Thursday, 29 December 2011

Robert Downey Jr in a dress! That should get most people's attention

I am getting VERY bad at this blogging once a week thing, but to be fair to me, it is Christmas! To update you on what I have watched since my last blog, I have seen "Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows" in the cinema, I watched "Red Eye" for a second time on DVD, "Aladdin" on Christmas day and I watched "Castle of Cagliostro" on Virgin Plus. I was so excited when I found out Film Four were doing a Studio Ghibli (which I like to pronounce "Jibli") season and I've set all the ones I haven't seen to tape. So far I've watched the one... Oh dear. I'm filling up the recording box or whatever it is to the brim but not getting round to watching any of it! I will watch some more soon, I hope...

Anyway, to get to the important stuff, Sherlock Holmes II!! What a brilliant film. The posters aren't wrong, it is bigger, better and funnier than the first one. RDJ is fantastic in any role, I will never disagree with casting him for anything. He's hilarious, his accent's ace (or at least I think so, I am often wrong about these things), and he's just got such charisma! I love Watson too, you need Jude Law's straight guy to balance out Holme's crazy ways. I was also presently surprised by Jared Harris as Moriarty, which initially disappointed me because I'd heard rumours that my favourite actor, Daniel Day Lewis - what a talent!! - was going to play him and I'd never heard of Jared Harris - apparently he's in "Mad Men"? - but he's perfect. He's smart, he's evil, he's kind of cool, he's a good nemesis for Holmes for sure. There's a bit more to the plot too this time, and the scenery is fantastic. The embassy in Switzerland at the end - not sure it's an embassy or in Switzerland, but that's what I remember - is basically a snow covered Rivendell, it looks awesome. Two more - very important - points I have so far neglected to mention are 1) RDJ in a dress! So funny and still hot and 2) Stephen Fry as Mycroft, very naked in one scene, also funny, but less hot. If you like Robert Downey Jr, if you like adventure, if you like cool fighting, basically if you like films, go see it!

Alas I still haven't seen the new "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo", but that is the next film on my list. It's hard to find someone to go see it with, many think it's a bit too "rapey", which cannot be denied, but doesn't that advert look fantastic? The one where the only noise is that brilliant Led Zeppelin cover and it's so fast paced and has that fantastic Swedish scenery - I didn't realise until this week reading Empire that it's still set in Sweden.

I also watched, as I mentioned, "Aladdin" on Christmas day, and was reminded how awesome it is and how brilliant a good Disney tune is. That in mind, this week's list is my top 5 Disney films...

1. Hercules

OMG, what's not to love? The songs are sooo good. "Go the distance" is just one of my favourite songs full stop, plus "Zero to hero", plus all the rest really. And Hades! The best Disney villain ever, James Woods does some brilliant voice work and has some hilarious lines: "woah, is my hair out?" I think I must have seen it at least 20 times and I don't think it's fully appreciated as the classic it is.

2. Peter Pan

I so fancied him when I was a kid. He's just so cool and he lives the life all children want to, in a tree house, on an island filled with pirates, mermaids and NO adults. The story is a classic, though the songs are nothing special, but the lead character is just so cool, you've gotta want to be him and live his life.

3. The Emperor's New Groove

Another underrated masterpiece, this is probably the funniest Disney film ever. Who doesn't love a bit of John Goodman? and though he's probably done nothing to praise since, David Spade's comic delivery as Kuzco is perfect. But the BEST thing has to be Patrick Warburton, aka Joe Swanson, as Kronk! Doing his own theme tune, talking to squirrels. I've seen this one many times too and it doesn't stop being funny. Brilliant for kids and adults.

4. Beauty and the Beast

We all know it's one of, if not the, best. The music and songs are so good, the story is so moving, when the Beast "dies" at the end we all cry. Though I cry more when he comes back as a weird-looking lame-ass prince who deep down we all know isn't as hot as he was as a beast. Also, one of the BEST songs ever, "No one... like Gaston", which has one of the best lines ever "LeFou I'm afraid I've been thinking - A dangerous pass-time - I know". You do genuinely hate Gaston at the end when he storms the Beast's castle. Why can't everyone see he's gentle? But darn it can that man eat a lot of eggs!

As always, the last ones a tricky one, but the verdict is...

5. The Lion King

It kind of has to be, doesn't it? Simba was another character I wanted to be when I was little, running off and living in the jungle, no adults, only Timon and Pumbaa. What brilliant music and, like "Beauty and the Beast", what a moving story. I have to cry at least twice in that film. When Simba is telling his dad to wake up! Mufasa is possibly the coolest adult character ever, he definitely has the coolest voice and Scar is a pretty good baddy. The bits with him and the hyenas are genuinely scary. Everyone knows it's a classic, it cannot be denied, not just of Disney, but of all films.

Film news: Everyone should read "the Hunger Games" trilogy because it's really fun and the film is coming out in March and the trailer looks really good. People say it's the new "Twilight" but don't listen to them, it's actually good.

Thursday, 15 December 2011

A very festive lead up to Christmas...

My blog is later than planned AGAIN this week, so I'm officially giving up on this whole "get it done by Tuesday" thing and it's gonna be pretty randomly timed. I have, however, managed to get in two very festive cinema trips: first "A Very Harold and Kumar 3D Christmas" and second "New Year's Eve" (shh, I know, I know).

I have recently watched both "Harold and Kumar" 1 & 2 in preparation for this film and because I've been promising to watch it for aaages now. You gotta love the guys, especially young emo Harold in 2!! Obviously if you don't enjoy stoner comedies like "Dude Where's My Car?" then don't bother - though I think this is a level above "Dude Where's My Car", but you've gotta be prepared for a lot of drugs, a lot of naked women and a lot of immature jokes. They're sweet, endearing characters though, which I think sets this a bit above many other such films. Plus, NEIL PATRICK HARRIS cameos in all 3 and is hi-la-ri-ous! My favourite scene in 2 is where he brands a hooker :P

"A Very H & K 3D Christmas" is possibly my favourite so far, partly due to NPH's awesome appearance and the very funny take on his coming out. It's sweet, it's bright, it makes a lot out of its 3D-ness and it's kinda festive, despite the baby on coke.

I must admit I did enjoy "New Year's Eve", as I enjoyed "Valentine's Day" and "He's Just Not That Into You", because I fall for the ensemble casts and the different interlinked stories. It's no better than "VD" really (the film, not the other thing ahem...) and neither has matched the cinematic experience of "HJNTIY" which I REALLY enjoyed for a chick flick, but again, it's sweet, it's festive and it's easy to watch. ONLY WATCH IT if you like this kind of thing, it is drivel, but it does what it says on the label.

For my top 5 this week I guess I should do something like top 5 Christmas films, but lets be honest, apart from "the Grinch" and "Elf", are there that many great ones? (OMG, I do love "Elf" though). No, this week I have decided to go for something a little different to my usual "Top 5 films which..." category, I'm going for my Top 5 TV Shows, just because I can!

1. Dragonball Z

In the case of this list my number 1 is DEFINITELY my number 1! This has been my favourite programme since I was 8 or something and it hasn't changed just because it's a kid's show. It's got the fun characters, the cool drawings, the awesome battle scenes, the lol moments, the romance, it's got it all! Yes, I'll concede that some scenes are drawn out too long, but it's one of the best stories ever and Goku and Vegeta will remain two of the coolest guys to ever hit our TV screens. When it changed channels and I could no longer watch it it was a blow to my childhood and when I bought the entire box set many years later I spent one summer watching about 5 or 6 hours a day to catch up to the end. Totally worth it! This has a very special place in my heart and it always will.

2. Arrested Development

Many people presume I'm exaggerating when I say this is the funniest, best-written comedy that I've ever seen but it just is. The cast is genius and mostly relatively obscure when it was made so go casting directors! The in-jokes are amazing, the timing is perfect and it's sooooo quotable. There are few lines that aren't perfectly thought out and brilliantly funny. All hail GOB and Franklin, the best comedy duo ever!

3. Battlestar Galactica

I literally watched ALL of this last summer. It's so good. It took years of recommendations for me to get round to it and now I recommend it to anyone I can. If you like sci-fi you'll love it, if you don't you'll still love it! The first two series are so gripping! It's so action packed and it has so many brilliant characters, for a TV show the special effects are amazing, and Jamie Bamber is the love of my life (OK, slight exaggeration). Really, if it were a book I'd say you won't be able to put it down. It's moving and it's exciting and everything a TV series should be. God knows why "the Wire" is supposed to be the best thing ever, why not this?

4. Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Who didn't love this? Who can deny the genius of Joss Whedon (see also "Dollhouse" and "Firefly")? I spent much of my childhood settling down to this and "Angel" on a Saturday night. The stories are so good, you learn to love the characters, it can be scary and funny and it's just a complete classic. This is what all new vampire/monster shows and films wish they were but can never be. It;s the original and still the best.

This last one is really difficult. There are so many shows I love but I want to get a good range... Because I have to pick 1 I'll go for...

5. Parks and Recreation

This is so good! I love my Friday tv schedule with new "Office", "Modern Family", and "Parks and Rec". Originally set to be a spin-off of the Office US, this has, at its best moments, reached the genius of the Office and just because at the moment I think this is better I have picked this one. If you want an example of why to watch it, youtube anything Ron Swanson has ever said about meat. I love all the characters and I think Amy Poehler is one of the sweetest things ever. The fact that she's married to Will Arnett (GOB Bluth) makes her perfect. I always wonder why "Saturday Night Live", which is filled with such actors and has the Lonely Island trio, just doesn't make me laugh at all? I don't get American comedians but I get there TV fiction.

Film news: Brace yourselves people, a travesty is about to be unleashed on all cinema viewers everywhere, James Cameron - who is definitely on my list of most over-rated people EVER - is re-releasing "Titanic"!! "Why?" you ask. I have NO IDEA! Was it good the first time round? No! Is it too long? Boring? A silly story? Has it taken Leo 10 years and many great performances to make this up to me? Yes to all of these! I don't care if it's the 2nd best grossing film ever or whatever, I refuse to accept it's good and I know in my heart that I'm right.

Thursday, 8 December 2011

My week in the past...

This week’s been my last week of term before the Christmas holidays – yay! – so I’ve been a bit useless at getting this blog done. I like to try to post them on Tuesdays, but clearly that has not worked.

My film watching was a bit poor last week, though I did manage to get in three – so I guess it wasn’t too bad a week-, including one cinema trip. I watched “The Kids are Alright” during the week and then at the weekend I saw “My Week with Marilyn” at the cinema and finally got round to viewing “Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon”.
I very much enjoyed “My Week with Marilyn”. I am a great fan of period films and, though this was only the sixties, it was an interesting view into the film industry 50 years ago. The main character, Colin, coming from a rich, aristocratic family, easily gets a job on a Laurence Olivier/Marilyn Munroe film because he happened to meet Olivier and his wife Vivien Leigh at a party. It’s also really interesting to get an insight into Marilyn behind the scenes, though many critics have argued that obviously the author of the novel it is based on (Colin Clark, on whom the main character is based) could have exaggerated her dependency on him (and indeed other men).

Michelle Williams is just fantastic in everything she does. I have much love for her. I think she’s brilliant in this at capturing Marilyn, especially if you compare scenes of “the Prince and the Showgirl” which they’ve re-enacted with the originals. She adopts a completely different voice and different mannerisms to her own to capture the part. This film perhaps doesn’t deserve an award itself, but maybe Michelle Williams does.

Considering this week’s cinema film was about Marilyn Munroe, I thought my top 5 list this week could be my top 5 films which came out before I was born:

The Godfather trilogy
Ok, so this isn’t one film, but I find it hard to pick a favourite. Obviously 1 and 2 are far superior to 3, though I do not agree with many critics that it is a bad film, it’s just got 2 such fantastic predecessors to compete with. It just has one of the best casts ever, and such a fantastic story. I love Al Pacino in this. He is often criticised for over-acting but I don’t think this is one of those roles. And Diane Keaton as Kay and Robert Duvall as Tom, and of course one of Marlon Brando’s most iconic roles as Vito, the eponymous Godfather in no.1. There’s such a fantastic diversity of characters, it’s such an interesting concept to explore, so surreal and extreme yet based on a system – the mafia – which is very real in America. The music, the look, the acting, the script: Francis Ford Coppola gets it all right as he often does.

A Clockwork Orange
The book is so good and this is one of the few book-to-film adaptations which does its source justice. It’s a fantastic story, and so cleverly thought out: A new language, a complete new way of dressing, a future dystopian world. I watched this film for the first time when I was 15 and I think I watched it 10 times within 10 weeks. I fell in love with Malcolm McDowell who plays such an iconic role and who you become concerned for and follow intently despite his completely evil nature. Though it doesn’t put it across as explicitly as the book, I think it also plays well the true idea behind it, whether conditioning someone to make them act as though they’re good is really making them good.

Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back
Here I’ve tried to pick a favourite of the trilogy. I find the first one is mostly introductory and I think everyone usually agrees 2 is the best. I love sci-fi, I love the creation of an alternate world, the fight scenes, the aliens, the brilliant story. I’ve never been too keen on Luke as a protagonist, but Han Solo is epically cool and Darth Vader is such an amazing villain. Also, Alec Guinness (and even later Ewan McGregor) as Obi Wan will always be one of my favourite film characters, even though he only features in a “New Hope” and so I technically shouldn’t mention him here. As you can see, I love a good trilogy.

Blade Runner
Another film where a whole new world has had to be created and that is based on a book i thoroughly enjoyed. it’s also a very intelligent one I find, questioning what makes someone human and moral. It looks amazing, the city, the inhabitants, especially the androids. I actually don’t like Harrison Ford’s character in this film. I think his treatment of women verges on abusive, but Rutger Hauer has such presence and is so cool as the villain and, to be honest, is a very sympathetic character, much more so than Ford’s Deckard. Anyone who likes sci-fi has to see this.

Some Like It Hot
My favourite Marilyn film, though that is because it’s the only one I’ve seen, it’s also my favourite black and white film and one of the few films I consider old that actually makes me laugh. She’s brilliant and so are Jack Lemon and Richard Curtis – though for the life of me I don’t see how Richard is attractive. It’s fun and sweet and timeless.

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Joseph Gordon Love-itt

I know right, you can’t believe how clever my title is? Anyway, in this week’s blog I am going to be singing the praises of one Joseph Gordon-Levitt, aka Tommy from “3rd Rock from the Sun”. I went to see “50/50” last Friday – the day it came out of course – and, though I also love James McAvoy, I’m so glad JGL ended up with the role. It’s very funny and it’s very moving. What’s done so well in this film is showing how people react when they learn he has cancer and how the odd forms of sympathy really make him feel. I’m also quite a fan of Seth Rogan and he does justice – though not unexpectedly seeing as he was friends with Will Reiser, who survived cancer and wrote the screenplay – to the awkward but supportive best friend, figuring out how to be what Adam (JGL) needs him to be.

I’ve loved Joseph since he was about 15 and started in 3rd Rock from the Sun. I was then very pleased to see him getting a big role in one of my favourite films, 10 Things I Hate About You, but let’s be honest, we all watched that for Heath. What really made me realise how brilliant an actor, but equally importantly, how beautiful JGL is, was “Brick” (2005), when he must have been about 24.

“Brick” is set in an American high school and JGL/Brendan’s girlfriend disappears at the beginning and the film follows a very murder-mystery/detective orientated plot line as he tries to discover what has happened to her. The film reminded me a lot of “Bugsy Malone” as the teens all seem very old for their age, many of them involved in drugs, violence, manipulation and complicated relationships. The plot is very fast paced and dense and it’s definitely one to watch several times. It’s brilliant if you like indie films as the cast is relatively unheard of – apart from JGL and perhaps Emilie de Ravin – but all play their parts well. It was writer and director Rian Johnson’s first feature film, which makes it all the more impressive. JGL is definitely the best thing in it however. It is a big change from Tommy in “3rd Rock” or Cameron in “10 Things, he is now a broody loner with long scruffy hair and who subjugates himself to a lot of horror and violence to discover the truth.

JGL has done a lot of fantastic films – the only dud in the bunch has to be “G.J. Joe” The Rise of Cobra” – and is consistently brilliant. He’s definitely starting to get the recognition he deserves, but there’s still a way to go until he’s the star he deserves to be – with that face and that talent! - Many of his films are still pretty anonymous. That’s why this week I am exploring...
My top 5 Joseph Gordon-Levitt films:

This film probably gets the most points by balancing best film and best appearance from Joseph. I think it is his most iconic performance to date. Though I like “Inception” just as much, if not more, it’s all about Joseph in this film and it’s as good a film as “Inception”.

I heard of this film through IMDB-ing what Joseph was going to be in, but I never saw any other form of advertising really. I’m not sure if it ever came out in the cinema, because before I knew it I had to watch it on DVD. It’s really about a young boy, T.J., and his dad (Rainn Wilson) dealing with the death of his mum. His dad is completely out of it and has become useless as far as T.J. is concerned. Hesher (JGL) is a homeless, shirtless rocker who decides to move in with them and they are too complacent to stop him. Somehow he helps them deal with their loss. It’s well acted by all and very moving, as well as surreal and a unique idea. To add some star value, it also has Natalie Portman as a quirky (surprise, surprise) girl who befriends T.J. and Hesher.

Mysterious Skin:
This film is so fantastically performed and brilliantly done, but it’s also something I don’t know if I could ever watch a second time. It cuts back and forth in the lives of two boys from a period when they’re about 8 to when they’re about 18. JGL plays one of the 18-year-old boys, who were both abused by their baseball coach at the age of 8. He is now a male prostitute while the other still doesn’t realise what happened to him. It’s probably the most difficult film I’ve ever watched, apart from maybe the Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, but it’s worth it at least the one viewing if the topic won’t upset you too much.

Christopher Nolan is yet to do wrong. The cast of this film is SO good and I’m barely even referring to Leo. Tom Hardy, Ellen Page, Cillian Murphey AND Joseph Gordon-Levitt! Only in a Nolan film would you find this many brilliant indie actors in something American. Ok, not only, but he is damn good at it. The story is brilliant, the action is brilliant, it’s all JUST. SO. GOOD. But to be fair to this top 5 list, JGL isn’t the main character at all.

10 Things I Hate About You:
I bang on about this so much and it’s not a very original choice so I didn’t want it too high on the list, but it has to be on there. Even though it is ALL about Heath in this film, JGL is also awesome and it’s so much cleverer than your average American high school film. It’s so lol and so cool. I love it.

I didn’t put this in the top 5 cos I’ve only just seen it and I’ve put it as this week’s new review, but it’s so good. Do go see it or rent it when it’s out on DVD.

Film news:
This isn’t that new, but it’s relatively unknown, anyone who has never seen the series “Arrested Development” HAS to get on that ting. It’s my favourite series (after the legendary "Dragonball Z") and the funniest thing I’ve ever seen on TV. They’ve been talking about a film since it got cancelled in 2005 and not it’s finally happening PLUS a 4th series to bring things together. I’m not sure on dates or any details but Michael Cera and Jason Bateman themselves have said it’s happening so watch all the first 3 series quick – but without rushing the genius – cos this is a film that has to be seen.

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

... After a Long Break.

As I said, I went away to study in Frankfurt, unfortunately I subsequently dropped any blogging activities, which I intend now to recommence. I’m back in England, studying in Birmingham, and back to weekly cinema visits.

That isn’t to say however that there have been no cinema visits since leaving for Frankfurt. To give a comprehensive list of the films I have been out to see (trying not to miss any out): Source Code, Beastly, Arthur, Your Highness, Thor (the last 4 within 4 consecutive days!), Pirates of the Caribbean 4, the Hangover Part 2, X-Men: First Class, Transformers 3, Harry Potter 7 Part 2, Horrible Bosses, Captain America, Arietti, One Day, Friends with Benefits, Troll Hunter, Jane Eyre, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Crazy Stupid Love, the Three Musketeers, and I bring you up to date with last week’s visit to see the Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn. Not to mention all the films I have watched in the comfort of my – or a friend’s – own home.

For this week’s top 5, I shall do the top 5 of these films I have watched over the past 7 or 8 months:

1. X-Men: First Class
My favourite film of the year, this immediately also became my favourite of all of the X-Men films. I almost missed this in the cinema, being in Germany and not being surrounded by my usual gang of nerdy chums, but I am SO glad I persisted. Michael Fassbender is my new God and the chemistry between him and James McAvoy as the two lead males is impeccable. They are both very funny but also capable of very serious moments. My favourite scene of the entire film has to be the two of them – Xavier and Eric – out on the lookout for new mutants. It may be a cheesy montage, but it’s hilarious. Plus the film has good X-men action at the end when the mutants face Kevin Bacon (who cannot be out-creepy-ed), the film’s villainous mutant, and the American navy (led by none other than Michael Ironside from Starship Troopers!!). This film drew my attention right from the start as the first 15 minutes or so involve young Eric and then older Eric (Michael Fassbender) moving through an amazing variety of languages – German to French to Spanish to English, which as a linguist, I gotta appreciate. So many aspects of this film recommend it to a true comic book or adventure film fan.

2. Harry Potter 7, Part 2
As Part 1 was one of the best films of 2010, of course I believe that this is one of the best films of 2011 and probably the best of all the Harry Potter films. The main reason? Alan Rickman! Though Helena Bonham Carter, as always, is just fabulous and the embodiment of cool and what I want to be, she does not feature as much as I would have liked. Alan is one of the few adults in the film given decent screen time and he uses it SO well. I think an Oscar may be necessary. The Pensieve montage of his memories would break anyone’s heart and is played out so beautifully. Adding to this the fact that the film mainly consists of one giant fight in the Hogwart’s grounds, how could it not be entertaining? As with any HP film, there are a few details from the book which they have changed and I do not approve of – Neville is WAY cooler in the book, though he is still pretty cool in the film – generally I think it did justice to the fantastic finale of a fantastic series.

3. Arthur
This film was so much funnier than it should have been. The advert drew me in straight away: “I don’t trust horses. Their shoes are permanent. Who makes that kind of a commitment to a shoe?” There are so many great lines in the advert, but unlike many comedies, they are not the only ones in the film. I find Russel Brand very endearing, and anyone who finds him annoying should steer clear, but I think this is a sweet, funny-until-the-end film.

4. Troll Hunter
This is a brilliant Norwegian mock-umentary about three young amateur film-makers following a guy they initially believe to be a rogue bear hunter. Like all Scandinavian films it is well-acted, well-written and has a brilliant atmosphere. It doesn’t try to overdo it on the giant troll action scenes, you genuinely feel like you are watching a documentary.

5. Thor
Another film that was much better than I expected. There has been a multitude of comic book films this year, Thor, X-Men, Captain America, the Green Lantern, and I think I expected the least from Thor. But I’d say, after X-Men, I enjoyed it the most, even more than Captain America which may be the better film... It’s fun and Chris Hemsworth proves that choosing a relatively unknown lead can pay off. He’s hot, he’s funny and he’s likable. It looks amazing – much of it being set in Asgard, the home of the “Gods” – and it has good action scenes as well as the standard romantic subplot (with Natalie Portman) which isn’t as annoying as many are in superhero films.

Film updates: Still to look forward to for superhero fans we have the Amazing Spider-Man and the Dark Knight Rises next year, which both boast fantastic casts (as Christopher Nolan films always do). For the rest of this year I am looking forward to 50/50, coming out this Friday the 25th, starring the AMAZING Joseph Gordon Levitt (JGL) and Seth Rogan in what all critics are saying is a funny - while not overlooking the serious content -, heart-warming film about two best friends trying to deal with the fact that one of them – JGL – has cancer. It was written by Will Reiser, who fought cancer and on whom JGL’s character is based and not only that, but Seth Rogan is playing the part of friend which he played to Reiser in real life. I am also looking forward to the next in the Guy Ritchie - Sherlock Holmes franchise, A Game of Shadows, coming out December 16th, and the American remake of the Girl With the Dragon Tattoo – though I still think it’s too soon -, coming out December 26th.

Sunday, 3 April 2011

2 films in 1 day

This weekend I intended to watch as many of the films Sucker Punch, Source Code and Killing Bono as possible before I left for Germany (tomorrow, 4th April) and managed to get in the first two yesterday – I’ll have to catch Killing Bono on DVD when I get back for Robert Sheehan from Misfits. I’m very proud of myself; this is the first time I’ve been to the cinema twice in one day. Sucker Punch was standard Zack Snyder, fantastic visuals, cool music and very over the top. It’s not the best film ever, it’s a bit silly, but it looks good and you probably won’t get bored if you like action as the enemies vary from robot samurai, zombie Germans in World War I, a dragon in a castle and androids on a train. Be warned it’s rather depressing. Source Code is probably more depressing as it’s slightly more realistic and I would say is a better film but far less action packed, despite the repeated blowing up of a train. It’s not too long – only about an hour and a half – and it’s got a decent amount of plot in there, a good amount of twists and complications and emotional ups and downs. Both are good action but Sucker Punch is more hard core and Source Code is more intelligent – though the science behind it often contradicts itself and even I noticed plot holes.

For this post's top 5 list I was inspired by Mark Kermode, whose film reviews I used to listen to on BBC radio 5 every Friday. I would definitely recommend this as a very entertaining way to get news on the latest releases. You can podcast it on ITunes of course. He speaks to me as a film lover who is convinced of all of his own opinions.

To hear Mark’s top 5 films of 2010 go here:

And these are my…
Top 5 Films of 2010

1. Kick Ass
This film is just the coolest thing ever. The fight scenes are so entertaining and so well choreographed – especially the ones involving the 12 year old Hit Girl – and they have the perfect sound track accompanying them – one of my favourite sound tracks – most notably in Kick Ass’s fame-making fight scene backed by the Prodigy’s Omen, one of the best song choices ever. It’s also really funny, and has Clark Duke, Michael Cera’s far less famous co-star from Clark and Michael (watch this mini-series online, it’s brilliant), whose comedy talent definitely needs more exposure.

2. Inception
Christopher Nolan can do no wrong. I’ve seen all his feature length films, they’re ALL good and they keep improving. Inception may not be as perfect as the Dark Knight, but it’s close, with a complex plot that demands your entire attention, a flawless cast – not just Leo Dicaprio but the understated Joseph Gordon Levitt and the brilliant British actor Tom Hardy, both to be seen in the next Batman film – and fantastic special effects. It’s an intelligent blockbuster. If you like this see also Shutter Island, with its suspiciously similar plot regarding Leo’s wife.

3. The Social Network
Jesse Eisenberg was brought onto my man list by this film, he’s amazing as the socially inept Mark Zuckerberg and supported well by Andrew Garfield – another new favourite of mine, the British actor playing the new Spider-Man – and even Justin Timberlake does his part well. It’s interesting and, though a lot of talk and not much action, a dense plot that doesn’t ramble on too long. Very well directed and deserving of its Bafta.

4. Easy A
As all critics said, the best new teen rom com in ages, since Mean Girls probably. Emma Stone is brilliant in this. Before it she most notably had side parts in Superbad and Zombieland, but this is what will make you love her. It’s so funny and the supporting cast again is genius. One of my favourite lines ever is teacher Thomas Hayden Church questioning the merits of Facebook: “I don't know what your generation's fascination is with documenting your every thought...but I can assure you, they're not all diamonds. "Roman is having an OK day, and bought a Coke Zero at the gas station. Raise the roof."”

5. Four Lions
The funniest advert I have perhaps ever seen shows the scene from this where Fessel explains the different disguises he used to buy large quantities of bleach for a bomb. Though this is the best part of the film probably, the rest is also hilarious, well acted, brilliantly written – Chris Morris is a genius after all – and a very sympathetic and interesting look at suicide bombers.

6. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1
I had to add this film, because even though it’s not original and no one needs to be told it’s great, I love this franchise. Though The Order of the Pheonix is probably still my favourite, I believe this could be considered the best Harry Potter film if it weren’t only half of a story (book 7) and so incomplete. Picking David Yates to direct 5 and then letting him make the rest was a brilliant idea.

Worst Film of 2010: Sex and the City 2
The only film during which I have actually walked out of the cinema before it ended. It is like an extended episode of the series, there is no specific plot or beginning, middle and end, it is a series of events, in fact, duller than your average episode and somehow it is drawn out into over 2 hours of screen time.

Film updates: Goodness knows why but it appears that they are already planning a Batman reboot before the last of this trilogy has even come out. Christopher Nolan is to be producing it, as Tim Burton produced the Batman films that followed his in the early 90s. Chris’ obvious talent should reassure me, but then again the one’s Tim produced definitely didn’t seem to benefit from his skills… This article has the current information on the reboot: My theory is that an actor like Christian Bale would not be willing to do a spin-off franchise such as the Justice League, and so a new Batman is needed. The fact that they seem set on making the Justice League film is certainly good news however. The Justice League, in my opinion, is far superior the the Avengers. I will, of course, be very excited about this reboot when it actually appears as anything superhero appeals to me.

Thursday, 31 March 2011

The In-Justice League

I’m currently in my third year of a Modern Languages degree at Birmingham University and so am on my year abroad. I was in Valencia (Spain) between September and January and am going to be in Frankfurt (Germany) between April and July. The main problem with going to two such developed countries is that they are able to dub most films, meaning that if I want to go and see a mainstream film such as Harry Potter when I am there, I have to see it dubbed. Imagine Alan Rickman dubbed! I know, it upsets me too. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part 1 came out during my term in Spain and the big geek that I am I coordinated a home visit with the opening weekend so that I could get the proper experience. Dubbing is bad for several reasons: 1) In a franchise such as this you are used to certain voices and only these voices go with the faces on screen, 2) Foreign films often use weird voices to dub, 3) The sync with the mouthing is always off.

Luckily for me I get back from Frankfurt around the time HP and the Deathly Hallows part 2 comes out, so crisis obverted, unluckily for me I am missing several other crucial films. Any fellow geeks out there will also have noticed and enjoyed the surge in comic book films coming out in the past decade, especially in the past few years since Disney bought marvel. Both Marvel and DC seem to be building up a collection of heroes to allow them to create an Avengers and a Justice League franchise respectively. This year’s Comicon announced the cast and crew of 2012’s the Avengers. Every summer sees at least one superhero on the screen, last year’s Iron Man 2, most importantly 2008’s the Dark Knight. This summer has gone all out: (April) Thor, (June) X-Men First Class, The Green Lantern, (July) Captain America – The first four of which I shall not be in the country for! Why do this to me? Why bring out this many the one year I won’t be guaranteed to go and see all and as soon as they come out? If I come back home for a visit I am going to have to coordinate my arse off to get to see as many of these as possible.

Superhero films to get excited about in 2012: (May) The Avengers, (July) The Amazing Spider-Man, The Dark Knight Rises.

Top 5: I have decided to do a top 5 theme for this blog. This entry I have decided on…

Top 5 Foreign Films (appropriate as I am on my year abroad)

1. Howl’s Moving Castle (2004)
- Japanese
This is my favourite Studio Ghibli film. I prefer the more recent films as I believe Miyazaki has developed greatly in his drawing style – I find his older films slightly basic in style, whereas here looking at the drawings is half the fun - but also I prefer his more surreal plots. Sophie, the main character, is turned into an old woman by a witch’s spell which leads to her living in a moving castle with the wizard Howl. English dubbing I find can work on animated films and in this film the voices (Christian Bale and Billy Crystal especially) are perfectly cast. It’s beautiful, it’s romantic, it’s fun and it’s sad: my top Ghibli and my top anime. If you like this, the other Ghibli films to watch are Spirited Away and Princess Mononoke, also beautiful and surreal.

2. The Lives of Others (2006)
- German
It’s a brilliant and tragic German film that beautifully represents the struggles to have independent thought in East Germany during the GDR years. The acting is perfect and like most European films, the film makers don’t have the option to just go for the most attractive, most “it” actor of the moment. Foreign films are all about talent over commercial success. I can find foreign historical films dull – I was not a fan of Downfall, though it is considered one of the better German films – but this keeps you drawn in and tensed up throughout.

3. The Educators
- German
This is probably my favourite German film. You have to love Daniel Brühl, the closest thing Germany has to a movie star, who plays the co-lead male, Jan, who, along with Peter (Stipe Erceg), breaks into rich families’ houses and leave messages such as “The years of plenty are over”, trying to shake up the capitalist system. They end up kidnapping one victim and we are presented with the debate between capitalism and socialism. People my age will love this because most students – like me – like to go through a hard-line left, idealist phase. Furthermore, though political, it also has a love triangle and relatively attractive youths and can almost be seen as a thriller for a German film. Though this could be criticised for being quite black and white in areas – the youths’ opinions are very “capitalism is evil” - you are presented with an empathetic opposition figure in the right wing Hardenberg. A friend of mine has also criticised the excessive use of Jeff Buckley’s Hallelujah – remember that period when it was in everything? I like this song and am much less willing to see fault.

4. The Motorcycle Diaries
The main perk to this film – and to most Hispanic films I have seen – is Gael Garcia Bernal’s face. If you are interested in Che Guevara this is a good look at what created a revolutionist out of a medic. If you want a good look at Che Guevara’s later, revolutionary years, Che Part 1 and 2 are a very good example and Benicio del Toro appears to have borrowed Che’s face.

5. Paris, je t’aime
- French
I love this film because it’s not just one film, but lots of little films placed next to each other with one thing in common, the setting of Paris, a layout which is relatively unique in films. You are likely to find some of the short films dull – like with short stories it takes a lot for me to become engrossed in something so much shorter than a regular length film – but you are also likely to enjoy some of them, it contains such a rich diversity. There are few directors that I can name that haven’t contributed and for me, a massive fan of being able to name actors in films, the genius cast is very exciting: Steve Buscemi (what isn’t he in?), Elijah Wood, Juliette Binoche, Miranda Richardson, Gaspard Ulliel (have you seen his face?!), Natalie Portman, etc. The genres are is so diverse – from a gothic, black and white vampire short to an understated conversation between ex-husband and wife in a fancy restaurant – anyone could be pleased by this.

Note: New York, I Love You, a sort of spin-off, is also fun just for its multiple plot lines and enormous cast, but in removing the obvious distinction between films – Paris, je t’aime has titles and directors named at the beginning of each and is cut in such a way that each is like a new entity – merely blending into a new one like a new scene and repeating characters in different shorts, it loses what makes the French version special. Also, it is much more miss than hit than Paris, je t’aime is.

Wednesday, 30 March 2011

An Introductory Rant

When people ask me what my hobbies are the only answer I can give is reading and watching films, which is useless as almost everyone enjoys these pastimes but I don’t really have any other hobbies per say… Sports mostly bore or frighten me. Watching films may not seem like a legitimate “hobby” but unlike most people I make a commitment to watching films; I take pride in the amount of films I watch. Whenever possible, I like to go to the cinema once a week at the least, which can mean having to see incredibly mediocre films but it also brings a high awareness of what’s out and means that I rarely miss a good film. I like to think that I have seen many more than the average person aged 20. I like to memorise actors’ names that I see recurrently. I have an ongoing subscription to Empire magazine to make sure I don’t miss an issue. I do make a hobby out of film viewing.
Reading comes into this as well. I love it when a film adaptation of a book I’ve read is released. If a film is advertised that I like the look of and it derives from a book I will hastily read the book if necessary before the film comes out. The book is usually better than the film, being the original version of the story, capable of going into more depth, allowing you to imagine things how you think they should be, and the experience of reading it is less fulfilling if you have seen the film and know what is going to happen. I find a film loses less if I already know the story from a book, you are watching a new interpretation other than your own, a visual version of the novel. However, there are flaws to this system. I have become obsessed with Haruki Murakami’s books and finding out that Norwegian Wood was to be released a few weeks ago, I rushed to read it and then went to see the film soon after. Going through the same story twice in such close succession can make the second time a little tedious. That being said, it was a brilliant book and the adaptation was very faithful, the actors played the characters well, as I’d imagine them, and I love watching Japanese films as the country is so beautiful.  
If asked to name a few of my favourite films there are several which have to be mentioned: the Lord of the Rings trilogy cannot be beaten. It has the perfect combination of story (I genuinely believe it is one of the best stories every fabricated), cast, scenery, music, special affects,… I’m sure there’s more it should be given 10/10 for. I remember getting chills down my spine as I went to see the Fellowship when I was 11 and the film opened with Galadriel’s voice over. Very few films should be allowed to be 3 hours long, let alone 9 if you consider the entirety, but the Lord of the Rings definitely does its length the most justice. I think my need to read a book before the film comes out may even stem from my father’s condition that I could not see the Fellowship until I had read the novel. I was reading 100 pages a day to ensure I was ready for opening night.
Gladiator is also what I like to call a perfect combination of elements. The acting is fantastic, Joaquin Phoenix may be crazy, but this is one of the best performances ever as far as I’m concerned, and I don’t care if Russell Crow is a dick, he can act. The music makes me want to cry, I can’t watch it without getting teary and the outfits and the landscape and the coliseum make the film a piece of art.
A film that completely struck me the first time I saw it in its uniqueness is A Clockwork Orange. It’s so weird and the music is so bizarre but it is one of the few films originating from a fantastic book I think completely captures the spirit of the book and can equal it in star rating.
Tim Burton is my idol, my god. I could put many of his films on here, though Edward Scissorhands would probably come top, having been one of my favourite films since I was about 7. I don’t care if he casts the same people over and over and all his films look the same, the gothic look is his signature, it’s his own world he’s created and Helena Bonham Carter and Johnny Depp belong in that dark, sad, beautiful world. Also, I have a massive girl-crush on Helena and so think she should be put in all films ever made.
To round off I’ll talk about the film I went to see most recently: Submarine. Who doesn’t love Richard Ayoade? Who wouldn’t want to see a film directed by Moss from the IT Crowd, if it’s anywhere as genius as the bra he took into Dragons’ Den. Craig Roberts is brilliant as Oliver, he’s so stoic and bleak for a teenager. The kids are overly mature almost and the whole atmosphere to the film is a bit grey, a bit old, not very child-like, but in its humour it could be seen as very child-like: Paddy Considine’s upsetting mullet for example. Go see it if you like proper British cinema, it’s very Welsh. The music is all by Alex Turner from the Arctic Monkeys, who is very good at creating the feel of a generation before him, which the film needs.
Film updates: This Friday, 1st April, looks very exciting for films - for me anyway - with Source Code (mmm, Jake Gyllenhaal), Killing Bono (mmm, Robert Sheehan, Irish accents) and Suckerpunch (no mmm, but you need ot read the concept) all coming out.