The Dark Knight Rises Review – The Final Flight

Director: Christopher Nolan

Writers: Christopher Nolan, Jonathan Nolan

Stars: Christian Bale, Tom Hardy, Anne Hathaway, Michael Caine

Release date: July 20th, 2012

Distributor: Warner Bros. Pictures

Country: USA

Running time: 165 minutes



Best part: Nolan’s direction.

Worst part: The leaps in logic.

With a penchant for achieving both artistic integrity and visceral entertainment with his acclaimed works, Christopher Nolan has now seemingly achieved the impossible. The Dark Knight Rises delivers on its promises, while defying impossible fan boy expectations, to create an over-long yet powerfully affecting conclusion to the Dark Knight Saga.

Christian Bale & Tom Hardy.

Set eight years after the Joker’s wrath upon Gotham City and Harvey Dent’s downfall from heroic grace, Gotham is at peace. A crippled Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) is torn from its citizens through his own exile. Despite a slinky cat burglar, Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway), hot on his trail, Wayne is still determined to rebuild his shattered company, Wayne Enterprises, and restore his family’s honour. But this promise of redemption in the eye of a first world order comes at a powerful price. Under the city, a new evil has crawled to the surface; determined to destroy its hate filled existence. Bane (Tom Hardy), a complex yet threatening psychopath  and terrorist leader, leads the strike against Gotham’s democratic order. His thirst for destruction plunges the city into  darkness, drawing the controversial yet hailed caped crusader out of the shadows to end Bane’s destruction of Gotham’s integral infrastructure.

Anne Hathaway.

Nolan has created an influential, thrilling and poignant tale of good and evil set in the confines of a city under siege. His vision is ever changing, blending together fantastical and realistic elements in an organic fashion. Nolan’s unique and constantly evolving style has developed a balance between dystopian crime-drama and artistic action cinema. The Dark Knight Rises is definitely the most formalist instalment in this already revered saga, as the grand scale of this epic masterpiece creates the climactic struggle for democracy within Gotham’s soul. This is a powerful story created by Christopher and Jonathan Nolan, crossing the boundaries of modern blockbuster cinema through emotional depth, a relevant thematic structure and a truly involving and epic sense of scale. The thematic and symbolic structure is based on both Nolan’s artistic influences and the relevance of a crumbling democratic society. The destruction of economic and social order, inspired by Metropolis and The Taking of Pelham 123, is carefully examined through Bane’s madness and Catwoman’s desire for a shared socio-economic society. As a symbol of the wealthy elite in peril, Wayne must ultimately face his harshest fears to protect the citizens of Gotham. With Batman Begins symbolising the importance of fear and The Dark Knight questioning the structure of a post 9/11 society through chaos, The Dark Knight Rises creates a crumbled existence based on the relevance of social order.

“We will destroy Gotham and then, when it is done and Gotham is ashes, then you have my permission to die.” (Bane (Tom Hardy), The Dark Knight Rises).

Joseph Gordon-Levitt & Gary Oldman.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt & Gary Oldman.

The personification of all three elements here is Bane. A mythic creature born with a taste for torturous violence and a vision of ‘freedom’ within Gotham City, his violent ‘Occupy Wall Street’ based assault on Gotham’s elite social hierarchy creates a terrifying yet empathetic presence. Immersed in terrifying villainy, similarly to Heath Ledger’s Joker, Hardy is a dramatic and physical force. With a multi-layered muscular structure aiding his cold demeanour, thick accent and thirst for pain, Bane goes toe to toe with Batman, using his tortured soul to create a similar sense of anguish for Gotham’s citizens. Hardy also creates an awe-inspiring menace through brutal fighting ability. His lack of remorse and fierce physical presence creates a truly potent and symbolic battle with Batman, particularly in their first fight sequence featuring beautifully shot and creatively choreographed martial arts. Bale delivers one of his greatest performances here as the emotionally decayed anti-hero figure, particularly through poignant interaction with Michael Caine’s Alfred and Morgan Freeman’s Lucius Fox. Hathaway commands the screen with a much needed ferocity. While Marion Cotillard and Joseph Gordon-Levitt provide solid turns in important roles close to Wayne’s emotional separation from Gotham’s existence.

Arguably the best trilogy in the history of Hollywood cinema, Nolan has grown as a film-maker through his creation of an emotionally gripping and revered superhero saga. Through this depiction of poignant characterisation, a symbolic visual style and resonant thematic core, this truly is cinema as it’s meant to be.

Verdict: An emotionally gripping conclusion to one of modern cinema’s greatest trilogies.

Rampart Review – Crumbling Cop

Director: Oren Moverman

Writers: James Ellroy, Oren Moverman

Stars: Woody Harrelson, Ben Foster, Sigourney Weaver, Ice Cube

Release date: February 10th, 2012

Distributor: Millennium Entertainment

Country: USA

Running time: 108 minutes


Best part: Woody Harrelson.

Worst part: The depthless narrative.

With a penchant for gritty cop drama, screenwriter/author James Ellroy (L.A Confidential, The Black Dahlia) continues his honest yet disturbing writing style for this interpretation of the controversial true story so insulting its almost ripped straight from one of his coveted crime novels. Rampart‘s execution however doesn’t do this powerful story justice, failing to provide a satisfying message or understandable pay-off.

Woody Harrelson.

Woody Harrelson.

Set in 1999, this bizarre tale of true events is based around the slowly crumbling life of notoriously sick and twisted senior police officer Dave ‘date- rape’ Brown (Woody Harrelson). He is a hurricane blowing through a dirty, crime-ridden town, as his questionable antics and lack of enthusiasm run him into the laws he proclaims to protect everyday. Living uncomfortably with two ex-wives and sisters, and his two  precocious daughters, Brown must save them from his own disgraceful crimes. He also contends with the aftermath of the race war he single handily begins and his run ins with DA investigators, witnesses, informants, lawyers and an angry mayor; coinciding with his shameful emotional spiral downwards. The screenplay itself, co-written by Ellroy and director Oren Moverman (The Messenger), is clearly written to be a no-nonsense, thought provoking drama. The magnificent dialogue is full of lines questioning this period of time in L.A history. “I’m not a racist, I hate all people equally.” Brown tells Ice Cube’s DA investigator character as he unflinchingly explains his reasoning for being targeted by anyone with a different frame of mind.

Harrelson & Ben Foster.

Harrelson & Ben Foster.

Unfortunately, past the witty yet alluring dialogue moments is a story which fails to highlight the important issues. The legitimacy of unethical police officers, questioned by the state of California, is an important part of beautiful yet truly tough crime thrillers such as L.A. Confidential, the issues important to this point in history are unusually ignored here in favour of character. Moverman’s direction provides elements of observational documentary filmmaking for this study of a heartless anti-hero. In Rampart, the camera keeps moving throughout as pans, tilts and high and low angles constantly provide a distraction rather than a unique mark of directorial style. The use of colour and editing tricks however cleverly illustrate the truly degrading fall from grace Brown experiences, as this hard edged cop gives into all forms of sinful temptation. Despite wonderfully humorous and compelling dialogue, convincingly illustrating relevant issues from different perspectives, this film is comparable to other slice of life dramas such as the Michael Fassbender independent feature Shame, both uniquely focusing on one disturbed character. Rampart boasts a solid cast, yet fails to develop its characters beyond shallow representations of different social and political issues.

“I don’t cheat on my taxes… you can’t cheat on something you never committed to.” (Dave Brown (Woody Harrelson), Rampart).

Harrelson & Ice Cube.

Harrelson & Ice Cube.

The performances however capture a charismatic allure that make the characters important on an emotional level, particularly Cynthia Nixon and Anne Heche as sisters and Brown’s concerned ex-wives. Ice Cube’s turn as DA investigator  Kyle Timkins is surprisingly charismatic.  While Sigourney Weaver, Steve Buscemi, Robin Wright, Ben Foster (re-teaming with Moverman and Harrelson from The Messenger) and Ned Beatty, all in small roles, are convincing yet fail to make a mark on this alluring yet ambiguous story. The saviour of his frustratingly ambiguous and unfocused character study is Woody Harrelson. In every scene, Harrelson strangely embodies this corrupt cop with his usual relaxed yet charismatic persona. As a distant relation to the culturally admired yet sickening serial killer Mickey Knox from Natural Born Killers (this time on the ‘right’ side of the law) he lends an aura of likeability, through his unwavering ability to insult with intelligent wit, to an immoral and inhuman law-man. Brown is a creation drawn from such hardened L.A. based characters such as Bud White (Russell Crowe) from L.A. Confidential and Alonzo Harris (Denzel Washington) from Training Day. With sunglasses hiding his piercing stare and a cigarette constantly hanging from the side of his mouth, Brown is an ancestor of the infamous outlaw character synonymous with the western genre; following his own set of unorthodox rules in a time evolved beyond his services.

Despite all my complaints, I will happily give Rampart credit for putting a new spin on the LAPD-crime genre. Despite Moverman and Harrelson’s efforts, even these titans can’t stop their movie from crumbling under pressure.

Verdict: An alluring yet unfocused crime-drama.

Christopher Nolan (filmmaker) Profile – Grand Scale Filmmaking

Occupation: Director, writer, producer

Born: July 30th, 1970

Nationality: British (UK)

Works: The Dark Knight trilogy (Batman Begins, The Dark Knight, The Dark Knight Rises), Memento, Following, Insomnia, The Prestige, Inception

Christopher Nolan throughout his career has tirelessly worked to re-create the idea of authorship. His modern and expansive cinematic scope in every frame has proven his worth as one of the most influential and popular directors in modern cinema. Nolan, along with his brother and writing partner Jonathan, continually strive to break the bonds of modern Hollywood cinema, with The Dark Knight and Inception instantly considered to be modern masterpieces. His unique abilities with cinematography and stunt sequences prove the existence of artistic vision within modern action cinema.

Christopher Nolan.

Christopher Nolan.

In his interpretation of the Batman legend, his penchant for creating an aura of realism out of fantastical elements has created a gritty, terrifying yet culturally relevant depiction of a famously fantastical character. Nolan’s control over his works is proven in his militarised origin story and development of believable cult figures. Batman Begins and The Dark Knight have taken Bruce Wayne, an arrogant yet determined warrior, and built him into a cunning, fearless and selfless saviour of Gotham. Batman’s universe (dubbed the ’Nolanverse’ due to his intelligent style) is a gravely sombre yet recognisable scene of post 9/11 threats and heroes developing a desire to protect those to need them. Nolan Creates a realistic universe out of beautiful yet haunting locations such as the maze-like structure of Chicago city streets, intricate photo realistic sets and alluring perspective tricks through miniature cityscapes.

Nolan on set.

Nolan on set (The Dark Knight trilogy).

His use of realism in film-making has created an authenticity rarely seen in the era of digital/blue- screen technology. Creating action set pieces through stunt work and elaborate, story-boarded set pieces, the creation of sequences such as the rotating hotel ceiling fight in Inception and the truck chase/flip through Gotham streets in The Dark Knight are developed with a seamless visceral quality not explored since the renaissance of practical effects in the 1960’s/70’s/80’s with gripping formalist cinema such Alien/AliensThe Terminator2001: A Space Odyssey and The Fly. His maze-like structures and other symbolic/visual elements reflect the intricacies of his eye for ground-breaking elements of film production. The idea of several layers inside the subconscious mind is an intricate and stylish concept explored through heist, film noir and chase film elements. The art-deco style created in each layer of Nolan’s visual splendour involves a strict use of smooth colour patterns/tones, symmetry and the composition of important symbolic foreground and background elements; creating multiple dimensions through the intricacies of multi-layered city streets and skyscrapers.

Trademarks: Epic scopes, writes with brother Jonathan Nolan, recurring cast members, non-linear timelines

Nolan on The Prestige.

Nolan & Christian Bale (The Prestige).

His use of symbolism to illustrate an important and original narrative structure can be seen in his first studio feature Memento, a thought-provoking thriller executed with complexity and based on Jonathan Nolan’s short story. Photographs and tattoos, illustrating Guy Pearce’s path through a decaying life of short term amnesia, symbolise his determination in tracing his forgotten steps, hoping to find his wife’s murderer. Whether it’s one man battling the villainy of a post 9/11 criminal world, Leo DiCaprio struggling to expel his love from professional duties inside his fractured subconscious, Al Pacino’s erratic mind due to his condition in Insomnia  and an attraction to stalking people on the street in Following, Nolan uses his expansive scope to illustrate the gravity of his characters’ disturbed situations. His non-linear storytelling and cross-cutting create a contrast between multiple realities and the conflicting subconscious; illustrated by the rivalry between Christian Bale and Hugh Jackman in The Prestige, building throughout this story of the dangerously competitive nature of human beings.

Thematic, visual and symbolic relevance in film and popular culture has classified Nolan as one of the defying film-makers of this generation. Whether its the electrifying illusion of the transported man, a slowly developing superhero/vigilante origin story or Heath Ledger’s Oscar worthy portrayal of the Joker, Nolan has given birth to many authentic and thought provoking examples of ingenuity in modern cinema.


The Imposter Review – Terrifying Truths

Director: Bart Layton 

Stars: Frederic Bourdin, Carey Gibson, Beverly Dollarhide, Charlie Parker


Release date: August 24th, 2012

Distributors: Picturehouse Entertainment, Revolver Entertainment, Indomnia Releasing

Country: USA

Running time: 99 minutes


Best part: The chilling interviews.

Worst part: The vague messages.

Errol Morris’ award winning and influential documentary The Thin Blue Line was revelatory in its illustration of an important issue affecting the american judicial system. Its profound dramatisation of events is used similarly in the French docu-thriller The Impostor, a polarising look at one of the most inexplicable crimes in middle America’s history.

Frederic Bourdin.

Frederic Bourdin.

This event begins in 1994 with the disappearance of 12 year old Nicholas Barclay in San Antonio, Texas. Over three years later, Frederic Bourdin, a French teenager surviving the streets of Spain steps forward; claiming to be the sweet Texan boy presumed deceased. What unfolds is a character study based on the extremities Bourdin reaches to convince the still grieving and baffled family that Nicholas has returned. With several eyewitnesses government types and family members carefully tracing his every step before, during and after the shocking revelation, Bourdin continually recounts a life lead between his introduction into their world and eventual capture by Interpol.

Charles Parker.

Charles Parker.

Much like The Thin Blue Line, in which a vivid array of testimonials and re-enactments proved the case against convicted felon Randall Dale Adams to be fraudulent, The Impostor has the attractive elements of a gritty 90’s crime thriller with the informative structure of expository documentary film-making. Director Bart Layton has no immediate influence on proceedings. Instead he allows testimonials to speak for themselves, creating sympathetic yet questionable characters out of the victims and suspects of this story. Told in non-linear fashion, his low grade style of dramatisation allows for a nuanced narration of important re-enacted events from his interviews. Fluidly transitioning between past and present, The Impostor plays out like an on-going case, with Leyton continually changing sides on this important issue. The viewer will ultimately be polarised between the victims and suspects based on the harrowing evidence brought to light at every twist and turn. Leyton’s dramatisation of past events is created through a darker tone than most documentaries. The contrast created between the darkened, decrepit streets and orphanages of Spain, and the peaceful country lifestyle of San Antonio, develops a thought provoking motive for Bourdin’s sickening actions. The use of fluorescent lighting in particular creates a visceral edge for this dramatisation commonly found in David Fincher’s stellar crime-thriller creations such as Fight Club and Se7en.

“A new identity was a real passport, an American passport, I could go to the US, go to the school there, live with that family and just being someone and don’t never again to to worry about being identified.” (Frederic Bourdin, The Imposter).

The infamous phone booth scene.

The infamous phone booth scene.

Leyton’s objectivity is vital for re-creating the elements of this ordeal. Bourdin’s unsettling mind is chillingly examined through testimonial from Bourdin himself. Behind his creepy smile and wide eyes, a sympathetic yet unnerving young man with a strong determination for finding love through family bonds is uncovered as the motives and methods behind his many fraudulent and tortuous crimes are intelligently discussed. The viewer’s obvious choice to side with the grieving family may come at a cost as more is revealed about the origins of Nicholas’ disappearance. A noticeable level of ineptness is depicted through their testimonials as assumptions are slowly and carefully drawn about Nicholas’ living situation. “Spain? isn’t that on the other side of the Country?” Nicholas’ sister recalls saying through testifying her role in the ordeal. With many elements of this case based on poor judgements by the alarming number of american ambassadors, private investigators and Interpol officials involved, The Imposter makes a strong case for the number of bureaucratic post-war security hiccups to be considered a legitimate concern.

Being the most valuable film and TV genre, documentary can inject interest even the most trivial events and issues. Here, Bart Layton has done just that. Thanks to his attention to detail, his latest effort delivers more chills than most big-budget schlockers.

Verdict: An intelligently dramatised documentary with genuine chills.

My Brothers Review – Stand By Me

Director: Paul Fraser

Writer: Will Collins

Stars: Timmy Creed, Paul Courtney, Tj Griffin, Don Wycherley

Release date: August 17th, 2012

Distributors: Olive Films, Cinemax

Country: Ireland

Running time: 90 minutes



Best part: The sibling relationships.

Worst part: The underdeveloped supporting characters.

Very few films have powerfully focused on the positives and negatives to come out of the passing of a loved one. This solemn part of existence is illustrated in My Brothers with a delicacy rarely seen in modern drama. Paying homage to Stand by Me and Star Wars, this love letter to 70s/80s Hollywood comes from a profound place of love and imagination. Bolstered by three solemn yet ambitious lead characters, this road trip comedy reaches for the more meaningful aspects of existence.

Timmy Creed.

Timmy Creed.

With the imminent death of their ill father, three brothers react differently and affectingly to their current predicament. Noel (Timmy Creed) feels punishingly afflicted with sudden responsibility when faced with his family’s future. Paudie (Paul Courtney) avoids the situation through immature behaviour. While Scwally (T.J. Griffin) is a naive young boy connected to a cheap toy lightsaber, despite having never seen Star Wars. To redeem their once happy connection with their father, the three brothers travel to a seaside town to replace his broken watch. With an unbalanced array of personalities and sombre feelings towards their current situation, the experiences and recollections they encounter may positively change their unsteady relationship.

Creed, Paul Courtney & Tj Griffin.

Creed, Paul Courtney & Tj Griffin.

My Brothers is a touching, charming yet sombre examination of family, memory, death and redemption. Paul Fraser (Once Upon a Time in the Midlands) has directed this solemn yet inspirational road trip film with a powerful emotional connection. The sombre tone, created through gorgeous cinematography capturing every raindrop and dirt road on their journey through rich, green hills, assuredly develops this story of the importance of both life and death. Unlike Clint Eastwood’s Hereafter, in which three different stories of people affected by death fail to develop a powerful emotional connection to its important themes, the three brothers aren’t simply aiming for a relief from their current predicament, but aim to effectively tie up loose ends with one powerful act. With the watch symbolising their family’s happiness and responsibility, its repair will ultimately bring the three of them together despite their imminent loss of family connection. The acoustic soundtrack and wildly differing personalities clashing throughout their journey effectively capture an authentic representation of youth in lower class Ireland.

“If daddy dies in the holidays, do we still get time off from school when we go back?” (Scwally (Tj Griffin), My Brothers).

The road trip.

The road trip.

With a window into family happiness at tail ends of the film contrasting their currently crumbling lives, the three brothers are developed as realistically flawed yet loveable characters. Much like the works of J.J. Abrams and Wes Anderson, they not only provide gripping and believable performances but feel like representations of the director’s childhood experience. Their clashing personalities and poignant issues powerfully affect their families’ structure, yet their ailments allow for genuine comedic moments. They become more believable with every van malfunction, expression of bodily function and revelation of inner thoughts and desires. The characters also symbolise a separation between imagination and reality. The transformational Stand By Me elements of their journey on the road to personal development and realisation, along with Scwally’s immense infatuation with an important item, define important issues created by youth when faced with unavoidable experiences and difficult yet vital decisions.

My Brothers, a current hit at film festivals around the world, is an emotionally gripping experience. The sympathetic characters and bittersweet narrative create a realistic representation of the dramatic shifts in any desperate family when faced with loss.

Verdict: An emotionally powerful journey of family connection.


Ted Review – Bear-able!

Director: Seth MacFarlane

Writers: Seth MacFarlane, Alec Sulkin, Wellesley Wild

Stars: Seth MacFarlane, Mark Wahlberg, Mila Kunis, Joel McHale


Release date: June 29th, 2012

Distributor: Universal Pictures

Country: USA

Running time: 106 minutes



Best part: The charming characters.

Worst part: The sitcom-esque story.

With a successful string of raunchy animated TV shows to his name such as Family GuyAmerican Dad and The Cleveland Show, Seth Macfarlane has now successfully converted his controversial comedic style to the big screen. Fans of his popular TV creations will happily devour Ted, while sensitive types will be lost in the referential and explicit comedic translation.

Mark Wahlberg and Seth MacFarlane’s character.

As a young boy, John Bennett was a lonely outsider desperately wanting a personal connection. With everyone, including the victimised Jewish kids in his Boston neighbourhood, refusing to associate with him, John’s desperation comes to fruition after his Christmas present, a cuddly brown teddy bear, comes to life. His new ‘thunder buddy for Life’ soon becomes a child star due to this Christmas miracle. The fame eventually wears off and 27 years later, John (Mark Wahlberg) and Ted are pot-smoking, immature slackers. With John’s long-term girlfriend Lori (Mila Kunis) wanting him to escape the clutches of his fluffy friend, John’s desperation leads him to find a new, independent life for Ted, but not without being continually drawn into Ted’s wild antics.

Mila Kunis.

Mila Kunis.

Macfarlane’s comedic style is not for the faint of heart. His intelligent satirical comedy and quick wit are delivered with the comfortable tones of his thick accent. Voicing Ted much the same as Peter and Brian Griffin on Family Guy, his beloved style will appeal to fans and teenage film-goers, but may inadvertently push away anyone else. Macfarlane isn’t afraid to push the boundaries of skewering popular culture. Much like Ricky Gervais hosting an awards ceremony, everyone is on the chopping block as insulting remarks are thrown at celebrities such as Adam Sandler, Justin Bieber and Katy Perry. Jokes illustrating his stance on religion, ethnicity, politics and society are split between being hilarious, inappropriate or repetitive. The jokes are fired at the audience likes bullets out of a machine gun, with every hit met with a devastating miss, eventually losing the subtle satirical edge delivered in every episode of his hit animated TV comedies. Spelling out jokes as they pass, with Family Guy inspired flashback sequences, constant questioning of cultural practice and disgusting sex humour, feels like Macfarlane’s strong opinion and notorious style being forced upon an objective audience looking for another gross out hit like The Hangover and Bridesmaids.

Giovanni Ribisi.

Giovanni Ribisi.

The many references calling back to Macfarlane’s childhood influences, though important to the theme of transitioning between childhood and adulthood, won’t stick with certain audiences due to an intense reminder of the important artistic works of the 80’s. The many unnecessary references quickly become tiresome by the third Star Wars joke (clearly an already established influence). Macfarlane’s control over his artistic vision qualifies him as a unique auteur. Along with his in-your-face comedic hijinks, his transition from animation to live action has created a fun comedy balancing sensitivity and explicit humour. Using the Marcel Duchamp method of creating artistic meaning out of inanimate objects, his creation of Ted through producing, directing, writing and performing (through motion capture) the titular character has created a satisfying character study out of this unique premise. The direction is clearly influenced by popular directors such as Sam Raimi, Steven Soderbergh, and Oliver Stone. Ted‘s quick cut action and dialogue sequences and fast steady-cam shots are simple yet effective tricks used by Raimi and Macfarlane to create intensity and fast pacing. While Macfarlane’s use of bright colour to create dulcet tones is reminiscent of Soderbergh’s stylish colour coordination.

“No matter how big a splash you make in this world, whether you’re Corey Feldman, Frankie Muniz, Justin Bieber or a talking teddy bear, eventually, nobody gives a shit!” (Narrator (Patrick Stewart), Ted).

More of MacFarlane's animated gold.

More of MacFarlane’s animated gold.

Macfarlane obviously references his influences through cameos from many famous faces synonymous with popular culture from different generations. Ted and John’s fascination with the sci-fi cult classic Flash Gordon leads to a cameo from Flash himself Sam J. Jones, extended long enough to outstay its Welcome. While clever cameos from Ryan Reynolds AKA ‘some Van Wilder looking guy’, Tom Skerritt and Jazz Singer Norah Jones, as a former lover cleverly referring to the lack of private parts on Ted, create culturally relevant humour subverting our idea of celebrity. The ever reliable Wahlberg and Kunis create a charming couple in their charismatic dialogue moments, quickly developing an alluring distraction from the predictable narrative. Community lead actor Joel McHale proves his comedic talent as the slimy boss pining for his female workers. While dramatic actor Giovanni Ribisi is suitably disturbing as Ted’s stalker, essentially re-enacting the Kathy Bates role from Misery.

Macfarlane’s animated TV comedy redefined the expression of a comedian’s perspective on societal/political issues and popular culture. His opinion is expressed in Ted with quick wit and smart direction, but his overwhelming views on important issues may prove costly for a wider audience outside his already huge fan base.

Verdict: A unique, charming yet sickening and over-whelming farce.

The Cabin in the Woods Review – Scintilating Slaughter-fest

Director: Drew Goddard

Writers: Joss Whedon, Drew Goddard

Stars: Kristen Connolly, Chris Hemsworth, Fran Kranz, Richard Jenkins

Release date: April 13th, 2012

Distributor: Lionsgate

Country: USA

Running time: 95 minutes



Best part: The clever references.

Worst part: The irritating supporting characters.

Despite its simple title, The Cabin in the Woods is far from your normal cliché ridden slasher flick, so far in fact that it questions the very genre itself. With a witty sense of humour and a strong thirst for blood and gore, this is one of the most influential horror films of the past decade.

Fran Kranz & Kristen Connolly.

Fran Kranz & Kristen Connolly.

The Cabin in the Woods sounds so simple that it must be a ruse. This trick is, of course, what five teenage friends discover during their stay in a small country shack. The inhabitants are met with various twists and turns as their sanity and loyalty will be tested to a great extent. These friends are (forcefully) based on five well known stereotypes of horror, picked off depending on their moral codes. There’s Curt ‘the jock’ (a pre-Thor Chris Hemsworth), Jules ‘the slutty dumb blond’ (Anna Hutchinson), Marty ‘the stoner’ (Fran Kranz), Holden ‘the sensitive guy’ (Jesse Williams) and, most importantly, Dana ‘the virgin’ (Kristen Connolly).

Chris Hemsworth & Anna Hutchison.

Chris Hemsworth & Anna Hutchison.

Sadly shelved for four years due to economic problems with MGM, director Drew Goddard (writer of Cloverfield) has created a visually thematic and referential ode to several great horror flicks and elements of decades past. The major secret of the film is based on a Truman Show/Death Race 2000 style discussion of the effect of modern reality TV within the public sphere. With the dialogue cleverly yet valuably speaking up about the dangers of using innocent lives as the subjects of sickening games, run by two charismatic industrial technicians Richard (an always convincing Richard Jenkins) and Steve (Bradley Whitford), both the technicians’ and victims’ points of view are assuredly established. Instead of using the Wes Craven/Kevin Williamson Scream series method of simply pointing out clichés and influences, what makes The Cabin in the Woods the most ‘meta’ horror film in Hollywood existence is that it breaks down each individual horror symbol and trope and explains their true importance in pop. culture.

Richard Jenkins & Bradley Whitford.

Richard Jenkins & Bradley Whitford.

If there’s one problem with this 80s style gory yet unique horror spectacle it’s that, much like the equally stylish and culturally relevant ode to pop culture Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, its straight aim at the narrow hipster/cinephile target demographic may limit the film’s cultural reach. Despite this, this subversion of horror clichés, symbols and ideologies are what makes this modern slasher flick a must see. It’s derivative yet self-aware of its influences which have shaped the very fabric of Hollywood horror. What you expect from Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Firefly  creator Joss Whedon (also the writer/director of the recent blockbuster hit The Avengers) is in this deceptive and smart horror film. With a taste for satire and self-referential humour, Whedon’s writing style has once again created a stylish composition of different genre elements after his take on a revered superhero squad. Both Whedon and Edgar Wright (director of Shaun of the DeadHot Fuzz and Scott Pilgrim vs. the World) have proven their value of being inside the fanboy state of mind. The film and TV creations of both directors have proven repeatedly that being popular and relevant can mean cleverly speaking up about the obvious elements of pop culture itself.

“Yeah, uh, I had to dismember that guy with a trowel. What have you been up to?” (Marty (Fran Kranz), The Cabin in the Woods).

Tim De Zarn.

Tim De Zarn.

Much like Whedon’s take on superheroes, vampires and space travelling adventurers, the visual style of Joss Whedon’s vision is second to none. The cabin, designed specifically to represent a visual reference to Sam Raimi’s ground-breaking Evil Dead films, is a simple yet strange labyrinth filled with ornaments and illusions from cults and tribal rituals past. This is a stark contrast to pristine hallways and command centres looking like a cross between J.J. Abram’s Star Trek and Tony Scott’s The Taking Of Pelham 123. Let’s not forget that this film holds the creatures of both historical fables and Hollywood cinema inspiring the film’s creation. All manner of blood thirsty ghosts, ghouls and goblins from the 1930’s Universal Studio’s Classic Monsters era, to George A. Romero zombie flicks, to, most importantly, the spirits risen from The Evil Dead (pun intended) are, literally, on display. This gleefully leads up to the 3rd act bone-chilling and disgustingly nostalgic blood-bath and vital cameo from one of classic sci-fi horror’s most important faces, which no creature that goes bump in the night should ever keep you from witnessing.

Drew Goddard and Joss Whedon, bolstering their already sterling reputations, tear the horror/cabin-thriller genre to shreds. Like the movie’s final third, Goddard’s style delivers constant surprises. Deserving of major critical and commercial acclaim, the movie says what we were all thinking.

Verdict: A deceptively simple sounding horror flick with Joss Whedon’s hands all over it. 

The Amazing Spider-Man Review – Rollicking Reboot

Director: Marc Webb

Writers: James Vanderbilt, Alvin Sargent, Steve Kloves

Stars: Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Rhys Ifans, Martin Sheen

Release date: July 3rd, 2012

Distributor: Sony Pictures Entertainment 

Country: USA

Running time: 136 minutes



Best part: The kinetic action sequences.

Worst part: The repetitive story.

Reboot or remake? Many will be asking this question when watching the latest Spider-man film. This beloved comic book character has now been rebooted after three commercially successful adaptations. The Amazing Spider-man may be similar to what we have already witnessed, but it matches the first two Spider-man films in quality through likeability and thrills.

Andrew Garfield & Emma Stone.

Andrew Garfield & Emma Stone.

Despite the origin story of our friendly neighbourhood Spider-man being a commonly referenced part of popular culture (see Kick-Ass for a detailed example), this interpretation is a darker look at these important events. Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) is an intelligent but quiet teenager living the typical high school lifestyle. His curiosity for science leads him to search for the answers to his father’s research and parent’s disappearance. The signs point to renowned Oscorp. scientist Dr. Curt Connors (Rhys Ifans). His research, and alluring protégé and classmate Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone), draw Parker into a potentially dangerous web. From then on it’s the well-known elements of Spidey’s origin – bit by a genetically modified spider, uncle Ben(Martin Sheen)’s death, and the evolution of this nerdy nobody into the masked superhero known as Spider-man. Apart from spinning webs anytime and catching thieves just like flies, Spider-man must also stop Connor’s radical genetic change into a reptilian beast from threatening the safety of New York City.

Rhys Ifans.

Rhys Ifans.

If there’s one broken strand in this well-developed web, it’s that The Amazing Spider-Man feels essentially like a remake of the revered 2002 Sam Raimi directed original. Despite its darker tone and unique nuances, the film’s story and characters hit the same notes as the original, without enough to clearly differentiate between the two. The one definitive difference however is the search for Parker’s parents. Despite their mysterious disappearance an intriguing aim for his search for answers, the film forgets about his parent’s involvement within the first act. The Amazing Spider-Man instead focuses on elements we are accustomed to such as the love story and hero/villain conflict. Despite being hard not to compare it to the 2002 interpretation of Spider-man’s origin story, the film benefits from its clever direction and witty screenplay. With a fitting last name for this popular series, Marc Webb ((500) Days of Summer) has successfully transitioned from directing films of largely different genres. Elements of his unique directorial style are comfortably added to this interpretation. After creating a likeable yet realistically flawed screen couple out of Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Zooey Deschanel in (500) Days of Summer, Webb knows how to create engaging yet awkward angst out of these beloved comic book characters.

Martin Sheen & Sally Field.

Martin Sheen & Sally Field.

Gwen Stacy and Peter Parker communicate alarmingly like teenagers in the halls of any high school, with Webb clearly aware of the relatable and personal problems inflicting that demographic. These beloved characters are aided by the charismatic and likeable cast. Garfield and Stone (currently a real life couple) create powerful chemistry faster than you can say “bugboy”. Brought together through cute interactions, Garfield and Stone create empathetic lead characters and a lovely partnership. Garfield’s performance as the sympathetic Peter Parker is palpable and proves he can lead a superhero franchise after his supporting role in The Social Network. With the determination of Aaron Johnson’s character in Kick-Ass and the agility of Sebastian Foulcan in Casino Royale, Parker is a witty and effective presence here. Ifans, known primarily for playing the hilarious roommate in Notting Hill, is engaging as the focused yet morally driven antagonist as his sympathetic side is brought to the surface. The Lizard is easily the best cinematic Spider-man villain since Doc Ock. The intricate and disgusting creature design of the Lizard creates a menacing presence for Spider-man to face. Also providing fun performances are comedian Dennis Leary as Gwen’s father Captain George Stacy and Sheen as Uncle Ben.

“You should see the other guy! The other guy, in this instance, being a giant mutant lizard.” (Peter Parker/Spider-Man (Andrew Garfield), The Amazing Spider-Man).

Garfield's Spider-Man.

Garfield’s Spider-Man.

Webb’s visual style is also a breathtaking insight into the origins of a superhero. With the current popularity of superhero cinema and with similar themes explored in the recent surprise hit Chronicle, Webb still manages to create a noticeable visual flair for every action scene and montage throughout. The cinematography is gorgeous; capturing every frame of Spider-man’s super strength and agility. The camera loops and whirls through every wall and crevasse in New York City as spider-man’s parkour and acrobatic wall crawling and web swinging skills are documented with the vertigo inducing thrills needed in a special effect-driven Spider-man flick. Webb’s editing style, synonymous with the non- linear story telling of his previous film, succeeds in creating an energetic rush within each action set piece. Moments of genetic change in Peter Parker edited together with stylish choreography illustrate an adventurous superhero figure. His subconscious is even brought into light; changing to adapt to spider genetics when placed in a bad situation such as the subway fight sequence.

The Amazing Spider-Man, for all intents and purposes, is a message to other Marvel superhero properties. Despite the derivative narrative, Sony has taken this mega-successful property and run with it! Well, wall-crawling works better in this case.

Verdict: Spider-man swings back into action in this charming and visceral thrill-ride.

Tony Scott (filmmaker) Profile – Danger Zone!

Occupation: Director, producer

Born: June 21st, 1944

Nationality: British (UK)

Works: Top Gun, Crimson Tide, The Last Boy Scout, True Romance, Enemy of the State, Spy Game, Man on Fire, Deja Vu, The Taking of Pelham 123, Unstoppable

Since stepping out of his brother Ridley’s shadow with the revered neo-noir True Romance in 1993, Tony Scott has proven himself an influential yet polarising auteur filmmaker. With his style a prime example for many of a director’s vision distracting from the original story, others view his style as a step ahead of many crime/action film directors.

Tony Scott.

Tony Scott.

His style involves a mixture of several extreme editing and camera techniques. Considered a defining director in the modern Hollywood style of filmmaking, he continually creates the perfect tone when tackling the explicit subjects he regularly approaches. In the 2004 revenge flick Man on Fire, detailing the story of a girl kidnapped by a dangerous Mexican gang, Scott focuses on the emotional impact of this situation, rather than the action film elements of the narrative. The visuals in Man on Fire, and many other films in Scott’s filmography, reflect both the intensity of the situation and the damaged mindset of the lead character. In Man on Fire, Denzel Washington’s character Creasy is a former alcoholic and gun for hire. Frequent slow- motion shots of a bullet casing hitting Creasy’s hand and narrowly missing the slow reaction of his fingers, illustrates a shockingly distant yet slowly recovering mindset, placing him outside the realm of normality.

Tony Scott & Jerry Bruckheimer.

Scott & Jerry Bruckheimer.

Scott provides a gritty, unrefined insight into every situation. The non-linear, parallel timeline crossing actioner Deja Vu proves the effect of Scott’s ever evolving editing techniques. Cutting between Washington’s character speeding in between traffic in the past, and his communication with colleagues in the present, represents the lack of time his character has to prevent a sickening 9/11-esque terrorist attack. His stylised action is also of debate and careful consideration. The use of slo- mo and/or pulsating soundtrack illustrate the gravity of the situation. The hotel room shoot-out at the end of True Romance has been copied by many aspiring film-makers, aiming for the same effect Scott achieved. The chilling shots of white feathers and bullet ridden cops and drug dealers flying through the air created a violent shootout handled with an artistic vision not seen before in action cinema at its height. The low lighting and shaky cam style of representing a realistic situation has also influenced many film-makers, eagerly using their influences to create an emotional connection. Daniel Espinosa, director of the recent Denzel Washington action film Safe House, used Scott’s grainy, unrefined visual effects in the film to illustrate Ryan Reynolds’ character’s emotional torment when brought into a world of espionage and brutal murder in the heart of a rundown South Africa.

Trademarks: Red baseball cap, Kinetic visual flourishes, recurring cast members, camera pans

Scott & Denzel Washington.

Scott & Denzel Washington.

Washington has collaborated with Scott in many films including Man on FireDeja VuCrimson TideThe Taking of Pelham 123 and Unstoppable. His dramatic range and charisma may elevate the quality of several of their collaborations, but its Scott’s style that illustrates the true emotional torment of many of Washington’s intriguing characters. Both him and Ridley Scott regularly collaborate with A-list actors, creating many electrifying and alluring performances out of their appealing casts. The 1986 cult classic Top Gun for example, despite today being considered a plethora of homosexual undertones (mostly due to the laughable shirtless beach volleyball scene), Tom Cruise’s rebellious jet pilot Maverick is still idolised as a cheesy yet determined pop culture icon; forever riding the ‘highway to the danger zone’. Despite his recent films, such as The Taking of Pelham 123, Domino and Unstoppable, being little more  than technical experiments with a threadbare narrative, Scott can definitely call his schizophrenic technical style his own.

Despite his notorious cinematography and editing tricks infuriating some, he is one Hollywood director still perfecting his trademarks with each film. From Top Gun to Man on Fire, the British-born filmmaker has garnered immense acclaim from guilty pleasure efforts.