T2: Trainspotting

Viewed – 28 January 2017  Cinema

A sequel I was both looking forward to and slightly dreading.  The set-twenty-years-later follow up to one of the defining, cult British movies of the nineties that seemed to not really require a sequel, but here we are presented with one anyway.  I’ll admit to being intrigued by where the characters might be now, what their lives have involved over the years etc. and where things might go next for them, especially considering how the last movie ended – with Mark Renton (Ewan McGregor), having been involved in a drug deal, making off with £16,000 cash from under the nose of his so-called friends.

Trainspotting 2

It’s this betrayal that the movie for the most part hangs onto, and well, Renton’s homecoming to Edinburg is not exactly met with open arms.  Sick Boy (Johnny Lee Miller) & Spud (Ewan Bremner) find themselves not really having amounted to much, and blame much of that on Renton, be it his fault or not.  Also there’s the matter of the homicidal madman Francis Begbie (Robert Carlisle) to contend with, who quickly escapes from Prison and doesn’t take long to learn of Renton’s return.  Let it be said, this is a very different beast to the 1996 original.  That hedonistic and sleazy portrait of drug culture was filled with clever surrealism, bags of energy and iconic music in a way that made it the cool movie of the time.  This isn’t really attempting any of that despite a strong reliance on nostalgia for much of it’s flavour.  This is as much a snapshot of modern-day society as it is a celebration of another time.  Every character seems to be stuck in a rut, hopelessly looking back and reminiscing and er…holding grudges.  Carlisle steals the show for the most part, revelling in the Begbie persona that stood out so much in the first movie but hasn’t changed or developed one iota.  Sad he even get’s a chance to be more than a one note psycho towards the end, but the movie chooses not to go there.  With nobody having really changed, from Sick Boy’s blackmailing schemes and Spud (surprisingly the only character who goes on a ‘journey’) still being on drugs … I gradually began to wonder what the point of it all was.

There’s several exciting and funny moments with plenty of personality, a new, culturally relevant ‘choose life’ speech, and memorable music cues from The Prodigy, Wolf Alice and more … but with an overwhelming theme of middle aged men hating their lives and being trapped in the past, this ended up rather depressing.  Fans of the original should definitely check this out, and it was still fun to spend time with such colourful characters again.  Danny Boyle’s direction was also consistently eye-catching (if a tad trying too hard) … but despite such efforts, ultimately this fails to justify it’s existence.

Verdict:  3 /5

2011 a look back – part one

Thought I would take a look back at the last twelve months on this blog and offer up a definitive review of the year.  It is going to be split into the four quarters of the year, and will conclude with my final Top Ten.  Hope you enjoy reading the following highlights and disappointments…

January – March

January kicked off somewhat underwhelming with Sci-fi horror Splice, which although entertaining, didn’t make for a particularly memorable movie overall.   That couldn’t be said of the gore & tits fest that was Piranha 3D, certainly one of the most immediately entertaining movies this year, even if it’s b-movie styling means some may pass it off as rubbish.  Scott Pilgrim Vs The World was another highlight, with its clever camera-work and comic book meets video game style, and as ever Michael Cera was a joy.   Disappointing was the Sylvester Stallone, Jason Stathan, Dolph Lundrgren testosterone orgy The Expendables, case of a great idea badly realized … Perhaps Stallone should have left directing honours to someone else?

Once we hit February however, one of the best movies was Danny Boyle’s 127 Hours; a stunning achievement in taking a true-life tale of survival and making it both powerful, gut-wrenching and funny, with a startling central performance from James Franco.  Then as if something was in the water as far as movie releases were concerned, we also got Black Swan, a heart breaking, chilling exploration of madness with a brilliant turn from Natalie Portman and top-class directing honours from Darren Aronofsky.   It was no surprise that Portman would then scoop Best Actress at the Oscars the same month.  Of course such a run of top-class movies couldn’t last long, and the enjoyable Paul starring the usually excellent Simon Pegg and Nick Frost crumbled slightly under its reliance on one gag … a funny smart-mouthed alien.  Thankfully February concluded nicely with the surprising The House Of The Devil, a great throw-back to 70’s occult horrors like Rosemary’s Baby and The Omen, and despite a low-budget, really delivered.

March seemed to be the month I (albeit briefly) got my kung-fu movie loving mojo back, and offered up two impressive examples namely Donny Yen starrers Ip Man & Ip Man 2, expertly and stylishly directed by Yen himself and both offering fascinating tales of a true-life martial arts master.   Animated comedy Despicable Me was a gem, and in my opinion outclassed Toy Story 3 for pure entertainment, and with a heart-warming story, really impressed.  Takers, a heist movie starring Hayden Christensen, Idris Elba and Paul Walker was a satisfying if unimaginative take on movies like Heat.  The Disappearance Of Alice Creed offered up a gritty brit-thriller with a brave, revealing turn from Gemma Arterton, and concluding March was Ozzy toungue-in-cheek horror The Loved Ones, offering up stalkers, unrequited love and cannibalistic ex-boyfriends!

…Stay tuned for my run down of the following three months soon.

127 Hours

Viewed – 01 February 2011  Cinema

This wasn’t a movie that immediately appealed to me when hearing all the hype.  Granted anything from Brit Director Danny Boyle is not going to be without merit, but honestly … how interesting can a story about a man stuck under a rock actually be?  Very interesting is the answer, as we follow the true story of adventurer / adrenaline junkie Aron Ralston (James Franco) as he explores and pot holes his way around the cavernous Utah canyon.  All seems well, as he frolics with a couple of girls he meets along the way, but once alone again, he makes the mistake of exploring one particularly deep canyon, and that’s when disaster strikes and he ends up with his arm wedged under a fallen rock, unable to escape.

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Slumdog Millionaire

Viewed – 27 June 2009  Blu-ray

This is the big one.  The film everyone has been talking about.  I must admit though that even after all the hype surrounding it’s stunning victory at this years Academy Awards, the subject matter didn’t hit me with that ‘must see’ vibe.  This follows the story of a young kid (Dev Patel) from the impoverished slums of India who has somehow found himself on the country’s version of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire, well on his way to winning the jackpot.  Now what surprised me was the fact that this isn’t just a rags-to-riches cliche of a story where at first we watch said slums upbringing, leading to that fateful appearance on the show.  But infact, the kid is already on the show and the film flashes back, bit by bit to how he got there, carefully drip-feeding the viewer information and back story – much more satisfying.

This is powerful, gritty and fascinating, part real-world expose, part love story, part thriller, and with a feel good ending that is built up to perfectly.  Danny Boyles direction here never misses a beat, is intelligent and stylish but never looses the realism under such admittedly eye-catching production values.  This is a beautifully filmed and edited movie, with some excellent choices of music and stunning Indian locales, both heart breaking and awe-inspiring.  Dev Patel’s performance is assured, steely-eyed and confident, but very subtle at the same time, with actors playing younger versions of him handling the more intense moments.  So then, this is a gripping and thought-provoking film made with care and a very professional eye, making it one Oscar winner worthy of the title.

Additionally, for anyone wondering about the Blu-ray, this is definitely one of the best pictures I have yet seen, with a strong soundtrack to accompany it, making it a guaranteed poster-boy for the format.

Verdict:  4 /5