Saturday, 28 May 2011

Pirates Of Anywhere But The Caribbean: On Stranger Plotlines

Well what the hell was that?

Here is where I would usually put a summary of the plot, but to be honest I don't really know what it is. Cap'n Jack's back doing what he does best: screaming, jumping around rooms, doing that weird jerky thing and embarking on a quest for something mystical. All standard. What I don't understand is anything else. I thought it couldn't get any worse than the third one, but at least that had a purpose, even if it was a jumbled pile of meaningless plot. This one seems to exist just for the fact that they wanted a sequel, and it appears that they threw together a script in about 28 minutes.

There's firstly the setting. As you probably deduced from the title, they don't go anywhere in the Caribbean, defeating the whole title of the franchise; basically, they go on a jaunt of western Europe. Actually, not even that, just Spain and London. Which was my first niggle. There was never any explanation as to the fact they were casually in England in the first place.

Then there's said quest. I didn't understand it. Other than the feared Blackbeard, nobody seemed to have any motive to find the Fountain of Youth other than "well he's looking for it, so I might as well too". Not a reason. The film seemed to take an overly long time to establish the plotline, and Blackbeard, who's supposedly the main antagonist in the film, doesn't appear until a good 45 minutes in. Even then his appearance leaves you with more questions than it answers.
If you aren't familiar with the stories of Blackbeard or the Fountain of Youth, basically it will be very hard to understand. I didn't even get why he could magically control his ship standing still, just with a few hand gestures (it actually made us think "why does he even have a crew if he can man the ship himself without any effort?). And the whole search for the Fountain of Youth doesn't even make sense: Blackbeard wants to find it so that he won't die in the next two weeks, as has been prophecised, but the Fountain doesn't give immortality, so it seems kind of redundant. Basically, the whole quest seems to be there just to give the characters something to do instead of getting drunk and sleeping with prostitutes, which actually would have made for a more entertaining film.
I don't like any of the new characters, really. Penelope Cruz was useless and there was absolutely no chemistry between her and Depp. The only thing that was amusing was the Spanish music that played every time she was on screen, in case we hadn't deduced her nationality from her accent. Then there's Sam Claflin and Astrid Berges-Frisbey (stupid name), slated as the new Orlando and Keira, who were so unbelievably one-dimentional all I could do was laugh at the absurdity of their supposed romance. He was pathetic and needed to man up, and he was also ridiculously flaily for no apparent reason, whereas she was a mermaid-when-in-water-but-a-woman-on-land who just seemed to have one facial expression (mildly worried) and had a total of about 3 lines in the whole film. We were only entertained by them because of their ridiculousness, and they were actually one of the most entertaining aspects of the film... if you laugh at and ridicule them the whole way though.

There are also so many plot holes. The actual Fountain is never really explained, and when the unnecessary Spanish (who we are lead to believe for most of the film are more redundant enemies) come to destroy it, they don't do a very good job. There is one mention of zombies in the entire film (apologies to those who got excited about that from the trailer) and then they are never addressed again, and no explanation is given over that either. Basically, like I said, many questions are raised and almost none of them are answered, which is one of the reasons you will come out feeling immensly dissatisfied.

One thing I have to give credit for is the action sequences. Well, most of them. The first sword-fighting scene between Jack and Cruz's character Anjelica went on for far too long, and was slightly reminiscent of his first one with Orlando, which, instead of being pleasantly nostaligic, seemed like they couldn't be bothered to come up with new choreography. Other than that, though, they were quite entertaining. My favourite would have to be the one where the mermaids basically completely overpower a shipfull of men, though I didn't understand why they resembled vampires. But anyway. The others were pretty much standard: all stylised, all predictable, but fun to watch.

Basically, to sum up, this film had no purpose. It didn't even feel like a Pirates film, as only three of the original characters are actually in it; even with the iconic music playing and Depp's crazy Jack Sparrow, this film just didn't feel the same. Yes, it was shorter than the third one (though it doesn't feel like it), but there was just no point to it. I think the best bit of the whole film was when Barbossa declares right at the end that they are going to Tortuga, the legendary pirate port that brought so much fun to the first films - we cheered at this. And then we don't see it.

My friend and I were talking the other day about how hard it must be to promote a film when you know how bad it is, and I felt particularly sorry for Geoffrey Rush. Considering the last film he appeared in won 4 Oscars and he was nominated for one (The King's Speech, in case you've been living under a rock), I don't know how he can put his name on this film and not feel ashamed. Even Johnny, who by now must be getting tired of the same act (I know I am - Jack Sparrow just doesn't have the same fun quality it once did and is getting a little old), is surely bored of the whole thing and should really stop before this is what he becomes most remembered for instead of the great actor he actually is but cannot show in these films. It has gotten to the stage where Depp has to carry the films by himself, and now he struggles. Even his disintegrating charm and wit cannot make it acceptable.

Verdict: I wouldn't waste money going to the cinema to see it. Wait until it's on television, and even then make sure you watch with a couple of friends, like I did, so that you can laugh and mock it instead of turning off. I hope to God this is where it ends, though based on the fact it's still quite a money-spinner, I'm guessing it's not. This franchise is one which has well and truly crashed and burned.

** (and that's because I was feeling generous)

Kathryn (who came with me to see this muck) and I were discussing how there should be an Oscar for best trailer, and we think that this should definitely be up for it. But don't be deceived by the brilliance of it - it showcases the highlights of the film well, but then the promise of a good film is by no means delivered.

Friday, 27 May 2011

The Sports Fairytale

At the weekend, Cinderella Man was broadcast, and since I hadn’t seen it but had heard good reviews about it, I decided to sit down and give it a go. Needless to say, I seem to be developing a taste for boxing films (The Fighter, Rocky) and Depression-era films (Water for Elephants), so having both sounds like a winning formula. And suffice to say, I wasn’t disappointed.

Cinderella Man is the true story of boxer James J Braddock, a fighter in Depression-era Jersey who, after failing in his sports career first time around, is given a second chance to escape the breadlines and labour at the docks and to support his family, fighting his way back up to the top. It’s essentially a feel-good story, and I understand why so many people have been inspired by his rags-to-riches tale.

Firstly, I have to say that yes, it is a boxing film, but like many boxing films out there that isn't what it's all about. This is the story of one man trying to overcome financial hardships and provide for his family, with themes of loyalty, lifelong bonds and suffering. Of course there is boxing in it: I'm not a fan of the sport in real-life, but in films it always seems to have so much more emotion because you understand the backstory for their involvement, rather than just observing people punch the crap out of each other. That is essentially what this film is - the boxing merely provides a backdrop for a story which inspired many and truly touches people, both then and now.

Now, I wasn’t really sure what to expect from Russell Crowe in the main role: for one, I haven’t really seen him shine as an actor before, and this didn’t seem like the type of role where he would excel. He doesn't look like a boxer, and he doesn't really seem like someone who can fully pull off the domestic husband role; I have to say though that I was impressed with the balance he gave to it, portraying both a family man and determined sportsman with an impressive level of emotion. He surprised me in a very good way, and it's a shame that he can't be more consistently good in other roles that can be as strong as this one.

Renee Zellweger, for me, lets the film down. I am never really impressed with her acting, and this role didn’t really change that opinion of her. I could see her trying to convey emotion, but it failed, essentially. She was wooden and not that believable as a woman who makes the unbelievably hard choice of sending her children away so that they can actually eat, or as someone whose husband fights murderous boxers for a living. Towards the end of the film, I thought her performance was over the top in such a way that made her look ridiculous and, in fact, like a petulant toddler. In another actress’ hands, I could see this role being portrayed a lot better; it certainly calls for an actress better suited for dramatic roles, and her casting is one of the only criticisms I have.

The highlight of the film for me was Paul Giamatti. I really respect him as an actor anyway, and he was Oscar-nominated for this, which he completely deserved. He held the film together as James’ long-time trainer, Joe Gould, whose dedication to James is heartfelt. It’s a demonstration of bromance and loyalty at its most emotional. One scene which shows the real state of his home life was heartbreaking, and shows the reality of just how many people were affected by the Depression. He plays Joe in such a dry way, but made me laugh many times throughout whilst also bringing an intense vulnerability to the character. The chemistry he and Crowe had was surprisingly good, and I really believed that they had this long-standing bond and understood the relationship between them.

Other aspects supported the film too. Ron Howard (Apollo 13, Frost/Nixon) was directing, so obviously it wasn't going to be disastrous by any means, but he uses some very clever cinematography to show various different aspects of the film - one technique I liked was the flash of x-ray when a particularly brutal punch was delivered in the ring, implying serious injury, or the various motion techniques that highlighted certain aspects. The music also added effectively to the drama. Thomas Newman (The Shawshank Redemption, The Lost Boys and frequent Pixar contributor) uses gorgeous instrumentals to really emphasise the emotion of the scene, or to build tension - I especially liked the climactic music which really supports the mood of the audience.

Overall, a film I would definitely recommend to anyone who likes action and drama films, or period films, or biopics... pretty much anyone. Catch it if you can. The performances, for the most part, are strong and the story is an inspirational one which will stay with you for a long time.

Verdict: Somewhat predictable, even if you don’t know the story before watching it, but inspirational, heartfelt and emotional. Strong performances lead this film, and even if boxing isn’t your thing, give it a go and get involved in the story of one man just trying to gain a better future for his family.


Watch today or tomorrow on iPlayer (I watched it twice in three days I liked it so much):

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

A Look At Upcoming Films: 2011

A Total Film Twitter post yesterday asked followers to name their best movie year and the films in it. This opened the floodgates of people posting 1985 (arguably one of the best, as frequent contributor Kathryn would defend - Back to the Future, The Breakfast Club, St Elmo's Fire etc.), 1999 (Fight Club, The Sixth Sense, Toy Story 2) and more. But Kathryn and I posted two different ones. I said 2011, which has already thrown up some amazing movies (The Fighter, True Grit, Water for Elephants among many), but has the promise of many more to come. And Kathryn posted 2012, which has so many films coming out that are must-see that I am already saving up (keep your eyes peeled for my post about 2012 coming soon).

Firstly, just around the corner (literally just), is the highly-anticipated X-Men: First Class. I am so unbelievably excited for this film I do a little happy dance in my head every time I think about it. After the shambles of X-Men: The Last Stand and the atrocious Wolverine, I cannot wait for this reboot that promises plenty of action, stellar performances (though I’m not too thrilled about the women involved – Jennifer Lawrence, Rose Byrne and January Jones – but we shall see) and amazing special effects. From what I’ve seen, which as I have complained about before, is far too much before the film has even been released, it looks like just the kick the franchise needs. And I am happy about Matthew Vaughn helming it, I think he’ll do a great job. And it also doesn’t hurt that James McAvoy is in it. It looks like him and Michael Fassbender have amazing chemistry going on - I sense bromance. My review for this will come at some point next week when I finally get to see it. Expect much praise already.

Of course, the most hyped-up film of the year has to be the final instalment of the Harry Potter franchise (sob). Having grown up with Harry, I am going to be so depressed to see it end. Yes, it’s had its ups and downs (I won’t get into the debate of the best and worst ones) but overall there isn’t one person who has seen it and can deny that they have been entertained. For anyone who’s read the books (and if you haven’t then you are not a fan. You’re not.), you know what’s to come and what a tear-fest it will surely be – there are at least three deaths that I’m hoping are going to make me cry or I’m going to be disappointed. As I’m planning on going to the premiere/midnight screening/multiple viewings, I cannot wait for the film to get here, but at the same time I don’t want it to end. It will be a bittersweet goodbye.

There’s also the gloriously titled Cowboys and Aliens to look forward to - even that title alone should make you want to see this. The cast and crew are an action-movie fan's ultimate dream: the delicious Daniel Craig, the always entertaining Harrison Ford, Jon Favreau (Iron Man) directing, and the brainchild of the great Steven Spielberg. It sounds amazing, and from the trailers it looks like it’s going to be one of my favourite films of the year. It's so original and I love that in the current theme of book-to-film adaptations and sequels/prequels we have something new and exciting.

And then there’s Captain America: The First Avenger. Continuing with the onslaught of superhero films, this is one which is relatively original in Hollywood. I’m excited to see Chris Evans in a role which I think will actually suit him (he was the best part of Fantastic Four, another superhero film which puts him in good stead for this one), and the trailers look impressive. I like the whole background and setting (weedy man rejected as a soldier takes super-serum in WWII to become the buffed-up First Avenger) and the whole premise of it. It definitely looks like an original, great movie to see, and I’m excited to see what they do with it with such a blank canvas. And of course, it has to be good to set up the Avengers film.

One of the films I'm really hoping is going to be good - like awards-nominated good - is the adaptation of On the Road. Merely from pictures I've seen, it looks impressive. I'm starting to get annoyed with it because they filmed it nearly a year ago and there's still no word on a release date; I've only read today that it's put in a submission to be screened at the Venice Film Festival, which still doesn't really tell us anything. Still, I have high expectations for this. It has a good cast - Sam Riley (Brighton Rock), Garrett Hedlund (TRON: Legacy - one of Kathryn and my favourite actors at the moment) Kristen Stewart (Twilight - people need to stop judging her, she's a very good actress. Watch Adventureland, Panic Room or Welcome to the Rileys if you don't believe me) and Viggo Mortensen (LOTR and many a Cronenberg film), among other high-profile actors, and the production already looks amazing. I can't wait for a trailer, and the release.

I'll end with Crazy, Stupid, Love. Not something I'd usually be interested in or recommend, but I've seen the trailer many times now and every time I see it I still laugh at points. Steve Carell has so far only impressed me in one film (Little Miss Sunshine) but with support from Julianne Moore and Ryan Gosling he looks like he could actually be very entertaining in this. The whole premise sounds corny, but generally it looks very enjoyable, with laughs aplenty and a nice feel-good vibe about it. I look forward to its release. It's something a little different for my usual taste of action, but I have high hopes for this.

I could go on with 2011, but this is already a long post and I haven’t even gotten started on 2012, so I’ll just list the upcoming films that everyone should see: Green Lantern, The Three Muskateers, Jane Eyre, Immortals, Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, Fright Night, Rise of the Planet of the Apes to name a few. I'm sure I've missed some, but I'll keep everyone up to date.

Happy cinema-going! Look out for 2012 soon.

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Lourdes: Why?

Over several weeks we have been forced to sit through the absolutely ridiculous film known as Lourdes. I'm sure you can tell just from the tone of that first sentence how this review is going to go...

This French film follows a woman suffering from severe multiple sclerosis searching for a miracle that will cure her of her delibitating condition, and the effects on the people around her when it supposedly happens.

That all sounds fine, on paper. Dull, but acceptable. Not on film. At 96 minutes, it's relatively short as far as films go. but it felt mind-numbingly long. They could have quite easily have cut about 25 minutes of footage where the main character merely stares ahead, and nothing else happens. There are long periods of the film where literally nothing happens, and we are just watching characters sitting around waiting for something. There are chunks of the film where there isn't even any annoying French dialogue, which would have at least given us subtitles to read.

From what I gathered, they tried to put a little of everything in there: we have comedy, with the morally-corrupt volunteer girls working there, sleeping their way around the married men; romance, where some random man that the main character knows from previous pilgrimages (though he doesn't remember her, clearly, in another unintentionally funny moment) suddenly takes an interest in her when she can walk again.

There's also the religious aspect of it. Yes, there was obviously going to be lots in there, but I really don't appreciate having the Catholic faith shoved down my throat. Watching the film made it seem even more like a cult than it already is. It just seemed ridiculous throughout, and the film actually didn't present it in a very good light, making it seem as though they had no idea what they were talking about (the answer to most questions raised by the pilgrims seemed to be "God works in mysterious ways" - not a real answer!).

To be honest, I laughed through most of the film - if I hadn't, I'd have cried at the appalling film-making. There was never an explanation given for the mute old woman who was just randomly there all the time, and that just made her appearances even more hilarious, as she turned up at the most inopportune moments (she follows the would-be couple up a mountain for some reason as they're about to get it on) or wheeled the main character around with no explanation given. The slag volunteer provided endless entertainment, though she was incredibly irritating, especially towards the end with her attempt at singing.

The ending was incredibly annoying - the main character falls over while dancing and then everyone questions whether she is actually the recipient of a miracle, or if it was brief respite from her condition. Then she sits down, is filmed for another five minutes doing nothing but watching the rest of the people at the function dancing, and then it ends. I am not a fan of ambiguous endings usually - I like to be told what's happened, otherwise it's not fully satisfying. But this was particularly bad, because it wasn't even that ambiguous. So she tripped over and then sat down - that is cause for people to gossip over her condition? I didn't understand. And her new man ran off like a shot as soon as she fell, not to be seen again. That was funny. But other than that, awful.

All in all, I don't really understand how this won any critical acclaim, even if it was just in France. It even won the Vienna Film Festival's Best Film prize! They can be sure that I will never be attending that festival if that's the best film there.

Verdict: Basically, don't waste your time. It takes more effort to read the film and understand it than it's worth, and essentially I feel like it's taken away about 30 hours I will never get back.


Monday, 16 May 2011

The 80s Film That Time Forgot

Once again, thanks to my contributor Kathryn! And everyone should see this film by the way. You must. Your life is incomplete without it.

The 80’s film that time forgot

Mannequin (1987)

Director: Michael Gottlieb
Starring: Andrew McCarthy, Kim Catrall, James Spader

An out of work sculptor falls in love with a mannequin. Seriously, what more could you want from a film?

Jonathan Switcher (McCarthy) gets fired from every job he attempts but when he sees a mannequin in a shop window that he previously made whilst working at a factory  his life changes forever. After inadvertently saving the life of the store owner he manages to get a job at there as a window dresser and seems to develop an unhealthy attachment to his creation. Then, as luck would have it, Switcher is saved from looking like a total pervert when his mannequin comes to life. But there’s a catch – he’s the only one who can see her in her non-mannequin form. Hilarity ensues.

What really makes this film so enjoyable is the support cast. James Spader (Pretty in Pink) is magnificent as Switcher's slimy boss who is in league with a rival department store, as is G. W Malley (Police Academy) as Spader’s security guard minion whilst Meshach Taylor is a store employee named Hollywood who seems to accept Switcher's mannequin loving ways rather too quickly. In fact, with everything that’s going on in the film it soon becomes easy to ignore the plot holes and Catrall’s acting. There’s even a montage of outfit changes!  In my opinion, one of the best films of the decade: Mannequin is unforgettable.

And good news.... there’s a Mannequin 2.

Friday, 13 May 2011

Random Film Ranting

Just a couple of quick things to say generally.

I watched the NMAs the other day. I have to say, of all the film awards ceremonies I've seen this year (and there have been a lot), this is by far the worst one. If the most high-profile actor there is Ed Westwick, that tells you something about the calibre of the show. Oh, except Gwyneth Paltrow who randomly turned up for no reason I can fathom in a dress that left very little to the imagination. Hello, deluded NMA organisers, hardly anyone turned up for the BAFTAs! Why do you think they will turn up to your quite frankly awful knock-off three months later? The highlight was a five minute montage where Johnny Depp (who I also share a birthday with!) was awarded Screen Icon. That was it. And he wasn't even there.

As usual this year, all the awards were mind-numbingly predictable (The King's Speech and Harry Potter, anyone?), all except for the One to Watch prize, a cheap rip-off of BAFTA's Rising Star Award, which went to Jamie Campbell Bower, who of all the films I've seen him in hasn't really demonstrated any kind of notable acting ability. How he won over the likes of Tom Hardy and Andrew Garfield I will never know.

And don't even get me started on Christine Bleakley. I fail to see what relevance she has to the world of films, and she was just very irritating the whole way through. I may be biased because I hate her anyway, but she did such an appalling job it made me want to cry. And I don't understand why there were only nine awards, and only Performance of the Year instead of Best Actor/Actress? Basically everyone knew that Colin Firth was going to win that. Why did they even bother putting other people into the category?

All in all, a waste of two hours of my life. That's enough time to watch a film in.

On another note, I watched An Education tonight. I thought it was high time I watched it, based on all the praise I've heard, but from what I can gather from my one view of it, it was incredibly overrated and bordering on dull. I can understand why people like it, if they like that understated, pretentious thing, but in my opinion the best thing about it was Carey Mulligan (who I'm starting to get slightly concerned about - diversify please!), who deserved her nominations at least last year, though I still reserve judgement on whether she actually deserved the BAFTA over her fellow nominees. The rest of the film was too irritating, and frankly a little creepy.

Again, another hour and a half I won't ever get back.

Just another quick thing: I'm starting to get a little annoyed about the amount of footage I'm seeing of X-Men: First Class. Don't get me wrong, I absolutely cannot wait for this film, but I feel like I'm seeing too much of it and it's ruining the anticipation a little. Matthew Vaughn and Marvel Studios, stop releasing stuff, please. It's only another couple of weeks until we can all see the whole film in its entirity.

Finally, just to inform you, I'm going to see Water For Elephants for a fourth time tomorrow. I think that should give you all some kind of indication on how much I love that film already. Go and see it if you haven't, you are really missing out. And bring a tissue.

P.S. It is the wonderful Robert Pattinson's birthday today. Just saying.

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Stop, Hammer Time.

Building on the apparent market available for comic-book heroes, Thor proves itself to be up there with the greats.

Thor, heir to the throne of Asgard, is banished to Earth after getting a little cocky and trying to commit genocide. After meeting Natalie Portman and her team of useless and unnecessary scientists who are conveniently in the middle of the desert where he appears, he slowly, and often comically, adjusts to life on Earth. Meanwhile, his brother Loki, after learning a life-changing secret, goes a little loopy and overthrows his father for the throne, sending a giant robot to kill Thor on Earth, who is powerless to stop it without the use of his magic hammer...

Sound confusing/ridiculous/brilliant? (delete as appropriate) It should. And it is.

I was a little puzzled at first as to why Kenneth Brannagh, renouned more for his Shakespearean theatre work than summer blockbuster skills, was directing, but I have to say he did a surprisingly good job. The cinematography and special effects are brilliant, and I can see why it would be appealing to see this in 3D, but to be honest, it was just as good in 2D. You find yourself lost in the mythical world of the gods and wanting to move there just for their awesome Rainbow Bridge, guarded by the sinister Idris Elba, one of the most likeable characters in the film.

The most interesting part of the film are the scenes set in Asgard and Jotunheim. Compare Earth to the stunning CGI, and it looks incredibly drab, especially as the Earth-setting is a town which essentially has three buildings and residents who are all rednecks or S.H.I.E.L.D. agents. Sif and the Warriors Three provide a little extra humour in the serious moments in Asgard, making a suitable posse for Thor, and they are characters I would want to see developed in any sequels. The scene where they walk down the street in their warrior gear to confused onlookers is one of the funniest moments in the film.

Chris Hemsworth proves, after a memorable turn as George Kirk in 2009's Star Trek, that he is leading-man material, and the prospect of him in the upcoming Snow White and the Huntsman is appealing. He plays pretty much every emotion in the film, from besotted to mourning, very convincingly, with some hilarious moments as Thor adjusts to life on Earth after his banishment. The action sequences are amazing.

For me, my favourite part of the whole film was Tom Hiddleston's Loki. He is one of the few villains I have seen who I end up wanting to win over the hero, and I genuinely feel so sorry for him. He has an intense vulnerability about him, and having lived in the shadow of his pompous and arrogant brother his whole life, I think he's fully deserving to be a little wrathful towards him. And really, his only threats are killing his father, who quite frankly deserves it, and Thor, who can handle himself anyway. Make up your own minds, but he, in my opinion, is the best character in the film; they should just make a film about him, and I would be so happy.

The problem I found with the film was that there was not enough character development in regards to the humans. Natalie Portman's Jane's only purpose appeared to just be a chauffeur/love interest with a ridiculous job which I still can't work out. There was no chemistry between her and Hemsworth, and it seemed like they were only interested in each other romantically because the other was a novelty. Kat Denning's other-girl-whose-name-I-can't-remember-but-that-doesn't-really-matter seemed to only be there to point out the very obvious fact that Chris Hemsworth is not bad to look at, and to Taser him. Her attempts at comedy failed spectacularly to the point where it wasn't even so-bad-it's-funny, but just cringey. And the only benefit of Stellan Skarsgard's professor was to get drunk with the titular character and then appear in a scene related to the upcoming Avengers film that the studio cleverly decided to place post-credits so that you will miss it if you don't know it's there. I did, and I'm still quite resentful about it. To be quite honest, if the humans weren't needed for plot development, they wouldn't have been missed. They didn't bring anything to the film of any worth. Harsh, yes, but true.

One thing that annoys me about the promotion is the way they are hyping up Anthony Hopkins' role. Yes, he is a brilliant and highly respected actor, but why he appears on all the posters and not Loki, the main antagonist, is beyond me. All he seems to do is reminise about a fight that happened thousands of years ago and then sleep for the rest of the film. He does manage to pull of that gold eyepatch though. If you ever need one, that's the way to go - disabled bling.

I don't usually say this about films, but it just didn't seem long enough. They could easily have had an extra twenty minutes in which they could have developed the humans a little more, or added in some extra Loki, both of which would have improved the film to a certain extent.

Overall though, the film brings in some brilliant action, special effects and great acting from the characters who matter. This is not by any means a superhero movie to be compared to the likes of more serious franchises (read: Batman), but of course it won't be - for one thing, it doesn't have Chris Nolan involved. But I quite like that. It doesn't take itself too seriously, and is enjoyable fun, lighter than Batman but not as fluffy as, say, Fantastic Four. I'd put it on a par with Iron Man in comparison for other superhero films, which isn't a bad thing at all. If you are planning on seeing the Avengers film next year, this is a must see.

Verdict: A couple of hours of enjoyable fun. The special effects and Loki are reason enough to go and see it, and definitely a must-see for anyone planning on catching the Avengers film.



Monday, 9 May 2011

Review: Brigadoon

Many thanks to guest blogger Kathryn, my pre-21st century contributor! Show her some love at

Brigadoon (1954)
Director: Vincente Minnelli
Starring: Gene Kelly, Van Johnson, Cyd Charisse

A whimsical tale set in a mysterious village in the Scottish highlands, this film is a piece of cinematic genius.

Despite having a slightly unbelievable plot, the stars involved shine in their roles. Gene Kelly is the tap dancing New Yorker searching for love whilst Cyd Charisse is Fiona, the object of his affections praying for a miracle, and Van Johnson is the cynical best friend being dragged along for the ride.

The film begins with Tommy Albright (Gene Kelly) and alcoholic pal Jeff (Van Johnson) discovering said village after having lost their way in the Scottish highlands. A couple of misunderstandings, prolonged glances and musical numbers later and Brigadoon is on its way to becoming one of your favourite musicals ever. A wedding, a kidnapping, a tragedy, time travel, a magical priest, sheep... this film has it all.

Whether or not you’re a fan of musicals, Brigadoon sets itself apart, not least for its unusual repertoire of dance numbers. Fans of hard-hitting dramas should steer clear, but for those who can appreciate entertaining nonsense, Brigadoon will not disappoint. 

For a teaser, see this video. It will stay with you for a long time...

Friday, 6 May 2011

My First Review is a Special One

In advance, I would just like to say that these reviews are going to be my personal opinions. You may not agree with them, you may not like what I say, but this is what I think, so suck it up and deal. It's not going to stop me from posting.

Anyway, since this is my first proper review, I thought I would make it a special one.

Water for Elephants.

Yes, the movie I have been looking forward to for over a year. I first read the book (amazing, read it if you haven't, it's my all-time favourite) about a year and a half ago, and I remember when they first announced they were making it as a film. I cannot even describe my joy when I found out the cast. Three of my favourite actors in a film based on my favourite book? It couldn't have sounded any better to me.

And then the pictures from filming came out, and it was everything I imagined it to be.

So months later, I find out I have to wait until the following spring before I can see it, and I'm a little bit pissed. But Fox are forgiven, because I'm still so damn intrigued.

Anyway, so two weeks ago I got my notification saying I could buy tickets for it, so I did straight away, for the first night of course. I had already got my mother interested and she read the book and loved it too, so she was coming along with me.

And then the call came on Tuesday morning. I won't go into the whole premiere thing right now, I may do a separate blog post later. But it was amazing. I cried, I laughed, I smiled so much my cheeks hurt by the end of the film. But I don't think I could have made a sound judgement on it, because I was too emotional. So I just accepted it as amazing the first time round, and reserved proper judgement until the next time. Which is where this review finally begins.

The film was pretty much everything I thought it would be.

I love the story, and I always held a little reservation about how they could put it into a film and have it still be as amazing as it was in the book. I had seen Francis Lawrence's directing before in I Am Legend, good film (let's not focus on that ending). Rodrigo Prieto's cinematography was bound to be amazing, since he worked on Brokeback Mountain. And the stars. Well, like I said, three brilliant actors involved, and the often overlooked Hal Holbrook, who made me cry as Old Jacob.

The acting was very good, in my opinion. Robert Pattinson showed he could hold his own in a cast which included three Oscar winners, and still stand out. His facial expressions were amazing, so brilliant at channeling his emotions. In my opinion, he has never acted better. And I've seen pretty much every film he's ever done. It didn't hurt that he was also pretty nice to look at as well. It showed in the film that he can also laugh at himself. I won't ruin the particular scene for anyone who hasn't seen it yet; all I will say is, remember the Storage Trunk ;) But he made me laugh, and cry a lot, so I think he did a pretty damn good job in it.

I also liked Reese Witherspoon. Was it her best performance? No (though she is an Academy Award winner, and her performance in Walk the Line was just about brilliant), but it wasn't her worst, and she was believable. I admit when I first heard she was cast as Marlena, I was a bit dubious. I never really imagined her to be that much older than Jacob, but now I really can't imagine anyone else. At times it seemed like she was just reveling in the fact that she got to wear pretty costumes and ride an elephant, but she looked stunning and graceful, and there are points where my heart just breaks for her.

I agree with what is being said about the chemistry between the two. It doesn't have that magic spark, and there's never really that much intensity. He is smitten with her from the moment he lays eyes on her, and she just seems as if she is being distracted by a shiny new toy. It doesn't seem genuine, and feels a little forced, but the two actors make it passable. I've definitely seen worse on-screen relationships.

Christoph Waltz was pretty much perfect for me. He's just like I imagined the paranoid schizophrenic August to be, and he plays villains so incredibly well. I think someone called him a "watered-down Hans Landa", which it pretty much is; no, it doesn't reach the brillance of Inglorious Basterds, but like Reese, I don't think anything ever will. That being said, I don't like the way Christoph is being typecast as the villain now (see: Green Hornet and the upcoming Three Muskateers) but he does do a spectacular job at it. He is genuinely terrifying at some points, and he is so horrific as a person that you can't help but hate him. But you love to do it. There were points when I was gritting my teeth at him and wanted to hit him so hard, but that's what's meant to happen, and he acted the part so damn well.

I have said before many times that I don't like the way they have toned it down to a 12 just to appeal to Rob's extensive fan-base of teenage girls. I much prefer the graphic, darker and grittier scenes in the book, but I have to praise Richard LaGravenese for staying true to the novel. In some ways it actually improved, as in the book I found myself wanting to skip ahead to the 1930s chapters, as nice as the present-day ones are, so I like the way LaGravenese has instead chosen to nicely book-end the film with the "Old Jacob" parts instead of constant interjections that break up the action. Which is something else I want to add. I absolutely loved the ending. I thought it was beautifully done, so emotional and just perfectly fitting. It's made me cry both times. It's cathartic.

I think Francis Lawrence did an amazing job in bringing this book to life. The cinematography was beautiful, the sets and costumes were stunning, and the acting was brilliant. Not to mention the elephant, Tai, who plays Rosie. She was wonderful, and I really did find myself so emotionally attached to her. She acted so brilliantly, and it was easy to see why the stars loved working with her so much. Which is another point: you could see that they were all so proud of what they had done, and how much they enjoyed working on the production, and that for me made it all the more worthwhile.

Another thing I have to add is that I am listening to the soundtrack as I write this. James Newton Howard (who I share a birthday with!) has done a fantastic job, adding in touches of 30s music with gorgeous piano pieces which really make the film more emotional. Just listening to the last track can bring tears to my eyes. Definitely in my top 5 of all time. Give it a listen if you're into that kind of thing.

So, basically, this has been, personally, my favourite film of the year so far. I had such an emotional attachment to it from the beginning of the production, and it lived up to my expectations. I really want people to see how good Rob is as an actor outside Twilight, and I really think this film shows that he has a long career ahead of him. What I was struck by was how wonderfully different it was to anything I have seen in a long time, though it may have followed the same basic structure (a struggle for love faced by obstacles with an ultimate triumph). I sincerely urge everyone to go and see it.
Verdict: A valient effort, a beautifully made film that may not win any awards for its acting or screenplay, but is very deserving of a wide audience and respect.



Well, this is my new blog. I have way too many film opinions to keep to myself, so I decided to set this up to share with the world, because I know you all care about what I have to say ;) There will be more to come when I get the hang of this, so stay tuned...