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Dredd 3D (2012) or livewithfilm meets the anti-Bane….

6 Oct

Months ago, comfortably nestled in its nearest world-of-cine, livewithfilm chuckled its way through the trailer to Dredd 3D like the worst kind of celluloid snob. Frankly, who could blame it? Boasting what seemed like unimaginative violence, a hackneyed plot and little between the ears, Pete Travis’ vision of Megacity One was done no favours by its advertisement campaign. Some film-watching-weeks later, Dredd 3D is being lauded by every critic going, championed and held aloft as an example for action flicks everywhere. Always keen to be proved wrong, livewithfilm was sentenced to a spell in its local multiplex.

In a future America, the vast Megacity One is policed by units of Judges that hunt down criminals and enact brutal sentences. Judge Dredd (Karl Urban) is tasked with evaluating psychic rookie Cassandra Anderson (Olivia Thirlby) and accompanies her to investigate a murder in high rise tower block Peach Trees. Unwittingly entering the central hub of the Ma-Ma gang and its drug production unit, the pair of judges find themselves hunted down by bloodthirsty criminals and must fight their way to the top to escape.

Hyper-violence remains a difficult thing to portray on screen. While films like Rambo (2008) wrongly opt to validate excessive slaughter through a supposedly heroic central figure, Travis’ Dredd 3D takes a different, but far more misanthropic, route. With the exception of Thirlby’s Anderson, everyone in Megacity One is morally corrupt and repulsive: solipsistic to a homicidal degree. So while blood pours from every inch of the screen, Dredd 3D manages to escape the bitter aftertaste provided by so many corpse heavy action flicks by constantly affirming that the world has gone to hell in a handcart. Travis certainly pulls no punches and the shocking brutality of the world of the Judge works heavily in Dredd 3D’s favour. The destructive metropolis has infected its entire populace, making for an unrelentingly shocking and thrilling vision of the future.

Fittingly despicable, Dredd remains an intriguing antihero. With the top half of his face constantly covered, the Judge becomes a neat reversal of the gas mask brandishing Bane from The Dark Knight Rises (2012). While Bane used violence to create a chaotic new order, Dredd uses similar brutality to restrain revolutionary forces. Emerging from a violent setting to perform further acts of hatred, both characters are representative of a contemporary uneasiness with faceless figures of power and the modern world. Dredd 3D sticks to its guns to remain a satisfyingly sleazy exploitation nightmare which takes a parting shot at the world that spawned it. Perhaps livewithfilm needs to lighten up a little…

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Santo vs. The Martian Invasion (1967) or livewithfilm takes up luca libre to protect mankind…

26 Aug

Livewithfilm is well aware that it has been a little lax with its reviews of late. Yet London MexFest provided the perfect reason for this blogger to return to the keyboard. What livewithfilm knows about Mexican wrestling sci-fi cinema could be written on the back of a silver mask, making a weekend dedicated to the genre at London’s MexFest all the more enticing. It is always startling and refreshing to watch a genre piece distinct from the too often seen-it-all-before Hollywood offerings. Similar to Santo in its originality, yet dramatically different in almost every other sense, the catalogue of Soviet sci-fi also poses a refreshing view of space travel. While Planet of Storms (1963) had a robot waxing lyrical on the downfall of capitalism, Santo found that the world’s saviour is a South American master of the ring. This does, however, remain a crucial caveat for the enjoyment of Santo: with a film that dedicates about 90% of its running time to wrestling, the viewer cannot be adverse to spandex and flowing capes.

Martians invade Earth, pulverising humanity with their third eyes and kidnapping important Mexicans for nefarious laboratory tests. Intent on stopping them, Santo el Enmascarado de Plata (playing himself) must battle these aggressors while maintaining his full time wrestling career.

Wildly entertaining, Santo vs. The Martian Invasion is something to be seen. Not quite on the same remit as the more thought provoking sci-fi numbers, wrestling set pieces are the mainstay of Santo, the film essentially revolving around the necessity for the hero to goad aliens into a roped arena. Needless to say, Santo certainly manages to do this. Livewithfilm urges you to look past the wobbly sets, the amusing prosthetic alien heads and dialogue which has lost all sense of reality, and enjoy Santo vs. The Martian Invasion for what it is: a Mexican centred vision of humanity’s downfall designed to thrill and excite. The film breaks down normative visions of cinema and pins them to the wrestling ring floor. Santo el Enmascarado de Plata starred in 60 films of this ilk, including Santo vs. The Vampire Women (1962) and Santo vs. The Daughter of Frankenstein (1972). Hunt them out!

Prometheus (2012) or livewithfilm succumbs to the lure of the really big screen…

18 Jun

Will IMAX become the successor of now-waning 3D gimmickry? What remains a far more intriguing question is why we are continuously searching for that forever out of reach ‘further level of depth’ each new technology has promised. A good narrative is enthralling enough. Far from some traditionalist intent on the retention of old methods, livewithfilm simply remains sceptical about each ‘next-big-thing’ the film industry forces upon us. 3D always struck livewithfilm as simply a tool to get people off of their sofas and away from their DVDs and IMAX needs to prove that it is above this. At least it holds enough of a draw to force livewithfilm to book its viewing of Prometheus months in advance…

(No spoilers here!) A few years after Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace) and Charlie Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green) discover a series of cave paintings that allude to mankind’s creation, they are travelling through space to discover what they think are the ‘architects’ of humanity. Accompanied by a crew of scientists and private funders, the explorers discover an abandoned spacecraft that hides a dark secret. (What did I say?)

Expectations were high for this prequel/non-prequel of Alien (1979), which remains a certified livewithfilm classic. Promising answers to all of the questions posed by Scott’s spooky original was perhaps Prometheus’ downfall. Every act deems itself tremendously philosophical, each image is crammed with ‘important’ meanings that those outside of the editing suite will be unable to decipher. Prometheus sadly takes itself very seriously when, in reality, its proclamations of profundity reduce it to silliness. Livewithfilm will not give away any spoilers, but safe to say, the ultimate ‘spoiler’ was the film itself. There are some undoubtedly arresting sequences, the caesarean scene remaining a master-class in claustrophobia that stayed burnt onto the livewithfilm retinas for some time. But such moments couldn’t obscure the disappointing idiocy that burst from the screen.

The Hunger Games (2012) or livewithfilm fails to remember anything that it saw whilst on hospital strength pain killers

26 Apr

Returning to the blog has not been a simple task for livewithfilm. If this cinema fan has learnt one thing about a lengthy hospital stay it is that weighty dosages of morphine do not owe themselves to movie viewing. Relishing the fact that a long period of convalescence would allow time for plenty of screenings, livewithfilm was dismayed to discover that sitting in front of the laptop, all memory of these films had disappeared. Only able to recall snippets of what it has seen, livewithfilm is left with disappointing results: with no remnant of plot in this blogger’s mind, Drive (2011) was still an incredibly fraught and intense experience probably heightened by the general psychological confusion of its only audience member; the single abiding memory of American Gangster (2007) is the appearance of Stringer Bell, ahem Idris Elba, on screen, which did guarantee a highly enjoyable experience. Thus a newly straight-headed livewithfilm happily skipped to a local multiplex, guilt tripping those who had already seen today’s film into accompanying it.

After subduing a rebellion, the powerful leaders of the Capitol force each surrounding district to provide a boy and girl for the deadly Hunger Games. Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) volunteers for the live television show, accompanying Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson) to the gladiatorial competition which will see a single surviving winner. Trained by battle hardened tutees, Katniss and Peeta learn to contend with an oncoming battle that boasts thousands of audience members.

A behemoth of a blockbuster that neatly slots in to the ‘Tweenager’ audience shortly to be faced by the après-Twilight void, livewithfilm was surprisingly gripped by the grittiness at the heart of this business venture. Neatly realising a dystopian world, The Hunger Games is an intriguing an imaginative film that only pulls the punches to guarantee it’s commercially viable 12A rating. This veneer of violence is cleverly sustained through blurring camera cuts and rapid montages that suggest the audience have seen more than they are in fact privy to. Lawrence manages to cement herself as an actress strong enough to support the weight of this ongoing franchise, building on her indie successes with Winter’s Bone (2010). Even though essentially a reboot of the brutal Battle Royale (2000), The Hunger Games is an interesting and imaginative franchise starter: an opening instalment that if sustained, will rival those lovesick vampires for originality and spark.

But what did you think? Was The Hunger Games up to the standards of the book or did it suffer from the reduction in violence?

Silent Running (1972) & 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) – livewithfilm double bill no.1

20 Mar

After yesterday’s preamble, livewithfilm was greatly excited to commence its science fiction double bill at the Prince Charles Cinema (a movie house highly favoured by this blogger). Signifying a respectable film marathon, livewithfilm entered the cinema with the sun high in the sky, only to emerge five hours later as nocturnal creatures were creeping through Leicester Square. Preparation felt vital before such a milestone viewing. Crucially the combination of sweet and salted popcorn, served in a towering receptacle, provided satisfying pick me ups throughout the screening; like a long distance runner rationing out carbohydrate boosts, livewithfilm had to time its consumption of the fluffy treat to perfection. Whilst so far appearing like a dimly lit feast, the pairing left this blogger awestruck, amazed and appalled in equal measure. Livewithfilm urges you to see Silent Running and (especially) 2001 at the big screen. Space was especially deep and robots particularly monstrous when looming over this blogger, amplifying the dread that pervades both movies.

Douglas Trumbull’s Silent Running envisions a future for earth where all vegetation has been destroyed, only replicated and maintained in stellar greenhouses. Devoted astronaut Lowell (Bruce Dern) refuses to accept the loss of his plants once orders come to destroy these sanctuaries. The gardener is forced to defend his vegetation by any means possible, ultimately plunging himself into deep space accompanied only by a trio of amiable robotic companions. Thus the tone was set for a bleak approaching dystopia, Trumbull deftly opposing militant human warmth with the oblivion of dark space. Occasionally faltering into a dated vision of 60s folk music, Silent Running permitted the audience their first laughter of the night: the emergence ofLowell, accompanied by golden eagle, set to the wails of Joan Baez. Nevertheless,Trumbull’s film managed to convey an impressively timeless message and left the watching crowds weeping in the isles.

Leaving no time to dab away the tears, Stanley Kubrick’s near impenetrable 2001: A Space Odyssey swiftly followed. Moving through the dawn of man (depressingly enough when apes learned to bludgeon each other to death) to space travel and exploration, Kubrick’s expansive vision of evolution is undoubtedly memorable. After a mysterious discovery on the moon, 2001 leaps through time to witness the outcomes of a technologically advanced mission to Jupiter. Accompanying scientists Dave (Keir Dullea) and Frank (Gary Lockwood) is the HAL 9000, a computer which can mimic human emotions. But once a misjudgement by HAL leads the crew to question whether the computer should be shut down, the Jupiter mission becomes increasingly treacherous. Despite its lengthy running time (the cinema did provide a pleasant three minute interval mid way through), 2001 was an utterly riveting piece of filmmaking. Filled with impossible special affects that kept livewithfilm guessing, Kubrick’s film is visually spectacular. Even after four hours of star studded skyline, the dreadful expanses of space remained deeply ominous and uncomfortable. A far darker vision of the impenetrability of space than Silent Running, 2001 was an unrelenting watch. Pushing midnight, the final colourful montage and ensuing surrealism left livewithfilm somewhat baffled (continuance of evolution? the possibilities of unknown space?) but transfixed. Bring on another double bill! But not before an early night…

A small step for mankind. A giant leap for Livewithfilm…

19 Mar

Livewithfilm is unable to post another review today, if only with the expectation of greater blogs to come. Yes this dedicated blogger has been beaten by his desire to absorb all things filmic and today must throw in the towel until tomorrow’s double-post-spectacular. About to rush to the Prince Charles Cinema, livewithfilm will tonight take in a viewing of a classic sci-fi double bill: Silent Running (1972) followed by 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968).

This entry must be brief as time is tight before the show begins, but hold tight loyal followers! How will these films compare? Which will emerge victorious as livewithfilm emerges bleary eyed into Leicester Square? Will livewithfilm manage to stay awake throughout the mammoth movie pairing after a long day at work? And most importantly, salty or sweet popcorn at the interval? A necessary sugar surge or a sharp shock to the system? All these answers (and hopefully some interesting ones too) will be answered tomorrow after livewithfilm enjoys its first cinema double bill!

The Man Who Fell to Earth (1976) – or livewithfilm runs for the shadows in these Golden Years

15 Mar

Livewithfilm came to Nicholas Roeg’s science fiction thriller for a particularly shallow reason: the prominent position of the indomitable David Bowie. Ever a fan of the work of The Thin White Duke and assured that The Man Who Fell to Earth was an interesting piece of cinema, livewithfilm felt duty bound to watch. If Roeg’s film turned out to be a disappointment at least this blogger will have gleefully spent two hours in the presence of its favourite star. Filmed mid way through Bowie’s Berlin trilogy, it was odd an odd experience for livewithfilm to observe favourite albums coming to life in front of its eyes. As the cover sleeves attest, Bowie drew extensive artistic inspiration from Roeg’s film whilst making his albums ‘Station to Station’ and ‘Low’. So livewithfilm donned the spray on black trousers and picked up a shadowy waistcoat from the nearest Diamond Dog, assured that the next two hours was a key moment for this devotee.

Walking away from a mysterious explosion in the American wilderness, Thomas Jerome Newton (David Bowie) seems to greet Earth as an outsider. Armed with a briefcase full of jewellery and a series of patents that pave his way to extreme affluence,Newtonbecomes a powerful businessman who dominates world markets. Enticed byNewton’s unusual mannerisms, adoring follower Mary Lou (Candy Clark) is kept in tow, drawn in to an ageless romance that will dominate the remainder of her life. Yet this unusual businessman has more up his sleeve than your usual entrepreneur. In fact a humanoid alien from a drought ridden planet,Newtonis unable to resist the vice ridden possibilities of planet Earth.

Whilst livewithfilm has witnessed David Bowie in other films before, the rock star-come-actor’s presence in The Man Who Fell to Earth was quite a tricky one. Bowie undoubtedly has an impressive talent for performing such estranged parts. Perhaps a bizarre example of an actor living the role before it was ever written for him, Newton’s otherworldly distance and twitchy discomfort fit beautifully with Bowie’s avant garde seventies experience. As clichéd as the phrase sounds, Bowie seems born to play Thomas Jerome Newton; the title role so aptly envisages the singer’s detachment and dissatisfaction with normality. Yet such proximity with reality unfortunately hampers sections of the film. Difficult to dissuade the idea that livewithfilm was watching David Bowie play himself, the construction of the narrative occasionally collapsed. It is still an impressively dominating turn that elevates The Man Who Fell to Earth into a superior piece of science-fiction. At times heart rending, the ageless tale of Thomas Jerome Newton feels timeless, especially in this age of unprecedented greed.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011)

12 Jan

The January rush has hit this blog particularly hard. Unfortunately (cruel world!) it was livewithfilm’s ability to catch regular doses of celluloid that suffered amidst an array of New Year’s resolutions; attempting to truly live with film does little for the post Christmas waistline. Perhaps this is a sign from a filmic higher being (the projectionist?) to search for motivation within the four walls of the screen. Already having undergone a Rocky marathon, enduring all six films in one lengthy sitting, livewithfilm feels a true aficionado of the eighties training montage (see also The Karate Kid (1984) Dirty Dancing (1987)). Whilst Rocky III (1982) is without doubt the pick of the muscle-bound bunch, benefitting from a wild pairing of Mr T. and Hulk Hogan, livewithfilm feels the need to search for new motivational climbs. So bear this in mind faithful reader and bear with livewithfilm in the following weeks. Today’s choice though is the primate ridden Rise of the Planet of the Apes. At least they eat lots of bananas – a healthy choice for 2012 indeed!

Using chimpanzees to develop a cure for Alzheimer’s disease, scientist Will Rodman (James Franco) feels he is nearing a cure when his prize specimen Bright Eyes unexpectedly runs rampant through the laboratory. Believing that the ‘cure’ injected into the ape has driven it wild, Rodman loses his funding and is unable to continue his work. However, when returning to the laboratory Rodman discovers a baby chimp in Bright Eyes’ cage that he swiftly takes home. The young monkey Caesar (Andy Serkis) immediately displays an advanced hereditary intelligence, suggesting that a cure may be within reach for Rodman’s long suffering father. Yet Caeser’s brainpower begins to create unexpected issues. Aware of the injustices enacted upon him and his mother by humanity, Caesar grows resentful and yearns for interaction with his own race. But when he is impounded by an animal control facility and submitted to ritual humiliation by the cruel owners, the hyper-intelligent chimp begins to plan for rebellion.

Rupert Wyatt’s film is a surprisingly issue driven piece that tackles animal testing and genetic engineering with a profundity that rarely errs on sentimentality. Whereas it would have been easy for the film to spout about its own significance whilst it waxed lyrical on the cruelty of humanity, Rise of the Planet of the Apes retains an entertaining and rousing core amidst such issues. The final sequence of ‘aping around’ (livewithfilm deserves at least one) had this blogger jeering his own species with a worrying fervour. Key to the film’s success, Andy Serkis delivers another impressive piece of performance capture acting as Caesar. At once convincing and compelling, Serkis forces a beating heart into a performance that would previously have been delivered with hollow pixelisation.

Contagion (2011)

9 Jan

There is a limit to how enjoyable a film can be on a plane. Whilst livewithfilm would never grumble about the prospect of international travel, tiny screens and blasts of sunlight from nearby windows do not lend themselves to immersive viewing. Boarding the livewithfilm jet, this blogger was pleasantly surprised to find a wide range of recent films that it had missed (presumably whilst choosing to take in the much dated It’s Alive instead). Excited about the prospect of many contemporary additions to the blog, livewithfilm readied itself for the journey-come-filmic-marathon ahead. Yet if there’s one picture guaranteed to spook in such a contained space, Steven Soderbergh’s Contagion was that film.

As soon as global traveller Beth Emhoff (Gwyneth Paltrow) returns from a trip to Hong Kongshe falls fatally ill. The recently widowed Mitch Emhoff (Matt Damon) must contain his emotions as his son swiftly succumbs to the same mystery disease. Puzzled by his supposed immunity, Mitch struggles to protect his daughter as the same infection that felled half his family becomes a worldwide epidemic. Working at the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, Dr. Ellis Cheever (Laurence Fishburne) begins to work on the containment issues surrounding the breakout. As the death count begins to spiral, Cheever hires Dr. Erin Mears (Kate Winslet) to investigate the virus. Allen (Jude Law), a militant blogger intent on uncovering a conspiracy surrounding the missing cure, begins to receive a great number of hits on his website when he names a supposedly successful treatment. Simultaneously, Dr. Leonora Orantes (Marion Cotillard) of the World Health Organisation follows the movements of original patient Beth toHong Kong.

Soderberg’s film is undoubtedly a B movie idea, performed by a cast with A list pretentions. Contagion is a revolt of nature, a disaster movie set to convince the audience that we are resigned to a grim demise predestined by our modern existences. Realistically, livewithfilm would never have encountered Contagion if it were not for Romero’s Night of the Living Dead (1968); the pair of films both see humanity reduced a race of ‘the wandering contagious’, naïve to their infectiousness, whilst a shady power attempts to obscure responsibility. Contagion is just as tense as the 60s shocker, tracking the disease from person to person with an intimidating indifference. The epic scale of the epidemic is deftly mastered by Soderberg, recalling the desolate Americana of Alfonso Cuarón’s Children of Men (2006). However, the numerous characters in Soderberg’s film often feel distant; disparate stories mean that each protagonist has little time to earn the empathy they require. Nevertheless, to feel the full impact of Contagion, livewithfilm had to simply measure the distance it leapt when a fellow traveller sneezed.

Alien Resurrection (1997)

15 Dec

So in the interests of an impartial take on cinema, livewithfilm chose to take in a viewing of this 90’s franchise-wrecker after it appeared on the television schedules. Even though undoubtedly a curve ball option for critique from a continuous piece of film writing, the finale of this quadrilogy (don’t blame livewithfilm) surfaced (or should it be burst?) just in time for a livewithfilm treatment. Jean-Pierre Jeunet‘s film also saves livewithfilm from the quandary mentioned at the beginning of Tuesday’s Breathless. After all, Alien Resurrection is hardly the most adored instalment in the series let alone as a standalone piece of cinema. Perhaps this was the instance of mediocrity that livewithfilm needed to unleash a true filmic lambasting.

Ellen Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) is a clone of her former self, created by a shadowy corporation who wish to exploit the monstrous potential her half-alien existence provides. Unbeknown to a crew of bounty hunters who have joined the ship, the scientific vessel is also harbouring a vast array of hideous aliens. However, as all evil filmic plots are certain to conclude, these nibbly beasties quickly escape. Cue widespread crew consumption. Fleeing for their lives, the bounty hunters and Ripley must destroy the space ship before it plunges into earth and unleashes its hungry cargo.

Perhaps it is indicative of the narrative issues of Alien Resurrection that, say in comparison to the sparseness of Breathless, livewithfilm found writing this plot summary decidedly tricky. Stripped down, Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s film is a ghost story in space. Yet Alien Resurrection’s failure to deliver such scares is made even more apparent thanks to its climactic position in a series of classic sci-fi shockers. The subtlety of Alien (1979) is shoddily mimicked and only made livewithfilm yearn for Scott’s chilling original. Even the bravado fuelled bullet-fest that is Aliens (1986) commands more nuance than the laughably hyperbolic Resurrection. For even if it is chiefly unintentional, there is entertainment to be found in Jeunet’s film. There was little livewithfilm could do but chuckle as previously unbeatable alien fiends were swiftly felled with smartly placed quips. Keeping tongue in cheek, the always enthralling Ron Perlman manages to emerge relatively unharmed from this murk of unsubtly. But it is the stolidly serious Winona Ryder who suffers most, her attempts to bring solemnity to this whirlwind of whimsy sitting very ill. In space, everyone can hear you laugh.