Retro Review: Career Opportunities
Jul 2012 16

***Every so often, we here at RBT like to revisit older films to see how they hold up by today’s standards, to keep our film knowledge fresh, but mostly just to give us more things to argue about. Due to being born mid-way through the 80s, a lot of the cinematic fodder from that decade and the early 90s (classics aside) has perhaps passed me by. Tom Williams decided that enough was enough, and he prescribed Career Opportunities to be the inaugural entry in this continuing series. So without further ado, on with the review….***

John Hughes’ Career Opportunities is a hard film to have an opinion on. On the one hand, it’s a fun slice of nostalgia pie, a young male wish-fulfilment fantasy with a danceable and well implemented soundtrack. It also has that 80s/90s sheen that all John Hughes’ best films have. On the other, cold, hard, and cynical hand, it’s a slight, unremarkable piece of fluff, devoid of real drama, lacking originality, and displaying a sagging midsection.

Jim Dodge: caught in a rare moment of silence

John Hughes is one of my favourite directors and writers, ever. The hyperreal world he created that are inhabited by the characters of his best films is a joy to visit, his use of smart dialogue, pop culture references and pop music still defines teen-orientated content today, and he seemed like one of the few adults who really understood teenagers. Ferris Bueller’s Day OffThe Breakfast Club, Plans, Trains and Automobiles, Uncle Buck, Sixteen Candles, Pretty in Pink, Weird Science… These are the classic John Hughes films, and Career Opportunities falls into the ‘Lesser Hughes’ camp, alongside She’s Having a Baby, and Curly Sue, among others. Not that these films are bad, they just aren’t anywhere near as good as the real Hughes youth-centric classics.

Our protagonist on this merry tale is Jim Dodge (Frank Whaley), a young man with a talent for talking and not much else, whose grand plans stop him from actually achieving anything in his day-to-day existence. Aged 21 and living at home, Jim’s prospects don’t look too bright when, out of desperation (and via a brilliant cameo from John Candy) he lands a job as Night Cleanup Boy at his local target. Meanwhile, the local beautiful, but tormented-inside, rich girl, Josie McLellan (Jennifer Connelly) wants to escape her domineering father and, in her desire to do something, anything, about her situation, ends up botching a shoplifting attempt and getting stuck inside the store with Jim overnight. See what I mean about male wish-fulfilment? Cue a lot of gags involving rollerskates, ovens, clothes, food and hair-brained attempts to speed up the cleaning process. An underdeveloped plot point involving a store robbery attempt doesn’t quite succeed, but the way that the two protagonists change and affect each other is enjoyable, even if the basic plotting has been done many times before.

A real, bonafide Hughesian heroine

Jim is a Hughes protagonist in the Ferris Bueller mode, a gift for talking and an innate audacity giving you the feeling that whatever his failings, he’ll be alright in life. He’s believably deluded, and gives even some of the weaker lines an earnest like-ability that masks any script weaknesses. Jennifer Connelly definitely has the looks for the part, but she has also always been a real actress. The better aspects of the script are where she is able to persuade Jim that he isn’t happy with his lot in life, and that he should aspire to more. Some of the clunkier lines of exposition come her way, but she powers on through, delivering the lines well enough that they almost seem plausible. Hughes’ trademark quirky side characters are well-realised in what little screen time they have, with Barry Corbin as Officer Don and John M. Jackson as Bud Dodge, Jim’s father. Dermot and Kieran Mulroney give good, eccentric villain, but aren’t allowed much screen time to establish their characters’ threat.

The music is fantastic, and like a lot of John Hughes films, perfectly complements the onscreen action. Problem is, it’s genuinely one of the best things about the movie. So much time is spent on the (admittedly fun) mall escapades that the momentum of the story is stalled, and ancillary characters aren’t developed into anything more than cyphers. In a lot of ways, its Hughesian (it’s a word, I invented it!) touches highlight its shortcomings. The Breakfast Club this ain’t.

Still, if, on a Sunday afternoon, you want an easy watch, with a guaranteed happy ending, very mild peril in between, and you’ve seen Ferris Bueller’s Day Off too recently, then this might hit the spot, albeit less effectively. Growing up in the mid 80s/early 90s, these films are fun in an ironic, nostalgic, wistful sort of way. If you were to judge it harshly, it would be an easy target to dissect, yet its aims are so amiable, it’s intentions so true, that it’s hard to dislike. Sort of like shooting a puppy.

7/10

TA

Jul 2012 17

 

I have to give credit to Ain’t It Cool News to finding this gem of a documentary trailer.

 

It looks like a fascinating film about the life and work of one of the most famous movie poster artists of all time.  I don’t know this for a fact but I suspect his works of art have been viewed by more living souls than any other artist.  He is extremely prolific and here are a couple of my favourite examples of his work:

I hope this gets picked up and released in the UK as well as the USA.

The Dark Knight Rises: Beware the Enraged Fanboys
Jul 2012 18

The latest Chris Nolan Batman film, The Dark Knight Rises nearly upon us. A film so hyped and anticipated, it has reached and surpassed ‘event movie’ status. The early reviews have been devoured and dissected by fans of the previous films in the series. Even film fans who were not particularly keen on the previous films will look on with interest, as any film franchise this popular and successful will have knock-on effects on the industry for years.

The release of The Dark Knight Rises has also been accompanied by the news that the review-aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, has had to take the unprecedented step of suspending comments on its The Dark Knight Rises reviews. This is due to the savage nature with which fans of the franchise attacked reviewers who either gave the film a negative review, or weren’t seen to be positive enough. This touches on another issue that I have with review aggregator websites, but I will deal with this in a later article. Many creative properties can engender this kind of reaction, and the internet really does give everyone a voice these days, a very democratic concept. But when it gives rise to these fundamentalist zealots calling themselves fans, is that a good thing? Why is it that this has happened with this film, and why now?

Read on…

Chris Nolan’s Batman films have been huge successes, Batman Begins wasn’t the first superhero film, but was released in the first rush of superhero films that followed the success of the Spider-Man and X-Men films. It received strong reviews in the mainstream press, mostly pleasantly surprised that it was possible to make such a grown-up superhero film and was lauded by comic-book fans, developing a loyal following.

Chris Nolan, this is all your fault!

Fast-forward to 2008, and the release of The Dark Knight. The revolutionary viral marketing campaign, the intervening years of fanboy hysteria and debate concerning the identity of the Joker, the early death of Heath Ledger, and the well-timed drip feed of trailers culminated in the perfect storm that was the film’s cinematic release. What was different this time? The second entry in Nolan’s trilogy had genuine crossover appeal, and was praised for being a more intelligent and adult comic-book movie, with grown-up themes and a towering performance by Ledger as the Joker. By this time, fanboys upon fanboys had joined the army of Bat-fans. The financial success of the film, coupled with a burgeoning online community, nurtured by the viral marketing, had reached an almost virulently loyal state.

Like anything successful, whether it be a pop song, a work of art, or a film, there will always be contrarians, people who genuinely dislike the film, or those who find it hard to like something that is so overwhelmingly popular and hyped. It has always been this way, and it is the people who fit into these broad categories that lead the then-inevitable backlash. The internet has given a voice to everyone, and that is a good thing, but this voice can also be a force for evil.

So, back to 2012, and the release of TDKR. If you actually check the movie’s RT page, as of the time of writing, it holds an 87% ‘fresh’ rating, which is extremely high for a Blockbuster that will be so widely-reviewed. The general gist seems to be that the film has a very complicated plot that becomes hard to follow, lots of characters, and that it is a very long film in terms of running time. Both positive and negative reviews mention these points, and the positive reviews tend to be more or less 5-stars, whilst the less glowing tend to find those issues to be too problematic to really go as far as giving it a perfect score. Hey, we all know that making a threequel is hard, it’s known to be very difficult to maintain that quality. Regardless if the RT score, this film wil more than likely be seen as a great achievement, and the trilogy as one of the greats in cinema history. If anyone has any suggestions of good third entries, please leave a comment.

As this article in The Guardian recounts, the vitriol being directed at those reviewers who would dare be anything other than overwhelmingly positive about the film has been so extreme as to move Rotten Tomatoes to shut down the commenting facility for this film. The first time this has happened in the history of the website.

Batman faces his greatest foe yet. No, not Bane. Internet Trolls.

At this point, I should point out that I love the Nolan Batman films. I am a fan of the comics, and have been very impressed with the sheer creativity that Chris and Jonathan Nolan have exhibited in bringing this property to the screen. However the scale of adulation for the films sits quite uncomfortably with me, as they either seem to be overtly praised, or over-criticised in an attempt to balance it out. I look forward to the day when the debate will have died down, and I can watch the film without the baggage of fanboy flame wars echoing behind my eyes.

The point is this: the internet has given people a voice, but it allows them anonymity. When you hide behind the cloak of anonymity, and you have never met the person you are addressing, you are crueller and more zealous than you would if you were talking to them in person. Without the shackles of social convention holding you back, you are able to really let loose in your quest to best your opponent, they are the Joker to your Batman, and it’s up to you to take them down as soon as possible. The safety of Gotham’s at stake! Sometimes, you have to be the hero Gotham needs, not necessarily the one that it wants right now, so if it takes racist, sexist, foul-mouthed slurs to achieve the objective, then it needs to be done… Doesn’t it???

Congratulations, you are a hero. You have made a film-reviewer who just happens to not share your opinion on a film feel worse than they did before reading your comments. At this point, I’d like to point out that this all concerns a film that hasn’t even been released yet, meaning that the vast majority of these people haven’t even seen the film to have an opinion on it. This last fact makes the whole thing seem farcical, which it is. The internet is still a new medium, still developing etiquette and traditions, but this should never be acceptable, ever. It makes me feel ashamed that I like the same films as these people, and it needs to stop now.

However, this Friday, at 8pm, I will be at the Cineworld in Hammersmith with my tickets at the ready, and will I let it bother me while watching the film?

Not in the slightest.

TA

 

The Lesser-Known ‘Blokes’ Night In’ Movies!
Jul 2012 21


It would be easy to make a standard, boring, everyday list of blokes’ night in movies.

For example:

1. Die Hard
2. Commando
3. Terminator
4. Universal Soldier

Job done. That took (at most) about 30 seconds to think of. The much harder challenge was to think of four films which would be perfect, but are lesser-known gems.

So here goes:

1. Judgement Night
Stephen Hopkins directs Emilio Estevez, Cuba Gooding Jr., Jeremy Piven and Dennis Leary in an action-packed 90 minutes in which a group of friends get lost on their way to fight, and see something they shouldn’t have done. Get the pizzas in.

2. Tresspass

Described as possibly the best single-location action film of all time (Can’t think of many others, so it may not be the greatest of compliments, come to think of it). Bill Paxton and Ice T star, I don’t think I need to say anymore. Beers in the fridge.

3. The Last Boy Scout

Pretty much universally panned on its release, which is why it isn’t as well known as (in my opinion), it should be. Bruce Willis and Damon Waynes star in this Shane Black-penned Tony Scott-directed action movie. Crisps at the ready.

4. Happy Gilmore

OK so probably not exactly unknown, but for my money the one of the funniest films ever made. Somebody call a taxi.

The Dark Knight Rises; But Does He Fall?
Jul 2012 22

A film this hyped is hard to have an unbiased opinion on, and boy, has it been hyped. As I mentioned in my previous piece about Batman fanboys, two effects of this mega hype are that over-praise is spouted by loyal fans, followed by contrarians feeling the need to try and single-handedly rebalance the public perception of a film. Where’s the reality in this situation? Usually, it’s in between. So, with this in mind, the questions are: Is The Dark Knight Rises good? Yes. Very. Is it a fitting end to this box office behemoth of a trilogy? Indeed it is. Is it better than The Dark Knight? No, but only just.

Going back as far as 1998’s Following, Nolan’s films have displayed inventiveness at a story and script level that is rare in the mainstream. Christopher Nolan loves an idea then, and, apart from the thoughtful casting, the grounding in realism, and complex but coherent storylines, it is the introduction of ideas that has made his Batman trilogy more than just a superhero franchise. TDKR has a complex narrative bursting at the seams with ideas. So full of ideas in fact, that it actually ends up working against the movie, to the point where it falls behind The Dark Knight in the quality stakes. But, as I said before, only just.

In Gotham City, eight years have gone by since the events of TDK. The citizens have been at peace, and, after allowing himself to take the blame for Harvey Dent’s actions in TDK, Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) has allowed his superhero alter-ego to fade from public life. Indeed, Bruce Wayne himself is a recluse, walking with a cane, sporting a beard and some grey flecks in his fair. The Wayne Corporation hasn’t been doing too well financially, but other areas of the city have. There’s an effective cat-burglar that comic book fans will recognise as Catwoman (Anne Hathaway), who bears witness to a coming storm. A storm that threatens not just Wayne, but the entire city of Gotham. This metaphorical storm is best personified by ideologically-driven main antagonist, Bane (Tom Hardy) whose brutal physicality alone gives an idea of the things to come. To say any more would be to spoil a wonderfully intricate plot, influenced by Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities, which, in the style of the other entries in this franchise, uses the larger themes of our times to pull us deeper into the story.

The Devil may wear Prada, but Catwoman wears high-kicking spandex

The opening set-piece has deservedly grabbed plenty of attention, and, indeed, the opening 45 minutes is paced expertly, ebbing and flowing with an urgency that grabs you by the shoulders, and doesn’t let up for some time. Even when it does (which is understandable), the plot throbs with intensity. And by the time the final plot machinations start, followed by a fitting ending, it feels like you’ve lived through every rain drop of the promised storm. The intricate, idea-laden plot, at times threatens to spin out of control, is not as cohesive at TDK. A Tale of Two Cities concerns the American Revolution and the French Revolution, and the events of the latter in particular, are evident in the plot of this film. A scene set in the Gotham Stock Exchange, themes of economic bubbles bursting, and class warfare all make it unsurprising that Chris Nolan actually filmed sequences in the midst of the Occupy Wall Street protests. If Batman Begins was about emerging from the shadow of 9/11, and TDK a terrorism allegory, the TDKR deals with the economic disarray that has defined our times since the release of the previous film.

Bane: Gotham’s reckoning?

Against this broad, plot-heavy canvass, do the actors get to strut their stuff? It might be surprising to hear that, yes, they do. Michael Caine is allowed to display a greater range of emotion as Alfred than he has before, and he delivers his lines with the kind of honesty that such an extravagant plot needs. Anne Hathaway effectively high-kicks the fanboys’ concerns repeatedly in the face with a performance that displays physical dexterity and a great line in amorality-while also getting some of the best quips. Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Gary Oldman are able to escape some of shackles of the old ‘good cops trying to do their job’ shtick by giving their performances the nuance that lesser actors couldn’t. Tom Hardy’s voice courted controversy in early trailers, with some fans complaining they couldn’t understand it. I found him mostly audible, with a lip-curling accent apparently based on Bartley Gorman. His physicality is spot-on, and although he has a mask on his face for most of the film, is able to bring forth at least some performance with the rest of his body and his eyes. But this film marks what is, in my opinion, Christian Bale’s best performance in this trilogy. In the first film, he was hamstrung by the dead-weight of the hero origin story. In the second, the late Heath Ledger took centre-stage. Even though his performances were successful in the past, this film finally allows him more of a range, and he ‘rises’ to that challenge believably and rousingly.

The Dark Knight Rises: Christian Bale’s finest Bat-moment?

As I’ve said, the plot is nearly pulled under by the weight of its ideas, but it does hold together-helped by excellent performances, and as a whole, is able to outweigh its shortcomings. Bane doesn’t provide the kind of gravitas that the Joker did in the previous film, and the plot probably wouldn’t give the Joker room to shine anyway. Directing action has been cited as a weakness of Nolan’s in the past, and although the film’s car chases and fight scenes go some way to dispelling that theory, an injection of action into the middle section of the film might have given the film more momentum.

The film ends in a fitting way, coming thematically full-circle, and echoing plot beats from previous films. In times where the 99% are deciding that it’s time the 1% pulled their weight more when it comes to solving the world’s problems, what Nolan seems to be saying is that we all have a responsibility to each other, and the world at large, to do what’s right, before it all collapses in on us. A throughly well-executed and thrilling conclusion to the series, I wait with baited breath for Nolan’s next move.

9/10

PS: Before the film, the teaser for next year’s Nolan-produced, Zach Snyder-directed Man of Steel played. All I can say is: epic.

http://youtu.be/6jKWJZsjm5U

TA

 

Man of Steel Trailers: Like London Buses
Jul 2012 23

So, no sooner does the first Man of Steel trailer play at the start of The Dark Knight Rises, does it become apparent that there are actually two different teasers. Ok, so they’re not that different. The footage is the same, they both contain a solemn monologue by a father figure over footage of a fishing Clark Kent. But which father figure? In one version of the trailer, Kevin Costner as Jonathan Kent narrates, and in the other, it’s Jor-El (Russell Crowe) his Kryptonian father. There doesn’t seem too much rhyme or reason behind the choice of which trailer plays at which showing. But either way, it’s clear that people don’t seem too excited about this Superman film. The gist seems to be that Superman is too powerful, the world more cynical now, that he’s just too, well, boring.

Man of steal? Looks like Superman’s been opening some vaults.

I can see why Superman would come across as a boring do-gooder to some, but here’s why you should be excited:

Christopher Nolan is producing. That’s right, Chris Nolan is bringing his Batman experience to bear, and he’s brought his co-writer from the Batman films, David Goyer along for the ride.

The cast? The convincingly superhuman looking Henry Cavill as Superman, alongside Kevin Costner, Russell Crowe, Diane Lane and Laurence Fishburne. Established acting heavyweights one and all. Except Cavill, maybe. That comes later.

Zach Snyder is directing, which might raise alarm bells for some, but maybe it’s time that Superman had a bit of kick-ass style? Zach Snyder has his flaws as a director, but when it comes to cinematic action, the guy knows what he’s doing. He’s an interesting choice to pair with Chris Nolan, who picked Snyder from the cream of Hollywood talent for this gig.

If nothing else, it’ll be different. This ain’t your father’s Superman movie.

Check out the trailers below, and let us know what you think about the film (coming out in 2013).

TA

Jul 2012 23

20120723-224427.jpg

One of my favourites. Amazing cast including Anthony Hopkins, Mel Gibson, Laurence Olivier, Edward Fox, Daniel Day-Lewis, Liam Neeson. A Vangelis score that is so wrong it’s right.

It’s like Pirates of the Caribbean without a sense of fun, special effects or pirates.

Recommended.

NP

The Dark Knight Rises: 33 Things About the Movie
Jul 2012 25

Film School Rejects is an excellent site devoted to films. Since we are still in the midst of debate about TDKR, I thought it was worth sharing some recent articles posted by FSR. After posting my mostly positive review, I have spoken to many people about TDKR. Some were overtly positive about the film (fanboys so blindly in love with Batman, that I think they might need to invent a new porn subgenre), others who thought that the film was great but definitely flawed (like me, although it’s worth pointing out that The Dark Knight wasn’t perfect either), and some detail-orientated film nerds who let the films flaws ruin the experience for them.

For the record, I think that Bane’s voice was annoying, that there were plot holes, and that certain things didn’t make sense. But Nolan and co. got so much right in making the film, that ultimately that is what tipped the scales, and I enjoyed the film on balance.

The first article is 11 things that didn’t work in The Dark Knight Rises:

Link

The second article is 11 things that did work in The Dark Knight Rises:

Link

The third article is 11 things that were just okay in The Dark Knight Rises:

Link

Plenty of food for thought there, and I think most of their points are broadly right. Here’s hoping that this is the first of many blockbusters that provoke such debate.

If you agree, disagree, or would like to add to any of the articles’ points, feel free to post a comment below.

Also, as one last treat, and speaking of raging fanboys, here’s the entirely self-financed trailer for a fan-film called Grayson. It depicts a world where Batman has been killed, and Robin steps up. The guy himself directs, writes, and stars. Perhaps surprisingly, it doesn’t look completely terrible:

TA

Jul 2012 26

20120726-085550.jpg
On the tube to work this morning this poster caught my eye, I’m not sure what could have drawn me to it.
On closer examination it is a clever viral for the new Total Recall movie. I suspect after the success of the Prometheus viral campaign we may see a few more blockbusters splashing their marketing cash in the same manner.
If you spot anymore let us know.

TW

Jul 2012 27

A quick glance through the pages of any 2012 film magazine or website should be enough to demonstrate that we currently living through the golden age of the superhero movie. Never before have our cinema screens been so overrun by spandex-clad bodybuilders fighting the forces of evil. And with good reason. Movies after all are big business, and the superhero movie is a Hollywood producer’s dream in terms of its appeal to the ‘four quadrants’ – specifically; both male and female, the under 25’s and over. In these dark times popular culture needs its heroes, and it seems, finally, they have arrived.

And while as an audience we are increasingly expecting more depth and gravitas from our men of steel, these are still films for the family. The grownups go to the movies too, but this year in particular they have been seriously neglected. There have been exceptions:  At the start of the year we were treated to David Fincher’s ‘The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo’, and more recently Ridley Scott’s ‘Prometheus’. But generally the childless among us have had little reason to step away from the wonderful world of drama now available on our television sets.

Which is why the recently released trailer for Quentin Tarrantino’s ‘Django Unchained’, is such cause for celebration. Having danced around the genre of spaghetti western his whole career, we are finally being offered a genuine western from the master of the Mexican standoff. A look at the trailer shows us what’s in store: Tarrantino favourites Christoph Waltz and Samuel L. Jackson underpinning the action, a star turn from Jamie Foxx – an actor bitterly underused since his Oscar Winning portrayal of Ray Charles, and finally a villainous role for the De Niro of our generation – Leonardo Di Carprio. All of this twisted with the director’s now-standard black gold dialogue.

Critics of the filmmaker may sight his previous movie ‘Inglorious Basterds’ as reason to disregard his upcoming film as more pop-history junk. But place that movie alongside recent Hollywood historical offerings such as ‘Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter’ and ‘The Raven’ and its clear to see Tarrantino’s talent for meshing entertainment with issues shine through. Granted, slavery is a huge issue and Tarrantino has had his run-ins in the race department. Most notably with Spike Lee’s searing criticism of his use of the N-word in 1997’s ‘Jackie Brown’. But these misgivings should be viewed as merely hurdles for Tarrantino to overcome – he is after all a filmmaker with such a unique voice and   style that I cannot but wish him the best. In an age of sanitized supermodels he remains an auteur – who takes his audience to places they may not feel comfortable to go. Places in modern cinema, where it is rare to be invited.

Lightness of touch and a real sense of humour is something our current superhero filmmakers seem to have overlooked, and it is this refusal to take himself seriously that is so appealing about Tarrantino’s latest. Real life issues such as slavery may no longer have a place in the modern multiplex, but I have a feeling that if anyone can bring the adults back to the movies, it’s Quentin Tarrantino. I can’t wait.

JP

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