Saturday, 31 March 2012

How to Improve Your Self-Control

"It's all right letting yourself go, as long as you can get yourself back." ~Mick Jagger

Temptation comes in many forms, often so potent, so animal, that it seems impossible to resist. Eating too much, drinking too much, spending too much or letting the heart rule the head. We get instant messages from deep in the gut that resonate through the mind, trying to dictate our behaviour.
One of humanity's most useful skills, without which advanced civilisations would not exist, is being able to engage our higher cognitive functions, our self-control, to resist these temptations. Psychologists have found that self-control is strongly associated with what we label success: higher self-esteem, better interpersonal skills, better emotional responses and, perhaps surprisingly, few drawbacks at even very high levels of self-control (Tangney et al., 2004).
People, being only human, find the constant battle with basic urges is frequently too great and their self-control buckles. However, recent experimental research by Dr Kentaro Fujita at Ohio State University and colleagues has explored ways of improving self-control, where it comes from and why it sometimes deserts us.
Based on new research, along with studies conducted over the past few decades, Dr Fujita and colleagues have proposed that abstract thinking and psychological distance are particularly important in self-control.

1. Evidence that abstract thinking improves self-control

It never ceases to amaze just how different two people's views of exactly the same event can be: one person's freedom fighter is another's terrorist. But the way in which we view people or events isn't just constrained by unchangeable patterns of thought that are set in stone. Dr Fujita and colleagues explored the idea that simple manipulations of how we construe the world can have a direct effect on self-control. Their hunch was that thinking from a more abstract, high-level perspective increases self-control.
In their research, published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Fujita et al. (2006) used a number of experiments to test the idea that self-control is affected by how we construe or interpret events. The problem for the researchers was manipulating aspects of people's construal without them realising: this required some deception.
In one of Fujita et al.'s (2006) studies participants were told they were going to take part in two separate experiments - one on personality and another billed as a student survey. In fact this was just a cover story as the two pieces of research were designed to work together.
Experimenters used the 'student survey' as a cover to manipulate levels of construal. They needed participants to be thinking in either a high-level way (abstract - seeing the whole forest) or a low-level way (concrete - seeing individual trees). They did this by getting participants to think about their level of physical health, but in two different ways:

  • High-level construal condition: participants were asked to fill in a diagram which encouraged them to think about why they maintain good physical health. Participants tended to put answer such as: "To do well in school." This got them thinking about ends rather than means - the ultimate purpose of physical health.
  • Low-level construal condition: in contrast participants in this condition were asked to think about how they maintained their physical health. Naturally they responded with things like: "Go exercise". In other words they focused on means rather than ends, the actual process.
Just before this manipulation of construal level, in a study they were misinformed was separate, participants were told their personality was being tested physiologically through holding a handgrip. This handgrip was designed to be difficult to squeeze together but participants were told to hold on as long as possible. This provided a baseline measurement of their grip strength.
Just after the manipulation of construal level participants had dummy electrodes attached to their arm and were told that their personality could be measured while they squeezed the stiff handgrip again. This time, though, they were told that the longer they could squeeze the handgrip the more accurate the information would be. The question was: how well could participants forget the temporary discomfort of holding the handgrip once they had been told about the desired goal of getting information about their own personalities?
The results confirmed Fujita et al.'s (2006) suspicions. They showed that participants in the low-construal thinking condition (thinking about means rather than ends) held on to the handgrip for, on average, 4.9 seconds less than they had during the baseline measurement.
In contrast those in the high-construal condition held on for 11.1 seconds longer than their baseline measurement. Whether participants were thinking about means or ends had a really significant effect on how long they squeezed the handgrip. Those participants who had been encouraged to think in high-level, abstract terms demonstrated greater self-control in enduring the discomfort of the handgrip in order to receive more accurate personality profiles.
Along with this design Fujita et al. (2006) also carried out other studies using different measures of self-control and different ways of inducing either high-level or low-level construal. These produced similar findings. People in the high-level construal condition were consistently:

  • More likely to avoid the temptation of instant gratification.
  • Prepared to make a greater investment to learn more about their health status.
  • Less likely to evaluate temptations like beer and television positively.

2. How personality and the situation affect self-control

Self-control is not just affected by how we are thinking at a specific moment, that would be too easy. We have each developed different amounts of self-control. Some people seem to find it easy to resist temptation while others can be relied on to always yield to self-gratification. To a certain extent we have to accept our starting point on the self-control sliding scale and do the best we can with it.
Although a few people have very high (or very low) levels of self-control, two-thirds of us lie somewhere near the middle: sometimes finding it easy to resist temptation, other times not. Naturally the exact situation has a huge effect on how much self-control we can exert. One property of different situations central to self-control that psychologists have examined is 'psychological distance'.
Research reveals that people find it much easier to make decisions that demonstrate self-control when they are thinking about events that are distant in time, for example how much exercise they will do next week or what they will eat tomorrow (Fujita, 2008). Similarly they make much more disciplined decisions on behalf of other people than they do for themselves. People implicitly follow the maxim: do what I say, not what I do.
It's not hard to see the convergence between the idea of 'psychological distance' and high-level construal. Both emphasise the idea that the more psychological or conceptual distance we can put between ourselves and the particular decision or event, the more we are able to think about it in an abstract way, and therefore the more self-control we can exert. It's all about developing a special type of objectivity.

3. How to improve your self-control

Fujita et al.'s (2006) studies, along with other similar findings reported by Fujita (2008), suggest that self-control can be increased by these related ways of thinking:
  • Global processing. This means trying to focus on the wood rather than the trees: seeing the big picture and our specific actions as just one part of a major plan or purpose. For example, someone trying to eat healthily should focus on the ultimate goal and how each individual decision about what to eat contributes (or detracts) from that goal.
  • Abstract reasoning. This means trying to avoid considering the specific details of the situation at hand in favour of thinking about how actions fit into an overall framework - being philosophical. Someone trying to add more self-control to their exercise regime might try to think less about the details of the exercise, and instead focus on an abstract vision of the ideal physical self, or how exercise provides a time to re-connect mind and body.
  • High-level categorisation. This means thinking about high-level concepts rather than specific instances. Any long-term project, whether in business, academia or elsewhere can easily get bogged down by focusing too much on the minutiae of everyday processes and forgetting the ultimate goal. Categorising tasks or project stages conceptually may help an individual or group maintain their focus and achieve greater self-discipline.
These are just some examples of specific instances, but with a little creativity the same principles can be applied to many situations in which self-control is required. Ultimately these three ways of thinking are different ways of saying much the same thing: avoid thinking locally and specifically and practice thinking globally, objectively and abstractly, and increased self-control should follow.

Monday, 26 March 2012

War Horse (2011)

War Horse is a 2011 epic war film adaptation of War Horse, a 1982 children's novel set before and during World War I, by British author Michael Morpurgo, and the 2007 stage adaptation of the same name. It was directed by Steven Spielberg.

The cast includes David Thewlis, Benedict Cumberbatch, Jeremy Irvine, Emily Watson, Tom Hiddleston, Eddie Marsan, Toby Kebbell, David Kross and Peter Mullan. The film is produced by Spielberg and Kathleen Kennedy, and executive produced by Frank Marshall and Revel Guest. Long-term Spielberg collaborators Janusz Kamiński, Michael Kahn, and John Williams all worked on the film.

The film was nominated for six Academy Awards including Best Picture. It was also nominated for two Golden Globe Awards and five BAFTAs.

The Plot

In Devon, England, a boy called Albert Narracott watches the birth of a thoroughbred foal and watches with admiration the growth of the young horse, galloping through the fields at his mother's side. Much to the dismay of his mother, Rose, his father, Ted, buys the colt at auction, despite a friend pointing out a more suitable plough horse for his farm. The desire to spite his landlord, Lyons, and retain his pride, are the apparent motivations for Ted to make higher and higher bids for the colt. The high cost of the horse means he is unable to pay rent to Lyons, who threatens to take possession of the farm if the money is not paid by the autumn. Ted promises to meet the deadline, suggesting he could plough and plant a lower, rock-filled field with turnips. Albert names the horse Joey and devotes much time to training him. Albert's best friend, Andrew Easton, watches as Albert teaches his colt many things, such as to come when he imitates the call of an owl by blowing through his cupped hands.

Ted, who has a bad leg from a war injury, is frequently shown drinking alcohol from a flask he carries. Rose shows Albert his father's medals from the Second Boer War in South Africa, where Ted served as a sergeant with the Imperial Yeomanry. Ted was severely wounded in action, and received the Distinguished Conduct Medal for bravery under fire. She gives Albert his father's regimental pennant, telling Albert that his father is not proud of what he did during the war, and that he had thrown the flag and medals away, though Rose saved and kept them hidden.

Albert trains Joey for the plough and, to his neighbours' astonishment, prepares a stony hillside field to plant with turnips. However a rainstorm destroys the turnip field, so to pay the overdue rent (and without telling Albert), Ted sells Joey to Captain Nicholls, a young cavalry officer, as World War I breaks out. When Albert finds out, he confronts the officer and begs for him not to take the horse. Nicholls promises he will take care of Joey as his own horse and hopefully will return him after the war. Albert tries to enlist in the army, but is too young. Before the captain leaves with Joey, Albert ties his father's pennant to Joey's bridle.

Joey is trained for military operations and deployed to France with a flying column under the command of Captain Nicholls. Cavalry charges, once a major form of warfare, are now hopelessly obsolete when faced with machine guns, as Captain Nicholls and his fellow cavalrymen discover after they charge through a German encampment. Nicholls is killed along with most of his fellow cavalrymen, and the Germans capture the horses.

Joey becomes attached to Topthorn, a black horse with whom he trained for his military role. The two horses are used to pull an ambulance wagon driven by two German soldiers, Gunther, and his 14-year-old brother, Michael. Gunther gives the pennant to Michael as a good-luck "charm" when he is assigned to the German front, despite being too young to fight. Gunther ignores an order to remain behind and await call to a later position. Unable to persuade his brother to remain behind, Gunther rides Joey and brings Topthorn along on his escape so he and his brother can ride them to Italy, at this time still neutral. One night, German soldiers discover the absent without leave brothers hiding in a windmill and execute them by firing squad for desertion.

After the two young Germans are shot, Emilie, a young French girl who lives at the farm with her grandfather, finds the two horses inside the windmill. Emilie suffers from Osteogenesis imperfecta (brittle bone disease), and is not allowed to ride the horses for fear of falling. Later, German soldiers arrive and confiscate all food and supplies from the property; Emilie hides the horses in her bedroom to avoid them being taken by the Germans to fight. Emilie's grandfather allows her to ride Joey on her birthday, and she gallops the horse up a hill, adjacent to the farm. When Emilie does not come back immediately, the Grandfather worriedly runs up the hill. On the other side of the hill, the Grandfather discovers that Emilie has run into the grasp of the German soldiers who were at the farm earlier. The German soldiers take the horses, but the grandfather keeps the pennant.

Joey and Topthorn are put to the task of pulling German heavy artillery, an exhausting task which kills horses quickly. The two horses are, however, put in the care of the German Private Friedrich who loves horses and who tries to help them survive.

The story moves forward to 1918, where Albert has enlisted and is fighting alongside Andrew in the Second Battle of the Somme, under the command of Lyons's son, David. After a British charge into no-man's land, Albert, Andrew, and other British soldiers miraculously make it across into a deserted German trench, where a gas bomb explodes, filling the trench with the white chemical fumes of mustard gas.

Meanwhile, Joey and Topthorn have survived years of hard service in the German army – much longer than most horses last – but Topthorn finally succumbs and dies from exhaustion, while Joey and Private Friedrich comfort him, pleading with him to not lie down where he will be seen and subsequently shot, until Friedrich is ultimately dragged away from Joey by other German soldiers. Cornered by an advancing tank, Joey escapes and runs into no-man's land where he gallops through the devastating destruction of the Somme and gets entangled in barbed wire. From their respective trenches both British and German soldiers spot Joey in the mist, although disbelieving at first that a horse could have survived the battle. Colin, a British soldier from South Shields, waving a white flag, crosses No Man's Land at Joey's side to try and coax him to the British side. Peter, a German soldier from Düsseldorf, comes over with wire cutters, and together they free Joey from the barbed wire. They flip a coin to decide who should take possession of the horse; Colin wins, guiding Joey back to the British trench, having formed a strange friendship with the soldier from Düsseldorf, on the enemy side he has been instructed to kill.

The film shifts back to Albert's perspective, where Andrew has succumbed to the gas attack, but Albert has survived, temporarily blinded with bandages covering his eyes. He is recuperating at a British medical camp when Colin brings Joey in looking for a veterinary surgeon to heal the wounds from the barbed wire. Albert is told about the miracle horse rescued from no-man's land. The army doctor instructs Sgt. Fry to put Joey down due to his injuries, but when Fry is about to shoot, the owl call he learned from Albert as a colt catches Joey's attention. Albert is led through the troops to Joey, again sounding his call, and Joey hurries to meet his long-lost friend. Albert explains he raised Joey, and his bandages still covering his eyes, gives an exact description of his horse's markings, confirming his claim. Joey is covered in mud, so the veterinary surgeon refuses to accept Albert's statement, but is quickly corrected when soldiers wash away the grime, revealing the four white socks and diamond blaze on Joey's forehead.

Armistice brings the end of the war and Albert's eyesight is restored. He learns only officers' horses will be shipped home, while Joey and the others are to be auctioned off to the highest bidder. The soldiers gather funds to help Albert buy Joey, but during a bidding war with a French butcher reaching 30 pounds, a bid of 100 pounds is entered without revealing who placed the bid. Approaching the auction ring is an older gentleman, Emilie's grandfather. No other bid is placed and he is shown taking ownership of Joey. The grandfather implies that Emilie has died, and after hearing about the miracle horse, her grandfather walked three days to get Joey back for the sake of Emilie's memory.

Albert pleads with Emilie's grandfather for the horse, but the old man remains stoic in his auction win. As the grandfather walks away, Joey breaks free and goes to Albert. As he watches the horse and the young English soldier, the grandfather pulls the military pennant from his pocket and asks Albert if it means anything to him. When Albert tells the old man that it belongs to his father, the grandfather has a change of heart. First he gives Albert the campaign pennant, then moments later, gives him Joey, saying it is what Emilie would have wanted. In the end Albert rides Joey back to his family's farm, hugs his parents, and returns the pennant to his father.


The film has received generally positive reviews from critics. Based on 196 reviews collected by Rotten Tomatoes, the film received a 77% approval rating from critics with an average score of 7/10. The site's critical consensus is "Technically superb, proudly sentimental, and unabashedly old-fashioned, War Horse is an emotional drama that tugs the heartstrings with Spielberg's customary flair."

The first unofficial reviews by bloggers started appearing online the day of the first preview screening, 1 November 2011, with a review appearing on Ain't It Cool News on 3 November. Although there was an embargo on official reviews of the film being published before 21 December 2011, reviews started appearing in mainstream press such as The Daily Telegraph, which gave it 4.5 out of 5, from 26 November onwards. A review in the Daily Mail called the film "Spielberg's finest hour", while The Guardian saw the film as a misfire, in which "Spielberg tries to infuse his film with a fairytale quality but merely provides it with a directorial straitjacket". Richard Corliss of Time named it one of the Top 10 Best Movies of 2011, saying "Boldly emotional, nakedly heartfelt, War Horse will leave only the stoniest hearts untouched". Roger Ebert gave the film 3.5 out of 4 stars, saying the film contained "surely some of the best footage Spielberg has ever directed".

In The Guardian, Simon Winder lamented that the film, "despite twisting and turning to be even-handed, simply could not help itself and, like some faux-reformed alcoholic, gorged itself on an entire miniature liqueur selection of Anglo-German clichés".

Filmmaker Quentin Tarantino expressed admiration for the film, and listed it as one of the runners-up for his Top 11 favourite films of 2011. David Chen of the Slashfilmcast selected War Horse as the best film of 2011.

In 2012 the soundtrack recording by John Williams received a Sammy Award for Best New Film Score CD.

The Cast

Jeremy Irvine as Albert Narracott
 Peter Mullan as Ted Narracott
 Emily Watson as Rose Narracott
 Niels Arestrup as Grandfather
 David Thewlis as Lyons
 Tom Hiddleston as Captain Nicholls
 Benedict Cumberbatch as Maj. Jamie Stewart
 Celine Buckens as Emilie
 Toby Kebbell as Geordie Soldier
 Patrick Kennedy as Lt. Charlier Waverly
 Leonard Carow as Michael
 David Kross as Gunther
 Matt Milne as Andrew Easton
 Robert Emms as David Lyons
 Eddie Marsan as Sgt. Fry
 Nicolas Bro as Friedrich
 Rainer Bock as Brandt

Friday, 23 March 2012

Anger: 6 Psychological Benefits of Getting Mad

We tend to think of anger as a wild, negative emotion, but research finds that anger also has its positive side.

There are all sorts of good sensible, civilised reasons to avoid getting angry.
Not only does it make you feel bad, it makes you do stupid things without noticing the risks and it can be self-destructive.
As a result civilised people do their best to suppress, redirect and mask their anger. Most of us treat our anger as though it's unreasonable, unshowable and unmentionable.
But like all emotions anger has its purposes, which can be used to good effect.

1. Anger is a motivating force

You sometimes hear people talking about using anger as a motivating force by 'turning anger into positive energy'. In fact anger itself is a kind of positive energy and a powerful motivating force. Research has shown that anger can make us push on towards our goals in the face of problems and barriers.
In one study participants were shown objects they associated with a reward. Some, though, were first exposed to angry faces. Those shown the angry faces were more likely to want objects they were subsequently exposed to (Aarts et al., 2010).
When we see something as beneficial, we want it more when we're angry. So, when used right, constructive anger can make you feel strong and powerful and help push you on to get what you want.

2. Angry people are more optimistic

It may sound like an odd thing to say, but angry people have something in common with happy people. That's because both tend to be more optimistic.
Take one study of fear of terrorism carried out in the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. In this study those experiencing anger expected fewer attacks in the future (Lerner et al., 2003). In contrast those experiencing more fear were more pessimistic about the future and expected further attacks.

3. Anger can benefit relationships

Anger is a natural reaction to being wronged by someone else and it's a way of communicating that sense of injustice. But society tells us anger is dangerous and we should hide it. What does this do to our personal relationships?
Oddly enough research has shown that hiding anger in intimate relationships can be detrimental (Baumeister et al., 1990). The problem is that when you hide your anger, your partner doesn't know they've done something wrong. And so they keep doing it. And that doesn't do your relationship any good.
The expression of anger, if justifiable and aimed at finding a solution rather than just venting, can actually benefit and strengthen relationships.

4. Anger provides self-insight

Anger can also provide insight into ourselves, if we allow it.
A sample of Americans and Russians were asked about how recent outbursts of anger had affected them (Kassinove et al., 1997). 55% claimed that getting angry had let to a positive outcome. One top of this one-third said that anger provided an insight into their own faults.
If we can notice when we get angry and why, then we can learn what to do to improve our lives. Anger can motivate self-change.

5. Anger reduces violence

Although anger often precedes physical violence, it can also be a way of reducing violence. That's because it's a very strong social signal that a situation needs to be resolved. When others see the signal they are more motivated to try and placate the angry party.
If you're still not convinced that anger might reduce violence, imagine a world without anger where people had no method for showing how they felt about injustice. Might they jump straight to violence?

6. Anger as negotiation strategy

Anger can be a legitimate way to get what you want. In one study of negotiation participants made larger concessions and fewer demands of an angry person than one who was happy (Van Kleef et al., 2002).

So there's some evidence that anger can be used as a negotiation strategy, but it's more complicated than that. You can't just lose your rag and expect to win everything you want.

Anger is likely to work best when it's justified, if you appear powerful and when the other side's options are limited (Sinaceur & Tiedens, 2006; Van Kleef et al., 2007).

In the right circumstances, then, it's possible to both get mad and get even.

Deadly sin or constructive emotion?

Anger can reduce violence, benefit relationships, promote optimism and be a useful motivating force, but it can just as easily be destructive.

That's the wonder of human emotions: happy isn't always good and angry isn't always bad (although it may feel that way). An unhappy person is also more likely to spot mistakes and an angry person is highly motivated to act. We need reminding that even scary and dangerous emotions have their upsides, as long as they are used for the correct purpose.

The likely features of constructive anger are:

  • that the person who caused the anger is present,
  • that it is justified and proportionate to the wrongdoing,
  • and it is expressed as the first step in trying to solve a problem rather than just venting bad feeling.

People seem to unconsciously understand the benefits of anger. One study found participants who were about to play a game requiring them to be confrontational were more likely to listen to angry music beforehand or think back to things that have made them angry (Tamir et al, 2008). They then went on to perform better in the task because they felt more angry.

Used right, anger can be a handy tool. But use with caution as people find anger the most difficult of all the emotions to control.

Thursday, 22 March 2012

Transformers: Dark of the Moon (2011)

Transformers: Dark of the Moon is a 2011 American science fiction action film based on the Transformers toy line. First released on June 23, 2011, it is the third installment of the live-action Transformers film series. Like its predecessors, Transformers and Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, Transformers: Dark of the Moon is directed by Michael Bay and produced by Steven Spielberg. The film's story is set three years after the events of the second film, with the Autobots, during their collaboration with the NEST (Networked Elements: Supporters and Transformers) military force, discovering a hidden alien technology in possession of humans, which had been found by Apollo 11 on the Moon, 42 years prior. However, the Decepticons unveil a plan to use the technology to enslave Humanity in order to bring back Cybertron, the home planet of the Transformers.

Shia LaBeouf, Josh Duhamel, Tyrese Gibson, and John Turturro reprised their starring roles, with Peter Cullen and Hugo Weaving returning as the voices of Optimus Prime and Megatron, and Kevin Dunn and Julie White reprising their roles as the parents of the main protagonist, Sam Witwicky. English model Rosie Huntington-Whiteley replaced Megan Fox as the lead female character; the cast also saw the additions of Patrick Dempsey, John Malkovich, Ken Jeong, and Frances McDormand. This installment of the franchise--which director Bay announced would be his last--welcomed Keith Szarabajka, Ron Bottitta, John DiMaggio, George Coe, Francesco Quinn, James Remar, Greg Berg, and veteran science-fiction actor Leonard Nimoy to the voice cast. The script was written by Ehren Kruger, who also collaborated on the narrative of the second film of the series. Dark of the Moon employed both regular 35mm film cameras and specially-developed 3-D cameras, with filming locations in Chicago, Florida, Indiana, Moscow, and Washington, D.C.. The film was rendered specifically for 3-D, and the visual effects involved more complex robots which took longer to render.

In May 2011, it was announced that Paramount Pictures would move Transformers: Dark of the Moon's release date of July 1 to June 29 in order to monitor an early response to footage. Exclusive early premieres in select 3-D and IMAX theaters took place June 28 2011, one night before worldwide release in 2-D and 3-D (including IMAX 3D) formats--each featuring Dolby Surround 7.1 sound.

Critical reception of the film was mixed to negative, with several critics calling it better than Revenge of the Fallen and praising the film's visuals and 3-D action sequences, but criticizing its writing, acting, and length. Dark of the Moon grossed $1.12 billion worldwide, and is currently the fourth highest-grossing film of all time, the second highest grossing film of 2011 (behind Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2), the highest grossing film in the Transformers series, and the tenth film to gross over $1 billion. The film was nominated for Best Visual Effects, Best Sound Editing and Best Sound Mixing at the 84th Academy Awards. A sequel to the film, directed once again by Michael Bay, is scheduled for release in June 2014.

The Plot

In 1961, the Ark, a Cybertronian spacecraft carrying an invention capable of ending the war between the philanthropic Autobots and the malevolent Decepticons, crash lands on the dark side of Earth's Moon. The crash is detected on Earth by NASA, and President John F. Kennedy authorizes a mission to put a man on the Moon as a cover for investigating the craft. In 1969, the crew of Apollo 11 lands on the Moon.

In the present, the Autobots assist the United States military in preventing conflicts around the globe. During a mission to Chernobyl, to investigate suspected alien technology, Optimus Prime finds a fuel cell from the Ark, discovering that it had survived its journey from Cybertron. The Autobots are attacked by Shockwave, who manages to escape. After learning of the top-secret mission to the Moon, the Autobots travel there to explore the Ark. They discover a comatose Sentinel Prime – Optimus' predecessor as leader of the Autobots – and the Pillars he created as a means of establishing a Space Bridge between two points to teleport matter. After returning to Earth, Optimus uses the energy of his Matrix of Leadership to revive Sentinel Prime.

Meanwhile, Sam Witwicky is frustrated that he is unable to work with the Autobots and is failing to find a job. He also becomes envious of the close relationship between his new girlfriend, Carly Spencer, and her boss Dylan Gould. After finding work, Sam is provided information by his eccentric co-worker Jerry Wang about the Ark, before Jerry is assassinated by the Decepticon Laserbeak. Sam contacts the now-independently wealthy Seymour Simmons, and together they realize that the Decepticons and their leader, Megatron, are murdering people connected to the American and Russian space missions to the Ark. They locate two surviving Russian cosmonauts, who reveal satellite photos of hundreds of Pillars being stockpiled on the Moon. Sam realizes that the Decepticons raided the Ark long before the Autobots' mission and intentionally left Sentinel and five Pillars behind to lure the Autobots into a trap – Sentinel being the key to activating the Pillars and the Decepticons lacking the means to revive him. The Autobots rush to return Sentinel to their base for protection but Sentinel betrays them and kills the Autobot Ironhide, revealing he had made a deal with Megatron to ensure the survival of the Cybertronian race.

Sentinel uses the Pillars to transport hundreds of concealed Decepticons from the Moon to Earth, and Carly is captured by Gould, who is revealed to be in the service of the Decepticons. The Autobots are exiled from Earth at the demand of the Decepticons to avoid war, but as their ship leaves Earth it is destroyed by Megatron's second-in-command, Starscream, seemingly killing the Autobots. The Decepticons, led by Megatron and Sentinel, seize Chicago as their agents place Pillars around the world. Gould reveals to Carly that the Decepticons plan to transport their homeworld of Cybertron to the Milky Way, then to enslave humanity and use Earth's resources to rebuild their world. Sam teams with USAF Chief Robert Epps to go into Chicago to save Carly, but they are nearly killed by Decepticon forces before the Autobots intervene, revealing they concealed themselves during the launch of their ship to convince the Decepticons they were destroyed.

Working together, the Autobots and human soldiers manage to rescue Carly and destroy Laserbeak, Soundwave, Barricade, Starscream, and Shockwave, with Optimus using Shockwave's arm-cannon to blast the Control Pillar, disabling the Space Bridge. Sam confronts Gould as he reactivates the Control Pillar, and knocks Gould into the Pillar, fatally electrocuting him. Bumblebee and Ratchet arrive and destroy the Control Pillar, permanently disabling the Bridge and causing the partially transported Cybertron to implode. Optimus and Sentinel fight while Carly convinces Megatron that he will be replaced as leader of the Decepticons by Sentinel. Sentinel severs Optimus' right arm, and is about to execute him when Megatron intervenes, incapacitating Sentinel. Megatron invokes Optimus for a truce, having the desire to become the one-in-charge again. Optimus attacks Megatron, knowing Megatron's true intentions, decapitating and killing him. Sentinel pleads for his life but Optimus executes him too, for betraying his own principles. With the Decepticons defeated, Carly and Sam are reunited and the Autobots accept that with Cybertron gone, Earth is now their home.


The film has received mixed to negative reviews from film critics. While many of them believed it was an improvement over Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen and were also praising the film's visual effects and 3-D action sequences, criticism fell over the long running time, the below average acting, and the script. Several critics also felt that Dark of the Moon still did not live up to the first Transformers movie. Film review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes gave Transformers: Dark of the Moon a score of 35% based on 232 reviews and a rating average of 4.9/10, saying, "Its special effects and 3-D shots are undeniably impressive, but they aren't enough to fill up its loud, bloated running time, or mask its thin, indifferent script." Metacritic, another review aggregator, gave the film a Metascore of 42/100, indicating "mixed or average reviews" from 37 critics.

Roger Ebert gave the film one out of four stars, calling it "a visually ugly film with an incoherent plot, wooden characters and inane dialog. It provided me with one of the more unpleasant experiences I've had at the movies." Richard Roeper likewise panned the film, giving it a D and saying that "rarely has a movie had less of a soul and less interesting characters."

Several critics were highly critical of the ineffectiveness of the film's two young stars. Peter Travers stated the two "couldn't be duller." The Philadelphia Inquirer stated that Shia LaBeouf "plays Witwicky as if he had a ferocious case of attention deficit disorder. After two films, his fidgeting isn't cute anymore." James Berardinelli said that LaBeouf "has sunk to greater levels of incompetence here. It's hard to call his posturing and screaming 'acting'." Much of the criticism towards Rosie Huntington-Whiteley compared her in an unfavorable light to Megan Fox. Lou Lumenick said that her "'acting' makes...Megan Fox look like Meryl Streep in comparison." Baz Bamigboye gave his review of the film the title 'Come back Megan Fox, all is forgiven...'.

In a more positive review, Ain't It Cool News called the film "the best entry in the Michael Bay-directed franchise." IGN gave the film a score of seven out of ten, also stating that it was the best of the franchise. E! Online graded the film a B+ while noting if this the film is truly the end of a trilogy, its main antagonists should have played more of a part. Website Daily Bhaskar also praised the film, rating it three and a half out of five stars, citing it as an improvement to the previous film and how it "gives fans something to cheer about". CinemaScore polls reported that the average grade moviegoers gave the film an A on an A plus to F scale.

The film had many positive reviews, from critics and the audiences alike, for its special effects and aggressive use of 3-D, leading some to call it the best 3-D experience since Cameron's Avatar. Neil Schneider of Meant to be Seen, a website focused on stereoscopic 3-D gaming and entertainment, remarked that "while Transformers: Dark of the Moon had the scrapings of a really good story, this 3-D movie was shot with a 2-D script." On the topic of 3-D, Schneider said "Transformers 3 was a mix of native stereoscopic 3-D camera capturing and 2-D/3-D conversion (as a 3-D tool), and most was done very well." He added, "At a minimum, Transformers 3 demonstrates that fast cutting sequences are indeed possible and practical in stereoscopic 3-D. More than that, it was a comfortable experience and helped exemplify great use of stereoscopic 3-D with live action and digital characters. That said, I think they still could have taken it much further."

Charlie Jane Anders of io9 believed that some elements of the film were deliberate self-references to Michael Bay's own sense of under-appreciation after the backlash to the second film: "After a few hours of seeing Shia get dissed, overlooked and mistreated, the message becomes clear: Shia, as always, is a stand-in for Michael Bay. And Bay is showing us just what it felt like to deal with the ocean of Haterade—the snarking, the Razzie Award, the mean reviews—that Revenge of the Fallen unleashed." She went on to say that the film's frequent, often jarring shifts in tone were an intentional endorsement of Michael Bay's own filmmaking style. "Tone is for single-purpose machines. Consistency is for Decepticons. Michael Bay's ideal movie shifts from action movie to teen comedy to political drama with the same well-lubricated ease that his cars become men. By the time you've finished watching, you will speak Michael Bay's cinematic language."

The Cast

Shia LaBeouf as Sam Witwicky
 Peter Cullen as Optimus Prime (voice)
 Rosie Huntington-Whiteley as Carly Spencer
 Tyrese Gibson as Epps
 Leonard Nimoy as Sentinel Prime (voice)
 Patrick Dempsey as Dylan
 Frances McDormand as Mearing
 John Turturro as Simmons
 Kevin Dunn as Ron Witwicky
 John Malkovich as Bruce Brazos
 James Remar as Sideswipe (voice)
 Julie White as Judy Witwicky
 Alan Tudyk as Dutch
 Ken Jeong as Jerry Wang
 Glenn Morshower as General Morshower
 Lester Speight as Eddie
 Buzz Aldrin as Buzz Aldrin
 Bill O'Reilly as Bill O'Reilly
 Ravil Isyanov as Voshkod

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Funny People (2009)

Funny People is a 2009 American comedy-drama film written, produced and directed by Judd Apatow, and starring Adam Sandler, Seth Rogen, and Leslie Mann. The film was released on 31 July 2009 in North America, and on 28 August 2009 in the United Kingdom. Funny People uses considerably more dramatic elements than seen in Apatow's previous films. The film was co-produced by Apatow Productions and Mr. Madison 23 Productions, a subsidiary of Sandler's company Happy Madison. Universal Pictures and Columbia Pictures co-financed the film and it also served as a worldwide distributor.

The Plot

George Simmons (Adam Sandler) is a very successful 40-something comedian and actor. However, he is self-absorbed, lonely and estranged from his family. When diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia, George is offered an experimental treatment that has an eight-percent chance of therapeutic response. Believing he is about to die, he decides to return to his roots and do stand-up comedy. Ira Wright (Seth Rogen) is an aspiring stand-up comedian who lives in an apartment with his two best friends, Mark Taylor Jackson and Leo Koenig (Jason Schwartzman and Jonah Hill). Mark stars in a fictional poorly-conceived sitcom, Yo Teach, where he plays a teacher for a group of misfit students. Despite the obvious failings of the show, Mark constantly brags about his high income and holds himself in a higher regard as an actor and comedian. When fellow stand-up comedienne Daisy (Aubrey Plaza) visits him, Mark magnanimously tells Ira that he will hold off having sex with her for ten days in order for Ira to make a play for her. George and Ira meet at a comedy club, where George takes the stage to deliver a dark routine, which Ira mocks as the follow-up act. George calls Ira the next morning and asks him to write jokes for George's upcoming gig at a MySpace corporate event.

The event goes well and George hires Ira as his assistant. When George tells him about his condition, Ira cares for him through the treatment. After a walking conversation between Ira, Mark, and Leo, Ira implores George to tell people about his disease. George calls his ex-fiancée, Laura (Leslie Mann), to apologize for his continual infidelities when they were together, but does not tell her why he is having a change of heart. Meanwhile, Ira awkwardly asks Daisy out, but later discovers that she and Mark have slept together, and angrily cuts off all ties with her. Laura comes to one of George′s shows and later visits him at his house, telling him that her husband, Clarke, cheats on her as well. They reconcile and tentatively become friends. George′s physician tells him that the medicine has worked: George's leukemia is in remission. George is happy that the death sentence has been lifted, but is unsure what to do with his life now that he has the rest of it to live. He decides he wants a long-term relationship and calls Laura, but does not tell her the news. George and Ira go to a gig in San Francisco; Laura meets them there. George makes Ira tell Laura during intermission that he is free of disease. George later explains that he did not want to "jinx it". They embrace and she invites George and Ira to her house in Marin County.

George and Ira spend time with Laura and her daughters. George and Laura sneak into the guest house together to have sex; meanwhile, Ira tells both daughters that George is healthy. When Clarke (Eric Bana) unexpectedly arrives, Laura asks George to maintain the façade of being deathly sick. In the morning, Clarke bids George a tearful goodbye — which is cut short when his daughters reveal that George is actually healthy. Clarke confronts Laura and accuses her cheating. In response, Laura confronts him with his infidelity, and he drives off in a huff. Laura tells George that she plans to leave Clarke; he is overjoyed, but Ira tells him their affair will destroy a family. Angered, George threatens to fire him. The next day, George, Ira, and Laura watch the video of Laura′s daughter, Mabel, performing the song "Memory" from the musical Cats; Ira and Laura find the performance moving, but George appears bored. Laura leaves for the airport to tell Clarke she is leaving him; Ira lies to George and follows her. At the airport, Clarke confesses his infidelity to Laura, and pleads with her to give their marriage another try. Laura agrees and says her affair with George was a mere "flirtation". They discover Ira following them, and goad him into admitting that he is trying to stop George and Laura from running off together.

An enraged Clarke chases George out of his house and beats him up. George forces Laura to choose between him and Clarke; she chooses her husband, and bids George a tearful goodbye. Heading back to Los Angeles, George berates Ira for his betrayal and fires him. Ira upbraids George for not learning anything from his near-death experience, and tells him that he will never be able to escape his own personal failings because of his selfish nature. Ira returns to his old job at the deli department while he starts to date Daisy. George attends Ira′s stand-up and sees that his old assistant has become a far more confident performer. The next day, George finds Ira at work and admits that even though he is no longer sick, his attitude needs improvement. The film ends when George and Ira start telling each others' jokes with George having written down a few for Ira as they laugh together and repair their friendship.


Funny People received generally positive reviews from the critics and currently holds a 67% "Fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes and a 50% "Rotten" rating among Top Critics, based on the consensus that the film "features the requisite humor, as well as considerable emotional depth, resulting in Judd Apatow's most mature film to date." Another review aggregator, Metacritic, gave the film a metascore of 60 out of 100 under the "Mixed or Average Reviews" category, based on 35 reviews.

Jeffrey Wells from Hollywood Elsewhere received feedback from sources who had seen a test screening, with one source calling it "really funny, a really sweet movie, a lot of veracity...really a brilliant film", comparing it to the works of James L. Brooks.

Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times awarded the film 3½ stars of four, calling it "a real movie. That means carefully written dialogue and carefully placed supporting performances — and it's about something. It could have easily been a formula film...but George Simmons learns and changes during his ordeal, and we empathize." Peter Travers of Rolling Stone also praised the film, writing, "Apatow scores by crafting the film equivalent of a stand-up routine that encompasses the joy, pain, anger, loneliness and aching doubt that go into making an audience laugh." Kyle Smith of the New York Post wrote that the film was "one of the most absorbing films of the year."

Michael Phillips of the Chicago Tribune gave the film one of its mixed reviews, complaining of the film's two-and-a-half-hour running time: "Funny People attempt by Apatow to reconcile the huge success he has become with the up-and-comer he once was. The results run an increasingly exasperating 2½ hours."

The Cast

Adam Sandler as George Simmons
 Seth Rogen as Ira Wright
 Leslie Mann as Laura
 Eric Bana as Clarke
 Jonah Hill as Leo Koenig
 Jason Schwartzman as Mark Taylor Jackson
 Aubrey Plaza as Daisy Danby
 Maude Apatow as Mable
 Iris Apatow as Ingrid
 RZA as Chuck
 Aziz Ansari as Randy
 Torsten Voges as Dr. Lars
 Allan Wasserman as Dr. Stevens

Monday, 19 March 2012

Red Riding Hood (2011)

Red Riding Hood is an American/Canadian dark fantasy film directed by Catherine Hardwicke, produced by Leonardo DiCaprio and starring Amanda Seyfried as the title role, from a screenplay by David Leslie Johnson. It is very loosely based on the folk tale Little Red Riding Hood collected by both Charles Perrault under the name "Le Petit Chaperon Rouge" (Little Red Riding Hood) and several decades later by the Brothers Grimm as "Rotkäppchen" (Little Red Cap).

The Plot

Valerie (Amanda Seyfried) lives in the village of Daggerhorn, on the edge of a forest plagued by a werewolf. The villagers sacrifice livestock so that the wolf won't prey on them, but then Valerie's sister Lucie is found dead. The outraged villagers manage to kill a wolf, but soon a priest arrives, Father Solomon (Gary Oldman), who tells them that a slain werewolf would revert to human form, and their werewolf is still on the loose. Meanwhile Valerie's mother, Suzette (Virginia Madsen), has arranged her marriage to Henry (Max Irons), the son of the wealthy blacksmith Adrien Lazar (Michael Shanks), and persuaded Valerie's childhood friend and would-be lover, a poor woodsman named Peter (Shiloh Fernandez), that he should let her go if he really loves her. Valerie's grandmother (Julie Christie) consoles her granddaughter by giving her an early wedding gift: a beautiful red hooded cloak.

When Valerie sees her mother grieving over the blacksmith, slain in the werewolf hunt, she learns that her mother loved him before she married and that Lucie was his daughter, unknown to her father Cesaire (Billy Burke). The villagers celebrate that night, refusing to believe the priest's warning, even after he explains that during the blood moon - which is happening over the course of these three days - anyone bitten by the werewolf is cursed to become one. Valerie pursues Peter to confront him about rejecting her, and after a romantic interlude in a barn, they are separated and the werewolf attacks. The wolf confronts Valerie and her friend Roxanne (Shauna Kain) and both are horrified to learn that Valerie can not only speak to the werewolf, but can understand it when it speaks to her.

The next morning, Father Solomon kills one of his guards that was wounded by the wolf, despite his brother's objections. Solomon insists that all the cursed men must die. Henry tells Valerie he had seen her with Peter and they call off their engagement. Solomon insists that wolf is one of the villagers and begins to search all their homes. In the process, Solomon discovers Roxanne's autistic brother hiding and accuses him of witchcraft, stuffing him in a Brazen Bull when he will not give them the name of the werewolf. Roxanne, hoping to free her brother, tells him that Valerie spoke the language of the werewolf and accuses her of witchcraft. Solomon releases the boy, though he is traumatized and catatonic from the experience, and Valerie is offered as a sacrifice to appease the werewolf, but Peter and Henry rescue her. The wolf comes, but is unable to cross holy ground to enter the churchyard where Valerie and Henry had gone for sanctuary. Solomon tries to force Valerie to leave and in the conflict the wolf bites his hand off. The guard whose brother was killed by Solomon tells him, "A man bitten is a man cursed," before killing him. Everyone realizes that Valerie was innocent since she was able to take refuge on holy ground.

Valerie suspects Peter is the wolf, injures him and flees to her grandmother's house, but is greeted instead by her father using her grandmother's voice. Cesaire reveals that he is the werewolf and that all in his bloodline can speak to him. When Lucie, not born of his blood, could not understand him, he realized that she was not his child and lost control. He offers Valerie an opportunity to become a werewolf as well, each generation being stronger than the last one, but when she refuses he tries to force her. Peter returns and the two men have a furious struggle. Peter is bitten and then knocked out, but Valerie manages to kill her father using the dismembered hand of Solomon which, as a precaution had been lined with silver fingernails by Solomon himself. Peter, realizing he was bitten and will be cursed to become the werewolf, but instead of killing him, Valerie helps him dump Cesaire's body in the lake and he rows away. He promises to return when he has controlled the beast within, and Valerie leaves Daggerhorn and moves into her grandmother's cottage, awaiting the day Peter returns. Henry leaves with Solomon's troupe to hunt werewolves and other creatures while Valerie's mother, having given up on Cesaire's return, returns to a normal life as well. One night, Valerie sees a werewolf, and smiling, looks to the future.

In the alternate cut of the film, before Peter leaves, he and Valerie make love together and later in the movie when Peter returns, Valerie is holding hers and Peter's daughter.


The film received mainly negative reviews. The film currently holds a 11% rating on critic aggregator site Rotten Tomatoes, with the consensus being "Amanda Seyfried is magnetic in Red Riding Hood's starring role, but she's let down by her uninspired leading men and a painfully cliched script."Metacritic gave the film a score of 28 out of 100. USA Today complimented the production design, but wrote "it's a foolish story, marred by a strange blend of overacting and bland, offhand performances."Roger Ebert gave the film one star out of four, stating it is "a movie that cross-pollinates the Twilight formula with a werewolf and a girl who always wears a red hooded cape, although I don't recall her doing any riding.... it has the added inconvenience of being serious about a plot so preposterous, it demands to be filmed by Monty Python."Mary Pols of Time magazine named it one of the Top 10 Worst Movies of 2011.

The Cast

Amanda Seyfried as Valerie
 Gary Oldman as Solomon
 Billy Burke as Cesaire
 Shiloh Fernandez as Peter
 Max Irons as Henry
 Virginia Madsen as Suzette
 Lukas Haas as Father Auguste
 Julie Christie as Grandmother
 Shauna Kain as Roxanne
 Michael Hogan as The Reeve
 Adrian Holmes as Captain
 Cole Heppell as Claude
 Christine Willes as Madame Lazar
 Michael Shanks as Adrien Lazar
 Kacey Rohl as Prudence
 Carmen Lavigne as Rose

Saturday, 17 March 2012

Don't Be Afraid of the Dark (2011)

Don't Be Afraid of the Dark is a 2011 American horror film written by Matthew Robbins and Guillermo del Toro, directed by comic book artist Troy Nixey and filmed in Mount Macedon, Victoria and Melbourne, Australia. The film stars Guy Pearce, Katie Holmes, and Bailee Madison, as a man, his girlfriend, and his daughter, moving into a 19th century Rhode Island mansion, where his withdrawn daughter begins to witness malevolent creatures that emerge from a sealed ash pit in the basement of the house. It is a remake of the 1973 ABC made-for-television horror film of the same name that starred Kim Darby.

The Plot

In Blackwood Manor in Providence County, Rhode Island, renowned wildlife painter Lord Blackwood summons his housekeeper into the basement where he kills her with a hammer and chisel. He removes her teeth and offers them to mysterious creatures down an ash pit within an old fireplace; however, the creatures demand the teeth of children. Blackwood begs for them to give back his kidnapped son, only to be dragged down the ash pit by the creatures.

In the present day, 8-year old Sally Hurst arrives in Rhode Island to live with her father Alex and his girlfriend Kim, both restoring Blackwood Manor to put it on the market for their client Mr. Jacoby. Sally is depressed due to her mother forcefully putting her in Alex's care and giving her copious amounts of Adderall. On the first night of her stay, the melodious tune from a carousel-styled nightlight awakens the creatures in the ash pit. The next day, Sally wanders the grounds and finds the hidden basement's skylight. One of the workman restoring the house, Mr. Harris, warns her, Alex and Kim not to venture into the basement, although they do regardless. Sally takes interest in the sealed fireplace where she hears the creatures calling her name and follows the mysterious voices.

Sally opens the fireplace to meet the creatures and finds one of the old housekeeper's teeth. The creatures quickly prove to be hostile, stealing Alex's razor and shredding Kim's clothes. Alex immediately blames Sally and finds a 19-century silver coin in her possession, which she found under her pillow after the tooth disappeared. Alex and Kim head into town on a business trip and Sally sneaks to the basement to talk with the creatures, but Harris sends her away and tries to seal the fireplace. The creatures emerge and brutally wound him with his own tools and he is hospitalized. Sally's increasingly frightening encounters with the creatures prompt Alex to call a therapist to talk to Sally, who draws a sketch of one of the creatures that attacked her under her bedsheets.

Kim visits Harris in the hospital, who tells her to find the unpublished artwork of Lord Blackwood in the local library. The librarian reveals the artwork, one of which is of a creature whom he describes as being like tooth fairies, which every now and again turns a human into one of their own. Kim races home as Sally is attacked again by the creatures while having a bath, the lead creature being a transformed Lord Blackwood who proclaims the creatures will make Sally one of their own. Kim finds an undiscovered mural painted by Lord Blackwood in the basement, depicting his son being devoured by the creatures. Kim confronts Alex who is more interested in hosting a dinner for Mr. Jacoby and friends. However, he finally realises what is happening when Sally is trapped in the library by the creatures, but she fends them off by using her camera flash to distract them.

Alex and Kim decide to flee the house with Sally, but both are ambushed by the creatures so they can literally drag Sally to the basement for her transformation. Kim awakens and confronts them, cutting Sally free only to get caught in the ropes and her leg broken as she struggles. The creatures drag Kim into the fireplace, as a distraught Sally crushes Lord Blackwood to death with a large flashlight. Alex arrives just as Kim disappears, and father and daughter mourn their loss. Some time later, both return to the abandoned mansion to leave a drawing of Kim there, but a gust of wind blows the drawing into the creatures lair, where the transformed Kim is heard convincing the creatures to forget Sally and wait for others to come, claiming they have "all the time in the world".


The film has received mixed reviews. Rotten Tomatoes reported that 59% of critics gave the film a positive review based on 154 reviews, with an average rating of 5.8/10. Many critics agreed that "While it's pleasantly atmospheric and initially quite scary, the film ultimately fails to deliver the skin-crawling chills of the original". Bailee Madison's acting was generally well-received by critics, who have also praised the idea of turning the protagonist into a little girl, as opposed to an adult in the original film.

The Cast

Bruce Gleeson as Buggy Driver
 Eddie Ritchard as Edwina Ritchard
 Garry McDonald as Blackwood
 Bailee Madison as Sally
  Katie Holmes as Kim
 Guy Pearce as Alex
 Jack Thompson as Harris
 Julia Blake as Mrs. Underhill

Attack the Block (2011)

Attack the Block is a 2011 British science fiction comedy horror film written and directed by Joe Cornish. The film stars Jodie Whittaker, John Boyega, Alex Esmail, Franz Drameh, Leeon Jones, Simon Howard. Set on a council estate in South London on Bonfire night, the film follows a street gang which have to defend themselves from hostile alien invaders. The film was released in the United Kingdom on 11 May 2011. Attack the Block is the directorial debut of Cornish.

The Plot

While returning home on Bonfire Night, nurse Sam (Jodie Whittaker) is mugged in Kennington by a gang of teenagers: Pest (Alex Esmail), Dennis (Franz Drameh), Jerome (Leeon Jones), Biggz (Simon Howard), and leader Moses (John Boyega). The attack is interrupted when an object falls from the sky into a nearby car, giving Sam the chance to escape. Moses takes advantage of the situation to search the car for valuables but is attacked by a small creature; the object which fell from the sky. Together, the gang manages to kill the creature. Hoping to gain fame and profit they take it to drug dealer Ron (Nick Frost) to gain advice.

Moses asks Ron's boss, Hi-Hatz (Jumayn Hunter), for permission to keep the creature in their fortified "weed room" while he decides how to proceed. More objects begin to fall from the sky. Eager to fight more of the creatures, the gang arm themselves and go to the nearest crash site. They find the new aliens to be much larger, bearing huge claws and multiple rows of luminescent fangs. While running from the aliens, the gang are intercepted by the police and Moses is arrested, identified as a mugger by Sam who is accompanying the police. The aliens kill the police and attack the van, leaving Sam and Moses trapped inside. Dennis manages to reach the vehicle and drive the van away. While fleeing, Dennis crashes the van into Hi-Hatz's car. Sam runs away while the rest of Moses' gang catch up and they confront Hi-Hatz. Enraged about his car, Hi-Hatz threatens them with a gun, refusing to believe their story of aliens. However, his henchman is suddenly attacked by one, distracting Hi-Hatz and allowing the gang to escape.

The gang attempts to flee to the Block, their apartment building, but are attacked by the aliens, forcing Biggz to hide in a rubbish container and resulting in Pest's leg being mauled. While carrying Pest into the building they see Sam and discover she lives there. They force their way into her home and convince her to treat Pest's leg. An alien bursts into her home and Moses manages to kill it. Sam reasons it is safer to stay with the gang than on her own and joins them. The gang move to the apartment of neighbourhood girls believing their security gate will keep them safe. There, the aliens instead attack from outside, smashing through the window and killing Dennis. As one alien is about to kill Moses, Sam manages to stab it through the head, saving him.

The girls note that the aliens were coming straight for Moses and kick the gang out, believing them to be the focus of the creatures. Outside the apartment they are attacked by Hi-Hatz and more henchmen. The gang manages to escape while an alien pursues Hi-Hatz and his henchmen into a lift. Hi-Hatz manages to kill the alien, though his henchmen perish, and continues his search for Moses. Attempting to make their way to Ron's weed room, the gang again encounter aliens. They use fireworks as distractions to get by but Jerome becomes lost in the smoke and is killed by an alien. Entering Ron's apartment they find that Hi-Hatz is already there. Hi-Hatz prepares to shoot Moses but hordes of aliens smash through the window and kill him. Moses, Pest and Sam, joined by Ron's weed customer Brewis (Luke Treadaway), retreat into the weed room while Ron hides in the apartment.

Biggz, still trapped in the bin by an awaiting alien, is saved by Probs and Mayhem, two children, using a water-gun filled with petrol and a flame to torch the creature. In the weed room, Brewis notices a luminescent liquid on Moses' jacket under the ultraviolet light. Brewis theorizes that the alien which Moses killed was a female, and left a pheromone on him that the aliens have been tracking. The gang form a plan for Sam, who has not been stained with the pheromone, to go to Moses' flat and turn on the gas oven. Before she leaves, Moses forces Pest to return the ring they stole from her, feeling guilty for having mugged her. Sam successfully avoids the aliens, turns on the gas and leaves the Block. Moses, with the dead female alien strapped to his back, rushes out of the weed room and into his apartment. There he throws the female into the kitchen and the males follow. Using a firework, Moses ignites the gas-filled room and leaps out of the window. The explosion destroys the aliens.

Moses is shown to have survived, clinging to a Union Jack flag hanging from the side of the building. In the aftermath, Moses, Pest, Brewis and Ron are arrested, considered responsible for the deaths around the Block including the two policemen who had earlier arrested Moses. In the back of the police van, Moses and Pest hear the residents of the Block cheering for Moses, causing Moses to smile. When Sam volunteers that she witnessed the killing of the two officers, police ask if the locked-up boys were responsible; she says no, these are her neighbors and they protected her.


Attack the Block has received widespread critical acclaim. It currently holds a 90% 'Certified Fresh' rating on Rotten Tomatoes and has a score of 75 out of 100 on Metacritic, indicating 'generally favorable reviews'.[8][9] Scott Wampler of The Examiner rated it A+ and said it was officially the best film of the festival and likened it to other debuts such as Neil Blomkamp's District 9 and Quentin Tarantino's Reservoir Dogs.[citation needed] Matt Patches writing for Cinemablend said "Attack the Block, even on its small scale, may wind up as one of the best action movies of the year". IGN gave it four stars saying "Cornish directs with the confidence of a seasoned pro" and calling the film "a blast from start-to-finish." Ben Rawson-Jones of Digital Spy awarded the movie four stars, saying that it is "exactly the kind of distinctly homegrown product that the British film industry should be making". Mark Kermode gave a mixed review saying he did not dislike the film, but "wanted it to be funnier" and "needed it to be scarier". Upon its release in the United States, Attack the Block also received critical praise. In his positive review, Chicago Sun-Times critic Roger Ebert praised the film's use of character development and the performance given by John Boyega.

On its opening weekend in the UK, the film came 3rd in the box office garnering £1,133,859. In North American limited release, the film has grossed $1,012,223 (£659,040).

The Cast

John Boyega as Moses
 Jodie Whittaker as Sam
 Alex Esmail as Pest
 Franz Drameh as Dennis
 Leeon Jones as Jerome
 Simon Howard as Biggz
 Luke Treadaway as Brewis
 Jumayn Hunter as Hi-Hatz
 Danielle Vitalis as Tia
 Paige Meade as Dimples
 Michael Ajao as Mayhem
 Sammy Williams as Probs
 Nick Frost as Ron
 Maggie McCarthy as Margaret
 Gina Antwi as Dionne
 Natasha Jonas as Gloria
  Selom Awadzi as Tonks
 Haneen Hammou as Bubbles

Friday, 16 March 2012

Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows (2011)

Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows is a 2011 British-American action mystery film directed by Guy Ritchie and produced by Joel Silver, Lionel Wigram, Susan Downey, and Dan Lin. It is a sequel to the 2009 film Sherlock Holmes, based on the character of the same name created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. The screenplay is written by Kieran Mulroney and Michele Mulroney. Robert Downey, Jr. and Jude Law reprise their roles as Sherlock Holmes and Dr. John Watson, and several other actors appear as characters they played in the 2009 film. Holmes and Watson join forces to outwit and bring down their most cunning adversary, Professor Moriarty, played by Jared Harris. The film is specifically influenced by Conan Doyle's work The Final Problem, but it is an independent story rather than a strict adaptation. Reviews for the film were generally mixed.

The Plot

In 1891, Irene Adler (Rachel McAdams) delivers a package to Dr. Hoffmanstahl—payment for a letter he was to deliver. Hoffmanstahl opens the package, triggering a hidden bomb which is prevented from detonating by the intervention of Sherlock Holmes (Robert Downey, Jr.). Holmes takes the letter and disposes of the bomb while Adler and Hoffmanstahl escape. Holmes later finds Hoffmanstahl assassinated. Adler meets with Professor Moriarty (Jared Harris) to explain the events, but Moriarty poisons her—deeming her position compromised by her love for Holmes.

Some time later, Dr. Watson (Jude Law) arrives at 221B Baker Street, where Holmes discloses that he is investigating a series of seemingly unrelated murders, terrorist attacks, and business acquisitions, that he has connected to Moriarty. Holmes meets with the Gypsy fortune-teller Simza (Noomi Rapace), the intended recipient of the letter he had taken from Adler, sent by her brother Rene. Holmes defeats an assassin sent to kill Simza, but she flees before Holmes can interrogate her. After Mary (Kelly Reilly) and Watson's wedding, Holmes meets Moriarty for the first time. Moriarty informs Holmes that he murdered Adler and will kill Watson and Mary if Holmes' interference continues.

Moriarty's men attack Watson and Mary on a train to their honeymoon. Holmes, having followed the pair for protection, throws Mary from the train into a river below where she is picked up by Holmes' waiting brother Mycroft (Stephen Fry). After defeating Moriarty's men, Holmes and Watson travel to Paris to locate Simza. When she is found, Holmes tells Simza that she has been targeted because Rene is working for Moriarty, and may have told her about his plans. Simza takes the pair to the headquarters of an anarchist group to which she and Rene had formerly belonged. They learn that the anarchists have been forced to plant bombs for Moriarty.

The trio follows Holmes's deduction that the bomb is in the Paris Opera. However, Holmes realizes too late that he has been tricked and that the bomb is in a nearby hotel; the bomb kills a number of assembled businessmen. Holmes discovers that the bomb was a cover for the assassination of Meinhart—one of the attendees—by Moriarty's aide, Sebastian Moran (Paul Anderson). Meinhart's death grants Moriarty ownership of Meinhart's weapons factory in Germany. Holmes, Watson, and Simza travel there, following clues in Rene's letters.

At the factory, Moriarty captures, interrogates and tortures Holmes, while Watson is under sniper fire from Moran. Holmes spells out Moriarty's horrific plot, revealing that the Professor secretly acquired and owns shares in multiple war-profiting companies, and intends to instigate a world war to make himself a fortune. Meanwhile, Watson uses the cannon he had been hiding behind to destroy the lighthouse in which Moran is concealed. The structure collapses into the warehouse where Moriarty is holding Holmes captive. Watson, Simza, and an injured Holmes reunite and escape aboard a moving train. Holmes deduces that Moriarty's final target will be a peace summit in Switzerland, creating an international incident.

At the summit, Holmes reveals that Rene is the assassin and that he is disguised as one of the ambassadors—having been given radical reconstructive surgery by Hoffmanstahl to alter his appearance. Holmes and Moriarty, who is also in attendance, retreat outside to discuss their competing plans. Watson and Simza find Rene and stop his assassination attempt, but Rene is himself silenced by Moran. Outside, Holmes reveals that he previously replaced Moriarty's personal diary that contained all his plans and financing with a duplicate. The original was sent to Mary in London, who decrypted the code using a book that Holmes had noticed in Moriarty's office during their first meeting. Mary passes the information to Inspector Lestrade (Eddie Marsan) who seizes the bulk of Moriarty's assets, financially crippling him. Holmes and Moriarty anticipate an impending physical confrontation, and both realize Moriarty would win due to Holmes' injured shoulder. Holmes instead grapples Moriarty and forces them both over the balcony and into the Reichenbach waterfall below.

Their bodies are not found. Following Holmes' funeral, Watson and Mary prepare to have their belated honeymoon when Watson receives a package containing a breathing device of Mycroft's that Holmes had noticed before the summit. Contemplating that Holmes may still be alive, Watson leaves his office to find the delivery man. Holmes, having concealed himself in Watson's office, reads a fresh eulogy on Watson's typewriter and adds a question mark after the words "The End".


The film received generally mixed reviews from film critics. Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reports that 60% of 194 critics have given the film a positive review, with a rating average of 6.1 out of 10. The consensus is "Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows is a good yarn thanks to its well-matched leading men but overall stumbles duplicating the well-oiled thrills of the original". Metacritic, which assigns a weighted average score out of 100 to reviews from mainstream critics, gives the film a score of 48 based on 38 reviews. CinemaScore polls reported that the average grade moviegoers gave the film was a "A-minus" on an A+ to F scale.

Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film three and a half stars out of four, calling it "high-caliber entertainment" that "adds a degree of refinement and invention" to the formula, and that the "writers ... wisely devote some of their best scenes to one-on-ones between Holmes and Moriarty." James Berardinelli gave the film three stars out of four, writing: "A Game of Shadows is a stronger, better realized movie that builds upon the strengths of the original and jettisons some of the weaknesses." Conversely, Keith Phipps of The A.V. Club felt that the film "aims lower than its predecessor's modest ambition, and still misses the mark."

The Cast

Robert Downey Jr. as Sherlock Holmes
 Jude Law as Dr. John Watson
 Noomi Rapace as Madam Simza Heron
 Rachel McAdams as Irene Adler
 Jared Harris as Professor James Moriarty
 Stephen Fry as Mycroft Holmes
 Paul Anderson as Colonel Sebastian Moran
 Kelly Reilly as Mary Watson
 Geraldine James as Mrs. Hudson
 Eddie Marsan as Inspector Lestrade
 William Houston as Constable Clark
 Wolf Kahler as Doctor Hoffmanstahl