Classic Intel: 24 - Season Three - DVD Review

'several interesting things that come to play crucial roles in the 24 canon are trialled for the first time here and, largely, fail'

Whilst hardly the unbridled 45-minutes of madness the show apparently becomes in some of its later series, you can see the reigns starting to come off the 24 producers and storytellers during the course of Season Three. Not one, but two female characters you might have thought had had their day from Seasons One and Two return to prominent roles here, prompting reactions of the 'oh come on' variety; not for the first time during a period of watching this show.

This is also the first time 24 noticeably had to work to stretch its narrative out to the self-set rule of the series' own title, a rule recently broken by the Live Another Day miniseries. Perhaps that is something everyone with the show should have looked at ignoring earlier. The start of this series features the absolutely pointless shooting of Tony (Carlos Bernard - just what is the motivation of the character who shoots him?), whilst he is in pursuit of Kyle Singer (Riley Smith), a semi-antagonist far less important to the eventual plot than the first six or so episodes allow you to think.

Meanwhile, several interesting things that come to play crucial roles in the 24 canon are trialled for the first time here and, largely, fail. Season Three sees us in the company of Chloe O'Brian (Mary Lynn Rajskub) for the first time. Has a worse character ever endured longer than Chloe's 126-episode run? Whilst you can see what the producers were going for (there are hints that Chloe is meant to be some sort of difficult genius, with some level of psychological condition that no-one seems comfortable specifying or discussing), they fail spectacularly and Chloe consistently comes off as a terrible, annoying presence. Meanwhile, the recasting of Kim (Elisha Cuthbert) as a strong CTU agent lasts all of six or seven episodes, before she again reverts to kidnap victim.

Even with all of that going on though, there is enough contained within 24 Season Three to mean that it pretty much matches the previous high point of Season Two. Kiefer Sutherland, now utterly entrenched in the role of Jack Bauer, benefits from having James Badge Dale's Chase Edmunds to fire off. Chase's rebellious streak means that Jack no longer looks like the sole rule breaker in an otherwise straight agency and their changing relationship throughout the season is a highlight. Note how the writers miss no opportunity to complicate the Jack/Chase/Kim dynamic, including late developments which enter into soap opera territory.

Once the plot has worn out the Kyle Singer arc, something it takes a touch too long to do, things perk up noticeably and the focus switches to the Salazars; Ramon (Joaquim de Almeida) and Hector (Vincent Laresca), with de Almeida in particular exemplary in a role he has been typecast into for years. The Salazars provide cunning interest, and the dynamic between Hector and Jack is particularly satisfying. They also however give the series the non-American bad guys it so obviously pines for. You wonder how well a series like 24 would do if it launched now, with lines like 'your constitutional rights no longer apply' delivered with illiberal, right-leaning celebration.

The Jack/Hector dynamic hits another point of interest for this series during the prison break. This is arguably the start of 24 getting much harsher than its first two seasons hinted it might be. The Russian Roulette scene in the prison is close to devastating, a feeling mirrored later on when Michelle (Reiko Aylesworth) is in the hotel. Whilst Season Three may mark the start of 24's increasing abandonment of reason, at least it produces gut-wrenching plot turns, such as that which befalls Chapelle (Paul Schulze), in a television moment still towards the top of my all time greats.





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.

Hancock - DVD Review

'The film becomes bogged down in rushed back story, fudged lore and bland displays of super power'.

Released in the same year as Marvel made their opening gambit in establishing their Cinematic Universe with Iron Man - a decision by Columbia Pictures which seems even braver in hindsight - Hancock’s titular superhero (Will Smith) in fact has a fair amount in common with Tony Stark. Both refuse to fit comfortably into the superhero mould, as well as having their fair share of personal issues and lack of social skills in their own way. Where Hancock and Iron Man differ is in their execution: Peter Berg’s film actually goes down a much more interesting, less trodden path than Jon Favreau’s for a sizeable chunk of its running time

Berg spends the opening forty-five minutes of his film setting up John Hancock perfectly as an anti-superhero refreshingly different to what we’ve seen before. Hancock drinks, swears and launches children into the stratosphere for talking back to him. The script from Vince Gilligan shows some of the sharp brilliance the writer would soon become known for through Breaking Bad. Smith’s performance also deserves considerable praise, playing superbly against the wholesome character type for which the actor is primarily known. Smith makes Hancock his own, crafting the antihero as genuinely funny and guiltily likable, but also an undeniable arsehole. Placing Hancock opposite Jason Bateman’s nice guy PR guru and family man Ray Embrey works well, with Bateman and Smith quickly striking up a pleasing double act. Between them, Smith, Gilligan and Berg achieve just the right balance of humour with a wry edge and undertones of social commentary.

Unfortunately, things go downhill from there onwards. A key plot twist at the start of the film’s second half holds some potential, but Berg never feels at all sure of how to make it work, let alone fit with what he’s shown us during Hancock’s first half. The film becomes bogged down in rushed back story, fudged lore and bland displays of super power. Most critically of all, Hancock himself becomes much less interesting as the sharp humour seen in the first half is all but forgotten, replaced with phony emotion and solemnity.

At only ninety minutes, it’s hard to see why Berg didn’t just stick with the great ideas presented in the first half of Hancock, which could easily have been expanded upon and developed into a self-contained story on their own. Additional scenes setting up Hancock and his style of heroics would have been great to see. Eddie Marsan’s antagonist would also have benefited immeasurably from additional time, coming off here as an afterthought and never developed beyond the most basic level.

Considering it’s a project which finally emerged from Development Hell after wallowing there for well over a decade, Hancock is in truth a lot better than you might expect it to be. However, Berg’s film ultimately ends up as the average of its two distinct halves. There’s plenty to enjoy for the first three quarters of an hour, but only if you’re prepared to suffer the disappointment of Hancock’s underwhelming conclusion.




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.

Trailer Of The Week - Hot Tub Time Machine 2

You learn something new every day on the internet and here's what the trailer for Hot Tub Time Machine 2 taught me.


Pesky internet photoshoppers/film marketers sneaked that one by me. Without Cusack, this goes way down in anticipation level. The NSFW Red Band trailer below is funny, but it's not at the same level as the first film, despite what the PR-driven 'the gang's all back together' articles might want you to think. Shame. And damn you photoshoppers for getting my hopes up!




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.

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.