Cinema

BTB Awards: Best Film

Winner – Senna

ts limited release will mean that Asif Kapadia’s documentary about the life and death of Ayrton Senna is unlikely to be topping may film of the year polls and at face value that seems sensible. A feature length documentary about the career of a Formula One driver who died nearly 20 years ago doesn’t exactly scream ‘mass appeal’ but nonetheless Senna is easily one of the most remarkable films of the year.
Utilising only archive footage and Voice-over, Kapadia creates a narrative which manages to be stronger and more engaging than most dramas. The decision not to include any talking heads segments means that the film feels more like a story being told first hand than a reflection on past events and the in-car footage (which looks mind blowing on a cinema screen) enhances this even further.
While the insights into the notoriously secretive world of F1 will be a treat for racing fans, the film’s greatest strength is its ability to appeal to people who don’t have the first idea about the sport. More than anything else Senna is a heart stopping, tear inducing story about an utterly unique individual. Whether you spend weekends pouring over lap times or you’re someone who thinks pole position is a thing that strippers do, there is a tonne of things to love about this film and you will be doing yourself a genuine disservice if you don’t seek out the DVD.

Runner up – Drive

For the runner up we go from a real life man in a car who is unable to stop to a fictional man in a car with no choice but to go on. The stylish, neon lit, meticulously shot Drive follows the story of Ryan Gosling’s driver as he makes ends meet on the streets of Hollywood – beautifully captured in various skyline, helicopter and stylistically careful ground shots creating a fantastical, idealistic and visceral stage for the action to take place on. In many ways the cinematography is the story as the central character – known only as Driver – enters into a tentative and touching relationship with his neighbour Irene (a flawlessly American accented Carey Mulligan) and her young son, who’s husband is incarcerated. Lingering silences and long, unbroken takes give the scenes involving these characters an assured intimacy that lingers with the viewer and plays realistically.

This is punctuated by acts of unspeakable violence, some of which admittedly come close to destabilising the careful balance that Director Nicolas Winding Refn appears to be looking for. The film could have played out as successfully as a 15 certificate on first viewing making the violence seem gratuitous and unecessary, however, I suspect that on repeat viewings the brutality and ludicrous violence will permeate more strongly and be powerful reminders of a thoughtful and energised movie and certainly a step up into the big time for both Winding Refn and Gosling.

The involvement of Simpsons regular Albert Brooks as deceptively chipper gang boss Bernie Rose and Ron Perlman has his apparently more savage and sweary partner Nino doesn’t hurt either.

Effectively Tarantino-lite, this is much less cartoonish, stylised and self consciously scripted. It also seems, accidentally or not, to be lifting directly from the GTA game series – with the theme and the look harking back to both Liberty and Vice City. This only adds to the fun in this subtle shocker.

Best remake / prequel – The Thing (2011)

To the arctic circle now for the prequel to John Carpenter’s 1982 masterpiece, The Thing. More than anything else it’s the choice to set the scene back in 1982 rather than reboot that has placed this film so high in our rankings. Following very much the same line as the original, it centres on the events leading up to the beginning of the first film in which two members of a Norwegian science team our found by an American research group.

The new film manages to mimic perfectly the light touch and claustrophobic lighting and setting, even going so far as to almost directly lifting moments from the original. But this is because the creature is doing what it did in the first place. The joy is in it’s appearance. The plot even deliberately curves at anticipated plot moments to both acknowledge and defy the original.

While it loses some of its appeal as the scale increases towards the end of the film, revealing perhaps a little too much of the origin this film scores highly for introducing a realistic female lead in Mary Elizabeth Winstead and tip toeing the line perfectly between homage and producing an original piece of cinema.

Best foreign language – Troll Hunter (2011)

Made off putting by the idiotic UK Trailer (below) this film by André Øvredal and Håvard S. Johansen (supporting writer) follows a group of hapless students in search of a hunter deemed illegal by fellow bear hunters. Determined to uncover who he is for the sake of an interesting film, they uncover a wide government cover up beyond anything they could anticipate.

Essentially, a Blair Witch Project that pays off the film manages to lull you into simply watching the ‘found footage’ of the students, constantly having to remind yourself that things are going to increase in scale exponentially at some point. And increase they do. However, the film maintains its roots until it’s finale on snowy Nordic tundra, maintaining a calm and careful pace that US blockbusters will never master.

The Norwegian mountains and countryside are really the great treat of the film at times (when there’s no monsters to hunt) as, for instance in one short sequence, sheer mountainsides and a glacial lake are filmed out of a car window as one of the students calls to another taking a whizz as nonchalantly as Sam Mendes filmed a brick wall with a plastic bag floating around in front of it. It becomes clear that what the world finds magnificent, Norwegians can take for granted and that the filmmakers are acutely aware that half their work is done merely filming on location in their beautiful country.

But it’s the monsters themselves that take centre stage. The decisions in the way that each is introduced is masterful, each uniquely different in pacing, reveal and environment. One is viewed finally from a great distance through a window of a shack which serves only to increase its impressiveness. With an enigmatic, monosyllabic central Troll Hunter, grimly wandering into harms way on behalf of the Norwegian government with the hapless batch of determined and stunned students along for the ride, it’s spectacular, engrossing and fun.

A stark change in tone in the middle of the film does threaten to scupper it slightly but the even pacing and anticipation of the unknown final Troll at the heart of the problem keeps things moving to impressive effect. They will try to remake it. I’m sure they’ll fail. Take the Norwegian out of Norway and it’s knackered.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ewvWwhL1UQU

Best Comic Book Movie: X-Men: First Class

In a year in which at least three highly entertaining and thoroughly exciting comic book adaptations were released it was the one not made by Marvel that edged it for us – however marginally. It was the X-Men that clinched the title.

Easily the strongest of the X-Men films, Matthew Vaughn and Jane Goldman along with woefully under acknowledged screenwriters Ashley Miller and Zack Stentz brought the X-Men back to the 20th Century. Like Captain America, Vaughn and Goldman (the creative team behind Stardust and Kick-ass) the decision was taken to go to the roots of the title, seeing the original X-Men line-up changed to deal with those already revealed. Only, instead of merely laying comic book events over historical ones, Vaughn and Goldman interlace them directly with historical events.

We find an arrogant and slightly unlikable Professor Francis Xavier (played by James McAvoy) in the swinging sixties looking to extend his theory of evolution on to any girl with a discoloured eye or wonky toe. It’s clear that the X-Men are born from Xavier’s arrogance and it fills beautifully an absent detail in the inception of the X-Men. Brought into it is Erik Lenseherr (Michael Fassbender) who is hunting Jew killers and Nazi conspiritors around the world. Thinking that control of his power is fuelled only by anger and fury it makes Lenseherr – soon to become Magneto – a more well rounded character, as a cyclical psychology has formed in which Lensherr has to generate these feelings to tap into his power, only further perpetuating his anger and violent behaviour. All of the characters carry inherent (and human flaws) that make them accessible and offer a tone of inevitable doom to the proceedings.

Well realised set piece after well realised set piece is laced through the plot as the X-Men are pulled into conflict between both the Russian and US Navy during the Cuban Missile Crisis in a bid to avert Nuclear War. Something that could easily have been a cynical plot device is so neatly realised that it makes sense (and, winningly, illustrates the absurd nature of the Cold War in a language understandable to younger audiences).

So close in fact were the runners up for Best Comic Adaptation that featured below are the trailers for both Thor and Captain America. We thoroughly recommend both and can’t wait for the Avengers movie next year….

Runner-up – Thor

While pipped at the post by First Class, Thor was overwhelmingly the surprise of the year, guided effortlessly to be an entertaining romp by Royal Shakespeare Company founder, Kenneth Branagh, offering up laughs, pathos, energy and a star turn by Chris Hemsworth as the titular character. Tom Hiddleston as his half-brother Loki stood out only slightly among a frankly incredible cast featuring Natalie Portman, Anthony Hopkins, Idris Elba and Stellan Skarsgard (most likely drawn in particular to Branagh’s banner).

Thor tips the balance beautifully between fish-out-of-water comedy, fantasy epic and Superhero movie. Marvel’s incredible run of success to the Avenger’s movie next year seems to be unstoppable and Thor, as a potential tripping point has proven a nice surprise as a watchable, stand alone movie.

Runner-up – Captain America: The First Avenger

After being deemed unfit for Miltary service, Steve Rogers volunteers fora top secret research project that turns him into Captain America. We all know the story, however old school Director Joe Johnston achieved the implausible and made Captain America cool again. Borrowing heavily from Mark Millar’s Ultimates (effectively, in hindsight, a love letter to Hollywood and a considered development of the Avengers brand to become more audience friendly outside of comics) Cap still retains most of his gosh, shucks charm.

The decision to set the entire film in World War 2 is a bold and clever move, giving the audience credit where there may have been none with a more cynical film company. Featuring Hugo Weaving as arch Nemesis, the Red Skull, Stanley Tucci as Cap’s creator Dr. Abraham Erskine, Toby Jones as Dr Arnim Zola and Tommy Lee Jones as Colonel Chester Philips it has a touch of class as well as being a crowd pleasing actioner. It also has the best villain diversionary tactic gag in comic book history as a Nazi assassin (Richard Armitage) escapes across the docks from the newly created Cap, he grabs a young boy and throws him in the dock. Cap, stopping to help the boy in time honoured fashion is greeted with the sight of the boy paddling away, shouting ‘Go! It’s okay. I can Swim.’ A wry sensibility that runs through the whole film.

The Golden Age of Video – Incredible Mashup

I’m away on my honeymoon right now but in order to not shirk my Bunkerly duties, I’ve queued up 10 awesome vids for you dear people. Enjoy!

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DFM140rju4k&w=640&h=390]

This has been one of my favourite youtube clips ever since I came across it on the excellent Best of Youtube podcast and I’m actually kinda surprised that I’ve not posted it before. It’s a wonderful music video made up of clips from tonnes of classic movies and TV shows and is as finer a piece of editing and remixing as you’re likely to see. It’s by a chap called Ricardo Autobahn and you should check out the rest of his work on the strength of his name alone.

I just dare you to try and name every film shown here.

D
x

(Assuming I’ve not been eaten by a bear, I should be on my way home from Canada tomorrow. Given the length of the flight and inevitable jet lag, it may be a couple of days before real me is back on here, but as soon as I’m rested we’ll be back to business as usual. I hope you enjoyed the break as much as I did…probably).

The Extraordinary Tales of Monsieur Poppaleux #15 – Knowing Is Half The Battle

In 1993, famous author and spring onion connoisseur, Dr Jean-François Bacharach created a series of books for children. The aim of the project was to use state of the art digital technology to educate and inform on a wide range of topics from maths and theology to poetry and tennis. Using pioneering clip-art techniques, he produced a staggering portfolio of work that continues to be widely distributed in schools across the world and Belgium. Sadly DrBacharach himself was eventually imprisoned due to his being ahead of his time and because he killed a quite staggering number of cats. However his work lives on here at the Bunker! We have secured the entirety of Dr Bacharach’s monumental work and now present it to you. C’est formidable!

D
x

Friday Trailer: ‘In Blackest Cinema…’

Seeing as the Friday night film is up soon (as it is) and me and Dan are massive Green Lantern fans after the monumental Blackest Night craziness over the last year or so I thought I’d offer a little trailer (or two) before the movie.

The Green Lantern trailer has been released by Warner Bros, the film itself due to be released Summer 2011 in the US (and sometime shortly afterwards for us in the UK just to keep us in our place). The great thing about Green Lantern is that practically no one outside of comic fans and the US have heard of him. The interesting thing is that practically no one outside of comic fans and the US have heard of him. Take a look, see what you think…

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8NWGl_A3b60&fs=1&hl=en_US]

Typically, any obscure comic character breaking out into movies has an ace up their sleeve. Years of development out of public view and a sudden shot in the arm as they arrive on the big screen with a pre-prepared back story and ‘best bits’ that can be used while none of the weight of expectation the heavy hitters like Superman, Batman or Spider-man might suffer from. Ang Lee got bit by public scrutiny with his Hulk (2003) for not living up to expectations while Wesley Snipes, Stephen Norrington and David S. Goyer strode out defiantly with Blade (1998) and kick started more than a decade of high budget comic book adaptations and gave Hollywood a much needed sure-fire formula they could rely on. So, is this going to be a Blade or a Scott Pilgrim or is this going to be a Phantom or a Catwoman?

So, our worthy verdict….

Ryan Reynold’s has been swimming about the comic movie industry for a while now without much luck of finding shore. There was Blade Trinity in 2003 as one of the Nightstalkers and Wolverine: Origins in 2008 as Wade (Deadpool). But his ship may have just come in with this one as he occupies the part of Hal Jordan almost a little too well. Cocky, brash and adventurous is pretty much what he’s being trying to put across (and at times move away from) since he arrived on the scene so good luck to him.

For us comic geeks, the film clearly goes Oa-side pretty swiftly with the Green Lantern Corps early on with Abin Sur carking it early as in the book, Tomar Tu (beaked finhead) apparently playing tour guide on Oa (GL HQ), Sinestro (Mark Strong) hanging around suggesting there’s a plot developing for later films (hopefully) and Lantern recruitment and training officer, Kilowog all pig faced and politically incorrect name intact, all clearly face checked. No Morg or Bzzt but you can’t have everything. Carol Ferris is present and very correct (Blake Lively) as the love interest. There’s no sign of John Stewart (though he is credited as appearing in it played by Nick Jones on Imdb – I checked) or Guy Gardner (not credited) so it looks as though the storyline will centre on Hal joining for film 1 which should keep things fairly simple. No obvious Guardians floating around but according to previews they’re in there too somewhere.

There’s no suggestion of space battles and most of the action is based on Earth so there’s a possibility still that Geoff Johns (current writer and Dc’s Chief Creative Officer since Feb 2010) has kept the filmmakers under control and retained a simple but effective plot line that introduces the wider universe for later movies but focusses on the central threat of the crazy scientist (potentially fun) which is not a bad idea seeing as how the CGI looks a little overstretched – though there’s a possibility given the time left that not all is complete just yet. Let’s see shall we….

Not as good as this though I’m sad to say as its not for a real movie….

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_hTiRnqnvDs&fs=1&hl=en_US]