Post 100 – Another CASTA Milestone!

October 13, 2010

Looking good!

Friends, Family and Enemies, welcome back to Casta La Vista, your favourite movie podcast thing!

The celebrations seem to be coming thick and fast recently, and nearly three months after celebrating our first birthday, we’re now celebrating this; our hundredth piece of Casta content – as such Chris and I thought this might be a good idea to look back over the highs of the previous hundred. Although picking favourites out of a hundred pieces of content is somewhat as difficult as picking a favourite kind of pizza or stand out Pixar movie, the following are those posts that really stand out to us personally as either things we really enjoyed or are particularly proud of; after all Casta has been a learning curve for both of us and for every victory there’s been a pitfall or two – needless to say though, we’ve come a long way since our very first posts and hope that you’ll be sticking round for many more to come.

The following then represent what we consider to be Casta’s best bits; if you’re new round here or have never had the chance to have a proper look around, you could do a lot worse than checking out the following. Chris W will go first and, as always, his thoughts will be in green, whilst mine will be in this sexy blue.

Tag Team Reviews

The first of my favourite things about Casta is when Chris M and I decide to write a tag team review. I don’t remember exactly why we decided to try this format (something tells me the Princess and the Frog was the first) but I think it works really well. Whilst I would always say that the audio reviews on the show are our bread and butter, there are times when I leave a recording thinking I had more to say, or that I forgot to make a particular point about a movie. The tag team review is a great way for me to collect my thoughts and put them out into the ether, whilst writing under stricter word limits than on our regular solo reviews PLUS (and this is the main thing really) like the episodes it still allows both of us to put our perspectives of a film out there – which is really what Casta is all about!

The Castastrophies

I look back now and we’ve got just over twenty four hours of audio content on the site and it really is difficult to pick just one that stands out above all the others. For me though, the one I’ve relistened to most and come back to time and again is The Castastrophies – our very own award ceremony with its own snazzy little fanfare!

First and foremost this acted as a chance for us to voice our opinions on the highs and lows of 2009, but more than that it gave us the opportunity to reflect on what we’d achieved in the five months previous. I don’t know if this is blatantly obvious or not but it won’t hurt to say it; I bloody love Casta and am really proud of the sheer amount of creativity and dedication it  has spurned in both Brother Wakeman and myself, and this one post probably does well in summarising all that work and spitting it out in a nice forty minute package.

I absolutely cannot wait for the 2010 ceremony, which will be winging its way to you on Christmas day. Make sure you stick that in your diaries!

Episode 20

I’ve been asked to pick my favourite episode of Casta La Vista for this list and if I had to commit to one I think it would have to be Episode 20 – The Castetball Diaries/ The Man in the Iron Cast for a whole host of reasons. Firstly I really enjoy the energy of this episode and think Chris and I are at our most relaxed; secondly the two films we review are absolute classics in Inception and Toy Story 3 and that helps because I think we sound excited to review them. Finally on a personal level I think we took one of our biggest steps in terms of sound quality for quite some time on this episode (although more recent episodes may render this point moot). This was achieved in two ways; we changed the way we record the episodes in the first place, and I put a sock over the end of my microphone! Hardly a moment of epiphany on my part, I did this at the recommendation of Mark the producer from my other Podcast and it made a MAHOOSIVE difference. Brillsies!

Transformers 2 vs. G.I. Joe

You know, I’m not even really sure how this started, other than the fact that there was a mutual distaste for each other’s favourite rubbish entertaino destruction actionfest last year. What started out as a couple of off handed comments soon escalated into an all out verbal punch out with Christopher of the Wakeman’s in the green corner defending Transformers 2: Revenge of the Fallen, whilst I championed G.I Joe: the Rise of Cobra in the blue corner. Knowing we’d never come to an agreement we deferred to you, the audience, which resulted in Casta La Vista’s first poll. GI Joe eventually came out on top but only by the narrowest of margins, there was literally one vote in it.

It wasn’t the victory that really made this stand out to me though; it was the dialogue it facilitated and the involvement it spurred. I said at the time that the contest served as a perfect representation of why we started Casta and I still stand by that, but what made this massively memorable was the participation and passion you all displayed. We’ve always said we’re at our best when all of you are involved, and I think this proved it – so thanks to you on this one.

Now do the same with our latest poll!

The Castaways

Chris M will shout at me for listing these as a personal highlight of Casta because it was the point at which I was let off my leash as he went away on holiday. I enjoyed the Castaways because for 3 weeks I was left to fly the good ship Casta and I didn’t take that responsibility lightly as I felt a lot of pressure to make sure what I put out was up to our regular standard. The two episodes I recorded (there was a 3rd but it was lost to ‘technical difficulties’- sorry Tim!) were a lot of fun as I got to record with my brother Greg and the 3rd man of Casta [if there ever was one] Daniel Jones. When I listen back to these mini-episodes I enjoy them more as an excuse to hear me hanging out with my two closest friends that aren’t Brother Madden than I do for their movie content. In fact, I couldn’t tell you what films we actually talk about! They were great fun though, and hopefully in keeping with the Casta-ethos.

The Edinburgh International Film Festival

I’m fortunate to live in one of the greatest cities in the world and even more fortunate to have been around during this year’s film festival. It was a mammoth experience for me; as usual I left the planning until after the last minute and tried to cram as many films in one week as work commitments would allow – resulting in me seeing eleven films at the movies in just seven days. Quite aside from the sheer quality of the films on show and the fact that I got to see a number of them as premieres (some of which still haven’t seen a full cinematic release), the thing that really makes the Film Festival stand out to me was the fact that I actually managed to stay true to my word and provide write ups of all the movies I saw in a timely manner; which along with working and actually seeing the damn things was no mean feat. Roll on EIFF 2011!

Casta’s 1st birthday

My last Casta-classic is my absolute favourite thing we have done during our time running the website. It simply has to be; Casta La Vista’s 1st birthday party! What a day it was too. Ok, we might not have seen the greatest film in the world but in some ways Knight and Day was the perfect accompaniment to the celebrations of that Saturday afternoon in August- a fun, fast and slap dash feature with plenty of jokes and explosions and two super sexy stars holding it all together; sound like a podcast you listen to? It was so great to see so many listeners show up from all over the country and to catch up with some old friends too. I love listening to the highlights package on episode 21 to remind myself just how much we got up to in the space of one day. Check out the photos on Facebook here. Here’s hoping our 2nd birthday is even better.

So there you have it beautiful listener/reader/Casta, our choice cuts of Casta La Vista from our first 100 Posts. Wow, that puts it into some perspective. Do you think there are any bits that we have forgotten about that you particularly like? Is there anything that you dislike on the site so much that you just have to get it off your chest? Put it all down in the comments section below, that’s what it’s there for.

Thanks to all of you for checking us out, and especially to those of you who have experienced every single post we have done. For those of you who have recently found us maybe this is a good article to sift through and get a taste of what we are all about. Tell your friends, tell your enemies, tell your parents, tell your bosses; we are Casta La Vista and we would like to formally say to you all….How Do!!!!

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Five movies I wouldn’t switch over…

October 11, 2010

You know the situation, we’ve all done it before; there are always movies that no matter the fact you have them sitting on your DVD shelf and quite in spite of the fact that you’ve seen them tons of times before, if someone else is watching them or they’re showing on television you find yourself quite inadvertently glued to the sofa watching for the umpteenth time – even with all the advert breaks!

Here then are five movies which I never seem to be able to switch over whenever I stumble upon them;

School of Rock
Starring: Jack Black

Genuinely, I’ve probably seen this film more than any other film ever. Seriously. And you know what? Every time I watch it, it’s a blast. Jack Black plays his usual over the top obnoxious character but, perhaps oddly for him, actually has a development arc that is both realistic and satisfying. The jokes are funny, the kids are amazing and perhaps most importantly, the appreciation and love of Rock is worn firmly on this film’s sleeve from the moment it opens right up until the second it closes. The final pay off is perhaps the best part of this movie, it sends shivers down my spine and brings a smile to my face just thinking about it.

Highlight: Jack Black’s vocalising during band practice of the solo he later plays at the battle of the bands.

 

Face/Off
Starring: Nicolas Cage & John Travolta

This is one of the films that I can really credit with getting me into movies – I first saw it when I was about fifteen and it completely changed my opinion of what action movies could be – it shifted my opinion of them from being musclebound guys effortlessly fighting off entire armies to character pieces involving trapped heroes, personal threat, intrigue and a countdown to destruction; that’s not to say it was the first one action flick ever to do that, but it was certainly the one that broke the mould for me. The action is fast paced and intense, the direction is Woo’s usual dovey best and Cage and Travolta are compelling in both roles.

Highlight: The escape from the floating prison has always been a favourite of mine, as well as the opening shoot out at an airfield (which I usually miss if I turn it on part way through).

 

Back to the Future II
Starring: Michael J. Fox & Christopher Lloyd

As referenced in the last episode I am firmly of the opinion that Back to the Future II is one of the most complicated films ever written – which is somewhat exacerbated (or perhaps caused) by the fact that I’m usually drunk whilst watching it – worrying considering it’s usually on at about six o’clock on ITV2 on a Saturday afternoon… Seriously though this film is a wondrous sequel which realistically needs no real knowledge of the original and has enough gripping and hilarious moments throughout to hold your attention no matter what point you tune in. Tell me honestly you haven’t dreamed of owning one of those hoverboards!

Highlight: The ending where Back to the Future II Marty is stuck in 1955 and receives a letter from 1985 Doc Brown who is now trapped in 1885 and rushes to see 1955 Doc Brown just as Back to the Future I Marty goes back to 1985. Mind boggling!

 

Notting Hill
Starring: Hugh Grant & Julia Roberts

Perhaps the most off the wall of the list and the one that maybe needs the most explanation. I grew up surrounded by women, living in a house of three sisters and a mother who all love rubbish films and a father who (much like myself) preferred to just let them get on with it rather than have the hassle of trying to convince all four of them that whatever sopfest they’re watching is infinitely less interesting than the F1. Occasionally though there’s a sopfest which stands out above all the others and is at least watchable, and king amongst all of them is Notting Hill.

Hugh Grant is on form at his awkward British best, Julia Roberts is at her most vulnerable and perhaps best looking and the periphery characters all play their part without being too intrusive (including a noteworthy career launching performance from Rhys Ifans). If you’ve never seen it before, it’s as simple as thinking Four Weddings meets Pretty Woman and try to ignore the awful Ronan Keating song that accompanied it.

Highlight: Perhaps one of the best passing of time montages committed to celluloid.

 

Terminator 2: Judgement Day
Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger & Linda Hamilton

No list of mine is complete without an Arnie film and what more appropriate to drop into this list than the very film that Casta is named in honour of. Cameron’s stunning and character shifting sequel has the original Terminator switching sides and an even more fearsome threat in the shape of Robert Patrick as the T-1000, which may look kind of dated now, but was revolutionary at the time and really brought computer generated imagery to the forefront of Hollywood cinema. This really is one of the ultimate action movies and it’s fit to burst with memorable characters, frenetic action scenes, well thought out time travel and a healthy dollop of comedic wit on the side. Absolutely incredible from whatever point you watch it.

Highlight: Every second Arnie is on screen.

 

Needless to say then that I love the five films above and, quite surprisingly for once, all of them are widely considered to be at least quite good. That’s not to say however that there aren’t completely awful movies that I wouldn’t sit through were I to stumble upon them (some of which figure in my earlier critics got wrong posts) – these were just the first five that came to mind.

I’m really interested in hearing what you sit through time after time so why not share your thoughts in the comments below?


Tag Team Review – Winter’s Bone

October 8, 2010

Woof! It’s been a while since we’ve done one of these hasn’t it? For those of you who are new to Casta La Vista the answer is yes, it is.

Chris and Chris have both watched Winter’s Bone this past week and both had things to say on it. The current episode was already too packed full of goodies to fit in any audio response, so here instead is a smattering of words from the pair (in turns) on the Debra Granik movie that stars Jennifer Lawrence as a teenage girl left to look after her brother, sister and ill mother who is then lumped with the task of tracking down her estranged father before the bail bondsman takes their house.

First up, Chris W;

I have no idea what ‘him down there’ is going to write – we just put these things together with a quick copy and paste job – so I’ll start by simply saying that I consider myself very lucky to have seen Winter’s Bone. It took me THREE ATTEMPTS to see this moving and intense drama. Twice I was scuppered by terrible traffic and the third time a tardy bus meant I missed the trailers and only got into the screening at the opening credits; I hope I didn’t miss much!

I’m glad I went to the trouble to see it though because the central role is one to savour. Equal parts confident, isolated, naive and fragile, Jennifer Lawrence’s performance as Ree Dolly is rightfully drawing Oscar rumours and will hopefully earn the supermodel (she tidies up nice let me tell you) at least a nomination come February. Strong (as in developed) female roles are hard to come by in cinema and it is great to see a character that could so easily fall into caricature and stereotype being given room to show emotion and range. Some of the strongest scenes of the movie come when Ree simply stands silently and reacts to a piece of information she has just received – usually in a threatening manner.

Caps doffed too to John Hawkes, a character actor whose face people will definitely recognise from film and TV, finally getting a more established role and screen time to play with. As the scary uncle Teardrop he commands attention and is a constant question mark throughout the film; is he good or bad; does he care more about family or self-preservation?  His departure from the film is one of the most understated I have seen this year and leaves no doubt as to his destination, an event larger scale productions would certainly have shown on screen.

Tonally Winter’s Bone felt very similar to 2008’s Frozen River, another film with a strong central female performance – this time about running illegal immigrants over the US-Canadian border. Both films deal with isolated communities where word of mouth is unavoidable, and the lead character is fending for themselves in a man’s world weighed down by bureaucracy. Whilst Winter’s Bone is perhaps not as thrilling as Frozen River, with slightly lower stakes by its conclusion, it still establishes a world in which a character’s actions can be understood and justified, if not entirely condoned.

My final serious point before I finish on something stupid is to say that Debra Granik should be praised for her handling of the subject matter. In particular there is a black and white dream sequence about half way through the movie which in other hands might feel out of sync with the rest of the film. Without any set up or explanation we are left to interpret the meaning of a series of sounds and images and this sort of respect for an audience should be nurtured and encouraged. It also definitely adds intensity to the sound of a chainsaw further down the line when it is used in a scene that is already harrowing enough!

It’s probably been and gone from most cinemas, but Winter’s Bone is definitely one worth hunting down, and might just get a rerelease around awards season. Keep them peeled.

Oh, and my stupid comment; in all these films with lower class, backwoods communities where people struggle to put money and food on the table and turn to drugs or crime to fund their existence…doesn’t anyone ever think of applying for a job at McDonalds? I mean those guys are everywhere these days and they’re always hiring. I’m just saying is all.

DONE!

And now to Chris M;

Well what’s there left to say after what’s been said already? As usual my good friend Ceedub has heaped on all the necessary praise and left me to pick holes in all the parts of the film I didn’t enjoy, and that’s just fine with me as it’s what I do best.

As alluded to in Cast Boot, this was the second film I saw last week (along with the Town) which, although I can understand the praise it has been receiving and will happily acknowledge the fact that it’s a “good film” (as far as standard definitions of “good” can go) there was just something about it which stopped me engaging with it in the manner required for me to really enjoy it. Enjoyment for me doesn’t just derive from technical competency and critical acclaim; it usually comes from stuff exploding.

Seriously though the thing that usually pulls me into a movie is engagement with the characters and the situations they find themselves in and as well built up as Ree’s situation is, I just couldn’t get on board. Part of me suspects that this is because the movie chooses to set itself so deep within a realistic community that you lose some of the norms that we usually take for granted in storytelling; things like having easily distinguishable characters and locations or a real sense that the lead character’s actions have some influence on the development of the story.

Ree does eventually get some results, but it felt to me that it was due to her incessant badgering rather than any great sleuthing skills or achievements on her part (unless you can call getting beat up an achievement) – an understandable choice but one that left me feeling that Ree was more of a passenger than I would have expected from (as Chris rightly says) such a strong female protagonist.

It comes as no great surprise to me that this film is being tipped for Oscar success already but Joe Average Cinema Goer will probably feel underwhelmed by Winter’s Bone’s subtleties and want a little more incident for their money. Ultimately for me, Winter’s Bone became a victim of its naturalistic form and as good a film as this no doubt is, it won’t be figuring anywhere near my top ten of the year whilst other more ridiculous films probably will be.

 


Episode 24 – Cast Boot

October 6, 2010

 

Cast Boot (right click and “save as” for download)

Unbelievable! We’ve actually stuck to schedule for about two months now! Get ready for your regular dose of Casta antics with reviews of The Town, Buried, Devil and a special shout out to Back to the Future. HELLO! MCFLY! ANYBODY IN THERE?!

Listen in for those but stick around for Castamind, a new inductee in the Casta club, ponderings as to the origins of denim and the announcement of the winner of our very first competition!


My Friends and I – 3

October 5, 2010

Here we are once again with another round up of the films I have been watching as part of the Cinefriends group I run at Derby QUAD.

As far as lists go you probably couldn’t find 3 films more distinct from one another (go on, I dare you) so I’ll jump straight in with my first review;

Meeting 7: The Illusionist

It’s a bit of a shame that I am left to review this film on my own because this is one that Chris M saw too and we talked for ages about trying to put a review together and never got round to it- how unlike us!

I cannot recommend highly enough that people check out The Illusionist when it appears on TV and DVD soon. It is absolutely beautiful both visually and emotionally and is proof if ever if it were needed that animated films are not just for kids. In fact, if you’re the sort of person who usually shuns animated films for the aforementioned reason, then you should make doubly sure you see this film to be put firmly in your place (you know who you are)!

The thing about The Illusionist is that at first I wasn’t that impressed with it. It was decent enough in the opening 20 minutes or so; stuff happens, the Illusionist travels from Paris to Scotland, a few tricks here and there, a few relationships built, and some great sight gags. But then suddenly everything slows down as our protagonist finds himself stuck in Edinburgh and selling out to make a quick buck. At the time I was starting to get a bit bored- I’d go as far as to say I was bored-erline disliking the experience (HA!).

But then as the film closed and I realised how completely depressed and affected I had been by the film, particularly its final scenes, it hit me that the impact the film had on me  was in line with that of the characters and the theme of the picture. The Illusionist is a story about the death of vaudeville, about Rock and Roll storming on stage and stealing the limelight. It is about this great tradition of magic and performance that once had high energy and sell out crowds suddenly having the wind taken out of its sails and drifting to a halt as performers struggle to acclimatise with a fast paced, ever-changing society.

To find myself feeling as lost and alone as the main character is at the end of the picture, yet so full of hope that there is still something out there for him, is a testament to the quality of filmmaking on show here. The Illusionist makes every moment of the 7 year wait for Sylvain Chomet’s follow up to The Triplets of Belleville worth it.

There’s so much more to say about this film, particularly about its visuals. In fact, I’ll leave it here and let Chris M talk about them in the comments section. Whatever he says, he’s 100% right.

Meeting 8: Inception

What more is there to say? Done and done in our episode review which can be found HERE (about 22 minutes in) Inception is a film that just gets better every time I see it. Fourth time around, and a couple of months since its initial release, the impact of the adventures of Leo and the gang were just as breathtaking and enticing.

The joy of Inception lies in its simplicity. It really is just your typical heist flick come crime thriller (in fact were the story more complicated I think the effect of the visuals would lessen as audiences would spend too much time getting caught up in plot points as opposed to lapping up the scale and ambition) yet the beauty of the film comes in every inch of frame that Christopher Nolan puts on screen. Top performances, top effects, top music, top writing, top banana. Can’t wait for it to come out on DVD- and I never buy DVDs!

Meeting 9: Singing in the Rain

Meeting 9 and our first out and out classic, a golden oldie that we’ll have all seen a dozen times before is finally back up on the big screen.

Singing in the Rain is the sort of film that I used to hate as a kid. It was black and white, it was full of songs and everyone was looking happy and cheesy in it. I would turn it off when it came on TV. Now with hindsight and the loss of any shame I am free to watch films like this and appreciate them for what they really are; feel good movies that kill some time and put a smile on your face.

My only problem with Singing in the Rain is that every dance sequence or song feels about 2 minutes too long. I don’t know if it’s egotism on the part of the filmmakers, or just that fact that they wanted to make sure audiences got their money’s worth, but if every musical sequence was trimmed by about 2 minutes I think the whole film would benefit.

It always interests me too that “Make ‘em laugh” is regarded as one of THE classic dance numbers (its certainly an unforgettable performance by Donald O’Connor as Cosmo Brown) but it’s probably the most uncomfortable sequence of the movie- it feels shoehorned in and despite its titular resonance it isn’t really that funny.

These are all minor quibbles though because hand on heart Singing in the Rain gave me a smile from ear to ear. Gene Kelly’s smile is just intoxicating, the jokes still work nearly 60 years on, Debbie Reynolds is gorgeous and the satire is still as biting as ever.

And for all of that I think we can forgive it the liberal helping of sexism that underscores the whole picture!

So there you are folks. Bang up to date with my entire goings on at Cinefriends. We’ve got a great roster of films coming up in the next few months including Made in Dagenham, Peeping Tom, Another Year and The Arbor, so if you live in the Derby area and fancy coming along just click HERE and get in touch. We meet every other Sunday and occasionally see stuff in the week too. I’ll post any thoughts on those films in a month or so and in the meantime let us know if you’ve seen any of the above and tell us what you thought of them.

Thanks as always to QUAD for the tickets and thanks to you for reading.

Kisses!