Tag Archives: Movie

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.

#BEDM | Being Adventurous

Carl Fredricksen Drawing Up

In the ‘spirit of adventure’ here’s a quick drawing of my all-time favourite adventurer – Carl Fredricksen.

So long boys! I’ll send you a postcard from Paradise Falls!

#BEDM | Star Wars Day

Star Wars postersAwesome posters by Olly Moss.

Happy May the Fourth everyone. May you live long and prosper…err sorry, wrong reference there! Today’s Blog Every Day in May prompt has a distinctly sci-fi feel to it. Last year was actually the first time I watched the Star Wars films – done properly, all 6 marathoned on May 4th. I blogged about it in full here but today I wanted to share a few tips if you’re planning to do the same today.

  1. Decide the order. I fully recommend watching them 1 to 6 – starting with the 1999 film The Phantom Menace and ending with 1983′s Return of the Jedi. This way the films get gradually better. I can’t imagine anything worse than watching Jedi then having to sit through that massacre of a film that Episode 1 was so under no circumstances should you do 4,5,6,1,2,3 if you’re a Star Wars newbie. However, if you’re feeling creative some people recommend 4, 5, 1, 2, 3 (as flashbacks), 6. That’s just madness.
  2. Snacks. Oh so many snacks. This is not a day to go healthy. You’ll need Red Bull and MSGs. Trust me.
  3. Costumes are great, but 13 hours trussed up in a Stormtrooper outfit? Nah. Keep it simple and comfy in something like this from Truffle Shuffle: Ladies_Blue_Star_Wars_Cast_Scoop_Neck_Oversized_T_Shirt_from_Junk_Food_hi_res
  4. Don’t be afraid to suggest a power nap to your viewing buddies. Somewhere around the 4th film is usually when people start flagging.
  5. Bring toys! Turn up with a Millennium Falcon and act out all your favourite parts. Or just pretend to blow up Jar Jar Binks when you have to sit through his annoying whining. Star wars millenium falcon lego

And those are my top tips for watching umpteen hours of Star Wars on May the 4th. Or you could be really controversial and just line up a series of  Star Trek: The Next Generation on Netflix.


Cheers to however you’re spending your day!

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.

Film Review – The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, or Hunger Games 2 as hopefully no one calls it. I’ll start by saying I have read The Hunger Games trilogy. I actually read them after seeing the first film as I enjoyed the film so much so I have none of the ‘oh the book was better’ anxiety that normally comes with this kind of territory. After all, this film is not only a book adaptation but a sequel. Ew! Must be terrible, right? No. It’s not.

The Hunger Games Catching FireThe Hunger Games: Catching Fire|2013|Francis Lawrence|USA|12A|146min

Catching Fire picks up with Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) after her ‘victory’ in the 74th Hunger Games. Having outsmarted the totalitarian establishment, she has put herself and everyone around her at great danger by unwittingly positioning herself as a symbol of hope for the oppressed masses. Recognising the threat that she poses, President Snow (Donald Sutherland) decides that she must be eliminated at any cost. Following a traumatic Victory Tour with fellow winner and pretend fiance, Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutherson), Katniss learns that she will soon be returning to the arena where she will again have to fight for her life in the 75th Hunger Games.

The long run time reflects the faithfulness to the book. I can imagine that it would be extremely tempting to rush right to the beginning of the Games, but instead the director decides to give the time needed to develop the real story, the story of the Districts before leaping into the spectacle of the Games. For this, the film benefits. It gives more depth to the world glimpsed in the first film.

As in the last film, Jennifer Lawrence is quietly commanding as Katniss. The new supporting cast hold their own against Lawrence and inhabit their roles brilliantly, especially Jena Malone as Johanna, the tribute from District 7 and Philip Seymour Hoffman as the new Head Gamemaker Plutarch Heavensbee (yes really).

Catching Fire is a worthy sequel to The Hunger Games, which when it was released lambasted the critics preconceptions of a “Battle Royale for the Twilight generation”. I personally enjoyed Catching Fire more, but this is likely due to the fact that it is also my favourite book in the series. Fans of the series will love this film. It doesn’t really hold up as a stand alone film so if you didn’t see The Hunger Games, rectify this first.

At the end we are treated to a glimpse of mostly-either-hysterical-or-unconcious-Katniss of Mockingjay which sadly will be split into two films. Creating two strong films from the weakest novel in the series will surely be a challenge for any director, particularly now that the bar has been raised by Francis Lawrence with Catching Fire.

Halloween Drive-in

It is on Halloween drive inOn Thursday we loaded up the car with blankets and snacks and headed through to Glasgow’s Victoria Park for the Itison Halloween Drive-in screening of – appropriately enough – John Carpenter’s Halloween. The sell-out event boasted the world’s biggest mobile LCD screen, street food units and Micheal Myers themed entertainment.

IMG_6027 IMG_6044Pizzas were on offer from So La Ti Dough, but we went for traditional movie-going fare of hotdogs and popcorn from the Glasgow Street Food Cartel. It was seriously the most salty salt popcorn I’ve ever had in my life! Much water was needed!

IMG_6063As we were in a 4×4 we parked up at the back, but we had a great view of the screen. Sound was via the car FM radio so you had a surround sound experience. The pre show entertainment of a themed weather report and a sing along rendition of Ray Parker Jr’s Ghostbusters was a bit off in tone – probably because they were also for the family friendly screenings of Ghostbusters during the day – but were over quickly enough. I would have prefered to see a couple of horror movie trailers personally. A nice touch was a very tall man dressed as Micheal Myers spooking people in their cars and mini-Myers handing out glow sticks on entry. There were a few technical glitches, but nothing severe. I’m sure they gave someone behind the scenes some headaches, but having worked at outdoor screenings, it was nothing surprising.  The film itself ran through no problems.

As a first-timer at a drive-in movie, I really enjoyed the experience. Obviously, I’ve seen Halloween a million times but it was enhanced by the genuinely quite creepy experience of sitting in a dark car in the middle of a park. I’ve always wanted to go to a drive-in movie (it’s on my 30 Before 30 list) and I was not disappointed. Screenings continue throughout the weekend but they are sold out. I would recommend grabbing a ticket if they do repeat the event in the future though. I would also like to add that the staff and stewards were brilliant and ensured that  300 cars were in and out of the park with minimal fuss.

All in all, a great way to have spent Halloween – thanks, Itison!

P.S. Sorry for the terrible photos – I did take my camera with me but I left the SD card in my laptop. Doh!

Halloween Film – Netflix Picks

HAPPY HALLOWEEN EVERYONE! How are you celebrating? How about a cosy night in with a film? I’m a huge horror movie film so here are my top picks on UK Netflix for tonight.

1. Sinister

2. Teeth

3. Carrie

4. Tucker and Dale vs Evil

5. Scream

Or the best horror based TV show ever:

Buffy the Vampire Slayer

What will you be watching tonight?

Film Review – Filth

You wait ages for a film set in your city and then two come along at once. So which Edinburgh-based film should you go and see this Orange Wednesday? Happy, sunny, Proclaimers musical Sunshine on Leith or miserable, dark, Irvine Welsh apdatation Filth? Well I don’t think I’ll ever be ready to experience Peter Mullan singing so Filth it is.

Filth James McAvoyFilth | 2013 | Jon S. Baird | UK | 18 | 97 mins

“Naebody steams in like the Edinburgh polis” – Bruce Robertson

Detective Sergeant Bruce Robertson (James McAvoy) is the very definition of a dirty cop in this long-awaited adaptation of Welsh’s bestselling Filth. Scheming, bigoted, corrupt, abusive, alcoholic, drug addled Robertson is first in line for a promotion though, if only he can undermine his colleagues and, importantly, keep a grip on reality.

McAvoy is probably not the first person to leap to mind for this character but he plays the roles brilliantly. It would be difficult to have the audience warming to such a despicable character, but McAvoy manages it, slowly revealing more about the fragile mental state of Robertson. Through the occasional gurning to camera, Robertson sometimes lapses into x-rated panto-villian territory, but this is a mercifully scarce reference to the narrative structure of the book. A further aspect of the novel which is  difficult to transcribe on to screen is the narration from the point of view from a parasitic tapeworm. Instead we get a truly deranged sequence starring Jim Broadbent as Dr Rossi.

Filth is as sleazy, sordid and dirty as the title suggests. It is filled with a manic energy, caricatures and a truly black sense of humour. There is no subtlety here, but were you really expecting there to be? This is a film that will stay with you, for better or worse.