All posts tagged 'Review'

Lincoln and Django Unchained: two very different approaches to a thorny subject

by The Kent film blog, by Lewis Dyson Tuesday, February 5 2013

 

This year's Oscars features two nominees in the best picture category that are about slavery: Lincoln and Django Unchained

The one that probably stands a better chance of winning the judges' votes is Lincoln, not because it is a better film but because it ticks all of the requisite boxes. World-class actor, check. Worthy subject matter, check. Steven Spielberg, check.

I thought it was really well made and it was reverential to Abe Lincoln without being patronising, which is to its credit.

The best thing about it is without a doubt Daniel Day-Lewis' performance that is utterly convincing. I have never seen the man put a foot wrong, but then I have never seen Nine.

Overall the film is just what you would expect from arguably the best director of the past four decades teaming up with someone who is widely acknowledged as the greatest living screen actor. By that I mean it is near perfect and it is difficult to find fault but at the same time, it doesn't re-invent cinema. 

It looks beautiful, the sets are brilliant, and there are good performances all round. It is a team of people who are at the top of their craft making a film. It is like watching a master baker making a really nice cake, using all of the ingredients you expect. It comes out really tasty as you would expect but someone else might have added something completely different, like chili flakes but it's not that type of film.

Other directors might have been tempted to spice it up - anyone expecting Saving Private Ryan in the American Civil War will be disappointed. Instead it focuses on the politics. The script will either draw you in or bore the hell out of you. Luckily I think it's absorbing enough to hold your attention for the two-and-a-half hour length.

In summary you can't criticise it because it is near faultless, but you could argue it is only that way because it steers so close to the mark.

And then there's Django Unchained...

 

Quentin Tarantino's latest offering takes the same approach to historical accuracy as Inglourious Basterds and they are both incredibly similar to each other. They are both revenge fantasies of ethnic groups who have suffered great atrocities. But Tarantino handles this subject matter with the sensitivity of a Frankie Boyle.

Rather than making something preachy dealing with slavery head-on, the issue is used as a tool to make the audience feel all the more intensely. No one is going to go into this film thinking slavery is a good thing so it's an effective way of turning feeling you get rooting for the good guy Django (Jamie Foxx) and hating the bad guy (Leonardo DiCaprio) all the way to 11. Plus no one does violence like Tarantino and this doesn't disappoint with bucket loads of blood flying across the screen. 

The casual use of the N-bomb and the general way slavery is depicted is enough to incense anyone but, if a film can make you feel anything then it is doing its job.

Two very good films but in two very different ways.


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Categories: Film

A review of Tom Farrer's 'Son Of '87'

by Kent music reviews and teenage views, with Nick Tompkins Friday, February 1 2013

Tom Farrer is one of those inexplicably underrated artists that, when I see the likes of Little Mix, Jedward and Bieber on the television, and hear their whinings on the radio, a bit of sick ends up in my mouth- perhaps a sour tasting symbol of the sheer injustice in this world. Farrer’s new song, Son Of ’87 is another of Farrer’s examples of sheer talent and musicianship, minus the pretentiousness of the vast majority of modern popular music.

One thing you must understand about Tom Farrer is that he, much like the likes of Jake Bugg, is a real reminder of rock music’s past. His tunes ring with a kind of classic folk-rock vibe- a sound that takes you back to a bar in London, the early morning around the campsite of a festival or the mellow ending to a party.

Onto the song itself: Son Of ’87 is not a single, it is simply Farrer’s latest creation, co-written with his friend, Joel Williamson, and recorded in Williamson’s bed sit, the track is modest and understated- no percussion, no backing track, no harmonies, just guitar and vocals. The guitar introduction is simple and actually quite striking in its quiet delivery, somewhat reminiscent of the introduction to Marley’s Redemption Song, in its loose timing and simplicity rather than the actual tune. Farrer’s vocals are delicate and earnest, singing poetic lyrics with real conviction, “But it’s over now, I let you down/ My son of ‘87” before uttering “if you could see me now…” a genuinely moving line. The tune has no bridge section; it is a series of verses and choruses, but this does not make the song repetitive or boring, far from it, the tune is strong enough to stand alone with no frills attached to it. Son Of ’87 is an easy listen, as well as one with some superb lyrics and real character to it.

Farrer has an array of original material, with upbeat full-band numbers such as Louie Come Back- a track with an energy that simply belongs in a live set, Promised Land, and the ridiculously impactive This Or The Railroad, as well as beautiful (in a manly way) songs like Dead Dog and of course, now, Son Of ’87. Farrer is currently in the process of recording his debut album, so keep a close eye on this fine musical prospect, but until then, all of these tracks can be found online (Youtube, Soundcloud, Myspace etc) so it’s well worth having a listen to a fantastic song-writer doing what he does best. I’ve been following Farrer since I was a precious fifteen years old and he signed my Lounge On The Farm programme, and I’m counting on making some serious money in the future. Watch this space.

Like Tom Farrer on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/tomfarrermusic?fref=ts

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2012: My Year In Music

by Kent music reviews and teenage views, with Nick Tompkins Tuesday, January 15 2013

So we’re at the very beginning of our new year, 2013, so I think it’s important to look back on what turned out to be such an exciting year (for me) in terms of Indie music.

I’m going to start the year all the way over in May because that’s when the hangover of 2011 had truly lifted and the real magic started to happen. On May 21st, The Enemy released their third full-length album, Streets In The Sky, which after the heavy criticism of album number two (still a great record in my view), had plenty to answer to. Luckily, these guys knew just what to do, and they came out with an album stripped right back to the raw power we heard from The Enemy in their debut, but with a far more optimistic message behind the album as a whole. The sound was aggressive, guitar dominant, as well as being simple and brilliantly catchy which is what can only be expected from a songwriter like Tom Clarke who prefers to throw music snobbery aside for a decent tune. Tracks such as This Is Real, Gimme The Sign and Bigger Cages Longer Chains give us the raw power we crave while Two Kids and Get Up and Dance show us the sensitive side of the Coventry trio.

While we’re on the subject of glorious comebacks, let’s talk about Lex Hives, the fifth album from Sweden’s greatest Rock’n’Roll band (as they have modestly dubbed themselves) after an agonising five year wait- FIVE YEARS! This self-produced record was released internationally on June 4th, and like a hungry lion on an unsuspecting gazelle, I pounced on it. In the process of bringing it home for my first listen, the fears of “what if I hate it? Maybe I should just never listen to it to avoid disappointment…” kicked in. Of course this was all ridiculous because The Hives produced one of their best records to date. It’s so hard to find consistency in modern music- it’s hard to find a band that shows the same genius for more than two albums; however, much like a modern Stones, The Hives have so far come out with five consecutive albums jam packed with sheer awesomeness. With the addition of a brass section, tracks like Go Right Ahead and UK bonus track, Midnight Shifter were an exciting new element but if it ain’t broke, The Hives won’t fix it, so for the remainder of the album these music legends stuck to what they’re best at: fast paced, no nonsense Rock music. For the record, The Hives put on the best live show of any band I’ve ever seen, so if you ever have the rare chance to catch them in the UK, for goodness sake take it!

As the sun was setting from the UK’s wettest summer on record, all was not lost for on August 13th, Indie newbies, Spector released their debut album, Enjoy It While It Lasts, after a string of singles including Chevy Thunder which was to shake Britain. Spector produced a record where every single song, even the slower ones, like an exceptionally vigilant koala bear, clings to your brain for the rest of the day- sometimes even longer. What makes Enjoy It While It Lasts such a marvel is its shameless simplicity, its lyrical charm and, of course, Fred Macpherson’s smooth vocal throughout. If you haven’t experienced Spector, you ought to be ashamed of yourself.

The very next week, on August 19th, a band I think we’ll hear a lot more of pretty soon, Life In Film, released their first five-track EP entitled Needles And Pins. With a sound that’s both slightly melancholic in a Morrissey kind of way, whilst also being summery with a beautiful trebly guitar tone, the EP is so understated, often leaving me to question whether there is any justice left in this world. Title track Needles And Pins is sad and beautiful in its melody, while Until It’s Over, with its clever guitar riff, and perfectly placed bass drum during chorus giving it some real power behind it. I had the pleasure of interviewing lead vocalist Sam, and not that it makes a difference to the music, but he was extremely pleasant! Anyway, keep a close eye out for these guys because I think once they get an album out there will be no stopping them.

September 3rd marked both the release of The Vaccines’ second album, and The Milk’s debut album. Let’s start with The Milk- Tales From The Thames Delta: I watched this band in the summer of 2011 and thought they were absolutely great- they were energetic, musically flawless and all in all gave memorable performance. This still didn’t prepare me for the impact their first album would have on me. I was completely blown away by the record. I’d forgotten how R’n’B influenced it was, and just how strong singer Clarie Robin’s vocals were. The album is instrumentally excellent; featuring irresistibly dance-worthy drum beats working perfectly with the guitar. Stand out songs would have to be Broke Up The Family, B-Roads, Chip The Kids and my personal favourite (All I Wanted Was) Danger, but album closer, Lay The Pain On Me, is fragile, as well as soulful and is a testimony to Robin’s vocal range.

The Vaccines second album, Come Of Age was surprisingly different to NME golden boys’ first album. The style was essentially the same: still very much a guitar band, still very much Indie music, but this second taste of The Vaccines gave the feeling they’d gone deeper into music than before, experimenting with more unusual melodies, seen in Aftershave Ocean and Weirdo. The album probably doesn’t quite match its predecessor but is nonetheless a great set of tracks.

Late September saw the long awaited return of Mumford and Sons who managed to find a place in most of the world’s hearts in 2009 with Sigh No More. Their follow-up release, could never be anything other than a great album- the reasons for this being it is too darn similar to their first album to be classed differently! So, yes, Babel, is full of beautiful harmonies, the rustic sound of a banjo and a double bass, which is all great- in all fairness it is a great album! It has to be said, however, that it could easily be mistaken for the first album, in the strumming patterns of the songs, particularly the likes of I Will Wait and the undulation of Marcus Mumford’s melodies in tracks such as Holland Road do seem slightly similar to previous Mumford songs. However back-handed this may seem, I do genuinely love the album, it’s an easy listen, it’s full of beautiful harmonies, and if Sigh No More had never existed I am confident this would boost Mumford to stardom all the same, I just think the third album needs to catch us off guard slightly.

By October the 8th, Nottingham’s new boys, Dog Is Dead, released their debut full-length album, All Our Favourite Stories. I have already raved about this in a review but just to reiterate- the album, to me, is more or less perfect. Dog Is Dead have found a sound so unique to them and with such credibility: refreshingly, each of the five members can sing, and in turn their harmonies are phenomenal; Indie music seems to have gone crazy for harmonies lately but these guys really know how to do it. All Our Favourite Stories is a great summer soundtrack (despite it’s October release), with tunes like their self-confessed “American douchebag song”, Talk Through The Night as well as the classic Glockenspiel Song. Dog Is Dead convey real emotion and meaning in their songs without being pretentious and are definitely only going to get bigger and bigger from here on out.

My final two albums were released the very next week on October 15th. Firstly: Little Comets’ follow up to In Search Of Elusive Little Comets, named, Life Is Elsewhere, is an interesting one. While the band’s debut was pretty straight forward, generally speaking, with some brilliant guitar parts and extremely impressive vocals due to Robert Coles’ impossible vocal range. With the latest album, the Comets have produced material far more complex than before, with unusual, almost mathematical timing in several tracks. This, on the one hand makes it a great listen while by yourself because you get to listen to every fragment of every song and think “how are they doing that?!” but it also means the second album is far less dancy than the first. It depends what you’re into really, but I’ve found the second album has some extraordinary tracks on, such as Bayonne, Worry and an unusual and vulnerable number, Violence Out Tonight.

Finally, although he’s been given enough attention by most of the music world just recently, I have to mention Jake Bugg’s self-title debut. With a retro sound and a simple approach, Bugg at just eighteen years old has done exceptionally well for himself. The album is filled with part Cash, part Dylan-esque tunes, delivered with a kind of teenage aggression, evident in Two Fingers and Lightning Bolt. I don’t really need to say much else on the album because it’s been plastered all over NME for months but Jake Bugg is an album with great integrity, sung by someone far beyond his years, that simply does not get old.

So that’s been my 2012 in music- a year I feel has been one of the most exciting I’ve encountered and one I feel is leading somewhere really special, that I can only hope to follow just as closely. 2013 promises much from bands such as Haim and Swim Deep as well as a supposed comeback from Kings Of Leon. All in all I think this will be a good year.

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Categories: Medway | National Grid

Frankenweenie: Burton back to his best

by The Kent film blog, by Lewis Dyson Thursday, October 11 2012

 

It's that time of year again when a load of animated horrors are released to mildly scare kids everywhere before they go off trick or treating. Probably the pick of the bunch this Halloween is Tim Burton's latest offering Frankenweenie, a 3-D stop-motion animation entirely in black and white. Actually a re-make of a short film the director made in the 80s, his latest offering is also a loving homage to classic creature features of the 1930s. This return to the influences that he made such excellent use in films like Ed Wood, and Edward Scissorhands, also sees him return to form after a handful of disappointing efforts - does anyone actually remember anything from Alice in Wonderland?

Frankenweenie is based on Mary Shelley's gothic novel except in this case Victor Frankenstein is a young boy who lives in the town of New Holland with his parents and his beloved dog Sparky. When the pet is killed in a tragic accident, Victor tries to resurrect his best friend after being inspired by a science experiment at school. After bringing Sparky back from the dead, things start to go wrong when the other children find out what has happened.

Tim Burton has dabbled in animation before as a co-director on Corpse Bride - he did not actually direct The Nightmare Before Christmas, although he produced it as well as the CGI animated 9. Frankenweenie is a much better film. It is heartfelt, funny and just the right side of morbid. There plenty of gross gags whether its bits flying off Sparky or exploding animal corpses. Meanwhile, there are lots of nods to classic horror films like The Wolf Man, The Mummy and, of course, Frankenstein, that will keep older audience members happy. There is even a reference to Bride of Frankenstein as the neighbour's poodle gets a lightening bolt beehive hairstyle. It is a film for children (big or small) obsessed with the gruesome and the gross -  the kids who chase each other around playgrounds with worms. 

What is particularly pleasing is that vintage Burtonesque mixture of gothic elements with the bland kitsch of 1950s suburban America. The town of New Holland is just like the setting of Edward Scissorhands where its bland perfection gets suddenly introduced to an element of otherness. 

The voice-overs are all well performed, particularly Atticus Shaffer who voices Edgar 'E' Gore and sounds exactly the way you would imagine a child version Egor to be. 

The 3-D does add a depth to the look of the stop-motion and there are moments when you can see how the models would have looked as the film was being made. Also because it is in black and white, the darker image you have to put up with in other 3-D movies is not an issue here. That being said, you forget about it after a while and it is probably  just as good without it.

While it is not Burton's best film, it is certainly a simple, enjoyable and a welcome return. 

 

 

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Categories: Film

SMUGGLERS FESTIVAL 2012

by Kent music reviews and teenage views, with Nick Tompkins Wednesday, September 5 2012
I was lucky enough to attend and steward at this year’s Smugglers Festival. The first thing to strike you is the intimacy of the festival: the campsite itself is small enough to see from one side to the other at all times. The main area consisted of two main stages, where the music alternated from stage to stage, meaning that there was constant music playing, and no worry of two bands clashing, which can be truly devastating for some. Outside the main area, in the woods, was the Little Rig stage, a beautifully decorated caravan with a small stage attached. The festival featured fantastic performances by Zoo For You, Cocos Lovers, The Boot Lagoon among many others. The standard of music, albeit nothing like what you’ll find in the charts, was fantastic, unique and refreshing to listen to instead of all the “wub wubs” we seem to hear on the radio and in clubs. Smugglers, though it is a small festival is not short on things to do during the weekend; it has a children’s area, artwork hidden in the woods, campfires dotted around the woods, a disco, an absinthe bar and so much more! The atmosphere at Smugglers festival was absolutely brilliant- everyone was so nice! It’s the kind of festival where you needn’t be worried about rowdy youths around each corner, and where you can easily converse with a complete stranger, it’s a lovely thing! For anyone debating whether to come next year as a family, I would highly recommend it. Smugglers Festival offers a brilliant family atmosphere. There is plenty of great activities for children in the kids’ area, as well as a cinema to engage the family, and what’s more, the family camping is absolutely silent at night time so you won’t be disturbed by the usual festival riff raff! And for any ‘usual festival riff raff’ who are just out to have a cheap weekend of music and fun, I can’t recommend Smugglers any more. I thoroughly enjoyed it- by far my favourite festival, and in relation to the bigger festivals, it is right on my doorstep!

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Categories: music

SPECTOR- Enjoy It While It Lasts: album review

by Kent music reviews and teenage views, with Nick Tompkins Friday, August 17 2012

I was lucky enough to see Spector live at Canterbury's Lounge On The Farm festival in 2011, (in my view, the best year yet) before I had even heard of such a band. From another stage I could hear the pacey introduction to what I now know was Chevy Thunder, and had to go and see who was making such a sound. I arrived with friends to see Frederick Macpherson leaping about the stage like a child on a bouncy castle. I was charmed by Frederick Macpherson's wit, informing the crowd, "I'm not spitting as a rock 'n' roll statement, I just get a build up of phlegm when I sing". Long after my friends left out of boredom to hear some "filthy bass" in the dance tent (the fools!), I made my way to the front and remained there, transfixed on the catchiness and general brilliance of the music I was hearing, and left the stage with the chorus of 'Never Fade Away' stuck in my head for the remainder of the festival.

As soon as I returned home, I listened to the only Spector song I could get my hands on, 'Never Fade Away', over and over, introducing it to my parents and friends. I followed Spector for an extremely long year, diving on each single on the day of its release, desperately waiting for an announcement for the album to finally arrive. I managed, by luck, to catch wind of Spector's Farmhouse gig in Canterbury, and instantly bought tickets, thus turning my girlfriend into a Spector convert. I was amazed by the performance, but also saddened by the notion that, realistically, this would be the last time I would be able to see Spector in such a small intimate venue. Lucky I managed to get them to sign my photo of them- score.

August 13th, finally, 'Enjoy It While It Lasts' is released! I felt a wave of fear pass over me as I inserted the disc into my stereo- would it live up to the hype I'd placed on its shoulders? 

Opening track 'True Love (For Now)' begins with a both bouncy and mildly meloncholic melody, before the drums kick in and give it a more upbeat sound. The track gives a somewhat skeptical view of the idea of love, and has some truly brilliant lyrics, such as "Your dreams are not mine, My future's not yours, But if this isn't love, tell me what is". If you have ever watched an interview with Macpherson, skepticism is something comes naturally to him. The album includes all the preceeding singles, 'Chevy Thunder', 'What You Wanted', 'Grey Shirt And Tie' and 'Never Fade Away' all of which have an uncanny knack of staying in one's mind. The aggressive and energetic nature of 'Chevy Thunder' and 'What You Wanted' were what was to be expected from the remainder of the tracks on the album, and this is certainly present in songs such as 'Friday Night, Don't Ever Let It End', 'Upset Boulevard' and 'Twenty Nothing', all of which are exceptionally brilliant songs, with charisma, energy and witty lyrics, ticking all the right boxes for a great Indie Pop tune. 

However, 'Enjoy It While It Lasts' isn't just full of dancy, brash songs- Spector have a sensitive side too. 'Lay Low' has got to be my personal favourite song on the album, the track starts gently, and gradually becomes more intense. The chorus is melodic, catchy, and sung with great conviction. By the final chorus, you can really feel Macpherson's emotion, which is complimented by heavy, dominant bass from Tom Shickle. A more somber song, Grim Reefer serves as a surprise when juxtaposed with Celestene, but is ultimately an extremely impressive song. The simplistic repition and use of the imperitive in the lyrics, "Need me. Can't you need me, As much as I need you?" makes the song really quite tragic, and is genuinely moving to listen to. An interesting track, for me, is 'No Adventure', with a mildly unsettling verse, not as melodic as we're used to from a Spector song. However, this shows the depth that Spector have, they don't just write songs for us to jump around and be merry to, they function on several other levels. The chorus, is another of an anthemic, heartfelt vibe, with female backing vocals displaying the thought put into the development of the song.

So the answer to my initial worries? YES. Spector have lived up to the almost impossible hype I previously imposed upon them in my year of anticipation. If anybody is considering whether or not to invest in the band's debut, my advice- do it. 'Enjoy It While It Lasts' will be the best £8 you will ever spend.

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Categories: music

The Dark Knight Rises

by The Kent film blog, by Lewis Dyson Sunday, July 22 2012

In 2008 Christopher Nolan completely changed the comic book movie with The Dark Knight. So it was hard to imagine going into this sequel how he could top arguably one of the greatest films of its genre. The answer he seems to have come up with is to go bigger. So with an extra $50 million dollars to play with he has pulled off the dual feats of improving on his previous effort and managing to bring the Batman trilogy to a satisfying conclusion. What a relief.

Picking up eight years after the events of The Dark Knight, the caped crusader (Christian Bale) has disappeared from Gotham city after he was blamed for the death of Harvy "Two Face" Dent, who has become idolised as a white knight. Things are finally looking rosy as the people have unified and crime has dropped; meanwhile Bruce Wayne has become a recluse. Lying in wait beneath the streets, however, is "Gotham's reckoning" in the form of Bane (Tom Hardy), a huge, masked terrorist leader and his army of fanatics. Batman has to come out of hiding to face this new threat before the city is destroyed.

The Dark Knight Rises is a triumph of tension. There is a sustained threat for the majority of the film, like a wrench gradually turning tighter and tighter, which makes the near three hour running time fly by. The narrative keeps you guessing, as Batman gets broken, beaten and tested to his limits. Everything happens on such a grand scale that the twists and turns feel refreshingly new and unexpected. Rises also taps into the current climate of instability and questioning of society. As Gotham's underclass strike the stock exchange and go after the wealthy, some viewers may even find themselves sympathising with Bane's mission. The action is pretty awesome too.

The story is big and wide-ranging without ever becoming uneven or all over the place. There are a lot of strands, which are juggled to perfection by Nolan and everything comes together neatly, including events from the previous two films. Hopefully the massive box office takings it will undoubtedly make will not tempt the filmmakers to make a fourth one because Rises really does bring everything to a satisfying conclusion.

Tom Hardy gives an electrifying performance as the villain Bane, which is a worthy successor to Heath Ledger's Oscar winning performance as The Joker. His voice does take some getting used to and at first it comes across as a mixture of Sean Connerry and Brian Badonde from Phonejacker. But the longer he peseveres, the more effective it becomes. It is clear the decision has been made to replace the characteristic rage of the comic book Bane with a subtle menace. Hardy should also be acclaimed for the physicality he brings to the role. Anyone who has seen him in Bronson or Warrior will know he takes a similar commitment to changing his body for a role as Christian Bale, who withered down to eight stone for The Machinist. Also, despite wearing a mask that covers about 70% of his face, he is still able to convey the characters mindset which takes a special kind of actor.

The rest of the cast put in solid performances as well. Christian Bale cements his position as the greatest on screen Batman of all time (sorry Adam West), although that list is not a particularly stellar one. Anne Hathaway is impressive as Catwoman, the morally conflicted thief and Joseph Gordon Levitt's performance as a tough cop makes it hard to imagine him as the kid in Third Rock from The Sun

After Inception, The Prestige and Memento, critics might be expecting Christopher Nolan to drop a clanger soon, but The Dark Knight Rises is certainly no clanger.

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Categories: Film

Avengers Assemble: By Thor it's good.

by The Kent film blog, by Lewis Dyson Tuesday, May 1 2012

 

So after years of waiting, five reasonably OK movies and hundreds of millions of dollars it's finally here. But was it all worth it? After all that, I'm glad to say, geeks everywhere will be releasing a united sigh of relief so huge it could power a wind farm, because it lives up to the hype.

Avengers sees a diverse group of Marvel heroes join forces to save the world. Previous tie-ins have introduced us to Iron Man, Hulk, Thor and Captain America, with a pair of assassins (Black Widow and Hawkeye) thrown in along the way. Under the leadership of Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) and the organisation S.H.I.E.L.D., they have to put their differences aside to battle Norse God Loki who is threatening to use a magical cube, the Tesseract (not unlike the Allspark in Transformers), to summon an extraterrestrial army to conquer Earth.

With most of the exposition already out of the way, the film is able to let loose and deliver on the fun the concept promises. It's big, crowd-pleasing and genuinely funny, a lot of which is down to über-nerd director Joss Whedon. If there anyone alive would be able to marshal all the different strands into a cohesive story, it would be the Buffy creator. 

There are so many different elements at play with magic, mythology, aliens and technology, all co-existing in the same world. But instead of coming across like someone trying to herd a pack of cats, the film is like watching an impressive juggling act. Most importantly, despite having so many protagonists vying for your attention, each one is given enough time to develop. That being said, Mark Ruffalo as The Incredible Hulk steals the show. After one misjudged (Hulk, 2003) and one forgettable (The Incredible Hulk, 2008) big screen adaptation, they have finally, finally managed to get Dr Bruce Banner and his green alter-ego right. Ruffalo plays Banner as a tragic and reluctant hero, while scenes with the Hulk have some truly hilarious moments.

Tom Hiddleston returns as principle bad-guy Loki and does an excellent job as the evil counterpoint to the six super heroes by striking a balance between menacing mastermind and pantomime villain.

At nearly two-and-a-half hours long it could be accused of being overly long but to be honest the time flies by. It’s not quite the comic book movie to end all comic book movies, but it really is a remarkable achievement. 

 

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Categories: Film

Battleship: a defective toy.

by The Kent film blog, by Lewis Dyson Thursday, April 12 2012

I went into Battleship with the expectation of seeing something so actively bad, that it's actually good, in the same way as you can't help but watch a train crash or a nutter auditioning for X-factor. However, it was disappointing even in this respect, it was just awful, awful, awful. 

From the same toy company that brought you Transformers - so therefore it must be great- comes this adaptation of the childrens' board game. The story centres on a US navy crew that sets out from Hawaii on a peaceful exercise, but ends up in the middle of an invasion from the most inept aliens since Signs

Apparently they decided the best way to take over the planet is from the sea. The enemy creatures are capable of travelling light-years through space but, for reasons that are never made clear, are still unable to fly their ships more than a few feet above the water. Instead they hop around in the ocean like a toddler with arm floaties. You actually start to side more with the aliens as you feel sorry for them, whereas you couldn’t care less about what happens to the human characters. The aliens at least look fairly cool and the humans say idiotic things like: "If we get invaded by aliens it will be like when Columbus discovered the Indians - except we're the Indians!"  

The way it incorporates elements of the board game are so contrived it becomes ridiculous. At one point they have to fight the enemy without seeing where they are, so they actually start playing the game for real on a large grid. The only thing missing is the little red and white pegs. 

Perhaps the worst thing about Battleship is that it seems to be a big, expensive recruitment video for the US Navy. This and the recently released Act of Valour seem to be part of a worrying trend in Hollywood at the moment. But even the bits that try to glorify the servicemen come across as patronising rather than sincere. In one scene, *SPOILER ALERT* a group of elderly seamen take over as the crew of the ship. I'm not sure if these extras were genuine naval veterans, but the whole scene is unintentionally hilarious. It suddenly turns into an American version of Last of the Summer Wine on a boat. 

Battleship is so bad, it nearly sinks to the level of the depth charge that was John Carter of Mars which is currnently front runner for worst film of the year. Both of them star Taylor Kitsch, which begs the question: why is this man in such big movies? Being the lead in two absolute turkeys in the space of a few months cannot be good for his career. 

Director Peter Berg seems to be trying to pay homage to the films of Michael Bay. The plot is basically Transformers meets Pearl Harbour, except the Japanese are now allies and so they have been replaced by extraterrestrials. Unfortunately, any film that tries to be as good as Michael Bay is doomed from the start.

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Categories: Film

The Hunger Games: Battle Royale For Kids.

by The Kent film blog, by Lewis Dyson Wednesday, March 28 2012

It would be easy to prejudge The Hunger Games as another young teeny thriller along the lines of Twilight. Something designed for a particular audience, based on a young adult novel, not suitable for anyone with a driving license and a cynical outlook. But it is much more than that. 
Rather than another young adult adaptation sensation, this film deserves respect in its own right. It is, to be honest, a solid piece of Sci-Fi that just happens to be about teenagers. 
It is set in a post conflict North America, where the nation has been divided into 12 districts that are presided over by the affluent and corrupt Capitol, headed by an evil autarch, President Snow (Donald Sutherland). Each year, as a show of its dominance, the Capitol holds a tournament where a boy and girl from each district, aged between 12 and 18, have to fight to the deathon live television. The last one alive is crowned the winner of the Hunger Games. The heroine Katniss puts herself forward instead of her younger sister, who is cruelly picked to fight. 
The plot alone, borrowed from the violent Japanese classic Battle Royale, is fairly harrowing. You are effectively watching young people stab, slash and blow each other up. There were reports that cuts had to be made to achieve the box office friendly 12A certificate, but what did make the final effort certainly pushes the boundaries of what can be allowed. However, when scenes of violence do appear, the director gets the tone exactly right. Instead of revelling in the blood letting, sometimes the sound is lowered or even removed completely, which maintains the shock factor but stops it from entering the realms of exploitation. 
Although it is aimed at pre-teens, the subject matter is positively grown up. There is plenty for a cynical head to enjoy. Such as the satirical spin on modern reality TV, where the Hunger Games are simultaneously a method of social control and the most popular form of entertainment consumed by the masses. Plaudits have rightly been given to Stanley Tucci for his portrayal of the ridiculous yet sinister blue haired TV host. As for the leading lady, Jessica Lawrence is more than competent in portraying the strong yet conflicted Katniss. 
The film is not without it's flaws, at nearly two-and-a-half hours long, there are some inevitable sags in the pace and it drags slightly towards the end. There is some slightly ropey CGI, but with that said, it is genuinely entertaining.
 As the third highest opening for a film in history, maybe the sequels will be even more violent but with a PG rating. 

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Categories: Film

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