Category Archives: Film Review

‘Listen to Me Marlon’ (2015) -7/10

This film was absolutely fascinating from the beginning right up until the end. ‘Listen to Me Marlon’ is a 2015 documentary about the American actor Marlon Brando. This legend, best known for his style of method acting, had created hundreds of hours worth of personal audio documenting his life and acting career. These were found after his death, which the director Stevan Riley has masterfully compiled together.

Apart from ‘Dear Zachary: A Letter to a Son About His Father’ (2008), I have to say that this is one of the best documentaries I have every seen. What struck me most about this film was the vast composition of unseen and unheard footage and audio from Brando’s personal archive that documented not only his highly successful acting career, but his extraordinary life away from the screen as well. The confessional style used to compile this together is incredibly moving – especially as I had no idea how distraught his life actually was.

The way that Stevan Riley (the director) artfully chose to use Brando’s commanding voice and captivating perspective to steer the documentary  was was impressive. In hindsight, I think that there was no other way to have properly archived Marlon Brando’s life than from the man himself.

Brando’s engaging audio narrative could  easily be a character from a film (or an enigmatic alter-ego at the very least).
For some reason, whilst listening to some of his innermost ramblings, I could not help but perceive parallels between him and Gatsby (the  eponymous character of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s 1930s book which glamorised the 1920s in a poignantly tragic way). Like ‘The Great Gastby’ Brando explains how he worked his way up, coming from the humbled background of a business man’s son to being one of the best actors in the world! This was poignantly twinged by him tirelessly striving for the political rights of groups such as Native Americans, as well as the dark elements of his personal life. He gave his all, but was tragically a very flawed character (a self confessed womaniser whose later life was torn with family strife). This unique portrayal of his life, as mentioned above, could not have been told more eloquently by anyone else, other than the actor himself. Stevan Riley (who wrote, directed and edited this masterpiece) has done an amazing job embodying  a piece of Brando’s life in cinema. If you like the actor Marlon Brando, you like documentaries and like the history of Hollywood then you MUST watch this.

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Passengers (2016) – 5.5/10

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A couple of weeks ago, I saw ‘Passengers’, the new sci-fi film directed by Morten Tyldum, starring Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence. I had reservations about this film, as I was worried that it was going to be exactly what the advert showed (a couple lost in space, having accidentally woken from hibernation pods before they were supposed to, on an unmanned malfunctioning spacecraft in the middle of space). Luckily, there was more to the film than just this.

As briefly mentioned above, ‘Passengers’ begins with Jim Preston (Chris Pratt) accidentally waking up 90 years before he is supposed to. Jim is a technician by trade, and discovers that his hibernation pod (which was supposed to have put him into a deep sleep until he arrived on a new planet) has malfunctioned, and so has to figure out what went wrong. Before long, another passenger awakes, a journalist called Aurora Lane (Jennifer Lawrence), and a multitude of strange things start to occur on the ship as these 2 strangers start to learn to live together.

For me, this film was actually a lot better than I thought it was going to be. Firstly, I love the cinematography of this movie. Recently, I have started warming to sci-fi as a genre in general. I am not sure whether it is because film technology (special effects and CGI) is so much more advanced now that space scenes can be made to look seamlessly good, or whether it is because I am finally watching big blockbusters like this on the big screen, where they are intended to be seen (or possibly it is a combination of both things).

Secondly, the fantastic special effects are beautifully showcased by the sleek set and stunning architectural design of the spacecraft itself. For example, there are massive windows within the ship, specifically created to view the spectacle and vastness of space, which (along with scenes of the couples out in space in their spacesuits) symbolise the immensity of space in comparison to humanity. If I was a passenger on this spacecraft, I would be very impressed with its grandeur.

Finally, in the same way that the sets enhanced the special effects, the accompanying music of this film meshed both these cinematic components flawlessly. This was composed by Thomas Newman (who has worked on films like ‘WALL.E’ (2008), ‘The Shawshank Redemption’ (1994), and ‘Skyfall’ (2012)), and complemented the variety of emotions that the film exuded at appropriate points (whether that being expressing the sheer vastness of space, the frustration of isolation, the intimacy of human contact, or the raw passion of human survival).

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed the first half of the film, and thought it had so much potential! Sadly, this was let down by the second half of the film, which was extremely lame. I was going to give this a 7 out of 10, but developments in the latter part of the film made me reconsider, and left me to rate this film with a merge 5.5/10.

For me, the ending of a film can make or break it, and the end of this film broke it. Firstly, as this is a film about re-colonisation in space, the idea of American Manifest Destiny (the 19th Century idea that America had the right of Westward) is addressed. Now obviously it has to be addressed at some point (because the whole concept of the film is about humans settling on a second planet in the universe millions of light years away from Earth). However, the manner in which it was addressed was extremely sickly. It glorified the fantasy of the original American Dream (the idea that equality of opportunity is available to anyone in space) in a nonsensical way. The script extremely weak at this point – it was unbelievably idealistic, unrealistic and arrogant of expansion into the unknown. This fantasy dominated the second half of the film, turning it away from something that would have been great (which I will get onto below).

Secondly, I did not like the idea that such a rigid class system would still exist (with Aurora Lane as the journalist being upper class, and Jim Preston, a technician, being lower class). The portrayal of this just reminded me of a Titanic of the skies (with its different classes segregated to different sections of the ship), and did not sit comfortably with me. I am aware that a class type system will always exist (certain people will always be better off than others). However, it could have been addressed in a better manner…

Finally, I did not like the love aspect of the film. I do not want to give too much away, but the ending of the film is diluted (and in my eyes spoilt) by this… Essentially, the ending felt rushed, and it detracted from all the brilliant aspects of the first half of the film, in which Chris Pratt gave a fantastic performance. His portrayal of a lone man losing the sanity that social conventions and interactions instil into a civilised human-being was so believable, and showed his vulnerability in a touching way. My favourite scene of the film, in fact, was a scene where Pratt lets himself go as he begins to lose his sanity from having to live by himself for so long. I saw the video of how this look was produced, and it was pretty amazing what the art/make-up department did. Ultimately, ‘Passengers’ was a mixture of this unstable isolated psyche examined in ‘Castaway’ (2000), the re-colonisation aspect of ‘WALL.E’ (2008) and the loneliness of ‘Moon’ (2009) thrown into one – all of which I adored. Then it became about survival, and then love (which ensured its demise)…

These three points countered the three factors I loved about the film (the special effects, the sets and the soundtrack), and undermined them. I do not want to give too much away, but overall, there was good character development and more of a plot than I expected, but when Jennifer Lawrence entered the picture, it got real shit real fast. Now I am not saying that Jennifer Lawrence’s performance was not good (it was), but as soon as she came into the film, it became a wish-washy, predictable film.

Ultimately, this film started strong and then floundered. It had a lot of ideas and ended up running away with it self. It should have ended 20 minutes before it did, and if it had, it would have been a great film with cheesy Americanised elements, but something different and great. Chris Pratt was extremely good at certain points in the film, but these efforts were eclipsed by the uselessness of the final aspects of the film. Initially l liked the romance scenes between Pratt and Lawrence’s characters, but as soon as the plot altered track, I became annoyed and disillusioned by it. Overall, I think the reason I was so upset with this film was because I went in expecting little, began to really like it, then became disgruntled as it became frustratingly predictable and twee, rather than punchy.

 

 

My Favourite Films of the Year

Last year was been shit. In fact it was dog shit.

However, there were some absolute bangers released (both in terms of film and music). These are my favourite 10 films of 2016 (listed in no particular order/of the films I have seen – there are so many left on my ‘to watch’ list that I am sure are amazing too).

  1. Deadpooldeadpool.jpgDirected by:
    Tim Miller

    Written by:
    Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick

    Starring:
    – Ryan Reynolds
    – Morena Baccarin
    – Ed Skrein
    – Stefan Kapicic
    – Brianna Hildebrand
    – Karan Soni

    Genre:
    Romantic comedy/Sci-Fi/Superhero movie

    Synopsis:
    Wade (Ryan Reynolds) creates the alter-ego Deadpool after being subjected to a rogue experiment (which he turns to after discovering he has incurable cancer) that leaves him with accelerated healing powers and a quest for revenge for being disfigured.

    Why I loved it:
    This film is hilarious. It has a dry, quick script which is cutting. It’s a film that takes the mick out of its own genre, and is not afraid to subvert it at the same time. It’s a mixture of the humour of ‘Ant Man’ (2015) combined with the comic book style narratives of ‘Zombieland’ (2009) and ‘Kick-Ass’ (2010) (but less naivety and more sass). Even if (like me) you’re not totally convinced by superhero films as a genre, you’ll love this one.

  2. Green Room
    green room.jpg

    Written and Directed by:
    Jeremy Saulnier

    Starring:
    – Anton Yelchin
    – Joe Cole
    – Alia Shawkat
    – Callum Turner
    – David W. Thompson
    – Mark Webber
    – Patrick Stewart

    Genre:
    Horror/Thriller

    Synopsis:
    A band on tour play an off-road gig in a secluded part of the American Pacific Northwest, and accidentally witness a horrific violent act. Consequently, they unintentionally become the targets of a terrifying gang of skinheads (who own the bar they have played in), and so have to try and escape as the skinheads attempt to cover all evidence of the crime.

    Why I loved it:
    I went into the cinema expecting this film to be a tongue-in-cheek, black comedy movie about a band trying to escape a room they become trapped in after witnessing something they should not have. I was pleasantly (or shockingly) surprised to find out that this was in fact a fully fledge horror film about neo-Nazis, and was fully gripped/horrified in equal measures. There is an excellent balance of music, gore and suspense. It was not what I was expecting, and had a resounding impact on me. I loved the style/way it was filmed, and the acting is great. If you like dark, subtle horrors you’ll like this.

     

  3. The Witch
    sundance-horror-movie-the-witch
    Written and Directed by:
    Robert Egger

    Starring:
    – Anya Taylor-Joy
    – Ralph Ineson
    – Kate Dickie
    – Harvey Scrimshaw

    Genre:
    Horror

    Synopsis:
    Set in New England in the 1630s, a family lead a devout Christian life on the edge of a community they have been banished from. One day, their baby disappears from under the eyes of their eldest child, which their younger children blame on the ‘Witch’ that lives in the woods.

    Why I loved it:
    I am a Northerner, so first and foremost, I loved the broad English Northern accents of all the actors. I also love this period of American history, especially the suspicion aroused by devout Christians suspecting that the unusual women of society are all witches. In turn, I liked how the film captured the traditional themes of witchcraft in a subtle, natural way (like the act of becoming possessed). If you like old-school horrors, you’ll love this.

  4. Nocturnal Animals
    nocturnal-animals
    Written and Directed by:
    Tom Ford

    Starring:
    Amy Adams
    – Jake Gyllenhaal
    – Michael Shannon
    – Aaron Taylor-Johnson
    – Isla Fisher
    – Ellie Bamber
    – Arnie Hammer

    Genre:
    Thriller

    Synopsis:
    The Edward Sheffield (Jake Gyllenhaal) writes a novel about his ex wife Susan Morrow (Amy Adam) and dedicates this to her, despite not having spoken to her in years. The name of the book is ‘Nocturnal Animals’ (named after her), and as she reads this ‘devastatingly beautiful’ piece, she sees parallels of her life within the book, through dark and thrilling action.

    Why I loved it:
    I know I said I would not rate these film in any order, but I have to say that this was my favourite film of the year. This is because this film had the most impact on me. The plot is so simple yet so gripping. The cinematography, script and acting are flawless. I left the cinema feeling ill at ease in the best way. If you want a film that will entice and make you leave the cinema feeling a little introspective, then watch this!

  5. My Scientology Movie
    my scientology.jpg

    Written and Directed by:
    John Dower

    Starring:
    – Louis Theroux
    – Rob Alter
    – Tom Cruise
    – Paz de la Huerta
    – Tom De Vocht

    Genre:
    Documentary

    Synopsis:
    This is a documentary about Scientology (a 1950s religion founded by sci-fi author L. Ron Hubbard shrouded in mystery and controversy). The investigative journalist Louis Theroux follows Mark Rathburn (a former senior church official), as well as other ex-members, and recreates scenes that these past members have personally experienced. They are unable to gain access to the ‘Churches’ facilities, and so have to recreate these scenes in a studio with hired actors.

    Why I loved it:
    I love Louis Theroux, so am probably a little biased with regards to recommending this. I think he is so engaging, and speaks on a level that anyone and everyone can connect with. Similarly, this topic is fascinating, and highlights (like most American subcultures) all the hypocrisies of this weirdly eccentric scientific based religion. I went to a Q&A session of this, and was blown away by how engaging Louis Theroux is. I know how long it takes to make a good documentary, so although the idea of Scientology has been done (and some may view this as outdated and tired), this was definitely worth the wait. It was eye opening, fascinating, and made me want to learn more about Scientology (and religion/cults in general).

  6. 10 Cloverfield Lane
    10 cloverfield lane.jpg
    Directed by:

    Dan Trachtenberg

    Written by:
    Josh Campbell, Matthew Steucken and Damien Chazelle
    Starring:
    John Goodman
    – Mary Elizabeth Winstead
    – John Gallagher Jr.

    Genre:
    Thriller/Sci-fi/Action/Horror

    Synopsis:
    Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) has an accident when another car hits hers (when she’s distracted from witnessing something flying through the sky), and wakes up locked in a room. She discovers that this is an underground bunker habited by 2 other men. She has to figure out what has happened and / or escape from the unintentional trap she has got herself caught in.

    Why I loved it:
    It just was not what I was expecting. When I read about this sequel to ‘Cloverfield’ (2008), I thought it was going to be just that – a sequel. I thought it was going to be filmed in exactly the same way (with the same handheld style footage), in the same way (an alien invasion where the characters of the movie are trying to escape impending death), and full of actors I only half recognised. Consequently, I was happily surprised that none of this rang true. I loved the original, but am glad that they did not just replicate this, and instead produced something that was different from your run-of -the-mill alien invasion films/was grilling and had a great cast and soundtrack. This was a happy surprise. A lot is captured in this film despite its small setting and sparse cast – very entertaining and one of my favourite films of the year.

  7. A Bigger Splash
    bigger slplash.jpg
    Directed by:
    Luca Guadagino

    Written by:
    David Kaiganich and Alain Page

    Starring:
    – Tilda Swindon
    – Matthias Schoenaerts
    – Ralph Fiennes
    – Dakota Johnson
    Genre:
    Thriller

    Synopsis:
    Paul De Smedt (Matthias Schoenaerts), an ex drug addicted actor, and Marianne Lane (Tilda Swindon), a singer recovering from a throat operation, take refuge in France. They bump into the Marianne’s old boyfriend (Ralph Fiennes), and so end up putting him and his young, volatile ‘daughter'(Dakota Johnson) up for the weekend. Things turn a rye as tensions (both psychological and sexual) build as the four have to deal with living together.

    Why I loved this:
    I liked the way it was filmed. I was not 100% sure what the film was about before watching it, and could not entirely predict what was going to happen. I liked the style of the film (the setting, costumes, behaviour), as well as the cast. I like the soundtrack, and it just reminded me of a cool 60s film with edge. Both Tilda Swindon and Ralph Fiennes were great (and Matthias Schoenaerts is just so handsome and cool) – another winning film in my eyes. This is based on the film ‘La Piscine’ (1969), which I definitely want to watch.

     

  8. Hail, Caesar!
    hail caesar.jpg
    Written and Directed by:
    Joel and Ethan Coen

    Starring:
    – Josh Brolin
    – George Clooney
    – Alden Ehrenreich
    – Ralph Fiennes
    – Scarlett Johansson
    – Tilda Swindon
    – Channing Tatum
    – Jonah Hill

    Genre:
    Black comedy

    Synopsis:
    Set in the 1950s, this film focuses on the Communist writers strike in America in a comical, ironic way. Baird Whitlock (George Clooney), a famous actor, is kidnapped by the writers guild, and is held for ransom.

    Why I loved this:
    It was made by the Coen Brothers. The storyline was very slow, and little to nothing happened (except for the above mentioned synopsis). However, not much has to happen in a Coen Brothers’ film for it to be a success. The manner in which they tell stories is just brilliant. They are always composed of grand schemes undermined by the flawed characters that create them. I like this era (1950s McCarthyism, with American film studios at their classiest, sprinkled with a smidge of Communist fear), and it is just captured so well – the unjust contrasts of the era (that arguably still persist today) perfectly captured in this piece.

  9. Finding Dory
    thA0YLV0YO.jpg
    Directed by:
    Andrew Stanton and Angus MacLane

    Written by:
    Andrew Stanton, Angus MacLane, Victoria Strouse and Bob Peterson

    Starring:
    – Ellen DeGeneres
    – Albert Brooks
    – Ed O’Neill
    – Kaitlin Olson
    – Hayden Rolence
    – Ty Burell
    – Diane Keaton
    – Idris Elba
    – Bill Hader
    – Sigourney Weaver

    Genre:
    Comedy/Animation/Adventure film

    Synopsis:
    A forgetful fish named Dory ( tries to find her real family with the help of 2 other fish, but sadly loses her way.

    Why I loved this:
    This is the second sequel mentioned in this list and, like the first, I was expecting this to be a complete replication of the first film (‘Finding Nemo’ (2003)). However, I was pleasantly surprised that this, again, was not the case. I was terrified that Pixar could not create another film that would hold up to the original, so really did not want them to make this – but am happy that they did. There were obvious parallels between each of these the film (as the original cast are featured/the story is pretty much a continuation of the first), but with a strong cast of new characters, fantastic humour (suitable for all ages), and interesting storyline, this film comes into its own. It was cute and Pixar has definitely done it again – another fantastic animation!

  10. Bridget Jones’ Baby
    thAP0X4ZVE.jpg
    Directed by:
    Sharon Maguire

    Written by:
    Helen Fielding, Dan Mazer and Emma Thompson
    Starring:
    – Renee Zellweger
    – Gemma Jones
    – Jim Broadbent
    – Sally Philips
    – Shirley Henderson
    – Colin Firth
    – Patrick Dempsey

    Genre:
    Comedy/Rom-Com

    Synopsis:
    Bridget Jones (Renee Zellweger) has a baby, but is unsure who the father of her baby is. There is a 50/50 chance that it is either her ex (Colin Firth) or a one night stand (Patrick Dempsey), and so she has to tackle the situation and deal with the fall out of this.

    Why I loved this:
    I love chick flicks (when they are good), and this one is fantastic. I liked the first film, but was not balled away by the second, so did not know what to expect. I ended up falling in love with this. I could (and have to many people) poke holes in the plot of this film, but in spite of all this, thought it was cute and a great way to reintroduce this character (created by the author Helen Fielding). I liked all the actors involved (even Colin Firth – who I find annoying in anything other than ‘Love Actually’ (2003)). I have put this in my top 10 as I find it hard to find a good chick flick, but when I do, I can watch them over and over again. I have already watched this 4 times, and it has not even been out for a year yet….It’s a goofy, classic.

 

‘David Bowie: The Last Five Years’ (2017) – 6/10

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Last week, I watched ‘David Bowie: The Last Five Years’ (2017). This is a 2017 BBC television documentary created by the director Francis Whately, which was aired on the eve of the late, great singer David Bowie’s 70th birthday. Bowie had sadly died last year 3 days prior to this.

I watched this on a Saturday night, after having briefly watched some shitty singing reality shows whilst reading. I sat down with my mum with a brew, and tuned into this captivating documentary about this amazing musician.

David Bowie is one of the most influential musicians ever. Not only did he help pioneer musical genres (from the 1970s to present day), he pushed boundaries in contemporary art through his innovative music videos, campaigned for sexual equality and identity,  and inspired many. Bowie played a predominant role in British culture and (as mentioned above) sadly died last year due to cancer. This television film was composed of a mixture of old and new footage of David Bowie, the man behind the alter-ego of Iggy Star, and was a touching way to commemorate the ending of Bowie’s career and life.

The reason I liked this documentary so much was because it reminded me of a poignant obituary. This was composed of interviews from backing singers, accompanying musicians and producers giving anecdotes of their time with the singer, as well as touching insights about the musician’s life on the road and unseen live footage of Bowie’s final 5 years of his life.

The documentary was interspersed with acknowledgements of how Bowie had always wanted to be famous and his ambitions with regards to his career, which was ultimately twinged with sadness at the hindsight of him being deceased. For example, Bowie metaphorically described how living in the public eye was like living in a fishbowl. Similarly, Bowie described fame as a ‘luxuriant mental hospital’, and that ‘it’s great when you want to get tickets for a concer… but the rest of the time it’s a pain in the ass’. The documentary then went on to hint that Bowie had made a deal with the devil by seeking fame.

I think what struck me most about this documentary was how autobiographical it was despite Bowie not actually having been alive when it was created (let alone aired). The documentary was like viewing a piece of Bowie’s personal life as laid out by himself… Some of the footage was so sentimental and personal, giving away details like the fact that Bowie had not performed since 2006, and told no one except those working on the album that he was creating anything – it was to be his first new album in a decade.

Similarly, through the images of Bowie interspersed with interviews from close colleagues and musical friends way, it was evident that not only was Bowie so inspirational because of the image he created, but was extremely conscious of the image he’d become (in terms of age, the way one matures, and obviously having to deal with a terminal disease). Similarly, it was extremely touching to see different bands, musicians and producers that Bowie performed with in his final years. It was like a scrap book. The director Wheatly also made ‘David Bowie: Five Year’s (2013), which I have yet to see but look forward to this.

This was very insightful. This was touching. This was nostalgic. This was sad. Bowie gave his all. He exposed himself musically and personally relentlessly, and gave his all to the alter ego he had created. This documentary reflected on what fame meant, and made me feel introspective about why we strive for fame, why we idealise celebrities, why we want everything out of these humans that we idealise. Bowie gave his all, and we took it. This documentary is a great cultural obituary for an absolute legend. Rest In Piece Bowie – you will be sorely missed.

‘Trolls’ (2016) – 6/10

I have been awake for hours. I don’t think I have ever been to the cinema this early. I had an early physio appointment and was trying to kill time before going shopping, so decided to go watch a Christmas showing of ‘The Nightmare Before Christmas’ (1993) at my local cinema. Unfortunately, I was there so early that I was not allowed to go into the screening without a child…. (something I have never heard of before). So instead of watching this, I waited and watched the next film scheduled, which was ‘Trolls’, and was pleasantly surprised.

‘Trolls’ is a new animation musical based on the dolls of the same name (created by Thomas Dam), in which small creatures with fantastic hair called “Trolls” live in a perpetual state of happiness, achieved by singing, dancing and hugging all day long. Large creatures called “Bergens” also exist, who are mean creatures that believe that they can never discover happiness unless they eat Trolls – and so hold an annual festival, called Trollstis, during which each Bergen consumes a Troll. However, the  Trolls, led by their King Peppy (Jeffrey Tambor), manage to escape from this through underground tunnels on the day that the Bergen crown Prince Gristle Jr. (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) was supposed to try first Troll. Consequently, the furious Bergen King Gristle Sr. (John Cleese) banishes his head Chef (Christine Baranski) who was in charge of the Troll preparation.

20 years later, the Troll King’s daughter, the extremely happy pink Troll Princess Poppy (Anna Kendrick), throws a big party to celebrate the Trolls’ escape, despite the warnings of the grey grumpy Troll Branch (Justin Timberlake) that this will attract the Bergen. Branch’s fears are realised when the banished Chef hears the commotion and captures some of the Trolls. Poppy and a few others  manage to hide, but discovers that none of the other Trolls dare to venture to Bergen Town to rescue their friends. Consequently, Poppy, along with the reluctant help of Branch, has to save the captured Trolls – but are met by many obstacles/have to spread happiness along the way to overcome these (in spite of opposition from Branch).

From first glance, ‘Trolls’ has an extremely strong cast of both main characters and supporting roles, including; Russell Brand, Zooey Deschanel, James Cordon and Gwen Stafani (to name but a few). I read somewhere that Jason Schwartzman (known for his roles in numerous Wes Anderson films like ‘Rushmore’ (1998), and ‘The Grand Budapest Hotel’ (2014)) was originally down for the main role of Branch, which would have been great, as he is one of my favourite actors. However, I must say that I really enjoyed Justin Timberlake’s performance. There is something about his voice that really suits animations… He also helped produce the music of this film, which is a plus, as the soundtrack is fantastic.

Anna Kendrick is also ok in this film. I’m not a massive fan of her… I did not like her in either ‘Pitch Perfect’ film, ‘Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates’ (2016) or any of the ‘Twilight’ films (there is something annoying in every one of these characters that irritates me). I did, however, really like her in ‘The Accountant’ (2016), so am starting to warm to her. I am hoping that she will start playing more diverse, stronger roles as her career progresses. Her role as Poppy in ‘Trolls’ is really cute (and not over the top), so she captures this optimistic, happy character perfectly.

The best part of this film, for me, is the animation. It’s amazing!!  I was so fastinated by this that I decided to read up on it after leaving the cinema, and discovered that this is the first film from DreamWorks animation since 1998. Considering this, I think they have done a great job. A large portion of this film is stop motion. I read an article that described the techniques used on this film, and discovered that the surroundings were made of felt and the ground of carpet, both of which, like the scrapbook effects, were actually cut and sewn. I really like this hand-made effect, as well as the fibre look, that this creates. I also read that one of the hardest features to capture, in terms of animation, is animating hair, which of course is a crucial element in ‘Trolls’ (as the Trolls use their hair as a superpower). Glitter is also tricky, as having to mirror the reflections of this (pardon the pun), is extremely hard and time consuming. Both directors (Walt Dohrn and Mike Mitchell)  began working in the art department, working on amazing stop motion pictures like Roald Dhal’s adaptation of ‘James and the Giant Peach’ (1996), and animations like the ‘Shrek’ films, so have more than enough experience behind them to have overcome and nailed such a daunting project. They also provide a number of the voices, including Cloud Guy (Walt Dohrn) – my favourite character.

As mentioned above, I think that the soundtrack is fantastic. I hate with a passion the auto-tuned style used, but loved the selection of covers and the original songs that were written for this film. Similarly, I like how the songs were used in this film. This is not a traditional musical, in that musical numbers are not buildt up to. Instead because music is so ingrained into the Trolls lifestyle, they use it as a way of communicating and expressing feelings. Consequently, large parts of the script are songs or parts of songs, and are sporadically sung – not introduced as big numbers that all the cast get involved with.

‘Trolls’ is a very uplifting, feel-good movie. The setting created is a very immersive world, and is beautifully animated with vivid colours, and I love that the film has a female protagonist. ‘Trolls’ definitely made me feel happy, and the humour was on point, I am just not sure it was the right time of year or time of day to watch it. It was a rather intense spectacle to be watching so early, and because of the large pallet of colours used, it is definitely more of a summer film. I was not a massive fan of the auto-tune used, but excused this by the strong cover and original songs in the film. In terms of the script I really liked it, but would have liked to have seen more or Cloud Guy. Other than that, if you like animations then you’ll love this.

‘Mad Max: Fury Road’ (2015) -8/10

Recently, I bought ‘Mad Max: Fury Road’ on DVD. I can’t remember the last time I bought a DVD. Ordinarily, I only buy DVDs of my favourite films, or when I need something to watch on a long journey and do not have internet access. Both of these reasons are why I purchased ‘Mad Max’. Firstly, as mentioned in a previous post, I have recently broken my laptop, so am limited with what I can watch. Secondly, other than ‘The Witch’ (2015), I think that ‘Mad Max: Fury Road’ was probably my favourite film released that year. It had such an impact on me that I ended up watching this at the cinema 3 times. The only other film I did that with was probably ‘Deadpool’ (2016).

‘Mad Max: Fury Road’ is the fourth instalment of the ‘Mad Max’ franchise, and is set in a post-apocalyptic world (following a nuclear holocaust), in which the world has become a desert wasteland and civilisation has collapsed. Max Rockatansky (Tom Hardy) is a survivor who is captured by the War Boys, the army of the War Lord Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne), and taken to Joe’s Citadel. Max is designated as a universal blood donor, and is imprisoned and used as a “blood bag” for a sick War Boy called Nux (Nicholas Hoult). Meanwhile, Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron), one of Joe’s lieutenants, is sent in her “War Rig” (an armoured truck) to collect gasoline. She instead drives off-route, with 5 of Joe’s wives (selected and imprisoned for breeding purposes) – taking them to the “Green Place” (a lush place run by women that she remembers from her youth) as a refuge. Joe heads his entire army in pursuit of Furiosa, calling on the aid of nearby armies, which Max gets caught up in.

I think that the main reason that this film had such an impact on me was because of the film’s strong cinematography. The manic effects that the shutter speed has on the action in the film is just amazing. It captures the erratic actions of the War Boys which, in turn, emphasises their unstable ideals and the post-apocalyptic world in which they exist. Similarly, the special effects of certain scenes show the War Boys’ nihilistic ideas about Valhalla (the afterlife that Immortan Joe promises his War Boys will live in once they have sacrificed themselves in war for him), which are portrayed through their fast-paced, unpredictable movements within the high speed car chases.

Like the special effects of this film, the vivid colours of this piece help to create this immersive, surreal apocalyptic world. I read somewhere that the director (George Miller, who directed the previous 3 ‘Mad Max’ films) wanted this movie to be released in black and white. He then planned to release a special edition of this for cinema release, but again, this dream was not realised. Although this would have been great to see, I think it would have detracted something from the film that was eventually released. I think that the colours used in the final film emphasised the starkness of the desert wasteland that the movie was set in. This, in turn, enhanced the intense emotions of the characters, as well as the surreal, post-apocalyptic characters (like Immortan Joe). This horrific War Lord comes alive in this world created by these saturated colours.

After watching this film, I researched how well this film had done in terms of critical acclaim/awards it had received (as I was vaguely aware that this film had done well at the Oscars). Although ‘Mad Max: Fury Road’ did not win an Academy Award for ‘best picture’ at the 2016 Oscars’, it did win the most awards of that year. These included Oscars for the following;

  • film editing
  • sound mixing
  • costume design
  • sound editing
  • production design
  • makeup and hairstyling

The above are all the strongest composites of ‘Mad Max’, and are what make this film one of my favourites of 2015. I agree that it should not have necessarily won best film (although for me, I do not think that ‘The Revenant’ (2015), which did win that year, was worthy of an Oscar either – but that opinion is for another blog…) This is because I am aware that broadly speaking, not many people would have appreciated the plot of ‘Mad Max’ (as essentially, this is based around an intense, high-speed car chase). Nonetheless, the film’s strong points (the editing, sound, production design and costumes) won big, and rightly so.

Now, I said that the film was just an ‘intense, high speed car chase’. In broad strokes, this is exactly what this movie is. However, I do not want to diminish this film in any way. Sure the plot of the film is actually rather simple (involving an escape and pursuit), but the protagonist is not actually the suspected lead character of the movie. The protagonist of this film is not actually Max, but is instead Charlize Theron’s character Imperator Furoisa (which is something that I was not anticipating). She is fantastic, and this film is where I fell in love with Theron. She is such a badass fighter, yet has an endearing side to her (in her need to escape and save others). I also like the bond that Furoisa and Max strike between themselves. Actually, I like how all the characters within this film interact. Although the plot runs seamlessly with little dialogue, the character development in this film is effective, as you can easily identify and connect with the characters through their journeys and back stories.

I recently read another interesting article on the production of this film (I was that taken aback by the look of its production that I wanted to know how it was created), which stated that this ‘Mad Max’ instalment had a 10 year delay in productions, as the team struggled finding the funds and location in which to make this movie. I am kind of glad that it took them this long to bring us this instalment of the ‘Mad Max’ franchise, as the location/intricate sets, productions and costumes are what makes this film. The same article stated that this film had to have 150 cars specifically built for it (not only to give it their authentic, unique apocalyptic-look, but also to enable the crew to film these intense scenes) – which blew my mind. This proves that time, patience and expertise are essential for film making (and that CGI/throwing large sums of money at a film is not always what is needed, time and vigorous decision-making is also required).

The main reason I liked ‘Mad Max: Fury Road’ was the visual and audio aspects of this film. I personally think that the plot is gripping in spite of its simplicity (as it is essentially a prolonged car chase). However, the strong acting establishes great character development in spite of a lack of dialogue. Similarly, I liked that Max was not the protagonist (despite the film being named after him), and that the main focus is on Furiosa trying to rescue 5 women (most of whom are models first and foremost, so their acting is not as strong – but are, nonetheless buoyed by the strong leading actors around them/fast-paced scenes). The world Miller creates is such a devastatingly post-apocalyptic spectacle, and is an absolute masterpiece. In my eyes, visually the film is like a surrealist piece of art, set to a destructively amazing soundtrack. If you’re interested in plot solely, then this film is probably not for you. However, if you (like me) are more interested in a fuller scope of cinematography (like how films are edited, the sound mixing and things like that) then you will love this film.

 

 

‘Elf’ (2003) – 9/10


I rewatched Elf the other day, so decided to review this as I have not had chance to watch many new films (I broke my laptop and am too busy to go to the cinema – you’ve got to love the holidays).

I want to start off by saying that this is not just my favourite Christmas film, it is my favourite film period!! So I might be biased with my review (so take heed)!

‘Elf’ (2003) is a film about a baby, living in an orphanage, who accidentally gets taken to the North Pole by Santa Claus when he slips into Santa’s bag trying to attain a Christmas present. Consequently, an elderly elf adopts the baby, names him Buddy (Will Ferrell) and takes care of him as if he is his own. Buddy grows up believing he is an elf, but one day overhears a couple of elfs saying that Buddy is in fact a human (which explains his drastic difference in size to them, as well as his perceived clumsiness), and so decides to travel to New York in order to find his biological father, a business man named Walter Hobbs (James Cann).

The reason I like this film so much is because it has every factor I like/hope to see in a film. Firstly, it is a Christmas film. For some reason, I love Christmas films. I do not necessarily love Christmas the day itself, but rather I love the build up and anticipation of it. I love the ‘magic’ of Christmas that is captured in Christmas songs and movies. The excitement, the nostalgia and the ‘spirit’ that these films and songs somehow magically capture is just beautiful/evokes emotions in me that make me love this time of year. ‘Elf’ nails this. It obviously features Santa (Edward Anser), a toy store  (Gimbels), features a singing duet (between Will Ferrell and Zooey Deschanel), and stars an Elf (Will Ferell) – but it also features a Christmas message (‘the best way to spread holiday cheer is singing loud for all to hear’), and of course spreads the importance of family.

Secondly, I think the plot is genius. It’s a simple story, but is told from the perspective of a story within a story. The film is narrated by Papa Elf (Bob Newhart), who recounts Buddy’s story up until present day. I won’t give much away about this (for those who have not seen the film), but it is very cute how the plot is tied up. It is simple yet effective (and not too cheesy).

Thirdly, I like the animation in this film. The film mainly relies on forced perspective (to make it look like Will Ferrell is massive in comprison to the ‘elves’ he works with in the North Pole), but it also has stop motion, which works perfectly. The dynamic between real life and this style of animation works really well (which is mainly down to the sets used/the entire mis-en-scene of the film). The emergence of actors with animation is seemless.

Finally, the cast is strong, as is the directing, editing and script – which makes ‘Elf’ such a stand-out film for me. This film has some of my favourite actors involved, and they are all hilarous. I love Will Ferrell. Everything I have seen him in  (apart from maybe ‘Bewitched’ (2005)) has been excellent. I really like comedy films, and his style of humour – this dry/slapstick style – is right up my street. I also like Zooey Deschanel (who plays a similar cute role in films like ‘Yes Man’ (2008) and ‘500 Days of Summer’ (2009)),  James Cann (who played Sonny in ‘The Godfather’ trilogy), Peter Dinklage (who plays just as a commanding role as when he plays Tyrion in ‘Game of Thrones’), Mary Steenburgen (who features alongside her husband Ted Danson in one of my favourite American sitcoms ‘Curb Your Enthusiasm’), and Jon Favreau (who also directs this) – to name but a few… All these actors execute the script brilliantly (which is written by David Berenbaum, and full of sublime one-liners), which is set against a feel-good score (composed by John Debney), that neatly ties up all the great aspects of this movie.

This is my favourite film. I can watch it repeatedly anytime of year. It is my favourite genre of film (a Christmas rom-com), has my favourite style of humour (a ridiculous hybrid on slap-stick) and is edited together brilliantly. The cast is strong, and the sets, animation and overall cinematography makes this film timeless/it has fared well!! I think it’s one of the best ‘modern’ Christmas films. I once did not get a job at a cinema for saying this was my favourite film (as most people there named art-house/blockbuster films as theirs) – but maintain that this is still my favourite. It’s so simple yet well crafted. I read somewhere that Will Ferrell turned down $29million to do a sequel , and rightly so. This is timeless and should be kept as it is! A must see, family feel-good Christmas film starring Will Ferrell dressed as an Elf – what more could you ask for?