Friday, 30 December 2011

Films We Want To See Christian Bale Do

Kathryn and I had a long phone call a couple of weeks ago where we discussed our favourite actor and insane person, Christian Bale. We decided to help him with his future career since Batman is soon finishing (sob), and came up with some options for films using genres he hasn't yet tackled.

This just made me laugh
Note: you may only find this amusing if you know Christian Bale. If not you will just think we are a bit messed up. Meant for amusement only! (Though obviously it would be amazing if he did actually star in any films like these).

Kathryn wrote up some of of our favourite picks:

1. Rom-com starring Bale, with Jennfier Aniston as the love interest.

2. Teen body swap comedy. Bale and his daughter, or just some random girl he knows, swap bodies Freaky Friday style. Hilarious consequences. Suggested actress to play girl – Miley Cyrus, who can then also do a musical number.

3. Modern day remake of the classic musical Brigadoon, directed by Christopher Nolan. Also starring Morgan Freeman and Michael Caine of course, as is always the case in a Nolan film. Suggested female lead - Marion Cotillard (depending on how good her Scottish accent is).

4. Mannequin 3. Again, produced by Nolan. Bale is the mannequin. Suggested co-stars - Eddie Murphy or Jim Carrey as an updated version of Hollywood.

5. Buddy movie comedy starring Bale and Will Ferrell. Bale is released from a psychiatric institute and taken on a road trip by his best friend (Ferrell). Along the way Bale snaps and thinks he's Batman (basically he seems to be playing himself).

6. Sequel to Elf as Bale plays a baby raised by elves in the same way as Buddy in the first film but is evil. OR when he finally clicks that he's not an elf he attempts to a) kill parents or b) ruin Christmas.

7. Bale as Dr Doolittle but with a sinister edge. Perhaps as a taxidermist who only speaks to the animals he stuffs.

8. As a serious suggestion, any film with Jeff Bridges. We honestly don't know why this pairing hasn't happened yet in this industry.

Come on now, who wouldn't want to see at least half of these films?!

A Look at Upcoming Films: Jan-Jun 2012

Earlier this year, I published my list of upcoming films of 2011 to look out for. Admittedly, some errors were made (the fact that Green Lantern and The Three Musketeers were awful and that On The Road now won't be released this year), but some, I think, were pretty accurate. I also promised a list of films to watch out for in 2012. Kathryn and I both agree it's going to be pretty amazing in terms of the epic films that are going to be released, but we also say (at this point) that there aren't going to be the same number of amazing films that there have been this year. We shall see. I shall be brief with each one because I have a lot to get through. On with the list!

Firstly, there's The Avengers. If you've seen Thor/Iron Man/Iron Man 2/Captain America and enjoyed them, or are a fan of superhero movies in general, you need to see this. It's going to be incredible (Hulk. Excuse the pun). There is a great cast, one of the best ensembles I've seen for a while, and it has one of my favourite ever film villains in it, because Loki is back! (See Thor if you don't know what I'm talking about.) It's constantly a toss-up between this and Dark Knight Rises (see future blog posts for more information) for my most-anticipated film of next year, and I think it's going to be a really difficult choice as to what my favourite is going to be.

ETA: April 27

Another film I'm incredibly excited for is Snow White and the Huntsman. The trailer alone for this film is one of the most impressive I've seen in a very long time, and I've watched it over and over again just absorbing the brilliance of it. Charlize Theron looks like she's going to be amazing as the Evil Queen (and does a British accent very well!), and the special effects look incredible. Again, the supporting cast are amazing on paper, with the likes of Bob Hoskins, Eddie Marsan, Eddie Izzard and Nick Frost as some of the eight dwarves (Disney apparently own the rights to Seven Dwarves!), and of course Kristen Stewart and Chris Hemsworth (looking very much like a brunette Thor who has replaced his hammer with an axe) as Snow White and the huntsman respectively. Let's put it this way: at the very least, this film looks miles better than the appalling Mirror Mirror. I already hope the rumours of a trilogy are true.

ETA: June 1

In a completely different direction, I'm very much looking forward to The Woman in Black. I absolutely love the play, and if it's faithful to that then the film will be very good. Though saying that, I'm unsure as to how some aspects of the play are going to translate into films and still be as effective. But the trailer looks like the film will still deliver all of the terrifying moments well, and I'm interested to see what Daniel Radcliffe is going to do in his first post-Hogwarts role. And Total Film have already dubbed it as 'The Year's Creepiest Film' so that sounds promising!

ETA: Feb 3

Coming quite soon is J. Edgar, Clint Eastwood's biopic of controversial FBI founder J. Edgar Hoover (Leonardo DiCaprio). The screenwriter, Dustin Lance Black, also wrote the screenplay for Milk, a film I watched relatively recently and was impressed by, so I have high hopes for this based on the cast (also including Dame Judi Dench and Naomi Watts) and crew. Admittedly, I don't know much about the subject, but Hollywood do love a good biopic and it's already been nominated for a couple of awards, including Golden Globes. It's had mixed reviews so far, so I'll have to see for myself, but it's one I definitely want to catch at some point.

ETA: January 20

One film which I'm told I should be excited about, and based on the trailer alone, I am a little, is The Hunger Games. I haven't read the books yet, but I've heard they are addictive and very good, so I shall get round to it hopefully some point before the film comes out. I'm not particularly excited about the cast, especially Jennifer Lawrence, who most people know I'm not a fan of, but the actual plot, from what I can tell from the trailer, looks quite gripping and I'm looking forward to something quite new and fresh from Hollywood.

ETA: March 23

In May comes what has been described as "possibly the most Tim Burtonish Tim Burton film ever", Dark Shadows. Containing the usual cast members of Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter, this sounds right up my street. It's got vampires. It's got Johnny (my birthday sharer!). It's a Tim Burton film. Just the look of the pictures makes me giggle with how weird and wonderful it is. I don't know what it will be like in terms of quality, of course, but stylistically it's hard to beat Burton, and this looks very much like his signature style.

ETA: May 11

One film which I think will hoard a lot of awards, and has already started actually, is Shame. It sounds very dark, very characterised (which is usually the type of film that the Acadamies love), and from what I've heard has already had high critical praise. Michael Fassbender is definitely an actor on the rise and someone to watch, as is director Steve McQueen, so I'm very much looking forward to seeing this. I think Fassbender sounds like the perfect actor to portray a troubled young man, and we know he does good characters from his previous work. Oscar nomination, anyone?

ETA: January 13

Continuing on the line of sex- and character-orientated films starring Michael Fassbender is A Dangerous Method, one of two David Cronenberg films this year (the other being Cosmopolis, see upcoming blog post for more details). This one tells the story of the relationship between psychoanalysts Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung (played by Viggo Mortensen and Fassbender respectively) and the young woman (Keira Knightley) who comes between them. I have every confidence that this film will be interesting and engaging at the very least.

ETA: February 10

I shall end this post on a light note with This Means War. Any reader of this blog and/or person that knows me to any degree will know that I am in love with Reese Witherspoon, and to see her in a film with Tom Hardy and Chris Pine pretty much blows my mind. Three of my favourite actors in one film! Yes, it looks ridiculous, but it also looks very fun and entertaining, and sometimes, once in a while, that's what you want for a film. Although Reese clearly hasn't been listening to my advice (Career advice for Reese), this does look better than the recent films she's been doing (with the exception of Water for Elephants), and I'm looking forward to this offering of light entertainment from Hollywood. Also, 2012 has been dubbed as Tom Hardy's year, with other films including The Dark Knight Rises on the horizon, so let's enjoy him as many times as we can.

ETA: February 17

Other films I haven't mentioned are The Descendants, Bel Ami, The Iron Lady, Martha Macy Mae Marlene, Like Crazy, The Muppets, The Raven, Young Adult, and countless others I've no doubt forgotten and will kick myself later for.

Look out for part 2, July-December, at some point in the future!

(P.S. Can we please please please have some information on On The Road? Please? It's been in post-production for a year and a half now. What are they doing to it?!

Thursday, 8 December 2011

Twilight: A Defence

With the release of the latest Twilight film, Breaking Dawn Part 1, came the usual mess of needless abuse, pompous criticism and general hate. People have slated this film franchise so much over the years (it's only been around for just over 3) that I feel like I need to defend it from all the people who hate the series just for the sake of it, without properly thinking about it.

Firstly, as some of you are aware, I am a proud Twilight fan. Note I didn't say "Twihard", because I feel that a lot of stigma comes associated with that word. People hear "Twilight" and assume that everyone is a teenage girl who spends their time hyperventilating, screaming, or crying over the films and everything to do with it. In actual fact, we're not. I read somewhere that over 50% of people who went to see Breaking Dawn in its opening weekend were over 25. It's just because the idiotic teenage girls are the most publically vocal part of the community that they are the only ones anyone ever pays attention to, when actually those hysterical little girls only represent a small portion of the fanbase. I do understand a lot of people's hatred for these people, it irritates me beyond belief too. It's these fans that make me really pity the stars who have to stand there and endure having people scream in their faces... who would want to go through that? I don't envy them in the slightest. But I do disagree with the fact that non-fans seem to group all fans together with these hideous people. We aren't all like that. The day I turn into one of those fans, I want someone to shoot me in the head.

Yes, this represents how most people see Twilight fans. It's untrue (for the most part).
 As much as it has a huge number of people who dislike the books and films, I think people can't ignore the massive cultural impact it's had on the world. As someone who was quite into vampires before the Twilight series even came to my attention, I have seen, as I'm sure everyone else in Western civilisation has, the recent insurgance of fascination with vampires and the supernatural in fiction. The novels of The Southern Vampire Mysteries and The Vampire Diaries may have come out before the Twilight books, but have grown massively in popularity since the success of Twilight, with shows being made out of both of them following this success (True Blood from The Southern Vampire Mysteries in 2008 and The Vampire Diaries from... well, The Vampire Diaries in 2009). There are also now sections in bookshops called "Supernatural Romance" and "Teenage Fantasy" etc. that were not there before, but because there is such a huge demand now for books such as these that it's become necessary to have them.

It cannot be denied, therefore, that these books and films have power. They have caused massive levels of obsession which has lead to it being one of the most popular franchises of recent times, with merchandise everywhere, t-shirts on the chests of fans who wave their posters and scarves and the like. Their premieres are beaten only by Harry Potter in terms of turnout, and new films are often one of the most anticipated of the year. Celebrities are very vocal in their support of the series. Journalists would sell their mothers if it meant a decent interview with one of the stars. They are influential and powerful, and critics aren't going to put a stop to that any time soon, whether they like it or not.

I'd also like to point out the records that these films have broken. It has the second biggest midnight release and opening day ever (Eclipse, broken only by Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part 2, which I think is something it can be very proud of), the third and fourth highest opening weekends in history (New Moon and Eclipse respectively), as well as winning many other awards. These awards may not be the most prestigious or even credible, but they really prove the success of the franchise. They may be mostly voted for by fans, but that just proves the dedication and commitment they have, that I think even outshines Harry Potter fans at times. These fans have ensured that, at the time of writing, the films have made over $2.4 million. Not too shabby, really.

Now we come to the acting, which has suffered more than its fair share of abuse. No, it's not the best, hence they haven't won any major awards, but I really think it's been blown out of proportion. If you go in and watch one of the films with a clear head and without any preconceptions (ok, maybe not the first one), you can see there are some moments that are actually quite good, especially in the latest instalment, Breaking Dawn. I've always said, the leads do the best with what they are given, considering the storylines and script they have to work with. It's unsurprising they get labelled as "wooden" or "limited" when they have very little wiggle room to show what they are actually capable of. Watch some of their other work (Water For Elephants, Panic Room, Adventureland, Bel Ami) and you will see that they are not limited actors at all, they are just limited in terms of what they can do in the constraints of these films at times.

Plus, just think about how much money they have now. Robert Pattinson is the third-richest Brit in the industry, and he was recently named as third in Forbes' "Hollywood's Best Actors for the Buck", meaning for every dollar he makes, his films make a lot back. Kristen Stewart was first on this list; this says a lot. These films propelled them from relative unknowns to superstardom, and they now have international recognition and are well-respected by other people in the industry, including high-profile actors and directors. David Cronenberg cast Rob in one of his new films (Cosmopolis) and has publically praised him many times on his performence, and basically every actor and director Kristen has ever worked with, from Jodie Foster to Garrett Hedlund to Melissa Leo to David Fincher, has had only glowing things to say about her. You cannot deny that they are two of the hardest working people in the industry and the effort they put into making these films and promoting them needs to be admired. It must be absolutely draining for them to do, and they deserve more than the casual panning they get in return.

I fully admit that the books and films are not amazing - far from it, in fact - but when they aren't taken too seriously, they are fun. And I think that's another big problem, that people are just too serious about them. Yes, it can be argued that they take themselves too seriously sometimes, but we all now know the sort of thing we're going to get when we watch them, and therefore we know what to expect and have a vague idea of how we're going to react generally. They are always going to be attacked by prissy pretentious critics who prefer works submitted to Cannes or Sundance, but these are big-budget Hollywood movies who aren't out to impress the critics, but rather the fans. Cast and crew have said repeatedly that they make the films for the fans, and to be honest, do we really think they take the criticism to heart? They know the films will be successful in the box office and in the eyes of their fans, and that's what matters to them the most. They wouldn't have continued to make them otherwise.

On a positive note, it needs to be said that no matter what you say about the films, they always have amazing soundtracks and that cannot be denied by anyone. Hundreds of very well respected artists submit songs to be considered for inclusion on them, including Florence and the Machine (best song on any of the soundtracks I think), Beck, Paramore (the less said about that the better really, in my opinion, but I hate them for different reasons), Bon Iver, Bruno Mars, Death Cab for Cutie, The Killers, UNKLE, and of course, Muse, to name a few. The soundtracks have all been in the top 5 on the Billboard 100, and have basically provided a platform for artists both well-known and rising to showcase their work. Bon Iver were on the first soundtrack before they were really big, and have provided what is probably the ultimate song of the series. So really, the films not only help to propel actors into the public eye, but also musicians, which should not be scoffed at, to be honest. It's ended up being a prestigious thing to end up on a Twilight soundtrack.

I don't understand really why people have singled out these films to consistently debunk and criticise. Ok professional critics, I get that it's your job to give your opinion on the film, but then just leave it there. There is no need to constantly go on and on about how bad you think it is, and give it worse reviews than you ordinarily would have because you have previous misconceptions and views on it. Other films don't get this type of abuse. There have been much worse films released this year that haven't had this much attention drawn to their flaws (*coughGreenLanterncough*), yet people repeat themselves over again when it comes to this series. Why? You're entitled to your opinions, of course, but stop banging people over the head with them. It's at the stage where everyone now has their opinions on the films and nothing is going to change it, so stop harping on.

What I'm trying to get at, really, is that you don't have to like the series. Just accept that it's popular and there is a big fanbase out there and leave it be. There is no need to constantly debase and ridicule it, it just ends up irritating people (and also riling up the crazies even more, so don't encourage them!). It's just a waste of your own time and energy. We all know it's flawed, but it has such a massive following that clearly a lot of people don't care. So you shouldn't either.

Monday, 21 November 2011

Breaking Down Breaking Dawn

Before I wrote anything for this review, I had to sit and think if I could actually give a fair judgement for this film, considering what a fan I am of this whole series. And the conclusion was yes, I can. I've never claimed to be a professional critic, I just write what I think about films for my own enjoyment, but I think I can do this one justice.

First off, this film was a lot better than I was anticipating, considering what we all knew was going to happen in it. The (professional!) reviews I've read so far for this film have been rather negative, but I think that's rather unfair because they often slate the plot, which really is not the film's fault. The general consensus is that the book upon which it's based was a huge letdown for fans and is the least favourite, and everyone knows it's a ridiculous plot, but I think they did the best with that they had to work with and overall I think it turned out very well, for the most part.

I don't even know if I can say this review will have spoilers, because we all know what happens in this film, but I'll put the little warning there anyway.

Let's start with the good bits, shall we?

The much anticipated wedding and honeymoon of Kristen Stewart's Bella and Robert Pattinson's Edward were beautiful. To be honest, I think I was so absorbed with the more dramatic moments of the film I kind of overlooked this when making expectations, but really, it was lovely. Yes, it was extremely mushy, but it also stayed very faithful to the books and the wedding was pretty much exactly as I pictured it. Bella looked stunning in her dress, and the whole set was gorgeous. The wedding itself was very sweet to watch, and very satisfying for all the fans who have been waiting so long for it to finally happen. I found the whole thing actually quite emotional. The honeymoon too was well done, considering they had to stay within the boundaries of a PG13/12 certificate (though I read somewhere that nearly 50% of people who saw it this weekend were over-25... don't know if that's accurate, but still, they could have pushed it to a 15 and given us some more action). There are also some very (intentionally) humorous moments which made a welcome change to the usual mopey, angsty films produced so far in this series. The wedding speeches in particular were brilliant, showing off the talents of the wonderful Billy Burke (as Charlie, Bella's father) and Anna Kendrick (Jessica, Bella's not-so-subtly bitter friend), as well as some of Bella's attempted seduction on the honeymoon. But it doesn't stay that way.

Of course, it starts to get a little freaky. Bella's horrific, accelerated pregnancy was actually awful to watch, not because it was badly done but because the visual effects made her painful to look at, as she should be. People have asked if Kristen Stewart actually lost that much weight for the role, but she didn't, it's just the CGI and make-up making her look skeletal and near-death. But I will admit that the pregnancy was a very weird thing to watch, though the actors did it really well. Which brings me onto their performances.

I think every single person unanimously agrees that they are the best they've been all series. The range of emotions Stewart and Pattinson have to cover (Edward and Bella are actually allowed to be happy for the first time!) show how skilled they are as actors. Because it's such an intense film in terms of emotion, I think it really stresses each and every one so you kind of empathise with them at certain points. Certainly the climactic birth scene made me genuinely cry both times I've seen it (so far), as Edward tries desperately to save Bella's life. It really does tug on the heartstrings. Sadly, the same cannot be said for the other performances in the film. Most of them are up to scratch, though nobody else really stands out. But really, everyone else is just a supporting role in this, including Jacob, who wasn't in it as much as I thought he would be, probably because the script has clearly cut a lot from the books. However, Taylor Lautner's Jacob pretty much just mopes for the entire film and he doesn't even do that very well, just coming across as a brat most of the time. And the wolves... well, that's a different matter altogether.

I've said from the very start of becoming a fan of both the films and books, that the series would be a whole lot better without the werewolves/shapeshifters/whatever-you-want-to-call-them. But I think this film really emphasises that point. None of them were really credible actors in the previous films, and they haven't become any better since then. Thankfully they aren't in it a great deal, at least as humans, though it has to be said that the scene where they're having a conversation in their wolf forms has to be the worst one of the entire series to date. I was actually hiding behind my hands at how appallingly bad it was. And the imprinting scene! (For those who don't know, imprinting is the process where a werewolf finds their soulmate and forms some kind of unbreakable bond. Or something.) Reading the book I thought the scene where Jacob imprints on his best friend/love interest's newborn baby was creepy, but actually seeing it was something else. It was a whole new level of paedophile.

In terms of production, you can see the improvement from previous films. The dialogue is much improved, not so much the stilted, awkward conversation from before, though that's not to say there aren't still some questionable parts. What's good is that the screenplay has cut out huge chunks of the book, which would otherwise have made a three-hour film that was dragged out beyond belief. And I thank Melissa Rosenberg (screenwriter) for cutting some parts, most notably the awful scene in the book where Edward asks Jacob, his love rival, to procreate with his new wife. Awks. But I also liked some of the additional parts, such as the speeches in the wedding, as well as one scene at the beginning where we see Edward's pre-"vegetarian" vampire lifestyle. It was a bit unnecessary for this film (don't know whether it will be relevant in the next one) but it was nice to see all the same, because it hadn't been discussed before.

The special effects were also great. I've already mentioned the hideous transformation seen in Bella's body during her pregnancy, but the wolves were very convincing (sadly, only in appearance), and I thought the scene towards the end as we see the vampire venom travelling through Bella's bloodstream was actually very effective, though I understand why people feel it was a little strange to see.

The whole birth scene was done very well, I thought. I wasn't sure how they were going to be able to do it and stick to the film's rating, but I thought it was effective in the way they showed it from Bella's perspective so the action wasn't as bad due to her semi-conscious state. I heard that loads of people passed out when they first saw it because of the gore, but I don't understand how because really it wasn't that bad at all. But I think the best thing about the whole scene was Edward's reaction to Bella's subsequent death, which was haunting, I don't think Robert Pattinson has ever been better in the whole series. I actually cried when he was trying to save her. And I was genuinely terrified for her, even though I knew what was going to happen. It was done by the actors so well, especially when it's just Edward and Bella towards the end, because really, this film is about them, and the possibility of their separation is heartbreaking.

One thing I don't understand is how people can call it "slow". It was slowER in some places, definitely, particularly towards the beginning with the wedding and honeymoon, but it was always a nice pace. The plot was constantly moving foward smoothly, and actually I felt like I'd only been sitting for 15 minutes before the credits started rolling. And the ending of the film was obvious - we all knew from the moment they said they were splitting it that it would end with that shot of Bella's red vampire eyes opening. But I also don't know how they're going to fill two hours with what they have left to cover in the book. As far as I can tell, it's just going to be Bella adjusting to being a vampire, more sexy times in a different place, and an extremely long and dragged out, anti-climactic conversation with those Italians with the bad wigs. I also don't understand why we have to wait a year to see this when they filmed it nearly a year ago (On the Road, anyone?).

I've also always said that no matter what you say about the Twilight films, you cannot deny that they have amazing soundtracks. This one is no different. Every song fits the scene it's in perfectly, and I have to say that actually it's my favourite one to date. I'm annoyed that the score hasn't been released yet, because that was also very good, and I'm glad Carter Burwell (composer of the first film) returned for this one. I liked how in the wedding they played music from the others, particularly the vows being done to 'Flightless Bird, American Mouth', the music they danced to at prom in the first one, and that Bella's Lullaby was included in the memory-montage at the end. I thought it was very appropriate.

Verdict: Almost everyone involved in the production did the best with the material they had. It's not going to win over any non-fans, but fans should be very pleased with it. It was beautifully shot, and both remains faithful to and deviates from the book enough that it's satisfying, and leaves people just curious enough to remain interested for the second part. They've obviously done something right if they've made my least favourite book of the franchise into my favourite film.



Tuesday, 25 October 2011

An Open Letter to Reese Witherspoon

Dear Reese,

We need to talk about your career. What's going on? What direction are you going in? What do you want to achieve? Because, at the moment, I can't understand what's happening with you. You know I have massive amounts of respect for you, and I think you're a fantastic actress, but I think you need to sack your agent and listen to my advice when it comes to your career.

When you first started, it was going so well, and you earned many award nominations including a Golden Globe nomination (for Election) in the 90s. And then Legally Blonde came along, and, although really not the best film in the world, it became your turning point as you received greater recognition and acclaim for your work; this was followed by Sweet Home Alabama, your biggest box office hit to date and what you describe as a "personal role" to you.

All looking very good in terms of career - let's not forget that you were also married and had a family at this point too. Everything is looking rosy.

And in 2005, Walk the Line happens, and finally, finally, you get the awards, all the big ones, and quite rightly. But what happens now? Surely amazing offers are flooding in for the woman who will now forever have "Academy Award winner" in front of her name? Well, apparently not, and this is the reason your agent needs to be ditched. You really chose some stinkers after Walk the Line, and I don't understand why. Aren't all doors open to you now? You can now be a really credible actress taken very seriously for her dramatic work as well as comedy, but no, instead you appear in films like Four Christmases and do voice work for family film Monsters vs. Aliens. What's going on?

As you have proved on numerous occasions, you have the potential to be such a brilliant actress. I am just so disappointed you never fully took advantage of the recognition you received earlier on in your career, especially after your Oscar/BAFTA/Golden Globe/SAG Award wins.

However, things are looking up. Water for Elephants was released this year and was one of my favourite films of 2011 (I may be biased but let's not get into that), and finally you were back on track. You have This Means War coming up, and if the trailer is anything to go by, it looks like it will be really good - Tom Hardy and Chris Pine are always a plus as well. Is your career finally on the mend? Have you gone back to making films that aren't slated?

You know I love you anyway, no matter what you choose to do (I sound like a parent) but I do worry about your decisions sometimes. I think you need to diversify (i.e. stop appearing in sappy love films where you're the centre of a love triangle - three in two years is quite enough, I think) and be daring - that's what happened with Walk the Line, which you didn't even want to do at first, and look where that got you! I know you think it's important to choose roles that have a personal meaning to you and that you can relate to, but you also need to be sensible when deciding. Are people going to actually like this? What are they going to think of my talent after watching this? Will offers still keep coming in? You haven't really changed a whole lot as an actress since starting, and the film choices you've made which are the most acclaimed are the ones where you do something a little different that usual - just something to think about.

Just a nice gratuitous shot of lovely Reese with Christian "Jesus" Bale, after presenting him with his Academy Award this year

Basically, please Reese, start picking good films! You are so wonderfully talented - Walk the Line and Water for Elephants make the list of my favourite films of all time, so I know you can do it! You're just such a lovely person and a brilliant actress, and I don't want to see that go to waste or see other people judging you because you keep making the wrong choices. Make the right ones and you'll be recognised with the great actors in the industry again.

Your trusted friend,

P.S. I also love your singing voice. Your doubts over singing for Walk the Line were completely unnecessary.

Legally Blonde:
Walk the Line:
Water for Elephants:
This Means War:

Thursday, 13 October 2011

Apologies and an Abundance of Announcements

Hello again!

Firstly, MASSIVE apologies for being MIA for over a month. If you're following me on Twitter you'll know that I just started university, so my life's been a bit up in the air recently. But I'm settled in mostly now, so updates should be more regular (though saying that, my workload is already up to my eyeballs so I shall be playing it by ear).

There's lots in the works, both in the blog and elsewhere. I have plenty of upcoming posts that should be up soon(ish), including some long overdue film reviews that I never got around to posting and are still sitting in my drafts box (Rise of the Planet of the Apes, Cowboys and Aliens, Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy) as well as some new ones, and also some other articles including my tribute to Pixar, the best film studio out there at the moment, and my pick of upcoming films for the rest of this year and 2012 (there's lots).

Also, and I'm rather excited for this, I've been recruited for the university radio station to be a panellist on a film show. Details are still unclear at the moment re. times etc, but I'm hoping once I start, the four people that still pay any attention to this will tune in. It's a great chance for me to put my film opinions out there to a larger audience, so I can't wait. Details will be posted when I know them. It's all very exciting. Big thanks to Brendan for the opportunity!

Ok, I'm off again (hopefully not for another month!). Thanks to all the readers who have stuck with the blog during my much too lengthy absence!

Friday, 2 September 2011

Really Super 8

I wasn't sure if one of the most anticipated films of the summer could live up to the expectations that have been created through the film industry, but Super 8 more than exceeds the hype.

(The usual spoiler warning... yeah yeah yeah. Though saying that, this time I'm not going to say much, because part of the film is a mystery and not knowing is what makes it so intense.)

Set in 1979, the story follows a group of children as they innocently try to film a low-budget zombie movie for a local competition. However, whilst at a late night shoot at an old railway station, our protagonist, 13 year old Joe sees a truck drive onto the tracks just as a freight train is going by, causing a massive derailment. Soon after, their little town in Ohio is plagued by inexplicable occurrences, such as disappearing people and dogs, as well as machinery going missing. The mysterious presence that has been released into the town has something to do with the crash, and footage from the kids' discarded camera at the scene may hold answers...

I have to say from the beginning that I found this film basically flawless, and that it is my favourite film of the year so far, so don't expect much criticism at all in this blog.

I think the main success of this film is down to its young actors. The performances are amazing, even more so when you realise that this the debut feature for most of them, and the chemistry between them is brilliant to watch - they spark off each other so naturally it's as though they really have been friends their whole lives. Particular highlights of the film are when we are merely observing their banter and the camaraderie between them. But what's really good about them is that they don't let us forget that they are young children, not big action heroes (at one point, Charles, the director of the would-be film, shouts out "I don't want to die!", something which you would of course expect a thirteen year old to say). They act like children, not adults, as is so often portrayed in modern cinema, and it's refreshing.

Another brilliant aspect of the film is that although it is essentially a sci-fi, there are moments of absolute humour that had the whole screen in stitches when I saw it. This is again down to the kids, who deliver the one-liners ("Drugs are SO bad!") so well that again we forget that they are just acting and we are not just watching a documentary about a day in the lives of some kids. The dialogue, even when it's not particularly trying to be funny, makes us laugh because of the time setting. Just saying "Mint!" takes us back to an earlier time and makes us smile. It's extraordinary.

I should also say that this is the most tense I have ever been in a film. The sense of anticipation and tension that builds up for the first two-thirds or so is surely down to the fact that although we see the destruction caused by this presence, it goes unseen for a long time, and when we first see it it's only glimpsed and out of focus. There are genuine moments where you forget to breathe because you are there in the action, with the kids, and you don't know what's coming either.


The special effects in this film must too be applauded. It shows what surely must be the most detailed train crash in the history of film, one which lasts for minutes and literally leaves you breathless, as you too feel like you are running with the kids away from the carnage. There's also the "monster", which is one alien I approve of. It's not the sort of alien you often see in films nowadays, which just look like humans but green, or a little distorted. It doesn't look like anything I've ever seen, which gets a huge thumbs-up from me. But this also brings me to my one and only quibble: the eyes of the alien. I won't spoil it too much, but the eyes distract from what is otherwise one of the best aliens in recent cinema.

But it's the human moments that really make this film shine. As well as the humour that often occurs in the film, there are also genuinely sad bits that made me cry, such as when Elle Fanning's Alice and Joel Courtney's Joe have a conversation about the death of his mother and the neglect of her father. I even cried at the end, just because it was cathartic, and I haven't done that in a really long time. There's also the love-triangle between Joe, Alice and Charles ("Production value!"), which is just the right amount of angsty to be realistic for thirteen year old boys fighting over a girl. It's moments like this that make the film so special, and reflect real life enough to make you forget it's a sci-fi at times.

Verdict: In my opinion, it's the best film I've seen so far this year. I want to see it get Oscars. JJ Abrams is one of my new film heroes and, bearing in mind he wrote it, produced it and directed it, I want to see him get the acclaim he deserves and I look forward to seeing his future work. It's original, could not have been better executed, has a brilliant cast and crew, and outshines anything else this year so far. If you see one film this year, make sure it's this one.



Sunday, 21 August 2011

50 Greatest Harry Potter Moments: 10-1

Here it is, the final part! Now is probably a good time to mention that there will be an outtake post or two, for the moments that we thought were worth being recognised but didn't quite make the final cut.

Also, another reminder that this is a personal list for Lucy and I, and you may disagree. That's ok, just don't give me abuse for it when I've already warned you.

Again, check out Lucy's here. I think we may have diverged whilst writing up the list, so there may be some differences, but otherwise they're very similar.

Ok, it's the final countdown!

Spoiler warning, again. You know the drill.

10. Fred and George leave Hogwarts - Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

The Situation: It's one of the twins' best moments - fed up of being stuck under the control of Umbridge, they decide that their "futures lay outside the world of academic achievement" and do a bunk. In style.

Why we love it: Why couldn't this happen at our school? In the middle of what is the equivalent to a GCSE exam, the twins ride around on their brooms, set off a massive amount of fireworks (one of which eats Umbridge!) and end up destroying most of the Great Hall. It's a terrific feat of anarchy that really should be done more often in real life. Though of course this would be without magic.

9. The Triwizard Tasks - Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

The Situation: Yes, we're putting three into one, because we have a limited number of spaces. Basically, it's the three tasks of the Triwizard tournament.

  1. The First Task - Though none of the four champions are supposed to know, they all find out one way or another that the task involves dragons: namely, to get past the dragon and capture the Golden Egg.
  2. The Second Task - After working out the clue from the Golden Egg, the champions must search the lake for something dear to them which has been taken, encountering plenty of unpleasant things down there as well as having to find a way to hold their breaths for an hour.
  3. The Third Task - The premise is simple - the champions must find their way to the centre of the maze where the Triwizard Cup is located, and the first one there wins. Of course, it's not that easy, and they come across hedges that attack them as well as the Imperius Curse which makes things a little tricky. And then, to make matters worse, the cup is a portkey. But that's a separate issue.

Why we love it: How many reasons do you want? Yes, it's not done in as much detail as the book which makes them less effective (the third task in particular, where is isn't nearly as dangerous as it should be), but it shows magic at a complexity like we haven't seen before, plus the four champions really show feats of endurance, talent, strength and bravery to get through the tasks. They are dramatic, entertaining and they make us feel all anxious and concerned for the champions.

8. Dobby's death - Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part 1

The Situation: After saving Harry, Ron, Hermione, Luna, Ollivander and Griphook from the Malfoys' dungeon, Dobby meets his end by the dagger of Bellatrix Lestrange. Tears ensue.

Why we love it: Because honestly, who didn't cry? (You are a heartless thing not worthy of being called human if your answer is "me".) Innocent little Dobby lays down his life for the one wizard who showed him real kindness and pays the ultimate price for helping him out. It's a most fitting end for him to die in the arms of Harry. RIP Dobby, the free elf. You were the magical being we always wanted as a friend.

7. Dumbledore and Voldemort duel - Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

The Situation: Harry and co have rushed to the Ministry of Magic, soon joined by Death Eaters and then the Order of the Phoenix. Chaos is occuring. Then, to make matters worse, Voldemort appears! Dun dun dun. But no matter, Dumbledore arrives at the battle in the Ministry just as Voldemort is getting ready to do some serious damage to Harry.

Why we love it: It's basically the two greatest wizards alive in an epic duel. Voldemort breathes fire in the shape of a snake, Dumbledore engulfs Voldemort in a ball of water until he nearly drowns, Voldemort basically destroys the Ministry, and then, when we think it's all over, he possesses Harry to taunt Dumbledore. It's all very exciting stuff.

There's also sexy biceps!

6. Sirius' death - Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

The Situation: Prior to all this Voldemort/Dumbledore action, Harry thought that Voldemort was keeping Sirius hostage so rushed down to the Ministry to save him. He hadn't been captured by Voldemort, as Harry thought, instead having seen a vision of this placed into his head by Voldemort, but since he's now in a sticky spot with Death Eaters and the like, Sirius turns up at the Ministry to help the Order of the Phoenix fight anyway, and Bellatrix finishes him off.

Why we love it: It's a very emotional moment. Harry and Sirius are fighting side-by-side, and then Bellatrix comes along and does away with her cousin. The seconds after in which Lupin restrains Harry, and there is no sound, is almost operatic in how the sadness is portrayed. Daniel Radcliffe is very good at showing anguish. But really it's the fact that Sirius, and therefore Gary Oldman, is gone, and we feel the injustice that he was never free after he was framed for murder, as well as the fact that Harry was finally going to get to leave the Dursleys and be with the closest thing to family he ever felt like he had. It's heartwrenching stuff.

5. Fred and George - Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows parts 1 and 2

The Situation: Yes, we have grouped their suffering, but only because they should not be parted! In the first part, George's ear is cursed off by Snape, and we see the tender affection Fred shows to him, despite his awful joke ("I'm holey, Fred!"). They then have a little moment in DH2 before it all kicks off, and it's the last time we see them together, because, alas, JK breaks our hearts and kills off Fred. It's incredibly sad, even if we wish to have actually seen it happen.

Why we love it: Because it's the twins! These moments evoke such reactions in us that we had to put it on the list. It's bad enough that we see one twin damaged in Part 1, and then they are cruelly parted forever as Fred becomes a fatality in the Battle of Hogwarts. They are genuinely two of the saddest moments in the entire series. We tear up at George's ear because we see the connection the twins have in the moments afterwards, and then full-out sob in Part 2 when we see them together for the last time ever as Geroge mourns his other half. JK, how could you do this!?

4. McGonagall and Snape duel - Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part 2

The Situation: Harry has infiltrated the school and the Order of the Phoenix have arrived. Snape makes a move to attack Harry, but McGonagall's having none of it. They then fight it out in the middle of the Great Hall, watched by all the students, before Snape bottles it and flees.

Why we love it: It's two of our favourite characters battling it out over Harry! McGonagall shows the true level of loyalty to her students, and Badass Minerva comes out! To see the two best teachers at the school go head-to-head is really something to behold, and it's actually rather satisfying to see McGonagall take down Snape!

3. Neville's speech - Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part 2

The Situation: Harry is presumed dead by everyone in the battle. Voldemort seems to be on the verge of victory and is calling for anyone to come forward and join him before he kills the remaining people defying him. Neville steps forward and there is an intake of shocked breath, before we learn he is to make a truly heartfelt speech about death not being the end of people, and that they live on through others' memories of them.

In fact, here is a transcript of what he says, because it's so lovely:

"It doesn't matter that Harry's gone. People die everyday. Friends, family. Yeah, we lost Harry tonight. But he's still with us, in here [gestures to chest]. So's Fred, Remus, Tonks... all of them! They didn't die in vain! [to Voldemort] But you will, cause you're wrong! Harry's heart did beat for us, for all of us. It's not over!"

Why we love it: It pretty much seals the deal on Neville being in the top three characters in the whole series. We see how much Neville has developed as a character, since the first film where he was a little tubby boy who was so nervous he could barely stand up to Harry, Ron and Hermione, to someone who steps forward in front of Voldemort and demonstrates his loyalty to Harry and the side of good. The Neville love peaks here. He is truly a wonderful character, and will forever be one of the favourites in the series.

2. The Final Duel - Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part 2

The Situation:  It's the end! The very end! Starting inside the school, Voldemort seems to have the upper hand, but gets carried away with his gloating and showboating, giving Harry time to move outside to a balcony. Once Voldemort has him cornered, he decides to fling them both over the edge (in a hug!) where they then continue brawling mid-air as they fly around the grounds. As they land, the final duel occurs, but, since the Elder Wand's allegiance lies with Harry (unbeknownst to Voldy), his spell backfires and he finally meets his end. Once Voldemort floats away as a million little flakes, it's really over. But it's so epic while it lasts.

Why we love it: It's the climax of the climax! We know that it's going to be over with this battle, and it has us on the edge of our seats the entire time (though everybody knows the outcome). It's fraught with tension, and was done really well in terms of giving it the full attention it deserves. Harry emerges victorious, and that's the series over, really. No more conflicts.

Our one slight quibble about this is the fact that Voldemort does turn into little flakes and floats away. Harry therefore has no proof that he's actually gone, as nobody witnessed the fight and there is no evidence to say he's dead. Hey ho.

And now... dun dun dun... Number 1!

1. Snape's backstory - Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part 2

The Situation: Having just been fatally injured by Voldemort in a move he thinks will give him control of the Elder, one of the Deathly Hallows, Snape gives Harry his memories which shows his true allegiance. We finally find out what's been driving Snape throughout the films and uncover the complexity of his character. And love him for it.

Why we love it: We always knew Snape was good! Alan Rickman deserves at least an Oscar nomination for his performance at this bit, where we see him grieving over Lily Potter's death, clutching her body as baby Harry continues to cry in the background. The level of devotion he has to a woman that was never his is beyond words. Both us and Harry have new respect for him and his bravery, going double-double-agent all to protect the son of the love of his life. The emotion here is through the roof, and there wasn't a dry eye in the house when we saw it. It shows why he is the best character in the series, really.

So, that's that. All done. That's our top 50! Again, there will be outtakes posted in the next week or so, so look out for them too.

Hopefully this was better than the ITV one and left you a little more satisfied. Do you agree/disagree? Leave us a comment with your thoughts!

I leave you with... the evolution of our trio throughout the films.
Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part 1

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part 2

Adios for now!