Prince Avalanche - Online Review

'Answering the question: 'how horny are each of these gentlemen?', hardly feels as though it is the existential highpoint to which Beckett aspired.'

I've seen Prince Avalanche compared to Waiting For Godot in a few places and that seems like as good a place as any to start with David Gordon Green's film, which does bear some similarities with Samuel Beckett's play.

Alone in a wilderness that's close to wasteland Alvin (Paul Rudd) and his partner's brother Lance (Emile Hirsch) eke out a disparate existence that involves oft-bizarre interactions with a couple of other characters (at least one of whom might not actually be there), whilst the duo perform menial tasks that seem as useful at passing the time as they are functional. You can see where the Godot comparison comes from. At one point Lance even disappears off to a local town (exit stage left), leaving Alvin to experience the wasteland in isolation.

The point where I get off that comparison, however, is when it comes to considering what end Green has in mind when he strands his charges in Beckett's uncertain parlour. Whilst the playwright used Godot to consider pretty much everything, depending on your interpretation - from the obvious God, to how we live our lives - Green seems less certain what his layabouts have to say.

It feels like the key to the meaning may be hidden in the appearances of the mysterious character who may not be there, but instead of giving some focus to her and what she says about the fire-ravaged landscape and the people who used to live there, Green seems to go down a different path. Isolated in the wilderness, what existential topics do the protagonists talk about? Women, of course. Green's film becomes almost obsessed with addressing the two men's relationships; Alvin loyal to his partner, Lance desperate for a Summer of shagging. Answering the question: 'how horny are each of these gentlemen?', hardly feels as though it is the existential highpoint to which Beckett aspired.

Eventually, towards the end of its ninety-four minute runtime, the film perhaps gets some way towards poignancy, though it never feels as though it as the behest of Green's hand and the invitation to find further meaning is never forthcoming. Prince Avalanche may aspire high, and have the the sparse plotting to show for it, but if the aspiration ends as empty as this then it's difficult to justify the lofty notions of high art inflection.




Prince Avalance was showing on Netflix.


By Sam Turner. Sam is editor of Film Intel, and can usually be found behind a keyboard with a cup of tea. He likes entertaining films and dislikes the other kind. He's on , Twitter and several places even he doesn't yet know about.

Classic Intel: Armageddon - Blu-ray Review

'The segments set in space lose all the fun of the film's opening, replacing it instead with false urgency and overblown emotion'.

Being an espoused Michael Bay disparager (just check out my Film Intel profile as evidence), Armageddon holds the dubious honour of being the Bay film to which I've given the most chances to endear itself to me. I really should know better, essentially going through the same cycle each time I watch like some kind of sub-par disaster film addict, relapsing and recovering over the course of two and a half hours.

Armageddon starts well enough, you see. It never threatens to be anything deep or memorable, but the first hour is exactly the type of fun you go into a big budget Hollywood disaster film hoping for. There's a handful of destruction scenes, coupled with Billy Bob Thornton's NASA head honcho Dan Truman making allusions to "the worst parts of the Bible", to establish how bad things are soon going to get for Planet Earth. So far, so watchable.

The driving force behind the first hour's success is the cast however. With such reliable names as Steve Buscemi, Michael Clarke Duncan and Will Patton on board, you can even begin to overlook the presence of a pre-Benaissance Affleck and Liv Tyler stinking things up every now and again with their nauseating romance. Bruce Willis is undoubtedly the key to Armageddon's opening acts working as well as they do, his character Harry Stamper essentially starting off as John McClane on an oil rig, soon graduating to John McClane in a NASA training facility. It's pure Hollywood blockbuster fodder, but it gets the job done in an effective way by allowing the cast to keep things consistently, if guiltily, entertaining.

It's usually by this point that I've been taken under Bay's spell, believing that I actually might make it through the whole of Armageddon and enjoy it. Then Ben Affleck starts warbling "Leaving On A Jet Plane" and I start having uncomfortable flashbacks to my last viewing. There's around ninety minutes still to go, and as soon as the narrative leaves terra firma in a literal sense, the film is on shaky ground from there onward. The segments set in space lose all the fun of the film's opening, replacing it instead with false urgency and overblown emotion - oh, and Peter Stormare's cosmonaut Lev Andropov, an insufferable stereotype in a spacesuit who grates from the moment he appears on screen.

When the action shifts to the surface of the asteroid, Armageddon truly passes the point of no return in terms of credibility. Affleck becomes more prominent, Willis becomes mawkish, and the whole film becomes a lifeless chore. The asteroid itself looks like a reject from a cheap sci-fi B-movie, with the script following suit. We therefore have William Fichtner as NASA Colonel Willie Sharp actually attempting gravitas when delivering lines about "space dementia", hackneyed action scenes including disarming a nuclear bomb by cutting one of two wires (red or blue - what else?), and Patton's Chick seriously asking Sharp the question: "Why you got a gun in space?". Trust me, Chick, we're all asking the same thing.

The fact that Bay makes the whole thing unnecessarily long - padding the action out on the asteroid with dull scenes about drilling and a ludicrous, drawn-out subplot that feels like an outer space version of The Incredible Journey but much less entertaining than that sounds - just compounds the film's mounting problems. The interspersed scenes back on Earth offer a little respite, Thornton essentially holding things together single-handedly whilst fighting against Tyler's inability to do anything other than irritate.

By the time the credits finally roll, I remember exactly why I vowed never to bother with Armageddon again the last time I sat through it. And then, as time dulls the pain of Bay at his most vomit-inducingly saccharine, I remember the fun offered by Willis and his gang of misfit drillers as they prepare to save the world during the opening acts, and despite myself I give it another go. I suppose I must just be a sucker for punishment.




By Ben Broadribb. Ben is a regular contributor to Film Intel, having previously written at Some Like It Hot Fuzz. He is normally seen in the wild wearing t-shirts containing obscure film references. He is a geek, often unashamedly so. He's also on and Twitter.

Shakespeare 450: Romeo + Juliet - Blu-ray Review

2014 marks what would have been William Shakespeare's 450th birthday. In celebration of this (and being something of a Shakespeare nut) Ben intends to spend the year taking in as many Shakespeare films as he can - from old favourites to new interpretations and everything in between.

'Luhrmann gives his adaptation the gravity, tension and passion needed to bring Shakespeare’s emotional and aggressive story to life'.

Kickstarting the teen Shakespeare subgenre that would last for over a decade following its release, Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet also stands toe to toe with another 1996 Shakespeare adaptation regularly held in incredibly high regard: Kenneth Branagh’s epic Hamlet. Whilst many in the past have dismissed Luhrmann’s film as trashy exploitation of classic literature, there is no doubt in my mind that this continues to stand as one of the greatest Shakespeare adaptations ever committed to film.

Luhrmann’s choice to maintain the Shakespearean language remains as bold now as it was nearly two decades ago, but it’s a choice which continues to pay dividends. From the explosive rendition of the prologue in the opening moments, Luhrmann gives his adaptation the gravity, tension and passion needed to bring Shakespeare’s emotional and aggressive story to life. The opening petrol station scene epitomizes the mindless hatred between the Montague and Capulet families for the story to unfold within. The director takes influence from an impressive array of genres and styles - action, gangster and spaghetti western to name just three - blending them together effortlessly into a brilliant technicolour cocktail of irresistible excess.

The cast sees a gallery of young talents bringing freshness and vigour to each role. Leonardo DiCaprio encapsulates Romeo’s moody, lovesick adolescent from his opening moments penning awkward teen poetry, taking the character on a journey which, despite knowing how events have to end up, makes us want to believe that things might just work out this time. Claire Danes as Juliet is excellent opposite DiCaprio, looking and acting the part of the innocent young girl forced by both fate and her parents (Paul Sorvino and Diane Venora, equally powerful presences throughout) to grow up painfully quickly. Of the rest of the outstanding cast, Harold Perrineau’s unforgettably theatrical Mercutio and John Leguizamo’s arrogant desperado Tybalt stand out as particularly perfect placements of actors into roles.

Luhrmann’s vision is comprehensive, presenting Shakespeare’s story in a wholly original yet consistently respectful way. The director draws you into his film’s artistic yet gritty universe instantly, ensuring each decision made to update the original story feels both comfortable and clever; firearms used throughout with names such as “longsword” and “dagger” are the most obvious example, but there are many both prominent and subtle to enjoy throughout.

It’s perhaps in Luhrmann’s occasional alteration of Shakespeare’s story that Romeo + Juliet’s distinction as a truly exceptional film comes to light. His treatment of characters such as Paris (Paul Rudd) may be brutal in reducing the role, but it's only to ensure that the film’s inevitable climax packs the greatest emotional punch in the purest manner. The final scene between Romeo and Juliet is perhaps more heart-wrenchingly tragic than ever thanks to the director’s subtle yet respectful reworking of a handful of key moments and lines.

You need only look at the tepid reception Carlei’s adaptation received last year for evidence of the indelible impact Romeo + Juliet has had on the play’s future on film. Lurhmann’s film has rightfullly taken up residence alongside Zeffirelli’s traditional version as one of the defining adaptations of Romeo & Juliet, against which all future cinematic star-cross’d lovers deserve to be measured.




Keep up to date with the Shakespeare 450 series so far.


By Ben Broadribb. Ben is a regular contributor to Film Intel, having previously written at Some Like It Hot Fuzz. He is normally seen in the wild wearing t-shirts containing obscure film references. He is a geek, often unashamedly so. He's also on and Twitter.

All Is Lost - Blu-ray Review

'All Is Lost would not be the rich story it is without Redford at its centre'.

Comparisons between Alfonso Cuarón’s Gravity and J.C. Chandor’s All Is Lost feel pleasingly apt. Both films deal with a primarily isolated protagonist struggling against seemingly insurmountable circumstances and situations which human beings are not naturally equipped to deal with.

Without taking anything away from Sandra Bullock, where her performance was an excellent part of Cuarón’s superb whole, Robert Redford is regularly the defining factor in the success of Chandor’s film. All Is Lost would not be the rich story it is without Redford at its centre. The veteran actor’s performance as the unnamed sailor throughout is flawless, but there’s more to the role than just superb acting. This is a part which requires age to work; had Chandor cast an actor in their fifties (such as George Clooney) or even their sixties (Liam Neeson, perhaps) then All Is Lost would not be the success it is. The seventy-seven year old Redford therefore fits the role comprehensively, giving the main character the experience and stoicism - qualities both which are eventually tested to their absolute limits - to make his journey, both physical and emotional, a genuinely compelling tale.

Chandor’s opening act demonstrates these qualities almost too well. Redford’s character deals with the first problem he is faced with in the opening scenes with such resignation, forbearance and selflessness that Chandor’s film actually threatens to become uneventful - even dull - at a few points. Looking at the opening act’s place in relation to the whole film however, it’s an entirely necessary and well-paced introduction to the unnamed sailor, allowing us to appreciate all the more everything he goes through as the film progresses.

All Is Lost is undeniably at its most awe-inspiring during the two spectacular storm scenes, both of which are breathtakingly shot and demonstrate some of the very finest cinematic sequences of recent years. The calculated self-control of Redford’s character briefly threatens to shift into arrogance - his first act after spotting the oncoming storm is to calmly have a shave - but the actor’s impressive performance, during scenes that would be physically demanding of a man half his age, makes sure you are consistently willing him to get through all Chandor’s narrative throws at him.

The director’s choice to make much of All Is Lost completely dialogue free is a smart one, enhancing the realism and intimacy of the unnamed sailor’s experiences as well as allowing Redford’s body language and expressions to become all the more powerful. The fact that speech is absent from most of the film however makes the film’s opening prologue-like scene stick out even more after watching, layered as it is with narration by Redford which adds a small amount of extra detail to what little we know about his character, but not much else.

Stylistically, this short opening sequence also feels different to everything else on offer; considering how superfluous and disconnected it feels to the rest of the film, you can’t help but wonder if All Is Lost would have been even stronger without it. But, when push comes to shove, the fact that the minutes-long prologue is the main relative weak point in an hour-and-three-quarters-long film is testament to just how excellent the majority of what Chandor achieves throughout All Is Lost really is.




By Ben Broadribb. Ben is a regular contributor to Film Intel, having previously written at Some Like It Hot Fuzz. He is normally seen in the wild wearing t-shirts containing obscure film references. He is a geek, often unashamedly so. He's also on and Twitter.

Horror, Stake Land and the resilience of the Vampire film


Horror has been in danger of becoming an extinct genre around these parts recently. Anything from the contemporary crop that has managed to get someone, somewhere excited seems to be shot down as quickly as it rose from the dead. You're Next is the most recent example I can recall. There was encouraging word from some, but Ben hardly found anything positive contained within and I found myself turning it off after half an hour or so. This does of course mean that there could have been magic contained within but I must admit I found little evidence to suggest that. It wasn't terrible but I had seen that Horror film before. Several times in fact. Other recent delves into the genre (notably The Purge) have left me wary of current critical champion Oculus, despite having had the opportunity to catch up with it recently.

Into that climate arrived the Stake Land blu-ray, long a resident of my rental list. As sub genres go, perhaps 'Vampire' is the one furthest removed from whence it originally came these days. From the camp of the Eighties and before, to a world that can't avoid the influence of Twilight. That said, a glance down the list of recent vampiric productions also suggests that this is a sub-genre relatively resistant to Horror's recent problems, as well as being one that consistently churns out an interesting gem of a film every so often.

I remain a big fan of 30 Days Of Night (2007). Though some may argue, I think Let Me In (2010) is at least equal to Let The Right One In (2008), which is itself a very interesting film. These gems exist in a climate that peppers us with big budget proto-camp (Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter) and teen-friendly Twilight hangers-on (anyone remember Cirque Du Freak: The Vampire's Assistant?), but exist they do, alongside Indies such as Jim Jarmusch's Only Lovers Left Alive and others.

Stake Land is, at times, a pleasantly nasty little film. The finale in particular, though marred by its budget, has few problems with treating many of its characters with the abandon they deserve in an America filled with vampires. The Evil Dead-like special effects are great and whilst at times it can be a film that is unfortunately earnest, it often manages to be attractively genuine.

More than that, like a lot of the best Vampire films, it also seems to have a clear idea of what its vampires stand for. At one point the vampires are dropped from the sky into a pleasant commune of people who are trying to live in the New World slightly differently than the far right religious psychopaths flinging vampires from the air. Is this a very clear comparison point to US foreign policy? Vampires stand in for bombs, the people living life differently are any number of nations targeted by the US in recent years, the far right idiots are, well, far right idiots.

Similarly to Zombies - though, I would argue, less successfully - the Vampire often represents 'the other', or whatever society is afraid of at the time. Perhaps Stake Land's true genius is that it takes the vampire on from here to something much more in the zeitgeist: rather than be afraid of the other, these days, are we not actually more afraid of those in control? If only more Horror films could take such an interesting approach.



By Sam Turner. Sam is editor of Film Intel, and can usually be found behind a keyboard with a cup of tea. He likes entertaining films and dislikes the other kind. He's on , Twitter and several places even he doesn't yet know about.

Trailer Of The Week: Enemy Of Man

There's more than just a couple of key players that make director Vincent Regan's Enemy Of Man, the latest big screen adaptation of Shakespeare's Macbeth, feel a bit Game Of Thrones-ish. The trailer definitely gives off a whiff of George R. R. Martin, replete as it is with big swords, bloody duels and moody camera angles. Regan's previous work as an actor in the likes of 300 and Clash Of The Titans further suggests a potential mythological slant on the famous play. Sean Bean proves his credentials as Macbeth with a solid reading of the "tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow" speech over the first half of the trailer, and fellow Thrones actor Charles Dance certainly looks the part too. Rupert Grint arguably has the most to prove here, still having to shake off his Gryffindor robes without a genuinely defining role since the Harry Potter franchise drew to a close three years ago. It'll also be interesting to see how this Kickstarter-funded version competes with Justin Kurzel's Macbeth featuring Michael Fassbender in the title role, as both are set for release in 2015. Either way, we'll be spoilt for choice when it comes to film versions of the Scottish play next year.



By Ben Broadribb. Ben is a regular contributor to Film Intel, having previously written at Some Like It Hot Fuzz. He is normally seen in the wild wearing t-shirts containing obscure film references. He is a geek, often unashamedly so. He's also on and Twitter.

A Hard Day's Night - Blu-ray Review

'A satisfying slice of mid-1960s British pop culture'.

Considering it could quite easily be cynically viewed as a ninety minute promotional film for The Beatles at the height of Beatlemania (which was in fact the film's working title) made not long after the group had cracked America, A Hard Day's Night does well to continually come across as lighthearted, off-the-cuff fun. Despite the film's ongoing influence on cinema, music videos and pop culture in general, its successful tone is arguably one which many have attempted to replicate but very few have achieved, including the Fab Four themselves in some of their later cinematic efforts.

Taken purely as a narrative movie, A Hard Day's Night is pretty unremarkable. The story is simple and unashamedly episodic, recounting a few days in the life of the band alongside manager Norm (Norman Rossington), road manager Shake (John Junkin) and Paul McCartney's grandfather (Wilfrid Brambell). The dramatic turns from The Beatles themselves are rarely more than perfunctory, none of the musicians being particularly strong actors. McCartney arguably demonstrates the best acting ability from the foursome throughout, although John Lennon is clearly at home as a comedian providing a great deal of the film's most memorable moments of genuine humour. A scene featuring Lennon fooling around with toy boats in the bath is a particular highlight.

There are thankfully several factors here to lift matters, not least Richard Lester's direction. Lester employs throughout the film some stylish and impressive cinematography, especially during the scenes where the band performs. Lester's style also fits well with the more surreal elements of the film that crop up more regularly than you might expect, catching you off guard every now and then leading you further and further away from dismissing A Hard Day's Night as a mere promotional exercise. The film's historical importance in the years and decades following its release also deserves to be taken into account, presenting as it does a satisfying slice of mid-1960s British pop culture.

The other key element here is the music. If you're not a Beatles fan already, it's unlikely that A Hard Day's Night will be a film you'll actively seek out, nor is it likely to be a film that will convert you to Beatlemaniac status. The band's music unsurprisingly features heavily, the film replete with a visual jukebox of early Beatles hits. The presentation of the quartet's performances is charmingly varied, with intimate performances either worked or simply slotted into the narrative, proto-music-video sequences of the mop-topped Liverpudlians larking about, and the satisfying concert performance which closes out the film. It pretty much goes without saying that the band's back catalogue stands up incredibly well, regularly making A Hard Day's Night a genuine treat for the ear.

With hindsight, it's perhaps easier than it should be to dismiss as insincere the humble presentation of the band members, constantly seeking opportunities for mischief and attempting to escape their own fame, being as they were willing to make a feature film in which they play (fictionalised versions of) themselves. But A Hard Day's Night's charisma and charm wins out time and again making this consistently entertaining and fun, even if that fun is at times delivered as a somewhat disconnected patchwork of ideas rather than a concept clearly and consistently realised.




A Hard Day's Night is released on UK Blu-ray and DVD on Monday 21st July 2014.


By Ben Broadribb. Ben is a regular contributor to Film Intel, having previously written at Some Like It Hot Fuzz. He is normally seen in the wild wearing t-shirts containing obscure film references. He is a geek, often unashamedly so. He's also on and Twitter.