Sunday, 27 November 2011

My Week With Marilyn

Director: Simon Curtis
Michelle Williams, Eddie Redmayne, Kenneth Branagh
On debating what to see at the cinema this weekend, we opted for this based on time alone. It was a happy coincidence. Michelle Williams is beautiful as Marilyn, and bears such a genuine resemblance it could almost be her on screen. The plot is fairly predictable but it's a light-hearted hour or so with some dashingly handsome/pretty case members- barring a few irritating castings, for instance Emma Watson, whose wooden acting adds nothing to the film- but, thankfully, takes nothing away from it, and would perhaps have gone unnoticed had she not just stepped out of the highest grossing film series of all time. And, of course, Kenneth Branagh had be cast as Sir Laurence Olivier- he wouldn't be seen dead in a film where he had no opportunity to reel off Shakespearian monologues at regular intervals. Luckily, for once I managed to curb my hate for him did not let it eclipse my enjoyment of the film, in fact it added a few laughs, if unintentional on the director's behalf. As a BBC production you are guaranteed surprising cameos, and the occasional appearance of some of Britain's finest - Derek Jakobi and Judi Dench spring to mind.
It is usually American films that are tiresomely obvious. But if you're looking for a deep, reflective film this probably isn't it, nothing is left up to the audiences imagination in a film where the characters impulsively and extremely un-Englishly announce their greatest torments to the rest of the cast and the world. The vocalisation of emotional issues is far from believable, but on occasion I don't mind being told something I already know- it makes for easy watching and is probably infinitely more profound than Breaking Dawn. 

Thursday, 10 November 2011


The 'real life' version of 28 days later, this film is enough to give a squatter OCD. With unnerving, neurotic close-ups on 'contaminated' objects from the first scene the obsessive tracing of the origin of the next, real global epidemic of bird flu (or 'bat' flu). If you've got the November cold that's doing the rounds I'd advise you not to go and see this films for the benefit of your sanity. I'm typing this in my University library- someone, somewhere is coughing and I'm finding it hard not to cover my mouth and nose with my scarf.
The idea of a film about a virus spreading across the globe without the benefit of Zombies and thrills seems like it might make a fairly dull film. However, the obscenely all-star cast and consistent twists and turns of the unlikely plot make this a very interesting film. It even dabbles in the controversial conversation about alternative medicines- however, the fact that pharmaceutical giants are given a massive, grinning thumbs up undermines this somewhat. But the seed is there, something unusual for a blockbuster of this size.
It's pretty good, pretty paranoia-inducing, but also not the most revolutionary idea in cinema. It's a start though- at least there were no Zombies.

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

Director: Thomas Alfredson
Starring: John Hurt, Gary Oldman, Colin Firth, Mark Strong, Toby Jones, Tom Hardy, Benedict Cumberbatch...

The film posters for Alfredson's adaptation of John Le Carre's cult novel have taken London's bus shelters by force. The occupation has served to remind me for six months now how much I am looking forwards to this film, from the Let The Right One In director. Upon first glance of the posters thoughts of the spy films we know and love fill our minds; Bourne, Bond, bombs and boobs are a set montage that come with the genre. Tinker Tailor could not have set itself further apart from our culturally ingrained preconceptions of it.
It is beautiful, reflective and slowly astounding. The chronically all-star cast step out of their familiarity one by one and though we are incredibly well acquainted with their previous roles Alfredson allows them to become new and interesting; Oldman is, for two and a half hours only, an up-and-coming newcomer to hollywood. The same is difficult to say for Firth, who is sadly a good but monotonous actor, and if it were he carrying the weight of the film upon his shoulders it may have floundered. With Oldman, it glides.
Discussing the film with an acquaintance, he quoted a review he had read, or his own opinion, I cannot quite remember and called the film pseudo-intellectual, with 'too many conversational scenes and much less action that I'd hoped'. Ladies and gentlemen, there is nothing pseudo about the intellectual side of the film, nor is there any issue with the inching pace of the film. If you want action, perhaps you might go and see Tom Hardy's other new release, Warrior, but don't attempt to pin it on every film you go and see. This is a film that, although I know very little of it, adds more reality to the world of espionage and genuineness to the events of the film than Bond will ever be able to, precisely because it amputates the epileptic explosions of it's contemporaries. And if you don't like the subtlety, more fool you. For me it is this that is what sets it so far apart from being quality time spent in the cinema to being a masterpiece.
As soon as I can I will watch the 70s TV series, I've been repeatedly told of it's superiority. If it is superior, it's bound to blow all of our minds.

Sunday, 7 August 2011

The Tree of Life

Director: Terrence Malick

Starring: Brad Pitt, Sean Penn, Jessica Chastain

This film is brilliant, if it's your cup of tea. If not, I'm pretty sure you'd hate it. If it is, this self-indulgent slow mover is probably the perfect way to spend an evening. It has to be said, it was a little slow and a few people walked out of the cinema during the half-an-hour-long montage of artistic photography, and this was perhaps a little over the top for a film that was bound to be shown in all major cinemas due to Brad Pitt's surprising role in it; it would have felt more at home in a cellar-cinema with five seats.
The story itself, although central, was minimal and the majority of the conclusions were left to the audience to guess or to invent themselves. In fact even reading the copious reviews online there are some, to me, grave interpretations of the opening event and the core of the film- the death of a son, which is not shown in the film, is confused frequently with the death of a neighbourhood boy that opens the childrens' eyes to the reality of death and, for one (a young Sean Penn) deepens the dissatisfaction of the father/son struggle. Essentially the film is about nature, family turmoil, overcoming grief and most obviously- but not too forcefully- a belief in God which is questioned then solidified. It was, as I said, a little self-indulgent and at times it felt like it would be eternal, but if you're in for that kind of thing I suggest you watch it next time you have a hangover- it's something of a work of art.
It's massive- encapsulating meditatively everything that exists at the same time as focusing on the smallest details of one family's conflicting life. It only falls down where it attempts to literally depict metaphysical events, rather than alluding to and suggesting them- perhaps it would have been more effectively thought-provoking and poetic without the final five minutes.  In places it an Attenborough style observation of wildlife, it's walking with dinosaurs, it's the big bang, it's a father's first encounter with his son, it's the beauty of nature and the beauty of Jessica Chastain, it's birth and death- it's inexpressibly pretentious but profoundly moving and beautiful.

Monday, 1 August 2011

Captain America: The First Avenger

Director- Joe Johnston
Starring- Chris Evans, Hugo Weaving, Hayley Atwell
I don't really want to talk about this film- usually I avoid writing negative reviews, they terrify me. But it's time for me to face my fear. In fact, my friend and I pointedly did not discuss what we had just seen upon leaving the cinema, which is so abnormal it's almost frightening. It wasn't that the film was awful (although it wasn't good)- it was that there seemed to be nothing to discuss. The two and a half hours we spent in the cinema was dead time. Any hint of a story, or what could be called a thrilling film, was covered in a ten minute montage in the middle of the film, and the rest Hayley Atwell, who up until now I have admired, was cast, seemingly, for her looks- she fitted in perfectly with the wartime setting, but her looks never changed. She wouldn't have been out of place in Madame Tussauds. And frankly I'm shocked that Hugo Weaving considered the role. I don't even have anything to put in a review of the film. 24 hours after leaving the cinema I feel like I'm still waiting for it to start. 
The film also serves as a cautionary tale for all producers who invest too much in the not-so-impressive 3D and not enough in the plot itself. As this, and Transformers' most recent installment prove, the results are not worth the money for a ticket.

Friday, 22 July 2011

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part Two

It's hard to talk about Harry Potter films in a critical way, as for me and most of my generation the Harry Potter Corporation is much, much more than a series of films and books. The final film of the eight-long, multi-billion-pound series is a heartbreaking film, and not just because of the storyline. July the 15th marked the end of a series, the end of an era, and what seems to be the end of our childhood. Since the first book was published in 1997, when I was just six years old, Harry Potter grew in fame and age at an alarming rate. By the dawn of my sixteenth birthday, coincidentally the publication date of the final book in the saga, still awake after a party with my equally sycophantic friends, the hyperactive excitement we felt was akin to that before... well, it was incomparable. In all honesty, as an English Literature Student, I find it difficult to praise the books themselves, although I adore them. Fair enough, her writing improves as the books go on, but that's beside the point. We don't read the books for the lyrical prose, it wouldn't have mattered if they were written monosyllabically - we want to know what our friends have been up to. We would have been in their year at Hogwarts (and how we prayed on the eve of our eleventh birthdays), we may even have been friends. We know them, we like and dislike them as we do our own peers, and we desperately need to read the next instalment of their lives. And so the final book was a full stop to a part of our lives we had taken for granted, and so we clung to the films to fill that gap. And now, as the advertisements all too poignantly point out to us, 'It All Ends Here'.

The second part of the Deathly Hallows has to be one of the most frantically anticipated films of the decade, and so it was never going to live up to the unfathomable expectations of die-hard fans. At midnight, on the very edge of the day, the lights in the cinema dimmed and the film began to disappoint. It is, to all extents, an excellent film. There are lavish battle scenes, tearful death scenes, heart-stoppingly tense confrontations. But it's not enough, it never had a chance of being enough. To be so anticipated also means to be brutally scrutinised from the Warner Bro's logo to the end credits. And they didn't even try their best- by making adjustments to the book, they open their arms to the blows from avid readers, but as the films have gone on it has become clear that they area a separate monster, and in many ways they have as much of a right to change the story as if they were writing it afresh. To some extent. To change the climactic, spectacular battle scene between Harry and Voldemort was the biggest mistake they could possibly have made, and they made it. The film also allows itself to fall flat unless it is propped up by it's prequel- in essence the films can only be appreciated as a single, very long film. Warner Brother's money making efforts were evident and foolish- all character building is left to part one, resulting in part two being a slideshow of shallow characters who often have no screen-time devoted to them at all, until it's too late. 

However, that is all I have to say about the film in a negative way. Criticisms aside, the film is good, it is exciting and it is, most importantly, the end. Whatever any review says, you will go and see it because it has become a societal imperative, claims of disinterest are met with horror and often with incredulity. The films, viewed as an octet building the talent of actors, the lives of the characters and the rise and fall of evil within society are perhaps unmatched.

I loved the film, but it wouldn't have mattered if I had despised it. I would have gone to see it, twice (once in 2D, once in 3D) and so would the rest of my Pottermanic generation. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part two is an amazing, terrible thing, and all we can feel at the end is genuine grief. 

What do we do now?

Saturday, 26 March 2011


Director: Richard Ayoade
Starring: Craig Roberts, Yasmin Paige, Sally Hawkins

Definitely go and see it. For a debut film, this is very good. The shooting is nice and artistic, aided by it's beautiful Welsh scenery and sweeping sunset beach scenes (although pushing it a bit with the sheer volume of such scenes). The actors are great, and their comic execution is excellent. Alex Turner's soundtrack was also not that bad, it fitted with the ambiance of the film quite perfectly. It was a thoroughly enjoyable experience.
On the surface, I was not too keen on the twee story; an adolescent with parental issues and a first love, you can imagine a fifteen year old submitting it as ground-breaking and original creative writing coursework, only to discover its horrible banality. However, don't let that put you off, Ayoade (and, presumably, the novel it was based on) has managed to turned it around to be quite a refreshing subversion of angst into witticism. On the whole, not what you would expect when you picture Moss behind the scenes.

Wednesday, 9 March 2011


I've had LOADS of Uni work on at the moment.
I will resume when I have time!
I have seen a few films but I feel like reviews will be out of date now.

Saturday, 12 February 2011

Never Let Me Go

Director: Mark Romanek (One Hour Photo)
Starring: Carey Mulligan (An Education), Andrew Garfield (The Social Network), Keira Knightley (You all know)

I've been waiting for this film to arrive in UK cinemas for almost a year, so there was no question we would see it on the day it came out. I'm not yet sure it lived up to expectations.

It was certainly a profound and unsettlingly beautiful piece of work, and was startlingly close to the original story of Kazuo Ishiguro's novel (which, incidentally, is one of my favourites and the reason I wanted to see it so desperately). It was nice to see Carey Mulligan taking centre stage over Knightley, who although good did rather well as a (slightly) less important character- such a well known, pouty face would have taken a lot away from the film. Nice, too, to see such good child actors, who for once I felt no animosity towards, and as well as being convincing also resembled their adult 'selves' uncannily.

One thing I would not be easily persuaded to do to myself is to see the film again, however well made it may have been. It was simply too sad, more so, I think, than the novel, and more than any film I have seen: the quiet sorrow that runs through from start to finish (I think more so if you have read the book and know what is coming) made it somewhat less than enjoyable despite it's masterly camera-work and impeccable detail.

But I'm a pathetic girl and was in a less than gleeful mood before I went into the cinema: don't let this put you off, go and see it anyway, it's definitely worth it. 

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Black Swan

Director: Darren Aronofsky
Starring: Natalie Portman, Natalie Portman, Vincent Cassel, Mila Kunis

I don't want to say that every film I see is my new favourite, but since I saw this at the Venice Film Festival in summer, (I do love to drop that in...) it has had a firm grip on the title. I can't wait to see it again.

Far more disturbing than expected, it's the Machinist of the classical dance world: Aronofky's obsession with pushing actors and films to their limits comes off incredibly and Natalie Portman embraces the role pretty close to perfectly. Far from a twee ballet ballad, this is a labyrinth (but don't worry, not quite on the level of Inception) that leaves us all feeling slightly unstable and enormously impressed. It is, also, definitely not a girl film: if not just to ogle at Natalie Portman and Mila Kunis in some fairly graphic scenes, males shouldn't reject it because of it's tutus. 

Sunday, 9 January 2011

The King's Speech

Director: Tom Hooper
Starring: Colin firth, Geoffrey Rush, Helena Bonham-Carter

It lives up to the hype.

Colin Firth's struggle with his speech impediment is incredibly real, and pity for his character is well rounded off in the climactic 'King's Speech' the film takes it's name from. The combination of the personal relationship with the character and the national despair on the cusp of World War II round the film out into more than just a personal struggle. Geoffrey Rush's counterpart to Firth is a ballsy, impertinent speech therapist and one of the most likeable characters I've met on the screen in a while. Tom Hooper is definitely breaking out of obscurity. One of Bonham-Carter's less otherworldly roles, and she was a little disappointing, acting as nothing much more than a prop for Firth's performance. She plays a literal supporting role, but very well.

And, to top it all of, Timothy Spall plays Winston Churchill. Top notch casting.

Thursday, 6 January 2011

127 Hours

Director: Danny Boyle
Starring: James Franco, A Rock

I was intrigued when I heard that Boyle had decided to make a feature-length film out of Aron Ralston's autobiographical book 'Between a Rock and a Hard Place' (witty bugger), as 95% of the plot takes place in exactly the same place, with not that much happening save for the occasional flashback.

The film wasn't, however, a huge disappointment. James Franco's winning smile and perfect crow's feet may have had something to do with it, but the film was actually fairly gripping and appropriately soppy. Add a dash of ever beautiful, Clemence Poesy (of Gossip Girl and, more recently and perhaps more widely appreciated, Harry Potter fame) and it wasn't a bad film at all, despite the run-up to both of the film's key events comprising of somewhat agonising anticipation for said events. I'd not go and see it again, but I enjoyed it thoroughly, down to the rather-too-graphic penultimate moments.