The recent success of the Marvel comic movies has made Hollywood and the Networks desperate to sign the next hot comic book property. I would never have thought the ‘Green Arrow’ get his own TV series but here it is!
They have cast a relatively unknown Stephen Amell playing Oliver Queen our hero the Green Arrow. The story starts with Oliver on an island called Purgatory which we find he has been stranded on for five years. He looks like Tom Hanks in ‘Cast Away’ with a Green Hood for the first few minutes. During these minutes we get a glimpse of his Parkour abilities as he race to alert a near by Fishing boat as to his presence.
Once back in civilisation the story becomes a reasonably predictable revenge story with the Arrow taking on those that have taken advantage of his home town. There is more too it than that but I don’t want to spoil the plot. They have cleverly not given everything away about what happened to Oliver on the island but use flashbacks to give us glimpses of the event that changes his life forever.
Some of the dialogue is a bit cheesy one line in particular whispered by Oliver to his kid sister Thea played by Willa Holland on his return is a shocker: ‘You were with me the whole time’. VoiceOver is used by the producers to explain what is going on in the Arrows mind. This for me is not hugely effective as Stephen Amell is a little wooden, not on the scale of Keanu Reeves but close. He is your classic blue-eyed blonde haired boy, and luckily for him there was clearly a Fitness First gym on Purgatory as he is ripped.
It all feels very familiar, not always a bad thing as sometimes you want to sit comfortably on the sofa and turn your brain off and watch stupidly good-looking people tell you a story. It draws on its comic book heritage and pulls from the likes of Batman and Superman for inspiration in developing the leads darker brooding character.
It reminds me a lot of Smallville, the possible love interest is called Laurel Lance and is an investigative lawyer sounds familiar doesn’t it. This is not surprising as it is produced for the CW the American channel which was responsible for Smallville.
I don’t want to give away the plot but rest assured they have built-in a way to keep this story running for as long as they need it to.
Arrow is a ripping yarn which won’t tax the brain. I enjoyed the first episode and I want to find out more about the mysterious island of purgatory and what happened to him there.
Arrow is on Sky One HD 22nd October at 9pm.
Movie clichés. Everyone’s got their favourite. Maybe it’s when someone says “I’m too old for this shit”, or possibly it’s the fact that any character who mentions how close to retirement they are, or says that they’ll “be right back” will die before the end of the film. Sometimes, the clichés can be visual: in an action film, if there’s an explosion, there is an odds-on chance that the character who causes said explosion will walk away from it in slow motion. Usually wearing sunglasses. One of the most beloved clichés of film fans is the ‘Wilhelm Scream‘ a sound effect you can hear in films too numerous to name. Clichés aren’t always fondly remembered though; the ‘black character dies first’ trope has become a pop culture meme, and is an example of the less obvious and sometimes unintentional racism still present in society.
One of my favourite screenwriting clichés is the ‘two kinds of people’ line. A character will, in an attempt to sound worldly and wise, confidently state that there are only ‘two kinds of people in this world’, before putting forth a binary theorem that could never encapsulate all of humanity. Maybe the very self-evident absurdity of this statement is what makes it work? Who knows. All I know is that an obscene amount of movies use it. See the below video by the talented James Chapman for yourself to get an idea of its overuse, and let us know what you think in the comments.
It’s no surprise that, in the aftermath of the gargantuan box office business that The Avengers (Assemble) achieved, Marvel authorised the development of a spree of sequels to the origin movies of its protagonists. Coming to an overpriced multiplex near you within the next few years will be Thor 2: The Dark World, Iron Man 3, and Captain America: The Winter Soldier.
When Iron Man came out, waaaaay back in 2008, it successfully launched one of the lesser-known Marvel superheroes, paving the way, eventually, for The Avengers (via Thor and Captain America: The First Avenger). Although Thor was less well received, it still had its share of admirers, following on from that, Captain America got more of a lukewarm reception. Although I enjoyed its Indiana Jones-lite period stylings and found Chris Evans to be a likeable lead, there’s definitely a lot of room for improvement, provided they can give depth to a potentially one-note character. Captain America was never a comic I read as a kid, so my knowledge of his mythology is fairly limited (I imagine I’m not the only one). All this meant that when the sequel to Captain America was announced, like most people, I just shrugged and carried on with my life.
But then IGN posted a short video describing the story of the titular Winter Soldier for comic neophytes like me, and I started to get more excited aout the film. With the new Thor film having an ominous title, Shane Black‘s involvement with Iron Man 3, and now this potentially interesting follow up to come out, I’m genuinely interested in how Marvel is going to achieve all this. A comic book studio effectively exploring their mythology in mainstream cinema is unheard of, and even if some will regard it as an abomination, I find it quite interesting. The link to the IGN video is below, check it out and leave us a comment.
Alfred Hitchcock, that iconic film giant encased in the plump, unassuming body of an English boy from Leytonstone has already made his mark on the silver screen. Psycho, Vertigo, Rear Window, North by Northwest, and many others have left indelible marks on the cinematic consciousness and inspired generations of filmmakers.
Such is his status in the film world, and with the notoriously strong link between his personal life and his professional output in mind, it’s perhaps surprising that it’s taken this long for a biopic to be made of the man. This is all about to change, with Anthony Hopkins’ star turn in Sacha Gervasi’s Hitchcock due to come out in February. As if that weren’t enough, this isn’t the only Hitch biopic coming to screens, oh no. With HBO’s TV movie, The Girl coming out in October, films about Hitchcock appear to be like the proverbial London Buses.
Where they differ, though, is in the fact that The Girl is adapted from Tippy Hedren’s account of making The Birds (and is probably fairly scathing as a result-they didn’t get on), whereas Hitchcock details the making of Psycho, and its success.
Both trailers have whetted my appetites for each piece, and I approve of the route of taking an episode from his life, rather than trying to tell the entire story. A mistake that has resulted in many an overlong, undercooked biopic. The trailer for Hitchcock is below, compare it to this trailer for The Girl and feel free to tell us (and the world) what you think in the comments section.
Okay I’ll admit it. When it comes to being spooked I’m a little old fashioned. With the onset of Autumn, I dust off a number of old books that sit my shelves throughout spring and summer and, whenever I have 5 mins to myself, will read ghost stories. Short or long, it doesn’t matter. Even better if it’s by an open fire.
There’s something about M R James, the classic ghost story writer, probably the most famous, that just conjures dread in his numerous short stories. They range from unhinged to terrifying and anything in between. As a Christmas treat in the late 1960s and 70s, the BBC produced adaptations of these tales (under the loose series title of Ghost Stories for Christmas) based in the works of MR James, broadcasting to terrified viewers each Christmas Eve. Auntie then briefly revived the tradition between 2005 and 2010. Imagine my delight at seeing that the BFI has decided to release all 12 dramas in a boxset, due for release later this month (nicely timed for Halloween).
These adaptations, which have a subtlety and style all of their own, have been a major influence on many contemporary British horror film makers and have garnered a reputation as being some of the most sought after British TV titles of all time by their legions of eager fans. They are:
Whistle and I’ll Come to You (1968); The Stalls of Barchester (1971); A Warning to the Curious (1972); Lost Hearts (1973);The Treasure of Abbot Thomas (1974); The Ash Tree (1975); The Signalman (1976); Stigma (1977); The Ice House (1978); A View from a Hill (2005); Number 13 (2006); and Whistle and I’ll Come to You (2010)
I’d like to draw your attention to 3 of these productions, which stand out over all the others:
1) Whistle and I’ll Come to You (1968), the original and best adaptation, starring Sir Michael Horden and Directed by Jonathon Miller is a masterpiece of the spooky kind. With sparse dialogue, and some breathtaking black and white photography on the shores of East Anglia, all anchored by a wonderfully bumbling and eccentric turn by Horden, this is hands down one of the most disturbing things I’ve seen. In truth, not a lot happens, but the atmosphere of dread is so well lifted from the original story that it permeates the whole production, until the numbing last few minutes. I guarantee you that, after the numerous shots of the lead character walking on lonely beaches in winter, you’ll begin to feel his very sense of not being alone. There is something just odd about what is following him….
2) A Warning to the Curious (1972), starring Peter Vaughan is a more conventionally recounted and scripted story. Loosely following an amateur archaeologist who rather foolishly removes an ancient crown from a Saxon burial ground, that local legend says is protected by a vengeful spirit, this production has two of the most terrifying and heart-stopping moments I have seen in film. I couldn’t shake its mournful effect for days.
3) The Signalman (1976), starring Denholm Elliot is as haunting a 60 mins as you will ever see. Low key, slow moving, wonderfully acted and with an unparalled atmosphere of desperate melancholy. This story was adapted from an original short by Charles Dickens and builds to a devastating climax.
The remaining productions range in quality, but are all unique in atmosphere. Check out the bizarre and downright weird Lost Hearts (1973), and the fantastic A View from a Hill (2005) as other highlights.
The original version of O Whistle and I’ll Come to You (it was remade in 2010 with John Hurt) remains my absolute favourite. For an idea of its unsettling atmosphere, click on the following link, and watch from 0:58 to 3:13:
It’s fantastic that finally, all of these are being made available, and I would urge film fans of any genre, to get a hold of the boxset as quickly as possible (Official release date is Monday 29th October). This is a masterclass in old fashioned scares.
Eli Roth and Alexandre Aja eat your hearts out.
Taken was something of a surprise hit, way back in 2008. Liam Neeson, that bona fide, middle-aged, thesp, an action hero? It had to be seen to be believed. Telling the story of a father using his own particular set of skills learned as a CIA operative killing half of Paris to find his kidnapped daughter, rocketed Liam
Neeson into the mainstream consciousness as an unlikely action hero.
Although it had an ending with plenty of closure, the box office return on the relatively small
budget virtually guaranteed a return to the world of Bryan Mills and his
unique, but brutally effective, brand of finding people.
Now how do you top Taken? Well, without wanting to spoil it (it is in
the trailer), you kidnap the father and mother instead! This leaves Maggie Grace as Bryan Mills’ daughter in the unenviable situation of having to help save them.
Cue phone calls to his daughter who manages to evade capture on the mean and exotic streets of Istanbul, Turkey. He later deposits his daughter at the US Embassy for safe keeping (after giving her a lesson in high-speed evasion in a taxi, natch).
This is probably a movie best suited to home viewing. I’d probably watch it on DVD as I did with the first film. It is a popcorn movie – disposable but fun fodder from
which drinking games can (and will) be created. I can see it now: drink a finger of
alcohol when you hear Liam Neeson say ‘Listen to me very carefully…’, do a shot when he snaps someone’s neck, down an entire bottle of vodka when he encounters a situation where his mysteriously thorough and all-encompassing CIA training can’t help him (spoiler: that’s never, then).
The film is peppered with some unintentionally hilarious moments, despite the po-faced nature of the story. Mostly to do with Liam’s delivery of his lines and how they immediately transmit to the audience that something bad is going to
Liam Neeson carries on as he did before – the overprotective father who
just wants to make sure his family is safe. Famke Janssen has a relatively
thankless role as the kidnapped ex-wife, bound, gagged, and dragged
all over the place. Maggie Grace steps up from the kidnapped daughter
Kim to rescuer. The villains though, are largely ineffective. Merely there to present
Bryan with some vague form of resistance when walking from one door to another.
Liam Neeson has gone on record as saying that there really is no way to do a third Taken movie.
Contrary to this, there are reports that one is being plotted, possible sans Neeson. The first Taken was a lightning in a bottle situation, this struggles to repeat the trick and benefits hugely from the first. Can they do it for a third time? It remains to be seen…
Back in January, the excellent website Short of the Week published an infographic on original ideas in Hollywood. I only recently caught up with it myself, and thought it was only right to share it with the readers of RBT.
The lack of new ideas in Hollywood is often bemoaned by film fans, and ridiculed by people not to enamoured with the film industry, and this graphic seems to indicate a trend going only one way. Of course sequels, adaptations and reboots don’t necessarily always make bad films, it’s just a depressing fact that unique voices with original, different ideas are being drowned out in the din of sequels and remakes. Enjoy the infographic, it doesn’t necessarily make for positive reading:
First off, apologies to our American readers, because you, in your infinite, world-weary wisdom, are probably all over Breaking Bad, and don’t need some jumped up limey to tell you how good it is.
No, this piece is directed at you, the British reader (or perhaps other similarly uninitiated peoples from around the globe), because I have got a televisual treat for you…
Roll up, roll up, for your new favourite TV show. Prepare to marvel at its pop culture radar-bamboozling qualities. Be amazed at the tour-de-force acting blowing your mind episode after episode. Sigh with wonder at the fact that Channel 5 somehow got the rights to it in the UK, and not some more prestigious channel. Amazon the box set, settle in on your comfy sofa, open a beer, and get ready to be entertained.
Breaking Bad is the sordid but addictive tale of high school chemistry teacher Walter White (Bryan Cranston)’s diagnosis with terminal lung cancer, and how this is the catalyst for a sudden career change to a crystal meth manufacturing underworld player. Jesse (Aaron Paul) is his dropout former pupil who acts as his partner and the gateway to the netherworld of drug crime. If that wasn’t enough of an about-face from his quiet, suburban lifestyle, how about the complication of having a pregnant wife and teenage son with cerebral palsy? Oh yeah, and did I mention his brother in law works in the Vice Squad?
Early on in the first episode, the show grabs you with a ‘flash-forward’ bringing you one of the most bizarre car chases you’ll ever see, complete with (I kid you not) flying trousers. From there, a quick world-building exercise ensues. You further learn that his brother in law seems to be quite good at catching (you guessed it) meth dealers, and it is at this point that you realised that you are hopelessly invested in the narrative. Bryan Cranston, who seems to have enjoyed quite the career renaissance off the back of this (he’s in literally everything) fully commits to his role, and as his previously-suppressed ruthless sociopath takes hold, it’s astounding that he somehow keeps us on his side. Jesse (perhaps surprisingly) provides us with a sympathetic edge to the dealing, meaning that the heavy emotional lifting isn’t left entirely to Walt’s family, who get to shine in other ways.
It’s often been said that this is a golden age in TV drama (particularly in the US), and our stateside cousins routinely rate this as highly as The Wire and The Sopranos. Two television series that have been the torch-bearers for quality television on both sides of the Atlantic. Vince Gilligan’s preference for seven episodes per season keeps the pacing short and snappy without ever feeling rushed, and the darkness (and boy, is it dark), is balanced by a generous helping of some artfully-placed humour.
This alternate version of the American Dream fires the reward centres of the brain like few can. My advice: get into this show now, get in the lift on the ground floor and make sure that everyone sees you doing it. Then, in a few years, when the rest of the masses eventually catch up, you can smugly inform them that they have “so much good stuff to come”, saying in your most patronising voice: “I’m so jealous of you, getting to watch this for the first time”, all the while lovingly caressing your prized boxsets. It’s not too late, don’t be a sheep, be a shepherd.
A drug-dealing shepherd.
I had been struggling for ideas for a few weeks now when Tom A kindly sent me a list of things to write about. Number 1. on his list was ‘My Top 5 Computer Game movies’ and to be honest I have put it off because it is comparable to looking at a selection of walls and deciding which one you would rather have your head smashed against.
I dont’ know this for a fact but I think it is a safe assumption that suits in Hollywood look at all the cash coming into the computer games industry and think ‘we want some of that!’. What they don’t stop to consider is will the story of two Italian plumbers jumping on vegetables/animals heads translate to the big screen? With hindsight we can all agree that it doesn’t, can’t we?
Since the release of Super Mario Brothers in 1993, 29 Computer game based films have been released none of them managing a Rotten Tomatoes score of higher the 43% and averaging somewhere in the low 20’s. Japan love them so much they have release a further 33 films which haven’t made it to our shores thankfully.
A much more successful genre has been movies that include computer game themes or story lines. For example; Tron, War Games, The Lawn Mower Man and the Wizard. I’m a big fan of War Games and through some research on Wikipedia found out there was a sequel released in 2008 ‘War Games: The Dead Code’! This has made this all worthwhile.
I suppose I better stop dragging this out and pick 5 films:
1) Final Fantasy The Spirit Within
2) Tomb Raider
3) Prince of Persia Sands of Time
4) Super Mario Bros.
If you think I have been to harsh or there are better films that I have left out let me know.
Check out the Wiki link below for more stats and a full list of the movies.