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Hi all,

Another Wednesday matinee with a fellow shy superhero, Dan Brown.  Coffee in hand we head into a cinema scattered with a handful of geeky males, not a female in sight, it can only mean one thing…another marvel movie! Will it live up to its name?

I have never been a comic book reader but I did watch a lot of cartoons in my youth, X-men amongst my favourites.  The movie series started out strongly, “X-men” (2000) and “X-men 2” (2003) projected good stories.  The same can’t be said for “The Last Stand” (2006) and “Wolverine“(2009).  I love the Wolverine character and really wanted to like these films but even I have to say they had all the qualities of a festive pantomime!  Originally I wasn’t particularly excited about seeing “The First Class” but rumours started to emerge that it had something…I was intrigued.

After all, Matthew Vaughn had done a great job with “Kick Ass”, he makes good movies.  With this instalment he keeps the pace and intensity high, at 2 hours 11 minutes this is no mean feat, it was exciting from start to finish.  There is a stellar cast with James McAvoy (Professor X), Michael Fassbender (Magneto) and Kevin Bacon (as the evil Sebastien Shaw).  This is only to name a few but the list goes on, every performance was solid with some first class (there I said it, now we can move on!).  Jennifer Lawrence who starred in the brilliant “Winters Bone” plays Mystique, she is quality and her character is given an interesting backstory.

McAvoy and Fassbender are the heartbeat.  McAvoy (Professor X) a priviledged oxford grad genius with telepathic powers, Fassbender (Magneto) a victim of the Nazi regime out to avenge the death of his mother using the ability to control magnetism.  The movie would struggle without these great leads.  I loved the backstory of Magneto and the reasons for his anger and revenge, Fassbender portrays a troubled soul believably.  His overall performance means he is forgiven for slipping into his Bobby Sands accent from “Hunger” in the last ten minutes…Dan and I had a good laugh!  My only other criticism is one which geeky comic book fans won’t agree with; too many characters to keep up with.  This has been a failing of each movie in the series so far.

What the movie gets right from previous efforts is maturely dealing with the main X-Men themes of human acceptance, loss and identity.  In many ways despite the characters being younger, the franchise has grown up!  It is not as tough as “The Dark Knight” which was also awarded a 12a certificate.  However clearly Vaughn wants to be more ‘Batman’ than ‘Spiderman’, not holding back in some scenes with Magneto and Shaw.  It holds similarities to another movie; as Magneto puts on the helmet his dark side comes to the fore, he even gets a cape….sound familiar?

I was reminded during the silly cameo of what a huge step up this is.  The story is intertwined using real events and footage from the Cuban Missile Crisis in the early 1960s.  This worked well and showed a touch of ‘class’ (last time I promise!).

I heard in an interview that Matthew Vaughn nearly gave up in the middle of filming under the weight and pressure of a blockbuster…thank goodness he didn’t!  The franchise is reborn; professor awards A grade!

T.

Rio

Hi all,

As many of you know I have a two year old daughter.  There have been many both pleasing and proud moments over the last two years as a parent; her first steps and saying “Dadda” for the first time, etc.  Coming close to these events is taking Olivia to her first cinema experience.  I thought I couldn’t love the occasion of a cinema outing more until I saw it through her eyes.  As the lights went down and the audience hushed with anticipation, Liv was clearly confused and thought it was a game…”sshhh…hide”.

I picked “Rio” due to it’s bright animation and it’s about tropical birds.  Olivia loves birds or “burdies”.  At 96 minutes I was slightly worried whether Liv could last, she is used to 5 minute “Peppa Pig” episodes!  It is a credit to the movie that both Liv and her parents lasted the whole film (well, two toilet breaks) without getting bored.  The movie comes from Blue Sky Studios who made “Ice Age” which I quite liked, so I was hopeful from the outset we would be sufficiently entertained.  Carlos Saldanha is the director who worked on the fore mentioned movie series.  It is clear that Saldanha loves Rio de Janeiro, his countrymen will be delighted with his portrayal of the city (be it by animation).  He captures music and scenery of the city beautifully; full of energy and life.  Travel Agents should take advantage and put some enticing deals to Rio as the movie acts pretty much like a holiday advert!

I find myself sitting through animated movies figuring out which voice belongs to which famous actor/actress.  If I’m honest it really annoys me; I drift off and lose concentration.  What “Rio” does well is pick high profile actors and ‘of the now’ performers whom parents will have watched in the last year or so.  Jesse Eisenberg (Social Network), Anne Hathaway (Love and Other Drugs) and Jermaine Clement.  Thats right, Jermaine from Flight of the Conchords who steals the show as the evil bird “Nigel”.  This role and vocal performance was an unexpected treat.

I thought this movie was great family fun with a nice pace.  Not in the same league as some of the Pixar films but was enjoyable.  Pixar seem to write stories with layers and levels which manage to entertain both children and adults.  “Rio” seemed slightly one dimensional in this respect.

But hey, me and my birds had a good time!

T.

Check out a dodgy phone photo of Liv (post chicken pox), my thumb and my beautiful wife.

Hi all,

Well a few changes within the blog. I (Tim) am going it alone however never fear any of you who love a good picture, Gillian is blogging on her website.  Check it out.  Work is really picking up for Gillian and we feel very blessed.

I have been rubbish lately at watching movies and therefore blogging has been poor.  For this I am sorry.  However, what I bring with this instalment will more than make up for my absence.  Phil Harrison shot the Lowly Knights video for their track “Burning Powder”.  I blogged about it and mentioned that calling it a music video did not do it justice, it was a short film.  It was clear from this piece of work that Harrison was a special talent.  With “Even Gods” Harrison proves it was not by chance.

Harrison packed a punch with “Burning Powder” in the space of five minutes.  “Even Gods” is eighteen minutes and gives Harrison freedom to tell a deeper story, and boy does he do it.  Central character Hugh (Lalor Roddy – superb!) lives in a hostel/homeless shelter and the film sees him uncomfortably and emotionally reunited with his estranged daughter after thirteen years.  Due to my work/career I come across rare and unique characters like Hugh every so often; gentle personalties who drift around with a suitcase of regrets heavy with poor past decisions.  Therefore this short film ‘got me’!

I am purposely saying very little about this picture.  Although I will point out that Tim Millen provides the music which is beautiful and just perfect in the cafe scene.  Tim used to play for “The Amazing Pilots” therefore can do no wrong in my eyes…

Anyway enjoy this beautiful short film.

T.

Even Gods from Manifesto Films on Vimeo.

Source Code…

Hi all,

I sold my car recently and I’ve been getting the train to work. It has been great, I’ve nearly finished season one of “Prison Break”. This has not proved to be wise in my line of work however as I can’t help but stare at people’s tattoos expecting to see detailed mazes! Anyway, the train journeys have been a nice change but I inevitably fall asleep on my way home. I hate that feeling when you wake up, totally disorientated with no clue where you are or what you’re meant to be doing. Times that emotion by one hundred and you are some way to understanding Jake Gyllenhaal’s opening scene in “Source Code”.

This movie is directed by Duncan Jones, who interestingly is David Bowie’s son. Duncan clearly has a sense of humour as his debut movie was called “Moon”…(Everybody – There’s a starman waiting in the sky…) enough blog karaoke! I think “Moon” is brilliant and highly recommend it. “Source Code” is his second picture and has been credited with what seems a bigger budget and a top drawer cast. Huge plaudits must go to Ben Ripley, the writer, who developed this movie from an orginal idea. A big step for him whose work before this was “Species 3″…we all loved that of course…

“Source Code” is yet another science fiction thriller based around meta physics and levels of consciousness. Ring any bells?! It does seem like really bad timing that this movie would be realised in the wake of “Inception” and “The Adjustment Bureau”. Those who follow this blog will know how much I love the former and few movies can touch it. In my opinion “Source Code” works much better than the “The Adjustment Bureau”. See my previous blog but in short I felt the plot ran away at the end of the latter. “Source Code” is a complete movie and I will state at this point that I loved it.

Jake Gyllenhaal finally picks a good movie again. I like him, he is a good actor and rocks a sweet tweed jacket and denium shirt combination. He plays a soldier who wakes up on a train and hasn’t a clue where he is or who people think he is. The movie pays homage to the tv series “Quantum Leap”, there is even an off screen voice cameo by the actor of the show. I thought it was honourable not to ignore the blatant parallels. Captain Stevens (Gyllenhaal) is directed by a mysterious company to revisit the same eight minutes prior to a terrorist bomb going off on a train in Chicago. Therefore the movie looks at the same scene over and over, similiar to the disappointing “Vantage Point” in 2008. Jones does a great job at keeping this from feeling repetitive, using humour and romance to good effect. The movie has a wonderful tone.

“Source Code” asks loads of interesting questions and really makes the viewer think about how relationships and decisions can affect the path of our life and others around us. It is another movie which I’m sure benefits from repeat viewing, I only wish I had the time. I will be sure though to rent this on dvd and enjoy it all again.

This is a really satisfying movie which deals with deep and challenging concepts whilst developing a romantic relationship and addressing the central character’s identity quest. All in all a super movie but I’m now dreading the next time I fall asleep on the train…

T.

P.S. I promise not to pick a sci fi thriller for my next blog!

Hi all,

Wednesday matinees in Belfast have become a reasonably regular occurance over the past two years. Often accompanied by my best man and lowly knight, Daniel F. Brown. We don’t see a lot of each other but we are true and old friends. Evidence of this is our ability to catch up in ten minutes tops! Being a fellow cinema lover we choose to spend the rest of our time together silently in a dark room. People may see this as anti-social, maybe it is, but Dan and I value this time together.

“The Adjustment Bureau” was orginally a short story by the late Philip Dick, he wrote “Blade Runner” and “Miniority Report”. This story was then screenplayed and directed by George Nolfi. Nolfi has worked with the lead Matt Damon previously on the “Oceans Twelve” and “Bourne Ultimatum”. They combine once again in this tale of love, loss, fate and free will. David Norris (Damon) is a young popular politician whos votes take a dip just as he meets mysterious ballerina, Elise (Emily Blunt). As this relationship develops well dressed men in trilby hats (with seemingly divine powers) show up and try to keep them apart. Cue chase scenes…

What I like about it: This is essentially a love story set within a sci-fic esque context. First and foremost Damon and Blunt are brilliant, they are believable and their relationship makes the movie tick. It is this relationship at the core of the picture which makes it work as a good film. And it is good! It is entertaining and raises some smart questions regarding predestination and free will. I like the idea that there is an ongoing story/plan for our lives which is continuingly being written by a ‘Chairman’. It also has a really cool soundtrack allowing the plot to bounce along nicely. I won’t spoil the plot, but there are certain things we don’t find out about ‘the men in hats’ which keeps it intriguing.

What I didn’t like: There are certain things you don’t find out in general which would be helpful. I find sometimes in movies if a director or writer doesn’t know how to answer a question they can just put it down to being intriguing and interesting. However I found parts of “The Adjustment Bureau” to be vague and lazy. Again I don’t want to say too much but ‘the door’ concept started to annoy me. Dan and I looked at each other at one point nearing the end and sighed as it seemed the story started to get away from the director. I also don’t like the title; it sounds like a corporate garment altering service which thinks it’s ‘hip’!

“The Adjustment Bureau” is a bit like “The Matrix” meets “The Notebook”…funny as it sounds it is true. This is a huge concept asking huge questions with real style and some great performances. My feeling however is that by trying to combine this love story with the intriguing metaphysics, the latter suffers and does not hold as strongly as the former.

Conclusion: Depending on your ‘plan’ for the weekend, or that of the ‘Chairman’…you could do much worse than ‘choosing’ this movie. Enjoy your free will…

T.

Dear John…

Dear me…

T.

Hi all,

Gillian and I have the pleasure of staying in her parents cottage by the sea in Portstewart while they travel the Southern Hemisphere. It’s a great place and I have been waking up to consistent swell this week so my body is tired but my soul is well charged! And as the sun sets the cottage has its perks. Hello Sky Movies! First on the library list ;”The Book of Eli”, lets see how we get on…

The reason I was initially interested was that this post-apocalyptic movie came out around the same time as “The Road” in early 2010. I loved “The Road” and at the time of release I remember hearing and thinking “The Book of Eli” looked like its little brother catering for a more mainstream market. Whilst “The Road” relies on fear, silence and suspense, “The Book of Eli” centres on a definite plot which unfolds and has direction. The plot being that Eli (Denzil Washington) has been trekking for over thrity years with a ‘powerful book’ travelling west across America, fighting off hungry hiyjackers and in constant search for clean water. Solara (Mila Kunis) clings to Eli in search of a rescuer from Carnegie (Gary Oldman) who plans to control and rule over people by obtaining the ‘powerful book’.

As the plot develops the book is indeed the Bible, and the only known copy left since the apocalyptic event. There are two big themes within the movie; firstly it is Eli’s interaction with Solara as he teaches her and explains life/society pre apocalyptic world. It’s a great sub plot, addressing issues of materialism and loss of community; Eli regretfully states “We used to throw away things which people will now go to war over..” Second theme is the example shown of life/society without the Word of God. I found it quite powerful and when Eli quotes Psalm 23 there is a sense of beauty in the chaos.

The Hughes Brothers do a fine job directing, I haven’t thought much of their work before this. It is the plot which intrigued me and it was nice to see a movie which promoted the teachings of Jesus and views the Bible as God breathed. The performances are a good standard, Gary Oldman doing ‘the scary mad man thing’ very well. Denzil Washington (a well known believer) is pretty good, does the action scenes well and he must have loved the overall premise.

This is well worth a rental or if you’re lucky enough, a viewing on Sky Movies! I don’t want to spoil the plot or ending too much but there is a twist I didn’t see coming which made me want to rewind. It’s not in the same class of twist as “The Sixth Sense” or “The Usual Suspects” but it got me and I had a big silly grin on my face. If the remaining movies on the library list are to this standard it will be a very entertaining stay at the cottage.

T.