Friday, 31 August 2012

Must See Movie - American History X

Racist wackos don’t come any scarier than Edward Norton’s blistering performance as Derek Vineyard in Tony Kaye’s 1998 drama American History X.  Forget Russell Crowe in Romper Stomper or Stephen Graham in This is England, movie skinhead neo-Nazi thugs all bow to the superiority of Norton’s bulked up, wild-eyed, tattooed and terrifying Derek Vinyard.

The film is a beautiful but harrowing mix of style and substance with some of Kaye’s visuals coming across a tad over-stylised. Black and white is used for grim flashbacks while the slow motion and choral and orchestral soundtrack are perhaps slightly over used but never detract from the central performance from Norton. The visuals can be awe-inspiring, Norton’s unrecognisable physique all brawn and swastika-covered bulk. When director Tony Kaye hits the slow-mo, it’s impossible to take your eyes off the brutal thug even as he commits the most heinous of racially motivated violence.

The narrative is non-linear with regular flashbacks to Derek’s racist past being cut into the present day story of Derek’s return to his ruined family after a stint in prison for his inexcusable actions.  Derek’s little brother Danny (Edward Furlong in a rare but brilliant post-Terminator 2 role) narrates the story as he struggles to write a paper on his brother after being forced to re-write the assignment because his first draft was on Hitler’s Mein Kampf. 

We see Derek as a brutal but articulate and charismatic thug, rallying his troops, committing unspeakable brutality and slowly but surely corrupting the minds of his foolish followers and more worryingly, the impressionable young Danny. The film even dares to show the joy of being in a gang; the triumph of a team of white basketball players against their black rivals is filmed, scored and edited to show the lure of the racist culture to a young, scared white kid.

But in the later scenes, the audience gets to see why Derek has had a change of heart whilst in prison.  His desire to set Danny on the right path is fully justified by what he has experienced. And if you think that nothing could make you sympathise with such a vicious, heartless thug, think again.  Despite Derek’s disgusting behaviour that leads to his incarceration, you will feel for this guy by the time his old school principal (Avery Brooks) pays him a visit in the prison infirmary.

It is interesting to note that director Tony Kaye (mad as a bag of spanners by the way) tried to have his name removed from the project after Norton is said to have re-edited the film giving himself more screen time. Kaye wanted his credit to be Humpty Dumpty, but broke a Director’s Guild of America rule that would allow him to use the pseudonym. Despite these disputes, the film is a brutal, thought-provoking near-masterpiece. Norton gained 30 pounds of muscle to play Derek and his transformation from skinhead psycho to sensitive family man is handled with dexterity. If I was him, I’d have given myself more screen time too with a performance this visceral.

It is a film about hate and about the roots and causes of hate. It is about redemption and reversing wrongs. Like so many other films about hate and revenge, there is a cyclical theme to the violence and the hate. Danny notes near the end of the film that ‘hate is baggage’ and the film carries this baggage through to the tragic and painfully inevitable end. It is a bold conclusion, sure to be mis-read by a minority of the audience of this type of film. But to those with half a brain, it is a bitter lesson in the never-ending cycle of violence that spirals out of endless hatred.

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

I Love That Blog Post #11: The Dark Knight Rises Special

Well look what I forgot to post before I went on honeymoon!  My humble apologies as this is a little bit late now but still, these are some great posts for you to check out!  Happy reading!

If you’re having trouble coping with a negative review of The Dark Knight Rises, The Droid You’re Looking For can help you

If that doesn’t work, Man, I Love Films brings the news there are counsellors on standby to manage your depression at the end of the trilogy

The Focused Filmographer takes a look at some fan-made videos and posters for The Dark Knight Rises

This one is not bat-related but thinking about it, a certain Christian Bale might want to look over Rodney’s guide to surviving being a celebrity before he throws another hissy fit on a set!

3 Guys 1 Movie want to know who should direct and star in the next Batman movie

The Movie Blog calls for some sanity from the rabid fanboys that have lost their minds over negative reviews of TDKR on Rotten Tomatoes

Monday, 27 August 2012

More on Michael Moore @ Static Mass Emporium

Does filmmaker Michael Moore want to change America for the good of working people or is he more interested in changing his bank balance? Do Moore’s noble intentions justify his often dubious techniques? An analysis of Moore’s documentaries reveals he always has a clear purpose and aims to have a huge impact… even if he must resort to using some creative techniques in his ‘non-fiction’ films.

Read the rest of my latest article over at Static Mass Emporium NOW! Please.

The article was originally published in Media Magazine.

Thursday, 23 August 2012

Letter to Empire Magazine

Any Empire Magazine readers who picked up the September 2012 Issue 279, have a little flick to the letters page and look out for one that was given the title Location, Location, Location written by a Peter Turner from Binfield.  That's my letter!  Well if you want to write for Empire, you got to start somewhere I suppose!

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

The Liebster Award

Thanks so much to Shala at Life Between Films, Chris at Movies and Songs 365, Iba at I Luv Cinema and Robert at To The Escape Hatch for nominating me for the Liebster Award.

The rules are:
1. Each person must post 11 things about themselves.
2. Answer the 11 questions the person giving the award has set for you.
3. Create 11 questions for the people you will be giving the award to.
4. Choose 11 people to award and send them a link to your post.
5. Go to their page and tell them.


  1. Ever heard of the reality TV show Freaky Eaters?  I was on it.  I am Pete: Addicted to Meat from series 2, episode 3.  This also led to me being on Harry Hill very briefly.

  1. I was in a plane crash on the island of Ko Samui in 2009.  Sadly the pilot died but me and my girlfriend were in the front row right behind the cockpit.  We were interviewed for another reality TV show called Big Trouble in Tourist Thailand. 
  2. I teach film and media for a living but I want to be a film journalist.
  3. I’m doing a PhD thesis on found footage horror films.
  4. I love making music videos for my friend’s band Feud.
  5. I’m running my first half marathon in October.
  6. This year will be my twelfth consecutive Reading Festival.
  7. My best man’s speech was littered with Mallrats references as when my best man and I first met, we bonded over our love for Brodie.  Why buy the cow when you can get the sex for free?
  8. I love travelling, especially Greek Island Hopping and exploring Thailand.
  9. I lived in Australia for 7 from the age of 10 to 17.
  10. I just got married to the love of my life that I have been with for 11 years already!

Questions from I Luv Cinema
  1. LOTR or Harry Potter?
LOTR no contest.  Never much liked Harry Potter but I haven’t read the books.
  1. What’s the longest you have waited in line for a movie?
Probably about half an hour.
  1. Have you ever fallen asleep in a film? If so, which one?
Plenty.  At the cinema, I definitely fell asleep in Conspiracy Theory, Con Air and Mercury Rising.  At home, many more!
  1. What was your first concert experience?
Bush at an arena in Perth, Western Australia.
  1. If you could go anywhere in the world, where would it be?
Still want to see parts of China, Alaska, loads of islands, parts of Africa.
  1. Any hidden talent(s)?
I’m pretty good at digital editing.
  1. Subtitles: Yea or Nay?
Yea.  It’s not ideal but it’s better than dubbing.
  1. What book would you like to be seen made into a movie?
I’d like to see The Beach remade but better this time.  Also I’m waiting for the sequels to Tomorrow When The War Began.  I LOVE that series with a passion!
  1. What is the first thing you would do if you won the lottery?
Depends how much.  But probably buy a house on a Greek Island.
  1. Have you ever snuck into a film without paying for it?
Yes.  After watching another one.
  1. What is your favorite silent film?
Modern Times

Questions from Movies and Songs 365

1.      When and how did you become interested in movies?

When I went on the set of a film at age 6.  I was fascinated that there was a ‘behind the scenes’.

2. Who is your favorite director, and why?

David Fincher because he made Fight Club, the perfect blend of style and substance.

3.) What is your favorite movie discovered in 2012 (old or new), and why?

Too early to tell but probably The Dark Knight Rises.  Despite massive expectations, it still exceeded them.  Easily my favourite comic book based film ever. 

4.) If you had to recommend any movie you think everyone should watch, what would it be, and why?

This is tricky.  I’d like to say Fight Club but I know a lot of people would hate it or be offended by it.  Maybe I’ll go with Back to the Future.  It’s just a family friendly and absolutely perfect piece of storytelling.

5.) Have you been to a film festival, and how was the experience?

I’ve been to the London film Festival to see a Gaspar Noe Q&A, a Nick Park Q&A and a talk from documentary makers on the difference between fact and fiction.  I love the atmosphere of being surrounded by real film buffs.

6.) Which soundtrack or score do you keep going back to?

Requiem for a Dream.

7.) What films do you find yourself daydreaming about every so often?

The Goonies when I was a kid.  Terminator 2 when I grew up a bit.  Now not much really.

8.) Who do you talk movies with in real life, outside of blogosphere ?

My wife!  My students, my colleagues, my friends.  Anyone really.

9.) Favorite film poster?

The Rules of Attraction humping bunnies.

10.) What movie is the record holder that you have seen the most times, and why?

Tricky.  Maybe Fight Club.  I just love it.  And I teach it so I watch it a lot in class.

11.) Which movie websites (not blogs) do you visit?

Empire Magazine.  Filmoria.  Lovefilm.  Den of Geek. 

Questions from Life Between Films

  1. If you could change the ending to any movie, what movie and what would you make different?
Can I go with a TV show and say Lost?  That ending was terrible.  Wish they had not bothered trying to answer any questions and just made it go even weirder and then just ended it abruptly.

2. Have you ever thought about writing a screenplay?

Wrote one at university called The Only Answer.  It’s a dystopian future thing about a corporation that is running the world from headquarters on the moon.  Terrorists from Earth plan a suicide mission to destroy the moon base.

3. What is one artistic choice in a film that still stands out for you?

The use of red in American Beauty.  The use of black and white in La Haine and Schindler’s List.

4. Who is your favorite actor that is also a musician?

Probably Jack Black off the top of my head.

5. What is your favorite independent film?

The Blair Witch Project.

6. What actor do you think is the most underrated?

Sacha Baron Cohen.  I think he’s going to get an Oscar one day.

7. Have you ever bought something or done something because you saw it in a movie? If so, what was it?

Yes but I can’t answer it in public as I’m a teacher and it may have been illegal.

8. Has blogging ever got you in trouble?

Not yet.

9. Has a movie ever scared you so much that you were frightened for days? If so, which movie?

Loads.  A Nightmare on Elm Street.  The Exorcist.  Wolf Creek.  The Ring.

10. Do you prefer to watch foreign films with subtitles or dubbed?


11. What is your favorite book to film adaptation?

Fight Club.  A rare example of film improving on the book.

Questions from To The Escape Hatch

Favorite actor/director performance?

 Charlize Theron in Monster
Favorite comedy?

 Team America
Any place you’d like to visit because of a particular film?

 Hill Valley from Back to the Future
Biggest character crush?

Probably Isla Fisher's character in Wedding Crashers
Least favorite movie?
 Sex Lives of the Potato Men
If you could get a sequel to any movie, what would it be?

 Probably Mallrats or La Haine
If you could keep any movie off limits in terms of a reboot or remake, what would it be?
 Fight Club
Last movie you saw in the theater?

Movie you can’t bring yourself to watch?
 Gone with the Wind took me a loooooong time to sit through.
Someone who should stop acting?
 Nicholas Cage
An actor whom you’d like to see directing?
 Edward Norton
Now here are my questions for anyone who hasn't received the award yet:

  1. What is the most important thing you learned from a movie?
  2. What is your favourite TV show?
  3. If you could be a film character, who would it be?
  4. What is your favourite British film?
  5. What is the ideal way to watch a film? Place, time, technology, company?
  6. What is your favourite shot from a film?
  7. Ever visited a film location just because it’s in a film and if so which one?
  8. Can documentaries be better than fiction films?
  9. Favourite found footage film and why?
  10. Ever met a movie star?
  11. Who makes better blockbusters… James Cameron or Steven Spielberg?

It looks to me like every blogger and her/his dog has had this award now so I’m going to leave this open.  If there is anyone who reads this who would like to take part, please leave a comment below and I will gladly edit this and pass it on.  Or if you feel like answering any of these questions for the hell of it, then please feel free!

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Holiday Reading: Mark Kermode, Film Club, Robopocalypse

So the honeymoon wasn't all wildlife spotting, swimming, traveling, tropical rain, forest trekking, volcano climbing and hot springs dipping.  In amongst all that, I got time for some serious sunbathing and reading too.  I was worried that after so long of not following the latest movie news, I might get back and have nothing to blog about so I chose my reading materials carefully.

The three books I raced through in the 18 days I was away were:

It's Only a Movie: Reel Life Adventures of a Film Obsessive by Mark Kermode

The Film Club by David Gilmour

Robopocalypse by Daniel H. Wilson

All three are very good books and I would recommend each of them.  I know lots of film bloggers worship Kermode but I find him to be pretty annoying and pretentious sometimes.  I'm not sure if reading a book about a film critic is the most exciting thing in the world but Radio 1's celebrated film critic litters his prose with so many film references that it's hard for film fans not to enjoy.

What I really liked about It's Only a Movie is finding out about Mark Kermode's early career as a film journalist; how he got into writing and then radio and then television.  It was also interesting to hear more about his love of horror.  Many know him as the guy who won't shut up about The Exorcist but his passion for horror extends far beyond that classic of the genre.

Kermode and Herzog before the shooting
It's great to see a film critic getting to write a book about their adventures in film journalism but apart from the highlights such as the infamous interview with Herzog where the pair were shot at and Helen Mirren giving Kermode a good telling off at the Baftas, it's not an overly exciting read.  Still, it's informative and entertaining enough for any wannabe film critic to give it a read.  If you haven't seen Herzog get shot, check it out below:

My favourite quote from the whole book and one that I wish all filmmakers could read before they suggest that film critics are a complete waste of space is this:

'Despite my reputation for lambasting movies with a passion which borders on psychosis I remain genuinely stunned that anyone can ever get a film - any film - made at all.  I've been on movie sets where I've witnessed the corpulent chaos of  filmmaking first-hand and the sheer logistics of making sure everything doesn't go belly up on day one are mind-boggling'

David and Jesse Gilmour watching films
The Film Club  is the true story of a film critic who lets his teenage son Jesse drop out of school as long as he watches and discusses three film's of his father's choice each week.  This book is incredibly moving.  Gilmour narrates the tale of watching his son growing up while they get to have their little film club three times a week, watching classic films like The 400 Blows, La Dolce Vita and The Bicycle Thieves to less demanding fare like Basic Instinct to downright crap like Showgirls.

Gilmour talks to his son with honesty, intelligence and emotion.  Even when Jesse dabbles in cocaine and goes through heart ache with troublesome girlfriends, Gilmour is there for him, showing him great films and teaching him life lessons through the appreciation of those films.  I found myself choked up on more than one occasion.  I wish every boy could have a relationship with their father as open, honest and loving as this one.

Toby Young said of the book that it is 'an object lesson in how fathers should talk to their sons'.  I can't recommend it highly enough!

Spielberg is directing the film adaptation of Robopocalypse for a 2014 release.  Drew Goddard is writing the script but there have been no casting announcements yet.  I thought I'd get in early and read the book before the film comes out and was not disappointed. 

It is very similar to the book of World War Z in that it is an account from the perspective of many different characters of a significant and catastrophic event in human history.  Instead of zombies though, this has a robot uprising.  Like Skynet's rise of the machines, Robopocalypse has Archos, a super-intelligent computer that turns the machines against the human race.

It's going to make a brilliant film with it's action packed story and fascinating vision of the collapse of civilization when technology turns on us.  The book is divided into five parts; Isolated Incidents in which the robots begin to show signs of freaking out; Zero Hour in which all hell breaks loose; Survival in which the survivors of Zero Hour get their shit together; Awakening and finally Retaliation in which you can probably kind of guess where the story goes.

While it is a really exciting and a cool dystopian vision of the future, it felt rushed and I think this book could have been like Stephen King's The Stand at around 1000 pages rather than around the 350 mark.  I wanted each part to go on for much longer than it did.  Also this book was a little better than World War Z in that there were some frequently recurring characters and it's always nice to have more of a thread and therefore characters that can you can start to care about.

That was my honeymoon reading.  Anyone else read anything interesting recently?  Have I convinced you to give any of these a try?  Best of the bunch has to be The Film Club in my opinion.  I recommend it to anyone, especially if you've got a few daddy issues.  Next I think I'm going to read Ben Elton's Popcorn.

Monday, 20 August 2012

The Honeymoon Is Over

Welcome back!  I Love That Film is back with a vengeance.  After a beautiful wedding and amazing honeymoon in Costa Rica, I have returned ready to write and also ready to immerse myself into the world of film.

But first, for those who may be interested, here is a picture of the happy couple.  And we are very happy.... still!  It was a perfect day and we are truly blessed to have the most wonderful family and friends, not to mention the most beautiful weather!


Now I know this is nothing to do with film yet and I promise I'll get to that stuff soon but I just want to share a few wildlife photos from our trip round Costa Rica.  I highly recommend this place, especially if you love animals, rainforests, beaches, sun, nice people and great food!

Here's some of my favourite wildlife pictures from our honeymoon:

Howler monkey chilling in tree by the side of the road! 

Toucan play hide and seek.
This snake apparently gives you 2 hours to live.
Epic waterfall.
The 'blue jean' frog.  Poisonous AND tiny!
Tree frog
The second prettiest frog
The coolest frog ever.
Croc or alligator?
More where that came from!
Iggy Pop
Squirrel monkey!
Pretty lizard
Baby sloth
Hanging with a sloth
More monkeys!
Jurassic Park but small
Ginger monkey!
Right anyway that's enough of that!  I'll be back with something more movie related tomorrow including thoughts on the three books I read on holiday and the three films I watched on the flight home.

And before I go today I have to say RIP to director Tony Scott.  Loved his 80s and early 90s films.

The Last Boy Scout.

Top Gun.

True Romance.

Beverly Hills Cop 2.

Horrible to hear this tragic news.