Sunday, 27 May 2012


If you have read my blog before, then you know I like superheroes. So last year when I heard that a new found footage/hand held camera film was being made about a group of friends who get powers, it had to make my most anticipated movies of 2012 list! I was looking forward to finally seeing this film but I never would have expected the scale of awesomeness that this $12 million budget movie created!

The plot goes like this; Three high school friends gain superpowers after making an incredible discovery. Soon, though, they find their lives spinning out of control and their bond tested as they embrace their darker sides. It could be said that throughout this film the plot is kind of predictable, but I could never have predicted how crazy the last act of the film was going to be. Without spoiling anything, the last act looked as if it could have come from a big blockbuster movie! The effects were great as well, at the start of the film I was worried about effects after a few floating lego blocks came across as a bit naff, but the exploding helicopters look just fine!

The characters are great and very well written, which they needed to be as we don't have any demons as an excuse to turn on the hand held camera. Unlike Paranormal Activity this film doesn't only use the main protagonist's camera but anyone else who has access to their own camera, we're talking mobile phones to police CCTV footage. And because our trio of characters get telekinesis powers then they can make the camera float around them without having to hold it with their shaky hands.

The trailer for this film does not show all the best bits, in fact it shows hardly any of them. If you have not been a fan of these kind of films so far then this could be the one to turn you. And if you're already a fan then you will love this! And for those who are bored of superheroes this summer then don't worry there is no spandex in this film! It aslo makes you think what you would do if you had these powers, maybe I read to many comics but I would definitely be making my own crime fighting costume!

The director Josh Trank has created a very smart and thrilling film which out does every found footage film made before it! The effects were great and the acting brilliant, an underrated gem in a great year for film, now that it is out on DVD and Blu-Ray hopefully it will be seen by more people! I highly recommend this film! 4/5

Come back next week for my review of Prometheus!

Thanks for reading!

Saturday, 19 May 2012


When it comes to getting girls, Michael Fassbender is like a shark. When he sees a girl he likes, he will do anything to catch her. This is because he has a sex addiction, or at least his character Brandon Sullivan does in his latest film, Shame. This is the second time team up between Fassbender and director Steve McQueen, their last film being Hunger which I reviewed last week. Hunger was a good film, but Shame is a really good film!

The film follows Brandon Sullivan in New York as he tries to manage his sex addiction. When his sister Sissy moves in to his apartment, Brandon's world spirals out of control. Let me warn you though, this is not a film to watch with your parents. There is quite a bit of nudity in this film, it is about sex addiction after all. This is not done in a 'sexy' way, this film tries to show the audience the how dangerous and un-sexy Brandon's addiction is.

The acting in this film is superb! This is Michael Fassbender's best role to date and he really gives it his all, unfortunately he was still denied his deserved Oscar nomination. The role of Brandon's sister Sissy, is played by the incredible Carey Mulligan. The actress has taken Hollywood by storm recently, she has come a long way since her short role in Doctor Who. Mulligan is so good you will forget who you are watching, she plays the vulnerable and bit of a dirtbag role perfectly. And then there is James Badge Dale, most recently seen in the mini series epic The Pacific, his role is also spot on as the over confident, sleezy boss and mate of Brandon.You will be seeing a lot more of him soon as well, as he has just been cast in Iron Man 3.

The soundtrack to this film was also great and gave the audience a heightened sense of emotion during certain scenes. The music was created by a man named Harry Escott. There is one scene where Brandon goes for a midnight run accompanied by some classical music, the scene looks and sounds great!

The only flaw to this movie is the nudity. I realise that some was needed to shock the audience and allow them to learn the horrors of sex addiction, but some of the scenes are slightly uncomfortable. There is sex scene near the end of the film which goes on for too long and makes for an uncomfortable viewing. Maybe this is what McQueen was trying to make us feel by using this scene, but personally this is not how I want to feel whilst watching a film.

Apart from that though, this film is brilliant. Much better then Hunger and you will also see Fassbender in his best role, and he has been in a lot of good ones! It seems Fassbender and McQueen do not shy away from controversial subjects when it comes to making films, if they are to do another film together I am sure it will be just as shocking as the last two. Shame is out on DVD and Blu-Ray now, so I recommend you watch it, just be careful who you watch it with!

I have been giving the films a rating out of 5 on the left hand side of my blog for short while now, so I am also going to incorporate this rating into my reviews. I am giving Shame  a rating of: 4/5

Thanks for reading!

Thursday, 17 May 2012

Sundance London 2012: Video Blog

This is the first ever video blog for Alex's Essential Movie Blog! This video is about my time at the Sundance London Film & Music festival and the films I saw. For a full write up of my time there, read here: ‪‬

The music is from the band Orlando Seale and The Swell who also played at the festival, you can check them out here:

Thanks for watching, please like and subscribe!

Sunday, 13 May 2012


With the release of Shame on DVD, I thought it would be best to catch up on the last film made by Steve McQueen, as I am really looking forward to watching his latest. His last film was Hunger which stars the brilliant Michael Fassbender. The film is set in 1981 and follows the event of the IRA hunger strike led by prisoner Bobby Sands.

Fassbender plays Bobby Sands and it doesn't look as if he took to the role likely. I'm not sure how much of Bobby Sands body was actually a skinny Fassbender or how much was make up effects but I'm pretty sure it was a bit of both.

The acting though is superb from all the cast, even the ones which don't get any dialogue to say, which was most of them. Hunger was like that though, more style than acting, it could have been a silent film if it wasn't for a 17 minute long scene of a conversation between Bobby Sands and a priest. I applaud the director in the choice of putting that scene in though, most films would not be able to pull this off, and neither would this one if it wasn't for the great dialogue and Fassbender's acting skills.

I was unsure throughout most of this film who the main character was though. It is Fassbender's film after the first half but before that we dip in and out of other characters lives, I am assuming this was to get all the different sides of the story but because we only get short stints of each person it feels kind of short changed.

Though what this does do is allows us as the audience not to sympathise with any of the characters. As many of the audience will not be able to feel for the IRA prisoner beforehand and side with the guards but here you get to see that everyone was in the wrong.

This film is not for everyone though, it is more art house than mainstream and many critics have called it an 'artistic masterpiece'. The film is very gruesome and is not for the faint hearted, the guards and prisoners are violent and some do some pretty disgusting things.

I however did like this film, although slow in places the style and acting was very good. When the dialogue did set in some great stories were told. This was a good a film and I can't wait to see what the McQueen and Fassbender team up have done with Shame. The pair certainly have a love for hard hitting subject matters with this film being about hunger strikes and Shame being about sex addiction. This film is not for everyone but if you want to see some great film making in progress then this is the film for you.

Thanks for reading!

Friday, 11 May 2012

Gangster Squad Trailer

So the new trailer for Gangster Squad was released yesterday, a film that was on my 'Most Anticipated Films Of 2012' blog post. I am a big fan of period gangster films, especially Scorsese ones, and it feels a long time since we have gotten a decent one. This film looks to change this. The film is directed by Ruben Fleischer, the guy who dirceted the brilliant Zombieland. The film also stars some of the best talent around including Sean Penn, Josh Brolin, Ryan Gosling, Nick Nolte and Antony Mackie. Take a look at the trailer bellow:

The trailer itself is brilliant, setting up enough plot and action to get you excited but not enough to give everything away (I think). The first line said is 'I am not an educated man.' It took me a few viewings to understand this.

Apart from that first mumble Sean Penn is the perfect man to play the big time gangster Mickey Cohen, he looks and feels the part. His lines are great and really set up the evil character he is playing.

Unlike Scorsese's films, we see the narrative follow the LAPD and their fight against the criminals. Almost looks like they have gone 'Inglorious Basterds' style for their strategy. The action also looks like it was directed by Tarantino, with lots of guns shredding the hell out of things, including a cinema, so the likeness is there. You could almost believe that this is what Tarantino would do if he was to direct period gangster flick.

All the actors fit into their roles perfectly. I believe that this could be Ryan Goslings best role, as I can just see him as a mysterious and dangerous cop. Whether he stays the 'good guy' in the film is questionable though. He is also back with recent co star Emma Stone. They recently worked on Crazy, Stupid, Love together in which they had one of the best onscreen romances in years. Weird as it is seeing them ignite the flame in another film, I believe, because they are such good actors we will fall for their relationship once again.

The only criticism I have about this trailer would be that we don't get to see enough of some of the supporting actors in the gangster squad, such as Antony Mackie who really is a class actor.

Apart from that though I really cannot wait until this film is released in November. I hope that this will be just as good as Goodfellas or The Godfather. Although the director has previously directed comedies I have no fear that this will be the excellent gangster film we have been waiting for!

Thanks for reading!
P.S - For some reason my laptop is not fan of YouTube but the video blog for Sundance London is finished and will hopefully be online ASAP.

Thursday, 3 May 2012

The Avengers Review

Finally the review of one of the most anticipated superhero movies of all time, The Avengers or Avengers Assemble if you are from the UK like me. We luckily got to see the film before those living in the U.S.A and we got an extra word! Though unfortunately they get an extra post credits scene, but don't worry I won't go into detail about that, as this review is spoiler free!

So after a long weekend at Sundance London and a frustratingly delayed train journey back, I finally got to see the film I have been waiting years for! Never have I been so excited for a film! But was it going to live up to my expectations? Thank you lord it did! I have never had so much fun at the cinema before and I doubt I will ever again!

The film follows a group of superheroes; Iron Man, Thor, Captain America and The Hulk who are assembled by head honcho of S.H.I.E.L.D, Nick Fury. He has no superpowers apart from being Samuel L Jackson! Other members of the group who are not 'super' but rather kick ass include Black Widow, Hawkeye, Maria Hill and the incredible Agent 'Phil' Coulson. The team are assembled as The Avengers and together they must face an army brought to Earth by the god of mischief, Loki.

For those who believed that Mark Ruffalo would not make a good Hulk you are so wrong! Although Edward Norton was brilliant, Ruffalo just completely blows him out of the park! He is also the first actor to play the Hulk via motion capture. Unlike previous representations of the gamma monster, this Bruce Banner is not as tortured by the man inside but has learnt to keep him away for as long as possible. How you ask? Well you will have to watch the film! Robert Downey Jr once gain captures Tony Stark perfectly but does not steal the show. The Hulk does that, he provides moments of great action and humour.

In fact the whole film does that! Joss Whedon really has created a film that contains everything we love from previous Marvel movies and amps it up a notch! His direction and writing is spot on and the film visually looks beautiful. Not just the special effects but cinematography also! The best bits about the film are the conflicting relationships between The Avengers, don't worry they all fight each other at least once, Hulk vs Thor being a highlight. But the two characters that don't fight are Tony Stark and Bruce Banner. Their relationship is brilliant, being two geniuses they instantly connect and the constant push from Stark to try and get Banner angry is brilliant! I would be happy if the next Marvel project was a Iron Man & Hulk movie!

Another thing that makes this movie great is that Captain America is actually quite cool. Although he does need to back down a bit and stop being so over confident when he wants to fight Iron Man, a fight he will so obviously lose. No Cap, just no. But apart from that, Captain America feels like a superhero who isn't just a do good whining soldier. There is a very cool moment where he knocks a grenade back to his enemy using his bare hands. Thank you once again Joss Whedon for making the Captain America we all want to see. Thor is pretty awesome also, but he already was pretty cool. And like in Thor he gets to say some pretty amusing lines.

My down point of the film is that the phrase 'Avengers Assemble!' is not used and neither is 'I say thee nay!' used by Thor. These little things would have made me nerd out even more but never mind. Apart from that The Avengers is pretty much flawless as a superhero movie. Those who compare it to The Dark Knight should give up. Yes they are both superhero film but they are in completely different categories when it come to style!

2012 is already so much better then last year! If you are going to see any films this Summer, this looks like the one to go to! Bring on The Amazing Spider-Man and The Dark Knight Rises! I'm giving The Avengers a rating of 5/5.

Thanks for reading and remember to stay until the end of the credits so you can nerd out just a little bit more!

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Sundance London 2012

So it is the end of the weekend. A weekend that was amazing and inspiring. This weekend I went to Sundance London the film and music festival hosted in the O2 Arena. Over the last 3 days I saw a total of 6 films. In this post I will give my full write up of each day and then hopefully in the next week or so my video blog will be up about the event. So let’s start with day one:

The festival actually began on the Thursday but unfortunately my dad and I were not able to make it up to London until the Friday. We started off the day by having a look around the O2 Arena and ended up in the Sundance Inc Club where we had a few drinks and watched a couple of live bands. The first live band we saw were a competition winner sponsored by Gibson Guitars. They were an unsigned band named Orlando Seale and The Swell. They had 10 members who played a range of instruments, this included flute, drums, guitars and an awesome string section. The band was incredible and I have no doubt that they will go on to do great things, their music was a mixture of genres including, indie, pop and folk. I found an instant connection to the music and immediately bought their CD after they had performed. You can check out the band here. In terms of music they were definitely the highlight of the weekend and recommend them highly to everyone. We only saw one film that day, and that film was Safety Not Guaranteed. What a way to start off the first day of the festival. This was actually one of the best films of the weekend and I have also read reviews that say it could be ‘the film of the year’. The film follows a magazine reporter and his two interns on a journey to find out if a man can time travel after he had placed an advert in paper looking for a partner to go with him. The advert in the paper is actually real and happened a while ago and turned into something of an Internet phenomenon. The screenwriter Derek Connolly saw potential in this and the idea for this film was born. The film was mix of sci-fi and romantic comedy and it fulfilled all expectations and more! The characters were all cast brilliantly especially the character of Darius played by the brilliant Aubrey Plaza. The film was very funny and very touching and you are left throughout wondering if this man can actually time travel or is he simply mentally unstable.  All the characters were well written and loved even though they are all misfits and have their flaws. I can’t really say anything bad about this film apart from that it took me a while to see the relationship between two of the leads but by the end I loved it. Being able to meet the director Colin Trevorrow afterwards really confirmed that this film was made by the right people who really cared about telling this story to the audience.

On Saturday we saw 3 films. The first being For Ellen, this film was about a young rock star named Joby who travelled to a town to meet with lawyers to discuss the divorce with his wife and who will get the custody of his child Ellen. The film had a great cast with Paul Dano proving yet again he is one of the best actors around. The story was also great and had so much potential to be better then it was. Because unfortunately this film was not that good, it was very slow and was filled with scenes that dragged out too long or made no sense to the narrative at all. The director So Yong Kim touched upon other subplots including the breakdown of his band and how his experiences were changing what music he wanted to play. These were well set up but after that they were not touched upon again. I would have loved to hear one of his songs as it would have made sense of the character he was, because he could have been anyone, not a rock star. The film had a great story with so much potential which was wasted and in the end created a slow and boring film. The second film of the day was LUV, which was about an 11 year old boy who in one day takes a trip out with uncle and ends up witnessing a side of Baltimore which a young child should never see, we watch the events unfold that witness this boy becoming a man in one day. The film and the story was great and had one of the most emotional and compelling performances of the weekend which was actually from 11 year old boy, Woody played the by the incredible Michael Rainy Jr. The young boy puts on a performance better then the rest of the cast which included the extremely talented Danny Glover, Common, Dennis Haysbert and Michael Kenneth Williams. When the film ended I had enjoyed it but found some of the set pieces a bit unbelievable, but the director Sheldon Candis gave a talk about the film and how it was loosely based on his experiences with his uncle and how it was a coming of age ‘fable’. The man was incredible and his talk made me love the film even more. Shelodon described the film as ‘a gangster film with love’, which is true, but to me it was much more then another gangster film. The final film of the day was the 25th anniversary of the screening of the cult classic film Rivers Edge, this was a special event made possible by MGM who also gave away some pretty nifty goodie bags including a studio blanket. The film is about a group of friends who’s loyalty is tested when one of the members kills his girlfriend. Many of the audience had seen this film or were big fans, this was my first time. I really enjoyed the film and saw it as black comedy that raised questions on society in that era. Crispin Glover played a weird a wacky druggy named Layne and actually came out after the show with director Tim Hunter to talk about the filmmaking experience. I liked the film and it came across to me as an adult’s version of E.T.

The last day of the festival and it ended in style. I got to see two more films, a panel and Robert Redford stood a couple feet away from me at one point. The first film of the day was Liberal Arts, this film was written, directed by and starred Josh Radnor. The film follows the character of Jesse who is invited back to his old university for a retirement dinner for one of his old professors. While he is there he meets and starts a relationship with a student who is 19 years old. There is a difference of 16 years between the couple. The film strikes up the themes of age, love and most importantly morals. It was one of the best films of the festival and really was a brilliant and touching story. My Dad said that it might possibly be one of the best films he has ever seen and nearly made him cry. Most of the audience were welling up near the end and made you want to do something more with your life. One of the best things about the film was the cast and the great chemistry between them all especially Elizabeth Olsen and her characters relationship with Jesse. I asked Josh Radnor if the chemistry was hard to find in actors and he replied that he would rather work with actors he got on with, rather than because of who they are. My favourite scene was between the two actors and they are reading the letters they have been sending to each other, they talk about classical music and why it is surprisingly good. The whole scene is edited really well and is accompanied by the music which just makes it even cooler. After this film we saw the panel Making LUV that gave director Sheldon Candis even more time to talk about the making of his film. The talk was really inspiring and made me even more determined to fulfill my dream of becoming a filmmaker. He also talked more about the young actor Michael Rainy Jr and how he was a godsend to the film and how without him the film would have fallen apart. The last film of the festival I saw was 2 Days in New York, this was the sequel to the excellent 2 Days in Paris. This time the character of Marion lives with her new boyfriend Mingus played by the hilarious Chris Rock. The plot is similar to the first one, in terms of the testing of the couples relationship, especially when Marion’s dad, sister and ex-boyfriend come to ‘The Big Apple’ to see them. The consequences are very funny and you will not get bored once. The new addition of Chris Rock really helps the push the sequel into new heights, some of his one liners are brilliant; ‘KKK Bunny’ being one of them. Julie Delpy wrote, directed and starred in the excellent film, unfortunately she couldn’t make it to the festival but either way this was a great end to what was one of the most amazing weekends of my life.

Well I think I chose well, when it came to my first ever film festival. I saw some amazing films and met the most inspiring people! There was one thing that stayed the same throughout all the films I saw, this was that they all had incredible stories. This is not something you get as much in mainstream cinema these days. There was always an advert before each of the screenings where Robert Redford would say ‘Imagine a world without stories.’ Films are about telling a story and these films did this and more! These films had heart and should be the ones that are dominating the box office. I haven’t just seen some incredible films this weekend, I have also been told some incredible stories which will stay with me forever.

Thank you for reading! If you attended the festival please let me know if you enjoyed it as much as I did in the comment bellow! Or feel free to email me at

My video blog for the festival will hopefully be up in the next few days along with my review of Avengers Assemble.

Thank you Sundance London!