Posted by: themoviecheese | November 6, 2016

Leeds Film Festival 2016 Daily Diary – Day 2

Leeds Film Festival 2016 Daily Diary – Day 2

Day two of the festival started with a screening of Jurassic Park. I’m not going to review it for obvious reasons, but suffice to say it was the first time I’d seen it on the big screen since 1993. Here’s a wee little fact…Jurassic Park was actually the first ever film I saw at the cinema, at just 8 years old. So to say this is a big deal for me is an understatement. This is literally where my obsession with film began. We all know how well Jurassic Park still holds up today, but one thing this screening taught me is that I genuinely believe there will never be another family blockbuster quite like Jurassic Park. It’s the perfect family blockbuster. Between the characters that feel so real and authentic and the dialogue that’s witty without being even remotely pretentious, it’s a film making aesthetic that I think is unfortunately lost today. There are some great modern blockbusters out there such as Inception and Avengers, but they concern themselves with characters that ultimately feel like characters in a film. The dialogue feels synthetic and, well, written. Hollywood is so concerned with who they cast in their films. I actually enjoyed last year’s Jurassic World for what it was, but compare the cast to Park’s. Chris Pratt vs Sam Neil, Bryce Dallas Howard vs Laura Dern – these don’t feel like real people the way they did in Park. The characters in Park ultimately feel real, but not to sacrifice the blockbuster nature of the film. It’s still a huge film with one of the best examples of CGI work of all time, even at 23 years old.

Anywho, that’s enough about Jurassic Park. There were three other (new) films shown throughout the day, which were…

Ambulance (dir. Mohamed Jalaby)

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Ambulance is a documentary following Palestinian film maker Mohamed Jalaby as he documents the attack on Gaza by Israeli forces during summer 2014. Jalaby joins an ambulance crew as they race around the West Bank helping to clear rubble, searching for people’s families, stitching the injured and, yes, clearing the dead bodies. Ambulance is truly harrowing stuff, and never shies away from its first person close quarters aspect. You are right in the thick of the Gaza attacks, and when a victim is brought out on a stretcher, you really feel the terror of the situation through the screams of the victim’s family. I’d say Ambulance is even more harrowing than 2011’s 5 Broken Cameras as it never once lets up, and can feel exhausting as a result. The attacks of 2014 on Gaza were constant throughout summer, and as such so is Ambulance, perfectly portraying the horror of the situation. Rating: 9/10

Mother (dir. Kadri Kousaar)

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So we come to the first film of the festival that just wasn’t for me. Mother will delight some with its overly careful pacing and its Coen Brothers-esque dark humour, but it was lost on me. For me, it was mostly just a dull film featuring dull characters in a dull situation. I laughed once, and that was towards the very end of the film. I do give it proper for having a genuinely intriguing ending, but that could mostly be down to me not paying enough attention. Mother tells the story of Elsa, a mother who cares for her adult son Lauri after he is shot and placed in a coma. The police are investigating the crime, and a handful of characters enter the house one by one to pay Lauri a visit. Fine performances and a genuinely good ending stopped me from falling unconscious, but it wasn’t enough to save the dull script and bland execution. Rating: 4/10

Chi-raq (dir. Spike Lee)

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Now I’m not the biggest Spike Lee fan – the man himself is up his own arse, and as a director he always seems to struggle with tone. However, a good film is still a good film, and Chi-raq is that film. Unquestionably Lee’s most ambitious film to date, Chi-raq tells the story of a group of women who set out to challenge America’s gun laws after the accidental death of a child on a violent Chicago street. Audience reception for Chi-raq has been fairly polarising for two reasons – 1. The whole film is told via cleverly scripted poetry. It’s technically a musical, just not the kind of musical you’re used to. Also 2. It’s very very liberal. This isn’t so much a problem for me. I have extremely liberal views when it comes to gun laws, but your enjoyment of the film will definitely depend on your political allegiances, as with a lot of Lee’s work. That said, the one aspect that the film really excels in is comedy – Chi-raq is very funny when it wants to be, and hilarious cameos (including Dave Chapelle’s first film appearance in almost 15 years) pop up all over the place. The casting is generally strong throughout, with stand outs being Samuel L Jackson’s narrator and John Cusack as an enigmatic priest. Teyonah Parris is a fantastic lead and carries each scene with true conviction. There is an odd addition to the cast in the form of Wesley Snipes as what is essentially one of the film’s villains. He plays a leader of one of the gang banging crews. At 54 years old, Snipes is an odd choice to play a character that should be in his twenties, and I found it extremely off putting – surely he would have been better suited playing one of the dads attempting to convince the youngsters to stop being dickheads. That’s not to say Snipes is bad as such, his performance is actually very funny and he has some of the more standout scenes. Chi-raq is also waaay too long, a common problem with Spike Lee films, and also really struggles with its tone and identity. That said, there’s no denying its enjoyable factor. Rating: 7/10

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Posted by: themoviecheese | November 3, 2016

Leeds Film Festival 2016 Daily Diary – Day One

Leeds Film Festival 2016 Daily Diary – Day One

It’s that time of the year again – where I prepare my buttocks for some serious numbing, get ready for feeling a lack of nutrition, adjust my eyes to square-vision and look forward to some seriously damn good films. This year, I have decided to account each day of the festival with daily blogs. And I am going to stick to it damn it! Well…I’m going to try my best anyway. As always, the first day only contains one film…

Paterson (dir. Jim Jarmusch)

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Outside of Ghost Dog (which is a very solid 9/10 for me), I’m not the biggest Jarmusch fan. Paterson is definitely one of the least pretentious films I’ve seen this year though. It perfectly mirrors Adam Driver’s central character Paterson in a feeling of subdued normality, never needs to even try to win anyone over. When it’s funny, it’s hilarious; and when it’s moving, it knows exactly what to tug on. Perhaps a little overlong, featuring a lot of sag that could have been cut, but Driver’s excellent performance compliments the genuinely clever script. 8/1o

 

Posted by: themoviecheese | September 21, 2016

“Blair Witch” (2016) Review

Blair Witch (2016) reviewed by Tom

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A few months ago, horror fans everywhere were excited to learn that The Woods – the mysterious “lost in the woods”-style horror film that Adam Wingard and Simon Barrett had been working on for a number of years – was actually a sequel to the most successful found footage horror film of all time: The Blair Witch Project. Both Wingard and Barrett have made huge names for themselves in the world of horror thanks to their work on titles such as The Guest, Your Next and some of the VHS segments. It stands to reason that they should surely be the perfect duo to revisit the found footage film that started it all (some would say Cannibal Holocaust started the genre, but I would argue Blair Witch Project is the film that really steered the genre into the mainstream).

The Blair Witch project single handedly revolutionised film making, making $250,000,000 worldwide from a $50,000 budget thanks to a genius marketing scheme that genuinely fooled people into thinking the film was real. It kick started an entirely new film making mantra that you could make a film on a shoe string budget and still make a sizeable profit providing you really worked a great deal on its marketing. The film would go on to be one of the scariest films ever made in the eyes of many (including this reviewer). A year later, the first sequel for the film (Book of Shadows) was released, and it was…well…not brilliant. Ditching the found footage aspect in favour of something more standard in format, the film was directed by seasoned documentarian Joe Berlinger but was reportedly butchered by the studio.

Sixteen years later, and Wingard and Barrett have teamed to bring back the formula that made the original so great. Being such a huge fan of the original, and equally such a big fan of Wingard I was sure I would be stepping into a fantastic sequel, and it really is a genuine sequel this time round. James is Heather’s brother, and upon watching a YouTube video reportedly showing newly-found footage from the Burkitsville Woods, he is sure Heather is still out there somewhere. He gets a team together (6 people this time round) to head out there.

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You may be worrying about a sense of familiarity, and that is absolutely present, and is definitely Blair Witch’s first problem. There also isn’t really much of a build up, and the film doesn’t allow us enough time to really gel with the various characters on any kind of emotional level. Whereas in the original where it is a good 20/30 minutes before we even enter the woods, in this we are there almost instantly. I understand why they did that – more than likely in an attempt to differentiate from the original’s set up – but I would have liked more time with the main characters to really get to know what they are about.

One of the main things that makes the original film so fantastic and ultimately so scary is the fact that everything feels genuinely *real*. Heather, Mike and Josh don’t feel like film characters/actors, they feel like real people thanks to their superb performances. They are everyday students – not particularly attractive, and certainly not bright or quick thinking. In Blair Witch 2016, we have an assortment of characters who largely make up for anonymous victims. Outside of main character James and a couple of vaguely interesting goth characters, none of them are particularly well written. The acting is fine all round, but none of them feel like real people – at least not on the scale that the original set. They feel like characters within a film, and they’re all overly attractive and look like they’ve been through two hours of hair and make up. This formed a huge disconnect with me, and I actually found myself started to hate the film for at least the first 40-odd minutes.

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I mentioned an overwhelming sense of familiarity earlier and it really is a problem. Its all here – the Wicca stick figures, the stones piled up outside the tents. If you’ve seen the first film, you’ve *mostly* seen this one, and that is a massive shame. At the same time, however, we have to ask ourselves “What could they have done different?”. They do also at least throw a couple of surprises into the latter half (more on this later).

Then there’s the jump scares. Oh lord, the jump scares. Within the first half of the film, they come thick and fast, and it is pretty relentless. Jump scares are only scary when there is a decent build up and subtle atmosphere. That is not the case for the first half of Blair Witch 2016. They become incredibly annoying very fast, to the point where one character hilarious yells “Can everyone stop doing that?!” when someone creeps up on her for the 16th time.

Wingard also bizarrely opts for background music in some of the scenes. It’s not a score as such, but more a gentle atmospheric hum, the likes of which would be present in something like The Wicker Man. I found this an incredibly odd sound design choice and again started to find myself further disconnecting from the film as a whole.

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One of the aspects this film does very well, but at the same time has a downside, is technology. The film is set in 2014, and so technology has come a long way. With the widely available tech such as GPS and iPhones, it becomes increasingly less believable for six people to become lost in the woods. The film actually gets around this extremely well in ways that I don’t want to spoil. One of the characters is somewhat of a tech expert and so brings along with her some cool innovative gadgets such as earpiece cameras and a camera-mounted flying drone. The aforementioned downside to this is that the film looks a bit too nice most of the time. I really am nitpicking here, but again one of the things that made the original so scary was the terrible DV quality made it so you could hardly see anything beyond the incredible denseness of the woods. Most of Blair Witch 2016’s footage is obviously HD, which means everything is in full clear view, leaving nothing to the imagination. Those who disliked the ambiguity of the original film will probably find solace in the HD quality of this film, but for me it again kick-started a disconnect.

So half way through the film, things were not looking good for my liking of this film. I was finding the characters thin and underwritten, the relentless jump scares were boring and annoying me to tears, and the whole thing just looked a little too nice and clean. Then the second half began to happen. Make no mistake, Blair Witch 2016’s second half is a completely different experience to the first half. I’m not talking in the same vein as something like Cabin in the Woods where the film takes an unexpected turn, I’m merely talking the film’s tone, pacing and atmosphere completely shifting gear entirely. The last 40 minutes of Blair Witch 2016 is one of the scariest and most intense cinema experiences I’ve had in a very long time. The jump scares still come, but this time they are backed up by perfect timing and knee-shredding tension as well as fantastic performances from the cast. It’s almost as if Wingard only directed the second half of the film, and the first half was directed by a less experienced 2nd unit crew.

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The way Wingard racks up the tension in the final moments is nothing short of masterful and there are MANY stand out moments. One moment in particular featuring a character attempting to retrieve the flying drone from a tree branch is so tightly crafted I came incredibly close to breaking a damn finger. The latter half does also attempt a few new surprises (that I won’t spoil obviously) as a way to differentiate itself from the familiarity to the original film. It does admittedly largely follow the same beats as the original, but it at least throws in some genuinely innovative additions along the way.

Another thing I really enjoyed was Barrett’s attempt to expand upon the lore by various moments of exposition. I’ve always said that the best way to develop a found footage sequel is to make a bigger film that expands on the lore set by the first film. It’s what [REC]2 did, and it worked brilliantly. Blair Witch 2016 attempts the same, and it works mostly. Remember the story about the killer who would “make one stand in the corner while he kills the other”? Well that is given much more backstory this time round, and a few funky twists and turns.

IN CONCLUSION:
Blair Witch 2016 starts off murky. The characters are almost irritating (save a few), and the scares are nothing more than loud noises attempting to make your ears bleed. It doesn’t attempt anything different in the first half, and will slowly start to slip your interest away from you. Give it chance though, and the second half evolves into something else entirely – an almost perfectly crafted and expertly directed series of atmospheric scares that you’ll be thinking about for weeks. No other found footage film will ever come close to the original Blair Witch Project, in both believability and scare factor. This one, however, does at least give it a damn good go. It’s just a damn shame about that first act.

RATING: 6/10

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Posted by: themoviecheese | January 7, 2016

Who is Rey? (My theory)

Who is Rey? (my theory)

Star Wars: The Force Awakens gave us a lot of unanswered questions. A lot of people have complained about that, and to them I say…what in the name of Jabba’s diabetes did you expect?! That’s what movies of this calliber do, and have been doing since films BEGAN. Did we come away with questions after A New Hope? Yes, we bloody well did. We didn’t get the “I am your father” revelation until Empire, and didn’t find out Luke was teetering on an incestuous relationship until Return of the Jedi. Civil War will do the same, Batman v Superman will do the same, Star Wars Episode 8 will do the same. You already knew The Force Awakens was going to do this, and if you didn’t then…I dunno, stop watching films or something.

One of the biggest unanswered questions in the film is the background or heritage of Rey. There are hundreds of clues as to who she is the daughter of – some of them obvious, some of them kinda silly. So I’m going to break down each popular theory and explain why I think it’s possible or why I think it’s bullshit. Also – MAJOR spoilers ahead, so if you haven’t seen The Force Awakens yet, what the bloody chuff are you even doing here? Just go away.

First of all, I want to explain something about the lightsaber that features so prominently in the film, and where it comes from…
This is the lightsaber originally created by Anakin some time before Attack of the Clones. It’s been dubbed several times as the lightsaber of the “Chosen One” as Anakin was prophesized to be. This lightsaber was then picked up by Obi-wan after his epic fight with Anakin/Vader. It was then, 30 years later, given to Luke, who had it for a short while before losing it on Bespin. The reason I’m saying this is to clear up the people calling it “Luke’s lightsaber”. It was never his, it’s Anakin’s lightsaber prior to turning to the darkside. Luke merely picked it up, and did nothing of any note with it before losing it. I’d also like to point out that Obi-wan owned it for 30 whole years – longer than both Anakin and Luke owned it combined.

1. She’s Luke Skywalker’s Daughter

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This is definitely the most popular theory out there, and it’s clear to see why – the film is FULL of references and clues pointing to this fact. That’s precisely the reason why I think it’s bullshit though…because that’s precisely the kind of thing JJ and Kasdan would want to do. The entire marketing of TFA has been built upon false presumptions. Most of us were wrong about a LOT of predictions that we had. Aside from Han dying – everyone knew that. If Rey is Luke’s daughter, why was she left on planet Jakku as a child? At the end of Return of the Jedi, Luke has completely emraced the Jedi way and code. We learn in TFA that he attempted to start a new Jedi Council. One of the prime rules in the Jedi code is that relationships are forbidden and Jedi can not raise their own children. Why – having fully embraced the Jedi code and even become a Jedi Master – would Luke abandon this rule and bump uglies with a character we as the audience have never met? It also goes completely against his character to abandon his own blood on a far away planet. Luke, if anyone, should know how much it sucks to be a child growing up on your own on a desert island. Also, if she’s Luke’s daughter, why didn’t Han and Leia recognise her? We’re led to believe Luke, Han and Leia remained close friends right up until Ben/Kylo went batshit crazy, so surely Han or Leia would have at least SEEN Rey as a child at some point. Sure, she’s grown up, but Leia being proficient in the Force means she would have been able to sense her. She sensed Han dying from a completely different planet for crying out loud! One of the main reasons I don’t think this is true though is down to what I said earlier: JJ and Kasdan aren’t that stupid. They’re obviously going for a big “I am your father” revelation in Episode 8, and this isn’t it. It would simply be lazy writing for Rey to turn out to be “just another Skywalker”. We have a young Skywalker, his name is Ben/Kylo. Sure, Rey has a connection to Anakin’s lightsaber, but that has nothing to do with Luke as (as I stated earlier) it’s not his fecking lightsaber!

This is Anakin’s lightsaber (and the one featured in The Force Awakens)…

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This is Luke’s lightsaber (the one he builds prior to Return of the Jedi)…

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Got it? Good, let’s move on.

2. She’s Han & Leia’s Daughter

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Just as with Luke, there is a plethora of evidence to suggest she is Han’s daughter. First of all, there is her proficiency as a pilot – this could also be evidence towards her being Luke’s daughter, but I’m talking specifically about her affinity with the Millennium Falcon. She knows instantly exactly what she’s doing. Also, one of the complaints some people have is how coincidental the placement of the Millennium Falcon is. But what if that’s intentional? (more on that later). Han also seems to share a natural bond with her, even taking her on as a crew member. Also, the expanded universe books (set after episode 6) tell of Han’s son who turned to the darkside, and a daughter who became a Jedi. Sure, these stories are no longer canon, but it’s still something to ponder. However, surely if this was true they would have revealed it in TFA prior to Han dying? Revealing this in episode 8 after Han’s death would hold almost no impact. Also, why would Han & Leia not recognise their own daughter? Again, she’s grown up around ten years, but like I said earlier Leia would have at least sensed it’s her daughter, and Kylo would have sensed she’s his sister.

3. She’s Obi-wan’s Grand Daughter

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This is a new theory that’s gained a lot of ground thanks to a recent video by Mr Sunday Movies (see that video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4mjFfdrTJrQ). The various clues he’s spotted are actually rather striking. The voice that says “Rey, these are your first steps” is a mixture of Alec Guinness and Ewan McGregor. In order to get an audio clip of Guinness saying “Rey”, they took a clip of him saying the word “Afraid” and cut it down. Why would they go to such lengths if she wasn’t connected to the character in some form? Also, back when they were still in the casting process, there was a report from the Hollywood Reporter stating that Abrams was searching for an actress to play Obi-wan’s daughter or grand daughter. Rey also speaks with a British accent. This may not seem like much, but take note of the fact that John Boyega, the actor who plays Finn, is from Peckham in London. So why was Boyega made to speak with an American accent, and yet Rey was left with her British accent? Neither Luke, Han nor Leia are British, whereas both Alec Guinness and Ewan McGregor are very British (well, McGregor is Scottish, but you get my point). On the subject of Anakin’s lightsaber – it’s said that a lightsaber gains a connection to someone who is force-sensitive through the crystal inside the hilt. That lightsaber was in Obi-wan’s possession for 30 whole years, so it’s possible that over time it felt a stronger connection to Obi-wan than it did to Anakin or Luke. Luke only had it for a couple of years max before losing it on Bespin, so it wouldn’t have built up a connection to him at all, particularly because he’d had next to no training until he visited Yoda. Rey is also incredibly (almost instantly) proficient in Jedi mind tricks – a skill that both old and young Obi-wan used in abundance. She also wears very similar clothing to Obi-wan…

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Also, some have pointed out how this struggle from the Rey vs Kylo fight…

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…mirrors this struggle from the Obi-wan vs Anakin fight…

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Again though, I find it hard to believe that Obi-wan would break his Jedi vows. Also, it’s almost impossible to determine exactly *when* he would have started a family. The only possible explanation is that he gave up on the Jedi code and settled down with a family after Revenge of the Sith, but then why is he a Force-strong recluse when Luke eventually meets up with him? Again, the main reason I don’t support this claim is because Abrams has made it almost too obvious. In fact, I dare say there’s more evidence to support this theory than there is the Luke theory.

My Theory
So what is my theory exactly? Well, after seeing the film three times I am almost convinced she is Han and Leia’s daughter. “Wait, that goes against everything you’ve said in this article” I hear you say? Hear me out…

Firstly, let’s talk about Rey’s proficiency with the Force…it comes out of fucking nowhere! It’s also one of the biggest complaints that the haters have with the film, with many people going so far as to call her a “Mary Sue” (a term given to a female who can do no wrong). She nails the Jedi mind trick with almost no practise, and she instantly becomes a badass with a lightsaber as soon as she picks one up. My theory for why this happens is that she was a young Jedi student (or “youngling” as they were called in the prequels) of Luke’s prior to Ben/Kylo loosing his shit.

Adam Driver (Ben/Kylo) is around 30 years old, Daisy Ridley (Rey) is around 20 years old. Lets say their corresponding characters are also around 30 and 20 respectively. Let’s also say (for arguments sake) that Ben turned to the darkside and became “Kylo” around ten years prior to the events of The Force Awakens, when he was around 20. Rey would have been around 10 years old, which is the age she looked in her vision when she is dumped on planet Jakku. See where I’m going with this?

I believe Han and Leia had a second child – a daughter, Rey – around ten years after having Ben. Being Leia’s daughter, she is also Force-sensitive, so Luke begins training her at a young age. I think Luke sensed something in her fairly early on…she’s the new “chosen one”. This is why Anakin’s lightsaber is drawn to her. It’s the lightsaber of the chosen one, and she is the new chosen one.

Note this shot for a second…

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This is a shot from Rey’s vision. I have no doubt in my mind that this is the moment Ben turned against Luke and became Kylo Ren. Those are the “Knights of Ren” stood behind him, and those dead bodies scattered all over are no doubt Luke’s various padawans, killed by Kylo. Take note of those dead bodies; they’re all a little…short. Now, at this point in the story, 20 years have passed between Return of the Jedi and Kylo’s massacre. That means Luke has had 20 years to establish a new Jedi Council. It took around a thousand years to fully establish the original Jedi Order/Council, and that was with the help of several other Jedi. Luke was just on his own, possibly with help from Leia. This means the padawans he would have gathered will *mostly* be children. Remember when Qui-gon brought Anakin before Yoda and Mace Windu in Phantom Menace? Mace Windu said “He’s too old to train”. Then, In Empire Strikes Back when ghost Obi-wan introduces Luke to Yoda, Yoda says “He’s too old”. This means, traditionally, Jedi train from a very young age. I think Kylo wiped out all of Luke’s youngling padawans as a further attempt to mirror the actions of his grandfather, Darth Vader. He believes he is the new chosen one and can master the darkside a lot easier than his grandfather did.

However, Rey is the new chosen one, and Luke has sensed it. In early interviews, various people working on The Force Awakens said that Luke is thought to have transcended to an entirely new level of power. He’s basically like a wizard-Jedi. Imagine a Jedi/lightside version of the Emperor. One of the interviews (I forget which) said something to the effect of Luke unlocking Force powers that we’ve never seen before. I think this includes the ability to affect one’s memory, as in wipe someone’s memory. I think Luke sent Rey to planet Jakku to protect her from both Kylo and Snoke. He wiped her memory, along with the memories of Han, Leia and possibly even Ben/Kylo. However, I believe that before their memories were wiped, both Han and Leia were aware of – and in on – Luke’s plan.

The bulking hand you see holding young Rey in her vision is most definitely that of “Unkar Plutt”, the oversized alien that Simon Pegg plays in a cameo (the guy bartering with Rey during the opening scenes). When Rey and Finn take off in the Millennium Falcon, Unkar Plutt shouts “That’s mine!” I think Han gave him the Falcon both as a way of bargaining with him and also ensuring Rey has a way to escape Jakku should the shit hit the fan. With Han, Leia, Rey and Kylo’s minds all wiped, Luke went into exhile on the myserious island seen in the closing shot (I have a theory that is the location of the first ever Jedi temple).

This fully explains Luke’s expression in the final scene.

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That’s not the face of someone who’s seeing his daughter for the first time in around ten years…that’s the face of someone who’s formulated a complex plan and is finally seeing it come to fruition. He’s frightened. He knows exactly what he has to do, but he’s terrified to do it. He doesn’t take the lightsaber because it’s not his, it never was.

So, that’s my (admittedly long winded) theory. Do you agree with parts of it, or disagree with all of it? Let me know in the comments below!

Posted by: themoviecheese | November 29, 2015

Top Ten Films of Leeds International Film Festival 2015

Top 10 Films of Leeds International Film Festival

So the festival is over for another year, and I am once again in dire need of some serious sleep, a long soaking bath, and several hot meals. But before I do all that, I’m going to present you with my opinion of what the top ten films of the entire festival were. Bare in mind, I choose not to include the retrospective/classic films on this list. This year, they screened such classics as The Thing, Leon and Rosemary’s Baby, along with rarely-screened beauties such as the excellent Roar and They Live. So if I were to take those into consideration, it wouldn’t be much of a contest…

10. Tangerine (dir. Sean Baker) – Comedy

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Tangerine is just a basic, old-school comedy, but it thrashes conventions and clichés so well that it more than needs to be on this list. It’s an incredibly hard sell because Tangerine follows the everyday lives of a group transgender working girls. The beauty is in the fact that Tangerine knows it’s a hard sell, and it works it to its advantage. It’s determined not to sugar-coat anything, and instead celebrate a zesty yet difficult lifestyle with pure hilarity. This is one funny-ass film, and definitely fast moving, but also deeply moving. The visuals are also just as vibrant and colourful as its protagonists – made even more impressive with the knowledge that the entire film was reportedly shot on an iPhone 5. Rating: 8/10

9. The Open (dir. Marc Lahore) – Post apocalypse drama

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How could a film about tennis possibly make it into my list? But, The Open isn’t really about tennis. It’s about hope, dreams and ultimate survival. It’s as if Rocky Balboa, Tim Henman and Max Rockatansky all had a massive blazing threesome. The Open “opens” up (hehe) with a terrorist attack on Paris (rather poignant considering recent events), and then shifts years into the future where we assume this attack led to a world war that ultimately left most of the planet in ruins. We join three protagonists (actually, three characters in total is all the film has to offer) as they desperately try to invent their own imaginary tennis open tournament. It sounds stupid, and initially you think it is…but then the film sucks you in. I quickly became utterly compelled by the determination and sheer will of these three characters, all in the face of the absurdity of what they were attempting to achieve. There was one scene in particular involving a lost MP3 player that almost had me clapping there and then. Rating: 8/10

8. Brooklyn (dir. John Crowley) – Romantic drama

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I was surprised by how much I enjoyed Brooklyn. It’s set (mostly) in 1950s New York, and follows a young Irish woman attempting to find herself in this new enormous city. She eventually finds love in the form of a handsome young Italian. This is eventually disrupted, however, when her past comes back and she must choose between two countries and the people that live within them. Brooklyn is one of the most realistic romance films I’ve seen in years. It never ever feels mushy or overly written as most romance films do. This is a tale of the desperation that comes from an entire ocean being in between two people who are deeply in love. Brooklyn currently holds an astounding 99% on Rotten Tomatoes (124 positive reviews, 1 negative) and it shows why. Ronan’s performance is brilliant, but its in the script that the film’s true talent lies. Rating: 8/10

7. Chuck Norris vs. Communism (dir. Ilinca Calugareanu) – Documentary

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This film obviously deserves a place in any list based on the title alone. However, don’t set your hopes too high because this isn’t an action film featuring Norris taking on Soviet Russia. No, this is actually a documentary charting the censorship of 1980s Romania. During the 1980s many western films were either heavily cut or outright banned. This led to an underground movement led by a black market racketeer and one incredibly brave translator/voice actress. What follows is a hugely rewarding and heart-warming tale of bravery and discovery. The interviews are the best part, listening to the stories from the various Romanians about how they would sneak into each other’s apartments to watch the latest Van Damme movie is both hilarious and touching. But there is another side to this story – that of the person orchestrating these illegal VHS copies is closer to a conspiracy thriller and is utterly riveting as such. A brilliant watch for anyone interested in film history. Rating: 9/10

6. Nina Forever (dir. Ben Blaine & Chris Blaine) – Horror/Comedy

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After watching Nina Forever, my first tweet went something like “That film was totally my jam!”. Feature debut from a brother directing duo known for shorts, Nina Forever tells the story of a young man who’s girlfriend dies in a car accident. Some time later, he falls in love with one of his co-workers, but when they first make love his dead girlfriend’s bloody and mutilated body resurfaces to mock them. He soon realises that he can’t have sex without his dead girlfriend interrupting. Nina Forever is hilarious, the dialogue is extremely snappy and its also surprisingly sexy, despite most of the film being drenched in the red stuff. The tone and dark humour reminded me a lot of Ginger Snaps, which is admittedly an acquired taste of a film, as is this one. All in all it’s just a great script with (obviously) a very original genre-bending story. Rating: 9/10

5. Victoria (dir. Sebastian Schipper) – Crime thriller

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There are a lot of films out there that claim to be shot in one take (Rope, Running Time, The Silent House, Birdman to name a few), but those films DO actually contain several cuts hidden within dark zooms and fast pans. Victoria, however, is the real fucking deal: a full 2 and a half hour continuous take that apparently only took three tries to nail. I scoured every single frame of Victoria like a hawk and couldn’t find a single hidden transition. Within its 140 minute-runtime, Victoria’s cinematography spans around 25 different locations dips in and out of several vehicles and speeds around the city, contains a couple of kinetic shootouts, several extended and extremely tense chase sequences, and some very well written tender moments of calm. The first hour or so is admittedly slow-moving, but this is intentional to draw us further into the characters. Most of the dialogue is improvised (the script had a mere 12 pages), and so the characters all feel real as a result. It means when the shit hits the fan, you feel like you’ve built up a relationship with these people and you’ve connected with them on a personal level. The “hand held, single shot” aspect helps with this overall, because you feel almost like one of the characters. Victoria is simply exhausting – it’s the kind of film that you enjoy whilst you’re watching it, but you don’t truly appreciate it until the credits start rolling. Once those credits roll, you realise what you’ve just watched – one of the most incredible cinematic achievements of this generation. Oh, and that single 2 and a half hour take? It apparently took only three takes to nail. Holy shit. Rating: 9/10

4. The Witch (dir. Robert Eggers) – Horror

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The Witch ultimately gave me a feeling that I haven’t felt since I watched the original Ringu around 12 years ago – an uncompromising feeling of caution; that I’d just watched something that was just so wrong. The Witch isn’t “bone chillingly frightening” or “filled with jump-out-of-your-seat moments” – let’s just get that out of the way first. The Witch is not “one of the scariest films ever made” as most of the marketing would have you believe. It is, however, one of the absolute darkest and dread-filled films I have ever seen. I really can’t stress that “ever” enough. Robert Eggers has delivered one of the bleakest films of this decade. There is no happiness here, no solace. These are characters almost entirely consumed by darkness and evil. The cinematography is simply impeccable. Perfectly portraying this sense of voyeurism, like we’re hiding behind corners because we’re not sure if we’re allowed to be watching what we’re watching. The script is sublime, taking a queue from the likes of A Field In England and giving the dialogue an air of authenticity that is so rarely found in films of this calibre. This in turn makes the acting that much more impressive, since around 70% of the cast is made up of either children or young teens. Apparently, director Robert Eggers is a huge perfectionist, and that is proven ten fold with The Witch. Simply put, this is the best example of attention to detail I have seen in years. YEARS. There’s no doubt in my mind that The Witch will be a truly polarizing release. Some will despise it’s slow burn aesthetic and it’s almost Shakespearian dialogue, while some will relish it. However, the one thing we can all surely agree on is that Eggers has directed the SHIT out of this film. There were several times where I genuinely felt like I wanted to stop watching – not because I was scared, but because I simply did not want to see what was going to happen next. The Witch is a different kind of horror. Hell, it could almost be a new genre. Rating: 9/10

3. Green Room (dir. Jeremy Saulnier) – Horror/Thriller/Black Comedy

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Green Room was my most anticipated film of the whole festival. Written and directed by Jeremy Saulnier, director of last year’s superb revenge film Blue Ruin, Green Room is a premise I couldn’t pass up. It centres on a young punk band who have a very anti-fascism political stance. The get a gig performing at a bar they’ve never been to, only to quickly realise it is a neo-nazi bar…saying anything else would be spoiling. Yes, this is definitely the kind of film that you want to go into as blind as possible. A testament to this is the fact that there isn’t a single promotional trailer online, because none have been made. There is also but one poster, and only one short film clip (that reveals nothing) on YouTube. Once the violence starts (and like Blue Ruin, it is extremely violent), it’s completely relentless in its execution. Like in all Saulnier’s films the biggest ace is the dialogue. Saulnier has such a sublime talent for taking characters that feel real and placing them in extraordinarily cinematic situations. These are scenarios that would only happen in films, and the sequence of events follow a basic cinematic narrative structure. But the genius is in how these characters are written. Patrick Stewart’s main villain for instance could have very easily been written as a cheesy horror caricature, and if this film had been written by almost any other horror writer, his character would have certainly have come across as cartoonish. But Saulnier’s excellent and genuine dialogue coupled with Stewart’s master class in creating an everyday “nip-down-the-pub” character means that we get a villain that feels so much more frightening due to how utterly real he feels. The violence (of which there is a LOT, even more than Blue Ruin I’d say) is also brutally realistic. Make no mistake that Green Room is NOT a “torture porn” film. “Torture porn” implies the film unrealistically spurts blood in our faces as a cheap way of getting a reaction. Green Room doesn’t do that. I wouldn’t even call it “gore” as such, as none of the violence lingers on the detail. That said, however, and despite what I’ve said about the film’s realistic nature, Green Room’s biggest talent lies in its ability to “crowd please”. This is one of the biggest crowd pleasers I’ve seen in ages, and many cheers and the like were had in the packed out audience at the Night of the Dead event. This is helped by the film’s random sprinkles of great black humour. Green Room is almost a total mystery, and it needs to stay that way. Go see it with an empty head, and your ignorance will be well rewarded. Rating: 9/10

2. Son of Saul (dir. László Nemes) – Thriller/Horror

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Victoria wow’d us all for its huge technical achievement, but even that pales in comparison to what Son of Saul places on the screen. It tells the story of a Jewish prisoner of Auschwitz who is forced to burn the bodies of his own people. He is suddenly perplexed to come upon the dead body of a young Jewish boy. He takes the boy for his son, and sets about on a daunting, dangerous and incredibly couragous quest to find a Rabbi and gives the boy a proper burial. The entire film was shot on a single 40mm focal length, which means the film seldom leaves our protagonist’s face. To make the cinematography just that little more claustrophobic, it’s also shot at a 4:3 aspect ratio, meaning we rarely get to see the extent of what’s going on around Saul. We hear all the random gunshots, the crying and screaming, the roar of the furnaces and we can feel the great sense of depression. The point here is that we see it all through Saul’s face, and Geza Rogrig’s performance makes that aspect simply astounding. I’ve placed the film under a “horror” bracket, and this is because it is truly horrifying. No, there aren’t any zombies, and there is very little gore and not a single jump scare to speak of. But there is is an overwhelming feeling of desperation and dread. The film contains very little dialogue, but a mountain of body language that speaks much better than any lines of dialogue ever could. They say we as a people should never forget the Holocaust and what happened, well Son of Saul will make you remember. Rating: 10/10

1. Bone Tomahawk (dir. S. Craig Zahler) – Western/Horror

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I’d been told two things about Bone Tomahawk prior to seeing it – 1. That it is Kurt Russell’s comeback film, and 2. That it is a slow burn with a huge pay-off and to “stick with it”. Both of these things threw me completely off guard. It’s not Kurt’s come back. Well, I guess it kind of is because he’s chuffing superb in it. But it’s also not, because it’s most definitely not a one-man movie. The rest of the cast is just sublime (especially Matthew Fox and Patrick Wilson), and watching them together and their expert chemistry is what eliminated that “slow burn” expectation for me. Avengers and Justice League can go bollocks… THIS is the team up movie of the century for me. The god damn century. Also, whilst it definitely has that promised “huge pay-off”, I didn’t find the first half to be a slow burn at all. I found it to be a perfectly paced and expertly written piece of celluloid that kept me gripped throughout. I cared about these characters; and they weren’t particularly bad ass (apart from Wilson, he was straight up fucking amazing), it was just the way they interacted and the way nothing got in the way of their teamwork or determination. I’m not going to tell you any of the story, because I don’t want to spoil it, but suffice to say ‘Bone Tomahawk’ takes two favourite genres and blends them together like a delicious soup. It’s the kind of film that was so good that I tried to find a fault – I really freaking tried. Everyone knows that I value character over plot. Films that contain a complex plot, but underwritten basic characters just don’t interest me. This is why I find it so easy to dislike critically-acclaimed films like Interstellar and The Godfather. ‘Bone Tomahawk’ gets this – so much so that it feels like it was taylor made for me. It’s a relatively simple plot (although it certainly becomes a lot more complex by the finish), but it’s true strength lies in its characterisation and just how brilliantly written they are as individuals coupled with the great performances (it even has a great cameo from exploitation legend Sid Haig). It has to be said as well that this film contains one of the most satisfying kills ever. Ever ever ever. Ever. Unquestionably the absolute best film of Leeds Film Festival, but also the best film of 2015 (so far). Rating: 10/10

Other Films Worth Mentioning –
Shrew’s Nest – 7/10
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Black Mass – 7/10
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Lovemilla – 7/10
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Goodnight Mommy – 7/10
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Tales of Halloween – 8/10
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Forbidden Films – 8/10
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Tag – 8/10
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The Assassin – 8/10
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Carol – 8/10
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Posted by: themoviecheese | October 29, 2015

Ten Must-See Films At This Year’s LEEDS FILM FESTIVAL

Ten Must-See Films At This Year’s LEEDS FILM FESTIVAL

As you all know, each year I attend the entirety of Leeds Film Festival, one of the biggest celebrations of film in the UK. The program they put together each year always brings a great mixture of old classics and cult films with a huge selection of innovative new features and shorts. This is my list of what I believe to be the most promising and “must see” films of the festival this year… (in no particular order)

10. Goodnight Mommy

Goodnight Mommy has possibly the scariest trailer in recent memory. It tells the story of two brothers waiting for their mother to return home after surgery. She returns – face all bandaged up – but the young boys begin to suspect she isn’t actually their mother. Just watch the trailer and tell me it’s not one of the creepiest fucking things you’ve ever seen.

9. Brooklyn & Carol

Brooklyn and Carol are the festival’s opening and closing films. Both films are set in the 1950s and deal with a theme of the difficulty of romance within that era. Both have also been receiving absolute rave reviews so far as well, with Brooklyn in particular currently holding a 100% rating on rottentomatoes.com. Huge Oscar contenders and featuring all star casts, with the likes of Saorse Ronan, Julie Walters, Cate Blanchet and Rooney Mara.

8. The Assassin

The Assassin is the latest film from visionary director Hsiao-Hsien Hou. Featuring astounding visuals shot within an odd 1.37:1 ratio, The Assassin has received great reviews from Cannes for it’s blistering visuals and martial arts poetry.

7. The Witch

If early reviews and that fucking trailer are anything to go by, then The Witch could very well be the very best horror film of 2015. The trailer is shrouded in absolute mystery and gives you a taste of how utterly depressing, yet enthralling the atmosphere will be.

6. Roar
Roar is a film I’ve wanted to see for years. Originally shot in 1981, Roar is a film that is rather difficult to explain. It tells the story of a quiet family home that is invaded by ferocious jungle beasts, such as lions…lots of fucking lions. The twist here is that all the animals are real, and more importantly, untrained. Director Noel Marshall thought it would be a good idea and make for a more interesting film that way. What results is a film that features actual genuine animal attacks. Most of the footage of people being mauled by lions are real. One of the reviews reads “It’s like Walt Disney went insane and shot a snuff version of Swiss Family Robinson”. Also, the trailer is freaking hilarious…

5. Victoria

I hadn’t actually heard of Victoria prior to watching the trailer at the LIFF Program Launch event, and that shocks me. Simply put, Victoria looks amazing. It’s a shot-in-one-take crime thriller that has been hailed as “Run Lola Run on even more crack”. The shot-in-one-take aspect here isn’t a gimmick either, it’s the genuine article. Whereas films like Hitchcock’s Rope and last year’s Birdman used various trickery to make the film merely seem like one take, Victoria genuinely is just one take, make even more amazing by the fact that the film is 2 hours and 20 minutes long!

4. Tag

This may be an acquired taste, but Tag is a must for me being the latest film from one of my favourite directors Shion Sono. Sono is one of the hardest working directors alive (he’s directed seven films this year alone), and like most of his films, Tag’s plot makes almost no sense what-so-ever. Something about a young girl who survives a bus being sliced in half, then being chased by a knife-wielding pig wearing a tuxedo? I dunno. Either way, I’m always in for a surreal treat when it comes to Sono, and I’m sure this will be no different.

3. Green Room

If I could only pick one film – just one – to watch during this year’s festival, Green Room would definitely be that film. Directed by Jeremy Saulnier, the director of last year’s excellent revenge thriller Blue Ruin, Green Room features Patrick Stewart cast completely against type as a leader of a group of neo-nazi fascists and owner of a neo-nazi bar. When a young punk rock band play their usual anti-facism-themed music, all hell breaks loose and they end up trapped in this bizarre venue. Sounds pretty simple, but apparently there’s much MUCH more to this film than that simplistic sounding plot. Almost every single review for this film that I’ve read has told me not to watch any promotional material and not to read any spoiler ridden reviews. Funnily enough, there actually aren’t any trailers for Green Room available even if I did want to watch them. The only thing available is a short clip on YouTube that literally reveals nothing. That’s enough to ensure me that Green Room is the absolute number one must see film of the whole festival.

2. Bone Tomahawk

Bone Tomahawk is being hailed as Kurt Russell’s big come back, along with Tarantino’s up and coming The Hateful Eight. Like that movie, Bone Tomahawk is also a western, but it’s a genre bending western that uses horror tropes to tell its story. The trailer looks great, and early reviews praise the performances and impeccible direction from S. Craig Zahler. It tells the story of a group of settlers who are kidnapped by a gang of vicious cannibals. Sherrif Hunt (Russell) gets together a team of gunslingers to set out to rescue them. With a great supporting cast including Patrick Wilson, Matthew Fox and grindhouse veteran/legend Sid Haig, Bone Tomahawk is a brutal and terrifying film that takes the concept of a John Wayne film and applies it to the Italian exploitation films of the 70s and 80s.

1. Black Mass

Most likely set to be the most popular film of the festival, Black Mass is the new gangster thriller from the director of Crazy Heart and Out of the Furnace. It stars Johnny Depp in his first role in years that doesn’t require him to wear a face-full of prosthetics, or prance around as a flamboyant pirate. In this true story, Depp plays James “Whitey” Bulger, a notorious Boston criminal who eventually became an informant for the FBI to take down gangsters who were muscling in on his turf. Early reviews have had astounding praise for Depp’s performance, calling it his most important and compelling in years.

Posted by: themoviecheese | October 21, 2015

Boba Fett survived the Sarlacc Pit!

So by now, you’ve probably seen the new Star Wars: The Force Awakens trailer. If you haven’t, then you’re probably dead and I am sorry. If you have, then you’re probably just as exited as I am for December 17th. However, there is one other Star Wars product that I’m almost just as exited for, and that is Star Wars: Battlefront, the new instalment in the Battlefront series of video games made famous back during the PS2 and original Xbox days. I played the Beta last week (video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=596ovxuqppk) and was extremely impressed.

Well, a new Battlefront screenshot has answered a question that’s been on the faces of many a Star Wars fan for over 30 years: did Boba Fett die in the Sarlacc Pit? Most people assume “Yes”. After all, why would you think otherwise. However, this screenshot does just that…Boba Fett is indeed alive. Or he is in the moments leading up to the Battle of Jakku anyway. The Battle of Jakku is a New Republic vs. Imperial war that takes place sometime between Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens on the planet of Jakku; the desert-filled planet featured prominently in all the Force Awakens trailers. The actual battle doesn’t appear in The Force Awakens because the film takes place several years after it. It is featured in Star Wars: Batlefront, however, as a playable map in a multiplayer level, and during this map players can earn a temporary upgrade to play as the legendary bounty hunter. This isn’t just a throwaway either, as both Disney and DICE have confirmed that each playable hero will be integral to the story of each map…meaning Fett is supposed to be there.

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The above image is taken from The Battle of Jakku, and features Boba Fett in all his jet-packed, badass glory. Note the plummeting Star Destroyer in the top right corner. That’s the exact same Star Destroyer in this image…

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…taken directly from the Force Awakens trailer. So yeah, Boba survived the Sarlacc, but I very much doubt this means he’ll make an appearance in the future films. This is nothing but fan bait really, and I have no doubt that he’ll meet his demise during the Battle of Jakku level.

Posted by: themoviecheese | August 19, 2015

“Big Game” mini review by Tom Stewart

Big Game

Mini review by Tom Stewart

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I’d been looking forward to this for a while, and it didn’t disappoint. It’s directed by Jalmari Helander who directed the excellent dark Christmas film Rare Exports. It’s a great little throwback to guilty-pleasure action movies of the 80s with Sam Jackson as the US president being shot down over the a Finnish forest, only to be rescued by child hunter Oskar (Onni Tommila, also from Rare Exports). Jackson and Tommila’s superb chemistry coupled with Helander’s visual flare and original take on action heroes are what make this film such fun to watch. Jackson especially is cast completely against type. Gone is the usual big-mouthed, dominating bad ass – here he is extremely vulnerable, and not a fighter in the slightest. This is exactly how I would imagine most high government figures to act in such a situation.

It won’t be for everyone. Some may find it horrendously generic, but there is originality to be found here in the characterisation of it’s two leads. Jackson and Tommila work so damn well together, and they aren’t written as out and out heroes who do everything right every time. The villains are simply much better and stronger than them at almost every turn. It’s this that makes the film so entertaining. You know that eventually these two are going to get to one up on the terrorists, and when they do it’s going to be epic.

It does suffer from weak villains. Without spoiling too much, one of them has a relationship with Jackson to an extent, but this is hardly touched upon outside of Jackson simply saying “Son of a bitch”. Also, Jackson has a line of dialogue containing the word “motherfucker”, but it is criminally cut short to “mother-“, much like the Yippie Kai Yay line in Die Hard 4.

The biggest downside to the film is it’s length. A lot of people praise films for being 90 minutes, but in this case it does hurt it. The third act of the film doesn’t necessarily feel rushed, it’s just over way too quickly. The whole film is enjoyable, but then the second it gets REALLY good…it’s over.  Still a blast though, a really great Sunday afternoon movie.
Rating: 7/10

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Posted by: themoviecheese | July 14, 2015

Why You Shouldn’t Be Worried About Jared Leto’s Joker

Why You Shouldn’t Be Worried About Jared Leto’s Joker

by Tom Stewart

It’s safe to say that Jared Leto’s version of the Joker from the upcoming Suicide Squad movie has fallen under a fair bit of scrutiny. That scrutiny has become even larger now that a full trailer for Suicide Squad is available. Of course, this is just stupid, and I’m here to address each of the most common complaints people seem to have with his version of the character…

1. It’s just Heath Ledger all over again
No, it really isn’t. He has short hair, tattoos, metal dentures, and bleached skin (as opposed to the face paint in Ledger’s version). Or are you referring to the squeaky voice and sociopathic attitude? So you’d prefer your Joker to have a deep voice and a heroic posture?

2. He doesn’t look like the “source material”
This seems to be the most common complaint…his “look”. Whether it’s the tattoos (more on that later), or the metal dentures, people just don’t seem to be happy about his look at all. Here’s the thing…Jared Leto’s Joker looks A LOT more like the “source material” than Heath Ledger did. That’s a monumental fact.

Here is The Joker (from his current visual interpretation in the comics)…

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And here is Heath Ledger and Jared Leto side by side. Which one looks more like the above picture? Honestly.

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Also, when you say “source material”, what do you mean exactly? Because every single DC comic book featuring The Joker has each had a distinctively different looking Joker. Just like how he’s always been distinctively different in live action films also. The below pictures are a great example of how there really isn’t a “source material” where the Joker’s comic roots are concerned, more a basic template, as artists will always alter his appearance just as film makers will.

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3. The tattoos
At first glance, this seems like the biggest change to Joker’s usual look. However, firstly let’s not forget that this isn’t the first time the Joker has been seen with tattoos…

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Secondly, I would disagree with the statement that tattoos are “against Joker as a character”. The “damaged” tattoo on his forehead is the only one I really have a problem with. The rest can very easily be analyzed. I can very easily envision Joker and Harley Quinn sat in a dark room somewhere fucking around with a tattoo gun, whilst laughing maniacally. Or perhaps he did them whilst locked up in Arkham to pass the boredom. In the new Batman vs Superman trailer, Batman says “20 years in Gotham, how many good guys are left?”, meaning he has been Batman for a full 20 years – Joker must have been locked up at some point during that time. It’s also heavily hinted that Joker has killed Jason Todd/Robin before the events of both films as he did in the comics, so perhaps that is why he was locked up, and maybe he did the tattoos as a way of marking what he sees as a great achievement in his games against Batman. That is precisely the kind of fucked up thing the Joker would do.

4. Jared Leto can’t act
I don’t know where this comes from, I really don’t. Dallas Buyer’s Club, American Psycho, Chapter 27, Requiem for a Dream – Leto’s resume is chock full of outstanding, award-winning performances. He is a great versatile actor who has shown ultra range again and again. If you genuinely think he is a “bad” actor, well…well you’re just plain wrong.

In Conclusion

That’s really all anyone is complaining about. The thing about the Joker is that he has no backstory, no history and no build up. He is simply a nameless sociopath who could literally be anybody, providing they have the right amount of crazy – which Leto has in SPADES. I never get when people say “[insert new actor to play the Joker here] doesn’t look like the Joker!” Well… which Joker? Dark Knight Returns Joker? Batman Noel Joker? Arkham franchise Joker? Golden/silver age Joker? 90s Joker? New52 Joker? Killing Joke Joker? Jack Nicholson Joker? Cesar Romero Joker? Heath Ledger Joker? The various different animated series Jokers? He’s had so many different appearances and looks and personalities, that honestly the only things that remain the same are the white face, the red lips, the green hair and the manic facial expressions, which – again – Leto has in spades. The problem here is that after Ledger, Leto has a serious fan base to please. Being such a well loved character, everyone seems to have this cookie-cutter idea of what “their” Joker should look like. But guess what? He’s not “your” Joker, and the character has had more visual interpretations that most other comic book characters around. “This Joker should be [this]”, “The Joker should be [that]”. No, the Joker shouldn’t be anything, because the very nature of his character means he’s capable of everything.

Agree? Disagree? Sound off in the comments section below, and as always thanks for reading!

Posted by: themoviecheese | June 11, 2015

Top Ten Films of 2015…So Far

Top 10 Movies of 2015…So Far (Mid-year review)

10. Maggie

AHNULD rises to the challenge in his most dramatic role yet in a film that has divided audiences down the middle. It is an admittedly slow paced film, but that was always the point. Instead of showing us the carnage, Maggie instead chooses to build on the tragic relationship of its two leads. Schwarzenegger really does act his absolute bollocks off, and this makes the film admirable if only for its ability to bring out the “actor” in him.

9. Ex Machina

Alex Garland’s directorial debut is a beautiful sci-fi that depends more on it’s intellect that its visual effects.  The visual effects are great, but that’s not what this film is about. Absolutely guaranteed to make you think, Ex Machina’s only downfall is that there’s not really anything that doesn’t feel familiar.

8. Big Hero 6

You’re not likely to have as much fun with a recent animated film as you are with Big Hero 6. I approached this film with trepidation, but my god I was wrong. It really is an animated child-friendly version of The Avengers (it’s even based on a Marvel comic book), but don’t let that put you off. Like most recent Disney outings, there is plenty here for adult and child alike in terms of comedy, action and heartfelt emotion.

7. John Wick

Keanu Reeves’ big comeback film is a sheer roller-coaster of expertly choreographed action sequences and a simplistic yet surprisingly effective plot. The gun-play in this film is insane, and a diverse supporting cast adds some brilliant characterization, including one of the very best on-screen deliveries of the word “Oh” ever.

6. Kingsman: The Secret Service

Matthew Vaughan’s relentless addiction to cartoon violence continues with Kingsman, a film that gives the most unlikeliest of actors (Colin Firth) one of the most badass roles in recent memory. Killer dialogue, great soundtrack and superb action sequences; Kingsman isn’t just stylized, it builds itself on the very idea of style. That church scene though…

5. A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night

This year’s ‘Let The Right One In’, Iran’s first ever vampire film is strikingly original combining several slow-burning horror tropes with that of the western genre. Not necessarily scary, but will crawl under your skin and pitch a tent there all the same. Ana Lily Amirpour is certainly a director to watch.

4. Spring

Spring is a rare beauty that I didn’t know what to expect from. Directed by one of the “VHS: Viral” peeps, I certainly wasn’t expecting what I eventually saw – one of the most unique and engaging films of the year. 2015 really has been a year for innovative horror films (I’ve no doubt It Follows falls under this category, but unfortunately I’ve yet to see it), and Spring is no exception to the rule. It’s spellbinding romantic yet haunting tale that will have you utterly engaged from the get go.

3. Whiplash

The word “tense” is thrown around a lot when reviewing a film. But, fuck me, Whiplash epitomizes the word! Simmons’ performance is terrifying and the pacing is breakneck stuff. Whiplash is incredibly taut stuff and doesn’t let up for a second. Whenever you think it’s going to allow you catch a breather, Simmons goes off on one all over again, and you begin squeezing your armchair all over again.

2. Mad Max: Fury Road

George Miller is 70 years old. He’s 70 years old and yet he’s directed one of the most visceral and brutally entertaining action films of the past decade. Some people started to doubt it during the marketing, but here it is and it is better than any of us could have even imagined. Hardy may struggle with the accent at times, but talking was never a necessity to playing Max anyway (he has, what, 16 lines in Road Warrior?). Theron’s Furiosa is a great new addition to Max’s world and the villains are as colourful as ever. The whole thing is just stunning as well, with most of the action being *real* as opposed to an overabundance of CGI. CGI is used very sparingly and only when absolutely necessary, and the action sequences are a lot more entertaining because of this. Did i mention the director is fucking 70 years old?

1. White God

White God is essentially Rise of the Planet of the Dogs, but I can’t help but feel like I’m cheapening the film somewhat by saying that…it’s so much more than that. For starters, its the most tense and hard-to-watch film of the year, but it’s also the most satisfying and deliriously entertaining. Watching a group of some of the nastiest humans get what’s coming to them by an army of “man’s best friends” is more fun than you could think. Imagine a version of Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds, where the bird are replaced with dogs and you root for them instead of the humans. You don’t even have to be a dog lover to like this film. Even if you hate dogs, you’ll fucking *love* the dogs in White God. It’s a carefully plotted and paced film with the absolute best payoff/climax of the year (yes, even better than Fury Road’s)

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