Episode 28 – American Casta

November 30, 2010

American Casta (right click and “save as” for direct cownload)

Come rain, snow or shine Casta La Vista braves the elements to bring you the most up to date ramblings of two dudes who love movies!

That’s right Casta fans – the little snow fall north of the border isn’t enough to stop us coming to you on schedule and bringing you reviews of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallow Part 1, Unstoppable and… well it was supposed to be Chico& Rita but listen in and you’ll find out what happened!

As always keep in touch with the usual methods. Mega smooches!


Five action movies that got me into action movies…

November 26, 2010

BOOM! KABLAM! POW! Yep that’s right, I love action movies and I’m more than a little pleased to admit it. It’s clear to all and sundry that action movies had their heyday in the eighties when Arnie, Sly and Bruce were at their peak but being born around the same time as most of these movies came out, it’s fair to say that I arrived a little late on the scene.

What we have here then are five great mid to late nineties action movies that I can really credit for getting me into the genre and, by extension, in movies as a whole.

1. The Rock
Back before Michael Bay was the instantly criticised chap he is today, he made some pretty tight movies, my favourite being this. The Rock tells the story of a troop of disenfranchised soldiers who have taken hostages on Alcatraz and threaten the use of chemical weaponry on San Francisco if their demands aren’t met. It’s up to Nic Cage to enlist the help of Connery as the only escapee of Alcatraz, and with his help navigate their way into the prison to avert CITYWIDE KABLAMMO CHEMICAL WEAPON DISASTER!

Whilst the biggest focus of this movie is undoubtedly the portion set on Alcatraz, the real highlight for me is the car chase early on in proceedings which sees Cage bombing down the hilly streets of San Francisco in a bright yellow Lamborghini after Connery who has escaped in a humvee. Amazingly no one is hurt but rest assured there’s plenty of property damage. Absolutely unmissable!

2. Payback
From the moment the movie opens and you see Mel Gibson having bullets roughly removed from his back, you know you’re in for a brutal ride. Porter (Gibson) has been screwed over by his partner and left for dead. He recovers and wants revenge. That’s it. What more do you want? Cue ninety minutes of Gibson strutting around beating the crap out of everyone and having seven shades of sunshine knocked out of him in equal measure. As far as I can recall, this was one of the first proper revenge films I ever saw and it was great to be backing someone who was basically walking round doing the stuff the bad guys usually do. Rest assured Porter’s victims all deserve what’s coming to them.

By all accounts the studio forced cut of director Brian Helgeland’s work left the film pretty unrecognisable after around thirty percent of it was reshot by an uncredited director, but whatever… it’s still brilliant.

3. Air Force One
Listen to the pitch and tell me it’s not a brilliant idea for a movie; Air Force One is hijacked by terrorists led by the ever superb Gary Oldman, who try to hold the president (Harrison Ford) and the rest of the passengers to ransom. Only guess what? The President is a complete bad ass and takes down the terrorists single handedly. Why bother employing Secret Service hey?

Considering the majority of this movie takes place in a very limited location (i.e. on the plane) there’s enough variety to keep from things getting boring and enough explosions to make you wonder what magic space metal Air Force One must be made of to withstand such punishment.

It should go without saying that Oldman is brilliant in this movie, but truly everyone is on top form here, with great support from William H Macy, Glenn Close and Xander Berkeley; but it’s Ford who holds it all together and in my opinion this is the last really entertaining film he was involved in. Well worth whatever pittance you’ll pay for it online. Plus there’s a great rip on it here.

4. Con Air
What could possibly be more ridiculous than having a second plane based film in the list? Why a second Nic Cage one of course! Crazy non? He could easily appear a third time but I’ve already talked about Face/Off before (favourite!). Con Air tells the story of Poe (Cage) getting a flight home to freedom on a prisoner transfer flight, only for the plane to be taken over by the convicts in a desperate bid to escape reincarceration. This film is a tight Bruckheimer explosionfest filled with fist fights, dodgy accents and somehow even dodgier haircuts.

There’s more things in this film that jump out at me instantly than most other films in the list (Cage’s delivery of “put the bunny back in the box”, Buscemi singing “He’s got the whole world in his hands” and a flying convertible to name but three) which after at least five years since I last saw it, can only be a good thing.

5. True Lies
What finer film to round off this list than Cameron’s magnum opus (arf!). Weighing in at a meaty two hours twenty, True Lies tells the story of Harry Tasker (Arnie), loving husband, father and secret agent who lives a double life to spare his family from knowing the danger of his profession. All is well until his wife Helen (Jamie Lee Curtis) suspects him of having an affair and (somewhat inevitably) ends up being kidnapped by terrorists.

As much as this sounds like an out and out comedy (which to be fair in some places it borders pretty close to) this movie is a great all out action fest stuffed with epic chases between horses and motorbikes, sexy Jamie Lee dancing, nuclear kisses and great one liners from Arnie. Genuinely entertaining and featuring better realised characters than other Arnie movies whilst also having the “epic” weighting of Cameron behind it, True Lies masterfully treads the lines between comedy, suspense and action. Just go and watch it right now.


My Friends and I – 4

November 20, 2010

Regular visitors to Casta La Vista-land will know about my work at a Derbyshire cinema where I sporadically coordinate film festivals and produce podcasts. I also run a fortnightly film group that meets on Sundays, watches films (duh!) and then sits around afterwards for a bit of a chin wag. It’s a book club but without using paper, so technically it’s environmentally friendlier.

Here are some short(ish) reviews of the last 3 films I have watched as part of that group;

Made In Dagenham

I was a bit nervous about watching Made in Dagenham because it came hot on the heels of Tamara Drewe, a  British film which I found ultimately disappointing and that Chris and I talked about here [about 30 minutes in]. Seeing as both films are unashamedly British I was worried that Made In Dagenham might suffer the same problems as Drewe; an over dependence on sight gags and imagery and a lack of substance and character.

I was pleasantly surprised therefore to watch a film that, whilst flawed in places, is nevertheless an enjoyable watch with well rounded characters, a good sense of narrative, and an engaging premise.

The film is loosely based (in the sense that it takes the truth, tightens it up and throws in some personal character development, drama and a cohesive arc) on the equal pay protests by a group of women at the Ford Plant in Dagenham in the late 60’s.

Sally Hawkins is a rising talent in British cinema and her performance as Rita, the leader of the revolution, cements her growing reputation. It will be a genuine shame if she is lured over to America as we should try our best to keep hold of versatile performers like her.

The film doesn’t outstay its welcome, unlike Tamara Drewe, and despite its UK surroundings does well to apply healthy doses of empathy and dramatic incident to keep more conventional cinema-goers entertained, which is something other British filmmakers often forget to do in their quest to be un-American- forgetting that Hollywood doesn’t own the rights to conventional storytelling.

In some respects the film suffers for having an ending that is a foregone conclusion, although as it is based on real events we can hardly knock it too much for that, and there are one or two supporting characters that seem forgotten about by the end of the film- Where does Bob Hoskins go? Why does Connie suddenly come back all smiles at the end?

All in all this movie was ideal for a Sunday evening as it didn’t take itself too seriously and was full of enough recognisable faces that all turned in commendable performances.

The Arbor

CM came to this one!

The Arbor was a tough, yet ultimately rewarding watch. It might sound cliché to say it but it is genuinely hard to describe what type of film it is.

The film is about the strained lives of Andrea Dunbar (a Yorkshire woman who rose to fame in the 80’s for her plays The Arbor and Rita, Sue and Bob Too before dying of a brain haemorrhage aged 29) and her daughter Lorraine; how their lives mirrored one another and the effect their decisions had on their families and neighbours.

Half documentary and half-adaptation, the film lip syncs performances by actors to the actual voice recordings from the real people of the story. These scenes are separated with archive footage from old TV shows (particularly news footage and a BBC arena documentary on Dunbar) and interpretive performances of Dunbar’s first play, acted out in the middle of The Buttershaw estate, the real estate in Yorkshire where Dunbar lived and set her work.

My initial impression of the film was how effectively all the storytelling techniques worked together; I doubt I have been as impressed by any movie this year as I was with the first half an hour of this. However eventually the emotion and the intensity of the fractured relationships takes over and you forget the stylistic elements of the film and become engrossed in its heart.

I was struck by the fact that nothing actually happens in the movie; everything is accounted after-the-fact by the people involved. And yet you would be forgiven for reacting as if it were happening on screen in front of you, such is the emotional connection the audience has to the story.

Destined for the 9pm slot on Channel 4, The Arbor is one to look out for if you haven’t already seen it; an emotional journey that allows us to make our own judgements instead of ramming an agenda down our throat.

Another Year

Filmmaker Mike Leigh is considered one of England’s national treasures. His films are always prefaced with quotes like “another instant classic” and “probably his best work to date”.

I find praise like that hard to stomach because I think it can affect cinema-goers in one of two ways. It will either encourage people to agree with the sentiments of critics without deciding for themselves what they really think or force them try to pick holes in the films if they don’t like feeling they’re being told what to think.

In my opinion Another Year was brilliant, but less as a film and more as a slice of life, which in essence is what the film is really all about.

It uses the seasons to show glimpses of the lives of several people that interact with Gerri and Tom (Ruth Sheen and Jim Broadbent) and gravitate around their homes, particularly one overbearing friend named Mary, played by Lesley Manville.

Telling stories through seasons can be problematic because each section should not necessarily be as long as the others- we are inherently bound to get restless the longer each one goes on so in essence the final section should always be shorter than the first. I certainly wasn’t bored by this style in Another Year, although Leigh does let the movie take its time, showing full conversations between people rather than the more typical technique of giving us snippets.

It is this decision that lends to the realism of Another Year, which is at once its greatest asset and heaviest burden. Some people will be captivated by the lives on show in the film because they feel real and not performed. Others will find the lack of incident and narrative drive discomforting and boring. I certainly fall onto the side of the former; I was engrossed and enchanted. I felt part of a community and found drama and tension through the intricacies of the relationships on show.

Two criticisms; Gerri (in particular) and Tom do have an air of smugness about them, although I feel this is justified given the chaos brought by the many characters who visit them in the safety of their own home; and despite all the praise laid at Lesley Manville’s feet for her turn as fragile-friend Mary I found that hers was the most jarring, unrealistic and caricatured performance of the film as it really didn’t make sense why these people would continue to hang out with her. But maybe that’s like life…eh Chris?

Right, there’s another 3 out of the way. If you seen any of those films above let me know in the comments section below, and if you haven’t then I recommend you check them all out (not a bad film on show in this edition). I’ll write up more of these once we’ve seen another 3 films and until then thanks as always to QUAD for the tickets and to you lot for reading.


How Johnny Knoxville and Co. delivered the best use of 3D in 2010…

November 17, 2010

Earlier this month UK cinema audiences were treated to the release of Jackass 3D, the third theatrical instalment of the exploits of a bunch of crazy Americans who do stupid stunts and disgusting things all in the name of entertainment and the pursuit of making one another laugh.

Even though it is a film right up Casta La Vista’s alley, we chose not to review it in-show or on-site as we really didn’t know what we could say about it that you wouldn’t already know. Jackass 3D isn’t a film as much as it is a 90 minute montage. If you’ve seen their work before then you know what to expect; gross out, childish and dangerous humour that will have you rolling in the aisles if you’re a fan (no matter how many times you’ve seen them do stuff like this before) or screaming that this is the death of art and media if you’re a cynic- in which case you just wasted your time and money so who’s the Jackass now?

The only change from previous outings (other than the 3D which I’ll get on to) is that the gang has so much more money and scale afforded to them this time around that the stunts are wilder and larger. Resourcefulness is no longer a necessary attribute for a Jackass to have; all that is required is an idea for a stunt that the money men can then be left to put together.

The Jackass boys (a team including Johnny Knoxville, Bam Margera, Ryan Dunn, Chris Pontius, Steve-O, Wee Man and several other fools) had been doing this sort of stuff for years before their first film was released in 2002, with their own TV show on MTV and a series of viral videos that made the most of youtube style websites and low-fi filmmaking techniques (the show itself was really borne out of the antics the guys would get up to after they had shot skateboarding videos) in the late nineties and early naughties.

Probably none of what I have just told you is new information (if it is then where have you been for the last 10 years?) but I mention it now because I think it helps to contextualise the point I am about to make. The origin of the gang that we now know of as Jackass is one dependant on luck, opportunism, confidence and risk-taking. People were doing things similar to the stunts being shown in Jackass episodes many years before this lot made it famous; it’s just that these guys found a way to market it- and also handily knew someone in MTV!

The point I am meandering towards concerns the extra dimension that is applied to the viewing experience of this latest Jackass film and a host of other movies that we have discussed in our time at Casta La Vista. Chris and I are well documented by our so-so feelings on 3D; it certainly alters a viewing experience, but as of yet (albeit with a few notable exceptions) it has failed to really make an impact on our movie going habits.

The main problem seems to be what to do with the medium; does a filmmaker barely acknowledge their adoption of 3D and have faith that the universe of the film will seem more immersive to the viewer, as in Alice in Wonderland? Or do they make the most of the gimmick-ery of the whole thing and jam in as many ‘into the auditorium’ moments as they possibly can?

Alice in Wonderland; one of the more subtle uses of 3D this year?

In the first situation audiences seem to be coming away thinking;

“What was the point? Did I just wear glasses that whole time simply to be able to sense half an inch of depth between elements of the mise-en-scene? Pah!”

On the other hand, after seeing a 3D movie that has more in common with the latter scenario a viewers thoughts may quickly turn to;

“All those punchy-pokey moments felt shoe-horned into that film and they had nothing to do with the story; not that there was one because the filmmakers clearly spent more time looking for excuses to throw things at the camera than they did in developing believable characters or a plot. Double-Pah!”

If we focus primarily on this latter scenario then we begin to get towards the root of what makes Jackass 3D such a unique voyage into a world the encourages wearing sunglasses in a darkened room.

Jackass 3D has no plot. It has no story. It has no character development. It has no message. It has no sense of cinematography or continuity. It is a series of disconnected events put on screen to sustain the viewer until the point at which that scene ends so that another one can have a go at entertaining us.

As such, there is nothing substantial to the film that a blatant attempt to utilise a new technology can detract audiences from.

I will happily agree with the most steadfast of 3D haters that the work on show in Jackass 3D continues to prove that there is still work to be done on the technology in order for it to seem worth the extra cost. However I would caveat this by saying that director Jeff Tremaine and the cast of Jackass 3D should be commended for using their film as an opportunity to see how effective the technology can actually be.

And so super slow motion shots of people being punched and kicked in the face; giant hands slapping at the camera; shit flying through the air like a volcano; paintballs being fired at the screen; a dildo coming into focus as it hurtles at our faces; and a finale sequence of the cast being fired in all directions and having everything around them explode (to name a few) are all sequences that can be appreciated in terms of their use of 3D because there is nothing else for us to be concentrating on as we view this carnage.

It might sound crazy to say it, but in my opinion it is the most appropriate and effective use of 3D this year, if not since the technology’s mass-marketing. And much like with how they found their fame in the first place, the Jackass boys have taken something that was feeling old and familiar and given it a fresh perspective.

Albeit a perspective covered in poo.

Episode 27 – Cast Cast Bang Bang

November 16, 2010

Cast Cast Bang Bang (right click and “save as” to download)

Still rocking out on schedule, we’re back with Episode 27! Listen in for improved audio quality, reviews of Due Date, Let Me In and Skyline as well as Chris M’s attempts to take on Castamind questions on one of his favourite movies; School of Rock.

As always get in touch via the usual methods and make sure you get on buying our Christmas presents already!

Five articles we meant to have written by now…

November 15, 2010

Greetings and Castutations!

Whilst we’re keeping to a strict and rigorous schedule on the audio front these days, we’ve sort of dropped the ball vis-a-vis the written content this month and for that we humbly apologise as we know just how much you all like to read what we think as well as hear what we think.

As a way of catching up then here are five short reviews of films we’ve been meaning to write about of late but just haven’t found the time to do so. As always when we’re both sounding off, Chris W will write in green whilst Chris M will scribe in blue.

1. Film Community Potluck – The Seventh Seal

I’d been quite intent on watching this movie for a long time, finding that most things that have been parodied (at least in the classic sense of the term – not the “parodies” like Vampires Suck which we’re subjected to nowadays) do themselves prove to be quite worth watching. I was very happy then when I saw that it had been nominated by Ripley from four of them and shouted out my desire to be paired up with it.

The Seventh Seal tells the story of various levels of Swedish peasantry living through a plague sometime in the middle ages – more than that though it’s a study of mortality, faith, the value of life and the importance of having a good chess strategy.

Whilst its early shifts around various characters prove to be somewhat confusing, by the time the cast has met up and are travelling as one, the movie effortlessly hits home with its questioning of life, death and the futility of resistance to the latter.

As much as this film still proves to be a good thinking man’s watch over fifty years later, I’m not really sure how well it holds up to classics of its period – watch it but be prepared to muse whilst you do so.

2. Review – The Kids Are Alright

I feel like a broken record saying this about yet another movie but the folk who put taglines in the trailers and posters for TKAAR saying it was “the funniest, laughtest-out-loudest film of the year” are off their rocker. This is a dramedy in the strictest sense of the word; an explorative character piece about what happens when people from different backgrounds come together and effect each other’s lives.

So far as it goes TKAAR is a decent watch. All of the cast are on top form- notable mentions to Josh Hutcherson and Mia Wasijowska (of Alice in Wonderland) as the offspring of same sex couple Annette Benning and Julianne Moore (two performances that both traverse the real/stereotype line at many points during the film) who go in search of their sperm donor father (Mark Ruffalo- FIT!) with consequences that affect their comfortable family existence.

The film outstays its welcome by the end (there is at least one mid-act subplot that could be lifted completely to lighten the film’s load without, I would argue, affecting the films impact at all) but in general it is a very easy watch that doesn’t ram it’s west-coast liberalism context down the audiences throat. Not bad.

3. Tag Team Review – Burke & Hare

The thing that strikes me most about this movie it is that it’s pretty boring. Being as we’re keeping this succint I’ll say that the laughs are few and far between and the story will only prove to be of slight interest if you’ve never heard of Burke & Hare before. Residents of Edinburgh like myself will undoubtedly already know the tale back to front.

The cast is crowded and severly underused in most cases (hello Tim Currie) even to the extent of Sirkis and Pegg themselves, and the over reliance on both support characters and cameo appearances throughout (p ss off Stephen Merchant) lend themselves more to a feeling of desperately trying to flesh the movie out enough to last the requisite ninety minutes than for the purpose of benefitting the proceedings.

Personally I don‘t think that Burke & Hare is informative, funny,  involving or captivating enough to hold anyone but the most ardent history buff’s attention – and they’ll only be annoyed at how liberally the history has been treated.

Oh and please stop hiring Australians to play Scottish people. Cheers.

We’ve set ourselves 150 words each on this one…how many words in “I was really bored”? There is the possibility that I just don’t like historically set comedies that spend their duration dropping contemporary references and attitudes into the proceedings, but even by those standards this was still hogwash. I struggle to think of anyone involved in the film that comes out of this with much integrity left- maybe Tim Currie, at a push Tom Wilkinson, but Pegg and Serkis are almost unwatchable at times, Isla Fisher is embarrassing (although her cleavage does at least try to change the subject from time to time) and that it is directed by a comedy legend of John Landis’ standard just makes the whole thing sit even worse in the stomach.

And despite what I said before about The Kids Are All Right being more of a drama than comedy it still had more laughs per minute than this piece of tosh.

A very bad effort.

4. Review – Despicable Me

Whilst most other people have sung and danced about this film, I’m going to lay down the gauntlet. I hated this movie, plain and simple.

It’s been quite some time since I’ve seen anything on the big screen so overtly pander to children. This movie is shameless in its attempts to gain cheap laughs, half of which miss completely. The voic

e acting is poor, the writing is sloppy, the characters don’t feel fully realised, the incident is bland and uninvolving and the morals feel too tacked on. I felt insulted throughout, particularly by Gru’s little yellow henchman, who go down in my estimation as some of the worst supporting characters of any film in recent memory.

But hey according to all the people I know who have seen it with children, their kids really enjoyed it. This then appears to be a film strictly for the younger kids out there, albeit a much more hollow one at which the parents will be left feeling less involved than with the usual animated fare. I wouldn’t expect anyone to buy this on DVD and genuinely find it worth watching five or more years down the line.

Oh and last thing… As much as I’m willing to suspend my disbelief, please don’t try and imply that taking the moon out of orbit around the earth wouldn’t have instant catastrophic effects the world over. Shame on you Universal.

5. Review – Mary and Max

I would like to argue that we are ending this post with the best film of the bunch. I cannot describe how completely enjoyable a viewing experience I had with Mary & Max.

We’re spoilt for choice these days with animated features and this Australian claymation MASTERPIECE must be a sure fire nomination for next year’s best animation Oscar (or the Toy Story 3 award to give it its full title) or my name isn’t Christopher Madd- oh…damn!

The story is simple and heartfelt; two lonely people separated by a continent (one an Australian girl with an alcoholic mother, the other a 40 year old Jewish New-Yorker with aspergers syndrome) share a pen pal relationship spanning 22 years and help each other to find their own identities in a world that doesn’t seem to want them in it.

I’m going to do a CM and not say much more about the plot because I don’t want to spoil it, but put simply I haven’t laughed more this year than I did in the opening 15 minutes, and I haven’t been as touched as I was by this in its last 20 minutes. It’s mesmerising. A movie of two-halves; a must see.

That’s your lot. Thanks for reading. Hopefully you’re now all caught up with our movie goings on and looking forward to our next audio post which should go up some time tomorrow.

Later alligators!

Episode 26 – Castalive

November 2, 2010

Castalive (right click and “save as” to download)

Chris’ M and W have found themselves face to face for a VERY LONG weekend and to celebrate that fact they offer up for your approval this fantastic TOTALLY LIVE AND UNEDITED episode of Casta La Vista!

Listen in for all the usual bits and bobs including reviews of Easy A, Red, Saw 3D and Paranormal Activity 2 PLUS the news and Castamind. Oh and speaking of which, Chris M forgets to announce his next topic for Castamind…it’s School Of Rock. Suggest any possible questions for him via the email.

Let us know what you think of the live format via all the regular channels, and listen in for a special treat as we try out a new way of breaking up the segments; farewell Shotgun noise, we never really knew thee…

Thanks bye!

P.S. Human Centipede poll- Still Running- On the right hand side of the page- Vote Now- Nothing.