Monthly Archives: September 2012

The Dark Side of Fairy tales: Trollhunter and Hansel & Gretel

As much as I enjoy a big blockbuster film sometimes it good to watch something a bit more obscure and genuinely surprising. This week I watched two dark fantasy/horror films based on myths and fairy tales. Trollhunter is a 2010 Norwegian film and Hansel and Gretel, a 2007 South Korean film.

Trollhunter is a ‘found footage’ movie with a dark sense of humour running throughout. The film follows three college students doing a documentary of a suspected poacher called Hans and trying to get an interview with him. While following him they soon discover about the existence of trolls and that he is hired by the government to hunt them.

Trollhunter does have some jumps in it but also revels in placing its absurd concept in the real world. As well as hunting trolls, Hans also has to fill in paperwork for each troll he kills (which then leads you to ask your own questions such as does he get sick leave, a yearly bonus?). Otto Jespersen is great as the weary Hans who tires of how the government treats him. Although the trolls are dumb and destructive and like to eat people, you also wonder if humans aren’t just as bad.

Hansel and Gretel is short on laughs but big on creepy imagery and uncomfortable tension. A man has a car accident and wakes up in the woods lost. A young girl finds him and brings him back to her house with her parents, brother and sister. Unfortunately once he has rested the man finds it impossible to leave the woods. Then things start getting really weird.

To say any more would be to ruin the film which works best the little you know about it as you wonder what the hell is going on. You are unsure what to make of the family he finds himself with, especially the kids who change from cute to creepy in an instance.

Although it’s named after the Grimm’s fairytale and the story is referenced in the film, this is not a faithful adaptation of the tale. It’s also not a horror film in the traditional sense relying more on tension and a feeling of dread then an overreliance on gore. It also has an unexpected emotional core to the film.

Both films are ones that try and defy your expectations. Trollhunter is a refreshing take on the overpopulated ‘found footage’ doing its best to make trolls seem scary while also having a dark sense of humour throughout. Hansel and Gretel is much darker and much more confusing as you try and work out what is going on. But stick with it and you’ll find it’s worth waiting for the revelations that come at the end.

If you’re looking for something a bit different to your regular fairy tales and you’re not afraid of subtitles then I’d eagerly recommend them both. And then you can return to your regular all action blockbuster.

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Anna Karenina

All the world’s a stage in Joe Wright’s big screen version of Anna Karenina-literally. Most of the action is set in and around a theatre. Scenes transform from bedrooms, to ballrooms to train stations and horse races as Russia is confined to a stage for us to view Anna’s story. Occasionally we enter the outside world with Levin’s farm or the fields where lovers Anna and Vronsky meet.

Anna is married to the respectable but cold Alexei (Jude Law) but on a visit to meet her brother (Matthew Macfaddyn) she meets Count Vronsky (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) and embark on an affair that will have tragic consequences.

Anna Karenina is visually stunning. The costumes are amazing especially Knightley’s dresses and ball gowns. But it’s not simply a matter of style over content. Far from distracting the visual aspect helps keep the audience engaged, especially as the film is two hours long. The setting adds to the theme that Anna’s world is like a stage, she is there to be scrutinised by society and her affair is like a form of theatre to be whispered about by its audience. There is a sense that all eyes are on her, judging her but unable to stop from looking at her as she falls further into her own form of self-destruction.

This is Joe Wright’s fourth film and it does share similarities to his earlier films. There is a ballroom scene between Vronsky and Anna where they suddenly become the only two people in the room which is similar to a scene in his Pride and Prejudice. The film also appears similar, at least in the beginning, to Moulin Rouge with its flash design and costumes but where Moulin Rouge moves along at breath neck pace with songs about all you need is love, Anna Karenina looks at the price of love and whether the all consuming desire is worth it.

There is good performances from all the cast. Kiera Knightley holds her own as the passionate, longing Anna and Aaron Taylor-Johnson is a strong Count Vronsky, the younger man who pursues Anna and then has to deal with the consequences of their affair. The best of them is Jude Law who plays Anna’s long suffering husband Alexei. He is a much more sympathetic character then Anna; it’s easy to emphasis with his suffering of trying to deal with a wife that everyone is talking about and who admits to his face that she does not love him.

It’s not easy to decide whether Anna is deserving of our sympathy. Of course it’s not right how society treats Anna for her affair (especially in comparison to her cheating brother) but it’s hard to root for a character that destroys everything because of the passionate love she feels for Verosky. Despite this she is a compelling character to watch even if she’s not always likeable.

3.5/5

As the curtain falls on Anna Karenina it’s will be the theatre setting, costumes and Jude Law which stands out in the audience minds

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My Unpopular Film Opinions

There are some films which are considered universally loved by all and others which should be despised until the end of time. These are considered such universal truths that if you admit to having a different opinion everyone looks at you with such scorn and hatred that you wish you could vaporise into a million different pieces and scurry away from embarrassment.

I am now revealing some of my unpopular opinions and hope the gods don’t strike me down in horror.

  1.     I prefer the 2005 Pride and Prejudice film to the BBC series

To state this in public would probably see me set upon by angry Austin fans. I have quite a few friends who love the series, and I can understand why it appeals to them however I would rather watch the film. Maybe it’s because I watched the film first before the tv series, or the fact that while I think Colin Firth is attractive and a good actor I don’t really fancy him. It’s also beautifully shot and has a great supporting cast. Some people may question my taste but shrug it off without a word until I say this…

  1. I think Keira Knightley can act (sometimes)

Yes Knightley isn’t always the easiest actress to warm too and she does seem limited in certain roles but I think she does her best work with director Joe Wright. They obviously complement each other having worked on Pride and Prejudice and Atonement together, hopefully they can continue this trend with third collaboration in Anna Karenina out later this month.

3.  I’m underwhelmed by 2001: A Space Odyssey

I often see this film in people’s top 10 movies of all time. I tried to watch it once and I’m not saying it’s a bad film. Visually it’s very impressive and I can see why it inspired so many generations of film makers. Unfortunately I find it a difficult film to care about and got a little bored watching it. There’s plenty to admire but I can’t bring myself to say I love it or that I’d watch it again.

4. I enjoy watching Blade Trinity

I’ve seen so much hate for this film and I agree with a lot of what said about it. Blade is marginalised and ripped of any personality, killing off Whistler was a huge mistake, Dracula is a wasted villain and it’s not as good as its predecessors.

However if you accept it for what it is there’s some enjoyment to be had in Blade Trinity. First of all it is so dumb it enters into the so bad- its-good category with so many characters acting comically stupid (who do the Nightstalkers leave to watch the security cameras-a blind woman!).

Then there’s the fact that Blade Trinity features one of my favourite combinations

Ryan Reynolds plus beard minus shirt = hot (also for this formula see The Amityville Horror remake which has Ryan Reynolds plus beard minus shirt with an axe chopping wood = even hotter).

So that was a taster of my unpopular film opinions. Try not to judge me too harshly, after all we all have views that we’re ashamed to share with others.

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