Religious warfare spilling out onto the streets of a fractured America should be a fantastic draw for the great actors of the early 2000s. It was. Gangs of New York has such a strong cast to it and a great director behind it, Martin Scorsese. It is a bold and brash piece that features all the typical treatises and topics of a period piece that sets the Catholic and Protestant forces against one another on the streets of America. Scorsese is keen to guide that scope with some incredible casting choices and a knack for knowing how to handle that. Smooth the egos, set up the right levels of screentime and capture captivating performances from actors getting to grips with a thick and promising screenplay.
Time has not been kind to the mouth and mind of Steven Spielberg. His legless horse running in the grand, popular circuit, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull would surely not have been so poorly received had it not broken its way into the brains of a paying public all those years ago. It coined terminology for students of film, with the “nuking the fridge” a moment for writers and film philosophers to leap upon, but for audiences to tut at and shake their head with the same warmth and shame they have for children who chase squirrels in the hopes of sitting atop them like a bicycle.
With a blue raincoat, tatty red hat and a fondness for marmalade, how harmless can Paddington really be? He hides dark secrets and darker intentions. No sane being would trust this beastly bear. He has burrowed his way into the hearts and minds of a generation for no other reason than being bright, colourful and forgettable. He is a tapeworm of massive proportions, and all Paddington, the first in the series from director Paul King offers, is the chance to see him grow and grow and grow. His tragic background jerks the heartstrings of an audience so hard their debit cards fall to the feet of plushie, kid-friendly sized dolls of the blue-coated beast. We must not give in. But why, why should we be so defensive against this harmless, charming bear?
One problem with taking love to the streets of New York in contemporary years is both the Woody Allen effect and the Beastie Boys influence. How can we experience passion in the boroughs of the Big Apple when Allen has just about covered every period, class, style and performance one city could offer? There is of course the issue No Sleep ‘Till Brooklyn presents also, and that most modern films will either have to include it, reference it, or acknowledge it as one of the finest tracks of our time. The alternate, then? Why, a period piece, of course. That is what Brooklyn is, and despite its American setting, the film is composed almost entirely of those who are not American.
To look at the impact Hot Fuzz has had on the comedy genre and how it blends with other popular strands of filmmaking, we must first look at the previous offerings. Comedy films were certainly in a rut, especially in the adult market. With American Pie dominating the American markets and wading its way through the channel, the home-grown products of the United Kingdom were, well, less than stellar. No disrespect to American Dreamz or Johnny English, but it was not exactly the cream of the crop. Still, there seems to have been some splash of thought coming from Johnny English, for it, and subsequently Hot Fuzz, realised that the blurring of action and comedy went hand in hand particularly well.
Cinema lacks ample football drama. We are presented with the hooliganism of Green Street or the obsessive addiction of Fever Pitch. Sometimes, we suspend our disbelief as audiences and struggle through the hyperviolence only Danny Dyer could present in The Football Factory. Where are the films taking a bite out of the controversies of the real world? The Damned United is a good example. Michael Sheen portrays Brian Clough, a legendary player of great tenure and legacy, depicting his doomed 44-day run as head coach at Leeds United. Continue reading The Damned United Review
Working-class woes and modern periods of bleak history are put to film, more often than not, with the intention of capturing an abstract feeling. Something we as an audience can vaguely learn from, about a certain mood among a ramshackle bunch of characters. Tangible links between the unique individuals within Life is Sweet make a sturdy, enjoyable foundation, bringing to light some of the more pressing issues of the time. Some now outdated, others that are as relevant today as they were thirty years ago, when this Mike Leigh directed feature first released.
My love for all things crafted by George Harrison’s studio, Handmade Films, has led me through some of the forgotten classics of British cinema. The countries output during this time was nothing short of excellent, and these somewhat cult style movies that have seeped into the mainstream were diamonds in the rough. Withnail & I, Life of Brian and How to Get Ahead in Advertising are all personal favourites of mine. One of their earliest outputs though, was one that had eluded me for some time. Terry Gilliam’s friendliest and perhaps most grounded project of all, Time Bandits is a visual treat from start to finish that relies on the strength of both director and cast.