The General (1926) Review

February 4, 2016 Leave a comment

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Buster Keaton movies never fail to impress me. Whether it’s masterfully staged stunts that wow me, his impeccable comedic timing, or innovative special effects, I’m always left thinking: “that man was a genius.” As an actor and director in most of his feature films, he had a tremendous amount of talent. The General optimises all of these things. It’s so rare that I will see a film and be able to not only say it’s simply one of my favourite films, but to flat out say it is one of the best films I’ve ever seen. Keaton plays Johnnie, a simple train engineer who tries to sign up with the Confederate Army to appease his fiancee Anabelle when the American Civil War breaks out. As he is so valuable in his current job operating his train The General, the Army won’t enlist him (though he doesn’t realise this, thinking that they don’t consider him man enough for the job). Through some frustrating, classic Keaton miscommunication, he gets shunned by Anabelle and her family (who assume he’s too cowardly to enlist), and goes back to working on his trusty locomotive alone.

A year later Annabelle is a passenger on The General but still wants nothing to do with our downtrodden hero. At a station stop, The General is stolen by Union spies, who inadvertently kidnap and hold Anabelle prisoner. Johnnie leaps into action and a great chase across the south takes place. The majority of the 75 minute film sees Johnnie take pursuit on foot, then by handcar, even on a boneshaker bicycle, before eventually commandeering another train: The Texas.

The stunts Keaton performs are arguably not his most death defying, but are nonetheless very dangerous, and utterly brilliant. Jumping across the train, riding the cow catcher and clearing the upcoming track of stray sleepers, amongst many other moments made my jaw drop. It’s an exciting, exhilirating thrill ride through some amazing scenery of the American south, with incredible cinematography. The huge amount of extras employed into big set piece scenes also add a massive sense of scale to the film.

Being a big fan of steam trains ever since I was very young, the locomotive aspect definitely makes me biased towards The General, but I genuinely think it’s one of the best films I’ve ever seen. I’m slowly considering the 20s to be my favourite decade in film, with The General heading the top of the pile. The grand finale of the movie, during a huge battle between two armies, sees one of the trains involved in the chase crash through a burning bridge over a river, plunging into a watery grave. A sequence easily done in miniature form, but Keaton decided to go for the real deal. It’s one of the most spectacular moments in a movie I’ve seen, and the wreckage actually remained in the river for another 20 years until WWII.

None of the visual splendor would mean too much though, if the story wasn’t engaging, and it was. It’s a simple tale of a man rescuing his woman, but with more at stake as Johnnie seeks to win back his fiancee. Which is framed amidst the American Civil War with Johnnie almost accidentally becoming a hero, wherein the movie truly becomes a grand adventure, a hilarious comedy and an exciting war film at the same time. Orson Welles said The General was to him: “the greatest comedy ever made, the greatest Civil War film ever made, and perhaps the greatest film ever made.” While I wouldn’t be as bold to say that, there’s certainly a lot of stock to be held in that praise. It’s an undeniable classic, perhaps Keaton’s best movie as an actor/director and truly a masterpiece, to use that overused phrase.

 

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Buster Keaton: 50 Years After Death, A Legacy Immortal

February 2, 2016 Leave a comment

Think slow, act fast.

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Have you seen a Buster Keaton film? Yes? Cool, welcome. No? Not even a little bit? Are you sure? You probably have, even if you don’t know it. That’s what happened with me, you see. That famous image of a man standing next to a house as a whole side of it falls over him, his body unscathed as he had been standing in the spot where an open window fell around him. It was done for real, with a real house, and the crew even walked off the set, as if he had been just a few inches off his mark, it would’ve been disastrous. It’s a classic moment in the history of films, and it sums up everything about Buster Keaton that has still managed to live on well beyond the mere boundaries of mortality.

If Joseph Frank “Buster” Keaton were alive today, he would 120 years old. It sounds like the man is ancient, and indeed, as we live now in the 21st century, Buster was born in the 19th century, on the 4th of October, 1895. This isn’t a biography however, I’m not here to cover Keaton’s entire career, or even his life, which seems like too big of a task, even if I were to write an entire book about him.

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Inside Out (2015) Review

August 27, 2015 Leave a comment

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I was pretty geared up for the new Pixar film, Inside Out, but didn’t quite have anything near a level of what you would call excitement for it. I was ready for a typically fun time with the usually dependant Pixar, who, despite some lesser calibre films over the past five years, have continued to produce decent, entertaining movies.

Well damn. They did it again. I would point to films like Toy Story, A Bug’s Life, Wall-E and Toy Story 3 as some of the greatest animated films of all time. The rest of Pixar’s output is also mostly incredible too. In recent years, it seems like they’ve been leaning on sequels (and a prequel) to propel the studio forward, yet once again, they show how much they can hit it out of the park with an original story.

Inside Out follows five emotions inside the head of an eleven year old girl, Riley. Joy, Sadness, Fear, Disgust, and Anger are all colourfully represented, both in their brilliant character design, and their voices, provided by a stellar cast including Bill Hader and Amy Poehler. I could begin to describe to you how the inside of Riley’s mind works, how the five emotions all play their part in keeping her brain running in a way that we would all consider “normal”, but I won’t. You just need to see this film, if you haven’t, and marvel at all the ingenuity on display in how it all ticks.

All the little things add up in a big way here, a seemingly endless amount of genius moments, whether it’s an offhand explanation of why songs get stuck in our head, or it’s a much grander idea of how our emotions are integral to who we are, and our personality. Kids can watch this and enjoy the fun characters, the wild adventure that Joy and Sadness go on throughout Riley’s mind, lost outside of the “HQ” of her brain. Adults can watch this, and if they’re still in touch with their inner child, can enjoy that element too, whilst also connecting to the very deep themes that make this film so special.

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The thing with Inside Out is, all of the ideas presented within it, are complete strokes of brilliance, but they aren’t overly clever. Anyone could come up with some of the concepts, such as a literal Train of Thought driving around, or a cave that houses your subconscious fears. They’re simple ideas, but the genius comes from the simplicity, in my opinion. Pixar always seem to excel at bringing real emotion out of their audience, and this one may be the most effective at that. It’s one thing to make us feel sad at seeing a young girl crying in embarassment, but to make us feel heartbroken over a goofy, outlandish character, is a masterstroke.

By now, two decades on from when Pixar created the first feature length CGI film, the studio clearly has a handle on making these films look better and better. This is no exception, and it looks stunning. Then there’s the outstanding score which heightens the emotions, from the fun, to the sad. It just ticks every box, the story is great, the characters are relatable, and the not so original idea of little people inside someone’s head, essentially running things, is executed to perfection. Then there’s the humour. This film is funny. Like, really funny.

I haven’t sat in a cinema and actually laughed out loud this much for years. Once again, it was in the simplest of touches, that my funny bone was repeatedly tickled. There’s humour for kids and adults alike, in the whacky moments for the young at heart, and the subtle jokes for the rest of us. My favourite joke that probably flew over children’s heads was when a box containing facts on the Train of Thought was disturbed. The little cards that visualise the facts were mixed in with cards for opinions. Joy despairs that the facts and opinions are now all mixed up, before another character replies “it happens all the time.”

The most important part of Inside Out, the element that puts it from being simply a great film, to being a masterpiece, is the way it deals with sadness, even perhaps depression. Not since Miyazaki’s dealing of that terrible feeling of being down, have I seen it handled so delicately, and honestly. The overriding sentiment is that it’s ok to be sad, and that it is a part of who we are as people. We don’t always have to be happy, and no one should feel like they have to be all the time. Your emotions define you, and your personality, so don’t bottle them up. See? It sounds cheesy when written in three simple sentences, but Inside Out never spells this out.

That message is told, in a beautiful scene at the end of the film (and indeed, throughout the entire film as well), where inside Riley’s head, the usually motormouth emotions, are all in silence. It harked back to the great silent films, where only music and images were relied on to convey the story. You could have the parents of Riley tell her that she shouldn’t be afraid to be sad, but it’s all the more powerful when you’re just shown that message. Pixar doesn’t try to cater for the lowest common denominator, and expects their audience to be smart enough to figure it out for themselves. I admire that, and it’s one of the reasons they make such great films.

Hilarious, gorgeous, gut-wrenchingly touching, and a true original. I held back tears of sadness, and of joy, literally, seriously, without any pretence. My favourite film of the year so far, and easily one of the best animated films of the past 25 years.

★★★★★

A Channel Rebooted

July 28, 2015 1 comment

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After taking a little break from YouTube, I’ve come back with a fresh mind, ready to create a boat load of new content, this time, with a weekly schedule. Here’s how it’ll break down:

  • Mondays – RazorwireReviews Bat-a-thon Returns (A weekly series of Batman themed reviews, from the 1966 TV show Blu-ray, disc by disc, to graphic novels, video games, animated movies and more! A sequel to my 2012 series RazorwireReviews Bat-a-thon)
  • Tuesday – Top 5 Tuesday (Top 5 videos on all sorts of topics, mainly movie related!)
  • Wednesday – 2015 Complete Blu-ray Collection Overview (An installment of the multi-part series)
  • Thursday – Free day (with option to upload anything)
  • Friday – 2015 Complete Blu-ray Collection Overview (An installment of the multi-part series)
  • Saturday – The Road to Episode VII (Series chronicling the build up to Star Wars: The Force Awakens)
  • Sunday – YES: The Trip of a Lifetime (2014 USA Trip vlog series)

A lot to take in, right? Right. But I’m confident I can pull it off (at least for a couple of months) with tons of videos already filmed. After having a lot of support from subscribers on my Patreon page, I now have a new hard drive, and the space to create all this new content. To keep this site a bit more active, I will be posting links to these videos on here.

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I Want You for The Road to Episode VII! Doc/Vlogumentary Project!

Hi! If you don’t know me I’m Luke Ryan aka RazorwireReviews on YouTube, a channel I’ve been running for over four years. I review films, upload vlogs, and make all kinds of different videos. This post is all about another different kind of video, and will hopefully materialise into something really special!

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What is The Road to Episode VII?

The Road to Episode VII is a web series I created on YouTube in February of 2013, not long after the announcement was made that Disney had bought LucasFilm, and new Star Wars films would be made. I decided I wanted to chronicle the years of waiting for a new Star Wars film I never thought I’d ever get to see: Episode VII. When I began the series there wasn’t a director attached to the film, nor were there writers, any cast members new or old, just the promise that we would see the film in 2015. Every time a major piece of news came out about the film, I made a video talking about my thoughts on it to camera, in a low key, conversational manner.

On occasion I would include more in depth, edited videos that generally celebrated my Star Wars obsession, such as a look back on all of my favourite LucasArts games, after it was announced that the company was being disbanded. Now, a mere seven months away from that special day when we’ll all get to journey to a galaxy far, far away once again, my series is over 50 installments strong.

So why do you need me?

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Marathon Month on RazorwireReviews – April 2015

April 7, 2015 Leave a comment

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So every year around March/April I take part in the annual Ryan Chattaway 24 Hour Movie Marathon challenge on YouTube. I started in 2012 with a two part 20 minute video, back when I couldn’t upload more than 15 minutes at a time. In 2013 I released the second video: 24 Hour Movie Marathon II: 24 Hours of Movies. Only this time it turned into a feature length extravaganza that I dubbed a “vlogumentary” as it was a vlog that featured some fun skits and was over 100 minutes long. I doubted such a long video would garner much interest but it turned into one of my most popular videos so the legend of the 24 Hour Movie Marathon began to grow.

In 2014 I released 24 Hour Movie Marathon III (Days of Movies) which clocked in at just over 180 minutes in length. Again it proved to be fairly popular in comparison with the majority of my regular content. So suffice it to say that these feature length, vlogumentary style videos of me talking about films as I watch 24 hours worth of them, is going to be a mainstay on my channel every year for as long as it’s around. This year, hopefully in May, I will “premiere” 24 Hour Movie Marathon IV. To gear up for this one, I’ve declared this month (April 2015) Marathon Month on my channel.

 

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The Theory of Everything (2015) Review

April 7, 2015 1 comment

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Another film that seems ripe for Oscar baiting criticism, and to some extent I even agree. This was made to win awards, and released at the perfect time to be considered for awards. However, it is simply a wonderful film, that has been lovingly made to honour the life of an incredible man. Eddie Redmayne (who won the Oscar for his performance) plays Stephen Hawking, from a young man to middle age. The charm that he exudes as Hawking in the early parts of the film, can still be seen shining through in the latter stages too, despite his lack of mobility and speech. A very top tier performance that deserves all the recognition it has gotten, that must’ve been very hard to get right, and most of all believable.

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Interstellar (2014) Review

November 23, 2014 Leave a comment

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My anticipation for Christopher Nolan’s latest blockbuster film Interstellar was sky high. Being a life long space nerd and lover of the stars, I’ve always had a soft spot for sci-fi films that tackle space exploration in a realistic manner. So, after seeing the first teaser trailer for Nolan’s new science fiction film, I abstained from watching anything else, or reading any articles, or looking through any of the reviews that began rolling in.

So, for better or worse, when I finally sat down to watch this near three hour epic, almost every shot in the film was new to me. The “money shots” hadn’t been spoiled beforehand, I had no idea where the plot was going to lead, I didn’t even know all of the main cast. It was so refreshing to go into Interstellar almost completely blind, putting my faith in the actors I knew were in it, the fact that it was a space film, and of course that Christopher Nolan was behind it.

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Boyhood (2014) Review

November 21, 2014 Leave a comment

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Between 2002 and 2013, director Richard Linklater set out to make a truly unique film. He cast young actor Ellar Coltrane as the lead of the story (Mason), staying with him from the age of six, until he starts college at eighteen. The result is Boyhood, my current favourite film of 2014, and easily one of my favourites of all time.

It’s tough to even know where to start. The film doesn’t so much tell the story of Mason’s life, it just shows it. The twelve year production process is not just a schlocky gimmick, one devised to bring in an audience to see something different. It’s merely a tool to help bring a piece of art to life. Though the eleven years it took to film, I’m sure, was anything but “mere.”

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RazorwireReviews Podcast 013 – “Interstellar Overdrive”

November 20, 2014 Leave a comment

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The RazorwireReviews Podcast 013

“Interstellar Overdrive”

  • Answering Your Questions (Crying at films, Favourite meals & more)
  • Reason for my recent podcast hiatus
  • Episode VII Title Reveal & Trailer
  • Best Cinema Experiences: The Dark Knight Rises
  • Thoughts on Interstellar & Dumb and Dumber To
  • Completing Donkey Kong Country Returns
  • And more!

Click the picture to download the MP3, or alternatively stream on YouTube here, or below.

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