Tuesday, 29 April 2014

BFG (Big Film Go-Ahead)

Steven Spielberg has confirmed that he is going to direct the imminent adaptation of Roald Dahl's The BFG, which is fantastic news... or is it?

Many may be overjoyed that a book, with such popularity among children (and adults alike), is in capable cinematic hands.  This will be the classic book's second adaption; the first being an animated version in 1989, and, while some may be pleased about Spielberg's involvement, it actually seems almost as long since the director of E.T. had that special, golden touch.  You are obviously entitled to argue that I am in no place to sit here and criticise an outstanding director such as Steven Spielberg.  However, let's take a look at five of Spielberg's latest movies as a director.

Lincoln  (2012).  Maybe it's because I'm not American but the movie's grey tone and slow dialogue bored me to an early night.

War Horse  (2011).  An adaptation of Michael Morpurgo's book that should have made me cry but somehow Mr Spielberg failed to pull the emotional heartstrings.
The Adverntures of Tintin  (2011).  Great animation and a superb vocal cast failed to engage me with this adaption of Hergé's comics.  Quite frankly, the plot baffled me; there were chases but I'm not entirely sure what they were chasing. 

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008).  A pointless addition to the Indiana Jones series that was extremely disappointing, especially when you consider that it took almost 20 years to conceptualise.  

War of the Worlds (2005).  A terrible adaptation of HG Wells' classic novel; a flawed script and disappointing aliens.

While this selection of Spielberg flicks may have been both commercially successful and picked up awards, they do not inspire huge confidence in me that his 2016 adaptation of The BFG will be anything other than a cash cow.  The BFG deserves love and care and I hope that Mr Dahl's magical tale may prove to be the catalyst that inspires Mr Spielberg to return to the once untouchable director of ET or Jaws.

Thus, not wanting to appear utterly pessimistic, here's are The List Hero's Favourite Steven Spielberg Movies.

Sunday, 13 April 2014

List Hero's TV Highlights of 2014 - January to March

#1  Line of Duty
12th February - 19th March

The last couple of months have seen a number of British police dramas from both the BBC and ITV running alongside each other.  Line of Duty, which explores the corruption with the police force, quite simply puts the others to shame.  Slick production, top quality acting - from a cast featuring the outstanding Keeley Hawes, Martin Compston, Vicky McClure (above), Mark Bonnar and Adrian Dunbar - as well as a plot that keeps you guessing until the very end, means that Line of Duty has been head and shoulders above its competitors.  

#2  The Widower
17th March - 31st March

An excellent three-part ITV drama that told the true story of Malcolm Webster, who murdered his first wife in Scotland in 1994 and then attempted to murder his second wife in New Zealand.  Both cases involved staged car crashes and were carried out for the life insurance money.  The show starred Reece Shearsmith, whose amazing performance must surely have staked an early claim for a BAFTA.
#3  Stewart Lee's Comedy Vehicle
4th March - 5th April

Now in its third glorious series, comedian Stewart Lee smugly delivers half-an-hour of stand-up each week. There is little middle ground where Lee's concerned; marmite-esque, you either love him or hate him.  Like the first two series of Comedy Vehicle, this one blends chunks of low-lit stand-up with psychotherapy sessions supplied by always irreverent Chris Morris, who pre-empts Lee’s haters and giving an audibly sneering voice to their loathing in improvised "therapy" sequences.  In this series, Lee tackles issues such as satire, “the UKIPs”, and whether or not it is possible to have a context-free word.

#4  True Detective
Sky Atlantic
22nd February - 12th April

With the dream acting combination of Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson added to a fascinating murder mystery in the eerie setting of Louisiana's bayou region, True Detective has not been your average cop drama.  While the show may have been a little slow to get going and the finale wasn't quite as satisfactory as expected, True Detective certainly had some highlights through it's strange production and off-centre acting from McConaughey.

#5  Inside No.9
5th February - 12th March

Six thirty-minute, independent playlets written by Steve Pemberton and Reece Shearsmith from the League of Gentlemen.  What more could you want?  Dark humour, humorous horror and some wonderful writing could be seen throughout the series.  The highlight of the series would have to be the third episode, named Tom & Gerri, which, in my opinion, is a televisual masterpiece.

Saturday, 12 April 2014

The List Hero Loves... Steven Spielberg

Choosing six Steven Spielberg films was always going to be a difficult task as there are so many great ones.  Many may disagree with my choices and there are some huge films missing.  However, to me, these are the most special.  
Note:  This list is purely for movies directed by Steven Spielberg.

Jaws  (1975)

E.T.  The Extra Terrestrial  (1982)

Hook  (1991)

Jurassic Park  (1993)

Saving Private Ryan  (1998)

Catch Me If You Can  (2002)

Valhalla Rising (2009) - The List Hero Review

Just watched Valhalla Rising on the basis that:
a)  It was in Empire Magazine's Top 20 films of 2010.
b)  It stars Mads Mikkelsen from The Hunt (which I loved).
c)  It's about Vikings... and I (secretly) really like Vikings.

The movie is set in the year 1000 AD (take note: that's 1000 years after the supposed birth of Jesus) and focuses on One-Eye, an enslaved warrior with extreme strength who is forced to fight in contests for his master.  After the opening 10 minutes, it became clear that this wasn't going to be one of the most exciting 120 minutes one could spend.  Slow-paced and atmospheric, this is a film with very little dialogue.  Although One-Eye eventually frees himself from his captors, the film still doesn't pick up any speed, although their are a few moments of pure gore to enjoy.

Valhalla Rising may possibly be enjoyed by fans of Terrence Malick for it's beautiful scenic shots and atmospheric sound editing.  History buffs may find it interesting and fans of gore could get a few kicks.  However, those who want quick-paced production and meaty dialogue should look elsewhere.

Rating: 2 out of 5

The List Hero Loves... French Cinema

J'adore le cinéma français and here are dix (10) of mes films préférés.

#10  I've Loved You So Long (2008)
Il y a longtemps que je t'aime
A woman struggles to interact with her family and find her place in society after spending fifteen years in prison.
BAFTA Award for Best Film Not in the English Language
Imdb Rating:  7.6

#9  Mesrine:  Killer Instinct (2008)
L'instinct de mort
The story of french gangster Jacques Mesrine, before he was called Public Enemy N°1.
César Awards:  Best Actor (Vincent Cassel) and Best Director (Jean-François Richet)
Imdb Rating:  7.6

#8  Untouchable  (2011)
After he becomes a quadriplegic from a paragliding accident, an aristocrat hires a young man from the projects to be his caretaker.
Satellite Award:  Best Foreign Language Film
Imdb Rating:  8.6

#7  Blue is the Warmest Colour  (2013)
La vie d'Adèle - Chapitres 1 et 2
Adele's life is changed when she meets Emma, a young woman with blue hair, who will allow her to discover desire, to assert herself as a woman and as an adult. In front of others, Adele grows, seeks herself, loses herself and ultimately finds herself through love and loss.
Cannes Film Festival:  Palme d'Or Winner
Imdb Rating:  8.0

#6  The Dinner Game  (1998)
Le dîner de cons
Each week, Pierre and his friends organize what is called as "un dîner de cons". Everyone brings the dumbest guy he could find as a guest.
César Awards:  Best Screenplay 
Imdb Rating:  7.7

#5  La Vie en Rose  (2007)
The life story of singer Edith Piaf.  This was the first time I'd come across the amazing Marion Cotillard, who stars as the protagonist, and I instantly fell in love...
The Academy Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role
The Golden Globe for Best Actress in a Motion Picture
The César Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role
The BAFTA Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role
Imdb Rating:  7.7

#4  Amélie  (2001)
Le fabuleux destin d'Amélie Poulain
Amelie, an innocent and naive girl in Paris, with her own sense of justice, decides to help those around her and along the way, discovers love.
César Awards:   Best Film, Best Director, Best Music and Best Production Design. 
Imdb Rating:  8.5

#3  The Closet  (2001)
Le Placard
A man spreads the rumor of his fake homosexuality with the aid of his neighbor, to prevent his imminent firing at his work.
Shanghai International Film Festival:  Best Actor (Daniel Auteuil)
Imdb Rating:  7.1

#2  A Prophet  (2009)
Un prophète
A young Arab man is sent to a French prison where racial tensions begin.
BAFTA Award for Best Film Not in the English Language
Imdb Rating:  7.9

#1  Delicatessen  (1991)
Delicatessen is a weird post-apocalyptic surrealist black comedy about the landlord of an apartment building who occasionally prepares an interesting delicacy for his strange tenants.  I don't expect you to like it... and that's why I love it.
César Awards:   Best Editing, Best Film Work, Best Production Design and Best Writing.
Imdb Rating:  7.8

List Hero Recommends: 14 Foreign Language Films

#1 Delicatessen

Directors: Marc Caro & Jean-Pierre Jeunet
Imdb Rating: 7.8

#2 City of God

Directors: Fernando Meirelles & Kátia Lund
Imdb Rating: 8.7

#3 The Skin I Live In

Director: Pedro Almodovar
Imdb Rating: 7.6

#4 The Secret in Their Eyes

Director: Juan José Campanella
Imdb Rating: 8.3

#5 The Hunt

Director:  Thomas Vinterberg
Imdb Rating: 8.3

#6 Oldboy

South Korean
Director:  Chan-Wook Park
Imdb Rating: 8.4

#7 Dogtooth

Director:  Giorgos Lanthimos
Imdb Rating: 7.2

#8 Pan's Labyrinth

Director:  Guillermo Del Toro
Imdb Rating: 8.3

#9 A Prophet

Director:  Jacques Audiard
Imdb Rating: 7.9

#10 The Lives of Others

Director:  Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck
Imdb Rating: 8.5

#11 The Closet

Director:  Francis Veber
Imdb Rating: 7.1

#12 House of Flying Daggers

Director:  Yimou Zhang
Imdb Rating: 7.6

#13 Amelie

Director:  Jean-Pierre Jeunet
Imdb Rating: 8.5

#14 The Devil's Backbone

Director:  Guillermo Del Toro
Imdb Rating: 7.5