LISTED Film Previews – April ’10

The first entry of the year with a film I am genuinely so incredibly excited over seeing, you wouldn’t believe it! However, I’m currently in an incredibly bad mood as its looking like my chances of seeing Kick-Ass in the cinema are slowly dwindling due to the difference in release dates between the UK and the US not co-operating with the time at which I have to travel home. Regardless, here’s the preview of it anyway. Maybe SOMEone will get to see it and tell me what its like…:

KICK-ASS (15) (Dir. Matthew Vaughn)

Ever wondered what would really happen to a masked hero? Based on the hugely popular and insanely violent comic books by Mark Millar, Kick-Ass follows teenage fanboy Dave Lizewski (Aaron Johnson) who despite not having any superpowers is determined to become a hero named Kick-Ass. And promptly gets beaten repeatedly to a pulp in the process – that is, until he meets like minded father and daughter duo Big Daddy (played by Nicholas Cage) and the ultra-violent, foul-mouthed Hit-Girl (Chloe Moretz). Also starring Christopher Mintz-Plasse (aka “McLovin” from Superbad), this could easily become an insanely huge cult comedy hit of the year, and has already generated a lot of excitement amongst those already familiar with the content of the graphic novels. Expect a lot of talk about this film! Released 2nd April.

REMEMBER ME (12) (Dir. Allen Coulter)

Robert Pattinson takes the lead in another romantic drama, but this time dropping his usual vampire role for a grittier, more real-world persona. Tyler (Pattinson) searches for meaning in life when his parents split after his brother commits suicide. He then falls for Ally (played by Emilie de Ravin), a kindred spirit who lives every day to its fullest after witnessing her mother’s murder. Despite its obvious attraction to any Twilight fans, Remember Me looks like it could be a genuinely moving drama that will tug all the right heartstrings for anyone who likes a proper romance. Released 2nd April.

THE LAST SONG (PG) (Dir. Julie Anne Robinson)

Finally seeing Miley Cyrus drop her kind of irritating Hannah Montana role could actually validate her status as a serious actress/singer. The Last Song sees her play rebellious young girl Ronnie, who is sent to live with her estranged father who abandoned her family. While they learn to reconnect through their shared love of music, she also falls in love with Will (Liam Hemsworth) at the same time. The director has also had a lot of success with TV shows such as Pushing Daisies, and this adaptation from Nick Sparks’ novel (who also did the script) could be the right kind of film debut. All that matters is whether Miss Cyrus really can play any other role than her Disney persona – here’s hoping that she can! Released 2nd April.

COP OUT (15) (Dir. Kevin Smith)

For the first time directing someone else’s screenplay, Kevin Smith (creator of Clerks, Dogma and Zack and Miri) directs this comedy about a veteran cop (Bruce Willis) whose rare baseball card gets stolen, and so he brings in his partner (Tracey Morgan) to help track down the memorabilia obsessed gangster who stole it. Already getting great feedback from the US, and after popular stories from the set between Smith and Willis, Cop Out looks like it could retain its popularity when it makes its way over to the UK. Definitely check it out if you’re already a fan of Smith and his other films, but since he’s not responsible for the script this time don’t expect his usual kind of humour or in-jokes. Released 16th April.

As published in Listed Magazine Issue 26 and on www.listedmagazine.com

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The Runaways (Contains Spoilers)

After seeing her play what I can only describe as a one-note role as Bella in the Twilight Saga films, I was all too prepared for Kristen Stewarts role as Joan Jett in this film to be a bit more of the same. But, after having seen promising trailers that changed my mind, and then going and seeing The Runaways on its opening night, I can honestly say I was totally surprised at how she has broken way out of her acting shell and come out with something totally different. Forget being a Vampire’s love interest, this is where Kristen Stewart is making her proper mark in her acting!

The Runaways is a biopic that tells the story of the fledgling band of the same name, the first ever all-girl rock band of their time. Its 1975 when all of this takes place, and straight away, I was totally convinced by everything down to the type of decorations people have in their homes. Everything about The Runaways is centred on the music, and the drama that surrounds it. It doesn’t pretend to be something that it’s not, and thankfully didn’t go off on a total tangent about their private lives (well, none more than was necessary to the story), or focus on how they made their first big hit and then stop. The Runaways was dramatic, intense, and filled with the kind of rock-and-roll attitude that they themselves became famous for.

Whilst you might be mistaken for thinking that Kristen Stewart has the centre role here, it’s actually Dakota Fanning’s portrayal of Cherie Currie that the main story follows. This could be, in some way, done in an ironic way as it was her media attention that split her off from the band originally, but I’m pretty sure that it’s down to the fact that this film is based (in part, at least) on the novel “Neon Angel” by Cherie Currie herself. It makes sense, then, that most of the drama we see comes from her failing home life and her dwindling relationship with her sister and divorced parents. Whilst we don’t get much of an insight into the lives of the other members of the band, The Runaways still has enough of the drama needed to successfully carry the film without either overdoing it or underwhelming us and leaving us bored. Kristen Stewart’s Joan Jett, obviously, takes a lot of the storyline too, but that’s because she’s Joan Jett! None of the “family drama” seeps into her character too much, but instead we follow Joan Jett as she starts out worshiping her idols and picking up a guitar for the first time, to putting together her band and leading them on to success.

The thing that I liked most about Stewart’s acting as Joan Jett is that she only does the annoying, stutter-y, shy, “Bella” character once throughout the entire film. The rest of the time, she is rock and roll personified, like Joan Jett was. She cuts the figure of someone who is a determined leader, focussed on what she wants and how to get there. And it that kind of convincing acting that shows just how much more Kristen Stewart is capable of.

Something that truly surprised me, though, is how much older (and yet, no more mature) Dakota Fanning has been made up to be in this film. Again, since she is the main focus of the film, we see her gradual progression from a shy, retiring hopeful young girl to a rebellious front-woman of a world conquering band and slowly slips into the sex, drugs and rock-and-roll lifestyle that comes with it.

There was very little about this film that I didn’t like, and I think that is mostly down a lot of the little things that make an overall bigger effect on the film. It would have been all too easy for the people behind the film to focus on the songs that The Runaways became most famous for, but in fact the soundtrack is so varied that you get a mix of a lot of their original material as well as other songs that influenced the band and were huge at the time. It also would have been easy to focus on the success of Joan Jett and the Blackhearts that came after the disbanding of The Runaways, but instead this is only touched on at the very end of the film, which means that The Runaways STAYS as a story about The Runaways. The fact that the main cast got together for a month before the film began shooting to practise and record The Runaways’ songs clearly made a difference, because it shows during the performance scenes when they all act as a band together and are able to sound like one too. The fact that Kristen Stewart doesn’t just look the part (and she truly does!), but that she totally projects Joan Jett onto the screen as well is awesome. The fact that (though I was unsure during the film) the events that take place are somewhat accurate to those that went on originally in the 70’s amongst the band means that the subject source is more reliable. And this comes mostly from the fact that not only is the film based on Cherie Currie’s novel, but also that Joan Jett herself was an Executive Producer on the film. It is all of these kinds of elements that truly make The Runaways what it is.

All in all, I thought that The Runaways was an entirely satisfying film filled with rock-and-roll mentalities, good music and a well-written story behind it. For these reasons I’m giving The Runaways a 9 out of 10, and will probably have “Cherry Bomb” in my head for days to come now!

Alice In Wonderland (Contains Spoilers)

When I first heard about this film being made, I was so incredibly excited about it that I sent the link to the trailer to a bunch of my friends. After that, I slowly became wary that the films like this usually have a hard time living up to expectations, so I was ready to view this film with an entirely open mind. Tim Burton’s take on the Lewis Carroll classic is interesting to say the least. But it’s also clearly Tim Burton massaging his ego with the material he’s probably been dying to do ever since he graduated Art School. I’d like to point out here that I, in no way, “hated” Alice In Wonderland. But I also didn’t think it was the jewel in Tim Burton’s crown everyone was expecting it to be either. In other words, it was good, but not as great as it was meant to be…

Alice In Wonderland is the kind of film that relies heavily on a few things. First and foremost, it relies on having the epic, drug-addled visuals that the original material built up in people’s heads. This, Tim Burton has done a fantastic job on – of course he has, it’s Tim Burton’s imagination! He probably has dreams like this every night! But regardless of that, everything that appears in this Alice In Wonderland version matched pretty closely to how things should look, with Burton adding in his own acid-trip effects in the right places. However, maybe letting Tim Burton totally re-write how things should have looked as well would have been interesting to see, but could have annoyed and confused people who know the original material well.

This leads me to my second point – the adaptation to the script. Obviously, this version is not the original story. Or at least, not for the most part. There were clearly parts from the original text that Tim Burton wanted so badly to do, but at the same time create a unique piece of work that could act as his own version, that he couldn’t choose between the two. So the fact that the now 19-year-old Alice has conveniently forgotten her original adventure into Wonderland means that for the first hour or so of the movie, she gets to re-discover everything all over again. This has obviously been done for the convenience of easing the audience gradually into this new extension of the original story without completely going off the rails. Which could be either clever or redundant depending which side of the Tim Burton fence you fall on.

But possibly the biggest thing that Alice In Wonderland’s storyline relies on isn’t Mia Wasikowska’s performance as Alice at all. In fact, this version revolves (for the most part) entirely around Johnny Depp’s character of The Mad Hatter. And that, unfortunately, is where I thought the film started to falter…

Whilst it’s common knowledge that Tim Burton and Helena Bonham Carter (who also appears in nearly every Tim Burton film, and stars in this as The Red Queen) are married, its undeniable that him and Johnny Depp do so much work together that they may as well be having an affair. However, doing so much work with Tim Burton is obviously starting to wear thin for Depp, and his Mad Hatter seemed to be lacking a few elements to be entirely complete. Which is a shame, because as I mentioned, this new story revolves almost entirely around The Mad Hatter character, and sadly, I expected a lot more from him in this. I personally was expecting an entirely outrageously eccentric character from Depp, but instead he seemed more like The Multiple Personality Disorder Hatter, or The Mild-Case-Of-Tourettes Hatter instead. It’s perfectly reasonable to say that this character fits this version, though, as Tim Burton is doing his usual thing of putting a darker twist on an otherwise light-hearted story.

This new story, as many might know by now, sees Alice returning to wonderland to take up her rightful place of overthrowing The Red Queen’s rule over Wonderland (or technically “Underland”) by slaying The Jabberwocky (played by none other than Christopher Lee!) so that The White Queen (played by Anne Hathaway) can restore the land to the way it once was. This darker, almost apocalyptic version of Wonderland is fitting for what Tim Burton does, and Johnny Depp’s more serious, forlorn Mad Hatter fits into this, but it’s clearly not what people were hoping for from him. Instead of the bizarre, original, off-the-wall character we were hoping for we get a mixture of Jack Sparrow and Sweeny Todd. There were also other things about the story that started to annoy me which I’ll avoid going on a rant about, but I’ll list in case other people noticed them as well.

Firstly, the fact that Alice miraculously and conveniently tames the Bandersnatch after it already nearly killed her. It had no rhyme nor reason behind it, other than it was means for her escape from the castle. There were many other ways that this could be done, but instead they clearly wanted to have a scene with Alice taming a Bandersnatch. Secondly, the “why is a Raven like a Writing Desk?” riddle was brought up WAY too many times – it was clever in the original text to prove a point, but they are trying to use it way too much in this. The whole point of the riddle is that a raven IS NOT like a writing desk, and therefore its point for use is made redundant! Thirdly, Anne Hathaway (as great as her acting is, making her one of the best performances of the film) does this thing with her hands throughout the film to make her character seem more graceful, but it actually distracts from her performance a little too much.

As for the rest of the film, I thought it was fantastically stylised, and the voice talents of Stephen Fry as The Cheshire Cat, Matt Lucas as The Tweedles and Micheal Sheen as The White Rabbit amongst others were completely on the mark and really perfected those characters. The visuals were epic, the creatures like The Jub-Jub Bird and The Jabberwocky looked perfect, and all the set pieces from the original Wonderland story were there. I think that seeing Alice In Wonderland in 3D or IMAX would possibly be distracting people from the storyline with pretty effects and stuff, but it would also be entertaining to see how different certain scenes are between the 2D and 3D versions.

Overall, I enjoyed Alice In Wonderland to the extent that I found it interesting to watch and fun to see the characters and set pieces brought to life in a live-action film, but the storyline that doesn’t delve too deep and a few disappointing performances and parts of the script mean that it wasn’t the instantly awe-inspiring film that I was hoping to be. For that, I’m giving Alice In Wonderland a half-and-half 5 out of 10. I liked it, but I did not love it.

And The Oscar Goes To…

Ok, so for anyone that hasn’t seen The Oscar’s show yet, you may not want to read this until after you’ve been able to see it, unless you’re now reading with the intention of finding out a majority of the winners (I don’t think I can really list them all, but I know which ones I was happy about and disappointed about!). Firstly, I’d like to say that I thought it was a great ceremony, and Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin did a pretty good job of hosting together, even though at points they seemed a tad over-rehearsed. But still, funny guys that did a good job of introducing everything.

I’ll start first with Best Picture and work my way back (because that’s obviously the one that people will hear about most!). I was, quite frankly, pretty shocked when Avatar DID NOT win Best Picture. I think its fair to say that I, along with a majority of people who have seen it and know how much it’s now made worldwide, were pretty much expecting it to win. Almost as if it was purely a given. But no! The 82nd Academy Awards pretty much belonged to The Hurt Locker this year – picking up Best Picture, as well as Best Original Screenplay, Best Film Editing and Sound Editing/Mixing, and (almost shockingly) Best Direction. Now whilst everyone expected James Cameron to win for Avatar, this was also the first time that a woman has picked up The Oscar for Direction (AND that woman being Cameron’s ex-wife, no less!), in fairness to him I say this – if you’ve just made a film that has grossed about 1 billion worldwide, and has become the highest grossing film EVER, the amount of money that he’s made off Avatar would mean he probably doesn’t even care that he didn’t win! If someone offered him a choice between The Oscar and how much Avatar made him, he’d probably be a fool to stick with the award because that money could easily pay to make another 10 films, one of which would surely win something! But anyway, Kathryn Bigelow picked up the award for Best Director, and fair play to her being the first female to do so, blazing a trail for many more.

So, whilst The Hurt Locker managed to pick up a total of 6 Oscars and pretty much steal the show, Avatar was only able to take away 3 – all of which were for Art Direction,Visual Effects or Cinematography. Fitting, really, since Cameron mostly made Avatar to be a visually epic film, that’s exactly what it got awarded for and not much more! I’d also like to mention at this point that everyone I was sat with watching this laughed incredibly hard when Ben Stiller came out made up as a Na’Vi, though he himself seemed LESS than pleased about it, stating “this seemed like a better idea in rehearsal”. But, of course, that was probably what he was planning to say anyway, bearing in mind that this was probably a replacement for the sketch that Sacha Baron-Cohen got axed from doing. Still, it was easily the best winners announcement of the night!

Other pleasing awards of the night went to Disney/Pixar’s Up for Best Animated Film (and Best Score as well), which was completely deserved, The Cove for Best Documentary, and Star Trek for Best Make-Up – a bit of a consolation prize considering the other categories that Star Trek was also nominated in, but it’s still good that they managed to get an award amongst all the Avatar nominations! I honestly thought that, considering its popularity and many people saying how goo they thought it was, that A Prophet might well have picked up The Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film, but instead it went to a film called El Secreto De Sus Ojos from Argentina (which I think translates as The Secrets of Our Eyes) which I’ve not heard of, so that was a bit unexpected.

And then after those, we move on to the awards for the Actors/Actresses. Whilst I totally had my money on Morgan Freeman for his role as Nelson Mandela in Invictus, the award for Best Actor went to Jeff Bridges for his role in Crazy Heart. Now, whilst I’ll openly admit that I have not yet been able to see Crazy Heart, it has been the kind of film that has seemed like something I would enjoy watching and should as such make an effort to see. However, I’ve had no signs of it being out at any place I’ve been able to get to recently, at a time that I would be able to see it, so it may just have to be one that I rent as soon as can! Best Supporting Actor went to Christoph Waltz for his role in Inglourious Basterds, which I already had my money put on because I thought he did a great job in that film, so I’m glad that award went to him.

Best Supporting Actress went to Mo’Nique for her role as the abusive mother in Precious. Anyone who has seen that film will probably know the story behind it – that it was originally going to be a straight-to-DVD job, but Oprah Winfrey swept in and said that she would promote it to be a full cinema release, which is why it got so popular and more people then heard about it. Mo’Nique’s role as the mother was very convincing, and she played it with plenty of emotion and sincerity, which is why I had a feeling that the award would go to her (and in her speech saying “how it CAN be about the performance and not the politics”…), but I think the award for Best Actress gong to the lead girl Gabby for her role in Precious wold have perhaps been a bit too much of an “underdog” story, especially for  girl who’ first appearance was in this film! I think perhaps a lot of people were hoping for her to win, but expecting either Sandra Bullock or Meryl Streep (for Julie and Julia) to win. So it happens, the award went to Sandra Bullock for her role in true-story film The Blind Side – a role that was very emotionally driven, and she did well not to shed any tears during her speech!

And that’s it for another year! I personally may not have bumped into any celebrities, but I still managed to watch The Oscars live for the first time ever, and that was pretty awesome. Even if I was expecting Avatar to win more awards than it did, which meant I could kiss my pools money good-bye! Still, that will teach me for gambling on a “sure-win”, I guess…

It’s Oscar Season!

Yes, indeed good people, it is that time of year again when the rich and the beautiful invade your screens and fill you with wonder and awe at just how rich and beautiful they are. And for the first time, I’m actually out in Los Angeles at the time this prestigious Film Industry event is taking place, and not 30 minutes drive from where I’m currently sat!!

My immediate reaction when I realised that The 82nd Annual Academy Awards were taking place whilst I would be in town was “I wonder who I could pass myself off as”. But then, when I realised that I’d probably stand a better chance of getting in by saying I’m Wesley Snipes than someone like Tom Cruise, I had to come up with a different plan. Then when I found out that it’s probably an arrestable offence to crash The Oscars, I had to come up with yet another plan!

So after a series of disappointments at not being able to dress up in my nice suit and break into a big ceremony like that, we’re watching it live at someone’s house as a party type thing, but not before I go out and try some serious celebrity hunting!!

Anyway, my point behind all this was that I thought I should take advantage of this event for my site. SO, if I feel up for it I MIGHT do a “live” feed post (but actually I’ll just update one post as the event goes on, with whats happening) for those interested enough, but I figured I might actually just put up a post afterwards perhaps bitching or celebrating various losses or successes depending on what the results are. Comments and opinions will be more than welcome, of course.

And if you happen to be watching, and catch a glimpse of me in the background, it means I came up with a better plan… Just don’t tell the security….