabulous disco montage, cut seamlessly with various shots of Dirk ‘in action’ or receiving awards and culminating in a wonderfully choreographed dance number with fellow stars Reed Rothchild (John C Reilly) and Roller-girl (Heather Graham).

Eyes Wide Shut

The secret sex party

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Only in a Stanley Kubrick movie can a high society sex orgy come across as creepy and surreal.  The master film maker in probably his most misunderstood work, presents the viewer with a secret society that Tom Cruise manages to sneak inside of and witness the debauchery of most-likely high profile dignitaries with various high class call girls.  All to a haunting, incredibly eerie score.

Goodfellas

Paranoia, drugs and guns

goodfellas paranoid

In the final act of the movie an increasingly paranoid Ray Liotta, struggles to juggle family responsibilities with fencing guns for Robert DeNiro and avoiding what he thinks is an FBI helicopter during the day from hell.  Expertly edited for maximum tension and intensity by the grand master Martin Scorsese.

Monsters Inc.

A chase through the doors

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After discovering the main villain’s evil scheme, Billy Crystal’s motor-mouthed Mike and John Goodman’s lovable Sully are chased by Steve Buscemi’s dastardly Randall into the inner workings of the Monsters Inc. facility and through a plethora of doors into the human world.  Exciting, inventive and visually stunning.

Pulp Fiction

Jack Rabbit Slims

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In a mob movie with pop-culture quoting wise guys and a soundtrack to die for, who’d have thought one of the best scenes would be a night out between John Travolta’s mob hitman and gangsters-mol Uma Thurman?  Culminating in the world famous Twist Contest.  Sharp dialogue, a highly memorable setting, and an after-math that segway’s into probably the other best scene in this movie.

Saving Private Ryan

Omaha Beach Landing

After visiting the final resting place of hundreds of soldiers, an elderly veteran recalls his experience with tears in his eyes – switch to the shocking beach onslaught in Omaha in 1944 as thousands of troops fight against impossible odds.  A stunning opening to one of the greatest WWII movies ever made, with star (Tom Hanks) and director (Steven Spielberg) on blistering form.

Trainspotting

Clubbing to Blondie.

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Taking a break from ripping people off and doing drugs, Ewan McGregor’s Renton finds himself on a night out with friends, hitting the clubs and listening to Heaven 17 and Blondie (or Sleeper doing a marvellous version of Atomic), where he meets Diane (Kelly MacDonald) and leads to a montage of sex, alcohol and pulse-pounding music in Danny Boyle’s break-out gem.

Do you agree with my list?  Have favourite scenes of your own?  Leave your comments below or link to your own lists…