Sunday, 30 January 2011

Upcoming Releases - February '11

Here is a selection of films due out in UK cinemas next month.

The Fighter - 2nd Feb
Biography | Drama | Sport
115 mins
15 certificate
Main cast: Mark Wahlberg, Christian Bale, Amy Adams
Director: David O. Russell

'Dicky Eklund (Christian Bale) is a former boxing hero that squandered his talents and threw away his shot at greatness. Micky Ward (Mark Wahlberg), his half-brother, is the struggling journeyman boxer who spent his life living in his big brother's shadow. The Fighter is inspired by the true story of two brothers who, against all the odds, come together to train for an historic title bout that will unite their fractured family, redeem their pasts and, at last, give their hard-luck town what it's been waiting for: pride.'

Official site:

Brighton Rock - 4th Feb
Crime | Drama | Thriller
111 mins
15 certificate
Main cast: Sam Riley, John Hurt, Helen Mirren, Andy Serkis
Director: Rowan Joffe

'Adapted from Graham Greene’s 1939 novel, Brighton Rock charts the headlong fall of Pinkie, a razor-wielding disadvantaged teenager with a religious death wish. At the heart of the story is the anti-hero Pinkie’s relationship with Rose – an apparently innocent young waitress who stumbles on evidence linking Pinkie and his gang to a revenge killing. Pinkie seduces Rose, first in an effort to find out how much she knows and latterly to ensure she will not talk to the police.'

Rabbit Hole - 4th Feb
91 mins
12A certificate
Main cast: Nicole Kidman, Aaron Eckhart, Dianne Wiest
Director: John Cameron Mitchell

'Becca and Howie Corbett (Nicole Kidman and Aaron Eckhart) are returning to their everyday existence in the wake of a shocking, sudden loss. Just eight months ago, they were a happy suburban family with everything they wanted. Now, they are caught in a maze of memory, longing, guilt, recrimination, sarcasm and tightly controlled rage from which they cannot escape. While Becca finds pain in the familiar, Howie finds comfort.'

Official site:

Sanctum - 4th Feb
Action | Adventure | Drama
109 mins
15 certificate
Main cast: Richard Roxburgh, Ioan Gruffudd, Rhys Wakefield, Alice Parkinson
Director: Alister Grierson

'The 3-D action-thriller Sanctum follows a team of underwater cave divers on a treacherous expedition to the largest, most beautiful and least accessible cave system on Earth. When a tropical storm forces them deep into the caverns, they must fight raging water, deadly terrain and creeping panic as they search for an unknown escape route to the sea. Master diver Frank McGuire has explored the South Pacific's Esa-ala Caves for months. But when his exit is cut off in a flash flood, Frank's team-including 17-year-old son Josh and financier Carl Hurley are forced to radically alter plans. With dwindling supplies, the crew must navigate an underwater labyrinth to make it out. Soon, they are confronted with the unavoidable question: Can they survive, or will they be trapped forever?'

Official site:

True Grit - 11th Feb
Adventure | Drama | Western
110 mins
15 certificate
Main cast: Jeff Bridges, Matt Damon, Hailee Steinfeld
Directors: Ethan Coen, Joel Coen

'Following the murder of her father by hired hand Tom Chaney, 14-year-old farm girl Mattie Ross sets out to capture the killer. To aid her, she hires the toughest U.S. marshal she can find, a man with "true grit," Reuben J. "Rooster" Cogburn. Mattie insists on accompanying Cogburn, whose drinking, sloth, and generally reprobate character do not augment her faith in him. Against his wishes, she joins him in his trek into the Indian Nations in search of Chaney. They are joined by Texas Ranger LaBoeuf, who wants Chaney for his own purposes. The unlikely trio find danger and surprises on the journey, and each has his or her "grit" tested.'

Official site:

Never Let Me Go - 11th Feb
Drama | Romance
103 mins
12A certificate
Main cast: Keira Knightley, Carey Mulligan, Andrew Garfield
Director: Mark Romanek

'As children, Ruth, Kathy and Tommy, spend their childhood at a seemingly idyllic English boarding school. As they grow into young adults, they find that they have to come to terms with the strength of the love they feel for each other, while preparing themselves for the haunting reality that awaits them.'

Official site:

I Am Number Four - 18th Feb
Action | Sci-fi | Thriller
Running time and certificate: TBA
Main cast: Alex Pettyfer, Timothy Olyphant, Dianna Agron
Director: D.J. Caruso

'Extraordinary teen John Smith (Pettyfer) is a fugitive on the run from ruthless enemies sent to destroy him. Changing his identity, moving from town to town with his guardian Henri (Olyphant), John is always the new kid with no ties to his past. In the small Ohio town he now calls home, John encounters unexpected, life-changing events-his first love (Agron), powerful new abilities and a connection to the others who share his incredible destiny.'

Official site:

Paul - 18th Feb
Comedy | Sci-fi
Running time and certificate: TBA
Main cast: Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Seth Rogen
Director: Greg Mottola

'Simon Pegg and Nick Frost reunite for the comedy adventure Paul as two sci-fi geeks whose pilgrimage takes them to America's UFO heartland. While there, they accidentally meet an alien who brings them on an insane road trip that alters their universe forever. For the past 60 years, an alien named Paul (voiced by Seth Rogen) has been hanging out at a top-secret military base. For reasons unknown, the space-traveling smart ass decides to escape the compound and hop on the first vehicle out of town-a rented RV containing Earthlings Graeme Willy (Pegg) and Clive Gollings (Frost). Chased by federal agents and the fanatical father of a young woman that they accidentally kidnap, Graeme and Clive hatch a fumbling escape plan to return Paul to his mother ship. And as two nerds struggle to help, one little green man might just take his fellow outcasts from misfits to intergalactic heroes...'

Official site:

Unknown - 25th Feb
Drama | Mystery | Thriller
Running time and certificate: TBA
Main cast: Liam Neeson, Diane Kruger, January Jones, Aidan Quinn
Director: Jaume Collet-Serra

'Dr. Martin Harris (Liam Neeson) awakens after a car accident in Berlin to discover that his wife (January Jones) suddenly doesn't recognize him and another man (Aidan Quinn) has assumed his identity. Ignored by disbelieving authorities and hunted by mysterious assassins, he finds himself alone, tired and on the run. Aided by an unlikely ally (Diane Kruger), Martin plunges headlong into a deadly mystery that will force him to question his sanity, his identity, and just how far he's willing to go to uncover the truth.'

Official site:

Animal Kingdom - 25th Feb
Crime | Drama | Thriller
113 mins
15 certificate
Main cast: Ben Mendelsohn, Guy Pearce, Joel Edgerton, James Frecheville
Director: David Michod

'Welcome to the terrifying Melbourne crime underworld, where tensions are on the brink of exploding between felons and renegade cops - the Wild West played out on the city's streets in broad daylight. The Cody brothers, a gang of armed robbers, are in the process of initiating their teenage nephew Joshua 'J' (James Frecheville) into their frightening world after the death of his mother and under the watchful eye of his matriarchal grandmother, Smurf (Jacki Weaver), a modern-day Ma Barker.'

Official site:

Information obtained from IMDb, Rotten Tomatoes,, and the films' official websites.

Saturday, 29 January 2011

The Saturday Screen Shot #20

Shot from the screen: Gladiator

Screenshot: Maximus holding out his arms and shouting at the crowd

Shot from the scene: After swiftly dispatching four gladiators more equipped and armoured than himself, Maximus hurls one of his swords into the crowd. "Are you not entertained?" he demands, throwing his other sword down on the ground. "Is this not why you are here?" After a brief pause, the crowd start chanting "Spaniard" and cheering for him

Friday, 28 January 2011

The Good, the Bad and the Weird [28/01/11]

Bringing you recent movie news stories that caught my eye for different reasons.

The Good:

Chris Hemsworth (a.k.a. Thor) revealed that he has read Joss Whedon's script for the upcoming multi-superhero movie The Avengers. Here's what he had to say about it:
“Reading the script, it was massive. Everything about it was like, ‘Oh my god.’ I said to Joss, ‘I don't know how you're going to shoot this thing [laughs], but I'm excited to be onboard and let's give it a go.’”

Superheroes + Joss Whedon? I'm the kind of girl who finds that combination immensely exciting. And it sounds like Mr. Thor thought the script was pretty awesome. I cannot wait.

Source: Total Film

The Bad:

Another Fast and Furious movie. Not only that, who's going to be joining the team for Fast Five? None other than Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson. Not only that (yes, there's more!), there have been threats that this will be the start of a new trilogy.  

Vin Diesel had this to say: "If you remember seeing the posters for Fast & Furious, there was no number on the poster. That’s bizarre. That doesn’t happen a lot. It was a subliminal way of saying, 'We’re not going to go on and on and on. We closed up the last three and it’s almost a fresh start.'”

Err, no Mr. 'I love D&D', it kinda just seems like you're going on, and on, and on.

Source: Screen Rant

The Weird:

Apparently, Will Smith's daughter Willow is going to be starring in a "re-imagination" of classic Broadway musical Annie. Smith's Overbrook Entertainment production company has joined forces with none other than JAY-Z to develop and produce movies.

“The time is right to bring back Annie to the big screen. Of course, we’re true believers in Willow's talent and believe she will be perfect in this role,” said Columbia Pictures President Doug Belgrad. “Combining Willow with the Overbrook team that reimagined Karate Kid and the spectacular JAY-Z makes this a dream project.”

Who are they going to make a film vehicle for next? The family pets? That guy who played the butler in The Fresh Prince? Oh you never know, it might be a classic.

Source: Coming Soon

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Philip K. Dick blogathon conclusion

So, I've come to the end of the Philip K. Dick blogathon. I had fun watching the movie adaptations of his work, some I was seeing for the first time and some I had seen countless times before. 

Here is the list of films and the ratings:
Blade Runner - 5/5
Minority Report - 4/5
Total Recall - 3½/5 
A Scanner Darkly - 3½/5 
Screamers - 3½/5
Impostor - 3/5
Next - 2½/5
Paycheck - 2/5

I also enjoyed reading the original stories from which the films had drawn inspiration or been adapted from. This was an interesting element as it gave me the opportunity to not only review the films but compare them to their source material.

As for future projects, I look forward to watching the forthcoming movie The Adjustment Bureau and am curious about the remake of Total Recall. I am also quite excited about the BBC TV adaptation of The Man in the High Castle, one of my favourite novels, which will be a four-part mini-series that Ridley Scott will executive produce. As well as these, I plan to seek out the graphic novel prequels to Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? The series, titled Dust to Dust, follows android tracker Charlie Victor after the end of World War Terminus but before the events of Philip K. Dick's novel.

Hope you enjoyed the blogathon and it has inspired you to check out some of this great science fiction writer's work, or at least watch the movie adaptations.

Monday, 24 January 2011

Short Story / Movie comparison: Impostor (Philip K. Dick blogathon)

The short story Impostor is similar to the film in most respects, in terms of the main idea about the possibility of an artificial alien-created person who looks and acts exactly like our main character, who is going to cause devastation with the bomb hidden inside its chest. Also in terms of the themes of the wanted man who is trying to prove his innocence while everyone is against him, and the uncertainty of not knowing the truth right up to the end. There are a number of minor differences, for example, there is less of an inclusion of Olham’s wife, called Mary in the story. There is also no sign of the small group of renegades headed by Mekhi Phifer in the film. Olham does not go to the hospital and he does not meet his wife in the woods, he goes alone.

There is also a difference in how he escapes his captors, namely the Major (called Peters rather than Hathaway in the story). Olham takes a hover car to work, which picks him up with his work colleague Nelson and Major Peters inside. This then detours out to space and heads for the Moon where he is to be killed. Olham cleverly fools Nelson and Peters into thinking he is about to explode and they jump out onto the surface, leaving him able to make his way back to Earth to try to clear his name. 

“I am Olham,” he said again. “I know I am. But I can’t prove it.”
“The robot,” Peters said, “would be unaware that he was not the real Spence Olham. He would become Olham in mind as well as body. He was given an artificial memory system, false recall. He would look like him, have his memories, his thought and interests, perform his job.
“But there would be one difference. Inside the robot is a U-Bomb, ready to explode at the trigger phrase.” Peters moved a little away. “That’s the one difference. That’s why we’re taking you to the Moon. They’ll disassemble you and remove the bomb. Maybe it will explode, but it won’t matter, not there.”
Olham sat down slowly.
(Page 303 of Volume 2 of the Collected Stories)

The short story of Impostor packs a bigger punch than its cinematic adaptation. At only six pages long, Philip K. Dick has to develop an interesting, complicated idea very quickly, and bring it towards its ending, where the truth is revealed. This makes it more exciting and thrilling, whereas, drawn out in to a full-length film, it loses some of its power through additional scenes that feel like they are there for padding. If the filmmakers had built upon the original idea and added some more interesting aspects to it rather than solely relying on it, this would have made for a more enjoyable experience.

Friday, 21 January 2011

Review: Impostor (Philip K. Dick blogathon)

It is the year 2079 and the Earth is faced with the threat of attack from alien forces known as the Centauri. Huge electromagnetic domes cover the sky, shielding the planet from air raids. Spencer Olham (Gary Sinise) is the head of the Special Weapons Research project, who have just made an important breakthrough, which could greatly benefit humanity in the war. Olham is happily married and his wife Maya (Madeleine Stowe) is a doctor in the intensive care unit of the local hospital.

He turns up to work as normal but things take a dramatic turn when he is seized by Major Hathaway (Vincent D’Onofrio) of the Enemy Infiltration division. Hathaway has received intelligence that a genetic cyborg evolved from synthetic DNA has been sent to assassinate the Chancellor during the meeting Olham has with her later that day. He believes this cyborg (which was developed to look exactly like Olham) has killed Olham, pilfered his memories and emotions and taken on his identity. The curious thing is that the cyborg will have no idea that it isn’t Olham. It will think and feel the same as he did, and truly believe it is Spencer Olham, as that was the sole purpose it was created. And then, once the time comes, the bomb inside it will detonate, wiping out its target and causing a great deal of devastation.

With Olham captured and detained, Hathaway’s team plan to remove the bomb. Not by carrying out a delicate surgical procedure, instead they use some sort of medieval rotating knife device that slices right through into the chest. Olham quickly makes his escape and with help from the renegade Cale (Mekhi Phifer), plans to journey to the hospital where his wife works, to carry out a full body scan. If he can compare the results with one he had done before, he should be able to prove his humanity and innocence.

This film has an interesting premise and a lot of potential, mainly achieved by taking inspiration from a Philip K. Dick short story. However, it doesn’t turn out to be the powerful, intelligent sci-fi movie it could have been. With the idea stretched out into a full-length movie, there is inevitably a lot of padding. As a result, the excitement and tension which developed well during the first act starts to sag until we get to the ending. It’s strength lies in the fact that no one knows the truth of whether Olham is human or cyborg; not the audience, not Olham, his wife or Hathaway. So great power lies in the reveal that takes place in the final stages of the film.

Impostor is a fairly enjoyable sci-fi film, but it’s strong idea deserved more action set-pieces, more emotion and turmoil. The film should have been darker in terms of the story and the questions raised, rather than the lighting and set design. It would have been really interesting if the filmmakers had drawn the audience in more, forcing them to identify with the protagonist and ask what they would do if faced with the terrifying possibility that everything you think you know about yourself may not be real. 

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

BAFTA 2011 nominees

The BAFTA (British Academy of Film and Television Arts) Film Awards Nominees have been announced for 2011.

British period drama The King's Speech came out with the most nominations, getting 14, followed by Black Swan with 12 and Inception with 9.

Personally, I was very happy to see Nick Whitfield nominated in the 'Outstanding Debut By A British Writer, Director Or Producer' category for his excellent film, Skeletons, and Pete Postlethwaite for Supporting Actor in The Town.

Here is the full list of nominees:

Best Film
Black Swan (Mike Medavoy, Brian Oliver, Scott Franklin)
Inception (Emma Thomas, Christopher Nolan)
The King's Speech (Iain Canning, Emile Sherman, Gareth Unwin)
The Social Network (Scott Rudin, Dana Brunetti, Michael De Luca, Céan Chaffin)
True Grit (Scott Rudin, Ethan Coen, Joel Coen)

Outstanding British Film
127 Hours (Danny Boyle, Simon Beaufoy, Christian Colson, John Smithson)
Another Year (Mike Leigh, Georgina Lowe)
Four Lions (Chris Morris, Jesse Armstrong, Sam Bain, Mark Herbert, Derrin Schlesinger)
The King's Speech (Tom Hooper, David Seidler, Iain Canning, Emile Sherman, Gareth Unwin)
Made in Dagenham (Nigel Cole, William Ivory, Elizabeth Karlsen, Stephen Woolley)

Outstanding Debut By A British Writer, Director Or Producer
The Arbor (Director, Producer - Clio Barnard, Tracy O'Riordan)
Exit Through the Gift Shop (Director, Producer – Banksy, Jaimie D'Cruz)
Four Lions (Director/Writer - Chris Morris)
Monsters (Director/Writer – Gareth Edwards)
Skeletons (Director/Writer – Nick Whitfield)

Danny Boyle (127 Hours)
Darren Aronofsky (Black Swan)
Christopher Nolan (Inception)
Tom Hooper (The King's Speech)
David Fincher (The Social Network)

Original Screenplay
Mark Heyman, Andrés Heinz, John McLaughlin (Black Swan)
Scott Silver, Paul Tamasy, Eric Johnson (The Fighter)
Christopher Nolan (Inception)
Lisa Cholodenko, Stuart Blumberg (The Kids Are All Right)
David Seidler (The King's Speech)

Adapted Screenplay
Danny Boyle, Simon Beaufoy (127 Hours)
Rasmus Heisterberg, Nikolaj Arcel (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo)
Aaron Sorkin (The Social Network)
Michael Arndt (Toy Story 3)
Joel Coen, Ethan Coen (True Grit)

Film Not In The English Language
Biutiful (Alejandro González Iñárritu, Jon Kilik, Fernando Bovaira)
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (Søren Stærmose, Niels Arden Oplev)
I Am Love (Luca Guadagnino, Francesco Melzi D'Eril, Marco Morabito, Massimiliano Violante)
Of Gods and Men (Xavier Beauvois)
The Secret in their Eyes (Mariela Besuievsky, Juan José Campanella)

Animated Film
Despicable Me (Chris Renaud, Pierre Coffin)
How to Train Your Dragon (Chris Sanders, Dean DeBlois)
Toy Story 3 (Lee Unkrich)

Leading Actor
Jarvier Bardem (Biutiful)
Jeff Bridges (True Grit)
Jesse Eisenberg (The Social Network)
Colin Firth (The King's Speech)
James Franco (127 Hours)

Leading Actress
Annette Bening (The Kids Are All Right)
Julianne Moore (The Kids Are All Right)
Natalie Portman (Black Swan)
Noomi Rapace (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo)
Hailee Steinfeld (True Grit)

Supporting Actor
Christian Bale (The Fighter)
Andrew Garfield (The Social Network)
Pete Postlethwaite (The Town)
Mark Ruffalo (The Kids Are All Right)
Geoffrey Rush (The King's Speech)

Supporting Actress
Amy Adams (The Fighter)
Helena Bonham Carter (The King's Speech)
Barbara Hershey (Black Swan)
Lesley Manville (Another Year)
Miranda Richardson (Made in Dagenham)

Original Music
127 Hours (AR Rahman)
Alice in Wonderland (Danny Elfman)
How to Train Your Dragon (John Powell)
Inception (Hans Zimmer)
The King's Speech (Alexandre Desplat)

127 Hours (Anthony Dod Mantle, Enrique Chediak)
Black Swan (Matthew Libatique)
Inception (Wally Pfister)
The King's Speech (Danny Cohen)
True Grit (Roger Deakins)

127 Hours (Jon Harris)
Black Swan (Andrew Weisblum)
Inception (Lee Smith)
The King's Speech (Tariq Anwar)
The Social Network (Angus Wall, Kirk Baxter)

Production Design
Alice in Wonderland (Robert Stromberg, Karen O'Hara)
Black Swan (Thérèse DePrez, Tora Peterson)
Inception (Guy Hendrix Dyas, Larry Dias, Doug Mowat)
The King's Speech (Eve Stewart, Judy Farr)
True Grit (Jess Gonchor, Nancy Haigh)

Costume Design
Alice in Wonderland (Colleen Atwood)
Black Swan (Amy Westcott)
The King's Speech (Jenny Beavan)
Made in Dagenham (Louise Stjernsward)
True Grit (Mary Zophres)

127 Hours (Glenn Freemantle, Ian Tapp, Richard Pryke, Steven C Laneri, Douglas Cameron)
Black Swan (Ken Ishii, Craig Henighan, Dominick Tavella)
Inception (Richard King, Lora Hirschberg, Gary A Rizzo, Ed Novick)
The King's Speech (John Midgley, Lee Walpole, Paul Hamblin)
True Grit (Skip Lievsay, Craig Berkey, Greg Orloff, Peter F Kurland, Douglas Axtell)

Special Visual Effects
Alice in Wonderland (Nominees TBC)
Black Swan (Dan Schrecker)
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 (Tim Burke, John Richardson, Nicolas Ait'Hadi, Christian Manz)
Inception (Chris Corbould, Paul Franklin, Andrew Lockley, Peter Bebb)
Toy Story 3 (Nominees TBC)

Make Up & Hair
Alice in Wonderland (Nominees TBC)
Black Swan (Judy Chin, Geordie Sheffer)
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 (Amanda Knight, Lisa Tomblin)
The King's Speech (Frances Hannon)
Made in Dagenham (Lizzie Yianni Georgiou)

Short Animation
The Eagleman Stag (Michael Please)
Matter Fisher (David Prosser)
Thursday (Matthias Hoegg)

Short Film
Connect (Samuel Abrahams, Beau Gordon)
Lin (Piers Thompson, Simon Hessel)
Rite (Michael Pearce, Ross McKenzie)
Turning (Karni Arieli, Saul Freed, Alison Sterling, Kat Armour-Brown)
Until the River Runs Red (Paul Wright, Poss Kondeatis)

Orange Wednesdays Rising Star Award
Gemma Arterton
Andrew Garfield
Tom Hardy
Aaron Johnson
Emma Stone

This final award is the only one voted for by the public. You can cast your vote here: BAFTA Rising Star Award

The winner will be announced at the awards on February 13th 2011.

Saturday, 15 January 2011

The Saturday Screen Shot #19

Shot from the screen: Platoon

Screenshot: Sgt. Elias, with his arms outstretched above his head

Shot from the scene: Left for dead by the cold Sgt. Barnes (Tom Berenger), who tells the platoon he has been killed in action, Sgt. Elias (Willem Dafoe) emerges from the jungle chased by numerous enemy soldiers. Helpless, his comrades can only watch from their departing helicopter as he reaches skyward in despair, is riddled with bullets and collapses to the ground in defeat. A powerful and emotional scene, enhanced by Barber's touching 'Adagio for Strings'

Friday, 14 January 2011

Review: Gainsbourg

The story of French singer-songwriter, Serge Gainsbourg (best known for the controversial and explicit “Je t‘aime… moi non plus“); this film is a biopic - but not in the traditional sense. At the start, the title is followed by “vie heroique” (heroic life) and “un conte de Joann Sfar” (a fairytale by Joann Sfar). This is Sfar’s debut feature film, previously a graphic novelist, he utilized his creative skills and wrote a script about his idol Gainsbourg that has many flights of fantasy and moments of animation.

The young Lucien Ginsburg (before he adopted a different name) is carefree, with an impish charm. Unexpected perhaps, for a child growing up in 1940s Nazi-occupied Paris. His childhood is shown through a series of snapshots of moments that defined him. From his brilliant drawings (albeit of naked ladies to entertain his friends), to his late-night piano playing for his sisters, from his flirtatious meeting with a model, to his audacious and cheeky response to having to wear the yellow star as a sign that he is a Jew.

The film then jumps forward to show him as a grown man. Gainsbourg is played by little-known French actor Eric Elmosnino, who embodies the character well. The high points of the film are the musical moments he shares with the many ladies he encounters. There is an amusing scene where he tells young teen sensation France Gall he is going to write a song for her called ‘Lollipops’, which unbeknownst to her, was full of double-meanings and sexual innuendos. The actresses who play Juliette Greco, France Gall, Brigitte Bardot and Jane Birkin all deserve praise. Sadly, the young British actress who played Birkin, Lucy Gordon, died before the film was released.

Gainsbourg seems overly self-conscious and negative about his looks from the start of the film. The opening lines are him as a young boy asking “Can I put your hand in mine?“ and a girl replying “No, you’re too ugly.“ He is then accompanied throughout the film by an alter ego known as La Gueule. A creepy, lanky figure with a long nose, huge ears and spindly fingers who is constantly cynical and tempts Gainsbourg’s darker side, like a devil sitting on his shoulder. This figure is portrayed by the talented Doug Jones, who has appeared under prosthetics in many other films, including Pan’s Labyrinth (as the Fauno and the Pale Man) and Hellboy (as Abe Sapien).
Gainsbourg is shown to be a brilliant singer and musician but he also has many flaws. The drinking, smoking and womanizing all contribute to his slow downfall. The film mostly stays away from the darker, negative aspects of Gainsbourg’s life and tries to remain light and humorous, staying true to its claim as a ‘fairytale’ at the beginning. There is a quote from Sfar in the end credits, which translates as: “Gainsbourg transcends reality. I much prefer his lies to his truths.” This film may be one long  (a little too long) flight of fantasy by the director, nevertheless, it is enjoyable to get swept up in, even for those with little prior knowledge of the life and works of Serge Gainsbourg.

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Short Story / Movie comparison: We Can Remember it for You Wholesale / Total Recall (Philip K. Dick blogathon)

Douglas Quail dreams of Mars. He is very similar to Douglas Quaid, of Total Recall, in that respect. However, unlike his on-screen counterpart, the protagonist of Philip K. Dick’s short story We Can Remember it for You Wholesale keeps his feet firmly on Earth. Yep, that’s right; none of the events that take place on Mars in the film are present in the story.

Even though much of the content of the film isn’t in the short story it is based on, there are still elements in it that stay true to Philip K. Dick’s themes and ideas. A man who is hunted and on the run appears in a lot of his stories, as well as classic questions of reality. What is part of the implanted memory and what is real? Is this all in Quaid’s head? Is he the good guy or the bad guy? You still get that same feeling you get when reading Dick’s work; that you can’t be complacent because any moment he will turn everything on its head.

“He awoke – and wanted Mars. The valleys, he thought. What would it be like to trudge among them? Great and greater yet: the dream grew as he became fully conscious, the dream and the yearning. He could almost feel the enveloping presence of the other world, which only Government agents and high officials had seen. A clerk like himself? Not likely.” (Page 157 of Volume 5 of the Collected Stories).

In We Can Remember it for You Wholesale, Quail goes to have the memory of Mars implanted, only for the men carrying out the procedure to find that he actually has been to Mars, and this memory has been buried deep by the government. The men at Rekal, Incorporated send Quail home without grafting the fake memory and when he comes around, he can remember a trip to Mars as an undercover agent but it is hazy and vague, and he believes something went wrong with the procedure. A policeman shows up at his apartment, who tells Quail a telepathic transmitter is wired within his skull, which tells them all of his thoughts. He knows too much about his past as an agent and he must be killed. As a final measure, Quail desperately suggests they imprint a false-memory as they did previously, and implant another memory, something which would be enough to satisfy his craving for Mars, which seeped through before. A psychiatrist discovers an interesting fantasy buried deep in his mind, one different to wanting to be an undercover agent. One in which he stops an invasion of small alien creatures, by showing them kindness and mercy, and they make a covenant with him not to invade Earth while he is alive. However, when they try to implant this memory, it turns out this one also happened for real… and that is how the short story ends.

Both the short story and the film are appealing in their own ways, although very different from each other. All the events that take place after Quaid leaves Rekall in Total Recall are not Philip K. Dick’s ideas, but they do follow similar themes and there are some great sci-fi moments, so this makes for an interesting comparison.

Monday, 10 January 2011

Review: Total Recall (Philip K. Dick blogathon)

Douglas Quaid (Arnold Schwarzenegger) dreams of Mars and a pretty brunette. On the metro he sees an advertisement for Rekall, a place where memories of trips of a lifetime can be implanted into your mind. He goes to check it out even though his friend at work warns him against it. Something goes wrong while he is being prepared for the procedure, which could make him regret disturbing his peaceful, ordinary life as a construction worker in order to chase his dreams. He chose to be a secret agent on Mars but then he starts rambling about it before he’s even been implanted. Was he really a secret agent previously and had his memory covered over by the government? The people at Rekall don’t want any trouble and they wipe the memory of his appointment there and bundle him off in a cab.

When he comes around in the cab, his whole world starts to fall apart. He doesn’t know which people he can trust and who is telling him the truth. He can’t even trust his own memories. His friend from work tries to kill him, he goes on the run and receives help from a mysterious figure who leaves him a briefcase. Inside there is a video message from himself, who tells him he must get to Mars. Easier said than done for a hunted man to journey to a planet in the midst of a revolutionary war, as a small group of rebels and mutants fight back against the tyranny of industry leader Cohaagen (Ronny Cox).

Total Recall is a lot more than it first appears to be. Don’t expect a typical action movie with Arnold Schwarzenegger, this film is intelligent, complex and rich in detail. It’s science fiction aspects are more prominent than it’s action set pieces (although those are impressive too); the visual details of the future world of Earth and the station on Mars, and the overwhelming themes of reality and memory are the stars here. The film expertly plays with the possibility that the plot which unfolds is taking place in Quaid’s head, and all the scenes are memories that have been inserted, just like he asked for. The audience is never really sure whether there’s going to be a twist at the end, which sees him wake up from the procedure after believing he experienced the artificial moments first-hand.

There is a stand-out scene in the film where Quaid is visited by his wife (Sharon Stone) and a doctor, claiming they have been inserted into his memory in order to help him. They tell him he has become too involved in the implanted memory and he is in danger of losing his mind. He wrestles with the choice of believing them, until he sees a bead of sweat on the doctor (his nerves getting the better of him as he tries to make a lie seem believable).

There are moments where the effects or the science don’t stand up to scrutiny, such as when Quaid and his dream girl (Rachel Ticotin) swell up and their eyes start to pop out cartoon-style, when they are outside on the surface of Mars (the lack of an atmosphere apparently has that effect on you). However, these are minor negatives, and Total Recall should be appreciated as an intelligent and exciting sci-fi/ action film with good performances. Its twisting, thought-provoking story never lets up on pace as it unfolds.

Saturday, 8 January 2011

The Saturday Screen Shot #18

Shot from the screen: X-Men 2

Screenshot: Nightcrawler causing a disturbance in the White House

Shot from the scene: At the beginning of the second X-Men film, we are introduced to new mutant, Nightcrawler, in an amazing scene. The blue-skinned man, with scars and a tail, manages to infiltrate the highly guarded White House using his teleporting skills. He is almost able to carry out an assassination on the President but he is stopped at the last minute, and disappears before capture. He leaves behind only his knife, with the message 'Mutant Freedom Now'
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