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164. Cats – This Just In (-#34)

Hosted by Andrew Quinn and Darren Mooney, and this week with special guests Phil Bagnall, Jenn Gannon and Luke Dunne, The 250 is a (mostly) weekly trip through some of the best (and worst) movies ever made, as voted for by Internet Movie Database Users.

This time, Tom Hooper’s Cats.

Abandoned by her owner in a surreal wasteland of early twentieth century London, the young cat Victoria finds herself drawn towards the neighbourhood’s feline inhabitants on the night of a most special and peculiar celebration.

At time of recording, it was ranked 34th on the list of the worst movies of all time on the Internet Movie Database.

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Non-Review Review: Mr. Holmes

Memory is a tricky thing, particularly as distinct from history. History often occurs as a sequence of events, a laundry list and cause and effect and happenstance. Memory is the chord that we use to tie that all together, the narrative that we weave through these isolated events. Mr. Holmes is an exploration of the gulf as it exists between the two concepts, following an ageing Sherlock Holmes as he attempts to piece together his own faded memory from facts and evidence scattered around.

Adapted from Mitch Cullin’s A Slight Trick of the Mind, writer Jeffrey Hatcher and director Bill Condon position Holmes’ famous deductive prowess as a clever metaphor. Holmes’ ability to effortless build random strands of information into cohesive theories and explanations is set against two rather unconventional targets. As his faculties begin to fail him, Holmes tries to reconstruct memory from the few details available to him. At the same time, Holmes struggles with his own difficulties understanding human nature as it exists beneath these subtle hints and clues.

Holmes for Summer...

Private investigations.

Although the publication of A Slight Trick of the Mind predates the development of Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss’ cult adaptation Sherlock, there is considerable thematic overlap between both stories. As with the BBC series, it seems like the Sherlock Holmes of Mr. Holmes is more concerned with the mystery that is other people than with any individual case. The result is a surprisingly (and effectively) low key film that plays more as a meditation on the human condition than as a convention Sherlock Holmes mystery.

There are points where Mr. Holmes does feel a little too heavy-handed or a little too manipulative in its exploration of the eponymous character. However, Condon very clever grounds the film in a beautifully vulnerable central performance from Ian McKellen.

The long walk Holmes...

The long walk Holmes…

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Watch! The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug Trailer!

The latest trailer for The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug has arrived on-line. Check it out below. While I’ll concede that The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey was over-long and quite padded, I enjoyed it more than most. Part of that is down to Martin Freeman’s charisma, but also in the way that Jackson seems to relish the relatively lower stakes of this story. (Musical dish-cleaning sequence anyone?) I’ll admit that I’m curious to see what Jackson’s second installment holds in store. That said, the trailer does seem to suggest quite a lot of superfluous material – a Legolas romantic subplot? really? – but it also teases Benedict Cumberbatch as a flame-throwing pun-wielding dragon. So it’s safe to say the jury’s still out.

 

Look! First X-Men: Days of Future Past Posters!

The Wolverine isn’t out yet, but we’ve already got the first posters for next year’s X-Men: Days of Future Past. They’re a massive improvement over the wonderfully dodgy “face in the crotch!” posters that teased the superb X-Men: First Class. It’s a rather wonderful concept, combining the older and young versions of two of the franchise’s most iconic characters. Starring Sir Patrick McAvoy! Sir Ian Fassbender!

Although I’m wary of the incredibly vast cast that Bryan Singer has assembled, I am a giddy X-Men fan, so I’m quite looking forward to the adaptation of the wonderful Chris Claremont and John Byrne story. (I recent did a review of the animated adaptation of the story over at comicbuzz.com, for those wanting a sneak peek at what might be in store.) I really like these posters, and I suspect a trailer might not be too far away.

xmen-daysoffuturepast xmen-daysoffuturepast1

Stan Lee & Jack Kirby’s X-Men – X-Men Omnibus, Vol. 1 (Review/Retrospective)

To celebrate the release of The Wolverine later in the month, we’re taking a look at some classic X-Men and Wolverine comics every Monday, Wednesday and Friday here. I’m also writing a series of reviews of the classic X-Men television show at comicbuzz every weekday, so feel free to check those out.

Stan Lee and Jack Kirby are the architects of the shared Marvel Universe. The pair collaborated on titles like The Fantastic Four, The Avengers and Thor – helping reinvent American comic books during the sixties. The comics redefined what superheroes could be, honing in on the changing sensibilities of the era. However, not every series was a run-away success. Not every idea worked from the very first issue.

The X-Men are one of the most iconic bunch of superheroes in existence. They have had everything from blockbuster films to celebrated cartoon shows. However, they had a rocky start. The book limped along through its first years of publication, never quite connecting with its audience. Indeed, the book almost died a quiet death in the early seventies, before writer Len Wein and artist Dave Cockrum revived the team for a relaunched Giant-Sized X-Men. After that, Wein handed the book over to Chris Claremont, who really defined the book and its characters during an extended run on the title.

Reading these early issues, from Lee and Kirby, it’s quite clear that the X-Men aren’t working. There’s a lot of stilted awkwardness to the stories, as Lee and Kirby try to find a compelling hook for the team. They come quite close – it’s surprising how close at times – but it’s easy to see why the premise took so long to catch on.

To me, my X-Men!

To me, my X-Men!

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Non-Review Review: The Hobbit – An Unexpected Journey

I always feel a little embarrassed to admit that I prefer The Hobbit to The Lord of the Rings. Don’t worry, I know that by any objective measure of craft The Lord of the Rings is a far more impressive literary accomplishment, but I never really connected with the characters at the heart of that sprawling epic in the way that I empathised with Bilbo Baggins. As such, it’s a massive relief to me that Peter Jackson turns in an endearing and enjoyable, if padded and indulgent, first instalment in his Hobbit trilogy. The technical advances and the somewhat cynical structuring of the film tend to garner a great deal of discussion and debate, but the heart of Tolkien’s introduction to Middle Earth is still here. The only problem is that absolutely everything else is as well.

And that's just the script to Part I...

And that’s just the script to Part I…

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Non-Review Review: X-Men – First Class

X-Men: First Class is easily the best thing to emerge from Bryan Singer’s X-Men movie franchise since X-Men II, all those years ago. Jane Goldman’s smart script and Matthew Vaughn’s confident direction help inject life back into the franchise that stirred up this current superhero blockbuster fad, providing one of the finest examples of the subgenre. Although the movie does occasionally veer a little bit too close to (and, once or twice, right into) camp, it’s also a clever, brave, bold and exciting action adventure, which provides the best characterisation of the series to date.

We've got it covered...

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A Good Poster for X-Men…

If you were on the inter-webs yesterday, you might have had the grave misfortune to stumble across Michael Fassbender’s face superimposed over Sir Ian McKellen’s crotch and James McAvoy’s eyebrows being cut short by Patrick Stewart’s wheelchair arm in a vain attempt to promote X-Men: First Class, which must have the worst marketing campaign in the history of cinema. However, in order to help you forget those images (I never will), Last Exit to Nowhere tweeted the below epic X-Men posted from Eric Tan. It has nothing to do with actual movie, but it still manages to fit the whole “nostalgic” thing the movie’s going for (albeit fifties instead of sixties).

Superb.

On the other hand, I do quite like the (relatively) more subtle European posters which don’t feature Michael Fassbender’s face superimposed over Sir Ian McKellen’s crotch and nor James McAvoy’s eyebrows being cut short by Patrick Stewart’s wheelchair arm.

Non-Review Review: X-Men II

I wrote in my review of the original X-Men that the first film in the saga still holds up quite well, even after a decade of superhero movies built off the back of it. It is by no means as spectacular as some of those that followed, nor is it as bad as some of those that followed. X-Men II is something similar. It wasn’t quite as revolutionary, but it did jumpstart another style of summer blockbuster, arguably a subgenre of the type sparked by the original film: the bigger and better superhero sequel.

No need to get your claws out...

No need to get your claws out...

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Magneto’s Magnetism…

Another day, another superhero movie. Still, the long-rumoured X-Men Origins: Magneto is a project which has aroused quite a bit of my interest, if only because it has the potential to be unlike any other film in that genre. And if – as it appears – the superhero film is here to stay, we should at least welcome those that are willing to deviate from the norm, even a little bit and even if they don’t work out. Still, I wholeheartedly accept that it could end up being as pointless and soulless as Wolverine was, so I won’t be priming my hopes too much.

"You shall not recast!"

"YOU SHALL NOT RECAST!"

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