Monster Trucks And Yoga Hosers

Looking through trailers today I came across a couple of interesting titles that got me wondering have we run out of ideas or hit a new level of creativity?

Watching the trailer for Monster Trucks (2017) I’m definitely in the run out of ideas camp. If like me you were thinking it would be about a maverick monster truck driver (even this is a bad idea for a film) taking on all comers think again. Here’s the synopsis.

Looking for any way to get away from the life and town he was born into, Tripp (Lucas Till), a high school senior, builds a Monster Truck from bits and pieces of scrapped cars. After an accident at a nearby oil-drilling site displaces a strange and subterranean creature with a taste and a talent for speed, Tripp may have just found the key to getting out of town and a most unlikely friend.

Yes his truck is a monster truck, because it literally has a monster in it! The trailer starts off all serious with random holes in vehicles and men wearing army style gear looking for something mysterious, welcome stage left cute CGI monster. Oh and from stage right comes the girl he’s always really liked and now wants to spend time with him because of the cute CGI monster! To say the trailer tells you everything you need to know is an understatement.

The next title to catch my eye was Yoga Hosers (2016) the latest from Kevin Smith. From the trailer this does seem to have some out there ideas, Bratzi’s for one, who happen to be 1 foot tall bratwurst nazis dressed as Canadian Mounties. Here’s the synopsis for this one.

Two teenage yoga enthusiasts team up with a legendary man-hunter to battle with an ancient evil presence that is threatening their major party plans.

OK so Kevin Smith can be hit and miss but at least with this he seems to be trying something, rather than just going, hey wouldn’t it be great to put a real monster in a truck, people will definitely pay to see that!

This isn’t the real word but Canada, or at least how Kevin Smith sees it. This seems like more of a fresh take on an idea than a regurgitated formula, at least it’s trying to do something a bit different even if it does turn out to be a terrible film.

Assassin’s Creed: First Thoughts

I’ve played all the Assassin’s creed games, so was excited when I heard they were going to make a movie. The story lines are usually really interesting, weaving fictional characters into historical time periods with important figures from each era. In the last game Assassin’s Creed Syndicate, I got to have a chin wag with Winston Churchill and go on paranormal investigations with Charles Dickens! It’s the mix of the fictional and the factual that appeals to me, that and stabbing people through the neck with a hidden blade!

As we all know the film studios don’t have a great track record of adapting computer games for the silver screen. It was reassuring to know that Ubisoft wanted to make sure they were involved through the whole process and that Michael Fassbender was set to star.

This is what we know about the film from the Fox website.

Through a revolutionary technology that unlocks his genetic memories, Callum Lynch (Michael Fassbender) experiences the adventures of his ancestor, Aguilar, in 15th Century Spain. Callum discovers he is descended from a mysterious secret society, the Assassins, and amasses incredible knowledge and skills to take on the oppressive and powerful Templar organization in the present day.

The first trailer dropped this week and I have to say I’m a tad concerned.

Sure the costumes look spot on, I want one of the hidden blades and the free running and leap of faith are present and correct. The Templar’s scenes has the futuristic look and oppressive feel you’d want from a secret organisation trying to take over the world, but there was something missing, any idea that there’s any story.

From the trailer all I can surmise so far is Fassbender’s going to be running around as an Assassin stabbing people and jumping off things. Sure we all want that, but I can go watch YouTube videos of people free running, or play the game if I want to get into some ultra violence. There needs to be something more than the movie summary, that’s all we’re going to get if the trailer is to be believed.

I hope we haven’t seen everything there is in the trailer and it’s not another entry into the game adaptations that should’ve been great list. There’s so much to mine from the Assassin’s Creed franchise, hopefully they release some more footage soon that will allay my fears.

Review: Sicario

I’ve been waiting for Sicario to come out for a while, I was gutted when I missed the opportunity to see it at the cinema. I watched one of the Director’s (Denis Villeneuve) previous films, Prisoners, and was impressed with the 70’s style slow burn thriller that he’d produced and was really looking forward to seeing his latest effort.

After a raid on a house owned by the drug cartel ends with deadly consequences, FBI agent Kate Mercer (Emily Blunt) is asked to join an inter agency task force by shadowy agent Matt Graver (Josh Brolin) to track down and disrupt the operations of the Mexican cartel responsible. This takes them on operations back and forth across the border with the mysterious Alejandro (Benicio Del Toro) who has his own hidden agenda for being involved.

The film begins with the raid on the house, the aim being to free hostages held by a gang. The raid soon turns sour as numerous bodies wrapped in plastic are found in the walls and two officers are killed by an explosion when a booby trapped cellar door is opened. The brutality of these actions clearly shock and appall the FBI team, the sight and smell making them gag, even the experienced Kate is affected, she’s been knocking down doors for three years and has never seen anything like this.

The bodies in the wall and the explosion change Kate, she needs answers, which is why she agrees to join the task force with little to no information.

The filming of this scene sets the tone for the rest of the film. The camera is handheld moving, as if you’re another member of the team during the raid, looking around corners to check for danger and trying to take everything in. It’s fast moving and urgent, using this movement to compliment the cuts and add tension. The camera leans to the left but not quite enough to be a Dutch tilt. It gives the feeling that there’s something not quite right with the whole situation and is used in other parts of the film to convey the insanity of the situation that is the war on drugs in America.

The lighting setups are motivated, using light sources coming through windows, from fluorescent lighting tubes or the interior lights of a car. This is used to clever effect at times, red light across Kate’s face after she shoots a man dead comes from a red sheet covering the window. The danger to a suspect being interrogated by Alejandro is given extra weight with the blue and red flashing lights of Police cars adding to the tension in the scene. It cleverly manages to add tension and meaning to the film whilst giving it the air of realism that really draws you in.

The trips into Mexico are treated like military operations with Kate, Matt and Alejandro joined by Delta force and heavily armed Mexican Police officers who all have their faces covered. The reasons for this become very apparent when they enter Juarez, headless bodies are strung up from underneath the highway, gunshots can be heard in the background and roads are blocked off along their root. They’re definitely not in Arizona anymore.

Later on there is another raid, this time between borders in a tunnel network used by drug smugglers. Parts of the sequence uses night vision and thermal cameras so we see what Kate and the others see. This makes the world look alien, the rocks all in a green or grey hue as they make their way towards the tunnel. It adds tension but also dehumanises the bodies left lying on the floor, they just look like inanimate objects, like they’ve been playing a computer game. This is a numbers game plain and simple, how can we get rid of some of them and make the drug problem more manageable. Deep down they know the war is lost and the policies don’t work, so they will police it the best they can.

There is an empty hollow feeling you’re left with after watching Sicario, I couldn’t put my finger on it at first but that’s the point. The futility of the American policies dealing with the drug trade, shoot or arrest one and there’s two more guys to take his place, even worse they could cause even more carnage fighting it out over who that will be. It’s a fight that can’t be won but has gone on for so long they can’t admit they’ve lost, which leads them to work with who they believe is the easiest group of individuals to manipulate.

Sicario was definitely worth the wait, a high tension thriller that kept me gripped all the way through with great performances from the main cast. It may leave you feeling drained, the lives broken and torn apart by greed and malice, the pointlessness of the situation. But hey, a good film is one you remember, because it made you feel something, be that good or bad.

Harry Potter Studio Tour

I visited Leavesden studios made famous by the Harry Potter films to go on the studio tour. I’m not a massive Harry Potter fan but I have to say it’s definitely worth a visit. You don’t have to be a fan of the series to appreciate the time and skill that went into making it. The sets and props are simply stunning, having the chance to walk down Diagon Alley and through the Great Hall sets used in the film is an unbelievable experience.

The sets are on the same sound stages that were used during filming, it adds to the weight of the place knowing that the actors stood where you are now, your imagination runs wild! Hagrid and Harry walking down Diagon Alley thronged with so many weird and wonderful witches and wizards, the splendour of the Great Hall, all the magical moments from the films that happened in the very room you’re standing in!

The tour is definitely a must for film buffs, the sets are lit immaculately, giving you the opportunity to take photos with lighting setups you can only dream of, if I could have got away with it I would have starting filming some scenes of my own there and then!

So much is on show, there’s even blueprints and models of the set and character designs, not to mention a myriad of treats that will inspire and amaze. There’s no way possible to give everything your full attention and take it all in with only one visit. I will definitely be going again to see what I might have missed and any new treats they may have in store for me.

If you would like to check out any of the other photos I took on the tour check out my Pinterest board.

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The Walk (2015)

The Walk follows the story of Philippe Petit who, as a boy, sneaks into the circus and is transfixed by the high wire performers. The skill, the daring do, the showmanship. He has to learn how they achieve this amazing feat. This chance glimpse of another world leads him on a trajectory from a rope around two trees, through performing in the streets of Paris, to walking between the World Trade Centre Towers.

This is a story about ambition, following your dreams and making them reality no matter what. Anything is possible if you just believe.

We first see Philippe stood on the Statue Of Liberty as an adult regaling us with his audacious tale. This framing device is used throughout the film and is a constant distraction along with the narrative that stems from theses scenes. It pulls you away from the film sometimes at moments of high tension, when they’re hiding from guards in the tower or when Philippe starts his life changing walk between the towers. This would be much better left to the audience’s imagination, let them fill in the gaps rather than pulling them out with unnecessary narration.

At times it feels that visual effects are used because they can be, rather than to drive the narrative forward or emphasise a point. This can be seen when we catch up with Philippe in Paris, nearly all the colour is drained out of the frame except for certain items such as the food on the table at a Parisian cafe. Why? I will never know.

The cast do well with what they’re given, Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s French accent seems strange at first but you do get used it as the film goes on. You can measure his commitment to the role by the fact that he learnt to walk the wire for real. The rest of the cast, bar Ben Kingsley’s Papa Rudy, are just there. Kingsley gets more to work with as he possesses the knowledge that Philippe needs to fulfil his dream. We never find out what motivates them to follow Philippe and essentially collaborate in criminal acts. Even he points out during the film he’s not the easiest person to get along with! The supporting cast are two dimensional, the focus is completely on Philippe.

The walks, oh the walks are truly breathtaking, tension filled scenes of bravery, madness, pushing yourself to the limit. The camera swirls around Philippe, closing in on the concentration and determination palpable on his face, his feet slowly making their way along the wire suspended in the heavens. These sequences, especially the final walk between the towers, give you a real sense of scale leaving you breathless as if you were on the wire with him. The audacity and the drive of the man all come together in one glorious wire walk above the streets of New York.

As much as this is a about Philippe Petit, it’s about the World Trade Centre. What it meant to people, what it inspired and how nothing stays the same however much we dream. The dream surrounding the building of the towers was as much as Philippe’s dream of walking between them. They stood for a different world for the one we live in today.

The film is bittersweet for all his achievements, he will never have that feeling again. The exhilaration of walking out into the void above us all where no man is meant to be. Forever never lasts forever.

The First Post!

With this blog I’m going to concentrate on what I love, devouring hours of films and boxsets. Sometimes this can be to the detriment of other areas of my life, we all have our vices. I can’t say I’m not scared trying this but I had to give blogging a try!

The title of the blog is a reference to my name and the house in Citizen Caine, I can promise you it has nothing to do with the Olivia Newton-John film of the same name! Xanadu means place of great beauty, luxury and contentment, it seemed fitting when talking about films and great TV.

There is just something about film that just drags me in to the images dancing in front of my eyes time and time again, I’m always searching for that feeling you get when you know you’ve seen something great that stays with you forever, gets you talking and coming back for more. It’s like a drug it can make you feel euphoria or the lowest low. The best cinema can make you question your place in the world.

The cinema to me is a place of reverence, a darkened room with row upon row of seats, the rustle of packaging (only cool before the films starts, of course). The sense of anticipation waiting for the lights to go down further until the projector jumps into life. It’s light throwing 30 foot images that have to be seen to be believed onto the screen. I even enjoy the adverts, I would live there if I could!

I’m partial to a boxset binge, who hasn’t spent a day off doing nothing but watch one show or hardly slept because you just have to watch one more episode?! There’s some great TV shows that let you explore the inner workings of characters, the major and minor changes in them in ways a movie can’t in two hours. My favourite of all time has to be The Wire and still if I find that someone hasn’t seen the show, I make it my mission to at least get them to give it a try, it’s all in the game after all.

So that’s a bit about how the moving image makes me feel and an idea of what this blog will be about. Time to get back to watching some stuff and forget about the world around me, escape is here!