The Warriors: Director’s cut – can you dig it?

the warriors

Ok, it’s a film that first came out in 1979. Why on earth am I reviewing it? Well, I picked up the Director’s Cut version and had this vague, misty memory of watching parts of the original when I was a little lad. I remember Cyrus (the gang leader) and his monologue. It defines the film so it’s hard to forget. Here’s a snippet from IMDb, I couldn’t resist!

Cyrus: [yelling] Can you count, suckers? I say, the future is ours… if you can count!
[a couple of soldiers cheer for Cyrus]
Cyrus: Now, look what we have here before us. We got the Saracens sitting next to the Jones Street Boys. We’ve got the Moonrunners right by the Van Cortlandt Rangers. Nobody is wasting nobody. That… is a miracle. And miracles is the way things ought to be.
[Few more soldiers cheering for Cyrus]
Cyrus: You’re standing right now with nine delegates from 100 gangs. And there’s over a hundred more. That’s 20,000 hardcore members. Forty-thousand, counting affiliates, and twenty-thousand more, not organized, but ready to fight: 60,000 soldiers! Now, there ain’t but 20,000 police in the whole town. Can you dig it?
Gang Members: Yeah.
the warriors film 1979
Cyrus: Can you dig it?
Gang Members: Yeah!
Cyrus: Can you dig it?
Gang Members: YEAH!

So what’s it all about?
I vaguely remember the premise, a gang racing back across town to Coney Island whilst all the other gangs across the city are out to get them, falsely blaming the Warriors for the death of their city leader, Cyrus. Other than that I can’t remember much about it. So it’s pretty much with fresh, adult eyes that I viewed Walter Hill’s Director’s Cut.

It starts with an intro from Walter Hill, discussing why he is generally against Directors revisiting their past work. All the claims that they ‘didn’t have the budget/time/script they wanted’ to really tell the story as they intended he addresses. He then gives a fairly detailed explanation of why he felt he wanted to give the film more of a graphic novel aesthetic. You wonder if this is entirely true, but throughout the film it freeze frames and shots of the characters became like graphic drawings, before moving into the next scene, then morphing back into the real world again. It’s a nice touch and you feel the time was taken to make this look slick, but still fit the tone of the film.

You also get the sense that, given the popularity of films adapted from graphic novels these days, it could be argued the Director and/or Studio are trying to cash in? I don’t buy that, I think Walter Hill loved the story and characters and just wanted to present the version he originally intended. And these days, with HD TVs and Blu-ray, there hasn’t been a better time to do it.

the warriorsSpeaking of tone, it’s also worth mentioning date. This was released in 1979, yet still feels effortlessly cool and not particularly dated (other than perhaps some of the hairstyles). There isn’t too much in the way of story, yet the film has strong characters you can identify with, even their steely leader Swan.

The gangs they face as they race across town are almost comical, yet some fit into the Warriors’ world – The Orphans, Baseball Furies, Turnbull ACs, Lizzie’s, Punks, Rogues and Riffs. Check them out here, they all have their own logos and brand identity, it’s fantastic.

Anyway, as usual I’m rambling along, let’s sum up. It may be a cult film, a classic, it may be from the tail end of the 70s, but it’s definitely worth a watch. Whether you remember the original or not, it’s just a pretty cool world to embrace.

The question is – you know where this is going – can you dig it?

Sin City 2: Angie, where are you?

angelina jolie

Ok, I know the release date for Sin City 2: A Dame to Kill For is scheduled for October 2013, but I’ve had something playing on my mind. Namely, Mrs Pitt (sounds strange calling her that). Ok, Angie or Miss Jolie – NEVER Brangelina (damn tabloids).

angelina jolieWill she, won’t she be in this film?
A quick search turned up a poster a fanboy knocked up. It’s such an enticing prospect. Some of the actresses in the first Sin City positively smouldered in every scene, namely Rosario Dawson and Brittany Murphy. They were perfect for Frank Miller’s world, but can you imagine how Angie would take it to another level?

I suppose there is always some truth in rumour. However a positive one such as this can have the opposite effect and end up pushing her away, as expectation has been built up far too much – for her or any actress – to deliver. As well as Angie, rumours are swirling around a number of the existing cast and new additions. Even IMDb isn’t sure, putting “rumoured” after various names in its cast list.

If Angie does play a part in A Dame to Kill For, I hope it is key to one of the three story arcs Robert Rodriguez has hinted at. She could bring a great mix of intensity, vulnerability and sexuality, as only she can.

Angelina JolieFilms such as: Gia (one of her early – and most captivating – characters to date), Girl, Interrupted, Beowulf (although she was annoyingly computer generated), Salt, Mr and Mrs Smith (to a degree), really makes me excited at the prospect. However, I am getting carried away. Something tells me the chances of her being in this film are quite slim, but we can hope!

There’s a blog that suggests that maybe she’s moved on, family commitments and all that. Check out the movie blog here. Let’s hope it’s not true. Watch this space!

Blur, the Specials, New Order – Olympic closing concert, a tender affair

On Sunday night I was lucky enough to go to the closing concert of the London 2012 olympics. Not the one in the stadium, but the one on Hyde park. The one where Blur played their possibly last ever gig.

For me,  the day started about mid afternoon with New Order. Their gig was good, but took a little while to get going. It began with a downbeat, Joy Division flavour. The brooding, introspective music perhaps at odds with the sunny afternoon. They got into the groove with their up tempo dance numbers, rolling out the favourites, ‘Blue Monday’ etc. I have to say, they didn’t exactly light up the stage to start with, but grew in presence as their gig progressed.

So from New Order, next came the Specials. They showed a lot more energy, bouncing around the stage, getting the crowd going. Ska music has to be the easiest in the world to dance to, even the classic ‘dad dancing at a wedding’ dance is perfectly acceptable, probably even encouraged. It was great music to be leaping around to on a Sunday, with the sun slanting through the trees in a central London park.

And then came Blur. Around a 2 hour set, starting in the light and playing through into the darkness. The atmosphere was electric right from the start. Looking round, it was hard to gauge just how many people were in the sea of fans (80,000 I heard afterwards). It was like a happy, sun-kissed tide of 20 and 30-somethings reliving the naughties and Britpop.

I was on a mini trip down memory lane, recalling Blur songs I hadn’t listened to for about 10 years, much the same as a lot of the crowd I imagine. Tunes like ‘Coffee and TV’ and ‘Beetlebum’ were great to hear. As were expected crowd pleasers, ‘Song 2’ and ‘Parklife’. The standout was ‘Tender’. A beautiful, beautiful track for live gigs, prompting 80,000 people to sing along as soon as the first few chords started.

They rounded off the gig with a new track, ‘Under the Westway’, a great showcase of  Damon Albarn’s vocal talents, and a beautifully reflective, heartfelt piece. The look on Albarn’s face at the end of the final song of the night, ‘The Universal’ summed it up. He stared deep out into the crowd with shiny eyes, clearly holding back tears. Then thumped a fist to his chest and rose it skyward, no words were needed. A seriously special night.

The end of Blur? Not a chance, they’re just maturing like a fine wine – or a cheese Alex James might say – long may they continue!

Awesome leinil yu artwork!

Pastrami Nation

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The Hulk will smash!

Yes, that line above is wrong on purpose. In an interview with Marvel.com, writer Mark Waid and artist Leinil Yu talk about the new Indestructible Hulk book, which hits this November. Waid is a legend in the comic book world, with my personal favorites being Irredeemable and Daredevil, and now he tackles the green goliath for the first time. Yu is no stranger to the Hulk, having the Ultimate Hulk Vs Wolverine already under his belt. So what is in store for Banner now?

A smart hulk, who will be working with S.H.I.E.L.D and working back to becoming one of the most brilliant minds in the Marvel Universe. A slightly different look is in store for the Hulk includes a haircut, which gives him a less menacing, non-savage look. Check out the full article on Marvel.com: http://marvel.com/news/story/19195/marvel_now_qa_indestructible_hulk

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Clooney and Lake Como – the lacklustre American

George ClooneyFor this post I’d like to review a film I watched recently that’s been on DVD for a little while, The American, starring George Clooney. Nothing new you might say, but I like to think my take on it is fresh, or at least personal to me, so here goes.

Question: you’re an up and coming director (Anton Corbijn), how do you get a A-list actor to appear in your film? Answer: show him the script (where not a great deal happens) and explain the film takes place a stone’s throw from his Italian home at Lake Como. Seal the deal by introducing him to the actress he’ll be opposite for much of the film, the achingly beautiful Violante Placido. Then you’re in business!

Ok, maybe I am being a little cynical. I am sure the fact the film was set in Italy didn’t influence Clooney one bit. That said, the sort of minimalist, gritty, European feel to the film was a good way to set the tone. It was a sort of brooding, reflective version of a Bourne film, i.e. an assassin type laying low trying to figure out who is trying to kill him, versus assassin type running around Europe trying to get his memory back, whilst trying to figure out who is trying to kill him.

The AmericanMake no mistake, I am not saying The American compares to the Bourne films in any way, other than a similarity in terms of setting the scene and the European feel. It also shares similar DNA with Hanna, the Joe Wright directed piece that was a sort of modern version of Leon. Actually, come to think of it, a lot of films have followed where Bourne has led, in terms of European setting with short, sharp Krav-maga esque fight sequences. Taken, with Liam Neeson is another example. Although I am moving off the point here, back to The American.

Did Clooney convince as an assassin who had lost his edge? I would say on occasion. Maybe he was let down by the script. In general, just not much happened, it was all fairly slow paced. Maybe that was the idea.  Keep it slow and sleepy then hit the audience with bursts of action, like Clooney chasing an assassin who has caught up with him on a moped – you cannot get more Italian than that!

I suppose, even for a film where an assassin was meant to be in hiding/laying low, most of us want to see more ruthless, assassin type behaviour. The aforementioned scene with the moped chase was short but sweet in that respect. Clooney chasing a hitman who has failed to whack him, shooting out his tyres forcing him to crash, then throttling him. It was quite bad-ass and reminded me of a scene in Out of Sight, where he has to prove he can handle himself in prison, smacking Don Cheadle’s heavy enforcer in the face with a book. ClooneySimilarly, Dusk till Dawn, one of his breakout films, introduced him with more edge, moving away from any heartthrob ER days, less Ocean’s Eleven smugness, more tattoos up his neck and tough attitude.

So, to sum up, I think The American is worth a watch if you’ve got a spare evening, but it’s not vintage Clooney, and it’s not a vintage assassin film either. Maybe a solid 3 out 5 stars. Watchable, but just not that engaging. If you want shots of pretty, picturesque Italian towns and the super sexy Violante Placido, then it’s worth a viewing!

Dark Knight – the rise of Robin?

joseph gordon levitt dark knight rises

ImageFair play to Joseph Gordon Levitt (hereafter known as JGL), his career has been incredibly interesting. He has only recently started to appear in proper blockbuster type films, most of those with Chris Nolan.

I remember him from his Third Rock from the Sun days. If you watch the early episodes you realise how young he was when he started. He sort of vanished off the scene – at least in my mind – for a while, until he began popping up in various indie films, which did his career no harm at all. I keep re-watching Brick, it’s so multi-layered and intriguing. Worth revisiting if you have the time, if you’ve not then what are you waiting for? Also really liked him in 500 Days of Summer. He showed a comic side, but also an emotional vulnerability. It was also a great rom com for guys to watch, if you can call it that.

joseph gordon levitt dark knight risesAnyway, back to the subject of this post. I wanted to discuss his role in The Dark Knight Rises. It seems as though Gary Oldman (aka Jim Gordon) took a back seat in this one, getting shot early on and spending half the film in hospital. He quickly promoted JGL to Detective and sent him all over town chasing Bane. It seems from Inception to Dark Knight, JGL has made giant leaps in bigger roles in bigger films. His character in Dark Knight had a sort of deep, insightful take on the world and seemed to convey authority as a young rookie cop.

The scene where he tells Bruce Wayne he knows his identity was nicely done. JGL played it perfectly. I assume the studio asked Nolan if they could leave the ending open for a follow up. Hence JGL’s tiny, throwaway scene near the end, where a woman says he should use his real name ‘Robin’.

I admit I cringed a little at that one. Introducing Catwoman into Nolan’s world of Batman was ambitious enough, but Robin? I suppose, like everyone else I am casting my mind back to Chris O’Donnell’s Robin – it’s hard to get him out of your head to be honest. It’s like some sort of horrific accident, you feel compelled to look. Or in this case, unfortunately compelled to remember.

Anyway, if Nolan – or another brave Director – does take up the mantle for a future film, Robin could be an interesting character if JGL took the role. Not sure what sort of enemies he’d be able to hold his own against? Bane? Joker? Hmmm, dont’ think he would stand a chance. Either way, it would be interesting to see a ‘dark’ version of Robin, no campness, no frivolity. Gritty all the way!

What do you guys think? What I do know is that his career is on the up. Indeed, he’s currently flavour of the month in Hollywood, playing the lead in two films currently out at the moment, Looper and Premium Rush. The former, playing a young version of Bruce Willis.

Looper has reunited JGL with the Director of Brick, Rian Johnson, so I’m expecting big things. It’s already been very well received by critics so I’m itching to see it.

Until next time…

Mikey P

Bane vs Catwoman – scene stealers!

Ok, for my very first blog I thought I’d offer my take on the latest Batman film. For the purposes of this blog I’ll assume that you, the reader, has a fair idea what the film is about and the films that have gone before it. I am going to assume a certain level of knowledge on your part in terms of film history, the Batman franchise and so on. Got that? Good.

Now we’re on the same page, lets chat Bat! From the title of this post, you’ll have noticed I want to focus my comments on the new characters. Or at least, in the case of Catwoman, the new actress playing the part. For Bane, he’s new to the Nolan Bat universe, so we’ll deal with him second.

Firstly, Ms Hathaway, did she steal the show? I would say yes and no. Perhaps a cop out of an answer but there it is. I think she was a great take on the character. I am a fan of her anyway so it wasn’t a hard sell for me. She brought across the vulnerability that she showed in Love and Other Drugs (which is well worth a watch if you’ve not seen it – aptly described by some as a rom-com guys would want to watch). She also had that sexy, confident quality demonstrated in the latter half of Devil Wears Prada.

In many ways I would have liked to have seen more of her sparking off of Bale’s Batman, especially if he was channeling his inner Patrick Bateman, something he did in Begins when he kicked guests out of his party. I suppose though, it would not have been appropriate in this film, where Bruce Wayne was more the wounded soul. I remember reading that Nolan was unsure how Catwoman would fit into his version of Batman. I can understand that. I think they managed this issue well however, and I say this as a fan of Hathaway, did they really need her character in the film? Did she really add to the story or was she just another character to entice the audience in to see the film? Cynical perhaps, but just something I thought I should raise.

So, on to Bane. Hardy was awesome, inasmuch as you can be when you’re acting with some sort of Predator-esque mask on. If you want a crash course on intense Hardy, go watch Bronson. I really hope he gets to work with Nicholas Winding Refn again. Considering his love affair with the 80s, particularly synth music during key scenes, it would be great to see them team up again. Perhaps even with Gosling on board, now that would be special. Anyway, I digress.

Bane, in some ways, was a funny character. His opening scene in the plane, was outstanding. It was reminiscent of Dark Knight’s opening bank robbery scene, introducing the new villain, setting the standard, how ruthless he is etc. What I could not get to grips with was his voice. I suppose the cultured thespian lends intelligence and gravitas, to what otherwise could have seemed brute-ish. Thinking about it though, it was not a million miles off Brian Blessed, which would have thrown the film’s tone out entirely! I wonder how much input Nolan had in terms of voices of the Joker and Bane, or was the voice driven by the actor? I remember reading that Heath Ledger spent a fair while perfecting his Joker voice, which was spot on. I can see what they were trying to do with Bane’s voice, but I wonder, was it menacing enough?

tom hardy

In terms of Bane’s character, as the plot develops, you begin to feel sympathy for him and his plight. Or at least I did. It was good that Nolan added layers to Bane in the final act of the film, he could have otherwise seemed a touch one-dimensional. That said, even if he was shown to be just as much as blunt instrument as an intelligent bad guy, his two, major fight scenes with Batman were outstanding and perfectly pitched. Did he steal the film? I would say he stole a lot of scenes he was in, and rightly so. Even a scene where Batman and Catwoman realise they are outnumbered and have to flee via The Bat (Batman’s flying machine), Bane’s entrance to that scene is mesmerising. He doesn’t do much other than saunter towards them, almost bemused. Hats off to Tom Hardy for infusing him with such as threatening presence.

Anyway, to round off my first post as it’s getting late, I think both Bane and Catwoman stole most of the scenes they were in, leaving poor old Batman to scrap for the rest, despite the focus of the story being on him. That said, I think they were both strong characters and complemented Batman’s journey well. I want to discuss other characters that also stole the film in their own way, but I’ll leave that for another post.

So, there’s my first post! I hope it made sense and you found it informative, perhaps even witty and thought-provoking? To be fair, that’s going too far. I just hope you enjoyed it and there will be more to come.

All the best

Mikey P