Monthly Archives: December 2013

Her (2013)

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As most of you should know, at the moment in the most general sense, we as a species are not headed in a good direction. Somewhere along the path, we lost our way. Our priorities and morals are misshapen and failing, the technological and political advances we make are cancelled out by our abuse of our planet and each other, and we’re struggling to co-exist, to keep our progression afloat. All in all, our future does not look bright. That being said, the ship is being righted somewhat, you know…we are getting there, even if it is just one maladjusted step at a time. We’re beginning to consider the consequences and outcomes of our actions and creations just as heavily and frequently as we marvel at them. And it looks as if our continued existence, harmony, and evolution is significantly greater in importance, well…at least mow more than it has ever been.

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Sadly however, despite this new growth and consciousness of how important our cohesiveness is, we continue to conjure up new ways of interacting with one another…quicker, inhuman, artificial ways. Devices, methods, and intelligence that instead of drawing us together, instead of doing what we intended them to do, is distancing us, alienating communication, both physical and verbal. It’s becoming a bit excessive and ridiculous, at least to me anyway. I get that with these tools we are also bringing the world together, but, I mean, at what cost? And where do we draw the line? We’re losing what makes our very presence in this universe so extraordinary. It feels as if these easier ways of connecting are hampering our intellectual ascension, creating an inability to converse face-to-face, and leaving us unable to read one another. “I fear the day technology will surpass our human interaction. The world will have a generation of idiots.”

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That’s an Albert Einstein quote, by the way, just thought I’d let you know so I don’t get tagged with plagiarism, but I digress. The quote, along with the personal rant before it was ignited by Spike Jonze’s transcendent film “Her.” I feel it’s important to convey what exactly a film evokes in me and the end result is often something like the rant above. Just so you know, “Her” centres around Theodore (Phoenix), a lonely, romantic writer who winds up falling in love with his new operating system (Johansson). I figured I’d let you in on the plot so you could know the reason behind my rambling. So, now that you understand where my blurb stems from, I bet it makes a lot more sense. To be honest though, there’s a hell of a lot more to this film than just singling out our mistakes and how we are going to pay dearly for them. So enough of my blabbering on, let’s get into the film.

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Unlike any love story you’ve ever experienced. “Her,” written and directed by the aforementioned Spike Jonze, is a bizarre concoction of comedy, science-fiction, and of course, romance. Its premise is a bit obscure and might take a little time to settle in. However once it does, the confusion and hilarity of what you are actually watching will will wear off and the film’s immersive, heartbreaking, foreshadowing nature will haunt you, make you ache. The script is genuine, disheartening, and completely captures the lyricism and poetic inconsistencies of the language we use everyday. It’s extremely difficult to recreate such instinctive, calculated emotions and dialogue, but Jonze does a superlative job in doing so. The soundtrack for this lovely film, which I am currently listening to, was composed by none other than Arcade Fire, amongst others. It’s one that’ll stick with you and you’ll be listening to it consistently long after the film is over.

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Jonze, whom you might know as the director of such masterpieces as “Adaptation” and “Being John Malkovich,” brings exactly what you’d expect to the table. His form is as impeccable as ever. The camerawork is really an achievement all its own. Shifting from the close, emotionally strong, driven performances to endless skylines and scenery. He displays this ambient, smart, poignant, vulgar, atmospheric, sexy, unflinching yarn flawlessly. The story moves swiftly and effortlessly. Transitioning from a simple tale of a lonely writer into an intricate, veritable look at our expanding knowledge and existence. Jonze does this while eventually, occasionally simultaneously, providing the reason why this growth will be our downfall…unless we come to terms with the truth. That being, no matter how we break our bounds and overcome obstacles, our structure, our very make-up will always bring us back to one another.

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Of course, it doesn’t hurt to have one of the strongest ensembles 2013 has to offer keeping your footing. “Her” features Joaquin Phoenix and Scarlett Johansson in the lead roles with Amy Adams, Olivia Wilde, Rooney Mara, and Chris Pratt running support. We all know that Adams has the chops, so her magnificence shouldn’t be that big of a surprise. Nevertheless, somehow, she still manages to bewilder and her performance here is nothing short of perfection. Wilde, who I feel finally won her critics over with one of my favourites this year, “Drinking Buddies” continues to move forward with another strong effort. Pratt plays the quirky, visceral, long-time friend infallibly, something he’s done for a long time. As for Mara, who still remains on the periphery of the mainstream for some odd reason, gives another powerful effort here. She’s that odd, house-hold name that everyone seems to push to the back burner.

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Phoenix and Johansson, our star-crossed lovers, search endlessly for a way to make their unconventional romance work despite all the restrictions. And I must say, they look…and sound I should say, quite striking doing so. It’s utterly remarkable how the two play off one another. Johansson might not be able to garner an Oscar nomination due to some idiotic stipulation, but in my books, she’s got the award wrapped up. As for Phoenix, there’s no doubt in my mind he’ll grab a nod himself, possibly take it home all together. I know it’s simple fiction, a movie, but the chemistry, the sparks these two create is something of such authenticity, it has to be seen to be believed.

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Spike Jonze’s “Her” is beautiful, smart, disconcerting, and depressingly emotional. “Her” will be fighting for nominations this award season, there’s no doubt, the only question is, how many will it win?

Her: 9.5 out of 10.

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Filth (2013)

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For those familiar with my work (good god that sounds pretentious), you might recall last week when I posted a review of “Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa.” I clamoured on and on in this article about how I loathe and detest the genre that is comedy… Yet, I conversely raved about how “Brits seem to have a direct line to my funny bone,” which eventually led to me building up the aforementioned Steve Coogan flick as the funniest of the year. Soon after this, I sat down and watched another of my most anticipated flicks of the year, Jon S. Baird’s “Filth,” which just so happens to be another hilarious film from the UK, originating from Scotland. Now, I know that there’s no love lost between the segregates of British people, but in all fairness, the English, Scots, Irish, and so on, are all part of one great nation and can all be deemed “British.” Therefore, my theory regarding comedy, the British, and my own, bizarre, dark comedic taste remains as truthful as ever.

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Based on Irvine Welsh’s novel of the same title, which is one of my most cherished reads. “Filth” is every bit as vile as the dirty images and abhorrent actions the word conjures up in your brain. It’s repulsive, violent, vulgar, abusive, indulgent, sociopathic, misogynistic, sexually deplorable, and darkly hilarious. That being said, it doesn’t quite knock “Alpha Papa” from the throne of hilarity I’ve bestowed upon it, but “Filth” does exceed its brethren in nearly every other emotional and cinematic aspect. However, as you’ve probably assumed by now (I hope), this flick is really for those with a taste for the gritty and grotesque. So (I feel idiotic for even having to point this out), do not watch “Filth” if you are…delicate, you know, easily offended. Because if you happen to be the “morally stable” type, I can confidently guarantee that it won’t sit well with you and that you’ll be scrubbing “Filth” endlessly from your underbelly to no avail…

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Now, if you’re like me and have a rather…unique taste in film, there’s hardly anything shocking in the goings on of this flick that you haven’t been previously exposed to. Don’t get me wrong though, “Filth” is plenty filthy. I’m simply stating that one, like myself, shouldn’t go into the film expecting to be knocked off their feet from disgust, depravity, and peril. I’ve seen the very worst, disturbing, unhinged things that cinema has to offer and the dirt here doesn’t exactly rival those that rely on inhumanity as a crutch. What I’m saying is that the filth is hardly the driving point of “Filth,” merely a contrast, a theme, a device to assist in nailing our humanity home. To phrase it better, I’ve never seen such selfish, stoic, savage behaviour used so effectively and tastefully. The honest moments of vulnerability, fear, and love in this film is what makes “Filth” so utterly disconcerting, not the extent of ones indifference to the well being of others or themselves.

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Directed by the aforementioned Jon S. Baird, who also wrote the screenplay, “Filth” explores the depths and extremes of the human psyche. Constructed as a series of repugnant acts playing out through a man suffering from the destruction of his family while he fights for a promotion. Baird’s adaptation might not stay completely true to the source material, yet is able to conjure up a rather empathetic, aching, scummy story while keeping the darkness above all else. “Filth” really is an exploration of contrasts, take for example, it’s soundtrack. There’s a scene in which a group of people spontaneously jump into a merry, disheartening chorus staring into the camera dead on, sufficiently demolishing the fourth wall, just mere minutes before and after such foulness has graced the screen. I don’t know who’s responsible for such artistic structure, but they should be applauded. Baird really triumphs thoroughly with his latest outing.

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Now, before I get into praising James McAvoy, I’d like to give a shout-out to “Filth’s” outstanding supporting cast comprised of Jim Broadbent, Imogen Poots, and Jamie Bell, amongst others. Broadbent definitely takes his bizarre, hallucinogenic role to the next level with a charismatic, descriptively insane performance. Whether he’s ripping out the innards of our unstable lead, causing uproarious laughs with his sporadic mannerisms, or forcing disheartening realizations, Broadbent really pushes the film to the next level. Poots continues to display why she’s one of the most talented up-and-comers. She’s striking, unrelenting, sexy, and immensely astounding. As for Bell, who should really get more chances to strut his stuff, what can I say, he once again proves he’s got the chops to hang with the best. McAvoy, oh James McAvoy…simply put, McAvoy is bloody brilliant, his mannerisms, laugh, voice, beard, everything. The way he looks at the camera and breaks the fourth wall is enough to give you chills and his emotional output is heart-wrenching. His performance alone makes “Filth” worth the watch.

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Featuring one of the performances of the year from James McAvoy, evoking countless reactions and tugging at the viewers heart strings. “Filth” is a rare cinematic achievement in which humanities lowest points cause the film to soar to dizzying heights.

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Filth: 9 out of 10.

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (2013)

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If I wasn’t already in the minority thinking that Peter Jackson was right to turn J. R. R Tolkien’s beloved, timeless classic “The Hobbit” into three films. I definitely asserted myself as an outcast raving over how formidable Jackson’s first outing “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” was and how it placed the forthcoming flicks on impeccable footing. Now, we’re a year down the road, and I feel no different about it. It’s been a year between chapters, that’s a long wait, especially for an enthusiast such as myself, but the second chapter of this soon-to-be epic trilogy is finally upon us and I’ve stayed true to my fanboy title. Rushing, nervously and excitedly to my nearest theatre late Thursday night to behold the first showing of Jackson’s next masterpiece, “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug” in IMAX 3D, and not just for Christopher Nolan’s “Interstellar” teaser either…that’s just a bonus. How’d I feel about the film, you ask…let’s just say, I wasn’t disappointed…

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Now, I know what you’re all thinking, “this guy is supremely biased” and you’re not wrong in concluding that. You may choose to skip my review for a more neutral, honest take and I won’t hold any blame against you. But before you do, consider this. The hard truth of it is, if you can’t enjoy this, you’re probably not a fan of Jackson’s LOTR universe to being with and shouldn’t be judging it in the first place…and I never cheat my readers out of the truth and honesty. If the “The Desolation of Smaug” had flopped, believe me, I’d be the first to let you know. Thankfully however, this isn’t the case. It’s a definite improvement in nearly every aspect while also capitalizing on the errors of its predecessor, not that there were many to begin with. And despite having similar themes, Jackson is able to make the content seem fairly new and exciting. He captures a lot of the magic that made his LOTR trilogy so superlative and successful, which is, quite frankly, the most reassuring aspect for the upcoming finale and is all any good-hearted fan could ask for.

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There’s a lot here that is reminiscent of the LOTR trilogy, but it’ll never be the LOTR, so let’s just get that comparison out of you head right now! If there’s one thing holding back “The Hobbit” trilogy, it’s no fault of its creators, rather, the viewers simply expecting LOTR all over again. That’ll never happen! Honestly, I consider the LOTR trilogy to be cinema’s greatest achievement. I know a lot of you will fight me on that, but that’s just how I feel. Nothing will ever live up to that comparison, so stop holding this series against it. The source material for both series differ greatly, I can’t stress that enough. If you’ve read the series, you’ll know exactly what I’m referring to. “The Hobbit” is directed to younger readers, it’s more cliched, nostalgic, simple. I wouldn’t go as far as to recommend completely cleansing your thoughts of any relation to the LOTR, simply because you’d miss out on a few awesome easter eggs and shout-outs to the original trilogy. That being said, the less you stack up Jackson’s two trilogies, the greater your experience will be.

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It may end on a bit of a cliff-hanger, which hampers most middle films, but if anything, it only really sets its hooks in deeper. A nagging, stinging, aching anticipation for next year’s finale that is proves useless to try and shake. Nonetheless, let’s stick to what’s available to us now. There’s a lot of new faces presented in this sequel, but of course there’s only one newcomer on everybody’s mind. There’s no question that the highlight of “The Desolation of Smaug” is of course, Smaug himself. It’s all any die-hard Tolkien fanatic has been waiting for since the series was first announced. You’ll be waiting till roughly the last forty minutes of the film’s nearly three hour runtime for Smaug to finally appear, but when he does, you’ll find yourself watching one of the greatest cinematic achievements of 2013.

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Apart from this greedy fire-breather, Orlando Bloom’s Legolas draws a substantial amount of excitement. Jumping weightless amongst the striking scenery of Middle Earth (provided by the always breathtaking New Zealand which Jackson once again utilizes to full effect) and dismissing countless foes. He might be a little more edgy than you remember, but a thrill to watch nonetheless. Luke Evans’ Bard really was a pleasant surprise. Gritty, emotional, and whole-heartedly invested, Evans truly added another complex, impressive layer to this fantastical spectacle. The final addition, Evangeline Lilly’s Tauriel still reigned supreme, for me at least. Rarely have I ever become smitten with someone so striking who could also beat me to a bloody pulp at the drop of a hat. A quick shout-out to the cast of dwarves who’ve finally been allowed to expand their emotional range. The serious tone really allows them to show off their depth instead of trotting around uttering witty, cliched catchphrases.

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Smaug is played by the incomparable Benedict Cumberbatch, who, aside from giving voice to this monstrous dragon, also provides the facial expressions and movements, much like that of Andy Serkis’s Gollum. Emerging from a baffling pile of riches, it’s the dark, malicious, egotistical voice that first strikes fear into your gut as Smaug himself dances amongst the shadows. Then, when the big reveal hits, you’ll find yourself struggling to pick your jaw off the sticky cinema floor. Agile, gargantuan, and devilishly clever, Cumberbatch’s Smaug is, without question, the biggest “wow” moment of the year. As for Martin Freeman, he’s still the only young Bilbo for me. His reluctant courage and comical movements are inspiring and hilarious. You’d be hard pressed to find someone who could successfully deliver just one of those facets. Sadly, Gandalf takes a bit of a back seat on this one, but it’s Ian McKellan, it’s the role he was born to play. So those brief moments he’s present are just as rewarding and nostalgic.

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“The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug” is another magnificent entry into Peter Jackson’s Middle Earth. The visuals are as superlative as ever. Whether it’s Smaug, the bewildering, gloomy Mirkwood and Laketown, or panoramic shots of Middle Earth, Jackson never seems to lose his form. The progression of the story isn’t a strain to endure and keeps the viewer glued with heart-racing action and genuine emotion. The dialogue doesn’t feel so contrived and each character is given more than enough importance to thrive. It still doesn’t rank with the best the LOTR trilogy has to offer, but it isn’t a steep decline either. “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug” will undoubtedly stand the test of time and is a terrific set-up for next year’s big finale.

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug: 9 out of 10.

The Guest List: Parlor of Horror

After a brief absence, The Guest List is back…with vengeance on my mind…I’m just kidding. This week I’m excited to have Mike from Parlor of Horror contributing his top 10 to The Guest List! If you don’t already follow/subscribe to his site, you’re really missing out. He’s one of the best writers I know and always has outstanding content over on his website. So, yeah, go and check him out!

If you want to contribute your very own top 10 to The Guest List, here’s how!

All you need to do is shoot me an e mail (thecinemamonster@gmail.com) with your name, website info (if you have one), and the topic you have chosen for your top 10. If I like what I see, I’ll give you the all clear and you can begin composing your entry. Make sure to include a descriptive, yet brief introduction and a picture or clip for every entry in your top 10. Use my own top 10s as references. Then, send it back to me and we will discuss a date of publish.

Also, please don’t forget to get your votes in for the Top 10 Films of 2013. A list for the common cinephile by the common cinephile!

I’m going to turn things over to Mike now, enjoy!

Top 10 Modern Sci-Fi Films (1965 – present): by Mike

The 1950s were considered the golden age of sci-fi films. Sci-fi from the pulp fiction magazines in the 1920’s and 30’s were finally able to be filmed with some good special effects for the time. Stories by HG Wells, Ray Bradbury, and Isaac Asimov, were brought to film and to television through shows like The Twilight Zone and The Outer Limits. Mutant giant insects, giant monsters, dinosaurs, radioactive men, flying saucers, alien invasions and robots rose to test man’s authority. Future filmmakers had quite a challenge if they were going to produce films that would hold up when compared to these. In many circumstances they have exceeded the challenge. They have stretched the possibilities to the edge of space and depths of the human mind. So, without further fanfare, I offer this list of the Top 10 Modern Sci-fi films – post 1950s.

10: War of the Worlds (2005)

Although I love the 1950’s George Pal version, this one had 3-legged pods – closer to the original H.G. Wells story. The scenes with the war-crafts are incredible. The rise from the ground, the decimation of Staten Island, and the Hudson River crossing, are all amazing scenes.

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9: I-Robot (2004)

This film based on the Isaac Asimov’s story of the same name is a fantastic look at a possible future. The film brings up the three laws of robotics and the struggle of the main robot, Sonny, to adhere to these laws. The film starts out with a murder mystery and keeps escalating into the realms of fantastic.

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8: Minority Report (2002)

The whole idea of ‘thought police’ is an unnerving concept. Imagine getting arrested just because of the thought, before you even acted upon it. That is the basis for this story and its loaded with scientific advancements taken into the future. The parts when the main character is walking through the mall and is being bombarded with adverts based upon his purchasing history is already happening today on the internet and is only a step away from happening in real life. Real science fiction is something that can actually happen around the next bend of time. Just as Star Trek’s ‘Com’ devices have appeared as cell phones, I see a half dozen things in this film that are already lined up to become reality.

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7: The Matrix (1999)

This mind-bending blockbuster movie melded the real world with the cyber world. It really changed the game for sci-fi action films and was praised for its modern concepts. It felt like a totally new and unanticipated field in science fiction and takes the ‘virtual world’ idea to its extreme limits.

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6: Jurassic Park (1993)

 Aside from visually bringing dinosaurs to life, the amazing part of this film is what happened during the research and preproduction. In order to get the most realistic dinosaurs onto the screen, Spielberg brought together scientists from numerous fields; Paleontology, Mathematics, Engineering, Genetics, and Biology. They came to many conclusions that had only been loose ideas scattered throughout the scientific community. The biggest one is Dinosaurs do not drag their tails on the ground. In order for the giant dinos to raise their heads, their tails had to be aloft as a counterbalance. Other conclusions: they are warm blooded, they are fast, they lived in family groups and herds, they were more closely related to birds… It took Spielberg’s ingenuity (and money) to bring these scientists together and solidify a more perfect picture of what dinosaurs were actually like. Many museums began changing their dinosaur’s skeleton positions after these realizations.

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5: Terminator 2 (1991)

This is the first major sci-fi film that uses CGI to its full potential. It really looks great and holds up well to this day. The CG is not overused and mostly applied to the T-1000 (liquid metal). Time travel, robotics and ethical questions of science all wrapped up in one film.

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4: Alien (1979)

Long stretches of silence and the isolation of vast space create a palpable atmosphere in this film. It is the quiet that makes the alien attacks so jarring. The H.R. Geiger designed alien is amazing. It seemed so real and alive. Goodbye to any notion of alien grays, this was a life form beyond most people’s imagination.

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3: Westworld (1973)

Westworld is a luxury resort, where you could live the life of the old west. The reason you are able to shoot the bad guys is they are all actually advanced robot androids. Everything was going well until one android (played by Yul Brenner) was no longer satisfied with constantly losing his gun battles to the inferior humans. He loads his gun with real bullets and becomes… an unstoppable killing machine. (The original Terminator) Written and directed by Michael Crichton.

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2: 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)

This spacey Kubrick trip is about a computer system, HAL, becoming self aware – years before most people knew of a computer. It was the 1st film to put ship models and the film’s cameras on robotic tracks in order to shoot realistic looking spacecraft in thru-space movement. Without this advancement, there’s no Star Wars and there’s no Alien franchise.

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1: Planet of the Apes (1968)

Charlton Heston’s pinnacle performance as ‘Taylor’ in the original 1968, mind-bomb was fantastic. The film was laced with a myriad of allegory and thought-provoking social issues. The final scene with the half-submerged, Statue of Liberty is one of the great moments in all film history. It really solidifies the idea that humans place as the apex life form in the world is just temporary.

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What an awesome list, I’m sure it’ll stir up some heated debates! Before I let you go, don’t forget to vote and send me your very own entry for The Guest List. Have a great weekend!

Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa (2013)

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For those who know me, it’s painfully aware that comedy isn’t exactly my genre of choice when it comes to watching a flick. Well, unless it’s a classic like “Airplane!” or if the laughs are mixed in with other, better genres such as thriller and romance. That being said, Brits seem to have a direct line to my funny bone with films like “Snatch” “The Cornetto Trilogy,” and “Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels,” amongst other countless successes. So, when I heard that long time television character Alan Partridge, one of my all-time favourite television personalities played by the incomparable Steve Coogan was getting a big-screen flick, you can imagine my excitement. “Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa” met my expectations right where I put them…somewhere in the clouds. It’s a perfect mix of intelligent, witty humour, lowbrow laughs and the occasional emotional strain. However, keep in mind that this kind of hilarity isn’t for everyone…

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Originating as a radio personality created by Coogan himself, Alan Partridge first appeared on the BBC radio 4 programme “On the Hour.” Then, before making the jump to his most successful undertaking, the television show “I’m Alan Partridge,” this satirical, self-made, small-time celebrity really came into form when he lent his expertise to several TV and radio specials. As time passed, Coogan’s wacky, self-obsessed invention grew quite the cult following and became a more elaborate, rooted individual. Delving into a complex family situation, an almost non-existent love/social-life, and bizarre friends and co-workers, the life of Alan Partridge became something much greater and more complex than ever anticipated. He was now as much apart of the real world as he was fiction. Now, here he is, over twenty years down the road and Alan Partridge is still relevant, hilarious, and growing.

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Beginning in 2004, the idea of a Partridge film was very much alive. However, upon suffering numerous setbacks in the writing phase and struggling with delicate content, in addition to Coogan who was unsure if he wanted to continue on with his creation, the film was severely delayed. Nonetheless, it is now 2013 and after a lengthy period of uncertainty, “Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa” hit theatres earlier this year to the acclaim of critics and cult-followers alike. Co-written by Coogan himself and directed by Declan Lowney, this unorthodox hostage flick holds the distinction of being my favourite comedy of the year. Oozing with laughs stemming from humour that ranges from smart to lowbrow, all the way down to pitch-black chuckles, “Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa” delivers the goods. Add in some charismatic performances and satirical undertones directed at our social and political stances, and you’ve got the most successful underdog of the year, in my honest opinion.

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PLOT:

Alan Partridge is content with his DJ position at North Norfolk Digital in Norwich. However, when the station is bought by a multinational conglomerate and the name is changed to “Shape,” Alan’s good friend Pat Farrell begins to fear the worst. After Pat and a few other co-workers convince Alan to discuss business with the station’s new owners and assure their job statuses, Alan’s irrelevance to the situation soon shifts to panic when he figures out that his job might be in question. Upon convincing his superiors to keep him on, Alan accidental on purpose throws someone under the bus. The next day, the fired employee returns and begins to shoot up the workplace and takes hostages. When the police fail to reach a settlement with the perp, Alan is called in to negotiate the standoff.

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As you’ve probably concluded by now, “Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa” stars the magnificent Steve Coogan, whom I adore dearly. The cast also features Colm Meaney as Pat Farrell, with Felicity Montagu reprising her role as Lynn and Simon Greenall returning as Michael for those familiar with the television show. Make no mistake though, this is the Steve Coogan show. This goes without saying, but to me Coogan is a comedic genius and anytime he gets to flex his acting chops is just an added delight, as those who’ve seen “The Trip” will agree. Coogan struts his stuff in this flick masterfully and I can confidently say that it’s one of his best comedic outings. Colm Meaney plays opposite Coogan here, which is no easy feat. That being said, he does a sublime job matching Coogan joke for joke, laugh for laugh. Honestly, Meaney hasn’t been this effective in years and it’s joyously see him return to form.

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As much as I despise the genre, especially in its current state, everyone needs a good laugh now and again. “Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa” is, without question, the funniest film I’ve seen so far this year, and it looks as if it’ll stay that way. It won’t win any Oscars, it won’t even be nominated, but it’s definitely worth the watch and I’ll be sure to pick it up on Bluray when it’s released.

Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa: 9 out of 10.

Open Grave (2013)

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Very rarely do I claim a film to be brilliant, even rarer is said “brilliant” film found in the horror genre, yet stranger things have happened…I mean, every now and again we all need a little extraordinary, right? Now, with that in mind, I’m sad to report that “Open Grave” is not one of these rarities…wait, wait, stay with me here. That being said, it wasn’t a large drop-off, in fact, the film did brush brilliance with its fingertips. Granted, those instances are few and far between, nevertheless, those sparse moments of contact are remarkable. Conversely though, it’s these precise segments of success that alert the audience to the slightly above mediocre scenes in between and the dizzying heights the film should have achieved. There’s no question that “Open Grave” is a step-above the genre’s usually contrived efforts, it’s just not canon material, more minor cult-hit. It’ll appease enthusiasts, like myself, enough for the first watch, but won’t last too long afterwords I’m afraid.

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PLOT:

We join a man, awakening in a mass grave, stiff, dehydrated, and completely vacant of any past recollections, even his own name. After being helped out of the pit by a woman whom he does not recognize, the man stumbles upon a house filled with other survivors who also don’t remember a thing. It’s not long before the group is at each others throats as they all try to get a hold of who they are, where they are, and whom amongst them brought this chaos upon them.

Reading the plot summary beforehand was very misleading, and quite frankly a mistake on my part. Which is why the best advice I can give you going into “Open Grave” is to read as little as possible about the film itself and its story. And I just realized how contradictory that sentence is because you are already reading this article. Don’t worry though, nothing is spoiled, if anything It’ll enhance and enlighten your viewing. Now, the story is much more elaborate and intricate then the summary leads on. When it concluded, I was blown away at how clever and well-thought out the story actually is, to be honest, it knocked me off my feet. Which is probably why upon its finale I was really let-down by its execution and scattered nature. I don’t want to spoil the actual progression of events and what they lead to, but I will let you know that it’s a lot more unique and complex. I can whole-heartedly say that they story is the best thing about “Open Grave.”

This scene was very disturbing...

This scene was very disturbing…

Writers Eddie and Chris Borey aren’t entirely at fault, they share the blame with director Gonzalo Lopez-Gallego, at least in my opinion anyway. Again, it’s not the story that falters per se, it’s more the length and layout. I mean, there could have been so much more added to explain and broaden the experience. In all fairness, aside from it jumping around too often, there isn’t much wrong with the placement and performance. It’s simply the bouncing from scene to scene that’s just too disconcerting to overcome, in my opinion at least. Now, apart from this grievous error however, the direction is fairly solid. The gloomy, tense, overwhelming atmosphere is engulfing and the sense of cluelessness is heart-wrenchingly abundant. The visuals aren’t as strong as they needed to be for a film with this kind of premise and outcome, but they get the job done. The score is sufficient, much like the rest of “Open Grave’s” facets, it serves its purpose and not much else.

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I need to be fair to myself and to the film for a moment. I need to stress how hard it is to write a review for this film. The plot, its twists and turns are too much of what make “Open Grave” great and I don’t want to spoil them. It feels as if I’m reviewing half a movie and that I’m not giving the film the credit it deserves, so keep that in mind when weighing my opinion, but I digress…

Had the film been deprived of its star Sharlto Copley, it’s a safe bet that I would never have given it a second glance. Nonetheless, “Open Grave” found itself the visceral, invested, significantly talented up-and-comer it desired and locked him in, effectively sinking its hooks into my watch-list, as I’m sure it did to countless others. The film also features performances from the illustrious Thomas Kretschmann and Erin Richards.

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Copley once again dives head first into his role and the audience reaps the benefits. Copley somehow manages to turn his character into this two-sided being who is truly capable of anything, good or evil, which is beyond frightening. It’s quite masterful actually how he channels the motivations and emotions from one of his characters possible paths and then turns right around and utilizes it for the other half’s benefit. Look, I’m probably a little bias and we’d be here all day if I continue singling out every single thing Copley does amazingly. His performance really put the film over-theatop, well, at least enough so that it trickles down the side of cup, so to speak. Kretschmann continues to do what he does best, which is being one of the best and most recognized character actor’s alive today. Apart from Copley and Kretschmann, the acting left a lot to be desired and that just can’t happen, especially in a film that’s so ensemble-driven.

Sharlto-Copley-and-Erin-Richards-in-Open-Grave

The truth is, “Open Grave” exceeded my expectations, but that being said, they weren’t that high to begin with. The story is phenomenal and Copley is stunning as usual. They are let down by the choppiness and inexperience surrounding them and the final product radiates this inconsistency. But again, that being said, it’s better than a majority of the genre’s efforts, combine that with an enthralling story and Copley’s fine performance and it’s enough to make “Open Grave” recommended viewing…Seriously, the story is what makes this worth the watch alone…

Open Grave: 8 out of 10.

Vote! Best of 2013

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Okay all, this is the post that will initiate what I hope to be my crowning achievement thus far in my blogging career. My objective is to achieve a top 10 list consisting of the best films from the year 2013. Sounds fairly simple, right? Just pick the ten films I feel best represent the year that was in cinema and post it for all the world to see… While you are not wrong in thinking that, I’m dreaming of something much grander…illustrious, timeless. I would like all of you, yes you: fellow bloggers, readers, and film-lovers…wait for it…to create the list!

You think I’m crazy, don’t you? Well, before you burn me at the stake, hear me out. The way this will work is each of you will vote for your top 3 films of 2013 in the poll located in the “vote” section of the main menu above. I’ve listed a significant amount of films for you to chose from. However, if there is a flick I’ve overlooked, you may add the answer to the poll yourself. You will only be allowed to vote once, so think your answers over. Obviously 2013 is not over yet and December is home to several Oscar-caliber films such as “Her,” “American Hustle,” “Out of the Furnace,” “Inside Llewyn Davis,” and “The Wolf of Wall Street.” So, if you plan on seeing any or all of these films, or any film that you feel might crack your top 3, you might want to hold off for a bit until you’ve seen every movie you want to. Voting will close sometime in January, obviously the earlier the better! Lastly, when you complete your selections, please comment below the poll that you have participated so I don’t have to track you down for no reason. Then, when polling closes, I will compile the results into a top 10 list for all to read and share. It’ll be a list that we, true cinephiles with opinions and voices that differ from snobby critics, can be proud of. A list that any film-lover can understand!

So to recap…head on over to the “vote” section of The Cinema Monster, select the 3 films you feel are the best of 2013…and vote! Then quickly comment below that you’ve voted so I don’t have to sniff you out… then you are done! It’s sooo easy! There is no excuse for you not to participate! I’m calling in all the favours…I will hunt you down. I will spam your Twitter account, Facebook, Blogs, Websites…any and all forms of social networking and interaction until you vote.

Now, I’d just like to give a big thank you to all of my beloved readers and fellow bloggers in advance for your time and votes!