Tag Archive: michael fassbender


Steve JobsSteve Jobs (Dir: Danny Boyle)

The case of Steve Jobs has been a perplexing one. A promising limited release in the States was colouring this to be the hot awards ticket that many expected it would  be. Yet when Universal made the decision to push wide earlier than scheduled, the film bombed. Now, while certain to be present this award season, this Boyle/Aaron Sorkin joint simply doesnt seem to be burning up among movie-goers. Discussion of it is limited almost to nothing. Which is a shame because it is one of the most finely acted, sharply scripted and energetically directed films of the year.

Focusing on three separate product launches, from the Mackintosh in 1984, to the ill-fated Next System in 1988 and culminating with the release of the i-Mac in 1998, Sorkin’s screenplay keeps all the drama backstage in the build up to each of Job’s presentations, demonstrating his relationships with colleagues, friends, lovers and the girl who he refuses to admit is his daughter.

Through focusing on issues both technical and personal, the film attempts to give a portrait of Jobs as a man without following the tropes of a more conventional bio-pic. It is a structure that feels more accustomed to the stage, and while it may feel repetitive at times, the film is undoubtedly unique, bold, and uncompromising in the way it wishes to proceed. Much like the man himself.

Each back-stage encounter allows Jobs, evoked rather than imitated by Michael Fassbender, to interact with all the key players in his life, from devoted assistant Joanna Hoffman (Kate Winslet), old friend and Apple co-founder Steve Wozniack (Seth Rogen), CEO of Apple John Sculley (Jeff Daniels), his former girlfriend (Katherine Waterston) and his supposed daughter, Lisa (Perla Haney-Jardine, Ripley Sobo, and Makenzie Moss at different ages). Each back-stage walk and talk sees Jobs encounter everyone, battling with some and reconciling with others, allows Sorkin’s dialogue to truly fly, delivered by a fine cast of actors, arguably the finest assembled to deliver Sorkin’s words. No one puts a foot wrong, but it is by far Fassbender’s film, doing so much to make us see this version of Jobs as both a portrait of one of the most significant men in the modern age, and as a character who lives and breathes thanks to his presence.

Being a Sorkin script, the film is incrdibly dialogue driven, which is why the choice of Danny Boyle as director seems a bit strange, as he is a man often applauded for his visceral kineticism as a director. Somehow, though, it works. Boyle finds movement and pace through his camera work and through his clever and bombastic visual tweaks which highlight points and drive home Jobs rhetoric. Shooting on era appropriate flm stock and moving to digital gives the film a unique aesthetic, while Dnaiel Pemberton’s score does wonders to punctuate the faultless editing in numerous sequences of heightened drama.

The repetitiveness of the structure and Sorkin’s occasional lapse in to crafting lines of rather cringe-worthy prohesising of the future of Apple, Steve Jobs is nothing if not indulgent; but it is entertaining in only the way a Sorkin scripted movie can be. His energy is paired somewhat brilliantly with Boyle’s developing a film which is entertaining throughout and a wondrous master-class of actorly craft. 4/5  

BlackMass

Black Mass (Dir: Scott Cooper)

Black Mass has been particularly highlighted as marking a return of Johnny Depp as a ‘serious character actor’ after a string of performances which which require little of him beyond the ‘Jack Sparrow’ routine, and that’s without acknowledging that none of them have been particularly well received at the box office. Black Mass certainly does offer a role for Depp that allows him to flex more than he has in recent years, and he certainly delivers what is asked of him. The problem is that the film itself ends up asking little of hi in a scattered and un-focused snapshot of one of America’s intriguing criminals.

Depp plays Whitey Bulger, a Boston Gangster, who manages to use the powers of the FBI for his own gain when child-hood friend Agent John Connelly (Joel Edgarton) approaches him with an offer to help take down rival gangs in the city. Bulger managed to orchestrate for himself an untouchable empire, and managed to evade capture for many years despite being responsible for many violent crimes, and taking many  people’s lives. While the figure is undoubtedly interesting and worth exploring, Scott Cooper’s film fails to truly land on a point of focus, leading to a frustrating and wholly generic gangster pic that could have been so much more.

We initially seem to be taking on the perspective of a leg-man in Whitey’s ranks, played by the ever-dependable Jesse Plemons, before then jumping into to Whitey’s personal life with his mother and publicly adored Senator brother (Benedict Cumberbatch). That is until it takes more of a focus on Connelly, on his desire to both impress Bulger and rise in the ranks of Federal officials. It never settles on any one character, leaving many thinkly sketched, relying on the admitteddly very talented cast to paint in more than the script actually allows them.

Thankfully for the film, the cast is up to the challenge. Edgarton is on particularly fine form as Connelly, delivering great nuances and conflict in a man who never seems to have grown up from being a small boy admiring the strength and control exuded by Bulger. Depp himself disappears behind heavy prosthetics to present a monstrous image of one of America’s criminals, but is let down by the film which seems to only want to depict him as a sneering, unmerciful killer come the final third, despite their being shades of something much more complicated.

There is a strong film here, with many separate moments proving affecting thanks to stellar work from the actors, and Cooper is certainly a director who knows how to send a chill down your spine. The main issue is that it all feels too disjointed to come through as a convincing character study, something which it seems entirely un-interested achieving. 2/5 

 BridgeofSpiesBridge of Spies (Dir: Steven Spielberg)

Trust Spielberg to be the one to make it like they used to. With a dash of Capra, a lashing of Carol Reed and a good dose of his own sensibilities, Spielberg has crafted a refreshingly old-fashioned Cold War drama which is pure Americana in its most purest and un-cynical form.

Lawyer James Donovan (Tom Hanks) is called upon to represent a suspected Soviet Spy named Abel (Mark Rylance) in the face of the Cold War. After showing great strength and resilience in upholding the constitution despite representing what many deem to be the enemy, Donovan is once again tasked with the impossible; he must negotiate a swap for Abel after a US fighter pilot is caught taking aerial photographs over Russia. The location of the swap: Soviet Occupied East Berlin.

A wonderfully complex moment in Cold war history, Bridge of Spies tells its tale vicariously through the eyes of Donovan, a man of unshakeable moral ethics, a decent and honourable man who could perhaps only ever be played by Tom Hanks (in another era, this would be a Jimmy Stewart picture). Partnering with Hanks for the fourth time, Spielberg uses his star’s persona to power much of the characterisation of Donovan, and it quite simply works. Hanks is wonderful in a role which relies upon his natural confidence and charisma. We need to believe Donovan is a man who can talk himself out of any situation, all the while never bending his ethical and moral code, and having someone as established and as dependable as Hanks in the role firmly establishes Donovan as such in a believable way.

However, as a result, it is often difficult to feel there is all that much at stake; history is written and its Tom Hanks, of course he will win out against the obstacles that stand in his way. Spielberg therefore frames his story as a moment of courage and resilience in a complicated political climate, and as a reminder that neither side may be right. Donovan may be American, but he sees how Abel’s own resilience is something to admire, despite him being part of ‘the other side.’ Rylance’s quietly assured and affecting performance enables this mirroring and duality to take place, offering Abel as a character of sympathy, not one who should be judged.

Spielberg is now rather effortless at establishing his aesthetic, working with tried and tested crew members to produce a finely crafted picture. Cinematographer Janusz Kaminski often chooses high key lighting to give the film an almost dream-like quality at times, while producing some truly chilling imagery come Donovan’s entrance into East Berlin.

The second half of the film moves away from the Capra-esuqe courtroom drama of the first hour. We witness an eye-catchign moment of spectacle as the US Fighter pilot is shot down, we enter East Berlin and the sense of danger is palpable. It is in these moments that the script contribution of the Coen Brothers can truly be felt, presenting us with ridiculous figures of military authority and obscure beats of dark comedy. This combination of Coen wit and Spielberg driven visuals allows Bridge of Spies to stand as something quite special for both sets of respected auteurs.

Bridge of Spies is one of the more wholly satisfying cinematic experiences of the year; it is simply a well crafted tale that revels in an engaging and complex moment in history with a confidence that perhaps only Spielberg can exude. The Spielberg-schmultz ending feels earned, a feat many of his films struggle to achieve. Compelling, entertaining, and filled with old school charm. 5/5 

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Macbeth-1Shakespeare’s relationship with the big screen is an illustrious one. Many of his works have been adapted numerous times, with some of the more definitive adaptations coming from Kenneth Branagh. Macbeth is no stranger to the big screen with the likes of Orson Welles and Roman Polanski tackling arguably the Bard’s greatest tragedy, and now Australian director Justin Kurzel is the latest to tackle the tale of murderous ambition. What he has developed is a film of savage beauty that does the play extreme justice, bravely refusing to compromise and creating a pitch black descent into darkness.

When four mysterious women deliver a prophecy following a victorious battle, Lord Macbeth (Michael Fassbender) is led to believe that he is destined to become King of Scotland. Pressured by his viscously determined wife, Lady Macbeth (Marion Cotillard), Macbeth takes his destiny into his own hands by committing regicide and taking the throne. What follows is an existence consumed by paranoia, anxiety and fear, as Macbeth quickly begins to lose his mind, soon developing into a reign of terror.

Screen adaptations of Shakespeare have often worked better (at least Macbeth-2box-office wise) when they’ve been re-imagined in another form, be it a high school comedy (10 Things I Hate About You) or Disney Animated flicks (The Lion King). There have been masterful adaptations, as many talented film-makers have fancied themselves worthy of adapting the Bard, but there has never been one quite like this. Both a very straight adaptation, and one which revises certain important details to establish clearer character motivations (the Macbeth’s are seen cremating their child at the start), and with the supernatural elements down played (no hubble and bubble here), Kurzel develops his Macbeth as a savage character study, one as willing to deliver awe-inspiring battle scenes as it is erotically charged manipulation.

The means in which the story develops is lifted entirely from the play with very little of the dialogue used changed from the text, meaning that it may prove difficult for those unprepared to wrestle with the language (as 15 cinema patrons demonstrated by leaving the film at various points, even with 10 minutes to go). It is a bold adaptation that refuses to compromise in the face of modern audience expectation. As a result, the film is a challenge, one that drags you down to its primal darkness and leaves you festering in the nightmarish fever dream that is Macbeth’s descent. It is a wholly unique experience and one that truly revels in the madness of its protagonist.

Macbeth-3Kurzel directs with a striking visual distinctiveness, producing possibly the most vivid and beautiful film of the year thus far. Be it a battlefield bathed in a fiery glow, or the mud drenched skirmish of the opening battle, the film is very textured, distinctive and captivating. Cinematographer Adam Arkapaw, responsible for the equally earthy textures of True Detective and Animal Kingdom, does career-defining work here, and is another reason why we should be excited for his next collaboration with Kurzel, Fassbender and Cotillard on the upcoming Assassin’s Creed. It also marks another promising piece of orchestration from Jed Kurzel, Justin’s brother, who produces another brooding score following his stellar work on The Babadook. 

A Shakespeare production, in any form, is nothing without worthy performances that are up to the task of bringing these tragic characters to life, and this Macbeth has some of the best performers of a generation at its disposal. With a subtle Scottish accent and piercing hollow eyes, Fassbender revels in the unravelling of Macbeth’s mind, transitioning from noble lord to tyrannical King with a potent ferocity. Cotillard, rather than turn to madness in quiet the aggressive way as Fassbender, quietly unravels in the background, slowly defeated by her own conscience. Macbeth-4Cotillard is the more subtle performance, doing a great deal through facial gestures as well as building a manipulative relationship with Fassbender. Among the strong supporting cast, Sean Harris as MacDuff particularly stands out, equalling Fassbender’s ferocious energy and providing an unlikely hero within the proceedings.

Macbeth is a must for fans of the Bard, but it is also one of the more compelling cinematic experiences one can embark on at your local multiplex at this current time. It is an experience unlike any other this year, a challenging fever dream of a film which is more than happy to take you on a devilish ride, with bone crunching battle scenes and an uncompromising approach; it will most certainly go down as a Shakespeare adaptation by which others are matched by.

5/5- A visually striking and ferocious fever dream of an adaptation that rides high on impeccable performances and an uncompromising stylistic approach; bloody bold and resolute.

 

X-Men-1The X-Men franchise is one that has been plagued by a great deal of misfortune since the first installment way back when in the year 2000. A lot of the issues it has experienced largely comes down to Fox Studio’s caring very little for franchise continuity, amounting in a franchise which looked to have lost its way through convoluted spin-off’s, rushed sequels, and poor character judgement. Much of the blame is put upon the third film of the franchise, the Brett Ratner directed The Last Stand. Butchering a beloved comic-book arc, the film seemed to signal a downturn in the franchise, leading to filmmakers taking very little consideration and care for the characters and comics they were adapting, something Bryan Singer was very careful with respecting in X-Men and the franchise high-point that was (and still remains) X-2. Yet, something seems to be changing in this franchise. The arrival of X-Men: First Class brought with it a new cast of engaging stars, a new sense of direction, and most importantly, a sense of fun. With Singer back in the fold taking on the reins for Days of Future Past, combining key components from his first two movies and First Class, it looked like we had an X-Men film to get excited about once again. And not only does it succeed in re-stalling our hopes, it has created what could be an incredibly bright new future for the franchise. And we only had to trudge through two Wolverine spin-offs to get there.

The future is a hostile environment. The Earth has been ravaged by a War led by robotic beings known as the Sentinels. Designed to exterminate mutants, the machines evolved to destroy any human capable of reproducing children with the mutant gene, leading to an apocalyptic wasteland as both sides fight for survival against the unstoppable machines. Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart), in a last attempt at ridding the world of the Sentinels, devises a plan to use Kitty Pride’s (Ellen Page) abilities to send Wolverine’s (Hugh Jackman) conscious back in time to 1973, where in the body of his younger self, Wolverine can attempt reunite the young Charles (James McAvoy) and young Erik/Magneto (Michael Fassbender) at a time when they couldn’t be further apart in order to put a stop to an event that will in turn end the war before it ever begins.X-Men-2

From very early on in Days of Future Past, you become aware that you are watching an X-Men film that genuinely FEELS like an X-Men film, a certain vibe that Singer only seems to be able to generate in this world, a sense that we are about to experience a film more akin to the first two installments. This is aided by a huge wave of nostalgia that comes from hearing John Ottman’s theme returning to the franchise for the first time since X-2,  as well as the presence of the original cast. The opening sequence kicks things off with aplomb, until getting bogged down in the important, but heavy-going, expositionary set-up to Wolverine’s time-travel escapades. But once we hit the 70’s, boy, do things get groovy.

The most successful aspect of Singer’s return to the X-fold is the tonality; this film is ridiculous, silly, and a hell of a lot of fun. Much of this comes to light once we hit the 70’s, with Singer clearly enjoying the opportunity to craft an effective period setting as well as evoking time-travel classics (namely The Terminator), whilst also reveling at the chance to work with the newer cast members of the First Class clan. Not only that, he also clearly enjoys establishing new characters, as the scenes involving Evan Peters’ Quicksilver prove to be the highlight of the film, through both visual creativity and the boundless energy generated through Peters fun performance. Where the film perhaps struggles is in generating a palpable sense of tension and threat to the characters we have an emotional stake in.

Days of Future Past ultimately acts as a reset button for the X-Men franchise, and as a result the film has a tendency to feel like simply a necessary step in the correction of the X-Men franchise, without actually having much conflict within itself. The film struggles to X-Men-3establish a clear antagonist, namely through Peter Dinklage’s Trask, the mind behind the Sentinels, who is given little in the way of motivation and characterization for him to appear all that villainous. Most of the villain duties seem to come down to Magneto yet again, but even he isn’t treated as all that villainous, his motivations are justified, all he does is act like a bit of prick for most of the run-time. This is somewhat of a distraction, and ultimately proves to be one of the film’s downfalls. Perhaps if more time had been devoted to the dystopian future, this would not have been too much of a problem, as within that time-line our heroes are fighting the threat of the Sentinels, who prove to be very intimidating but are only given a chance to display their destructive glory at the bookends of the film. It begs one to wonder, should a film have been made depicting the War before rushing in to a feature that aims to prevent it? The time-travel aspect of the movie does provide it with an ambitious spirit, but there is the sense that we could have been better eased in to it.

The film is also a very crowded affair, leading to a lot of performances from very talented actors getting lost in the shuffle, given very little to do in the proceedings.  Ultimately, the reason why certain characters are left on the side-lines is because they do not serve the story, leading to a more focused and stream-lined affair, and not a sprawling mess as some may have initially feared.. While the likes of Jennifer Lawrence look somewhat bored in a more physical than emotionally demanding role as Mystique, James McAvoy proves himself worthy of a role also inhabited by Patrick Stewart, by providing much of the pathos in the proceedings as a younger, darker Xavier. Jackman is very comfortable as Wolverine now that the role is practicallyX-Men-4 second nature to him, leaving McAvoy as the sole cast member who seems to be truly delving into a keen sense of the conflicts that wage inside the mind of Xavier, leading to some stand out scenes of dramatic outbursts.

Perhaps what is most impressive about this movie is its pacing. Rarely does the film slacken across its 130 minute time-line, efficiently building to a taut climax that wonderfully cuts back and forth from past to future. But the film’s greatest success has to be the confidence that it has restored in the X-Men franchise. At a time when many of us may have been suspecting that there wasn’t much gas left in the tank of the Uncanny Marvel Mutants, Days of Future Past has managed to open new doors for further stories and adventures for this franchises’ future, as well as firmly closing ones behind it. It may be a cluttered affair, but this is the best X-Men movie since the second, taking what worked well in First Class and combining it with the qualities of the first two to present an X-movie that feels fresh, fun, and exciting once again.

4/5– Crowded, yet also ambitious, fun, and exciting; Days of Future Past pulls the X-Men franchise out from its pit of despair and sets it back on the path as a superhero franchise to beat.

 

 

12years-1Steve McQueen is a talent who has only grown with each film that he has produced. With only three features under his belt, McQueen can quite safely be regarded as one of the great director’s of contemporary cinema, tackling dark chapters of human history and exploring warped corners of the human mind. 12 Years a Slave finds the director at his most accessible following from Hunger and Shame, but is still a film of incredibly potent emotion and disturbing imagery. It is also one of the most beautiful pictures of recent memory which both installs hope in the persistence of the human spirit and provokes disgust at the evils that human beings have been (and are) capable of.

Based on a true story, 12 Years a Slave brings to life the tale of Solomon Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor). A freeman living in a pre-Civil War New York, Solomon lived a happy and respectful life with his wife and two children. After being deceived and poisoned, Solomon found himself sold into slavery. The film charts his 12 years as a slave, moving from the ownership of the conflicted Mr. Ford (Benedict Cumberbatch), to the claws of the despicable Mr. Epp’s (Michael Fassbender) who treats his ‘property’ in anyway he so desires. All the while Solomon waits for the opportunity to seek his freedom, an opportunity which proves rather hard to come by.

Solomon’s journey is told from a distance; McQueen makes us fully aware that we are spectators to an event which has come to pass and are powerless to intervene. The way in which the camera pushes through the surroundings creates the impression that we are sneaking a glimpse at a moment in history that we may not wish to embrace, yet we still approach 12YearsASlave-2with cautious curiosity. We are witnessing a man’s struggle to negotiate a world that he was never supposed to inhabit, with McQueen making us pay special attention to Solomon’s reactions and expressions within certain scenes. These emotions range from anger, to restraint, to passivity, as he merely acts as he needs to in order to survive his ordeal. The power of these scenes, both the more emotive and more quiet scenes are given a greater sense of fragility and tragedy through the amazingly expressive eyes of Ejiofor.

Ejiofor delivers a performance that has moments of Oscar friendly outbursts, but remains largely restrained as he continues to survive and endure. Ejiofor has always been an incredibly generous actor, predominantly serving in a supporting capacity throughout his career, providing a strong and steady act for the lead performers to work against. He always presents other actor’s a challenge and has at many a time threatened to over-shadow lead actors with his undeniable talent. In a lead capacity here, he is finally given the role that should seem him shoot to leading man status, whilst also still maintaining his generosity as a performer.

Ejiofor shares the screen with a plethora of talent, with many faces appearing over the course of the story, with some ultimately being under used. Paul Giamatti occupies our attention for the best part of five minutes as a sniveling slave dealer, while Cumberbatch adds a touch of moral complexity in his brief but interesting role. Brad Pitt proves to be somewhat of a distracting presence in the film’s final moments, but certainly does not derail the picture. The two highlights of the supporting performances are in the form of newcomer Lupita Nyong’o and everyone”s favourite half-Irish half-German Michael Fassbender. Nyong’o as young slave Patsy adds a fresh sense of vulnerability and tragedy to Solomon’s story, a DF_02659.CR2reflection and an embodiment of an individual who is in a much worse position than himself. It is a very raw performance made all the more powerful by Nyong’o being an unknown. Fassbender meanwhile plays an utterly ugly example of a human being. Yet, he manages to bring such pathos and complexity to Epps in his performance that exceeds beyond that of being merely the villain of the piece. He is a human being, not one we like, but one none the less. His attitude towards religion and his belief that it gives him justification to treat his ‘property’ as he so chooses allows Fassbender to develop a man powered by utter conviction in his beliefs. He is a volatile and ferocious presence, but also incredibly thought provoking.

America is a beautiful place. McQueen knows this, and makes full use of the natural beauty of America’s Southern States. He uses these luscious backdrops as the theatre for displaying one of the darkest chapters in human history. Hunger and Shame certainly pulled no punches with their visceral violence and shocking imagery, and 12 Years is no different, featuring some violent scenes of a distressing order. Shocking, but necessary to highlight the ferocity and brutal behavior of the slave owners. It is not the violence that affects the most though, it is the pure human emotion and artistry on display that affect most greatly. Even the coldest of hearts will find it hard not to be 12years-4moved to tears in the final moments of the film’s climax. You’d be forgiven for thinking that only 12 months had passed, rather than 12 years, which adds a great deal of shock in the last scenes as it becomes clear quite how long Solomon has been subjected to such pain, sorrow, and hardship.

To say this is McQueen’s best film is not particularly fair or just to his two previous features which are pieces of fine art in and of themselves. 12 Years a Slave is perhaps his most beautiful film, interjecting the tragedy with simply stunning grace notes of power, beauty, and profundity. It has been quite some time since a film has moved me in much the way this picture has, in fact it is hard to think of one which has had the same effect. A film crafted with a respectful yet uncompromising vision, and one that thoroughly deserves the praise it has and should continue to receive.

5/5- Unflinching, emotionally intense, yet utterly beautiful all the same. A worthy awards contender if there ever was one.

Greetings all! Mr. Andrew Gaudion here, bringing back the blog which has been left unattended for nearly four months! I do sincerely apologize for the lack of reviews, film news, film features and the sort, hopefully you’ve managed to keep up to date in my absence. But, now that my first year at the University of Warwick, exams all completed, I thought, why not kick start the old blog again, now that I have the time to give it the attention it deserves as it approaches its two year anniversary (ah, 2010, so long ago). During this four month hiatus, I have indeed seen a great many films, some of which I am disappointed not to have gotten round to sharing my views on them, bar a Facebook status. These films included the much anticipated Avengers Assemble (review coming soon, to coincide with the Alderney Cinema’s showing of it in August), the sprawling madcap-ness of Tim Burton’s Dark Shadows (expect a review around the DVD release). But, two films I have seen very recently and that are still doing the rounds in the cinemas (both in first and second positions at the UK Box office at the time of writing) are Ridley Scott’s sort-of-but-not-quite-Alien prequel and the second sequel in the Men in Black franchise. Both films have divided critics and audience members alike, but none more so than Prometheus. Many of you, if you follow me on Facebook, will be fully aware of my reaction to these two films, again Prometheus in particular, but the blog was always a perfect chance to elaborate and test my skills as a critic. So here’s my chance to elaborate on two very diverse Sci-Fi movies, one that asks big questions, and one that has Will Smith threatening to, and I quote, ‘pimp-slap the shiznit’ out of Andy Warhol’. Enjoy, and welcome back.

Review: Prometheus- Big things have underwhelming beginnings…  

*SPOILERS ABOUND* Ridley Scott marks his return to a genre he truly did help define in terms of how modern Sci-Fi is conducted (it is hard to find a Sci-Fi movie these days that doesn’t owe something to Alien or Blade Runner). The fact that Prometheus marks Sir Ridley’s return to the genre was exciting enough as a prospect, but it truly is the content of the material that raises expectations. Beginning life as a full-on prequel to Alien, Scott, with a re-write from Lost co-creator Damon Lindelof, saw enough potential in the concept to embark on developing Prometheus into its own Sci-Fi epic, that shared a universe with the Alien franchise, while also exploring questions that have been around since  John Hurt and co. first entered that derelict spaceship and found the huge and mysterious, and dead, Space Jockey. Then the trailers arrived, and we were led to believe that this would be more of an Alien prequel than Scott had initially let on. We were finally going to discover who and what the Space Jockey was. And we do. Just, perhaps not in the way that many of us may have hoped.

Prometheus follows the expedition of a group of scientists, led by Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace) and Charlie Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green), who have discovered the exact same star-map at different Archaeological digs across the world, from different cultures separated by thousands of years. With funding from the Weyland Corporation (ring any bells), Shaw and Holloway and a handful of scientists, and an android named David (Michael Fassbender) go on a voyage to the location of the star-map. What they discover is beyond what any of them ever imagined, as they come face to face with man-kind’s creator and the possibility of their own extinction.

Prometheus aims to address what the scope of Scott’s 1979 Alien alluded to with the introduction of the Space Jockey. One of the main aspects that makes Alien such a fascinating film is the way that it can feel so small yet so large; it is essentially a haunted-house movie with a monster chasing some unfortunate souls, yet it seemed to be ingrained within a much larger scope, as suggested by the derelict and the Space Jockey. An exploration into that scope is somewhat of a intriguing premise, and the intention for Prometheus to be a movie with its own mythology is something that I find very commendable, I just wish that they went for either a stand-alone film, or a full-out Alien prequel, as this film very much aims to be both, but fails to engage on both accounts.

*MAJOR SPOILER PARAGRAPHS AHEAD*There have been many theories regarding the nature of the Space Jockey’s over the years, and while what Scott presents us here is undeniably bold and promising, with them being revealed as the ‘Engineers’ of the human race, aspects of both their motives and nature simply perplexed me. What is it that we did that would force them to want to kill us? Why do they have these vials of black goo, which seems to have somewhat of an unpredictable nature? And why does the script allude to them being a higher being, only for them to become simple-minded antagonists, that merely embark on killing everyone? These are just a few areas that the script fails to justify and explore.

The script is simply the biggest problem with this movie. It appears to be incapable of juggling these themes whilst also presenting a certain degree of Sci-Fi nastiness that is expected of this type of genre movie. While Scott certainly still knows how to gross-out an audience, we find it hard to appreciate his craft due to the lack of connection towards much of the characters. I really should stop comparing this movie to Alien, as it was, realistically, never going to match up, but that film had perfect and unique characterization, as we spent the run-time with a crew of only seven people. In Prometheus, there is a crew of 17. There is no way that the film can allow us to care for all the characters involved, most are simply there to be disposed of rather quickly. The characters that we do pay particular attention to, from Charlize Theron’s Vickers and Idris Elba’s Janek, while performed well (bar Rapace’s questionable English accent), are far too threadbare in their characterization to really care about what happens to them. It is ironic, then, that the most interesting character isn’t even human. If you are familiar with Damon Lindelof’s work, namely Lost, you will be well aware that he likes to throw questions into the mix without necessarily having the answers for them. While this may be an intriguing way to keep television audiences interested, it simply does not work as well for a cinematic audience. Certainly, raise questions which thoughtfully invite us to question our origins and faith, but don’t you ever expand questions so much so that they do not make sense. There is no reason as to why these star-maps would lead these scientists to this planet, which simply turns out to be a hanger for the Engineers spaceships. And why on Earth do the scientists only find out why they are in space once they are out of hyper-sleep and the mission is about to begin? I would certainly want to know where I was going and what I was doing before I boarded a spaceship where I’ll spend the next five or so years of my life living on. Glaring plot-holes such as these distract the audience from embracing the large themes at play in the movie, and the course of the events of the movie are likely to anger Alien fans, as for a large part, the movie doesn’t fit into the timeline  and does not lead into the events of Alien, as we were supposedly promised.

Michael Fassbender as the ship’s Android David is easily the best thing about this movie. An incredibly well-drawn out character, and superbly performed, David represents most of the key themes of the film, particularly concerning the questions of humanity. His motives are questionable (despite some rather un-subtle foreboding dialogue) and you are never quite sure whether he is being sincere or simply following orders. He provides much of the films intrigue and the best connection with the Alien franchise, that being its exploration of android characters. And Fassbender shows incredible range, particularly during an early sequence as he occupies the spaceship alone as the human crew members rest in hyper-sleep. He more than shows why he is one of the most in demand and watchable actors in Hollywood today.

While the script may be flawed, there is no denying the awe-factor of the world of the film; the production design is flawless. Once again taking a leaf out of H.R. Giger’s sexually mechanized Necronomicon book; Scott has orchestrated sets of jaw-dropping beauty and surrealism. From the ships of the Engineer’s to the Prometheus ship itself, you truly believe that this world exists (until, someone, once again, drops a horribly cliched line). The world of the Engineer’s ship and caves is fascinating, which is why it is particularly frustrating when the script takes us away from its exploration after merely spending five minutes inside of it.

Prometheus presents a beautiful and awe-inspiring world set within the framework of a poorly written script. It does not know what is good for it. The audience wants to explore these new worlds for as long as possible, you would have thought the scientists would too, considering, you know, that they are scientists. Instead they merely pop in for about ten minutes and decide that they have had enough of answering the biggest questions of the universe for today. It asks big questions, yet ends up resorting to a big slimey monster; it wants to be its own film, yet caters to fan-boy needs in a hack-job fashion. It is by no means a terrible film, the world is too beautifully realized and Fassbender too awesome for it to have no merits (the 3-D as well actually immerses you for a change). There is the sense that a sequel could answer some of the films glaring questions, and may in fact lead into Alien (although Lindelof has stated they would move further away from the Alien-verse), but some plot holes just can’t be filled. Audiences and critics alike have been split, and it is a highly recommendable cinema experience if only for the debating factor. But, if you truly love it’s heritage and believed in the hype, you will leave the cinema feeling wholly empty, with a void that only a certain Xenomorphic embryo from 1979 can fill.

2/5- While certainly awe-inspiring and creatively alive with ideas, the script is just too darn awful to truly engage. Certainly not terrible, but disappointing none the less as we were promised so much more.

Tomorrow (or maybe this evening) come on back to check out my review for Men In Black 3.

I’ve been struggling somewhat since I saw this film to figure out exactly what to write about it, so I am sorry if this review seems to read more like a stream of consciousness as I try to figure out what to say. The reason I’ve been finding it difficult to articulate my response to  Shame is because it is a film that really puts you through every emotion, a literal roller-coaster of emotions. It is at times rather hard to watch, as I’m sure you are aware of its explicit nature. It is an intense experience that certainly leaves you in a bewildered and rather strange place. Despite all this, it is a movie to be greatly admired, from the artful direction by Steve McQueen, to the blistering performances from its two leads; Michael Fassbender and Carey Mulligan.

The story follows Fassbender as Brandon Sullivan, a seemingly normal guy on the surface who is successful in his work, gets on well with his workmates, and lives a prosperous life. Nothing on the surface seems out of the ordinary. But his private life is much different. Brandon is a sex addict. Sex is on his mind 24/7, and he goes to great lengths to ensure that his addiction is satisfied, be it the internet, masturbation (both at home and at work) or ordering prostitutes. Brandon also has to contend with his over-bearing and needy sister Sissy (Mulligan) , a very talented yet incredibly troubled Singer, who comes to stay with Brandon during the course of the film. The tensions between the two only go to worsen their respective conditions, pushing both of them towards a path of self-destruction.

The narrative follows Brandon vicariously from a seemingly random moment in his life, in which by the end of it we hope he tries to find resolution to his problem (I’ll leave it to you to make your own mind up about the ending). The fact that we follow Brandon so intensely is what leads to what some may consider the film’s more uncomfortable moments. It must be said, the sex scenes are not designed to be erotic in the conventional Hollywood sense. They are made to feel uncomfortable and somewhat saddening, as we see Brandon continue to fall victim to his over-powering addiction. We are not entirely aware that he has a sexual addiction from the beginning of the movie, it is as we continue to follow his middle-class life, that we become aware of the extensiveness and the seriousness of his addiction. It is true to say that in this day and age if we have a desire we want fulfilled, we want it done quickly. And we have the means to do that, and this is reflected in Brandon’s addiction. The world supplies him with the services to fulfill his desires, through the internet mainly, yet the film also highlights that although we are following an individual, there are other people in the world with the same desire, and are willing to help Brandon fulfill it, and not just because they are making a profit from it, proving Brandon is not alone, which is somewhat of a scary thought. What makes the experience uncomfortable is the extent in which Brandon goes to in order to fulfill his desire. By the final act in which he goes on the ultimate spiral of self-destruction, we realise it isn’t just an addiction of desire, it is Brandon’s form of self-harm. He lives a rather closed off life, he is batting inner demons, demons which begin to come to the surface when his sister, who very much has her demons out on display for all to see, comes to stay, forcing him to confront his problems. Only, his way of confronting these problems is to push the boundaries of his addiction to shocking results.

The relationship between Brandon and Sissy is what drives the narrative and gives the film its emotional backbone. The topic of sex addiction threatens to make the film, and its lead character, a rather detached and cold experience, which is why having the family topic present adds depths to both character and story, no matter how bizarre the relationship may seem. I’d hate to see what Brandon and Sissy’s experience was growing up, as these two are seriously fucked up individuals. McQueen and Abi Morgan’s script makes subtle suggestions to their past; with Sissy stating that “we’re not bad people, we just come from a bad place,” but it is the allusiveness of their past which makes the relationship interesting. A particular stand-out sequence has the two siblings confronting each other in the living room, saying harmful things to each other, all the while a cartoon plays out of focus on the television in the background. It is a wonderfully inventive example of juxtaposition; you expect siblings to sit down together in front of the television when they are children and perhaps have a bit of a squabble, however in this context it is two very troubled adults having a discussion which will end up having rather disastrous results. The relationship may not have come across as layered and conflicted as it does if it weren’t for the performances of Fassbender and Mulligan. Fassbender is a force to be reckoned with at the moment, and he is on ferocious form in this movie. He can go from charming, to detestable to down-right frightening just like that, and you are utterly convinced by him. It is a brave and committed performance which drives the film through every moment. Mulligan portrays a very different character, much less reserved, a tornado of an individual who brings about destruction wherever she goes. This a completely different character for Mulligan and only goes to exemplify her range as an actress. Compare this performance to, lets say Drive, and you wouldn’t think it was the same actress. She works perfectly against Fassbender as an over-bearing, yet wholly tragic character (even though it lasts too long, try not getting chills during her rendition of New York, New York).

Steve McQueen has followed up his debut film Hunger (which also features a fantastic performance from Fassbender) with an even braver movie, something which I didn’t think was possible. His direction is incredibly natural, he always relies on the lighting of the environment, letting shadows fall where they may within the New York setting, a city which is as full of mystery as it is glamour. He really has a knack for making his movies feel raw and real; there are moments in Brandon’s life which you can surprisingly relate to (all of us have had that date with the awkward waiter). Sex scenes have certainly never been shot in such a way, reflecting Brandon’s impersonal attitude to something which, in a perfect world, you share with someone you care about, but that isn’t the case sometimes. Some people may find it slightly irritating that some loose ends aren’t tied up, but as McQueen himself said, that is life, sometimes the loose ends aren’t tied up. Shame reflects how we really don’t know what goes on behind close doors, how a person you may think you know may lead a dark life. I’d like to think none of my friends are sex addicts in their own time, but the film does bring that question to light; how well do you really know the people in your life? And it does so in a bold and profound way. In short; it’s art.

5/5- Intense, artistic and undeniably brave. It may be hard to watch at times, but it is a fascinating character study featuring two stunning performances from Fassbender and Mulligan.