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Amy (Rosamund Pike) and Nick (Ben Affleck) have been married for five years. Externally, their marriage and their lives seem just about perfect, but internally, under the surface, tensions are mounting and their lives are about to be torn apart.
Amy's parents are the authors of a string of successful children's books whose main character 'Amazing Amy' is based on their daughter. Is the fact that the book version of Amy is more successful than the real Amy something that has been slowly eating away at Amy's mental state for years? Nick is a part-time college lecturer and writer who also runs a local bar. He looks clean-cut and faithful but he's secretly having an affair with one of his students.
Suddenly and mysteriously, Amy goes missing and whilst there's no obvious sign of a struggle at their home it's clear that something very unusual has happened. A murder investigation begins with Nick as the prime suspect. The story goes national as the media goes wild. Has Amy been kidnapped? Has Nick murdered her? The truth is more shocking than the fiction - Amy has devised a diabolical plan to get even with Nick for his cheating.
David Fincher is the perfect director for this dark and tense thriller filled with violence, sex and a gut-punch twist. He handles actors extremely well and his direction of scenes and photography is unparalleled in its ingenuity.
Affleck's performance is never less than adequate but the role gives little to do other than look upset about his wife's disappearance, have an affair with a younger girl and look repentant when he later admits to his indiscretion on live TV in order to win public support.
Pike's performance is fearless and haunting - as Amy she is deceptive, manipulative and ruthless. It's her finest performance to date. Gone Girl is all about Pike's truly incendiary performance, everyone else is simply there to support her.
Gone Girl is a scorpion of a film with a deadly sting in its tale.
Michael Flatley's Lord of the Dance: Dangerous Games
Eight and a half minutes during 1994's Eurovision Song Contest's interval, is all it took to catapult Irish dancing to new levels that firmly imprinted itself in the mind of a global audience. Michael Flatley and Jean Butler became overnight superstars. Destroying box office records all over the world with the now legendary 'Riverdance' - Irish Dance was here to stay.
Following Flatley's departure from 'Riverdance', came the creation of 'Lord of the Dance'. Undoubtedly, 'Lord of the Dance' is Michael Flatley's masterpiece, a tour de force of technical skills and showmanship, all executed in the unmistakable Flatley style that has proved to be a seminal piece of work for other Irish dance shows.
In his latest reincarnation, 'Lord of the Dance: Dangerous Games', Flatley maintains his unashamedly, in your face, pure entertainment. The grandeur of the London Palladium, which has hosted some of the biggest names in show business, is more than apt as the venue to house the Irish dance fantasy, as we are transported through several locations via the magic of large video screens and a rousing musical score that firmly places you in the centre of this Irish fantasy.
This reincarnation proves to be more accessible to a wider, more diverse audience than its predecessor, as the production provides something for everyone. An outlandish spectacle of the classic 'good versus evil' story; a spirit has a dream in which the Lord of the Dance (spectacularly played by James Keegan) must battle the Dark Lord and his disciples so that she will re-awaken from her nightmare. Complete with a contortionist; female dancers with legs that don't seem to stop; illuminating dancing robots; a villain with more fetish get up that would make any 'Fifty Shades of Grey' fan proud and Irish former 'Girls Aloud' star Nadine Coyle as the Goddess Erin and Flatley himself complete the line up.
Sadly, Nadine Coyle proves to be the weak link in the show as she seems to smile and coast her way through some songs, like a Norma Desmond character that never really soar to the heights that they were intended; desperately trying to hang on to past glories of her former girl group days. The strength of the show lies firmly in a line of dancers performing in unison, to the rising title track 'Lord of the Dance'. However, it is the entrance of Flatley himself, albeit brief, that turns a usually polite, pliant, well behaved British audience into our more vocal and expressive American counter-parts.
At 56, Flatley proves that he still has star power and the attraction clearly lies in his unashamedly level of confidence and intense self-promotion that has clearly ensured that 'Lord of the Dance: Dangerous Games' is a massive commercial success.
The Imitation Game
Despite it being one of the biggest and best-reviewed films of last year, The Imitation Game was a real let-down for me. There was a chance to really tell a well-rounded story of Alan Turing, a story that had largely been overlooked by many a history book.
That was the promise that so much of the marketing sold me on - 'The untold story of Alan Turing.' So I was really surprised to find that the film barely dealt with issues surrounding his homosexuality and the chemical castration that followed his 'outing'. The story of the Enigma machine had itself largely been told in the film Enigma. It was the other story I thought I would be seeing, which is why it really felt like a let-down.
Benedict Cumberbatch and Keira Knightley do fine work in the leads, and there's some great supporting stars (inc. Mark Strong, Matthew Goode, Charles Dance, Rory Kinnear, and a fairly new actor Matthew Beard), though it's mostly Cumberbatch who fills the majority of the screen time. (He's undeniably good, but there are hints of Sherlock and his similar past characters at times.)
What upset me most is that the film went on to win Best Adapted Screenplay at the Oscars, which I really don't think it deserved to win with so much stronger competition. If it had gone into greater detail about Turing's later life, as pitched, then maybe. But as it was, I thought it was a real shame. Worth watching if you're keen to see another story surrounding the Enigma machine. But if you're looking for the 'untold story' of Alan Turing, this might not meet your hopes either.
Michaël R. Roskam's name is one I was vaguely familiar with before last year, but The Drop has really put him on the map for me, and made me want to check out his earlier work.
Only his second feature-length film to date (after doing a few shorts before that), The Drop is an adaptation of an original short story by Dennis Lehane. Lehane is the man who wrote the novels that Mystic River, Gone Baby Gone, and Shutter Island are all based on. And The Drop is also Lehane's first film actually writing the screenplay.
Roskam and Lehane both do a great job on the adaptation, and I think it's a real shame that it didn't get much more attention during the Oscars and BAFTAs, etc. last year. Lehane's script is a real sharp and tense crime drama, which Roskam superbly brings to life.
Tom Hardy delivers a wonderful leading performance, one of his many greats, starring as Bob, a young bartender who finds himself facing some tough choices that will ultimately decide his fate, in the crosshairs of the mob following a robbery gone wrong.
The supporting cast notably includes the late James Gandolfini's final ever feature performance, and whilst I would have loved to see him lead in his last film, he nonetheless delivers every bit as brilliantly as you'd expect from him, and it's retrospectively all the more heartfelt now that we know it to be his last.
Noomi Rapace, star of the original The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and its sequels, is also a pleasure to watch in the female lead, with Matthias Schoenaerts (Rust and Bone) doing another great job as another main support.
For the most part, it's really Tom Hardy that fills the screen, giving a nuanced performance as a complex character in this Brooklyn underbelly. It's a gritty thriller that deserves to be remembered and rewatched for years to come.
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1
One of my favourite sequels of last year, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 takes the popular film series in a really different direction to the first film and its sequel, Catching Fire. This time, we find Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) and co. beyond the Capitol's reach, on the outer rims of Panem.
It picks up pretty much immediately where Catching Fire left off, with Miss Everdeen airlifted to safety from the Quarter Quell. Unfortunately, Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) and Johanna (Jena Malone) have not been so lucky, captured by the Capitol and detained while Katniss joins the Rebellion.
At first reluctant to have a part in it, knowing that Peeta is at risk, Katniss is soon taken to the devastation that has hit her former home, District 12. And it is this wreckage that really inspires her to rise up and become the titular Mockingjay for her people, their saviour.
What makes it so different from the first two films is that there is no Hunger Games. In those films, we saw heavy action, largely one-on-one or small groups against small groups. The last-person-standing situation is switched out for something on a bigger scale, where the lives of Panem's citizens are at stake.
Some critics have complained that the film not having a Hunger Games has made it more boring or less watchable, but I think the reverse is true. It gives us a chance to explore the outer realms of Panem and the long-lost District 13, seeing parts of this world that we didn't get to explore in the first two. It also remains fairly faithful to the original book. And you get the sense that it's really building to something even bigger and more epic than the first two films - which is saying something! - when Mockingjay Part 2 comes out.
If you're looking for action, you might want to look somewhere else. But the characters are still just as brilliant as they've ever been, and this time we get to see Liam Hemsworth's Gale finally take a leading role with Katniss, as well as more of Philip Seymour Hoffman's Plutarch Heavensbee, Woody Harrelson's Haymitch, Elizabeth Banks' Effie, and Julianne Moore, who appears for the first time in the franchise as President Coin. So if you've been looking forward to seeing more of them, and you're excited about where the story has been heading overall in the series so far, you can't miss this.
This movie is just as bad as you'd expect.
Made by the same people as Meet the Spartans and The Starving Games, it's a spoof movie that has no real plot, no good actors, and most importantly, no real laughs. Instead, it cuts together bits and pieces from all the Fast and Furious films in the hopes of making a quick buck, essentially the worst kind of filmmaking there is.
The original films have things you can poke fun at, sure - they exaggerate things on a blockbuster level, for obvious reasons. But they know that they're big, and it's at least partly done tongue in cheek. Superfast doesn't seem to get that at all. In fairness, the budget is half decent and they do some good things with the money - there are some cool car sequences, and it did make me half-chortle in one scene. But a genuinely good spoof movie should do more than that. It's a shame this isn't one of them.
Beyond Justice is a kind of blend of action/thriller meets courtroom drama. Vinnie Jones leads the cast as a no-holds-barred businessman who wants revenge for the murder of his son, and he'll stop at nothing to get his hands on the killer.
Jones is joined by a young lawyer (Timothy Woodward Junior), an enchanting Assistant DA (Mischa Barton) & a private investigator (Luke Goss) on his path to vengeance, with all roads leading to Danny Trejo's infamous thug, Tattoo.
Also known as Throwdown in some countries, Woodward Junior's film (he also directs) is pretty much your standard crime drama with some action sequences thrown in for good measure. No one is at their best here, but they're not at their worst either. The production values look fairly indie in some scenes, and then there'll be a big explosion in others, and you sort of get the feeling that the money maybe could have been better spent/budgeted to sacrifice the fire for a better overall feel. The cast is probably enough to interest many - Jones is entertaining in most things he's in, and Trejo's his usual tough-as-nails - but the story isn't really as good as it could have been, to be totally honest. It has potential that it doesn't quite get to.
Horrible Bosses 2
Jason Bateman, Jason Sudeikis, and Charlie Day are all back for round two in Horrible Bosses 2, a huge favourite of mine from last year. The first film was brilliant, and this raised the bar even further. A hilarious sequel that's a real must for fans of the original movie.
Having removed themselves from their bosses last time, the three amigos strike it out on their own, trying to live out the modern-day American Dream and become their own bosses. But things end up taking a turn for the worse when their sole investor backs out to leave them hopelessly in debt and facing bankruptcy. Struggling to come up with any better ideas, they hatch a plan to kidnap the wealthy guy's son and ransom him for enough money to turn their lives back around, but things don't exactly go according to plan.
Christoph Waltz and Chris Pine are great additions to the cast, and with Jamie Foxx, Jennifer Aniston, Kevin Spacey & Lindsay Sloane all back from the first film, there's loads of laughs for newcomers and those that loved the original.
The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
Before going to see The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, I thought I'd probably better see what all the fuss was about with the original and finally got around to seeing The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. To my surprise, I really enjoyed it.
John Madden directs his finest film since Proof (a rather little-known gem of a film that I recommend looking into), a wonderful sort of reverse-coming-of-age comedy drama that centres on a group of octogenarians finding life and happiness in the face of impending and inevitable death.
This group of retired British people, predominantly half couples and half singles, all make their way to the hotel of the title, a kind of retirement home-cum-hotel that has been set up for the elderly in India. A great quote from the sequel comes to mind - 'Why die here, when I can die there?'
Dev Patel stars as the upstart young hotel manager, with Judi Dench, Bill Nighy, and Maggie Smith leading the older cast.
The dialogue of the film really reminded me of all those classic British rom-coms of decades long gone by, like Notting Hill, etc. There've only been a couple to speak of since then (Love Actually, Wimbledon and About Time, for example), and now we can fortunately add The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel to that list. And I shall be keeping my fingers crossed that its sequel lives up to the bar this film has set as well.
Apparently there's nothing that Wong Kar-Wai can't do. Over his long career, he's done romance, drama, sci-fi, a little action, and even ventured to Western waters for his English-language debut, My Blueberry Nights. Now he turns his sights to traditional martial arts, and the result is so impressive. The Grandmaster is visually striking and stunning, a real gem of a martial arts film that enthusiasts of the genre need to seek out.
The story is one many martial arts fans will be familiar with already - that of Ip Man, the renowned teacher of Bruce Lee. Tony Leung Chiu-Wai stars as Ip Man (I believe also known as Yip Man), who is the Grandmaster of the title, a master of the Wing Chun way of martial arts.
Based on a true story, it looks at his life from the 1930s, a time that was peaceful for him in his relative youth. That peace, however, is an unstable one and does not last long when the time comes for an aging martial arts master to announce his retirement and call for an heir to be found to take his place. Naturally, Ip is put forward as a contender, which leads to a series of fights in the struggle for a new leader.
Wong Kar-Wai's eye for beauty is unmistakable. Even in the most heated of action sequences with these fighters, he manages to find stunning moments that will amaze even the most seasoned fans of the genre. That takes a lot of skill. I've seen many a martial arts movie in my day, but I was still blown away by the action.
There are a few moments that I might have cut, things that slow the film down a little more than I'd like, maybe. But on the whole, the film is really, really good. The action is amazing, there are touches of romance I wasn't quite expecting, and above all, the story is compelling. An excellent new entry into the numerous films that surround Ip Man, a man worthy of such attention.
This romantic drama from Paul Haggis (Crash) had so much going for it. It's a real shame that it doesn't quite live up to expectations.
The A-list cast is led by Liam Neeson, Olivia Wilde, Kim Basinger, Adrien Brody, James Franco, Mila Kunis, and Maria Bello. So you can understand why I was so hopeful that it would be a hit. Their acting is great, no question about that. But the script is missing that special ingredient that would have really made this film jump off the screen.
Neeson stars as Michael, a writer who's recently left his wife (Kim Basinger) and has started up an affair with an enchanting young woman (Olivia Wilde) in Paris. Kunis stars as Julia, a washed-up actress fighting to have visitation rights with her young son, given a shot at convincing her ex (James Franco) that she is stable enough to be a part of their child's life. And Brody stars as Scott, an American in Rome looking for a little human connection.
These three stories interlock and weave together nicely, but the writing and the moments at which they cross just don't really live up to the film's potential. There is a mystery element to it that helps it rise above some other romantic dramas, but on the whole, there's not quite enough to make it truly memorable. Probably worthwhile if you're a fan of the cast, but not much more beyond that.
Silicon Valley - Season 1
Mike Judge has done some of my favourite TV shows and films over the years. He created Beavis & Butt-head and King of the Hill back in the 90s, as well as writing and directing the brilliant office comedy film Office Space, and more recently Extract.
Last year, he came back to TV with a brand new comedy - Silicon Valley. The show is Judge's first ever go at a live-action series, switching out his animated characters for real-life people, and the result is absolutely brilliant. Probably the funniest new series of last year, and also one of the best.
The show revolves around a group of young tech-savvy guys in their 20s who find themselves suddenly hitting the big time in California's renowned hub for tech companies, Silicon Valley. They soon have hugely lucrative competing offers on the table from people who want to work with them or buy them out.
The premise of the show is strong as it is, but it's the characters that really make it worthwhile viewing. T.J. Miller (who recently appeared in Transformers: Age of Extinction) is a real stand-out, absolutely hilarious in pretty much every scene. And Martin Starr, of Freaks and Geeks fame, is great as a fleshed-out adult character (something he's usually not given a chance to do). And the lesser-known Thomas Middleditch really does well as the lead, Richard, who essentially serves as the founder of this new company.
The writing and directing is really sharp, bringing out the comedy in a great way. And it just goes to show that HBO is willing to commit to series that go outside mainstream programming - The Big Bang Theory is popular, of course, but this is really different and, personally, much better. You wouldn't likely find a show like this on any of the major American networks.
You find yourself wanting more, with only eight episodes in the season. Fortunately, HBO's given the second season an extra two episodes, starting in America in a few weeks in April. So now is the perfect time to catch up if you haven't seen it yet.
Bigger isn't always better. That seems to be the philosophy of Gareth Edwards' Godzilla, a new take on the classic Japanese city-destroying-monster franchise that adopts a slightly more personal angle on the story than we've seen before, with far less of a focus on endless large-scale action than we saw in the previous (1998) American version.
That's not to say that there isn't a decent amount of skyscraper-smashing here - but director Edwards doles it out sparingly, preferring to build tension for the final climactic action scene, rather than blow all of Godzilla's grandeur on earlier clashes with the movie's other monsters.
That's right, there are more weird creatures here than just the eponymous giant lizard. A pair of other strange beasties soon rear their heads, and the movie becomes something of a showdown between the three of them - with Godzilla acting as a sort of hero figure, which makes for a fun twist. And after a couple of initial clashes (during which Edwards teases us with brief glimpses of action so as not to steal the thunder of the last act of the movie), the stage is set for a final blowout battle that doesn't disappoint.
As I said, though, that action - while enjoyable - is not really where the heart of this version of Godzilla lays. Instead, it's more concerned with telling us a story about the people who get involved in the action, which helps to ground the plot in something that we can relate to.
Godzilla's human cast includes an underused Bryan Cranston - fresh from his TV success with Breaking Bad, who takes a far more sympathetic role here as the classic archetypal scientist-who-saw-it-all-coming - as well as an even more underused Juliette Binoche, who makes the most of an ultimately pretty thankless and two-dimensional role that amounts to little more than a glorified cameo.
A younger pair of protagonists, played by Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Elizabeth Olsen, get more of the spotlight as the film rolls on - but for my money, I would have much preferred more of the dramatic weight to have been carried by the frankly far more accomplished Cranston and Binoche. Still, there's a decent amount of human drama here to enjoy, even if it's not of the kind of calibre that's going to win any Oscars.
As well as the character-based aspects of the story, there's also a certain amount of thoughtfulness and intelligence put into creating Godzilla's backstory. The Japanese origins of the franchise are heavily alluded to - including some elements involving a nuclear meltdown that are uncomfortably reminiscent of the real-life Fukushima disaster of just a couple of years ago - while other aspects of the film reference other modern preoccupations, such as the militarised reaction to the 9/11-esque urban terror that's caused by the monsters' rampages, or the giant waves caused by the beasties that evoke the recent tsunamis seen in Asia.
Overall, there's a strong sense that Edwards is making a definite attempt to shackle the ridiculousness of Godzilla's giant-lizard concept to examples of disasters we can all relate to, and it helps to make the threat feel serious and immediate. This, combined with a decent stab at a character-based story to go along with the action, makes for a film that's more compelling and interesting than you might expect.
This might not be a big all-out action film in the same way that the 1998 version was, but it shows you that a less noisy, more focused and more thoughtful approach to these big tentpole franchises can sometimes be more effective than two hours of noise and bluster.
Mrs Patricia Mckinven01-03-2015
Have just watched this film, and to my mind one of the most real life factual films i have ever watched..
Life inside a tank is not as clean living as seen in other films.My dad was in a tank regiment in the war, and the little he said about there life inside a tank .They were often dirty ,smelly and untidy, because of the little room they had inside the tank.
The actors were 1st rate in the portrayal of life.
There's a scene in this film where one character informs another that ".you can travel back in time but only to a place you've already been to before".
I wonder if writer / director Richard Curtis (Four Weddings and A Funeral, Notting Hill) wrote that line with a knowing smirk, well aware of the fact that About Time is just like every other film he's ever written and a welcome throwback to the type of gentle, British Rom-Coms that were so popular in the 90s.
The story revolves around Tim, whose informed by his father (the always brilliant Bill Nighy) that all the men in their family have the ability to travel back in time, and so he uses this gift to woo Rachel McAdams (who seems to have cornered the market on the romantic time-travel genre). Relative newcomer; Domhnall Gleeson, memorably described as ".openly ginger", is our affable lead, he's quite a good actor, trouble is, this role was so obviously written with Hugh Grant in mind, that its hard not to imagine how he would've played it.
Now we've got some of the standard issues that come with both Richard Curtis and time travel movies: About Time breaks its own rules with regards to time travel and you will, on occasion, wince at some of the glaring oversights and narrative contradictions: Without giving anything away; there's a scene where Tim travels back and returns only to discover a slight change in the past to someone else's life has erased something from existence in his own. Now it was difficult to get back into a light and fluffy mood after that revelation, I mean surely making that kind of a judgement poses a metaphysical, moral dilemma wrought with deep rooted trauma and anxiety, nope, apparently not; its done and dusted in five minutes. Davids Lynch and Cronenberg would've crafted an entire movie based on that one concept but no, Richard Curtis is more interested in Rachel McAdams's wardrobe and shooting a schmaltzy wedding scene in the rain.
About Time isn't on a par with Curtis's best (Notting Hill) nor will it revive the genre like Four Weddings did but it is, as expected, an eminently watchable, reasonably well written, generally pleasant film.
Deep Blue Sea
1999 was a good year in film: The Matrix, Fight Club, The 13th Warrior, Office Space, Go, Star Wars, Toy Story 2, Dogma, American Beauty, Eyes Wide Shut, The Sixth Sense and a few other movies that only I enjoyed like Entrapment, The Mummy and, of course, Deep Blue Sea.
Renny Harlin's entertaining suspense thriller is one of the best examples of the shark attack sub-genre, in fact, I stand by what I said 16 years ago, that Deep Blue Sea is ".better than Jaws". Now that might seem like sacrilege to some, but scene-for-scene, I just found this more enjoyable: The brilliantly absurd plot sees doctor Saffron Burrows, harvest brain tissue from GM sharks in a bid to cure Alzheimers. Informed by corporate suits that they're shutting her project down, she invites a bunch of scientists and moneymen aboard the remote, oceanic facility, to convince them otherwise. Things don't quite go according to plan and it's only a matter of time before Burrows, working-class hero Thomas Jane, wisecracking chef LL Cool J, Samuel L. Jackson, Stellan Skarsgard et al are on the menu and fighting for their lives against a ruthless gam of smart sharks.
Deep Blue Sea is by-the-numbers action done right, yes they're clichés aplenty but each character is fleshed out to a certain degree and there are moments of genuine tension created by the unexpected order in which some of the protagonists are taken out (you'll know what I mean when you see it). A well-directed, reasonably well-acted and thoroughly entertaining movie; Deep Blue Sea didn't revolutionize cinema, received mostly negative reviews and was quickly forgotten in that crowded year of modern classics. But its' everything you'd want from a shark-attack film and its still as good today as it was back then. Underrated.
22 Jump Street
"I didn't have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead."
Substitute "review" for "letter" in Mark Twain's famous quote, and you'll come close to my opinion on much of today's overly-wordy film criticism. So with this in mind, so as not to waste your time, I'll endeavour to craft a review of 22 Jump Street that's short and to the point.
This sequel to 21 Jump Street is both funny and smart, and will give you plenty of laughs even if it doesn't quite reach the comedic heights of its predecessor. There are plenty of chuckles-per-minute, a reasonably broad variety of jokes, and it actually manages to add to the inherent humour of the concept (in which adult cops transparently masquerade as high school/college kids to bust drugs gangs) by introducing a whole new strain of self-effacing humour that makes fun of the repetitive, predictable nature of film sequels.
Throughout the film, there are lots of gags about how Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum are simply repeating their steps from the first movie - which helps to give 22 Jump Street a knowing, ironic sensibility that makes it very difficult to dislike. An elaborate opening sequence ends on a killer punchline that makes it clear that Hill and Tatum's characters are only good for one thing: the same thing they did in the first movie. And more of the same is what fans of 21 Jump Street will want to see anyway, so why be coy about it?
Add in some inspired comedy setpieces (including a fantastic twist involving the pair's boss, played by Ice Cube, that gives him a wonderful opportunity to cut loose in anger), a fun cameo or two, and some tight action sequences that deliver on both excitement and slapstick farce, and you have a recipe for a fantastic follow-up to the hugely successful original.
Just like my opening quote suggests, it would have been a lot quicker and easier for directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller to go bigger and more elaborate with this movie - but would it have been any funnier, or better? I don't think so.
By sticking to the tried and tested premise and keeping things succinct and snappy - not to mention introducing a running gag of self-mockery that culminates in an inspired closing credits sequence that will make it very difficult to watch any future instalments with a straight face - the two directors have managed to do the seemingly impossible, and capture 21 Jump Street's lightning in a bottle for a second time.
Arrow - Season 2
Arrow is personally one of my favorite TV shows as it features action and adventure and each episode leaves you wanting to see more...
During Arrow season 2 Oliver Queen (Arrow) resorts to non-violence after his best friend Tommy Merlyn dies in the end of season 2, you will also see the rise of Deathstroke (Slade Wilson) as he develops his super strength and he also develops his hate for Oliver Queen leading up to an epic end of season finale.
12 Angry Men
In light of recent court trials and judicial rulings that have taken place around me and some shown on the news, such as the Oscar Pistorius trial in South Africa without a jury that was judge-led, or the numerous Death Row convictions based on contaminated evidence as well as the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, USA, I felt compelled to view Twelve Angry Men to perhaps discover and remind myself about how, despite many obstacles to overcome such as our prejudices and emotions and differing viewpoints, we can bring about change, justice, equality and fairness in our world. It was, though, with a sense of trepidation that I bought this film since the title in itself did not exactly promote equality as there wasn't a single jury member that was female. Nonetheless I still felt it would be worth a watch if I just thought of the twelve angry men as twelve debating human minds.
Twelve Angry Men is a courtroom drama and yet just about the entire film takes place in a jury room and we see none of the trial. The only time we're outside the jury room is for a brief set-up and an even briefer epilogue. The real essence of the film is about the American constitution's promise that a defendant receives a fair trial and the presumption of innocence until proven otherwise- a principle of reasonable doubt. Twelve men are given the unenviable though extremely necessary task - just my opinion - of debating the fate of a young Puerto Rican American defendant charged with murdering his father. From the set-up involving the judge's perfunctory, almost bored, charge to the jury, and his tone of voice, we can infer that the verdict is a foregone conclusion which makes a mockery out of the justice system in 50s America.
We are drip-fed the evidence only second-hand, as the twelve jurors debate it. That gives the story a rather convenient and contrived feel. To add to these two notions, the jury member who holds out, played by the iconic Henry Fonda, gradually sets about trying to overcome the rather less-than-democratic prejudices of the other eleven members of the jury with predictable consequences. Yet the tense, lucid, and admirably economical treatment of the story, it's stark simplicity, feeling as if I'd seen these types of people before, with their various prejudices and conditioned reasoning, made me expect a far more challenging outcome, albeit one with a vague hope, which would show that although the principle of reasonable doubt is one of the most enlightened elements of the American constitution, it is also sadly the one that many Americans have had difficulty in accepting.
This film is not about getting to a clear-cut verdict. It's really about the need to listen to each other, and differentiate between fact and truth. Throughout the film you are constantly reminded that a man's life is at stake in the hands of these twelve men and it's an uncomfortable and at times despicable feeling to witness the bigotry displayed by some of the jury members as well as their reasoning on how they came to their conclusions. You feel that because the jury members don't know the defendant, that seeing him die doesn't mean very much to some. There's a jury member who like the defendant is a product of the "streets," and hopes that his guilty vote will distance himself from his past. Another member had a severe falling out with his own young son and therefore holds a grudge against all young people. Thus each of the eleven jury members has voted to convict for reasons of his own. None of the twelve initially appears to have influenced the other which seems to show the strength and individuality in each character although having said that, one or two jury members do appear to go with the flow and don't want to upset the others.
What's really surprising about Twelve Angry Men is that despite being almost entirely set in a single location, the consistently taut, sweltering, claustrophobic atmosphere created largely by Boris Kaufman's excellent camerawork results in a highly realistic thriller. The film is devoid of action and yet, despite being set over the best part of an entire day, it flies by and you feel as if the events happened in real time. The tension comes from personality conflicts, dialogue that makes you think and body language, and there are a great many of these of course, with twelve people! To avoid sentimentality, the film very cleverly avoids even giving us much of a look at the defendant. We only glimpse him very briefly and that makes us focus our judgement upon the character of each of the jury members.
Twelve Angry Men is interested in looking at logic, emotion and prejudice as major forces that struggle to control the field. Ultimately the jurors are all defined in terms of their personalities, backgrounds, occupations, prejudices and emotional tilts. Evidence is debated so completely that despite not being witness to the trial itself, you feel as if you know as much as the jury does. The film balances one piece of evidence against another that seems contradictory. Twelve Angry Men is as meticulous as the summation of an Agatha Christie novel. It's worth reminding potential viewers that the film isn't concerned with solving the crime as much as it is about sending the wrong man to die.
It's also worth bearing in mind that though eleven jury members start out thinking the defendant is guilty, not all those voting in this direction are portrayed negatively. There are those jurors who are so certain of the infallibility of the Law and therefore assume that if the boy was arrested, he must be guilty which is another wonderful issue raised in the film.
Henry Fonda comes across as he always did in his films; like a guy who doesn't know how to fake it. Though typecast as the bastion of liberalism, his performance feels extremely important, necessary and is also nicely underplayed. He is that rare barometer of truth against which to measure not only the other characters in his films but yourself too. He's not only a beacon of hope but a tower of strength, standing alone as a voice of doubt about the accused's guilt. "We're talking about somebody's life here," says Fonda early on in the film. "We can't decide in five minutes. Supposing we're wrong?" This sets the tone for the rest of the film. His simple task in the picture is to persuade the weary jurors to re-examine the evidence and separate it from the backstory of each man. Fonda drags deliberations from the hot day into the heat of the night, chipping away at the guilty verdict.
Whilst all the other jury members are excellent, as they smoke, sweat, swear, sprawl, stalk and get angry, the standouts in particular are Lee J Cobb, E.G. Marshall and Ed Begley who plays a racist and ignorant man full of stereotypical assumptions. To tempt you with the potential conflicts that arise in the film, Begley delivers a racist rant as follows; "You know how these people lie. It's born in them. They don't know what the truth is. And let me tell you, they don't need any real big reason to kill someone, either."
Clearly, the director Sidney Lumet turned filming in one room to his advantage. He creates this sense of entrapment that the jury members must have felt in that room. As the film unfolds, the room appears to get smaller and smaller and this effect was created by the use of longer lenses towards the latter half of the film. Lumet also shot the early part of the film above eye level and by the end of the movie, the camera was well below eye level so you could see the ceiling in the final shots. This gives you the illusion that not only are the walls closing in but so is the ceiling, thus increasing the sense of claustrophobia, suffocation and tension. This film is a master-class in how lens choices affect mood. As we look down on the characters in the beginning with the high camera angle, it suggests that they can be comprehended and mastered. Towards the climax of the film, the high angle creates the impression that the characters loom over us and it makes you feel overwhelmed by the force of their passion. For me, Sidney Lumet is one of the greatest directors I've ever come across. The evidence of this lies in the fact that I have more of his movies in my collection than any other director. His range of film subjects is so broad that he cannot be categorised. Twelve Angry Men is as relevant today as it was when first released. In many ways, it validates that the jury system is an important check against state power.
Sword Of The Stranger
This is quite possibly the greatest anime of all time. About a boy and his dog in danger of those in the west, he is rescued by a stranger and the two embark on a journey that will transform the two into brothers and tug at heart strings. The excellency of the motion picture is tripled with that of the soundtrack, forcing you to route for Kotaru, Tobimaru and Nanashi (No Name).
This anime deserves a lot more recognition than it already has, because it's a real shame that it's next to impossible to buy this in the UK, English Dubbed and everything