Posted by Ali Gray
at 16:00 on 26 Jan 2015
Imagine an alternate universe, one in which producers Barbara Broccoli and Michael G Wilson decided to reboot 007 using not the ruthless thuggery of Timothy Dalton or the brutish charm of Sean Connery as the Bond blueprint, instead opting to use the far-fetched, OTT antics of Roger Moore as the template. Ludicrous gadgets. Comic-book acting. Tongue rammed in cheek so deep all dialogue is in danger of being spoken with a lisp. Congratulations! You've just stumbled on the formula that could well have led to the creation of Kingsman: The Secret Service (it could've, if you didn't already know it was based on the book by Mark Millar).
If you want an example of how our relationship with technology has accelerated at a terrifying rate, show a young millennial the first Toy Story movie, which turns 20 years old this year. Made in 1995, the first fully CG-animated movie was a cinematic landmark yet it was still, tellingly, a tale of simple toys and derring do. That millennial you roped in (I won't asked questions how) will now look at Toy Story and turn their nose up at the relatively rudimentary visuals; they're much more likely to get their kicks from a movie like Big Hero 6, a breathlessly exciting, migraine-inducingly busy animation that must have surely pushed the Disney render farms to meltdown. Purely from a technological standpoint, it makes Toy Story look like a Punch & Judy show.
How to make it in America: fairly well-worn ground for films, and yet still they keep coming. This immigrant's tale from JC Chandor is more than that, though. A largely non-violent study of how the (mostly) law-abiding react when faced with violence, and of whether turning the other cheek is a workable - or even desirable - strategy.
Vera Brittain's Testament Of Youth is considered to be one of the most important war memoirs ever published, a tragic real-life tale of love, loss and the atrocities of war. Its depiction of the impact of World War I on the women left behind as their men joined the army, not to mention the middle classes in general, is taught in schools both as a vital historical document and as a valuable piece of feminist literature. So bear with me while I try to criticise this film without sounding like a cynical, sexist Nazi.
Oh, great. This should help smooth things out. While I wouldn't support the action, I'm surprised to have heard no calls to postpone the release of American Sniper. Here's a portrait, entirely unshaded by grey, of a US Navy SEAL who claims more confirmed kills than any other sniper in US military history, all of them in Iraq. There are interesting questions about the morality of this, given how many more lives he likely saved, about the effect it had on him, and about the implications of American occupation in the Middle East. Clint Eastwood isn't terribly interested in asking them, though. While this is an effective and very watchable war movie, it's as uncomplicated as it gets.
Posted by Ali Gray
at 23:00 on 11 Jan 2015
Sometimes a joke hits too close to the mark, and so it is I cannot ever listen to jazz music without thinking of The Fast Show sketch, Jazz Club, with its bowl-cutted host Louis Balfour introducing chin-stroker acts in straight trousers with names like Charlie ''The Bulb'' Robeson and Soylent Green. That's an entire musical genre desolated, for all time - an entire section of HMV I'll never trouble. But perhaps there is a saviour for jazz; not a musician, but a director, Damien Chazelle - a man who's probably too young to even remember The Fast Show, let alone the old duffers who made jazz insufferable in the first place. Trumpets please!
I saw Woman In Black 2 about a month ago and I didn't make a lot of notes. No, you're
unprofessional. But I didn't make a lot of notes because I felt by its third act that it was broadly doing what it had set out to, in the way that a lot of mainstream horror movies tend to quite competently, and that to review it straight would be to retread ground I've already trodden in other reviews
. But one interesting thing did occur to me. Read on if you like tedious narrative theory!
If I were a pretentious Film Studies student, I would discuss Birdman's importance at great length to anybody within earshot. I would write an entire thesis about the many ways in which it deconstructs the cinematic form and then I would go to parties and bore people with smug declarations like "Birdman is the best superhero movie ever made", proudly enjoying my own unique, daring perspective on the genre. Sadly, I am not a pretentious Film Studies student. I am, however, a pretentious film reviewer, so I still get to do all of those things and I don't even have to worry about getting graded afterwards. [B- for that intro - Ed]
Stephen Hawking is brilliant, isn't he? He’s perhaps the world's greatest mind, he's been immortalised in The Simpsons and millions have read his book A Brief History Of Time. And millions more have lied about reading it. He truly is remarkable; it's about time someone made a worthwhile biopic about the man's extraordinary life. Granted, I didn't see Benedict Cumberbatch's 2004 TV film Hawking but really, who did? And who remembers it? Apart from me. Just then.
Arguably my generation doesn't know it's born, but it's not that I'm unmoved by tales of World War Two heroism. If anything they serve as a reminder that millions sacrificed their lives for my freedom and now I'm making dick jokes on the internet. I do think these stories deserve to be treated without recourse to emotional manipulation, though. Unbroken might have been a quiet examination of determination and the human spirit, but overshoots in trying to emphasise how inspirational it is.