Archive for the Film and TV Category

A New Hope, Again.

Posted in Film and TV on November 1, 2012 by tegtalk

“You’re not my f****** father, he’s frozen under The Magic Kingdom!”

As I was watching a cracking cup game on Tuesday night between Reading and Arsenal and following another dismal display from our friends in red and white on Twitter, news started to break of Disney buying Lucasfilm and its intentions to make at least one new Star Wars Trilogy. The first film is already in development and will hit summer 2015. A lot of people would have shrugged their shoulders and muttered “meh, the last one’s were shite, so what?”

I didn’t. A part of me, who saw the first film as an 8 year old and who still rates The Empire Strikes Back as one of the finest fantasy adventure films ever made, gave a little (silent) cheer.

Granted the prequels weren’t fantastic but still showcased some fine bits of cinema: the pod race in the first one; the three way light sabre duel in Phantom; the gladiator scene and ending in Clones; the eerie turn to the dark side of Annakin in Sith to name but a few.

The problem with the prequels in my opinion, was Lucas chose to direct them himself instead of being the creative force and letting someone pull the film together who could distance himself from everything and tell the writer when the story or the script just weren’t working. Irving Kershner did a fantastic job on Empire. Lawrence Kasdan also tidied up the scripts on Episodes V & VI. Lucas seemingly would not relinquish any creative control or allow anyone to make any other decisions on the prequel trilogy.

I still think a lot of the criticism was unfair. Lucas attempted to make a series of films kids could enjoy, just as the 30-40 something’s moaning now enjoyed before they hit puberty. Maybe he went too far but still packed enough action and light sabres in to make three pretty decent films.

Look at what Disney have done with their purchase of Pixar and Marvel. They have basically let the studios get on with what they were doing right.  If it ain’t broke… well, you know the rest.

They have also handed chances to directors that excelled, at Pixar for example, by promoting them to their live action films. Disney traditionally makes a few Blockbusters a year. And they throw a shit load of money at them.

The franchise moving across to the ‘House of Mouse’ makes perfect sense and with Kathleen Kennedy still at the helm of Lucasfilm, I trust the right decisions will be made about story and progression. She has worked in tandem with one of the greatest film-makers ever, a certain Mr Spielberg, and her remaining in control is a very good thing for the future of the franchise.

It is also a very good time to bring a new series of films to life. They are expertly marshalling the Avengers individual stories with new Iron Man, Thor and Captain America films already in production. Warner Brothers meanwhile, have lost two of their biggest cash cows with the boy wizard and the man bat’s stories seemingly completed. True they have the Zack Snyder Superman reboot on the horizon and a possible collaboration with the man in the pointy-eared mask in the rumoured  ‘The Justice League’.

Along with The Hobbit, this is now the biggest film franchise on the slate.

How the story progresses is now the main point of focus. It will be set after Return of The Jedi but how long after is now the raging debate. Vader and The Emperor are gone. Leia and Han are in love and Luke is now the main remaining hope to establish the Jedi again.

Several novels have been written already, most notably Timothy Zahn’s trilogy where Leia and Han had children and they became the ‘new hope’. I doubt Disney will use anything aleady written.

Personally, I would like to see the story moved on a few years with possible cameos from the old guard but a new vibrant cast taking over the mantle, but still fighting the Sith, who like bad smells and Sunderland supporters, just won’t go away.

With the film being announced for a 2015 release, they will have to move pretty fast to make those decisions. What actor would turn his nose up at spinning a light sabre in a Star Wars film? Especially one that gets the franchise back on track and makes them a global name and very, very rich?

Also, probably the most important question. Who takes over the reins as director?

In my opinion, it has to go to someone who knows what they are doing. Someone used to carrying the complexities of a huge film like this. You can rule out Joss Whedon (probably) as he has already begun pre-production on Avengers 2 (unless Disney decides to ‘promote’ him to Star Wars and hand Avengers on to someone else).

Peter Jackson is an ideal fit but he is busy in New Zealand with a little trilogy of his own.

Rule out Spielberg too.

That leaves people like Danny Boyle, David Fincher, Sam Mendes (hot off Skyfall) and maybe a younger director who grew up heavily influenced by Star Wars and making his mark on filmmaking. Perhaps someone like Ben Affleck as a radical choice?

What about the man who has just walked away from a franchise he stuck defibrillators on and made Warner Brothers an absolute gargantuan pot of money? Could the man who brought the Bat back to life breathe new life into the Jedi? Christopher Nolan would be my choice of Director. Would he do it? I guess in the next few months we will wait and see.

Anyway, one thing is for sure. If I am still alive and kicking I will be sat in a dark room, nervous and excited just like I was when that Imperial Star Destroyer rumbled over my head as a child.

And as a little green fella may have said: For that day, I can not wait.

Teg.

The Walking Dead

Posted in Film and TV on September 13, 2012 by tegtalk
TV this time from me and as the new season is only a couple of weeks away I thought I would give The Walking Dead some blurb.  Now for me, this has been one of the best things on TV, if you haven’t seen it because you think its not your thing, I’m here to persuade you otherwise.
In a nutshell. Its based on, but not restricted by, a very successful comic by Robert Kirkman and its basically the never-ending story of a zombie apocalypse. The main protagonist is a Policeman called Rick Grimes, who wakes up after being shot in the line of duty in an abandoned hospital with the door to his room barred. From there on the tale follows his battle for survival and his quest to see if his family is still alive. Season One was under the creative control of  Frank Darabont, you may know some of his other work, The Shawshank Redemption and The Mist for starters, and though short, it was a solid showing. Some oddness happened after season One, and Darabont was relieved of his duties for reasons unknown  and Glenn Mazzara took the helm. Season 2 was a much longer affair, reaching 16 episodes and was a bit of a slow burner. Its actually much better watched in a box set than it was on TV., as you get a much better feeling for the pacing, but once you hit the second half of season 2. Well, it gets pretty intense and the feature length Finale is truly the single best episode of anything I have ever watched.

Almost certainly filmed on location in Sunderland outside the Cheesy Chip Shop

Bottom line here folks is this. Zombies, the end of the world as we know it and some devastatingly good SFX and gore on a mainstream network TV show. It was basically unimaginable and unpitchable at the time, but US Network AMC took a punt and brought it to our screens, and didn’t look back. It set the ratings calculators on fire, setting new highs for the network and for season premiere’s and finale’s.  And I’m off again, you don’t care about all this now, though, if you invest in the show, you might look back and realise what an impact it made and get an idea of what is expected for Season 3.
You think the show is about Zombies don’t you? Well its not. Its about people, people who are at their wits end and under some considerable duress. Its about going on a journey with these poor souls and seeing who makes it to the next stop on the way, its about the conversations with others who watch the show and asking “Would you have done that?” or “What would you do in that situation?”. Its about the shocks, the thrills, the spills, the moments where you forget to breathe and the moments when your jaw drops in sheer exasperation. This show delivers. Is it as sharp, clever and good as Boardwalk Empire or Breaking Bad?, maybe not, but it makes up for that in many other ways.
So there it is folks, Zombies on your tele screens. The Walking Dead Season 3 premieres on October the 14th, which just about gives you time to go out and rent the first two seasons, because trust me Season 3 is going to be something to behold and you need to be ready.
Incase you were wondering, should the zombies arrive, I’ll be in the pub. With a Shotgun. And a long pokey stick.
Grim
P.S Oh I forgot, there are webisodes on the Youtube that you may want to check out. A mini prequel to season 1.

Thank you Tony Scott

Posted in Film and TV on September 4, 2012 by tegtalk

RIP Tony.

It has been a couple of weeks since the death of Tony Scott and I wanted to put a few thoughts down about my respect for him. The Scott brothers have always been favourites of mine, possibly abetted by them being born in North Shields. I’ve always thought of them as ‘Tyneside lads done well’ and between them they have made some cracking films.

I think Ridley has always been regarded as the most successful of them because he has made the ‘bigger’ films to greater critical acclaim and commercial success. Undoubtedly it is hard to match films like Alien, Blade Runner and Gladiator, but to be fair he has made some stinkers too.

Tony graduated from making respected commercials for his brother’s company and moved into film-making with his first major work being The Hunger in 1983 starring David Bowie, Catherine Deneuve and Susan Sarandon. It is an interesting vampire tale about a woman who takes younger lovers and feeds on their blood guaranteeing them longer life until she gets bored or turned on by someone new. It’s very much a film of its time but I enjoyed it for its interesting tale and cinematography.

Scott struck gold with his next movie three years later and the story of a renegade pilot and his love for his older female tutor and all things that go fast. Top Gun became one of the highest grossing films of the 80s and turned Tom Cruise into a megastar. Scott’s visual trademarks were becoming apparent. The use of smoke, rapid-fire edits, coloured filters to distort normal light and shafts of light blazing through rooms. He had his style and he largely stuck with it through his career.

He then made three okay films in Beverly Hills Cop II, the Kevin Costner starring Revenge and he reunited with Cruise again to make Days of Thunder where they tried to remake Top Gun for race cars. All films made money and he was regarded as a ‘go-to’ action director.

He then went on make three of his best films. The excellent and seriously under-rated The Last Boy Scout with Bruce Willis as a down on his luck private detective who teams up with an ex-pro footballer to solve the death of his girlfriend. It has a fantastic script by Shane Long and Willis playing his best cynical, wise-mouth, hard-guy. It is full of superb scenes including the “touch me again and I’ll kill ya” one which shows what a bastard Willis’ character is. It really is a brilliant watch and one which should grace any film fans collection.

Next up was arguably his best film. True Romance is the story of a comic book shop worker falling for a prostitute, killing her pimp, inadvertently stealing his cocaine and then going to Hollywood to sell it to a film producer. It does not end well. It is a dazzling film with an eclectic cast including Gary Oldman, Brad Pitt, Val Kilmer as the ghost of Elvis and a career best turn from Christian Slater. It was written by a then relatively unknown Quentin Tarantino and it is magnificent.

No scene sums up the writing and directing better than the face- off between Dennis Hopper as Slater’s dad held hostage and threatened by Christopher Walken and his Italian mafia henchmen. It is truly an acting master class and a highlight in both actors careers in my opinion. True Romance was probably the film that drew Scott his greatest critical acclaim and established him again as a top notch film maker.

He then went on to make Crimson Tide and his first collaboration with Denzel Washington, who he would go on to work with another four times. It is a tense power struggle thriller set aboard a US nuclear submarine. It allows Scott to dazzle with superb set pieces, a rip-roaring script and all his trademark visuals.

One interesting story about the making of the film was a visit to set by Tarantino which allowed Washington to chastise him about his use of black people in his films as drug dealers and villains and over use of the ‘n’ word.  Scott was suitably impressed and he and Washington remained firm friends until his death.

Scott never really hit the heights of those three films until he made Man On Fire in 2004, although Enemy of the State with Will Smith in 1998 was a fast paced thriller and commercially successful.

Man On Fire is a truly masterful film. Scott picked a fantastic cast to aid Washington as an alcoholic ex assassin who takes a job in Mexico City as a bodyguard to a wealthy family’s daughter, becoming her surrogate father and best friend. It is up there with both actor and director’s best work.

It is visually stunning, has a terrific Brian Helgeland screenplay, astonishing performances and Denzel offing bad guys in increasingly interesting ways. The bomb in the well, arse takes some beating though! It is a film I can watch over and over because there is always something new that you take from it.

He then went on to make 5 more films, 3 of them with Washington. None really equalled any of his best work but were always fast paced and action packed with plenty on the screen to enjoy.

Tony Scott died on August 19th, 2012 by jumping off a bridge in California. The reason has yet to be determined. He left letters to his loved ones and business associates but the inquest into his death is as of yet, inconclusive.

I will be grateful to him for making interesting and exciting action films, perhaps he never made a masterpiece but he definitely made films I enjoy watching again and again. That to me is a sign of a director who has done a bloody good job.

Rest in peace Tony. God bless you.

Teg.

I Love Ron Burgandy

Posted in Film and TV on August 14, 2012 by tegtalk
Everyone has a film that they absolutely love, but is divisive between others. I’m coming right out and saying Anchorman is that film for me. It ranks right up there with the Star Wars trilogy , the oldest one, I’m still not even sure i should acknowledge the existence of the new one, and Ghostbusters as arguably my favourite films.Well, for today anyway.
Now, I’ll be honest I saw the DVD cover many times and thought “that looks a right crock of shit” instantly forgot about it. Back then I was mildly aware of Will Ferrell as being part of the Saturday Night Live posse and starring in Elf., Steve Carell wasn’t known for the comedy gold he is now and the rest of the main cast almost without exception I was ignorant of.
It took the ever inspired Mrs Grim to buy it one day and make me sit down and watch it, and so begrudgingly I did.
Fast forward to now and I have probably seen Anchorman about 15-20 times.I don’t think I have ever laughed so much at one film, especially not consistently over multiple viewings. I get carried away and start giggling and chuckling early on and very quickly progress to full blown belly laughs and the occasional laughter tear ruling down my face. Every time I watch this film, it gives me something new to laugh at, 60% of the time.  (ok thats a little in joke)
If you haven’t seen it the plot is this. Its 1970’s San Diego and Ron Burgundy and the Channel 4 News Team are the top news channel. Ron is the titular Anchorman and very much the man everyone wants to be. When a driven female news presenter with aspirations of being the very first female Anchorlady is recruited by the network it becomes obvious that the status quo is going to be upset. I’m not going to pick it any further apart, mainly because if you haven’t seen the film and decide you want to after this, it will be as new to you as it was to me.
If you look hard at the cast, you should be able to recognise more than one or two faces and not just front and centre, there are a few people who are much more famous now in relatively minor roles.
So, why do I love this film? It is stupid, dumb, schoolyard humour done by adults. Its every dumbass antic you have ever done distilled and added to the formula of the film. Set back in the 70’s it doesn’t have to be as PC as the world demands of us now and the film flourishes because of that. Its a hark back to a time when news wasn’t just found on the internet, when cell phones and satellite images were still Sci Fi. When it was the people who brought you the news and not the technology were almost as important as the news itself. Its a film about friends, about social change , changes in the workplace, but most importantly its a film about Ron Burgandy. As it turns out, that is still more than enough for me. I defy even the most humourless of you out there to watch this film and for it not to raise your spirits and summon the odd bout of laughter.
Well thats it, for a film I truly love, its a pretty short review right? The thing is if I really start going at it, i may as well just send you all a copy instead, which would be expensive.
You can buy this though for about £3 nowadays in any supermarket or music shop and probably less again online. Take the punt its worth it.
Grim

Ted ! Ahhhhhhahhhhhhhh  Saviour of the Universe!

Posted in Film and TV on August 2, 2012 by tegtalk

Well maybe not.

Seth McFarlane’s effort to transcribe his lightening in a bottle formula of comedy, from small screen animation to big screen movie falls a bit shy of the mark for me.

I’ll not bother too much with the plot, mainly because its poor and if you have seen an episode of American Dad or Family Guy, then you will get the gist pretty quickly, and I’m going to try my best not to divulge too many spoilers.

The film itself has a few good set pieces and I will not deny I had a bit of a giggle at some of Ted’s antics, the Supermarket sex play with another cashier was amusing, mainly because I don’t think I have seen a Teddy Bear do that before.

Thats the main crux of the film, Ted does a lot of things you haven’t really seen a Teddy bear do, smoke Pot,  have sex, swear like a trooper, but in reality, if this film was about 2 guys, it would never have even been pitched, never mind made.

 

Its the actors that I want to talk about though.  MacFarlane voices Ted, and that gives me immediate problems. He sounds like Peter Griffin, Brian the Dog and Stan Smith. Because he is.  MacFarlane’s voice is perhaps too distinctive and he is a victim of his own success in a way, and knowing that Ted sounds like them ( Ted even says at one point that he doesn’t sound like Peter Griffin) its hard to pull out of that universe.

A task made no less easier by the inclusion of Mila Kunis.  Hard not to look at her and think ” Wow what a stunner she is!”. All I think is ” Wow Meg Griffin got ALOT of plastic surgery”. They aren’t the only Family Guy/ American Dad cronies in the cast though. Patrick Stewart pops up as a narrator, Alex Borstein as Johns mother, I’m going to stop listing them. But seriously ,just compare the credit list of Family Guy and American Dad to Ted and you will see where the problems lie.  MacFarlane has essentially made himself a movie with his mates from his other shows, and as such the film suffers from a weird sort of character displacement, where you are not entirely sure if you are caught in a live action version of his other shows or a stand alone movie?

A quick note on Mark Wahlberg though. He’s probably the best thing in the film, even with it being about a talking Teddy. He plays John Bennett pretty well and carries a lot of the heart in the film, from his loathing of the C-word to his fear of thunder and lightening, and has arguably my favourite line in the film, which to be fair is typical Macfarline.

 

Lori: Can I give you a ride home?

John: No thanks I’ll walk. I might get raped but if I do I’ll know its my fault because of what I’m wearing

 

MacFarlane’s comedy is hit and miss. If you like his other shows you will enjoy the crude laughs and rude jokes,  but there is nothing subtile here, and as previously mentioned, quite a few of the laughs come from seeing the bear do his thing. ( literally in some places)

 

If Seth MacFarlane made this film with a less nepotistic cast, and allowed his ego to step aside and let someone else voice Ted, this film might have been one of those that was a bit more than the sum of its parts. Unfortunately it is what it is really.  A few good laughs set in a vaguely familiar universe with a competent if not overfamiliar cast. Personally, I’d wait for the DVD to come out and have a few beers while watching it to pass a quiet Friday night in.

 

Oh one last thing. The title of this piece. Sorry but you are going to have to watch the film. I did say no spoilers.

 

 

Grim

 

Ted wasn’t happy with the studio’s choice of voice actor.

Beware The Moon and watch this film. Now.

Posted in Film and TV on August 2, 2012 by tegtalk

Crikey, my nails need cutting.

I don’t know about you, but there are certain movies I gravitate back to. Nights when you aren’t tired enough to sleep and you want to stick a film on you are familar with, a film that you dont have to concentrate too hard on plot, characterisation or dialogue. A film you could probably recite and certainly have seen end a thousand plus times. Some are obvious to blokes of my age: The Great Escape, Escape to Victory, Alien, Die Hard, The Godfather, Goodfellas etc etc.

One film I never tire of was released in 1981 and is mainly about two American lads in their late teens, who come to England for a summer vacation and ultimately die. Both of them. It is directed and written by John Landis, while he worked as an assitant on ‘Kelly’s Heroes’ in Yugolsavia and witnessed a gypsy burial where the corpse was buried feet first, covered in garlic as to not rise from the grave.

The film is ‘An American Werewolf in London’ and I love it.

From the opening set up of meeting the Americans and establishing they are good mates simply by piss-taking, nose-running dialogue through to the final distraught sobs from the lovely Jenny Agutter (Unusually for any film, it was filmed completely in sequence) the film is a joy to watch.

It moves at a hurtling pace and is relatively short at 1 hour 37 minutes, but it establishes characters and relationships (David and Nurse Price do jump into bed in a relatively short time but you understand why and how it happens) and includes some of the most tense moments of 80s cinema and a whole boat load of quotable lines (“Mummy a naked American man stole my balloons”) and of course the piece de resistance, the werewolf.

Designed and created by Rick Baker and based on his dog Bosko, it still stands out now as a piece of technical brilliance. So much so that the Academy Awards created a Best Make-up Oscar and awarded it to Baker. Have a look at the werewolf transformation clip on Youtube and if you are seeing it for the first time I challenge you not to go “Bloody hell”.

Apart from the two American actors it is packed with established, top-notch British actors and an early appearence from a young Rik Mayall.  The script contains great dialogue and elements of surprise and pathos, the sight of Jack decaying before my eyes gets me every time. Oh and for people brought up on films like Saw and Hostel now there is still gore aplenty, each subsequent werewolf attacks get bloodier and bloodier.

I really can’t recommend this film enough. It is up there in my top 5 of all time and no doubt can be picked up for a couple of quid on ebay or amazon or wherever (try and get the 25th Anniversary edition as there are some great extras on it).

A couple of more things, every song in the film is about the moon and has that word in the title and like every Landis film, it features a movie within a movie ‘See You Next Wednesday’. Here in the guise of a 70s porno viewed in a seedy Soho cinema.

Finally. Beware the Moon and stay on the road when you walk around at night because you never know if something has strayed from those moors.

Teg.

Did The Dark Knight Rise and Deliver?

Posted in Film and TV on August 2, 2012 by tegtalk

Nolan made Teg, Grim and Batman sad.

My love for Batman goes back for as long as I can remember. From the comics I read as a kid through the camp 60’s show to the Tim Burton films. When released the first Burton Batman was excellent. Nicholson’s Joker was charismatic and destructive and Keaton’s Batman had a suit we as kids could only fantasise about. The second film was a strange snow covered blockbuster that Burton probably made mainly to get Pfeiffer in the cat-suit. Maybe she had turned down his chat-up lines. The third one was a neon mess of a film. Joel Schumacher decided that more was indeed more and hoyed so many characters at it that some, he hoped might stick. Carrey was an interesting Riddler (Val Kilmer had the jaw to be the best looking Bat though until he decided Twinkies were more important than the sequel) Ah the sequel. The film that Clooney even admitted “killed the batman”

Fast forward and the bloke who directed a strange backwards film with a tattooed Guy Pearce was given the chance to resurrect The Bat. Batman Begins snuck in and blew the die-hards away. Nolan got it. He got the back story. He made it real. He took away the neon and the silliness and took the nipples off the suit. He gave the Batman back to the people who loved him. The fans had a hero to be proud of once again. And then he made the sequel.

I remember seeing the heist trailer for the first time. The Joker revealed as the organiser of it and thinking this is it, Nolan has the balls to take it big. A juggernaut of a film, that made everyone sit up and take notice of the legend and sheer scale that a truly great superhero film could deliver. Not just a comic book movie ‘adaptation’ but a real summer action blockbuster

The Dark Knight to me is an almost perfect film, boosted by not just the huge performance of Heath Ledger’s Joker (sadly missed because I think he was an actor that always gave a surprising performance) but the nuanced performances of the other actors that made the film. And the story. And the script.

And then we get to the Dark Knight Rises and I got possibly the biggest kick in the nuts I’d experienced as a Nolan/Dark Knight/Batman fanatic. I had spent months looking forward to this film, possibly years. I’d lapped up the virals and used the teaser pictures as backgrounds and screensavers.  I was happy with the casting and was looking forward to Tom Hardy, a superb actor, portraying the badass Bane.

And then I saw it and it fell apart. There are so many holes in the plot I could drive a Tumbler through them. A few examples: Why would Bruce Wayne expel Alfred after one argument? Why would he sleep with Miranda Tait after knowing her for 5 minutes after grieving for Rachel for 8 years? Why would the ‘baddies’ go through all they go through and then not just blow the bomb up? Why do the ‘good’ people of Gotham turn on their rich so easily and quickly? How does Bruce get back into Gotham after he escapes the pit when every entrance is guarded? How the hell does he get back from whatever country he is in when he escapes with no money or nothing at all? There are so many plot holes and questions. Just google them and you will find lists.

Nolan did not deliver. He did not establish relationships. He lets characters make strange decisions. He does not explain the reasons why people act in the way they do. He turns Bane into a bloody henchman.

For me, Nolan cobbled together stories from the Batman world to get the trilogy finished because he had lost interest in it after the success and probable heartache of The Dark Knight. He knew making this film was the end for him. In his interview in Empire Magazine he claims he wrote the last scene first. Maybe the whole film was to get to that point for him. Wash his hands of it but leave Warner Brothers with the option of carrying on or rebooting it after they have thrown a load of money (and made even more) from the new Superman film(s)?

Anyway. The Dark Knight Rises left me with one of my most disappointing trips ever to a cinema. A film I wanted to fall in love with, cheated me.

Teg