Archive for the ‘Movies’ Category

Manga UK 20th Anniversary Party

June 17, 2011

Manga UK 20th Anniversary Party

June 16th 2011

“Manga has cultivated the international theatrical market for Japanese animated feature films. Since 1994, Manga has distributed critically acclaimed and award winning anime features including The Wings of Honneamise, Patlabor 1 and 2, and the smash anime sci-fi feature Ghost in the Shell, bringing top-quality anime to the big screen”

I remember watching Akira in the early nineties and was extremely confused by what I saw (my only experience of anime before this was Robotech) but I was also blown away by the story and the animation – especially those awesome motorbikes. So much so when I finally managed to get my hands on a copy of the VHS I actually wore it out through playing it too much. I love the character of Kaneda, mainly because he was voiced by Cam Clarke in the English version. I’ve been a fan of him ever since Robotech (1985) where he voiced Lance Belmont  and Max Sterling, as well as Leonardo in the Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles cartoon (1987-1996).

Some of the first Manga entertainment videos I owned were Ninja Scroll, Ghost in the Shell and Street Fighter II: The Animated Movie, these 3 remain my favourites to this day and they have been upgraded in my collection to DVD from VHS, and will more than likely be upgraded to Blu-ray at some point as well.

The party was a well organised and awesome evening, and a great chance to meet some interesting people from lots of different industries! Our hosts served up some great sushi along with Asahi, a tasty but dry Japanese beer, and some funky cocktails with anime inspired names, ‘Sex on the Bleach’ was one of them as I recall. I say recall, the Asahi was flowing quite a bit so feel free to update this information! The room was filled with cosplayers, a live band and projectors playing various animes and trailers on the walls. There was also a gaming area with some PS3’s set up.

Have a browse at some pictures below of the night and please forgive my terrible photography skills.

 

 

A great evening all round, congratulations to Manga UK on their 20th Anniversary! Keep up the good work!

Starting quote from ‘About Us’ section on the awesome Manga Website here!

Please also visit Manga UK for the latest and up to date news! 

Cam Clarke on IMDB

Manga are also on twitter @MangaUK and on Facebook, further links available on their website.

Please also follow the brilliant @SFXmagazine and @MangaMasters on twitter!

Pinewood Studios – A Brief History

May 19, 2011

Pinewood Studios – A Brief History

Saw an article on Variety and just had to blog it about it (I’m not usually subject to this sort of spontaneous blogging) and this also seems to have coincided with me watching The Spy Who Loved Me, one of my favourite Bond films. 

I’m a big fan of anything to do with British cinema and film history (even my University dissertation was about British cinema in the 1930’s) so it’s great to see the piece below written on Pinewood Studios! See below for a snippet of the article and follow the link at the bottom to see the full and original chronology. Accompanying the chronology are two more articles which contain more information on Pinewood Studios, including an article entitled Sites on the future, and the lay of the land, an overview of Pinewood.

I’m hoping this short blog will also link to another one I will hopefully be writing over the summer about Pinewood and Shepperton, both amazing studios! Stay tuned and hope you enjoy!

From Liz to Bond and beyond

A look back on the history of Pinewood Studios

By AJ Marechal, Michelle Weiss, Ilyse Kaplan

1934:
Builder Charles Boot acquires Heatherden Hall, once the country home of Canadian financier Lt. Col. Grant Morden, and plans a film studio to rival Hollywood’s best. Industrialist J. Arthur Rank joins the £1 million project.
1935:
Rank, producer John Corfield and Henrietta Yule — founders of the British National Films Co. — become owner-operators of Pinewood. Yule would later sell her shares to Rank while Corfield would eventually resign from its board of directors.
1936:
Pinewood Studios opens. The keynote speech of Leslie Burgin, member of parliament, parliamentary secretary to the London Board of Trade, emphasizes the “British government’s interest in the progress of the British film industry” (Daily Variety, Oct. 15).
1938:
Pinewood Studios merges with Denham Film Studios, founded by producer Alexander Korda.
1947:
“Black Narcissus,” set high in the Himalayas but shot primarily at Pinewood, is the first of two masterpieces shot at the facility by the filmmaking team of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger. They would later make “Red Shoes” (1948) there.

The rest of the article continues below on the Variety website!

From Liz to Bond and beyond – Entertainment News, Cannes Features, Media – Variety

Scott Pilgrim V’s The World

November 16, 2010

Scott Pilgrim Vs The World

 

Certificate: 12A

Release Date: 2010

Director: Edgar Wright

Scott Pilgrim’s life is totally sweet. He’s 23 years old, he’s in a rock band, he’s between jobs and he’s dating a cute high school girl. That’s what the blurb on the back of Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World Volume 1 says, and is pretty much the story in a nutshell. However, when he sees Ramona Flowers, first in his dreams and then through a series of encounters (and a major stalking campaign), he falls head over heels in love, however, unbeknownst to Pilgrim he must first fight her seven evil exes in order to date her. Let the gaming/anime style rumble begin!

The movie is directed by Edgar Wright (Hot FuzzShaun of the Dead) and stars Michael Cera (Superbad, Juno) in the lead as Scott Pilgrim, it is an adaption of the graphic novel by Bryan Lee O’Malley and does well to stick to its very random and bizarre (yet pleasing to read) source material. As the tagline suggests the movie is an epic of epic epicness.

In order to date Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) Scott must first defeat her bizarre array of evil exes, 7 ofthem in fact. They turn up randomly throughout the movie, usually during one of the many band sequences and begin attacking our hero. He also has to deal with his high school girlfriend Knives Chau (Ellen Wong) and housemate Wallace Wells, superbly played by Kieran Culkin. Each one of the supporting cast add more humour and depth to this large array of different characters, interwoven into a series of anime/gaming style fight sequences.

Only one low point can be found in this tale of epicness and that’s the romance between Pilgrim and Flowers, which as

one of the main driving forces of the movie doesn’t really draw you in. The romance aspect isn’t totally convincing and considering Pilgrim is fighting her 7 exes he doesn’t seem overly bothered either way. This however is overshadowed by great supporting performances, most specifically from the 7 evil exes,

especially when you find yourself at some points wishing they had more screen time. Chris Evans does well as the ‘overly egotistical’ Hollywood star Lucas Lee and Brandon Routh almost steals the show as the psychic evil ex Todd Ingram. Highpoints of the movie include an epic battle with the Katayanagi twins, and although there is little to no dialogue here the special effects, mixed with the music make for a very exciting and visually impressive sequence you actually feel a little sad when it’s over.

Edgar Wright delivers a fun and entertaining comic book adaption, drawing from the source material and developing it perfectly for the screen. The anime and gaming references alone add to the films entertainment value, right down to the opening Universal logo which is rendered in 8-bit graphics and sound, which leads perfectly into the beginning of the film and sets the tone for what is about to follow. Scott Pilgrim is a video game movie within a comic book movie set within the ‘real world’ and it works very well.

Check out the trailer below!

Mid Week Mini: Dan Aykroyd

August 25, 2010

Dan Aykroyd

Born: 1st July 1952,

Location: Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

I’ve been meaning to do a mid week mini on Dan Aykroyd for a while now, but once again I got myself bogged down in the huge amount of information on this talented comedian, writer, and actor to name but a few professional titles this man holds. Two things finally inspired me to do this mini homage to one of my favourite actors of all time; 1) Dan Aykroyd Wines and Vodka. Bizzare on many levels but strangely suited, and 2) The Great Outdoors (1988), not only a Dan Aykroyd film I’d never seen, but one I’d never even heard of! I figured it was then time to write this blog. I’ve been a fan since I first saw Ghostbusters (1984) and Dragnet (1987) so I’ve selected what I believe is some of his best movies, cameos and latest outings in the movie, and gaming world.

In my opinion, below are some of Aykroyd’s best performances in cinema, albeit in my favourite films list at least.

Dragnet (1987) Sgt. Joe Friday

Just the facts ma’m, just the facts. Dan Aykroyd plays Sgt. Joe Friday, the by the book character playing against Tom Hanks, the much more ‘laid back, casual detective’. They balance each other out perfectly, and although the plot seems just a tad bizzare its reminiscent of what made the original series so memorable and succesful in the first place. Good chemistry and a good formula.

Ghostbusters (1984) Dr. Raymond Stantz

All time favourite film (probably mentioning that a bit too much) some awesome funny moments, riddled with adult humour (most of which I missed as a kid) and great special effects. Hearing the approach of the Stay Puft Marshmallow man, seeing his head bob into view above the buildings and finally seeing him in full view still sends shivers down my spine. Will watch it over and over and stands proud as my favourite film.

Peter Venkman: “Go get her Ray”

Raymond Stantz: “Gozer the Gozerian? Good evening. As a duly-designated representative of the City, County and State of New York, I order you to cease any and all supernatural activity and return forthwith to your place of origin, or to the next convenient parallel dimension”

Peter Venkman: [dryly] “That oughtta do it. Thanks very much, Ray”

Trading Places (1983) Louis Winthorpe III

Great film and great comedy performance from all involved. Both the character of Billy Ray Valentine (Eddie Murphy) and Louis Winthorpe III (Dan Aykroyd) are immediately likeable, even though one is a self involved snob and commodity broker and the other a down trodden yet clever con man. Both develop as characters brilliantly and come out the other side more or less on level terms, and much to the expense of the Duke brothers who set them up in the first place. The salmon/beard eating scene still grosses me out.

The Blues Brothers (1980) Elwood Blues

“Its 106 miles to chicago, we got a full tank of gas, half a pack of cigarettes, its dark and we’re wearing sunglasses. Hit it.” My favourite quote in this awesome comedy musical, and definitely Jim Belushi’s finest hour (also has a cameo appearance in Trading Places) This film has a brilliant soundtrack and features some legendary singers and artists. Always cheers me up when I watch it.

Possibly some of his greatest, or for me most memorable cameos:

Casper (as Ray Stantz), Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, Evolution. After watching The Great Outdoors you realise Aykroyd doesn’t always play the part you expect him too.

I loved the fact Dan Aykroyd and the rest of the cast returned for Ghostbusters: The Video Game (2009), not only as voice actor for Dr. Raymond Stantz but also as writer, something that shone through with the delivery and humour of the first 2 films. Despite the game being quite an easy run through, meaning I  finished Ghostbusters way too quickly, it was very funny and aesthetically very pleasing, with a fun and simple control system. Ramis and Aykroyd capture some of the magic of the films and give us something fresh but just as fun, quirky and charming as the original Ghostbusters movie. The Ghostbusters video game gave me some high hopes that the new movie, Ghostbusters III (scheduled for 2012) might be pretty awesome.

Check out below a few websites to read up on Dan Aykroyd, including the Dan Aykroyd Vodka/Wines site here and the IMDB page for Dan Aykroyd

I’ve always been pleased to know we share something in common, and that’s an interest in the supernatural. Dan Aykroyd has an extensive collection of books on the subject.

Other interesting facts, hopefully all true, according to the fountain of all knowledge, Google:

He is in the horn section of B.B. King’s “In The Midnight Hour”

music video.

Once worked as a mail sorter for Canada’s national postal service

Older brother of Peter Aykroyd. Like Peter, an alumnus of the Second

City comedy troupe in Toronto.

Left Handed

Police buff

A police buff.
Was good friends with John Belushi.
Is very interested in the supernatural and has an extensive

collection of books on the subject.

He appeared in the music video and sang in the choir on the

song “We Are The World.”

He is in the horn section of B.B. King’s “In The Midnight Hour”

music video.

His grandfather was a Mountie.
Was once engaged to Carrie Fisher.
Once worked as a mail sorter for Canada’s national postal service.
Older brother of Peter Aykroyd. Like Peter, an alumni of the Second

City comedy troupe in Toronto.

Left handed.

The Avengers (2012)

August 6, 2010

The Avengers


Release Date: May 4th 2012

Just had to post this video of The Avengers lineup at the San Diego Comic-Con 2010! Actually excited about this, especially the Joss Whedon part!

Love the different levels of cheering for each person during this, you get the feeling Robert Downey Jr is really embracing his Tony Stark persona, and the biggest cheer going out for Scarlett Johansson (althought that could just be my dodgy speakers).

Looking forward to The Avengers and especially the Captain America movie due for release next year. I think Chris Evans will be superb in the role and he has a great supporting cast, Stanley Tucci, Hayley Atwell, Hugo Weaving and Tommy Lee Jones.

More info below where you can register for updates!

The Avengers Movie

Marvel Website

Mid Week Mini: Frank Welker

April 15, 2010

Frank Welker

Born: 12 March 1946, Denver, Colorado, USA

Job: Voice Actor

I have the utmost respect for voice artists, who  are the talented individuals who we never really seem to hear much about (ironically), and don’t seem to be as recognised in the public eye as on-screen actors, even though they bring as much talent, hard work and entertainment to our screens, if not that little bit more.  

There are many talents in the voice acting world, but none have left me as impressed and star struck as Frank Welker. This mid week mini is a dedication to a veteran actor, who specialises in voice acting and who is responsible for a broad spectrum of character voices and other vocal effects that have appeared over the last 40 years in film and television. Frank Welker’s resume is as impressive as his range of vocal talents and memorable character voices. Please check out Franks IMDB page to see the impressive list of over 600 projects he has been involved in.

I actually became fascinated by voice acting through Futurama, I realised some of the talent involved in this show actually voiced characters from cartoons going back to my childhood. After I discovered Maurice LaMarche (Kif Kroker, Morbo, Calculon) voiced Egon Spengler from The Real Ghostbusters I decided to look further. I found Frank Welker’s impressive career not only started back in the 1960’s but quickly realised he practically voiced all my favourite cartoon characters from my childhood. Amongst others he voiced Ray Stantz and Slimer from The Real Ghostbusters as well as Nibbler from Futurama. Frank Welker lends his talents to more distinct voice acting including animal and creature vocals as well as speaking roles.

Frank Welker’s most recurring role is as the voice of Fred from Scooby-Doo. According to the ‘interweb’ (take it or leave it) he has done every voicing of Freddy “Fred” Jones for all of the Scooby-Doo series with the sole exception of “A Pup Named Scooby-Doo” (1988). Even in parodies and cameos on different TV shows (such as Family Guy) he has always done this voice and has played the character since 1969.

Another character I instantly recognised was that of Megatron in Transformers (1984). Recent speculation as to why Welker didn’t return to the role alongside Peter Cullen in the Transformers Movie was strange news indeed but at least he reprised his role for the Transformers video game, you can check out a small clip of Peter Cullen (Optimus Prime) and Frank Welker (Megatron) working together again below.

Characters such as Nibbler (non-speaking and speaking) and Slimer, who don’t really talk but speak through different noises and sounds all have a similar Welker sound to them, each one reminds me of the other in some way. I love the way he can change from a character such as Ray to Slimer instantly and you’d think it was two different actors. Looking at IMDB Frank is often cast in animated productions as the “voice” of various animal or creature characters or listed as “additional vocal effects”. Other famous “non-speaking” roles include the voice of the monkey Abu from Aladdin (1992), its sequels and the TV series adaptation as well as Dungeons and Dragons (1983 – 1985) as Tiamat the dragon and Uni, two very different characters of good and evil in the same show.

The character I remember most fondly is Dr. Raymond Stantz from The Real Ghostbusters cartoon series (1986-1991) as well as a few episodes of Extreme Ghostbusters (1997). I think he brought great character to Ray and it was great to see the interaction between him and Slimer. Slimer’s voice is what also made me realise his work in other cartoon series.

Animal vocals you might also recognise include Santas Little Helper (The Simpsons), Dino (The Flintstones), Furrball, Gogo Dodo (Tiny Toon Adventures). These are just a few of the ones I’ve recognised, more so since I became aware of Frank’s distinct talents and style. I could probably go on but these particular projects I have grown up with and love to re-watch when the mood takes me, I love listening out for all the parts played by Frank Welker as well as keeping up to date with other voice artists and finding out what they have been in.

As well as the IMDB page please visit this webpage on Frank Welker it is a goldmine of information and has its own interesting information, vids, downloads and links.

One of the clips from the website is from a Rolf’s Cartoon Club Special on The Real Ghostbusters cartoon, this clip includes a reading session with Maurice LeMarche (Egon) and Frank Welker (Ray and Slimer)

Making of Clip “The Real Ghostbusters”

More Ghostbusters info can be found here at Spook Central!

More recently Frank has been involved in Alice in Wonderland (2010) as additional vocal effects and Toy Story 3 (2010) as the character RC. I always look forward to listening out for Frank Welker in the latest movies and cartoons and when I discover something new or related to cartoons I watched during my childhood it brings back some great memories.

Jackie Chan

March 31, 2010

Jackie Chan

 

Born: 7 April 1954, Hong Kong

Birth Name: Kong-sang Chan

 

“I never wanted to be the next Bruce Lee. I just wanted to be the first Jackie Chan”

I’m a pretty big fan of all things Jackie Chan, especially his early films, from odd appearances as a stunt man to his more famous leading roles in movies such as Police Story (1985), Armour of God (1986), Project A (1984) and Drunken Master (1978).  Jackie attended the China Drama Academy at the age of 6 and was rigorously trained in music, dance, and traditional martial arts. A visiting filmmaker offered Chan his first bit part as a stunt player. His academy “brothers” include Sammo Hung, Biao Yuen, Corey Yuen, Wah Yuen and Yuen Man Meng.

The first Chan movie I watched was Rumble in the Bronx (1994) and became hooked ever since, I decided to dig a little deeper into his background and history and found the book I am Jackie Chan a brilliant and informative read which I highly recommend for any fan of Jackie Chan.

One of my favourites, although I fully admit not one of his best movies, is City Hunter (1993) based on the Manga. City Hunter follows the adventures of detective Ryu Saeba (Jackie Chan) who in this case must take down Col. MacDonald (Richard Norton) who has taken over a cruise ship and is holding the passengers hostage. It’s a pretty silly movie but some of the fight scenes are awesome. I love the ‘Gambit-esque’ card player and the Street Fighter scene beats any of the live action Street Fighter movies to date, just for purely sticking to its source material so closely. See below!

There’s plenty to look up on Jackie Chan and tonnes of information on the web, including his official website, which covers a lot of his more recent events, appearances and movies etc. Strangely, for a more extensive list of his older movies see here!

Two of my other favourites are Who Am I? (1998) and Mr. Nice Guy (1997), which are both great Sunday night ‘switch off to’ entertainment. Richard Norton from City Hunter also plays the villain to Jackie Chan’s hero in Mr. Nice Guy. Please take a look at his IMDB page here!

Recent stuff on the world of Jackie Chan at http://jackiechan.com/ and Jackie Chan on IMDB.

Jackie Chan’s IMDB covers the long list of credits as writer, director and actor including his 1973 entry as ‘Thug in Prison’ in Enter the Dragon (1973) with Bruce Lee, check out the picture of Bruce and Jackie below!

Movie Review: Highlander

March 8, 2010

I know what you’re thinking, Highlander? He has to be joking? I’m afraid not people, Highlander is indeed one of my all time favourite films (next to Ghostbusters) so if you are of a weak disposition regarding this awesome movie please turn to another blog post now.

First time I watched Highlander was in the early 90’s and I didn’t really understand it, so I watched it again. Still didn’t get it, so I left it alone for a long time. When I started University in 2001 I decided to give it another go, this time on DVD, it certainly looked shinier than I remember and, apart from a few inexcusable 80’s hairdo’s, still felt like a recent movie.

I also realised it’s a film I can watch over and over again, no matter what. Always makes a good candidate for a favourite movie, one you can just sit down and switch off to (no pun intended), one you can feel good about afterwards, even if you know it might seem an odd choice to other people.

Highlander has certainly had to put up with a lot of criticism over the years, criticism which is unfortunately justified. The first film isn’t without its flaws but is superior to its successors in every way, truly “there should have been only one” However the series has been all but destroyed by a series of the worst sequels ever.

Highlander was directed by Russell Mulcahy and penned by Gregory Widen and released in 1986. If you didn’t know already, the film follows the story of Conner Macleod (Christopher Lambert) of the clan Macleod. He was born in the year 1518 in the village of Glenfinnan on the shores of Loch Shiel and is discovered to be immortal after being severely wounded on the battlefield by the Kurgan (Clancy Brown) After being banished from his village Macleod is found by Ramirez (Sean Connery) another immortal who befriends Macleod in order to teach him about the gathering and train him in order to win the prize and defeat the Kurgan.

The film skips between flashbacks of Macleod’s life in Scotland in the 16th Century, through the ages and to New York City 1985. The immortals are preparing for the gathering where the final battle will be fought by the last two and the winner will receive the prize. The only way the immortals can die is by having their heads cut off so swords are an essential weapon, also meaning there’s a lot of walking around with very cleverly concealed swords inside long jackets.

The sword choreography is highly watchable and over the top making it action packed and fun to watch. These scenes work in the same way as a martial arts movie, desperately waiting for linking dialogue to be over to get to the good stuff. The story is well conceived and despite a few plot points well executed, it flows relatively well, and unless you’re me, the story is pretty easy to follow.

I love the characters and the mythology behind them (something that was ridiculed and destroyed in the sequel rather than expanded upon and developed) and feel that it really should have been a standalone film and even has a perfect ending for it. I think Christopher Lambert does a brilliant job in bringing Conner Macleod to life as an iconic character. Given that English wasn’t his first language does a pretty sterling job at a Scottish accent, and also explains his non specific accent in the 1985 parts of the movie. He gives the character depth and potential for more “prequel esque” follow ups to the movie.

Highlander takes it charm from Lamberts portrayal and the urge to know about his past rather than his future. I think film makers after the first film forgot there was 450 years of history to explore behind this character. Sean Connerys’ inability to pull any sort of passable foreign accent out of the language hat is pretty amusing in any of his films, whether he’s playing an Egyptian Spanish metallurgist, an Irish cop or a Russian submarine commander, he’ll always have that Scottish accent in all its glory, but this is what we expect from Connery and he still plays a memorable and interesting character. Clancy Brown is awesome as the Kurgan and I wish this guy was in more movies, he really steals the scenes and becomes more and more animated and villainous throughout the film up to the final battle with Macleod.

I could probably gush about this film for a hundred pages but don’t worry I’m not going to go on too much longer, I could go into the awesome Queen soundtrack or Michael Kamen score, but maybe in another post! I will however mention the blu-ray release of this film which inspired this review. The extras have remained more or less the same from the special edition release on DVD, however the picture is awesome. For a movie that’s 25 years old 99.9% of it looks and feels like it was filmed yesterday. Only one scene stands out as being as little crude, the high definition picture emphasises the use of special effects and if you look to the screen closely you can tell half the castle, the horses, hills and fields are a matte painting, not really noticeable on VHS or DVD. Considering this scene is about 3 seconds long you’re not really losing out on a great quality transfer for such an old film. Whereas film transfers to blu-ray such as Ghostbusters were a disappointment and in my opinion not worth buying the blu-ray for Highlander is well worth the purchase.

For more Highlander I would recommend the series from 1992 with Adrian Paul as Duncan Macleod which wasn’t too bad. I also like the 4th in the series of movies “Highlander: Endgame” which see’s Conner and Duncan crossing paths and tries to recapture some of the charm of the first film with flashbacks to Conners’ life in Scotland (although don’t expect too much continuity).

Great article and more in depth look at Highlander can be found here!

Clancy Brown fan website here!

Visit here for a Christopher Lambert fan website!

QueenPrinces of the Universe” music video!

Movie Review: Avatar

January 24, 2010

Avatar

Directed and written by: James Cameron

Released: December 2009

Cast: Sam Worthington – Jake Sully, Zoe Saldana – Neytiri, Sigourney Weaver – Dr. Grace Augustine, Stephen Lang – Colonel Miles Quaritch

 Admittedly with most new films, and especially ones I feel are being over sold and hyped up too much, I tend to steer clear of and take the attitude, “I’m sure I’ll watch it eventually”. My love of movies and the cinema certainly hasn’t changed over the years but my attitude to how a movie is marketed has. Oddly I tend to go and see and enjoy films the less I have heard about them. I really think a person can make a decision based on one or two reviews and maybe a trailer. It’s about as much as I need to decide whether I want to see the film or not.

On to the film, and you can tell I enjoyed it because I’m actually inspired to write a review! Admittedly I held off for as long as possible and I’ve only just seen it, I couldn’t avoid the reviews, the trailers, the adverts, the blogs and the tweets. It even inspired me (in a way) to write my blog on Danny Elfman and mention James Horner and James Cameron.  Of course I tried to keep my expectations low (I find I also enjoy much more if I do this) even though most reviews gave it 4 stars in 2D and 5 stars in 3D (Empire). I thought I might as well go for this ‘5 star’ experience and I’m very sorry to say… it was worth it *insert cynical critic won over by Avatar joke here*

The film follows the story of Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) a paraplegic marine who decides to take the place of his recently deceased brother in a mission on the distant world of Pandora. Jake learns of the growing conflict between the humans and the native humanoid race called the Na’vi. The humans are there to study the Na’vi, led by Dr. Grace Augustine (Sigourney Weaver) but also to mine a precious mineral, headed up by evil ‘company’ types and led by Parker Selfridge (Giovanni Ribisi). In the mix of corporate greed and scientific study is gun-ho marine Colonel Miles Quaritch (Stephen Lang) who believes a peaceful solution is impossible and force is the only way to take what they want, Quaritch only has one goal in mind and intends to force the Na’vi from their home, which just happens to be sitting on the largest deposit of the precious mineral the company is after.

Jake, working for the scientists, and indirectly for the Colonel, begins attempting to infiltrate the Na’vi people with the use of an “avatar” identity. The Avatar is a body of a Na’vi controlled by a human mind. Whilst the human body is safely sealed in a laboratory the Avatar body under control from the human is free join the others and open diplomatic relations. Jake is new to the Avatar program and the film follows his integration into Na’vi society, learning their ways and becoming more and more deeply involved in the tribe and the Na’vi culture. It’s not until part way into the film, when military action against the Na’vi is increased, do we know exactly where Jake’s loyalties lie.

The 162 minutes flew by (James Cameron doesn’t seem to make short movies). Jake’s journey is emotional and fascinating and the film has just the right mix of action and love story, jumping from scenes with the Na’vi tribe and scenes back at the base or laboratory were we begin to see Jake’s disconnection from his real human life and his obsessive behaviour with his avatar persona. The story builds on these elements of disconnection, loyalty and betrayal between characters, as well as an epic final battle between the Na’vi and the humans.

Some of the creatures are animated beautifully and stunningly realistic in places, well, as real as a dragon or alien humanoid can get. The action is second to none and with James Horner’s “Aliens esque” score in the background you know it’s going to be a good fight. It was great to see Sigourney Weaver back in the sci-fi genre and I thought she was well supported from the rest of the cast. Jake is a great lead character and the way he becomes part of the tribe is funny and believable, if a little clichéd in places. There is good chemistry between the character Neytiri, (voiced by Zoe Saldana), and the character Jake which forms the love story part of the film.

The storyline and dialogue are simple to the core but it doesn’t have to be complicated or Shakespeare to be a good watch. These two factors become background to a film that sells itself on its visual prowess, a rare case where a film can boast a sufficient story and script, great characters (although some are pushed to the side a little nearer the end) and still be highly watchable even with an overload of CGI. Hope Lucas is taking notes. I left the cinema feeling satisfied (*innuendo to easy*) and would certainly watch it again, in 2D perhaps, although I get the feeling it’s not going to be nearly as impressive at home. Visually the most stunning film I have seen in 3D. It makes full use of the technology and doesn’t disappoint. Seeing it in 3D on the big screen for me is the only way to go.   

Avatar Website and Trailer here!

Avatar Poster from Hollywood Movie Costumes and Props go here!

Production information from IMDB and Avatar movie stills from IGN

Film History: Ealing Studios 1939 – 1949

January 17, 2010

Film History

Ealing Studios 1939 – 1949

I’ve decided to take a slightly different slant on this weekend’s blog on movies. A new category for this has been created under ‘Film History’ and will usually cover a studio, director and film in its content. This weekend I will look at Ealing studios and Michael Balcon 1939 – 1949 and one of one Alberto Cavalcanti’s films Went the Day Well? (1942) Once I have introduced a studio, I will then look at a certain film from that period, in future blogs I will look at more films from that studio but doing it all in one blog might be a bit long!

When Michael Balcon joined Ealing in 1938 (taking over from Basil Dean as head of production) he brought with him his long-standing policy on film making of realism and projection of national identity. This policy had been with Balcon during his years as head of Gaumont British in the thirties. Balcon in 1932 was given more responsibilities as a producer, supervising all production at two studios, Gainsborough and Gaumont (Gaumont being the bigger of the two). Balcon brought his own distinct style to the screen, focusing on social issues, realism and non flamboyant productions. This was in contrast to the styles of producers such as Alexander Korda, head of London Films, who favoured risk taking, fantasy and expressionist cinema. Balcon’s work at Gaumont in the thirties, compared to other producers, was to include a sense of realism, accuracy and moral improvement in his films. Balcon described himself as a ‘gladstonian liberal’, and the qualities that embraced by that description also followed. Qualities which were projected as distinctly British during the Second World War, these criteria were all seen as important for Balcon and would form the base of film production at Ealing throughout the war and the post war years.

Films to come out of Ealing in the 1940’s generally had close references to realism and national identity, this closely related to the policy at Ealing and the ideals of Balcon himself. Went the Day Well? (1942) and Passport to Pimlico (1949) and Kind Hearts and Coronets (1949) are just a few I have watched over and over and I can always spot something new. The team at Ealing, a small creative elite, consisted of only the people Balcon thought was up to the task of putting his vision of Britain on-screen (famous for their round table discussions before each film could begin production) However, the director Alberto Cavalcanti seems to stand out from the rest, for his ability to combine narrative fiction with realism and propaganda, national identity and patriotism were naturally brought to the fore in these films. Cavalcanti at this time was primarily interested in a type of documentary realism which specialised in persuasion and detail.

Cavalcanti’s Went the Day Well? is the best example of the combination of all these factors, it is a film that provides us with a ‘what if’ scenario with regards to Nazi invasion through the British countryside during the Second World War and is one of the most revealing films to come out of the wartime period. It warns about complacency during wartime, and that the even the most remote, comfortable and traditional English setting had to be on alert at all times, such as that at Bramley End. The people of the nation coming together and committed to the war effort is portrayed best in this Ealing film, the ‘social unit’ of small shops, the post office and church hall all create a typically English feel and the kind of vision Ealing was trying to portray in this period.

The film is about a sleepy village in the English countryside called Bramley End. This peaceful corner of England however is the target of a unit of German paratroopers, sent ahead of the impending invasion and posing as British troops in order to establish a stronghold. However, through a series of clues left by the troops the villagers grow increasingly suspicious of the unit and their plot begins to unravel. Bramley End is presented to us as communal and devout, with its natural leaders coming from the upper, middle class levels of society. Albeit in this case their most natural leader Oliver Wilsford (Leslie Banks) is in fact a German spy, a common factor in Ealing war films was to include a fifth columnist or Nazi sympathiser. The film is a picture of Englishness, (presented in the scenery and the villagers) who, in their arising crisis become united against the threat and we see some dramatic changes in order to defend themselves and the village. 

The manor house plays a central part in this film, as well as being the last bastion of defence against the German attack, its symbolism is boundless, like Great Britain, it is an island that ‘must be’ defended, and is the central symbol for community in the village. The manor house is defended by the villagers and gender and class are not an issue when fighting a common foe. Another scene to note is the opening and close of the film, it both begins and ends with the graveyard, which we discover at the end is the grave of the Germans killed at Bramley End in the struggle. They have been given a memorial, even though they terrorised and killed innocent villagers and the villagers returned it with vengeance. These scenes to start and end the film show that even though the people of Bramley End have endured pain and suffering at the hands of the Germans they are still willing to forgive and give respect to those lost, even the enemy, this gives the viewer a strong sense of what it is to be British.

The film presents its vision of the national image through its English landscapes and village setting, in contrast to the German invasion of the village which brings home the reality of war to such a peaceful setting. The film was designed to have an impact on the audience, Cavalcanti using the threat of German invasion as realistically as possible in order to alert the audience to the possible dangers of invasion. I would recommend this film to anyone who has an interest in the Second World War, for its time some of the scenes and violence are quite surprising and the change in some of the characters from peaceful villagers to freedom fighters is dramatic and very realistic.


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