Tag Archives: Currently Watching

Film Review | Maleficent

Disney has always done good villains but now it seems that they want us to get to know them better, to understand them. Villain origin stories are officially a thing for the happiest place in the world ™ it seems. First we discovered why the Wicked Witch of the West was quite so wicked in Oz the Great and the Powerful and now we find out what has got the bad fairy from Sleeping Beauty all het up. Meet Maleficent.

MaleficentMaleficent | Robert Stromberg | 2014 | USA/UK | PG |98 min

Maleficent was a pure-hearted young fairy living in The Moors, the magical place out of bounds for humans. By chance she meets a human boy, Stefan, and falls in love with him. As she grows stronger and more powerful she becomes the guardian of The Moors, but she still can’t turn her back on Stefan. When he betrays her in his own pursuit of power her heart turns to stone and she is consumed by anger and the need for revenge. On hearing of the birth of Stefan’s – now King – daughter, she gatecrashes her Christening to curse the infant. Before the sun sets on her 16th birthday she will prick her finger on a spindle… you know the rest.

Or do you? Maleficent keeps a watchful eye over the cursed Princess Aurora, but is it to make sure her curse is fulfilled, or for another reason?

To be truthful, this film is all about Angelina Jolie. She seems made to play to Disney villain and she does so perfectly. Hitting the right balance between menacing and campy with the arch of a brow she is at once commanding and entertaining. She plays Maleficent’s transition from good to evil to kind of back again with such conviction it gives the slightly convuluted story credibility. Additionally, the make up and costume design is  incredible, giving Maleficent such a strong image that after watching the film, any time you think of a ‘bad fairy’, you’ll surely think of Ange.

Unfortunately this is  where the good ends. Sharlto Copley (Stefan)  is unusually disappointing and has one of the worst Scottish accents committed to screen. His character is supposed to show shades of Macbeth but falls flat. Elle Fanning (Aurora) and the other secondary characters are far too overshadowed by Jolie to remain interesting. Further, the good fairies who are charged with looking after the princess are supposed to provide the light relief but barely managed to raise a giggle from the crowd of kids in the cinema where I watched the film.

If you are particularly interested in costume and make-up design you might like this film. True also if you are a big fan of Angelina Jolie (and who isn’t). The poster images are instant classics, but sadly the film is not.

#BEDM | Film Review | Godzilla

A film review is a totally appropriate topic for a ‘Date Night’ prompt, right? I’m a big cinema fan (obviously), there’s something about the shared experienced of watching a film as part of an audience over at home. It makes it funnier, more emotional, more awesome. And Godzilla definitely falls into the ‘awesome’ camp.

Godzilla-2014-RoarGodzilla | Gareth Edwards | 2014 | USA/Japan | 12A | 123 min

Gareth Edwards returns with his second feature film and again it is a monster movie. This time though he has a considerably larger budget than the £10,000 for his 2010 feature, Monsters. Godzilla is a big-budget Hollywood movie but it benefits from Edwards’ experience in creating a film of substance and atmosphere on a shoestring.

Ford (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) was just ten when a nuclear plant disaster in Janjira, Japan, killed his mother and sent his town into quarantine. 15 years later and now a bomb disposal expert he is forced back there when his father Joe (Bryan Cranston) is arrested for trespassing in the quarantine zone. Racked with guilt and anger since his wife’s death, Joe has spent 15 years investigating what really went on at Janjira convinced that there is a cover-up over what  caused the tremors that caused the meltdown. Turns out he’s right – the Government have been hiding knowledge of three giant monsters – a male and female parasitic insectoids and Gojira.

During some films of this genre, you are just waiting to see the monster (Pacific Rim) while other make the most of its off-screen time to build an actual story (Jaws). Godzilla lies between the two. Godzilla’s screen time isn’t huge but there are two other monsters – the MUTOs (Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Organism) to balance this. The story is definitely solid, even if it doesn’t quite stand up to the likes of Jaws - possibly due to the sheer number of characters. Edwards clearly wants to return the legend of Godzilla to its roots – born out of fear of nuclear warfare. Dr Serizawa (Ken Watanabe) urges the government officials away from resorting to nuclear weapons to take down Godzilla and the MUTOs, his family having already experienced the fallout of Hiroshima. The design and sound of Godzilla is much more like an updated version of the Japanese Toho Pictures than the 1998 attempt and he is restored as an ‘avenging angel’ character over a mindless force of destruction.

Above all, Godzilla is a hugely enjoyable film. The final third is stompy, confident, and full of swagger. Godzilla’s first roar make the wait for him to appear in all his glory worth it. See it in IMAX to have your face melted by the sheer awesomeness.

The Grand Budapest Hotel | Under the Skin | Starred Up

Here’s a lightning fast round-up of the films I’ve been watching recently.

The Grand Budapest HotelThe Grand Budapest Hotel | Wes Anderson | 2014 | USA/Germany | 15 | 100 min

The Grand Budapest Hotel is possibly the most Wes Andersony Wes Anderson film ever. Starring Ralph Fiennes as the legendary concierge M Gustave and packed to the brim with Anderson favourites (Bill Murray, Jeff Goldblum, Tilda Swinton, Jason Schwartzman etc. etc.) it is a candy-coloured caper of the quirkiest degree. It is extremely silly but fun and a visual feast – exactly what you’d expect from a Wes Anderson film.

Under the SkinUnder the Skin | Jonathan Glazer | 2013 | UK | 15 | 108 min

At the opposite end of the scale, Jonathan Glazer’s Under the Skin is a hypnotic science-fiction that slowly reveals itself as the other-worldly Laura (Scarlett Johansson) lures unsuspecting men into a strange, limbo like trap. Although it’s not entirely clear what is happening, the film is mesmerizing and stunningly shot to which Johansson lends an ethereal presence.

Starred UpStarred Up | David Mackenzie | 2013 | UK | 18 |103 min

Eric Love (Jock O’Connell) is “starred up”. A 19-year-old who is transferred to an adult prison two years early due to his violent and uncontrollable temper, ending up in the same wing as his father. David Mackenzie delivers a gritty drama with spectacular performances from all the cast members, particularly O’Connell and Ben Mendelsohn who plays Eric’s father Nev. The father/son relationship adds a new dimension to the well-worn prison politics drama.

What have you been watching recently?

Film Review | Her

Spike Jonze’s latest film, Her, has a wonderfully odd premise: a man falls in love – properly, romantically, sexually, head over heels in love – with his computer operating system. With my usual dose of healthy skepticism I headed to the cinema to find out how this would work. But was it wonderful, or just odd?

her filmHer | Spike Jonze | 2013 | USA | 15 | 126min

Her is set in the near future in a Los Angeles where men wear high waisted trousers, telephones are in-ear devices and no one writes their own letters. We meet Theodore (Joaquin Phoenix) who is going through a not-entirely-friendly divorce. Sensitive and melancholic by nature, he is slipping towards depression, avoiding both the situation and his friends. When he installs a new operating system for his computer OS 1 he finds his world opening up in a way he never imagined. His OS, Samantha (voiced by Scarlett Johannson) is intelligent and intuitive, with the ability to constantly learn and adapt – essentially to create her own personality. She helps Theo to deal with his divorce, say yes to adventures and even restarts his writing career. As Theo describes his situation: “Sometimes I think I’ve felt everything I’m going to feel. And from here on out, I’m not going to feel anything new. Just lesser versions of what I’ve already felt.” Incredibly, and to his huge suprise, Samantha is the one to change this.

What is striking about Her is just how surprisingly plausible it is. Theo works in a office space which favours the cubicle set up, he lives in a busy city with daily public transport commutes, his home is in a large apartment building. He is by no means isolated, indeed he has solid friendships with collegues and people who live in his building, yet he still feels a crushing loneliness. People are plugged into thier technology nearly 24/7 and this heightens the distance between strangers. The styling of the clothes and surroundings is all too familiar, setting the action in the future but the very near future, our generation’s future. This is sci-fi, but in this world the ‘robots’ won’t go on a rampage, they won’t kill anyone, there won’t be a revolution. They’ll quietly enter your life and they’ll break your heart. Anyone who has felt the dread, anger and simultaneous sorrow at losing their iPhone already knows how possible this is.

I really enjoyed Her, more than I thought I would. So to my original question, yes it’s odd but that’s wonderful. I definitely urge you to give this film a chance.

And to all the OS developers of the future, please don’t use the insanely sexy, husky voice of Scarlett Johannson for your operating systems, you’re just asking for trouble.

Best of 2013 – Film & TV

This morning WordPress emailed me with my stats for the year. Turned out I had written 199 posts on 2013. Well we can’t have that! Here is number 200, a semi thought out media based favourites list. The usual disclaimer applies, these are my personal favourites of the year (that I can remember). There is a whole tonne that I haven’t seen – The Selfish Giant, Gravity, Breaking Bad etc etc. Sorry. Hangs head in shame. In no particular order:

Films magic_magicMagic Magic (Sebastian Silva) | Young, naive girl travels to South America and quickly unravels, possibly due to Micheal Cera’s creepy knitwear. Juno Temple is captivating even as an unstable, hysterical tourist.

Good VibrationsGood Vibrations (Lisa Barros D’Sa & Glenn Leyburn) | A feel-good film set against the backdrop of the Troubles? That’s punk for you.

BlackfishBlackfish (Gabriela Cowperthwaite) | I love a good, biased, cause documentary to get all het up about. Even better when it’s about my major hate – SeaWorld *boo hiss*  Free Tilly!

FilthFilth (Jon S. Baird) | This one is a film that grew on me the more I thought about it. James McAvoy is surprising perfect as the twisted Bruce Robertson.

frances_ha_4Frances Ha (Noah Baumbach) | Definitely my favourite of the year. In the same vein as Girls but Frances is a more relatable, likeable character. I love the scene where she spontaneously dances through the streets. Pitch perfect.

TV CatfishCatfish: The TV Show | I love Catfish! So addictive even though it is ridiculously set up. Spoiler alert – they’re aalll catfish!

Orange is the New BlackOrange is the New Black | Totally binge watched this on Netflix one weekend. The end was so shocking! Can’t wait til it comes back next year.

Trophy wifeTrophy Wife | I’ve just started watching this but I’m really enjoying it so far. It’s similar to Modern Family and Suburgatory, the other two sitcoms I’ve been loving this year so thought it was an appropriate choice for this list, it being new and all. I love Bert, he’s so funny.

GirlsGirls | Show me a 20-something woman who doesn’t love Girls and I’ll show you someone who hasn’t seen it. I joke, I realise it is quite a Marmite show but on this occasion I’m all for it. And yes, I bought the Patrick Wilson storyline, I’m all for any storyline that involves a naked Patrick Wilson.

Penguins Spy in the HuddlePenguins: Spy in the Huddle | EEEE! Penguins! Filmmaking technology! Baby penguins! No one does wildlife documentaries like the BBC. This one was beyond comparison. When Dolphins: Spy in the Pod starts on January 2nd I may spontaneously combust. Just a warning for you there.

What were your favourite films and TV shows of 2013? Tell me all the ones I missed.