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Non-Review Review: Infernal Affairs

We’re currently blogging as part of the “For the Love of Film Noir” blogathon (hosted by Ferdy on Films and The Self-Styled Siren) to raise money to help restore the 1950’s film noir The Sound of Fury (aka Try and Get Me). It’s a good cause which’ll help preserve our rich cinematic heritage for the ages, and you can donate by clicking here. Over the course of the event, running from 14th through 21st February, I’m taking a look at the more modern films that have been inspired or shaped by noir. Today’s theme is “foreign noir” – a look at some of the neo-noir films from outside America.

In case you are unfamiliar with the Hong Kong classic, Infernal Affairs is perhaps most recognisable to Western audiences as the film which inspired Martin Scorsese’s The Departed. The film finally won Scorsese a long overdue Oscar, but the raw materials he found himself working with certainly contributed in some manner. The movie succeeds by taking a wonderfully original plot that still fits within the themes of the best crime stories, and telling it in a wonderfully engaging manner.

Go to Hell...

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Non-Review Review: Heat

We’re currently blogging as part of the “For the Love of Film Noir” blogathon (hosted by Ferdy on Films and The Self-Styled Siren) to raise money to help restore the 1950’s film noir The Sound of Fury (aka Try and Get Me). It’s a good cause which’ll help preserve our rich cinematic heritage for the ages, and you can donate by clicking here. Over the course of the event, running from 14th through 21st February, I’m taking a look at the more modern films that have been inspired or shaped by noir. Today’s theme is “nineties noir” – I’ll be looking at two of the finest noir-inspired films of the nineties.

I do what I do best, I take scores. You do what you best, try to stop guys like me.

– Neil McCauley to Vincent Hanna

I’ll be honest and concede that, right off the bat, I have a lot more love for Heat than most. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t labour under the assumption that it’s a poorly-received film (it’s rare to find someone who will concede that they dislike it), but I still have a stronger affection for Heat than the vast majority of viewers. I was only ten years old when Heat was released, and I think that was a big a moment for me. My ten-year-old self was familiar with big, sprawling epic sagas, but I think I used to believe that these sorts of epics were reserved for stories set in times long past. I think, in my innocence (or foolishness, depending on how kind you wish to be to my younger self), I felt that epic stories didn’t really happen anymore.

And then I saw Heat, which somehow managed to take an epic, sprawling narrative style which – at the time – I could only remember from films like Dances With Wolves or Cleopatra or Gone With The Wind, and applied it to cops and robbers. If I were to construct a list of films which helped me fall in love with cinema, Heat would be on there. Pretty high, too.

It's a whole different ballgame...

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On Second Thoughts Re-View Review: The Town (Extended Cut)

Sometimes when I see a movie a second time, I see a little bit more. Sometimes it’s watching an alternate cut or something, but it can be as simple as watching the movie a second time and knowing how it’ll end the whole way through. So I thought I’d try something new. I’d make notes on what I thought of certain films when I saw them a second time – let’s call it a “re-view review”, eh? Maybe they’ll become a semi-regular fixture.

When I first caught The Town, I admitted to being a bit disappointed with it. It was a good film, but it wasn’t quite as consistently brilliant as many people had led to me to believe. Don’t get me wrong – I enjoyed it (get more of my thoughts on it by checking out the review) but it just seemed like something was missing from the film, even if I didn’t know what. So, when dad returned from the video shop with it on Friday, we all sat down to watch the special “extended cut” of Ben Affleck’s film. And I absolutely loved it.

Hamming it up a notch...

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A Man’s Mann…

I have to confess I was not overly impressed with Public Enemies. In fairness, it was mostly down to the choices Mann made in filming the work – the high definition cameras and the insistence on shakey hand held movement. You might argue that it was a choice designed to place us in the real world of the Great Depression – to put us on the streets with Dillinger and immerse us in his world rather than the sanitised grandiose version of the 1930’s that typically finds its way on to our screens. This ignores one fundamental fact about Mann’s film making: it is no less grandiose or fantastic than those myths of times past. Mann is a film maker who works best exploring the dynamics of a masculine ideal that never existed. His male characters are drawn in the mold of a classic image that never actually existed.

I'll bet Pacino ordered the Large Ham. Overdone. VERY LOUDLY!

I'll bet Pacino ordered the Large Ham. Overdone. VERY LOUDLY!

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Non-Review Review: Public Enemies

I want to love this film. I really do. I enjoyed Miami Vice, so devoted am I to the cult of Mann and his study of the modern man lost in the world of violence and suffering. And Public Enemies has a lot going for it, it does. A fantastic cast, a better-than-fantastic lead, a solid script. On the other hand, the film is, technically speaking, a mess. And not the good kind of mess.

Don't get Christian Bale angry... He won't like you when he's angry...

Don't get Christian Bale angry... He won't like you when he's angry...

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It was the summer of 2009…

Lately I’ve taken a bit of interest in Box Office numbers – I figure that might distract me from the fact Ryan Tuberty is hosting the Late Late. And looking at the few months ahead of us, I can see this being a very big summer for the US box office. In fact, I can see the film industry beating the recession with a large stick (cinema generally does quite well during recessions as it’s well, cheap), thanks to a fairly epic and broad lineup of blockbuster films.

It seems that just about every film this year is a sequel or prequel. Some (Angels & Demons) are both – it’s complicated (the book is a prequel the film is a sequel). We’ve had a relatively strong introduction to the season with the two prequels on offer. Neither Star Trek nor Wolverine broke any major records (though the Imax thing is pretty neat, as is the biggest second-week in May ever). I can see Star Trek having the legs to last in the background at least a month (which, given the onslaught of bigger movies and the disappointing staying power of other would be blockbusters, is really something).

Even before we reach the end of the month, we’ll have the second Dan Brown film, which can’t do too badly with a cast like Ewan McGregor and Tom Hanks and a cult following among a slightly older demographic usually ignored, the fourth Terminator film, which should do big business despite all the reasons that geeks have to worry, and the kid-friendly A Night at the Museum. Rounding off the month’s smaller (pbut possibly slow-burning) releases are Pixar’s Up and Sam Raimi’s return to cult horror with Drag Me to Hell. Again, neither should set opening weekend alight, but I’d expect a decent amount of business from either or both.

Then we have the traditional summer months. Summer movies have been creeping in earlier and earlier (Watchmen was arguably better suited to a summer release; Iron Man last year set the official start-of-season bell back at least a few weeks), but your meat-and-potatoes are here. These are the movies that cannot possibly fail, they are just that wired-in to cheesy pop sentiment. Michale Bay will confirm his title to the throne of summer blockbusters with a brainless sequel to a feature-length toy commercial with Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, but even he will likely have to stand in the shade created by what most commentators have settled on as the biggest money-spinner of the year, Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince. The series has built in devotees that Star Trek can only dream about, and they will be out in full force along with any parent looking to entertain a child over the summer months. This and the fact that my sources within the fan community tell me this is the best book points to a right to print money.

I think that GI Joe: The Rise of Cobra may falter as a brand with relatively little name recognition, despite the most over-qualified cast ever – Christopher Eccleston, people! On the other hand, I really hope that Michael Mann’s Public Enemies can do at least respectably, as the man generally delivers and has an amazing cast at his disposal.

All that said, I wouldn’t expect anyone to dethrone The Dark Knight or Titanic. I just think that culminatively the box office should be huge, but it could hugely backfire and lead to blockbuster fatigue, though I doubt it. It’ll be interesting to read the end-of-year numbers.

After that there’s the lonely Autumn followed by the glut of awards-bait. I’m already hyped about some of the movies we won’t be seeing on this side of the Atlantic for another nine months, but I’ll talk about them some other time.