‘The Double’: Film Review

 

Jesse Eisenberg as Simon James and James Simon

 

Billed as a black comedy, The Double is more a poignant drama about isolationism, suicide and identity. Most interestingly it is, to me at least, a modern take on classic German expressionism in films. Yes, Jesse Eisenberg is very good here, his physicality giving his two roles clear distinctions and Mia Wasikowska is quirky without being annoying but the real star is director Richard Ayoade, surely an auteur in the making. From the visual style to sound design, everything is so precise. The world is an amalgamation of eras; everything looks 1950’s or earlier, with crude computers and a wonderfully cheesy sci-fi show backed by 70’s synthesisers (and a Paddy Considine cameo!) blended in.The apartments and offices look like underground WWII bunkers or prisons; bleak and claustrophobic. Similar to the way characters move, there is a strange rhythm to the score, which plays more like a soundscape than anything else – there is a regular, soft wailing sound underscoring scenes set in the apartment blocks, as if someone is injured and pitifully wailing for help in the distance.

I could really go on about all the little touches in this film but there are really so many it would take forever to list and be a discredit to a film you are best off seeing for yourself. Despite what listings tell you the genre is The Double can be uncomfortable viewing but, if you are interested in the art of cinema or Richard Ayoade‘s blossoming directorial career, you will find much to enjoy here.

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‘Captain America: The Winter Soldier’ Review

If Captain America: The First Avenger was a simple, wholesome 40’s war movie with wholesome Americans punching Nazis fun, The Winter Soldier is a modern thriller, complete with all the car chases, trust issues, and characters seemingly in peril whipping out a well concealed gun at the last second. All of these genres staples are in full effect here and mostly, very well done: the grey morality is particularly well handled, with Cap having to understand that’s how the world is nowadays. What’s not so well done is the bad guys overall plot: it just seems too ‘big’, not just for a thriller but in that it seems to what to top Avengers when these solo films should be smaller and more personal in my opinion (Thor and Iron Man can perhaps get away easier with a big spectacle finale with one being an all powerful God and the other being well… Iron Man). The titular Winter Soldier doesn’t get that much to do at all; that whole subplot is a bit predictable, underdeveloped and left open when you’d think it should be wrapped up, given the subtitle. There are enough plot threads running in the MCU at is it, with Guardians, Thor 3 and Avengers: Age of Ultron. Cap 2 is less a standalone film and more a tease for the characters third solo entry. Which leads back to a positive point. Yes, its billed as a Captain America film but there is a lot of screentime dedicated to Black Window, instantly likeable newbie The Falcon, and Nick Fury. This is a good thing, as Chris Evans’ hero works best bouncing off other characters. I just wish a lot more of that character interaction was with the other titular character, as this really could’ve heightened to emotion to same levels as action and intrigue to make a really strong film, compared to a pretty good one.

 

 

Thor: The Dark World review

It’s been over a month (!) since I last posted something. There’s a few reasons for that. I turned 22 at the end of October and to try and desperately cling onto my youth I’ve been mostly playing old PSone era Looney Tunes games (Bugs Bunny: Lost in Time and Sheep, Dog n’ Wolf. Check them out if you’re interested, the latter is very good. But so difficult) and more suited to video reviews if I ever get that started (if you’re reading this Joel…). The only TV show I’ve been watching is Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD and I think I wanna wait til the end of the season before opening that proverbial pandora’s box. I’ve also been busy sorting out a house viewing and then moving into said house within a week so blogging has, sadly, fallen by the wayside a bit.

But if anyone’s going to ignite that spark and bring out the keyboard warrior in me its a new entry into the Marvel Cinematic Universe: one of my favourite things to happen to film in the last five years. Yes, it’s been that long since the first Iron Man promised us a wider universe with Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury cameo. Now ‘Phase 2’ carries on, and  its time to set things in motion, with Thor: the Dark World.

The not so official posted used in a Chinese theatre. Will probably be used as the gay porn parody poster no doubt…

I’m not going to do a sweeping, spoiler-free review because that’s boring and everyone else has done one. I’m going to write a bit more in depth about specifics so you’ll need to have seen the film (there’s no excuse not to by now) to get what I’m on about. Maybe.

OK, so basically: I bloody LOVED this film. It’s been a few days since I’ve seen it so I’ve had to time process where it sits in my ranking of the MCU films and its up there near the top. The thing that really sticks out, which many reviewers have picked up on as its strongest point, is the humour. Chris O’Dowd’s cameo (I personally like to think he’s actually Roy from The I.T. Crowd, in a meta gag), more Darcy – with an intern!, Thor and Jane picking up the sarcasm, everyone’s interactions with Loki, NAKED ERIK SELVI- nevermind actually. I also loved the little things like Thor putting his hammer on a coat hook, the absurdity of having to get on public transport (British public transport at that!) in the midst of the final battle and Mjnolnir (or ‘meow meow’ as Darcy still calls it) trying to fly back to Thor and constantly changing direction as he moves through dimensions. Even if the big baddie had more development (one of the film’s weaknesses, but apparently there’s tons of character for him in the deleted scenes), his seriousness as a villain was totally undermined by seeing him slide down the Gherkin, and that’s fine – its possibly my favourite moment. The MCU films (Incredible Hulk and the first Captain America aside) have all been consistently hilarious: Joss’ script for Avengers made it the funniest film of 2012 and Iron Man 3 and now Thor: The Dark World have equalled it, if not raised the bar.

Of course, Thor is also a serious superhero film too. Although saying that, the MCU films have blended the superhero genre with others to create something unique; Captain America: First Avenger was  an old-school 40’s war film, the first Thor wearethed the drapes of Shakespearian drama and Iron Man 3 was more a buddy cop movie. The Dark World delves into full-on fantasy, and does so fantastic under the direction of Game of Thrones alumni Alan Taylor. The battles are brutal, Asgard looks beautiful but also more realistic, whilst the viking funeral with the fire arrows could’ve been a moment out of Lord of the Rings. That scene in particular was  so visually stunning, it made me drop my jaw to the floor just after I had picked it up from seeing Frigga bite the bucket. It was beautiful. Having said all that, the film has a lot of science fiction elements to add to its unique mix (although science and magic are the same thing in this universe, according to Thor) with a med-bay hologram, portals allowing for some fun dimension hopping and gravity defying that make for an awesome final battle and henchemen that look like something out of Doctor Who – a nice touch seeing as Christopher Ecclestone is Malekith. All these elements are brought to life by fantastic visual and sound design, which nail (get it, coz Thor has a hammer…) all the different pieces together perfectly. As a media graduate, seeing everything come together made me go ‘yes, this is why I’d love to be involved in making movies’.

The Cyberman like faces/masks, the laser guns, the weird shaped spaceships – think the Dark Elves were literally beamed in from BBC Wales art department, and will probably be involved a lot of dubious crossover fan fiction…

Everyone getting to work on any of these Marvel movies is one of the luckiest people I the world. Not only are all these genre spanning films existing in and adding to a shared universe – like that mid credits scene confirming they are following the Infinity Gauntlet storyline (which I totally saw coming) and Loki doing… something with Odin and taking over the throne of Asgard in disguise (which I totally DID NOT see coming) – but they are the most FUN series of films coming out in a long, long time. These films are my boyhood fantasies coming to life on screen, and handled incredibly well. The actors are fantastic, the technical elements like sound and visuals aren’t just serviceable but full of flair and imagination and things like the Captain America illusion cameo is Marvel and Disney’s way of saying ‘we know what you want, and we are happy to give it to you’. The guys making these films are having a much fun playing with their metaphorical toy boxes making these as we are watching them, and I can’t wait for what comes next.

As long as it’s not more naked Erik Selvig.

So, August…

So August came and went in a bit of a blur, so much so I barely blogged at all (sorry!). So I thought I’d do a reflective post on Things I’ve Been Doing. Admittedly I’ve not done anything as exciting as gone to the MTV VMAs and got everyone talking about my foam finger (I could write an entire essay about Miley Cyrus but in short: she’s not doing anything worse than I’ve seen on many nights out, but she is trying too hard and getting on my goat a bit) but I’m sure I will spice things up with a few pictures and (attempts at) puns.

Most of my time this month has been spent commuting to and from Cardiff for work. I’ve got an enjoyable job and its digging me out of my student debt but obviously it’s not where I want to be in my life. And as graduates know, very few leave Uni and walk into a career. The media especially requires you to know the right people, be in the right place at the right time and/or get shed loads of experience.

Luckily for me and a few of my fellow graduates, this weekend we have gotten some of the latter and it’s been invaluable.

L-R: Leah Coombs, Gwyneth Jane Humphreys, Laura Emily Harris, myself, Jack Perry and Alex Tisley.

We’ve all spent the last few days at Snetterton Race Course up in Norwich for the Citroen 24 Hour 2CV Race. As you can tell by our funky uniforms we were the official media team for the whole race. For us this meant we had to man the Twitter, set up and fix the cameras around the race course as well as vision mix and maintain the online live stream. With the race being 24 hours we each got a chance to try our hand at everything multiple times, and get a few hours sleep. Except for Jack and Leah, who endured the full 24 hours with less pit stops than the cars themselves.

Our office for the race. Surprisingly at the point this photo was taken only one tube of Pringles was open.

Our office for the race. Surprisingly at the point this photo was taken only one tube of Pringles was open.

The event wasn’t as intricate or large as Formula 1, but the experience is very similar (I’d imagine).  Carrying around the roaming camera in the pits we had to be totally aware of our surroundings: what cars were in the pits, who was about come in or leave and where you shouldn’t walk unless you want to get run over. As the audio was handled separately by the radio team and their commentators, we had to try and catch the action on the camera as it was being spoken about. We had walkie-talkies to communicate with the director/vision mixer and at the start found it difficult to communicate, with all the noise of the vehicles and other people around. We learned as we went on to communicate direction using short and to-the-point phrases and assume the camera we were carrying was live all the time.

An example of some of the tweets I made whilst manning the official social media page

An example of some of the tweets I made whilst manning the official social media page

Once we worked out this system, and worked out the rhythm of vision mixing the process ran pretty smoothly. Sure, every now and then one of the cameras would decide to not work (it wouldn’t be a proper live broadcast unless something technological failed) and the amount of sugar and snacks I’ve consumed is disgraceful but it was a fantastic experience and, as the first piece of media work I’ve done since University, I’ve been reminded just why I want to be in this industry. It’s a thrill. And the race was pretty exciting too!

I've discovered a passion for motor racing

I’ve discovered a passion for motor racing

Apart from that, there’s not really much to write about what I’ve got upto, so I might quickly whizz through some music and film reviewsopinions.

Music: apart from Miley Cyrus, August saw (and heard) the return of megastars Lady Gaga and Katy Perry with the lead singles from their third albums. Both are all right I guess, ‘Roar’ is probably the better song but ‘Applause’ is more interesting, if only for some of the lyrics and that accent on the verses. First singles are usually pretty safe, predictable options in today’s overly cautious Top 40 music scene, and I’m hoping there are some genuine classics to come from both. As we move into the last few months of the year, loads of albums are released hoping to be scooped up in the Christmas buying rush. The first one of those is obviously Janelle Monae, who has been pretty much on repeat in anticipation over the last month.

This has also come to my attention recently, and anyone who knows me is well are of my… gripes with the original.  (NSFW)

I’m not sure what’s better: this parody or the comments on the web from men who find watching this uncomfortable. So much irony here I could use it get rid of all the creases in my clothes forever.

Films: I’ve been TERRIBLE with going to the cinema this last month; literally only seeing two films. And no, neither of them were One Direction: This Is Us.

Both The Wolverine and Elysium were, in my opinion, strong solid 7 out of 10 movies. Great films wrapped up in good ones, with their potential just hindered by a few things. The Wolverine starts off as a slow, character piece with a gorgeous setting in Japan and a fantastic set-piece atop a bullet train with physics being thrown out the window. I was actually reminded of one of my favourite films of all time, Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children; both have that Japanese sensibility, a mix of realism and stylisation, similar pacing and focus on lonely warriors afflicted with symptoms that cause them to collapse at inopportune moments. But whereas the over-the-top action felt in place in Advent Children, and the set-pieces outdid themselves each time, The Wolverine’s final third just descended into silliness for me, with a gigantic CGI samurai robot. There wasn’t much tension in that fight either, with shots of a character waking up from being knocked out and noticing a weapon they could thrown ruining any element of surprise. The teaser trailer has me very stoked for next year’s X-Men: Days Of Future Past, which is clearly 20th Century Fox‘s answer to Marvel’s The Avengers. Let’s hope its just as awesome but I’ve probably memorised every line of last year’s epic nerdfest and I’m insatiable for more.

(speaking of Insatiable, Queen Nadine Coyle annoucned she’s having a baby!)

Back to films and onto Elysium which, like the Pet Shop Boys album with the same title released last year, wrapped up some social commentary (the film about class divide and capitalism, the album about ageing and fame) in a package that’s easily enjoyable, but leaves you wanting more. I’m guessing that’s what you’d find if you looked up the word in the dictionary.

Oh.

Oh.

Unlike most people I’ve talked to, I had no problem with Jodie Foster at all. In fact, she was one of my favourite aspects of the film. My beef was with Sharlto Copley. He was one of the best things about the incredible District 9 but here, I can’t take him seriously as a villain. I can see what he was going for but I never found him creepy, or intimidating – just a large ham criminally out of place.

Continuing on the theme of enjoying things but finding them a bit disappointing (I am so middle aged…) I’ve been playing a lot of Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch which has sucked up a fair bit of my time. It’s got that irresistable JRPG hook of ‘just one more thing to do before I stop’  but like Level-5‘s previous games Dragon Quest: Journey of the Cursed King and Rogue Galaxy I find as the game goes on it gets too repetitive and its becoming a bit of a slog. The combat is frustrating at times with ridiculous AI and the story I’m not really into.

It is VERY pretty though. I’m a sucker for Studio Ghibli and being able to have a Totoro lookalike on the team is pretty awesome.

I will say though, I’ve pretty much not used a guide at all so far which I’ve purposefully tried to do after realising I’m potentially ruining gaming experiences but using them too much during my first playthrough. Sure there’s a great in-game encyclopaedia and a lot of hand-holding with very little thinking involved for a lot of puzzles, but I’m choosing my own monster team and one of their two final evolutions based on gut feeling, rather than guides and what other people online tell me to. I could go into a LOT more detail but I’m saving this for either a full blog post once I finish the game or get a YouTube channel with one of my friends off the ground.

Eyes on this space, guys. Eyes on this space.

For now, I’m going to sleep some more and recover from the weekend. Comments, likes, follows etc. are all greatly appreciated and have a lovely September. I promise to post more! Joe

Monsters University, The World’s End and the End of University (oh, and Pacific Rim too)

First off, sorry for not posting in a week (but seems like forever), I was busy. Y’know getting a job, cutting up robots, seeing the very good Little Mix and less good JLS and Union J live, catching up with friends, eating Nando’s and melting in the heat.

I don't like not being at the front.

I don’t like not being at the front.

Anyway, I don’t really want to talk about any of those things. I want to talk about what I’ve seen at the cinema recently, specifically: Monsters University, The World’s End and Pacific Rim. This isn’t a ‘should I go see this film?’ kinda blog, but since my Man of Steel one proved popular, I’ll quickly run through them.

SHOULD I GO SEE THE AFOREMENTIONED FILMS?

Yes.

Yes.

meh.

What I want to talk about is how the first two films, Monsters University and The World’s End hit a chord in me, and I connected with them in a personal way.

Right now, I’m at that post-graduation point in my life which for a lot of people seems to go one of two ways: they either go straight into something fantastic and ride a wave of good fortune, or end up in a bit of a slump. Lately I’ve definitely been experiencing the latter. I’m not going to end-up living at home until I’m 24 working at the cornershop or something but I’ve tried throwing myself out there to potential employers in the industry I want to go and no fish have bitten (I’ve completely changed the metaphor halfway through that sentence). So many gameplan is to take smaller, hopefully more secure steps – unless I run into some kind of miracle (pop reference!) – but at times I get frustrated I’m not at where I want to be, even though I’m working on it. I just want to jump forward in time and be where I want to be.

The loveliest day ever. But I was crying inside. (I wasn’t really, #lad or whatever the kids do nowadays)

It’s similar to what Mike and Sully go through in the film. I’m not spoiling too much for anyone when I say they obviously aren’t in University by the end, and a big theme is where do they want to be and how are they going to achieve it. Lots of people (including a half dragon, half centipede-type thing made sexy by having the voice of Helen Mirren*) doubt them, and put them down. There are the high-flyers who make the protagonists feel inferior, but that doesn’t stop them putting in hard work. And I really relate.

I don’t know if this was planned, but the release of Monsters University has been PERFECTLY timed. In fact, it’s the third piece of evidence I need to make me believe Pixar makes films for me. Not people like me, ME. Me, Josef Anderton, 21-Year Old Welsh Matt Damon Lookalike With An Unhealthy Obsession With Final Fantasy. 

Point 1: The first film I ever saw at the cinema.

You’ve Got A Friend In Me’, that is all.

Point 2: The last film I saw before going to Uni.

I will freely admit I cried my eyes out watching this film. But not at the bit you’re all thinking of. The bit that got me was the very human, very real moment where Andy’s leaving for college just… hits his mum. For me personally, my moving out wasn’t emotional because I wasn’t moving that far away, excitement was the overriding feeling and me and my parents were getting on each others nerves greatly. So when I saw these emotions on show me and my family were repressing I guess, it really got me.

And point #3 is what I’ve just talked about above:

I chose this poster because… ooft Helen.

So where does this fit in?

Funnily enough the penultimate film I saw before University was Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World, also directed by Edgar Wright. That film has become my all-time favourite because of its unashamed geekiness, beyond inventive filmmaking and the foundation of many late-night University conversations and possible THE reason my best friend is my best friend. But I’m going off-topic. If you know anything about The World’s End you’ll know the character played by Simon Pegg suffers from Peter Pan syndrome big time.

I would hate to see myself end up like Gary King; still thinking its the early 90’s, he’s barely old enough to legally drink and Saint Etienne are still good (OK, the last one is unquestionably TRUE!). But Wright is cleverer than to just show us Pegg’s character are not having achieved anything in life. All his friends (and I’m not spoiling anything, just look at the posters and trailers and its pretty obvious) seem to have settled into hum-drum, boring jobs and their lives could do with some colour. These can’t be the only two ways adulthood is meant to be, right? Successful but sour or fun but a failure? Not for me thanks.

A lot of people happily tell me life is just constant mediocrity, and though it frustrates me from time-to-time I want to make the most of it; be successful but ENJOY it. And yes, lots of things will try and get me down and convince me our world is actually pretty rubbish but… it could be worse.

And with that, I move onto Pacific Rim.

Meh.

*by the way: Helen, if you are reading this – please adopt me.

Should You See ‘The Man Of Steel’?

Although this film is making a decent bit of money (understatement: it has apparently had the best June opening ever) a lot of people aren’t sure if they should go see the Man of Steel. 

Are you one of these people? I can see why:

You are sick to death or reboots and especially superhero origin stories, hence why you didn’t enjoy last year’s not so amazing Amazing Spider-Man.

The ‘dark and gritty’ trailers put have you off.

It’s very action heavy, with some reviewers saying it reminds them of DragonBall Z more than anything.

You’ve heard it has ‘character’ and ’emotion’, things you don’t want in a superhero film.

Russell Crowe is in it.

The film is directed by Zack Snyder, whose previous works are very good looking but ultimately hollow.

You can’t take another two and a half hour long epic.

Or perhaps you just aren’t a fan of Superman.

And these are all very good reasons, but I must disagree with them. To put it bluntly you need to see Man of Steel. And here is why:

That is all.