Monthly Archives: November 2014

Paddington

Where are your manners?

Bloody immigrants. Coming over here and stealing our marmelade. Getting free accomodation whilst not paying taxes.

I joke but actually this film articulates, almost perfectly, how I see London. It’s somewhere I look forward to going to and it’s somewhere that people have told me wondrous things about… yet when you arrive there’s people ready to trample your face into the floor in order to get their baby mochaccino caramel soya latte 5 seconds quicker. Cockney wide boys strutting around with weird chicken head bobs going on. Fashionistas looking down on anyone who hasn’t downloaded their drainpipe jeans from the Apple store. Ugh.

I guess I should leave my stupid country-boy sensibilities at the door – London is a cool place to be and, like Paddington it’s fantastically British.

Paddington, like all great family films, holds something for all ages. There are enough jokes and quips that adults will be constantly entertained but it has a bear… in a hat… who sticks toothbrushes in his ears so obviously kids will enjoy this.

Paddington has got a lot of slapstick physical comedy courtesy of CGI animals is somewhat reminiscent of Jumanji but some of it goes just a little too far. There is one scene where a flower petal triggers a mousetrap that fires a peanut that hits a jar that rolls some other stuff to bump a thing that tumbled a whatever and so on but it’s just a bit cliche. it’s like my mum trying to tell a story, just get to the point aye?!

Thankfully most of these scenes are handled with a jar-ful of British subtlety. This affords the slapstick scenes to be creative and fun to watch. The scene where Paddington tries to give a pickpocket the wallet he had stolen and subsequently dropped was full of childlike joy and I loved it.

The animation on Paddington is stellar. The attention to detail in his every movement is incredible; running his paw over a radiator and seeing each claw ripple along each bump or seeing him lying at the bottom of some escalators with his whole body undulating as each step zips underneath him is distractingly good.

Paddington’s voice is exactly as you would expect it to be and his expressions really help flesh out the character. The interaction with his adopting family is believable and the conflict with the boring and miserable dad (Hugh Bonneville) was particularly good but these relationships don’t really develop as well as they could.

In one scene we are told that the family needs Paddington as much as he needs them but you don’t get that importance in the film. The daughter is a shy teenager and the son butts heads with his dad but we don’t see how Paddington directly influences this relationship so the the statement about needing each other becomes irrelevant.

One of the worst parts of the film was the villain Nicole Kidman which felt like painting numbers but the only colour you were given is a sort of mustard beige. it’s weird seeing an all Brisith cast with an American villain – it’s normally the other way around – so I can only assume that the casting choice was taken because it would appeal to an American audience. Personally I think someone like Tilda Swinton would have been a more imposing villain.

One fear I have with the film is that Paddington 2 won’t have the same appeal. The best moments in the film are seeing Paddington trying to understand cities, technology, marme-ladies and gentlemen but how far can they push this theme? I don’t know; but if there is a second film I’d gladly go see it.

Go See

  • Superbly animated
  • Paddington was loveable
  • Subtlely calamitous

Avoid

  • Some of the action scenes are a bit ham-fisted
  • Nicole Kidman as the villain
  • Lacking character growth

Overall

3-5-stars

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The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1

Round 1, FIGHT!

Such is the power of films and popular culture that, in Thailand, the three fingered mockingjay salute has been used in political protest against a military coup. This has been taken so seriously that people are being arrested simply for imitating the symbol of resistance from the Hunger Games films.

Whether it is worthy of being catapulted into cultural significance is debatable, especially since the first film was mediocre and the second film, whilst decent, lacked any razor sharp political or social critiques.

So we move into the first part of the mockingjay films with 2 more-or-less entertaining films that focus more on action adventure than anything else. It’s weird then that this film almost does a complete 180 in this regard.

Sure there are action sequences and they are well delivered, better perhaps than the previous films, but the focus of this film is the tension that resides between the capitol and the resistance. A lot of time is focused on President Alma Coin (Julianne Moore) and Plutarch Heavensbee (Philip Seymour Hoffman) trying to bring Catniss (Jennifer Lawrence) in to the fold as the face of the rebellion, a symbol of strength and hope.

In the mean time we see President Snow (Donald Sutherland) playing mind games with the rebellion and issuing a cover up of the massacre and desolation of Catniss’ home district. Because of the destruction of district 12 and the events at the end of the 2nd film there is a much more sombre mood to the film. Many of the previous key players appear to be depressed or traumatised which only serves to enhance the power plays by the rebellion and the capitol.

It’s interesting that only now has the mockingjay symbol; a symbol of revolution, unity, promise, has been adopted as outside of popular culture because Mockingjay Part 1 is, through and through, a story of about revolution.

As a standalone story it’s OK and as an installment of the Hunger Games it’s not that great. I realise that they have cut a book into two installments but nothing really happens. The end of the saga (I would have thought) would be to unite the districts, storm the capitol and live happily ever after. All that happens is a couple of skirmishes in the districts… it really is lacking any real narrative drive.

Still, aside from the fact that this film doesn’t feel like a Hunger Games film and that the narrative doesn’t go anywhere it’s still a pretty decent enough film. As you might expect with the cast; the performances are all pretty good, it’s well filmed and the sound design is very good. There are also a few quiet moments which is a good change of pace such as when Catniss makes her cat chase a light around during a bombing run on their base.

It’s worth a watch if you are a fan of the film or you are standing up against the Thai military coup but otherwise you probably won’t get burned by giving this a miss.

Go See

  • Change of pace from the first 2!
  • Well shot
  • Great sound design

Avoid

  • Change of pace from the first 2……
  • Not much happens

Overall

3-5-stars

The Imitation Game

Enigma Wrapped in a Mystery

So we go from Interstellar, where I wonder if Christopher Nolan can do no wrong, to The Imitation Game, where I wonder if Benedict Cumberbatch can do no wrong because this is a brilliant, brilliant performance by him.

Cumberbatch’s portrayal of Alan Turing is without question the best part of this film. We get to see a fragile, isolated and socially awkward man who is a genius mathematician and cryptographer. From watching the film you could happily walk out of the cinema saying “Yup, Alan Turing had aspergers syndrome” in fact Cumberbatch is so good you could almost be forgiven for believing that HE has aspergers himself. Of course, whether Turing did or did not have the disorder in real life hasn’t been proven but it certainly lives up to the mythos of Alan Turing’s behavior. It is worthy of praise that Cumberbatch makes this so believable.

Given the above; it’s hardly surprising that the film is more a study of Turing’s life rather than how he broke the enigma code or what the specific repercussions were by doing so. Of course the film does touch on these elements, it has to, but our primary focus is on the life and times of Turing himself.

One part of Turing’s life was to propose to co-worker, Joan Clarke (Kiera Knightley), at Bletchley Park during his work to break the enigma code. I wasn’t sure about Knightley and Cumberbatch on screen together because they are both strong acting talents but the chemistry between them was pretty good. I feel that Knightley is perhaps a bit too made up in this film and that a more ‘homely’ look would have fit the role slightly better but that’s a moot point because she too delivers a strong performance.

The end of the film is truly saddening. We see a Turing who is a shell of the man he used to be after homosexual relationships led to him being prosecuted of indecency and forced to take oestrogen to render him impotent. Shunned by the government Turing committed suicide only two years later. It’s crazy to think that this is what he was reduced to especially since he had been so instrumental in turning the tide of the second world war. The fact that this only happened 60 or so years ago is even more crazy and the fact he was only pardoned of the ‘crime’ and fully recognised for the work he had done in 2013 – yes, last year! – is even more crazy.

Unfortunately the biopic is not without it’s downsides. Because it is a biopic we do not get to see much of the war, which I think is fine because war dramas will come into vogue every 5 ten years so who needs another. More annoying though is that we do not get a feel for how he conceived or made ‘Christopher’ the machine to break enigma nor how it works.

Perhaps I was a cat in a past life but I’m particularly curious about how it works. I mean, how would even think about doing it? Nowadays computers are so ubiquitous but try and think about building the first one ever. There is no RAM for memory , no motherboard to connect it all up and a microchip are those ones at the bottom of the newspaper after you have devoured the rest of the fish and chips.

Mind-blowing and unfortunately glossed over. This is most evident when Turing is creating various geometric drawings yet we don’t find out why or where they fit into the machine and during the ‘Eureka’ moment when Turing works out how to break the code; he runs back into his workshop plugs and unplugs a few things, presses some buttons and bingo!

I understand he was ‘programming’ it but it reminded me of watching 80’s sci-fi where a spaceship has millions of irrelevant weep-woops, techno lights, plunger nubs, whirly-go-rounds and lever wonks. The film even rubs your face in it at one point as Turing shouts “You will never understand the importance of what I am creating here” and I’m sat there thinking “Damn straight, you haven’t told me anything about it!”. I wanted more technical details because how he actually cracked code is still a mystery to me.

Turings sexuality is a running theme throughout the film and it’s a shame that more a social commentary because the film could have been a powerful vessel to portray the incongruous nature of discrimination based on who someone may happen to be attracted to but again this is glossed over at the expense of telling an out and out biographical narrative.

If that all sounds rather grim and depressing, don’t worry, it’s light-hearted enough to make you chuckle at key points in the film which helps to both keep the pace and lighten the mood. For the most part it’s actually quite fun interspersed with more somber moments and it’s straight forwards enough that it won’t leave you bamboozled.

Go See

  • Benedict Cumberbatch’s performance is worth the entry fee alone
  • Actually quite amusing!
  • A fair portrayal of an amazing man

Avoid

  • No commentary on morals of war
  • No commentary on the morals of homophobia
  • No details about how the machine was built/cracked the code.

Overall

4-stars

Interstellar

Stellar Cinematography Inter Personal Drama

Huff. What to say about this movie? Strangely, I’ve been thinking about this film for a few days now and I can’t think of much to say about it.

I blame Christopher Nolan. Really it’s all his fault because Interstellar is like the new BMW 3 series. Not that I have enough money to buy one or even test drive one or generally be anywhere near a brand new one without car salesmen throwing rocks at me but the analogy stands true. When the new BMW 3 series comes out it’s going to be very good, just like the last one and the one before as there is a certain quality to the cars that is carried across each iteration.

Christopher Nolan has obviously directed Memento and Inception and the latest Batman films and The Prestige so is Interstellar good? Of course it fucking is. There is nothing truly outstanding about the film, except perhaps the cinematography which was remarkable and perhaps superior to anything else you have seen this year but whilst nothing is mind blowing everything else is just really really good!

The worst thing I can say about this film is that it tries to be part drama part sci-fi and does a very good job of both, not amazing, just very good. The drama part is mainly focused around Cooper (Matthew McConaughey) and his daughter Murphy (Mackenzie Foy as a young Murphy and Jessica Chastain as an adult) and whilst some of these scenes are powerful enough to make even a grown man cry, obviously I didn’t well up…… err… but I soon found myself forgetting these moments as we dipped into the sci fi setting.

Not being a scientist I can’t say for sure but this certainly feels like it is more science fact than science fiction. Perhaps that’s not true but it feels, for the most part, believable. This may turn off some sci-fi fans as it lacks any strong fantasy elements but the planets they visit are visually appealing to keep your attention.

One of the planets the Cooper and the crew visit is an planet where the clouds are ice. It’s here we meet Matt Damon who for me absolutely steals the film. It’s also here that the film get’s one of it’s many minor plot twists and for me this was the most intense and entertaining parts of the film.

Whilst there was no big reveal or cliffhanger like you find in some of Nolan’s other films there are enough twists and turns to make this 3 hour film feel more like a 2 hour film which is a marvelous achievement in itself.

Whilst this film might not be the best at any one thing it is so good at everything that it deserved of the hype that surrounds it. Go see it, if you don’t like it then you can shut your wormhole!

One question though, where does Nolan go from here? I don’t know but I can’t wait to find out.

Go See

  • Its good. Really good
  • Matt Damon is terrific
  • Groovy robots

Avoid

  • Overly weepy in places
  • Not a strong drama
  • Not a strong sci-fi piece

Overall

4-5-stars

 

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

A Decent Pizz-a Entertainment

What?! Another turtles pencil case? I’ve already been given that. What I don’t have is the turtles van. Where is the turtles van?

Ahhhh… good memories. Of course, that was when I was about 8. I’d like to think I’m a little more grateful on my birthday nowadays.

So my memory has never been my greatest asset but I do remember being absolutely obsessed with the turtles as a kid so I secretly let out a little bit of wee when I heard about a turtles movie.

When I found out that it was Michael Bay directing the movie I couldn’t help but think this was going to be Transformers except with turtles and to an extent it is.

The film opens up with an uprising of a foot clan ruled over by the evil Shredder (Tohoru Masamune). April O’Neil (Megan Fox) assumes the role of the hot reporter given shitty scoops like a street fitness awareness campaign which is really an excuse for her to don skin tight lycra and jump around in a scene that is quite frankly just shallow titillation. But I’m a man, so… hmm.

Anyway! April wants to be a serious reporter so she hunts down the foot clan activity to get scoops and accidentally comes across the turtles. She tries to bring this revelation to Channel 6 station chief Bernadette Thompson (Whoopi Goldberg) who obviously thinks she’s lost it.

This tripe takes about 30 minutes of clunky acting and chemistry-vacant, boring, character introductions. By this point I’m thinking about committing seppuku to ease the pain.

Then we are treated to the sole reason you came to see this film: ninja turtles. Remember when they changed the names to hero turtles? Was that just in the UK? Well whatever but these turtles are most certainly ninjas.

The fight scenes are so much fun that I came out of the cinema wanting to watch it again immediately. The action is better than any of the episodes I watched as a kid and I happily sat there with a childlike wonder scribbled on my face with felt tip pen.

I know that a lot of people who grew up in the 80’s will be looking closely at the origin story and for the most part it follows along a similar line. I think the Splinter origin story is different and how closely April is linked to the turtles but like I said earlier my memory isn’t err… thingy.

If you can overlook the origin story’s what you might not be able to overlook is their faces. They look like the love child of a human, a turtle and a dinosaur. They have shells, walk and talk like humans but have the tough scaly skin and defined muscles of a velociraptor. It’s really jarring to watch at first but you get used to it by the end of the film and in fact I quite like how they look.

Even though they are the gritty reboot of their TV ancestors their individual characters are pretty spot on. Leonardo is the slightly boring leader but good all rounder. Donatello is the Genius who is probably the worst and ninjery-ness. Michaelangelo is the goofy party dude and everyone’s favourite Raphael is a bit of an a-hole.

Wait, what? That’s not how Raph is meant to be! He’s cool but crude. Not in this. In this film he seems to be played by angry black man. He is always moody and just gets on everyone’s case. It’s a bit weird but hopefully they’ll lighten him up for the inevitable sequel.

The story is, you know, acceptable and it’s faithfulness to the comics/TV shows is overall passable. More importantly is that the film is super fun and apart from the first 30 minutes it embodies the spirit of the original series that I couldn’t get enough of as a dumb kid.

Mix in some awesome fight scenes, especially the Shredder Vs Splinter fight some enjoyable turtle banter and you get more than a half shell of good times. Go watch it – just don’t expect Oscar winning anything.

Go See

  • Fight scenes are real good
  • Fun dialogue
  • Splinter – The new yoda

Avoid

  • The first 30 minutes
  • May not suit a turtles purist
  • Just entertainment nothing more

Overall

3-5-stars

Nightcrawler

Creepy Crawlings

Jake Gyllenhal is a good looking dude right? I could be wrong – my girlfriend certain’t doesn’t think he is – but he’s not unattractive, perhaps that’s a better way of putting it. In this film however he looks properly creepy. He looks a little bit like a crack addict doing an impression of Jack Nicholson from The Shining.

It’s for this reason alone that you should see the film. Jake Gyllenhal’s portrayal of Louis Bloom is surely Oscar fodder and the script and production are not far off either.

Louis has this quite unassuming rage that makes him instantly unnerving to watch. Right from the beginning he is identifiable as an out and out sociopath committing minor crimes in order to make a quick buck. If you want to play the lottery you have to make the money to buy a ticket he quickly reminds us.

The most scary part of his character, apart from the way he looks and a tendancy for violence and traits of a kleptomaniac, you know apart from that, is that he is smart. Not only is he smart but he likes learning, which makes him especially dangerous.

It’s early on into the film that he witnesses a car crash where someone from the news is filming the police rescue effort. After learning that he can earn money from filming fatalities he setc about learning good cinematography practices and employing them to his job.

In one such scene we see him moving the victim of a car crash just to get a better shot and in another he is moving pictures on a fridge to juxtapose better next to bullet holes.

Whilst this behaviour is mildly freaky at best it’s when he applies his knowledge to manipulate and control people that the film makes you feel awkward to be watching it. This is all enabled through some fantastic writing which allows Jake to ellocute some great monologues.

This film, as a piece of art, is a must see for anyone interested in the constrcuts of a film but as a piece of entertainment it is going to be hit and miss.

There is a slow pacing to the film which some will find a turn off and there is not really any perceived threat to the main characters so it misses some of the beats that makes other thrillers truly great.

If you like being made to feel awkward when watching a film, or you are into indie/art-house films then I highly recommend this but if you are looking for a palatable slice of movie going then the turtles might still be showing?

Go See

  • Jake’s performance
  • Well written
  • Well produced

Avoid

  • A little slow
  • Not as tense as some thrillers
  • If you don’t like awkward films

Overall

 

4-stars

Fury

Americans Pitt-ed against the Germans

Good news! Sam Whitwicky isn’t in this movie. Unlike most people I actually enjoyed the Transformers movies but I can totally understand why people find Shia Labeouf annoying.

That typecast role of the fast talking, geek-chic adulteen is so far removed from the role he plays in this film that you will easily forget that it really is him in the movie… After all he has a moustache!

Now that fear has been put to bed on with the rest of the film. Fury is actually the name of the tank operated by Don Collier (Brad Pitt), Boyd Swan (Shia Labeouf), Grady Travis (Jon Bernthal), Trinidad Garcia (Michael Peña) and a new recruit Norman Ellison (Logan Lerman). Realistically that should sell you on this movie alone.

It opens up like it’s a film based on real life events although immediately it offends my British sensibilities by stating that the Americans had suffered huge losses at the hands of the Germans almost as if they were the only two countries involved in the second world war.

Still, that soon passes and we are treated to a rather gritty portrayal of the war. I mean this film really doesn’t pull any punches when it comes to violence and gore but in my opinion it leans too heavily on shock value and not enough on the emotional trauma of loosing friends and countrymen. Death is dealt with in a fleeting moment of heads or legs exploding and an ‘oh well, on to the next dude’.

That said the films main focus isn’t so much about the set pieces – although these are thrilling in themselves – as it is the camaraderie within the tank itself. You might think that a film that has 70% of its footage filmed in or on a tank might get boring very quickly but there is variation and a decent enough pacing to avoid this. Furthermore it is clear that the cast spent a long time together as the chemistry between them is really good.

The stars of the film are unquestionably Shia Labeouf as the quiet god fearing gunner, Logan Lerman as the new recruit who is forced into the cruelties of war and Jon Bernthal as the token abrasive redneck.

Whilst the character traits of these three are beautifully realised it is often hard to hear the dialogue. Partly because of canons and gunfire but partly because Jon Bernthal’s accent is thicker than organic peanut butter.

The subtext of Logan Lerman’s initiation in to the rest of the crew’s clique is an interesting one and for the most part it’s believable as Brad Pitt mentors and fathers the green recruit. This plot device is a little rushed though because at the end of the film he has lost any semblance of his past conscience and is merrily gunning down the enemy with gay abandon.

By the end of the film you are desensitised to seeing people’s heads popping but that isn’t the endings only downfall. The whole film is set out to be like that of a true story yet the final battle is like something out of Commando as the squad mows down Nazis by the hundreds whilst being as bulletproof as James Bond. It’s too much.

When you mix that with some shoddy dialogue: “I want to surrender”, “Please don’t.  They’ll hurt you real bad, and they’ll kill you real bad” the ending becomes a bit of a disappointment but not enough to make you… furious… that you paid money to sit through it in the first place.

Go See

  • Shia Moustachioed Man
  • Tank battles are well done
  • Good chemistry between actors

Avoid

  • Gore for the sake of gore
  • Hollywood ending doesn’t match the rest of the film
  • “Hurt de gurr harp durp” – Nope couldn’t understand that line.

Overall

4-stars