Wednesday, 13 October 2010

District Mine - An Ace In The Hole

Today's big news story is the rescue of the 33 Chilean miners who have been trapped in a cave-in for what seems like forever.  Now while it is great news that they are finally getting out, the way my mind works is that it immediately reminded me of one of the films that I had watched for (500) Films of Empire called Ace In The Hole.  It concerned an unscrupulous out-of-work journalist who was first at the scene of a man trapped in a cave-in and delayed and manipulated the rescue attempts in order that he could build the story to sell to the press.
Now of course I'm not saying that this is the case here but it does have a hint of life imitating art imitating life, with Sky News apparently having a countdown from 33 to 1 as the miners come out.
It is a forgotten gem of a film that anyone who has been following the current news events should watch.  It is tough to track down but is available on iTunes.

385 - Ace In The Hole - 4 stars
As I head towards the finishing line, I am seeing a lot of the highly rated so called 'classics' of cinema, so it is nice that the Top 500 can still throw up a relatively unseen gem like Ace In The Hole.
Also called The Big Carnival it revolves around Tatum, a ruthless journalist who exploits the situation when a man gets trapped in a cave-in so that it becomes a media circus that he has control over.
There seems to be a theme running through this list that all the films that deal with journalism, depict journalist as unscrupulous, amoral douchebags who will do anything to get ahead (Sweet Smell Of Success, Network).
Now we all this type of story.  A heartless cynic exploits someone for their own advantage before eventually revealing a heart of gold and learns the error of their ways.
But in the hands of Billy Wilder, who also wrote and directed Double Indemnity and Sunset Boulevard which hardly show people as beacons of light, and Kirk Douglas, that character arc never seems like coming before it will be too late.
Douglas delivers another great performance and has terrific screen presence.  Tatum is a nasty piece of work; self-absorbed, he exploits people, not afraid to slap a woman, a hard drinker and totally heartless, but Douglas does his best to make the audience empathise and connect with his character nontheless.
To say anymore about the story could risk spoiling the film, so instead just seek out this cracking little gem of a film and another example of the old saying "They don't make 'em like that anymore".

Monday, 11 October 2010

Ten reasons why you should "LIKE" The Social Network

Initially I had quite a bit of sceptisism about The Social Network, or as most people simply refer to it "the Facebook movie". After all, most films based on computer games are terrible so what hope could there be for a film based on a computer website?
Well the odds have been well and truly defied, as David Fincher has delivered one of, if not the film of the year. Inception currently is my number one film but Social Network may eclipse it after a second viewing.
Below are ten reasons why everyone should get past the stigma of "the movie about Facebook" and watch The Social Network.

1. The opening scene
It is the best opening scene since Inglourious Basterds and these five minutes are better than most of the films that have been released in 2010. It tells you everything you need to know about Zuckerberg and that the man who created the biggest social network in the world cannot interact socially himself. The crackling dialogue that cracks back and forth between Zuckerberg and his girlfriend who is breaking up with him has the feeling of a Forties film that many argue "they don't write them like that anymore", but this proves that they can.
2. Aaron Sorkin
The man responsible for the script and the wonderful dialogue is the man behind The West Wing and should start using his talent to write his acceptance speech for the Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay. Anyone who can deliver a 160 page screenplay that zips by in 2 hours deserves the plaudits (the rule of thumb for screenplay is that each page equates to a minute of screen time).
3. Jesse Eisenberg
He is the thinking man's Michael Cera and with his portrayal of Mark Zuckerberg is fantastic and should mean that he will escape Cera's fate of being accused of always playing himself. In the past Jesse has always played likeable, nervous geeks but Zuckerberg (in this film) is not a particularly likeable character and Eisenberg really raises his game to give him a coldness to his eyes that while emotionless on the outside, you can see that internally he is processing things like a computer.
4. David Fincher
He has really matured and this is his most complete film since Zodiac. He has forgone his traditional love of striking, complicated visual trickery that overwhelmed Panic Room and Button and focused on the story to deliver a drama that moves at the pace of a thriller and feels like truly effortless filmmaking.

5. The score
Trent Reznor was responsible for one of the most famous music cues in recent film history with his "Hello Zepp" cue from Saw which has been used in every one of the 102 sequels since, but working with Atticus Ross, they have delivered a fantastic electronic score that generates the hum and buzz of computers and evokes memories of the score to Fight Club, also by Fincher.

6. The new Spider-Man, Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and that kid from N*Sync are in it
Use this as a chance to see the talents of Andrew Garfield, Rooney Mara who will take on these iconic roles next year, and also proof that JT can actually act, proving a great choice to play the sleazy, seductive Sean Parker whose influence drives a wedge between Mark and Eduardo.
7. Citizen Kane
Some reviewers have made comparisons to "the greatest film ever made" which is a very risky thing to do, but I believe they are valid. Like Kane, this is a story about a man made up from testimonies of other people so you never get to know the real Mark Zuckerberg. It even has a nice Rosebud style moment at the end of the film that might explain his motivations.

8. The Winklevoss Twins.
It has been said that CGI should only be used to enhance the story, not become the story and in The Social Network, Fincher has one of the best and most subtle uses of CGI in recent memory. The twins are credited as Armie Hammer and Josh Pence but really these identical twins both have the head, face and voice of Armie Hammer which was digitally grafted onto the body of Josh Pence. Watch the film and you will hardly be able to notice the effect.

9. It makes scenes of people sitting around using computers interesting and exciting!
10. It shows that geeks who create websites getting success, money and getting laid.
I hope that the same is true for myself and my blog!

Friday, 8 October 2010

Unstoppable... but only for 100 minutes, therefore it will eventually stop!

Potential False Advertising Alert: If Unstoppable's running time is even slightly over or under 100 minutes I will be extremely annoyed!

Thursday, 7 October 2010

The Show Must Go On...

Now that my (500) Films of Empire challenge is over, I am spending most of my spare time rehearsing for a couple of musical theatre productions and am using my blog in a shameless attempt to sell tickets to the shows!

First up I will be playing Lt. Brannigan in Guys and Dolls at Aberdeen Arts Centre from Wed 20th - Sat 23rd October at 7.30pm.
Tickets can be bought from Aberdeen Box Office.

Then a couple of weeks later I'll be part of the cast of The Producers performing at His Majesty's Theatre from Wed 3rd - Sat 6th November at 7.30pm.
I guarantee that this will be one of the best amateur productions that you will ever see.
If you need any more convincing there will be a giant dancing swastika and I will be dressed as a Nazi, an old lady and a member of the Village people, all in one evening.
Tickets for that can also be bought from the box office.
Hopefully I will see some of you there.

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

I have a bad feeling about this...

Last night I finally managed to watch Fanboys, the Star Wars comedy that had been delayed for several years thanks to the Galactic Empire otherwise known as Harvey Weinstein.

The story concerns a group of die-hard Star Wars fans who have drifted apart but join forces to travel across America in 1998 to steal a copy of The Phantom Menace so their friend who is dying of cancer can see it before he dies.

What follows is a standard teenage road trip movie where a large percentage of the usual "dick and fart jokes" and naked breasts are substituted for geeky Star Wars references, celebrity cameos and an on-going battle with a group of Trekkies.

This film should have been a Star Wars geek's wet dream, the movie that any fan would have wanted to make.

But unfortunately it isn't.

The film struggles to find a cohesive tone with the main culprit being the cancer part of the storyline. It drifts in and out of the film and doesn't provide enough emotional weight until too late in the film. This is due to interference by Harvey who wanted to excise the entire subplot.

However what was most disappointing was the discovery that my love affair with Star Wars is over :-(

I should have loved all the repeated lines, using the Jedi mind trick to get a girl to remove her clothes, et all, but it all fell a little flat with me.

The problem was that while trying to evoke the nostalgia of how we all loved the original trilogy, it just brought to the surface all the feelings of disappointment of the final results of the prequels.

That being said, it did have a fantastic final line as the group finally sit down to watch The Phantom Menace, one of the guys turns to the others and says "Dude, what if it sucks?"... and there is the bonus of seeing Kristen Bell dressed as Princess Leia in the slave girl bikini.