Interstellar (2014)

InterstellarIn the future, after the entitled excesses of the 21st Century, the Earth is struggling to support the human race. With little demand for engineers and explorers most people now work as farmers — including ex-pilot Cooper (Matthew McConaughey) and his makeshift family: father-in-law Donald (John Lithgow), son Tom (Timothée Chalamet) and daughter Murph (Mackenzie Foy, named after Murphy’s Law). When a downed military drone leads him to NASA, now underground and incognito, he is recruited for a last-ditch attempt to save the species, if not the planet. Crops are failing, and in order to prevent his children from either starving or suffocating he must find them a new home — a new world. Together with Amelia (Anne Hathaway), Romilly (David Gyasi), Doyle (Wes Bentley) and robot TARS (Bill Irwin), Cooper charts a course for Saturn, and a recently-formed wormhole to another galaxy.

Having ended his trilogy of Batman-inflected treatises on fear, chaos and pain with The Dark Knight Rises, Christopher Nolan’s latest think-piece looks to the stars. Interstellar, which began life as a Steven Spielberg project before being rewritten by Nolan and longtime brother/collaborator Jonathan, asks whether love might be a force akin to gravity — capable not only of transcending life and death but dimensions too. At first it seems like something of a change of tact for Nolan, a director better known for debunking spells than casting them, but when the film introduces a ghost, a wormhole and a race of inter-dimensional beings known as ‘Them’ or ‘They’ you can’t help but take the bait and join Cooper in “wondering at our place in the stars”. Sadly, any mystery is short-lived.

However, for the first act at least, there is real promise. Nolan’s vision of a planet blighted by pestilence and choking in dust is an effective one, and small scenes showing life in such an environment — plates and glasses being placed upside down on the table to keep them clean; a school curriculum deriding NASA’s space programme as a hoax in order to discourage students from pointless distractions — are intriguing and well-observed. Perhaps inevitably, it’s this section of the movie that feels most Spielbergian in tone: the family dynamic is interesting, their adventures exciting and their interactions entertaining. When the family’s Land Rover leaps into a cornfield in pursuit of low-flying drone it’s more likely to evoke ET or Jurassic Park: The Lost World than anything from Nolan’s own filmography.

That all changes when Cooper arrives at NASA. He is quickly stripped of his children and his humanity; lectured on Albert Einstein’s Theory of Relativity by Michael Caine; and launched into the vacuum of space with the physicist’s daughter, two personality-free scientist and a Stanley Kubrick homage. The film’s humour setting is dialed down while its honesty setting is ratcheted up; with Nolan once again valuing realism at all costs, even when he’s being decidedly unrealistic. The ship — Endurance — may be about to fly into a wormhole but it must do so in absolute silence, darkness and inactivity, as its passengers enter stasis for months, if not years at a time. The film loses all momentum immediately, and for the next hour Nolan stops and starts his narrative as the characters travel to a series of gimmicky planets earmarked as potential homes (or, at least, “rocks for humanity to cling to”) by previous missions for additional exposition.

It’s not just a sense of limbo that Interstellar shares with Inception, either, with Nolan returning once more to the subject of time. As in different levels of dreaming, and as per Einstein’s Theory of Relativity, time operates differently across space. Their first destination is Miller, a planet upon which time slows to a crawl, and it’s hard not to feel a sense of deja-vu as the characters discuss temporal differences between locations at length. The stakes, in this case, are reversed: Cooper doesn’t risk losing years of his life but missing decades of his childrens’, but they are familiar nonetheless. As it stands, Miller is a bit of a waste of time, and as impressive as its mountainous waves may be they add exactly nothing to either character, theme or plot — save to necessitate the recasting of Cooper’s children as adults, so that Tom is now played by Casey Affleck and Murphy by Jessica Chastain.

According to Nolan, interstellar travel is as mundane as Gotham in The Dark Knight trilogy or Ariadne’s dreamscapes in Inception — same men, different suits. The problem is, however, that when the film finally plays its hand and Nolan is forced to ask for a suspension of disbelief from his audience it is much too late. After two films spent establishing Batman as a pragmatic character it is no wonder audiences balked when in The Dark Knight Rises he was finally called upon to do something genuinely superheroic, and so it is with the third act of Interstellar. We may not in fact be dealing with ghosts, wormholes or inter-dimensional beings but the reality is no less ridiculous — perhaps even more so. In Spielberg’s hands it might just have worked — after all, it wouldn’t be the first of his films to hang on the precept “life will find a way” — but in Nolan’s it doesn’t; it seems sentimental and simplistic. It’s a gear-change that jolts you awake, and when the core concept crumbles you realise that it’s all he ever really had in the first place. Nolan loves ideas so much he’s now naming his characters after them.

That said, Intersteller is still a thought-provoking and ambitious movie. It has often been said that the director is as gifted at writing women as he is at telling jokes — yet Anne Hathaway’s Dr. Brand is a surprisingly engaging character. There is a lot about Nolan’s latest that feels contrived and convoluted — not least a lesson on love given by Amelia herself — but Hathaway’s performance resonates regardless, and her motivations and sacrifices have all the more impact for her emotional honesty. The best scenes are felt rather than explained — the indignity of a parent-teacher meeting; awe as a space ship clips a frozen cloud; desperation during a rescue mission — but you lose hours in stasis in between. It hardly matters that it’s scientifically accurate, until it isn’t.

3-Stars

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Les Misérables (2013)

Les MiserablesReleased on parole in 1815 after serving nineteen years as a slave, Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman) finds himself indebted to the church following a foiled repeat offence. Turning his life around away from the vigilant eye of the law (Russell Crowe), Valjean meets a destitute factory worker (Anne Hathaway) and vows to take care of her child. Nine years later, he finds himself back within the sights of his old nemesis just as Paris erupts in revolution. Read more of this post

The Dark Knight Rises (2012)

Blamed by the citizens of Gotham for the death of Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart – in flashback) eight years previously, Batman has been retired from duty while Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) exiles himself in the family manor with only butler Alfred Pennyworth (Michael Caine) for company. The truth is that Batman is no longer needed, the city’s streets the safest they’ve ever been thanks to the Dent Act, a precursor to peace-time that has left the police growing complacent and Commissioner Gordon (Gary Oldman) racked with guilt over the hidden truth behind Dent’s demise. Both are therefore caught off guard by the arrival of Bane (Tom Hardy), a masked monolith who has been rallying an army in the city’s sewers. When Batman is dragged out of retirement by a mysterious cat-burglar (Anne Hathaway), a collision course is set that could spell the end of Gotham once and for all. Read more of this post

FILM NEWS: New trailers for everyone!

If your week has been as disastrous as mine, then you might be relieved to note that you have six whole minutes of relatively new footage teasing the many delights of summer, 2012 to perk you right back up in time for the weekend. Over the course of the last seven days, Hollywood has released the third and final trailers for Prometheus, The Dark Knight Rises and The Amazing Spider-man.

And we’re talking proper, full-length trailers; none of this viral, first five minutes, trailers-for-trailers rubbish we have been drip fed over the last few months. So, with each trailer presented below, feast your eyes on three of the next few months’ most exciting cinematic releases. And The Dark Knight Rises.

So, without further ado…

Prometheus

“Mrs. Vickers, is there an agenda that you’re not telling us about?”

Last Sunday, fans of Channel 4’s utterly beguiling Homeland were treated to the world première of the latest trailerr for Prometheus when it débuted during the show’s first ad-break. Not as beautifully composed and delightfully enigmatic as the first full trailer, a masterclass in Goldilocks marketing, the new footage verged on giving away too much information, without the first’s truly heart-stopping pace.

That said, despite the fact that we know a little more about the overall shape of the narrative, this new trailer does little to jeopardise the near-crippling excitement Ridley Scott’s film has so far managed to generate. With Prometheus‘ ties to the director’s Alien clearer – and apparently stronger – than ever before, this is still the film to beat this year. Even if I’m still not 100% sold on Noomi Rapace’s British accent.

The Dark Knight Rises

“Your punishment must be more severe…”

Following mumble-gate, the clarity-related controversy that met the first trailer’s depiction of a grumbly (even for Christopher Nolan) and near-inaudible Bane, the latest trailer ramps up the sound to near-sarcastic levels. Hinting once more at the class wars threatening to tear Gotham apart, the footage gives off an air of desperation as Batman finally meets his match.

But Bane isn’t the star of this footage, with Anne Hathaway’s Catwoman (or Selina Kyle in a rather unimaginative eye mask) stepping out of the shadows for the first time since the promotional campaign began. Sadly, even this long-overdue reveal isn’t enough to purr some life into Nolan’s increasingly closed-off franchise. Sure, bridges collapse and someone flies a tank (I kid you not; and this is supposed to be the realistic superhero movie), but the director once again fails to give us a reason to care whether these characters live or die.

The Amazing Spider-man

“You’ve found my weakness – it’s small knives”

Up to this point, walking pun-magnet Marc Webb’s reboot of the nary decade-old Spider-man could have been described as darker, maturer, first person-ier, just about everything other than amazing. With its short-snouted Lizard, misconceived Spidey-cam and predominantly mask-less hero, the film had garnered almost as much unease as it had actual excitement.

But hey, at least Spider-man’s got his artificial web-shooters back; and man, does he put them to good use. The trailer is certainly high on spectacle and – reassuringly – smart alecry, and, the first-person gamer scenes aside, we may very well be in for a treat. With a tweaked origin story, bestial villain and, well, Emma Stone and Andrew Garfield in leading roles, The Amazing Spider-man could still deliver in a big way.

Ten 2012 Movies I Could Take Or Leave…Preferably Leave

With the year mapped out and the requisite drool reserves allocated to each of the releases I am most highly anticipating, I am left with a near-equal list of movies I don’t care much for at all. The cinematic landscape for the coming year is awash with bile, as Judd Apadow returns with another hateful bromance, Christian Bale’s career survives to let him grumble another day and G.I. Joe gives Development Hell the slip for a completely unnecessary second instalment. While other critics have their evil eyes set firmly on the upcoming 3D rerelease of Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace (let it slide, world. It’s time to make peace), I have other, decidedly less enticing things on my mind. Namely: Adam Sandler’s Jack and Jill.

Man on a Ledge

Hollywood has had its fair share of the-clue-is-in-the-name film titles, with Snakes on a Plane, Cowboys & Aliens, We Bought a Zoo and (*spoiler alert*) The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford all springing immediately to mind. Man on a Ledge, however, manages to be so remarkably uninteresting that it instantly stands out from the crowd. We’ve already seen Man on Wire, after all. Sam Worthington wasn’t even interesting in 2010, the year in which he inexplicably starred in all of the movies, only Avatar surviving uniform dismissal by virtue of director James Cameron’s extraordinary vision and all of those flashing pixels. How he has been chosen to front another movie after the dismal Clash of the Titans is beyond me, even if all Summit Entertainment expect him to do is stand on a ledge. I bet he doesn’t even jump.

Jack and Jill

The latest Katie Holmes movie is never something to get particularly excited about, there was nobody camping overnight to see Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark, but Jack and Jill takes this barely concealed indifference to a whole new level. Joining Lady Cruise on this occasion is Adam Sandler. And Adam Sandler. Apparently labouring under the delusion that The Nutty Professor I & II (along with every other Eddie Murphy movie produced in the 90s) was actually funny, Sandler has cast himself in the dual roles of Jack and Jill Sadelstein for little reason other than to herald some impending apocalypse. Shoot me please. In one eye for every character played by Adam Sandler.

Safe House

I’m sorry, but is it just me or have we seen this movie before? Like everything else in his back-catalogue, Ryan Reynolds stars as a low-hitting ubermensch who we – the imperfect masses – are supposed to root for simply because he is adrift in a completely fictitious job. Watching Ryan Reynolds under normal comedic circumstances is always trying enough, but the prospect of sitting through two joyless hours of him trying out his serious face opposite Denzel Washington (WHAT ARE YOU DOING, DENZEL WASHINGTON?) is nearly too much to bear.

Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance

I don’t know about you, but when Nicolas Cage was first cast as the flame haired, leather-coated vengeance demon Johnny Blaze, I caughed a little bit of sick into my mouth. I’m sorry, what?? Naturally, the first Ghost Rider movie – with its boring story and Eva Mendez – was utterly terrible, and for the past four years we have been permitted the right to pretend that it was never in fact allowed to happen. Tasked with essentially rebooting the franchise, however, the filmmakers have somehow managed to make the same mistake AGAIN and have returned Cage to the role for another go at the character. Also, after Drive Angry, shouldn’t this really be Ghost Rider 3?

The Three Stooges

Having no doubt acclimatised to Development Hell during its decade-long stay, The Three Stooges aims to update the mid-20th Century sketch comedy of the same name for contemporary (read: even stupider) audiences. Boasting a plot that, for all intents and purposes, makes you want to kill yourself, the film focuses on Moe, Larry, and Curly, who inadvertently stumble into a murder plot, and wind up starring in a reality TV show while trying to save their childhood orphanage. I’m not even joking. Did I mention that it stars Sean Hayes from Will & Grace?

Battleship

Do you remember Battleship? It was the tactical, grid-warfare game that you could play on a page of squared paper if you really wanted to; the one that the Grim Reaper challenged Bill and Tedd to during their bogus journey. Do you remember the aliens? No? Oh, wait, that’s probably because there were no aliens. Hear that, Hollywood? NO ALIENS! Regardless, an upcoming adaptation housed at Universal Pictures is set to pit Liam Neeson, Rihanna and their boat against a myriad of extra terrestrial invaders. Naturally, the filmmakers were inspired by the financial success of MICHAEL BAY’s Transformers trilogy, and therefore, naturally, the film is going to be headache-inducing nonsense.

Snow White & The Huntsman

While most might laud Snow White & The Hunstman as fairest of them all in this, the year of the seven dwarves, I am forced by my utter hatred of this infernal darker is better movement to side with Mirror Mirror, however soul-shittingly awful it might appear to look. While it is impossible to get too riled by the absense of happy-clappy show tunes (the original fairy tale was, after all, a completely different beast), the rampant miserableness and unfathomable presence of body armour on show in the film’s trailer nevertheless have my heckles up. There’s already one Twilight movie due this year, we really don’t need another.

Ice Age 4: Continental Drift

The release of a new Ice Age, Blue Sky Entertainment’s flagship property, has always ranked pretty low on my must-see list. About as historically accurate as The Flinstones, the franchise proposes a history in which early man appears only initially, dinosaurs dawn AFTER the ice has melted, and a saber-toothed squirrel has continued adventures despite having been frozen in ice at the end of the first instalment. With nothing left to do but pair off the remaining characters (who wrote this, JK Rowling?), the ice age itself having ended whole movies ago now, this is one series of films that is practically begging for an extinction event.

The Dark Knight Rises

Oh shoosh, you must have seen this one coming. While it might indeed be the hype and the inevitably of the automated acclaim that I am dreading more than the actual movie (nobody’s suggesting this will be worse than Jack and Jill), there is still no denying that I would like nothing more than for Christopher Nolan to trot off back into the shadows and take his blasted interpretation of Batman with him. Now three movies in and not a single superhero in sight, I have spent the last – oh I don’t know, how long has it been since the last one? – listening to fanboy after fanboy ejaculate over every smidgeon of news pertaining to Bane, Catwoman and when the teaser for the viral for the trailer might hit. I just don’t care.

Halloween 3D

Torn arbitrarily between whether to include The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 3D or Halloween 3D on this list that nobody will read (or if they do, they will unlikely get past the previous entry), I finally settled on the latter on account of how unscary I have found the entire franchise to date. At least the story of an inbred maniac who wears the faces of his victims held interest over the course of a few movies (and even the requisite remake), Halloween, however, has been tedious from pretty much the beginning. A man named Michael Myers – ooh, the guy who played Shrek? Wearing an inside-out Captain Kirk mask? Scary – stabs babysitters with a knife. The end. Any acclaim received by the original Halloween movie was courtesy to John Carpenter’s direction, and John Carpenter’s direction alone. The fact that this one hasn’t even started filming yet just says it all.

One Day (2011)

Emma sort of has a crush on this guy who once got her name wrong at a cocktail party. His name is Dexter and after graduating on July 15, 1988, they fall in friendship over a failed attempt at sex and promise to remain friends at university. Over the next twenty-odd years, witnessed through scenes from twenty-odd separate St. Swithin’s Days, Emma and Dexter go through numerous ups and downs as their lives intercut and intermittently drift apart, taking them from Edinburgh to London to France and from one substitute romance to the next.

OK, so here’s the thing: you know One Day – David Nicholls best-selling 2009 novel that is uniformly loved by everyone? Yeah, I kind of never read it. Sorry.

I did see the movie, however, and while I might therefore qualify as one of those people I can tell you that it was really rather good. Bravo Mr. Nicholls, your cherished characters appear to have survived translation to the big screen with their integrity and – most surprisingly – their humanity intact.

While One Day: The Movie has its problems – the male lead is massively unlikeable for approximately all of the running-time and the gimmicky structure counter-effectively robs the narrative of any truly gut-wrenching punch – it is wholly delightful and refreshingly honest (emotionally, of course. It is still about as true to life as Star Wars). Nor a sex-comedy or garishly post-modern, One Day has a timeless feel about it which aids its relatability greatly and gives it a wonderful earnestness that is (*ahem* admittedly) sorely missed at the box office.

While the Edinburgh setting has its own, more personal implications for my own enjoyment (Arthur’s Seat – swoon!), it also means that we’re not chasing our heroine through the streets of NYC come the trite and predictable-from-the-first-second-of-the-trailer conclusion. In fact, in taking its audience on a short tour of Europe the film has a welcomingly unique feel that is thankfully saved the smug, self-actualised tosh so relentlessly mis-articulated by last year’s Eat Pray Love.

More than just opening the windows and letting its audience have a bit of a sight-see, however, One Day also uses the book’s aforementioned structural quirk to undo the belt of time and let the story breathe. Rather than love at first prat-fall, Lone Scherfig’s adaptation whips up a decidedly less conventional tale of love, lust and friendship that exercises the tear ducts with a vigour its peers rarely aim for, let alone achieve.

Anne Hathaway is absolutely adorable as the inconsistently accented Emma, a female lead who is sympathetic without being mercilessly incapable. Jim Sturgess, meanwhile, is utterly repulsive as the irritatingly arrogant Dexter; he is, however, fearless in the role and utterly, utterly compelling as a result. That said, it is Patricia Clarkson who steals the film as the strikingly tear-worthy mother of Dexter, while The Hour‘s Romola Garai aptly cements herself in the role of my new Favourite Person Ever.

Moving, innovative and featuring not one but two scenes atop Arthur’s Seat, One Day is a return to traditional form for the romantic genre, refreshingly devoid of bouquets of carrots, period mixes or a historical setting. Boasting a great cast, an absolutely joyous soundtrack and a coupling that doesn’t make you want to throw up all over your own crushing loneliness, One Day is as close to perfection as it is possible to get with such an inherently flawed and fleeting narrative structure.

The 83rd Academy Awards


Last night saw the annual 83rd Academy Awards crash into a room-full of endangered animals and explode all over a visiting class of schoolchildren. As James Franco and Anne Hathaway took to the stage to punish humanity for Eve’s taste in fruit, the scene was set for a slew of nonsense awards that made the Razzies look hugely original. Thankfully, however, not all of my predictions came true: while Toy Story 3 won best animation, Christian Bale scooped Best Supporting Actor and How To Train Your Dragon was unforgivably overlooked, the Best Director and Best Film awards went to a film that actually deserved them. Here, then, lies a full list of the nominees and respective winnners – or at least as full a list as I could manage at 5 o’clock in the morning. Yes sir, I am a mental person.

Best Picture

The Social Network – Winter’s Bone – The King’s Speech – Black Swan – True Grit – The Fighter – The Kids Are All Right – Toy Story 3 – Inception – 127 Hours

The Oscar which last year went to The Hurt Locker (blah!), this year was awarded to The King’s Speech, an unassuming but deeply incredible movie about overcoming obstacles in the face of one’s duties. While I would have happily seen Black Swan or 127 Hours take home this award – to Nina Sayer’s mirror world or Aron Ralston’s hole respectively – I, unlike most people, can live with The King’s Speech. At least, for example, it didn’t go to The Fighter, True Grit or Inception, becoming in the process a celebration of utter averageness.

Best Director

Darren Aronofsky – Tom Hooper – David Fincher – Joel & Ethan Coen – David O. Russell

Rather than breaking another taboo, and – say – being awarded to a hermaphrodite (equal opportunities!), this years Best Director once again went hand in hand with Best Film. Tom Hooper may have directed a TV movie, but it was the best, most engaging and outstandingly cinematic TV movie of the year.

Best Actor

James Franco – Colin Firth – Jesse Eisenberg – Javier Bardem – Jeff Bridges

Yes, James Franco can look dehydrated; sure, Jesse Eisenberg can invoke the God of awkwardness; and sure Jeff Bridges can move his chin but only Colin Firth gave a performance worth walking onstage about. Conveying a believable stutter, both technically and emotionally, and following up A Single Man with arguably his most inspiring performance yet, Firth had this one coming. In case you needed more proof, however, he is also the only actor to have not starred in Cursed, Tron: Legacy or Eat Pray Love.

Best Actress

Natalie Portman – Annette Benning – Jennifer Lawrence – Michelle Williams – Nicole Kidman

Natalie Portman trained for almost a year to ensure she convinced as ballet protégée Nina Sayers in Black Swan. She also made V for Vendette which, in my book, means has been a dead cert for years. Sure, each of the other actresses gave mightily depressing performances in their respective vehicles, but Portman was the only one who managed psychotic, turning into a black swan in front of our very eyes. With Julianne Moore sadly snubbed, there was no other choice.

Best Supporting Actor

John Hawkes – Christian Bale – Mark Ruffalo – Geoffrey Rush – Jeremy Renner

Oh Jeeze, with the big four firmly out of the way, it really is all down hill from here. Earned entirely by Geoffrey Rush, Best Supporting Actor was sadly mis-awarded to Batman’s teeth. Thanking everyone he had ever met with the worst in mockney accents, Bale appears to have won for mimicking the mannerisms of another human being – some parrots can do that – while giving one of the least likeable performances of the year.

Best Supporting Actress

Hailee Steinfeld – Melissa Leo – Jacki Weaver – Amy Adams – Helena Bonham Carter

Grabbing two out of five nominations, The Fighter was unfortunately a shoe in for Best Supporting Actress. Going to the entirely convincing mega-bitch Melissa Leo, Helena Bonham Carter was robbed of recognition for what might have been her first sane performance in years. It is telling that Leo’s accomplishment is already outshone by one ill-advised Bible-belt-baiting F-bomb.

Best Original Screenplay

AnotherYear – The Kids Are Alright – The King’s Speech – Inception – The Fighter

Thi is, perhaps, the first ever time I have begrudged The King’s Speech one of its awards. Best Original Screenplay? A film which Tom Hooper, in his acceptance speech for Best Director, attributes to his mother’s attendance of a play and which is based on historical fact? Much more deserving was the beautifully devastating  Another Year or the light, yet utterly compelling The Kids Are Alright.

Best Adapted Screenplay

The Social Network – 127 Hours – Toy Story 3 – True Grit – Winter’s Bone

The Social Network was good in an alright kind of way. Yes the opening scene stung with its razor-sharp dialogue, but after that it was all a bit ass-numbing really. 127 Hours, however, took a challenging and confined story and edited the shit out of it until it shone of greatness. Danny Boyle is a genius.

Best Animated Film

The Illusionist – How to Train Your Dragon – Toy Story 3

DreamWorks did some sterling work last year, rejuvenating their flagging Shrek franchise, outshining the much-hyped Despicable Me with the far superior Magamind and blowing every other pixel out of the water with How to Train Your Dragon. Their efforts, as predicted, went unrewarded at this year’s Academy Awards, however, as Pixar’s third Toy Story movie stumbled into the limelight for an award that should have gone to one of its far superior predecessors many moons ago. This was the year of the Dragon!

Best Art Direction

Inception – Alice in Wonderland – The King’s Speech – Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part I – True Grit

You know what, say what you like about Alice in Wonderland but it was a wonder to behold. While The King’s Speech may have been all period, True Grit may have had a decent costume or two and Inception had a few beats Escher would have been proud of, Alice in Wonderland boasted example after example of glorious design. While I would have liked Harry Potter to win something, you could have done a lot worse than the splendour of Wonderland.

Best Cinematography

Black Swan – The Social Network – Inception – True Grit – The King’s Speech

Inception? Really? While it may be the best pick of this sorry bunch, this year’s best cinematography – in my opinion – was showcased in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part I. Gorgeously shot, and breathing life into endless hillside, old tenements and Daniel Radcliffe’s face, Deathly Hallows: Part I was absolutely gorgeous to behold.

Best Visual Effects

Hereafter – Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part I – Iron Man 2 – Alice in Wonderland – Inception

I’ll give Inception this one, that scene in which the city folds in half is still absolutely breath-taking. Had it fully utilised its dream setting, however, its deservedness would have been far more striking. Iron Man 2 might have been pretty meh, but the opening tsunami in Hereafter, the opening escape from Privet Drive and Alice’s fall down the rabbit hole were all similarly awe-inspiring. For stand out moment, however, I’d have to give it to Black Swan for that transformation!

Best Original Score

How to Train Your Dragon – Inception – The King’s Speech – 127 Hours – The Social Network

The Social Network? Really? How the Hell did it go? At least Inception‘s bombastic foghorn made it all the way to Top Gear, cropping up in just about every movie trailer since. The real winner, however, was undoubtedly John Powell’s How to Train Your Dragon score, a beautifully elegant, eloquent and uplifting piece of music which fits the action entirely. A mainstay on my playlist ever since, “Forgotten Friendship”, in particularly, is one of the all encompassing, heartfelt and utterly moving scores you will hear all year. Robbed I say!

Best Makeup

The Wolfman – Barney’s Version – The Way Back

While I can just about forgive Alice in Wonderland: Oscar winner, there is no way I can accept a now acclaimed The Wolfman, possibly the year’s worst feature film (Airbender was not that bad!). Barney’s Version and The Way Back may not have featured an entirely unconvincing wereworlf, but at least they weren’t completely irredeemable.

So, there you have it: the Academy was wrong…again! Not worth the sleep hangover, there was at least brief evidence of talent onscreen. For a fleeting moment, Billy Crystal took to the stage with personality and the evening’s first and only trio of jokes. May I take this opportunity to congratulate The King’s Speech, and voice my wish that Spielberg next year wins Best Director for Tintin. Tune in next year, and watch as I am wrong again.

FILM NEWS: Anne Hathaway and Tom Hardy join The Dark Knight Rises as Catwoman and Bane respectively

This is not yet another wooping praise of Christopher Nolan’s casting decisions for his trilogy-ending Bat-film, The Dark Knight Rises, the man has always had a very good eye for actresses and actors; I am the first to admit that Liam Neeson can be incredibly good, as can Heath Ledger and Cillian Murphy. Similarly, I am a huge fan of Anne Hathaway and Tom Hardy, finding Love and Other Drugs and Inception incredibly enjoyable. However, I have found that while Nolan peppers his film’s with substantial talent, he sets about wasting his actors with relentless abandon.

I am not a fan of Batman Begins or The Dark Knight, I like my superheroes super and my superhero movies brimming with awesome fun. I find Nolan’s forays into the genre incredibly dull and tiresome, his clunking excuses for humour and blinding pursuit of realism a subversion too far for a once-passable character in the hands of Tim Burton. I love Hellboy‘s irreverent sarcasm, Spider-man‘s witty asides and the sheer likeability of Matthew Vaughn’s Kick-Ass; but while each movie has its respective dark moments, they find the time between frowns to remind you why the character was so popular in the first place.

To date, Christopher Nolan has created a growly Batman who wouldn’t know a smile if it lumbered him with Bat-nipples, a Scarecrow who is repetitively mugged of his deserved place in the limelight and a complete dud of a Ra’s al Ghul. Sure, Heath Ledger was impressively psycho but having defeated a swarm of ninjas and saved Gotham from a certifiable biohazard, it was a bt of a step down to watch Christian Bale struggle to defeat one man and his cumbersome neurosis. It took guts to kill off the film’s (distractingly re-cast) heroine before movie’s end, but she was such a faceless character that the sacrifice failed to make any impact whatsoever – particularly in light of the truly moving death of Hit Girl’s Big Daddy half way through Kick-Ass. I choked up.

However, there is yet hope. While I still maintain that Batman Returns is the greatest Batman movie ever made – largely down to Michelle Pfeiffer’s delightfully sassy Catwoman – this new casting news at least shows that the character is in good hands. Finally, a super-villain who threatens to get past Bale’s irritating growl and evoke some semblance of emotion from his boringly stoic Batman. Similarly, Hardy was easily the best thing in Inception, his banterous Brit giving the audience at least one character to care about amid a wardrobe of identi-kit suits. He hardly has much to live up to (Bane’s last appearance on screen was in the much maligned Batman and Robin) but threatens to give the character the live-action treatment he probably deserves.

While I’m still far from excited about this sequel to 2008’s “Best Superhero Movie Of All Time” (puh-lease!), I live in hope of a Christopher Nolan directed Batman movie which isn’t a chore to watch. Sure, they are technical achievements on many levels, but they lack any beating heart or entertainment value. Maybe the character did need a reboot after George Clooney hammed him up good-and-proper, but I have yet to be convinced that what he needed was a fun-ectomy. Having settled on a feline-empowered thief and a superpowered hulk, however, perhaps this time Batman and his ridiculous costume won’t look so out of place in their own movie.