At the beginning of Leonardo DiCaprio’s acting career I would have assumed his stereotypical all-American high school kid looks would have landed him in endless romantic comedy roles, but then his talent would have been wasted. Inception is possibly DiCaprio’s best film to date, and certainly gives rise to a few lesser-known actors too.
The release of Inception came eagerly anticipated after the film industry had run low on blockbusters for several months. Nothing had built excitement and expectation quite like it for some time. This, combined with its feature-length trailer showing off some impressive graphic creativity gave audiences waiting to see Inception high expectations long before its release. Could it live up to the hype? No. It exceeded it beyond anyone’s imagination as the best film of its genre to come out of Hollywood in countless months, perhaps years.
Inception is set in multiple realities, with the basis being a world which has the technology to access the human mind via manufactured dreams, with participants attached to a mechanical devise tying them into the same subconscious place. DiCaprio plays Dom Cobb, the father who is desperate to get back to his children but must undertake a mission of inception to do so, planting an idea in a person’s mind so deep that the individual believes it to be their own thought process.
Cobb’s hired architect, Ariadne follows Cobb into his own subconscious, to discover how he knows the process is possible, uncovering a further addition to the ever-evolving story and giving the film its love story without conforming to any typical romance plot, and instead giving the angle a dramatic and important part to play in the overall story. Fully expecting Ariadne to be Cobb’s new, younger, love interest, it was refreshing to find that her gender role played no part in this expected plot development. A moment of romance was seen in her involvement with another character, but even this was slight and inserted for subtle humour over romance.
Inception literally gave its graphic designers an endless world to play with, and what could have been glazed over as a few fine details in the forefront of each geographical scene really went all out with what I can only imagine as an unthinkable amount of work and effort. The importance of an architectural character was emphasised to really acknowledge the attention to detail in Cobb’s alternate reality. From the first structures and creativity of an entire city to the demise and destruction of each building, no effort was lost, and will be one of the things that really sell the DVD for fans of high definition. Thankfully though, Inception chose not to release a 3D version and instead remained focussed on the story the audience were there to absorb.
Inception’s director, Christopher Nolan delivers the excellence we saw from him in the Dark Knight, but with the added freedom of his own conveyance of plot, he brought the story to life in a way which will be recognised for a long time, and will no doubt further him still in the respect he will earn from his Hollywood peers.
There aren’t always a lot of films around which have an element of everything needed to make them work. Inception had the emotionally pulling love story mixed with just the right amount of action to be impressive without boring the audience into a passive mix of gunshots and explosions, ensuring boy and girl could go on their mutual date and both go home happy with their choice of film. Combine this with the thought-provoking drama and pure directional talent and Inception will struggle to find a large audience who won’t enjoy it.
If you’ve ever needed a film to illustrate the saying, ‘must-see film’, then this is that film. Its brilliance is unexplainable in a way that can only be understood after seeing it for yourself. Go and see it now, then go back and see it again.
Ken Loach is a prominent person in the history of film making. With a career spanning over 40 years, Ken Loach has continuously brought forward key social issues to the public eye. His dedication and contribution to cinema is profound. Indeed, it is quite difficult to think of any other British director who has had the same affect on cinema. As a result, any work about British cinema essentially has to include Ken Loach, for failing to do so would make it incomplete and useless.
The filming style of Ken Loach, as Graham Fuller correctly describes it, is that of a social realist, meaning that Loach portrays his films in a naturalistic way: mainly by using simple static, documentary type camera work and a realistic, complex dialogue. Like other social realists, Loach focuses on crucial social issues. His main attention has been focused towards the plight of the working classes, who are faced with the problems of unemployment, labour rights, and restrictive social mobility. However, Loach has also focused on other issues, such as abortion and the political and ideological battles of the Spanish Civil War.
Ken Loach began his filming career by directing television programmes during the 1960s, such as Z Cars. However, his first major contribution to both British cinema and social realism can be found in Cathy Come Home, which was filmed as part of the BBC’s Wednesday Plays. Cathy Come Home is the story of a mother, who along her husband and two children, are made homeless after being evicted because of their inability to pay the rent. During the course of the drama, we see how the relationship between Cathy and her husband breaks down and how she struggles to find somewhere to live for her and her children. The story concludes in the most harrowing way by having her children taken away from her by social services in a railway station. This ending is particularly distressing, for we see both Cathy and her children crying and screaming as the social services, in an almost brutish way, take the children from her.
Cathy Come Home certainly had an impact. It caused massive social uproar within the British public. So much that as a result the leading homeless charity, Shelter, was created to help those affected by homelessness. As Ken Loach progressed from television to film, his focus on social issues remained. His first major film, Kes, largely deals with the lack of social mobility that is available to the working class and how the educational system offers little opportunity. Like Cathy Come Home, Kes also finishes on a down note, where the boy, Billy, finds out that his older brother has killed his kestrel; which was the only means for him to express his talent and thus symbolises that like the dead bird, Billy has no chance of escaping his limited situation.
It is thus clear that Ken Loach recognises that for many people, there is no opportunity for them to resolve social issues for themselves. That is, they are largely stuck where they are with no hope of escape unless there is drastic change. This does not mean, however, that Ken Loach does not recognise humour in society. Indeed, his 1993 film Raining Stones has a considerable amount of humour.
His last released film, Looking for Eric, is his most comedic film and is somewhat of a divergence from his earlier work. The follows Eric, a middle-aged postal worker who is facing multiple crises in his life: he is separated from his wife and his two stepsons are disrespectful; with one of them being heavily involved with a dangerous criminal. As a result, Eric turns to smoking cannabis and seeks help from a poster of his idol: one of the greatest footballers (and the best French Philosopher since Sartre), Eric Cantona.
This is where Loach has moved away from his social realist roots, because what happens is that Eric Cantona actually appears to Eric, although he is the only one who can see him, and starts to offer advice to help him turn his life around. I won’t go into the full story here, but as a result of the help from the metaphysical Cantona, Eric is able to resolve his problems by getting back with his wife and stopping his stepson from being involved with the criminal.
For me, Looking for Eric is most definitely the funniest Ken Loach film. There are many scenes where Eric Cantona makes the film worth seeing.
But does the film work? The answer is no. For the trouble with Looking for Eric is that it fails to give a realistic ending to the very real issues that Eric is faced with. In reality, there is no absolutely no way that Eric Cantona could help Eric. Therefore, the possibility of Eric getting back with his wife and stopping his stepson being involved in crime is limited.
Consider it like this. Could Cathy in Cathy Come Home rely on her transcendent idol to save her from her plight of homelessness and stop social services from taking her children? No. Could David, in Land and Freedom, stop Carla from being shot and resolve the Spanish civil war by turning to his idol? No. In reality, can anyone turn to their idol when they face social issues such as homelessness, unemployment, or oppression? Of course not.
The fact of the matter is that Looking for Eric distorts reality. It blurs what is happening with what could never realistically happen. It deludes the audience in thinking that relying on fantasy will solve problems. Although living in fantasy may give relief to those daydreaming; but in regards to social issues, such hallucinations will not do.
Nevertheless, there is the hope that Ken Loach will return to form. As those of you who followed this year’s Cannes Festival will know, Ken Loach was a late entry with his new film Route Irish. The film follows a private security contractor, Fergus, who after returning to Liverpool after working in Iraq, seeks to uncover the truth about the death of his close friend. Clearly Route Irish seems unlikely to have the same comic undertones of Looking for Eric. Like most of Loach’s films, Route Irish is sure to be a dark, bleak drama which, like the Iraq war, will leave a sour after taste in the mouths of those you see it. Whilst dealing with the controversial issue of the war in Iraq, it would seem wrong to bring in a comedic and transcendental aspect to the film like Looking for Eric.
Despite being released for Cannes, Route Irish is yet to have general release. And at the time of writing, there is no set date either. Yet, when the film is released, it hopefully should highlight the issue of Iraq and what consequences we all now face with it. And I’m sure the Ken Loach can successfully force these issues into the public’s eye. Nevertheless, Loach may bring a surprise with Route Irish; he may add another dimension to his directing style for instance. After all, as the title of his 2007 suggests: “It’s a free world….”
Poets of the Fall are one of the most popular Finnish rock bands to have succeeded into breaking into the American and English music scenes with songs such as ‘Carnival of Rust‘, ‘Locking Up The Sun‘ and ‘Lift‘ all featuring in a plethora of media including games and movies. With their latest song ‘War’, what are Poets of the Fall hoping to do?
Poets of the Fall have achieved something brilliant with their latest track ‘War’, an operatic song that is as beautiful as it is sorrowful. All those who listen to this song will appreciate the rising and falling crescendos, the momentum that sparks a passionate chorus and the violins that linger in the background, haunting the listener. What is it that makes this song so popular and has it achieved commercial success?
This song has featured in one of the most featured games of this quarter, ‘Alan Wake‘, a haunting action-adventure game about a ghost town and a writer who is trapped within it. When the teaser trailer for this game was released, this song was featured and the social media network became active with questions about this song. It was a song that fitted so well with the game and the public have responded well to it.
With ‘War’ featuring on Poets of the Fall’s latest album, Twilight Theatre, their commercial success is bound to increase ten-fold. What is perhaps the most disappointing thing about this band is that so few people have discovered what makes this band create: a real passion for operatic rock that brings about the best songs with the best lyrics. Their videos are even better with different directors all aiming for the same vision.
Waterloo Road is in its fifth season on the BBC and has been an unrivalled success so far. It presents a dramatised image of the public education system within the United Kingdom and does more to interact on a personal level with adults and teenagers who watch this programme than most other dramas on the BBC. It has its flaws and its problems but it is an excellent outsider look at schools.
When Waterloo Road started on the BBC, there was little promotion or advertisement surrounding the programme in comparison with the likes of Doctor Who, Eastenders or Planet Earth. It was scheduled for Thursday evening after the watershed to make sure that the audience was right for such a programme but it still acquired a following who have watched it ever since its first episode and it is still going strong in its fifth season.
I, for one, did not watch it during the first season. I am ashamed to admit that I had never heard of the programme until the third season where I discovered what a delight it was. Waterloo Road is a drama based on the comings and goings of pupils and teachers at a public comprehensive school, notorious for its drugs and alcohol problems along with the usual anti-social behaviour expected at a comprehensive school.
There is little doubt that the producers of this programme had a vision in mind of what Waterloo Road should be and the casting is perfect for such a role. It is a programme full of stereotypical characters from the egotistical sports fans to the narcissistic girls and the teachers are just as bad. With teachers ranging from the disenchanted and disinterested to the over-sexed and driven, most people will be able to associate with several of the characters, whether it is teachers or publics.
One of the most interesting developments of this series came in the fifth season when the producers decided that a new injection of drama was required and so had two schools, the existing Waterloo Road and a grammar school, John Fosters, merge with one another. The pupils from John Fosters flocked to Waterloo Road with disapproval and so ensues a bitter feud between pupils of two different schools and two different backgrounds.
This drama is one of the best parts of the BBC line-up with a strong cast that is ever-changing to keep the audience interesting (with some characters remaining longer than others), dialogue that is fast-paced and flowing and a plot that is dynamic and seamless as it shifts from season to season. The producers should be proud of their creation and I hope that this programme continues for a sixth or indeed even a seventh season.
Look out for Waterloo Road on BBC One, Wednesdays at 8pm.