Thursday, 20 November 2014

Let's Talk About Robert

We are going to talk about an NFL player who in his third season in professional sport is quickly becoming one of the most troubled young stars not through off-the-field issues for once, but for his conduct and lack of performance on the field.

Robert Griffin III was drafted by the Washington franchise three years ago with the second overall pick, in a trade deal where they went all in on the Baylor quarterback who had won the Heisman Trophy at a canter following his scintillating play in Art Briles' system.

Behind Andrew Luck, RG3 was considered to be one of the future elite signal callers in the game. However, not all has gone to plan for the QB as serious injury led to him failing in his first play-off game and then repeated injuries has led to a quarterback contest with Kirk Cousins, his back-up and now his continued poor play upon return from a dislocated ankle has led to calls for the team to drop him and play Colt McCoy.

Now playing McCoy would be the wrong thing to do and a cry for help, however, RG3's play has been absolutely woeful in recent weeks. The failure to make plays down the field with his arm, failure to extend plays with his legs due to a fear of re-injurying himself, the failure to protect himself from constant pressure has led many to call him a deer in the headlights.

Nevermind that, he is a very big deer. He cannot read defences, he does not throw away the ball quickly to avoid a hit, he has talented receivers who do not get the ball. You could question the offensive line for failing to defend their franchise man under centre, much like the Carolina Panthers are failing to protect Cam Newton this season.

Both men look like shadows of their former selves yet it should not be forgotten that neither of them came into the league as renowned passers, this has not improved for either of them. Whilst Cam has improved in the pocket, for RG3 it sometimes resembles a heave and hope format, whereas Luck's mechanics are second to none. Cam is helped by his height, RG3 is short in comparison - yet Russell Wilson (drafter in the third round by Seattle in the same draft as Luck/Griffin) is the best passer on the run in the league and is even shorter than both of them.

Griffin is guilty of having a meteoric rise far too quickly and guilty of cashing in on his own talent. He trained for the combine and impressed a lot of people and had a televisual charm in abundance, however, he is being spoilt by an owner who will bend to his every wish.  You can change the coaches, the co-ordinators but sometimes you have to expect better results from a starting quarterback who should be maturing by now and instead this week has been involved in a back and forth tittle tattle with his coach Jay Gruden via the national media.

Don't worry though it should be easier for Griffin this week on the road in San Francisco against a rejuvenated defence who will be salivating at the thought of getting to Griffin numerous times. Then they face the porous Colts so some respite might arrive, before a home game versus the St. Louis Rams who made Peyton Manning's life a misery on Sunday gone.

This is before the NFC East stretch at the Giants and before two home games versus the Eagles and Cowboys. All teams are built on having a capable pass rush, my prediction is the Rams game on 7th December may be the final coffin for the team, as it is at home where the fans may be their most vocal in asking for Griffin to be sat for the rest of the season. They are 3-7 meaning the Raiders will not win that many to make the Redskins get the overall first draft pick with Marcus Mariota earmarked to be the first quarterback off the board.

So what is the solution for the Redskins?  Oh god, lets talk about Jameis

Birdman - Does She Talk?

Fox Searchlight UK are pleased to release another new clip from the highly anticipated release of Birdman (or The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) directed by Alejandro G. Inarritu starring Michael Keaton, Emma Stone and Edward Norton.

Keaton plays a former blockbuster film actor who cannot shake off the pigeon holing of playing an iconic comic book character, whilst mounting a Broadway return. Sound familiar, considering Keaton famously played Batman twice in both of Tim Burton's imagining of the DC Comics hero.

In this clip, Mike (Norton) who has been handed a role in Riggan's (Keaton) new play meets his daughter played by Emma Stone for the first time. The clip shows you the manic energy of the walk around cinematography and the energy being used by both Norton and Keaton, two livewires seemingly let off the leash in their roles.

Birdman is out on general release on 1st January 2015

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Electricity - Trailer preview

Soda Pictures is proud to release a new UK trailer for the forthcoming release of Electricity directed by Bryn Higgins and starring Agyness Deyn, in a breakthrough role.


Based on the novel by Ray Robinson, Deyn plays Lily a young woman from Lancashire who whilst on medication for her epilepsy experiences a wealth of hallucinations when looking for her long lost brother in London, in a modern twist on Alice in Wonderland.

The trailer starts with Deyn walking along a sea-front promenade with the camera cutting between close-ups and point of view shots of Alice as she stumbles whilst walking. Then we flit from other characters, when we first encounter that who we know to be her brother, the trailer does not make that so clear. She asks, 'Does he think of me?' meaning we think this is a romantic tryst she wishes to rekindle. Another man tells her to forget about the past.

Borrowing from the visual strength of Kieran Evans' startling Kelly + Victor - a criminally underrated film - Electricity will be helped by what looks to be a mind-blowing lead performance by former model Deyn, who has a role where she is in every shot of the film.  Her strength and also her vulnerability in the role will lead to many plaudits for her. Here is hoping the film can create a spark with an audience.

Electricity is out from Soda Pictures on Friday 12th December

The Thief Of Baghdad

As part of the continuing Masters of Cinema series from Eureka Video, The Thief of Baghdad is released on a special Blu-ray edition and brings to the small screen in a new print one of the great films in the career of the hugely admired Douglas Fairbanks.

Directed by Raoul Walsh, but produced by the highly independent Fairbanks, Thief tells the story of Ahmed (Fairbanks) who encounters danger and adventure in equal measure in a purely studio based film.  Featuring ahead of its time special effects such as the famous climatic flying carpet ride, the film is indicative of one man's vision. In stark contrast to the stringent Hollywood studio system that was still 10 years away from its heyday, this was a film full of invention and imagination.

We are still ten years from Capra's coming out party with It Happened One Night, 15 years from John Ford's Stagecoach in 1939, the same year as Hitchock's final UK film before he came to America in 1940 under David O. Selznick to make Rebecca. In the mid 1920s three years before the advent of sound in cinema, the art form was following theatre by making the actor the star.  The stars knowing this wanted more creative control of their final product.

Fairbanks was a contemporary of the other two Hollywood darlings of the mid to late 1920s, Mary Pickford and Charlie Chaplin. The three of them helped form United Artists; the independent production company that allowed the three stars to make what films they wanted and give them the power to produce and in Chaplin's case ultimately direct.  It gave them the freedom to pursue artistic endeavours of their own volition.

In Fairbanks case it was a chance to do something of this scale, a film with vastness of a Cecil B. DeMille film but with the imagination of Melieres whilst embracing a key central performance by the featured actor.  In a way you could say Thief is the first actor led film who was not reliant upon the name of a director be it Griffith/Lubitsch above the title.


If that's the case the Thief of Baghdad is an amazing Hollywood product - larger than life, fantastical, amazing and hugely entertaining. The reason a silent cinema featuring the problem of a white man play a Muslim is accepted due to the sheer photogenic presence of Fairbanks himself. Like his contemporary Chaplin, there is a magnetism about his performance the way he moves and does his own stunts all with a charm burning from his shirtless torso and a smile beaming from whiter than white teeth set against the vast production and set design.

While the case this could be made as an actor's auteur film, the work of Walsh who would go on to direct such classic Hollywood fare as High Sierra and White Heat, should not be ignored. Coming to the set as a somewhat novice, this was his first major production and he does a great service to the film by keeping the tempo and tone throughout the work.

From shimmering up a rope out of a basket to the carpet ride, there are thrills and spills a plenty in this brisk 140 minute running time. It would be a great introduction for many to the joys of silent cinema, helped by the sprightly new score by Carl Davis and the London Philharmonic Orchestra. The dual format Blu-ray/DVD edition has an accompanying 40 page booklet by Laura Boyes from the North Carolina Museum of Art.

The Thief of Baghdad will be released on Blu-ray/DVD dual format on Monday 24th November at £14.99 rrp

Monday, 17 November 2014

Can the Colts stay Luck-y?

Being a New England Patriots fan, I was quite apprehensive about the Week 11 game at Lucas Oil Stadium versus the Indianapolis Colts. It's all well and good beating the Denver Broncos and Peyton Manning at Foxboro, again. Yet this was a true road game in a suspected AFC playoff team and Super Bowl contender. Being in England, I had to sleep and hope I woke up to good news.

I woke up to a scoreline of 42-20 victory for New England. Yet it wasn't another great showing by Tom Brady, he threw no interceptions but the hero was unheralded running back Jonas Gray who ran for 199 yards and four touchdowns.

However, upon reading social media my interest has been piqued by the future more of the Colts. Being a fan of Brady and Bill Belichick, you get accustomed to them finding ways to maintain a consistency of performance and finding ways to succeed.  Belichick employed a sixth lineman to help the running game and simply overpowered a weak Colts defence.

Before Sunday, the Colts were leading the NFL in offence and yet were last in defensive rankings.  When you have put all your chips in on a franchise quarterback and ask him to take you to the promised land of Super Bowl glory, the minimum requirement is to give him the opportunity to win the game. That means keeping him on the field, give him short field to work with and disrupt the offensive flow of the opponents.

Belichick in employing Gray as his offensive weapon, fundamentally kept Luck off the field for long periods of time. The constant scoring meant Luck had to throw more; Ahmad Bradshaw and Trent Richardson ran the ball only 7 times, not helped by Bradshaw breaking his ankle.  Luck has offensive weapons but there are teams in the AFC with just better defenders than what the Colts have.  The Patriots have Darrelle Revis, Brandon Browner and Logan Ryan. Would any member of the Colts secondary dislodge those gentleman?

My concern for the Colts is that this was a season that was an opportunity to get a number 1 or 2 seed. The defeat yesterday means they will have to go through Mile High and then Foxboro to reach Arizona, they are conveniently playing in a poor division and they are the best team in that division for this season.

The Houston Texans are having a great defensive year in spite of offensive failings. In JJ Watt you have a player who would be considered for MVP awards if the Texans were above .500; and they are now at .500 with a seemingly more capable quarterback in Ryan Mallett.  Houston have a wealth of talented defenders apart from Watt; they drafted Jadaveon Clowney correctly and still have Brian Cushing and Danieal Manning who put up great numbers. The team is carried though by Watt, and for years to come the battle between him and Luck will be exhilarating.

The point of the last paragraph is that if the Colts do not get help on that offensive line to protect Luck then Watt, Clowney et al will eat him up and usurp them as the number one team in the AFC South.

Case in point they need to plan and draft better. It was fortuitous that Coby Fleener was drafted 34th overall and become the perennial safety blanket (aren't all tight ends safety blankets) for Luck has evidenced by his 7 receptions for 144 yards on Sunday night.  It was a stroke of luck for the Colts but look at who was selected 35th and 36th in the same draft. After Fleener was Courtney Upshaw (Alabama) by the Baltimore Ravens, a wonderful player and after him was Derek Wolfe a component defensive tackle for the Broncos. Even the unfortunate Jonathan Martin (Stanford) was selected 42nd by the Miami Dolphins as an offensive lineman.

Fleener will be around for years but he can expect more coverage next week after news that Dwayne Allen has a high ankle strain so a few weeks out.  The only worry is will Luck get the ball to him, enough to get the win. The Colts are 6-4 and the Texans 5-5, the encounter at Lucas Oil Stadium on December 14th will be all important to who makes the playoffs.

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Sunday, 16 November 2014

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 40th Anniversary

In celebration of the 40th anniversary of the film's original theatrical release, Second Sight is proud to release The Texas Chainsaw Massacre on Blu-ray in a stunning 4K restoration and 7.1 audio mix, making the film look and sound like never before.

The film is widely considered to be one of the finest horror films ever made and the infamy of the film's release, where it was banned in certain sections of America, has not diminished in recent years.

Directed by Tobe Hooper, who does so with great visual panache and integrity, it remains a wonder why Hooper did never become the bigger director this film promised, and instead became reliant upon working for people he influenced such as Steven Spielberg.

The film is the atypical horror movie sharing the generic conventions that was initiated by Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho in 1960 - the final girl, the remote location, fear of the unknown and unknowing stranger who thinks he is normal and audience intrigue, and dare we say empathy, for the villain.

Leatherface was quite probably the first iconic horror character, a forerunner for Michael Myers, Freddie Kruger, Pinhead and others. The iconography of this masked villain and the image of him twirling his trusted chainsaw in the setting Texas sun helped the film become a success; a success mirrored by a film released the previous year The Exorcist.

That film initiated the audiences apparent insatiable appetite for evil to appear on screen and the need to know more about evil intentions; the film like Psycho used supposed non-fiction material as basis for their screenplays. The legend of Ted Bundy is omnipresent over both pictures.

The film will be released as a two-disc limited edition Steelbook Blu-ray, with brand new artwork and stacked by brand new bonus features, a standard two-disc Blu-ray with reversible sleeve featuring new artwork and original US poster. All will be available from 17th November.

Features include new audio commentary with Tobe Hooper along with three other commentaries featuring among others Gunnar Hansen who played Leatherface. Numerous documentaries, deleted scenes, outtakes also feature.

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre still maintains the power to shock, disturb and horrify. The chance to see it in the best restorated version ever is one not to be missed, not just for horror film aficionados but for those interested in the history and power of the motion picture.

Two disc Limited Edition Steelbook Blu-ray £22.99
Two disc Standard Edition Blu-ray £19.99

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Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Foxcatcher - New Quad

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Entertainment One is pleased to release a new Quad poster for the forthcoming release of the highly anticipated Foxcatcher which will be released on 9th January 2015.

The poster tellingly gives attention to the trio of the heralded threesome - Steve Carell (John du Pont), Channing Tatum (Mark Schulz) and Mark Ruffalo (Dave Schulz) - who in the trailer all appear to give career best performances.

From Tatum's sheer intensity and physicality, to Carell's spine-tingling depiction of a conflicted individual to Ruffalo's typically cool performance.


Foxcatcher tells the unexpected tale of millionaire benefactor John du Pont, who gave his home to the US Wrestling team in preparation for the Olympics in Atlanta 1996.  However, slowly du Pont's vision for the scheme became odder and slowly a psychological twist about desire and loyalty appears leading to tragic consequences.

Also featured in the trailer was Vanessa Redgrave as du Pont's mother, and also in the film but not featured in the trailer are Sienna Miller as Nancy Schulz, Dave's wife and Anthony Michael Hall, as du Pont's valued assistant.

The film is directed by Bennett Miller (Moneyball, Capote), a director who is slowly becoming established as one of the finest in the business, when depicting real life events in an entertaining manner.  Miller won the Best Director Award at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival. Miller should be applauded for having the gall to cast Steve Carell in a physically different and mentally demanding role showing he can act dramatically as well as be a master of comedy. Credit also to Tatum who nails his most dramatic role to date without resorting to macho histrionics.

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