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My 12 for ’12: The Dark Knight Rises & Blockbusters with Brains…

I’m counting down my top twelve films of the year between now and January, starting at #12 and heading to #1. I expect the list to be a little bit predictable, a little bit surprising, a little bit of everything. All films released in the UK and Ireland in 2012 qualify. Sound off below, and let me know if I’m on the money, or if I’m completely off the radar. And let me know your own picks or recommendations.

This is #1

There’s a popular idea that just because a movie makes a lot of money, or just because it attracts a large audience, or just because it features fantastical elements, that it is somehow unworthy of discussion and debate. The Dark Knight Rises has been a divisive film, sparking a lot of debate about its relative merits and those of Christopher Nolan, the director and co-writer. Following on from the massive success of The Dark Knight, Nolan opted for an unconventional approach for his sequel. Structurally and tonally, The Dark Knight Rises represented a significant departure from The Dark Knight. While the The Dark Knight had been an urban crime thriller exploring the wake of 9/11, The Dark Knight Rises was an epic social drama pondering how divided American society had become.

It isn’t quite as fantastic as The Dark Knight, but it was strong, bold, vibrant and challenging film making – proof that budget does not belie brains.

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12 Movie Moments of 2012: “You’d Love My Boyfriend, He’s a Total Chick Flick Nut” (ParaNorman)

As well as counting down the top twelve films, I’m also going to count down my top twelve movie related “moments” of 2012. The term “moment” is elastic, so expect some crazy nonsense here. And, as usual, I accept that my taste is completely absurd, so I fully expect you to disagree. With that in mind, this is #7

I’m normally hesitant to involve politics in this blog. It is, after all, a blog about popular culture. Indeed, I am the first to complain about obnoxious celebrities standing on their soapbox espousing their political beliefs. It’s not that I disagree with them, or that they aren’t entitled to their opinion, I’m just uncomfortable with the idea that being famous makes you an expert to speak on a particular cause or issue. Still, in the spirit of Christmas, allow me one small digression.

That said, I couldn’t help but smile at the climax to ParaNorman, a solidly entertaining family adventure that took its own message to heart. Embracing the idea that there’s nothing scary about something just because it’s different than you, it earned the wrath of the extreme right because it dared to suggest that one of its character might be in a loving and stable homosexual relationship. It’s great to see a family film actual acknowledge that sort of diversity, particularly in a way that doesn’t sensationalise the matter in hand. It’s a damn funny one-liner to boot, and the fact that it’s willing to call the audience on their assumptions is particularly endearing.

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My 12 for ’12: Moonrise Kingdom & The Virtues of Eternal Childhood

I’m counting down my top twelve films of the year between now and January, starting at #12 and heading to #1. I expect the list to be a little bit predictable, a little bit surprising, a little bit of everything. All films released in the UK and Ireland in 2012 qualify. Sound off below, and let me know if I’m on the money, or if I’m completely off the radar. And let me know your own picks or recommendations.

This is #8

I’ll freely confess that I am not a huge Wes Anderson fan. I admire the fact that he has managed to maintain a distinct and consistent aesthetic, one quite different from that found elsewhere, but I’m not necessarily fond of his entire body of work. I harbour a fondness for Rushmore, The Fantastic Mr. Fox and – now – Moonrise Kingdom. They are, in theory at least, three very different films – one of them is a stop-motion animated adaptation of a classic Roald Dahl story, for instance. However, the linking theme among (what I perceive to be) Anderson’s strongest work is a romantic sense of childhood. Anderson’s characters are often children, no matter their actual age or how far they’ve travelled, and I think that Anderson’s work is at its very best when it embraces that sense of perpetual childhood.moonrisekingdom

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Non-Review Review: Rushmore

I am quite fond of Rushmore. It’s strange, because I found that Anderson’s schtick wore off on many of his following films – The Royal Tenenbaums, The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou, The Darjeeling Limited. I suspect my affection for the film is rooted in the fact that it was the first Wes Anderson film I ever saw, and so his quirks and style were refreshing to me. There is, after all, nobody who writes movie dialogue and directs scenes quite like Wes Anderson. In a way, he feels a bit like Quentin Tarantino, an autuer who seems to sign almost every frame of his work. I think, perhaps, that I am so partial to Rushmore because Anderson’s plot devices and his writing seem much better suited to it than to many of the films that followed. After all, it’s a lot easier to accept a film based around a character who acts like an emotionally immature teenager when that character is an emotionally immature teenager.

It all goes to the Max…

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Non-Review Review: Moonrise Kingdom

I’ve always felt that Wes Anderson sees the world through the eyes of child. Events take on a surreal larger-than-life significance, characters are exaggerated, emotional interactions are somewhat simplistic, yet peppered with nuance and hidden depth. To be entirely honest, I’ve found this has a tendency to make Anderson’s adult characters difficult to relate to and his movies difficult to engage with. That’s why I think The Fantastic Mr. Fox worked so well, because it was a childish view of an adult work through the prism of a children’s story.

That’s also why, I think, Moonrise Kingdom works just as well as Anderson’s quirky foray into the world of stop motion animation. While many of Anderson’s films are tragedies about overgrown children living in the bodies of adults, Moonrise Kingdom is more keenly focused on how adults and children interact with one another – giving the movie a depth to complement Anderson’s unique stylistic vision, and heart to go with its cynical wit.

“Well, we know where we’re going…”

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Win! Moonrise Kingdom T-Shirts!

The lovely folks over at Universal Pictures Ireland have give us ten T-shirts to give away from the latest Wes Anderson release, Moonrise Kingdom. It premiered at Cannes last week, and it opens here on Friday. To be in with a chance to win, answer the question below.

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