Saturday, 26 April 2014

SOUNDTRACK REVIEW: THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2

4/5

Along Came A Soundtrack.

"Spider-Man, Spider-Man! Does whatever a Spider can"! Yep, we're sticking to the script and still singing the praises of Peter Parker's new generation web-slinger played by the amazing Andrew Garfield. After the franchise changed faces by rebooting and reduxing away from the Maguire cheesy "show me the trilogy" series, this phase 2 of the spandex spider is given a supercharged sequel of superstardom. Electric charged by Jamie Foxx's formidable foe and given more accented angst of young teenage to adult life with the friendship/relationship dynamics with Garfield's co-stars Emma Stone and the new young legend on the block Dane DeHaan. This superior sequel is truly the ultimate amazing Pete Parker shot of the hero that swings between the buildings of lower Manhattan. New York's finest may offer us more than Marvel's greatest movie in what looks like their best year for this scorching hot, Summer blockbuster season that has also seen 'Captain America-The Winter Soldier' freeze over that Polar Vortex we had to battle with this Winter and is about to see the ultimate X-Men mash-up The Avengers could never have the right to do in 'Days Of Future Past' to go with the fun and fancy 'Guardians Of The Galaxy' for your enjoyable entertainment. Stan Lee's favourite son may also make for the best blockbuster of the year that see's 'Transformers', 'Planet Of The Apes' and the movie monster that is 'Godzilla' about to take the city and cineplex down to the ground. Now with great movie power comes great soundtrack responsibilty and the only thing that could match the electric charge of this movies sensational, lights out showdown in Times Square between our hero and Electro is one great score. So, with Sony taking it back to the studios they are better known for they throw down a slam-dunk of a record, dunking harder than Peter Parker did in the first film, or those guys down the road from Times Square in Madison Square Garden do.

Forget 'The Sinister Six' led by Harry Osborne's Green Goblin and the great, hero genre breaking, spin-off sequels they are about to make. Spider-Man has 'The Magnificent Six' on his side. Who are they you ask? Isn't that the question of the day! This is the future...and you're really going to want to see this. Who better to score your soundtrack than the movie legend that is Hans Zimmer? The producer and composer that has made almost every soundtrack you know from 'The Lion King' to 'Spanglish' and is just that versatile and brilliant. With a strong sound that could make John Williams' work feel like its being played on a triangle. The man that Christoper Nolan goes to for 'Inception' inspiration is best known recentely for his wonderful work and the dark depths of his sensational sound that made 'The Dark Knight' trilogy that much more epic. If you where hoping to rock out to Aerosmith's 'Spider-Man' theme or Nickleback's Chad Kroger's 'Hero' here I'm sorry but trust me you wont be disappointed. You see, the great German who really knows how to set the tone for the texture of pictures maybe known for his haunting and harrowing work (see his latest violin piercing, puncuation that is truly scary on the Oscar winning '12 Years A Slave') has been keeping his ears to the pop scene and sound from his studio dungeon and when it comes to a film that mixes Marvel's classic fun and serious super genre who better to team up with than the happiest guy alive? Pharrell Williams is basically the Zimmer of the popular music world. Producing everything from Britney Spears to Jay-Z with his out of this world, 'Star Trak' Neptunes board workers, all whilst making 'Rock Star' hits with his N.E.R.D. group and not 'Frontin'' on his own solo career. Like Hans the amount of greatest hit records this guy has had his hands on is catalogue, classic countless and if that wasn't enough he's moved into the soundtrack scene and almost won an Oscar if it wasn't for the cold front of 'Frozen'.

Still Pharrell can let that go, "leeet it goooo" because his work on the 'Despicable Me' Minion monster series (we can't wait what this guy has in store for the yellow guys solo outing) has offered him with some of his best work and sunniest success days from the theme to basically the best song out there at the moment in 'Happy'. Which beyond the Electro star cameo video, the Academy awards and the tears on Oprah is the biggest viral infectious, dance for joy, positive, upbeat single for any mood, season or genre. The cold never bothered him anyway. You can't beat it or bring it down, the only words that do it justice are it's own, "happiness is the truth". If you thought his 'Blurred Lines' with Robin Thicke and T.I. and his 'Get Lucky' moment with Daft Punk made last year his best in a career of dominant decades, than you haven't seen or heard anything yet. Williams teams up with Zimmer, the guitars of rock god and Smith's legend Johnny Marr and Incubus S.C.I.E.N.T.I.S.T Mike Einziger, and the Eurythmics of Dave Stewart to show us sweet soundtracks are made of these. The Magnificent Seven couldn't even round up the rest like this. From giving Jamie Foxx's Electro his own paranoid, spider-sense, voices in the headphones theme to his own dub-step, electric charged suite that will make those 'Man Of Steel' mockers at 'Screen Junkies' 'Honest Trailers' prepping their next youtube smash there's a peculiar but perfect sound her that works whether your watching the action or unfold or working out in the gym and looking for some epic, inspiration on your iPod's running and lifting playlist. From 'We're Best Friends' to 'So Much Anger' it's clear this sounds characterization is 'Still Crazy' like the loner turned Sparkles that is Electro and this is what makes the theme of this current thorn in Spidey's web so illuminating. The Green Goblin he gets sticky with has his own sick themes too. All short of a Green Day song for this 'Dookie' turned bad-guy Parker wants to say 'Good Riddance' to. Having the time of his life however, Spidey has his own epic-music too. Set to some 'Good Morning America' news theme, get up and go introduction for his headline worthy high-line act around the Empire State and every news helicopter in-between.

Still if your in need of an 'Empire State Of Mind' then how about New York's own Alicia Key's who gives this stunning soundtrack it's stunning first single in 'It's On Again'? It's new rap king Kendrick Lamar who steals the show in 30, fast seconds flat here however with his bold and brilliant bars of "And everybody know the story of David and Goliath/But this is bigger than triumph/This is for the warrior, this is for you and I/This is for euphoria, give me a piece of mind/God is recording this! won't you look in the sky?/Tell him you got the behavior of your neighbor/Even when stability's never in your favor/Fly with the turbulence, only last a minute/Land on your dreams, and recognize you live it/Walk through the valley of peace, with bare feet/Run through the flames, that's more passion for me" that end this film perfectly leaving you wanting more like those Marvel after credit "surprises"! It's not just this soundtrack song that adds more singles to this scintillating score. There are some beautiful ballads in Phosphorescent's 'Song For Zula' and The Neighbourhood's 'Honest' that not only match the coupling of Parker and his muse Gwen Stacey perfectly but also make for your new favourite songs whether your reveling in a relationship of nursing the wounds of a broken one. With lyrics like "Waiting, always waiting/If I gave you control would you say that we could've saved it?/I hope you find a way to be yourself someday/In weakness or in strength/Change can be amazing/So I pray for the best, I pray for the best for you" it's clear there's more to this deluxe disc than remixes that show Zimmer is the new...well Pharrell. Speaking of the impeccable 'Despicable Me' scorer that is Mr. Williams it's only right that he has his own moment to shine on this soundtrack...even if actor/singer Jamie Foxx doesn't (didn't these guys hear what he did for 'Any Given Sunday'?). Over someone elses perfect production for a change, the hardest-working man in music gives someone else and us something sounding like nothing he's done before (and this is the guy that just made us all 'Happy' remember?) in the pop ballad 'Here'. One that even best's The Neighbourhood and Phosphorescent as his versatile vocals sing "And I, I promise on all existence/If it breathes then it is our witness/We have unfinished business/You and I/And so my word is that I'll cross those bridges/With zero regret for limits". It doesn't get much better than this and as Pharrell makes this record his own with Hans Zimmer, our Spider-Man has the ultimate 'Magnificent' team to go with all those 'Sinister' enemies he has to face. As 'Artists Unite', hash-tag THAT for your world-wide-web. This is one assemble to Marvel at with all it's avengance. TIM DAVID HARVEY.

Friday, 25 April 2014

MICHAEL FASSBENDER Feature-MUTATIONS

Glorious Basterd.

#SuperheroSeason

By TIM DAVID HARVEY

"Well, if this is it, old boy, I hope you don't mind if I go out speaking the King's"! It looked like Michael Fassbenders first greatest moment in movies was going to be his last. The Londoner from Heidelberg, Baden-W├╝rttemberg, West Germany with Irish routes was in the crossroads of the cross hairs in the middle of a world war with his own bar-room one. Faced down by a Nazi officer's pistol-a same mark he tried to make-it was time for one last cigarette. They warn you that those things will kill you but at this moment it didn't matter. It was all fun and laughter games, with 20 questions before but now the inquisition had become a whole new showdown. Fear not however, these aren't the most humble beginnings but the classic cameo of Fassbender who took the acting world by storm in just a few minutes and depth dialogue of Quentin Tarantino's 'Inglorious Basterds' starring Brad Pitt and Oscar winning support Christophe Waltz. If this good German walked into an Academy of unchained success after this than it must have been contagious like 'Centurion' success for Q.T.'s characters, as Fassbender showed he was head and scalps above everyone else. Going from roles in 'Eden Lake' and 'Blood Creek' to arm up with a blink and you'll think 'is that him' part in '300' to mega stardom in what seemed like 3.00 minutes.

Now to be frank there's few better than one of the go to leading men and a ladies one in todays modern, mainstream movie world that extends further than the Hollywoodland hills. Donning the paper-machie head of Frank Sidebottom for 'Frank', Fassbender shows more colours of his chameleon characterisation and behind that voice and massive dome Fassbender doesn't let up or take it off once. You'd almost think it wasn't him! Another mega moviestar would probably hire a "stunt" double. Still it is THE Hollywood star running round the North West in their iconic characters look that to anyone else would look like someone whose eaten that "death on a leash" fish that Will Smith had to Benydryl in 'Hitch'. What a trip, even through all the dark depths and black comedy of this cult classic Fassbender shows he really is Frank, all whilst still being Michael at the same time. This guy can just mutate into anything he wants, chooses or so desires. Following his World War redux with Tarantino, Fassbender grew to the star he is right now heading to the 'Apocalypse' of Marvel sequels. The German translation crossed over to one of Stan Lee's most classic comic creations even in this age of The Avengers of Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, The Incredible Hulk and of course right now, 'The Amazing Spider-Man' too. In what looks to be Marvel's year which has just seen super successful sequels from the aforementioned Peter Parker and 'The Winter Soldier', this comic coral has a couple more cells for the hottest Summer blockbuster season before the 'Guardians Of The Galaxy' takeover and hold things down.

Those would be the ultimate academy and class of X-Men. The register and roll-call of classic characters and actors that make up Marvel's longest and most successful running film series and one of their most popular comic creations. Even without the popular Cyclops and Jean Grey, we have an Oscar winner in Jennifer Lawrence, Halle Berry's Storm and of course THE X-Men and maybe Avenger and Marvel character in Wolverine. To go with the man who was born like he had the adamantium under his skin to play him in the hugely popular, all 'Les Mis' singing and Academy 'Prisoner' dancing Hugh Jackman who is clawing away at the best years of his career life coming off a wonderful Wolverine sequel as bold and bright as the Tokyo neons it was set it, with dark undertones as dank as the hard rain that falls between them. Still even with all that and Gandalf and Captain Picard in Sir Ian McKellen and Sir Patrick Stewarts Magneto and Professor X characters-almost legendary as themselves-its the new class that's graduating in this outstanding origins series. With 'First Class' performances James McAvoy and Fassbender are the new X and Magneto respectively in order of credit and all that's due to the actors that came before them. No wonder they're all getting mixed together for these 'Days Of Future Past' before the 'Apocalypse' because as much as the new series is loved you can't beat the classics, especially in hallmark Marvel nostalgia.

McAvoy and Fassbender in 'First Class' showed the beginnings of the two mutant leaders friendship and rivalry perfect. The Marvel way of using their own history in comics to mirror the real worlds history with their cautionary tales and omen predictions was played out perfectly. If you think Captain America punching out Hitler is too on the nose then did you know that Stan Lee based parts of Professor Xavier and Magneto on Martin Luther King Jnr and Malcom X and their non-violent/violent sides of protest in a time where people of colour where treated inhuman? From sitting next to the fireplace in debate tempered by scotch, to the risky business of firing nuclear weapons at either side, McAvoy and Fassbender capture this classically and sometimes some of the most thrilling moments in this tension taught tale come from a seated position...and that's not a tasteless Xavier gag. This is no joke. From the seventies style to the terrifying times tied-up texture 'First Class' was truly true to its name and despite the pair being as perfect as the old friends of McKellen and Patrick it was Fassbender who had both our minds and everything else in his force manipulating reach. Now 'Days Of Future Past' is the movie mash-up sequel everyone wants to see and suited and booted with even more style and stress ball, skull smashing swagger, Magneto is about to marvel us once again with some magnificent madness that give further Loki, Joker, Khan and Bane reason to the fact that its not just fangirls that like bad guys. He even brings stadiums to their knees like a Guns and Roses slash back to the eighties. This guy even sends people flying with casual, dismissive, hand-up disregard without even looking. I mean how cool is that? One of Marvel's greatest actors seemed born to play its characters has more substance behind the style than just what he brings behind the special powers. Fassbender has already fast tracked his career into classic, first on the A-list categorical ranks.

From some 'Haywire' action flicks to being 'The Counsellor' to another classic Cormac McCarthy novel idea amongst the legendary like of ultimate Cormac 'No Country For Old Men' and 'Skyfall' villain Javier Bardem to the Hollywood work of fame that is their most famous face in Brad Pitt. Then of course there was the 'Alien' android dreaming of eclectic, eclectic success in 'Prometheus' between the 'Jane Eyre's and 'Jonah Hex's' and between Terrence Malik projects, 'Assassin Creed' video game awesome adaptations and of course the 'bard Shakespeare, where Fassbender will play 'Macbeth' it looks to only get bolder and better for this modern day marvel who can play anyone whilst still remaining himself like nobody else and nobodies business. They'll be polishing Oscar's for him soon enough and you know he deserved one for his latest Academy nomination, even though Jared Leto was the worthy winner in drag for 'Dallas Buyers Club'. Following appearing in all of the new Steve McQueen legends films from the 'Hunger' beginnings to the sexual 'Shame' with Carey Mulligan, Fassbender just showed how dark and deep he could take it in the Oscar winning '12 Years A Slave'. Possibly one of the best and most harrowing films made in all-time on a 'Schindlers List' scale. Callous, cruel, abhorrent, awful, horrible, horrendous, pure evil, the devil even. There is not a verb or description that does justice to the injustice of how bad Fassbender's slave-owner character is (especially next to Benedict Cumberbatch's amazingly "nice" owner) and that's just the truest testament to how great this actors performance is.

Shouting racist, hateful words through that awful cider beard and doing acts unfathomable to humanity you know an actors done a good job when you hate his character so much that you almost hate him. This is what the chameleon capturing Fassbender did in all his raw rapture and this is the man of the moment that everyone loves that we're talking about here. Still in the wake of all this hard-hitting, historical movie making and the Academy appreciation that followed its still all love for this complex character actor of legendary proportions. So much you can bank on his legion of fans being there for 'Slow West' and all those new films that 'Trespass Against Us' after he delivered himself from evil. This guys is a true 'Genius' in all his career mutations and who knows what he'll have years from now because in the half decade or so that's proceeded his moment with the 'Basterds' God loves this great talent and all he's done for the Hollywood landscape. From a 'Band Of Brothers' to 'A Dangerous Method' this actors mild-storm mannerisms and inspired subtle intensity have broke through to a world take over that now has everyone in his Magneto air-filled grasp. He's just that magnetic. One minute he's got superpowers and an evil streak and then the next in a Mystique, co-star blink of an eye he's posing as a Nazi soldier while shouldering the King of Britain's honour as he switches and changes before your eyes like a creature of character. This is just how complexly convincing and classically courageous this amazing actor is and has become even more. Now he's not just sounding like he's speaking the kings, he's looking and acting like one.

Thursday, 17 April 2014

REVIEW: THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2

4/5

Along Came A Sequel.

142 Minutes. Starring: Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Jamie Foxx, Dane DeHaan, Chris Cooper, Paul Giamatti & Sally Field. Director: Marc Webb.

Marvel at something truly 'Amazing' because this is the year of Stan Lee's comic-book creations. The legend with the lasting legacy is sure going to rack up the classic cameos this year in this age of Avengers that is looking so good and Summer blockbuster hot that even the phase of the 'Age Of Ultron' will have to wait it's turn. First there was the great story and best solo Avengers film and sequel in 'Captain America-The Winter Soldier' that followed the cool conclusion of the 'Iron Man' trilogy and 'Thor's' realm ravishing 'The Dark World' and we're about to go into the 'Days Of Future Past' with all the 'X-Men' classic and 'Origins' before the 'Guardians Of The Galaxy' show 'Godzilla', those apes and transforming robots and the rest of the Summer blockbuster season the Autumn door. Still, before all that comes what was promised and now proves to be the most exciting and entertaining, fun film of the year in all its electric energy in 'The Amazing Spider-Man 2' that shows we are in a super-charged sequel age no longer prone to the sophomore slump. After the five formidable trailers and the super-sick 'Sinister Six' movie spin-off deal that revolutionizes not only this genre but movies as a whole, casting aside the whole "hero" thing, the hype and buzz of this film was at an energizer level and the eagerly anticipated and long-awaited sequel to Marc Webb's new world wide web of Spidey sense scope doesn't disappoint like Batman interrogating the Joker. After the incy wincy Tobey Maguire trilogy almost left the famous web-slinger looking like Marvel's version of Aquaman, Sony's sonic and radical reboot that took this hero back to the 'Amazing' comic creations made this Spider-Man the true ultimate. With the uncanny, unquestionable, born-to-play Peter Parker Andrew Garfield making this his own, Marvel now have another webbed string to add to their Hawkeye bullseye bow that makes them the biggest and best comic book franchise, even if D.C. has the Batman.

Now those routine 'Begins' and 'Origins' are out the way, we don't have to see this kid get bitten by a spider aaaagain, whilst letting a criminal walk that would eventually run into his uncle with disatarous effects aaaaagain...you'd thought he would have learnt by now. Now that Webb and Garfield have the power now they live up to the great responsibility of making this sequel as truly super and amazing as this character connotes. Mixing that classic Spidey comic cockiness and charm whilst offsetting it with the anxious angst of the kid that hides behind the mask, Andrew Garfield has the perfect dynamic duality to play both sides of the two-faces of Pete Parker and his arachnids friends coin. This 'Boy A' still looks the part in this 'Social Network' age even at 30 and he brings that amazing 'Never Let Me Go' acting to the forefront of an action-packed picture with more hearts and smarts that this Marvel universe is finally getting credit where its due these days. Rib-tickling, cackling, heart-warming, and breaking this cat Garfield is the man. The only thing that fits better than his suiting up in the spandex is his chemistry with science-stud Gwen Stacey played by Emma Stone in all her rock-solid, Jennifer Lawrence chasing performances. The rumoured, 'are they/aren't they' off-screen relationship is ignited by their on-screen romance that looks to defy a deleted M.J. and the 'Ghost Dad' fatherly wishes of Denis Leary who is (sort-of) missed as much as Martin Sheen's Uncle Ben (sniff, sniff) in this sequel, (thankfully for your lump in the throat, nostalgic emotions there's more cute kids in Spidey costumes being real heroes like that Evian commercial tie-in). There's no doubt that Gwen is Parker's muse as the devoted defiance and dedicated diverging paths of these two leads follows through to something that shows you whats most important in this life. Leave it to Marvel to offer more lessons learnt inbetween the comic-book lines of their exciting epics. Like a friend recentely said, parents should read comics to their kids before bed like books, because there's a lot to be taken from a franchise that has been writing stories that mirror real-life for decades and generations of world and cultural change.

The classic coupling of Garfield and Stone that made the first film and this sequel so stunning isn't the only deal on deck however. Young Parker has a lot more to deal with than just matters of the heart. There's a lot more in his web to stick to and these aren't the Maguire days of holding a monorail of people on one strand and his girlfriend on the other, wondering if there was even time to do his homework or come up with a better dogged excuse before next morning. This is a new semester and with a classic cast-roll call that even features the likes of Chris Cooper and Paul Giamatti having foreign fun as the Rhino, you know this film is armed with the type of power to mettle up with the rest. Still in this hash-tag trend and age of 'Enemies Unite' there is more at stake than a chrome powered endangered species. With hints of Doc Oc and more of Oscorp's sinsiter research into the dark side this film has more villain venom than Spider-Man's suit being washed with black ink. First there's 'Django Unplugged' as comedian/singer and Oscar winning actor on the other side Jamie Foxx shows this is truly his time. The man whose about to scale new 'Lincoln' heights by playing Martin Luther King Jnr has even recentley played president for Sony in 'White House Down'. Still, nothing is as exciting as this 'Ray' of light as Foxx ignites the box to play the effervescent Electo villain. More than looking like a member of the Blue Man Group, Foxx wears this living colour as well as when he was allowed to pick his own clothes in 'Django Unchained'. Foxx's fantastic turn of the switch gives us an epic lights out showdown amongst the electric neons of New York's heart and core Times Square, set to the tone of the flashing blue and red police sirens, that might just be one of Marvel's brightest and best, stunning set-pieces of all-time. In living colour and brighter than Tokyo, these moments and this film as a current whole are so bold and brilliant you won't want the power to go out. I hope you aren't afraid of the dark, because Electro's going to turn out your light. Even Foxx's nerdy, gap-toothed, combed-over, origin Max character is perfectly peculiar as Foxx shows more from his box of tricks as being one of the most versatile and underrated Academy actors out there. Remember this is a guy that played blind musican Ray Charles and s schizophrenic violinist alongside 'Iron Man' in 'The Soloist' for your award tour. Once he has an old-school Batman like villain's accident, and then takes to the electric-current of catchphrases like Arnie's Freeze (but without the sighs), Jamie and his electric voice you want to bottle up with the other famous bad guy greats, pulls it all off and out the socket for something simply stunning.

An epic finale on a power-grid isn't the only thing that lights up this sequel however. There's shades of green to make this day complete too. Showing that he can stride both sides of the beginning and end of the bad-guy walk just as great and sympathetically, boder-line pathetic as Foxx, Dane DeHaan is incredible as Harry Osborne's Green Goblin as the 'Lawless' and 'The Place Beyond The Pines' scene stealer gives us even more 'Chronicles' of his classic young career and already complete catalogue. The man with a dirty dozen films in just four years of being in Hollywood shows the young DiCaprio and James Dean (literally...he's about to assume the amazing task of playing him) smarts and skills that make his odd and offbeat style outstanding. This great Dane looks perfect as the part of Goblin, enough to push James Franco of the glider and show the werid and wonderful Willem Dafoe that he doesn't even need a stupid mask. Teaming up with Foxx's Electro this is the best villain partnership since the good old days of the 90's Carrey's and Tommy Lee Jones'. Their entrance was good...these guys are better. Smashing pumpkins like the generation he belongs to, DeHaan looks sick and sinsiter as the Six's leader but it's the dying to live, anxiety, angst-ridden amazing acting of his sheltered by the spoils of riches Harry character beforehand that truly give the classic 'it's complicated' acting and pairing of Parker and Stacey a real B.F.F. rival. Reunited with his best friend, Peter, Osborne gives our lead more to follow down this web and the inspiring, intense interplay between Garfield and Dane show these two belong to the next generation of great, young male lead actors that are already showing the Gosling's and Cooper's that this time and tide are theirs. Ready to 'Kill Your Darling's the kid that got it on with 'Harry Potter' has more tricks of his terrifically twisting trade to spell his success. Of course there's the character of New York itself that makes this all Cruise complete, and the backdrop for every blockbuster looks the best with the Spider swinging round all those world famous skyscrapers in 3D's gloriest, inspired IMAX. This is the true Gotham. With this and the likes of B. J. Novak (spot the latest egg this Easter?) and Colm Feore rounding out the cast this is all worked so well all the way down to the great Sally Field in the mothering role of Aunt May and her tears of endearment. Even without the Sheen of Uncle Ben, Sally fields some inspired influence on a tear of an emotional performance for a film that has everything, even a great deal reveal after the classic wait for the closing credits moment. Also with the 'Happy', 'Dark Knight' days of 'Despicable Me's' Pharrell Williams and Hans Zimmer classically collaborating with the 'Magnificent Six' on a supersonic score, we are given a stunning soundtrack to complete the most electric film of the year. That folks is your friendly neighbourhood Spider-Man, doing whatever a spider can for a superior sequel. Now with all this in Webb's design even the most ardent arachnophobe will be amazingly convinced that it's time to catch a spider. TIM DAVID HARVEY.

Monday, 14 April 2014

SCARLETT JOHANSSON Feature-SHADES OF SCARLETT

#SuperheroSeason

Widows Peak

By TIM DAVID HARVEY

In Scarlett's web, under the beautiful skin of one of Hollywood's hottest celebrities and women that could give Angelina Jolie a run for her make-up foundation is a superheroine that is also the best young actress talent around today not named Jennifer Lawrence. About to celebrate her 30th birthday with arguably her best year yet, it won't be long before 'Her' herself, Scarlett Johansson will be Oscar's Academy favourite when it comes to the worlds best actresses like current best Cate Blanchett and the legend that is Meryl Streep, the Daniel-Day Lewis of Academy actresses. Right now the throwback to screen starlet's Scarlet is more than just a pretty face. The red hot talent of Johansson has more subtle acting skills and smarts that most wrongly ignore from critics to fans too busy looking at the wrong side of her performances but the best side of her face. Simply put the complex characters that she brings to stage and screen are all part of the no make-up, real and raw catalogue of modern movie cinematic classics that make her not only one of today's best, but most underrated talents in this entertainment industry. If you're still not convinced that this woman can do it all then just watch what she's been doing recentely, from saving the world as a super assassin to providing more bite as an alien posing as a normal woman in Glasgow of all places. Scarlett strolling around Scotland is nothing normal, but in this life less ordinary it doesn't matter because everyone is falling for her man killing sex and style appeal. Even Johnny Cash couldn't help from falling in love the first time he ever heard just her voice.

This model talent is more than just the studio time that keeps her gracing the pages of every magazine out there from the cover shoots to the perfume ads. The woman who appeared in superstar singer and sideshow actor Justin Timberlake's 'What Goes Around...Come Around' after Mandy Moore's 'Candy' video is more than just a big name for a music video. She's the type to make music too. Just listen to her solo offering of Tom Waits covers in the 'Anywhere I Lay My Head' album that is hauntingly smouldering and a beautifully evocative album with a cinematic feel, that her senses give us on the screens too. It's not just her 'Iron Men' Avengers co-stars Robert Downey Jnr, Terrence Howard and Jeff Bridges who have had much better than critically advertised music releases. These albums for the record are something to marvel at just like Electo Jamie Foxx's eclectic career of high notes or all the other actors and actresses who have gone the opposite route of Sinatra straight to the studio, giving us something that is bigger than their Hollywood name...a real record for their career playlists. We hope Scarlett releases more shades from the studio, as her duet album with Pete Yorn (the underrated, top singer/songwriter of our day that could soon put himself next to the Ray LaMontagne's and Ryan Adams) was as chemistry classic as a White Stripe or Norah Jones (her smouldering sexy Miss Jones rivalling vocals have even teamed up with the late Dean Martin for a Christmas Rat Pack favourite) and Billie-Joe Armstrong of Green Days' 'Foreverly'. The 'Break Up' album and its real, huge hit 'Relator' came together for a perfect songwriting concept and partnership and her sole outing on 'I Am The Cosmos' just may be among this writers favourite songs...ever! Scarlett's a true artist when it comes to this genre too and give her as many projects and years as she's had acting and the multi-talented superstar may just prove she's one of mainstream musics underrated, female best too.

It all started for Scarlett however when she was 10 in 'North', that Elijah Wood film with the pink bunny. Two years later saw an Independent Spirit Award for her powerful performance in 'Manny & Lo', but something told us like a Leonardo DiCaprio before her or a Chloe Grace-Mortez now that she was going to be more than just another ageing child star for the Culkin culture. 'The Horse Whisperer' echoed more of that before the new millennium saw her gallop and leap and grow and mature into the young woman and actress she was meant to be. This is when the 'Sexiest Woman Alive' became truly symbolic. The New York born and bred girl from Danish, Copenhagen and Jewish Bronx backgrounds is a very versatile and chameleon character. Much more so than the critics give her credit due for. Growing up with little money but more than a buffs share of movies, Scarlett lived and breathed cinema and its movie making backdrop home of New York City, even gravitating to Elementary school graduation in the famed Greenwich Village area of N.Y.C. home to cultural and artistic inspiration and every star that gets there's from this coffee house and guitar district like guys called Dylan. This is why there was 'Just Cause' for this girl to play James Bond's daughter in a 1995 Sean Connery film 'If Lucy Fell' before another 'Fall' and another 'Home Alone' (3) had Scarlett falling into success and leaving everyone else slapping the sides of their faces and wide mouths in child abandoned, aftershave applied shock. Good Scarlett is just that great, from her youth to adult performances that are more than just maturity...there mastery. Here's a girl that's offered a career most women decades her senior would die for...and she's got nothing now left but time thanks to all she's already put on the clock. You just have to hand it to her for all she's given to the movie world, even if most critics have their arms folded, they've embraced the films she's been in.

Just like after a river ran through a Robert Redford American classic about pretty horses, Johansson squealed through 'My Brother The Pig' before linking up with the classic Cohen brothers for the bold 'The Man That Wasn't There'. 2001 saw more praise for her perfect performance in the haunting 'Ghost World' which showed the spirit of her sensitivity, acting style and as a result success. Then along came some spiders for some fun in 'Eight Legged Freaks'...hey even George Clooney had to start with 'The Attack Of The Killer Tomatoes' before his career sauce. Real growth and greatness came in 2003 via Sofia Coppola, Bill Murray and Japan for one of modern days greatest 'Lost In Translation'. A friendship and love story tour-de-force through the navigating of the neons of classic city Tokyo in all its beautiful inspiration but lonely isolation for a young and old traveller both life and love weary. From the iconic and supremely sexy opening shot...yep it has to be said, to the charismatic and charming chemistry between the leading couple of Americans who find each other further East, it was no wonder Scarlett came home with a BAFTA as Murray permanently laid down the concrete foundation that his weird and wonderful style made him one of the greatest. It's a role like this-just shy of 20 years old-that saw Johansson leave her teens and tweens in more ways than one for an adult role that showed her amazing growth and range. Murray had to wait decades and generations before his greatest role, this generations best gave one of hers before her time. Who knows what she'll do in her already classic career catalogue by the time she's ironing out the 'Groundhog Day' wrinkles. If Jennifer Lawrence is a young Meryl Streep, than Scarlett is the starlet throwback that centuries from now will be reminiscent and wished for like the Loren's and young Monroe's...and she deserves at least an Oscar by now.

The 18 year old continued the beyond her years growth with 'Girl with a Pearl Earring' as she fast became the big and many movie hardest working actress she still is to this day. The presence of her husky voice and engrossing expressions made her a complex creator of her craft in more ways than just a singular sensation. Some 'Spongebob' vocal booth appearances soaked up more work before the 'In Good Company' comedy and the dark 'A Love Song For Bobby Long' gave more box office receipts and critical praise receiving and singing for the screen siren. Alongside Ewan McGregor in Michael Bay's sci-fi 'The Island' saw more blockbuster success for this all-round talent of all-films as did her service to Woody Allen's 'Match Point'. The New York actress and director collaborated again with Australian Hugh Jackman for another 'Scoop', but it was the film-noir of 'The Black Dahlia' that was a read all about it affair for Josh Harnett coming off his best 'Lucky Number Slevin' with shades of 'L.A. Confidential', a lot of sex appeal, sinister secrecy and hush, hush. Things got really great however for Scarlett and her reunited screen partner Hugh Jackman for 'Dark Knight' director Christopher Nolan's 'The Prestige', also starring Christian Bale. This was the 'Inception' of Nolans best work as Wolverine duked it out trick for trick with Batman, as the Black Widow played the background. This powerful, period 'Prestige' piece was true magic. A short film feature for Bob Dylan's 'Modern Times' ('When The Deal Goes Down') gave more rhyme to the reasoning that most of America artistic talent harks from the village of New York's Greenwich. 'The Nanny Diaries' with Laura Linney and 'The Other Boleyn Girl' with Natalie Portman showed more dynamic diversity alongside some of actings best. Still Scarlett's best was about to come out from the shade.

Her third curtain call with Woody saw her travel to Spain for 'Vicky Cristina Barcelona' for another role that wouldn't be lost in translation in bold and beautiful Barcelona. The Frank Miller graphic novel noir of 'The Spirit' also saw this stunning star throwback to the testament of the femme fatale she seemed destined to be born in a different era for. Although it was no 'Sin City' it did show us that this is the true 'Dame To Kill For'...now if only hey, because here's someone even better than Alba. 'He's Just Not Into You' (which featured her covering Jeff Buckley's 'Last Goodbye' beautifully on the soundtrack) became the latest fangirl favourite rom-com in 2009 but Scarlett was always meant for something with more meaning and that's why the sweet and sincere 'We Brought A Zoo' is one of her most amazing and underrated attractions for all the family. She also starred as a victim of 'Psycho' in the 'Hitchcock' biopic starring Anthony Hopkins and Helen Mirren, enough to finally cement her star on the Hollywood Work Of Fame after all her years of great groundwork. The work that sees her hand to ass kicking, super S.H.I.E.L.D assassin Black Widow character (that from 'Iron Man 2' to 'The Avengers' films (featuring the 'Age Of Ultron' sequel where she high-kicks whilst months pregnant in a catsuit...WOW!) sees her in almost as many Avenger flicks as Samuel L. Jackson's Nick Fury and is top of the Natalie Portman, Jaimie Alexander, Kat Dennings., Gwyneth Paltrow fanboy marvelling list) gives 'Captain America-The Winter Soldier' her characters most complex and deeply dark turn yet, terrifically teaming up with Chris Evans for this years best superhero film. A year that sees Joaquin Phoenix fall in love with 'Her' vocally for the Oscar worthy futuristic 'love APPtually' cautionary tale of modern day dating and love. A modern day run of 12 months or so that has shown this 'SIRIous' talent show Joseph Gordon-Levitt's 'Don Jon' a real bubble gum popping, take no b.s. accented Jersey girl bigger than her off Broadway theatrical talents with Ethan Hawke and the on ones in 'Cat On A Hot Tin Roof'. Now if you thought that was man eating just wait until she takes you round Scotland in a truck 'Under The Skin', between the black lingerie sensual and sexual, full frontal backdrop to the sinister made-up, wig and fur wearing alien that stalks and kills the men of Glasgow. Weird...yep! Wonderful...you're damn right. If you took this pick-up to the 'Thelma & Louise' roads of Route 66 then you'd probably have another American classic on your hands, but here it's otherworldly like the Danish/American star herself whose about to cook up 'Chef' and personify new love in 'Lucy'. Scarlett Johansson, when you talk about her you're talking about an American classic heroine that's out of this world. Showing us once and for all that this Black Widows beauty is much more than just skin deep.

Monday, 7 April 2014

CLASSIC REVIEW: COLLATERAL (10th ANNIVERSARY EDITION)

5/5

To Live & Die In L.A.

#FavouriteFilms

(Our new 'Favourite Film' series reviews classic films that are among our nearest and dearest best)

120 Minutes. Starring: Tom Cruise, Jamie Foxx, Mark Ruffalo & Jada Pinkett Smith. Director: Michael Mann.

TAXI! All hail one of modern movies greatest gems! As clinically incredible as it is criminally underrated, Michael Mann's sensationally stylish tense and taught thriller gives the legendary director 'Heat' like shootout scenes of amazing action that birthed his recent 'Public Enemies' and 'Miami Vice' but that 'Insider' like inspired influence of dramatic dialogue that made some of these no bullets and all brain scenes the talk of the town. The iconic 'The Last of the Mohicans' and 'Ali' director thankfully will return to his favourite chair for the first time in over a half decade next year for the 'Cyber' thriller with hot 'Thor' and 'Rush' man of the moment Chris Hemsworth for a long and welcome reunion with the celluoid he redefined with his digital capturing of cinema in a crisp, cool and classic way before HD, before Blu Ray. The depth and detail in the formidable filming of this dark and dynamic action-flick is boldly beautiful, but this film is more than its amazing and atmospheric aesthetic. A fond film for this writer it's hard to fathom that this came out a decade ago. A decade that saw this man California dream like the Mama's and Papa's only to visit the city of angels, Los Angeles not two years later thanks to this film epic view of the city and his own love for the Basketball franchise the Los Angeles Lakers and it's star Kobe Bryant. Two year later where the vivid imaginations of this film became the realest reality to this then young, 21 year old writer who had dreams of penning the same sort of inspiration. A writer who told his friends that this was the Tom Cruise film where he showed just how good an actor he was-albeit looking a bit grey and like Richard Gere in 'Pretty Woman'. A writer who told his friends that this singer/comedian from 'Any Given Sunday' and a real and raw ringside performance in Mann and Will Smith's 'Ali', Jamie Foxx was going to be something. Before the 'Ray' Oscar (and this 'Collateral' nomination that should have seen him become the first actor to win a 'Best Actor' and 'Supporting' award in the same year), before 'Django', now Electro and soon Martin Luther King Jnr for what could possibly be one of todays best actors greatest ever roles.

A writer who can't thank Tom Cruise and Jamie Foxx enough for the love and appreciation on Twitter and in turn gives them this in this digital age. A digital age that began with Mann, one of the greatest directors of our generation and all time who we really need to see more from. His films are even better than they look in their tone and texture and their haunting and harrowing feel that evokes the senses with any set-piece. Even the late, great Syd Field referenced the script of this film for his maginficent manual on how to write a selling screenplay that belongs on the bedside of every would be writer, whether they have a Hollywood paycheque next to it or a McDonalds one. From the "shimmers of chrome to the flashes of silver", the electric night and lights of an epic and futuristic city scape haven't been laid out in all it's epic loneliness and cold isolation since the reading between the lines of Michael Jackson's 'Human Nature' classic and it's the human side of this fantastic films feel, from the way it looks to the way it strikes that really captures you. From Jamie driving round his friend Will Smith's wife Jada in his Taxi to the tune of Groove Armada's smooth and smouldering classic 'Hands of Time' to the turning of more classic records from Miles Davis, The Roots and Mann's favourite Green Car Motel this film looks, feels and sounds the part. Oh and Mann used Paul Oakenfold's 'Ready Steady Go' before everyone else did-like that years score off the '12 Years A Slave' trailer-for a Korean club, chaotic round of bullets that could even gun down Pacino and De Niro's epic street, shootout bank heist in 'Heat'. A magnificent mark that Mann's mainstream 'Public Enemies' with Johnny Depp and 'Miami Vice' (again with his favourite Foxx and Colin Farrell) could not top. Perhaps the God of Thunder and Formula One racing will do in this 'Cyber' age of 'Black Hat'.

This is a director who puts his Hollywood stars through the perfect paces to produce puncuated performances, from Cruise's gun control training (see the legacy that left in 'Jack Reacher' and more) and his hilarious posing as an UPS delivery man round downtown L.A., to Foxx's fast and furious race-track training and riding round with cabbies. Still, this film is more than the big-three of Cruise, Foxx and Mann. There's a classic cast. From Jada Pinkett Smith to another Mann long-term friend and accosiate Barry Shabaka Henley's jazz stylings to the score of 'Spanish Key'. There's also Peter Berg, Richard T. Jones an almosy unrecognisable (see Jon Voight, 'Ali' for further information) Javier Bardem in this 'No Country For Old Men' from the legendary sinister 'Skyfall' villain who is evern more serious here and a cool cameo from Jason Statham. Still it's the Hulk himself Mark Ruffalo armed with a detectives badge and a moustache that cops the highest praise from his heart filled and breaking performance. Slicker than his Brylcreem backed hair, after watching this film you'll all want to be a lone-wolf cop stalking the city of L.A., trying to solve the crimes the corrupt force refuses like any good cop in a bad world would. It's a hallmark role that led him to more detective work in the likes of 'Zodiac', 'Shutter Island', his best work and a 'By The Book' pilot script I'd love to land on his desk. With that being said however, in this city of American dreams, the real haunting nature of the life between Hollywood and the 'hood shows the underbelly of the great city of L.A. that still holds somethings that is hard to swallow and keep down. This is all captured perfectly by the two major players in this piece, Foxx and Cruise from their behind the wheel realtionship that starts with some classical music and a fanful fo dollars, to reality crashing down on Foxx cab drivers hood in the form of a dead body and more in the trunk then he ever imagined.

From Foxx eating his sub lunch in his clinicaly clean, but cheap cab, whilst looking through the 'unrivalled' Mercedes Benz catalogue for his limo-driving dream, to Foxx and Cruise watching a lone wolf cross a quiet, dark palm-tree adorned street at night as their calm before the club storm capturing (to the soundtrack of Audioslave's 'Shadow Of The Sun'), this film is full of little moments that make it engrossingly epic. Just like the middle of the graveyard shift shit where Foxx's driver goes on vacation, zoning out on a drop down mirror, picture perfect, postcard of his favourite Maldives Islands spot. Judging from the amount of photos from trips adorning this aspiring writers room I got the inspiration too. Still it's the exciting action that truly makes this more entertaining from the hands on the trigger to the feet on the accelerator. Still for all the bullets and bodies, nothing quite captures the complexities and classic characterization of terrific thrillers than the talk of the talk and it's the claustraphobic, conflict scenes in the cab confines that really open this outstanding feature up just like Foxx's dramatic turn of character in the face of life or death that was this actors career turn. As Cruise forces Foxx to drive him round the city as he knocks off his hitman victims one-by-one without paying a fare or leaving a tip, their back and forth is nothing short of brillaint and why they talk about murder and rip each others personal lives to shreds this is the kick up the backside maddening, motivation that could cause anyone watching to get up and go after their dream...like this waiter turned writer who will always have a lump in his throat as Cruise chides Foxx for not following his dream or even calling "that girl". "I'm full of s###? You're a monument of it"! "Someday my dream will come, one day you wake up and you are old, it never happened and it was never going to happen because you weren't going to do it anyway"! "Don't talk to me about murder"! "What the f### you still doing driving a cab" he asks. WOW! I guess it's not just the Twitter follow I have to thank Cruise and Foxx for because from asking out the love of my life to following my writing dream this film is so much more than just another one of my favourites. This is one late night, passenger seat cab ride confessional chat you'll never forget. It's time to stick your thumb up! Catch it while you can. TIM DAVID HARVEY.