The Wolfpack (2015)

Spoilers follow for the uninitiated! 

With striking imagery, some genuine emotion and moments that will stay with you once the movie credits have rolled; The Wolfpack without doubt has emerged as one of the most thought provoking motion pictures of recent years. Premiering at the tail end of the summer, the movie gained notoriety before its release for its simplistic, stark trailers – a shining light of originality in the midst of the bloated blockbuster season. When we first encounter the Angulo family, the clan have gathered as they have countless evenings before to recreate iconic sequences from the silver screen. In this first example we witness the family re-enacting a pivotal Reservoir Dogs sequence. The re-enactment itself isn’t what proves to be the most striking; far from it for Quentin Tarantino has been mimicked and deconstructed more times than I care to remember. No, what proves the most memorable is the sheer passion and enthusiasm they boys demonstrate throughout. With amazing ingenuity and creativity that would make some of Hollywood’s bigwigs blush in comparison; the boys forage for materials in their very home. Cardboard boxes substitute for steering wheels and tin foil emerges as loaded weapons in the first act of their grand production.

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Jurassic Park (1993)

Back in the early nineties Steven Spielberg’s dino epic Jurassic Park blasted onto cinema screens amidst a critical fanfare and CGI spectacular. The near perfect special effects evidenced previously in 1991’s Terminator 2: Judgment Day had come into their own with a new dawn of visual imagery, heralded by a motley crew of prehistoric beasts. With the release of this summer’s Jurassic World, it would appear that the audience appetite for a story 65 million years in the making has not yet waned. With talks of multiple sequels, and a new direction for the franchise perhaps the time is right to look back at the original movie which kick started a multi-million dollar franchise and ushered in a new era of summer event movies. Continue reading Jurassic Park (1993)

The Longevity of Luke

Back in 1977 George Lucas unveiled his cinematic space- opus to the world.  Episode IV in the saga A New Hope, then simply entitled Star Wars smashed its way into movies theatres across the globe. The movie unveiled exotic locales and characters to amaze and astound the seventies’ cinema going public. The movie also brought with it an unprecedented level of sophistication and imagination to visual effects at that time; enthralling both young and old alike. But amidst all the swashbuckling action and the derring-do, lay a simplistic and innocent story, one which had a deep human quality that even the most hardened Star Wars hating critic would admit reverberated with audiences. Front and centre in this galactic fairy tale was the central protagonist, a hero that harked back to the glory days of action serial cinema, and the Flash Gordon generation. Luke Skywalker was born out of the mind of Lucas; a hero with a big heart and ambition. Immortalised by a then relatively unknown Mark Hamill, Skywalker drove forward the story, brave to the point of recklessness and blessed with a talent for the mystical energy field known as The Force. Continue reading The Longevity of Luke

The Rise of CGI

It is a well know fact in movie-making circles that computer generated imagery (CGI) as we know it was born in the early nineties courtesy of James Cameron’s Terminator 2: Judgement Day. The mega bucks sequel to The Terminator boasted fantastic visuals with the character of the T-1000 a veritable playground for the CGI boffins; who created a slick and flowing liquidity to actor Robert Patrick’s transformations. Excited cinema audiences flocked to see the fate of Sarah Connor and her offspring, the Christ-like saviour of humanity John Connor. The runaway success of the movie is largely down to this visualisation and the smorgasbord of effects the director freely showcased. Indeed Cameron had long since been a visionary and an advocate of this new method of storytelling, having flirted with this burgeoning technology a few years previously with tantalising glimpses in The Abyss.

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Gravity (2013)

Spoilers follow for the uninitiated! Like the rest of the general populace I first encountered the feature film Gravity in the middle of a crowded movie theatre, delivered in awe inspiring style and immersive 3D glory. Following the DVD release some months later, I was curious to see if the impact of the movie diminished somewhat watching this on a smaller scale DVD format. Would the admittedly less grandiose delivery and domesticated surroundings strip the movie of its impact and dilute the spectacle I’d witnessed months earlier? Any concerns I had were immediately alleviated by THAT opening shot, still playing out splendidly albeit on a smaller stage but no less as powerful as the first time I witnessed it.

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X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014)

Never has there been a greater challenge faced by a comic book movie, than there was with the release of X-Men: Days of Future Past. The movie had the unenviable task of eradicating the memories of the slapdash narrative of the oft criticised X:Men: The Last Stand; whilst simultaneously building on the success of the rebooted X-Men: First Class – a shot in the arm of the ailing franchise when it needed it the most. The grandiose ensemble cast and the much heralded return to the mutant camp by one Bryan Singer did little to assuage the building pressure resting on the studio’s shoulders. Could a director with an absence of over a decade make a triumphant return to the franchise? And could the ever expanding cast list which at best could appear superfluous, or worse bloated, ever be justified in the eyes of the audience?

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Darth Maul: The Forgotten Sith

Cast your mind back to the Summer of 1999 when, after a fanfare of publicity and a ground-swelling of public affection, George Lucas released the first of his Star Wars prequel trilogy Episode I: The Phantom Menace. Despite a monumental haul at the box office there were rumblings of discontent both by UK and US cinema audiences. Fanboys rejected the meagre storylines of taxation and trade disputes and critics savaged the acting and range of the human cast – with the likes of Ewan McGregor, Natalie Portman and moppet haired Jake Lloyd delivering underwhelming, monotone performances throughout. The curse of the green screen had clearly hit this critically acclaimed cast hard. The bumbling Jar Jar Binks, on paper a harmless sidekick/companion become a conduit for all Menace hatred, and the CGI monstrosity fast become a focus for a deluge of internet hatred. Despite Lucas’ obvious intention to create a comedic figure of light relief, in the vein of fan favourites C-3PO and R2-D2, Binks became the poster boy for all that was wrong with Episode I; thanks largely to the clumsy humour which skewed the dynamic of the film; and the dubious racist undertones aptly provided by Ahmed Best’s vocal portrayal.

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Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)

Spoilers follow for the uninitiated! Following the smash hit that was Avengers Assemble, Marvel Studios were in the difficult situation of embarking on Phase 2 of their monumental story arc. After the fantastical introduction of the characters as a single group, not to mention the extraordinary events played out in New York, could audiences accept these individual heroes going back to their day jobs in further stand alone episodes? After the ensemble action of Assemble would more personal and tailored movies seem a tad underwhelming in comparison, a step backwards in the mythology rather than advancing the storyline as eagerly awaited by the rabid fan base? Despite a solid if a little uninspiring re-introduction of Tony Stark post Avengers in Iron Man 3; Marvel continued to build momentum with a triumphant re-occurrence of the Son of Asgard in Thor: The Dark World, with Captain America: The Winter Soldier successfully rounding off the final stages of Phase 2….

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Battle of the Bruce Waynes

However you choose to think of him the character of Bruce Wayne is as synonymous with the Batman mythology as Luke Skywalker is to that galaxy far, far away. Depicting the human side of the Dark Knight, Wayne is one half of the caped crusader, fleshing out the characterisation of what could be a one dimensional character. Where Batman represents the dark and dangerous world of vigilantism, Bruce Wayne is the beating heart, bringing a sense of realism to proceedings. Wayne’s human relationships and interactions are often the catalyst for most of the Bat’s adventures, providing a sense of grounding and realism to the often fantastical elements of Gotham’s lone protagonist. Not unlike that other upper class and privileged franchise dwelling hero James Bond, Bruce has had many live action incarnations over the years to varying success. Some have placed a tongue firmly in cheek; others have developed the character to new and unchartered territories whilst others are best left forgotten. One thing that has been proven however is that like Bond before him the character of Bruce Wayne is and shall remain an evolving entity with new interpretations and visions with each casting call. And so the journey begins…

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Casino Royale (2006)

Cast your mind back to 2005 and the phenomenon that was ‘Blonde Bond’.  At the time one of the longest running franchises in movie history, the James Bond series had been enjoying a successful renaissance for almost a decade. The so-dour-it-hurts reign of Timothy Dalton in The Living Daylights and Licence to Kill had been a bold move to mature Bond into something more akin to Jason Bourne than the suave and silly Roger Moore flavoured vehicles that had gone before it. An admirable if not misguided effort on behalf of the studios. Whilst it was clear that the Bond mythology was overdue for an invigoration, the world was not ready for a rougher, tougher 007 at that time and the franchise looked to be on its last legs, with Bond relegated to the annals of movie history. After a hiatus of six years however 007 triumphantly returned with Pierce Brosnan at the helm. Goldeneye, the first of the Brosnan era sought to re-establish Bond with credible plot lines, Bond girls with acting clout to match their looks and perhaps more importantly the role of Bond’s tough taskmaster M recast in the form of Judi Dench.

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