Category Archives: cinema

Film Review: The Social Network (so yeah…they mean Facebook)

Just a fad? A waste of time? For people with no real lives? Facebook may fall victim to the generation gap but there’s no denying its popularity.

Over 500 million people actively use the site, spending 700 billion minutes of their time every month updating statuses, poking people and checking out pictures.

The company is currently valued at $25 billion, making CEO and co-founder Mark Zuckerberg the youngest billionaire of all time.

But The Social Network’s story begins well before all that in 2003, at a bar at Harvard University with poor socially awkward Mark (Jesse Eisenberg) being dumped by his Girlfriend Erica (Rooney Mara) for being elitist about his academic future.

Sure enough, Mark doesn’t react too well to this and goes on the computer-geek version of a alcohol binge, creating a site called facemash.com which compares girls on the university campus, blogging all the while.

It’s not all megabytes and C++ coding though, and as Mark, with his business partner/best friend Eduardo Saverin (Andrew Garfield), evolves their company from a lose connection of college students to the most popular social networking site in history the strain begins to show.

Mark and Eduardo soon don’t see eye to eye over the business, with Eduardo pushing to make money from their success while Mark insists: “We don’t even know what this is yet, all we know is that it’s cool.”

Whether the film is a true reflection of what really happened between the pair through those ground-breaking years, only seven years ago, is unlikely, but there is a keen sense of teenage-awareness with director David Fincher, helmsman of Seven, Fight Club and Zodiac, to keep the film entertaining as well as tense.

Zuckerberg wasn’t involved with the film and in fact only Saverin is loosely connected with the book which originated the film, The Accidental Billionaires by Ben Mezrich.

Nonetheless the events did happen, and a few unexpected names pop up in the opening credits such as Kevin Spacey as Executive Producer and Trent Reznor, the founder of industrial rock group Nine Inch Nails, on music duty alongside Atticus Ross, who appeared in Reznor’s post-Nails side project How to Destroy Angels.

The supporting cast has a few surprising additions, none more so than former pop sensation Justin Timberlake, who plays Sean Parker, a renegade entrepreneur who co-founded original music sharing site Napster back in 1999. Parker becomes a wedge between Mark and Eduardo and Timberlake manages to be convincing as the washed-up party boy – strange that.

Social media is undoubtedly a phenomenon, and Facebook is at the centre of it, like MySpace before it it changed everything about how people interact on the internet, and it continues to be important today, seven years on, after a lot of similar sites have long since declined, including MySpace itself.

As for the film the story is engaging because of the friendship between the characters, and anyone who has grown up with the rise of the internet will relate to it’s integration with the cyberculture which has evolved in the 21st century, as well as typical teenagery moments.

For those who don’t know Facebook and don’t want to know it won’t offer much, but to see what goes into something that has become more than ‘just a fad’ it is much more rewarding.

Rating: 4/5

James Michael Parry

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Film: Review – Toy Story 3

The 2010 summer blockbuster season continues with a return to Andy’s room in comedic adventure flick Toy Story 3.

After a decade away from UK cinema screens (save some fancy 3D re-releases in the past year) Woody and the gang are up to their old tricks once more.

Andy, who’s voiced by John Morris (the same chap as in the first two films and now a 25 year-old!), is leaving for college and his beloved toys don’t want to be forgotten or thrown away.

Despite their best efforts the gang can’t tear Andy’s attention away from the all-too-familiar vices of modern life and after a mix-up they find themselves being donated to a daycare centre.

Here there’s a host of new, and often familiar, characters, but things aren’t as ‘sunny’ at Sunnyside as they seem.

In typical Disney (well…Pixar) style the story unfolds as organically as a modern fairytale, with some impressive little touches showing the depth of their characters, such as Jessie’s claustrophobia from her trauma in TS2.

The climax swaps the airport setting from its predecessor for a waste disposal plant, frighteningly realised as the fiery Hell on Earth for all toys, as well as alluding to the chilling dystopia from previous work Wall.E, but on a far larger (relative) scale.

The villain of the piece Lotso’ Huggin’ Bear pushes the limit on evil as well as teaching Disney’s usual lesson about why jealousy and bitterness are bad.

Stand-out character is easily Michael Keaton’s Ken, who defines the modern ‘metrosexual’ stereotype with some unusual fashion choices, while pig money box Hamm is graced with his usual selection of cynical quips and Buzz finds a whole new level of comedy after a botched factory reset…

With the rivalry between Woody and Buzz long forgotten the team work together seemlessly as the film builds to a climax with an incredibly touching moment as they are held on the brink of oblivion.

This proves to be only a hint at what’s to come though as the final coda sets tear ducts on maximum as the characters and audience alike say goodbye to a group of characters who they’ve known for over 15 years.

While some suggest the film is merely a vehicle for further merchandising; it’s obvious writers John Lasseter, Andrew Stanton and Lee Unkrich (who also directed) have put heart and conviction into this (surely) final chapter to a series which sparked the beginning of a new age of animation.

Rating: 4/5

James Michael Parry

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Film: AVATAR – 3D’s shining light?

Director James Cameron gives lead guy Sam Rockwell a few pointers…literally

Seeing things in 3D is quite ordinary. Think about it, you see in 3D (and super-duper HD come to think of it) all the time. In cinema though there’s always been a certain fascination with the third dimension, to give films depth you can’t get on a run-of-the-mill screen.

Since I’ve already delved into the history and technicalities before (take a look at my previous post if ye dare), I’ll move on to the case in point: James Cameron’s much anticipated epic, Avatar.

After fourteen years waiting for technology to catch up with his imagination, or so he would have us believe, Cameron invites you to the far flung world of Pandora to learn about the dangers of damaging the environment – in a nutshell, it may fight back.

The film itself, ignoring any 3D aspect whatsoever, was good. The story and characters were on the cliché side, but the style of the picture saves it, plus a top-form performance from not-so-newcomer Sam Worthington as Jake Sully.

Comparisons to the story of kids’ 80s TV show The Smurfs aren’t totally unreasonable, in fact the South Park episode on the subject is well worth a watch, but it all comes down to a simple message about not destroying our beloved planet.

Never fear though, remember this is the James Cameron who brought us Aliens, so there’s action and excitement a-plenty – there’s even a giant tree!

But what about the gimmick/innovation that is 3D? As the screen instructs you to ‘Put on your 3D glasses now’ there’s a well of anticipation and as the spectacle begins there’s a satisfying feeling of ‘oooo ahhh’. Soon though the initial shock of seeing things with a little more depth wears off and you let yourself get engrossed in the story, and apart from the occasional flurry of leaves towards your face or burning shrapnel flying perilously close towards you, all the hype of 3D sinks into the background, adding to the film surprisingly subtly.

So Cameron delivers his master-stroke with ease, and an awful lot of patience, but it’s film-goers who benefit, since Avatar hammers home the fact that 3D films are no longer restricted to cheesy animated shorts or tedious specials about underwater life at the IMAX. Whether 3D will prove to be more than a fad this time around remains to be seen, particularly with home 3D technology just around the corner, but for now it’s here to stay, complete with its fairly ridiculous prices – unfortunately.

And happy new year everyone! Thank you for reading This Is Entertainment this past year and I hope I will continue to amuse and inform you in the coming months as well.

3D or not 3D? The future of cinema is…the past?! This Is Entertainment looks at Ice Age 3 through 3D specs

I saw my very first ‘Real 3D’ film yesterday. I felt as though it should have been a massively significant moment, as if it would change the way I looked at films forever and warp my mind in ways never before experienced.

So, I got to the cinema, fashion-disaster 3D glasses in hand, went into the screen, sat down to enjoy the Odeon Digital 3D experience and…

…got a headache.

The film itself, Ice Age 3(D), was reasonable. Your classic kids’ film mix of cliché, parody and talking animals sees Manni, Sid and Diago return in another slapstick adventure with added family, another inevitability in kids’ film sequels.

While the endless toils of the acorn seeking Scrat raised a smile or two, if hand-in-hand with some eye-rolling moments, the deminishing return of the jokes from the first film was now began to show.

That said, Simon Pegg quickly turned a limited stereotypical role into a filled out comic relief machine. As the other characters collected and toyed with their collective baggage, Pegg’s ‘Buck’ (“short for Buckington”) riled off one-liners and delightfully mad mannerisms to keep adults, as well as kids, entertained.

The 3D effect though is an interesting beast. At times the effect was sublime, drawing you into the picture with perfection to make the events on screen grab your attention and ‘come to life’ all the more. One particular highlight was when the camera flew right through a torrent of molten lava, peppering the screen (your eyes) with intense colour and forcing you try to move your head to dodge it.

Often though, particularly when changing scenes, the action moved too fast for your eyes to keep up with, making the 3D animations blurry and difficult to concentrate on. Too often I found myself longing for characters to stop moving to save my retinas.

The glasses are reasonably comfortable, compared to the red/green specs of old, but if you didn’t have to wear them things would have been far more comfortable, particularly since the 3D magic stopped at the edge of the film screen and not the glasses.

The only comparison to make is with IMAX, the only significant 3D experience I’d had before, and it was so much more immersive. Part of that is the far-bigger-than-a-standard-screen aspect, but in Odeon’s favour their film was far more entertaining than watching underwater creatures.

Since 3D has been around for so long, Hitchcock famously imagining Psycho and Vertigo in 3D back in the mid 20th century, it’s staggering it’s taken so long to get from the early stages of the technology to where we are today, and the fact that it still underwhelms is disappointing.

For glasses wearers the toil and trouble is even worse, since you’re forced to balance them precariously on the end of your nose to fit your own glasses on in between. Price is another factor, with even a student 3D ticket costing a meaty £8.50.

All in all there is definite glimmers of potential in the technology, but we’re not quite to virtual reality film-watching, and with the escapism of film being one of its strongest points, do we really want to be?

Feel Good Hits Of The Summer: May’s Blockbusters

Summer has always been a big release time for film, with films released July 4 weekend smashing records on an almost yearly basis, but does this years crop of films look to stand up to the pedigree of past years.

Last year was dominated by the superhero, as Iron Man and The Dark Knight stole the world’s attention, and putting in yet-another case for why comic book films are a serious business.

May is the big month this year, with almost all the big name releases being thrown at us relentlessly amid the (hopeful) sunshine.

Wolverine is the first big contender, or Xmen Origins: Wolverine, to give it its full, overblown title. Originally planned for release May 1, the date was rushed forward after a massively hyped piracy scandal, which saw the film leak prematurely on the internet, to which Hugh Jackman was reportedly very disappointed, since the version which got out wasn’t 100% done, and obviously you don’t get the full affect of all the nifty special effects.

Jackman is big in terms of star quality and he’s a very talented actor, so the film stands to do well merely rested on his shoulders (though Baz Luhrmann may disagree with this logic…), but if you add to that the vast fanbase of the Xmen franchise, both film and comic book, then you’ve got a massive potential audience before a metal clawed punch has been thrown.

Another film which has a huge, perhaps even epic, potential fanbase, is the latest incarnation of Star Trek directed by JJ “Help I’m LOST” Abrams on May 8. Those who haven’t heard of the starship Enterprise by now have surely been hiding under an astoriod, since the plight of the Galactic Federation of Planets has been played out in (at least) five series and nine previous films over the last 40 years.

With veteran Leonard Nimoy back for a cameo as the cooly logical poity-eared Vulcan Spock, hardcore Trekkies will already be unable to resist, while big budget sci-fi has been off the table long enough for it to make a comeback at the cinema.

This leads us inevitably on to Christian “husky voice” Bale in Terminator Salvation on May 21. Not technically a sequel, but a “re-boot” – to translate this industry jargon, it basically it means the last film didn’t do quite so well, so they wanted to distance themselves from it and start afresh (see also Hulk, Casino Royale and Batman Begins).

Judgement day has finally come for John Connor and those of humanity who’ve decided to fight back against evil supercomputer software Skynet and its company: all-round robitics-controlling-nasty Cyberdyne Systems.

Last in May is Disney Pixar animated tale Up, about a…I’m not sure, is it a floating house with a small child an old man going for a walk? Anyway it’s set up as being the most impressive Pixar spectacle yet, and since they keep raising the bar with every film (except perhaps Cars, but we’ll ignore that – talking cars? That’s madness!), we can expect some great things from the team.

In terms of vocal talent the film includes Christopher Plummer of A Beautiful Mind and as OAP with altitude Charles Muntz, along with newcomer SyrianaJordan Nagai as Russell. Family films often tend to do well, since they appeal to a wide audience by their very nature, and Pixar have proved their pedigree numerous times over the years, meaning young’uns will be clamouring for this latest story.

Crashing out of May and into June is Michael Bay’s Transformers sequel Revenge of the Fallen, but perhaps we’ll look into that a little more another time. Essentially all you need to know to appear up on the latest social trends is that is has Shia LeBouf, Megan Fox and giant transforming robots, simple!

Potential big hitters are Angels & Demons, an adaptation of another book from The Da Vinci Codes Dan Brown, and Drag Me To Hell, a horror flick directed by Sam Raimi, who helmed the Spiderman trilogy.

So, if you decide to see a film this May then you should have a bit more of an idea what to expect, chances are you’ve already decided what you like the look of and don’t but if you choose not to take the big names at face value, who knows?, you might be presently surprised.

The great film ticket price problem

Do you ever find yourself visiting your local cinema and thinking: “Blimey, those nachos are a bit expensive!” The truth is, the price gap between the real world and movie-land is vast, a bag of Minstrels in a high street shop or local convenience store might set you back £1.50-£2.00, whereas in cinemas this price jumps up to £2.75 or even £3.00.

Of course, this is nothing new, there are endless ways to cheekily nab money off us these days, but what’s the real reason? Shameless money grabbing, or something more?

Cinemas generally don’t get all the money from the tickets they sell, as you might assume, in fact the figure is closer to 20%, with most of the money going to film distribution companies, not even to the actors and actresses themselves.

When you hear news of Quantum of Solace raking in the most money at the box office in history on opening day then you have to take that into account, since it’s likely Daniel Craig won’t be seeing any of that money, he’s on a fixed contract from Sony for £5million, which goes up to £8million for Bond 23.

Spiralling film budgets from the last few years have only fuelled the fire, with the cost of a typical Hollywood film breaking the $100million mark in 1997, which jumped to over $200million by 2004, but suffered in 2006, when the average Hollywood budget dropped by $2.5million.

The biggest budget film in recent years was Bryan Singer‘s shaky hit Superman Returns which set Warner Brothers back a whopping $268million (£170million), not including the marketing and promotion, meaning the film had to collect over $600million worldwide just to break even.

Interestingly, low budget films continue to be the only area of film making which is consistently profitable, with Saw II taking $4million and turning it into $144million.

The ever-increasing cost of film-making is causing audiences pockets to be left bare, tickets are far more expensive these days compared to the 1970s, when an average adult film ticket was around 61p (£2.20 in 2008 money).

Of course, things are a lot different here up North compared to if you venture into the nation’s bustling capital, where West End cinemas can see tickets rise as high as £12.50 for adults, making it all the more un-appealing to fork out for a tub of popcorn rather than sneaking in some Jaffa Cakes.

In Stockport earlier this year, Adam Glennon was physically thrown out of the Cineworld cinema for taking in his own sweets.

He said he’d bought about £5 worth of sweets, crisps and bottled drink to take in, which would have cost well over £10 if bought inside the cinema, but Cineworld operates a strict ‘no food’ policy.

He told the Stockport Express:

“It costs a small fortune to buy sweets from the cinema and they don’t take this into account when people with little money just want to watch a film.”

Vue specifies in its legal terms and conditions that

“Hot food brought from outside of the cinema may not be consumed on the premises”

but doesn’t saying anything about cold food, such as chocolate, or drinks.

Odeon have no problem with customers taking in their own food, providing it’s not a take-away and there’s no alcohol involved. The cinema giants are more worried about film piracy and people bringing in recording equipment, the results of which are difficult to appreciate when faced with the ever-increasing amount of films available on the internet.

Another pillar of cinema money-making is advertising, which is estimated to create £214million this year, and cinemas will take a fair chunk of that, but its not an astronomical figure when you consider generally 3.5million people visit the cinema each week.

Pearl and Dean, which represents a third of the cinema advertising market, reports that £26.4million so far this year has been spent on car advertising, meaning it isn’t just our collective imagination that car adverts are never-ending, but it comes as no surprise that the oft comical Orange mobile phone adverts are the biggest single earners, handing over £10.9million.

With all this money flying around the industry, it’s easy to feel put out by the ‘evil’ corporations, but in reality a student cinema ticket (fellow students, don’t forget that NUS extra card!) will only set you back around £5, which is about the same as you pay for a couple of pints of beer and a bag of crisps on a typical night, so compared to those West End film lovers; we’ve got it good.