Wednesday, 26 January 2011


Elliot Hyams goes green for the latest super hero to make the transition from the page to the big screen. But is it more Dark lite than Dark Knight?

The superhero genre has experienced somewhat of a rebirth in recent years. Films like The Dark Knight and The Watchmen have helped to restore an air of credibility to the genre that was destroyed by campy fare like Batman and Robin. This combined with the self knowing, tongue in cheek cool of Kick-Ass and Iron Man has helped to bring superheroes back into the mainstream. Of course, for every success there are as many failures, as those who’ve seen X Men origins: Wolverine can attest to. But it seems spandex is still in vogue for Hollywood, and producers are clamouring through the back catalogue for new heroes to adapt. The Green Hornet may not be a name familiar to most people. Indeed many may only recognise it due to the fact that Bruce Lee played his assistant Kato in the sixties TV series that has long since been forgotten, but regardless of this the character makes his big screen debut this month in a film by Michel Gondry.

Comedian Seth Rogan plays Britt Reid, the spoilt millionaire son of a Los Angeles newspaper mogul. Brett lives in a world of girls, booze, and parties, but this all ends when his father dies and he is left questioning his existence. Enter Kato, played by Jay Chou, as well as being the deceased Mr Reid’s mechanic Kato is a martial arts expert, F1 style driver, and a genius inventor, how convenient? Together they decide to make a difference and rid the city of crime, which doesn’t sit well with the plans of evil mastermind Chudnofsky, played by Inglorious Basterds’ Christoph Waltz. Armed with enough cool gadgetry to put Bond to shame the duo become The Green Hornet and, er, Kato. Aided unwittingly by Reid’s beautiful secretary Cameron Diaz our heroes wage bloody war on the underworld, finding themselves at odds with both sides of the law.

The Green Hornet is billed as an action/comedy, and whilst it may deliver on the action with car chases, kung fu fighting, and shoot outs, this is about the only thing it manages to get right. It is aimed at the same audience as Kick Ass, but is nowhere near as good. Nothing in this film really works, the characters are completely unlikable, particularly Brett himself. Rogan co-wrote the script but it feels as if the whole thing was improvised, scenes are overlong and poorly delivered, if this is meant to be a comedy then why isn’t it actually funny? Other characters are hollow and underdeveloped, particularly Diaz who redefines the phrase “pointless eye candy” with her performance. Visually the film is as disappointing as it is in every other aspect, which is shame as fans of Gondry have come to expect so much more of the visionary director. Only one scene set inside of Brett’s subconscious serves to demonstrate what Gondry is capable of, and it is perhaps the only memorable scene of the film. It is easy to see what the minds behind the Green Hornet where trying to achieve, they wanted it to be cool, funny, iconic, and exciting. Sadly, it is none of these things.

Review by Elliot Hyams.

Monday, 24 January 2011


Elliot Hyams takes the time to experience the true story of a climber caught between a rock and a hard place in the new film from the Slumdog director.

In the summer of 2003 rock climber Aron Ralston was working his way through a canyon in Utah when a boulder dislodged, forcing him down into the canyon and pinning his arm against the rock face. Alone and with limited food and water Aron was forced to endure a gruelling test of both his physical and mental will. Finally after five days and confronted with the cold reality of his own death, Aron was forced to do the unthinkable in order to survive. This shocking true story forms the basis of the latest offering from Oscar winning filmmaker Danny Boyle, 127 Hours. Spiderman’s James Franco takes the lead in what is essentially a one man show, placing us alongside and within the mind of Aron during his ordeal, and mapping the path that lead towards that infamous scene involving a pen knife that we all know is coming.

Like 2010’s Buried, 127 Hours is a film where the viewers world exists almost entirely within the physical realm of its protagonist, Franco spends ninety minutes trapped in a canyon so we spend ninety minutes alongside him. But unlike Buried, which consisted solely of the one physical location, Boyle is telling a much more philosophical story. He successfully uses cutaways, flashbacks, dreams and hallucinations to take us deeper into Aron’s mind, making the film far more accessible to the viewer than Buried was. The film has a deeply poetic look to it as well, where as another director may have gone for a naturalistic approach to the story Boyle’s camera is in constant motion, pushing past rocks into imaginary living rooms and house parties. However this was a film that was going to be made or broken on the strength of the performance of its lead and James Franco deserves credit for the sterling job he has done. He is in every frame of the film, and shooting the more physical scenes must have surely been a challenge but he brings a depth to Aron that makes the trial he suffers all the more harrowing to watch.

Aron’s story received worldwide coverage, and even those who had never heard of him, have been made aware of just what he was forced to do by the hype surrounding the film. If you haven’t I won’t ruin it for you now, suffice to say that it is a realistic and powerful scene that may prove a bit much for the more squeamish viewer. Boyle is aware that his audience knows it is coming and plays upon their expectation to add to the tension of the piece. But it is important to not dwell on this one scene too much as it is a part of a much greater story, a story that is well constructed in narrative, and inspirational in its depiction of the human will to survive. 127 Hours is an enjoyable film to watch, it is well written, brilliantly performed, and has alarmingly good cinematography for a film about a man trapped in a canyon. It may not go down as a classic, but it is unique and interesting enough to keep you captivated from beginning to end.

Review by Elliot Hyams

Wednesday, 19 January 2011


Elliot Hyams gets ready to hear what the new biopic of George VI has to say for itself.

Sadly, 2010 turned out to be the year of the 3D no brainer with films like Avatar, Alice in Wonderland, Saw 3D, and Tron Legacy side stepping things like narrative, logic, and a well written script in favour of giant smurfs flying out of the screen. It didn’t matter if it was any good as long as it was in 3D leading self proclaimed king of the world James Cameron to declare “whether you like it or not, 3D is the future of film.” Well unfortunately for Mr Cameron 2011 is shaping to be the year that intelligent films fought back. So far we have had Black Swan, True Grit, Somewhere, and The Fighter. All well made, well written, thought provoking films that prove that gimmicks are no substitute for quality, and the resistance seems set to continue with the release of the fantastic new biopic of King George VI’s ascent to the throne, The King’s Speech.

Colin Firth stars as Prince Albert, the second son of King George V, and father of our current Queen. With his father showing the signs of age and his elder brother David engaged in a scandalous affair with an American divorcee, it becomes apparent to the prince that he may have to one day take the throne. However, he suffers from a crippling stammer that makes any form of public speaking impossible and has destroyed any confidence he may have ever had. As a last resort his wife Elizabeth, played by Helena Bonham Carter, takes him to see Geoffrey Rush’s quirky Australian speech therapist, Lionel Logue. As Prince Albert becomes King George and the threat of war grows closer, the country’s need to hear their King speak grows ever more present. Against this backdrop a unique and wonderful friendship begins to grow between Lionel and Bertie as the King tries to find his voice.

The Kings Speech is more than just another royal biopic, it is a drama about a man’s struggle with the pressure of the great responsibility put upon him, but more than anything else it is a story of friendship. The construction of the relationship between Bertie and Lionel is fantastically written and realised, littered with moments of genuinely charming comedy. The narrative never drags due to the snappy dialogue, and director Tom Hooper uses his camera subtly and inventively, often utilising tight shots to create a sense of tension when Bertie is forced to speak. Helena Bonham Carter and Geoffrey Rush excel in their roles, Rush in particular seems to be having a great time playing Lionel, but it is Firth who deserves the most credit for his performance as the self doubting monarch. He does more than simply stutter on demand he gives Bertie an air of vulnerability and frustration that adds depth and a sense of history to the character. The Kings Speech won’t be for everyone, but those willing to give it a chance will discover an engrossing and thoughtful piece of cinema. This is a film with heart and soul and shouts loud and clear to Mr Cameron that the war isn’t over yet.

Review by Elliot Hyams


Elliot Hyams finds out if the new boxing biopic could have been a contender.

A lot has already been written about The Fighter, with some calling it the greatest sports film since Raging Bull, but is it deserving of such high praise? As it reaches our shores the film has already swept up two golden globes and numerous other trophies, predominantly for the performances of its two stars, Mark Wahlberg and Christian Bale. The Fighter is based on the true story of boxer ‘Irish’ Micky Ward, played by Wahlberg. Micky is a down on his luck never-was, managed by his pushy mother and brother Dickie, played by Bale. Fifteen years ago Dickie had been a promising fighter, but a decade long addiction to crack has killed any promise he ever had, and now his lifestyle runs the risk of destroying his brother’s chances of reaching the big time as well. As Dickie falls deeper into a world of addiction and crime, Micky is forced to decide what is more important to him, family or his career.

There can be no doubt that any film that deals with boxing has the shadows of Jake La Motta and Rocky Balboa looming large over it, and this is true in the case of The Fighter. Like Rocky it is a story about a working class hero’s desire to overcome the odds, and like Raging Bull it features a boxer’s epic fall from grace and the destruction of a family as a result of it. But The Fighter has a naturalistic indie feel to it in style, script, and delivery that makes it feel gritty, fresh, and real. Director David O. Russell resists using Scorsese’s visual dramatics, shooting the fights in a broadcast style reminiscent of the coverage of early nineties boxing. Only once does he resort to a slow motion, Raging Bull style in ring montage. But what truly sets this film apart is its story about two brothers each with their own battle to fight. It is the drama that occurs outside of the ring, particularly Dickie’s battle with his demons, that makes The Fighter so engrossing.

It is ironic that in the film Micky feels over shadowed by Dickie as Bale’s performance greatly outweighs Wahlberg’s. Although Wahlberg is sympathetic as Micky, it is Bale who steals the show. He is incredibly believable as Dickie and gives his most compelling performance since The Machinist. The film also features notable performances from Amy Adams and Melissa Leo as Micky’s mother and girlfriend, it’s interesting to see a sports film with strong and well rounded female characters as they are normally painfully absent from the testosterone driven genre. For the most part The Fighter is an enjoyable film and even the most cynical of viewers will find themselves cheering Micky on in the final fight. Whilst it may be true that Micky Ward and his troubled brother won’t become cinematic icons like Jake La Motta or Rocky Balboa, their story is one of hope and redemption that even the most avid sportaphobe can enjoy.

Review by Elliot Hyams

Monday, 17 January 2011


Elliot Hyams returns to the Wild West as the Coen Brothers try their hand at an American classic.

Who can honestly say the prospect of a remake excites them? Even when a remake is done well it can still leave you wondering what the point was in trying to fix something that wasn’t broken in the first place, and at their worst remakes achieve little more than tarnishing the name of a classic. The major motivation for remakes tends to be vanity, as some arrogant director thinks that they can have a crack at their favourite film, Gus Van Sant please stand up. But he isn’t alone, even the normally Godlike Coen Brothers have fallen foul to the curse of the remake with the awful Tom Hanks version of the Ealing comedy The Lady Killers. A film which most devoted followers of the sibling auteurs would rather just pretend never happened, but it did, which is why the news that they were planning to remake the John Wayne classic True Grit was met with some trepidation.

But we need not have worried, rather than remaking the iconic film itself, the brothers have chosen to adapt the original 1968 novel by Charles Portis. Whilst fans of the film that won Wayne an Oscar for his portrayal of over the hill Marshal Rooster Cogburn will find the story of a determined fourteen year old girl hunting down her father’s killer familiar, this is very much its own film. Jeff Bridges plays Cogburn, but rather than impersonating the Duke he offers his own take on the brutal and often drunk lawman in his winter years. It’s more Bad Blake than Lebowski and he once again proves just how versatile an actor he is. Newcomer Hailee Steinfeld holds her own as Mattie Ross, the young girl who enlists Cogburn to help her find the villainous Tom Chaney, played by Josh Brolin. Rounding up the cast is Matt Damon giving yet another sterling performance as foolhardy Texas Ranger La Boeuf, who much to his chagrin must team with Cogburn and the young girl to find Chaney.

This really is a fantastic film on every level, not only is it brilliantly written and performed, it looks beautiful as well, capturing a moment in the landscape of American history with the same kind of poetic feel that made O Brother Where art Thou such a visual treat. The film stays truer to original text than its predecessor never shying away from the brutal nature of life on the frontier, but there are no cheap kills, every character has a part to play in this complex drama. What truly sets this film apart from any of the other Christmas/New Year/Oscar rush releases is the script, fans of the Coens will know what to expect but for those that still need convincing this film shows what true masters of the craft they are. Characters are well developed, funny, and utterly believable in their interaction which makes for an engrossing experience. Whilst the Wayne version will remain an iconic classic this slice of film perfection certainly deserves a place alongside it.

Review by Elliot Hyams