Thursday, 30 August 2012

Total Recall


Based on the short story by Philip K. Dick which was the inspiration for the 1990 film of the same name, Total Recall takes place after a chemical war at the end of the twenty-first century. Following the fallout, only two areas are left habitable on Earth; The United Federation of Britain (UFB) and The Colony (the landmass of Australia) which is where the workers are forced to live. Each day they must take “the fall”, a kind of superfast lift which takes them through the centre of the Earth and joins up the two habitable areas. One of these workers is Douglas Quaid (Colin Farrell) who wakes up from a reoccurring dream about trying to save a woman from synthetic cops. Upon waking he is comforted by his wife Lori (Kate Beckinsale) but feels as though he is meant for something more. Quaid discovers Rekall, a company which can implant false memories and decides to check it out. This decision creates a ripple effect and leaves Quaid unsure of whom he is and why people, including some of those closest to him want him dead.

I saw Paul Verhoeven’s original 1990 film again recently and having now seen both cannot make up my mind as to which one is better. Although they have a similar plot and share themes they are two very different films, made for different times.

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

D-BOX Cinema Seating


Have you ever been on a rollercoaster and after the three minute ride though to yourself, “I wish that could have lasted another couple of hours.”? Well a few months ago my local cinema introduced D-BOX seating to one of their screens. Having read up on it at the time I came to the conclusion that it was another ridiculous and expensive gimmick which would surely detract from the cinema going experience rather than as advertised, enhancing it. Several months later I finally decided to give it a chance and went to see The Expendables 2 in one of the new seats. Here is my review.

In case anyone hasn’t heard of them (and I hadn’t), D-BOX seats are seats which vibrate and tilt in time with the on screen action and are advertised on it’s website in the following way “You will live the action... D-BOX creates an unmatched realistic immersive experience, the most amazing Home Entertainment experience you have ever tried”. D-BOX is advertised as bringing you closer to the action and as being a more immersive experience. We’ve heard that claimed for 3D which is generally starting to be regarded as an expensive gimmick which rarely improves a film. Is the same so for D-BOX?

The Expendables 2


After battling Central American rebels in the popular but critically mixed 2010 film The Expendables, old school action stars Sylvester Stallone, Dolph Lundgren, Randy Couture and the gang are back for some more noisy, mad and blood splattering fun as CIA Operative Mr. Church (Bruce Willis) enlists Stallone’s group of Expendables in tracking a downed Chinese plane inside Albania. The plane was carrying a valuable cargo which the CIA want but it is taken by international criminal and arms dealer (and I’m not making this bit up) Jean Vilain (Jean-Claude Van Damme) and his mercenary group of caricature Albanians. Stallone and his team must try to get to Vilain before the plane’s cargo leads him to some highly combustible merchandise.

Although first film had its fun and crazy moments I wasn’t really a fan. I’ve never been a big action movie guy and don’t really like Stallone. This time though a lot of the problems of the first have diminished slightly and it is improved with a better story, great cameos and improved special effects.

Monday, 27 August 2012

The Kid with a Bike


A troubled young boy Cyril (Thomas Doret) lives in a Children’s Home after his father decided he was no longer able to cope with caring for him. Unable to accept this, the boy escapes the Home and goes back to the apartment that he and his father shared. Finding him gone, the boy continues to run from the Home’s staff before clattering into a woman in a Doctor’s waiting room while yelling about his missing bike. Later, the same woman is able to track down the bike and brings it to the Home and the boy asks if he can stay with her at weekends. The woman, a hairdresser called Samantha (Cecile de France) accepts and the boy spends time with her while she attempts to free him from the anger and rage that keeps getting him into trouble.

I first heard about this film last May when it won the Jury Prize at Cannes. I’d wanted to see it at the cinema but being a Belgian film about an angry boy and a bicycle I was unable to find it in the city of 3 million people in which I live. Although I was disappointed not to get to see it at the cinema, now I have seen it I don’t feel like I was missing out. While it’s an interesting story about two very different relationships, I didn’t personally enjoy it as much as the reviews I’d read suggested I would.

The Bourne Legacy


Running parallel in time to The Bourne Ultimatum, The Bourne Legacy stars Jeremy Renner as black ops operative Aaron Cross. After completing a gruelling hike across the Alaskan wilderness, Cross arrives at an isolated cabin where he meets a fellow operative (Oscar Isaac). Due to events elsewhere, linked to the plot of the first film in the series, the people running the secret Operation Outcome of which Cross is a member decide to shut it down by killing all staff involved. A drone attacks Cross but he manages to escape and tracks down scientist Dr. Marta Shearing (Rachel Weisz) who he hopes can lead him to stocks of the pills he needs to remain a superhuman.

With a plot that I didn’t fully understand and some decent action set pieces, The Bourne Legacy is a film that is not without some merit but overall I could probably have lived without seeing.

One A.M.


Charlie Chaplin’s forth film for the Mutual Film Company is a unique two reeler in which he is almost the only person on screen for the film’s entirety. Apart from an establishing scene featuring Albert Austin as a disgruntled cab driver, Chaplin has the film to himself as he struggles to get up to bed whilst drunk. Chaplin arrives home at 1am to find numerous inanimate objects in his way in his quest for a nights sleep.

In this twenty-six minute short a drunken Chaplin is scared by stuffed animals, baffled by a revolving table, constantly defeated by a flight of stairs before being bested by a fold away bed. Chaplin takes inspiration from the drunken character that made him famous in England with the Fred Karno Company, the very same character that drew the attention of Mack Sennett and gave him his break in the movie industry.

Sunday, 26 August 2012

Departures


2008 Oscar winning Japanese film Departures is a deeply moving but sometimes darkly comic look at Japanese funeral ceremonies. Daigo Kobayashi (Masahiro Motoki) is a cellist, playing with an Orchestra in Tokyo until it is shut down due to poor ticket sales. Short of money he is forced to move back to his remote mountain hometown and live in the house that his mother left him when she died. Spotting an advert in the paper for ‘assisting departures’, a job requiring no experience, Daigo goes for an interview. He is immediately hired but soon finds out that the advert had a typo and the job is in fact to prepare the dead for cremation. Daigo keeps his new job secret from his wife Mika (Ryoko Hirosue) for fear that she will disprove and slowly learns the art of the job from his quiet but dedicated boss Shoei (Tsutomo Yamazaki). Despite being initially repulsed by the job, Daigo soon learns to respect the delicate work carried out by himself and his boss but still has to convince his wife and friend Yamashita (Tetta Sugimoto).

Departures is a film that really messed with my emotions. I went from laughing out loud to being close to tears before an emotional but satisfying ending. It is not surprising that the film won so many awards upon its release and continues to be held in such high regard.

Rope


In a New York City apartment a faint scream can be heard as two friends’ murder a third before concealing his body inside a large wooden chest placed prominently inside their living room. The crime is committed moments before people who know the dead man arrive for a party. Lead conspirator Brandon Shaw (John Dall) commits the murder as an intellectual exercise in order to prove his superiority over the dead man and other party guests. Fellow conspirator Phillip Morgan (Farley Granger) is less confident about the crime and much more conscious of having a dead body in his midst. Amongst the party guests are the dead man, David’s parents, girlfriend, ex-classmate and all four friend’s ex-prep school housemaster Rupert Cadell (James Stewart) of whom Brandon is most wary of being able to discover the body. 

The film comes off like a play and is indeed based on a play from the 1920s. The entire plot takes place inside one apartment set and mostly within one room of that apartment. Although characters move about the setting I don’t think the camera ever leaves the living room. Adding to the sense of being a play is the editing. The film is shot as though one long, continuous take though is actually broken up into ten separate takes with each cut being masked by a man’s jacket moving across the screen or the back of some furniture. This allowed the director, Alfred Hitchcock the chance to cut scenes and change the magnificent backdrop which indicates the passing of the day.

Saturday, 25 August 2012

The Vagabond


A Musician-Tramp (Charlie Chaplin) leaves town following a chase to find himself in a gypsy camp. There he finds a poor abducted girl (Edna Purviance) who he attempts to cheer up with his music. Having witnessed a savage beating of the girl by the gypsy chieftain (Eric Campbell), the Tramp goes about saving the girl and setting her free. While attempting to woo her, a handsome artist chances by and has Edna sit for a portrait. The portrait attracts the attention of Edna’s estranged family who attempt to take her away from the Tramp for good.

I honestly can’t think of a single Chaplin film during which I’ve laughed so little but on this occasion that is not a negative statement. Here Chaplin provides plenty of his trademark pathos and creates a film which is much more of a romantic drama than romantic comedy or slapstick comedy.

Brave


A young Scottish Princess called Merida (Kelly Macdonald) spends her days fighting against the rules set by her mother Queen Elinor (Emma Thompson) and wishes to be more of a free spirit, able to ride her horse, eat and wear what she wants and most importantly practise her archery skills. A trip to a Witch adds a further twist to the mother daughter relationship and puts both their lives at risk.

Despite being a huge Pixar fan I went into Brave with a small sense of dread. I expected, and as it turned out I was right, that this would be Pixar’s most Disney-like feature to date and that’s something that disappoints me. We already have Disney to bring us fairytales of Princesses and suitors but there are very few studios who are brave enough or mad enough to come up with the likes of Toy Story, Wall-E or Up. For me there was little to distinguish Brave from a modern Disney film along the same lines as Tangled. Despite this, Brave is still a fun film with a lot to like.

Big Miracle


Based on a true story, Big Miracle is about the efforts in 1988 to save three Grey Whales from drowning in frozen seas of Point Barrow, Alaska, one of the most northerly inhabited settlements on Earth. Anchorage based reporter Adam Carlson (John Krasinski) is reporting from Barrow when he spots a small gap in sea ice through which three whales are struggling to breathe. Once his story gets national coverage, thousands of reporters, National Guard and Greenpeace activists including Rachel Kramer (Drew Barrymore) descend on Barrow to cover the story and help set the whales free.  

Although billed as a family film, for me this feels like the next generation disaster movie. We’ve already seen a shift from the terrorist style movies of the 90s towards the 2012 environmental type movies and this feels like the next step. Throughout the film I was constantly reminded of Deep Impact and Independence Day. There are several intertwining stories with overlapping characters, families watching the proceedings on TV, reporters from all over the world lined up in that tracking shot which you always get, enemies coming together, several love stories, tragedy to open the third act and surprising international cooperation saving the day. If you substituted the whales for a meteor or alien invasion then you have the exact same disaster film which everyone has seen before.

Friday, 24 August 2012

The Imposter


In 1994 a thirteen year old Texan boy called Nicholas Barclay disappeared from San Antonio. Three years later his family received a call from a Spanish official, claiming that Nicholas had been abducted by a sex slave ring but was now with him in Spain. Despite Nicholas leaving as a thirteen year old with almost Aryan colouring and returning tanned with dark hair and eyes along with a foreign accent, the family accepted the boy who returned as their son. This documentary tells the story of Nicholas’ disappearance and the extraordinary events in 1997 when it seemed that he had returned.

The documentary is created using a mixture of talking heads; achieve home videos and convincing reconstructions which are themselves combined with the talking heads. Almost all of the major players in the story take part which is a little surprising as by the end hardly anyone comes out with any sort of credibility.

I went into this film knowing the story having read about it recently in a magazine. I knew very little about the film however and wasn’t actually sure if it was a documentary or drama. The film plays its cards very early and it isn’t exactly a spoiler, especially given the title, to tell you that the person who returns home in 1997 is not Nicholas Barclay. The real interest for the first half of the film at least, is how on earth this man managed to convince Spanish officials, the American Embassy and most incredibly the family of the missing boy that he was Nicholas. It’s almost too unreal to be true. Without giving too much away, the man who claims to be the boy is of French-Algerian descent and several years older than Barclay. He looks nothing like the boy.

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

OSS 117: Lost in Rio


OSS 117: Lost in Rio is the sequel to one of the funniest films I’ve ever seen, OSS 117: Cairo, Nest of Spies and is bought to us by the team behind that film and The Artist, Oscar Winners Michel Hazanavicius and Jean Dujardin. A James Bond pastiche, Dujardin stars as OSS 177, France’s top secret agent. It’s 1967 and he is on a mission to capture a microfilm containing the names of French Nazi collaborators from an ex-Nazi now residing in Brazil. He is joined by a beautiful Israeli Army Officer, Delores Koulechov (Louise Monot) who is tasked with bringing the Nazi back to Israel to face a war crimes tribunal. 117 bumbles his way through Brazil with the help of his Israeli colleague, attracting the interest of various women and the CIA along the way.

I was really excited to see this sequel as Cairo, Nest of Spies is one of the best comedies I’ve seen in the last year. I’d previously read that the sequel wasn’t as well received in France as the original and I’d have to agree with that assessment. It is in no way as good as Cairo, Nest of Spies but is still an enjoyable hour and a half.


The Vow


Around four minutes into The Vow I looked down at the notes I was making and they read “Why sex in the middle of the road?” “How did he get her permit?” “He looks like a potato”. I was tempted to just make that my review but I will go on.

Paige Collins (Rachel McAdams) and her husband Leo (Channing Tatum) are driving back from the movies when she decides to initiate sex at a set of traffic lights. Most people would perhaps wait until they were home or maybe nip down an alley but Paige goes for it in the middle of a snow covered street. After taking her seatbelt off the car is rear ended by a truck which sends Paige through the windshield in ultra slow motion. Once Paige wakes up in hospital with the smallest scars imaginable, we discover that she has short term memory loss and has forgotten her entire life with Leo. He looks like a confused Mr Potato head and runs away but decides to come back and try to get her to remember their life together (without using any photos, videos, texts or facebook updates etc). His quest is complicated with the introduction of Paige’s stuffy parents (Jessica Lange & Sam Neill) who want their daughter back.

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Gone

Gone is a sometimes tense but often boring psychological thriller from Brazilian Director Heitor Dhalia, working in the English language for the first time. Amanda Seyfried stars as Jill, a young woman living with her recovering alcoholic sister Molly (Emily Wickersham) after an alleged attack on her the previous year. The police dismissed her abduction and attack claims after finding no evidence and Jill was eventually admitted to a mental institute. Back in the present, Jill returns home one morning, after a nightshift as a waitress to find that her sister has disappeared. With little help from the police Jill takes it upon herself to track down Molly and her assailant, attracting the attention of the law towards herself in the process.

The film has frequent flashbacks to Jill’s alleged attack which come to her as she edges closer to tracking down Molly. The plot also opens lots of avenues for possible answers but leaves the audience feeling disappointed once the answers start arriving.

Thursday, 16 August 2012

The Adventures of Tintin

Known in the UK as The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn, this film charts a particular adventure of Herg√©’s famous comic book creation Tintin. Young Belgian reporter Tintin (Jamie Bell) buys an old model ship at a market. Straight away he is approached by two men who offer to buy the ship from him for any price. After he declines Tintin’s ship is stolen and while tracking it down he uncovers a mystery involving lost treasure. With the help of his intrepid dog Snowy and a drunken Sea Captain called Haddock (Andy Serkis), Tintin sets out to find the hidden loot and uncover the secret of the Unicorn. 

I used to watch Tintin cartoons when I was very young and though can’t remember much about them now, I do remember enjoying them. I wish I could say the same for this film. I’d read that the film was an adventure in the mould of Indiana Jones but I found the plot incredibly dull and predictable. The film was saved only by some first rate animation and a typically impressive John Williams score.


Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Vertigo

"Scottie, do you believe that someone out of the past - someone dead - can enter and take possession of a living being?"

A Detective, John ‘Scottie’ Ferguson (James Stewart) is chasing down a criminal over the rooftops of San Francisco when he falls and is left hanging on a gutter. When a cop comes to his aid he falls, leaving the Detective racked with guilt and a new found fear of heights which brings on vertigo. After retiring from the police force he receives a call out of the blue from an old college friend (Tom Helmore) who asks Scottie to follow his wife who isn’t herself. Scottie follows the young woman, named Madeleine (Kim Novak) as she drives to strange places then claims to forget ever being there. There appears to be some sort of paranormal explanation to the proceedings as Madeleine keeps returning to the significant places in the life of a long dead relative of hers. Tragedy strikes at an old church which leaves Scottie facing questions about his own sanity. Slowly he must try to bring together the pieces of a puzzle which appears to be come from a box a few pieces short.

I recently read that Sight and Sound voted Vertigo as the greatest film ever. It was a combination of this fact and my recent discovery of Alfred Hitchcock’s films which drew me to this movie. Having now seen it I strongly disagree with Sight and Sound’s placing of Vertigo at number one but still believe it is a good, but not great film.

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

The Fireman


A Fire Chief (Eric Campbell) is approached by a man (Lloyd Bacon) who asks that the Fire Department ignores a fire at his house so that he may collect the insurance money. The man insures that his daughter (Edna Purviance) is out during the fire so remains unharmed. The woman is not out though when an arsonist sets the property alight and she gets trapped upstairs. Meanwhile the Firemen which include accident prone Charlie Chaplin are at another house, putting out a fire. When the man realises his daughter is trapped he searches for them, finding Chaplin who attempts to save the day and win the woman’s heart.

Amazingly The Fireman was Chaplin’s 52nd film but was released in June 1916. Despite his age and lack of years in the industry he was by now a pro and it shows here with clever gags and a nice central idea. Unfortunately the film suffers from a similar problem as The Floorwalker in that it just isn’t quite funny enough.

Monday, 13 August 2012

The Floorwalker

Charlie Chaplin’s first film for Mutual is set in a department store. The store manager (Eric Campbell) and his assistant (Lloyd Bacon) are trying to embezzle money from the store when a tramp (Charlie Chaplin) enters. The tramp bears a striking resemblance to the assistant manager and after getting caught up in his usual trouble, the two men decide to swap clothes to avoid being caught by those who are chasing them. With the bag of loot changing hands and an escalator both aiding and hindering their escape, the two men attempt to get away with the shop’s takings.

Since its release close to one hundred years ago The Floorwalker has gained fame as being the first film in history to introduce two popular and successful comedic ‘moves’. Charlie Chaplin introduced the escalator to audiences here and also created the now much copied mirror effect whereby two characters mimic each others moves as thought they are a mirror image of each other.

Charlie Chaplin - The Mutual Films


After a hugely successful but tense year making films for The Essanay Film and Manufacturing Company, Charlie Chaplin decided to look elsewhere when his contract came to an end. Despite several offers from larger studios, Chaplin under the advice of his elder brother and Business Manager Sydney signed with The Mutual Film Corporation on February 26th 1916 for a world record breaking wage of $10,000 a week plus a signing bonus of $150,000. This was ten times his already substantial Essanay salary of $1,250 per week. The contract made Chaplin the highest earning employee in history and also stipulated complete artistic control over his films as well as a custom made studio. The aptly named Lone Star Studio was where Chaplin was to produce his twelve two-reel comedies for Mutual over the next twelve months. Chaplin later wrote in his autobiography that those twelve months were amongst the happiest of his career.
Although Chaplin was starting fresh with Mutual he did bring along some of his stock actors from Essanay and the likes of Leo White, John Rand and long time leading lady Edna Purviance joined him at the studio. In addition to these regulars Chaplin also hired a new group to work with him during his time at Mutual. Eric Campbell, Albert Austin and Charlotte Mineau joined a much larger group of regular actors as Chaplin’s films grew in scale.
In addition to writing, directing and starring in his films, Chaplin also began producing his movies with Mutual and went on to produce almost all of his subsequent films. The first three were co-written with his behind the scenes collaborator Vincent Bryan but Chaplin maintained sole writing and directing credit for the remaining Mutual comedies.
As with Chaplin’s Essanay films, I’ll be watching each one and posting a review on the blog plus a link to each one below.  

Friday, 10 August 2012

Yellow Submarine

"It's all in the mind y'know"

Yellow Submarine is a 1968 psychedelic animated musical fantasy featuring the songs of The Beatles. The music hating Blue Meanines attack Pepper Land, draining the countryside of colour and turning its inhabitants into immobile statues. Only one man, Old Fred (Lance Percival) manages to escape, doing so in a yellow submarine. He travels to Liverpool where he enlists the help of The Beatles to save Pepper Land from the Blue Meanie menace. On their journey to Pepper Land the five of them travel through several strange seas which include The Sea of Holes, The Sea of Green and The Sea of Nothing before making it to Pepper Land to take on the Meanies. All the way they are accompanied by a selection of Beatles songs which the plot ties into.

Although the film was based on the song of the same name by Lennon & McCartney, The Beatles actually had very little to do with the film with actors impersonating the Fab Four. The band only appears as themselves in the brief closing scene. The slightly off voice work adds to the cartoon feel of the film while their actual songs provide a fantastic accompanying soundtrack.

Thursday, 9 August 2012

Quantum of Solace

"This is about trust. You said you weren't motivated by revenge"

A direct sequel to 2006’s Casino Royale, Quantum of Solace stars Daniel Craig as British Secret Agent James ‘007’ Bond. Following the death of someone close to him Bond sets out to enact revenge while also uncovering a Coup d’√©tat in Bolivia. Enlisting the help of Bolivian Agent Camille Montes (Olga Kurylenko), Bond travels the globe tracking the environmentalist Dominic Greene (Mathieu Amalric) who is in fact a member of the secret organisation Quantum, about which little is known. Despite frequent calls for restraint from his boss M (Judi Dench), Bond is unable to control his urge for revenge and ends up with both MI5 and the CIA hot on his tail.

The fact that it’s taken me four years to watch this film may give you some indication as to my indifference when it comes to 007. I used to like watching the Sean Connery and Roger Moore film’s as a child and remember enjoying the Pierce Brosnan Bond when I was growing up but there is something about ‘modern Bond’ which I just don’t get. Nevertheless I gave this a go and here’s what I thought…

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Ted

Police? This guy took my teddy bear!
... Hello? Hello?

Christmas 1985 and an unpopular kid called John Bennett gets a teddy bear which he names Ted. Sad and with no friends he wishes that Ted could talk to him and wakes up the next morning to find his wish has been granted. Ted is a cute and friendly young bear who wants friendship and hugs. Twenty-seven years later Ted (Seth McFarlane) and John (Mark Wahlberg) are sat on their sofa smoking pot and talking about how Boston women orgasm. The two have remained friends but appear stuck in a rut of adolescent smut and innuendo which is getting neither of them anywhere. John’s girlfriend Lori (Mila Kunis) issues John with an ultimatum – it’s her or the bear, and the two friends must figure out if they are capable of or even safe to live apart.

I’ve been looking forward to Ted for months and it feels like ages since it was released in the States. Now it’s finally here I can report that it fully lived up to my expectations.   

C.S.A.: The Confederate States of America

"I pledge allegiance to the flag of the Confederate States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all white people, Amen"

Have you ever wondered what the world would be like if the Southern States had won the American Civil War? Well, this film takes that idea and runs with it. C.S.A.: The Confederate States of America is a ninety minute feature masquerading as a History Channel type documentary, charting a fictionalised world in which the American Civil War was won by the South with the help of Britain and France. Delivered with a mixture of talking heads, re-enactments, readings, documentary footage (real and fake) and interspersed with infomercials, just like American television, the film charts the history of the C.S.A from its inception at the outbreak of war in 1861 to the present day.

What you get is a sometimes interesting but often uninspiring look at a fictionalised world which has a solid anti hate message at its heart. I’d wanted to see the film for months as the American Civil War is something that interests me but I won’t be recommending it to most people unless they have a particular interest in American history or social studies.

Sunday, 5 August 2012

The Red Shoes

"Why do you want to dance?"
"Why do you want to live?"

A young amateur ballerina called Victoria Page (Moira Shearer) meets famed ballet producer Boris Lermontov (Anton Walbrook) at a ballet after party, impressing him enough to invite her to join his company. At breakfast the next morning Lermontov also meets an inspiring young composer by the name of Julian Craster (Marius Goring) and he too is invited to join the company. The two talented youngsters begin to work their way up through the company ranks as a romance blossoms between them. There are tough decisions to be made however when it comes to a choice between ambition and love.

I bought The Red Shoes of Blu-Ray about three or four years ago after hearing Martin Scorsese say it was one of his favourite films. Now I’ve finally seen it I can see why someone would enjoy it on an artistic and technical level but it left me feeling very bored.

Saturday, 4 August 2012

The Circus

A Tramp (Charlie Chaplin) is mistaken for a pickpocket and chased through a circus by the police. Once in the big top he outwits the cops and gets more laughs in doing so than the circus clowns so is offered a job by the ringmaster (Al Ernest Garcia). On his first morning at work the tramp meets a beautiful young dancer (Merna Kennedy) who is hungry after being punished by the ringmaster who is also her father. The tramp falls instantly in love and shares what little food he has. Despite being a hit with the audience the tramp is unaware and like the dancer is mistreated by the ringmaster. No sooner does he become self aware he begins to act with hubris, making working conditions better for himself and his love. The tramp’s intentions are soon interrupted however with the arrival of a handsome young tightrope walker (Harry Crocker).

Almost forgotten by Chaplin and his audience for sixty years, more recently The Circus has become known as one of actor/director’s defining works. Featuring some of his best comic creations and earning points for the sheer hardship of production, The Circus is amongst Chaplin’s better films and ranks as one of my favourites.


Friday, 3 August 2012

Shadow of a Doubt

"We're not just an uncle and a niece. It's something else"

After watching Psycho for the first time last month and being completely blown away by its brilliance I thought that if I’m going to call myself cineliterate then I need to be watching more of Alfred Hitchcock’s work. While browsing my LoveFilm streaming account I came across Shadow of a Doubt from 1943 and gave it a go. Unsurprisingly it’s very good.

Charlotte ‘Charlie’ Newton (Teresa Wright – Mrs. Miniver) is a teenager, just graduated from High School living in the small idyllic town of Santa Rosa, California with her mother (Patricia Collinge), father (Henry Travers - It’s a Wonderful Life) and younger siblings (Edna May Wonacott & Charles Bates). Charlie is fed up with the mundane nature of her small town life and complains that nothing ever happens to her. Soon after she receives the wonderful news that her Uncle Charlie (Joseph Cotten – Citizen Cane), whom she is named after, will be coming to stay. His visit comes shortly after he is seen hiding out in his Newark boarding house room, spying two men from across the street. Young Charlie is initially delighted by the arrival of her Uncle but she begins to suspect that all is not well with him around.



Thursday, 2 August 2012

Cops

One of Buster Keaton’s most iconic short films stars Keaton as a young man going about his daily life when he inadvertently gets into trouble with first one Cop, then another until finally the whole LAPD are chasing him down despite him doing nothing wrong intentionally. He finds a wallet and is accused of stealing, is conned and accidentally steals a whole family’s furniture and unintentionally explodes a bomb at a police parade.

The resulting eighteen minutes are a thrilling chase sequence with plenty of trademark stunts and dead pan.



Wednesday, 1 August 2012

The General

If you ask anyone who has heard of Buster Keaton to name one of his films then chances are they’ll say The General. By far his most famous film, Keaton stars as railroad engineer Johnnie Gray on the eve of the American Civil War. Johnnie has two loves in his life; his girl Annabelle (Marion Mack) and his engine, The General. When war is declared Johnnie rushes off to enlist in the Confederate Army only to be turned away as he is too important on the railroad. Annabelle doesn’t believe him though and says she doesn’t want to see him until he’s in uniform. Meanwhile a Northern spy plots to steal a Southern train in order to cut communications before a big offensive. With Annabelle onboard, Johnnie has to save his two loves at once.

It is true that The General is Keaton’s most famous work and is generally considered to be his best. For me though this is not the case. While I admire much of it and enjoyed it, the film is more of a drama-comedy than his earlier comedy-dramas and it is these that I prefer.