Viewed – 18 June 2013 Cinema
Following the huge disappointment of Brian Singer’s Superman Returns, fans and critics alike have been right to think the series was dead in the water, again. Thankfully, I have been quite optimistic on just how this latest interpretation of one of the most famed superhero characters ever might turn out – mainly because Zack Snyder was directing. Overseen by producer Christopher Nolan and writer David S Goyer (the team behind the Dark Knight movies) – and with the man who brought Watchmen to the big screen – really, could this fail?
Inspired by the story of Superman: The Movie (1979) and the comics before it we start on the gradually dying planet of Krypton where Jor-El (Russell Crowe) launches his only child into space after General Zod (Michael Shannon) attempts to rage war. Yet once baby boy Kal-El (superman) is gone, Zod is trialed for treason and sentenced to the phantom zone along with his cronies. Cut to about 30 years later on earth, and Kal-El is now Clark Kent, raised by Diane Lane and Kevin Costner, but yearns to find out his true origins whilst struggling to hide from the world who he really is.
From the off this is an energetic and confident movie full of spectacle and solid performances, especially from scene-stealing Michael Shannon (Boardwalk Empire). Casting here is what impresses most with a surprising but perfect Crowe nailing the part of Jor-El and also an enjoyably feisty (and gorgeous) Amy Adams as Superman’s love-interest Lois Lane. Snyder’s direction whilst at times lacking in subtlety like a mad professor drunk on his own power (or wealth of effects tools) still delivers probably the best Superman movie we could hope for in this age of anything-is-possible CGI. The action is loud, brash, mad-as-hell but most importantly FUN, and with an interesting structure (Clark’s childhood / teenage years is shown only in brief flashbacks) and lots of welcome ideas (Clark overwhelmed by his powers, more back story of Krypton) … this fan-boy couldn’t have had a bigger grin on his face. Of course the big question remains just how good was Henry Cavill as Kal-El / Clark Kent? Well, if memories of the late (great) Christopher Reeve didn’t even come to mind, then instantly he’s doing something right – he had the charisma, the vulnerability and the looks, so yeah job done – and ladies, prepare to swoon big time!
There you have it … Superman returns – for real this time!
Verdict: 5 /5
Viewed – 15 June 2013 Blu-ray
This is one of those gangster thrillers that for some reason, I’ve never managed to see since the first time it hit VHS a number of years ago. From that viewing, all I recall was that whilst good, it lacked a bit of action, and for me I found it a tad boring. Now I suppose with more mature eyes, I was happy to sit down to this and take in the story and the acting with much more appreciation than I previously expected.
Al Pacino plays Carlito, a recently paroled hood who is attempting to go straight. Helped by his friend and lawyer, Sean Penn who pulled more than a few strings to get him an early release, he is soon helping run a nightclub and getting reluctantly re-acquainted with the local mobsters. At the same time he tracks down his lost love, who he previously dumped when he got nabbed and thought he was looking at 30 years. Directed by Brian De Palma (Scarface, The Untouchables) and with a confident, complex turn from Pacino who makes a violent crook and former drug dealer sympathetic, this was quality viewing from the off. De Palma has always been a very stylish and imaginative film maker, and here his talent is on fine form, with clever camera work (if not quite as showy as he’s known for), good choices of music and a gradually building momentum, leading to a very thrilling conclusion.
Penn although good, is a touch too weaselly for my liking, although Penelope Ann Miller is perfect as Carlito’s potential salvation. I’m not a fan of John Leiguizamo either, but at least his part is only small here. It’s also not as violent or as hard-hitting as other movies of the genre, but this isn’t about gangster’s doing gangster-shit, it’s about performance and story – and overall I enjoyed it a lot.
The Blu-ray, whilst a little light on extra features (we get a making of and a photo gallery … but no commentary?) the picture thankfully, is nicely detailed for the most part, despite a little fuzziness in some scenes. The soundtrack, in 5.1 is more than acceptable too, and this remains a great movie to listen to. Not the best Blu-ray out there, but as HD treatments, this was still pretty decent.
(the movie) 4 / 5
(the Blu-ray) 3.5 /5
Viewed – 08 June 2013 Blu-ray
I went into this fairly blind, but appealed by the fact that genre actress Katherine Isabelle was in it. Now I have only ever seen one movie with this actress, but then again that movie was Ginger Snaps … possibly the second best Werewolf movie ever made (if you don’t know what the best is, then I feel sorry for you…). So sitting down to this I was presented with the story of struggling medical student Mary Mason (Isabelle) who has dreams of being a surgeon, but due to debts finds herself turning to a sleazy nightclub owner for help. Soon she meets Beatrice, a plastic-surgery addict who wishes for Mary to perform a hush hush procedure on her equally plastic friend … and before long Mary is doing body modification operations to pay her way through school.
This is a very macabre and decidedly Cronenberg-esque movie with an enjoyably nutty turn from Isabelle who it has to be said, looks totally gorgeous and sexy throughout. But of course ample shots of Isabelle in her undies does not a movie make (for the most part) and the surrounding movie here is rather hard to enjoy. Its full of freaky scenes of gore, surgery and oddball characters (especially the Betty Boop-like Beatrice) that made me feel rather uneasy. Also as events spiral out of control, Mary pretty much becomes a homicidal maniac – which didn’t ring true whatsoever – her taste for violence and dismemberment comes out of nowhere.
As a vehicle for the obviously talented Katherine Isabelle, this seemed somewhat lacking and she never really got to shine – the movie was more interested in freaking this viewer out than presenting a satisfying, entertaining experience. Nasty, sleazy, but not one I’d rush to recommend.
Verdict: 2 /5
- Interview: Jen and Sylvia Soska Talk American Mary (shockya.com)
- Movie Review: ‘American Mary’ (houseofgeekery.com)
- Exclusive: Star Katharine Isabelle on the Soska Sisters, the World of Body Modification and More for American Mary (dreadcentral.com)
- [Review] American Mary (2012) (supermarcey.com)
As a long term movie addict, I must admit, up till now the idea of online streaming services has left me cold. I have been a member of popular by-post rental service ‘Lovefilm’ which has proved a good source for the latest DVD / Blu-ray releases without breaking the bank. However I still find myself buying certain titles I think would be worthy of my collection, and with a growing interest in TV shows such as Dexter and Breaking Bad … it’s becoming quite expensive to collect all these on DVD / Blu-ray. Also unlike movies, they take up MUCH MORE room on my shelf.
So we come to Netflix, that much celebrated online streaming-only service, that unlike Lovefilm doesn’t offer postal DVDs, but just purely online viewing. Now I have an XBOX 360, a Kindle Fire HD and a Blu-ray player that has Netflix built-in … so with saving money in mind and a wealth of TV shows as well as big name (and not so big name) movies to choose from, I thought what the heck, I’ll give that free one month trial a go.
Perhaps expect a few future posts to include Netflix viewed titles.
Viewed – 21 May 2013 Cinema
Going into this, I had quite clear expectations. From a director such as Baz Luhrmann (William Shakespeare’s Romeo + Juliet, Moulin Rouge) I knew I would get something visually dazzling, highly theatrical and bursting to the seems with larger-than-life costumes and characters It’s kinda his calling card. Yet as a fan of Leonardo DiCaprio also, I had expectations of another memorable performance from one of the best in the business.
This tells the tale of wall street worker Nick Carraway (Toby Maguire) who moves into a house located next door to famed playboy Jay Gatsby (DiCaprio), an almost legendary figure in New York during the 1920s who rarely appears in public and hosts numerous dazzling parties for the locales. Yet the reality behind the myth intrigues and so Carraway befriends the reclusive billionaire and attempts to help him with a little problem with a long-lost love, who just happens to be Carraway’s cousin.
From the start, this is a stunning movie to just sit back and take in … imagination, set design, gorgeous visuals and a fantastic use of modern music rejigged to a 20′s jazz soundtrack (Beyonce’s Crazy In Love?) … showcases Luhrmann playing at full throttle. At the heart of the spectacle however is a simple story of love, obsession and a little bit of mystery. Initially I found it hard to get to grips with, so awash with the sheer visual overload, that concentrating on the story was difficult. Thankfully things settle down with solid, complex turns from both DiCaprio and Maguire. Add to this a sultry Carey Mulligan and an enjoyably boo-hiss Joel Edgerton ... and this proved an often surprising and enjoyable tale, with strong echoes of Citizen Kane. I think considering DiCaprio’s array of quality performances over the years, this came across more old-fashioned, screen idol than serious acting, and in some ways the movie was guilty of a too much Hollywood glitz to take completely serious. Often Maguire’s wide-eyed goofy-grin made him look like a rabbit caught in the headlights, and with such reliance on green-screen – it was sometimes like a fantasy movie without the dragons or wizards. Not helped by the fact sometimes actors didn’t look like they were really ‘there’, which they obviously wasn’t.
As it stands though this is a treat for fans of truly interesting looking movies, the kind that deserve the big screen treatment, not because of action sequences but because each shot looks like an oil painting – something Luhrmann has always been an artist at. Beyond this however is an absorbing but not quite so amazing story, with decent rather than ‘wow’ performances - but either way, still deserves your attention.
Verdict: 4 /5