Category Archives: Movies

50 Shades Of Grey Review

Valentine’s Day marked the release of the much anticipated 50 Shades of Grey, the film adaption of E.L. James’s erotic romance novel, which has sold over 100 million copies worldwide.

 Jamie Dornan plays Christian Grey, a successful Billionaire businessman, with a need to control all things sexual and otherwise. Dornan has previously played the role of serial killer, Paul Spector in BBC drama The Fallwhich led him nicely into this equally complex and at times disturbing character of Mr Grey. The actor who has modelled for Armani is easy on the eyes and leaves the female population ready to trade places with Ana Steele. Dornan stars opposite Dakota Johnston, who has an air of awkwardness which actually makes for effective viewing and adds a sense of real and relate-ability to the character of Anastasia.

The sex scenes were eagerly anticipated, simply because so many wondered how far the movie would push the boundaries. For a majority of the time, they were a perfect balance of artistic insinuation and to the point shockers. However, one scene is an exception to the rule, and I found myself tense and uncomfortable, as the film explored the all too realistic theme of sadism. None the less, the scenes were shot with the view to outline the surface of lust motivation while also portraying underlying emotions which help link the sexual scenes to much a deeper storyline.

The people behind this movie had brilliantly used the large reading audience of this story to their advantage. They were aware that it would be pointless to try and hide any information and allow the movie plot to ‘unfold’, because unless you live under a rock you know what 50 Shades of Grey is about. Instead, they allowed Mr Grey to release hints in front of the unknowing Ana and this allowed the audience to be involved in the ‘inside joke’. Such as when Mr Grey goes to the Hardware store to buy cable ties, rope and duct tape.

At the risk of giving too much away I’ll stop before divulging any more information. All that I will say, is that coming out of the cinema most of the patrons were saying, “I wish I had a Mr Grey. Perhaps there really is something irresistible about a man with money, power and an air of self-assured confidence, and looking like Jamie Dornan helped too I suppose.

Film Review – Frozen

Disney Frozen

Film

Frozen

Production Year

2013

Country

United States of America

Certificate

PG

Duration

108 minutes

Directors

Chris Buck, Jennifer Lee

Cast

Alan Tudyk, Ciaran Hinds, Idina Menzel, Jonathan Groff, Josh Gad,   Kristen Bell, Santino Fontana

 

 

 

 

 

 

Frozen is an animated fairy tale story that has been told in a classic Disney manner. The film is filled with lovable characters with an enchanting story and heart popping musical numbers. This has resulted in a wonderful piece of family entertainment.

The film is based very loosely on the story of The Snow Queen, which has been rewritten to focus on two royal sisters called Elsa (voiced by Idina Menzel) and Anna (voiced by Kristen Bell).

Elsa the elder of the 2 sisters is the heir to the throne of Arendelle and has been concealing a dangerous talent throughout her childhood, which has caused her to isolate her once very close sister, Anne. Elsa has been endowed with the ability to create snow and ice at will. Once her powers were accidentally revealed she was forced to flee the castle on suspicion of witch craft, leaving blizzards and ice castles on her path.

Her devoted sister Anna, who got engaged to a handsome prince in the spur of a moment, gallops into the wilderness to find Elsa and retrieve her from the icy landscape.

Anna’s heroic journey to convince her sister to return sees her travel through the treacherous woods and mountains, which sees her team up with a hunky ice salesman Kristof.

Throughout the journey Anna is joined by her funny sidekicks, which includes a reindeer and a talking snowman called Olaf.

The story brings a sense of nostalgia, as it resembles similar films by Pixar such as ‘Tangled’ and ‘The princess and the frog’. It is by far one of the best pieces of family entertainment power, with belting power ballads such as ‘Let it go’ and ‘The cold never bothered me anyway’. These have stuck in my head for days now, good luck in shaking it out of yours.

The heroines wear some of the best princess dresses, prepare for it to be seen on every shelf in Tesco on the run up to Halloween.

 

 

 

Film Review- American Beauty (1999)

It’s been fifteen years since the cinematic release of American Beauty, Sam Mendes‘ masterful portrait of suburban life, but it would be an uphill battle to find a current film which exhibits the same level of directorial quality or depth of character.

The film manages to address several key aspects of contemporary American life with great style and focus. Life, death, homophobia, materialism and teenage angst are all strung together to produce a coherent and evocative piece of cinema.

Lester Burnham, played with consummate finesse by an Oscar-winning Kevin Spacey, is a 42-year-old magazine writer who simply hates his life. He hates that his cosy suburban neighbourhood and materially-obsessive wife, Carolyn (Annette Benning), have sucked all the joy out of his life, which makes him feel “already dead.”

However, Lester finds himself escaping this life “which so closely resembles hell” when he develops a deep physical attraction to his daughter’s friend, Angela, a process he describes as “like being in a coma for twenty years and now just beginning to wake up.”

Lester’s attraction with Angela, who is a High School cheerleader, is the most startling and provocative aspect of the film. Lester has essentially never grown up after college as he met Carolyn and started living the typical life of the ‘American Dream’ but it is his obsession with Angela which makes him feel young again. Mendes uses dream sequences, all shot with visual panache, to portray Lester’s fantasies of Angela and are weaved into the story to track Lester’s path to escaping from his mid-life crisis.

The main reason American Beauty’s plot progresses so seamlessly is the expertly written characters, all very different people on the surface, but all suffering from the same misery and feeling of repression. Lester is miserable because of his wife and job, just like his daughter is miserable because she is not popular and beautiful like Angela. In addition, Ricky Fitts, Lester’s next-door neighbour, is miserable because of his troubled past and his homophobic, abusive father who literally tries to beat “structure and discipline” into him. 

The collective loneliness and depression of the characters represent the dark, cynical vision of suburban culture and their path to achieving true American happiness. Mendes’ film shows a type of suburban prison which suffocates the characters and it’s not until they free themselves from the shackles of their imprisonment that they discover the true beauty of American life.

This Changes Everything

Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Dir: Anthony Russo, Joe Russo. Staring: Chris Evans, Sebastian Stan, Scarlett Johansen, Samuel, L. Jackson, Robert Redford. Cert: 12A. Run Time: 136 minutes.

“The price of freedom is high… and it’s a price I’m willing to pay. You told me not to trust anyone and this is how it ends: Everything goes!” Chris Evans’ Steve Rogers tells Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury and he wasn’t wrong.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier invites audiences back into the billion dollar franchise that is the Marvel Cinematic Universe, however unlike it’s other ‘Phase 2’ cohorts, Iron Man 3 and Thor 2, this movie has a very substantial link to 2012’s ‘Marvel’s Avengers Assemble‘.

With the constant bombardment of superhero movies following largely the same format, complicated sci-fi mumbo jumbo plot that the lead character must save us from, it was refreshing to see Cap 2 change things slightly as the movie took the tone of a political thriller.

The high tech first world security council, SHIELD, developed throughout Cap’s numerous predecessors, yet strangely absent from Iron Man 3 and Thor 2, is central to the plot.

The enemy here is from within, which means no-one is to be trusted, and who better for a lead role in this type of plot than a whiter than white patriot Steve Rogers, however Cap isn’t the most complex of characters, so it was good to see Scarlett Johansen’s Black Widow with her murky past take on a fuller role in this movie.

The villain of the piece, The Winter Soldier, played by Sebastian Stan is surprisingly disappointing, his identity reveal came as no surprise and  the character feels as if he has been merely introduced, rather than actually dealt with, in this instalment.

Of course, the key strength of these Marvel movies is the way they tie into each other, they all feel part of the wider universe, and with this in mind, this movies climax, will have major repercussions for future instalments and for green lighting these risky decisions Marvel President, Kevin Feige deserves credit.

 

“Everything is Awesome” with the Lego Movie!

To everyone in Lego Land Emmett is just an ordinary law abiding citizen; happy to buy overpriced coffee, wake up on time, drive carefully and say hello to everyone.  In fact, to many he is almost too normal but does this make the perfect guise for the prophesised “Special One?”

A mixture of fate and pure chance see Emmett begin the adventure of his little Lego life in the first ever full length Lego Movie.  Emmett joins a team of underground “master builders” whose creativity and expertise allow them to rebuild the very fabric of Lego Land society.  However, Emmett’s willingness to always follow the plans sparks conflict with fellow protagonist and master builder Wildstyle who thinks that she should have been the Special One.

Compared to the dazzling skills of the master builders, it seems that Emmett really is just a normal person in a super happy world.  But behind the seemingly utopian Lego society lies a deep, dark secret and some much bigger problems.  Evil Lord Business has plans for TACO Tuesday and no one’s quite sure what they are.  Meanwhile, a substance called Kragle is threatening to bring Lego Land to sticky end.

Will Arnett proved popular as Batman in the Lego Movie
Will Arnett proved popular as Batman

Featuring a star studded cast including Will Ferrell, Liam Neeson and Morgan Freeman there are plenty of voices you’ll recognise.  Will Arnett’s cameo as Batman proved to be particularly popular with the big kids while Elizabeth Banks’ character Wildstyle provided a heroine for the girls.

Overall, the movie is family friendly and very enjoyable, feeling like much more than just a clever marketing campaign for Lego.  However, afterwards the nostalgia will have you itching to dig out that old box of Lego!  The plot is similar in many ways to Pixar’s Toy Story franchise but the loveable characters and the stunning special effects and CGI will draw you in too quickly for that to matter much.

Running time 100 minutes.  Also available in 3D.

Directed by Phil Lord and Christopher Miller.

Rush: A high-speed journey into the glory days of Formula One

Director: Ron Howard
Writer: Peter Morgan
Stars: Chris Helmsworth, Daniel Brühl, Olivia Wilde

Formula One motor racing is safer than ever.  Crashes are rare and fatalities are almost non-existent.   The last driver to die in a Grand Prix was the irreplaceable Ayrton Senna, who sadly lost his life in Monaco in 1994.

The majority of fans no doubt welcome this new safety, but many believe much of the magic has been lost.   There have been no great rivalries for years; no characters divide the public’s opinion week in, week out – the sport has become boring.  Things were different in the 1970s, when the subjects of Ron Howard’s new biopic, Rush were engaged in one of the most thrilling duels the sport will ever see.  Rush tells the story of James Hunt and Niki Lauda.

The film begins with Hunt (Chris Helmsworth) and Lauda (Daniel Brühl) starting their careers in Formula Three.  The polar nature of their characters is instantly visible.  Hunt is arrogant and reckless, with a frightening disregard for his own health.  Lauda is calculating and robotic – he’s Austrian.   We follow them on their journey into Formula One, where in 1976 they go wheel-to-wheel in one of the greatest battles in Formula One history.

Brühl is superb as Lauda, he brilliantly plays a man who is constantly battling his emotions and the urge to drive faster, in favour of relative safety.  As for Helmsorth,  I’ve seen trees less wooden.  His job of portraying the hot-headed Hunt was far less complex than Bruhl’s, but watching each scene I couldn’t help the feeling that he was going to pull out a giant hammer and fly home to Asgard, can acting be zero-dimensional?  Perhaps he was cast for his physical resemblance to James Hunt, which is remarkable; indeed all of the main characters are nearly identical to their real life counterparts.

Hunt and Lauda in their racing days
Hunt and Lauda in their racing days

The actual race sequences are breath-taking, with the editors deservedly winning a BAFTA for their efforts.  However the script is clichéd and perhaps lacks authenticity (something tells me the Austrian Lauda never said “stop busting my balls!”), but it is a Ron Howard movie after all – I expected Gorgonzola and was pleasantly surprised to be served a mild Gruyere.

This film about how far one is willing to go in order to achieve their ambitions, and at what cost, is enjoyable and quite exciting, but the director has been a little predictable.  I just hope that if a movie is ever made about the rivalry between the great Ayrton Senna and his French adversary Alain Prost, Ron Howard isn’t in the driving seat.

A Dog’s Life

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Alsatians have a bad reputation, they are said to bite the hand that feeds them. Indeed, Tulip bit my hand once, but accidentally.”

From the very beginning of the animated adaptation of J.R. Ackerley’s memoir My Dog Tulip the author leaps to the defence of his pet. He explains that Tulip bit his hand, mistaking it for an apple, having become so uncontrollably excited at the mere mention of a walk that she grabbed the vegetables and scattered them all over the corridor “as if they were rose petals marking her ascension to heaven.”

It is impossible for the usually grumpy Ackerley, voiced by Christopher Plummer, to be angry with Tulip, as he cannot help but be enchanted by her enthusiasm. “It seems to me both touching and strange that she should find the world so wonderful.”

Director Paul Fierlinger, with wife Sandra, drew all of the film’s nearly 60,000 frames, composed of rough, thin lines reminiscent of a newspaper cartoon. Although usually quite serene, the animation transforms into frantic scribbles underscored with free-form jazz during some of Ackerley’s more fanciful monologues.

The soundtrack shifts from hymns to classical piano as the pair pay visits to the country and the vet and attempt to find a mate for Tulip. Tulip’s difficult search for a partner mirrors Ackerley’s own, who speaks of his struggle to find an ‘ideal friend.’

His failure to form satisfying relationships with people means that he strives for the fullest possible relationship with his dog. As he admits, looking at her in her later years, he feels that the ideal friend ‘would have had the mind of my Tulip.’

Perhaps this is why he defends her often inappropriate and destructive actions, viewing the situation from the point of view of the dog. In one scene, for instance, a passing cyclist comments on Tulip relieving herself on the pavement.

What’s the bleeding street for!?,” he says.

For turds like you!” is Ackerley’s response.

While all around him people complain about Tulip’s barking, smell and behaviour, Ackerley feels only sympathy for dogs in their attempts to understand their masters.

What strained and anxious lives dogs must lead, so emotionally involved in the world of humans, whose affections they strive endlessly to secure, whose authority they are expected unquestioningly to obey, and whose mind they can never do more than imperfectly reach and comprehend.”

The Perks of Being a Wallflower – DVD Review

 

Ezra Miller, Emma Watson and Logan Lerman star in The Perks of Being a Wallflower
Ezra Miller, Emma Watson and Logan Lerman star in The Perks of Being a Wallflower

“The Perks of Being a Wallflower” is the story of Charlie (Logan Lerman): a freshman in high school with problems, but not the kind of problems usually found in your typical high school drama. It is only when Charlie meets his best friends Patrick (Ezra Miller) and Sam (Emma Watson) that his problems finally seem to dissipate.

Unlike other book-to-film adaptations, “Perks” was written, directed and produced by the author, Stephen Chbosky, making it very true to the book. The screenplay is emotive and really brings the characters to life (with the aid of the actors). There are also well placed moments of humour amidst various difficult storylines and character backgrounds.

Chbosky made many attempts to adapt the book into a film but something was stopping him every time. However, only eleven years later he came across the perfect cast and filming began in the summer of 2011. It was then that Steve, as he is informally known, felt the timing was right. This is how the great cast was formed.

Logan gives a believable and genuine performance as Charlie. As do the other members of the cast with their respective characters. Ezra portrays Patrick in a way every fan of the book would be proud of: exuberant, quirky and very funny. Emma plays Sam in a way that you don’t see her as that girl from “Harry Potter”.

The soundtrack is stereotypically of a generation who have just left the ‘80s behind them and are embarking upon the fresher scene of grunge with tracks from Sonic Youth and Galaxie 500 making an appearance; and although they’re not a ‘90s band, we cannot forget about Charlie’s favourite, The Smiths

“The Perks of Being a Wallflower” is very different from other American teenage dramas because of the characters and their stories. They are written in such a way that you believe they could be real. Their backgrounds are believable and moving, and although there is a simmering love story between Sam and Charlie, it is never over-powering, which is refreshing.

This was a great cinema and home experience. After being a fan of the book and waiting not-so-patiently for the film, I can say it was worth the wait. It is easily my favourite film of all time.

Bates Motel; Review

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Imaginative interpretation inspired by ‘Psycho’

Bates Motel is an imaginative interpretation of the teenage life of Norman Bates and can therefore be regarded as a prequel to the 1960 Alfred Hitchcock classic, Psycho.

At the end of Psycho we are only given a glimpse into the destructive relationship that Norman Bates had with his mother. This series definitely satisfies any curiosity one might have of just what that relationship might have looked like.

Cast

Bates-Motel-cast[1]

Freddie Highmore gives an authentic performance as a young Norman and soon to be killer. A seemingly normal teenage boy who moves, with his mother, into the iconic house on the hill which overlooks the newly purchased family motel.

Norma Louise Bates is played by Vera Farmiga. If it wasn’t for the fact that we know the fate of Norman, we would be forgiven for thinking that Norma is a sincere mother who wants the best for her son, but there are moments when this volatile relationship shows sinister signs that something quite disturbing is being cultivated.

“Disturbing and uncomfortable”

The on screen chemistry between Freddie and Vera is, at times, electric – and because of the story line, coupled with the fact that we know Norman’s fate – it is also entertainingly disturbing and uncomfortable.

Particularly when a local girl, Bradley Martin (Nicola Peltz), shows an interest in the new guy in town.

The tension conjured up on the porch of the creepy house is chillingly reminiscent of the scene directed by Hitchcock when Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins) asks ‘mother’ if Marian Crane (Janet Leigh) can have supper.

Desperate to start a new life for her and Norman, it is obvious from the start that Norma has no intention of letting go of Norman.

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The show is set in the modern age

Norman Bates is a ‘regular’ teenage student equipped with the essentials, including an Iphone.

But it is obvious from the outset that something is a miss given the mysterious absence of detail surrounding his fathers death, the lack of clarity on the fractured relationship between Norma and her other son, Dylan Massett (Max Thieriot), and an ‘incident’ with the previous owner of the motel.

The show is littered with subtle nuances and inferences to the older Norman Bates that we are familiar with and leaves the viewer in constant and gripping suspense.

Created by Anthony Cipriano and directed by Tucker Gates, this series promises to offer intriguing insight to one of Total Film’s top 100 movie characters of all time.

Once upon a Time in Anatolia they made a film

once upon a time in anatoliaOnce upon a time in Anatolia, Turkish director Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s sixth film, is a stark slow-moving portrayal of an investigation team’s hunt for a buried murder victim on the Anatolian steppe. From start to finish the film is brilliantly shot, engaging and frustratingly mysterious.

What emerges is not a conventional murder mystery, but a kind of meditation on philosophical themes, and life on the sparse landscape of Anatolia. The plot revolves around twelve men; police, the chief prosecutor, a doctor, some military men, and two presumed murderers, as they search for a body near a fountain.

However nothing is as it seems as the men travel from one watering hole in the wilderness, to the next, in vain. Chief suspect Kenan, played by Firat Tanis, claims he was drunk when the murder occurred and cannot be sure of the exact whereabouts of the body. The brooding friction between Kenan, and the increasingly impatient Commissar Naci, played by Yilmaz Erdogan, is central to the early scenes of the film.

As the men snake their way across the open terrain, beautifully filmed in the dim light, the plot is punctuated by philosophical anecdotes, and glimpses into the three main men’s characters. The police chief, the prosecutor and doctor Cemal, played by Muhammet Uzuner. We are left to wonder the true meaning of the prosecutors story of a beautiful wife, who predicts her own death shortly after giving birth, months before it happens. Although he later implies this is his own wife. Or the thoughts of the divorced doctor as he dwells on the beautiful young girl handing tea by oil lamp, during the group’s night stop in a remote village house.

They are allusions to bigger ideas which remain open, too open arguably, to the viewer throughout. Themes like loss and the search for truth. The discovery of the body in the early morning brings an end to this episode but does little to unravel the greater mysteries.

All that is left is the autopsy. Once more we are left to ponder the doctors thoughts here as he gazes through his window at the bereaved mother and son walking off into the Anatolian wilderness.

It is an evocative fable-like portrayal of a grim but everyday business for these men, and of a timeless place that leads men to much existential thought.