Archive by Author | Rob Whittaker

Trailer Reel

There are lots of films to look forward to in the next few weeks. This trailer reel features two Michael Fassbender films, one Leonardo DiCaprio/Clint Eastwood biographical drama and ends with Ridley Scott’s sci-fi which is ‘linked’ with the Alien franchise, but not a part of that series.

Shame – release date: 13th January 2012

Margin Call – release date: 13th January 2012

J. Edgar – release date: 20th January 2012

Young Adult – release date: 3rd February 2012

A Dangerous Method – release date: 10th February

Prometheus – release date: 1st June 2012

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Reviews – 50/50 (2011), The Adventures of Tintin (2011), Another Earth (2011)

50/50

A comedy about cancer that cleverly walks the line between humour and drama – 7/10

Dir. Jonathan Levine

A couple of weeks ago I named 50/50 ‘Film of the Week’ and I have finally got round to writing the review. 50/50 has done pretty well at the Box Office, taking $39 million, despite being ‘a comedy about cancer’ – undoubtedly a tough sell.

Nevertheless, in Seth Rogen and Joseph Gordon-Levitt 50/50 has two bankable stars. In addition, both produce excellent performances. Rogen plays his usual loud, stoner type and as always, he does this well. Rogen plays Kyle, Adam’s (Gordon-Levitt) best mate who tries to help him to fight his illness, mainly by encouraging him to dump his girlfriend and then taking him out to pick up women. Unsurprisingly Rogen provides most of the laughs whilst Gordon-Levitt plays the cancer-stricken lead in a relatively low-key fashion. Gordon-Levitt’s uptight and frustrated Adam is convincing, whilst Anna Kendrick and Anjelica Huston put in strong supporting performances as Adam’s love interest and mother, respectively.

50/50 is both funny and moving and despite the subject matter it’s never mawkish. Everyone will find it sad, some will find it inspirational, I find Seth Rogen hilarious, this is a recommended watch.

The Adventures of Tintin

Frenetic and exciting with interesting animation, Tintin is a decent adaptation of  Hergé’s beloved classic comic but is also messy and a little convoluted – 6/10 

Dir. Steven Spielberg

This highly anticipated adaptation brings Tintin and Snowy to the big screen and in 3D to boot. The 3D is peripheral and occasionally annoying; frankly, I’m tired of paying more for something that adds little, if anything, and is entirely unnecessary.

Some people have complained about the animation, suggesting that the film could have been better had it been a live action feature. Personally I didn’t mind the style of animation and feel Spielberg did a decent job on his first animated film. Moreover, I am pleased that they didn’t try to replicate Hergé’s iconic drawings.

The film itself is not just fast paced; it’s a rollercoaster, rattling from one action sequence to another, adding in a sprinkling of storyline almost as an afterthought. The writers have attempted to combine three of the original comics – The Crab with the Golden Claws, The Secret of the Unicorn, and Red Rackham’s Treasure – with mixed success. Much of the plot (and humour) centres on Captain Haddock’s drunkenness; this becomes repetitive and boring. Add to this Thomson and Thompson’s stupidity and we have more of the same slapstick humour and people accidentally stumbling upon clues. Granted there is a large amount of this in the source material, but the film lacks the attention to detail and the satire of the comics.

The Adventures of Tintin is rip-roaring and generally good fun. Kids will be engrossed but it won’t be one that they watch again and again.

Another Earth

In his first feature length film Mike Cahill offers something unique and thought-provoking – 7/10

Dir. Mike Cahill

As a strange planet hangs in the sky, Rhoda’s (Brit Williams) world comes crashing down when she accidentally kills a mother, son and unborn daughter in a car accident, whilst putting the father (John Burroughs, played by William Mapother) in a coma.

Rhoda had a bright future ahead of her and was set to study at MIT on the astrophysics programme but instead finds herself in prison and her dreams in tatters.

Four years later Rhoda re-enters society and struggles to come to terms with her new life and the pain she has caused. One day, she visits John Burrows at his house with the intention of apologising for killing his wife and kids (he never found out her identity because she was 17 when the crash took place). However, Rhoda cannot bring herself to admit her crime to John’s face and makes an excuse about why she is there. The two strike up an interesting relationship as they implicitly begin to give one another some meaning in their lives.

Another Earth has sci-fi elements – a mysterious celestial body (Earth 2) looms over the earth amid frequent references to parallel and alternate universes – but is very much a human drama. In one sense, Earth 2 is all a side-show; however, the two sides of the story are neatly tied together as the prospect of travelling to Earth 2 offers Rhoda hope of escaping her current life.

The two central performances are impressive whilst the sparse score and direction are well judged. Another Earth is by no means riveting but it has enough to occupy throughout and keep you thinking for a while after.

Trailer Reel – The Dark Knight Rises and The Hobbit

A glimpse at Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, the first film of a two part adaptation of JRR Tolkein’s book. A few of the old faces from LOTR are back. Also there’s some singing for everyone to enjoy.

Christopher Nolan’s third and final batman movie: The Dark Knight Rises. Much talked about, highly anticipated. Oh and there’s singing in this trailer too, not sure why.

Hugo (2011) – Review

Master film-maker Martin Scorsese offers a family film of impressive scope with spectacular results – 8/10

Dir. Martin Scorsese

Martin Scorsese’s Hugo is based on Brian Selznick’s novel The Invention of Hugo Cabret and is the veteran director’s first family film; it is also his first in 3D. Scorsese has been outspoken about his belief that 3D can be more than a money-making gimmick, claiming that it could be a historical development in film comparable to the introduction of colour. Whether this is true or not remains to be seen (although I feel one is on dangerous ground when disagreeing with Scorsese about film) what can be said, however, is that the use of 3D in Hugo is brilliant. I have been rather sceptical about the latest round of 3D, seeing it as an excuse to charge more money for tickets – retrofitting is evidence of the lazy way in which it has been used and a clear sign that many in the movie industry care little about whether it enhances the viewing experience. Moreover, the application of 3D has been at best patchy and at worst inept. In certain films the 3D has been used to relatively good effect; Up (2009) and Avatar (2009) are examples which spring to mind. Nevertheless, even in these films I have felt that the 3D was, at times, distracting and of course the brightness is reduced by 30%. However, the 3D in Hugo is far more integrated than in previous movies. Whereas in other films an object will occasionally appear to fly towards the audience, in Hugo, the 3D is used wherever possible and in fact, the sets themselves have been designed to benefit from 3D. For example, the train station is littered with speakers and clocks which protrude out of the screen, giving the audience an impressive visual spectacle. That being said, the 3D in Hugo isn’t without its faults and of particular annoyance is the persistence of ghosting or crosstalk (where you see a shadow-like doubling of the images).

The film itself is an interesting one which caught me by surprise. In short, it tells the story of an orphan boy, named Hugo (Asa Butterfield), who lives between the walls of a Paris railway station. His “job” is to maintain the clocks in the station and he survives by stealing food. In his spare time Hugo attempts to fix the mechanical man (automaton) which his father (Jude Law) left him. But disaster strikes as he is caught stealing by the toy-shop owner (Ben Kingsley) who then takes Hugo’s notebook which contains the automaton’s blueprints. With the belief that the automaton contains one final message from his father, Hugo desperately attempts to retrieve the notebook, befriending the toy-shop owner’s Goddaughter, Isabelle (Chloë Grace Moretz), along the way. From here the mystery unfolds cautiously with the creaking station inspector (Sacha Baron Cohen) in hot pursuit of the two children.

As Roger Ebert states in his review, Hugo is very much a movie about movies. The mystery centres on a “long-forgotten” movie-maker named Georges Melies and the second half of the film plays like a documentary on the early history of cinema. Some may criticise this drift towards didacticism and certainly Hugo did, in sections, remind me of Mark Cousins’ excellent documentary series The Story of Film: An Odyssey. I for one enjoyed the little lesson in film history, although I fear some may become bored by this aspect of Hugo. In addition, the unraveling of the film’s mystery feels somewhat contrived and the adventure itself is rather static and unspectacular. Nevertheless, the excellent acting and beautiful sets charm throughout and it is difficult not to appreciate the heart and passion that has gone into this film. Not all children will enjoy Hugo, but many will be captivated by the magic at its heart. In incorporating famous extracts from the early days of cinema into an entertaining and masterfully constructed family film, Scorsese has achieved what few other film-makers would dare to try. As always, I look forward to his next effort.

We’re back!

After a lengthy hiatus, Inside Film is back! We’re sorry for the lack of new content in recent weeks, I’ve missed it as much as you have. In fact, for over a month I didn’t even watch a film, so I hope you can feel my pain. However, Jake and I have moved through this difficult time and are pleased to offer several new reviews in the near future. We will be reviewing: The Adventures of Tintin, The Ides of March, Hugo, 50/50 and a DVD review of The Informant.

My local multiplex makes me cry

I recently looked on the website of my local multiplex to find out when Drive was showing and was horrified by its absence on the list of films. After drying my eyes and several hours of comfort eating I decided to pick myself up and go to see The Debt. Today I sat down and opened my laptop with the intention of writing a review for The Debt, but my concentration very quickly lapsed and I found myself thinking “what’s the next thing I should see at the cinema?” So again I looked on the website of my local cinema to find the following films are showing (split into two very imaginatively named categories):

Films I have a problem with:

Johnny English Reborn – we already had Austin Powers so I don’t know why we needed the original never mind a sequel. 3D and 2D Lion King – I don’t have a problem with cinemas showing classics, however, I don’t like that they have retrofitted The Lion King with 3D in order to charge customers extra. Moreover, when you have 2D and 3D versions, they take up screens that could be used for other films. 3D and 2D The Three Musketeers – A tired-looking adaptation of Dumas’ classic which is currently sitting at 33% on Rotten Tomatoes from a director who boasts a lowly average of 27.8% on the same websiteDon’t Be Afraid of the Dark – An averagely reviewed remake of an old movie starring Katie Holmes (I didn’t realise Tom and the Scientology clique were still letting her act) and written by Guillermo del Toro (so maybe it is worth watching). Abduction – Tim Robey of The Telegraph calls this “the least thrilling thriller of the year.Friend With Benefits – Quite well reviewed rom-com. Crazy, Stupid Love – Decently reviewed rom-com. What’s Your Number – Poorly reviewed rom-com. Rascals – Apparently it’s awful. 3D Shark Night – Clearly a terrible movie and trying to reproduce the success of last summer’s Piranha 3D but failing.

Films I do not have a problem with:

The Inbetweeners Movie – Incredibly successful movie version of the popular TV show. Warrior – Rocky meets The Fighter with MMA.  Midnight In Paris – Woody Allen films are usually worth seeing. I like Owen Wilson too. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy – Great film – read my review. The Debt – Pretty decent, read my revie… oh yeah, that’s where this all started, now back to my point.

So as you can see,  this list has some good in it but contains an awful lot of crap. My main issue, therefore, is with the rather gaping omissions of the 3 movies which I was REALLY LOOKING FORWARD TO; namely Drive, Melancholia and Tyrannosaur. This is why I’m crying.

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (2011) – Review

“You have to assume they’re watching you…” A safe assumption for the deceitful men who inhabit smoke-filled rooms in this brilliant adaptation – 9/10

Dir. Tomas Alfredson

The 1970s TV series was wonderfully received by critics and Alec Guinness is considered to have made George Smiley his own; consequently, Tomas Alfredson and Gary Oldman had a lot to live up to. Alfredson will be known to readers for his 2008 Swedish vampire film Let the Right One In and is leading the charge of Scandinavian directors who are making waves in the English-speaking movie world. Oldman heads a stellar cast (see poster above) in something of a who’s who of British acting talent that have been perfectly selected by casting director Jina Jay.

Without giving too much away I will reveal something of the plot. Jim Prideaux (Mark Strong) is a top agent for MI6 (referred to as “The Circus”) who is sent to Budapest on a mission. Something goes wrong, however, and he gets shot. Questions are asked and people scapegoated for the calamitous affair. Those at the top of MI6 – Control (John Hurt) and George Smiley (Oldman) – are forced into retirement. But when Ricki Tarr (Tom Hardy) calls in some information about a potential mole in the upper echelons of The Circus, Smiley is secretly called back to uncover the truth.

Intrigue abounds and as Toby Esterhase (David Dencik) says “things aren’t always what they seem.” It plays out as a beautifully constructed and thrillingly clever Cold War spy film. Having said this, the central theme is not espionage or the Cold War – Tinker Tailor is worlds apart from James Bond. Ultimately, this is a film about deceit. It’s about a group of colleagues – clever and talented men – who are so blinded by their ambition and disconnected with reality that they can no longer operate effectively. It’s about men trying to get ahead; playing empires, playing spies. As one character puts it, all trying to make “his mark.”

Tinker Tailor is grey and grainy as Alfredson expertly reconstructs Cold War Britain. Nostalgia for WWII and British imperialism is central to the psyche and paranoia of this film as the central characters strive to make Britain – and themselves – relevant once more. The action of the usual espionage thriller is replaced by hidden agendas and sideways glances; every look has a double meaning. The use of shallow focus catches us off guard at times as Alfredson strives to make us unsure of our suspicions and alert for clues. Alberto Iglesias chimes in with a suitably melancholy soundtrack which crescendos in all the right places and adds to the tension.

Some criticism has been levelled against this version of Tinker Tailor because it strays from both the source material and the TV series. My response to this is A) If it didn’t move away from the TV series then there wouldn’t be much point and B) This film works as a piece of cinema on its own terms and it therefore doesn’t matter if it differs from the book. What does matter in adaptations is that the central themes of the book and messages of the story are transferred effectively from page to screen; Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy achieves this splendidly.