Out Now – 28th January 2011

Happy Friday! No big exciting releases this week, though there are a couple of Oscar nominated films and plenty of crap.

Barney’s Version
Paul Giamatti plays a slightly dishevelled womaniser in what is bound to be a funny, well acted comedy that borders on being slightly offensive.

“Uxbal is a tragic hero and father of two who’s sensing the danger of death. He struggles with a tainted reality and a fate that works against him in order to forgive, for love, and forever.” Which a much praised performance by Bardem this deep feature will be the foreign film that crosses over to the mainstream this year.

Eastwood is back with a drama about three seperate people touched by death. Don’t let the awful posters put you off as it might be quite good.

How Do You Know
While Rudd is currently finding success and acclaim at Sundance he hasn’t forgotten that shitty romantic comedies pay the bills. Woman has mid-life crisis and ends up in a love triangle, the funniest shape of all.

The Mechanic
Jason Statham is an elite hit man teaching his trade to an apprentice, I love it when government training schemes work out. From the synopsis I’m guessing Statham previously killed a relative of the apprentice and revenge will be sought.

At last, Rapunzel retold for the modern age! Don’t expect too much and you might have a forgettably good time.

Accursed Blood (limited release)
A horror about kids trying to film a ghost in a hotel. Naturally things go wrong… I have nothing more, this film is hard to Google and it seems to have been straight to DVD in the US four years ago.

How Much Does Your Building Weigh, Mr Foster? (limited release)
Showing at the ICA with Foster himself this documentary follows this architect’s rise and desire to… architect.

Men on the Bridge (limited release)
“The stories of three men working at the Bosphorus Bridge in Istanbul are told by the original characters, in this mosaic depicting real persons exposing their lives and aspirations.” It’s Turkish! I think.

The Lover’s Guide 3D (limited release)
What!? I see no reason why you wouldn’t go to the cinema for sex tips, told in a sensible manner and shown in 3D. Remember, if it’s out of focus don’t try to focus on it, no matter how sexy it might be. You’ll only get a headache and have no sex at all.

Zebra Crossing (limited release)
Apparently this film, “blends a diverse mixture of characters that all share one thing in common: The incredible loneliness of living alongside 7 million other people. Blending the surreal, and very real, we take an intense journey in search of friendship, belief and religion.” Mmmm, blending.

Nominations – The Hits and Misses

Before we had chance to have a proper look at the BAFTA nominations, the Oscars announced their own nominees leaving us in danger of overdoing it with the nomination coverage. In a two for one special let’s take this film by film and see where the two big ceremonies have put most of their nominations. We’ll look at each ceremony nearer the time.

127 Hours – 14 Nominations
Franco, the screenplay, music and editing are all nominated at both ceremonies and could possibly pick up the majority of these awards, though Franco would have to topple King Firth first. While at the Oscars it has a Best picture nomination, at the BAFTAs there is the slightly more specialist Outstanding British Film nomination and Boyle is only nominated for directing at the BAFTAs, benefiting perhaps from the home advantage. A good reception for a film about a man stuck under a rock.

Another Year – 3 Nominations
This beauty has a meagre spattering of nominations from the two institutes. The Oscars are just recognising the screenplay while BAFTA give Lesley Manville a nod for her heart-breaking role. Shame they couldn’t find a bit more room for Another Year in the other categories.

Black Swan – 17 Nominations
Doing particularly well with the BAFTAs this film has nominations for almost all the technical awards, most excitingly for Visual Effects, always good to see something not seen as “effects heavy” getting nominated. Darranofsky and Portman get a nomination at each ceremony as does the film, cinematography and editing. Bonus points again to BAFTA for nominating Barbara Hershey for Best Supporting Actress. Shame no nod for Vincent Cassel.

Blue Valentine – 1 Nomination
More notable here for it’s lack of nominations, receiving just the one for Michelle Williams. Ryan Gosling must be a little hurt, or blue. Lol.

Biutiful – 4 Nominations
A perfect match across the ceremonies with Best Actor and Best Foreign Film nominations in both. Notable for having a lead actor nomination for the first time for a role with no English dialogue.

Exit Through The Gift Shop – 2 Nominations
In this list purely because I saw it at the weekend and though it amazing, and most likely not a hoax. Probably given one nomination for each ceremony in the hope that Banksy will turn up in person.

The Fighter – 8 Nominations
The screenplay and Amy Adams’ supporting role are the only two double nominations, with the Oscars throwing in a nomination for the film in it’s widened category and the BAFTAs nominating our nation’s own Christian Bale.

Inception – 17 Nominations
Thankfully not just getting technical nominations, Inception is also up for Best Film and Screenplay at both ceremonies with just the BAFTAs recognising Nolan’s directorial triumph. Expect plenty of technical wins but nothing for the bigger awards.

The Kids Are All Right – 8 Nominations
One of the least flashy big hitters, hence the lack of technical nominations. Instead there are double nominations for Bening, Ruffalo and the screenplay. The Oscars gives it a chance at Best Film while the BAFTAs gives Moore some deserved recognition. Yes Bening stole the show but Moore was better than Ruffalo, no?

The King’s Speech – 26 Nominations
As if winning one of our awards at the London Film Festival wasn’t enough, this British darling is doing amazingly well, probably for being a “proper” film that is actually enjoyable. Nominated at both awards for everything from acting to sound mixing The King’s Speech is the one to beat. A special note should be made of Rush’s double nominations for supporting actor as he made the film, and the undeserved nominations for Carter who is possibly just being swept up in the film’s tidal wave of praise.

The Social Network – 14 Nominations
My personal favourite of all the nominees has well deserved double nominations for film, direction, screenplay (woo Sorkin!) and Best Actor. Nice to see Jesse Eisenberg nominated, but a shame to see only BAFTA recognising Andrew Garfield’s talents. He needs all the accolades we can give him and this film deserves all it’s nominations. Best Screenplay is a must.

The Town – 2 Nominations
Another film I had expected to do a little better and oddly has different actors being rewarded for their supporting roles in the different events. Perhaps this could be an opportunity for BAFTA to give Pete Postlethwaite a farewell trophy.

Toy Story 3 – 8 Nominations
Pixar continue to break out of the technical categories and get double nods for Best Film, Best Animated Film and Best Screenplay. On a related note Day & Night absolutely has to win best animated short for being the most ingenious thing Pixar have ever done. Ever.

True Grit – 18 Nominations
The Coen Brothers always do well but the alarming lack of respect from the Golden Globes looked set to change that. No worries now that they have been showered with nominations, though Hailee Steinfeld has been relegated to supporting actress by the Oscars while the BAFTAs recognise her leading role status. Hard to say without having seen it but it’s probably awesome.

Waste Land – 1 Nomination
Another Mild Concern favourite getting the attention it deserves, carry on.

Winter’s Bone – 4 Nominations
This dark tale we haven’t seen went by the BAFTA radar but garnered Oscar nominations for acting, film and screenplay. Kudos!

More Proof 3D Sucks

It has been a while since we had a proper rant, James Cameron must have been keeping his head down, but the old 3D debate rages on and we have a new big hitter on our side. Walter Murch, film editor and sound designer extraordinaire, has written a letter to Roger Ebert, film critic… extraordinaire, to explain why 3D just doesn’t work.

It has a lot to do with the way our eyes focus and how a 3D film is all the same distance from our face, making our eyes focus at a different distance to which they converge… I’ll let Murch explain:

“Hello Roger,

I read your review of “Green Hornet” and though I haven’t seen the film, I agree with your comments about 3D.

The 3D image is dark, as you mentioned (about a camera stop darker) and small. Somehow the glasses “gather in” the image — even on a huge Imax screen — and make it seem half the scope of the same image when looked at without the glasses.

I edited one 3D film back in the 1980’s — “Captain Eo” — and also noticed that horizontal movement will strobe much sooner in 3D than it does in 2D. This was true then, and it is still true now. It has something to do with the amount of brain power dedicated to studying the edges of things. The more conscious we are of edges, the earlier strobing kicks in.

The biggest problem with 3D, though, is the “convergence/focus” issue. A couple of the other issues — darkness and “smallness” — are at least theoretically solvable. But the deeper problem is that the audience must focus their eyes at the plane of the screen — say it is 80 feet away. This is constant no matter what.

But their eyes must converge at perhaps 10 feet away, then 60 feet, then 120 feet, and so on, depending on what the illusion is. So 3D films require us to focus at one distance and converge at another. And 600 million years of evolution has never presented this problem before. All living things with eyes have always focussed and converged at the same point.

If we look at the salt shaker on the table, close to us, we focus at six feet and our eyeballs converge (tilt in) at six feet. Imagine the base of a triangle between your eyes and the apex of the triangle resting on the thing you are looking at. But then look out the window and you focus at sixty feet and converge also at sixty feet. That imaginary triangle has now “opened up” so that your lines of sight are almost — almost — parallel to each other.

We can do this. 3D films would not work if we couldn’t. But it is like tapping your head and rubbing your stomach at the same time, difficult. So the “CPU” of our perceptual brain has to work extra hard, which is why after 20 minutes or so many people get headaches. They are doing something that 600 million years of evolution never prepared them for. This is a deep problem, which no amount of technical tweaking can fix. Nothing will fix it short of producing true “holographic” images.

Consequently, the editing of 3D films cannot be as rapid as for 2D films, because of this shifting of convergence: it takes a number of milliseconds for the brain/eye to “get” what the space of each shot is and adjust.

And lastly, the question of immersion. 3D films remind the audience that they are in a certain “perspective” relationship to the image. It is almost a Brechtian trick. Whereas if the film story has really gripped an audience they are “in” the picture in a kind of dreamlike “spaceless” space. So a good story will give you more dimensionality than you can ever cope with.

So: dark, small, stroby, headache inducing, alienating. And expensive. The question is: how long will it take people to realize and get fed up?

All best wishes,

Walter Murch”

2 for 1 Karting from Drive Angry

Fancy a 2 for 1 voucher for F1-K Indoor Karting courtesy of Drive Angry? All you need to do is go to www.driveangryoffer.co.uk and enter the inspired promotional code “drive”.

This is a film about a man who has broken out of hell and presumably drives like a maniac but I suggest you don’t actually drive angry. It will only end in tears and the friend you take with you won’t appreciate being forced off the track. It’s also worth pointing out that you probably won’t get to hang around with Amber Heard, but we can dream.

Nicolas Cage (Bad Lieutenant, Adaptation) stars as a vengeance-fuelled father who breaks out of Hell to pursue the killers of his daughter and save her kidnapped baby in Lionsgate’s DRIVE ANGRY 3D, the new in-your-face shocker from the team behind My Bloody Valentine 3D, director Patrick Lussier and fellow writer Todd Farmer.

The Oscar-winning star is joined on screen by William Fichtner (The Dark Knight), Amber Heard (The Rum Diary), Billy Burke (Untraceable), Simona Williams and Katy Mixon.

Milton (Cage), a hardened felon, has broken out of Hell for one last chance at redemption. Intent on stopping a vicious cult who murdered his daughter, he has three days to stop them before they sacrifice her baby beneath a full moon. He’s joined by Piper (Heard), a young, sexy waitress, who liberates her boyfriends cherry-red muscle car in order to help Milton.

Now the two of them are hot on the trail of the deadly leader of the cult, Jonah (Burke), who believes it is his destiny to use the baby to unleash Hell on Earth. But the bloodthirsty cult is the least of Milton’s problems. The police are after him too. And worse, an enigmatic killer known only as The Accountant (Fichtner) has been sent by the Devil to retrieve Milton and deliver him back to Hell.

Release Date: February 25th

Boardwalk Empire – TV Review

Boardwalk Empire

Last Tuesday Mild Concern talked its way into the VIP seating at Sky Atlantic’s preview screening of Boardwalk Empire, HBO’s new Golden Globe-winning drama set during the Prohibition era. It turns out it wasn’t that hard and we almost had the entire row to ourselves, goody bags and all. But this isn’t about VIP sections and getting free stuff, this is about reviewing a new TV show so that we can get into VIP sections and get free stuff.

To show we’re taking this seriously what follows is a two-person review; for once there is an actual “we” involved. Spoilers for the first two episodes ahead.

A lot of effort had been put into the event, flapper girls were everywhere and there was a small band playing endless tunes for the hour we were sat waiting for the show to begin. We’re not bitter.

Empire cinema

He said: For a start, two episodes of Boardwalk Empire back to back, without a break is a bit of a challenge.

She said: We did get the title cards to show where the breaks would be. As it was though, it was intense.

He: Lots of violence, blood all over the camera. And how many boobs?

She: Eight sets. Well, one was a repeat showing. Not that I was counting. Except I was. It felt like, “Hello! We’re HBO and we can have as much (female) nudity as we want!”

He: Don’t forget the racism.

She: As if I could.

He: We had the KKK, black-faced minstrels, a “slanty-eyes” comment…

She: Some of it I can understand from a plot-forwarding, general scene-setting point of view – the attitude of one of the characters to his black maid was uncomfortable but telling.

He: Whereas the KKK were just in the background handing out leaflets.

She: I really hated the black-faced minstrels. The whole of that scene felt very musical theatre, in that a lot of concepts were being flagged up: “Look! Alcohol! Look! It’s the twenties! Look! Sexism! Look! Racism!”

He: And midgets. Twice. The midget boxing had no purpose. It was like Mad Men without the class.

Did you actually like the show?

She: I’m not sure. Objectively speaking, I thought it was good. The direction was fantastic, the plot is compelling and it’s very well acted. Set production was also impressive. But I didn’t like the majority of the characters and ultimately, it left me cold.

He: What it lacked was someone to root for beyond Kelly McDonald, who by the end of two episodes appeared to be prostituting herself.

She: Also, what decision-making process was behind casting a Scottish woman as an Irish woman? Celtic nations: they’re all the same?

I will say that I liked Buscemi’s girlfriend and manservant: they both cracked me up.

He: Would you recommend it to a friend?

She: With a lot of reservations. You?

He: If they’re not easily offended and have Sky. Which I don’t. Sky Atlantic in general though is very exciting. The cream of American TV.

She: Definitely – Mad Men, Six Feet Under, Flight of the Conchords and especially The Wire, which I think I was disappointed that Boardwalk Empire wasn’t.

He: I’m just disappointed I don’t have Sky.

Sky Atlantic launches on the 1st February with Boardwalk Empire. Then it just gets better.

Out Now – 21st January 2011

You know what you need to see this weekend, and it doesn’t star Kevin James.

Black Swan
We loved this masterpiece from Darrenofsky, the story of a ballerina’s battle to discover her darker, free-er self. It’s a movie that will have you tense from start to finish and is a true cinema experience. Plus Portman totally gets down and dirty with Kunis. Something for everyone.

The Dilemma
If you caught your best friend’s wife cheating on him would you have an hour and a half of hilarious consequences? Vince Vaughn would! Or he seems to try to her.

Get Low
A hermit throws himself a funeral with the help of Bill Murray and people discover things about themselves. You had me at Bill Murray.

John Carpenter’s The Ward
Sexy girls in a mental institution! It’s like Sucker Punch only there’s a ghost and less fantastical CGI filled sequences. Expect to yelp at least once in shock.

Morning Glory
Two ageing and warring news anchors and the young producer who has to revive their show. Hilarious! I hope at some point the young producer struggles to carry a large amount of something and drops it. I like it when that happens.

Ride, Rise, Roar
A documentary about David Byrnes from Talking Heads, in which he is no longer in Talking Heads.

Genius Within: The Inner Life of Glenn Gould (limited release)
“A documentary on the mysterious and influential pianist.” Ooh mysterious! I’ve never even heard of Glenn Gould.

Honeymooner (limited release)
Dumped by his fiancée weeks before they get married Fran (a man) reconsiders his “strategy” for love. It’s British and very short.

I Spit On Your Grave (limited release)
The remake of a film about a woman who is raped and then goes on to brutally murder her attackers, which had to have a few seconds removed to get shown. Expect to be disturbed with nothing to redeem you or the movie.

NEDS (limited release)
Violent British youth in a contemporary period setting. So far, so familiar. Something to watch if young people don’t scare you enough.

The Portuguese Nun (limited release)
A slightly pretentious looking man at The Guardian positively gushes about this film, calling it “mesmeric, subtly comic and weirdly gripping”. Only on at the ICA in London. Obviously.

And the Winner is… Golden Globes 2011

On Monday morning the Golden Globes were awarded to some deserving recipients in the film categories, and some less deserving recipients in the TV categories.

The Social Network, our 2nd best film of 2010, picked up Best Score, Best Drama, Best Director and Best Screenplay in a clear sweep of all but the acting awards. No arguments there, it is a great film that goes way beyond being a Facebook movie.

The Kid’s Are All Right did well out of the Golden Globes’ bizarre system of splitting films into drama and comedy/musical for a few categories. While the directors all go head to head the actors and films don’t have to. With The Kid’s Are All Right being classed as a comedy (not a drama?) it was an easy win in Best Comedy for the wonderful Annette Bening in Best Actress.

In the drama acting categories the vibe was set for future award ceremonies with Colin Firth and Natalie Portman taking the top honours. Two very deserving wins and two lovely acceptance speeches, now Firth is sure to get a BAFTA now and they could both do well at the Oscars.

The Fighter also did well for itself in a supporting manner, winning Best Supporting Actor and Actress in two categories that were not split into drama and comedy/musical. Not sure where the HFPA draw the line at which categories to split and which require comedians and dramatic actor to battle it out. Regardless, having not seen The Fighter, I feel like some personal favourites had their award taken from them.

Toy Story 3 won Best Animated Film in the most predictable category of the night… there really is nothing more to say on that.

TV went crazy, Glee is not the best comedy, Boardwalk Empire not the best Drama and Jim Parsons, Chris Colfer, Laura Linney and Steve Buscemi did not put in the best performances this year. Katey Sagal I can’t comment on and Jane Lynch is the exception as someone who was easily one of the best in her category. A couple of these awards looked a lot like rewarding movie actors for doing TV to encourage them to keep going, rather than judging the actual performances.

Next up: The BAFTAs!

127 Hours – Review

Danny Boyle did good. 127 Hours is a tight film that fills its 94 minutes without a lull and keeps the energy high from the bouncy opening right through to amputation time, despite the main character remaining trapped under a rock for the majority of the film.

James Franco has stolen Ryan Reynolds’ “trapped actor easily carrying the film” crown as he gives he most convincing, and least bizarre, performance to date as Aron Ralston. In fact Franco’s slightly off kilter personality perfectly fits the isolated outdoorsman that goes running around rocky landscapes without telling anyone where he’s going.

The amputation scene itself is not an easy watch but is so well done it’s a crime to actually look away. The gore is not overplayed, though watching a man trying to get through a nerve is never going to be easy to stomach.

Boyle cleverly introduces the world from Aron’s point of view early on so it’s not too jarring when later on Aron’s hallucinations take over, a mixture of memories and “premonitions”. Of course through these hallucinations Aron learns something about himself, something he feels the need to awkwardly say out loud in the film’s only real weak moment. Of course you’re a fool for letting Clémence Poésy go.

127 Hours needs to be seen, and if you’re going to look away as he hacks his arm off I’d advise covering your ears too, that is one loud snap.

It’s so good I might finally watch Slumdog Millionaire.