Bridge Of Spies Shows That Spielberg Still Has it

We all know what a good director Spielberg is. I’m not going to repeat the fanboying, but I will tell you about how Spielberg’s latest film is a sign of more good to come.

Steven Spielberg has given us some of the best action films of cinema: Indiana Jones, Jurassic Park and Jaws. But also the most emotional films of cinema: Schindler’s List and War Horse. His range is almost unrivalled.

But, he’s not perfect. He’s the same guy that gave us The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull and War of The World’s.

This means that when he comes out with a new film, you know it should be good, but there is a possibility of disappointment. In fact, the more good films Spielberg makes the harder it becomes for him because people expect better and better.

I can say that Bridge of Spies is in my top 5 most loved Spielberg movies. Okay, so I haven’t watched all of his films (don’t worry, I plan to) but I’ve seen some of his agreed upon best. I was expecting to enjoy the film. The trailer had the qualities of a really good Spielberg film: originality, moral questioning and happiness but with sincerity. After I watched it though, I only really thought one thing: I wanna watch it again.

That is very rare for me. I love a lot of films, but for me to feel that. I don’t think I’ve felt like that before, usually I just want to go the toilet. Something about Bridge of Spies makes it so enjoyable. It can be funny, especially Mark Rylance’s performance, and it can be tense. But it is always enjoyable. I was continuously engaged because despite knowing absolutely nothing about the true story behind this film I felt like I understood what was going on and who to root for, but I still wasn’t quite sure how it would all end.

Tom Hanks also plays a pivotal part in this movie’s success. He plays what seems like a Tom Hanks kind of character: a charismatic, straight-talking family man, but he isn’t a hero straight from the cookie cutter. He’s not an anti-hero, but you get a feeling that he’s not in the popular opinion. One of the greatest scenes of the movie is on the New York Subway which highlights that really well.

It’s directed really well. And I don’t say that because it says ‘Directed by Steven Spielberg’, I say that because it is. The camera doesn’t feel like it’s playing tricks either. Because this isn’t an action film, I don’t feel like something’s just hidden out of shot for a scare. The camera shows all and what I see is good.

The soundtrack isn’t John Williams. Literally, it’s not (don’t worry though he’ll be back for next year’s The BFG). Instead we get Thomas Newman who in his own right is one of the greatest film score composers. The same guy that scored American Beauty, Finding Nemo and Shawshank Redemption. I knew it was Newman before I saw the credits because it had that Newman feel, motif, whatever the musical term is. Now, unlike Seinfeld I really like Newman (Thomas Newman), and whilst it’s not going to get an award for best soundtrack, the score really drives the thriller aspect of the film through. It also gives it that grand war feel. Prime example here.

All in all, Bridge of Spies is a 5 star movie in all regards. If I had to find one fault it would be the somewhat unclear and boring scenes showing the American prisoner’s experience. They just didn’t keep up with the nature of the other scenes.

Please Bear with McCreary

Bear is a really cool name, but also the name of a really cool guy. If you have watched Battlestar Galactica (2004-09), Black Sails, Outlanders or Agents of SHIELD you’ve had the pleasure of hearing some of this guys work. I might get all fanboy crazy over here, but McCreary is on John Williams’ level in my eyes.

I was first introduced to McCreary’s musical talent and creativity in good old Galactica. I will save my love for Battlestar Galactica (BSG) for another blog post, don’t worry.

At first, I wasn’t really captivated by the score and when I happened to be watching a YouTube video of some of the soundtrack (as you do) I saw comments like: “this is the best soundtrack for any TV show EVAR” and “the soundtrack alone makes this show worth watching”. My younger, more ignorant self didn’t get it. Why did they think it was so good?

I started to appreciate the music more and more, along with the show. But one episode stood out. The episode is definitely one of my favourites and the music played a major part. Resurrection Ship was brilliant – probably, the highlight of season 2 for me. Its major plot point and climax featured such a gripping and tense track called Prelude to War. The combination of fantastic story/character development and musical development combined, created one of the most powerful plot points in all of television. I promised I wouldn’t make this all about BSG so I’ll get back to the music.

Even as the show saw its decline in its final season, McCreary carried on strong with him covering All Along the Watchtower by Jimmi Hendrix. Granted, the original is better, but I think he covered it perfectly for the theme and essence of the show at that moment.

Where things get interesting is in Black Sails, however. I found Black Sails through the composer. This must be rare. Who watches a TV show because of the composer? I doubt many can claim that. I actually enjoyed Black Sails, although I get bored really easily so stopped watching it after a few episodes. BUT, my favourite part of the show, and I say this not to say that the show is boring or rubbish, is the theme. Boy, is it (any good superlative here). Just have a listen.

Thanks Bear McCreary for your musical ability. You know how to make a man cry, and please do carry on.

Art

Art. The three letter word that means so much.

When I was young and (more) ignorant I saw art only as traditional art: paintings. As I’ve grown, I’ve come to appreciate more and more things as art. The obvious ones: music and film of course are considered art. It was only till recently that I considered video games as art. The point is almost everything is art.

People love to discuss ‘what is art?’ as a philosophical question and debate. I, perhaps thankfully for you, don’t see it that way. Anything that has been designed, in part, for the sake of it is art. That’s why I’d consider an iMac as a piece of art, but a square yellow post-it note not so much. Although I can see the major flaw in such a definition as art is not so prescriptive. The square yellow post-it note 50 years in the future may be their Mona Lisa. You see art and sentimentality are like twins. As time progresses so do perspectives and as art is so subjective it’s only natural for its definition to change.

As for blogs? Art? Yes.

Trailers suck, like really suck

Films these days are wonderful, beautiful and worth watching, but trailers aren’t. You see many people complaining about films today, but I can’t see why. Just this year we’ve had some of the best films in cinema (in my opinion): Birdman, Whiplash and The Walk, to name just a few. The only problem I have with cinema (excluding the cinema itself) is the trailers.

Title

To see why trailers are so bad we need to understand their purpose. A trailer has the sole purpose of giving us a taste of the film, just a hint of flavour. We can then partly base our decision on whether to watch or not watch a film on this. Sadly, we cannot. This is for two main reasons:

1. Trailers = Spoilers
Trailers are filled with spoilers to a point were if you watched the end of the film you’d be in for more of a surprise than if you had watched the trailer. I understand you want to show us what the film is about, but you’re doing it wrong! The best kind of teaser is one that reveals very little, but just enough to spike our interest. If you’re not convinced, try the following: watch a film without watching any trailers beforehand. Then watch the trailer – if you think “Woah, that trailer was full of spoilers”, you now know that trailers are spoilers.

But what’s your solution, Dominic? For all trailers to include none of the film? Of course not, and yes watching a film then a trailer you’ll find that there will be similarities – you’d hope so otherwise they’re selling you false hopes, but if I watch a trailer, throughout the film I’m thinking “Well, x hasn’t happened yet” or “Yep, I knew it that was when z would happen.” Trailers also take the element of surprise away which all films need to keep us engaged.

2. Spoilers Trailers make 97% of films look like garbage
I know that there is an abundance of awful movies out there, not worth the cost of the 3D glasses, but not 97%. Many of the best film have trailers not even worthy of Twilight. Even if they manage not to completely spoil the film, they are overly dramatic and hyperbolic. It just doesn’t work. Yes, we need drama, but if the film is not overly dramatic the trailer needn’t be, in fact it mustn’t be. The trailer should reflect the tone of the film, not make loads of noise, which every other trailer does anyway. For trailers to be heard in the crowd, they must not join in with the mass of sheep bearing, they must stand up, be bold, but most importantly be unique.

Put simply, trailers are like the evil twin of movies. They only ruin the experience of watching the film.

Jurassic Park Films Ranked

After the box office obliterating Jurassic World which I just recently watched I’ve decided to rank all four of the films.

Number 1: Too obvious – The Original Jurassic Park (5/5 stars)
Quick explanation – this was something truly new and exciting, it made a generation of kids love dinosaurs and had a few good jump scares. It was the perfect combination of CGI, animatronics and storyline.

I knew I should've gotten off at the last stop.I knew I should’ve gotten off at the last stop.

Number 2: Less obvious – The Lost World: Jurassic Park (4/5 stars)
Quick explanation – this film is commonly hated upon and seen as an unworthy successor to Jurassic Park, I do not follow this belief. The explanation for this sequel makes sense and ingeniously includes a character from the first film. Yes, I know a raptor was kicked into spikes and a T-rex ran rampant in San Diego, but they’re kind of part of the fun.

They didn’t jump the shark, they ate it.

Number 3: It can only be one – Jurassic World (3.5/5 stars)
Quick explanation – more critically acclaimed than The Lost World, Jurassic World is an enjoyable film, but its abundance of film cliches and bland characters take away the unique edge Jurassic Park has always had. It does still bring up serious and new ethical questions = win.

It’s a bird cage. For what?

Number 4: Alan! – Jurassic Park 3 (1/5 stars)
Quick explanation – this will be very quick just like this film. This film offered nothing – just a bunch of chases followed by more chases, but it’s no Mad Max. The picture (right) sums it up.

Do you agree? Probably not, tweet me your rankings @mrbeady9.

Netflix’s Chef’s Table: Fancy Food Made Interesting

Netflix just can’t help themselves: they’re producing more content than anyone else. The real surprise is that a lot of it is very good. Chef’s Table, a documentary about some of the best Chef’s in the world, according to Michelin, is the latest one to hit the table.

This documentary is far from many – it doesn’t make you cry or really empathise with anyone, but it makes you incredibly hungry. Probably best watched straight after dinner, but not during because you might be disappointing (with the food you have to eat). It’s very light toned as you’d expect. But this doesn’t equate to a boring documentary about food. This documentary isn’t really about food, but the artists that make it.

I’ve only watched the first and last episodes and plan to complete the other four, but I still feel qualified to critique this documentary as once you’ve seen one you can feel the gist of the rest. Not because each episode is just a filled in template, but because there’s a clear and definite structure. This is superb as you know where you are at each stage. It’s also great how I was able to just pick and choose the episodes at my leisure. I watched the first one because it was the first one that played, but episode six just amazed me. No spoilers, but it’s about a guy in an ice-cold, isolated part of Sweden. It’s not about how isolated he is, although that does effect how the restaurant operates, it’s about the processes he completes in order to be a creative genius. That may sound all a bit poncey, but imagine it like Leonardo da Vinci going from canvas to a complete Mona Lisa or Mozart going from an empty stave to a symphony.

The extremities reached are crazy. They really make you think differently about food. Yes, we need it to survive, but as an art form its radically different depending on country, but also the chef’s personality. A Swedish chef is most likely to prepare Swedish food, but Magnus’ (chef starred in ep 6) creativity leads him to completely unexplored regions – which is fitting for his location.

Whilst I admire the expression and passion shown, I do still feel as though the restaurants featured lacked variety – not only are they all in the Western World, but they’re all very high-end. This may more be a problem with the way Michelin rank restaurants, but Chef’s Table doesn’t have to follow that guide and it does make you as a viewer feel a bit out of touch with the world being portrayed. The first issue can be addressed in the second season by featuring Asian restaurants, for example, and so I’d be happy if they did that for season two.

However, I still feel as though high creativity does not need to be highly expensive and postmodern. There are millions of chefs around the world with something that makes them special and even though covering more simple-folk restaurants might make the documentaries scope too broad I feel as though it would send a clear message – creativity is in everyone and can be accessed by everyone. Right now the documentary makes me feel as though there is a prescribed way to creativity that must be followed.

I do feel however, that this issue is softened by the fact that we see the story of each chef – how they got here. The two I’ve watched started from fairly humble beginnings. Giving inspiration to those who want to show their cooking potential. We also see that these chefs are normal people – they have families, other non-cooking related hobbies and have fallen in and out of love with cookery. The first episode, featured Massimo and his incredibly thrilling and quite exciting love story.

I will be honest you won’t learn a lot from watching Chef’s Table, it won’t teach you how to make a top rated restaurant, but I think that is part of the story it is trying to tell. Being a fantastic chef is not about following the cookbook, it’s about using the tools you have to create something new and unique.

The music is also brilliant. For example, the theme:

spotify:track:4PgLgTL7dt4Vnxm1gUyV2l

A Different Opinion of Guardians of the Galaxy

I was very excited for Guardians of the Galaxy after Marvel’s previous films and after watching a few reviews. As always with excitement comes expectation which was set very high. A lot of people claimed that this film was hilarious and that the superheroes were brilliant. I hate to do this, but I disagree, completely.

After watching the film with my parents they asked if “I liked it or found it funny”, this was after they had told me how amusing they found it, and I said “no, it wasn’t very intelligent humour”. That wasn’t verbatim, but it was something along those lines. This was of great shock to me and I’m sure to them. This is because I’ve loved all of the previous Marvel superhero films, with the omission of Thor: The Dark World, and they’ve liked them. I’d expect myself to find the slapstick comedy more humorous than my parents would, but maybe not.

There was something about the humour, despite it being arguably better than the humour in The Avengers or Captain America: The Winter Soldier, that I didn’t like. I think I can nail it down to two reasons. The first one being that they over did it, I think they tried too hard to make it funny and at times it felt silly in a very, very annoying way like Alvin and the Chipmunks. My second reason is that I’ve become spoilt with the rather intelligent humour found in the TV series Frasier which I’ve recently been watching, quite a bit. Perhaps, I’ve become too snobby about what I laugh at, but I’ve always preferred intelligent humour to the cheap slapstick approach.

I did enjoy the rest of the movie for the most part, although I felt that there was a lot of ambiguity, for instance who is this villain and why does he want to do this? Also, I felt that the characters whilst likeable were a bit weak and undeveloped. Maybe, my dislike towards the humour is tainting my view on the rest of the film, but it’s hard for it not to when the humour is thrown in your face constantly.

I know a lot of people won’t like this viewpoint, but an opinion is an opinion and I’ve even put the word “opinion” in the title. I’m also sure that there will be some that will agree and that’s great.