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The Grand Budapest Hotel - Review

The Grand Budapest Hotel

Directed by: Wes Anderson

Written by: Wes Anderson and Hugo Guinness, based on the writings of Austrian author Stefan Zweig.

Starring: (deep breath) Ralph Fiennes, F Murray Abraham, Jude Law, Saoirse Ronan, Leya Seydoux, Adrien Brody, Mathieu Almaric, Bill Murray, Jeff Goldblum, Harvey Keitel… and many more!

The Plot: Resourceful hotel concierge M. Gustave  is framed for the murder of one of his guests, and enlists the help of lobby boy Zero to help clear his name. 

The Good: Three great things about this film: 1. the cast 2.the cast and 3, the cast! Anderson always attracts great talent for his films but here, it’s Ralph Fiennes that really stands out as the enigmatic lead, M. Gustave. He gives a comic turn in this film unlike any this reviewer has seen before and would love for him to make more comedy films or indeed more comedic roles. 

The Bad: This film can be enjoyed on a number of levels, however this may not be so easily accessible for newcomers to Anderson as it is very idiosyncratic. If you’re fond of those “portmanteau” films of old then chances are, you’ll enjoy this. 

Verdict:  4/5 superb! However, it’s Anderson’s most Anderson-esque film to date. 

Watch out for: The stellar cast! Anderson always attracts an all-star cast for his films, and there are some repeat offenders (Bill Murray appears in a cameo, among others) but overall, the cast are a joy to watch! There are also several frame changes, another Anderson-esque touch. 

Captain America 2: The Winter Soldier - Review

Captain America: The Winter Soldier

**warning - spoilers!**

Directed by: Anthony & Joe Russo

Written by:  Christopher Markus, Stephen McFeely

Starring:

The Plot: Steve Rogers (aka Captain America) adapts to his new life in the modern, tech-filled world but may have met his match against a new threat from his past: The Winter Soldier.

The Good: The Winter Soldier is quite possibly one of the better films in the Marvel movie stable. it easily out-does its predecessor, which although a decent blockbuster was nonetheless mired down by its stuffy WW2 setting, lack of action and clumsy script. This sequel redresses all that and sets a new benchmark that other Marvel superhero films must surely follow.

The Bad: There are very few negative points to this film. Even though I’m not a die-hard Marvel fangirl (sorry!), this film is as easily accessible as all the others released so far. 

In Summary: Believe all the hype surrounding Captain America: The Winter Soldier. It blends the best of the 70s inspired conspiracy thrillers with explosive action, but the tight script doesn’t let those elements get in the way of a strong, character driven story. 

Verdict: One of this year’s strongest blockbusters! 5/5

Look out for: As ever with the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), there are quite a few mid and post credits scenes. With Cap 2, there are 2 short sequences, so be sure to stick around after the credits!

James Bond 007 Retrospective Series - For Your Eyes Only Review

 As ITV’s 007 marathon continues, so does our James Bond 007 Retrospective series. It’s time for our review of…For Your Eyes Only (1981)

Directed by John Glen

Starring Roger Moore, Carole Bouquet, Julian Glover, Topol (don’t miss Charles Dance’s cameo as a henchman!)

When the Automatic Targeting Aattack Communicator (ATAC for short), a device to control nuclear subs goes missing from a sunken British ship, 007 is called into find out who took it and why. Bond’s search is aided by half-Greek marine archaeologist Melina Havelock, seeking to avenge the death of her parents in a similarly related attack. 

John Glen is back in the director’s seat for this pared down Bond adventure, bringing a distinct change in tone to the proceedings compared to the outer space silliness of Moonraker - and the series is better of for it. This is a return to form for Bond, and is reminiscent of more character driven films such as On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. There are still of course some thrilling stunts, including a car chase and a downhill ski chase (performed by Bond stunt supremo Rick Sylvester) not to mention the typically beautiful locations on and around Corfu, plus a suspenseful mountain climbing sequence. FYEO also boasts some firsts for the Bond films; Bond rejects the advances of ice skater Bibi Dahl (Lynn-Holly Johnson) plus there is also  the first plot twist in the Bond movies. Aside from the bizarre pre titles  sequence involving a bald man stroking a white persian cat who’s not called Blofeld, FYEO brings a refreshing change to the series, showing Roger Moore et al are ready to carry Bond into the 1980s.

James Bond will return in Octopussy

Film: *** extras: ***

James Bond 007 Retrospective Series: Moonraker Review

Moonraker

Directed by Lewis Gilbert

Starring Roger Moore, Michael Lonsdale, Lois Chiles, Richard Kiel 

When a US space shuttle is stolen in mid-air, 007 is sent to recover it. Teaming up with NASA astronaut Dr. Holly Goodhead the pair face a race against time to discover who’s behind the theft and prevent global annihilation.

OK, let’s not beat about the bush; there’s no denying that Moonraker is basically The Spy Who Loved Me, but in space. The villain has similar designs on creating a new world but instead of diving beneath the waves, his nefarious scheme reaches beyond the stars. But the Bond canon doesn’t let a silly little thing like plot repetition stop Moonraker from being an enjoyable romp - at least it tries not to, anyway. Moore is starting to creak a bit here, but forms a believable union with co-star Lois Chiles who portrays that rare character in the 007 films - a Bond girl with a brain. Formidable steel-toothed henchman Jaws (Richard Kiel) also reappears, this time becoming more involved in the story than being just a hired goon. French actor Michael Lonsdale gives a rather understated performance as the film’s baddie Hugo Drax, but that doesn’t mean he’s any less effective. Lonsdale would also re-appear in the franchise decades later, lending his voice acting abilities once again as Drax to the James Bond game, 007 Legends.

Overall, Moonraker may not be your classic Bond film but makes for an enjoyable watch, especially on blu ray. I wonder if they knew about a little film called Star Wars that was released 2 years previously…!!

Film: *** Extras: *** 

James Bond 007 Retrospective - The Spy Who Loved Me Review

James Bond 007 Retrospective:  The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)

Directed by Lewis Gilbert

Starring Roger Moore, Barbara Bach, Richard Kiel, Curt Jurgens

The Bond movies enter a “new era of Anglo-Soviet cooperation”  in this latest adventure! 007 must team up with beautiful Russian agent “triple X”, aka Major Anya Amasova to recover a microfilm containing info on missing British and Russian nuclear submarines. 

TSWLM hits the half-way mark for Sir Roger Moore in his stretch as the suave secret agent, as he would go on to portray Bond in a further 4 more 007 films. The Spy Who Loved Me is one of my favourite Bond films as all the classic elements of the Bond formula finally gel together (at least for Moore’s era) to create a fun action film, albeit with a slightly cheesy feel. The pre-titles sequence is a joy to behold, with the fast paced downhill ski chase rounded off in spectacular fashion by *that* ski jump and parachute opening, forming one of the most iconic moments in Bond history. Richard Kiel makes an impression as fearsome baddie Jaws, adding to the franchises’ ranks of infamous villains. TSWLM is known for its stunning scenes set in and around Cairo and of course those famous pyramids aswell as the Sphinx and the blu ray transfer ensures they look even more impressive in this film. Having visited Egypt on a recent holiday, I can confirm that the laser projection show Bond visits whilst trailing Major Amasova is still going to this day and hasn’t changed, still drawing in massive crowds.

The same can be said for the underwater scenes as the colours remain as vivid as ever. This film also marks cinematographer Claude Renoir (nephew of the famous director Jean Renoir)’s last film, as sadly by this time his eyesight was failing causing him to bow out.

As an aside, the film provides a superb behind-the-scenes look at Cairo’s Gayer Anderson museum, which provides the location for the house of one of Bond’s contacts, despite 007 almost trashing it in an epic fistfight with one of the villain’s henchmen. 

Film: **** Extras: **** (purely for a candid on-set interview with Roger Moore)

James Bond 007 Retrospective: The Man With The Golden Gun Review

 James Bond 007 Retrospective:  The Man With The Golden Gun (1974)

Directed by Guy Hamilton 

Starring Roger Moore, Britt Ekland, Christopher Lee, Herve Villechaize, Maud Adams

Bond receives a golden bullet ominously engraved with “007”, leading him to believe he’s been targeted by the world’s most feared assassin, Fransisco Scaramanga. Setting out to track him down, he uncovers an altogether more sinister plot to control the world’s natural energy resources with Scaramanga planning to harness the sun as the most lethal weapon of all. 

Roger Moore returns as Bond in this enjoyable, if a little cheesy 007 outing. The addition of Christopher Lee (a distant cousin of Bond creator Ian Fleming, dontcha know) really makes this film, who after portraying terrifying, iconic villains such as Dracula sinks his teeth (sorry) into a different kind of baddie as the film’s titular hitman.

The supporting Bond girls of Maud Adams as Scaramanga’s lover Andrea Anders plus Britt Ekland as Bond’s fellow agent Mary Goodnight turn in memorable performances that try to advance the position of the women in Bond films, although yet again must be saved by 007. Herve Villechaize, known best for his role in TV series Fantasy Island brings a charm to his portrayal of Scaramanga’s diminutive manservant, Nick Nack. Moore never shows signs of flagging more than ably demonstrates his versatility to be brutal in one scene, yet tender in the next.  This is one of the better blu-ray Bond transfers, as with FRWL this particular version makes  this 70s Bond action adventure look like new, if only it weren’t for those dodgy fashions -  check out Bond’s flared trousers and wide collared suits! Well, it was the 70s after all, and only Sir Rog could look so stylish!

The James Bond 007 Retrospective series will return with The Spy Who Loved Me.

Film: ***.5 Extras: ***

James Bond 007 Retrospective: Diamonds Are Forever Review

Diamonds Are Forever (1971)  Directed by Guy Hamilton  Starring Sean Connery, Jill St.John, Putter Smith. John Glover, Charles Gray, Lana Wood  007 investigates what at first seems like a simple diamond smuggling operation, but turns out to be something entirely more sinister when he discovers his old nemesis Blofeld is stockpiling the precious gems to be used in a deadly laser satellite. Aided by the beautiful Tiffany Case yet hounded by deadly assassins Mr. Wint & Mr. Kidd, Bond must act fast to stop Blofeld’s fiendish scheme.  Sean Connery slips rather uneasily into the tuxedo again to portray the suave superspy for the penultimate time (he would later reappear in unofficial Bond film Never Say Never Again which isn’t counted in this retrospective, sorry!) in Diamonds Are Forever. Another previous cast member returns; Charles Gray makes his 2nd appearance in the Bond series, this time as SPECTRE mastermind Blofeld who as part of the villain’s nefarious scheme, plans to clone himself (a plot device which is never fully explained). The man behind Goldfinger returns for what would be his 2nd helping of 007 action, as Guy Hamilton would go on to direct incoming Bond actor Roger Moore in a further 2 films - Live and Let Die and The Man With The Golden Gun. Connery’s performance is pretty much run of the mill here, with a few typically cheesy one-liners but with some great stunts aswell. Hamilton’s assured direction and breathtaking stunt sequences ensure that this somewhat shaky film is also great fun and memorable in parts - only Bond can pull off a stunt whereby he drives a Mustang down an alleyway on two wheels! The Las Vegas setting also ensures this 007th (couldn’t resist) entry sparkles - but all that glitters isn’t gold.  Film: *** Extras: ***

Diamonds Are Forever (1971)

Directed by Guy Hamilton

Starring Sean Connery, Jill St.John, Putter Smith. John Glover, Charles Gray, Lana Wood

007 investigates what at first seems like a simple diamond smuggling operation, but turns out to be something entirely more sinister when he discovers his old nemesis Blofeld is stockpiling the precious gems to be used in a deadly laser satellite. Aided by the beautiful Tiffany Case yet hounded by deadly assassins Mr. Wint & Mr. Kidd, Bond must act fast to stop Blofeld’s fiendish scheme.

Sean Connery slips rather uneasily into the tuxedo again to portray the suave superspy for the penultimate time. He would later reappear as 007 in the unofficial Bond film Never Say Never Again although that film isn’t counted in this retrospective (sorry!). in Diamonds Are Forever, another former Bond alumni returns; Charles Gray makes his second appearance in the Bond series, this time as SPECTRE mastermind Blofeld who this time has a nefarious scheme to clone himself (a plot device which is never fully explained) and gain control of a massive satellite. The director behind Goldfinger returns for what would be his second helping of 007 action, as Guy Hamilton would go on to direct then-incoming Bond actor Roger Moore in a further two films - Live and Let Die and The Man With The Golden Gun. Connery’s performance is pretty much run of the mill here, with a few typically cheesy one-liners but with some great stunts aswell. Hamilton’s assured direction and breathtaking stunt sequences ensure that this somewhat shaky film is also great fun and memorable in parts - only Bond can pull off a stunt whereby he drives a Mustang down an alleyway on two wheels! The Las Vegas setting also ensures this 007th (couldn’t resist) entry sparkles - but all that glitters isn’t gold however for many fans, this remains something of a guilty pleasure.

Film: *** blu ray: *** 

James Bond 007 Retrospective: On Her Majesty’s Secret Service Review

On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969)
Directed by Peter Hunt
Starring George Lazenby, Diana Rigg, Joanna Lumley, Telly Savalas, Gabriele Ferzetti
"This never happened to the other fellow…" Australian men’s knitwear model George Lazenby slips into the tux to portray 007 who follows his nemesis Blofeld to the peaks of Piz Gloria, where the maniacal villain has cooked up a scheme to recruit beautiful women from all over the world for his "allergy research" clinic. Posing as a heraldry expert, Bond must uncover Blofeld’s true machinations, whilst getting married in the process!
You read that correctly, this is the first and only film where James Bond gets married! Many girls would like to be “Mrs Bond” but here, it’s Tracy Di Vincenzo (Diana Rigg) who has the honour. Does it end happily ever after? You’ll have to watch it yourself to find out! This 6th Bond film is often cited as one of the weakest in the series, although Lazenby tries hard to put his own stamp on the Bond persona rather than simply following in Connery’s footsteps.
The story of how he won the role is quite surprising: a complete unknown, he essentially blagged his way past the studio execs and created an entire back catalogue of fake films when in reality he’d never acted before. He bought what he called an “english suit” (Savile Row, no less), got an “english” haircut and managed his BS his way to winning the role of a lifetime. He creates a memorable Bond who is in his element surrounded by a bevy of beautiful girls, but is also capable of pulling off thrilling action sequences such as the film’s stock car race. With the majority of the film’s action taking place amongst the snow, OHMSS is another of the early Bonds to benefit from the blu-ray treatment, giving the film a fresh appeal to a new generation of Bond fans.
Film: **** Extras: ***

On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969)

Directed by Peter Hunt

Starring George Lazenby, Diana Rigg, Joanna Lumley, Telly Savalas, Gabriele Ferzetti

"This never happened to the other fellow…" Australian men’s knitwear and occasional Fry’s chocolate model George Lazenby slips into the tux for a one and only appearance to portray 007 in this particular outing. This time, Bond tracks his nemesis Blofeld to the peaks of Piz Gloria (in real life, actually the name of the restaurant atop the Schilthorn in Oberland, Switzerland) where the maniacal villain has cooked up a scheme to recruit beautiful women from all over the world for his “allergy research” clinic. Posing as a heraldry expert, Bond must uncover Blofeld’s true machinations, whilst getting married in the process!

You read that correctly, this is the first and only film where James Bond gets married! Many of 007’s squeezes have come close to becoming “Mrs Bond” but here, it’s Tracy Di Vincenzo (Diana Rigg) who has the honour. Does it end happily ever after? You’ll have to watch it yourself to find out! This 6th Bond film is often cited as one of the weakest in the series, although Lazenby tries hard to put his own stamp on the Bond persona rather than simply following in Connery’s footsteps. Personally, I would have to say that he succeeds, yet despite a wooden performance many elements of this film gel together to mark it out as much loved (yet much-maligned) gem of the series. It seems that after decades of scorn, OHMSS is being re-evaluated by critics and Bond fans as a worthy film in it’s own right.

The story of how Lazenby won the role is quite surprising. A complete unknown, he essentially blagged his way past the studio execs and created an entire back catalogue of fake films when in reality he’d never acted before. He bought what he called an “English suit” (from Savile Row, no less), got an “English” haircut and managed to essentially BS his way to winning the role of a lifetime. He creates a memorable Bond who is in his element surrounded by a bevy of beautiful girls, but is also capable of pulling off thrilling action sequences such as the film’s stock car race. With the majority of the film’s action taking place amongst the snow, OHMSS is another of the early Bonds to benefit from the blu-ray treatment, giving the film a fresh appeal to a new generation of Bond fans.

Film: **** 

The Lego Movie Review

The Lego Movie

Directed by: Phil Lord, Christopher Miller

Written by: Dan Hageman, Kevin Hageman, Phil Lord, Christopher Miller

Starring: Everyone - Chris Pratt, Elizabeth Banks, Morgan Freeman, Will Ferrell, Charlie Day, Jonah Hill, Will Arnett, Liam Neeson

The Plot: Emmet  (Chris Pratt) is your average, ordinary guy - except that he’s made of Lego. He’s perhaps so average that he doesn’t have any real friends but is happy with life and goes around following the Lego instructions. He happens upon a chance meeting with rebellious Wyldstyle (Elizabeth Banks) who thrusts them both into a world of adventure when it’s revealed Emmet is “The Special”, the only one who can stop the evil President Business (Will Ferrell) from bringing his Lego universe to it’s knees…

The Good: There’s so much goodness on offer from the Lego Movie, it’s hard to pick out a high point. Everything just works on so many levels - the stellar voice cast are on top notch, the direction is superb and there are some catchy tunes to boot (I guarantee you’ll be humming “Everything Is Awesome” for weeks after seeing this film!). The Lego Movie is fun, vibrant, a little chaotic (in a good way) but is well worth a trip to the cinema even if you haven’t got kids to take with you!

the Bad: I really can’t fault this film. It’s pure joy through and through!

In Summary: An absolute gem of a film, and easily one of the best this year has to offer. The Lego Movie is smart, funny and at it’s core has a lovely message which thankfully isn’t rammed home too hard. Plus, the film has a clever twist to boot, adding an extra layer of brilliance. A must-see for fans and non fans of Lego alike!

Look Out For: Lego have the rights to various characters and franchises, so keep those eyes peeled for lots of well known characters! And yes, that *is* Anthony Daniels and Billy Dee Williams, briefly reprising their roles from Star Wars!

Verdict: 5/5 Awesome!

Cuban Fury Review

Cuban Fury

Directed by:James Griffiths

Written by: Jon Brown

Starring: Nick Frost, Chris O’Dowd, Rashida Jones, Olivia Colman, Kayvan Novak, Ian McShane, Rory Kinnear

The Plot:  Bruce Garrett (Frost) used to be a child Salsa prodigy, but had his career suddenly cut short by vicious bullies. Years later, after a chance encounter with his new boss (Jones) at a Salsa class, Bruce gets bitten by the competitive dancing bug once again but can he recapture his former glory?

The Good: Ever since cult British comedy series Spaced, and thanks to the likes of Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz and The World’s End, Nick Frost can almost no longer be seen in films without Simon Pegg. Whilst Pegg does have a very tiny cameo, this film is one of the great examples showing that Frost can hold his own as a leading man.

Whilst this is very much your typical rags to (nearly) riches tales of sorts, despite some predictable moments this is a film with real heart and once it gets going, provides real laugh-out-loud humour, most of it generated by Fonejacker star Kayvan Novak as the flamboyant, Fanta guzzling Bejan. His character serves to stir Bruce into action and the pair have some hilarious scenes together. Likewise, it’s fun to see Chris O’Dowd play against type to portray Bruce’s slimy love rival. 

the Bad: Screenwriter Jon Brown is perhaps best known for other British comedy favourites Mongrels, Horne & Corden and more recently, Fresh Meat but here, although funny throughout the script does tend to be predictable in places. Personally, I found some of the casting to be slightly “off” - Rory Kinnear plays one of Bruce’s friends, Gary who doesn’t let being married stop him eyeing up the ladies. Kinnear’s perhaps best known for his stage work whilst in films and tv, he tends to star in more “serious” shows but has recently started to branch out into comedy, for example on the recent BBC series, Count Arthur Strong. Despite this, I personally found him to be miscast here as he doesn’t look like “one of the lads” and found his character to fall rather flat. 

 Cuban Fury is very much your typical British feel good film, about an underdog who beats off his rivals to once again reach the top spot. With a raft of famous faces well known on both sides of the pond, this is a really enjoyable British comedy that is sure to get you up on the dance floor! Seeing as he trained with professional salsa dancers for this film, I wonder if we’ll see Frost on Strictly anytime soon…?

Look Out For: A very brief blink-and-you’ll-miss-it drive by cameo from Simon Pegg which happens roughly halfway through the film, which although fleeting got the biggest laugh from the audience in my screening!

Verdict: 3.5/5

Cuban Fury was released in cinemas in the UK on Valentines Day (14th Feb) and is out now. It hits American cinemas this coming May.

Blue Jasmine Review

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Blue Jasmine

Directed by: Woody Allen

Written by: Woody Allen

Starring:  Cate Blanchett, Alec Baldwin, Peter Sarsgaard

The Plot: New York socialite Jasmine French suffers a fall from grace and stays with her adoptive sister and her boyfriend in San Francisco.

The Good:  Cate Blanchett has been nominated for both a Bafta and an Oscar for her role as troubled socialite Jasmine, and rightly so. She portrays Jasmine as so completely self absorbed and doesn’t really care for the adopted sister on whom she’s imposing, nor does she care when she lies her way into a relationship with wannabe politician Dwight (Sarsgaard), only for things to unravel at the last minute. However, as the film develops, Allen suggests that she may be able to redeem herself, if only her selfishness doesn’t get in the way. Her character is such that she’s awful but also compelling to watch. Credit must also go to fellow Oscar nominee Sally Hawkins as Ginger, who has her own on-off relationships aswell as putting up with Jasmine.

The Bad: Recently, allegations of sexual abuse against Woody Allen have again made the news so it’s easy to draw parallels between Jasmine and Mia Farrow - arguably, Allen is taking a swipe at Farrow here. This isn’t necessarily a negative aspect of the film but with this news rearing its ugly head again, this film leaves a rather bad taste in the mouth.

In Summary: Blue Jasmine is the sort of film that sadly doesn’t get required screentime at my local multiplex, so I was glad i managed to catch this as part of a local Film Club’s programme. With great performances and a script that is quintessentially Allen, Blue Jasmine isn’t quite up there with the likes of Manhattan but is an enjoyable watch nonetheless.

Rating: 3/5

cinephilearchive:

It is one of the most notorious scenes ever filmed. Vashi Nedomansky edited the Saul Bass storyboards next to the final film version of ‘Psycho.’ “No matter who directed the 7 days of shooting in 1959… it’s quite clear that the Saul Bass storyboards were followed explicitly to create the indelible images that made this spectacular scene.”

Continue reading at Vashi Visuals

Reads/Watches/Listens:

Be sure to check out the essential documentaries on Alfred Hitchcock, including a brilliant Talk with Alfred Hitchcock, part interview, part masterclass in the craft of telling stories on film. For more, see our archive under the tag, “Alfred Hitchcock.”

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