Film Review: The Iceman

The Iceman

Ariel Vromen’s The Iceman is a fantastic crime drama with an exemplary central performance.

When Richard Kuklinski unwittingly encounters some gangsters, he catches the eye of a mafia boss who sets him to work. Kuklinski becomes a hitman, responsible for the a vas number of executions. But Kuklinski is also a family man, and they are oblivious to his notorious career…

Director Ariel Vromen, who also co-wrote the screenplay, delivers a memorable crime drama with The Iceman. The outcome of the story may be known to some, but this does not matter as the film is finely crafted to make it compelling viewing.

Based on true events, The Iceman does not shy away from violent depictions. Given its setting, themes, and indeed the casting of Ray Liotta, the film has definite allusions to Goodfellas. However Vromen distinguishes his film from Martin Scorsese’s classic by putting his own stamp on the direction.

The central character Kuklinski is cold, and responsible for such brutal crimes. He is not a character who audiences should find endearing. Yet the skill of Vromen and co-writer Morgan Land is that viewers end up rooting for Kuklinski. Some references to his background are made, but the film chooses to focus on the present day affairs. This makes the filmakers’ achievements all the more pivotal. The Iceman does not rely on a difficult backstory to generate feeling towards the protagonist; the way the story unfolds ensures that he is an absorbing figure.

With a number of great performances under his belt, Michael Shannon is a tour de force as Richard Kuklinski. His performance is both compelling and convincing. Shannon is ably supported by the rest of the cast. Winona Ryder is great as Deborah, while Chris Evans also delivers a strong performance.

Michael Shannon exhibits why he is one of the best actors in contemporary Hollywood with The Iceman. Highly recommended viewing.

Stuff To Look At

All manner of upcoming film-related items to occupy you for at least a few minutes…

The Great Gatsby

The Great Gatsby

The Great Gatsby has some mighty fine artwork. Art Deco reigns supreme in these new character posters. You can view the latest trailer for the film here. The Great Gatsby is out in UK cinemas on 16th May 2013.

The Hangover Part III

This new trailer for The Hangover Part III gives a good idea of the plot of the film. All the regular faces return for this final instalment, directed by Todd Phillips. The Hangover Part III is released in UK cinemas on 23rd May 2013.

21 and Over

21 and Over is a rites of passage comedy from the writers of The Hangover. Jeff Chang’s two best friends come to town to celebrate his 21st birthday, but he has an important interview the next morning. Starring Project X‘s Miles Teller, the trailer lets viewers know exactly what to expect. 21 and Over is out in UK cinemas on 3rd May 2013.

The Iceman

With a stellar cast that includes Michael Shannon, Winona Ryder and Ray Liotta, The Iceman is based on the story of real-life hitman Richard Kuklinski. The critically acclaimed film is due for release in the UK on 7th June 2013.

The Conjuring

Well this looks suitably terrifying. Here is the main trailer for horror movie The Conjuring. Starring Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga, the film hits UK screens on 19th July 2013.

10 Reasons Why Boardwalk Empire is Really a Film

In recent years, television shows have increasingly adopted cinematic tropes. Some of these can be found in current television series, nevertheless Boardwalk Empire is the pinnacle of this trend. Considering the first season of the show, here are ten reasons why Boardwalk Empire should be evaluated as a cinematic production, rather than a televisual one.

1. Martin Scorsese

One of Boardwalk Empire‘s executive producers and director of the pilot episode, the series has Martin Scorsese’s stamp all over it. The director’s preoccupations permeate the show, with themes of crime, morality and Catholic guilt consistently reoccurring. Early cinema also pops up rather frequently, and long time Scorsese collaborator Thelma Schoonmaker even acts as a consultant for the first episode.

2. Cast

The main players in Boardwalk Empire are all more associated with cinema rather than television. Protagonist Nucky is played by Steve Buscemi, while Michael Shannon and Kelly Macdonald are key cast members. Unlike some shows which feature movie stars in cameo roles, film actors are the main characters in the series. Even supporting roles are populated with actors more associated with film, Gretchen Mol as Gillian for example.

3. Production Values

Boardwalk Empire elevates itself above other television shows with its sublime sets, costuming and overall art direction. The attention to detail is fantastic, with music, artifacts and advertisements all given an authentic feel. The series is filmed beautifully, with a cinematic sheen given to the overall look. Depictions of gore look realistic too.

4. Historical Allusions

Given its period setting, it is unsurprising that events or incidents relating to the era pop up in Boardwalk Empire. Thankfully these never appear to be included for tokenistic value. Issues such as the women’s vote and the presence of the Ku Klux Klan are incorporated in the narrative in a naturalistic fashion. Unlike the ‘issue an episode’ format of shows such as Glee, the themes and historical references featured in Boardwalk Empire play a role in the overarching narrative and are often referred back to throughout the series.

5. Unfolding Plots

Plots in Boardwalk Empire are paced in a more deliberated way than many television shows. Narrative strands unfold in a more organic fashion than the often rushed method frequently employed by television. Although each episode features important events, there is not a sense of jumping ahead with a plot only introduced in the last episode. This is particularly pertinent as there is often a gap of weeks or months between when each episode is set.

6. Drama Not Gimmicks

Boardwalk Empire is a drama, though like most other films and shows it features additional elements. Despite the presence of violence and nudity, the series always retains its base in drama. Unlike True Blood which is increasingly becoming notorious for its graphic content (and The Sopranos before with its famed violence), drama remains the focus of Boardwalk Empire‘s appeal.

7. Episode Run Times

Boardwalk Empire distinguishes itself from most other television series through the differing lengths of the episodes. While television shows will often have a longer first or finale episode than the rest of the series, every episode of season one has at least a slightly different running time. The impression given by this is that the story unfolds at its own pace, rather than being constrained by the necessities of time slots and ad breaks.

8. Real Characters

A number of historical figures feature in Boardwalk Empire. Rather than token appearances, these characters are part of the main cast. Characters such as Al Capone, Lucky Luciano and Arnold Rothstein take on integral roles. Rather than the caricatures they could have degenerated into, they appear authentic and always necessary to the plot.

9. Lack of Cliffhangers

Unlike many television shows, Boardwalk Empire does not end episodes on a cliffhanger. Although the overarching strands are left lingering, there is not the urgency of what directly follows in the next episode. In this way Boardwalk Empire distinguishes itself from shows that rely on teasing audiences in what is to follow next week.

10. Season Conclusion

Season one of Boardwalk Empire can be viewed as a single film in its entirety, albeit a prolonged and slightly episodic one. The season concludes the main plots in a satisfying manner. However, it does not tie up every single loose end, hinting at a sequel in the shape of season two. Like many good films, Boardwalk Empire leaves some questions unanswered, yet feels complete in the journey made during the twelve episodes.

Boardwalk Empire Season One is available now on DVD and Blu-Ray.

Film Review: Take Shelter

Jeff Nichols’ Take Shelter is an engrossing drama that boasts a superlative performance by Michael Shannon.

Husband and father Curtis is haunted by a series of dreams which foretell an apocalypse. As these visions become more intense, he begins to question why they are plaguing him. At the same time as worrying about his mental health, Curtis begins to reinforce the family’s storm shelter…

Directed with assurance by Jeff Nichols, Take Shelter is a well crafted movie. The film slowly builds tension in an incredibly effective manner. The climax of the film is wrought with apprehension, and utterly captivating as a result. Take Shelter effectively plays on the tension between reality and unreality. The audience is often given Curtis’ viewpoint and shares his confusion over the source of his visions. Nevertheless, the concern of his family and friends is equally understandable.

Nichols’ film deal with mental health issues in a convincing and tactful manner. Part of the reason that Take Shelter will engage with audiences is the struggle of the protagonist. Most will be able to empathise with Curtis because of his helplessness in struggling with a perceived mental illness, and being unable to combat it alone. Take Shelter is not the tale of a delusional man, but one of someone who recognises their limitations and attempts to return to normality.

The cinematography and editing are at times wonderful. Michael Shannon delivers a wholly convincing and powerful performance as Curtis. Solid support is provided by ever reliable Jessica Chastain as wife Samantha.

Take Shelter is a fantastic second feature from Nichols. The film excels in engaging viewers throughout, and keeping them in the dark for almost the entire duration.

Take Shelter was screened at the BFI London Film Festival in October 2011.

Premium Rush Trailer

Premium Rush stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt as a bicycle messenger who picks up the wrong package. The film certainly makes bicylcle messenging seem like a highly dangerous and extremely exciting occupation, which may or may not be the case. Premium Rush, which also stars Jamie Chung, Michael Shannon and Dania Ramirez, is due for release in February 2012.

Film Review: The Runaways

One of the aims of this film surely is to encourage viewers to revisit the music of Joan Jett and The Runaways. The film will no doubt be successful on this count; it will be difficult to find one audience member who leaves without the iconic track ‘Cherry Bomb’ playing in their head.

Aspiring rock guitarist Joan Jett wishes to form an all-girl rock band in the 1970s. With the guidance of producer Kim Fowley, The Runaways go on to have great success, but it isn’t plain sailing for the group, particularly singer Cherie Currie…

This biopic was based on the memoirs of Currie, and with Jett as producer it is clear events are grounded in some truth. Notwithstanding, the filmmakers failed to get the consent of all the band members, which explains the elements of fiction. Although it is titled The Runaways, the film is very much the story of Jett and Currie.

The Runaways is very much a coming-of-age picture; depicting the girls growing up in their teen years whilst having their musical success. Thus, there is the sexual and drug experimentations, as well as the more mundane parental problems. The film reveals a notable shift in celebrity from the 1970s to the present day. Whilst the band could get away with a certain amount of bad behaviour behind closed doors, teen stars today do not appear to have quite the same luxury.

Although the film depicts the major events in The Runaways’ career, it does not give a clear sense of time. It shows the band getting signed and their success (particularly in Japan), but condenses later events. For those not schooled in the history of the band, this may be a little misleading.

The Runaways is an entertaining film overall, however on occasion points seem laboured. The lingering shots of Dakota Fanning in stockings and suspenders do not sit easy considering the actress’ young age. Although her costume is authentic of Currie, the protracted gaze is unnecessary. Furthermore, the film continually drives home how difficult it was to be a female musician at the time. Whilst this point is not disputed, the overemphasis is not really necessary; the same message could have been delivered with a degree more subtlety.

Dakota Fanning is excellent as Cherie Currie, proving she is one of the best young actresses around. Kristen Stewart successfully captures the attitude of Joan Jett, whilst Michael Shannon brings the humour as the larger-than-life Fowley. The re-recordings of songs by the cast are competent, but sound a little too polished compared to the originals.

The Runaways is an enjoyable trip to rock’n’roll history. The film is pretty much guaranteed to reignite interest in the band’s music, as well as gain a new generation of fans.