Reviews - Netribution Thu, 18 Dec 2014 12:15:14 +0000 Joomla! - Open Source Content Management en-gb LFF review: 12 Years A Slave

ejioforfassbenderThe third feature from artist-turned-director Steve McQueen needs little introduction.

It's a visceral, unpredictable tale of life as a slave in 1840s America, based on the true story of Solomon Northup (played by Chiwetel Ejiofor, who, as ever, disappears effortlessly into the demanding role), who was born a free man in New York.


]]> (Suchandrika Chakrabarti) reviews Sun, 20 Oct 2013 17:05:59 +0000
LFF review: Captain Phillips

held at gunpoint


The 57th BFI London Film Festival opened with this belter of a thriller, based on the real-life hijacking of a US container ship by Somali pirates in 2009.

Tom Hanks stars as Captain Richard Phillips, an American, whose job it is to steer the MV Maersk Alabama through the danger-filled Somali Basin to mombasa, Kenya.

(watch out for spoilers below)

]]> (Suchandrika Chakrabarti) reviews Tue, 15 Oct 2013 19:52:53 +0000
LFF preview: No and Grassroots


Grassroots and No are both political films based on real events that concentrate on the competition: to win a local election in the former film, and to win a regime-changing plebiscite in the latter.
The fact that No succeeds as an engaging film to such a greater extent than Grassroots shows that political races on film need to be contested by sharply-outlined protagonists. Furthermore, while there can be laughs, playing the whole contest for laughs kills the anticipation. 
]]> (Suchandrika Chakrabarti) Feature film Mon, 15 Oct 2012 02:45:12 +0000
LFF review: We Need to Talk about Kevin tildakev

Warning: spoilers (as far as I can spoil the plot of a very famous 8-year-old book for you)

Ah. "We need to talk about Kevin." The words that the eponymous Kevin (Ezra Miller/Jasper Newell/ Rocky Duer)'s mother Eva (Tilda Swinton) never manages to say to her sweet, blinkered husband Franklin (John C Reilly).

Lynne Ramsay's fine adaptation of the very unloveable 2003 novel dispenses with the epistolary form of the original, and is instead structured around Eva's life post-massacre, with flashes of the past forcing continually pushing to the surface. Kevin's actions have defined her current situation; the film shows us how.

]]> (Suchandrika Chakrabarti) Feature film Tue, 18 Oct 2011 05:38:30 +0000
LFF review: Shame


Artist/director Steve McQueen's second feature (following 2008's Hunger), follows the unravelling New York existence of sex addict Brandon (Michael Fassbender). Living alone, he (seemingly) happily picks up girls in bars, orders prostitutes like takeout and masturbates in the work loos after watching porn on his computer. It's a tad compulsive, but his outward charm and ability to just about hold it together is keeping people fooled.

Then, his volatile, attention-seeking sister Sissy (Carey Mulligan) turns up to stay in his apartment, and things slowly fall apart.

]]> (Suchandrika Chakrabarti) Feature film Mon, 17 Oct 2011 22:37:20 +0000
LFF opens with Fernando Meirelles' 360

juderachelThe 55th BFI London Film Festival opens tonight! 

Oh. Fernando Meirelles. This is no City of God. This isn't even Love Actually.

It just. Doesn't. Work. So... there's sex trafficking, infidelity, infidelity, people meeting on a plane, loooooads of interminable airport scenes, a brilliant bit of Anthony Hopkins in AA (but his character never rings true), pretty brunettes bringing sad guys redemption through their smiles, a thumping and terribly obvious score (we're with Russian people now, does it sound Russian enough???)... 

It never feels as though there is a meaning behind these superficially interconnected lives. And if there was meant to be a main character, well, giving her a bit of voiceover at the start and at the end... that isn't consistent enough. Sadly.

There are several narrative strands but only one or two will keep you sitting there waiting for more. It's a shame.

Don't worry though; the London Film Festival has a lot more to offer. As for Meirelles? Hopefully he'll get back on form asap.

The London Film Festival is running 12-27 October 2011. For more information, please go to

]]> (Suchandrika Chakrabarti) Feature film Thu, 13 Oct 2011 02:57:33 +0000
Is this The Hour? Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy


The interiors of this latest adaptation of John Le Carré's 1973-set novel look and feel like just like the those of the BBC's recent drama series, The Hour, set in their 1956 newsroom. Even the plots are alike - there's a Russian spy in our very English midst, which one is he (it's never gonna be a she)?

The main clues as to which era we're in are found outside - the odd black or Asian person popping up in the corner of a frame, a girl in hotpants, the lovely cars. Inside the Circus [the highest level of  British intelligence], though, it's all closed and brownish and peopled by grey men. The Cold War is still very much on, and this film sets the scene expertly.

]]> (Suchandrika Chakrabarti) Feature film Wed, 07 Sep 2011 21:33:25 +0000
Sheffield DocFest and Money : The Greatest Movie Ever Sold

the_greatest_movie_ever_sold_posterMorgan Spurlock’s POM Wonderful Presents: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold officially opened the 18th Sheffield Documentary Film Festival on Wednesday evening, also providing the doc with its European premiering slot. Product placement and chasing sponsorship lolly was the film’s raison d’être, and as I write this I’m drinking a bottle of POM Wonderful itself, dished out free in the delegate centre. Yes, that’s right; the title of the movie is the name of a pomegranate drink.

"Spurlock arrived for the Q and A in a blazer adorned with sponsor logos, like the Lewis Hamilton of doc"

Spurlock does film about excess: too much liver fat in Super Size Me and now too much product placement in POM Wonderful. POM, the company, got the title slot as they gave him the most money to make the doc - $1 million: $400K upfront, £100K for the ad (there were ads through the film for various products including horse mane shampoo) and the last $500K for delivering on rigorous media impression and exposure targets. All the other sponsors, from petrol stations to deodorant brands, made up the remaining half a million. And it was not easy money: Spurlock himself cold-called 600 firms and it took 9 months to get the first yes. With a 1.5% rate of return on the successes versus the no’s, it’s a time investment strategy that’s pretty low yield.

But taking the desire for objects - and the desire to sell them - barefacedly into the ‘transparent’ world of the doc, Morgan seeks to turn the taint of lucre association on its head by dispensing with the secrecy. But the hallowed opinions on screen of no less than Noam Chomsky and various professors of media point out that once you dip your toe into the commodification pool, you’re sucked in to swimming with the sharks and may be ideologically eaten by the monster you seek to parody. Spurlock arrived for the Q and A in a blazer adorned with sponsor logos, like the Lewis Hamilton of doc. A concern is; does high irony shake off the brand association? And Spurlock’s ‘brand’ – what made him an investment option in the first place is - according to an agency who do this stuff - ‘mindful and playful’. With everything up for sale now, even our personalities have a price. Can the ‘objectivity’ of the doc filmmaker as a ‘trust’ aspect of brand be sustained after the immersion in the world of merchandise?

However, the film itself is zippy, pacy and funny. The first third is highly entertaining with knock-backs flying and Spurlock’s pitching sessions to the marketing men a reminder that he’s always a high energy, engaging guy. And, nicely, no-one gets to look bad – it’s the antithesis of a Baron Cohen approach. Spurlock isn’t taking the Michael, and when he’s asked by a would-be sponsor if he’s ‘just blowing sunshine up their ass’ for the money, we know he is – and so do they. With such candour and personality amongst the sponsors, they become doc characters in their own right - they even got a standing ovation at the screening in Sundance.

"With everything up for sale now, even our personalities have a price. Can the ‘objectivity’ of the doc filmmaker as a ‘trust’ aspect of brand be sustained after the immersion in the world of merchandise?"Whether the film does ‘make us more aware’ of placement pervasiveness – Spurlock’s claim in the Q and A - is questionable. Doc audiences are arguably already ‘aware’. It was after all teenagers in US schools exposed in class to ads that provoked the idea for the movie in the first place. His intention is that POM Wonderful follows Super Size Me as an educational resource. We wish him luck in tackling the multi-billion dollar product placement industry and de-programming the craving for brand that so much of modern life is defined by.

But Spurlock was bold in asserting that doc makers can’t be too purist about where money comes from – US foundations doling out money for docs are often funded through business after all. And if even the public-good realm of non-fiction film may seem like a longer shot in terms of return for investors, Spurlock now realises he undersold himself: he not only met all the targets for the money given, he surpassed them. As he said, he didn’t plan for success.

Having been too late for a packed out Just Do It, we went to see Sky’s production of Flying Monsters 3D, first shown on their 3D channel Christmas Day 2010, so this is no journalistic coup. However, the demographically-minded title belies a fascinating, thoughtful and gob-smacking looking film. And here was another documentary with an educational remit – it will show in museums for 2 or 3 years, and has had outings in IMAX and other theatres to date. This was the flip of the shoestring budget doc, so I asked in the Q and A how much it cost. ‘Lots’ was the abrupt and very non-commital reply from the commissioner. An icy air descended in the auditorium. The line producer swiftly attempted to lift the mood with a jolly ‘and more!’ I forgot we were dealing with Sky. We’d been exposed to a culture of transparency and plain-talking with POM Wonderful, so talking about money seemed culturally acceptable – it is why the Festival exists.  But Sky’s remit is to corner and conquer markets – even those with a public service character. I guess the rather fabulous amounts they will pay to dazzle in the 3D world is not an investment they’re comfortable about sharing yet.

Documentary as a Festival phenomenon is, at Sheffield, a success, big or low budget. This year it’s more delegates than before – over 2000 - and more decision makers – over 200. How this pans out with all that austerity around is yet to be seen. But no-one ever went into documentary with thoughts of mega-money on their mind. Apart, possibly, from Sky.

]]> (Ann McCluskey) Feature film Sat, 11 Jun 2011 00:51:47 +0000
How to Light and Shoot Interviews for TV and Video

lighting-interviews-dvd-pack-shotTelevision interviews for set-piece programmes somehow always get everything just right; the framing of the subject on screen, the facial modelling that gives definition to the features without making the face into something more like a silhouette. In the best interview examples, the lighting camera operator’s skill appears to put an apparently 3-D image on to a 2-D television screen – and in HD too.

Nigel Cooper is a lighting camera operator who regularly does all this and more, to get quality interview images. Video images looking as rich as film, where the viewers eye is focused on the perfectly natural-looking subject, concentrate full attention on what the subject has to say, which is the whole point of an interview.
If you aspire to upping your camera work to this level, you need this instructional DVD as much as you need hard and soft lights, gels and gobos. It will take you to where you want to be within 30 minutes, followed by practice from you and a patient model.

It is a slick, but easy-to-follow production, in sensible steps presented by Nigel Cooper himself. The presentation style never patronises and a clear delivery at a sensible speed, allows the viewer enough time to absorb quite intricate details ata comfortable rate.  ]]> (James MacGregor) DVD Fri, 15 Apr 2011 01:22:19 +0000 Special Edition # 46

Do you want some DVDs? Then you've come to the right place squire as I have Special Edition # 46 all ready and waiting with some tremendously fun new films to see you through the days. This time around we've got violence, corruption and a half shark and half octopus. As you do. 

Danny Trejo plays a man whose family have killed and whose beloved town has been corrupted out of all recognition. Knowing that justice must be done – and deciding that grassroots political action and open dialogue are just not the thing for him – he picks up a large knife and starts cutting a bloody swathe of retribution. Machete (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment) sees Robert Rodriguez return to tremendously over-the-top form with a film that has more insanity than Charlie Sheen’s diary. Trejo – as the titular anti-hero – is his usual brilliantly stoic self as he hacks his way through assorted bad guys in such an inventive way that you do sometimes fear for Rodriguez’ sanity.  Also, to the film’s credit, if you look beyond the blood and nudity you’ll also discover some pretty impassioned ideas about immigration and the treatment of Mexicans in particular. But mostly you can enjoy the sheer visceral pleasure of Machete and his now legendary statement that means he won’t be getting a sponsorship deal from Orange any time soon (and if that really confuses you, just watch the film….)

]]> (Laurence Boyce) Special Edition Fri, 25 Mar 2011 15:25:57 +0000
Special Edition # 45

Special Edition # 45 marks my return after a hiatus due to things that I can’t tell you about. Well, I could tell but then I’d have to kill you.Which would be a bit unfair given that there are lots of lovely DVDs due out very soon. So, rather than dwell on an emotional reunion, let’s just get straight on with it shall we?

A Facebook movie? Whatever next? A musical about My Space? An opera about Google? Not to worry. In The Social Network (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment) David Fincher has confounded the critics and created a compelling drama. Mark Zuckerberg is a precocious Harvard student who, with the help of his friend Eduardo Saverin, creates ‘’. As the site explodes in popularity, Zuckerberg and his colleagues begin to taste the life of celebrities with all the money and fame that it brings. But popularity breeds jealousy and Zuckerberg finds himself in the middle of numerous lawsuits. But has he brought the problems on himself? Aaron Sorkin manages to keep the technogeek banter to a minimum and tell a tale of how pride always comes before a fall. Fincher’s direction is compelling utilising a complex structure whilst Jesse Eisenberg is excellent in the lead role alongside the likes of Andrew Garfield and Justin Timberlake. Like all good filmmaking, this takes inspiration from the unlikeliest of places and shows that whilst technology moves on, the human capacity for hubris remains the same. This is a two edition with commentaries and featurettes. 


]]> (Laurence Boyce) Special Edition Fri, 18 Feb 2011 19:13:55 +0000
Special Edition # 44

We’ve just passed Halloween which means that it’s horror movie a-go-go as we have more remakes of classic scary movies (which, alongside the fact that Scream 4 has been announced, seems to indicate that the horror genre has run out of ideas entirely) and one film that is so disgusting that I think that I may not be able to eat for quite a while. Still, nothing’s as scary as George Osbourne. Special Edition # 44 has survived a cut in funding and I’m here to give a rundown of what to buy over the coming month. That’s assuming that you’ve got any money left.

Jackie Earle Haley gets pizza smeared all over his face (OK, I am sure that the make-up job is a bit more elaborate than that) as he takes on the iconic role of Freddy Kreuger in the remake of A Nightmare on Elm Street (Warner Brothers Home Entertainment). For those of you not familiar with Wes Craven’s 80s terrorfest, the film follows Krueger, a child molester turned evil demon, who is capable of killing people in their dreams. A group of teenagers must fight him whilst resisting the urge to succumb to sleep and enter the world in which Freddy has control. Whilst the film takes the character of Freddy back to his darker roots (losing the one-liners and bringing his background as a paedophile more to the fore) it all feels rather by the numbers and seems constrained by the history of the franchise even though it’s ostensibly a reboot. Hayley seems almost pantomime as Krueger whilst the young cast of victims do nothing to distinguish themselves from the usual cast of cannon fodder that horror films love to line up. Ultimately it’s another limp attempt at starting all over again. Why can’t people do something original...


]]> (Laurence Boyce) Special Edition Wed, 10 Nov 2010 23:10:20 +0000
LFF Preview: Black Swan


Darren Aronofsky's Black Swan will screen tonight at the London Film Festival's Jameson Gala. Starring Natalie Portman, Vincent Cassel, Mila Kunis and Winona Ryder, this drama/horror is set in the physically and mentally demanding world of New York ballet.

Never thought that a film about ballet would have you on the edge of your seat? Think again. It's less about ballet than about perfectionism, competition and control - the last word comes up again and again. Nina (Portman) is too controlled a dancer, says her over-attentive director, Tomas (Cassel), but, in fact, she is losing control of everything in her life.


]]> (Suchandrika Chakrabarti) Feature film Fri, 22 Oct 2010 23:11:50 +0000
The London Film Festival opens tonight with Never Let Me Go

The London Film Festival opens tonight with a screening of Never Let Me Go, an adaptation of the 2005 Kazuo Ishiguro novel, starring Carey Mulligan, Keira Knightley and Andrew Garfield. The screenplay was written by Alex Garland, and the movie directed by Mark (One Hour Photo) Romanek.

The story takes place in an alternate England, where medical research has solved most illnesses, and the average life expectancy has passed 100 years old by 1967.

These great developments have come about thanks to the National Donor Programme, where human clones - who cannot reproduce but do think, feel and age just like us - are brought up in institutions and taught to accept their futures as organ donors. They will give away parts of their body, one by one, until they "complete," usually before the age of 30.

Kathy H, our 28-year-old narrator, is a carer watching a donor be put under for his operation. She starts to reminisce about her time at boarding school - a place called Hailsham - and about her time growing up with her friends Tommy and Ruth.

Warning: spoilers ahead

]]> (Suchandrika Chakrabarti) Feature film Wed, 13 Oct 2010 20:25:38 +0000
Special Edition # 43

It’s heartening to know that there is still life in the British film industry yet as Special Edition # 43 opens with an exciting example of some of the talent that this country has to offer. With the imminent closure of the UK Film Council and worries about arts cuts it’s films such as Skeletons that sure us that UK talent need to be nurtured and supported. And, as always, Laurence Boyce also wades through numerous other DVDs for your viewing edification.

Winner of the Best British Film at this year’s Edinburgh Film Festival, Skeletons (Soda Pictures) is a truly unique and genre-bending slice of cinema. Davis and Bennett are a pair of psychic detectives who travel to numerous houses around Middle England and help purge them of supernatural influence utilising mysterious methods. But one job, to help a housewife whose husband disappeared a few years previously, proves resistant to their methods things take a turn for the (even more) weird. It’s one of those films where talking about it slightly ruins it as it’s constantly surprising and obtuse. Director Nick Whitfield conjures up a wonderfully strange atmosphere and has made a film that recalls the likes of Terry Gilliam and Michel Gondry in its assured creation of a world and assorted strange characters. It’s also great that Whitfield has created something that is recognisably British yet at odds with the vein of social realism that typifies the majority of UK cinema nowadays. Just go watch it and enjoy being wrong-footed, creeped out and thoroughly entertained at the same time. 

]]> (Laurence Boyce) Special Edition Fri, 01 Oct 2010 15:22:02 +0000 Special Edition #41

As always, the summer becomes a time when the focus is on the spectacle of cinema-going with movies such as Inception and Toy Story 3 packing them in. So, Special Edition # 41 will show you that it’s excellent time to chill out and enjoy some low key delights as they hit the shelves. Laurence Boyce finds some excellent films that have proved wildly popular on the festival circuit and a choice selection of re-releases.

It always seems that cinematographers never get the wider respect they deserve. Whilst your average person may be able to reel off the names of numerous actors and directors, the humble cinematographer is often forgotten about by the general cinema going public. Thankfully Cameraman – The Life and Work of Jack Cardiff (Optimum Releasing) redresses the balance with its thoughtful and illuminating examination of one of the best cinematographers in movie history. Jack Cardiff has worked with everyone from Alfred Hitchcock to Laurence Olivier and the film about his life and career has him reminisce about the greats that he’s worked with throughout his career. Director Craig McCall eschews a more formal approach to Cardiff’s career allowing Cardiff – and numerous colleagues including Martin Scorsese, Lauren Bacall and Kirk Douglas – to tell some fascinating and often humorous anecdotes of a career that begin as a child actor in 1918. Cardiff is obviously loved by his peers, not only for his winning personality, but for his artistry and talent and what results is a gentle yet endlessly rewarding portrait of a cinematic great and a paean to the skill of cinematographers from across the world. Jack Cardiff sadly passed away in April 2009, and this film is a joyous testament to his legacy.

]]> (Laurence Boyce) Special Edition Tue, 27 Jul 2010 23:02:27 +0000
Son of Babylon - a devastating, breathtaking masterpiece: Ed Film Fest review


Back in March during the battle between The Hurt Locker and Avatar at the Oscars, much-loved political theorist Zizek waded in with a comparative review of the politics of the two films. His conclusion was that James Cameron's film had been the best attack on the military-industrial complex and US corporate hegemony. Kathryn Bigelow, on the other hand, he argued, legitimised the Iraqi invasion and the actions of American soldiers by normalising them and their life - the Hurt Locker is not a pro-war film, but in making the protagonist soldiers sympathetic it inadvertently supported the politics behind them being there.

To continue this argument thru then, to follow everyday Iraqis in the aftermath of the invasion on film, as Iraqi-born Mohammed Al Daradji does in Son of Babylon, is to support the wider views of the Iraqi people and those one would expect to be hostile to an invasion. Here, then, is the first big revelation of the film. While the American soldiers are called pigs by one character and loom in the background, hovering overhead, the villain threading through this tale is the ghost of Saddam and his Ba'athist party. Indeed, in one of the many lighter moments in the film, it's revealed that 'talking to Saddam' is a way of saying you're going to the toilet. And as the film unfolds and we move from wrecked cities to a giant prison complex to the first of many mass graves, we begin to understand why. As we are told at the end of the film, some one million Iraqis have gone missing in the last 40 years, with between 150,000 and 250,000 dead uncovered so far in mass graves.

Son_of_Babylon_Poster-225x300In short, the film is a devastating, breathtaking masterpiece. With such heavy subjects at its core this would always be a powerful film. But Al Daradji and his team weaves a work of great drama built upon faultless performances and world class cinematography.

We start on an empty road in the middle of the desert. A young boy and his weathered and wise grandma wait in the midst of nothingness. It's a brilliant start which pulls us into the narrative with the deft hand of a skilled storyteller. What unfolds is a road movie, and - like the Illusionist - a child / senior relationship - things that we have seen often before on screen. But they travel across a landscape that we have not seen. Perhaps at the edges of some of war films, but unlike most of these, and almost all films on Iraq to date - this film does not involve the military; there is barely one line of dialogue from a soldier. Instead this is a film about searching, not only for a missing son and father, but for answers, for an explanation and for forgiveness. It's also, somewhat, a search for meaning about death amidst God's seeming indifference.



]]> (Nic Wistreich) Feature film Tue, 15 Jun 2010 23:38:26 +0000
Sylvain Chomet's The Illusionist, opening Edinburgh Film Fest 64


Under director Hannah McGill, Edinburgh International Film Festival has been steadily building its reputation as a platform for great animation - showing the UK premieres of Ratatouille, Wall*E, Up - and this year Toy Story 3 - in a bumper year which includes the world premiere of the hotly tipped 'British Team America': Jackboots on Whitehall. But few films could be better suited to open the festival than Sylvain Chomet's follow-up to the Triplets of Belleville, which seduced audiences the world - the Illusionist, from a Jacques Tati script. For not only does this film deal with the art of illusion and make believe, through a vaudevillian magic act - much like the Presto short which front-ended Ratatouille - but it's a hymn to Scotland and a love song at that.



When James MacGregor wrote on Netribution many years ago that Chomet was set to make a film in his adopted homeland of Scotland, I was a little suspicious that he would take the task seriously. Perhaps like his segment of Paris Je T'aime, it would be a short look at some of the delights of Edinburgh's winding streets and windswept corners. What comes out instead is an unrestrained love letter, capturing the city we've all seen and loved, but going further, flying above the rooftops to give it a twist of magic and delight I've never seen.

The film couldn't be better suited to the festival, indeed in one scene the magician Tatischeff hides in the Cameo cinema - one of the festival venues - and watches a little slice of Tati's Mon Oncle, a knowing wink to the film's origins. In some ways you could see the film as a sister film to Up - perhaps 'Down' would best name it - an old man, close to his end, goes on a journey, accompanied with the optimism of a child. Indeed the theme tune is almost the same and there's an animal side kick to boot.

illusionist2It is perhaps unfortunate that a dispute regarding the Tati estate should emerge ahead of the film's release, but the information released by the Richard McDonald, the grandson of Tati certainly increases understanding of the film. To realise that the giant of French cinema had himself come from the Parisian music hall, and left a young woman there with his child; that the age of his never-met daughter would have been the same age as Alice in this story when he was writing it - it becomes not just a touching tale of patricarchal care, but a poem from an old man to a young girl as she crosses the threshold to womanhood.

Indeed Tatischeff behaves impeccably, sometimes to the point of silliness - sleeping on the sofa in his age, and creeping off in the middle of the night to take on an extra job so he can buy Alice the pair of shoes, or dress or jacket that she desires. There's certainly no comment on materialism here - his function his largely to conjure, from thin air, the possessions she demands, while she seems solely motivated by getting such things. Still it's the one way they can communicate - with her Gallic and his French - neither subtitled, and leaving the audience with the sense of watching a silent film.

]]> (Nic Wistreich) Feature film Tue, 15 Jun 2010 20:13:43 +0000
Special Edition # 40

Who would believe it but its mid-life crisis time as its Special Edition #40. But, before it grows its hair long, buys a motorcycle and searches for a girlfriend of an inappropriate age, it will find enough time to go through some of the latest and most exciting DVDs available. Laurence Boyce picks some new releases (including a ton of brand new animation), TV shows and classic film that will hopefully hold your attention. Hey, both ‘Lost’ and ‘Ashes to Ashes’ have finished. What else are you going to do?

As adaptations go it’s surprising that it’s taken so long for Astroboy (E1 Entertainment) to make it to the big screen. Seen as one of the greatest works of Manga in the history of the genre (it was originally published in 1952) it’s had TV adaptations in its native Japan and the US but – aside from a compilation made of some episodes from the 60s Japanese live action TV show – it’s never been given the cinema treatment. Given that Hollywood is now looking at adapting, well, everything (coming soon: Michael Bay’s Laundry List IN 3D!) it’s been given the computer animation treatment. The film follows the origins of the titular character who is born in the futuristic Metro City after Dr Tenma (Nicolas Cage, who seems to be have embracing his inner geek as of late with this and Kick Ass) builds a robot boy to replace his lost son. But when the mechanical boy can’t live up to the expectations of his father, he runs away and finds himself finding that the future world is not as equal as it should be. And soon a threat to the world sees Astro Boy stand up for him and his friends. This is basically ‘Pinocchio’ with robots and guns and it certainly tries to have an emotional heart that seems at odds with the colourful and shiny animation. It’s often a little too uneven and sometimes feels forced and contrived (well, as contrived as any films about a robot boy in the future can be) but there’s a strong voice cast (Bill Nighy, Donald Sutherland and the aforementioned Cage) and should prove most entertaining for Manga fans and older kids. Also includes two new animated sequences and a look into the making of the film.

]]> (Laurence Boyce) Special Edition Fri, 11 Jun 2010 19:08:29 +0000 Special Edition # 39

laurencecartoonAfter a few columns in which Hollywood has been heavily featured, Special Edition # 39 focuses upon some great cinema from across the world (though with one or two releases from the US studios). Laurence Boyce will check out new releases and classics from Mexico, Czechoslovakia, Russia and Sweden whilst also dwelling upon remakes of classic TV shows and the usual mention of Doctor Who.

For those who grew up with Maurice Sendak’s classic book for children, the thought of the film version of Where The Wild Things Are (Warner Home Video) filled many with trepidation.  Just how could you transfer the simple tale it to the big screen and do it justice - even when directed by someone as talented as Spike Jonze? The answer is with some great CGI, a respectful but not slavish adherence to the source material, an assured central performance from youngster Max Records and a fine soundtrack from Karen O. Young Max lives the life of a typical 9-year-old, with an older sister who seems more interested in boys and a mother who just doesn’t understand the importance of letting him play. After a fraught night in which he argues with his mother, Max runs away to find a mysterious island full of monsters who let him be their king. But is a life free of responsibility really what Max wants? This is an emotionally resonant film that is unafraid to be talky and literate. Jonze really captures the spirit of Sendak’s book with both a sense of anarchy and a melancholic edge that laments the end of childhood. Records is excellent in the lead role whilst the likes of James Gandolfini and Forest Whitaker provide fine voice support as the titular wild things (who are brilliantly realised thanks to the CGI).  A clever and intelligent film for all ages.

]]> (Laurence Boyce) Special Edition Mon, 10 May 2010 21:00:55 +0000
Review: Four Lions


Four Lions Bombers


You've heard about it, Chris Morris' jihad comedy, making terrorism funny and all that. How does he do it? Well the Dad's Army influence is certainly there: the comedy is in the power play and false grandeur of some deluded blokes who want to show the world what for.

Four young men with very similar accents to those of the lead characters here managed just that back in 2005 on 7/7. Four Lions uses comedy to try and uncover the men behind the grainy CCTV footage and martyrdom videos left behind, as well as point out the fallibility of the police in terrorist incidents.
]]> (Suchandrika Chakrabarti) Feature film Thu, 06 May 2010 21:47:05 +0000