Tag Archives: 2014

13 weeks to go… Happy Valentine’s Day


Last night it hit me that it’s 13 weeks to go until productions of the short I’m producing gets underway…

I’m so nervously excited. Sorting out social media and funding tonight (my two favourite things), followed by watching ‘Closer’ (2004) – an all time favourite film of mine, which I will review shortly.

I completely forgot it was Valentine’s Day, until I woke up to cards from my mum and grandma (yes I’m that cool), and so have decided to watch this film. My views of love and relationships are pretty warped at the moment (which is something I’m trying to figure out), and this film makes me realise how close love and hate really are on the ’emotional spectrum’ (I guess it’s true what they say – there is a thin line between love and hate). I’m not saying I hate anyone, but this film makes me appreciate how obsessive and destructive love can be (rather than the idealised romantic perception that card companies and rom-coms usually depict) – the guy does not always get the girl, and endings are rarely happy…

Consequently, I’m going to obsess over trying to find funding for my short (of which I will divulge more information when I’m happier with the way I’m producing), and unwind from a hectic day at work watching this tragic classic. I can’t wait! 

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‘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.

‘Dunkirk’ – Trailer Review

Dunkirk

Release date:
21st July 2017

Written and Directed by:
Christopher Nolan

Genre:
Action/war film

Cast:
– Tom Hardy
– Cillian Murphy
– Mark Rylance
– Kenneth Branagh
– James D’Arcy
– Fionn Whitehead
-Harry Styles

Synopsis:
This film is based on the WWII Battle of Dunkirk, in which 400,000 British and Allied troops are surrounded on the beaches of Dunkirk in France by German troops.

Reactions:
Earlier this week, the trailer for the new Christopher Nolan film ‘Dunkirk’ was released. This is the new war film documenting the Battle of Dunkirk, an important battle of the Second World War which took place on the beaches of Dunkirk in France between the Allies and Germany. This was the defence and evacuation of British and Allied forces in Europe between the 26th of May and 4th of June 1940.

I must say that I am not that well read up on the background of this film. From first glance, this looks like it has the potential to be a fantastic WWII film. It looks gritty and full of suspense, like a war film should be. It has a sombre feel to it, and could hopefully get across the message of the historic story of Dunkirk in a tasteful way.

The main character (played by Fionn Whitehead) is a relative newcomer to the film business. In spite of this, the rest of the cast is that strong that they will no doubt buoy his performance if he does not deliver (which I am sure he will). Similarly, Christopher Nolan is such an experienced director (with films like ‘The Dark Knight’ (2009) and ‘Interstellar’ (2014) under his belt), so is more than capable of handling such a daunting subject as The Battle of Dunkirk, let alone a war film.

I am really looking forward to seeing ‘Dunkirk’. I like war films (if they focus on the history and gripping scenes, rather than focusing predominantly on the emotion in an overwhelming way that overshadows anything else). I like most of the actors in this film (Tom Hardy is such a strong, diverse actor, as is Cillian Murphy), and the director Christopher Nolan has a flare that makes me consider him to be one of my favourites – both of which will undoubtedly get the story across in a concise yet dramatic way. It will be interesting to see how Harry Styles plays his role. I hope that the focus does not fall completely on him (being a One Direction member) when it comes to this film, as it has so much potential to be a classic war film.

 

‘Snowden’ (2016) – 6/10

Today I watched ‘Snowden’, which is a biographical political film documenting the NSA whistleblower Ed Snowden’s life. This is a German-American produced film directed by Oliver Stone (who directed films like  ‘Platoon’ (1986) and ‘JFK’ (1991), as well as numerous political documentaries), and written by Stone and the cinematographer Kieran Fitzgerald. The narrative is based on the books The Snowden Files by Luke Harding and Time of the Octopus by Anatoly Kucherena.

The film’s plot documents Ed Snowden’s (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) life between 2004 and 2013. This begins with his days in the U.S. Army, in which he wants to help the Special Forces, but is discharged after an accident, so has to serve his country in other ways. Consequently, Snowden applies to work with the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), and is hired by Deputy Director Corbin O’Brian (Rhys Ifans) despite him not completely passing his tests, due to the need for extra people in, what O’Brian deems as, these ‘extraordinary times’ (i.e. post 9/11 terrorist threats).

The film then documents Snowden’s career and work leading up to and becoming recruited by the National Security Agency (NSA). His story about working here is intermingled with the story of him becoming a whistleblower, as in 2013 he meets documentarian Laura Poitras (Melissa Leo) and journalist Glenn Greenwald (Zachary Quinto) in Hong Kong, who, along with Ewen MacAskill (Tom Wilkinson), help Snowden release classified information that Snowden has acquired regarding illegal mass surveillance conducted by the NSA, which makes him disillusioned about his past work and the Secret Service in general.

Firstly, I want to say how amazing Joseph Gordon-Levitt is as Ed Snowden. His appearance right down to his voice are impeccable. Up until now, I think I have only ever seen him in rom-coms like ’10 Things I Hate About You’ (1999) and ‘500 Days of Summer’ (2009), in which he usually plays cutesy, ‘nice guys’, who are most often than not too nice. In ‘Snowden’, however, another side of Gordon-Levitt comes into play. He portrays Snowden, who is a highly intelligent human-being, whose morals and ethics are being tested when it comes to his job with the Secret Service. This puts him at odds with wanting to serve his country, and inevitably puts his relationship with his girlfriend Lindsey Mills (Shailene Woodley) on the rocks through the frustrations of not being able to speak about this. I thought his acting was very believable, and could definitely imagine him as Snowden, as he was able to express and communicate across the feelings of isolation and frustration in a seemless fashion. I thought he was very engaging, and look forward to seeing what else Gordon-Levitt has to offer in the future.

Secondly, cinematically certain scenes in this film were just beautiful. There was a scene in which lights representing how the internet connects people across the world together spread into a diagram, which the camera panned out of whilst the image faded into the iris of an eye. This was flawlessly edited, and was a symbolic moment for a discovery that Snowden makes. Entire scenes like this made the impact of technology, used for surveillance purposes, seem daunting in the beautiful techniques used throughout the film. These special effects enhanced the meaning of the story, of the actual impact that technology and surveillance has on the world, of which most people are seemingly unaware.

In terms of the cast, as mentioned above, I thought that Gordon-Levitt was a perfect choice for Snowden. He did the story justice, as did the 3 main journalists (Melissa Leo, Zachary Quinto and Tom Wilkinson). I like the fact that they were not preened and make-up heavy or stylish. It gave the film the documentary look it needed, and helped emphasis that the narrative is based on real events. However, I did not think that Shailene Woodley worked well as playing Lindsley Mills (Snowden’s girlfriend). I thought that she acted well, but for some reason I still associate her with playing teenager and coming-of-age films (like in ‘The Fault in our Stars’ (2014), despite her being 25 years old now… I was not captivated by her performance, and she did not bring enough to the role, which was especially evident against Gordon-Levitt’s strong performance. I feel that she was cast wrong.

Although I enjoyed the film, I felt that the film itself was not quite captivating enough… I could not quite put my finger on what I did not enjoy. I found it was quite long, but on reflection felt that nothing could have been cut, as it would not have made sense otherwise. Similarly, cutting anything would have detracted from the film’s collectic style – parts are told from Snowden’s perspective, others are told from an interview style, and then the present time film is played out – which works well. I liked that real news footage and clips of Snowden are used, which again emphasis that this story is real.

I think the thing I did not enjoy was that this was supposed to be a political thriller, but it just was not gripping enough. I think had certain scenes been more fast-paced, the music made more intense, and a stronger female lead been cast, then this would have given this film the extra ‘umph’ it needed.

Overall, I liked ‘Snowden’. It was a very informative film told in a interesting way (through multiple layers of storytelling). I would definitely see it again, if only to help me digest more of the information that is exposed (as I find America a fascinating place) but would not choose to watch it repeatedly. I think that the film was not gripping enough – the plot, the cinematography and Gordon-Levitt definitely held this film together… also, the ending was a bit cheesy. It was cleverly done, but I am not sure it was necessary. The way the film ended on Snowden’s message of ‘I don’t have to worry about tomorrow because I’m happy with what I’ve done today’ came across like an inspirational laptop ad… I feel that it could have ended without this and just summarised with words detailing what has happened since Snowden has divulged the secrets of the NSA to the general public. ‘Snowden’ had very strong elements, it was just undermined by other factors that, and if different, could have made this into a very engaging political thriller. As it stands, it is just a very interesting film with a strong lead – well done Joseph Gordon-Levitt!!!

‘Doctor Strange’ (2016) – 6/10

doctor-strange-movie-composer-cumberbatch.jpg

I will start this post off by saying that I am not a massive superhero fan. My favourite superhero movies include films like; ‘Ant-Man’ (2015) and ‘Deadpool’ (2016) (because of their humour), some of the ‘X-Men’ films (because I like the idea of mutants), and of course Christopher Nolan’s ‘The Dark Knight’ (2008) (because of its gangster element). I tried to like ‘The Avengers’ and ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ (2014), but sadly I just don’t… However, despite all my efforts trying to dislike ‘Doctor Strange’ (the advert kind of annoyed me), I actually really liked it.

Unfortunately, I do not know any of the back story to ‘Doctor Strange’ (directed by Scott Derrickson), so will just relay the plot as set out by the film. The film starts with Dr Steven Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch), who is an extremely gifted but egotistical neurosurgeon, badly injuring himself in a car accident. He tragically loses the ability to use his hands due to extensive nerve damage, so with the help of Dr Christine Palmer (Amy McAdams), pursues experimental surgeries, all to no avail. However, Strange discovers that an old patient who was a diagnosed paraplegic is mysteriously able to walk, and directs Strange to a place called Kamar-Taj for help. Whilst here, he finds someone called the Ancient One (Tilda Swindon), who teaches him Mystic Arts/that Earth is composed of different dimensions, which are protected by 3 buildings (called Sanctums), which the sorcerers have the task of protecting. However, the Ancient One is reluctant to teach Strange due to his arrogant yearning for learning, as she sees parallels between Strange and Kaecilius (Mads Mikkelsen), another pupil, who turned to the dark side and deals with the Dark Dimension.

I could poke holes in this film in terms of its plot. Parts of the storyline were very weak, as was some of the script. For example, I feel like the film eluded to their being a massive show down between the good and evil forces of the movie, but feel that the film sadly did not deliver. In hindsight, this is probably due to the fact that Doctor Strange is so intellectual (using his brains over brane), but do feel that the film was just setting itself up for the rest of the franchise (which I guess is not a bad thing?)

If you look past the fact that Benedict Cumberbatch’s American accent is pretty shit, his overall acting is actually alright. It appears as if this egotistical, extremely intelligent superhero was perfectly crafted for Cumberbatch. His arrogance for learning and overcoming his setbacks are intermingled with hints of compassion, from which he empathetically learns his duty to save the world rather than himself. Similarly, I feel like the Ancient One was a role suited specifically for Tilda Swindon. She has a dominant, commanding aura about her, which fits this character perfectly. My main issue with the acting in this film was that I wish that Mads Mikkelsen was featured more. I love him as a villain – he brings such a presence  to evil roles. However, in this film, he was just not around long enough to impose himself. Likewise, Amy McAdams was not featured long enough. I can see how her character (Dr Christine Palmer) humanises Strange through the narrative of their previous relationship and history. Nonetheless, I feel like the emotion between her and Strange lacked passion in order for it to be believable. This was probably due to Strange’s selfish arrogance at wanting to be the best and sacrificing love for this. However, the awkward script further diluted their unsubstantial romance. Again, this is probably a device used to mirror Strange’s flawed, narcissist traits.

My favourite part of the film was the use of CGI. The idea that time and dimensions could be bent was brilliantly realised within this film, and made me wish I could watch films in 3D (sadly my eyes don’t work with this). Usually I don’t like CGI (I believe that Computer Generated Images should predominantly be used as a flourish in film, trying to accomplish realistic images, rather than extensively used so that they overpower the entire image – i.e. CGI should be used to make the impossible possible, not vice versa). However, in this film, I think that this effect was perfect, as this technique was used as an idea that Mystic Arts can bend time and space, and the cinema literally showed this in an amazing way. I was in absolute awe of the moving buildings and dimensions that collapsed within themselves, as well as the astral colours, which symbolised other worlds. The soundtrack to this film was composed by Michael Giacchino, who is one of my favourite composers (my favourite being that of  the ‘Star Trek’ films). Giacchino writes such compelling scores that flow so brilliantly with the dynamic pictures.

It is extremely evident that the predominate focus of this film was the visual effects. So for me, visually this film was an absolute hit, and if you can, watch it in 3D – I guarantee it will blow your mind! Parts of the script (like the Doctor’s strained attempts at romance, which mirrored his awkward persona), just didn’t work – but the humour almost did… a couple of funny one liners, and acknowledgement of the Marvel multiverse (through a nod to ‘The Avengers’ and ‘Thor’) made me laugh/smile. Nonetheless, I went in with low expectations, and came out wanting to re-envisage what i’d seen. I wish the Earth’s dimensions bent/shatter like they do in ‘Doctor Strange’, and that Mystic Arts were real!