November Features Page 4: The Comic Book Move Does Not Exist Page 8: Interview with Henry Rollins
Page 17: The Ides Of March Page 18: Real Steel Page 19: We Need To Talk About Kevin Regulars Page 20: In Time Page 3 Editor’s Note & Contributors Page 21: Contagion Page 22: Paranormal Activity 3 Page 25: Things to See in November Page 23: Don’t Be Afraid Of The Dark Page 24: Midnight in Paris Page 12: Prequels: All Filler, No Thriller?
Contributors Editor’s Note Editors
Joshua Hammond: Editor-in-Chief email@example.com Dale Pearson: Editor
Joshua Hammond Dale Pearson Benjamin Schwarz Chris Binding Edward Mason
Michael Barker: Front Page Graphic
Welcome to the third issue of PictureShow Magazine. First I would like to applaud our incredible team who have all been working hard on both work for the magazine, their respective degrees and many other activities. We’ve all taken on quite a challenge and after seeing the results in this month’s issue we can all see that it’s worth it. We have big things on the horizon as PictureShow is getting more and more notice beyond our immediate circle of friends and colleagues. But that’s all in the future and I want you to enjoy THIS month’s issue first. This month we have PictureShow’s first interview with an actor, Henry Rollins, known for his roles in Johnny Mnemonic and Sons of Anarchy.
We also have a splendid array of articles and features for you to browse at your leisure. The idea of “Comic Book Movies” has always bugged me and now I have finally had the chance to clearly communicate my thoughts.
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Things to See in November is also absolutely jam packed with great screenings up and down the country. Just check it out and see if anything takes your fancy.
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See you next month Joshua Hammond, Editor-in-Chief
The Comic Book Movie Does Not Exist BY JOSHUA HAMMOND
PictureShow explores why it is unfair and unnecessary to group all adaptations of comic book properties together.
it takes to read a page of a comic book. Whilst it may look like the frames of a comic look make a great storyboard, the two mediums have a distinctly different use of images. Comic book artists have to economise reducing scenes and ideas into a certain number of small frames. Though films are eventually edited, individual scenes can be shot at a number of different angles with a variety of different performances, which is in stark contrast to the comic book artist’s economical mind-set. The questions of sound Initially it must be said that al- and thought should also be considthough comic books are a visual ered, in a comic book you can read medium, they do not always lend various character’s thoughts in themselves to be adapted to the thought bubbles and this is hard to screen. An average page in a comic replicate on film leading directors book has 9 frames and it can take and screenwriters to have characanything up to a minute to read ters spell out on screen what they the page. An average film shows are thinking. 24 frames a second, which adds up to 1440 frames in the same time Films based on characters and titles that originated in the world of comic books have thrived over the last decade. The so-called ‘comic book movie’ has gone from strength to strength. But is it accurate, or indeed, even useful, to label such a wide and varying type of filmmaking with the same term? Films based on novels are never pigeonholed together and, similarly, when we carefully consider ‘the comic book movie’ we see that it is not really a genre at all.
These differences have not stopped the barrage of comic book adaptations over the last decade. The release of X-Men in 2000 has to be considered the turning point for both superhero films and the adaptation of comic book properties. Even though X-Men’s box office receipts were less impressive than films that came before or after it, it can be said that Bryan Singer’s film fully recognised the potential comic book properties had. Just over a decade later we have just seen the release of the 5th film in the X-Men franchise and next year we will see the 3rd part of a rebooted Batman franchise (and seventh film overall) and a 4th Spiderman film as part of a new franchise. However, these are all Superhero films, they may borrow heavily from their comic book roots, but they are worlds apart from their origins.
Marvel Studios have made a valiant effort to create a Universe in the same vein as their comic books by creating films that overlap and reference one another. Eventually their efforts will form The Avengers - due to be released next year. Even though Marvel Studios give the impression that their films are closer to the source material and are therefore “comic book movies” - with their overlapping story lines and the inclusion of cameos by Stan Lee in film adaptations of the comics he helped create - these are no more “comic book movies” than Warner Bros. efforts with DC properties such as Batman, Superman and Green Lantern. Like Warner Bros. films, Marvel’s output can only really be considered Superhero Movies (or in the case of Thor, trans-dimensional Ancient Deity Fiction) because of their substantial difference to their comic book origins. This is not imply that the films are in any way “unfaithful” to their source material, rather that the stories are completely new and often just take certain elements of a
character to create the story.
story. Whilst taking into account the faithfulness of the adaptation The closest thing to a comic book wouldn’t it be fairer to call Sin City movie recently, was Edgar Wright’s a neo noir or crime thriller, rather Scott Pilgrim vs The World. Instead than a “comic book movie”. of getting rid of the comic book’s thought bubbles and onomatopoe- Due to the animated nature of ic sound effects, Wright fully inte- comic books, animation would grated them into the film. By utilis- appear to be the easiest medium ing effects that are specific to comic to adapt a comic into. Prior to books for both comedic and visual the theatrical release of Zack Snyeffect Wright created a superb ad- der’s Watchmen, Warner Bros. reaptation of Bran Lee O’Malley’s leased Watchmen: Motion Comic, comic book. Scott Pilgrim vs The which took the incredibly vivid World was reminiscent of the and iconic frames of Watchmen 1960’s Batman series, with sound and added limited movement and effects flashing up on screen. voices. Essentially, Warner Bros. created an adaptation of WatchA similar effect was created by men that could be watched rather Robert Rodriguez and Frank than read as nothing was taken out Miller in their adaptation of one or removed in favour of manipuof Miller’s greatest properties, Sin lation for the effect of movement. City. Sin City also embraced the Watchmen: Motion Comic came to look of the comic book that came a running time of 5 ½ hours. Zack before it with a staggering degree Snyder’s Watchmen has a running of accuracy. The black and white time of 2 ½ hours. The difference visuals of Miller’s comics and the in running time shows how much convoluted and intertwining sto- of the Graphic Novel had to be cut ry lines are maintained in favour to get Watchmen on screen. of making a conventional linear
This months release of The Adventures of Tintin is an adaptation of the classic Tintin comic books by Hergé. Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson opted to use “performance capture technology” similar to the technology used by James Cameron on Avatar. This was done try and replicate the look of Hergé’s comics on screen which has been achieved with an impressive degree of accuracy. Though an argument could be made that although the characters are still cartoonish and are reminiscent to Hergé’s artwork that some of the magic is lost in the transition to film.
The comic book industry will continually be mined for ideas and inspiration for the film industry, but the two are essentially different mediums. Think about why Hulk works as a character in a comic and not on screen or why the XMen avoid yellow spandex in their movie outings. It’s because they look odd or out of place in a realistic setting, two VERY different directors have attempted to adapt Hulk into a workable film, but neither have worked - regardless of their considerable talents. Certain things can be accomplished on the page that cannot be shown on screen.
Essentially, this article boils down to the fact that Comic Books are a form for telling a story, film is simply a different form. Occasionally Movies borrow the stories from comic books to tell the story in a different form and vice versa. This does not make a genre, the genre of the story should not change greatly, whether it be a revenge drama, superhero movie or hard science fiction. It is unfair, unreasonable and counter intuitive to group all adaptations of comic books together as “Comic Book Movies”.
Interview with Henry Rollins BY CHRIS BINDING
From the fronting one of the most prolific Hardcore bands of the 1980’s Black Flag to an impressive career in political activism, film and TV work ; Henry Rollins is a legendary individual who has undoubtedly done it all, touring the world for the better part of a quarter century. Both physically and intellectually intimidating, his hunger for experience based knowledge and a no holds barred delivery of his opinions have made have made him a powerful social commentator and a true alternative icon. After the dissolution of Black –Flag, while balancing projects and touring with Rollins Band, Henry has successfully built up an eclectic filmography with appearances in Michael Mann’s Heat, David Lynch’s Lost Highway, along with a guest role in the cinematic American network series Sons of Anarchy. Securing an interview with Henry was surprisingly easy, mirroring his palpable lack of celebrity vanity and correspondence with his international fan base. For such an impressive filmic career Henry’s views on his own success are modest and pragmatic, offering a true alternative insight into working within the film industry.
CB: From your early days in the American Hardcore scene to the political activism and comedy of your spoken word performances, your career has spanned a variety of different media types. How did you first get involved in cinema and decide to make the delve into feature films? HR: I got offers from directors. That was it. An opportunity to work. I never thought of acting as anything else but work. The more I did it, the more I understood that there were different choices I could make in scenes to make the character get to the truth, which is what I reckon is the job of acting. That being said, it wasn’t a choice I made, it was an opportunity that came up and I don’t like to be without work. I have been freelancing for thirty years. I am always looking for a job. I am an Americanist. I live in a country that you pass or fail in. I plan on passing and surviving capitalism.
(Feast) and military men (Wrong Turn 2) a lot of the characters you portray are often comedic or corrupt figures of authority. How do you go about choosing / receiving roles and does personal ideology and politics ever factor into this decision? HR: I take what I am offered. That’s the long and short of it. If you’re a real actor, you choose parts. If you are a workaholic survivalist like I am, you say yes to work more often than not. I take those parts because they come my way. I am not in A Streetcar Named Desire nor am I Brando but it’s working out well.
CB: You’ve worked with a variety of highly acclaimed directors and actors on a mixture of independent and Hollywood releases. What is your fondest memory of shooting and who has been the greatest pleasure (or nightmare) to work with? Black Coffee with David Lynch? On set shenanigans with Ron Perlman on the Sons of CB: From the white supremacist Anarchy Set? characters in Sons of Anarchy and Bad Boys 2, to policeman (The Chase), Motivational Speakers
HR: The funniest was working for David Lynch because he was as cool as I hoped he would be. I see him now and then. He is really great, thinks differently and always has interesting things on his mind. All the Sons of Anarchy people were great. Sometimes you’re on a show and there’s someone with an ego or whatever and you have to work around them. That’s not a problem for me as I have no ego with the work at all. I just want to do the part well. That being said, it’s rare where the whole cast is cool and friendly. That was the ‘Sons’ cast. They were all great and went out of their way to make me feel welcome. I was sorry when it was over. CB: Wrong Turn 2, Suck, Feast, spoken words on World War Z audio books are a lot of projects I am sure you had a lot of fun on. Are you an avid horror fan yourself? HR: I am not. It’s not a genre that really holds any interest for me. I am happy to work in it though. CB: As a self-confessed workaholic currently powering through the dates of your latest spoken word tour what’s next? Have you got any film projects lined up or anyone you would love to work any fundamental lessons about and that has helped me very much. with? Ever considered moving yourself or about the entertaininto directing? ment industry in general? With Henry visiting the UK next year as part of his eight date ‘Long HR: I am working on a few books. I HR: I have learned that you have to March’ spoken word tour and have been doing a lot of documen- be flexible and very professional in launching the documentary ‘Snake tary work these days with National order to hang in the film and tele- Underworld’ on National GeoGeographic. That’s been a great ex- vision world. The fundamental les- graphic Wild, it’s obvious his strong perience. I would like to do more sons I have learned is that you bet- work ethic has not diluted with age. doc work than anything else. I have ter bring you’re A-game to every Putting his film work aside to truly no interest in directing but defi- audition and day on a set. There are experience Henry Rollins is to see his nitely want to come up with ideas some frighteningly talented peo- spoken word performances: he may of things to shoot. ple in the entertainment industry. not scream and brawl with the audiIf you are not on the top of your ence like the old days but his power CB: With over 20 years of film game, you don’t stand a chance. with a microphone hasn’t changed and TV projects under your belt Even on my best day, I struggle. So, one bit. now, in retrospect have you learnt I learned to prepare like a madman
Wrong Turn 2
Sons of Anarchy
Following the success of Deliverance the sub-genre of horribly mountain men assaulting innocent city folk, has produced some interesting fares in the horror genre. Wrong Turn (2003) followed the plight of survivors pursued by a family horribly disfigured due to years of inbreeding, with the financial success of the film producing a requisite sequel. Horror sequels to small independents are often poorly thought out cash–ins but director Joe Lynch must have salivated at the cult appeal of casting Henry Rollins, fittingly providing him with a survivalist military role (the most favourable type to be in a slasher film) and host of a reality TV show. The result is pure brilliance with myriad one liners ‘say hello to the missus from me’, a totally straight performance and unrelenting hillbilly carnage. A potentially mediocre film made thoroughly enjoyable by Henry’s appearance.
When series producers were casting the second series of popular US gang drama Sons of Anarchy they consciously created a guest character, hoping that Henry would take the part. Thankfully, he did, fitting the role like a glove as the series antagonist and deadly new threat to the SAMCRO motorcycle club. Bringing his muscularity and brooding intensity to the part he inhabits a role of a white –supremacist and right hand henchman of white corporate power expanding business into small town America. As he stated his character’s only redeeming factor is that he has kids ‘He is not the type of bad –guy you root for’ with his dark sadistic presence and performance producing some genuinely shocking and dramatic high points of the series.
As a precursor to The Matrix, Johnny Mnemonic (1995) shared similar themes exploring the ideas of technology and human psychology, starring Keanu Reeves as a data courier storing ideas in a implanted microchip in his head, who is hunted and pursued in a futuristic dystopian society. Although poorly executed and plagued by Keanu Reeves’ wooden performance Henry Rollins stands out in a major role as the street doctor ‘Spider’, in a almost steam punk clinic that resembles a pawn shop. Mirroring his real life role, he delivers some great dialogue about the wider societal conspiracies and government corruptions before experiencing a martyr’s death at the hands of Dolph Lundgren in what is possibly his most ridiculous role as the ‘Street preacher’. A stand-out straight role for Henry, in a film plagued by Lundgren’s camp theatrics and Keanu Reeves’ chronic confused facial expressions.
Prequels: All Filler, No Thriller?
BY DALE J PEARSON
How the prequel went from ‘laughing stock’ to ‘stock idea’
For many years, ‘the prequel’, as a narrative device in film, has been somewhat of a running joke. It’s a type of film we only really tend to associate with laboured horror franchises and bumbling Gungans called Jar Jar Binks (the latter being a far more terrifying prospect). Even the masterpieces which must technically be classed as prequels (The Temple of Doom, The Godfather II) are rarely referred to with the term, purely because the very use of the term leaves a nasty taste in the mouth. As a result, the prequel has been a device used far less infrequently than its more popular, and altogether more socially acceptable sibling, the sequel. At least, this was the mentally two years ago; since then, the prequel has seen an unprecedented and largely unexpected rise in critical prominence.
films however and, say, Saw V, is that these films could just as easily not be prequels – in fact, most first time watchers don’t even recognise that they are. Indiana Jones’ escapades in The Temple of Doom could just as easily have come after The Raiders of The Lost Ark; similarly The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly’s status as a prequel is tenuous because the events of the film aren’t chronologically reliant on its preceding films. The point is that films such as these carry different narrative expectation and are therefore vastly differing in nature to the ‘bad’ films we have come to associate with ‘the prequel’.
Generally speaking, there are two types of ‘bad’ prequel. The first is nearly always associated with tired horror franchises. It will hardly come as a surprise to the reader that Psycho IV: The Beginning, Saw To say that prequels have always V and Wrong Turn 4: Bloody Beginbeen poor is obviously an over- nings were less than runaway sucstatement. One only needs to cesses. In the event of a horror franmention the likes of The Temple of chise running out of sequel ideas, Doom and The Good, The Bad, and it’s clear that the prequel is relied The Ugly to see that this is the case. upon to inject fresh life into a wanThe major difference between these ing franchise. While one must also
consider that these films are bad for many of the same reasons any bad film is bad, what is also telling from this mentality is that the prequel is not simply a tool that can ever be used to simply grow new, interesting ideas, like some magic filmic tree. And the tried and failed attempts of filmmakers to do so, is a testament to how misunderstood a concept ‘the prequel’ has often been. The second type of ‘bad’ prequel is the ‘filler prequel’. It can be nearly completely optimised by that turkey of turkeys – Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace. Devoid of any meaningful freestanding plot, or indeed dramatic tension (as all the three original films definitely had) the film serves only the fill in the blanks. Technically speaking, this blank-filling could be done to any great film - one could film the events of Dorothy before she went to Oz, the events of Neo before he discovered the matrix, or even the events of Andy Dufresne before he went to Shawshank Prison.
The point is, is that it wouldn’t make a very good story – in exactly the same way that Anakin’s Scrap heap shenanigans didn’t make very good story telling.
so, Rise of The Planet of The Apes vindicated the principle that filling in the mythology is simply not enough, and that one must tell a story. Similarly, Star Trek and XMen: The Last Stand both managed to find freestanding narratives and only alluded to the themes and ideas that needed to be set up for the proceeding films. They may not have been masterpieces, but as prequels, with so much more narrative ballet to do than sequels, they struck the balance perfectly.
So why did George Lucas feel compelled to make the Star Wars prequels? The reason is not that he felt compelled to fill in the story, as it were, but that he felt compelled to fill in the mythology. And when one creates a mythology so densely amazing as was done in Star Wars, the idea of making prequels can start to feel immediately justified. It seems that that this emerging It can feel like there is still work to be done – and as The Phantom Menace showed us, this type of mentality can be very dangerous. It is not surprising then that the emergence of prequels in recent years has been treated with some degree of caution. Especially when one considers that Star Trek, XMen: The Last Stand and Rise of The Planet of The Apes all take place within already highly mythologised universes. (It is also important to note that none of the films decided to simply wipe the slate clean, as was done with Casino Royale and Batman Begins) With the wounds Star Wars created still very much sore, the most shocking thing about these films then is that they weren’t awful – in fact, they were far from it. Nobody is pretending that they were on a par with The Godfather II, but they managed to do something that Lucas completely failed to realise – they told a story. Where one might have thought to concentrate on the backstory to the central protagonist in Planet of The Apes, or even the plague that wiped out the humans, Rupert Wyatt decided to push these important plot features to the side-lines and instead concentrate on the story of a man and his monkey. In doing
trend of prequels is set to continue: Matthijs van Heijningen Jr.’s, The Thing is due to be released this December, and of course, Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit will hit the screens next year. Whatever the results of these titles, let it be known that over the last two years a revolution has occurred – it may not have been particularly mind-blowing, and it may not have turned heads – but ‘the prequel’s worth has finally been accounted for.
Prequels: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly
The Godfather II
Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace
Technically, only about half of this film is a prequel - but one half of The Godfather II is very often better than two of anything else. A young Robert De Niro fills us in on the rise of Vito Corleone. Indiana Jones and The Temple of Doom Many will not have realised that the events of The Temple of Doom preceded that of The Raiders of The Lost Ark. It may not have been a prequel that aimed to fill in much of the Indy mythology, but it certainly delivered a thrilling film experience. X-Men: First Class Matthew Vaughn was famously up for directing the third film in the X-Men franchise. After being spurned in 2005, 20th Century Fox asked Vaughn to direct XMen: First Class, a prequel revolving around the formation of Charles Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters (Mutant School to me and you). The Good, The Bad and The Ugly Whilst, The Good, The Bad and The Ugly is the third film in the “Dollars Trilogy” it is genreally seen as a prequel to the other two; A Fistful of Dollars and For a Few Dollars More
Fans waited 16 years to see how the infamous Darth vader came to be. Many of those same fans would happily have waited another 16 years if it meant that this failure of a project could emulate the quality of the original films. Zulu Dawn With a massive 15 years between, Zulu and Zulu Dawn, it seems to be an interesting choice to make a prequel to the the Michael Caine classic. Even with the incredible cast, featuring Peter O’Toole and Burt Lancaster, and meticulous historical accuracy, the film was a disaster. The Scorpion King The Scorpion King bizarrely is a prequel to a sequel rather than a prequel to the entire franchise. The character of the Scorpion King appeared in The Mummy Returns, which itself was poor. Equally bizarrely was the staggering amount of money the film took at the box office in spite of the largely negative reviews. Butch and Sundance: The Early Days Really? Come on. You can do better than this.
Those who always yearned to know how Hannibal became a cannibal will be keen to watch this backstory. Those of us, however, who prefer to watch good films will be thoroughly unimpressed by this poor quality prequel. Saw V Saw V follows Detective Mark Hoffman as he becomes the serial killer Jigsaw’s apprentice. Saw V marked the moment in the Saw franchise where the interesting concept we saw in the first movie was completely gone. So far gone, in fact, that it became unbelievable that enough people went to see it for the film to make ten times it’s own budget Wrong Turn IV: Bloody Beginnings Henry Rollins (featured on page 9) can be seen in Wrong Turn 2. Wrong Turn IV explores the origins of the cannibals from the entire series. Unsurprisingly this went straight to DVD. The Exorcist: The Beginning Just bloody awful.
The Ides of March The Ides of March is George Clooney’s fifth directorial feature and moves to the world of politics for its subject. Central to the film is Stephen Meyers (Ryan Gosling), a junior campaign manager for Mike Morris a Democratic Governor running in the Democratic primaries with a view to running in the Presidential Election. At the primary race in Ohio, Meyers’ ideals become conflicted once he is asked to eat with a rival Campaign Manager who wishes to enlist his help. There is a very large shadow hanging over contemprary politics on screen. It is the shadow cast by Arron Sorkin’s monumental drama, The West Wing. It is a shame that every drama revolving around contemprary american polican politics will inevitably be compared to the work done by Sorkin and co just over a decade ago. However, The Ides of March certainly aspires to create great drama in the most unlikely sources which was a template set by The West Wing to great acclaim. Whilst George Clooney has been directing films for alomost a decade now, it still feels as though he is new to the job. Certain scenes are remarkably well shot, as characters hide in shadows and vicious silhouettes haunt various moments, though these are undercut by a heavy handed and almost amateur shooting of pivotal scenes. The music from composer Alexandre Desplat, who took home a BAFTA for his work on The King’s Speech last year gives the film a good and tense tone. The cast is incredibly talented. Almost every actor in a significant role has been nominated for an Academy Award and three, George Clooney, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Marisa Tomei, have come home with an award from the Kodak Theatre. As such it feels like The Ides Of March has almost been set up to garner huge amounts of critical acclaim and statuettes. It is massive Oscar bait and more often than not, the films that feel like Oscar bait are rarely rewarded. With such a talented cast and bona fide man of the moment Ryan Gosling, whose latest films were received very well here at PictureShow, it seems a shame that all the performances seem to go through the motions. It is almost feels like a committee has selected the right amount of shouting and tears need to an Oscar worthy film and it all feels a little empty
because of it. Every single member of the cast has done better work and throughout the film you are waiting for someone to bust out their serious acting chops, but it never happens. The Ides of March feels like another case of squandered potential. George Clooney is definitely a director getting used to new trade and certainly has some flair with the camera. The cast is superb, the crew are to die for and the film should have been superb, but with a lacklustre plot and very ordinary performances the film, like the action within it, feels insignificant. JH
Though the film’s tried and tested plot may put off some cinema goers, it must be said that the film is entertaining. This is largely down to Hugh Jackman’s charisma on screen. As Charlie Kenton, Jackman continues his own trend of playing the lovable ruffian, the “bad bet” that pays out. Kenton is not a bad guy, he just does not really know what he’s doing. Jackman’s on screen relationships with his ex-girlfriend Bailey (Evangeline Lily) and his estranged son Max, are well played shifting the emphasis of the film onto the human characters rather than the robots.
Real Steel Set in 2020, Real Steel revolves around world of Robot Boxing after robots replace human fighters. Charlie Kenton (Hugh Jackman) is an ex-Boxer who travels the country with a robot fighting various opponents. When he is left with his estranged son, Max (Dakota Goyo) for a Summer he introduces him to the world of robot boxing. The two find an older “Generation 2” robot, Atom, who they program to fight and slowly build his reputation in the industry. Real Steel may look like a futuristic “effects-fest” where lots of robots destroy one another again and again. To an extent, this is the case, but there are more familiar elements to the film from the more traditional Boxing movies of the last 40 years. Though it is lazy to compare Real Steel to Rocky or The Fighter, there is a traditional feeling to this very effects heavy family blockbuster. Real Steel is staggeringly formulaic, you can see every turn of the plot coming from a mile away, there is absolutely nothing here that is trying to be too clever or subversive. Certain moments in the film have been done over and over again (but this time they are being done with robots). We have a training sequence with a character in a grey tracksuit, a montage of all of Atom’s victories up until the last fight and scenes of people watching the fights on bars around the country. Real Steel offers very little that can be considered new.
Even though the fighting is done by robots, the bouts are remarkable. The superior use of CGI and motion capture technology really makes the robots look convincing and the action brutal. For the family audience Blood is replaced by cooling fluid and stray wires. The film comes into it’s own in scenes where Atom “mirrors” the actions of the human characters, these moments are the most impressive and the technique is used to great effect. Director Shawn Levy has made a very traditional family Blockbuster in Real Steel. It is fair to say that the film is formulaic and certainly flawed, however, it is one of the more entertaining family releases of 2011. Essentially, Real Steel is a formulaic boxing movie, where the boxers are replaced by robots. Your reaction to the previous sentence will probably determine your reaction to the film. JH
We Need To Talk About Kevin October has been a harrowing month for UK releases. Following the nihilistic defeatism of Lars Van Trier’s Melancholia and shocking violence of Paddy Considine’s Tyrannosaur you would think things would start to look up. Unfortunately that is not the case. Based upon Lionel Shriver’s source novel of the same name, We Need To Talk About Kevin is cinema at its most visceral and powerful, with an emotional punch that is sure to invade your thoughts for days. Directed by Lynne Ramsey the film centres on the strained and conflicted relationship between a mother and son, both before and after an atrocious incident that is committed by son Kevin. The incident is kept ambiguous throughout the film, with a fragmented narrative that explores the mother (Tilda Swanton) living alone in the present being victimised and outcast within her community, cross-cut with a family life exploring the upbringing of Kevin. This technique is skilfully implemented, producing a viewer involvement and mysterious intrigue to the act that Kevin committed and curiosity to the inconsistencies between the past and present characters and locations. However the repeated stylistic use of the colour red from the opening at a Spanish tomato festival to self –consciously composed shot of a wall of tomato soup cans, links the past and present with clear connotations of bloodshed, creating a foreboding dark tone to the whole film and a uncanny anticipation of horror. However the real power lies behind the central performances with Ramsey succeeding greatly in creating an indefinably evil Kevin in both the toddler and teenage years. The chemistry between Tilda Swanton and the two young actors is incredible, with a conflict between normal maternal instincts and a growing realisation of her son’s strangeness and sadistic tendencies being awkward to watch. As Kevin grows and becomes more intelligent the mother’s loss of control is effectively portrayed with emotionally tenacious conflicts that turn even a game of minigolf into a dark battle of wits. Unable to bond with her son in any way and unable to confide in husband (John.C.Reilly) when suspicious ‘accidents’ happen around the home, she dislocates herself from Kevin, with the refusal to address her sons malevolence leaving her implicated in his horrific actions . These incidents are never explicitly shown, leaving sickening and haunting images to the imagination.
We Need To Talk About Kevin is more than another ‘evil child’ movie and although it has artistic and aesthetic calculations in its puzzle –box narrative and visual iconography, the real point of the film is its exploration of nature and nuture that will leave you questioning the institution of motherhood itself . With an elliptic ending that offers little hope or resolution audiences were left in stunned silence , filing out the cinema without saying a word. If director Gus Van Sant’s Elephant tackled the same subject with documentary realism and objectivity, Lynne Ramsey delves deeper to the primordial causes behind actions, refusing to scapegoat or blame and leaving the viewer to decide. In issues of this emotionally heightened magnitude people find it easier to point blame but Ramsey denies the viewer clear identification with frustrating ambiguity. This is perhaps the point. The first step to truly confronting Kevin and the horrors of the world is to acknowledge and talk about them ; yet fittingly this is a film with subject matter that a lot of people would rather push to the back of their mind and forget. CB
men and the police are known as Timekeepers, who are payed “per diem”. Though this may appear brilliant on a page, it quickly becomes tired on screen. Sometimes the script feels like it is trying to just make it’s way to the next good “time” pun rather than evolving the story. Considering that this is largely an action film, even in a science fiction setting, Justin Timberlake seems to be an odd choice for Will Salas. Though Timberlake is incredibly charming and very likeable, he is utterly unconvincing as the “peoples champion” Salas. Though this in part down to the dodgy script, Timberlake’s natural air is not that of a blue collar worker, making ends meet. Though the clock on his wrist may be counting down, he still lives in a “relatively” nice flat, goes out drinking and gambles. In Time feels as though it could have been superb in a similar fashion to Niccol’s previous work, but only In Time if the script had gone through a few more drafts and some of the awfully stilted dialogue was removed. In Time is Andrew Niccol’s (Gattaca, S1m0ne) latest Justin Timberlake is trying his best to carve out a creation and revolves around the idea that humans career as an actor and last year’s The Social Network have evolved to a level that means they only age to 25 certainly showed some acting promise. However and that “Time” has become a currency. As such your Timberlake is not an action hero, nor is he a people’s life will end when your “time” runs out” You work to champion. In Time had real promise, but it fails to earn more “time” to live, people can rob you for your show this on screen. JH “time” and “Time Zones” are various areas in a city, the more “time” you have the better the area. Will Salas (Justin Timberlake) is opposed to this way of life and seeks a way of giving everyone enough “time” to live without fear. Andrew Niccol is slowly carving out himself a career as the go-to guy for interesting ideas for science fiction movies that can appeal to a broader audience. His previous writing credits are impressive, from The Truman Show to Gattaca and Lord of War, Niccol has explored various ideas about the next steps in human evolution. In Time is no different, except that the central idea raises questions about human’s perceptions of time, money and worth. Whilst this is an interesting take in the opening few scenes of In Time, it quickly digresses into becoming another heist movie It is unfortunate that the central ideas to In Time are interesting, but the script becomes too obsessed with playing with the various meanings time has to people today. For example, Salas talks about how after he is given time by a relative stranger that he now has “enough time to take my mother to New Grenwich”, people on the street ask to borrow some “time”. Gangsters in this futuristic world are called Minute-
Contagion Contagion is not a bad film - rather it is crushingly mediocre. In some ways, this is worse than if it were utterly terrible, because at least then it might have acquired a cult following and thus be attributed the status of ‘good’ by a group of teenagers desperate not to be labelled as followers of the mainstream. But alas, like so many mediocre disaster-thriller types, Contagion is doomed to twinkle out of half-memory in a few years and simply be forgotten. Perhaps this is unfair to the good elements of the film because they really are good: the cinematography often wanders outside of the bounds of ‘appropriate’ but never really reaches anything special, and the directing is similarly patterned. Cliff Martinez’s score is what really stands out in the film, never descending into Hollywood-esque melodrama but constantly driving the pitch and pace of the film to perfection. His fuzzily industrial sounds fit the tone much better than the strings and pianos often employed to bully the audience into an emotional response.
of ability from the cast that is responsible for the void between audience and screen, but then again no-one really fights to fill it either.
What is irritating is that Contagion had the potential to be brilliant. An approach with more focus and less rigour would certainly have helped. At present, the But frankly, if the score is the stand-out feature of a film was far too eager to be both a human-interest film, you’re having problems. Especially if it’s a plotstory and a sci-fi documentary and consequently is driven disaster film. The script suffers from a chronic neither. It is almost obligatory for a reviewer to take case of over-construction; that is to say it’s all over a pot-shot at the shoddy science in disaster films, but the place. One gets the feeling that it was written with honestly, there wasn’t that much wrong with the scia running time of about seven years and was then ence*. Perhaps this was the problem. BS mutilated to a not-so-tidy hour and a half or so. The elements of the plot are many and various, flitting * bar an exceptionally naive scene involving an auoften between people and locations, all with different topsy of an infected woman’s brain that implied the objectives. This does not make the narrative difficult doctors could see the contagion. to follow - rather it is difficult to care about so many different elements. Not enough time is allowed for any real emotional connections to be established with any one, so all ultimately fail. Threads seem to be begun and then abandoned before they are explored: hysterical panic is shown briefly and then forgotten, as is the idea of chemical warfare. The result is that the different elements are in tension, fighting for the limelight rather than illuminating one other. This is reflected in the acting - not in the literal sense that they are all upstaging each other, but rather that most of the characters unrelated and do not meet, and are therefore competing for your emotional connection by default. From a technical stand-point, the acting is adequate - believable without being outstanding. No-one is bad in the film, but conversely no-one stands apart, so there seems no merit to singling any one of them out. It is certainly not a lack
and conversations being slightly mundane. But what it did do effectively was to start putting in place the discomfort and unsettling feelings that eventually build up to the point where the film becomes genuinely scary. With Dennis becoming obsessed with seeing the presence of a ghostly shadow in one clip he inadvertently filmed, and his wife Julie (Lauren Bittner) becoming frustrated with his compulsion to film the family sleeping at night, the story reaches a point of clarity where the family all become aware and terrified of the ghost that haunts them. But the terror isnâ€™t just limited to the characters, as the unfolding events keep the viewer in an unsettling state of anxiety and shock until the very end.
Paranormal Activity 3 Having already covered this ground twice, a third instalment of any film series can be a challenge, both for those making the film as well as watching it. Not meaning to say that itâ€™s an impossibility for a series to be successful as well as good, but there can be tendencies for ideas once original, interesting or entertaining to become somewhat overegged or even gimmicky. Once unique concepts become outlandish and far-fetched, to keep breathing life into something inevitably losing its freshness. It is fair to say that Paranormal Activity 3â€™s attempt to draw new life out of old concepts offers nothing new. Hitting the screens in time for Halloween, Paranormal Activity 3 offers up (yet) another serving of low-tech horror. For those not already familiar with the concept of the Paranormal Activity series, it is a rather simple one. The plot follows the story of a family in California in 1988, which is exposed to strange goings on in the night. Filmed entirely using hand held camcorders set up by Dennis (Christopher Nicholas Smith), it documents the haunting of his two step-daughters and eventually his family over a number of nights. At 77 minute, the film is short in length, and short in horror to a certain extent as well. The build up is such that the first half is almost completely devoid of scares. With the normal family life being documented in such a fly on the wall fashion, it did somewhat invite comparisons with Big Brother, with the events
What the Paranormal Activity series has shown is that you can be well into repeating an idea, and it still comes out as effective. When the film eventually gets going, the use of suspense to delay and build up terror creates an intensely chilling atmosphere. With broadly respectable performances from the cast, and the use of the homemade, low-tech approach, quite underused in this age of Hollywood blockbusters (and an interesting change from the high budget, CGI, 3-D approach), this film creates exactly what the viewer will expect from it. The problem is that it just takes far too long to get there. EM
Don’t Be Afraid Of The Dark Don’t Be Afraid Of The Dark is based on a 1970’s made for TV movie woth Kin Darby (of True Grit fame). It follows a young girl Sally (Bailee Madison) who moves into an old house in the woods with her father (Guy Pearce) and his girlfriend (Katie Holmes) only to discover that the house and it’s previous residents hold a terrifying secret. A trend has blossomed over the last few years, where directors with big reputations support new talent by producing or helping write films to work on. Peter Jackson helped bring Neill Blomkamp to the world’s attention by producing District 9, Quentin Tarantino was executive producer on Eli Roth’s second feature, Hostel. Don’t Be Afraid Of The Dark is directed by Troy Nixey, a comic book artist with little experience directing, Guillermo Del Toro wrote the screenplay with Matthew Robbins and produced the movie. Whilst Del Toro did not direct the film as he has a multitude of projects on his plate you can clearly feel his influence on the film. Don’t Be Afraid Of The Dark offers a promise it never lives up to. Guillermo Del Toro’s name as a producer is usually a sign of a quality and usually creepy film (see The Orphanage). Guy Pearce has a knack of becoming involved in incredibly well received films such as L.A Confidential, The King’s Speech and The Hurt Locker. And whilst this is only the directors debut feature, Troy Nixey comes with interesting credentials from the world of comic books, in particular his work with Neil Gaiman. Unfortunately none of these aspects come together well. Even with the incredible amount of talent behind the script, Don’t Be Afraid Of The Dark’s dialogue and plot are clunky. Merging together motifs from Del Toro’s back catalogue and any number of haunted House flicks the film quickly freefalls into disaster. The script moves from cliché to cliché and begins to generate laughs rather than scares, the final line of the film is so unintentionally funny that it’s the most surprising moment of the film. The “monsters” of the film are some of the least scary monsters ever comitted to celluloid, not only do they look ridiculous, but they can be vanquished by keeping the big light on. Despite ALL this, the weakest link in Don’t Be Afraid Of The Dark is undoubtedly Katie Holmes who fails to exhibit any signs of a personality throughout the film whilst simultaneously being set in “peril mode”.
Don’t Be Afraid Of The Dark fails to deliver on anything original. Though this may seem obvious when considering that it is a reworking of another film, it is still surprising how little originality the film demonstrates. From “the dark house in the woods” to “the child that knows the truth” Don’t Be Afraid Of The Dark flails around in a cesspool of convention, cliché and crap CGI. Don’t Be Afraid of The Dark still seems to be made for TV. JH
in smaller cameo roles may have an oscar nomination or two. It is incredible then, that Owen Wilson, whose career has been somewhat turbulent over the last few years, manages to create a performance that is distinguishable from the rest of the cast. Wilson is definitely channeling a “Woody Allen” vibe here. His awkward gazes and mad speech patterns is reminiscent of Allen’s various characters and it works rather well.
Midnight In Paris Woody Allen’s output over the last decade has been rocky at best. For every Vicky Christina Barcelona there’s a Melinda and Melinda. It is a relief to find that Midnight in Paris is certainly of a higher calibre than his most recent works. Midnight in Paris follows struggling Hollywood screenwriter, Gil Pender (Owen Wilson) as he travels the streets of Paris at night, only to be transported back in time to the 1920’s. At night Gil mixes with the creative elite, such as Gertrude Stein (Kathy Bates), Salvador Dali (Adrian Brody), and Ernest Hemingway (Corey Stoll), who all inhabited Paris during the 20’s and during the day he is thrust back to modern times to deal with his fiancee Inez (Rachel McAdams) and her family on a business trip. It becomes very clear, early on in the Midnight in Paris that the plot is clearly a fantasy of Woody Allen’s. The protagonist Gil, is a screenwriter for Hollywood who has become tired of his work and wants to write more serious works, something Allen himself tried in his mid thirties and again in his fifties. It is no secret that Allen is obsessed by the cities that surround him, his early works are love letters to New York City (in particular, Manhattan). Many of his more recent films have been set in London or Barcelona. Is is unsurprising therefore that Midnight in Paris is a love letter to the titular city. Midnight in Paris has a talented cast. Even the actors
Unfortunately the rest of the characters are not given much screentime in the slight 94 minute run-time. Too often does Allen rely on characature to make the audience entirely aware of which literary master Gil has bumped into. Gil’s meeting with Salvador Dali, Man Ray and Luis Bunuel may draw a few laughs but is a little weak. Many of the characters with personal relationships to Gil are also reduced to cultural stereotypes such as the suspicious father-in-law, overbearing mother-in-law, tyrannical fiancee and the sexually liberated, beautiful “girl that got away”. As such the cast can seem underused, even wasted, but to consider such a light film in those very serious terms seems unfair. At its very core Midnight in Paris is a light comedy and Allen pulls this off well. The protagonist, Gil is that special type of remarkable “everyman” that you only ever find in movies. It is fair to say that whilst Midnight in Paris is not groundbreaking or hysterically funny though it has some interesting ideas and memorable performances. JH
Things to see in November
s our regular readers know, here at PictureShow we like to show you the wealth of classic and cult cinema being shown at the most fascinating independent cinemas. The next four pages are packed full of events, festivals and special screenings to be enjoyed across the country. North West Manchester
Cornerhouse Gilda 20th November One of our Editor-in-Chief ’s favourite films, Gilda, tells the story of the wife of a casino owner who becomes involved with one of his employees. Many people know it today for the classic head swish shown in The Shawshank Redemption. You need to see it to know why it sent prisoners wild. Both sinister and sexy, Gilda is not one to miss
CUC Cinema Oldboy Let The Right One In Last month PictureShow had an article titled, Remade in America. At the heart of the article were the two films Liverpool’s CUC are showing this month. Oldboy is the South Korean tale of a man who is imprisoned for 15 years by someone for no particular reason only to be released to wreak vengeance on his captor. Both brutal and brilliant Oldboy is now up for an American remake by Spike Lee and starring Josh Brolin. Let The Right One In, however, is a slower more contemplative piece about a young boy who befriends a vampire who happens to live next door. Tomas Alfredson, who directed last month’s Tinker Tailor Solder Spy, directed this fantasticly chilly swedish tale.
Nobody ever forgets the first time they saw Sexy Beast. From the boulder at the beginning to the climax, Sexy Beast is just utterly unforgettable. This is mainly due to the absolutely standout performances by Sir Ben Kingsley and Ray Winstone who seemingly have roles reversed as Winstone is the quiet man terrified by his insane boss. The dialogue is frenzied and hilarious and it is unbelievable to think that Sexy Beast is over a decade old.
The 2006 Palme D’Or winner from Ken Loach is getting shown at the Derby Quad. Not only Ken Loach’s greatest Box Office success but the biggest Irish success of all time. The drama follows two brothers fighting for independence from the United Kingdom. Sublime Performances and superior directing make a trip to Derby well worthwhile.
Tyneside Cinema Sexy Beast 1st December
Showroom Cult Tuesdays Every Tuesday When we discovered Sheffield Showroom we could not believe that we had not had in our pages before. To celebrate the 30th anniversary of The Evil Dead, Showroom are shoing it on the 8th of November. The Evil Dead is an absolutely classic horror film. It introduced the world to the creative partnership that was Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell. With a chin to die for, Campbell’s Ash must fend off unnatural forces when he and his friends go camping in the woods. Bloody AND Brilliant. To top it off, later in the month, Showroom are showing Ghostbusters. Now we know that you have probably seen it before, but who wouldn’t want to see it again?
Quad Cinema The Wind That Shakes The Barley 10th November
Leicester Phoenix Cinema Day of The Undead 19th November Midday to Midnight Not content with just showing the Romero Classics the team at Leicester Phoenix have come up with 12 hours of delirious Zombie mayhem from more interesting sources. Comedy, Horror, Thriller it’s all there at the Day of The Undead.
Shortwave Cinema Underwire Festival 23rd-26th From the 23rd to the 26th of November Shortwave Cinema is dedicating a great deal of its time to Underwire Festival, a festival dedicated to demonstrating the talents of women in the film industry. Alongside the many screenings there will be discussion panels and workshops for any to attend Genesis Cinema Every Sunday 400 Blows Distant Voices, Still Lives Rashomom Black Narcissus The Genesis Cinema in Whitechapel is introducing a season of brilliant films shown on a Sunday. The pick of the lot must be Akira Kurosawa’s Rashomon which is playing on the 20th. The classic Japanese film tells four stories that come together in a thrilling climax. Well worth a trip. The Prince Charles Cinema Kill Bill Double Bill 14th November Quentin Tarantino’s huge samurai revenge films were originally planned to only be one film. But as the story grew and grew it had to be split in two (like many of the DiVAS). The Prince Charles Cinema is showing both films back to back in a gloriously gory double bill. Go. Roar. Rampage.
Electric Palace Cinema Raiders of The Lost Ark 27th November Possibly the greatest film of all time, Raiders of The Lost Ark is a classic adventure tale. If you have not seen Harrison Ford’s most iconic character (yes, more iconic than both Han Solo and Deckard) in action against the Nazi’s to retrieve the Ark of The Covenant then you need ot make your way to The Electric Palace in Cambridge. One for EVERYBODY.
South West Bath
Little Theatre Cinema Hot Fuzz 24th November Edgar Wright’s second “Bloody Cornetto” feature, after Shaun of The Dead, follows PC Nicholas Angel as he is transferred to a small village in Gloucester as he was so good he was making the Metropolitan Police Service look bad. Inspired by outlandish action movies, such as Point Break and Bad Boys II, Wright’s movie perfectly adapts the very american genre into the lovely british countryside.
Soundtrack Festival Various Locations Soundtrack Festival is a small festival based in Cardiff that looks at the unique reltionship between music and film. This year’s programme has events and screenings scattered across Cardiff. The pick of the bunch must be the opportunity to see A Clockwork Orange on the big screen. There will also be an exhibition of things about A Clockwork Orange from the Kubrick Archive and a discussion panel. The opening and closing night features are also generating a great deal of buzz on the festival circuit. Shame by Steve McQueen (not THAT one) and Coriolanus by Ralph Fiennes. Shame tells the story of a sex addict in New York who has trouble with the arrival of his sister at his apartment.
GFT Geek Film Night Angel Heart 4th December Mark Millar hosts this monthly “Geek Film Night” at the Glasgow Film Theatre. His choice this month is Angel Heart. A heady combination of hard boiled mystery and horror, Angel Heart follows Harry Angel (Mickey Rourke) a downtrodden PI whose meeting with Louis Cyphre (Robert DeNiro) sets off an incredible series of events. Before Rourke’s descent into madness in the 90’s this is an incredibly stylish and scary. An 80’s classic
Kotatsu Festival Chapter 26th November In addition to their work with Soundtrack Festival, Chapter have also put together a mini festival based around Japanese Animation. Showing Arrietty, Tales from Earthsea, Paprika and Redline in one day may sound heavy going but it will most definietely be worth it.
We hope you enjoy any one of these fantastic films. Don’t forget to look out for interesting screenings in your town or city and help support local, independent cinema.
PictureShow Magazine will return on the 5th of December