The Re-Review – True Grit

February 25, 2011

The first time around True Grit was to me nothing more than a damn good Western. I was particularly impressed with Hailee Steinfeld, I thought the cinematography and score were superb and I enjoyed the dialogue and the character development. I felt that as a whole the film was a fitting tribute to a well worn genre that allowed the Coen Brothers to sit back and rest on some laurels but still gain some plaudits and award nominations.

My thumb was up, but I wasn’t exactly screaming praise from the rooftops.

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Another brilliant Casta La Vista idea!

February 25, 2011

We’re Geniuses!

After recently seeing True Grit for the second time I found myself feeling utterly muted. This second viewing of The Coen Brother’s western left me brimming with things to say, praise to dole out, initial concerns to rectify.

“Alas,” I said to myself “it cannot be. These things will remain forever unsaid as I have already had my opportunity to review the film in Casta La Vista Episode 32 – Castalive II: I ♥ Castabees.”

That was until a thought struck and I realised my own potential; “This is half-my website…I can do what I want!”

And so it is with great honour that I unveil to you another Casta La Vista first…

…The Re-Review. Ta Dah!!!!!

The simple fact is that sometimes once isn’t enough for a movie. A second bite at the cherry can allow a person to take more from a film than a single viewing might for any number of reasons; second time round there is less cause to pay attention to the narrative because we know what happens at the end so we can focus on other things; we might be in a different mood to the first time around; we might be less drunk.

Also time has an impact. Chris and I reviewed some films mere hours after seeing them for the first time. Has everything about the film settled in to our fragile minds yet? What are we comparing it to?

As such from time to time we will take the opportunity to look back on films that we have previously covered and say our piece about why we’ve changed our minds. We think it makes us look very humble and willing to admit that sometimes we can be wrong or a bit impulsive with our opinions.

But then again we would say that because we’re both awesome.

Anyway…True Grit…

Point of note: There is no amount of multiple viewings or time spent mulling over that can make GI Joe: Rise of the Cobra a good movie. Just so we’re clear.

Review – Never Let Me Go

February 24, 2011


Few things can annoy me like people who have no social etiquette; especially those who lack t in a movie screen. And so it was that I spent the first hour of Never Let Me Go being extremely frustrated at The Stupidest Couple in the World© chat continuously throughout the first hour, before getting up and leaving. Evidently then, this film isn’t for everyone.

I’m not really sure what that couple expected, and come to think about it I can’t really remember what my expectations were walking into this film either; I definitely had some knowledge that the three central characters (played by Mulligan, Garfield and Knightley) were raised as organ donors but that’s about it. Whilst potentially then we could have ended up with another The Island, what we’re left with is something far more subtle and character driven – and it’s all the better for it.

I’m going to let you in on a little secret here; when it comes to writing reviews of films, I’m not always sure what I’m going to say about them until my fingers start hitting the keys. I usually have a vague idea of major things I want to cover, but sometimes it doesn’t strike me quite how much I did or didn’t like a film until the words start pouring out – in this case, how much I liked Never Let Me Go has come as quite a surprise even to me; that’s not to say I didn’t enjoy it at the time, but now I seem to be quite enamoured with it. Get ready for some compliments.

A good place to start would be with the cast. Performance wise, it’s Andrew Garfield who really stands out here, although I do have to say it was nice to see Keira Knightley in a role where I was encouraged to hate her for a change. To say that Garfield’s performance was captivating would be something of an understatement, every time he’s on screen he steals the scene – even when he’s on the sidelines. He’s wonderfully shy and bashful, possesses a childlike enthusiasm and optimism and seems to lack self confidence in what can only be described as an extremely confident way; it’s my opinion that it takes someone extremely self assured to be able to portray someone this vulnerable. Whilst his character is primarily the driver in the relationship between the three leads; he’s never the one instigating the action.

If this performance, alongside those in Dr Parnassus and the Social Network are anything to go by, we can expect big things from this guy in the future. In just three films he’s managed to show a range that most actors would struggle to show in twice that many (that’s six for those who don’t fancy doing the maths).

Another thing to celebrate in this movie is the score. Whilst it doesn’t contain any hooks you’ll leave the theatre whistling, it’s impactful enough to really add some bite to the more emotional scenes and some hope to some of the more downbeat ones. That being said though, it is another of the more understated elements that’s great about the film; Alex Garland provides a solid script with some very emotive dialogue, the aesthetic of an alternative 70’s and 80’s is well represented on screen and the pacing of the direction doesn’t ever feel too slow or drawn out despite nothing much ever really happening. The subtleties ooze from every pore and if it weren’t for last year’s excellent Clooneyfest The American, I’d be saying this was probably the best deliberate pacing I’ve seen in a long time.

Yet another thing that I liked about this film is that there’s no real questioning of the lives that the characters lead or the society they live in. Alternate reality films (especially those set in dystopian societies) often fall into the trap of trying to have the lead characters be the ones to bring down the system. Not so in this case; there’s no revolution, there’s no ill advised escape attempt, there’s no bad guys hunting our trio down and there’s no (or very little anyway) reflection or commentary on the people who are on the receiving end of the organs; the film is entirely character focussed from beginning to end and its all the better for it.

I think though that if I had to pick one thing that stands out to me as what I liked most about this whole film above else, it would be the fact that the whole organ donor issue is completely moot. All the major emotional themes that are visited (love, life, death, mortality, fear, loss, regret etc) are universal and transcend the alternate reality our characters live in. Perhaps these emotions are more intense because of the very finite nature of our characters’ lives, but their approach to live, death and everything in between is essentially the same as ours. That observation may sounds trite, but it’s certainly not something to be underestimated.

Well that’s it, enough gushing; as I mentioned at the very beginning, this film might not be for everyone and I can totally understand any criticism regarding it being dull, overly emotional or too drawn out. But hey, I found a lot to like.



My Friends and I – 6

February 23, 2011

Hello WTF’ers!

Welcome to another edition of My Friends and I, the section of Casta La Vista where I briefly review a bunch of films I’ve watched as part of my fortnightly film group that I facilitate at QUAD cinema and gallery in Derby.

Let’s get straight into it.

The Way Back

Coming out of The Way Back I couldn’t help but feel that I had just watched a film that should have been a lot better than it actually was.

On paper it has the makings of an epic masterpiece; strong cast, a proven director in Peter Weir, a harrowing ‘based on true events’ story and an exceptionally long running time.

But perhaps the mistake made with The Way Back is that it feels as if it has been made under the assumption by everyone involved that they were making something amazing. I wonder whether or not much of the fault in the film lies in the fact that many of the performances, structure and cinematography come across as if they were phoned in and taken for granted.

The film is not without merit. There are several moments of levity (surprising given the traumatic concept of the film; a gang of Prisoners of War escape from a mountain camp and travel through desolate landscapes towards safety) and it is commendable that the escape occurs quite early on so as to move onto the meat and potatoes quickly.

However at the end of the day as a piece of drama the film suffers for three main reasons; the lack of a chasing pack bearing down on our escapees, a distinct absence of inner turmoil within the group of travellers, and Colin Farrell’s accent.

The King’s Speech

Been there done that. Check out Chris and my thoughts on this bona-fide awards magnet here.

Blue Valentine

As much as possible I try to limit the amount of words I write in these posts but in Blue Valentine I have found a film that I could probably wax lyrical on for days.

So in the simplest terms possible… see this movie. It is, to me at least, essential viewing.

The film showcases the beginning and end of a seven year relationship between Dean and Cindy, played expertly by Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams. Whilst in a sense the story lends itself towards being perceived as emotional, depressing and overly sentimental, the real triumph of Derek Cianfrance’s film is just how joyfully optimistic and entertaining it is.

Not enough praise can be given to Gosling and Williams. That one is Oscar nominated (Williams) and the other is not (Gosling) is a gross injustice and proof that the Academy has failed to recognise that the power of each performance comes from its reliance on the other. If ever there were a case for the Academy to follow in the footsteps of MTV and hand out an award for best on-screen couple, this surely is it.

The film is laced with drama and moments of hyper-real tension- I challenge all viewers who have been in long term relationships not to find at least one exchange between Dean and Cindy reminiscent of an experience of their own. However the way the story is conveyed by shifting time and lacing a fresh faced enthusiasm for love at first sight over a weathered depiction of the death of romance allows for some unbelievable developments of character and a fantastically paced journey that ends in a manner that whilst  admittedly soul-destroying is at the same time ever so slightly optimistic.

Well worth tracking down.

Done and done. Thanks for reading.

Episode 32 – Castalive II: I ♥ Castabees

February 15, 2011

I ♥ Castabees (right click and “Save as” for download)

What’s that? It’s time for Casta La Vista’s fiftieth piece of audio content? Well pull out the party poppers! And what better way to celebrate this monumental achievement than by doing it together? That’s right, brothers M and W got together for this one; and with that much beauty in the room, I’m surprised they got anything done!

Aside from gazing lovingly into each other’s eyes (admittedly quite hard to hear on a podcast), our two favourite cohosts review The Fighter, True Grit and Gnomeo & Juliet as well as making some exciting changes to Castamind. Listen in to find out how you can get involved and as always, leave your thoughts in the comments below.

Tag Team Review – Tangled

February 4, 2011

Disney are back with the fiftieth in their animated classics collection – are they firing on all cylinders or just firing blanks?  It’s too much for one grown up man to decide, so why not listen to two? As always, Chris M in blue, Chris W in green.

It may comes as a surprise to you dear reader, that how much I like a film isn’t always directly proportional to how good I think the film is. Whilst certainly Tangled isn’t the best film I’ve seen so far this year, it’s probably my favourite (although it’s a close call between this and The King’s Speech which I’m still swooning over a little). Disney’s reimagining of Rapunzel is a bigger homerun than I could have possibly expected. Get ready for some gushing.

I could easily spiel on about how fond I am of this film for longer than even a full solo written review would allow so to keep it simple I’ll say that I loved:

  • Rapunzel; she’s a pitch perfect wonderfully naïve main character who actually seems like an eighteen year old for once
  • Ryder; a great rogueish charming leading man
  • Maximus and Pascal; great additions to Disney’s roster of strong supporting (hilarious) silent characters
  • Gothel; refreshing to see a bad guy who wasn’t all out evil or after taking over the world but was just extremely selfish – she’s still just as sneaky, deceitful and conniving as you’d hope though
  • The frying pan

It’s obvious then that the main thing I loved then was the cast of characters, but truth be told if you’re on board with the characters and as smitten with them as I was, it doesn’t really matter what they’re doing as long as they keep doing it.

The reason in my eyes that Tangled is so good is that Disney have finally stopped trying to catch up with everyone else and have gone back to their roots. Sure the CG nature of the film brings along some of the traits now commonplace in the genre, (including some very slapstick humour) but at the core of it all, the movie is so intrinsically Disney (arguably other than the visual style) that in my mind it fits right in with Aladdin, Jungle Book, The Lion King and all the rest – probably the first time we can say that in around ten yearsIf, like me, you’ve been brought up with Disney films as a third parent, you’re really going to love this; I’m still buzzing off it a week later! We discussed last year (in our first Tag Team review no less!) that the Princess and the Frog was a welcome return to proper Disney films but only really a step in the right direction of their mid nineties heyday. One year later I’m here to tell you that Tangled is hands down the best Disney film since (my personal favourite) Hercules. It’s still too early in the year to make bold comments but I’m going out on a limb in saying that Disney have set the bar pretty high for animated films in 2011 and could well be on for the best animated film of the year. Saying that though, it may just be because Pixar are only releasing Cars 2…

More please!

Castafans, this will be my last review of a computer-animated movie that isn’t promoted by a trailer that starts off with “from the studio that brought you Finding Nemo”.

I could not connect with any part of Tangled whatsoever and as a result I was bored for almost its entire duration. For me there wasn’t enough originality, humanity or adventure.

I spent large sections of the film wondering if it might’ve looked better hand drawn; Rapunzel’s hair in particular didn’t have the same flow and energy of, say, the vines and branches of Tarzan (if that’s a worthy comparison?).

But all of my foibles are completely moot because I can 100% accept that none of that matters as the target audience for Tangled clearly loved it to bits and lapped it up in spades; and I know that’s true because I asked a family leaving the cinema at the same time as me whether they enjoyed it or not.

The two young girls were particularly blown away; they said the animals were funny and Rapunzel was beautiful (this conversation genuinely happened by the way- I’ve got the CRB check to prove it).

The mother was slightly more articulate; “I loved it. But then again I love a good romance and it was very funny too”

I asked her how she thought it compared to a film like Toy Story 3 to which she responded;

“Well, I don’t really like Toy Story. I don’t see what the fuss is about”.

Now, this small interaction proves nothing, and is in no way representative of the views of the majority of the cinema going public- either coming from the family, or from myself. But maybe there is something here I need to learn from.

Whilst I might yearn for a deeper subtext to my family movie, a subtext that I continue to believe only Pixar studios can provide me with, and characters that whilst appealing on a visual level to children work for adults because of the realistic emotional beats they are going through from movie to movie, why should any of that matter when the crowd watching Disney’s 50th animated movie is in stitches as a rough gang of thieves prances around a bar like sissies and a chameleon blows raspberries at a horse?

The fact is it doesn’t matter. And I need to accept that. These films are not for me. I could sit here for days and write and re-write how I thought the songs were lazy, the characterisation was predictable, the humanized animals were trite and patronizing, the romance was tacked on and the peril was, well, just wasn’t there, but who am I kidding? Take Chris M’s word over mine on this one, he’s completely right, and it’s because he can appreciate that sometimes a movie is just a movie.

A toast then to Tangled; That which made them laugh, cry, gasp and sing along yet taught me that I need to take my over-analytical B.S and get out of the room so that everyone else can just enjoy the party. I am a buzz-kill, and I apologise.

CASTA SPECIAL! A forum on TV Recaps

February 3, 2011

A forum on TV Recaps (right click and “save as” for download)

Hello Casta fans…whaddup?

Welcome to a Casta La Vista special; an opportunity to listen in to one man trying to control a gaggle of opinions through a Skype conference call.

The above audio is a recording of a forum we recorded last month on the topic of TV recaps – the bit at the beginning of a TV show where Jack Bauer/Jack’s Dad/McDreamy/Starbuck tells you what happened in the previous episodes (but you knew that already).

The recording is research towards Chris W’s Dissertation for his MA at Nottingham and is seen as an opportunity to get as many different thoughts on TV recaps as possible for use in an audience response chapter of his Dissertation.

Whilst the participants involved were more than helpful and gave plenty of useful soundbites and opinions, we thought it might be worth putting the recording up on the site and seeing what you, our most sexy and illuminative fan-base, had to say on the very same issue.

Please feel free to listen to the above audio at your leisure (although don’t feel the need to listen to it all- it is 50 minutes long and a bit ‘subject-heavy’ at times) and offer up your own views on the subject of TV recaps in the comments section below, or by emailing us at

How do you watch TV in general: Online? on DVD? week-by-week? in marathons?

Do you find recaps useful or do they spoil the show for you?

What works in a recap and what doesn’t?

Does a recap tell you anything about the style of show you are watching?

Answers to these questions and the myriad of other aspects put forward in the audio would be most appreciated. The aim is to get as many differing opinions as possible and hopefully get as lively a conversation going in the comments section below as was had on the conference call.

Special thanks to Chris M, Dan Hughes, Dan Jones, Richard Foster, Rikesh Patel, Greg Wakeman and First Lady of Casta Katie Dimaline for all their help with the recording, and to you the listener/reader for your thoughts too.