Aug 30 2013

Review: Pain & Gain

Tag: blinkboxblinkbox @ 12:28 pm

Pain&Gain
There is something of Chris Morris’ Four Lions to this new comedy from Michael Bay.

Stay with us here…

Both movies are about an incompetent, delusional and likable group of zealots. But where the Northern jihadists in Four Lions believe they are serving a higher ideological cause, the characters played by Mark Wahlberg, Anthony Mackie and Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson are chasing their perverse version of the American dream.

Based on true crimes that took place in Florida back in the 90s, Pain & Gain is a broad, comedic version of that story that sees a trio of bodybuilders hatch a plan to kidnap a local millionaire Tony Shalhoub (TV’s Monk). Led by Wahlberg, they believe in an American Dream by which anyone who works hard deserves to get everything they want. And because they work out in the gym all the time, they reckon it’s about time they become instantly rich. And they apparently do — getting Shalhoub’s Jewish stereotype into signing over his entire fortune despite their increasing ineptitude.

Note: trailer contains strong language.

Structurally, the film is a bit of a mess: it could definitely afford to be tighter in the middle, where the characters seem to be spinning their wheels waiting for their comeuppance.

But you know what? It’s surprising how darkly funny this thing is.

We all know Wahlberg to be a genuine star with an ability to play almost any situation with hilarious sincerity: in last year’s Ted we even found out that he could be a terrific comic lead. But despite Marky Mark’s great work, the real revelation of the film is Dwayne Johnson.

It seems like every film The Rock appears in, he puts in a revelatory performance of some sort. He has a proven facility do straight 80s-style action in the Fast and Furious films; he can pull of serious drama roles like his turn in Snitch (where he played a worried father who goes to great extremes to protect his son); he can even do comedy if the role is written well enough.

After the robo-bashing excesses of three Transformers films, this $30 million movie is Michael Bay’s version of a ‘smaller, more personal’ picture. That doesn’t mean that there won’t be fast cars and a number of explosions. Bay even references a circular tracking shot of his from Bad Boys 2 to cut between two concurrent scenes in a house. As over-the-top macho comedies go, Pain & Gain almost hits the mark perfectly. Almost. The banter between Wahlberg and Johnson is as good, if not better than the dialogue in any number of Apatow-style comedies floating around these days.

You almost forget how funny his early blockbusters were. Sure, Armageddon and The Rock were on the dumb side, but they were awesome movies full of super-decent one-liners and great indie actors.

Let us not forget that Michael Bay was the man who turned Nicolas Cage into an action hero. He’s also the guy who invented the idea of Ben Affleck as a studio star less than a year after Good Will Hunting. He’s also the only reason we have any idea who Martin Lawrence is, so you can thank him for Big Momma’s House).

There must be something about the PG-13 rating of the Transformers films that caused Bay to enter the most mediocre (yet financially successful) period of his career. And with the fourth Transformers film currently in production, it looks as though Pain and Gain will be a blip of quality in the Bay filmography rather than a sign of positive change.

And that is a shame. It really is.

Pain and Gain is now in cinemas.


Aug 29 2013

Plein Soleil, Mr Ripley and 6 More American Remakes of French Films

Tag: blinkboxblinkbox @ 4:39 pm

soleil
Featuring the first leading performance of screen legend Alain Delon, René Clément’s Plein Soleil was an adaptation of a novel by American author Patricia Highsmith. Released in some countries under the title Purple Noon, it stars Delon as Tom Ripley, a young American in Italy, sent to convince a wealthy wastrel to return to the States and take over his father’s business. When he meets Philippe Greenleaf (Maurice Ronet), the playboy takes the impoverished Ripley under his wing, seducing him with his life of luxury: he introduces him to his socialite girlfriend Marge, spends vast amounts of money and shows him the best that Italian nightlife has to offer.

Things start to go wrong when Philippe grows tired of Ripley’s sycophancy. On a whim, he cruelly strands him on a dinghy for hours, leaving him there to bake in the midday sun. And as he soon finds out, the last thing you ever want to do is piss off a psychopath like Ripley. (Did we mention that he was a psycho? Well he totally is, as it turns out.)

Notable for its lush photography, gorgeous locations, a beautiful score by Nino Roto (The Godfather) and Delon’s smouldering lead performance, Plein Soleil has become an all-time classic of French pulp cinema. With a newly restored 4K print now making its way back into cinemas, the film has never seemed more glamorous, foreboding and utterly beautiful.

Ripley

Of course, many of you will have  seen Anthony Minghella’s The Talented Mr Ripley with Matt Damon in the title role. His version presents a more complex interpretation of the character: he’s a self-loathing sociopath with overt homosexual urges. Ripley’s obsession with Greenleaf (first name now Dickie) stemming in some ways from his dual desires to be him and to be with him.

It’s hard to fault either version, even if Plein Soleil features a more moralistic ending that deviates from Highsmith’s original novel. But if you’re only familiar with the Matt Damon/Jude Law incarnation, we seriously recommend you go back to the French original.

To honour this new restoration of Plein Soleil, we’re taking a look at a few  more notable American remakes of French films.

1. Taxi (1998) & Taxi (2004)
Taxi
From the blockbuster factory that is the mind of Luc Besson came this 1998 action comedy about an inept cop and a taxi driver with dreams of becoming a racer. Set in the city of Marseille and featuring an early performance from Marion Cotillard, this international hit received an American remake in 2004. It starred Jimmy Fallon as the bumbling police detective and Queen Latifah in the Samy Naceri role. Transposing the action to New York City, much of the humour from the original was lost in translation along with any semblance of acclaim or blockbuster success.

The remake eventually made its money back (and then some) but the critical drubbings all but ended Fallon’s film career, though he would later find success as a successful talk show host.

2. A Bout de Souffle (1960) & Breathless (1983)
Breathless
An undisputed icon of French cinema, Godard’s debut film (and greatest masterpiece) stars John-Paul Belmondo as a Bogart-worshipping petty criminal who hides out with his American girlfriend (Jean Seberg) after he guns down a policeman in a panic. Sexy, enigmatic and impossibly charismatic, this movie taught a generation of film lovers what it meant to be young and troubled in the early 60s. In front and behind the camera, the film almost serves as a Who’s Who of French directors. Godard co-wrote the script with Francois Truffaut and the pair of them also appear in small roles; Jean-Pierre Melville (Le Samourai) appears as a writer being interviewed by Seberg’s character; Claude Chabrol even lends his talents as a technical supervisor and production designer!

So how could they remake a classic? Would anyone dare to ‘reboot’ Citizen Kane, Casablanca or Psycho? (Oh, wait…)

Well, believe it or not, Breathless was remade in an American version starring Richard Gere in the Belmondo role. But this time, he’s a comic-book loving hustler who hides out in the LA apartment of his French girlfriend (reversal!). But you know what? The film is actually not half bad. BBC film critic Mark Kermode (a notorious Richard Gere apologist) is one of the remake’s most vocal champions. Check out this entry of his film club from last year.

3. Little Indian, Big City (1994) & Jungle 2 Jungle (1996)
Jungle2Jungle
You may remember this fish out of water comedy from the 90s that starred Tim Allen as a New York commodities broker whose high-flying life is disrupted when he discovers that he has a 13 year-old son from a previous relationship. The only catch is: the boy has been raised in as an Amazon tribesman with no exposure to modern city living!

Closely adapted from the French film Un indien dans la ville, both films were aimed squarely at family audiences with big broad gags and somewhat crass humour. It should be noted though, that while famed film critic Roger Ebert gave Jungle 2 Jungle a damning 1 star review, it was still one star more than what the French version recieved!

Ebert finished his review with this final comment: “If you, under any circumstances, see Little Indian, Big City, I will never let you read one of my reviews again.”

Boom. Owned.

4. The Birdcage & La Cage aux Folles (1978)
Birdcage
Boy meets girl. They fall in love and decide that it’s time for their parents to meet. The only hitch is that her parents are super-conservative while his parents are a gay couple, the owner and star of a popular drag cabaret. Hilarity ensues when they attempt to conceal their true colours so as not to ruin their son’s impending nuptials. Both La Cage aux Folles and The Birdcage stuck pretty closely to the stage farce by Jean Poiret and they both became incredibly successful in their own terms. The Franco-Italian original eventually spawned 2 sequels while the Nathan Lane/Robin Williams remake grossed over $185 million worldwide.

Champagne for everyone!

5. Dinner for Schmucks (2010) & Le Dîner de Cons (1998)
Dinner-for-Schmucks
Starring Paul Rudd and Steve Carell, the American remake of Le Dîner de Cons (literally: ‘The Dinner of A**holes’) played on a popular urban myth where rich snobs would compete by trying to bring the biggest buffoon to dinner.

But where the 1998 original became a beloved hit in its home country, winning Cesar awards for Best Actor, Supporting Actor and Best Screenplay, Dinner for Schmucks left English-speaking critics cold.

Despite leading performances from the ever-likable Rudd and Carell, the American version received a 43% rating on Rotten Tomatoes and only just made its budget back at the box office. The best part of the film is perhaps title sequence: tracking shots of a taxidermy mouse diorama to the sounds of The Beatles ‘The Fool on the Hill’. It’s less creepy than it sounds.

6. The Next Three Days & Anything for Her
Anything-for-Her
Both films –made a scant 2 years apart– are eerily similar: a normal married couple find their domestic bliss shattered when the wife is arrested for murder and sentenced to twenty years in jail. Unable to fathom living without the mother of his child, the husband –a simple school teacher—starts to hatches a daring plot to break his wife out of prison. Despite the outlandish setup, both films are made with an earnest desire for realism and they both work equally well as thrillers.

Which one should you watch? Well, that depends on how much you like Russell Crowe

Plein Soleil is in limited release from Friday 30th August. Do try and catch it if you can!


Aug 29 2013

TRAILER: Skinny Matthew McConaughey in ‘Dallas Buyers Club’

Tag: blinkboxblinkbox @ 9:28 am

Dallas
It’s the movie everyone’s been aware of even before even knowing what it was!

We’ve months now, we’ve been seeing the photos in the tabloids: an emaciated Matthew McConaughey walking to the set of some AIDS drama he was working on. For the usually body-proud and buff Texan, these pictures were genuinely shocking.

Shedding over 50lbs by allegedly ingesting all his meals in vapour form (or, others claim, by just eating egg whites and drinking Diet Coke), the final product of his toil is on display in the trailer for Dallas Buyers Club.

He plays Ron Woodruff, a man diagnosed with HIV in the 80s and given 30 days to live by the doctors. He takes to smuggling medication in from Mexico when the Food and Drug Administration refuse to approve newer, more effective drugs. Previously a hard-living, drug taking, homophobic man, he strikes up a working friendship with an unrecognisable Jared Leto, who plays a transgendered woman and fellow HIV-carrier.

Oscar buzz has already started to surround both stars, with McConaughey being a genuine contender for Best Actor should the film deliver on the trailer’s promise. As the culmination of a career resurgence years in the making, its tough to argue that he doesn’t deserve it.

Dallas Buyers Club is scheduled for UK release 7 February 2014


Aug 28 2013

Win an AMAZING ‘Star Trek Into Darkness’ Prize!

Tag: blinkboxblinkbox @ 6:10 pm

Trek-title
Okay: amazing might be too strong a word but we’ve got some pretty cool Star Trek items to give away to knowledgeable fans of the franchise.

To help usher in the release of Star Trek Into Darkness on Monday, we’re giving away 200 pairs of OFFICIALLY LICENSED Vulcan Ears that are currently taking up space in our office.

Each pair comes lovingly sealed in the original packaging, ready for use at your next costume party, school play or perhaps to treasure forever in mint condition.
Ears

To be in with a (highly likely) chance of winning yourself a pair, just answer this one Star Trek question. Remember to enter your contact details after your submission!

This competition closes 23:59 Monday 2 September 2013 and is only open to residents of the UK.

Good Luck!

Star Trek Into Darkness is available on blinkbox from Monday 2 September


Aug 28 2013

A Home-Made Iron Man Costume… Made Entirely Out of Balloons!

Tag: blinkboxblinkbox @ 2:34 pm

Balloon
To celebrate the early digital release of Iron Man 3 on blinkbox, we wanted to do something a little bit special. That’s when we happened upon Jeff Wright, an American balloon artist from Ohio.

Jeff made waves earlier this year with his fantastic collection of superhero costumes made entirely from modelling balloons. If you don’t remember seeing him in the papers, here’s an article from The Daily Mail showcasing a few of his creations.

After weeks of trying to contact him, we finally tracked him down to his new home in Bolivia and challenged him to create a full Iron Man suit with fewer than 500 balloons.

The entire suit took Jeff just under 10 hours to create from start to finish, not to mention 2 days worth of preparation.

Iron1

Iron2

Iron3

Now a resident of Bolivia, Jeff sourced his materials internationally and had the sculpting balloons flown in from Colombia!
Iron4

Iron-4
Needless to say, we found the end result pretty incredible. Now, if we could only convince Robert Downey Jr to wear this thing…

If you want to take a crack at making your own Iron Man mask using just balloons, Jeff’s offered to give you a few pointers…

Iron Man 3 is now available at blinkbox


Aug 28 2013

“Best. Party. Ever.” 8 Top Tips for Throwing an Epic Bash, Hollywood-Style

Tag: blinkboxblinkbox @ 9:13 am

title
In 21 and Over, this week’s latest release, university student Jeff Chang finds himself in the middle of the biggest party of his life. Thanks to his friends, he’s treated to a wild, debauched and totally epic 21st birthday.

Seeing how autumn is just around the corner, we’re taking the opportunity to host one last summer blowout. A flash bash. A party to end all parties.

To help us rock out to the max, we’ve taking some hints from a few of the biggest party animals on the big screen! Watch out: this one’s going to get messy.

**Disclaimer: blinkbox does not recommend you adhere to any of these following tips… that is, unless you want to have AN AWESOME TIME!! <screeching guitar solo>**

 

1. Always dress appropriately for the occasion.
Mean-Girls
“Halloween is the one night a year when girls can dress like a total slut and no other girls can say anything about it.” – Mean Girls

2. On the same note: avoid going too far with the costumes.
Eyes-Wide
 “Don’t you want to go where the rainbow ends?” – Eyes Wide Shut

3. Be sure to stay properly stocked in the libations department.
Superbad
“I’m going to this party right now, bro. Okay? It’s got booze, it’s got girls. Booze and girls equals… I don’t know. Do you?” – Superbad

4. Every great party needs at least one bona fide party animal: find him and invite him.
Old-School
“Frank the Tank! Frank the Tank! Frank the Tank” – Old School

5. If you want beautiful people to come, you’ll need to give them a reason.
Social-Network
Is it true that they send a bus around to pick up girls who want to party with the next Fed chairman?” – The Social Network

6. Limit the number of killjoys on your invite list. Limit them to ‘zero’ if possible.
Van-Wilder
“Now, I admit I applied for this job because I wanted to cut loose and shake my rump, but I do not believe that this dilemma can be solved by partying.” – Van Wilder’s Party Liason

7. Remember: bigger is almost always better.
Gatsby
I like large parties. They’re so intimate. At small parties there isn’t any privacy.” – The Great Gatsby

8. And most importantly, remember there will always be consequences tomorrow.
Project-X
“My life right now, it’s totally ruined, okay. I practically burned down my whole neighborhood. Probably bankrupted my parents. I’ll be in debt until I die.” – Project X

21 and Over is now available to buy at blinkbox


Aug 27 2013

Breaking News: Epic New ‘Thor’ Poster!

Tag: blinkboxblinkbox @ 5:11 pm

thortitle
In case you forgot, blockbuster season is never over these days. On the immediate horizon is the latest superhero extravaganza from the good folks at Marvel Studios, Thor: The Dark World.

Set at some point after the events of The Avengers, the film will see Chris Hemsworth‘s well-muscled God of Thunder take on an all-powerful enemy that threatens to destroy both Asgard and Earth (“but that’s where we live!“). Returning from first film are stars Natalie Portman, Tom Hiddleston and Sir Anthony Hopkins.

You don’t believe us? Take a look at the poster:

THOR

Wow… Marvel really have their posters down to a formula now: from the character composition to fonts, there is definitely a Marvel ‘house style’.

previous

See what we mean!

Thor: The Dark World is in cinemas October 30


Aug 27 2013

“Hail to the Chief”: 11 Great (Fictional) United States Presidents

Tag: blinkboxblinkbox @ 2:18 pm

Title
In the new film Olympus Has Fallen, Gerard Butler plays a disgraced Secret Service agent who finds himself back in the mix when terrorists kidnap the President of the United States (Aaron Eckhart), holding him hostage in the White House.

To commemorate the film’s release at blinkbox, we’re looking back at some of the great (and not-so-great) fictional presidents of the silver screen…

1. Harrison Ford as President James Marshall in Air Force One.
Air-Force-One
A Vietnam veteran and a Medal of Honor recipient, he’s forced to exercise his ‘executive power’ when Russian terrorists hijack the most famous Jumbo jet in the world.

2. Gene Hackman as the philandering, murder-covering President Alan Richmond in Absolute Power
Absolute-Power
This wasn’t Hackman’s first time in the White House. In Superman II, he (as Lex Luthor) ends up in the Oval Office (well, kind of) when General Zod deposes the Commander-in-Chief.

3. Morgan Freeman as President Tom Beck in Deep Impact
Deep-Impact
One of the first black presidents in mainstream American cinema, Freeman’s President Beck has the ignominy of presiding over the end of the world as we know it.

Other African-American presidents with the misfortune of ushering in the apocalypse include Danny Glover in 2012 and Tommy ‘Tiny’ Lister in The Fifth Element.

4. Michael Douglas as the lovelorn President Andrew Shepherd in ‘The American President’.
American-President
In some ways a dry run for writer Aaron Sorkin’s landmark White House drama, the cast includes future West Wing stars Anna Deavere Smith, Martin Sheen and Joshua Malina.

5. Bill Pullman as President Thomas J Whitmore in Independence Day
ID4
He’s a loving father and a considerate statesman. But most importantly, he’s a veteran fighter pilot who can take the fight to alien invaders.

6. Bruce Greenwood as the secret book-having POTUS in National Treasure: Book of Secrets
Book-of-Secretss
Greenwood also played President John F Kennedy in the Cuban Missile Crisis dramatization Thirteen Days. Plus, if they ever need an actor to play Mitt Romney, we reckon this guy would be a shoe-in.

7 & 8. Jack Lemmon and James Garner as Russell Kramer and Matt Douglas in My Fellow Americans
My-Fellow-Americans
Playing former Presidents of the United States, Lemmon and Garner go on a bungling road trip to uncover corruption in Washington DC.

Walter Matthau was originally slated to co-star with his Odd Couple and Grumpy Old Men partner but health issues prevented the 75 year-old actor from appearing.

 

9. Jack Nicholson as President James Dale in Mars Attacks!
Mars-Attacks
Nicholson also plays a second role in this film as the over-the-top Vegas Cowboy tycoon, Art Land.

Why did he do this? Were the two characters somewhat related? Did this add anything to this movie?
Who knows; no; and probably not.

10. Peter Sellers as President Merkin Muffley in Dr Strangelove
Strangelove
In the film, Sellers also plays RAF Captain Mandrake as well as the title character, a former Nazi scientist. Columbia pictures financed the picture on the condition that Sellers played multiple characters, as he did in Stanley Kubrick’s Lolita and the 1959 comedy The Mouse That Roared.

11. Terry Crews as President Dwayne Elizondo Mountain Dew Herbert Camacho in Idiocracy
Idiocracy
In the year 2505, the human race will have evolved to become totally stupid: they only watch TV shows about people getting injured in the groin and Gatorade has completely replaced water. In this society only men with big muscles and great hair will become president.

Olympus Has Fallen is now available at blinkbox


Aug 27 2013

Is Pixar the most cut-throat studio in the Magic Kingdom?

Tag: blinkboxblinkbox @ 12:41 pm

gate
Of all the places you could work in the entertainment business, Pixar Studios has got to be one of the coolest, if not the coolest. Through numerous video features, magazine articles and buzzfeed posts we’ve see their near-idyllic work environment in Emeryville, California: personalised work spaces for animators, goofy lounges, fun extra-curricular courses and parties just about every night of the week.

However… <cue ominous music> not everything is peaches and cream in the world of Buzz, Woody and Wall-E.

At the recent D23 Expo (an annual presentation hosted by the Walt Disney Company) there was a notable absentee in the form of veteran Pixar creative Bob Peterson, who was expected to present his film The Good Dinosaur.

According to Disney bods on the day, he wasn’t available due to scheduling difficulties. However, insider blog Blue Sky Disney is reporting that Peterson is now off the project, leaving Pixar in need of a replacement director. A director, mind you, who will have to work pretty quickly to get the film ready for its May 2014 release date.

Having been employed on just about every Pixar feature since Toy Story, Peterson has been a key part of the company, working in various capacities as storyboard artist, writer and voice actor. He co-directed one of the studio’s most acclaimed features with Up (for which he also provided the voice of Dug, the squirrel-obsessed golden retriever.
Peterson

Although his 11th hour ousting has yet to be confirmed, it would not be unprecedented. He would actually be the third director removed from a Pixar project in the company’s 18 year history of making features.

Director Jan Pinkava won an Oscar for his Pixar short Geri’s Game, about an old man who plays chess against himself. Some years later, he would be given the green light for a film he devised about a French rat who wanted to be a chef. After working on the project for five years, he was replaced by Brad Bird, newly hot off the success of The Incredibles.

Ratatouille

Likewise, veteran animator Brenda Chapman was relieved as the director of Brave after creative disagreements with the company. While she managed to retain co-director’s credit, eventually sharing an Oscar with replacement director Mark Andrews, she has since left the company.

From the outside, these firings seem like real dick moves by Pixar: a name associated with invention, joy and child-like innocence. Hearing about disgruntled employees and snap dismissals is sort of like seeing your favourite uncle beat up a parking attendant: very sobering indeed.

But were the firings justified? One could easily reason that they might have been.

It’s been reported many times that Brad Bird basically re-wrote Ratatouille from the ground up, using the existing virtual sets and character models. And while it seems like a backwards way of doing things, the end result is unquestionably one of the companies finest and most ambitious films.

Brave may have not suffered from a glut of ambition, but early synopses of the film suggests that Chapman’s original vision was a lot more grounded in obscure mythology while the final film resembled a traditional and tightly-structured fairy tale.

It mus be said though, animation is a more collaborative process than live action film-making, with the director being a somewhat less crucial cog in the machine. Animators and storyboard artists contribute as much to the creative process as writers and actors.

But when a director is removed from a project like this, it almost always signals and complete change in the movie’s direction, as with Ratatouille and Brave. The original director may have become too attached to the ideas, which could cause trouble when having to murder his darling.

As a studio, Pixar has always prided itself on delivering quality films and one can only guess that you don’t achieve greatness by saying ‘good enough’ all the time. Sure, their recent slate has featured way too many sequels and a few of their most dispensable movies to date (we’re looking at you, Cars 2…) but studio president Ed Catmull has recently released his new strategy of focusing on more original stories and cutting back on the spin-offs.

As a vital part of a newly invigorated Pixar’s plan stay at the top of their game, The Good Dinosaur has to be nothing short of great.

Pixar

According to the official synopsis, the film is set in a world where a cataclysmic asteroid narrowly avoided hitting the Earth. As a result, the dinosaurs never went extinct and they went on to co-exist with humans. As a set-up there is plenty of potential, with the story revolving around an unlikely friendship between a teenage apatosaurus and a human boy. The “unlikely friendship” part seems a little Pixar-by-numbers, but as always everything will come down to whether the characters and story are good.

We remain, as always, cautiously optimistic.

The Good Dinosaur is scheduled for a 2014 release

 


Aug 26 2013

‘Divergent’ Trailer: A Young Girl Fighting Another Dystopian Future

Tag: blinkboxblinkbox @ 3:10 pm

divergent
If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then The Hunger Games must feel pretty damned flattered by the number of similar young adult films appearing on the horizon. The latest of these female-led adventures set in an Orwellian hell-scape is this adaptation of Veronica Roth’s young adult novel, Divergent. Here is the first trailer that premiered during this weekend’s MTV Video Music Awards:

Taking place in a future where all citizens are separated into classes that personify different virtues (selflessness, bravery, intelligence, etc…), the story follows a young girl (Shailene Woodley from The Descendants) who doesn’t fall into any of these predetermined categories: she is what they call ‘divergent’. And if there’s one thing we know about the powers-that-be in all dystopian futures, it’s that they hate individualism.

As the governing system starts to go all Logan’s Run on her, Woodley’s character discovers that there’s something even more sinister brewing under the surface of this seemingly perfect world.

The film also stars young British hunk Theo James, Maggie Q and Kate Winslet (playing the ruthless administrator role usually reserved for someone like Tilda Swinton).

Divergent is slated for a UK release 21 March 2014.