Metallica – Through the Never Movie Review

I’ve just come back from the IMAX screening of the new Metallica movie, Through the Never.

What I expected was, rather foolishly I now know, a movie with a Metallica soundtrack. What you get is Metallica in concert, in 3D, in IMAX, and some kind of weird, mess of a very small movie intertwined.

The show that you see, Metallica in concert, shot in Canada, is stunning. The affects during the concert, particularly the helicopter fly-over, are jaw-droppingly good. It makes you want to go and see the band in concert, which is obviously a good thing.

The set designers use lasers and surround sound and flames and video to create a totally immersive experience that will leave you visually spellbound.

The 3D, you’ll be pleased to hear, is used surprisingly sparingly and looks best when focusing on drummer Lars Ulrich or panning around lead singer James Hetfield, guitarist Kirk Hammett or bassist Robert Trujillo.

In between pretty much every song (and sometimes mid-song), you get a short clip that attempts to string together some kind of short movie.

This movie is about a junior roadie called Trip, played by Dane DeHann, who is sent on a quest to receive something that the band can’t do without. Just before he sets off he drops a pill and experiences a surreal journey trying to conquer his quest.

Sometimes the songs match the movie, sometimes they don’t. The issue though is that the ‘movie’ – such that it is – doesn’t work…at all. And so you’re left just wanting to see more of Metallica in concert, which is the best part and, despite the usual close up shots of the wrong guitarist during solos, is fantastic to see.

The ‘movie’ just begins to get in the way. Perhaps that’s because there isn’t really a plot, or a point, or anything really.

This is obviously an attempt by director Nimrod Antal (Predators, Vacancy) to push the boundaries of the concert movie in a way you’re unlikely to see with the new One Direction showing! It’s a good attempt that misses the mark but is saved by the actual concert itself and, of course, the music of the legends that are Metallica.

Strangely the band members get writing and producing credits for the movie and previous bassist Cliff Burton gets a producing credit too…from beyond the grave, which fits with the amount of gravestones you see on the film I guess.

Only God Forgives Review

I hope god can see his way to forgiving Nicolas Winding Refn for writing and directing something this pretentious. I’ve honestly never watched something that is so up its own arse in my life.

The film runs at an hour and a half though to be honest the plot, such that it is, is so thin that it could have been covered in half an hour.

There are scenes that happen, but then you’re not really sure if they’re part of the film or not. They don’t move the story on, they are never referenced again and most of them end without actually playing out to a conclusion, of any sort.

The shining light and the only thing that stopped me turning it off was Kristin Scott Thomas who is brilliant as the evil mother. She seems to relish the part turning on the vulnerability when required but mostly just being evil.

Ryan Gosling plays an extension of the part he played in Drive, I think he has maybe ten lines in the whole movie and five of those are: “do you want to fight?” Where he proceeds to get his ass handed to him by the bent copper, played by Vithaya Pansringarm, who is really the lead of the movie.

The film is dark, both in story terms and what you actually get on the screen. There are some wonderful shots and wonderful uses of the camera but they aren’t enough to keep you interested or to make up for what is generally just a writer/director on some kind of personal trip.

The pacing is horribly slow, there are times when it seems to build and you wait for the climax that just doesn’t happen, and we all know how frustrating that can be!

I was looking forward to the movie, I wanted to like it more than I liked Drive but I just felt frustrated and confused. The movie isn’t anywhere near as good as you sense if could have been and it’s not that accessible either. We wait to see what the next Refn film brings us.

Elysium Review

District 9 brought us many, many good things. For starters it brought us a great film, brilliantly written and directed by newcomer Neill Blomkamp. It also brought us a great ‘accidental’ new actor in Sharlto Copley­. It had CGI, action, comedy and a manic energy that was refreshing considering it was shot in a documentary style.

Following up that brilliant opening was always going to be a challenge, neither director nor actor were new, the surprise was gone, the game had to be upped as the expectation would be larger.

Blomkamp’s follow up to District 9 is the big budget sci-fi actioner Elsyium with Matt Damon in the lead role with Jodie Foster and Copley supporting. I don’t have much of a problem with Matt Damon it’s just that Team America World Police “Matt Damon” is always in my head when I see him on screen!

Anyway, I digress, Elysium sees the action take place in 2154 when the Earth is in a state. Pollution, disease, poverty are all rife and draconian man-built robots rule the roost. Meanwhile up on a man made space station known as Elysium, the wealthy live in a life of luxury. Diseases are a thing of the past, aging doesn’t happen, pollution is unknown and all is well.

An industrial accident sees Damon needing to get up to Elsyium to help himself, but that’s not so easy, so him and a bunch of criminals come up with a plan and one exoskeleton, brain patch, gun toting second later, the movie kicks into gear.

The movie is well conceived, it’s a bit more serious than District 9, it’s a lot more gory and probably just wins on the amount of CGI front too. When Copley arrives things get a bit more fun as his warrior character shines through in his attempt to stop Damon at all costs.

The problem with the movie is that it’s a lot more conventional then District 9, though the political motives are very similar with takes on immigration and segregation. The cinematography, such as it is, is stunning, as is the attention to detail on things like the space station and with the various robots that are in the film.

Perhaps the biggest problem, something I’ve spoken about time and time again, and I’m almost crying writing this as secretly I was hoping Blomkamp would be my new favourite director. The biggest problem is a complete and total lack of being able to shoot the action sequences, particularly the fight scenes. It’s shaky cam galore but it’s way more than I’ve ever seen before.

It’s so bad that you completely miss large chunks of action, you’re sometimes left looking at a chest plate or scenery whilst fighting goes on off screen. There is absolutely no excuse for this. Film is a visual medium above all else and all it requires is a step back with the camera, keep it still, your actors will convey the action you don’t need to do it with the camera, not this much.

That said this doesn’t detract from a decent enough follow up to District 9, it’s more conventional, popcorn, summer blockbuster style film but done very well.

Fast And The Furious 6 Review

Haven’t you heard? Trilogies are so passé these days. Six is where it’s at, in fact number seven is on the way in case you didn’t know and you will if you stay to the end of Furious 6, but I’m getting ahead of myself.

Many people look on at this franchise in complete bewilderment as to how it is still going. I have to admit I’m one of them but it’s the wrong way to look at it really. The title isn’t important. It’s just an action car based film that happens to have the same people in it. If you don’t believe me watch Fast and the Furious Tokyo Drift which is actually not a bad movie at all and doesn’t have half of the action of the films in the rest of the series.

The main thing you should wonder though is about Vin Diesel, I mean I worry for anyone who speaks in such a deep voice, it can’t be good for you. But mainly I worry for the man’s career given the only films he seems to be able to do are this series and Riddick, to which he’s gone back to recently.

Diesel is back joined by the boys and girls from the previous film: Paul Walker, Dwayne Johnson, Michelle Rodriguez, Tyrese Gibson, Sung Kang, Ludacris and Jordana Brewster. For this film we get the bonus additions of Gino Carano, Luke Evans, Clara Paget and Kim Kold a former 6ft 4” Danish goalkeeper who you can’t imagine let much past him!

Much of the movie is a ‘who has the biggest guns’ show between Johnson, Diesel and Kold. Johnson probably just gets it but Kold is also a former national bodybuilding champion so it’s close.

The actual story, well, does it matter? Do you care? Someone steals something using fast cars, Johnson decides he wants to employ ‘the best’ to stop it happening again and so hire Diesel and co to help out. It’s all really unimportant for this film as it’s very much about the action, even the cars take more of a back seat then previously.

The latter is a shame as the majority of the movie takes place in Europe and yet, rather than featuring the vast plethora of European sports cars: Ferrari’s, Lamborghini’s, Pagani’s, Atom’s, Bugatti’s and many, many more to choose from, the gang stick with mainly American muscle cars. Just to hammer it home the bad guy gets given an Aston Martin. An Aston that strangely sounds like an American muscle car, in fact most cars sound like American muscle cars in this movie.

There’s lots of action scenes in the movie, lots of fights scenes, one street race through London (of which you can see the police stopping traffic and the barriers stopping the crowds) a plane chase and a tank chase. Just the usual!

The best part of the film is the end. I don’t mean that when the film finishes it’s the best part, I mean you think the film has finished but there’s a little teaser of things to come in the next one (and they do it before the credits so you don’t have to sit around and wait). It’s an exciting teaser, a Brit as a bad guy, shock horror, but an excellent choice if done correctly, although given the storyline that has been released…I won’t hold my breath.

Mud Review (The Film, Not The Substance)

Matthew McConaughey is on something of a revival of late. It started with Killer Joe, maybe the Lincoln Lawyer, and continued with The Paperboy, Mud and apparently Magic Mike though I’ve yet to confirm that.

Mud sees two young boys find a fugitive (McConaughey) on an island near their home and, being young impressionable boys that they are, they are caught up in the moment and end up helping him to re-build a boat they’ve found in order that he can escape with his girlfriend Juniper (Reese Witherspoon).

The boys, Tye Sheridan as Ellis and a River Pheonix looking Jacob Lofland as Neckbone, grab parts for the boat and food for McConaughey and take notes to his girlfriend.

As the story goes on you learn that Mud has killed a man in the name of love and now the father and brother and a whole heap of bounty hunters are after Mud to take their revenge.

The story is one of young love, foolish love, betrayal and lies however it drags on at over two hours and you get the feeling it was kept this long for no other reason than the scenery looks nice.

Having said that, when it comes to it it’s well directed, McConaughey is excellent in the title role and the two young boys keep the movie going with their intensity. What is lacking between them is any kind of believable friendship, the type you saw in Stand By Me for example. The friendship just feels a little forced, a little lacking something.

There are no real surprises here, if you haven’t seen Killer Joe then you should perhaps watch this to see how good McConaughey is these days, otherwise it plods along and just does enough to keep you interested. A little bit more ruthless cutting and the movie would have been all the better for it.

Man of Steel (Short) Review

I’ll keep this short as most of you will have already seen this movie no doubt. The truth is when you’re watching it you aren’t surprised to learn that Zack Snyder, he of Watchmen fame, is the director. You’re also not surprised that David S. Goyer and Christopher Nolan both wrote the story.

The reason you’re not surprised by any of this is because what Man of Steel lacks is anything new. It has the darkness of the recent Batman films (also penned by Goyer and Nolan) and it has the stylistic tendencies of Watchmen and 300 (both directed by Snyder).

The story delves a little into the background of Clark Kent, I’m not a graphic novel reader so can’t tell you how true it is to the original story, I’d be interested to know though. What you get is much more of a back story to the man, much more reasoning then what we saw in the first Superman Christopher Reeve films.

As the story progresses we get General Zod, played by the excellent Michael Shannon, and his cronies arrive on Earth to take over the planet and turn it into Krypton two as their planet is no more.

There are many CGI battles, many plot holes and many “wait…did I miss the bit where he…” and ultimately these build up to let the film down.

No-one seems to have been able to re-boot Superman since the Reeve days and on this showing, I hope no-one else bothers.

The World’s End Review

Messr’s Pegg, Wright and Frost are back in this, the final part of the Cornetto Trilogy. Whilst I absolutely loved Shaun of the Dead, I was less impressed with Hot Fuzz, which I think was down more to Edgar Wright’s direction then anything else. It was the overuse of the quick edited, doors shutting, seat-belt locking close shots got on my nerves very quickly. Those of you who agree will be pleased to know that those shots do exist, but the use of them has been stripped back.

Now I’m in no-way saying Wright is a bad director, I don’t think his ability is in any way in question and it’s great to see he’s back to his best in this part of the trilogy.

What makes this film laugh out loud funny though is the writing from both Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright and then the delivery of Pegg and his co-star Nick Frost who has the most varied role in the movie, running through a gamut of emotions and pulling it off with aplomb.

Frost starts out, well frosty, then angry, then kick ass angry, before finally reaching man-love status.  He runs through all of these expertly and has you gripped at each point, I really hope we see more of Frost in movies now, I think he’s more than shown he’s a fantastic actor.

The story follows Gary King (played by Simon Pegg) who decides to re-unite the ‘gang’ of childhood friends to tackle the Golden Mile pub crawl some 20 years after they first attempted it as children.

The gang has all moved on except for King, who is even wearing the same outfit for the re-unite. Andrew Knightley (Nick Frost) has grown up and works in a swanky law firm office with a secretary, Oliver (Martin Freeman) is now selling expensive houses, Peter (Eddie Marsan) is selling top end Audi’s for his fathers firm and Steven Prince (Paddy Considine) is sleeping with a twenty-something fitness instructor.

Pegg goes round to each one to convince them to have one last crack at the epic pub crawl and somehow manages it.

When they all reach the town of Newton Haven they begin to reminisce until Pegg starts a fight with a youth in the toilets of one of the pubs and finds out all is not as it seems.

From here on in the movie just gets funnier and funnier as they decide to continue with their pub crawl on the premise that the ‘inhabitants’ of the town will know that they know what’s going on if they just leave. Or as Nick Frost’s character brilliantly puts it “Gary reckons we should carry on with the pub crawl and no-one’s got a better idea so fuck it”.

As the pub crawl continues the groups numbers dwindle as they get picked off, although they do gain as well as Oliver’s sister Sam arrives, played by Rosamund Pike.

The movie does have an emotional storyline running through it as well which could have been a little contrived or got lost in the action and comedy but it doesn’t and works very well, although it never goes too long before it’s pulled back to comedy.

The movie is brilliantly directed, superbly acted and genuinely funny. The final scene is maybe the only one that feels a little superfluous but that’s a minor quibble.

I do hope this isn’t the last time Pegg, Frost and Wright work together as British movies will be a duller place without them.

The Incredible Burt Wonderstone (mini) Review

To say I wasn’t expecting this to be great (or incredible) would be an understatement. The movie certainly isn’t incredible and I’m not sure I could call it great either, but if you forgive the formulaic story, it does have some moments that will make you laugh.

The story follows Burt, played by Steve Carrell and Anton, played by Steve Buscemi, as they start as geeky young school children who discover magic and then go on to become the greatest things in Vegas, playing at the top hotel for many years.

The trouble is, as magic changes, as times change, the pairing lose touch with what’s cool and relevant and start to get overshadowed by Steve Gray, played by Jim Carrey, who’s the Dynamo or David Blaine equivalent. He does street magic and cuts himself and does everything Burt and Anton don’t.

As I said, the story is formulaic and generally it isn’t anything you haven’t seen before but, for a little over 90 minutes of your life there’s a lot worse you could watch, although obviously there’s a lot better.

I guess you could say that Carrell isn’t used to his best, Buscemi stays in the background a bit too much and James Gandolfini is funny as the hotel owner but could have been given more.

But if you’re stuck for something to watch, it’s a Sunday afternoon, stick it on, cringe, laugh then turn it off and forget all about it.

Stand Up Guys Review

It’s not often that I go into a movie knowing little to nothing about it and it’s even rarer that I watch a movie purely because of the actors involved.

With Stand Up Guys however I made an exception. I’m a big fan of Christopher Walken and when the people alongside him are Al Pacino, Alan Arkin and Julianna Margulies to name a few, I knew this was a film I wanted to watch.

Now I knew the premise of the movie, aging guys get together for one last job, and to be honest that didn’t fill me with hope, expectations were low shall we say.

However I’m more than happy to say that what I got was something far better than I could have expected. Newcomer writer Noah Haidle has created something that is moving, darkly funny and very indie in style without having the indie budget.

Directorial duties fall to Fisher Stevens who most of you will probably know as George Minkowski from the TV series Lost. He does a good job, perhaps doesn’t quite give the car chase scene enough umpf but overall it’s a solid job.

Going into the movie expecting something akin to Oceans 11 or expecting the action of something like Taken is going to leave you disappointed. The movie has much more drama to it then that, much more emotion.

The performances of Walken and Pacino as the elder statesmen are great. Pacino in particular puts in a Stand Up performance that ranges from dramatic to comedic and back again with Walken giving his usual subtle performance that seems effortless.

The story follows Pacino on the day he gets out of jail after being inside for 28 years. Walken picks him up but is being forced to kill Pacino by 10am or he loses his own life and that of his granddaughter. Walken doesn’t want to kill Pacino and so starts nine hours of sex, drugs, dancing, car theft, revenge, springing someone from an OAP home and much more.

You get to know a lot about the characters that Walken and Pacino play, some of the other characters come and go but try to tell their story a little too quickly in my opinion.

However I think the biggest problem is with the ending. Sometimes you can do things in movies that seem to take the audience somewhere and then not show them, see  Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction for an example. Sometimes though that can feel like a cop-out, I haven’t quite made my mind up about the ending of Stand Up Guys, but I’m leaning towards the latter.

Spielberg And Lucas Predicting The Film Industry Will ‘Implode’

Interesting comments recently from Steven Spielberg and George Lucas, both of whom predict that the film industry will ‘implode’.

It’s a surprise to hear this from either of these two given how both have made their names from the big screen. It’s a little less surprising from Lucas however who seems to get a bit bitter in the talk.

Lucas, lets not forget, is the man who brought us Jar Jar Binks, possibly one of the worst characters of the big screen in recent times, as well as Red Tails, possibly one of the worst movies of recent times.

Lucas said: “We’re talking Lincoln and Red Tails – we barely got them into theatres, you’re talking about Steven Spielberg and George Lucas can’t get their movie into a theatre!”

So is he saying a movie should get in theatres just because of who’s behind it? Frankly I’d have preferred it if Red Tails had never made it to the cinema given it was an absolute pile of dross. The movie scored just 39% on Rotten Tomatoes, so it wasn’t just me. It was also described as: “jingoistic, corny, über-patriotic and old-fashioned”, not by some film critic but by George Lucas himself! So his comments are all the more strange.

The basics of what the two were saying was that, in their future, you won’t have anywhere near as many movies in the theatres as you do now. Instead you’ll pay $150 a ticket and the movies will stay on for months and months. In other words they are predicting that cinema will turn into stage.

This echoes the recent decision by Steven Soderbergh who said he doesn’t expect to work in cinema again citing how badly directors are treated.

“It’s become absolutely horrible the way the people with the money decide they can fart in the kitchen, to put it bluntly” said Soderbergh. “It’s not just studios – it’s who is financing a film. I guess I don’t understand the assumption that the director is presumptively wrong about what the audience wants or needs when they are the first audience, in a way. And probably got into making movies because of being in that audience.”

Speilberg apparently struggled to get Lincoln in the theatres saying it came very close to being premiered on HBO rather than in cinemas. This was what happened with Soderbergh’s current release Behind the Candelabra in the US, although that could have been because it was ‘too gay’ according to some reports.

However, let’s put this in some kind of perspective shall we. So called ‘big name’ directors have always had to work for studios usually doing one movie for the studio, some bums on seats actioner for example, and then one for themselves. Spielberg paid his dues early on and has recently been able to make movies that are close to his heart such as; Saving Private Ryan, Schindlers List, War Horse, Munich etc, etc. Is it surprising that he struggled to get Lincoln in the theatres? Yes and no. Yes because it’s a good film, superbly acted and no because it’s about Abraham Lincoln and won’t play well outside of the US.

As for Soderbergh’s Behind The Candelabra, Liberace did do a European tour and a few movies but mainly made his name in the US and performed in Vegas for large parts of his career.

Now don’t get me wrong, I think it’s a shame that this is happening. I think it’s awful that the studios have quite so much power over what gets made and what doesn’t, that all they’re interested in is profit. But, then again, they are a business. They are there to make money. If Spielberg really did want to distribute any film he made I’m sure he could put his hand in his pocket and use some of the reported $3 billion he’s worth to create his own studio, oh wait he did, Dreamworks, and then sold it again.

And so here’s the rub: both Spielberg and Lucas have had their own studios and then sold them again and both are reportedly worth billions of dollars. So rather than complaining about the studios who made them rich and gave them the opportunity to make the movies that made their names, perhaps they should create their own studio again?

I can’t be surprised that, given the current economic market, given that piracy is so rife, that studios and the people who put their hands in their pockets to finance films are being so careful and worried with their money.

In my day job I’m a project manager and it would be lovely if clients just gave me their hard-earned cash and let me get on with building them what they want. But you know what? They don’t. It’s their money, I’m working for them and they want to ensure that I do my job and they get their moneys worth. If I gave someone five million dollars to make a movie, I’d want to ensure the same thing.