Tag Archives: Marion Cotillard

Assassin’s Creed

“Your blood isn’t yours. It belongs to the creed.”

This is going to be tough. Video game adaptations come and go, mostly in a haze of their own dusty farts as they are tossed on the rubbish pile never to be talked of again. Those of us that love both films and games tend to watch them pass by with yet another feeling of bitter disappointment, as yet more of those games we love are mistreated and bastardised in the worst ways imaginable for the sake of a few multiplex dollars.

After last year’s blandly inoffensive but annoying Warcraft adaptation, Macbeth director Justin Kurzel found himself with the hopes of game lovers everywhere pinned to his part sci-fi, part historical action film, Assassin’s Creed.

This is especially true when it came to me, a self-confessed Assassin’s Creed super-fan who has adored the game franchise since it first appeared in 2007.

A convicted murderer sentenced to death, Callum Lynch (Michael Fassbender) wakes up from his apparent execution a prisoner of the Abstergo foundation, the modern day incarnation of the ancient Templar order. Forced into the Animus, a machine that allows a person to relive the memories of their ancestors, Lynch finds himself in 1492, living the life of his Assassin forefather Aguilar de Nerha, the last known protector of an artefact dating back to the origin of mankind with the power to control free will: The Apple of Eden.

As his sessions within the Animus continue, Callum finds himself becoming an Assassin. His memories and his ancestor’s skills bleed through to his present day self allowing him to harness the training Aguilar has both inside and outside of the machine. Under the guise of this program, being secretly run by Dr. Sophia Rikkin (Marion Cotillard) under the guidance of her father, Alan (Jeremy Irons), Abstergo is holding dozens more ancestors like Lynch as a collection of failed experiments, that they hope they have seen the end of now the Spanish assassin’s relative has arrived in their lab. Little do the Templars know that the captive brotherhood is not only plotting their escape from the facility, but planning to stop Lynch’s travels to the past from succeeding.

Between early reports that the film was badly balanced between the historical and futuristic scenes (not completely unlike the games, to be frank) and reading some poor early reviews, my expectations were severely lowered in the months leading up to this latest game-to-film release.

Maybe that helped the film a little.

There was never going to be any denying the prowess of everyone involved in the making of this movie, Kurzel and his composer brother Jed set almost every scene beautifully. Justin brings a veteran director’s gaze to a property that previously would have been handed over to a nobody just to churn out a film hoping to make back a few quid on the game they’d licensed – or worse, handed it to Uwe Boll. It’s a game series deserving of a quality helmer and I think it got that in Justin Kurzel. Aside from a bizarre choice in music for the film’s opening shots in Inquisition era Spain, his brother’s score does a magnificent job of elevating the direction to epic heights. At least, for the second half of the movie.

The opening hour feels like it’s dragging far more often than it feels well paced. A boring slog introducing elements – that need explaining to those in the cinema not savvy with the world so many of us have invested years of our lives in – almost kills the film dead in its tracks. It’s worth noting I saw the film with someone with absolutely no idea about about the game series, who said something very similar. And while that information dump and the very cool looking new Animus are appreciated, it came dangerously close to sending me to sleep. A glacial opening to set the scene and tone is all well and good, but this went on far too long and the closing fifty minutes worked very hard to send me out with a positive outlook on the film. And, for the record, I did walk out with a positive outlook.

Fassbender’s performance as the convicted murderer and his Assassin ancestor is a load of fun to watch. Any stunt double work is well hidden as his parkour moments and hand-to-hand combat are well filmed and excellent to behold. Excluding an absolutely mental moment as the film tries to convince us that Callum is losing his marbles as he breaks into song, his character was convincing and entertaining. Whether or not you think Mr Fassbender is stepping down a level or two to be in a video game movie, he still does a grand job.

Similarly, Marion Cotillard does sterling work as the scientist out to do good things with her time. Her, and her chemistry with Lynch, are very good and again, feels like she’s giving it her all in a film that wouldn’t necessarily deserve it. Sadly, Jeremy Irons and fellow inmate Michael K. Williams seem to be phoning in their performances; showing little to no care for what they are doing.

Overall, I did enjoy my time with Callum, Aguilar and Assassin’s Creed. But it’s not without its troubles. The aforementioned pacing issues and glaring problems with some music choices are at the top of a list that also includes a lack of care and attention to the source material; admittedly something only fans would see, but you made this for us, so treat us with a little respect.

A slightly above average film that I really enjoyed, but star power and fan service doesn’t make a great film without a little more substance. I would imagine someone with no familiarity with the games would get very little from this film, as pretty as it is.

Keep your eyes peeled on the Failed Critics and Character Unlock feeds in the coming week as we dissect Assassin’s Creed as a franchise before we review the film.

Front Row with Owen and Paul: The Scottish Radio Show

Front Row Logo

The latest episode of Front Row with Owen and Paul is likely to cause offence – not due to swearing, at least, which we’ve found a new filter for. But like the two pretentious University students trying to sound intelligent by talking about Shakespeare that they are, only to sully themselves with cock jokes throughout, many people are sure to be rubbed up the wrong way (if you know what I mean).

With the 400th anniversary of the playwright’s death/birth celebrated this past weekend, Owen revisits last October’s adaptation of Macbeth, starring Marion Cotillard and Michael Fassbender. In the sports round-up, Paul covers  the infamous “deflate-gate”, the poorly defined fines in sport, and the shock of the University of Buckingham FC’s cup final victory.

The tunes on this week’s live Bucks101 Radio show (Tuesday’s, 5pm!) were chosen to fit a theme: “build a body out of songs”, as suggested on Twitter by Brian Plank. Limited to four tracks each, Owen and Paul had to find a song title or band name that made reference to a head, a body, legs and arms. Needless to say, playing Frankenstein is not as easy as it sounds with some very tenuous links being made by the pair.

Finally in the show, the dice roll lands on TV for the first time this series. Just in time for Owen and Paul to discuss why they aren’t watching Game of Thrones, what illegal downloading means to them, all before veering way off course to chat about Kid Rock’s ticketing policy. Hmm.

Playlist:

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Failed Critics Podcast: The Scottish Podcast

macbethIs this a dagger I see before me? No, it’s just this week’s triple bill edition of the Failed Critics podcast!

Acclaimed Glaswegian author Escobar Walker debuts alongside noted-neds and podcast regulars Steve Norman, Owen Hughes and Paul Field, to review the Scottish play-turned-movie Macbeth and to each pick their three favourite films from north of the border.

We kick things off as we always do with a quiz,one that is – yes, you guessed it – Scottish themed. Before that though, we have a short pre-credits intro that should give you an insight into just how depraved and filthy the combined minds of Paul and Esco can get. You have been warned.

With no other new releases to review this week, and no ‘what we’ve been watching’ section, we devote more time to our review of Macbeth than Paul spent awake during his entire short cinema trip to watch director Justin Kurzel’s big-screen Shakespearean adaptation.

To wrap things up the team share their three favourite Scottish movies. Alas, this might be a spoiler and maybe even come as a shock or disappointment to a few of you, but nobody picks Highlander, Braveheart or The Wicker Man. I can only apologise, but we do find some other real classics to talk about instead.

You can join Steve and Owen again next week where we’ll have more guests, presumably less profanity, and reviews of Suffragette and The Walk.

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Failed Critics Podcast: World Cinema Special!

No, this guy doesn't count
No, this guy doesn’t count

Bonjour, hola, guten tag, and konnichiwa to the Failed Critics World Cinema Special. This week the critics (well, most of them) take you through some of their favourite elements of film filmed in something other than English, as well as exploring some new avenues themselves.

In What We’ve Been Watching they review films from a country they haven’t experienced cinematically before, with choices from Israel, Brazil, and Quebec, while this week’s Triple Bill is ‘Favourite World Cinema Actors/Actresses’. We round off the podcast with some recommendations from some of our favourite countries.

Join us next week as we review Alpha Papa, Only God Forgives, and The Conjuring.

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And the Oscar doesn’t go to…

oscarsYesterday saw the delightful Emma Stone and the diametrically opposite Seth MacFarlane announce the contenders for this year’s Academy Awards. By the time you read this, countless actors, directors, producers, and especially agents and assorted hangers-on will be knee deep in champagne, cocaine, and hookers in celebration. But let’s spare a thought for those who will have seen the nominations and gone home to kick their cat and/or personal assistant.

Join us on the Failed Critics Podcast later this week as we discuss the list in full, as well as offering our thoughts on Les Miserables which garnered eight nominations for the 85th Academy Awards ceremony, which takes place on Sunday 24th February.

The following contains a The Dark Knight Rises spoiler.

Paul Thomas Anderson

The mercurial director who has been nominated five times in the past was ignored in the Director category, and the Academy even went as far as nominating nine films for Best Picture and leaving out The Master. After being marked out as the early rival to Spielberg’s Lincoln it seems that while the emperor isn’t naked, he’s certainly getting a few odd looks on his attire.

Marion Cottilard

The Oscar-winning actress redeemed her appalling death scene in The Dark Knight Rises with a stunning turn in my favourite film of 2012, Rust and Bone. Although Rust and Bone lost out on France’s nomination for the Foreign Language category (to the admittedly excellent The Intouchables, which sadly also failed to make the final short-list), there were rumours Cottilard could receive a nomination in the Best Actress category. That’s my £1 bet at 25/1 down the drain.

Kathryn Bigelow

Another Oscar-winner to miss out on a nomination this year. Bigelow’s Zero Dark Thirty may have made it onto the Best Picture list, but her absence from the Director category was a surprise. Her achievement in becoming the first woman to win the Oscar  for Direction with the Hurt Locker has often been overshadowed by accusations that she won it precisely because she is a woman. Despite the fact that she beat James Cameron’s pretty mediocre Avatar, and Tarantino’s Inglorious Basterds (far from his finest film). This year was her chance to prove it wasn’t a fluke, with arguably a better picture. It appears America isn’t willing to condone torture in its prison camps, or its cinemas, any longer.

The Imposter

The best documentary of the year doesn’t get a nomination. Hopefully director Bart Layton is already working on his next incredible story; how the Academy managed to fuck this up so badly.

Matthew McConaughey

Okay, so he would have been a left-field choice, but what more has the man got to do to get a nomination? He’s already won over his harshest critic with fantastic roles in Magic Mike and Killer Joe, and he’s even given up leaning against women on the posters of trashy rom-coms. After seeing him sleaze it up in Magic Mike, a lot of people laughed at me for suggesting an outside chance of an Oscar nomination. Well who’s laughing now? Oh.

Ben Affleck

Makes twice the film that Good Will Hunting is, and gets none of the personal nominations. Maybe he should have directed it with Matt Damon? If we’re not careful we’ll push him right back into the arms of Daredevil!

Failed Critics will be live-blogging the Oscars Ceremony on February 24, and discussing the undeserving winners and unlucky losers in our podcast the next day.

The Failed Critics Awards – Editor’s Choice

The votes have been cast, and the polls are now closed for the first ever Failed Critics Awards. While you’re going to have to wait until New Year’s Eve for the results, James Diamond (Founder, Editor, and all-round Svengali of the site) presents his personal picks of 2012.

Best Films of 2012

Sightseers10. Sightseers

From the opening bars of Soft Cell’s Tainted Love, to the epic climax featuring The Power of Love by Frankie Goes to Hollywood, Ben Wheatley’s third feature is gloriously British and reminiscent of a time that many of us have long-forgotten. It’s also very, very funny – like Mike Leigh directing the League of Gentlemen.

9. Holy Motors

The few of you who caught Holy Motors will not have seen anything else like it this year, or possibly ever. Leos Carax’s surreal odyssey stars Denis Lavant as a performer travelling Paris by limousine and performing ‘assignments’ along the way – including kidnapping Eva Mendes and licking her armpits, singing with Kylie Minogue, and leading the finest marching accordion band committed to film.

8. Untouchable

The kind of film you imagine Hollywood screwing up royally (and we’ll know for sure when the inevitable remake appears), Untouchable tells the true story of a millionaire paraplegic and his assistant from the clichéd ‘wrong side of the tracks’. What lifted this film above my low expectations of a saccharine-saturated heart-warmer is its cutting and cynical humour and brilliant central performances (particularly Omar Sy as Driss).

berberian sound studio7. Berberian Sound Studio

This wonderful exploration of the use of sound in cinema reminded me of David Lynch at his creepy best. Toby Jones is sublime as the sound engineer summoned to Italy to work on the sound for the intriguing giallo film-within-a-film The Equestrian Vortex. Funny, and spine-chilling in equal measure.

6. Argo

Who would have guessed back when he was starring in Gigli that Ben Affleck would become one of the most reliable directors in the business. After serving his apprenticeship on low-key films like Gone Baby Gone and The Town, Affleck nailed the classic Hollywood thriller with Argo – the ‘true story’ of the showbiz-facilitated extraction of US Embassy staff during the Iranian uprising. I’ve backed this as my outside bet for Best Picture at the 2013 Oscars, which guarantees it won’t win, sadly.

5. Avengers Assemble

In my humble opinion the best blockbuster of a year that saw the conclusion of the Nolan Batman series, the reboot of Spider-Man, and the return to the Alien franchise of Ridley Scott. Joss Whedon’s supergroup of a comic book adaptation improved on every single Marvel lead-up movie, and more. Featuring a typical Whedon script that managed to be funnier than most ‘comedies’ (I’m looking at you two in particular, The Dictator and Ted), as well as introducing a number of children to the year’s best insult (“you mewling quim”), Avengers Assemble has it all. Except a decent name in the UK. With Whedon already planning a sequel, and Shane Black (Lethal Weapon and Kiss Kiss Bang Bang screenwriter) in charge of Iron Man 3, Marvel looks to have stolen a march on DC Comics who are frantically trying to pull together a Justice League film to retaliate.

4. Safety Not Guaranteed

Finally getting a UK release on Boxing Day, this smart and funny film from first-time director Colin Trevorrow is full of charm, humour, and no little romance. I saw it at Sundance London in May, and wouldn’t shut up about it for the following seven months. I challenge you not to fall in love with Aubrey Plaza as Darius, the magazine intern who is investigating a small ad that simply reads:

Wanted: Somebody to go back in time with me. This is not a joke. You’ll get paid after we get back. Must bring your own weapons. Safety not guaranteed. I have only done this once before.

The man who placed the advert is seemingly dangerous loner Kenneth (Mark Duplass), and the resulting film is part-adventure/part-romance in true 1980s Amblin style.

3. The Imposter

This is one of those documentaries that hammers home the cliché that truth really is stranger than fiction. It tells us the story of a young French man who impersonated a missing 13-year-old boy from Texas, ensconcing himself within the family home and their community with tall tales of being trafficked by the military. What makes this film more than a weird Channel 5 documentary is its innovative use of recreated flashbacks and, most importantly, interviews with the people at the centre of this strange situation – including the con-man himself. A true story that plays out like a Coen Brothers thriller, this film really has everything.

2. Amour

Michael Haneke’s second Palm d’Or-winning film is a brutal study of the inevitability of death, ever-so-slightly tempered by a wonderful portrayal of octogenarian love. With his trademark long-takes allowing space for the incredible performances of Emmanuelle Riva and Jean-Louis Trintignant to breathe, Heneke has created a near-perfect film that immerses the viewer into a world more than the technical wizardy of 3D and 48fps could ever hope to. As patrons left the screening I attended no-one wanted to speak to each other. The silence was a sign of the sheer power of this film.

rust-and-bone1. Rust and Bone

Beaten by Amour at Cannes, and unlikely to renew battle at the Oscars after France nominated Untouchable for the Foreign Language award, at least Rust and Bone director Jacques Audiard can take consolation in grabbing the number one spot on this list. I fell in love with this film back in November, and I have struggled to communicate exactly why since. I mean, it’s the story of a killer-whale trainer who loses her legs in a tragic accident, and her heart to a drifter and single parent who finds his niche in bare-knuckle boxing. It sounds ridiculous, but it is an incredible study of romance, and the importance of finding ‘the one’. Marion Cotillard is incredible, but Matthias Schoenaerts holds his own as her extremely flawed lover. Yet another brilliant Alexandre Desplat score (surely the best composer working in cinema right now) is backed by an eclectic soundtrack, with an unbelievably moving use of Katy Perry’s Firework. Honestly.

I’ve seen 75 films so far this year, so some great films were always going to miss out, and the following were very close to making my top ten.

The Muppets – A wonderful mix of the anarchic Muppet humour, the charm of Jason Segal and Amy Adams, and the brilliant songs of Brett ‘Flight of the Conchords’ McKenzie. The most fun I’ve had in a cinema for years.

Shame – The second Steve McQueen/Michael Fassbender collaboration, I enjoyed this even more than Hunger. A fascinating study of addiction, with plenty of The Fass and Carey Mulligan on show for those who are interested in that kind of thing.

The Raid – Quite literally the best pure-action film I’ve seen since Hard Boiled. The action world has a new star in Iko Uwais.

Skyfall – After the mess that was Quantum of Solace, this was a welcome return to form for 007. Equally influenced by the TV series Spooks and Home Alone, it featured the best Bond villain in years.

Holy Motors Denis LavantBest Performance

Denis Lavant (Holy Motors) and Marion Cotillard (Rust and Bone)

Best Soundtrack

I can’t choose between three very different soundtracks. Rust and Bone for its fantastic score and eclectic track selection; The Muppets for the best original songs in the cinema this year; and Searching for Sugar Man for introducing me to the wonderful story and music of Sixto Rodriguez.

Biggest Surprise

I have spoken about Matthew McConaughey’s rebirth as a credible actor at length, so I’ll have to give this jointly to 21 Jump Street and Goon for being far funnier (and more sweet and charming) than Ted or The Dictator.

Worst Film

This Means War was an abomination with even Tom Hardy looking confused. Dark Shadows though, was the film that made me loudly and involuntarily exclaim “oh, for fuck’s sake!” in a reasonably busy cinema.

The Failed Critics Awards will be presented during the Failed Critics End-of-Year Podcast Special.

Failed Critics Review: End of Watch

Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Peña in End of WatchThis week on the Failed Critics Review we look at the cop film that French Connection director William Friedken described as the “best movie about cops ever made”. Can James get over the found footage angle? Can Steve suggest a way he would have done it better? Can Gerry get around to seeing it? (No).

Also on this week’s podcast we look at James’ future wife Marion Cotillard in Rust and Bone, and discuss films as varied as Network, Seeking a Friend for the End of the World, and The Devil’s Backbone.

Next week’s episode is the launch of the Failed Critics Hall of Fame, where we award some poor Oscar-less schmuck with some award I’ll try and rustle up on Photoshop.

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