Six years after The Cabinet of Dr Caligari, came The General. Whilst we are still in the era of silent cinema as the talkies were just a few years away, we have a change in film. Many American film companies had move to Hollywood due to various weather types that meant filming on location was no longer a huge concern, cheap real estate as the location was mainly for growing oranges and there wasn’t a union for labour workers until the 1930s.
The General, co-written by the star of the film Buster Keaton, in comparison to The Cabinet of Dr Caligari is seen as more of a film with techniques used as it moves away from the mise-en scene been staged like a play. The camera is a technique of storytelling in The General opposed to just being a device used to record a story. The scene in which Keaton’s character is rejected by his love and sits on the train wheel which moves him like a rag doll is evidence of Keaton’s character techniques as the juxtaposition of the huge machine and this tiny body is comedy genius. The General features close ups, a note-worthy example is the scene in which Keaton’s character is under the table whilst trying to rescue his love, we first see a long shot of the table surrounded by the soldiers with the audience seeing Keaton’s feet, then cuts to a close up of Keaton’s face. The General also uses editing techniques, such as a match-on-action cut from a close up of Keaton’s face looking at a hole, to a point of view shot of the hole to see what he is looking at.
Could it be Keaton himself that had led critics to the emphasis on his talent? Whilst the techniques he uses in contrast to German films such as Faust (directed by F.W Murnau) are clearly more relatable to the majority modern films of today. The Scarlett Letter (directed by Victor Sjöström) was also released in 1926 and uses similar techniques to The General, suggesting that the praise of the film isn’t due simply to the techniques used but Keaton himself. The entire package of Keaton is mastery itself. The ongoing debate of who is better, Chaplin or Keaton, has been ongoing for decades and whilst Chaplin had the initial popularity and trademark character; Keaton also rivalled with his famous ‘Great Stone Face’. Both these performers were also directors and whilst the debate of the two is interesting, Chaplin and Keaton were both huge influences on film. Chaplin may have had the lead up until the revivals of Keaton’s films, upon the discovery; Keaton was given the praise he initially deserved. It’s clear that his techniques were great and helped set the standard for Hollywood, but Keaton’s persona of his characters and his imagery for his movies helps in defining him as a master of cinema.
Today, animated comedies are limited to family sitcom formats meshed with random cutaways. Shows such as Family Guy and The Simpsons have adapted this type of format. However, Drawn Together is a show that attempts to subvert this typical format in every way. Years ago, I remember seeing the show Drawn Together on MTV but had only seen it once on late night TV. Lucky for me, it had come up on my Amazon Prime feed and I of course binged the first and second series.
The show itself is about eight different cartoon characters placed in a house, similar to a Big Brother format, and the show follows them and their tasks. The eight characters are all different parodies on cartoon characters in media, beginning with Captain Hero, a sociopathic, perverted, pansexual spoof of Superman. Toot Braunstein, a counterpart of Betty Boop who is seen as overweight and bipolar. Foxxy Love, a counterpart of Valerie Brown from Josie and The Pussycats, ghetto and more like a caricature of a black woman in the 70s. Princess Clara is a counterpart of any Disney princess, she’s extremely religious, racist and homophobic. Wooldoor Sackbar is a parody of both Spongebob and Stimpy, being an annoying cartoon who chameleon’s different jobs and types. Xandir, who starts off as the muscly, lack of clothes hero who wanted to save his girlfriend, similar to Zelda and Link, or Cloud from Final Fantasy VII. As the series progresses he realises he is gay and most of the jokes centre of jokes referencing this such as his lack of gag reflex due to bulimia. Ling-Ling’s counterpart is Pikachu from Pokemon, but a more psychopathic and aggressive version. His comedy is more based on Japanese stereotypes being mocked. The final cast member is Spanky Ham, an original character with no counterpart, but is a crass internet download.
The show is full of pop culture references and parodies, such as the constant appearance of cartoon characters such as Daphne from Scooby Doo and Speedy Gonzales from Looney Tunes. Donald Trump, and The Apprentice (US Version) is mocked as he is portrayed as a boy child. In the first episode, “Black Chick’s Tongue” is a musical parody of Disney Aladdin’s “A Whole New World”. It’s honestly not like any other animated comedy on TV, extremely adult even compared next to South Park, or Family Guy. It covers extremely sensitive topics and uses extreme stereotypes to highlight and satirise topics in society. The show isn’t afraid to openly mock topics that are considered taboo, such as racism and homophobia. Of course, now we have shows like Rick and Morty, but Drawn Together was outstanding. I believe the show is clever and funny, but can be crass at times which makes the show seem less intelligent that it is. The show only ended up being three seasons, as it was cancelled, but they did release a movie afterwards. It’s definitely an animated comedy that has a unique perspective, and an original take on the genre.
Akira Kurosawa’s debut picture, Sanshiro Sugata, debuted during the Second World War. Sanshiro Sugata was Kurosawa’s first feature film that was greenlit to shoot and did not have any immediate cuts to the script. Prior to even starting with the idea of Sanshiro Sugata, Kurosawa had written another script a few years’ prior and he had trouble with the Japanese film industry itself. By 1943, Kurosawa was established as a credible screenwriter and assistant director thereforeif he himself had trouble trying to find a script for his directorial debut, as the strict censorship due to the war already affected his decisions as a filmmaker.
Sanshiro Sugata is a combination of two different genres, jidaigeki and gendaigeki. Both genres are considered safe choices for filmmakers during this time as they promote nationalistic Japanese views and are anti-western films. Film censors in Japan during this time are more likely to accept films that promote Japanese ideals rather than Western morals, therefore a film that highlights Japan’s history would correct the influence from films that aren’t Japanese. Sanshiro Sugata follows a Japanese protagonist, with the same name, who already has strength and power butlearn to become patient, honourable and make sacrifices for the greater good. Sanshiro isn’t a rich man, and has flaws and traits that make an everyday character for the Japanese public. He begins as an everyday man who goes to a respectable Judo Dojo to learn to train to be the greatest, but upon joining they are suddenly defeated in battle by Gennosuke Higaki. Selfishly, he leaves his Dojo to follow the man. He eventually returns to the Dojo and the Dojo master reprimands him.
Sanshiro (played by Susumu Fujita), who is determined to prove that he is honourable, jumps into a pond and only has a stake to keep him above the icy water. It’s during this time that he begins to transition into the character he needs to be. As he stares at a single pure blossom, he begins to realise that he has been selfish and there is more to life than becoming a champion. He finally leaves the pond, and begins his repentance and punishment. The film ends with Sanshiro finally battling Higaki, and he demands a battle to the death, but Sanshiro refuses to kill him and moves on.
The film features a lot of characteristics deemed desirable for people during the war to serve as propaganda. However, the film still features some of Kurosawa’s traits such as the use of weather and editing techniques such as cut on motion and wipes. Despite it being short, and the lighting is off in most of the exterior shots, the film is enjoyable and fun to watch. The loyalty and honour that Sanshiro develops feels deserved as the audience goes along with him, and the budding romance between Sanshiro and Sayo (Yukiko Todoroki) is subtle but adorable.
The film was cut almost twenty minutes therefore it is safe to assume that the lost footage was part of Kurosawa’s creativity and hindered his work. Kurosawa had many restrictions before and after filming Sanshiro Sugata, but the film was a success and he was approached to do a propaganda film for the war effort, The Most Beautiful. If you like martial arts movies, or are a fan of Kurosawa, then definitely watch this as it’s a treat.
The Counselor tells the story of a man nicknamed The Counselor (Michael Fassbender) who gets in over his head with a drug deal. The film features many themes such as Death, Greed, Sex, Good vs Evil etc. The visuals of the film are stunning at times. The use of establishing shots to show the beautiful landscape of Mexico or the show the imagery of long highways. Scott also uses extreme close ups for his characters to highlight the tremendous talent in this film including everyone’s favourite ‘Michael Fassbender’. The audio was disappointing for me in this film. The music and the sound of films are usually the highlight for me, such as the outstanding soundtrack for Seven Psychopaths or even the audio for Inception. The sound was minimal and basic and not in an intriguing way but an awkward one, but the acting of a few individuals redeem this. Fassbender was his classic, talented self, and the focus on his face was outstanding.
I generally found the film exciting most of the time but I found it to personally drag at times. My favourite moment of this film was when Fassbender realises that he cannot change the past but must accept his fate. His facial acting is brilliant and the way he can change from one extreme to another, is why Fassbender is a rare gem in the movie business and truly an incredible actor. He is a chameleon and it’s a rare quality that makes him unique and stand out. This is a different step for Scott (aside from American Gangster) but an exciting and ambitious new take. I would recommend if you love Thriller films are if you liked Body of Lies or American Gangster. If you are a fan of Fassbender, then you definitely need to see this. His character has the vulnerability of Brandon from Shame, the wit from Bobby Sands in Hunger and a mixture of Fassbender himself.
I found myself disappointed with the direction of Penelope Cruz. Her role was a safe choice I believe, as she wasn’t anything spectacular and was definitely overshadowed. Scott only seemed to use Cruz as a way to boost his all-star cast. Cameron Diaz pushed her usual boundary for a great attempt but her fluctuation between accents is a little hard on the ears and cringe-worthy at times. Javier Bardem was outrageous but superb as ever. Whilst Brad Pitt shows he can act, albeit overshadowed by the master classes of Fassbender and Bardem. Breaking Bad fans will enjoy the cameo of Dean Norris (Hank Schrader) who ironically plays a guy buying drugs. The film has humour in it and heart, but if you aren’t a big thriller fan, then perhaps The Counselor isn’t for you. If you love great acting, and car porn then this film is for you.
Drunken Angel, aka 酔いどれ天使 Yoidore tenshi, is a drama film directed by legendary Japanese director Akira Kurosawa. The film stars his two favourite actors Takashi Shimura and Toshiro Mifune. Drunken Angel is the first film collaboration between Mifune and Kurosawa, but most definitely not the last.
The films Kurosawa made prior to this were often not reflecting his style of filmmaking. Despite being an Occupation film, where the US occupied Japan from 1945 to 1952, it features many of Kurosawa’s traits such as using weather as a part of the story, and the master and disciple relationship between the leads.
The film follows a doctor, Sanada played by Shimura, who is an excellent curer of Tuberculosis, but he is a drunk. His life takes a drastic turn as he treats a small time gangster, Matsunaga played by Mifune, for a gun wound but soon sees symptoms of T.B. Matsunaga is too proud of first to see the doctor again until his situation worsens. Sanada gives him an ultimatum that he should give up booze and women or die, so he almost successfully does so until his big boss returns to town. Once everyone finds out he has T.B. he is essentially downgraded and degraded by the people of the town, so in a drastic turn to confront his former boss who steals his girl as well, he ends in a knife fight which ultimately takes his life. The only people who grieves for him are his former doctor who formed a bond with him, and a girl from a local tavern who proclaimed her love for him almost tempting him to run away with her.
The film is beautifully shot and the music is brilliant in providing a contrast to the mood of the scene. The cuts are quick but exciting. The film has almost a more America in the 1920s feel to it due to the costumes and the dancehall. The film is arguably the first Yakuza in Japanese cinema, and provides a strong inspiration for other films of this genre.
Drunken Angel, referring the drunken doctor who helps people and the good hearted Yakuza who’s drinking led to his demise. This wasn’t my first Kurosawa film but it’s definitely my favourite. whilst Stray Dog and Rashomon are two of my other favourites, Drunken Angel is my favourite as I think we finally see Kurosawa as the master that he is. Definitely a recommended watch for Japanese Cinema fans and overall movie buffs.
One of DC’s most anticipated movies has finally been released and many critics aren’t pleased. Here is a fresh and attempt at being completely unbiased and a review of a movie.
Suicide Squad follows a group of some of DC’s most notorious bad guys, and few more people you didn’t realise existed. The film is set straight of Batman Vs Superman, and the aftermath of Superman’s apparent death. Viola Davis plays a ruthless government official who manipulates and bullies who way into pushing forward the Suicide Squad. The squad consists of Will Smith’s Deadshot and Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn. These are the two notice members of the group, the rest are simply there to make the numbers. Of course Jared Leto’s Joker makes up a huge portion of the hype and his unhealthy relationship with Harley leads him on a crusade to rescue his girlfriend. Robbie was superb and the stand out in the movie, but Leto in comparison to past jokers and post his Dallas Buyers Club performance, is a let down and doesn’t match up to the hype. His performance felt too cringey at times, as he felt like he was trying too hard to be better than Heath Ledger, but it was never a competition. The Joker probably wasn’t even needed in this film.
There are plenty of negatives in this film, such as the point of making too many stories and too many flashbacks into each character which felt a bit too much. The music was funny and an interesting mix to the film blending well at times but there are moments where the music is literally just jumping from one track to another. I was disappointed with Cara Delevingne as some bits in her performance felt overly theatrical and her romance felt forced, but overall the cast was decent and made a DC film actually light hearted with comedic moments. Robbie, Jai Courtney, Smith and Ike Barinholtz were all excellent in adding humour and heart to the movie.
A lot of critics hated the movie, but at the end of the day, the goal is to entertain and I found it fun and a nice change to a DC film. Director David Ayer did a great job and especially considering all the negativity constantly attached to DC films. The cameos from everyone’s favourite superheroes makes the film even more of a fan favourite. I personally wasn’t excited or hyped for the film before I had seen it, only for Margot Robbie. Now, we’ve seen her as Quinn, they need to do a Gotham Sirens movie with Catwoman, Poison Ivy and Quinn tearing down Gotham City. Minus the Joker.
Elvis & Nixon sees Michael Shannon and Kevin Spacey play these two legendary figures in a fictionalised story of how the famous photo came about. Shannon as the zany and conservative Elvis whilst Spacey plays Nixon who is challenged by Elvis’ attraction. The film is highly entertaining a lot of fun. The director uses different filters during montages to give a real feel for the 70s of course with the horrendous facial hair.
The only thing that was disappointing was the lack of Nixon and Elvis together, but the film wasn’t long only running at 86 minutes but other than that, it’s a pretty good film. Directed by Liza Johnson in her fourth feature film, and hopefully we’ll see more from Johnson. The supporting cast of course contributed to the charm, Evan Peters, Colin Hanks and Johnny Knoxville were surprisingly funny. Peters especially seems to be excellent as being the surprising comic relief, with his latest roles in X-men as Quicksilver and with Elvis & Nixon. Peters is a huge young talent who is definitely making his way in Hollywood. Alex Pettyfer was bearable but overshadowed by the rest of the talents in the film. So if you’re looking for a fun movie with an excellent cast and incredible soundtrack, then definitely watch Elvis & Nixon.
10 Cloverfield Lane, where to even start? I had been excited for this film since I saw the haunting trailer not long since and found myself invested in the story before I had even seen it. The film is a spiritual sequel to Cloverfield, I hadn’t originally seen this film so I was nervous into whether or not I would be confused. Fear not, the film stands alone by itself and you do not have to see the first.
The story begins with our protagonist Michelle, played by Mary Elizabeth Winstead, being involved in an accident and finding herself being ‘rescued’ in a bunker by Howard, John Goodman, who is initially seen as a strange character. In the bunker is also Emmett who managed to get into the bunk just as Howard was closing it. Ultimately Michelle finds out that the world above isn’t safe and that she has no choice but to stay in the bunker. As the film progresses we learn more about the inhabitants of the bunker leading the suggestion that perhaps it is more dangerous inside.
Unliked Cloverfield, which is filmed in a found footage style, 10 Cloverfield Lane is filmed in a third-person narrative and at times seems like a staged drama. The cinematography, the editing and music all blend together to form such an excellent combination. The use of the sound is a key area, as there are many times in which we are placed in the characters position and we simply hear the world above instead of seeing it. The editing too follows the character in moments which are fast paced being disorientating and the moments of status-quo being slow paced. 10 Cloverfield Lane is Dan Trachtenberg’s directorial debut and it is simply breathtaking. I don’t use that often, but the film left me in pieces. The acting from all the cast was incredible each playing their parts with brilliance, Winstead being the determined heroine constantly fighting, Goodman being the eerie stranger and Gallagher, Jr being the comedic relief and assisting the hero. I watched the film with anxiety and couldn’t sit still, the film is a prime example of an active audience member as you feel along with the heroine. To do this film justice in a simple review is not enough, it’s engaging, enigmatic and captivating up until the end.
Despite all the negatively, Batman vs Superman isn’t as bad as you think. That doesn’t mean that it’s necessarily great. The film starts following Batman and tells his tragic origin in which his parents are murdered in front of him, both of which were played by Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Lauren Cohen both from AMC’s The Walking Dead. Which I was initially disappointed to find that they both were literally only in for a split second as they had much more potential as actors.
The film features a lot of talented actors, such as Jeremy Irons, Amy Adams, Lawrence Fishbourne but the two prominent figures of the story are obviously Ben Affleck and Henry Cavill. Both of which were good in their roles, Affleck brought a maturity to Batman that hasn’t been seen in the screen before (even in Adam West’s portrayal). Cavill’s Superman is clearly different to previous movie portrayals as he is a more darker and selfish character focusing on personal issues than the general public. This isn’t bad, it’s an interesting version of the legendary character but fits into the dark DC world that Nolan helped create in his Batman movies. Both are good in their parts, surprisingly Jesse Eisenberg plays an interesting Lex Luthor and brings a modern edge to him making him a more complicated character and not a one-sided psychopath.
The reason the film has been so badly slated is due to the film being rushed. I am actually a fan of Zack Snyder especially Sucker Punch, but this film was too forced and in moments too meshed together. The cameos of the Justice League, Chris Pine and other characters in the universe is all a build up for future movies and the big Justice League Movie. DC are obviously competing with Marvel, but the success of Marvel is due to years and years of planning. There is a moment in the film, in which it tries too hard to be artistic in a dream sequence which happens to be another dream sequence. The scene is too messed up to be completely understood or even of value, there are many moments like this which is why it feels rushed.
I won’t lie, and say that I hated the film. I’m a huge fan of the superhero genre and Superman is one of my favourites. I liked Affleck’s Daredevil, and thought he was a valid Batman, as well Gadot’s Wonder Woman. Despite being worried about her portrayal, she was credibly and her onscreen as the legend in battle was perhaps one of the best scenes of the movie and her own personalised theme added to the film tremendously. The actors were good, as were the score by Hans Zimmer and Junkie XL. Zimmer brought the traditional and grand scale of the Superhero theme but Junkie XL made it more modern to today’s standards. The build up to the big fight in the film, was a major reason into why many disliked it. It was firstly too short, but the resolution was too quick. Batman’s hatred of Superman being resolved by one simply factor (which I won’t spoil).
The film had a huge cast list, and many talented actors but the main focus was of course Batman and Superman. It’s way over two hours long, and maybe should’ve been just under two hours and more condensed for better quality. However, we can hope that the R-Rated version will be more interesting as Snyder will have the freedom that restrains a 12A film. I believe that the theatrical release of the film could’ve been a lot better had it not being rushed, a better script and perhaps a different director. Don’t believe everything you read though, maybe give it a go?