Quote Of the Week

"Great Scot!"

Thursday, 15 November 2012

A Great Disturbance in the Force

A long, long time ago in a galaxy far away (well, Hollywood) George Lucas turned the world of film on its head when he made Star Wars. Now, 35 years since Episode IV: A New Hope, it looks as though he may have done it again. After several years of internet-forum whispers and fanboy speculation, it was finally confirmed on Tuesday 30th October 2012: there will be more Star Wars films.

The announcement was made by Lucas himself and revealed that his production company, Lucasfilm had been purchased by Walt Disney Studios.  The company changed hands for a staggering $4.05 billion, which reportedly will be paid half in cash and half in Disney stock shares. As far as retirement plans go, George Lucas has a pretty good one!  
Lucas cleared up his rationale behind the sale of his greatest success in his official statement:

 “...It's now time for me to pass Star Wars on to a new generation of filmmakers. I've always believed that Star Wars could live beyond me, and I thought it was important to set up the transition during my lifetime…

Focusing on Disney, the purchase marks yet another high profile takeover by Bob Iger in his time as CEO. Since taking the hot seat at Disney, Iger has overseen the acquisitions of animation supremoes Pixar in 2006, and comic book giants Marvel in 2009. Now with Lucasfilm in 2012, it will be interesting to see who Iger sets his sights on in another 3 years, (Hogwarts? Middle Earth? Nothing would surprise after this!).

So what does it mean for the most successful science fiction franchise of all time? Well, Disney and Iger didn't waste any time in announcing a trilogy on its way, with Episode VII expected for 2015.This of course means that in terms of a timeline, the new film should pick up the story after the events of Return of the Jedi. Fans among you will have no doubt noticed the peculiar effect this will have on the chronology of the series, with the original (and best) films now looking even more dated as they are sandwiched between the more recent prequels and the new Disney films.

The new trilogy will no doubt feature a brand new array of characters, although I would not be shocked to see everyone’s favourite droids, R2-D2 and C-3PO crop up. Who knows, perhaps Mark Hamill might even reprise his role as Luke Skywalker, operating as a Jedi mentor to the series’ new hero. Plus we all know Harrison Ford isn’t above replaying his most famous characters, although if it is going to turn out anything like Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, perhaps it would best if he stayed away.

Through all the speculation and guess-work, one thing is absolutely certain: whether it recaptures the heights of The Empire Strikes Back, or is as bum-numbingly boring as Attack of The Clones, it will be the biggest film event in the galaxy.  

Sunday, 16 September 2012

Revealed: Batman's Secret Weapon.

It has been weeks since its release and everyone is still talking about The Dark Knight Rises, or perhaps more accurately, the Dark Knight trilogy as a whole. While many people (myself included) are still struggling to come to terms with the soul-destroying fact that we will never again see a Nolan-made Bat-film, one solace is that the 'ending' has given us scope to view the trilogy as a complete, finished spectacle. With that in mind, I've decided to take a look at just how Batman pulled it off....

The Caped Crusader saved Gotham City from total annihilation three times, but just how did he do it? How did one man save the same city thrice? Well, I decided to assess the Bat's crime-fighting arsenal and city-saving antics to pinpoint which was the most vital.

You Will  NOT Believe What I Discovered! 

First though, lets take a look at the elements of Batman's heroic ethos that didn't make the grade:

1. The Secret Identity

The idea behind a secret identity is obvious: you're much easier to defeat as a mere member of the public than a caped Juggernaut. If villains know who's behind the mask, what's to stop them killing you when you're off-guard, shopping for fabric softener at the supermarket? So a superhero/vigilante keeps their true identity hidden to protect both themselves, and their loved ones. An easy enough concept to understand right? Well, apparently not for Christian Bale's Bruce Wayne, who might as well carry a large, Wile-E.-Coyote-style picket-sign that says: "Guess what? I'm Batman!". Below is a list of character's who know Bruce Wayne is Batman by the end of the trilogy:

Rachel Dawes
Alfred Pennyworth
Lucius Fox
Jim Gordon
Selina Kyle
Ra's Al Ghul
Miranda Tate
John Blake
Coleman Reese

Yes, no less than 10! 9 of which are principle characters! You almost feel sorry for Scarecrow and Two-Face because they didn't get the memo. Poor guys. So clearly, Batman's secret identity has been just a little more useless.

2. Powers of Deduction

The Batman of the comic books was know as the "world's greatest detective", a title that Christopher Nolan was key to pass over to his films. As well as the brawn, the Dark Knight had to possess the brains and cunning to catch the most conniving of foes. Staying one step ahead of the enemy is a vitality in crime-fighting, which is something Nolan's Batman actually does pretty well... if you skip the entire second film. You begin to lose count of just how many times the Joker outsmarts his nemesis in The Dark Knight. Whether it's getting arrested on purpose, killing Rachel or turning Harvey Dent to the dark side, Joker has Batman playing catch-up the whole time. Poor show.

Joker Preferred Katie Holmes

3. The Gadgets

After James Bond, Batman probably boasts the most impressive range of gadgets and gizmos ever. Nolan's films are the first to really take the Bat's arsenal seriously (no Bat-Shark-Repellent-Spray here), with everything from the mighty new Batmobile, to a device that can summon a swarm of real bats. All of which he puts to pretty good use, disorientating and deceiving his enemies with an array of hit-tech parlour tricks. Sadly, it only takes one person to cotton-on to a trick and render it useless, and unfortunately for Batman that one person happens to be someone capable of snapping his spine: Bane.

  "*grumble* Theatricality & Deception *grumble**grumble* powerful allies *grumble*"

4. An Excellent Judge of Character

This one is pretty self explanatory; Bruce Wayne really needs to choose his friends more carefully.

Liam Neeson's daughter wants revenge for having her dad TAKEN from her... sound vaguely familiar? 

So there are just some of Batman's components that come up short when it matters. All of them important to the hero's character, but all of them inadequate to claim the title of Batman's ultimate weapon. So what is I hear you cry? Well, see if you can guess:

Which of these things has batman used to save Gotham the most and is therefore his most powerful tool?

a) the advice of Alfred.
b) an inability to kill.
c) those little pointy gauntlet things on his forearms.

The answer is actually c) those little pointy gauntlet things on his forearms!

I know what you're thinking: What? That's ridiculous? What sort of moron is writing this garbage? Why have I wasted precious minutes of my life reading this drivel!?

Well calm down, all will be revealed. Yes, amazingly enough those pointy things on Batman's arms, or 'scalloped fins' as our ninja friends call them, have done more for Gotham City than you might realise. In each film these small wonder-tools shut down the main villain's attack and are the catalyst for Batman's victory. Still don't believe me, just look below:

Batman Begins
The fins break Ra's Al Ghul's sword in two...

Swordless, Ra's is defeated.

The Dark Knight
Batman fires the fins into Joker's face.

Blinded, The Joker is then defeated.

The Dark Knight Rises
The fins are used to break open Bane's mask.

Maskless, bane is unable to fight and is defeated. (apparently Batman finds that funny in this shot^)

So conclusive proof, Batman's greatest and most useful asset is, in fact, the scalloped fins on his arms.....

And you thought they were just for show.

Thursday, 30 August 2012

In A Nutshell: Sir Michael Caine

After last week's entry about Anne Hathaway, I was asked by a faithful CinéBlog follower to make this week's 'In A Nutshell' devoted to Hathaway's Dark Knight Rises co-star, and British institution, Sir Michael Caine.

At first I was happy to oblige, given that Caine is a hero of mine. Then it occurred to me that this was going to be trickier than first thought. The very point behind this feature is to give a quick and concise summary of a Star's career. How do you sum up a career that's spanned 60 years!

Well, I'm going to try my best, but don't be surprised if this is a slightly bigger Nutshell than previous editions. Like a genetically-modified, gamma-ray-exposed mega Nutshell, that would take a squirrel years to crack, only to discover its just the shell and not a tasty nut, and so kill itself. Yes, it's going to be squirrel-suicide big.

Born Maurice Mickelwhite, he dropped out of a school at 15 and lied about his age to join the army, going on to serve in the Korean War. It wasn't until he left the forces that he first gravitated towards acting. It was then, upon the advice of his agent, that he adopted his stage name.

His first major role was as Lt. Gonville Bromhead in the 1964 war epic Zulu. The performance as an aristocratic officer shot him to international fame, and kickstarted a fantastic run of films in the 60's including: The Ipcress File, Alfie, Gambit, Playing Dirty, Battle of Britain & Billion Dollar Brain.

This impressive streak led to Caine becoming one of the biggest actors in Britain, perhaps only second to 007 himself, Sean Connery (a close friend of Caine's). Michael Caine was seen as a model representation of Britain during the 60's: young, working-class graft, mixed with all the cool and confidence of 'swinging' London. So how does he cap off 10 years worth of success? With perhaps his most memorable role, as Charlie 'you're only supposed to blow the bloody doors off' Croker in 1969's The Italian Job. Not a bad decade for Sir Michael.

He kicked off the 70's in style too, at his Cockney best in gangster flick Get Carter. However, Caine's prolific form seemed to run dry in the 70's with a series of flops and below-standard offerings. The Man Who Would Be King, The Eagle Has Landed & A Bridge Too Far are all undisputed gems, but the rest of the decade feels like a hangover after the dizzying heights of the 60's.

The 80's, like they were for so many people, were inconsistent times for Michael Caine's career. For every great film he made, there was a stinker: for every Escape To Victory or Educating Rita, there was a Jigsaw Man or Blame it on Rio. In a rollercoaster decade of highs and lows, Caine was able to finally reach the pinnacle of his profession by winning an Academy Award for his performance in Hannah and Her Sisters.

The 1990's were a comparatively quieter period for Caine, now pushing 60 years old. Of the handful of films he made, only to really jump out as notable. The first being one of the greatest Christmas films of all time, A Muppet Christmas Carol. The second being in 1999, in which Caine won his second Oscar for his role in The Cider House Rules.

It was in the new millennium that Michael Caine's career, now in its fifth decade, had a sudden resurgence. That is in no small part down to a very special partnership he formed in 2005. After a couple of comedic turns in Miss Congeniality and Goldmember, Caine met with a then relatively-unknown British director named Christopher Nolan, about the possibility of a role in an upcoming Batman reboot, Batman Begins. Since then, Nolan has gone on to reveal himself as a God of Film and the saviour of cinema, claiming Caine as his own personal good-luck charm. He has appeared in every Nolan film since then: The Prestige, The Dark Knight, Inception and The Dark Knight Rises. Fitting the bill as the loveable father figure, Michael Caine has reached a new generation of fans, whilst churning out some his most compelling performances to date (expect a Best Supporting Actor nomination for his last Batman outing).

So there you have it. As brief as possible: the Herculean career of Sir Michael Caine. From leading man to father figure; an undeniable national treasure and arguably the greatest British Actor of all time.

Monday, 27 August 2012

The Pizza Planet Truck.

One of the many, many wonderful things about Pixar is their penchant for recurring Easter-eggs for the audience to spot. Whether it's a Buzz Lightyear popping up in the Dentist waiting room in Finding Nemo, or the motor home from A Bug's Life appearing in Monsters Inc, Pixar always leave gifts for the eagle-eyed viewer.

Of these little gems, only three (by my reckoning) feature in every film. One is of course the supreme voice-talents of John Ratzenberger, who has cameoed in all of Pixar's films. The second is the numerous A113's hidden in many scenes. The other, perhaps lesser known stalwart is the Pizza Planet delivery truck. Since Buzz & Woody first hitched a ride in the first Toy Story, it has featured in consistently, if only for the briefest of moments.

Have you spotted them all?

Do you even want to?

Well you better stop reading now if you want spot them yourselves, because below I have assembled pictorial evidence from each of the truck's appearances, for the lazier Pixar fans out there. The pictures are arranged in chronological order:

1. Toy Story

2. A Bug's Life

3. Toy Story 2

4. Monsters Inc.

5. Finding Nemo

6. The Incredibles

7. Cars

8. Ratatouille


10. Up

11. Toy Story 3

12. Cars 2

13. Brave


Thursday, 23 August 2012

In A Nutshell: Anne Hathaway

This week I'll be looking at the filmic delights of Anne Hathaway, who is currently enjoying a surge of attention in her career, for all the right reasons. She is presently the succulent filling sandwiched between the success of The Dark Knight Rises, and the building anticipation of Tom Hooper's Les Misèrables.

Hathaway first exploded onto the Hollywood radar at the ripe old age of 18 (perhaps just old enough to avoid the curse of the child star) in The Princess Diaries. The film was a huge commercial success and, combined with Hathaway's widely-appraised performance, spawned a sequel 3 years later.

Hathaway continued appearing in family-friendly films well into her twenty's with the likes of Ella Enchanted & Hoodwinked. However in 2005, she made a drastic career shift, starring in Havoc, a drama directed by Barbara Kopple. Havoc was Hathaway's first 'grown-up' film, and required her to pull out the big guns (both from her repertoire of acting skills and...well...her bra).

Hathaway then starred in confused-cowboy epic Brokeback Mountain, before taking on her most famous role opposite Meryl Streep. If The Princess Diaries put Anne Hathaway on the map, then The Devil Wears Prada catapulted her to the A-list. In a career that has only been going 13 years, this already feels like the film for which she will be remembered; that's how good she is in it.

Still relatively early in her career, Hathaway made a bold move by walking away from her starring role in Judd Apatow's Knocked Up, a part that later went to Katherine Heigl. Reportedly, Hathaway wasn't comfortable with real footage of childbirth being used in the film, deeming it 'unnecessary'. Having seen the footage, I'm inclined to agree with Miss Hathaway. Grim.

Seemingly unable to resist the odd comedy, Hathaway's next project was Get Smart, opposite Steve Carell. She then changed career lanes again by making the dramas Passengers and Rachel Getting Married, the latter of which garnered her first Golden Globe and Oscar nominations. Still aged just 26.

After a minor blip caused by the quite dreadful Bride Wars, Hathaway's career continued to grow with a run of box office successes, including Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland, Valentine's Day, and animated flick Rio.

Anne Hathaway's golden box office touch culminated this year in all-conquering Batman finale: The Dark Knight Rises. Along with Joseph Gordon Levitt, Hathaway is the standout star of the film, which is impressive given the star-studded cast. Already being tipped as the best Catwoman ever, Hathaway injected a lot of heart into the role, as well as the sex appeal that the trilogy had previously lacked (sorry Maggie Gyllenhaal, but don't kid yourself).

So then, in what is a surprisingly short amount of time, Anne Hathaway has risen to the top tiers of Hollywood. This is down to her obviously likability, as well as her versatility. Yo-yoing between light-hearted comedy and serious drama, Anne Hathaway shines in pretty much any film she's in. Her acting ability and raw star-power grow with every film, and are now nearly as big as her crazy-Japanese-manga eyes.

Wednesday, 22 August 2012


Mark Andrews, Brenda Chapman

Certificate: U

Cast: Kelly MacDonald, Emma Thompson, Billy Connolly, Julie Andrews


A mere 16 years after Toy Story first hit cinemas, Pixar hit an all time low: Cars 2, arguably the worst film the studio has produced...

Of course, Cars 2 is still a thoroughly enjoyable family flick that grossed nearly $600 million.

That's how good Pixar are. Even their weakest effort is miles better than anything their fellow animators can churn out. So, would Pixar's latest offering, Brave, continue this trend and measure up to the Himalayan-high standards the studio has set itself in the past?

In short, yes... And then some.

Brave tells the story of Merida, a feisty princess struggling with her royal duties in the Scottish Highlands. There in itself lies Pixar's first triumph. In terms of animation, you couldn't really pick a more challenging backdrop than the lochs and glens of Scotland, but the results are stunning. Even from the opening shots, Pixar's sweeping views of golden forests and rocky mountains towering over Celtic Scotland leave you gobsmacked. Somewhere between life-like realism, and fairytale enchantment; that's Brave down to a tee.

Then there's the story. The morals and close-to-home emotions feel like classic Pixar, but lest we forget this is groundbreaking stuff for the studio. This is Pixar's first 'classic' fairytale, and Princess Merida is their first heroine.

It's another sign of the Disney seeping into the Pixar.

In a lot of ways Pixar IS Disney: ageless audience, timeless stories and bright images. However, what Pixar has brilliantly done over the years (other than revolutionise animation techniques) is bring Disney's ideals into the modern day. Daring story arcs, darker moments and tongue-in-cheek humour adds a new dimension to classic family cinema.

Brave, though, is a clear example of what Disney has added to Pixar. Merida's 'feisty princess' follows the likes of Tiana & Rapunzel, and the whole family-oriented storyline screams of classic Walt. Perhaps this is a new form of hybrid then, a glorious middle ground between Disney and Pixar, two studios that started as friends, fell out, buried the hatchet, and are now utilising each others strengths in prolific fashion.

Throw in stellar performances from Billy Connolly, Emma Thompson, Robbie Coltrane and Julie Walters, and it's a triumphant return to form the two greatest animation studios of all time. Fun and laughs for all ages, and an emotional punch that will knock you sideways.


Everything we've come to expect from the minds behind Up & Nemo. Classic fairytale storytelling + likeable & relatable characters + animating brilliance = one of the great family films. 8/10

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

In a Nutshell: George Clooney

So in this historical post, the first ever edition of my new 'In a Nutshell' feature, I will be focusing on the life and times of everyone's favourite TV doctor (other than Hugh Laurie and Zach Braff, obviously): George Clooney.

Why Clooney you ask? Of all of Hollywood and beyond, why him? Well, I had to start somewhere, and he was on TV just now, that's why.

You can't get much bigger than George in Hollywood anyway. If the A-list was an actual list, surely Clooney would come 4th, behind only the King & Queen of America, Brad and Angie, and the one man travelling circus that is Johnny Depp.

Which I suppose leads me to my first point about George Clooney: how the hell has he managed to get so bloody famous?!

Don't get me wrong, I'm a fan. Clooney's got charisma to spare and undeniable leading man ability. But look at the films he's led. Both Pitt & Depp have a back-catalogue so rich that anyone could easily rattle off 14 or 15 great films they've starred in. With Clooney, you would do well to make it to double figures... That's including a trilogy too.

Looking back at his career, a good rule of thumb for the Cloonster's track record is that for every great film, there's an eye-gouger. For every Syriana, there's a Solaris. For every Micheal Clayton, there's a Leatherheads. For every Ocean's 11, there's an Ocean's 13.

So George Clooney's CV may not measure up to his monster fame, but a sudden resurgence has recently grasp hold of his career. A Clooney renaissance. If it is true - and a lot people would say it is - that Clooney coasted to fame on his good looks and charm, he's certainly earning it now.

Starting in 2008 with the Coen bro's Burn After Reading, Clooney has been on an unbelievable streak, each film being drastically different but arguably even better than the last. From the uplifting rom com Up in the Air, to the unexpectedly awesome Fantastic Mr. Fox. Following those up with a high octane action/thriller double bill with The American and The Ides of March.

A staggering run of greatness, and how does he cap it off? With a Golden Globe win and Oscar nomination for his role in The Descendants, his best performance to date.

So, there you have it. George Clooney: the man who started in ER and some how managed to smouldered his way to the top. Now he's there though, he's certainly doing the right thing to ensure he stays there.

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Who-Man?: Possible Actors for the He-Man Franchise

As I'm sure you will have heard by now, it has been confirmed that the long-speculated He-Man movie has finally been confirmed and will be directed by rookie director John Chu.

John Who?

John Chu. The man behind such timeless classics as Step Up 2, Step Up 3D, and Justin Bieber: Never Say Die. Yes, you may want to read that last sentence again.

Before you concern yourself that the fact this film is being piloted by a, for lack of a better, "drivel-churner", take a deep breath and fear not. Chu has made some stinkers, true, but there's no need to pigeon-hole him. Technically-speaking, he knows his way round a camera very well, and lest we not forget the great directors that have preceded him and also coughed up film rubbish ( Robert Rodriguez, Spy Kids 3, enough said).

Despite the questions raised about the director, there is no denying that The Masters of the Universe film, and the inevitable sequels, are going to be huge. Super Hero films are at an all-time high with the likes of The Dark Knight Rises and Avengers Assemble smashing box office records like a big green rage monster. Combine that with the nostalgia factor that rocket-boosted the Transformers films and you have a money-making titan-in-the-making.

Who then, will be a part of this mammoth and enjoy the spoils of its success (or potentially, suffer the depths of failure). You merely have to look at the likes of Chris Hemsworth and Chris Evans to see how these blockbuster franchises can catapult a career into the limelight. So who will harness the power of Greyskull? Here are some ideas I've come up with....


Liam Hemsworth

Sure, the hulking body, the long-flowing, blonde locks, the capability to wield a magical weapon; He-Man may not be Thor, but he's as close as your going to get. Maintaining that logic, Liam Hemsworth may not be his brother Chris, but he's as close as your going to get. The younger of the siblings hasn't had a huge amount attention yet (the new Expendables ought to change that), but he has proven he can hold his own in a major franchise, being the main reason teenage girls have gone to see The Hunger Games. He-Man doesn't have to be a super-genius, he just has to big, built, and good through an through. Enter Hemsworth Jr.


Benedict Cumberthatch

Skeletor was arguably the biggest and best villain of the 1980's (must...resist...Thacther joke). He may not match his archenemy's power and muscle, but in terms of cunning and conniving he far surpasses He-Man. and you don't get much more cunning than Sherlock Holmes. Cumberthatch is an enormous talent, anyone can see that, and it is only a matter time before he leave our shores for Hollywood success. He's not the obvious choice for the evil lord of Snake Mountain, given he's never really been tested as a villain, but I think he'd have enough inner-complexity and panache to pull off a twistedly evil performance. 


Viggo Mortensen
One of He-Man's most important allies, Man-at-Arms will almost certainly feature in the upcoming film. A weapon's specialist, he often acted as a voice-of-reason mentor figure to He-Man. Call me crazy, but I think the entire blockbuster scene has been suffering from Viggo's absence since Return of the King. Now ten years older since his last excursion to Mordor, he's nestled nicely into the mentor figure age. We already know he can wield a sword, and I bet he could grow a fantastic moustache.


Channing Tatum

Skeletor's foremost henchman, Tri-Klops had the curious ability of rotating his eye to change it from a circle, to a triangle or square. Random. However, the character was a formidable and towering foe. Tatum may not be a classic villain, but he is a linchpin of John Chu's films (Step Up, GI Joe). Plus I'm sure he'd jump at the chance give that Tri-Klops' costume shows his abdominal region off.


Anne Hathaway

The only female in Skeletor's band of villains, Evil-Lyn is the evil sorceress bringing the glamour to Snake Mountain. Hathaway has the looks, and as The Dark Knight Rises proved, she has that whole layered-intensity going on that would be perfect for the role. Unlikely she'd hop back in to the comic book genre straight away though, especially for a part far less iconic than Catwoman.

Beast Man

Gerard Butler

One of the most instantly recognisable He-Man villains,  Beast Man was first characters ever to be created for The Masters of the Universe. He has the strange ability to control all animals. Well, I say all animals; all animals except Cringer/ Battle Cat, for some reason. Gerard Butler certainly has the raw testosterone for the role. Nobody does big and gruff like Butler, and can't you just hear it now: "This. Is. Snake Mountain!"


Olivia Wilde

At the ripe age of just 28, Olivia Wilde is fast becoming something of a veteran of the Sci-Fi/Adventure genre, turning in solid performances in Tron: Legacy and Cowboys vs. Aliens. A film such as He-Man would be right up her alley, and no role would suit her more than that of Teela, He-Man's trusted friend and potential love-interest.

King Radnor

Dolph Lundgren

What's a major movie franchise without a genius cameo? Unfortunately, it wouldn't make much sense for Marvel man Stan Lee to do one of his classic walk-ons. So why not have a He-Man cameo, by He-Man himself. Yes, as some of you will recollect, two years after he was Ivan Drago, Dolph played He-Man himself in the Prince of Eternia's last big screen outing. Who better then to play He-Man's father, King Radnor in this new depiction?

Friday, 3 August 2012


Seth MacFarlane

Certificate: 15

Cast: Mark Wahlberg, Seth MacFarlane, Mila Kunis, Giovanni Ribisi, Joel McHale.


I'd like to start this review with a message for those of you who do not know who Seth MacFarlane is. Firstly, please get in touch with me, as I would like to learn your cave-dwelling survival skills in case I too ever get trapped under a rock. Secondly he's the man behind Family Guy, The Cleveland Show & American Dad.

Ted marks MacFarlane's first venture into the feature-length, live-action realm, and what a debut it is. Even in the opening 5 minutes of Ted, you can tell that what you are watching is coming from the comedic genius that brought you the likes of Stewie Griffin & Stan Smith. Many MacFarlane hallmarks are there from the off: The distinguished voice of Sir Patrick Stewart as narrator (he voices CIA Director Bullock in American Dad, for all you cave dwellers), the brass-heavy orchestral score, & the handful of 80's throwbacks.

And an 80's homage it is too. The opening plot point is more reminiscent of the likes Tom Hank's Big. A small boy named John from Boston has trouble making friends, so wishes upon a star (as you do) for his Teddy Bear to come to life. A wholesome and heart-warming premise that has Pixar written all over it right? Well not quite. What follows is a superb, Spielberg-esque montage sequence showing John and, the now-famous, Ted growing up together, until we reach the present day in which we see the pair smoking pot and watching Flash Gordon.

The following hour and a half is sheer comedy bliss. Ted himself is probably the funniest and most believable example of CGI to date, thanks to a blend of incredible visual effects and the voice talents of MacFarlane himself. As a reference point, you could say Ted is a mix of Brian & Peter Griffin, both in voice and attitude. However, you do not mistake this for being Family Guy: the motion picture. It is so much more than at.

As I've already said, their are many MacFarlane hallmarks, visible in the cast (Mila Kunis, Patrick Warburton, Alex Borstein & John Viener are all Family Guy alumni), the cut-scenes, the topical humour, and the celeb bashing (Chris Brown gets the sharper end of the stick, look forward to that). These things combined with some hilarious set pieces make for some serious, gasping-for-breath laughs.

On top of all this comes Ted's secret weapon, and boy, is it a shock. Seth Macfarlane's masterstroke in making this film turns out not to be the script, or the jokes, but the decision to cast Mark Wahlberg. Quickly proving himself to be the most versatile man in Hollywood, Wahlberg uses his acting chops to turn out a very likable character with the comic timing of a pro. His crowning glory? The scene from the trailer where he lists trashy girls names with the speed and pronunciation that call back to his Marky Mark days with the Funky Bunch.

So there you have the strengths of Ted. Any weaknesses you ask? Well, few and far between to be honest. It really depends what you're looking for from this film. To reiterate, this is not a Family Guy reincarnation, and the final quarter of the film does take the chance to sacrifice all-out comedy for a satisfying, and surprisingly moving finale. Some may see that 10 minute gap of story-over-humour as a weakness, personally I think it makes more a much more substantial film.


Seth MacFarlane gives us all the best parts of his TV shows and adds more to them. Ted has laughs galore, but also doesn't slack on heart and story. Great performances from the extremely likable Wahlberg and Kunis, and the most lovable bear since Pooh. The best comedy of 2012. 8/10

Thursday, 2 August 2012

World's Greatest Villain: The Debate

Ok, so a recent discussion with a friend unearthed a controversy that evolved into an all out war of words. In my last article - a review of The Dark Rises, see it here - I described Heath Ledger's incarnation of The Joker as, "the greatest cinematic villain of all time". Bold statement perhaps, but the more I've thought about, the more I've struggled to come up with any superior baddies. The obvious names spring to mind, but all of whom I promptly disqualified for one reason or another...

Anthony Hopkin's Hannibal Lecter maybe? No. While positively terrifying, Dr. Lecter isn't even the primary antagonist of The Silence of the Lambs, so surely he can't be considered the best.

Schindler List's villain Amon Goeth then? Nein. A great cinematic villain should really be spawned for cinematic purposes, whereas Amon Goeth was already a real-life villain. Saying that though, in terms of real-life villains, you can't really get much worst that a sadist Nazi known as 'Hitler's Butcher'.

There are too many great movie villains to mention now, but it would appear that there is another who stands at the forefront to challenge the Joker for the crown, and no its not Mama Fratelli from The Goonies. No, the debate that grips us is this: The Joker vs. Darth Vader.

Just to be clear, this isn't who win in a fight or anything like that, as obviously Vader would, this is simply who is the better villain. So, in the interest of fairness, let's weigh up the the candidates:

The Fear:
It goes without saying that if a villain isn't scary, then they cross the line into "panto baddie", and your not going to take them very seriously (yes, Willem Dafoe, I'm talking to you!). Fortunately, Joker & Vader can both be terrifying when they need to be. Lord Vader's huge frame bounding through the Death Star with the Imperial March blaring out, and his ability to crush a windpipe from across the room have haunted the nightmares of children and adults alike for over 30 years.

On the other hand, the 'Why so serious' scene..... Round 1 to the Joker!

The Evil Plan:
A great villain, must have some air-tight organisational skills. World domination just doesn't cut it in modern cinema. Galactic domination is much better. Advantage Darth Vader then? Well, actually no. I mean, yes the Sith Lord fronts what is at one point a seemingly successful galaxy takeover by the Empire (a planet exploding super-station will do that for you), but that's all he is really, a front. The evil master plan isn't his at all, it's the brainchild of The Emperor, who is essentially Vader's boss. So not only is Vader not the brains behind the operation, he's also The Emperor's whipping boy. Perhaps he should be considered for this title instead?

Meanwhile, The Joker is a veritable plan-making machine. Sure, his ambitions are ultimately more modest than ruling the galaxy, in that he just wants to destroy Batman and send Gotham into anarchy, but at least he's his own boss. The plans themselves are so intricate and complicated, they're masterpieces; from single-handedly robbing a bank in broad daylight, to the systematic corruption of Harvey Dent. It's also worth bearing in mind that The Joker does all this without the force or lightsabres, as he says himself, "Look what I did to this city with a few drums of gas and a couple of bullets." 2-0 Joker.

The Lasting Impression:
Finally, a truly great antagonist stays with you long after the film is over. Now this last round is a tight one, I have to say. This is because of the time advantage. Darth Vader has been not only the most recognizable and memorable baddie of the last 40 years, but he is one of the most recognizable characters in general. However, Joker hasn't had 40 years. The Dark Knight only came out 4 years ago. Also, the Joker only had one film to brand himself into our memories, Vader had 3 (well technically 3 and a bit). It remains to be seen whether audiences in 2048 will hold The Joker in the same esteem as we hold Darth Vader now, but personally I think we will be talking about Ledger's villain for decades to come. Until then, he will have to concede. 2-1.

So then, 2-1 Joker. All hail the Crown Prince of Crime. This is just my humble opinion, and yes, perhaps I'm a slightly biased as an avid Batman geek. Feel free to disagree with everything I've said, I look forward to hearing other people's views, cinema is nothing if not objective. However, one last thought on this debate:

Think of the last scenes with these two villains. The Joker has had his explosive boat plan foiled by Batman, but has done enough to corrupt Gotham's 'white knight' & unleash Two-Face on the world and turned the hero into a hunted criminal. Darth Vader kills and The Emperor and saves the day. Think about it...