Tuesday, 27 November 2012


I'm very behind on my reviews, I know. I've been insanely busy with work recently, and then I had to deal with the amazing Breaking Dawn week, so I've had hardly any time to do anything. But, I did see three five-star films within the space of five days last month and I feel the need to write about them, so I'm squishing them all into one post. I may expand these reviews some time, but I can't promise anything.

On The Road

Firstly, I saw the much-anticipated On The Road. I've been waiting a ridiculously long time to see this, because for some reason they released it two years after filming. After hearing mixed/average reviews from Cannes, I had to lower my previously very high expectations of this film, but as a result, I was very pleasantly surprised.

This film has been a hell of a long time in the making, over three decades, and a lot of people, including myself, were a bit skeptical about how anyone could adapt an almost plotless 120 foot scroll of narrative onto the screen, and yes, in some ways it fails. But it's bloody difficult to transfer this writing to the screen and still maintain that Beat vibe. Yes, it could have been more wild, more extreme, but really, if it had to be adapted, at least they did a really good job of it.

The acting is amazing. Just looking at the cast you can understand that statement. The three main stars are perfect in their roles. Sam Riley surprised me, since the last thing I saw him in was the appalling Brighton Rock, and it was very nice to see him in something that actually showcased his ability and didn't make me want to kick the tv at the end of the film. He plays Sal with the perfect naivety, vulnerable with a rebellious streak within, and is someone I think the audience will see themselves in. Kristen Stewart also proves again that she is judged far too harshly just because of her association with the Twilight films; here, she relishes in the character of Marylou, someone who could not be more different from Bella Swan, playing her with wild abandon that really shows her talent. After watching this, and knowing about her absolute commitment to the role, I can't imagine anyone else doing a better job of it. And, for the record, she was cast in this when she was sixteen, before she did Twilight, so shush please haters. It's also great news to hear that they're going to be lobbying for her to get nominated in awards season next year, and she fully deserves that recognition. But really, the real star of this film is Dean, played perfectly by Garrett Hedlund. He is probably the best thing about the film, encapsulating the rebellious and charming character, which I think the film probably hinged on. An actor has to be seriously charismatic and almost overwhelmingly charming to pull this role off, and Hedlund absolutely succeeds, constantly drawing our attention to him whenever he's on screen. The "Beat Camp" that the cast went on for three weeks before the shoot really pays off as well, as the three have great chemistry together and every interaction between them feels very natural.

The cinematography is amazing - visually, the film is stunning and absolutely transports the audience to an array of locations; you actually feel like you're there, writhing and sweating at a New Year's party, or cold and wet during a stop by the side of a road in the middle of nowhere. I didn't really know of Eric Gautier before this film, but I have massive amounts of respect for him as a cinematographer for what he achieves here.

The supporting cast are excellent. In some ways, the film reminded me of Cosmopolis with its conveyer-belt of cameos and bit parts - however, like Cosmopolis, everyone here manages to make their mark, whether it's Amy Adams' struggling mother or Steve Buscemi's salesman-with-a-secret-interest - they all stand out. It's lovely to see Tom Sturridge in this, I think he has real potential as an actor and I want to see him do more than just being Sienna Miller's babydaddy. But the biggest highlight was probably Viggo Mortensen, who steals the few small scenes he's in and absolutely dominates the screen when he's actually on it. Kirsten Dunst is another highlight; she brings Camille's character to the audience's attention and underlines the detrimental effects Dean has on himself and others, whereas we might otherwise be too charmed by him to notice. I'd like to see her in more serious roles, she's been a bit absent recently and this proves that she really shouldn't be.

In terms of sexuality... well, there's a lot. It was a litle disappointing that it didn't bring the undertones of homosexuality up a little more, but therein lies the problems of an adaptation - you just can't fit everything in. I'd also recommend buying the French dvd of this and turning the subtitles off, because the English version was cut (who knows why) and therefore there's more in the French version.

The question that remains is why Hedlund, Riley and Sturridge haven't been getting acting offers left, right and centre. They all give brilliant performances and I think they're being wasted at the moment.

Verdict: It's not going to be for everyone, but if you "get" this type of film, you'll absolutely love it. Watch it just for the acting and the beauty of the film itself if nothing else.


The Perks Of Being A Wallflower

After seeing the film, this book is now at the top of my "to-read-for-pleasure" list. This film absolutely blew me away and I wasn't expecting to be touched by it as much as I was, since I didn't really know much about it and it hadn't been that widely publicised. It's probably the best coming-of-age film I've ever seen, and although there isn't a huge amount of plot and nothing much is resolved at the end, the journey is definitely worth taking.

The primary trio of actors were amazing. The film received quite a lot of attention because it was the first film Emma Watson did post-Potter, and she could not have picked a better film to break away from that franchise. She sheds Hermione within the first minute of being on screen, being able to let go in a way that was always restricted before, being flirtatious and wild but also showing tenderness and vulnerability perfectly. And also, I got so sucked into her performance that I forgot she wasn't actually American, though in hindsight it probably wasn't the best accent in the world. Ezra Miller, previously known as the titular psychopath in We Need To Talk About Kevin, plays basically the complete opposite character and does it just as well. As the giddy and camp Patrick, he steals every scene he's in and I want a best friend like him. And also Logan Lerman, previously of Percy Jackson fame, was wonderfully sweet and naive, likeable and vulnerable. And I checked, he's 20, it's okay to have a little thing for him. And all three are just the right amount of understated - they could have been ridiculously cliched and over the top, but they play their roles with just the correct level of charm and, in Patrick's case especially, flamboyancy. I think a special mention also needs to go out to Paul Rudd, who is refreshingly good in a dramatic role, deviating from comedy but proving that he can do both well. He's gives a likeable and thoughtful performance and I'd love to see him do more dramatic work in the future. And I'd also like it on record how much I think Joan Cusack is an underrated actress. She completely shines through in her two minutes of screen time and she's just wonderful. Hollywood, why are you not employing her more? Get on that.

I think what makes it so special is the fact that the screenplay was written and the film directed by Stephen Chbosky, the author of the book. You can tell it's been created with such care and precision and every facet is just right. Apparently it's a brilliant adaptation, which I don't doubt, but I'll let you know for sure after I finally get around to reading the book.

Someday, somewhere, somehow, I'm doing this.

In the time it's set, it's completely up my street. The film references are great, the multiple performances of The Rocky Horror Show throughout are really entertaining and the soundtrack is amazing; I had it on repeat for days. If you like that late-80s/early-90s feel about a film, I can't recommend this enough.

Verdict: Yes, it will probably only connect with a certain audience, but that's purely because of the plot and themes it deals with, not because of the quality of the film. It could have been completely cliche, and appeared to be a product of the overworked imagination of an angsty fifteen-year-old girl because of it's subject matter and themes including social isolation, bulimia, sexual and domestic abuse, homophobia and unrequited love, to name a few, but it gets the tone just right so that it's emotionally raw rather than emotionally overdone. And also, be infinite.



Bond's 26th outing was hyped up from the word "go", with the world and it's mother touting it as the "best one yet" before it even went into production. The secrecy and mystery surrounding the plot and what the title meant and who the new cast were playing and all the rest of it didn't help, with speculation rife about every aspect of the film. I was so worried that it was going to be overhyped for me and that I'd just end up being slightly let down, but I can safely say that it not only met those expectations, but exceeded them beyond belief.

I'll try not to spoil it for any of you who have been living in a cave and have yet to see it, but there are some truly epic moments in it.

The cast are exceptional: Daniel Craig, returning for his third stint as 007, gives his best performance so far. There isn't really a lot else to say about it; if you've seen his other two outings, it's more of the same, in a good way. He's charming, debonair, deadly, and every other trait you've come to expect from Bond. What's really great in this one is the interaction he has with Dame Judi Dench's M, and we see a lot more of their relationship. Their closeness is really touching. She's the real Bond girl of this film, and I'm so happy she got a really dense part to get her teeth into, and of course she delivers with perfection, as you would expect. Again, I don't want to spoil anything so I won't say much else, but their performances are very special. The best new addition has to be Javier Bardem's villain, Silva, a creepy, camp, obsessive maniac (sounds like me) with terrible hair (not like me at all). There hasn't ever been a Bond villain like him, but he's one of the best yet. Not hellbent on world domination or anything like we've seen in the past, his vendetta is a personal grudge against M, exposing a lot of her secrets and drawing worrying parallels to Bond. I think the best scene in the whole film is Silva's interrogation of Bond, where both men showcase their fantastic acting talent. The chemistry between the three of them (and no, it's not sexual, that would be wrong - though Silva... well, you'll see) is electric, and though it is approaching two and a half hours, they make it go by so quickly that you don't even notice time passing.

One complaint I do have is about Bérénice Marlohe. I have nothing against her, I just don't understand why her part was advertised so much when she's only in the film for a total of about five minutes. Other additions aren't as disappointing, and include Naomi Harris' field agent Eve, Ralph Fiennes' government pen pusher Mallory and Ben Whishaw's new, young Q, who are particular highlights. What I think will excite true Bond fans is the fact that, without giving too much away, they'll all be back in the future, and that this is going back to classic Bond films, but with a cool, modern-day edge. There are even jokes about it between Bond and Q.

And that's the other thing - though it's very serious for a lot of the film, it's also very funny, mostly because of the one-liners and conversations between Bond and the bumbling Q. One other stand-out moment is Bond's reaction to (VERY MILD SPOILER) the destruction of his precious Aston Martin DB5 (also a hilarious moment when you see it in a screen full of die-hard male Bond fans - their gasps of horror and outrage made me laugh for about ten minutes). And also there's a bit of sexual tension between Bond and Eve, though I can't see anything ever coming of that if they stick to Bond canon.

Plot-wise, I understand now why Craig said he was even more excited after reading this script than he was about Casino Royale, which was previously my favourite. It's tense, and captivating, and most importantly, it doesn't feel like there are any redundant parts to it (well, maybe the whole fight with Ola Rapace which feels only very very slightly unnecessary). The whole film is very polished but it's still raw, especially when they get up to Scotland and there's none of this usual technology to help them out.

Verdict: I wish I could think of more to say but it's now been a month since I saw it and I've forgotten most of the points I had to make about it. But essentially, all you need to know is that it's amazing and even if you aren't a Bond fan you should see it. It's brilliant, and I hope Sam Mendes does come back to direct the next installment because he did such a fantastic job of it. Anyone who knows my film tastes well enough knows that it's a big deal for me to say that I prefer this to Casino Royale, and it's even more emotional, but it truly does deserve all the hype it got. Go see it now or I'll set Silva on you (some of you might not mind that wink wink). Seriously, go.


Friday, 23 November 2012

Breaking Down Breaking Dawn Part 2

Was it seriously a year ago that I posted my review of Breaking Dawn Part 1? I can't believe how quickly this time has gone, it felt like a year was unbearably far away when we left off. And here it is, the final installment of a franchise that, like it or not, has changed the face of cinema. And hell, does it bow out well.

These are the most decent posters out there. I always hate how much they photoshop them, there's nothing wrong with the way any of them look normally!

For the record, I'm going to try my utmost to make this spoiler-free - or as spoiler-free as an adaptation can be - because I'm so happy I didn't know what they had changed. I'd advise anyone who doesn't already know the big twist to really try to not find out before they see it, because the impact will be so much more massive.

For those of you who don't know (i.e. non-fans or those who have been living in a cave), Breaking Dawn Part 2 begins immediately after Part 1 leaves off: Bella has awakened as a vampire and is living happily with her new husband, hybrid baby and the baby's boyfriend, until a big misunderstanding puts the whole family in danger of elimination from the vampire head honchos, the Volturi. They therefore need to gather as many "witnesses" (a slew of new, previously unmentioned vampire characters) to come and fight with them. Then shit goes down, and surprisingly, it's brilliant.

Having seen it now four times, with a further two cinema trips planned, I can say without a shadow of a doubt that this film is the best of the series, and it is my favourite. What is absolutely astonishing is that they were able to make an utter turd of a book into a very enjoyable, engaging and emotional film. Every part of  the film is at the peak of its brilliance, whether it be the acting (impeccable), the effects, the music, and actually, the story. This is one of those very rare occasions where the film is better than the book. Seriously.

We'll start with the acting. The central cast have had five films now with their characters, and the polished performances really shine through. Everyone seems a lot more relaxed, and that's probably because of the more light-hearted nature this film takes. Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart again showcase their chemistry and give their best performances of the series, probably because they're actually allowed a whole range of emotions (happiness, for example). Even Jacob gets to calm down and, excluding the weird paedophilia (try and explain it all you want, it's still not okay), he's actually quite amusing. I can't imagine Team Jacob will be too impressed with his comparitively limited screen time (Jacob's a wolf for a lot of the film), but to be honest, I didn't really care, I'm not a huge fan of his anyway, as you well know. Also, Michael Sheen is back! Yay! And he's even more mental than he was in New Moon. I'm a big fan of his anyway, he always puts so much into his work. He's ridiculously camp and creepy and wonderful, and deserves awards. And that laugh! You thought the one in New Moon was creepy... just wait. All the supporting cast are good too, but no-one really stands out, save for maybe Peter Facinelli (Carlisle). But you can tell everyone is giving their all and making the most out of their small roles. Finally though, I have to give a special mention to Billy Burke, who has played Bella's father, Charlie, so well for five films. He always makes me laugh so much and he can also make me cry, and he's just so lovely in this. I'm just sad we don't get to see more of him.

Without trying to sound pervy, I'd have liked to have seen more sex. It's mentioned a lot in the book, and I just don't understand how anyone can think that one scene would suffice, when they're meant to be at it like rabbits constantly. One scene fifteen minutes in and then tantalising teases throughout disappoints me slightly. And whilst I'm at it, another thing that annoyed me was the complete dismissal of the love triangle that's been going on for four films. I get that Jacob now has something new to obsess over (it's a baby! It's still creepy!) but seriously, there's only one very subtle reference about the fact that not two days ago (in the time of the plot) he was completely in love with his new love-interest's mother! I'm not saying that they had to keep bringing it up, but really, they needed to mention it in some way.

One of the things I was most nervous about before I saw this was how they were going to introduce the abundance of new characters in this film. I've never liked that aspect of the book, and seeing all the promotional posters for each individual new character (there are lots) made me wonder how on earth it was going to work. But actually, I was mildly surprised, in a good way. I thought they were all going to be badly underwritten and underdeveloped spare parts, which most of them are, to be fair. But they have some stand-out additions who I'm sad we won't actually get to see more of. In particular Garrett, played by the lovely Lee Pace (can he be in more stuff, thanks), who brought some nice humour and became one of the very (very) few new vampires we actually care about. I see potential for a spin-off with him if Lionsgate decide to actually go ahead and make more Twilight films (please God don't do that). But overall, not a bad job. Yes there are blatant racial stereotypes (the Irish are ginger and wear green, one of the Romanians looks and sounds like the Count from  Sesame Street and the Amazonians are accompanied by tribal music). And no, you won't even remember 90% of their names but actually it doesn't really matter; they're no more than glorified extras. It's just a little frustrating that these people take up screen time that could be spent on others (read: Edward and Bella).

Now, Renesmee. This was going to be tricky however they decided to do it. Stephenie Meyer famously delayed signing over the film rights to the final book because she didn't believe that special effects in films were developed enough to portray the baby realistically. Well, they still aren't. The baby/toddler just didn't look real, and therefore just looked bloody creepy. It's only when Mackenzie Foy actually gets to play her real age that Renesmee doesn't look like a doll or something even I could have whacked out with Photoshop. But on the plus side, she did a good job having to play so many different ages and be somewhat realistic, so kudos to her. And, if you look at Mackenzie, Rob and Kristen all in a row, it's really scary how much she looks like she could actually be their child; they look so similar! And also, Rob and Kristen are super-cute as parents.

I have to talk about the twist, without talking about the twist so as not to give anything away for those of you who still haven't seen it and haven't found out yet (how either of those things is possible is beyond me). It's really very clever how they manage to make a big event out of the notorious non-finale, and yet they still stay faithful to the book. It's the sort of effect I can only imagine working on screen, in text it just wouldn't have been the same. If you've seen the film, you know what I mean. I bet Stephenie Meyer was over the moon when she found out what they were planning to do since she obviously got bored with the story herself when writing it. But it's very shocking - I sat there the first time I saw it with my mouth agape in shock for about ten minutes, and my friend nearly broke my wrist clutching it so hard. Even second time round, when I knew it was coming, it still managed to shock me again. I'll say no more, but you won't see it coming if you don't already know about it. It's a bold move, and it pays off.

Not really important, but I wanted to mention the opening and ending credits, which I thought were very stylish and emotional respectively. The production team have never done opening credits before, but the little montage of freezing nature ws very beautiful and ramped up the anxiety for just a couple more minutes. And the ending credits were very special, letting everyone who has appeared in the films have their little shining moment to take a bow. And leaving the big three until the end and doing something even more extra-special for them was pretty much the twisting knife that lets you know it's really over. Sob.

As ever, I talk about the music. I've always championed the soundtracks and I think that people who don't even watch the films should listen to them because they're brilliant, and I think this one is my favourite. There isn't one song I dislike on it, even the one by Nikki Reed and her husband, who I was livid got on there in the first place. I can actually listen to the soundtrack and picture the scenes and cry because I get so emotional about them ("Ghosts" by James Vincent McMorrow and "Speak Up" by POP ETC are the two that get me every time). And of course, the score. I love it. I'm so happy Carter Burwell, composer of the first film, came back, and he did such a smashing job with it, and also incorporated the New Moon and Eclipse scores in there too even though he wasn't involved in them. I'm just annoyed that the Higher Powers (darn you, Summit Entertainment/Lionsgate!) have delayed releasing it so I can't have it on a loop as I go about my life.

Last time round, I think I said they did the best with what they had. This time, they took what they had and made it so much better than it is on the page. It may be the best film, but it won't convert any non-fans. But then it doesn't need to. It's just had the eighth biggest US opening ever and the biggest UK opening of an American film ever. It's going to be successful and, as the other films have proved, it doesn't need the approval of petulant, arrogant critics and isn't affected by the petty sniping of haters.

I debated a lot about what rating I was going to give this film, and in the end I couldn't decide. My head is telling me four stars, my heart is telling me five. So I'm going to compromise, and for the first time in the history of this blog, I'm giving it four and a half stars. Or nine out of ten, whichever works for you.


P.S. If you're a fan, bring tissues. The end is super emotional.

Also, for those interested, here are two interesting articles.
This one explores the aforementioned impact Twilight has had on cinema.
And this one, by the wonderful Mark Kermode (who I met at the premiere!), tries to defend Twilight from all you haters out there, and he makes some very interesting points.