You Should Be Watching: Breaking Bad.
The star of this glorious TV programme by AMC is one you’ll instantly recognise; he may be the same person but it’s hard to believe.
Bryan Cranston has taken the world of acting by the jugular, showing that he may be one of the best actors of our time. It’s taken him a long time to get here after being known as the clumsy do-wrong dad Hal in Malcolm in the Middle. He’s now known as whatever role he inhabits since you don’t see that character anymore; he’s unrecognisable. He disappears into his roles like he did in Drive, like he will in Red Tails and all of the upcoming projects of the world’s busiest actor.
Director: Gavin O’Connor.
Running Time: 140 min.
Starring: Tom Hardy, Joel Edgerton, Nick Nolte, Jennifer Morrison, Frank Grillo and Kevin Dunn.
If you ask most film critics about their opinion on the best decades for blockbusters, they’d wage the pros-and-cons of the ’70s and ’80s. A time where set-design prevailed over CGI backgrounds and when special effects just weren’t that special. It was a time where they focused more on the story and characters rather than just on the visual things or one-liners here and there. In a way, I agree but this year has been a great year for blockbusters, in my opinion. In fact, thanks to this film, it just got a lot better.
Plot: After witnessing a mysterious train crash, a group of friends in the summer of 1979 begin noticing strange happenings going around in their small town, and begin to investigate into the creepy phenomenon.
Perfectly, then, this is set in 1979 which is the year Alien came out - one of the best blockbusters of all time and Ridley Scott’s greatest creations. In the wake of a superhero summer, J.J. Abrams has come out with - what could easily be and was probably going to be - two different films but merged into one. It centres on a child named Joe Lamb (Joel Courtney) who, four months later, is still reeling from the after-effects of losing his mother. His best friend, Charles (Riley Griffiths), is making a zombie film. This group of pre-teen kids (and one just-teen girl) are making a zombie film on a super 8 to enter into a youth film festival. They film at a sight with a new addition to the cast, Alice (Elle Fanning), who drives them there (illegally). When an air-force train is about to pass, Charles swipes at the opportunity to film while it flies past in its noisy wonderment for “production value”.
While they film Alice and (S)Martin (Gabriel Basso) doing their scene, Joe hears something. He watches as a pick-up truck malevolently derails this train - the pyromaniac, Cary (Ryan Lee) is in heaven at this moment - causing the cast to run for their lives while something unknown, perhaps a little “Extra-Terrestrial”, unhinges a door of the train and escapes. Strange things happen in this small town where car engines disappear out of showroom cars, mast wires disappear, rolling blackouts and local dogs being found but the calls “aren’t local”. These leave the deputy, Jackson Lamb (Kyle Chandler), baffled and searching for answers from a reluctant and irritated Colonel Nelec (Noah Emmerich). He occupies the town by cleaning up the train crash and insisting that there’s no danger even though they’re clearly searching for something.
What ensues is a master class on how to make a monster film, courtesy of J. J. Abrams. He shows us that showing all your cards at once is nothing but a rookie mistake and that you should take time to build anticipation but not to infuriating levels. He times it just right - like Cloverfield - by giving us milliseconds of shimmers or glimpses of the monster. We see its damage directly and indirectly yet it takes us a very long time to actually see it. As the story goes on and on we see great shots of great scenery and levels of depth - the shot of Joe biking back from Charles’s is just simple and so are the shots after the train crash and up on the hill with it in the background.
Since the kids were making a zombie movie, there are several references to director George A. Romero. For example, Romero Chemicals as the evil company, plus the poster for one of his movies in Joe’s bedroom. You can see the film that they create, The Case, during the credits.
Now, lately, I’ve been not really been a fan of children or young teens but these children are brilliant. They’re full of emotion, full of realism and yet still make things funny. I mean, their attempts at humour aren’t attempts at all because they nail every line making it a nice comedic yet tense first half of the film and a genuine second half with their brilliant acting skills. These children could go far if they don’t ruin it for themselves with drink, drugs or bad film choices from now on. They’re onto a winner here.
The only problem was the CGI which seemed to lack in areas. For example, he builds the monster and it turns out to be a semi-original concept but a little harsh. It feels like it changes in sizes to suit the surroundings. The train crash was slightly poor too in comparison but after a $150m budget summer it’s hard to expect less than borderline perfect.
It had all the recipes of a Spielberg picture with the storytelling, the character, the character development. It doesn’t feel like a blockbuster with the effort that goes into creating traits of characters that aren’t really made any more; they have noticeable personalities which are all similar yet different and they all have idiosyncrasies which are individual to each character. It’s also got all the recipes of a J. J. Abrams creation (albeit a watered down one) with excessive lens flare but less of the mind-melting. He doesn’t try to answer your questions (a bit like Lost, actually) about the creation if it, where it came from or anything like that; it just focuses on the now which is a part of its charm. A brilliant cast with a great storyline being told by one of the great writer-directors that has entered Hollywood. One of the best blockbusters of this summer.
My goal to see every Oscar nominated film before the ceremony is seeming very unlikely thanks to me being a student. Either way, I went to the cinema last night to see a film I’ve been dying to see more than any of the other Oscar nominations, The Fighter. I’d heard great things about this film and about all the performances in it but I still went in with my no expectation view on the film. About ten minutes in, I realised that Christian Bale was amazing; it took only ten minutes for that to kick in.
A look at the early years of boxer “Irish” Micky Ward and his brother who helped train him before going pro in the mid 1980s.
This film is based on the true story of Micky Ward, the younger, cast-into-the-shadows brother of Dicky Eklund who knocked Sugar Ray Leonard down when he was in his prime and that was his last professional fight. Dicky Eklund is deluded to the concept that he can still make a comeback and so is his mother, Alice Ward - played by Melissa Leo. Although they claim that this is all about Micky and family but really it’s about having money and so Dicky can build himself back up to be a champion yet again. There is no bias in the family, according to Alice, but there blatantly is. Dicky is the star child of this dysfunctional family since he knocked down Sugar Ray Leonard, the crack addicted star child that is.
The direction of the film is pretty much perfect. The film pulls you in as if you’re a helpless family member in this chaos and you get fully immersed in such a helpless manner that you want to put Micky Ward’s family in their place.
That being said, this can be quite funny at times. Weird as it is, you like the crack-addicted brother who’s selfish in his thoughts. The way he moves, talks and just acts with a brash of never ending arrogance makes you like him instead of despising his pathetic self. While the film will have you laughing, it will also send you into a spiral of different emotions and the most common one I had was frustration at the fact that Micky was getting ignored so easily. Any film that sucks you in so easily is incredible.
I noticed that Mark Wahlberg was robbed of a nomination. I haven’t seen Biutiful so I can’t comment on Javier Bardem’s performance but all I know is that Mark Wahlberg was ignored purely because he kept it all together. He didn’t have the loud, skinny addict brother but the level-headed one who has always stayed in the shadow of his half-brother Dicky Eklund. He was Micky Ward and he really performed in an outstanding manner. I still believe that Mark Wahlberg is an incredibly underrated actor ever since I saw him in Fear, Three Kings and Four Brothers; he’s just made some wrong decisions about what film to act in really. We can’t forget about the train-wreck of The Happening and the painfully bad but beautiful (cinematography wise) Max Payne. Maybe they’re punishing him for those? Hopefully, this’ll lead to him actually doing more great films again.
Christian Bale’s portrayal of a crack-addict who can’t let go of former glories like a nostalgic grandfather who rambles on about how society used to be and how he used to work his socks off for a mere tuppence is far too convincing. His performance is the most talked about but for a reason. He takes in a lot of the attention with his character who hogs the limelight from his brother, and that’s what Christian Bale does in this film. He takes centre stage from an incredible Mark Wahlberg just like their characters.
Amy Adams’s (yes, it is s’s, google it) “sexy-bitch” character - as described by David O. Russell - is an incredible all-round performance. From the rude but comical way she introduces herself to Alice Ward to the fight thanks to an “MTV girl” insult from one of the seven haggard sisters, Amy Adams shows she can do it all and shouldn’t be type-cast. Even though she’s now at the age of thirty-six she still looks in her mid 20s so hopefully we’ll see more from her. From the silly-but-hilarious Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby to the probably awful (haven’t seen it) Enchanted, Amy Adams can do it all; and she really wants to be seen as a sexy dominating girl who will fight and voice her opinion. Amy Adams deserves an Oscar for this role and her ability to diversify herself.
Another great performance from the near-perfect cast is Melissa Leo’s manager/mother depiction of Alice Ward. A terrifying, controlling mother of nine children but puts her Dicky on a pedestal that no one can eclipse. The Oscar nomination is deserved and if she won it then there’d be no complaints from anyone but I still think that Amy Adams deserves it.
There is only one complaint on my part and that is annoying Boston actress, Jill Quigg, who can’t act and annoyed me with her brief performance in Ben Affleck’s directorial début, Gone Baby Gone, and now this. Just because her Boston accent is incredibly strong doesn’t mean she has to be cast. She also looks like her face has folded in on itself and that’s not something you want to see from an emotionless and monotonous actress.
To summarise, this film is for everyone. It’s a fantastic, if not clichéd, storyline of the underdog but that doesn’t matter since it’s true. Nothing about this story seems unoriginal and David O. Russell has created what I deem to be one of the best films I’ve seen. From the authenticity of the fight scenes (by using the real HBO cameras) to the authenticity of every single character who made this film a believable spectacle which almost makes you shout in anger and cheer in happiness along.
I’ve decided to adopt the “star system”: ★★★★★