Monday, 18 February 2008

The Good, The Bad and the Cinematic: Juno

The best thing about Juno is, undoubtably, the fact that it has opened up the world of independent cinema to the masses. Whilst it is techinically an indie film, yes, it has had all the publicity, all the television spots and benefits of mainstream cinema. All the folk who would normally be off watching Definitely, Maybe or Knocked Up have seen these trailers and thought to themselves "Ooh, this looks cool.", with their definition of 'cool' simultaneously meaning 'fun' and 'fashionable'. Any person going into Juno with a cinema background knowledge based in the sugar-sweet world of Richard Curtis will no doubt come out of the cinema pleasantly surprised by this fresh take on the romantic-comedy/drama genres.

My housemate, who since seeing Juno has been only to see Jumper and Step Up 2, declared Juno to be the best film he's seen in 'one and a half to two years'.

But the thing is, it isn't. Not really, anyway. It's just that whilst Juno is fresh and witty and hilarious to your average cinema-goer, to anyone who has been enjoying independent films over the last few years will be experiencing nothing particularly new. If you want a really sweet and funny film, go watch Little Miss Sunshine. If you want a quirky soundtrack to define a generation, Garden State had that back in 2004. Even the smart dialogue is just Tarantino done in the style of Ghost World.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not looking down on people who love Juno because their most recent cinema trips have peaked at Over Her Dead Body - they are right to love Juno, it's a fantastic film with great acting and a superb soundtrack. It's just that it feels a little like a greatest hits of what makes independent cinema great - an advert for other films, perhaps. It is a fantastic film, and well worth seeing. But don't think it hasn't been done before...


Monday, 11 February 2008

The Good, the Bad and the Cinematic: Cloverfield

It took me long enough to get to Cloverfield. And then I see it twice in 48 hours. Why? Because, frankly, Cloverfield is a terrifically original and surprisingly great film.

I know it shouldn't be the case - a hype-led film shot entirely in the style of a home video (albeit one you sure as hell wouldn't show the kids) is doomed almost immediately to fall victim to it's own publicity machine. Think Blair Witch, perhaps - more news coverage than the last election, sunk like a trace into movie history. Eep. Let's hope Cloverfield doesn't whimper away wounded like the witch did, ay?

Why though? Well, without giving too much away (because although the second viewing proved this is not a film reliant on initial surprises, they sure are fun), this film is more original than Original flavour Hula-Hoops when they first came out. Uh huh. That original. Every possible cliche is avoided so well that you actually feel guilty for expecting them.

And the camera work is perfect - after a jerky first few minutes it calms down (relatively, at least), and has some of the best cinematic shots of the year (if only that bastard classic No Country For Old Men hadn't taken the first place title already...) - one late shot involving auto-focus is near-perfect, and a moment everyone involved in the creation of should be incredibly proud of.

The script? Spot on, perfect, with only one contrived cinema line in the whole film (and even that's funny). Every sentence hits the mark, whether it is meant to increase the tension, decrease the tension ("I just can't stop thinking how scary it would be if a homeless guy on fire came out of the dark now") or just sound like normal people experiencing something horrible.

The only flaw - and it is only a small one at that - is that, even after second viewing, where everything tends to go faster, the beginning scenes, before the attack, start to drag slightly, and quite quickly too. Still, once the action kicks in there isn't a poor moment to this short but awesome film.


Sunday, 10 February 2008

Further news of the Fantastic 6!

Today my favourite new band of 2008 (first reported on back in November by me, just sayin'...) reached Nottingham. That's the lovely, if blurred, city centre that you can see above. The big wheel is only temporary and I'm going on it tomorrow! Believe me, the little-boy-who-never-got-to-go-to-the-fair inside of me is wetting himself with glee. But that's a different, and slightly concerning, thing.

Alphabeat dropped by our fair city in order to support Palladium at the Bodega Social Club. And I had tickets! Huzzah. In truth, I left before Palladium came on (my friend and I hadn't eaten and felt peckish), but we were more than pleased with Alphabeat's six-song set.

Frankly speaking, they are the best thing to happen to pop music since The Jackson 5. I'm not even kidding. Their sound is lost somewhere between Wham! on acid and S Club 7. On acid. And live, this all just overwhelms. Imagine the musical equivalent of going to the circus when you were a kid, only to find you have seats next to Santa Claus. Yeah, something like that.

mp3: 'Fascination' by Alphabeat
mp3: 'Fantastic 6 [Fitzmaurice Remix]' by Alphabeat

Tuesday, 5 February 2008

All of ours have blown...

James Yuill says 'hi'. Either that, or he has some weird muscle thing that won't let him straighten his right arm. Whatever the case, he only has three fingers, and that's just freaky. Let's judge him. BUT. Let's not judge him for the finger thing, or even the arm doodah. Nope. Let's judge him based on his remix of The Answering Machine's track 'Lightbulbs'. I'm judging him nicely, how about you?

mp3: 'Lightbulbs (James Yuill Remix) - The Answering Machine

Monday, 4 February 2008

Heartbreakers at the Superbowl

No, I'm not referring to Mr. Petty's friends in the band, but rather those bloody New York Giants. If that score had stayed 14-10, or even if the Pats had scored another 7 or 8, I would have been fine. I would have won back twice what I put in the pot. But no. Bloody Giants had to go and win. Bastards. Still, thanks to the Pats in the first quarter I only lost £2.50, rather than the possible tenner I put in.

mp3: 'American Girl' by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers

Sunday, 3 February 2008

Brand New Hotness: The Futureheads - The Beginning Of The Twist

Sunderland's third finest (after Field Music and my mate Mark) are coming back 'atcha again with their third effort. If it all sounds as good as this exciting Kaiser Chiefs/Maximo Park/video-game-soundtrack crossbreed, then I'll be very happy.

I half met the bloke in glasses once. He nodded at me.

Ohh yeah.

mp3: 'The Beginning Of The Twist' by The Futureheads

Brand New Hotness: Guillemots - Kriss Kross

My favourite British band of 2006 are back, and boy do they sound shiny! I love Guillemots like Kel loves Orange Soda. I love Guillemots like some people love oxygen. They're phenomenal live, phenomenal vocally, and possibly the most grand-sounding thing to happen in music since Muse. New song 'Kriss Kross' from upcoming album 'Red' is, well, phenomenal. It sounds like their first album's sound, were they asked to score the new Pirates of the Caribbean film. It's grand, and ridiculous, and happy and will, no doubt, sound frankly epic live.

mp3: 'Kriss Kross' by Guillemots

The Good, The Bad and the Cinematic: I Am Legend

It took me a while to make it to I Am Legend - caught it just a day or so before it slipped quietly out of cinemas here in the UK. I must say, I enjoyed the film immensely, no matter how far I dug myself back into my seat for shocks I knew were coming.

It had its downsides, I won't deny that. The CGI effects were reminiscent particularly of The Mummy films, which will be a shame when the new Mummy film comes out this summer, no doubt outdoing I Am Legend immediately.

But mostly the film is well-done, managing to be both funny, intensely scary and gritty all at once. Will Smith is fantastic in the role that carries the film, not only on necessity but also on pure acting power. The one thing is that I've had to drop a full two points on from the score it received initially upon finding out what the original ending entailed. I won't go into further detail, but I will say that this film could have had the smartest twist ending since The Sixth Sense if it weren't so afraid to be Hollywood.