Monthly Archives: April 2013

Bates Motel

My Nerdy Review

Ok, I can’t hold my breathe to write something up on this, this soon into the series, But I have been really enjoying this series and we are only up to episode 4.

Does everyone remember Psycho? That old Black and White movie made by Hitchcock. Yes you do…. you can’t forget the famous shower seen!

Brilliant movie, you need to watch that before watching Bates Motel.

Bate Motel is suppose to be the TV series prequel to the movie Psycho. Even tho there are 4 movies and a remake.

The series start with a death in the family, that gives Norma and Norman Bates a chance for a new start in a new place. Norma buys an old run down hotel. She wants to fix it all up and start a new family business from it. She changes the name of the hotel after her son Bates Hotel. They were barely there for 24…

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Written & Directed by: Joseph Kosinski

Starring: Tom Cruise, Olga Kurylenko, Morgan Freeman

125 Minutes, 2013

oblivion_aOblivion is part of what appears to be a new wave of original science fiction. Over the last few years we have seen some great science fiction but up until this year, good science fiction has been sparing. Examples from the last few years include Children of Men, Sunshine, District 9, Inception and Could Atlas. With Oblivion it finally feels like studios are losing the fear of original films. You could argue that Tom Cruise is a studio insurance measure. However, it is Tom Cruise that is taking the risk. He could easily ride the coattails of such cash cows as Mission Impossible, but with Oblivion like Minority Report (2002) he chooses to focus his attention on a heady science fiction that is above and beyond the generalised science fiction that Hollywood usually delivers in such classics as Transformers 1 – 3 and John Carter. For this alone Oblivion gets my recommendation.


Is Oblivion perfect? Not quite. It is very, very good but just misses the mark of being great. The ideas are fantastic, the music is phenomenal and overall the film looks beautiful, plus Olga Kurylenko has a beauty and a sensuality that is so captivating she could make Battle: Los Angeles watchable. So what keeps the film from greatness?

118642Surprisingly, Morgan Freeman is the weak link in a potentially great work of science fiction. Freeman is a great actor, this cannot be denied. He is a better actor than Tom Cruise. This is also above contention. When Morgan Freeman is interested in the material he is electrifying. This man has the power to break your heart just by lowering his voice. In this film Freeman phoned in his role. It was almost as if he was reading from cue cards. This was a very important character to the film and seeing Tom Cruise bringing his A-Game and Freeman just showing up for work was distracting to the point where I lost interest in the film during Morgan Freeman’s scenes. Forest Whitaker would have taken this role to a whole other level. People can criticize Tom Cruise for his personal life and religious choices til they are blue in the face, one thing that Tom Cruise should never be criticized for are his movie and career choices. Tom Cruise may not be the greatest actor in history but he never fails to give 100% to whatever film he is in. Bruce Willis on the other hand could make any film he wants, yet over the last few years appears mostly uninspired and rarely brings his A-Game. Tom Cruise rarely falters in this department. Therefore, in the end we have a solid science fiction that is close to great but the aim is slightly off. I would recommend seeing this if you love challenging and original science fiction.


Citizen Kane

Citizen Kane
100 mins, 1941
Directed by Orson Welles
Cinematography by Gregg Toland

Citizen Kane is widely considered by critical consensus to be the greatest film of all time. This is a massive legacy to fill, that unfortunately no film can live up. “Why Citizen Kane?”, a lot of people ask. To put it simply, Citizen Kane makes the grade due its technical achievements and because it is so well crafted that it is near perfect as a visual experience. Yet there are other films that can give you a greaer emotional experience. A good modern example would be Requiem For a Dream (2000). This is a film that once seen cannot be unseen.  Requiem for a Dream is the kind of film that stays with you whether you like it or not. Requiem for a Dream can leave you devastated by witnessing the fragility of the human condition and understanding that everyone is susceptible to addiction, or the film can leave you uplifted in the knowledge that your life is better than the characters of the film. Either way the film is going to have an affect on the viewer.

Citizen Kane however, is a film that works as a technical achievement but not neccessarily as an emotional experience. This is perhaps why some consider Citizen Kane to be boring or not worthy of its place in cinema history. What makes this film so technically perfect you may ask….. Well, it mostly comes down to two concepts… Deep focus and perspective.

For the entirety of the film everything in the frame is completely in focus from the foreground all the way into the background. A good example of this is early in the film where we see young Kane outside the window playing with his sled. Closest to the camera is the mother signing the adoption papers, next to her is Kane’s adopted father and to the left Kane’s biological father wrestling with the decision to give up his child. Kane is trapped in the middle between two opposing forces.

This style of film making had never been achieved before. While these techiniques were possible  and had been used in landscapes. Deep Focus had never been used as a narrative tool. Later in the film this scene is paralleled when Kane  between his business partners. What is interesting about this scene is the use of perspective. As an audience we do not know how large the windows in the background are until Kane walks in. at this point we see how big the room truly is. This also demonstrates how small Kane feels. Once again the deep focus shows a character uncomfortably close to the camera and Kane is so small and insignificant that perspectively it looks as if the man in the foreground is looking down on Kane.

Throughout this scene, Kane gradually moves closer to the foreground. As we see Kane moving towards the foreground (always in focus) the status shifts between these characters, from this point onwards Kane is on the rise until his inevitable fall from grace. Thus every shot tells a story and there are almost no stagnating scenes of talking heads and exposition.

myimage.jpegAs can be seen. The film is impeccably well photographed by Gregg Toland and directed by Welles. In fact the cinematography was so important that Welles shared his title card with his cinematographer. This film is a technical achievement that has a natural flow, the beautiful craftsmanship of this film also detracts somewhat from the tragedy of the character. This is by no means a reason to dismiss the film but the emotional charge that one gets from other films is not to be found in Citizen Kane. As Roger Ebert reminded us in the Blu Ray commentary of the Pauline Kael quote “Citizen Kane is a masterpiece, but it’s a shallow masterpiece”.

John Rambo – Martyr or Monster?

I made some minor updates and corrected one of the videos. If you haven’t read this yet, it is an examination of First Blood paralleling Rambo with Frankenstein and Jesus. I am not sure how good my reasoning is but I welcome any feedback you may have.

Anamorphic Tilt

First Blood (1982)

Directed by Ted Kotcheff

Starring Sylvester Stallone, Richard Crenna, Brian Dennehy and David Caruso

Based on a novel by David Morell

first-blood-1982-brian-dennehy-sylvester-stallone-pic-3First Blood was in many ways the film that made Sylvester Stallone a movie star. Before being cast as John Rambo his only hit films had been the first two Rocky films. Films such as F.I.S.T. and Paradise Alley were critical and commercial failures that are rarely mentioned even among his most hardcore fans. First Blood was the film that pushed him through to stardom. While this was great for Stallone it was also unfortunate that the film First Blood and the character of John Rambo got caught up in the franchise machinery of Hollywood. While the other Rambo films are entertaining in their own right First Blood has a depth that is rarely mentioned amongst film scholars. These depths are not obvious on a first…

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Written and Directed by: Jonathan Levine

Starring: Nicholas Hoult, Teresa Palmer, Rob Corddry, Analeigh Tipton and John Malkovich

97 Minutes, 2013

Last Wednesday I attended an advance screening of Warm Bodies. When I got the tickets in the mail I wasn’t overly enthusiastic about this film. I am not a huge fan of the Zombie film and felt like I had seen enough Zombie films of late. As far as Zombie comedies go, Zombieland (2009) was amusing but it didn’t feel like anything new or even particularly memorable. The only Zombie comedy that I have enjoyed up until Warm Bodies was Fido (2006). This was because they took the Zombie film in a direction that I hadn’t seen before. Fido was about a boy and his domesticated pet Zombie Fido (played by Billy Connolly). It was a very funny film for what it was but in the end like Zombieland, Fido was a broad comedy. It is a very funny movie that works really well for what it is, but there was not a lot to the film. Warm Bodies on the other hand exceeded my expectations for the genre they were working within.

001Warm Bodies exceeded my expectations not only as a unique premise, but more than that, there is a surprising amount of emotional depth to the characters and humour. Jonathan Levine (who also directed 50\50) has created something deeper than your standard horror/romance/comedy. There is a high level of intelligence and sophistication that he has brought to this film. Hoult and Palmer have great chemistry and from the first time that Hoult’s character R sees her the spark of humanity ignited in her presence is a brilliant example of the emotional range of Nicholas Hoult who spends most of the film grunting and growling.

WARM BODIESThe standout for me was Rob Corddry who is one of the better comedic actors of the moment. Where Corddry generally plays Jerks, and brilliantly so, as seen in Hot Tub Time Machine (2010), Harold and Kumar: Escape From Guantanamo Bay (2008) and his recurring role in Community. In Warm Bodies, Corddry brings a sense of humanity to his Zombie character. Corddry, Hoult and the rest of the cast push the film beyond a broad comedy made for general entertainment with little point to actually having something to say about the state of humanity and how objectification is perhaps the most dehumanizing thing one can do to an other. On the other hand, if you are only looking for escapism, Warm Bodies could easily be enjoyed as a standard comedy or romance. This is perhaps why the film works so well.

One of the requirements of a good genre film is that the stories and characters should not be dependent on the genre conventions. The genre is just a framing device. In my opinion, it happens too often where characters are written to fit the story.  A good example would be The Amazing Spider-Man (2012). When you see the story developing out of the characters as seen in Warm Bodies, this to me is when you know you are watching something special. You can sense that a lot of time and effort has gone into making the characters as believable and honest as possible. Warm Bodies fits this criterion better than most genre films. What was also refreshing about Warm Bodies was that it felt like a complete film. By the end of the film I didn’t feel like I was watching (what I call) a ‘Franchise Starter’. This is something that continually grates on my nerves in mainstream films. Warm Bodies is a complete story with a beginning, a middle and an end. It is well told and unlike any Zombie film that I have seen. Warm Bodies could well be regarded in time as a film that redefines the horror comedy genre in that it moves against the tide of current conventions.

Warm Bodies opens in Australia on April 11, 2013. I highly recommend seeing this in the cinemas, as we need more original films with something to say as opposed to broad, generalized entertainment, reboots and franchises.

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