CAST Away III: Casta La Vista returns (ish!)

March 31, 2012

Your hostests with the mostests for this very special episode of Casta La Vista.
@gjwakeman, @Castapher_W and @DanielJones_Bsc

CAST Away III: Casta La Vista returns (ish!) (right click and “save as” for download)

Hello friends, family, enemies and enemas.

Casta La Vista finds itself in something of an extended hiatus at the moment due to CERTAIN people being on holiday, and certain other people having seen hardly any new cinematic output of late.

In an attempt to stem the tide of this delay Chris Wakeman has rounded up a rabble of cohorts to deliver a snapshot of what’s been happening in movie-land over the last month or so, and what top news stories have set the scene for the coming months.

Enjoy the chatter and remember to post your comments below if you like what you hear or want to offer your own take on the latest goings on!

Speak again soon (hopefully!)



Mega Guest Review – Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol

December 31, 2011

Guest Review – Mission impossible Ghost Protocol (right click and “save as” for download)

Happy New Year Casta Fans! Here’s a special treat to end 2011 in style as we got together with a bunch of people on Christmas eve to talk about this season’s stupidest action movie; TOM CRUISE RUNNING! I mean, Mission impossible: Ghost protocol.

Please forgive the stupid phone buzzing (it’s probably Darren’s fault), it goes after a while and then THE PUNS ARRIVE! Good old puns!

Chris and Chris wish you all a very happy new Year – we’ll be back with new episodes very soon! Love!

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.

Read the rest of this entry »

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.



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.

Review – Neds

January 28, 2011

Neds falls into the broad category of “coming of age” movies that automatically have words like “gritty,” “uncompromising,” “brutal” and “realistic” pinned on to them far before we’re given the opportunity to make up our own mind about them. Set in Glasgow in the 1970’s, it tells the story of John McGill, a promising student who falls in with gangs and goes off the rails.

Let’s start off by saying this; Neds has absolute flashes of brilliance in some parts but is ultimately a very flawed experience. Whilst those who are into their Shane Meadows style dramas will certainly find a lot to like, the rest of us might leave feeling somewhat unsatisfied.

Whilst by and large the events that take place in Neds are similar to those of other youth dramas (abuse, violence, searching for belonging etc) and are in part delivered very well compared to its peers, it’s difficult to sing its praises purely because of the major flaw that runs throughout the film; the strength of its lead character. This isn’t a major sleight against newcomer Conor McCarron as much as it is a comment on the development of John McGill as the crux of the narrative (saying that though I couldn’t quite tell if McCarron was meant to look like he was on the verge of bursting out laughing at any given moment or whether this was just a poor job on his part).

The real issue for me is that we’re never really given enough insight into why John does anything that he does. Some things are made painfully obvious but we don’t have the ability to join the dots as we’re never explicitly told how they affect John. We know that he has an abusive alcoholic father, but we never really see John reacting to this up until the point at which he snaps. We see that he initially lives outside of the gangs but don’t really see much of what it is that leads him to become involved in them; what’s driving him? The lust for power? Respect? Control? These questions are never satisfactorily answered and we see John move from one thing to the next without really knowing why he’s doing what it is. Unfortunately this leaves the whole movie a somewhat hollow experience: even after we’ve seen John go full circle and head back to school under the banner of reform, five minutes later he’s off beating the shit out of someone else and we’re never really filled in on the blanks.

Don’t even get me started on the whole hallucinogenic Jesus scene…

The whole package is rounded off nicely (in terms of supporting my previous points rather than satisfyingly) with one of the most bizarre finales I’ve seen in a movie in a long time. Obviously I don’t want to give the game away here, but I’ll just say that its attempts at being metaphorical are heavy handed and overtly obtuse. Once again a suggestion is made towards what these events might mean to or show from the characters, but ultimately they’re not obvious or relative enough to previous events for you to be able to make your mind up definitively to their meaning one way or the other. I’m all for ambiguity and audience interpretation, but crucially for both of these things to actually work, you need to ensure that the audience has the right information to base their judgements on, and in this case they just don’t.

Before I complain too much though, let’s consider that it’s not all about the narrative, as a lot of this film relies on its Scottish setting. The most obvious thing to pick up on is the language. The swearing in Neds is prolific but, if my experience is anything to go by, is quite representative of how Glaswegians speak. Whilst in other areas of the UK (and indeed the English speaking world) fillers within sentences may take the form of “er,” “um,” “like” or “you know,” it’s perfectly normal on the west coast for these to be f*ck or f*cking. These are not usually meant offensively (when used in the aforementioned manner) but those not familiar with its use as such might initially find the language used in Neds a tad excessive. Whilst the language in this film might at first seem a bit over the top, it’s fair to say it’s a fairly accurate portrayal of Glaswegian dialogue.

Even though I live in Scotland and am very accustomed to the accent, there were parts in which I found it difficult to understand what characters were saying; nothing there to spoil the movie particularly for me – but others who aren’t as used to the accent might find it hard to decipher what the characters are saying and thus lose some of the film’s (oft implied) subtleties.

Still, it was in parts an enjoyable watch that perhaps suffers from being slightly overlong and needing better thought in explaining character motivation. Or, if you read every other review I’ve seen of it so far; it’s a gritty, realistic, brutal and uncompromising view of gang youth in seventies Glasgow. Feel free to make your own mind up.