Zoolander 2

Really, really, ridiculously disappointing.

The Assassin

There are martial arts movies and there are martial arts movies. The Assassin isn't either.

Batman v Superman

A bold, mature exploration of myths and epics - followed by a two-hour mess.

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Tag:john woo

The Raid - review

Director: Gareth Evans
Cast: Iko Uwais
Certificate: 18

You may think you know all the ways to kill a man. Even the really cool ones. You don’t. It turns out there are loads. And The Raid knows all of them. Some involve filing cabinets.

Of course, you may not want to know how to kill a man with an office-based storage facility. You may want to watch a quiet, character-driven piece about policeman or drug dealers. This is not that film. Yes, there are characters. And they are policemen and drug dealers. But their only narrative function is to die. And to do it as messily as possible.

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Cinema's longest tracking shots 

Long before I saw Silent House (out today in the UK), while hiding from the real world behind books and exams, I wrote an incredibly geeky thesis on the relationship between text and screen, which postulated that: given sentences on the page are the equivalent of takes on film, linguistic analysis of voice and narrative in a novel (and a script) could be related directly to the positioning of a camera in a cinema adaptation.

Because unlike literature, which can roam wherever the heck it wants, video cameras are physical and must be placed somewhere: films inherently have a perspective, which means that every shot is actively positioning the audience.

That’s why first-person POV is such an interesting choice, not to mention the more subtle decisions about the camera's proximity to the people on screen – the choice, for example, to only show scenes that contain a specific character.

But arguably the most curious technical decision a director can make is the long shot. Presenting something in a single, continuous take frees up the audience to track their own way through a scene - but it also restricts them to a set path of exploration, turning at a predetermined point, lingering on certain details.

Is it more immersive than a traditional montage sequence? When done well, it can be.

Which is what makes Silent House such an effective horror movie: ok, so like Alfred Hitchcock’s Rope it’s not really all done in a single shot, but by keeping the camera rolling and staying close to Elizabeth Olsen, our knowledge is as limited as hers. We don’t ever see a person coming up from behind her: to be more exact, we can’t. And in a world where we’re used to the chronological or causational relationship between consecutive shots, not being able to see something from a reverse angle makes things more terrifying.

The ending of Chris Kentis and Laura Lau’s movie, sadly, ruins the whole effect – because of the script, I should add, not because of the visual technique.

So to celebrate the technical achievement of Silent House’s 88 (purportedly) uncut minutes, here are some of cinema’s most effective long takes...

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In a week where everyone was watching the Royal Wedding or sunbathing in the gorgeous outdoors, I knew it would take something special to make me stay inside and continue rooting through the stack of VHS tapes in my attic.

Fortunately, it was something special: Broken Arrow.



John Woo's 1996 action film has long been confined to bargain bins in newsagents around the country. And unfairly so. Ok, it's no Face/Off - that masterpiece would arrive one year later - but this over-stylised piece of trash is more than just a test run for Woo's English-language skills. It's a big, dumb, exciting thriller.

Plus it stars Christian Slater. CHRISTIAN. SLATER. The manliest man's man that man has ever known.

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Director: Ben Affleck
Cast: Ben Affleck, Rebecca Hall, Jon Hamm, Jeremy Renner, Pete Postelthwaite
Certificate: 15

With his second spot behind the camera, Ben Affleck is out to prove he can do Heat as good as Michael Mann. Boiling the tension on Boston streets, his success mostly comes from him being in his own backyard. He knows the town and gets how it works. So does Doug MacRay (Affleck). Charlestown is, the opening titles inform us, the hot spot for heists and robberies. And MacRay was born right in the middle of it.

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John Woo is currently focussing on Flying Tigers, his 1940 aerial epic about fighter pilot Claire Le Chennault, who taught the Chinese to fly before they took on the Japanese in WWII. But while he targets Liam Neeson for the lead role in his $90m IMAX blockbuster, the director is also looking at doing something even more dramatic: remaking his own movie The Killer, and Le Samourai.

Talking to Variety, Woo detailed his plans to rework his 1989 action movie The Killer, which sees Chow Yun-Fat as an assassin who accidentally damages a female singer's eyes. Having a sudden pang of conscience, he decides to take one last job to help fund the expensive operation to save her eyesight. As the couple begin to fall in love, a police detective starts chasing down the assassin - and the two soon become friends.

Cementing Woo's status outside of his own country, The Killer not only helped the helmer make the jump to Hollywood (and, eventually, Face/Off) but influenced later action directors like Tarantino and Johnnie To. It also featured fun nicknames like "Mickey Mouse" and "Dumbo" for those of the subtitled persuasion. With its over-the-top action, use of white pigeons and wonderfully bloody violence, The Killer is pretty much perfect the way it is. Remaking it is kind of pointless.

But even worse than that is to plan a remake of Le Samourai. Jean-Pierre Melville's 1967 classic (nay, masterpiece) is a work that should never be touched by anyone, Face/Off or otherwise. The tale of solitary hitman Jef Costello has such style and beauty that to even think of remaking it is a crime against cinema. A blend of samurai, gangster and noir traditions, Melville's philosophical thriller is one of the most influential movies in the genre. The Killer was actually Woo's tribute to it in many ways. Although Le Samourai has something Woo's movie never did: Alain Delon wearing the sexiest hat in the world.

Woo also spoke to Variety about his desire to make a musical (he almost directed Phantom of the Opera), his thoughts about a Kurosawa homage, and his aim to not retire anytime soon. Given the mojo he got back from making Red Cliff, that's no bad thing.

It honestly is great that a legend such as The Woo is still making new movies. But if he goes near Le Samourai, I'll blast the guy through a wall with his own shotgun. In slow-motion. And then throw a pigeon at him. 

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Tom Cruise - star of Mission: Impossible 1, 2 and 3 - has signed on to star in a further M:I movie. Called Mission: Impossible 4. Here ends the news story.

Oh, and JJ Abrams will be producing with Cruise, but neither will be at the helm. They're looking around for a director quickly now, because Paramount have already got it down for a Memorial Day Weekend release in 2011 - that's in May.

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