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Imax: The Bigger the Better?

A Look at my First Imax Experience

So it has been about two months since the Imax opened at my local cinema in Edinburgh. Apparently it was an Imax many moons before but was scraped. So now it is back but so far the offerings of Mission Impossible 4 and The Journey 2 were doing nothing for me. These are not the kinds of films that will compel me to spend over 4 bucks extra rather than just using my pass. But this week something changed. The Cineworld realised that there are old Imax films they can show. So out of the blue they popped up a poster for “The Dark Knight” in Imax. Hell. Yeah.

So this week I stumped up the extra cash to see a film that I own on DVD to see what all the Imax fuss is about.

I had no real idea what the Imax was. I knew it was bigger and that was about it. I also had some crazy convention that it would somehow be kind of pop up, almost 3D but obviously that is a stupid notion. But that is the power of the myth of Imax, if you have never seen it you have no idea how it can really be any different to regular cinema.

So what’s the difference? Well it is a lot bigger. In fact the screen is almost the whole wall. To be honest even to see this when you first walk in is a fair spectacle. The main thing about the size of the screen is that when you look at the centre you can not see the edge so this immersed you in the film more. You feel a bigger part of the experience which after many years of cinema going is a rare effect for a regular screen to have. Also the picture is in HD. So it is like watching the HD film channel on your widescreen tv, positioned about two inches away from the screen yet feeling comfortable doing this. The other advantage is the sound. The sound is awesome. When there is actual music playing it can be argued that its to loud but as for sound effects it like it is happening in the seat next to you.

Is it worth the extra cash? I suppose it depends on the film. Most regular films on the Imax do not use the whole screen. The Dark Knight has about 30 mins that used the whole screen although it is still huge and HD in the other parts. I would be interested to see a 3D film in the Imax to see what effect that has as well. So, yeah. For the right film I would say that the Imax is worth it. I would also add that The Dark Knight is definitely one of those films.

Anyway, till next time

Fall

Review – The Muppets

CGI vs Sock Puppet Theatre

This is my long-awaited review of the New Muppet’s film. This is the first venture onto the big screens for everybody’s  favourite puppet characters for 12 years. Since Muppets Treasure Island there have been massive advances in technology and almost every kids film is now CGI (well at least the very best are). So will old Kermit and Miss Piggy be able to battle it out with Wall-e and the Toy Story Gang?

I was instantly worried when at the beginning of The Muppets as Disney had added a little Pixar short called “Short Fry” starring the Toy Story Cast. I am a huge fan of these shorts and own the DVD of them. I was exited but also a bit worried. This wasn’t a Pixar film so maybe Disney felt the movie was going to need this highlight  to soften the blow of a poor Muppets film. It was either under confidence in the feature film or they had a nice wee Toy Story short that Disney wanted to get out there. Thankfully it was the second and The Muppets was excellent, as was the short. The plot of the short is that a miniature Buzz Lightyear toy in a burger joint wants to get out of the display case his is stuck in. He sees regular size Buzz Lightyear in the ball pit and hatches a plan to escape in his place so he can be played with. The story also has a brilliant scene of a support group for “Happy Meal” toys who don’t get the love that other toys get.

So the Muppets. Basic premiss of the film is that Walter (a Muppet) and his brother Gary (played by Jason Segel) live in a happy-go-lucky stuck-in-the-50’s-esk place called Smalltown. Walter grows up being a huge fan of the Muppets as he feels he can identify with them (he never twigs that he himself is a muppet). When he joins Gary and his girlfriend Mary (Amy Adams) on a trip to LA they visit the Muppets studio which is run down and on its last legs. While there Walter finds out about an evil oil barons plan to take over the studio, level it and drill for the oil that lies below. He then finds Kermit, explains what’s happening and that they need to find 10 million dollars before the deadline. The only way to do this is to get the old gang together and put on a telethon to raise the cash. Can they get the gang together? Can they put on a show?

Here is where I usually give a whole “there maybe spoilers ahead” but there will only be one and it’s not critical to the film. I will however put a wee spoiler alert in italics when it coming!

So my thoughts on this film. I loved it. It’s the first film I have seen in ages that I couldn’t find a fault with. I’m not saying that they whole film is gold, it has its lulls but even these are entertaining and develop the story, but at its best it is brilliant. The film works on a few levels. First it takes the mick out of itself, it’s not at all serious and there are a lot of little nudge nudge references given to the audience.  It also has a wee go at the popular “singing” film where people burst into sporadic song by doing the same thing but with a “tongue in cheek” attitude to these scenes. One of these songs (Man or a Muppet) also won an Oscar for best original song.  It is also a really good Muppets story. All the main characters get their time to shine and whole film is entertaining, funny and really easy to watch.

Ok this paragraph has the small spoiler. Here I want to look at the subtle joke that is made when getting the Muppets gang back together. So the gang need 10 million dollars to survive but the “ONLY WAY” is to put on a show. Obviously it’s not the only way and as you meet each of the Muppets you notice that Miss Piggy (who is working high up for Vogue) and Gonzo (who owns a massive bathroom warehouse) could probably both afford 10 million straight off. Also Kermit lives in a Bel Air mansion which he could probably sell. At least between them they could stump up the cash. To drive this joke home Gonzo blows up his factory when he decides to joint the cause rather than sell it, for say, ten million dollars. I liked this. It kind of looks that the decision making of characters in films and makes a joke about them (like when you can’t understand why a character did one thing rather that the easier and more effective option other than it makes the film better).

Last off I would like to mention the cameos in the film. There are loads but they are done really well. I will not tell you who they are but the best are when Walter looks into the mirror and sees a human version of himself and the person who plays drums in the Muppets tribute band in Reno.

I would advise anyone to go and see this film. It’s really good and I probably should have gone to see this again instead of seeing Ghost Rider!

Till next time

Fall

Review – Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance

Can Old Saint Nick (Cage) get back to his best? 

So. I was going to write a review of the Muppets, which I went to see last night but something happened. A friend of mine asked if I would like to go to the cinema today. I said “Sure, not up to anything. What is on that you have not see?”. Now my friend frequents the cinema a lot and the only real option was “Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance”. First thought was “Ok. Nick Cage. Good in Kick Ass but was also in The Wickerman making a fool of himself” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e6i2WRreARo) So I went in with an open mind, as you need to if you are going to write about a film. Especially a Nick Cage film.

So whats it about? Well if like me you missed the first film this is how it was explained by my mate. Johnny Blaze (worst name ever for comic book character) makes a deal with the devil to keep his dad alive. The devil doesn’t keep the deal but still puts the spirit of some kind of evil vengeance angle into him. Every now and then Blaze’s head…well…. turns to a blazing skull and he then kills all evil people around him with his really hot chains. Ok. You got that? Cool. Also in the last film he quests to get rid of his split personality but when he is told he can ditch his fiery head he chooses to keep it. This is also the main theme of this film. He is the Ghost Rider. The son of the devil shows up and he needs to save him past the day of the “ritual” because he fancies the kids mum. He also thinks there is a good angel stuck in the bad angel that is stuck in him. Not complicated at all.

So let’s get this out of the way right now. Its getting to be a bit of an elephant in the room. You want to know what I thought? Well….. it was terrible. Not in a movie snob way but in the way that it was so boring even during the action sequences. Also Nick Cage is trying act his way to a contender for his performance in the Wickerman. He over acts everything, his one liners are delivered with the timing of a whale in tap shoes and he has one sequence where he intimidates a “bad guy” he is squawking and moving his head so much it looks like the Family Guy impressions of Bill Cosby. In fairness this scene was hilarious but i feel was never intended to be.

Talking of Family Guy jokes, one of the bad guys had the power of decay (despite decaying anything he touches ( i.e. swords or monks) he can still drive a car?). So he tries to eat food from a lunch box in a bit of light hearted “bad guy” comedy. He has an apple but lo and behold it rots as he raises it to his mouth. The same happens to the sandwich he has a go at.  But then he picks up a Twinkie and (lol) it doesn’t decay. “HAHAHAHAHA, U KNOW LIKE IN FAMILY GUY!!! ROFLCOPTER!!!”. This is also the only joke in the whole film. The rest is terribly dull action sequences and shocking one liners. The main problem is the film can not work out what I wants to be so tries everything. Its a bit of a mess really.

I don’t really what to continue with this review. It is to easy to pick apart and I am trying so hard to find a positive. Maybe if you have nothing better to do you can go and have a laugh. The only upside I can see is this film will allow you to appreciated better films more having seen this dross. So technically this film is doing a lot of good by lowering expectations so that average films will now be  seen as “quite good”. That a positive I suppose!

Nick Cage needs to take a long look at himself, then he will look at all the cash he has and not feel so bad I suppose.

Coming soon my Muppets review.

Till next time

Fall

Review – The Artist

Was this quiet film better than the “talkies”?

So about 6 weeks after its gerneral relese and countless nominations for awards I finally took an afternoon trip to my local cinema to see the Artist. The critics love it, my friends all love it and to be honest I have not heard a bad thing about it. But here’s the thing. I never fancied it. I like to think of myself as a open minded cinema goer and especially love works that have come from France (such as this film) but the idea felt like flying the Atlantic in a hot-air balloon instead of taking concord. Fun for a bit but is there any point in going backwards. So I went in thinking “why bring back a form of film which has been dead for such a long time and in these times of rehashing anything, why has this not been done before”. But that is no way to head into a film so I cleared my mind and sat down to watch this critically acclaimed jont around 30’s Hollywoodland.

Basically the story itself is one you have seen a thousand times before not only in films but in TV shows every week. Its essentially the story of the main character George Valentin’s fall from mega star of silent film to his talents becoming obsolete due to the introduction of talking films and his reluctance to change to the new media. Subsequently he tries to fund his own silent film, losses all his money and has a full on break down. At the same time Peppy Miller, a nobody at the start of the film, works her way up to be the biggest star of the “talkies”. The slight twist being that her fake mole was first suggested by George at the start of her career (think of the whole creating your down fall irony type of thing). The film charts the years where silent film dies and Peppy grows to stardom while George plummets as their lives collide from time to time. Also John Goodman plays the studio boss throughout the flick and is a nice familiar face in a cast of new meat to me.

Ok same deal as usual. I am now going to look at some of the themes and my opinions of the film so there maybe a few spoilers beyond this point. Although im pretty sure I am the only person on the planet that hadent seen the film before today.

First off I want to look at the theme of the death of silent film that runs throughout and sees Georges fall from grace. Obviously it is one of the quirks of the film that it looks at the history of the transition between silent movies and talking film but as The Artist is a silent film so you hear non of this new media. I makes the film feel as if it is being told from the perspective of the silent film or someone who is stuck in their ways and will not accept the new technology. Which fits well with Georges character and gives the film a feel of him being nostalgic and down on his luck rather than a loser or foolish . But this is as good as the depth to characters gets for me.

This is where I start to find small faults in the film. The main one for me was character development. The fact that this was a film without dialogue made it really hard to get to know the characters. I felt removed from them, and as this was a film about emotions, I personally found it hard to feel for the characters. Don’t miss quote me in saying that the acting was poor. Far from it, I though it was outstanding, but even with these great performances I could not connect with either George or Peppy. Also there is a lot of reliance on George dog to show what was going on.  It is easier to show threat if there is a dog barking (even silently) or even Georges embarrassment if the dog is mimicking him. I one way I see this as clever to make it easier for the audience but with a film which is taking so many awards, I would have wanted the characters to be deeper than I felt they were.

All in all I feel this is maybe not a great film but a great cinema experience. I do not think that I will want to see The Artist again but I am happy I went to see it. It is different and it works but I feel the film would have been much better with dialogue to develop the characters since the story was so predictable. I feel with dialogue the romance would have been deeper between the two main characters and history of silent film, which was the umbrella of the film, could have played a bigger role, which it probably deserved as that has not been in mainstream cinema for a long time. Its a film worth seeing but I think it could have been improved by the inclusion of dialogue. Funny that the lack of this is the one thing that makes the film more famous that anything else.

I know this will not be a popular review so add a comment if you agree or disagree with anything.

Till next time

Fall

Review – The Grey

Liam Nesson. Being a Bad Ass. In the Snow. Or is it?

So the latest film that I have been to see is The Grey starring Liam Nesson. This film is an adaptation of the a short story called “Ghost Walker” by Ian MacKenzie Jeffers. I went along expecting to see Mr Nesson crash a plane, run through the snow home while round house kicking wolves in the face as he went. Much the bad assery seen in the other Nesson action film of late (things like Taken and Unknown). BUT, I was pleasantly surprised that this was more of a straight film about a man, who has little to start with, leading a group of men from a plane wreck through the wilderness. This would be bad enough but this group of oil workers are being hunted by a pack of wolves. As is explained by Nessons character ” John Ottway”, whose job it was to kill wolves on the oil fields,  if they were within 30 miles of the Den the wolves will attack.

So these men are in a plane crash. They end up in the middle of nowhere where everything is a bit grey. It is always snowing and even when there is no blizzard it is still well below freezing. “So its a film about a group of men working together to survive?”, well yes and no. At its bones i suppose it is but the real theme of the story is about these men coming to terms with surviving a horrific event such as a plane crash and being even more pearl afterwards. The men are coming to terms with the fact this could be the end of their lives.

Ok. From here there maybe spoilers so you have been warned!

The film looks at some great themes. My favourite is the “out of the frying pan, into the fire” aspect mentioned above. The fact that these men had nothing to begin is key. It is outlined that the men who work in this area in the desolate north of America, only go there because they have nothing else. This seems to be the case with each of the characters who survive the crash. They have survived a plane crash, they want to live but if they get back, what is there for them when they get back? More of the same which they hate? So as they come to terms with being saved, the group start to get attacked by wolves as they are in the wolves territory. After a few of the team are attacked at the crash site it sinks in that they are in even bigger trouble. Nessons character seeing this basically gives the group a task. They need to get the wallets of the dead home for the families. I don’t think this was as much to do with respect for the dead but to give the men something to strive towards on their treck to survive while being chased by the wolves.

Another theme liked was the similarities between the wolf pack and the group of men. The main instance of this is when the group find themselves penned in at the bottom of a slop and the pack are at the top but the fires the group make deter the pack. At this point there is an all mighty howl from the wolves and a confrontation. Ottway then explains it was the alpha male putting down a challenge from another male in the pack. A little later the character John Diaz (who is the “he’s a bit of a dick” character) challenges Ottway who puts down the challenge with embers from the fire. This works on two levels. The obvious parallels above but also the use of fire which is the main weapon against the pack throughout the film is used to kill a pack like threat from Diaz.

The John Diaz character also has the best scene in the film. This is where he gives up. He has had too much and realises that where he is at that point, after surviving a plane crash, days of chase and lack of food, at that place he sat, with the most breath taking view he as ever seen, was where he wanted to die. He is happy and if he continues and survives he will go back to having nothing. No real achievement. At that point, a man who was defiant about living to the extent he produced a blade on his own team, sat and finally accepted death and was happy in letting it come over him after his achievements on the treck.

The film also has a nice little twist concerning the Ottway character. Throughout the film Ottway has flash backs to his ex-wife. He writes a note to her as a tries to commit suicide before the doomed flight but changes his mind when he hears a wolf howl (I know that’s a bit naff). As the film go on I was lead to believe that she left him for another man but at the end you see the dip attached to her arm and you realise the real story. I personally never seen it coming but my girlfriend twigged it in the first 15 minutes of the film. So if you were dim witted like me its a nice twist!

The film however has its problems. The wolves in some places are a bit, well… crap. The close up mauling are all over the place and the wolves seemed to run at about 5 times faster that I would have imagined in deep snow. Also there are a lot of wolf references such as the suicide howl which were not as subtle as the ones mentioned earlier.

I personally really enjoyed the film although my girlfriend was a bit unsure. Maybe its a guy film. I don’t really know about that one. Overall it is a dark film but it explores some great issues and if you haven’t seen it, stay till the end of the credits. I will not spoil that one even past the spoiler warning!

So I enjoyed Liam Neeson’s newest offering despite the fact he didn’t really beat the crap out of any wolves. I look forward to Taken 2 and the continuing action career of Mr Neeson. (A shout for the expendables 3?)

Till next time

Fall

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