Cinepub


Documental: Capturing The Friedmans by Jamie

Even the most unassuming of people can harbour the darkest of secrets. And when those secrets come to the surface they can tear even the most seemingly loving family completely apart. That essentially sums up the premise of the film ‘Capturing the Friedmans’ as directed by Andrew Jarecki.

Arnold Friedman is the aforementioned unassuming man. He was an award winning teacher, taking hundreds of children under his wing to teach them computer classes. He had a seemingly perfect family, a loving wife and three sons. Of course he also had a dark secret otherwise we wouldn‘t be talking about him, would we? What was that dark secret? Well, it seems as though Arnie had a bit of a penchant for kiddie porn. He was captured when the postal service seized some of his mail which turned out to contain items of that nature. They set up a sting operation, Arnie fell for it and he was arrested. Fair enough but it‘s from here that things take a more controversial turn.

Now of course it‘s only natural that when child pornography turns up in the possession of someone who has been teaching children that further investigation is necessary. You’ll want to interview those kids and find out if anything untoward had been going on. It‘s at this point that the film began to remind me of another film, Witch Hunt (which I thought I‘d reviewed but apparently I haven‘t).

The problem with interviewing children is that they can be very eager to please and so will respond to questioning differently depending on the way the questions are asked and the methods used to obtain the answers. To be fair, that‘s probably a sweeping generalisation. I‘m fairly sure most adults will act in the same way when confronted with an authority figure. Anyway, the problem is that it is hinted that the police questioned the children using leading questions, in other words basically telling the children the answers they wanted to hear. They also used hypnosis to try and recover hidden memories which is so fucking irresponsible it pretty much begs belief. You see the suggestive state caused by paralysis is a wonderful way of accidentally implanting false memories which is a bit of a problem when investigating a crime. It should also be noted that there is absolutely no physical evidence that any of the children had been molested at all and the testimony of hundreds of children that absolutely nothing happened.

Due to the testimony of the children, not only is Arnold arrested but so is his eighteen year old son, Jesse. Now, the film never really strongly takes a side with regards to Arnold‘s guilt but it seems as though it‘s pretty much made up it‘s mind that Jesse is innocent. I don‘t know if that’s the reason why but I certainly ended up feeling the same way. With Arnold, I felt he was probably guilty of something but it’s really hard to know for sure. Obviously he should have served time for the possession of child pornography but whether he or not he actually molested children is really up in the air.

What do you do in that situation? Do you take the cautious route and convict someone of a serious crime when there’s the possibility of that they’re or innocent? Or do you accept the fact that when there is still a good amount of reasonable doubt with regards to someone’s guilt that you simply can’t convict them, let them go free and live with the possible consequences that being wrong could lead to? It’s a tough one to be sure.

Still, this film isn‘t just about the arrest and whether or not it was justified. There’s also the more personal story of how these allegations affect the Friedman family as a whole, most importantly the almost complete breakdown of the relationship between the three sons and their mother. The three sons are firmly on the side of their father, believing that the allegations are ridiculous and that he‘s clearly innocent. The mother, Elaine, on the other hand, has lost all emotional attachments to her husband since the whole mess started and, through home movies, you get to see a few huge arguments and the complete lack of respect that the boys now have for their mother essentially seeing her as a traitor to their father. It really is quite devastating to watch.

At the end of the day Capturing The Friedmans is a damn fine film. Nothing is really resolved by it but then I don’t think it’s supposed to be. It’s just a chronicling of the events and all the consequences triggered by them and at that it succeeds admirably. I highly recommend it. Four and a half pints out of five. Laterz.

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Generation X – Part 3: Squeeze by Jamie

Generation X: Squeeze (Production No. 1×02)

Written By Glen Morgan & James Wong, Directed By Harry Longstreet.

BBC Air Date: 03/10/1994

Well we finally come to the first of the ‘Monster of the Week‘ episodes of the X-Files and what a monster it is. First, the synopsis. Scully is asked to help on mysterious murder case by an old friend Agent Colton (Donal Logue). The cases are mysterious due to the fact that there seems to be no obvious point of entry and the liver is torn from each victim with the killers bare-hands. Mulder joins the investigation with his own theories and immediately gets Colton‘s back up. They apprehend a subject and, when Mulder introduces some of his own questions during a lie detector test, Colton officialy gets him taken off the investigation and the suspect, Eugene Victor Tooms (Doug Hutchins), is set free . Mulder, believing Tooms to be a genetic mutant who needs livers in order to hibernate for decades at a time, continues anyway since the case has some similarities to one of his X-Files and Scully decides to side with him instead of Colson. In the end, of course, it turns out that Mulder was right and they finally capture Tooms again.

This episode was one of the first that gave us the sense that The X-Files was going to be something more than aliens and abductions all the time and thank fuck for that. I mean, seriously, the whole over-arching mythology is alright in small doses but there is no way in hell I‘d be able to take that for an entire series. Really, it‘s these Scooby Doo-esque episodes which make the series, especially later when the mythology just becomes bloated and convoluted.

So, allow us then to delve deeper into this episode. There are some awesome moments held within. Mulder in particular is in top form. There are some great character moments when he’s dealing with Agent Colton who basically seems to view Mulder as a fucking joke. One of the first questions Colton asks Mulder if he suspects little green men are responsible for the murders. Mulder responds completely straight faced that the little men are in fact grey, from Reticula and that they are notorious for the extraction of human livers due to an iron deficiency in the Reticulan galaxy. He then asks him if he knows what liver and onion goes for in the Reticulan galaxy before turning around and doing his fucking job like a real FBI agent. This episode also features on of Mulder‘s classic lines after realising he‘s just put his hand in human bile, “Is there anyway I can get it off my fingers quickly without betraying my cool exterior?” Classic Mulder.

It‘s also nice to see Scully siding with Mulder in this episode, having had enough of Colton constantly bad mouthing him. It‘s clear that, though she may not agree with all of his ‘spooky‘ ideas, she does have a certain amount of respect for him and regards him as a partner who she is loyal to. You also get to see her kicking the ass of a killer mutant who has already killed several people showing that she‘s more than just an expert in medical science. She‘s also an expert in Ass-Kickery.

Finally onto Tooms himself. This really needed to be a strong episode in order to show that The X-Files could be more than that show about aliens and stuff and thankfully it was. This was mainly down to the character of Eugene Victor Tooms, a genetic mutant who is over one hundred years old, eats human livers in order to allow him to hibernate for periods of thirty years and also has the ability to stretch and squeeze into tiny places. That is a fucking awesome concept for a monster and it‘s the reason that Tooms remained one of the series favourite villains despite only appearing in two episodes.

I did always feel a little sorry for Tooms though. I got the impression that if he didn‘t get those livers and enter his hibernation, he‘d wither and die. Of course if he‘d just end up aging naturally at the same speed as everyone else or at a much faster rate is up for debate I suppose. You also do get the strong impression that Tooms does quite enjoy his little acts of murder.

Overall this is a thoroughly enjoyable episode that kicks of the whole ‘Monster of the Week‘ concept and kicks it off strong, deepens the characters of both Mulder and Scully and presents an awesome villain. Four and a half pints out of five. Laterz.



Review: Iron Man 2 by Jamie

Yes, I finally got around to seeing Iron Man 2. I really, really wanted to see it earlier but I’m a busy man, damn it. So yes, here is my review, several weeks later than everyone else’s and probably long after everyone stopped caring about it. I don’t care I’m writing this anyway and you can’t stop me. Go on, try. I dare you. Ooh look, I’m still writing. You’re pathetic… I really should stop insulting my readers. It doesn’t do much for reader loyalty. I apologise.

Anyway, Iron Man 2. There are going to be spoilers ahead so, you know, keep that in mind if you’re one of those few people who haven’t seen it. Still, I‘ll try and keep them as minimal as possible. Let’s begin.

The first Iron Man film, I think it’s safe to say, was one of the surprise hits of 2008. I say this because, well, it’s Iron Man. Who really cares about Iron Man apart from die-hard comic book fans? I consider myself a comic fan and even I can’t say I really give two shits about Iron Man. I’ve read the odd issue here and there but it’s not like he’s a Batman or a Spider-Man. He’s one of those heroes who I’d never thought would ever permeate the consciousness of the mainstream.

Still the film came and it hit big and I feel that the main reason for this is really because of Robert Downey Jr. The man just got Tony Stark and brought the character to the screen in a way that was fun and believable. I suppose something also has to be said for the fact that it was also the first film in Marvel’s planned ‘Avengers’ series and the fact that, hey, Superheroes are just pretty damn popular at the moment. Still, I feel that the fact that it hit in the way it did is indeed down to Mr. Downey Jr., an actor who appeals to both men, due to his flat out awesomeness, and women, due to his flat out panties moistening awesomeness.

And so we waited for two years, patiently looking forward to the next part in the Iron Man saga. Now that it’s finally here, was it worth the wait? Can it possibly live up to the first film?

Well, yes and no. I didn’t hate it but it certainly wasn’t as good as the first film. I was certainly entertained for the majority of the film but there were elements which really seemed to drag or that I really, really hated.

The biggest problem for me was, surprisingly enough, Robert Downey Jr, particularly early on in the film. It seems as though he was taking everything that made Tony Stark likeable and pushing just a little too far. It seemed almost as though he was playing a parody of the character from the first film. Yes, some will say there’s a reason for his behaving in this manner but really? That first film rested heavily on your ability to like Tony Stark despite his arrogance and too immediately remove that likeability straight away makes literally no sense to me. Unfortunately you still want to like Tony and, due to the way he behaves, no one around him seems to like him very much which makes it hard to like them which pretty much leaves you having a hard time relating to or liking anyone and leaving you with no anchor within the reality of the film.

Another big problem with the film is the fact that they are trying to bring too many elements from the Marvel Universe and weave them into the plot of this film in order to help set-up the forthcoming Avengers movie. You get the feeling that this was the studios decision rather than director Jon Favreau’s and it seems as though he tries hard to make these elements fit as best as he can but it often ends up making the film a bit messy and meandering. You kind of end up wondering if maybe they should have left Iron Man 2 for a year or two more and let some other Marvel films come out first so that they could have spread out the Avengers set-up a little more evenly.

Still, as I say, I didn’t hate the film. Most of the actors involved did do a pretty good job, even Downey Jr. eventaully managing to turn things down and make Stark likeable again. Sam Rockwell was especially good but then he always is, though I must admit I do find it a bit of a shame that he will forever more be a villain in the Marvel Universe. Also I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that Scarlett Johansson looked particularly fuckable in this film. Crass, perhaps, but ultimately true.

Some people have lamented the lack of large set-action pieces in this film and whilst it’s true that they are a bit few and far between in this film, I for one don’t mind that. For me these films are really more about Tony Stark then they are about his metal-plated alter-ego so it makes perfect sense to me that he would be the focus of the film rather than the massive superhero/super villain clashes. What I will say though is that I’m really fucking sick of the final battle being between the hero (or heroes) and a villain (or villains) with powers equal or greater than those of the heroes. That seems to have been the major problem with the last Iron Man film, the last Hulk film and now that’s been pretty much repeated here as well. Still, as I say it kept me entertained for what it was and it was nice to see Captain America’s shield without it just being a part of the set decoration and the post credits sequence gives you a brief shot of Mjolnir so, yeah, stick around for that if you really wanna sit through the entire credits for a slightly obscured view of Thor’s hammer.

Overall I give Iron Man 2 three pints out of five. Laterz.



Review: Legion by Jamie

I think I’ve pretty well established that I’m not the religious type on this blog. Still, the idea of religions and their mythologies is an admittedly fascinating topic to me. In the monotheistic religions, the idea various realms of reality warring and trying to one up each other is always an interesting topic to explore. Be it ‘Dogma’ or ‘South Park: Bigger, Longer And Uncut’, the subject has been explored and generally it keeps me entertained. Today’s film, Legion, is yet another to try and tackle this issue.

The basic premise is thus: God has decided he’s gonna get all Old Testament on humanity and wipe our unworthy species from the face of his creation. The archangel Michael (Paul Bettany), commander of God’s army, has decided that he doesn’t want to exterminate humanity and has a sneaking suspicion that God isn’t exactly 100% committed to the idea either. So he falls from heaven, cuts of his wings and decides to join humanity to fight against the angelic horde and to protect an unborn child that he claims will be the saviour of mankind.

The unborn child is currently residing in the womb of a waitress, Charlie (Adrianne Palichi), working in a diner out in the middle of nowhere with her boss Bob (Dennis Quaid), his son Jeep (Lucas Black) and Percy (Charles S. Dutton), a one-handed chef. Also stuck at these diner are a family with car trouble, father Howard (Jon Tenney), mother Sandra (Kate Walsh) and daughter Audrey (Willa Holland) as well as Kyle (Tyrese Gibson), a dude who needs to make it somewhere else for his divorce court hearing… on Christmas… Ho, ho, ho.

Anyway the shit hit’s the fan, the angelic horde descends and the battle is on. Wait did I say angelic horde? I’m sorry, that’s wrong because you only actually see one angel, the archangel Gabriel who has assumed the role left by Michael as the commander of God’s army. The rest of the army have decided that the best way to go about the extermination of the human race is to inhabit human bodies essentially making them kind of zombie-ish creatures that can speak and seem to have enhanced strength. Of course, it makes sense really. It’s not like you’d want to use those wings or anything. Especially as it turns out later on that those wings are bullet-proof and have razor sharp feathers…

Now there are some mildly cool things in this film. The fight scene between Michael and Gabriel is kinda cool, a flashback in heaven in which thousands of angels fly through the sky is kinda cool and a scene with characters on top of a roof firing guns into the crowds of possessed people who have gathered below is reminiscent enough of a zombie movie to get a pass from me. There’s also some pretty interesting concepts taken from Christian mythology. When Gabriel descends to Earth there is the sound of an almighty horn which is apparently meant to signal the coming of the end times. Still the best two things in this film is when a small possessed child cuts it’s thumbs of and a possessed old lady calls Sandra a ‘fucking cunt.’ Any time a seemingly sweet old lady uses that phrase is pretty fucking cool.

Unfortunately it’s all too little to really make this a film that’s particularly worth watching. I mean, seriously, why the fuck do the angels possess people rather than just fight in their angel forms? Do you know how awesome it would have been to have a huge army of angels flying from the skies to attack people below? Instead what your left with amounts to little more than a second rate zombie film.

Also I’d personally have liked to have seen Hell involved in some way. Maybe whilst God’s army was busy trying to wipe out humanity Satan could have gathered his own army and launched his own assault on Heaven and Earth or something. I don’t know. Maybe it would have been too much. Would have been cool though…

Also the plot is really ploddingly slow at times, pretty much to the point where I got bored for a fair while after the first attack and began just surfing the net on my phone until things started to pick up again. There are also some pretty big plot holes. For example, why is this child so fucking important? Seriously, it’s never explained. It clearly isn’t Jesus’ little brother because why would God be sending his angels to kill it? And if this child can redeem mankind, why does God want it dead? I know he’s has indeed gone a bit Old Testament but there’s surely meant to be some kind of element of forgiveness in him. What I’m saying is God’s just a little out of character from the books and films he’s been in before.

Overall there really are just too many problems with this film. Paul Bettany’s pretty good to be fair but if you wanna see him in a better film from recent times then check out the Darwin bio-pic ‘Creation’ instead. He’s fucking awesome in that and it’s an all around better film. Two pints out of Five. Laterz.



Review: 2012 by Jamie

Review: 2012

Massive, World Ending Spoilers Ahead! (Including things to do specifically with the films ending. You have been warned)

Roland Emmerich is a guy who has pretty much made a career out of destroying shit. Sure he’s dallied with other projects like Stargate (Which gets an instant pass from me for starring His Holiness Kurt Russell) but at the end of the day what he’ll be most known for is destroying the absolute fuck out of landmarks. Whether it’s blowing up the White House in ‘Independence Day’ or ruining the hopes and dreams of every Godzilla fan with the American ‘Godzilla’, Emmerich just likes to destroy things.

So where do you go after ‘The Day After Tomorrow’ when you’ve managed to destory quite a large portion of the world? Well, you have to destroy the entire world of course! And so he took this logical step with 2009’s ‘2012’.

When I saw the trailer, I pretty much described it as Disaster Porn and on watching the film I’ve gotta say that my opinion of the film in that regard hasn’t really changed much. What I was slightly surprised by, however, was there was actually a fairly enjoyable plot. Nothing world changing or anything but it wasn’t anyway near as bad as I thought is was gonna be and by the end of the film I was genuinely engaged in the characters predicaments and the story as a whole. Admittedly, the plot doesn’t actually really get interesting until the last part of the film, the first hour or so all being filled with set-up, techno-babble and exposition but once the destruction starts you can’t help but take some small delight in what appears to be the near extinction of the human race. Then the cataclysmic events come to a bit of an end and the plot suddenly kicks in and just kinda draws you in somewhat.

Now, as a sceptic I think you can already guess what one of the major problems I have with this film is. Yes, that’s right, I really, really dislike the whole 2012 Mayan prediction aspect of it. It’s a personal problem I understand but it’s these kind of films that are just going to draw more people into believing this kind of shit is somewhat possible. Of course, if you actually take a look into the Mayans you’ll find there’s nothing to suggest that they predicted the world would end in 2012. Not only that but even if they had predicted such a thing, I’m not going to trust the prediction of a civilisation that couldn’t even predict that their civilisation would come to an end.

There’s another slight little problem which, as an Englishman, I feel I just had to mention. What is the deal with Roland Emmerich taking little jabs at Britain in his disaster films? Seriously, in Independence Day there’s a scene where there are some British soldiers just sitting out in the desert when I radio message comes. One of the limey bastards picks up the note and exclaims with delight “It’s from the Americans! They want to organise a counter-attack!” To which his equally posh-accented chap replies “It’s about bloody time!” Yes, that’s right. Whilst the world went to shit, we sat around and waited for the Americans to come up with a bloody plan. May I take this opportunity to point out that whilst America was dithering about whether or not to join World War 2, we successfully defended our country in the Battle of Britain. We weren’t waiting for the Americans too come up with a plan like the bloody French!

Then in ‘The Day After Tomorrow’, we Brits take on a somewhat more heroic role. We’re the ones who provide a lot of the sciencey data that help everyone to figure out what’s going on but when it comes down to it, it’s made very clear that Britain is totally fucked and doomed to freeze to death. Thanks Roland. Finally, in 2012 there is a slightly more comical swipe taking at Ol’ Blighty. The US president Danny Glover has decided that he’s just too old for this getting saved shit and decides to go down with his country. But who do we see shuffling onto one of the rescue ships in a later scene? Her Majesty The Queen walking a couple of corgis! This is ridiculous. Of course the Queen would die with England because a) she knows that no one on a multinational ship would take any of her ‘One is right royal’ bullshit and b) There’s no way she’d be walking her own corgis.

Wait. Didn’t Emmerich direct ‘The Patriot’ as well? Fuck. I don’t understand it Emmerich’s not even American, he’s German… Oh, right.

Anyway, sorry about that. Just had to get that of my chest. So 2012. Yeah, umm… The cast does a pretty decent job. It’s almost impossible not to like John Cusack in anything even though he is kinda playing a douche here. Woody Harrelson is playing a weird conspiracy theorist type and is adequately crazy and who doesn’t love Danny Glover? Nobody. That’s who.

The special effects are pretty mind blowing and do the job that is required of them. Blowing shit up, cracking open land masses and crumbling statues of Christ. It’s all you could really ask for in an apocalypse movie. At the end of the day it’s big, dumb fun and though it sometimes tries to be above what it is, it generally doesn’t take itself too seriously.

Oh, and I also really liked the ending where the last survivors of humanity have to make there way back to Africa. It was kind of like a nice little home-coming for humanity, returning to the cradle of our species. Three pints out of five. Laterz.



Review: Across The Universe by Jamie

The last time I looked at a film that took the music of one band and built a plot around it was the fucking atrocious ABBA-based musical ‘Mamma Mia!’…. Oh god, the shrieking, the bad singing, the bad acting… I’m just going to have a little cry. Please bear with me.

Right. Sorry about that. That film really touched me and not in a good way, more like the kind of way that the Pope might try and cover up. Zing, take that Catholic Church! Haha, satire. Anyway, where was I? Oh, yes. Mamma Mia. So yeah that was a terrible, terrible film that kind of made me want to launch a full scale invasion of Sweden to try and make sure this kind of thing never happens again. Still, this kind of thing did happen again. And this time the band that supplied the music, The Beatles, came from my beloved Britain! Would I have to commit some desperate acts of domestic terrorism or would ‘Across The Universe’ actually turn out to be good?

Thankfully it looks like I’m safe for the time being. I had some worries going in but it actually turns out that ‘Across The Universe’ was an eminently enjoyable film. And how could it not be, really? It’s based on the music of The Fucking Beatles. I think we’re definitely dealing with song-writers of an infinitely higher calibre than ABBA. So yeah, it’s definitely starting from a stronger point right there.

Now, I can remember when I first heard about this film and there were a lot of complaints I’d heard from people basically disliking the cover versions of the song or saying that the songs were being used too literally and yes, I can see why those people have those complaints. But you can’t take such things so seriously. Cover versions have been a part of music probably since music began. And even if those cover versions are going to exist I don’t see the problem. It’s not like the original versions are suddenly going to disappear or be superseded by the new versions. Of course, remakes of films are totally different and a perfectly valid thing to get upset about for reasons I simply won’t go into here…

As for the using the songs too literally, well, yeah. I can see that as well but you’ve got to understand that the songs are being used in this context to tell a narrative throughout an entire film. They’re not being left to stand on there own or to tell a story throughout an album. They aren’t meant to be interpreted and picked apart for their meaning when used in a film in this manner. They just tell the story of the film. I suppose some people may say that taking these elements from these classic songs and using them in this way some how cheapens them but to that I say pshaw! Of course, when you take elements from an older film and re-use them in a different way in a remake it’s completely different and a completely valid thing to get upset about for, once again, reasons I simply won’t go into here…

Anyway, I didn’t see this film when it first came out mainly because of those complaints. I liked the Beatles and had no interest in watching their music possibly being butchered in what sounded like it might just end up being a pretty standard love film. Then I listened to the Cool Shite soundtrack podcast about this film. I generally seem to have similar tastes to the guys on that podcast and they seemed to enjoy it so I thought ‘what the fuck, just give it a watch.’ So I did. I should say that, having listened to that podcast there’s a chance that some of my thoughts may echo some of theirs though I tried to leave it a little while after listening to it before writing this in the hope that there wouldn’t be too much cross-over.

So, the story basically follows a group of characters living through the tumultuous mid to late 60s, the things they encounter on their journeys and the friendships they make along the way. I’m guessing, though it’s never actually made clear, that this is some kind of parallel dimension where The Beatles never existed but peoples lives play out according to their lyrics or something. Anyway, the two main characters are Jude Feeny (Jim Sturgess), a working class artistic boy from Liverpool who comes to America to try and find his father and ends up staying there to try and find himself and Lucy Carrigan (Evan Rachel Wood) an upper class girl who loses her boyfriend in Vietnam and becomes heavily involved in the protest against it and heavily involved in Jude as well. There’s also Max (Joe Anderson), Lucy’s brother and Jude’s best friend who’s quite a fun, likeable guy who suddenly finds himself called up to serve in the war effort, Sadie (Dana Fuchs), the group’s landlady and singer in a band, Jojo (Martin Luther McCoy), Sadie’s boyfriend and guitarist and Prudence (T.V. Carpio), who’s a bit of a drifter and a lesbian.

I’m sure you can see just by looking at some of the character’s names that this is literally littered with Beatles references. It doesn’t stop at character names (Though Bono has a cameo as Dr. Robert and Eddie Izzard as Mr Kite though we’ll come back to those later). Almost everything seems to be some kind of reference. At one point Jude is trying to come up with a logo for Sadie’s record label and eventually settles on a strawberry whilst singing Strawberry Fields Forever and the label is called Strawberry Jamz which is an obvious reference to Apple Corps and just in case you didn’t get that, Jude is earlier shown trying to draw a green apple. The Blue Meanies from Yellow submarine appear, The Magical Mystery Bus appears, an early scene in the film takes place in The Cavern Club… I think you get the point. If I keep going on like this I’ll still be here when I‘m sixty-four.

So the music’s clearly the backbone of this film but it would be utterly pointless without a plot and yeah, there are times when it lags and during the beginning I was a little worried because it just seemed to be random scenes tenuously linked by Beatles music which kind of fit it and I was worried that this film was essentially just gonna be a bit of an excuse just to do a few cover songs with little to no actual plot but as it went along I found myself genuinely enjoying the story and empathising with the characters and the various predicaments they find themselves in. I’m trying to be vague because I think it’s really a film you should probably see for yourself.

The plot also features a few real life events which the characters find themselves involved in though some are just mentioned in passing to try and give some time of context of the films time frame. There are race riots, a riot at a college which turns violent, the assassination of Martin Luther King and, of course, the previously mentioned Vietnam war. There are even references to the rise of the psychedelic drug use, though I suppose you’d have to include that in a film that included ‘I Am The Walrus’ and ‘For The Benefit of Mr Kite’.

So let’s get onto the music then. In general it’s all pretty goddamn good. I didn’t find the cover versions in anyway pissed on what The Beatles did and I wasn’t particularly annoyed by the ‘over-literal’ interpretations of the songs. There where definitely some highlights for me. In particular Bono’s cameo to do a version of ‘I Am The Walrus’ and Eddie Izzard’s cameo to deliver a spoken word version of ‘For The Benefit of Mr Kite’. It’s brilliant and anyone who’s an Izzard fan is sure to enjoy it. He’s basically just being himself in the context of a Beatles song. I could go on about other songs and why I love them so I’ll just make a quick go of it: Joe Cocker’s version of ‘Come Together’, ‘Happiness Is A Warm Gun’ featuring Selma Hayek as a troupe of sexy nurses, a transatlantic version of ‘Hey Jude’, a rooftop version of ‘All You Need Is Love’ and my personal favourite Beatles song ‘Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds’ during the end credits.

Hmm, I guess this hasn’t been a review so much as it’s been a series of lists. Still I highly, highly recommend you see this film especially if you love The Beatles but aren‘t against their music being used in new and interesting ways. Also it really made me want to play Rock Band: The Beatles again so that’s always good. Four pints out of five.



Review: How To Train Your Dragon by Jamie

I’ve tried to stay away from spoilers but there are still a couple of things which people may consider to be a little spoilerish.

I must admit, I’m quite a fan of dragons. I’m assuming this is probably some kind of extension of my lifelong love of dinosaurs. There’s just something fascinating about the giant, mythical reptile beasts with their leathery bat-wings and their propensity for igniting their breath. Yet despite the fact that some kind of dragon legend or other permeates almost every culture on Earth, dragons on the big screen have always been a little hit and miss.

From the crap like D-War and Eragon to the pretty good like Reign of Fire, there’s never really been a dragon film that stood out. Well, I suppose there was ‘Pete’s Dragon’ but in terms of ‘realistic’ dragons, there’s never been anything great. I should probably define that term ‘realistic’ dragon. I mean something that makes somewhat sense biologically, with a slight hint of suspension of disbelief for things like flying, occasionally speech and fire-breathing, but something which looks like it could possibly exist without a ridiculous number of magical powers. That’s why Pete’s Dragon doesn’t count in this definition and Draco from ‘Dragonheart’ does.

So it was with some apprehension that I decided to watch ‘How To Train Your Dragon’. I’ll say that I watched in 2D because a) My last experience with 3D with ‘Clash of the Titans’ was so piss-poor that I’d rather just watch things in 2D and b) I think maybe 3D doesn’t work for me as well as it does for most people. Maybe it’s because I wear glasses, maybe it’s because I need to have my eyes tested again and get better glasses. I’m not sure but 2D is fine for me anyway.

Also, yes, I know this is based on a book. No, I haven’t read the book. From what I understand the film is quite different from the book in that the film has more of a mature edge. Right, that’s that out of the way. Let’s get on with the review.

So, ‘How To Train Your Dragon’ concerns the story of a young Viking named Hiccup (Jay Baruchel), the son of Chieftain Stoic The Vast (Gerard Butler) and the village’s local fuck-up. In their particular clan it’s generally seen that the best thing you can be is a great and mighty Dragon Slayer. Sadly, due to the fact that he is a bit of a fuck-up, it seems as though Hiccup will never achieve such glory. However during a Dragon raid on their village, he manages to use a special bolas machine he has invented to take down the legendary Night Fury, a dragon so rare and that flies at such great speeds that no one has ever actually seen one. Of course, no one believes Hiccup and so he goes to the forest where his target crashed in order to prove himself to everyone.

Unfortunately when he finds the dragon it turns out that he’s only ensnared it in the giant bolas rather than actually kill it. He is about to stab it and cut out his heart but finds he pities the creature, sensing it’s fear and decides to free it instead. The dragon takes off into a valley, a valley that Hiccup finds that the dragon can’t get back out of because the bolas has damaged his tail and he isn’t able to fly properly anymore. Hiccup manages to gain the beasts trust by feeding it fish and gives it the name Toothless due to it’s ability to retract it’s teeth back into it’s gums. He slowly begins to train domesticate the dragon, inventing a kind of prosthetic tail-fin to enable it to fly again and allow him to control Toothless whilst riding him.

Whilst this is going on back in the Village, Hiccup is being trained to be a Dragon Slayer with his peers, braggart Snotlout (Jonah Hill), frantic fraternal twins Tuffnut (T.J. Miller) and Ruff nut (Kristen Wiig), nerdy Fishlegs (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) and the object of his adolescent fantasies Astrid (America Ferrera). This training is carried out by the awesome Gobbler The Belch (Craig Ferguson), a Viking who’s run in with dragons in the past have left him with a metal leg and an arm which he can screw various different tools into including, most awesomely, a mead tankard. If I ever loose a hand, I’m so getting a tankard attached to my stump.

Anyway, to begin with Hiccup isn’t particularly great during these lessons but as time goes on, he gets to learn more about dragons from his experiences training Toothless. He uses these things to basically tame the dragons in the training pens in a similar manner and soon the Vikings think he has some mystical affinity with the beasts.

I’ll leave the plot discussion there for now. I don’t particularly want to give away the ending except to say that things happen on an incredible scale and it’s amazing to watch, especially compared with that fucking confusing Kraken from ‘Clash of the Titans’. (Though admittedly, the trailer below gives it away a little).

Let’s start of with the look of the film. It’s fucking amazing. Some of the scenes with the dragon in flight are some of the most incredible things I’ve seen in a CGI animated film and I’m even gonna include ’Avatar’ in that. It truly is beautiful and there are times when there are literally hundreds of dragons on screen and it’s truly a magnificent sight. I also really love the design of Toothless. He’s somewhat reminiscent of an axolotl and everyone loves axolotls. They rule. It’s a nice departure from something strictly lizard-esque though still recognisable as something close to the classical image of a dragon.

It’s also genuinely funny and it completely avoids any pop cultural references (Though you could say the little arena where Hiccup must fight a dragon looks a bit like the thunder dome for Mad Max 3) which have become the hallmark of the somewhat lacklustre recent ‘Shrek’ films and non-Pixar CGI films in general. Every piece of humour works perfectly well and consistently within the context of the films medieval/fantasy world. I’ll also say that this is probably the first family film that I’ve ever seen that contained the phrase “Breast Hat” and for that alone it must be applauded.

The actors providing the voices are all really quite brilliant, delivering believable performances. Perhaps the most enjoyable, besides Hiccup himself, was Gobbler played by Craig Ferguson. He managed to deliver just enough humour but also seemed to care for Hiccup in a way that his father really didn’t seem to. Speaking of his father, Stoic played by Gerard Butler , I was really surprised by this performance. Butler seems to have a more convincing emotional range in this then he’s ever had in any film where he’s actually appeared on screen. I honestly hope he does more of this kind of film because he was really, really good in it.

There is one thing that did seem a bit odd. Why is it that all the adults in this film have Scottish accents whilst all the children have American accents? I mean that’s odd on it’s own but aren’t these people supposed to be Vikings? Shouldn’t they all be talking like the Swedish Chef or something? No, no that’s stupid. I apologise. I suppose it’s fine the way it is… Just a bit odd is all…

Anyway, if I had to compare this to any other recent film of this type, I suppose I’d say it’s most like ‘Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs’. In fact the underlying emotional story is pretty similar. Both films are essentially about sons who want nothing more than their fathers approval and trust. I think that that particular story element is probably explored a bit more fully in ‘Cloudy…’ but in terms of overall enjoyment I think ‘How To Train Your Dragon’ just beats it for me personally. Maybe it’s just my natural love for all things Draconian. Four and a half pints out of five.




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